As the world has plunged deeply into the Covid pandemic and started questioning various phenomena (political, medicinal, ethical, existential), many people opted to leave big cities for smaller ones or – even better – for the countryside, in a need of being closer to nature, in an understanding that life in harmony with nature is something deeply inherited, something where our roots origin.
(Hummingbird is very common in Peruvian countryside.)
I too, have sought refuge in the countryside, in a village of San Juan, about an hour drive from Chimbote, situated in an agricultural zone famous for its mangos and avocadoes. Thanks to my friend Kelly and her family who live in this area which is much warmer throughout the year than Chimbote and where you usually wake up to bright and warm sunshine and little wind (unlike Chimbote), I got a chance to experience the simplicity as well as hard work of such kind of life where running water and electricity are nothing necessarily common, where there is no Wi-Fi and frequently also no reception, where many families do not own a computer or a TV and where the furniture in the burnt brick houses with holes (covered by plastics or Christmas tablecloths instead of curtains) instead of windows is scarce, old and often badly damaged by years of use.
These people don’t need to lock their houses (not even for the night), there are no Covid cases, nobody cares about wearing the face masks and Sunday is just another day (though officially due to the quarantine it is a day of curfew and thus not leaving the house) when the herds of cows and goats need to go to pasture, when the locals need to take care of their fields and when they go to enjoy the Sunday lunch with other family members or friends, often right in the fields where they make a bonfire and fry a chicken or roast one.
The women there are modern Xenas, powerful beings who tend the family, the house and the animals at the yard (goats, pigs, cows, chickens and other poultry as well as guinea pigs – which are eaten in Peru just like e.g. rabbits in my country) as well as the vast fields. I have seen the mum of Kelly, a 54-year-old woman, cooking at least twice a day on an open fire in the backyard (where there is an outside open-air kitchen), baking bread in the traditional outside brick oven for the use at home as well as for sale (you can watch the video of me learning a bit about this art HERE), chopping wood for the oven, using a machete to get the plants (alfalfa and corn) they feed to the guinea pigs, killing chickens for the next day´s lunch (with a knife, one by one, in a bucket) and later putting them into boiling water so that the feathers would get off more easily, taking care of the garden as well as the fields and helping out the other members of the extended family, the 75-year-old grandmother living around the corner, the uncle and aunt next door, and the uncle´s dad who is 97 years old!
The daughter of the uncle and aunt separated from her husband and apart from doing everything around the house she needs to take care of her two teenage daughters who are now having TV classes as a form of distance learning due to the pandemic.
There are no washing machines and so the women do all the laundry in buckets with trickles of running water coming out of the pipes (at only certain hours of day), and similarly wash their long and thick her. In the city, many people also don’t have washing machines but can have their clothes washed in laundry services; in the provincial rural areas the women know how to wash their clothes in hand (often, as mentioned above, without having access to running water, or only having access to it for several hours a day as it comes from a local damp which supplies many villages in the area in turns) without having it stained or damaged.
I have a due respect for these people and had no problem myself flushing the toilet with a scoop of water, doing my morning and evening hygiene using a mug of water and asking someone else to pour some water from a jar on my hands so I could wash them well before lunch and dinner.
Cooperation and togetherness gives life in the villages of the local communities an incredible dimension and it doesn’t matter that these people can’t meet the governmental pandemic requirements which require everyone to wash their hands at home under running water for at least twenty seconds!
I have learned to play Bingo over the nights when the houses get chilly with the sunset and a drop in outdoor temperature and the family members gather in one room painted years ago but having such a cosy atmosphere with everyone sitting nearby on whatever there is around, be it an old plastic or a rattan chair or a cut log, cuddled a baby calf a few hours after it was born, spent an afternoon discovering petroglyphs on the hills of the area, enjoyed a trip to the town of Moro where there is a lovely winery and where they make some amazing alfajores, took numerous walks with Kelly in the fields and up in the hills around the village where there are cacti plants and beautiful views, wandered off myself in the nights to do my talks with the moon and stars, feeling absolutely safe and protected by the local street dogs which were happy for a companion with granules in the pocket.
Each time I am leaving San Juan I carry bags and boxes filled with fruits and herbs and homemade bread I was given. I have learned to make jams from starfruit and papaya, juices from lime fruit (which is huge and sweet here as opposed to lemon which looks like the lime I know from Europe, small and sour) and mandarins and herbal teas from hierba luisa and other fresh herbs.
These people might not be spending their time reading books, practicing yoga to them seems like a task for acrobats and dream catcher making is an activity for kids rather than adults, but I love and enjoy every single minute in their company as they have many stories and profound wisdom of life to share, meditation is something they do daily without realizing it when seated under a tree while the heard is enjoying the pasture, and many of the teachings of the shamans and healers and herbalists are innate to them as they live connected to what really matters and their roots are far from crooked or twisted – their identity truly “comes to the soul from its roots, from where it is planted” (Teresa of Avila).
(The waterfalls at the village of Hornillo.)
(Dancing in the fields.)
(Yoga and Meditation.)
(Happy with animals around.)
(The people of Peru.)