Q’eswachaka 2014, a repost

Reposted from The Last Bridge Master.

This has been an incredible year and it all culminated with the amazing annual bridge rebuilding of the Q’eswachaka. Having lived so much of this year alongside Victoriano, the Bridge Master, it was a completely different experience to go through the festival with him this year. Last year’s bridge building was impressive and fascinating, but this year, we were with him every step of the process. We walked from his hut down the mountain with him every morning, to where the community, now full of familiar faces, was gathering.

I can’t describe how it felt to be greeted by name by so many people from Huinchiri throughout the 3 days the bridge was woven. I feel such a sense of fellowship here. To be stopped by the village leaders on the highway as the men twist the cables so they can shake my hand… To see the people who I have shared meals with waving at me from the edge of the gorge as the handrails are being pulled across… To have the woman who calls me her family stop as she arrives with her load of q’oya grass to give me a hug… To have the little boy down the road run up to tell me his class is about to perform their dance at the festival… My heart was so full this weekend. So very, very full.


We had the great opportunity to even meet one of our Kickstarter supporters at the bridge! Julie might even end up in the film, standing in line for her chance to cross the Q’eswachaka!

It has been so hard to leave Huinchiri and Victoriano especially. This year has been something I cannot even begin to describe. To each and every one of you who believed in our vision for this film and who have followed us every step of the way, we thank you from the bottom of our overflowing hearts.

We cannot wait for you to see the film! There is a year’s worth of footage for us to mold into a story, so we will continue to update you as we move back to the United States for our post-production phase. Thank you again!

Saying Goodbye

Saying Goodbye


And it all went awry in a beautiful place


So, I’ve had hiccups happen before on filming trips. The last major one left me stranded in Madrid for a week. I actually love the excitement and adventure of my filming life. But it would be a whole lot more enjoyable if I still was able to accomplish my filming objectives.

This time, after many phone calls to Victoriano’s son Yuri about when he might be coming to the village so I could film him, we finally decided I would just have to take the bus to Arequipa where he lives. It’s a 10-12 hr bus ride, over some beautiful countryside and very inexpensive, so I didn’t mind. I even have some old family friends in Arequipa to stay with.

I’m not sure how to explain what happen without making Yuri sound like a complete jerk. So I will just try to make it short. We met, we went to the place where he lives, the owners refused to let us inside to film the interview, we filmed it at the top of an overlook (beautiful, but noisy), he promised that he’d ask a friend if we could use his room to film the interview the next day for better sound quality, he assured me that he had all day tomorrow and I could accompany him everywhere he went to film his daily life, he had to go back inside and I couldn’t follow him, so we said goodbye. I emphasized how important it was that I film him the next day and I begged him to call me the instant he decided to go anywhere. No calls that night.

The next morning, I called him. And called him. And called him. Finally I went to his house. They had no idea where he was. I sat outside his house all day, calling repeatedly. The next morning I called him at 5 am, which is when I was told he leaves work. He answers. Apparently, he decided to take a bus to Cusco that first night, the same day I arrived in Arequipa from Cusco. He is on his way to the village, to go home for a little vacation.

I’ve been picking this apart for days and the best I can do is this:

In Andean culture, there is a particular kind of interaction with the outside world. There is a way to talk to the outsider. And I am sure it is based on a very complicated history of outsiders and their interactions with Andean people. But it essentially means that there is a mentality of saying whatever the person asking wants to hear. I’ve run into this with every member of Victoriano’s family. I have to ask the same question multiple times and in different contexts to get a good understanding of what the actual answer is. Because the first time, it’s just about what they think I want to hear.

I’ve been stood up and given wrong information many times throughout this filming process. I’ve taken to asking different people about events or times just to have some kind of pool I can draw from when one thing turns out to be not true.

Part of it as well is the idea of living moment-to-moment. Future plans are so malleable and indefinite. If something happens in this very moment to change what you are going to do, you just go with it.

But I felt like this time it was really extreme. Yuri decides to jump a bus to Cusco, great! Just give me one. short. phone call. That’s all I ask! I would have been on the bus with him, filming him returning to his family home.

So, I find out where he is at 5 am Friday morning. I take a taxi immediately to the bus terminal and that’s where things get really dicey.  Here, I’ll let you catch up via my Facebook statuses.

arequipa status updates

There you have it. I left Cusco last Tuesday. I’ve been trying to get back there for the past three days. It’s a beautiful place to be stranded, but I sure wish I could have accomplished the filming I was meant to do.


Oh, I also accomplished these things:

1. Read a new book

2. Did some writing

3. Toured Arequipa

4. Skype interviewed and got a new blogging job

5. Watched the entire 7th season of House, M.D.

6. Wrote this blog post



Coming Clean

The kids selling rocks they decorated.

The kids selling rocks they decorated.

So, I’m not really much of a blogger. You may have caught onto that, since I kind of… don’t post. I really thought I’d post a lot more. Back when I was at Bub and Lala I posted quite a lot. Regularly. But, it has gotten harder and harder for me to will myself to post. So, I’m admitting it. I’m not one of those post-a-day types who actually somehow manage to get followers and make some money. Not gonna happen.

Posting has been hard for me. And I feel I should come clean as to why. Our life since moving to Peru has been tough. Really tough. I’ve loved living here, still do. I love seeing my kids here. I love that we took a chance and committed ourselves to something we love in spite of the risk.

But living without an income is tough. I’ve posted some on my old blog about the stress of living in poverty. But that was different somehow. Partially because we lived in the States, so we were on food stamps and we didn’t actually have to worry about feeding our children (though the end of each month, right before it renewed, was always somewhat scary).

