My Experiences: A Recap

I left the USA midday on May 25, 2015, arriving in Peru just after 1 am local time. A short flight from Lima to Cuzco and a 2 hour car ride later, I arrived in Ollantaytambo, population 1800. For the first few days I struggled through awkward Spanish conversations and became acquainted (in English) with my fellow interns at Awamaki. In my first week or two I was able to do very little in the way of formal research or asking questions, but in a way that was for the best. Not focusing on my project allowed me to better understand the context of the town I was staying in in better detail. I learned that Ollantaytambo itself was a local center of economic activity and that as you venture further and further away Spanish gives way to Quechua and paved roads give way to gravel paths. As you head into the mountains, Spanish-style clothes with their muted colors slowly give way to brightly-colored ponchos, skirts, and llicllias. And with each increase in altitude the relatively wealthy families of the valley with their tv sets and indoor plumbing transform into farming families with thatched roofs and unreliable—or sometimes nonexistent—electrical connections.

After gaining that context my actual research became simpler to carry out. Understanding the realities the women in Awamaki’s (the nonprofit where I was working) cooperatives were living in helped me parse out which variables would be more important to analyze. So I took a look at the data and the variables available to me for analysis. I chose as the relevant variables: income earned from tourism, income earned from sales directly to tourists, income earned from wholesale to both Awamaki itself and its European and US partners, the number of children a woman had, the value of her house (measured in a complicated way involving multiplying the house’s matierals by its size), and the woman’s ability to speak and read//write Spanish, among others.

At this point my research was going along pretty well, or so I thought. I had the numbers I thought I needed at my fingertips and I was still learning more each day. Then in the ninth week of my ten and a half weeks in Ollantaytambo, I realized I needed some more information—information which my nonprofit wanted to measure eventually, but that I could not directly help in retrieving because I lacked IRB approval to work with human subjects. Finally they retrieved the last bit of information during my final week at Awamaki and I spent my last two days analyzing the data in Stata.

That’s the 500-word version of my approximately 11 weeks in Peru. I now have a strong grasp of the story the data tells, but I’ve not yet written everything down. That task happens this week. As I get closer and closer to completing my research-related tasks I grow more and more nostalgic for the quaint Andean town I inhabited all those weeks. It was certainly an un-paralleled adventure.