Early on a Tuesday morning, 10 families gathered at the school yard in Cuncani, for the meeting of tourism project. In this meeting, NC explained the requirements and responsibilities of each family to promote the tourism circuit in the community. Although it can be long process until the community to receives many visitors, families are eager to prepare their homes and provide a good service to attract tourists in the near future. The family of Sr. Sergio and Sra. Ricardina is not an exception. He is one of the local partners of our sustainable homes and tourism project. Today I would like to tell a little bit about my visit at the house in Sra. Ricardina and Sr. Sergio this week and share some great experiences of staying in the community.
[4:30 pm] Visiting the house and taking photos
As I arrived at the door, Sr. Sergio, Sra. Ricardina and their three children, Alex (14 years old), Jessica (12 years old) and Rolando (10 years old), welcomed me into their home. After putting my bags on my bed, I decided to teach the children how to take photos since all three kids seemed to be interested in my camera. First, I took a photo of Rolando to show them how to do it. After that, I asked Rolando to take a photo of Jessica, and then Jessica to take a photo of Alex. Lastly, Alex took a photo of me. Although they struggled to take good photos at first, their photography skills improved over time.
[5:00 pm] Soccer Time!
At around 5 pm, Jessica went to pasture the sheep. The two boys and I were in the yard, and naturally we picked up a ball and start playing soccer. It was me against the two brothers (Alex and Rolando). We all enjoyed playing soccer but the condition was far from being good. I was wearing my hiking boots, there were many rocks, bumps and slopes, and more than anything, we were playing at the altitude of almost 4000 m. Although we only played for 20 ~ 30 min, I was exhausted and needed to call the game off… By the way, the boys won by 5-4. Afterwards, I showed them some soccer juggling tricks. They were eager to learn and spend almost an hour practicing doing a neck stall (where you control the ball behind the neck). It was great idea since it gave me some time to rest.
[6:30 pm] Homework & Cooking
After playing soccer, the kids started to do their homework. Having nothing to do, I went to Kitchen to spend some time with Sra. Ricardina and Sr. Sergio. Although Sra. Ricardina only spoke Quechua, my ‘Quechua phrase book’ made us have a good/fun time. I picked a sentence from the book and try to say in Quechua to see if she would understand (I believe I pronounced the words properly more than 70 % of the time).
As the children finished their homework, they joined us and it became like a little Quechua class. At the same time, I taught them some Japanese as they were interested in my language. During this time, we found that there were some words that have a meaning in both Quechua and Japanese. For example, ‘ku-chi’ means a ‘pig’ in Quechua, while it means a ‘mouth’ in Japanese. Also, ‘ma-ki’ signifies a ‘hand’ in Quechua, and ‘firewoods’ in Japan. It was great way for both of us to share our culture and language.
[7:00 pm] Dinner and tik-tak-toe
When the food was ready, we all gathered around the table and started to eat. The dinner was rice with vegetables and variety of potatoes grown in their land. It was delicious! I forgot the name of the dish, but they said it was one of the typical plates they have in their community.
As we finished eating, I asked the kids if they wanted to play a simple game of tik-tak-toe. For the first 10 minutes, we took turns playing. However, since no one wanted to wait, we decided to arrange some rules and made it so that all of us can play at the same time. We expanded the grid and set the rule that one needs to have four of their marks in a row to win. I was not sure how it would work but it turned out to be a very interesting game. Although we did not count how many times each of us won, I believe Alex won the most. We all enjoyed ourselves!
[8:00 pm] Bed Time
People in Cuncani go bed at around 8pm since they need to wake up at 5:30 am every day. I’m always excited to sleep at Cuncani since I am used to going bed much later time. Even though the temperature of Cuncani can get very low at the night, a comfortable bed and layers of blankets keeps me warm during the night.
[5:30 am] Morning
As the outside starts to get brighter, every one of the family member wakes up and starts preparing for their day. Sra. Ricardina made breakfast for everyone. This day, Sr. Sergio needed to go to the farm to cultivate the land (Yapui), which he said it would take him 2 hours to get to. Alex and Jessica left the house by 6:30 am to hop on the truck from Cuncani to their secondary school in Lares. The person who has most relaxing time in the morning is Rolando, who only needed to leave the house at around 8 am to go to primary school in Cuncani. I woke up at around 6 am and left the house at 6:45 am to the school for the meeting at 7 am at the school yard. It was a pleasure for me to stay at their house.
I always enjoy staying with families in Cuncani. It is a great opportunity for me to be out of a city, relax, enjoy beautiful scenery, and experience the life in Andes (weaving, cooking, agriculture etc.) But more than anything, the delightful part of the visit is to get to know the people and spend time together. Surrounded with a welcoming environment and sharing our lives and cultures is what makes my visit to Cuncani so special. It is not where you go, it is who you are with that makes your visit memorable. I believe this human exchange is something not many tours can offer. The tourism circuit NC is currently promoting is not only to allow the families to increase their income, but also aims to enrich both visitors and local families’ lives by this valuable human exchange.