One stage of my time as volunteer with Bibliotecas Rurales is coming to an end. For the last 8 months I have been living in the communal house and volunteering as part of the Proyecto Enciclopedia Campesina team. On Monday I begin my journey home to Ireland.
I go with joy and sadness. Joy to have be given the opportunity to share this time with so many beautiful people, sadness because I have to leave them. I have learnt so much during my time here, probably I haven't processed yet a fraction of what my senses eagerly soaked up.
It was an honour to be able to accompany Alfredo on his journeys across the region visiting the libraries and learning about and in this culture that is beautiful, rich, wise and deep. The librarians and the people from the countryside opened their homes and their hearts to us, sharing their table filled with the fruits of their hard, honest labour. They also shared the treasure they house within them: the ancient wisdom of our ancestors passed down through the ages.
The Earth has been teaching us ever since we have had the capacity to understand her, and before. But the lessons are long and we weren't around for the beginning, so we need to listen to the echo that comes down the line of voices through time.
In my country, and in most of the 'West', these voices have been smothered by concrete and greed. The community was stretched until it burst. We have now isolated ourselves both in space and time. And we're lost.
Here in the Cajamarcan Andes I have been given back my hope. Here the Earth is still heard and the ancestors still speak. People still rejoice at the coming of the rain, they still savour the smell of wet earth, they still invite their neighbour to share their bread.
It is true that concrete and greed can be found here too, creeping in through the back door, wanting to take up prime position in the living room. But the persistance of the indigenous-campesino people to continue living in dignity and beauty is astounding and inspiring.
The essence of Bibliotecas Rurales is this dignity, this beauty. It is like a child crossing the battlefield singing a song about a rainbow, because it's also her garden.
I have received many lessons from Alfredo; his humility, his love for the Earth and the life that lives on her, his writing that speaks to the heart. From Rita - generosity, immense kindness, the joy that looking after the most needy brings (and how to make delicious almond butter).
Thanks also to Lola, Karina and Rosita for the warm welcome and inclusion. To Rumi and Mara for their friendship.
Thank you to all the members of the Bibliotecas Rurales family, spanning the region of Cajamarca. Thank you for the essential work you do, and the love with which you do it.