One Of The Best Sights I’ve Ever Seen

(A Post by Matthew)

Last weekend, while we were filming at the Q’eswachaca festival, a car slid of the road and plunged down into a blue tent full of people. People screamed and crowds surrounded the accident.

My friend and I watched it happen. This was not one of the best sights I’ve ever seen.

Prior to the accident, I was looking for my kids. Elisa and I had been filming the bridge festival for several days while my parents took care of the kids back in Cusco. On the last day of the fest, my parents brought the kids out to the village to see us and join in on the festivities.

Amidst the crowds, Elisa spotted them as they arrived. So I was searching for them. Then the accident happened. My friend left me to check out the scene, wondering already what I was just beginning to wonder as I stood there alone. My family’s van was parked in the vicinity of the accident. Elisa briefly saw them in that vicinity…

The crowds around the accident were huge, and I refused to look for my kids there anyway. So I started searching around, more frantically… for 45 min…

While searching, I imagine everything. My dad likes shade. It was the closest tent to their van. I imagine my parents toting our 3 darling babies into that blue tent. The babies excited with hope to see their parents, especially their mother who they hadn’t seen alot of lately. Expectant with their hats to shade the sun, and their little bags of necessities and goodies. Trusting that they have been brought into a safe place. So trusting, always trusting…

I imagined that trust being violated. As they are sitting in that blue tent, playing, chatting, rosali’s new words, mateo’s cuddling, graciela’s performing. I imagined them all in their safe place, and then I saw the car plunging down upon them. What would be their thoughts in that split second? Would they understand that they were about to die? Would they feel betrayed that they weren’t protected? Over and over again I imagined my innocent babes being trampled. Trusting and trampled. Trusting and trampled. Innocent yet trampled.

As time went on, I was beginning to panic. I didn’t think they were there, but I didn’t know. I couldn’t understand why I still was unable to find them. In that moment, I realized that if they were gonna have to go through something that brutal, I have to do it with them. They have to know that their father loves them and did everything he could do to protect them. If my kids have to go down, I wanna go down with them. I realized that I don’t want them to feel any pain that I haven’t experienced. I will take my babies pain, and if I can’t, I at least want to be there with them.


I searched and I searched. I went down to the bridge, I looked down by the river, I scoured through crowds, people, every tent. it didn’t make any sense. At least not at this moment… my imagination was growing darker and darker and darker…

And then…

And then I saw one of the best sights I’ve ever seen…

Graciela was looking at a vendor’s Andean hats. She was wearing a white shirt with hearts, tan pants that were too short. Her running shoes, sunscreen that wasn’t all the way rubbed in. And her school hat to shade her from the sun. “Oh hi daddy!, do you think I could get one of these hats?”

I picked her up and held her tightly…. Because thats what we do. In the face of the disease that surrounds us, we hold each other tightly, realizing together what a gift life is. Your head against mine, your arms wrapped around me, and mine around yours. We hold each other, expectantly. We expect the future together. We have to…

As nonchalantly as I could I responded, “Hi, Gracie. I love you. How are you?”

“Can I get that hat?”

“We’ll see my love, we’ll see…”



Repost: Filming With The Family

From The Last Bridge Master. I really thought I posted this on here, but apparently I only did on the “official film” site.

farm courtyardI’ve been out many times now on my own to film in the village. It’s become something familiar to me, something that, in spite of all the discomforts, I am comfortable with.

A couple of weeks ago, we decided to take the whole family. Our children are 6, 5 and almost 2. Not exactly at the “free film crew/unpaid intern” age level. I was very nervous. Every time Matthew had suggested we all go out I’d hemmed and hawed and postponed. And for good reason (see How to Get to the Q’eswachaka). But I knew it was something I wanted them to experience, in spite of everything.

So, that’s how we ended up huddled on the steps of a shop in Yanaoca, surrounded by a crowd of fascinated Andean peasants who just could not get over our fair-haired children, trying to find a ride to Huinchiri. Of course there were no buses. And of course we didn’t have enough money for an “expreso” taxi. And of course we couldn’t attempt the walk with our babies, who the concerned Quechua folk were certain would catch their deaths before we made it a mile out of town. We finally found a mototaxi who agreed to take us for 40 soles, an amazing price. Unfortunately he didn’t know how far Huinchiri was. He didn’t have enough gas to make it and ended up dropping us just after the bridge, a whole mountain hike away from Victoriano’s hut. Then it started to by bridge

We straggled into the closest building we could find where the farmer’s kind daughter welcomed us and offered us a room for the night. They ended up giving us two rooms, in a charming little farm, neat and snug and lovely. The sun came out a bit before dark, and I managed to head down to the river for some great shots of the rainy season. The kids played on the mountain side, splashing through streams and collecting stones. That night we looked at stars and snuggled up under warm alpaca blankets, listening to the rain thundering on the roof.outside bedrooms

