As part of my tour around Peru, we got to do a homestay in a Quechuan community called Ccaccaccollo. It was only for 1 night, and we stayed in pairs, so we weren’t on our own.
As our bus pulled into the main square in the community (probably the only square, since it was a small community of about 200 people), we were greeted by our homestay mothers with flowers and kisses. They then picked up our bags and carried them to their house, and showed us to our room.
The houses in this community weren’t traditional houses that were just one building, there were several buildings to the houses, but not like a mansion. The kitchen, for example, was in a building up a slight hill, away from the dining room. The rooms were very basic, with barely any furniture. There were no bedside tables in our bedroom, no wardrobes, no fancy display cabinets in the dining room. In the kitchen there were only a couple of cupboards for storing the crockery, and the hob was wood-fired, not a proper cooker that we’re used to at home.
As we arrived at lunchtime, our host families gave us a lovely traditional lunch of quinoa soup with lamb, followed by a hot green veg salad. After lunch we were given the traditional clothes to wear, clothes that all the women in the community were wearing. After putting on these outfits, which consisted of a skirt that was below the knee, a frilly blouse, a red jacket, a hat and a shawl, I realised I needed to use the toilet so I asked where the bathroom was. I was directed to a tin hut near the entrance gate. I went in, and realised it was a hole in the ground, so I decided to wait until I was no longer wearing all those clothes.
We met up with the rest of our group, who were also dressed in the traditional clothes, and taken to the communities’ agricultural fields, where we helped pick potatoes for the entire community, not just our host families. It seemed like this was a regular thing, that the whole community helped out. We only done this for a couple of hours, then went to get changed. We then played football with some of the local children, in their school yard.
After dinner, we were again dressed up in the traditional clothes and taken to their community hall. There, they showed us and explained to us about the Planetterra project- the women in the community weave, knit and crochet things like ponchos, scarves, hats, socks, gloves, jumpers. Some of it is done by hand, some of it is done by machine. After this, we were given a performance by some of the host mothers of traditional songs and dances.
The following morning we got up early for breakfast, and saw the children leaving for school. After this, we were taken to their market, a place where the women in the community sell the clothes they’ve made. There were Llamas there, which we got to feed, and the mothers whose children were too young to go to school were there too.
The products sold in this market were more expensive than you’d find for the equivalent in the tourist shops in cities like Lina and Cuzco. However, having spent time with these families, and seeing how they worked as a community and that they live a very basic lifestyle so unlike the one I’m used to, I was more than happy to buy something from them as I could see where the money was going and how much they needed it. The Planetterra project has helped out the Ccaccaccollo community, and probably other communities too. It was such a different experience seeing how the quechuan families live, and I was quite out of my comfort zone with it all.