On Wednesday we arrived in Ollantaytambo, a small village in the Sacred Valley where most of the Mosqoy students are from. Ollantaytambo is considered to be the best surviving example of Incas´ architecture, with narrow cobblestone streets and ancient aquaducts. It is about 3 hours away from Cuzco and has a population of about two thousand people. Surrounded by beautiful hills with old ruins, this little village is mostly used as a hub for tourists en route to Machu Picchu. We, on the other hand, spent three nights in Ollantaytambo!
The first day I checked out the Ollantaytambo ruins and the town. On Thursday I went to Machu Picchu, which required taking the train to Aguas Calientes on Wednesday night, and waking up at 3 am to hike up from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu to get to the Sun Gate before 6 am to get stamps to Wayna Picchu. Wayna Picchu is another mountain right next to Machu Picchu and from atop there are breathtaking views of Machu Picchu. The only problem is that only the first 200 people are allowed to climb up the Wayna Picchu per day, so you have to get there early if you want to get up there. The climb up was pretty challenging in the dark with a flashlight, but there were a ton of other likeminded hikers, and I was there at 5:30 am, drenched in humidity from the early morning fog and happy to be #103 in the line up.
On Friday I got to observe the selection process for the next batch of Mosqoy students. The first step of the selection process involved visitng the collegio (the high school) in Ollantaytambo and presenting the program to the graduating classes in Ollantaytambo. There were only two groups who were in their final year: group A and group B. The groups are divided by the students' abilities and all of the "good students" are placed in group A, and everyone else is placed in group B. The interesting thing was that almost all (with the exception of one student) in group A were girls! Ashley, Raul, and several of the current Mosqoy students (Elvira, Ehbert, and Ivanhoe) presented the program before the two groups. The students talked about their experiences and what they've learned from the program. Elvira talked about how she learned about living in a group and how she learned about friendship. Ashley and Raul talked about the program, the requirements and the application process. Step two of the selection process will be returning to Ollantaytambo on Sept 10 to collect their applications and announcing the selected students on Sept 12.
The ¨good students¨of group A
The "other students¨ of group B
Presentation before the class. From left to right: Ashley, Ivanhoe, Ehbert, Raul and the director of the high school.
The director of the high school spoke about the program as well. I thought his speech was rather interesting, talking about leadership and opportunities. He seemed very supportive of the program and was talking about how this was the students' only opportunity to become leaders in their communities and an opportunity "to do something with their lives". He was telling them to take the program seriously and went into a long spiel about politics of Peru and how the politicians here are leaders because they have a lot of money, and not necessarily because they have the ability to lead. The program on the other hand, he said, allows you to become leaders of your communities even if you don't have a lot of money. He was encouraging the students to work hard, to study hard, and to take it seriously. He was also talking about how there wasn't anyone who would do it for them, that they couldn't rely on the government to take care of them, and that their future was in their hands.
Elvira talking about her experiences with Mosqoy
Elvira talking about her experiences with Mosqoy
Later on that morning, Ashley, Raul, Ivan, Ebhert, Elvira and Gerry went to Soqma, a small community not very far from Ollantay, to discuss the possibility of selecting students from their community.
On the way they saw the entire village stuffed in the back of a truck on the road leading to the village. The villagers were all going to Pachar, an adjacent village to get paid. They stopped while Raul spoke to the driver and arranged to meet in Pachar after they had had the chance to visit Soqma, just to see what it looked like.
The village of Soqma is quite small. There's an open field, with a couple of buildings. There are approximately 40 families living in the village, one of the poorest communities in the Ollantaytambo zone. A farming community, the village nonetheless does not have an irrigation system, so the growing season is only 6 months and they only have about 2 months of rain. Most of the men in the village also work as porters on the Inca trail and many women work as cooks for the visitors on the trail.
There are 2 or 3 girls who travel daily to Urubamba to go to school. We were there so Raul and Ashley could talk about Mosqoy in order to gauge support from the community for including their children in Mosqoy´sprograms.
Raul and Ashley spoke to the leader of the community and then headed down to Pachar to speak to everyone there. When they arrived, the villagers were aligning up to receive their pay. Afterwards, Raul spoke at length with them about Mosqoy, in Quechua. Ebhert then spoke about his experiences with Mosqoy, as did Elvira. Basically, they were explaining the program and asking if the people were interested in participating, and if they thought that it would be of benefit to their community. There appeared to be good support for this initiative. Ashley explained that they select the best students and that the children in their community may not be selected this time and they understood and accepted this. The eligible students will therefore go to Ollantaytambo for the selection process. Our day ended by going back to Ollantaytambo for some more sightseeing.