I just had to take an extreme powernap in order to recover from the past 2 days. Shower, crackers and a ‘Jugos Mango-Naranja’ later I am more than ready to give you a serious update!
For those who are loyal followers of me and Griet’s experience in Peru, you know that on Monday I finally met my beautiful knitting ladies in person. They were all nicely dressed; the older ladies in the traditional clothing, the young mothers in trendy modern clothing. All decent, pretty, sweet. Karin, head of DIA, already told us that the way the ladies present themselves, how they appear, does not occur with the reality they live in.
So on our ‘more-than-packed’ planning of our week in Ayacucho, it said on Tuesday – interview with the ladies and girls at their homes. Slightly nervous again, because I didn’t know what to expect, we headed towards the ‘homes’, I’d rather say little rooms or ‘hut’s, …
The young mothers, who are between 12 – 18 years old, mostly live by themselves, with or without the man of their child. Their family, because of the fact that they have gotten pregnant way too early, has emitted them… Totally unfair since teenage pregnancy has been a ‘plague’ for decades in the poorer families in Ayacucho. Most of the mothers of the young ladies were teenage mothers themselves.
These beautiful young girls have to take care of them selves. They need to make sure to have enough income to pay their rent (approx. 60 soles a month for a little room), to buy food, to take care of their babies, etc… Thanks to DIA and thanks to LN| they get a chance of earning a steady income to pay for all their expenses and, most of all, to become independent from their family and their man.
It breaks my heart to see how little and rural their little rooms are. Yet they are vively decorated and quite tidy, making it fairly cosy and warm. One girl, Aidé, 18 years old and mother of a 8 month old beauty of a baby, lives together with her 30 year old husband in a mini little room in centre Ayacucho. With a lot of proud she mentioned that she has bought her bed and matrass with the money she has earned while catering for DIA. She’s now knitting and crocheting of LN in order to buy herself a new kitchen.
We visited about 10 ladies and girl’s homes. From small, yet tidy little rooms in the centre, to bigger, yet dusty and with no access to tap water in the ‘Campo’ or ‘outskirts’ of Ayacucho. I must say, me, spoiled little rat, haven’t seen this kind of poverty ‘in real life’ before and was more than emotionally touched. Crazy to see that those young girls have to take care of themselves, and most of the times a bunch of little siblings as well, at an age that I was only stressing out about pimples and big teenager-potato-noses. Reality check it was, and quite a big one.
At the end of the day we were able to take part in one of DIA’s workshops for the teenage mothers with the subject ‘how to prevent anaemia’. A fairly big percentage of the poor in Ayacucho suffers from malnutrition. Not that they don’t have enough to eat, no, but more because of the fact that their food is way too limited. They eat way too many carbohydrates, like rice, corn, bread, … and way too little food with a good base of Iron. This is simply because of the fact that products that contain a lot of Iron, like meat, poultry, etc… is too expensive for them most of the times.
We played a little game where we learned which foods contain a lot or only little iron. By the end of the workshop the girls got to enjoy cookies with a Nutella-look-a-like dip sauce. They were all enjoying it to the fullest. My vegetarian eye and sweet tooth, howerver, spotted immediately that it wasn’t just Nutella, no, it was a blood-mousse! I know, quite disgusting, but good in every single way. The girls and their children need Iron, a lot of iron, and blood is the best source of Iron you can find.
Emotional day it was, me and Griet have turned into green-looking zombies by the time the evening was about to set. Una vino blanco dulce et una ensalada vegetariana on the cosy little terrace of VIAVIA later, we went straight to bed for only a couple of hours because next on the program was… Herding & shaving Alpaca’s! Yiha!
3AM, time to get out our warm little nests and off for a 2h drive to my favourite funny-looking animals and absolute core of my LN|collection: the Alpaca farm, high up the Andes mountains. After a very nauseous swaying road in the pouring rain, we arrived, still dark, at the Alpaca-whalhalla. Peruvian hiker shoes: check, warm clothing: check, ready to get some Alpaca-poop all over: check!
Together with the local Alpaca farm ladies, colourful and up with the latest trends as always, we herded the Alpaca’s to their stalls. Once we managed to get them all together my absolute dream came true… Holding, hugging and loving a baby alpaca! Hoho, now I am definitely getting an Alpaca back in Belgium! Hope you don’t mind ‘daddy’?
And the dream continued on… Besides caressing a couple of baby Alpaca’s I got the chance to shave them, just a little bit, since it’s not yet shaving season. As you know, my LN|Andes & LN|Beanies collection consists of 100% baby alpaca yarn. And no worries, these babies are just shaved, that’s it. See it as going to the hairdressers.
Afterwards we were kindly invited to the stalls of the alpaca farming ladies. They offered us the sweetest hot mint tea I have ever tasted. Together with a bag of bread that we took with us to thank them we had breakfast together at 7 AM on a rainy Wednesday… One to never ever forget!
Me and Griet could have stayed there for another week, which we are planning to do so next year, we had to head back to Ayacucho since the strong ladies had to get back to work. So planning: learn Quetschua (local language in the Andes) and go hording & shaving Alpaca’s with the local’s and make one beauty of an article of it. Me and Griet have discovered that we make quite a good team, not only traveling-, eating- or friend-wise, but also workwise. Griet the more than stunning photography, me the spontaneous words.
Another amazing day has passed, they seem to keep on getting better and better.
What a truly amazing story, and each day that passes with your journey I’m so impressed how your love for something so simple as baby alpaca yarn can make all the difference for a small family. It is truly humbling and indeed a reality check to see how they live and compare it to our commercially laden lives.
There are a lot of people all across Peru living in deep poverty, but, since you as a good entrepreneur person come here to provide employment to the young mothers from Ayacucho so they can afford their expenses and raise their children in better enviroment as they can get though your LN|Proyects, you my dear friend, you have become an Angel for them.
By the way, you look so happy holding the baby alpaca in your arms while the other alpacas at behind are kind of: “Hey mommy me too!” 😀
Thank you Griet for wonderful photographs through the whole days!
Keep up the good work girls!
I love the photos. It’s heartbreaking to realize how good so many of us have got it and yet we don’t appreciate what we have. The women in your photos show so much pride in their homes, even though to most of us we can’t imagine living in a space so small. It is great to see someone making a difference and ensuring that local people get to work and make money which they deserve rather than big companies. This must be such a great, yet eye opening experience!
Hi Griet and Ellen,
Wow, amazing story! Griet your photo’s are fantastic, they really tell the story!! and love reading the articles about your journey…
Love Ellen (Africa-KoningAap)
HI LN, your blog is so interesting and so challenging, making us look at the really important things in life and re-prioritize if necessary! thanks so much for sharing with us! And Griet’s photos are just lovely! till soon, love, Chris
I am enjoying reading this blog so much! all of your travels and adventures are so interesting. the photos are amazing as we look upon a culture that i have never had exposure to before, what great blog post! i hopefully, in the future, will have the opportunity to purchase a piece of the knit wear the ladies from the Andies make. happy travels!!!
Very happy to hear! :)! Thanks for following!