On the drive to Quinua we rode along cliffs and below I could see a dark river twinkling in the strong Andean sunlight, cutting though small chacras of corn and potatoes. A strikingly narrow valley out of which mountains sharply rise. We passed mud brick houses with drying corn on the roof and a woman heading her shaggy sheep along the road. At one corner Rodolfo stopped his pick up and in climbed six more people. One woman had a baby strapped to her back in colorful cloth, and sat on the edge of truck bed, her baby's feet dangling over the asphalt below as we jostled up the mountain towards the pueblo.
Quinua is small and humble but clean and old. The roads are paved with large stones and the houses that line them are whitewashed with red roofs and boarded windows. Every other house says "artesanos" and the family name.
My family's house is like a circular compound with chickens, the garbage pile, the ceramics gallery, kiln and fire pit in the center.
The market happens only on Sundays and the entire town seems to gather on a cement slab to sell their homegrown goods. There was chicken and fish dangling from hooks in the open, but it didn't smell nearly as bad as the markets in Lima.
My two year old sister follows me everywhere. She hands me her toys, one at a time, all six of them. A melange of baby dolls, Barbies, stuffed bears and plastic pistols, all covered in chicken shit and dirt. She smiles at me with her dark almond eyes and chapped red cheeks. Once I am holding all her toys she goes for the kitten, or the chicks, picking them up by the neck and dragging their poor, delicate bodies to my lap. When I tell her "no quiero, gracias," because the animal is clearly diseased, she shoves it towards me with the persistent chutzpah that only two year olds have. When she isn't looking I put the poor, small animals down on the packed dirt floor of the compound and tell it to run for its life. When she returns she screams, "se cayo?!" (It fell?!). I nod my head, solemnly, yes. She runs to capture the poor baby animal again.
Rodolfo and my host dad, Marino, are out drinking because Peru is playing tonight. I only have a small brick to keep my door shut. At night I can hear the borrachos wandering, sometimes fighting, somethings singing and every once in a while, weeping. I draw abstract interpretations of vaginas to compensate my fear.
I tried convincing my mother that I am capable of walking alone.
"I walked everywhere alone in Lima," I told her.
"Yes," she said, then raised an eyebrow, "and now you get to walk everywhere with me." She gave me a crooked smile.
I didn't push it, although inside, I wanted to scream.
There's no peachy way to wrap up this blog post, or my time in Quinua. I've since moved to Ayacucho with a new host family and work in a kindergarten. I am in love with Ayacucho and this city's flavor, my students, family and co-workers. I've gone to visit Quinua twice now for exploration, and to visit Anya, my fellow traveler. I certainly miss my two year old play mate, but am happy to have more work to do and freedom here in Ayacucho.