Silent Voices of Peru

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Over the New Year holiday, Natalie traveled to Peru for Project Wise Words community and country research. In addition to business needs motivating her trip, this was a bucket list destination that Natalie had anticipated since childhood. Initially, Natalie was confident that she would have many WiseWord encounters on her trip. Yet, it was five days into the mission and she found herself restlessly hunting through her journal and recorder to no avail. What follows is a compilation of the recordings and journal entries gathered from Natalie’s Peruvian mission.

I do speak some Spanish (or more so “Spanglish”) and while there was a bit of a language barrier, that was not the basis for an absence of WiseWords occurrences. As I was sitting in my hostel room with the doors to my Juliet balconette open and my feet upon the wooden railing, taking in the incredible views of the low-hanging clouds crawling over the towering mountains, hearing the roosters off in the distance and listening to the shuffling footsteps of an elderly Peruvian woman gently strolling down the cobblestone side street, I felt my heart swell with happiness and gratitude.

When I snapped out of my meditative, teary-eyed and awestruck state, it hit me, the Peruvian WiseWord experience I was searching for was not spoken audibly. I had probed my memory for conversations but missed the numerous other experiences that had occurred, like the unforgettable scene playing out in front of me right then and there.

Sometimes, the exchange of information between two people is not audible, it isn’t spoken. But rather it is in the feeling that you receive in a stranger’s embrace, it is in the message that you receive when you genuinely look into a stranger’s eyes and see their soul, it is in the passion you sense when a meal is prepared for you with the uttermost care and consideration, and it is in the way your heart overflows with emotion when you are shown compassion and respect by the villagers of another culture.

-Natalie, Ollantaytambo, Peru

These were the WiseWords experiences that I was overlooking. Peru was magical and somewhat supernatural at times. Up in the Andes mountains, the Peru I encountered was different than any other country or culture I had visited.

The food was to die for. Some of our meals up in the Sacred Valley / Andes Mountains regions, appeared and tasted as if they had come from a different planet. A planet that was kind of like Earth, but grew oversized vegetables and a variety of food that packed an overwhelmingly delicious and potent taste. The corn kernels were mammoth and of Jurassic proportion, and their taste was otherworldly. Everything I ate up in the mountainous region was absurdly flavorful. I learned that it is in part due to the fact that the soil in the Andes is an exceptionally nutrient-rich soil, and that it is not over-farmed like it is back here in the USA. And furthermore… the skill and devotion of the Peruvians preparing the food sealed the deal.

The people are gentle and kind. I’ve been to many countries and when travelling I expect to be approached by hawkers and vendors. In some countries, the hawkers are unfaltering, they just won’t take no for an answer. It’s unfortunate, yet I remind myself that it is part of the cultural experience. This was not the case in Peru, and let me try to clarify why. I found that Peruvians are an exceedingly gentle and kindhearted culture. A Peruvian vendor may approach you to try and sell you on a souvenir; however, he will only solicit you once and if you turn him down, he will respectfully leave you to shop on your own accord. This was the case almost the entire time while travelling throughout Peru. And it was not just the vendors, in fact most interactions with Peruvians were this way on our trip, even the Peruvians that were not selling anything were calm, warm-hearted and considerate. There were no audible words exchanged, yet when you looked into a Peruvian’s eyes you could sense their kindness and it was markedly refreshing.

No trash. Up in the mountains, we stayed in very small villages. From what I could tell, there were no areas of these villages that were considered the “wealthy” areas and no one in the town seemed rich in the economic sense of the term. There didn’t appear to be a drastic degree of economic inequality in these smaller villages. The average annual income is comparative to the United States’ poverty income level, still the town was so quaint and well kept. They sincerely appeared to be at ease and fulfilled. In many countries that I’ve visited, low-income or poverty-stricken areas are usually coupled with pollution, trash-littered streets and neglected, rundown buildings and community parks. But not here, the native people respected their lands, their communities and their infrastructure.

The ancient streets of Ollantaytambo were unpolluted and lined with well-preserved archaeological Incan structures, honey-orange stucco and rustic-red Spanish tile roofed houses, and their community squares were green and vibrant with vegetation and flowering blossoms.

Their achievements in the continuing care and preservation of this ancient Incan civilization are a lesson that many cultures could learn from, including the USA.

The mysterious ruins. Upon arrival to a historical site, I get goosebumps. Perhaps I was Indiana Jones in my past life, or at least an archaeologist? When exploring an ancient archaeological site, I naturally visualize the natives and how they managed to live in their archaic environment thousands of years ago. I’m like a kid in a candy store, yes, you can see the enchantment in my eyes. I allow all five of my senses to be open to receiving the “silent voices” of the Incan people. From their expertise in various agricultural techniques, their sense of community, and their ability to conquer inexplicable feats that name their Machu Picchu site one of the seven wonders of the world, the ruins tell a story.

The countless ancient ruins found throughout Peru inaudibly express the Incan legacy and tell a silent tale that is overflowing with the WiseWords of the ancient Incan empire that any conscious visitor is welcome to receive.

So this was my WiseWords experience. This was my lesson learned. Look in ALL places, not just the conversations you have, but be mindful of what you see, what you feel, what you taste, the cultural differences you encounter, and most importantly, the silent voices.

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