This Christmas was a very special one for me – for the first time I took part in the yearly Christmas activity of Cultural Immersion. On December 25th, early in the morning, we started our way from Cusco to Paru Paru, a community high above in the Andes on approximately 3800 meters above sea level. Fully packed with presents, such as footballs, school suppliers, tooth brushes and some other toys, we travelled through lonesome landscape, small villages always guided by the snowcapped mountains and a vegetation that got rougher with every meter we travelled higher.
Finally arrived, we were welcomed by hundreds of children and their parents who came to Paru Paru from the surrounding villages to celebrate Christmas Day.
While the older women prepared the hot chocolate, our musician Nacho and his wife started to entertain the children with Christmas songs and everyone was singing the traditional songs full of joy.
Unfortunately the rainy season did not even stop for Christmas and everyone flew to seek protection under the roofs of the few buildings.
However, as most rainfalls in the region it was heavy but short and exactly when the hot chocolate was ready, it stopped and everyone lined up for a cup of the hot beverage and a piece of the traditional Christmas bread, a sweet one, decorated with colored raisins.
After even the last one got something to eat and to drink, everyone was sitting together and we also got the chance to make some contacts with the villagers and especially with the children. For instance with Erika, a girl maybe 8 years old, but very wispy for her age, who came to Paru Paru with her mother and her two smaller siblings to not only receive hot chocolate and a piece of bread, but also one of the several gifts we brought. With her dirty clothes and broken shoes, she was shyly smiling and curiously asking me where I am from and what I usually do for Christmas – what a question, considering that I usually have a big Christmas Dinner with my whole family and that everyone gets a lot of Christmas presents.
But this Christmas also the children from Paru Paru should get something special. Everyone got together on the sports field of the little grammar school and while Nacho ones again animated everyone to sing and dance together, we tried to free all toys and other items from unnecessary plastic that we did not want to leave behind in the community, where waste management did not seem to be one of the problem the inhabitants primarily have in mind.
But finally we were ready and started to distribute the present to the children. Everyone was lining up and tried to raise ones attention, in order to get one of the hotly sought dolls, pencils, rubik cubes, tooth brushes or toy cars.
And finally the most wanted items: the footballs. Relatively helpless, due to the big demand, we tried to give balls to the ones who are six year old – what a chaos! Every child in this community seemed to be in that age and so finally everyone just grabbed the balls and did not have a real chance of influencing. But it didn’t matter. Everyone was happy about his new presents and was starting their way back to their communities, while we boarded our van and drove to the Amaru community where we were supposed to have lunch. Arriving there, we dressed up in the typical way the inhabitants are used to do it since centuries and were welcomed by a hot tea and a delicious meal, consisting of a quinoa soup, followed by guinea pig and oven cooked lamb with corn and potatoes.
And although some of us might had doubts to try the guinea pig that was even presented to us in whole before it got cut, everyone overcame the picture of the small sweet animal and tried at least a small piece. All in all a very delicious lunch, which everyone truly enjoyed.
After a full day, we made our day back to Cusco – with a bunch full of memories and the feeling that this Christmas has been a very special one.
At this point we also want to thank all of our clients who donated items for the children. We hope all of you had a great Christmas time and a great start into the New Year.
By Hannah Fischer