Sunday, June 16, 2013

Race of the Chasquis, part 3

On the day of the race, we traveled the half hour or so from our site to Sausa to get dressed at Sergio's house. On the way, we came upon a fiesta. Around here, there's a fiesta in one neighborhood or another pretty much every week. We stopped to admire the costumes.
At the house, Sergio gave us a room to get changed in. The transformation began.
 While Laura braided Kristi's hair, Stasia took the opportunity to get my help with the statistics section of her master's thesis proposal. We worked out the research design and determined the number of participants she needs to see whether gender, age and length of time as a resident predict accuracy of medicinal plant knowledge in her community. It's an interesting study.
Once they were in costume, our doughty chasquis got their numbers and were labelled with their home towns.

Then it was quiz time. Professor Henoch Loyoza was in charge of the test. Each runner had to demonstrate her or his knowledge of chasquis. Kristi went first and got easy questions like "what is a chasqui?"  Laura went second, and got moderately hard questions like ""what was the purpose of the quipu?" By the time he got to Stasia, the questions were really tough, like "why is your headband red?" and "how were chasquis chosen?"
Once the test was over, all the runners lined up for photos in the street. At that point, there were 4 men in the men's competition, and just three in the women's competition, all from Peace Corps. Our confidence was running high. 
Everyone hopped in cars and rode downhill to the place where the race would begin. The competitors crossed the river on the footbridge.
and walked along the railroad tracks toward where the race would begin.
At the starting line, our team warmed up.
Then, suddenly, some additional entrants arrived. The Peace Corps racers found themselves facing competition. These women were rumored to be strong runners and their feathers were much bigger than ours.
We could no longer be assured of capturing first, second and third place. An strategy conference ensued.
Undaunted, the Peace Corps racers vowed to run their best.
In any case, it's all about intercultural exchange, not winning, right?
What an impressive sight the 10 runners were, in their Incan clothing, blowing their pututos.

Finally, the moment came. The women lined up and began the race.
 followed by the men.
Off they went, up the hill and along the route described in the post "Race of the Chasquis, part 1". The rest of us observers walked back along the railroad tracks, over the bridge, got into cars, drove up the hill, past the road construction, into Sausa and to the finish line, only to discover that several of the racers had gotten there before us! But we did get to see some of the later runners come in.
Unfortunately, the race course was unmarked and three of the runners got lost on the mountainside. They turned up eventually, but it did cause frustration for those competitors. Everyone was very sorry about that and swore to do better next year. The racers rested and drank chica morada for a while, then walked back through the plaza, and then to Sergio's house.
Of the women, this marathon runner from Jauja took first place

Kristi took second place and Stasia took third.

and Chasqui was in second place among the men.

Then, there was a lunch, with speeches, pachamanca
and beverages.

We gave a radio interview after lunch. It's gratifying that I can now speak Spanish well enough to give a reasonably articulate explanation of what Peace Corps is, why we're in Junin, and how the Race of the Chasquis relates to the Peace Corps goals to increase understanding between the people of the United States and the people of Peru.

For a little while, we helped the Incan chasquis live again. Then it was back to modern Peru, our normal clothing and regular lives. But it was definitely a project I'll always remember; a highlight of my Peace Corps service.

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