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Andes and Amazon A
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¨Some things in life are sweet- they touch you with an inexplicable sensation of sugar and warmth. Other things sting and burn and pull at your skin until you can´t think of anything sweet at all.¨              -anonymous
When I had a phone conversation with Briana, one of my instructors, before embarking on this mind boggling journey, I told her I hoped to find answers. She told me that I may find some answers, but would most likely come home with a whole sleugh more of questions than I had started with. She was correct. Today I logged onto Facebook for the first time in awhile and saw ¨friends¨ posing in suggestive pictures while wearing revealing clothing, comment after comment about politics, sports, gossip, drama, et cetera.¨I don´t care,¨ I kept murmuring to myself as I clicked on another picture, another link, until somehow I found myself on someone´s page I haven´t spoken to since I was eight years old. When I return to Los Angeles, CA on Saturday, will I be simply a picture in passing on someone's newsfeed? Will I find myself caring abruptly about everything that seemed so superficial, so unimportant but a week before? Will I feel so detached from myself and the natural world that I will alter my body and mind to match a narrow-minded concept of perfection or beauty? When I see a beutiful woman in passing will I address her with contemptful jealousy rather than the love I feel toward all people- regardless of appearance- in Bolivia and Peru? Will American material commodoties like warm showers, beds, dishwashers, and makeup once again become necessities for my ¨deserving¨ body? Will I revert into a person that my current, liberated self would have difficulty getting along with? Most crucially, will I forget about the strong family values and sense of community in Nacion Q'eros? Will I treat my own family with less respect than the people of Q'eros treated us- a group of often inconsiderate strangers from a far away place? In Q'eros, I was everyone´s nainai or panay (sister) because the entire mountainous community is ayu (family). When I go home, I fear I may feel less of a bond with my own flesh and blood than I did to the people of Q'eros the moment we exchanged our first leaves of the sacred Coca plant. How can an experience so vivid, true, and powerful be forgotten as easily as sand falls through a seive? Is it possible to live in a society and not think the same as the majority? Will I, too, not be brainwashed back into the over-complicated despair and comfort of a so-called modernized lifestyle? As these and thousands more questions splash against the sides of my skull, I tell myself to forget the Self. I refuse to return home depressed because everything seems wrong. Here I feel alive because of nature, the culture, the people, the energy. Stimulated by external forces, I allow myself to feel alive. The anger and despair that arises at the premise of returning to a cold way of life I do not agree with sickens me, but will not consume my soul. If I do not return, how can I expect any change to occur? If I disagree so vehemently with American culture and superficiality, why would I leave it as is? Hope. Without hope, I doubt I would reurn. Although scrolling through Facebook stifles hope for change, I must remember what a mentor from Bolivia named Mimena told me, ¨Hay tiempo.¨ There is time. Breathe. In America, we may have forgotten our roots- an innate connection to nature and to each other- but because we stem from this vital oneness with the ground, with other species, and with the human race, our roots will not be forgotten forever. Right now they are painted over by a black glue, bathed in arsenic, crumpled, and stepped on again and again. But beneath the folds, the arsenic, the sticky blackness, feet make contact constantly. Eventually, the crinkles will open, arsenic will lose its poison, glue will become unstuck, and we will again understand the World. When I step off the plane in the LAX airport, I will have questions in my pockets, in my backpack, and my mind, but I will not allow their weight to bring me down. I have hope. With this hope, I will live. 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Andes and Amazon A

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Questions to Carry Home

Anna Ruth Hall,Andes and Amazon A

Description

¨Some things in life are sweet- they touch you with an inexplicable sensation of sugar and warmth. Other things sting and burn and pull at your skin until you can´t think of anything sweet at all.¨              -anonymous When I had a phone conversation with Briana, one of my instructors, […]

Posted On

12/8/14

Author

Anna Ruth Hall

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    [post_content] => Chocoquiral the last strong hold of the Incan empire. After 33 kilometers of mountain passes rivers and endless 90 degree switch backs these ruins appeared to me as heaven. I have never felt such accomplishment, stumbling into these sacred ruins was truly surreal. As we stared at the terraces and ruins with awe, I kept asking myself how was this possible to build such perfect and beautiful structures on these mountain sides and 5 thousand foot cliffs. How was it possible to complete what they did with time they had, and how was it possible for them to start over from scratch after all the suffering they had been through. The dedication, brilliance, and resilience of the Incas was the most inspiring thing I have ever experienced. These hardships these people over came has givin me a new motivation to accomplish something powerful and amazing in my own life no matter the difficulties or challenges that stand in my way. Chocoquiral was the insperation I set out for on my journey here in where there be dragons.
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Andes and Amazon A

