A winding bus ride up into the Andes brought us to the secluded Peruvian village of Qenqo. While travellers pass through from time to time, our group was the first to spend the night there. We were welcomed with an incredible show of local culture, complete with traditional songs, dance, and poetry. After integrating us into a dance that mimicked a local high-altitude bird, the villagers escorted us to a plot of land above their fútbol (soccer) field where they worked together as a community to till the soil. Before preparing the land, it is customary for the villagers to pour a glass of a yellow corn drink Chícha onto the soil after first consuming sone themselves; this tradition signifies the nourishment of both the earth and the villagers of Qenqo. The community comes together to help a different family every day by cultivating their land. With the hands of the Qenqo community and the Winsor girls working together, a significant portion of a mountainside was tilled and prepared for planting.
After working with the community, we used our free time to both rest, and interact with the locals. In the mid-afternoon, a bumpy and terrifying (but altogether fun) bus ride up the side of a cliff took us to a nearby lake and a pasture for llamas, alpacas, and sheep to graze. Every day, Quechua women lead the livestock up the winding road to let them graze in the grassy field, and that same day the women bring the animals back into the town to protect them from foxes and other predators. We helped the women herd the livestock back into town as the sun set. Although we were exhausted from a long and exciting day with the villagers of Qenqo, we worked together to prepare the song “Hey-Ho” by the Lumineers to sing to the village. Our performance was a big success, and a chorus of encores led us to play another song, “Riptide” by Vance Joy. A number of Winsor girls and the teachers then played a game of fútbol with some of the Quechua women. Despite the altitude, the Winsor girls pulled through and scored quite a few goals in the scrimmage (with only minimal falling). The next morning, the community invited us to a llama fertility ceremony. They pierced the ears of the llamas with a pink tassel and poured a magenta dye on their backs. Although we had spent only 24 hours in the village of Qenqo, saying goodbye to the welcoming and kindhearted community was heartbreaking for everyone.