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 This week has been wild. I survived my first time traveling solo in Latin America and made it to my hostel in Cusco without any problems.  I even made some friends in the hostel! I met up with my fellow intern Viviana for dinner (Alpaca steak and pizza) in Cusco. I went to bed feeling a little nervous for the next day but proud of my accomplishments so far.

Adjusting to a new family

The next day I met with Viviana and Chris to go pick up Anna from the airport. I was nervous that it would be awkward but luckily we all got along really well. Driving into the Sacred Valley I was struck by the lucia dishesinsane beauty of the mountains surrounding us. The dramatic landscape helped to calm my nerves. One of my biggest concerns going into the program was the living situation. I knew that amenities would be basic and that I would be living with a host family, but after my experience in Chile living in a host family consisting of one older woman, I was worried that I would be lonely. I was really excited to learn that I would be living with the other interns and in such a large host family. The experience so far has been wonderful- Maritza and Lucho are very sweet and accommodating. They love learning about our lives and telling us the history that surrounds the Sacred Valley. I loved playing Spot It with them and seeing their playful sides. This house is never quiet- Lucia is always yelling about something and the radio is always playing weird oldies or Peruvian music, but I love the energy and the friendly vibes from this family.


Lucia’s favorite pastime- doing the dishes.

 

Old insecurities

chard days work

All in a chard day’s work.

After my nerves about the living conditions were assuaged, my old fears about my own physical capabilities started to return. Before Calca I had no experience farming- let alone at this high of an altitude. I knew that the program would be physically demanding but I was nervous about my own abilities. I was a chubby kid growing up, and to this day a small part of me still feels as though I don’t have the physical capabilities to handle intense work like this. I know that the only way I can overcome this insecurity is to prove it wrong again and again. Overall I’m really proud of the work I’ve done so far in Calca.

 

 

 

 

I am bad with children but good with dogs

dogsOne of the things that I’ve been loving about this program is the insane abundance of cute, friendly dogs. It seems so trivial- here I am having this great cultural experience and I’m happy that there’s a dog on the farm? But honestly having Leroy and the pack of dogs that greet us when we come to the office and the puppies living in our backyard just makes me feel more at ease here in Calca. Kids are another story. Going into the lesson plan I was nervous- not only because I had no teaching experience but because I had no kid experience. However, all of my nerves were calmed once we left Rayampata and immediately five or six children flocked to me to hold my hand for the entire walk up to the farm. Friday morning was super fun for me – more fun than I ever thought teaching a bunch of 8-year olds how to compost could be. I felt seriously overjoyed afterwards because I felt as though the kids had accepted me and looked up to me. It made me feel on top of the world.

 

 

Quinoa harvesting

quinoa harvest

Kati is a 14-year old girl who came to teach us how to separate quinoa seeds from the chafe- that unwanted plant material that still sticks around after harvesting.  I was shocked when one afternoon she stayed with us to sift quinoa even though it was pouring rain outside and we were stuck in the dark, cold shed. She helped us sift for a few hours without a single complaint. 14-year-old Nikki never would have been so patient. This photo is awesome and encapsulates everything I hoped that this experience would be. That gorgeous, golden quinoa made us so happy because we had worked so hard to harvest it and were left with a truly beautiful product.  I hope that this theme – the happiness that comes when you create something amazing- continues throughout the duration of my time here.

 

 

My love affair with América Latina

                I’ll be honest- a lot of the reason why I chose to do this internship was so that I could stay in Latin America and continue to allow the disorganized chaos of this entire continent teach me new things about myself. I loved my time in Chile, but am trying very hard to keep this a separate experience. I have a feeling that I’m about to grow a lot over the next 9 weeks. I thought I would come out of this internship with stronger arm muscles, better Spanish and more knowledge about farming, but now I’m realizing that this is going to be a mental and spiritual journey about challenging myself and throwing myself into uncomfortable situations and allowing myself to swim rather than being scared that I’ll sink. I have a feeling that some really special things are going to happen for me in the Sacred Valley and, although not without some nervousness, I’m ready to embrace all of it.

calca

My new home.