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Chocoquiral

William Hobbs,Andes and Amazon A

Description

Chocoquiral the last strong hold of the Incan empire. After 33 kilometers of mountain passes rivers and endless 90 degree switch backs these ruins appeared to me as heaven. I have never felt such accomplishment, stumbling into these sacred ruins was truly surreal. As we stared at the terraces and ruins with awe, I kept […]

Posted On

12/6/14

Author

William Hobbs

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    [post_content] => The ruins of Machu Picchu are truly one of the wonders of the world. With all it's beauty, history and strength there was still some factor that took away from my experience among these powerful ruins. It may have been the tragedy that came along with the history of the ruins or the many ignorant tourist who romped disrespectfully through these sacred temples or maybe even the fact we had to pay a non Peruvian company to experience these beautiful ruins for a high price. But none the less it was an experience to remember. It's sad to think that my mood was changed so drastically just because of these weird vibes I got. Coming from Chocoquiral sacred untouched and unknown historical ruins made me think differently apon my experience in Machu Picchu. Was it supposed to feel like a tourist ski resort or did the sacred place deserve more respect?
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Andes and Amazon A

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Machu Picchu

William Hobbs,Andes and Amazon A

Description

The ruins of Machu Picchu are truly one of the wonders of the world. With all it’s beauty, history and strength there was still some factor that took away from my experience among these powerful ruins. It may have been the tragedy that came along with the history of the ruins or the many ignorant […]

Posted On

12/6/14

Author

William Hobbs

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    [post_content] => Queros is unlike anywhere I've ever been before. The people and their every day lives tought me more than I ever could've imagined. Their kindness, religious beliefs and simple ways of living humbled my whole perspective on life. In my short visit in the Queros nation I learned a great deal to what family actually means. Their word for family is also the word for community, ayllu. I could barely communicate with my host families and I had fell as if I had been with them for a month. Each member in the family has their own role they fulfill without question or complaint. The youngest do what they can to help the parents and siblings. They would walk through the freezing cold weather with no shoes trudging through puddles and rain just to grab a single blanket for their father. The fathers work all day doing intense labor so he can support his ayllu. The mother knits cloths prepares food all day while watching over her many kids and tending to livestock, and at the end of the day when they are huddled together in the kitchen they still manage to show more love and happiness for each other despite all their hardships. This beautiful sign of affection is something that is missing in most ayllu's back home. This example comes to show you don't need money a big house or all the many novelties that we have back home to have happiness or a true ayllu.
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Andes and Amazon A

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Ayllu

William Hobbs,Andes and Amazon A

Description

Queros is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before. The people and their every day lives tought me more than I ever could’ve imagined. Their kindness, religious beliefs and simple ways of living humbled my whole perspective on life. In my short visit in the Queros nation I learned a great deal to what family actually […]

