Sharing a meal with a family who live on the shores of Lake Titicaca in Peru remains one of Julio Padilla’s fondest memories. This is a place where people’s passions and priorities are clear and the opportunity to break bread together and take part in their daily lives is a privilege…
“Arriving on the island community we were welcomed with a delicious homemade lunch and enjoyed the chance to get to know our hostess, Viviana. This lovely 54-year-old woman, who invited us to call her Vivi, exudes a gentle charm and it touched our hearts to hear her moving story.
Vivi grew up in the highlands of the mountains around the lake. She was taught by her parents to work the land and respect nature, and until the age of 7 she had not seen the modern world, never heard music on the radio, never watched TV, never imagined machines. Vivi raised her children on her own, because she married a man who abandoned her when the youngsters were only 5 and 2-years old.
Her oldest is already married with two children, so that makes her very proud. Vivi never married again, and she told us that without her crops and the work in the farm, she would not have survived. It was interesting the way she talked about her past, we did not see a sad or weak expression on her face.
Nowadays, she continues to take care of her parents, they are both 83-years old. Her father still works in the land, though less than before. Vivi says that if he doesn’t work he will be bored, besides, that is his connection with the earth, she explained. That morning her mother had gone for a walk to the highlands to herd sheep. When she returned in the afternoon she was obviously exhausted and decided to go to bed early, by 6pm. Normally these people go to bed by 8pm and wake up between 4am and 6am to start the day.
Our Intrepid group helped out by digging the ground around her crops. It was hard work for us and we were amazed by how healthy Vivi must be. Vivi confessed that she gets tired too, but she says it’s easier when you do it by 5am in the morning. We asked why she plants corn and potato in the same field? You know, sometimes these native people in the mountains do not take much time in answering questions. With a beautiful and calm smile she said, “Ha, it is because one talks to the other and says, look, look how I am getting bigger than you, he-he!”
Later in the afternoon, we went to set up the net to catch some native fish called Sipi. While doing this we asked Vivi how much money they would normally make during a month? Despite the amount she told us being so little, she explained that they are self-sufficient and that they exchanged products with other communities so they are never in need of something or short on food. “Look, if the we get money or we don’t get money, it is alright; if the corn and potatoes grow and Mother Earth decides to give us food, it is alright too.” She told us this with a magical smile on her face while she was steering the boat with one paddle.
In the evening, we got together in one of the local’s house to celebrate his birthday. They taught us how to do the ‘Dance of the Condor’ and all of us decided to give it a try. Leaping on one leg and moving our arms trying to reach the clouds, around the fire and with the sky full of stars as our witness, we danced and danced until we had no energy left. The man, whose birthday it was, told us how much he appreciated our being there. He said that normally he doesn’t celebrate his birthday, but this one he was going to remember for the rest of his life!
When we said goodbye to Vivi and our news friends of Lake Titicaca, they said farewell in one of the most beautiful ways, “Tupananchiskama.” In Quechua language this can be translated in several interpretations. Somebody once told me it means: ‘until we encounter again’, but another person assured me it is: ‘until we are one again’. Our group decided we loved the last one better, just like we loved this village and will remember it in our hearts forever!”
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* photo by Jolanda Simon – Intrepid Photography Competition