The next day we hitchhiked up the mountain, visited with Ruth Laurita and Victoriano, got some great footage and picnicked under a tree. It was almost noon, we needed to head home and we hadn’t seen any cars go by so we began walking back down the mountain. Five hours, several vicious dogs, and a rainfall later, we had still not seen a single car. The kids played for hours by a stream next to the road, we discovered some caves, finished the last of our snacks and water and I was remembering all the reasons I usually come alone. matty and victoriano

Just when we thought we’d be crashing at the farm another night, we managed to talk and plead our way into a construction truck who took us as far as Yanaoca.

The kids will remember playing on the mountain, discovering stones and caves, visiting the guinea pigs at the farm and riding on a mototaxi. I hope they don’t remember Mama stressing about where we would stay or what we would eat or if they were warm enough. It was a wonderful family vacation, the kind you can’t perfectly plan or expect to run smoothly. The kind with lots of memories. petting guinea pig

guinea pig farm

climbing mt   Rosali on mt teo on mt

Taking pictures for her blog

Taking pictures for her blog


We Foray into Unschooling

exploring a pre-Incan village

exploring a pre-Incan village

Way back when we were still pregnant with our first child, we heard about unschooling. And we figured, yeah, that sounds about right for us. But then with moving to the U.S. of A. and whatnot, long story short, Graciela ended up attending kindergarten at our local public school right across the street. It was a great experience and we were able to connect with other kids and parents in the neighborhood, which was really the whole point.

But now, we are in Peru and it is the perfect time for us to go back to what we wanted for our kids in the first place. We debated schools in Cusco (we really wanted our kids to have the immersive Spanish experience), we debated (very briefly) homeschooling, but in the end, I checked out some John Holt from the library and ordered some fun materials on a variety of subjects, and we dove into unschooling.

It’s a strange way of putting it, to say we “dove in.” Because really, it’s not something you “start” or “stop” doing. There’s not a beginning date or an exam week at the end. It’s just… life. It’s funny to “start” something like this during the traditional summer vacation. At first I felt like we needed to wait until September to start exploring all the fun things I had been thinking of doing with the kids. But, of course, that’s missing the whole point. We aren’t meant to assign interests to our kids. We are simply meant to support and encourage and cheer and explore with them whenever they get excited about something. And I certainly hope my kids don’t limit their excitement for life to only Sept-May.


Science experiments with friends

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Unschooling. It’s what it sounds like. Well, mostly, although I’ll just clarify that it’s not the absence of schooling, it’s the absence of school. You see, schooling is something you participate in, school is a place you go. I do not go to school, but I learn all the time. I love life and I get excited about things and I explore and I read voraciously.  And my kids do too. We like to do it together. So we decided to.

I’m still not really explaining anything. Sigh. Okay, so, they don’t go to school. And I don’t have curriculum that I teach them. I kind of feel like I’m George Costanza explaining that “It’s a show about nothing. Nothing happens!” 🙂   It’s not school. School doesn’t happen. Really.  I don’t organize lessons. I don’t even give them information about things, unless they want me to. Which they do, by the way, and often. I trust my kids. And that trust extends to their knowledge of themselves and what they are interested in. They have passionate interests that I am thrilled to experience with them.

Mateo loves all things sweet. He loves to bake, always has. I try to bring him alongside me whenever I can in the kitchen. The amount of math he has learned through this (fractions anyone?) and science (dry vs. wet ingredients) is really hard to determine. He made this video a few months ago:

He also loves painting, creating things out of paper, making jewelry, and anything crafty.

Graciela is our traditional student. In fact, a few months ago she begged me to find her a real school. So we did. We have no money for private school, so we had to put her in a Peruvian public school. Any issues we have with school are magnified in the Peruvian public school system. These kids stand in straight lines every day, exercise and recite pledges, and are adamantly taught that perfect handwriting is the ultimate symbol of success. I’m not kidding. My 6-year-old was given pre-writing exercises every day, which consisted of tracing dotted lines and coloring in pictures as perfectly inside the lines as possible, because they deemed her handwriting not ready for first grade. My kid, who does multiplication and knows more about the solar system than I ever did! She lasted 2 weeks.IMG_0201

Now she does things like this:

She’s also made a model solar system, explored star charts, drawn habitats for specific animals, created a timeline of Martin Luther King Jr., and read many, many books.

Oh, and both my kids have explored countless ruins in the Andes Mountains, including Machu Picchu, but that’s probably not fair to brag about.

My point is, we are living life and loving it. I’m hoping to post a lot more about this “unschool” life so stay tuned!P1010293