Posted On

12/6/14

Author

William Hobbs

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    [post_date] => 2014-12-06 19:55:21
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    [post_content] => When Jim Schultz, a conservation activist engaged in the fight against climate change, came to speak at the dragons program house, I felt as if I had tasted the raw sap of this problem for the first time. I was not expecting it to be so bitter and stick strong to my teeth. In my home in the United States, we have the luxury to dance around this climate problem with money; we buy more expensive foods or opt for the cheaper non-organic option or GMO based product. However, in places like rural Bolivia, where their livelihood is farming a wide variety of potatoes that rely on the wide variety of microclimates in the altiplano, in other words not making a salary, the dance around climate change becomes a dance of migration. Many of these rural communities have decided to move up the mountain, where the climate is generally colder, in order to grow their potatoes and make chuño (freeze dried potatoes that can last years and are an essential component of the diets in these communities). Since the climate is warming, chuño has been more and more difficult to make since it does not get cold enough at night for it to freeze dry sufficiently. To make matters worse, climate change has caused flooding patterns and rain fall to change dramatically in the altiplano, causing more and more crops to fail. Therefor, with the lack of a better option, these communities have been forced to move further and further up mountains, where it is generally colder, so that they can continue to support themselves through farming and making their chuño. However, what will happen to these communities when they can no longer move further up the mountain because they have already gone as high up as the peak? Or if it doesn't matter if they climb because all of their fields have flooded due to excessive snow melt or increasing amounts of heavy rain? This is when I look to myself, and how I live my life in the US. Do I put my money in the pockets of corporations that run factories who emit the CO2 that contributes to climate change? I definitely have in the past, but these communities as a whole have contributed less money to CO2 emissions than me, a single individual. Do I put my money in the pockets of corporations that deforest and exploit places like the amazon, places that are our best hope of absorbing the carbon dioxide that I have taken part in pumping into the atmosphere? I believe I have, and more so than communities of campesinos have given as a whole. So why is it that they have to migrate up the mountain and suffer these affects of climate change more than I ever have had to in my whole life? Is it because I come from a place of devil's dimes, and they come from the potato. It makes me ask myself, how should I live my life in order to take care of the health of lands and people that once seemed so far away but have now shown their faces? It is not fair how I have been living my life, comfortably and at the expense of these warm loving communities like Kaata or Nación Q'eros in Perú. I have realized I need to change the way I live my everyday life in order to help uproot the climate crisis and make our world, on a global scale and in a more systemic way, healthy and less impactful on those who deserve it least.
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Andes and Amazon A

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Climate Change CIDL

Rebecca DiSomma,Andes and Amazon A

Description

When Jim Schultz, a conservation activist engaged in the fight against climate change, came to speak at the dragons program house, I felt as if I had tasted the raw sap of this problem for the first time. I was not expecting it to be so bitter and stick strong to my teeth. In my […]

Posted On

12/6/14

Author

Rebecca DiSomma

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    [post_content] => I have been looking for things to do next semester, and I knew I wanted to volunteer because I wanted to help the pace I was in in some way. However, it hadn't dawned on me before I read an article called 'To Hell With Good Intentions' that not all service work actually has an outcome at all, and in fact some service work has a negative outcome on that place. Take, for example, being involved in delivering international aid food drops. In places like Bolivia, food drops of wheat based products have replaced grains like quinoa, cañahau, and amarynth because they are cheaper seeing as it was surplus food from the US given for free. That, coupled with the increasing popularity of quinoa in westernized countries causing an increased demand and higher prices for the quinoa, has rendered wheat based products more common in Bolivia, along with diabetes and other diseases. Moreover, when wheat products were first being dropped on Bolivia, quinoa wasn't as popular in westernized countries; these food drops ending up taking away from the business of local farmers and negatively impacting the economy. But that is just one example of service work and aid gone wrong. Another common example of ineffective service work is building schools without putting in place teachers and staff to run the schools. Many people walk away from the service project with a sense of accomplishment feeling that they've done something good in the world. However, many times these schools remain vacant because after the construction was done, a sustainable system was not put in place to run the school or keep the community involved with the school. So how is that helping anyone? These are all questions that I'm not sure I would have asked myself in the past when looking at potential service opportunities I could get involved with. Clearly, I really do want to leave a positive outcome when I work, but are my good intentions going to harm, or even help, anyone in the process? So now as I look into my ventures for next semester, I am more careful that I will be doing service in a sustainable way that has a long lasting and positive impact on the place. Not only that, but I'm looking to learn from the place that I am in as well to ensure that I don't just impose my culture and my ways on another. This is especially important because I am interested in health, and in Bolivia, where I hope to return to, there is a strong culture of practicing traditional medicine instead of western medicine. Like I do not want to diminish the local economy, I don't want to impose what I am accustomed to on ancient knowledge and culture. So as I seek out work to do next semester, I am keeping in mind what I can do to actually help the place I am in, instead of just being able to say, 'I did service work and it was supposed to be helping. I had good intentions.'
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Andes and Amazon A

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Learning Service CIDL

Rebecca DiSomma,Andes and Amazon A

Description

I have been looking for things to do next semester, and I knew I wanted to volunteer because I wanted to help the pace I was in in some way. However, it hadn’t dawned on me before I read an article called ‘To Hell With Good Intentions’ that not all service work actually has an […]

