4 Things I Learned in the Sacred Valley

By Isabel Strebe, Marketing and Communications intern

I write this sitting in a coffee shop back home in Minnesota, where the air temp is below zero and the roads are being dusted in snow. While I’ve only been home from Ollantaytambo for a week, in many ways it feels like I’ve been dropped into another world where it’s too easy to sideline the amazing experience I’ve had for the distractions of my everyday life. Having spent four months as a Marketing and Communications intern for Awamaki, I’ve grown deeply attached to Ollanta in many ways. I find myself clinging to things that remind me of my temporary home, like the bracelets I wove, the three t-shirts I cycled through, and the very-pronounced sandal tan I’ve acquired from hours in the Sacred Valley Sun. While these material reminders are great, I know they won’t be around forever, and I want to find other ways to remember and utilize my experiences in Peru. So here are some things I have taken away from my time there!

 

  1. Things don’t have to be so regulated! This was my first time abroad, and having grown up in the U.S. I became so accustomed to hyper-cleanliness, having well-enforced rules, and feeling like there was some bigger structure in place to keep things safe and running smoothly. While this may be more of an illusion than anything, it was still very different in Peru. I learned order can show up in different ways in different societies, and it can be okay to not have excessive sanitation codes, and to pack way to many people into a minivan flying down a mountain road. It felt shocking at times, but it isn’t inherently more dangerous, and people live healthy lives all over the world without the intense regulations I am used to in the States.
  2. Intelligence comes in so many forms. This was a big take-away for me as I observed how the weavers we work with went about their (in my eyes) challenging lives with grace. Especially in more traditional indigenous communities, I was blown away by the sheer amount of knowledge they had as artists, mothers, farmers, and humans.
  3. Potatoes can be more interesting than I ever imagined. Honestly I’d never really considered different varieties of potatoes besides the classic Russet and those cute little red ones from the farmers market. In the Sacred Valley I was able to try more potatoes than I could even imagine. While many taste the same to me and I did get tired of them, I think I’ll always have a special potato-appreciation.
  4. Money doesn’t equal happiness. Obviously I’d heard this before, but it was hard for me to really conceptualize until I saw it in practice. Living in and traveling to communities of people who objectively had ‘less’ than me, yet living lives I considered to be richer than mine and most people that I know.

Thank you for reading! Aside from a way for me to reflect I hope I was able to provide some insight into life with Awamaki in the Sacred Valley. As I go forward, I want to commit myself to not letting this experience slip through the cracks, to absorb as much of the inspiring people, places, and things I saw and did.