But now, well, we chose this. We knew that getting the necessary financing for our film was iffy. But we took this step anyway. We knew that Matthew couldn’t legally work in Peru, and that if we didn’t get the grants we applied for, I’d have to find some kind of work. So, this situation was a choice. And that makes is suck even more.

See, you can’t point fingers when this happens. It’s not the system that did this to us. It’s not the big corporations. The government. Society. They didn’t tell us to move to Peru and film a documentary.

We have applied for a handful of production grants. One in particular would have solved all our personal and filmmaking financial issues for the rest of the time here. We thought we had a really good chance. Our project was compelling and spot on with what they were looking for. We did all our homework, prepared a killer application and sample video. They sent us word we made it to the final round last month. We’ve been holding our breath ever since.

Then, two nights ago, we got the word. No.

And now, we are struggling. Struggling to keep our heads above water as we plan our next move. Until we have a rough cut, there are not many grants we can apply for now. We are on our own.

So, that is why it is hard for me to post. So often I feel like all my energy is pouring into my family’s survival. My constant awareness is caught up in lifting Matthew above that deep darkness that is pulling at him, every moment of the day. My peripheral vision is full of these bright and beautiful children who should have a full and protected life, savoring this place and exploring this world and not being hungry. And my own focus has to be on finding jobs, a translation here, a class there. Maybe even an occasional video. Anything that will keep us going.

I just don’t have the breath to sit and type my heart out onto this blog. I will try, but I’m just so tired.

And I should add that I know exactly how fortunate I am to have this healthy, lovely family, who usually has enough and appropriate clothes to wear and almost always has something to eat, even if it’s not what they want. There are many, many, all around us, who don’t.

Tradition, Tradition!

After our 4 hour trip, we came winding down the dusty serpentine road and pulled up at the top of the stairs leading down to the site of the last remaining footbridge of the Incan empire. I hopped out, grabbed the camera and headed down to the site, where the men of the surrounding villages were hard at work on day 2 of the rebuilding.P1010095

Now, I will confess something. I knew that women are not allowed at the bridge-building site. Victoriano had mentioned it when I was there last October. But I have this little problem. When I am told that I’m not allowed to do something, I, um, have a hard time listening.

As what you might call a “global citizen,” I have always had the utmost respect for cultural traditions that I don’t understand. I know that segregation is a very deep-rooted part of many cultures, and I can understand that the difference between the sexes is an obvious and sacred part of many societies. In no way do I wish to cross the lines of ancient Andean traditions that uphold differences and hold certain ceremonies sacred.

That said, I am also a feminist. And the whole “no vaginas allowed” thing is a real kick in my modern/western gut.

So, I went down the mountain. I hefted my camera and eased my way down, closer and closer to the builders. The mob of masculinity below was pretty focused on the task of stretching the grass cables across the river gorge. I managed to get pretty close before frantic exclamations from the other side brought it to their attention.

As I said, I have the utmost respect for cultural traditions and as soon as I was asked to leave I did, clambering my way across the rock face to an outcropping that provided me with a decent enough view.

Matthew took over the role of cinematographer, and took some lovely shots of Victoriano weaving the bridge floor while suspended over the river. In the meantime, at the top of the stairway, our toddler played on the dirt road lined with women and children, while I craned my neck over the cliff to watch the progress.P1010077

Quite honestly, I much prefer the company of the other mothers and grandmothers, their busy hands pounding, rolling and weaving the ichu grass into stands of braided rope. Their delight with Rosali and her blue eyes, their gorgeously colored clothing, the smiles we shared over our children’s play. But still. We were the excluded ones.

This beautiful, rich ancient culture is in danger. Victoriano’s sons are not interested in straddling two thick, handwoven cables as they swing over a gorge, weaving strands of grass into bridge railings. They should have been there, next to him, in that male-only gathering. But not until the last day of the festival, the bridge already complete, did they show up, in their skinny jeans and button up shirts, cell phones and messenger bags. And his daughter, who I watched sing into a microphone at the village festival, swishing her vibrantly colored skirt, belting out Quechua lyrics, cannot even approach her father as he works. But when I asked her, would she take over his role if it was permitted, she didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”

I think, in our world today, tradition may find that to preserve itself, it must transform its very nature. I wonder what the people of Huinchiri are ready for.

Ruth Laurita after her performance

Rut Laurita after her performance

On the Brink

I’m sitting in the Fort Lauderdale airport, which, even at it’s best is not the kind of place anyone would choose to spend 8 hours. But I did, because, cheap flights. So, here I am, the familiar, nauseating aroma of my son’s feet enveloping me (how does a 4-year-old have such potent foot odor?!). Also, the waiting area under the 10 seats (yes, I counted) that my family has somehow managed to sprawl ourselves across is beginning to resemble the floor of a packed out theater. Doritos, almonds, baby snacks, Skittles-it’s a smorgasbord of smashed food.

But you know what? It may as well be a daisy covered field on summer evening. I am so happy!

Because in 3 1/2 hours we will finally board our flight to Peru, and for one year, our entire crazy family will be living in the Andes Mountains while we film our documentary!

If you are just tuning into our lives, Matthew and I posted this promo video at the start of our Kickstarter campaign a few months ago. After many generous donors, and after our kids posted video here and here, we made our goal and dove right into a whirlwind of planning and grant proposals, equipment purchases and packing and now, here we are. So, in spite of a ridiculous layover, I am smiling. And breathing in that scent of adventure!  *gag*

Anyway, here we go! We are really doing this!airport