Just a few days ago my husband an I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with an indigenous community in a remote area of Peru. While we were making our travel arrangements, we told the person helping us that we were very interested in learning some more about the natives in the community and he said "I know the place" he proceeded to tell us about this rural community and how they would be more than open to host us in their homes, to show us their culture and traditions. Just one look at my husband and I knew he was equally excited about this opportunity as I was. Without any hesitation we agreed to visit them.
Going in, we knew that the experience was going to be different from what we usually do on trips, but what we did not know was that we were going to be reminded of the essentials to a happy life in such a gentle and inspiring way. I was so touched by this experience that I decided to share it with you all.
After flying from Lima to Cusco, we took a taxi to a rural area outside of Cusco where a native man named "Luis" was waiting for us at a meeting point on the road. Wearing a colourful poncho and with a big smile, Luis greeted us and showed us the way to a vehicle parked on the road. All three of us got in the vehicle which was being driven by another man. Luis explained that we had another 25 minutes drive to their community. Curios and wanting to learn more about Luis, my husband and I began to ask him many questions. Shortly after, we realized that he spoke little Spanish and later we heard him speak to the driver in a language that neither one of us could identify, tho I suspected he was speaking Quechua (the language of the Incas). We then proceeded to enjoy the view around us and take pictures.
After driving up the mountains for a while, Luis turned to look at us and said "we are here", we saw a sign that said "Welcome to the Misminay Community". The car stopped, we got out and noticed that there was a group of men a women dressed in traditional clothing, waiting with instruments. A women from the group came to us and greeted us warmly. She said that from that point on, we were going to walk to their home. We grabbed our bags and began walking by their side. The women sang songs and the men played instruments as we walked to Flora and Cirio's home. Upon our arrival to their home, they asked us to stand with them forming a semi-circle or, the shape of a half moon, as they said. So we did. Flora who seemed to be the spokes person for the group took a step forward and gave each of us a bracelet that was made by women in their community. Then she proceeded to tell us that we were to introduce each other in order to become familiar with one another. She was the first one to start. She introduced her self as "Flora, age 35, married and with no children", one by one they told us their name, their age, their marital status and, how many children they had. When it came to our turn, we followed their lead and introduced ourselves the same way. Once the introductions were completed, Flora invited us into her dinning room for tea. That was the first of many meals that we shared with them.
Given that there were language barriers, Chris and I spent a lot of time observing them. One experience we both found interesting is that we were invited to work with the men on the field, peeling the corn that they had just collected. We were given the tools and shown the way to the field. As soon as we arrived to the field, Chris and I were ready to start the work. Then Luis very gently told us that in their tradition they could not begin working without first having a small ceremony of gratitude. In his broken Spanish, he explained the steps of this ritual. Another man opened a small whole on the dirt, and before anything, they asked the mountains one by one for permission to work. Then, they fed the land by pouring "chicha" (a traditional drink) on that whole that they had created. Luis explained that in they believe that we must take care of mother earth before we take care of our selves. A man who appeared to be the eldest of the group, gave each of us three coca leaves. Without talking, he showed us how to grab them with our thumb and index finger. He then asked us to offer those leaves to mother earth but, to ask for three wishes before we placed them in the same whole the chicha had been poured. We each took turns and did it. Once he had thanked the mountains for the work ahead and once we had set three intentions and fed the land, we were then ready to start the work. I thought about that gesture for a while, I kept thinking how each of us would experience our work differently if we spent the time each morning to be thankful for the work and to set three good intentions for the day. The other aspect of this experience that called my attention, was the happiness with which these men went to work the land. As for me, I really enjoyed peeling corn, something that I had never done in an open field.
The next interesting surprise was when we noticed that this particular community is self-sufficient. Everything they eat, they cultivate or, they breed. Every person in their community works for the community and they help each other. Their day starts at 4:00 am and by 8:00pm when is completely dark, and all you can see are the shinning stars, they go to bed, and so did we. Interestingly enough we fell asleep shortly after we went to bed, even tho earlier we were wondering what were we going to do with our time after they had gone to bed. We learned that without the distractions that we have at home, like t.v., cell phones, etc... our bodies are more than happy to fall asleep at 8pm.
The next morning we woke up bright and early and after having breakfast, Flora took us to the top of the mountain in which their community is located. We walked up hill for about 40 minutes. We walked slowly, as she was telling us that they walk slowly to ensure that they do not get short of breath. I appreciated every step of the way, I did notice my urge to walk faster initially, but later my mind and body seemed to have relaxed and the speed was no longer a factor. We made it to the top and from there, observed some beautiful Inca ruins. Amazed by the view, I told Flora how happy I was feeling. She then told me that when her and her husband get bored at home, they climb that mountain and sit quietly, "it changes the way you feel" she said. once again, there I was reflecting on her words. Imagine what life would be like, if eacf of us went for a walk in nature whenever we felt bored!!!! Another lesson that I plan on putting into practice!
And last but not least, Chris and I were amazed to observe the generosity and overall happiness of this community. They live in what many would describe as poverty, yet we noticed that they are in fact rich in so many ways. first, they feel that they have all that they need (health, family, food and a roof over their head), they celebrate each day the fact that they have work to do, food to eat and family to share it all. They do everything in harmony to ensure that like mother earth, they are always in balance and, lastly they welcome everyone with open arms to share their richness and wisdom. We recommend this experience to anyone wanting to discover the essentials of a happy life from a different perspective!