Posted On

12/6/14

Author

Rebecca DiSomma

WP_Post Object
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    [post_date] => 2014-12-06 19:51:47
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    [post_content] => Going in to Cochabamba I requested that I had a home-stay family with siblings because as I grew up, I had so much fun with my siblings in the US, and I wanted to have that at my month long home in Bolivia. I will say that I was so lucky with who I was placed with. I shared a room with my home-stay sister Patti who is 18 years old, just like me. We would stay up late at night talking from bed to bed in the dark. In all honesty, it reminded me of when my sisters lived at home, and we'd stay up late into the night saying every ten minutes that we'd go to sleep, but then of course someone would start talking again, and we'd be up for the next two hours. Seeing as I am the youngest in my family, I had never had the experience of having a younger sister. Well, Anna Fabiola is the coolest 10 year old sister I could have ever asked for. The first night, when my Spanish was not so good, we bonded over playing board games and our deep love for delicious food. As time went on, we would spend hours making pancakes and waffles and watching movies like ice age and malificent in Spanish. I would help her with her math homework, and she would grade my Spanish homework before I turned it in. We were a great team. I was also incredibly lucky to have Doña Leti as my home-stay mom. She is quite possibly the most loving and warm woman I have ever met. She supports Patti, Ana, and Juan in everything they pursue, weather it's Patti's athletics, Juan's soccer, or Ana's little arts and crafts. She would teach me how to make delicious food with her and stay up late with me when I was trying to learn how to weave. Not to mention, she is hilarious. Everyday, no matter what mood I would come home in, Doña Leti and the family could put me in a good mood just by being around them and sharing laughs about things that I didn't completely understand. I think it was just how we joked around at the dinner table, and then how we all piled on the bed after we ate dinner to watch a movie or hang out. I will never forget this family. I won't forget how warm Patti was toward me the first time we met. She had just come home from hours of training and stayed up just talking to me and joking around. I liked her right off the bat. I'll never forget what it's like to be like an older sister to Ana, and the little projects we would embark on when no one was home, like pancakes. And I won't ever forget how Doña Leti was always so warm and funny, even when she had been working all day, and we still had to clean the kitchen. I can honestly say that I felt comfortable with this family after the first night I spent with them, and I will never forget the hospitality that they showed me as a whole. I can very candidly say that they were a huge part of what made my dragon's experience so personally valuable to me on a deep emotional level. I can't wait to see them again, weather it be on Skype or in person. I love them.
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Andes and Amazon A

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Cochabamba Home Stay Reflection

Rebecca DiSomma,Andes and Amazon A

Description

Going in to Cochabamba I requested that I had a home-stay family with siblings because as I grew up, I had so much fun with my siblings in the US, and I wanted to have that at my month long home in Bolivia. I will say that I was so lucky with who I was […]

Posted On

12/6/14

Author

Rebecca DiSomma

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    [post_date] => 2014-12-06 19:50:39
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    [post_content] => Going in to Cochabamba, I knew that I wanted my independent student project to be based on health care in Bolivia. Although I didn't get any first hand exposure to health care, I wouldn't have changed my experience for the world. My instructors would help set us up with curanderos and traditional healers that would share about what they do, and how they do their work. Through my studies, I learned that healers that work within the principles of the Andean cosmovision not only heal the physical body through physical matter like plants, but they try to maintain the health of the pachamama, the health of the world as a whole. This involves looking at health in a more integral way; we cannot be healthy if we do not have a healthy place to live in or healthy food to eat. We cannot be healthy if we don't maintain reciprocity with the land we live on and the people we are surrounded with. Moreover, we can't be healthy if we don't have healthy relationships with those around us. The curanderos that work within the Andean cosmovision do more than just try to heal the physical problem at hand with physical matter like plants, even though we do get the majority of our pharmaceuticals from amazonian plants that are only a day or two walk away from the altiplano. So my question became, why does western medicine give little to no credit to the ancient knowledge and ways of the traditional healers of the Andes? So many studies in the western world have proven correct what the traditional healers have already known for centuries. Psychological studies have shown that high levels of stress hormones at a young age causes problems in the development of the brain and soft skills like emotional resilience. For centuries curanderos have said that we need to maintain the health of relationships within the family and within the community. In Quechua, the indigenous language spoken in many places in the altiplano, the word for family and community are the same, Ayllu. Everyone is brothers and sisters and everyone is suppose to look out for each other. In the western world, we see the biggest problem with stress hormones in parts of big cities, far from nature, that have a lot of gang violence. In a way, the community has become the enemy instead of being the ayllu, the family. Moreover, for centuries curanderos have been saying how we have to give back to the pachamama and take care of her because she takes care of us: reciprocity. Now, with agribusiness at large, many people suffer from water run off contaminated with pesticides. In a rural community in Peru called Parque de la Papa there are no GMOs and no hormone or pesticide use on the crops, and there has never been cancer there. How many people in the United States are suffering from or have suffered from cancer? Moreover, our carbon emissions have cause whole communities in the altiplano to move further up mountains, leaving their homes behind. I have learned, through my studies in Cochabamba, that we need to respect the ancient knowledge that has been passed down, and we need to learn everything we possibly can to make sure the people and the world we live in are healthy on a wholistic scale. I hope to not only continue studying medicine in college, but I hope to continue studying the ancient medicine that has been tested throughout time. In my personal opinion, I have an overwhelming amount to learn from both of these methods of curing, and I hope one day, to be able to unite everything that I've learned in order to help a lot of people and to help preserve the earth we rely on for life.
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Andes and Amazon A

