A Week In Cuzco

July 5, 2011

Hola Yellow Jacket fans!

This week, while not jam packed with historical festivals, was still eventful to say the least.

Cuzco has two season: rainy season, where it is warm and rains practically every day (summer); and dry season, where is cold and dry (winter…but in the southern hemisphere winter is in July). On Thursday, it started to rain, and kept raining for the rest of the week. The Cusqueñians were freaking out about the rain, and it took us an extra 20 minutes

The mountains covered with snow

in the taxi to get to school, but it covered the mountain tops with a layer of snow and it’s absolutely stunning to look at. The second group of students also arrived, bringing our class size from 11 to 17. It’s nice to have the full class here, but they weren’t really ready for the cold. Then again, with all that rain none of us were ready…

Saturday we had another marathon of a day.

We started by going to see a clay artisan that studied the Incan way of pottery. He showed us from start to finish the process of making everything from a clay espresso cup to a serving platter. To make the clay as sturdy as the Incas, he uses a mixture of sand and clay, which he mixes for over and hour by hand to make sure there are no air bubbles. For each coffee mug it takes roughly 45 days to make; platters and vases, roughly 90 days.

We also went to Moray, which is an Incan farming site. They created a step wise platform in the mountain to make

The entire class on the different levels of the Moray

more space for farming, and also to conduct farming experiments. They were able to create versions of the coca plant that grew at altitudes greater than 3000m (~10000ft). However, none of these versions of the plant exist today. Seeing the ruins, as always, is breath taking. Despite the cold and rain, it was still a really awesome experience, especially since we got to climb all the way to the bottom and then all the way to the top again.

After climbing the ruins we went to a small pueblo (village) for lunch and a lesson in textiles. The tradition Peruvian lunch was incredible. They have corn with cornels that are the size of quarters. The potatoes are also incredible, and there are so many different types.

The women at the textile ayllu

The textile part was just as fascinating as the pottery. They showed us the process from taking the wool from the llama hide to the dyeing and making of the products, which was fascinating because they still use all natural items (flowers, rocks, salt) to make all of the colors. Seeing the blankets and table clothes and everything made by hand was kind of mesmerizing. These women were just sitting on the ground doing row after row with perfect rhythm. We were freezing standing there in our jackets and they were sitting on the ground in their traditional ayllu (íu- village) clothing that has been standard for hundreds of years. The women said that for a blanket the size of our baby blankets take 3 months to make from start to finish.

Side note: the ayllus or villages are still in place from the Incan Empire where each man and women wore the same thing. Not only were their clothes standardized, but their hair styles and hats were the same, too. Some ayllus used a different hair style to help distinguish if a woman is single or married.

Getting to see the tradition village life of the Peruvian people is really an eye opening experience and I will never look at the goods in the stores the same. As if I needed any other thing to make me realize how many luxuries we have in the United States, like heat, internet, and machines. Every day is also an eye opening experience, for which I am grateful. I really can’t wait to see what the next few weeks have in store for me. I can’t believe, I am two weeks in to this adventure. If you’d like to see more information about my daily life in Peru or anything mentioned, check out my blog at gtraviswagner.wordpress.com or email me at gtraviswagner@gmail.com.

Hasta luego!

Glenn Travis Wagner
Men’s Swimming and Diving, 2011

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