Saturday, January 20, 2007

Day 130: Comedor Sonia Morales

I guess that I shouldn't have expected the meeting to start on time, or even for people to show up at all... but while the bubbling dark storm clouds built up to the South, over Mt. Hualcan, I donned my rain jacket and headed down the hill. Passing the afternoon soccer game, a bunch of my students yelled out 'good afternoon Libby' in English, and smiling I kept on walking down the steep dirt road. A couple of collective taxis (stationwagon styles) passed me, filled with at least 9 people, and mounds of potatoes and other vegetables. As they passed the drivers waved and honked... a way of greeting me and acknowledging me as someone that they knew from Musho. Rewarding, the smile was starting to make my cheeks hurt.

Because it was Saturday afternoon, everyone was busy gathering up their recently harvested crops (potatoes, corn, hot peppers, cabbage, lettuce, brocolli, green onion) into sturdy thick plastic sacks to take to the Sunday market. Families take turns sitting by the market goods on the side of the road, while waiting for the big truck to make the rounds of the mountain towns. Around midnight the families will choose a member or two to accompany the goods down to the city (Caraz, Carhuaz, Yungay, or Huaraz) in the covered truck. Market day really starts for them around 2 or 3 am when the middlemen from Lima buy enormous quantities of vegetables for resale in Lima. Throughout the next day, before the rains start, many people will attend the markets, making family size purchases...and then everyone will head back up the hills to their homes.

My destination, however, was the small elementary school in the neighborhood called Piscuy. I was running a little late and arrived at about 4:03pm when the meeting was supposed to start at 4pm. I was not surprised to find noone there and asked a women that I had recently met if indeed the meeting would happen. She looked off to the cloudy southern sky and said 'yes, it's supposed to start at 4pm.' Apparently she had decided that the rains would be prohibiting...and she not only knew about the meeting, but knew what time it was scheduled for. She smiled and kept walking. She would eventually show up, closer to 5pm than 4pm...but there nonetheless.

I began by chatting with one of my students from summer school... it was a fun way to wait. Next time I am going to bring a hacky sack. Gradually women began to show up, and the conversation shifted to a comparison of life in the US and Peru. We talked about everything from terrorism to family planning, from marriage to daily eating habits. They helped me with a few Quechua questions that I had, and I taught them some greetings in English. And then, at around 6pm, when only 9 of the expected 36 members of the community soup kitchen had appeared, they canceled the meeting.

I bid them adeiu and headed back up the hill, promising to come to their next meeting. During my walk a man preparing his potatoes for market gifted me a huge, and heavy bag of delicious potatoes... and another women offered me a piece of hot corn just out of the pot. The sun was setting behind me and the sky was pink. My smile hadn't yet been erased, and Benjamin was waiting for me in our room with freshly boiled corn, picked from the back yard, bread baked down the street, and some steamy hot chocolate all the way from MN (thanks Mom & Pop!).