We’ve been busy settling in to our new place and trying to establish a routine for all of us. There’s school for Jovani (Joaquin is still not in yet!), work and searching for more work for me, homeschool and math tutoring for Joaquin, and circus class and play for Judah. So, I haven’t been writing as much since we’ve been here, and that’s a shame because there is so much to say about Peru!
Peru is the most exotic locale that we have been to thus far. The Sacred Valley is such an interesting place. There are the general tourists that come from all over the world, the humble, the Quechua-speaking, rural native population, the diverse range of expats, and Peruvians from other parts of the country that have come to capitalize on the area’s tourism boom. With so many types of people, people watching while sitting on a park bench in the main plaza makes for an interesting afternoon.
The local native population are humble farming people. Families farm small plots of land with a variety of produce and they still sow their seeds by hand. Some families have beasts of burden such as ox or donkeys to help them till the soil, but there are no tractors or other heavy machinery to help with the planting and harvesting. It’s amazing to see the places where people have planted crops. There are plots on the sides of mountains 13,000 feet up! We see people carrying giant bags of heavy squash, potatoes or whatever they are harvesting on their bags down the mountainside. I cannot imagine doing this backbreaking labor at such altitudes. We went on a beautiful hike up the side of the mountain one day and it completely winded all of us. We finally reached our destination with pride and exhaustion and discovered there was a plot of farmland at least 500 ft higher than we were.
Although the valley seems extremely lush and beautiful right now during the with the dramatic Andean backdrop, the area is completely deforested. With farming being the livelihood of the local population, there are no native forests left in this area. Most local farmers use slash and burn agriculture that can quickly become out of control wildfires during the long dry season.
Right now it’s the rainy season. It usually stops raining some time in April. I don’t mind rain, but it’s cold too. This is the coldest place we have been to so far, the temperature dips into the 40s (F) at night and only goes up to the 60s in the daytime. I thought I was ready to leave the heat of Houston, but I am now reevaluating my stance on that.
So far, we love small town living. We chose Urubamba as opposed to other towns in the valley because it is a good size and not as touristy as other towns. This seems to be the place that the farmers come to sell their bounty. We really enjoy going to the central market for our fresh food. Hardly anything we buy is prepackaged or processed. Although we recently discovered the treasure trove of goodies available at the gas station a few blocks away. They sell amazing familiar goodies like tortillas, Nutella, and marshmallows! We have found a few good restaurants, Peruvian food is the best we have had in South America. Argentinian food was good too, but the Peruvians understand how to use spices and chile. The Argentinian food was more akin to Italian food.
We can walk everywhere in town, and when we leave town to go to school or another town in the valley the bus ride is $.50 or less. Buses are actually large Sprinter type vans. You may think a 16 passenger van can only fit 16 people, but your wrong! I counted 32 people on the bus the other day. It was a bit of a tight fit.
Settling in has been fun. Jovani is getting used to the school routine and Judah has proved awesome at entertaining himself. Joaquin is enjoying the mental stimulation that a more structured homeschool day provides. And I have eased up on my battles with him over math by hiring a tutor for that subject. It seems to be a good fit, and more importantly, there are no more battles over him doing his work. I am learning how to manage my time and to find balance between being stuck at the computer all day and playing outside.