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My Independent Student Project

Rebecca DiSomma,Andes and Amazon A

Description

Going in to Cochabamba, I knew that I wanted my independent student project to be based on health care in Bolivia. Although I didn’t get any first hand exposure to health care, I wouldn’t have changed my experience for the world. My instructors would help set us up with curanderos and traditional healers that would […]

Posted On

12/6/14

Author

Rebecca DiSomma

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    [post_date] => 2014-12-06 19:48:36
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    [post_content] => The amazon is truly an incredible place in every way possible. It is the most bio diverse ecosystem on the planet, and it provides us with the means to make the majority of our pharmaceuticals. Seeing as I am interested in biology and health, I was so excited about going to the amazon, and then, upon my arrival, I learned that it is the most rapidly disappearing forest in the whole world. How could this be happening? The amazon holds a wealth of species, and, to me, is one of the most impressive places in the world. Yes, I understand the amazon is located in many places that may experience strong temptation to exploit the jungle in the name of economic interest, but what about the rich ecosystems found there? The cost of this money comes with the loss of many plant and animal species as well, some very medicinal.
And even more so related to the realm of health, what are we doing to protect the Amazonian indigenous communities that are directly affected every time the jungle is exploited? What are we doing to protect their rights to their homes and protect the ancient knowledge they pass along about the jungle? It is sad to know that the lure of money is so strong, that even presidents like Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia who is indigenous Aymara, is willing to build a highway and displace indigenous communities in Tipnis for the sake of money. He is willing to do this even though they walked for days out of their communities just to protest the construction of the road. So how do we balance exploiting the richness of the amazon in places of greater economic need with the human rights of the people who inhabit these places being exploited.
Moreover, how do we balance the exploitation of the amazon while raging in a fight against climate change. In a previous yak, I wrote a little bit about how deforestation in the amazon affects indigenous communities in the altiplano because it exacerbates climate change. If we cut down the single forest that absorbs the most carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, how many more rural farming communities are we affecting, and not just the ones in Bolivia and Peru, but on a global scale? This brought me to feel a deep sense of love, appreciation, and connection to the hot, sticky, humid, buggy amazon. It may be the single most important ecosystem in the world right now, and as aforementioned, it is the most rapidly disappearing. Over the summer I hope to work in the rainforest, not only to learn about the wide variety of medicinal plants and ancient healing practices, but to conserve this place so that we can have a healthier atmosphere and a healthier world.
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Andes and Amazon A

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Amazon yak CIDL

Rebecca DiSomma,Andes and Amazon A

Description

The amazon is truly an incredible place in every way possible. It is the most bio diverse ecosystem on the planet, and it provides us with the means to make the majority of our pharmaceuticals. Seeing as I am interested in biology and health, I was so excited about going to the amazon, and then, […]

