A meeting with someone important
A pair of black eyes belonging to a small, somewhat serious looking quechua boy are shyly looking at us. We notice the eleven-year-old’s dark brows rising under his colourful woolly hat, when we tell him that we have driven 56,000km to finally meet him in person, after five years of exchanging letters. I ask about his white cat, and a little smile flashes in the corner of his mouth. The boys mother wants to hear what Finland is like. With her black hair in plaits, and dressed in a traditionally embroidered black skirt and brimmed hat, she has come with her son and two other children in tow to meet us in a world vision sponsor meeting, held in the mountain village of Pitumarca, Peru.
We chat for a bit and the atmosphere starts to relax. As we present a football as a little gift from us, the boy begins to smile. We also get a hug and kiss, as is customary here. We hear that the young lad has been studying hard and enjoys reading, especially traditional Inca stories, which he has also read out loud to his illiterate mum. He also tells us about how he helps his single mother out by doing the dishes and feeding their guinea pigs.
After our moving encounter we get a chance to see the project, funded by Finns, up close. We’re impressed by the library, engaging enrichment materials to support learning, and also the youth work shops, designed to encourage entrepreneurship. With small monthly donations, a lot of good is being done here!
We start making our way back to Cusco in baking hot afternoon sun. Even the August breeze from the mountains doesn’t provide much relief to us, stuck inside the car. We stop by a local market to buy some sweet bread, as well as tiny, vitamin rich cape gooseberries, that our local guide had recommended. While driving through little villages, we notice a lot of “Cuyerias” restaurants that serve a traditional Peruvian delicacy; roasted guinea pig. The thought of eating guinea pigs feels a little strange to us at first, since our family is used to keeping them as pets. Our guide tells us that guinea pig meat is both nutritious and cholesterol-free, so we decide to leave our preconceptions aside and give this, at first slightly dubious “superfood” a go.
A guinea pig roast is regarded as a highly valued food for special occasions. It’s usually seasoned with herbs and served alongside corn, potatoes and stuffed peppers. It still feels a bit odd though, to see the rodent presented to us on a huge plate, fully intact with the skin and all. The dish is traditionally eaten with hands, and our guide demonstrates how it’s done, leaving only a heap of small bones on the plate. Being novices to this we can’t quite get the hang of it and ask for some cutlery to help us eat ours. I taste the meat a bit apprehensively and flush it down with some Inca Kola. The colour of the meat is similar to that of hare meat, and the taste is quite mild.
After such an interesting day of travel we arrive back at the campsite in the evening, feeling enriched once again. Before I fall asleep that night, I think about our sponsored child, who had asked whether he could come and visit us in Finland. We told him that if he studies hard, he may be able to travel a lot as he grows up, and maybe even visit Finland one day. It would be amazing if we got to meet him again in a few years time!