Ollanta Withdrawal

By Abby Hollis, Design Intern

During my time in Peru, I spent a weekend by myself in the jungle. This was when I realized that Ollanta had become my home. I attribute part of this realization to my unprecedented ease breathing but most of it to how much I missed my little town.

I missed the mountains. I missed their protective quality, the way their ruins served as an alternative to cardinal directions, the way the sun came over them into the office courtyard each morning, the way they seemed to change every day, the way they constantly took my breath away (both figuratively and very very literally…Inti Punku hike is not for the faint of heart).

I missed my work. As a design intern, I had the opportunity to utilize art as part of a solution. My work sat between design, cultural preservation, and social justice—woah. Some days this meant visiting indigenous communities to teach, learn from, and collaborate with artisans; other days this meant long hours in the office developing modes of visual communication to share with these artisans; and other days this meant unwinding yarn until my arm was sore. Regardless of the task at hand, each felt meaningful; I was able to witness the entire design process from start to finish and see exactly how my work fit into it. My last day at Awamaki was spent visiting artisans in order to see the progress they had made on the weaves for the coming collection. Although I was very sly about it, I definitely cried a little.

I missed the brownies. Yes, the brownies. A few doors down from the office exist the best brownies in all of the world baked by the loveliest woman in all of the world. Lucky customers might meet her precious daughter or receive a “wave” on Facebook (one of my proudest accomplishments). If you make it to Ollanta, go to Papa’s.

Most of all, I missed the people. I missed my friends dearly. The Awamaki family is a super special one comprised of people from different parts of the world with vastly different skills all working toward a shared goal. From Tuesday morning meetings to Friday night tacos and sangria, I enjoyed every moment shared with this group. Apart from the Awamaki family, there are many people living, working, and passing through Ollanta. Through somewhat broken Spanish and loyalty to my favorite restaurants, I grew close to people throughout the community. We would wave through doors, hug in the streets, and laugh over miscommunication. After a few weeks in Ollanta, I felt love everywhere I went.

I’m now on a plane from Cusco to Bogota and then home and am feeling all of the Ollanta withdrawal feels all over again and times a million. Although I’m leaving with several mountainous hikes under my belt, Awamaki products in my suitcase, a brownie in my purse, and memories of the many people I grew to love in my heart, I’ll miss my little home until the day I return.