little sarah Big World

Tag: culture clash

Home Stay

~OR~

I Could Not Have Danced All Night

As I mentioned, I was sick and bummed out on Amantani, during our home-stay. But it wasn’t all a bust, Friends! It was also very peaceful and relaxing at times.

Moreover, it was really cool to get to meet this family that I wouldn’t otherwise have met–Catalina and her 4-year-old son, Anderson (her older daughter and husband were away on errands for the weekend)–stay in their home and eat meals with them.

That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and for that I’m grateful to have braved extreme exhaustion, lung tremors, and cultural commodification.

Oh, and did I mention…the food?!

This was honestly the best I ate the entire time in South America. Lunch was a brothy quinoa soup (with quinoa they’d grown in their own yard–I’d never seen that!) followed by roasted corn and root vegetables (including a variety of potato that was sweet yet hard, like a carrot) with fried goat cheese. We washed it all down with fresh lemon-balm tea made with whole, recently harvested herbs.

It was just what the doctor ordered. Dinner was a similar soup, followed by starch-on-starch crime–pasta and potatoes with a side of white rice. Still, though, it was home-cooked meal, and very satisfying.

I spent most of the time trying to get to know our hosts, though Anderson was shy and Catalina was having none of it. She seemed very used to having guests in her home (she’s been doing it nearly 10 years) but kept interaction to a minimum. I wanted to know, more than anything, how she felt about this experience, as to me it was such a unique clash of cultures.

But to Catalina (as I finally managed to ascertain), it’s just an easy second job, which means that she doesn’t have to work outside of the home. They host two guests, once a week, and the ends meet. Simple as that.

Then the rest of the time she can knit, talk with friends or family, and farm.

And I suppose she likes it like that? I don’t know. I spent less than 24 hours with her, and I’m reluctant to generalize (though I’m sure I already have). I guess what I mean to say is that I hope she’s happy with the arrangement. And I think it will be interesting to see the impact the constant influx of foreigners has on Anderson. For now, he seems pleased. And shy.

Lake Titicaca

~OR~

Things We’ve Been Giggling About Since Gradeschool

So. After much travel, we arrived in Puno. The bus ride was brutal, but Josh slept the whole time, giving me and Brett a chance to talk through some things and then just…talk. It was nice. Like old times, us giving each other relationship advice and teasing and being open.

But then Josh was a total dick to me at our hostel, so much so that I immediately signed up for an overnight tour that left at 7:30 the next morning, despite still being sick, just to get away from him. I may have also gone to a locutorio to call Kevin and cry. And then cried myself to sleep. Okay, yeah, both those things definitely happened. I was just so, so tired, Friends. So exhausted, and both Brett and Josh snore like chainsaws, and it is draining to stay positive in the face of so much cruelty and illness and stress. This was probably my lowest point, the point at which I most regretted having gone to South America in the first place. It was a long, dark night.

Sleep found me at last, however, and the next morning I was up and at ’em, on a boat with about a dozen strangers from all over the world.

Lake Titicaca, a place that my tittering eight-year-old self could never have dreamed I’d actually visit one day.

That green stuff growing in the water is totora, a reed that the people of Uros use to make just about everything, including their floating, movable homes and boats.

They have to continually replenish their islands, adding a new layer of freshly-cut totora over the top of the old dried stuff every week. You can also eat it, which of course I did. The taste is pleasant, somewhat reminiscent of jicama, but with a more fibrous, watery texture.

We stopped off at one of the islands, where we were given a demonstration (using miniatures) of life on Uros. They used to make domed houses, which last longer, but also take a lot longer to make. So now they make A-frame-type houses. They also make boats out of the totora, but filled with recycled plastic bottles, to help them float and cut down on the reeds needed, a detail that I found hopeful–using the trash of modern society to improve upon age-old trades and traditions.

All was not hopeful, however, as there was a pervasive sense that we were there to GIVE THEM MONEY. A lot of pressure to buy tchotchkies, trinkets, souvenirs, etc. Basically, the whole of Uros floating islands depends on tourism, and don’t they know it. It was sad to see them essentially whoring themselves out to a constant stream of tourists in an attempt to reconcile their culture with a modern economy and disconcerting (to say the least) to be seen as a walking ATM, though my fellow boat-mates didn’t seem to notice or mind.

When it was time to go, the women and girls of our little island for the day lined up to sing us a song, first in Spanish, then in Quechua (their native language). At the end, they said “Hasta la vista, babies!”

Everyone laughed, but I wanted to cry.

What can I say? I’m a sensitive gal.

I did, however, enjoy riding on a totora raft while young men from all over the world rowed and reclined, in turn, glistening in the sun.

Just so you know I’m well-balanced.