This video features Ruben teaching some of the biointensive planting method to students in the Ccachin greenhouse. Ccachin is a small Andean farming community in the district of Lares. To date AASD has 3 greenhouses in Ccachin, one at the primary school and two at the secondary school. This video features AASD’s efforts with the students to breathe some new energy into one of the secondary school greenhouses. Enjoy!

[youtube]http://youtu.be/UdWyRdMZMBg[/youtube]

 

 

 

 

Check out our photos from the 1st Demo Farm open house held yesterday, Sunday October 17th.

Click here to view the whole photo album on  Andean Alliance facebook page!

Wow, hanging water bottles and a stone wall. AASD really hit the nail on the head this week with this beautiful and inspiring photo of the week, huh? Not quite. But what you’re looking at could be called inspiring for its innovative quality. The wall makes up part of a small family greenhouse. The hanging plastic decorations are plastic bottles filled with water. These neat contraptions attract pesky bugs that would otherwise feast on the vulnerable plants just a few feet below. Oh no! Who knew plastic bottles could be such life savers! I’m sharing this with you because it represents another instance of utilizing resources at hand to address challenges in the greenhouses.

Alright, to be honest, I just get really jazzed that the plastic water bottles are being reused, contributing to healthy plant growth while reducing waste!  Yep, I really am super excited about this instance of creative reuse. ~Kat

Giant swiss chard from the Choquecancha greenhouse. Now, this photo may not do it justice but this stuff was up to my waist and half my width. Yes, I know I am a short 5’1″ but nonetheless, I’d say that’s one giant chard plant. Looks like beyond organic growing practices can still yield massive and tasty veggies. For a place like Choquecancha that never grew much more than corn, this giant leafy green marks a pretty exciting event for the veggie laden school greenhouse.  Hooray for warm greenhouses and fertile soil!

Water catchment pit linked to a hose for drip irrigation in the greenhouse

Innovation

It’s what happens when you give project participants ownership over their projects. But why would someone ever be stripped of the freedom to innovate with something they own? They aren’t. But creativity can be stifled. Or it can be encouraged!

With the Maucau family greenhouse project we worked hard to get participants excited and deeply involved in the planning process from the frequency of workshops through the prioritization of content and above all the bigger vision of the project. Participants envisioned the potential allowing them to play a leading role in determining the direction of projects. For several months we held bi-weekly workshops, including one bigger demo farm workshop. Prior to our last community workshop, Ruben, Chris, and I visited each family greenhouse. We were slammed in the face by innovation! Many ideas we had talked about among ourselves were being put into practice – from water catchment to innovative space maximization practices, to simply yet clever irrigation systems. Leave a farmer alone and s/he will immediately identify problems and design clever solutions. This post shows some photos of what we saw. Some of these practices were so hard to capture on camera, and those you see are not done justice. But believe me, seeing firsthand what these innovators had done between workshops was quite impressive – it made each and every trip and all the planning worth it.  All I could think was: This crew of family greenhouse owners is awesome! They sure schooled me in how to overcome their growing challenges. ~Kat

 

Both the pit style and the rocks of this compost help keep materials warm and prevent over-drying in the high altitude climate

rain-fed catchment system fed by a rigged up roof gutter.

Sixto helps manage and maintain the Choquecancha primary school greenhouse. Ruben took this photo of Sixto in action, harvesting some giant cauliflower last week. His enthusiasm and hard work keeps the students involved. He works above and beyond to make sure the greenhouse looks good all the time too. We value the enthusiasm of community members such as Sixto who take pride in ensuring the continued success of the school greenhouse projects. Next year, we hope to work closer with Sixto, giving him even more tools for innovating and advancing the school greenhouse project alongside the students of Choquecancha.