Hey everyone, sorry we’ve been off the grid for the past week. It’s been quite a journey off the beaten path in northern Peru. On our road trip, we visited the pueblos of Nueva Arica and Niepos where Wifi is hard to come by, but we thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to be disconnected for a little while and fully enjoy the people and the places. Don’t worry, we’ve been journaling throughout so we’ll tell you all about it. It was an absolutely incredible experience that neither of us will ever forget. We’ve been greatly impacted by the people that we met, the stories they told and the experiences they shared with us.
We left Cajamarca at 4am to embark upon our 6 hour drive to Nueva Arica, which included stopping three times at gas stations so Tio Wilson could ask where to buy gas. Did you know that in Peru, gas and gasolina are different things?
Several members of ZZ’s family live in Nueva Arica, a very small town an hour and a half outside of Chiclayo. The main street that runs through the town is paved, with smaller dirt streets skirting off on either side. Nueva Arica is where a large part of ZZ’s family settled after leaving their mountain village of Niepos. It’s an incredibly tight-knit community. Extended families live within blocks of one another, and everyone in the town greets each other on the street by first name. Not to mention, there you’ll find the best fresh-baked bread you’ll ever taste. Lauren and I managed to consume a combined 23 pieces in a single day. No exaggeration.
We arrived at ZZ’s tia Orfelinda’s house where all of the women in the family were gathered in the backyard preparing all (and we really mean all) of the body parts of their late pet goat to eat for the big baptism celebration. While they chopped up the intestines, ZZ’s cousin Manuel took us for a ride on his moto-tricycle (we call them tiki-tikis because they sound like tikitikitikitiki) to collect yuccas for dinner. We though this might be a quick trip to the store, but we were definitely wrong about that. Manuel took us to his yucca field where he pulled whole trees out of the ground to reveal fat yucca roots which he hacked off with a machete. It was crazy and absolutely beautiful to look around and see green fields for miles encircled by mountains.
It’s turning into summer here in Peru, so we’ve both been building up our gringa sunburns… sorry mom. The ice cold shower we took was so welcome after sizzling in the sun and having washed ourselves with buckets and pitchers of hot water for the past week.
BAPTISM TIME!!! Samir (Manuel’s son and ZZ’s new god son) is an adorable, yet slightly vicious 4 year-old. Imagine him in a tuxedo at a church service in a foreign language in a tiny pueblo. The church is at the base of a mountain and the windows and doors were left open as the sun set and little kids played soccer across the street. The views were incredible and Samir somehow managed not to growl at the priest throughout the whole service.
Back to the house we went for FIESTA TIME!!! Although we were both slightly awkward-feeling gringas in the beginning, it didn’t take long for us to start eating, drinking and dancing with our new Peruvian family. Things you may not know about a Peruvian fiesta:
- If you don’t want to/ like to dance, better luck next time, you’re still inevitably going to be pulled onto the dance floor.
- Peruvians drink communally, passing around a 40 litre beer with a tiny cup, each pouring a little sip, chugging it, dumping the rest of the foam on the floor, and passing it on to the person next to them.
- The party never stops. Ever. Even when its 3:30am and you’ve been dancing since 6pm and you’re sleeping standing up.
- Hangover breakfast? Leftover goat intestines. (We settled for the best fried eggs we’ve ever had. Thanks Hilda!)
The morning after the baptism, we went with ZZ and some of her family members to the Nueva Arica cemetery to visit the grave of ZZ’s great aunt who raised her for a large part of her childhood. The cemetery looked like it had been plucked out of a Wes Anderson film and plopped down in the desert behind a tiny Peruvian pueblo. The graves are all above ground and are painted vivid blues, yellows and pinks that pop against the rust-colored landscape. It was here that we began to understand the importance of returning to visit the graves of ancestors in Peru, and why these trips have so much meaning for ZZ beyond returning to visit her living family members.
That afternoon, the family took us to el rio. We rode in the back of Manuel’s tiki tiki on tiny dirt roads through the yucca and rice fields followed by our road trip van, which miraculously didn’t break down on the way. The water was beautiful and refreshing. The thing about rivers is that they tend to flow pretty quickly. So we all floated in the river holding onto rocks on the riverbed for dear life… Edgar showed us that one slip of the hand and you could find yourself downstream in the next pueblo.
After our trip to the river we sat down for our first interviews with Orfelinda (ZZ’s aunt who helped raise her), Jorge (ZZ’s brother), and Manuel (ZZ’s cousin). Everyone had incredibly thoughtful and interesting things to say about family, immigration, and life in general. We felt honored that they felt comfortable enough to open up to us and tell us such personal things about their lives.
We finished off the day by chasing the sunset up a mountain that used to be an archaeological dig site. There was a huge margin for slipping, tripping and definitely eating dirt, particularly when scampering up the broken glass-covered hill in flip-flops. However, it was all worth it for possibly the best sunset we’ve ever seen.
How are we doing? Well, we’re truly having the best time. Lauren (pronounced Lorenz by most Peruvians) has found her calling as a Peruvian comedian. Her jokes in Spanish have the whole car cracking up. Izzy (now commonly referred to as Isa) loves Peruvian fiesta dancing. One noteworthy moment at the baptism was when she danced with a slightly inebriated cousin who moved like he was playing a relatively offensive game of charades. We might be two gringas, but we’re quickly becoming a part of the family.