Posted On

12/6/14

Author

Rebecca DiSomma

WP_Post Object
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    [post_author] => 26
    [post_date] => 2014-12-06 19:42:43
    [post_date_gmt] => 2014-12-07 02:42:43
    [post_content] => Deciding on where we wanted to go for our expedition was rough, but how could one choose between two awesome places like choquequirao and Parque de la Papa? I ended up doing the trek through choquequirao, but I hope that on my return to Peru that I can set up a home stay in Parque de la Papa because it sounded like an incredible experience as well. On the first part of our expedition we went to the last city of the Incas, Choquequirao. The Incas abandoned Machi Picchu in order to escape the Spanish conquest, and then they founded their new home, Vilcabamba, in the jungle after destroying all their paths that led to Machu Picchu. The Spanish ended up finding them in Vilcabamaba some years later and enslaved a large margin of the people living there, approximately 60%. However, those who escaped trekked up into the mountains and built the last city of the Incas, Choquequirao. These were the ruins we visited on the first part of our trek. They built this place in a rush, and still it was way bigger than Machu Picchu which took 90 years to build: both places built were incredible accomplishments. In Choquequirao there was a system of aqueducts and incredible terraces that prevented the mountain from eroding. The terraces were also used for farming. The city also had an incredible set up that was intended to mirror the Andean cosmovision. There are three worlds in this cosmovision, the upper world of the planets and cosmos, our world, and the lower world, which isn't bad but rather represents the living world underneath our feet. The city itself had three vertical parts on the mountain. On the lowest part of the mountain was the farming, in the middle was the common people, and at the highest point there was the nobles, closest to the sacred Apus, the gods. The Spanish never found Choquequirao, but it is thought that the city was vacated after a small pox epidemic. Sitting in the middle of this incredible city, these ruins, the realization hit me hard that most structures in the United States that are 500-600 years old are called historical monuments and not ruins. The Incans were so heavily impacted by the Spanish conquest that their greatest cities are now considered ruins. The history here is so deep and sad, but resilient nonetheless. Quechua, the language of the Incas, is still strong in this part of the world, and the ceremonies offering thanks to the three worlds, Pachamama, are still practiced and revered. It is incredible that after so much strife throughout Quechua history that Quechua culture is still so strong even though their greatest cities are not considered "historical monuments".
After we went to Choquequirao we had the good fortune to be able to hike up to Machu Picchu. Although there were an incredible amount of tourists and a British company that dominated the scene, I still felt incredibly connected to the place. I hiked up to El Puerto del Sol and had an incredible view looking down at the city with the luxury of being pretty much alone (there were only a few people up there with me). I imagined the city full of people, and I imagined the terraces worked and sowed. I imagined looking at the stars in the buildings that they were built just for that and talking to them as gods, mama chaska. I imagined the colors that were once there, the gold and silver they only used for decoration and to honor the father sun and mother moon, and I imagined what the people thought about while knowing that they didn't think about money; they didn't have a system of money. Dollars and coins were useless to them, and so trade was their livelihood. I sat there imagining all of these things, and when I stopped imagining and just saw what was just physically there, I felt loss. I felt the pain of losing my home because while I was imagining, it felt like a place that I would like to live. Who wouldn't want to be up in the sky surrounded by these powerful Apus, powerful peaks that are revered as gods; the people of Machu Picchu lived amongst the Gods, and they had to abandon these sacred neighbors to elude the Spanish in the Jungle and preserve what they held sacred. Then I realized, I only felt a wisp of the pain the people who called this place home felt upon leaving. And why did they have to do all of this? Why did they have to abandon their homes, experience slavery, and be extracted from their own culture. The answer is simple: the European taste for the silver and gold that adorned Incan temples, the same temples that honored mother moon and father sun, mama Kia and papa Inti. It truly baffles me that this thirst gave whole countries the justification to cause so much pain and strife to a whole empire. It truly baffles me that their only motivations were gold, silver and imposing their own religion, and their biggest outcomes were pain, destroying homes, and taking away culture and freedom.
    [post_title] => Choquequirao and Machu Picchu Expedition CIDL 2 part yak
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Andes and Amazon A

View post

Choquequirao and Machu Picchu Expedition CIDL 2 part yak

Rebecca DiSomma,Andes and Amazon A

Description

Deciding on where we wanted to go for our expedition was rough, but how could one choose between two awesome places like choquequirao and Parque de la Papa? I ended up doing the trek through choquequirao, but I hope that on my return to Peru that I can set up a home stay in Parque […]

Posted On

12/6/14

Author

Rebecca DiSomma

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