My Findings

Going into my research I had relatively little understanding of the economic realities of the Andes. As time progressed I made more and more hypotheses about the alto-Andean economy that I was itching to test, with all of them centered on the weaving industry that remains so central to rural Andean life and the women who perform the weaving. Among them were the following: [Read more…]

Some Words of Advice

My time in Peru was undoubtedly a learning experience. I worked and lived with people from another culture and saw a new way of life on a daily basis. I did a thousand “firsts,” from riding in a taxi for the first time and successfully performing my first Spanish transactions, to tasting my first guinea pig (0/10, would not recommend) and getting to know Quechua-speaking people of the high Andes. Some of these “firsts” were difficult and some came easily. Some I expected to experience and some caught me off guard. So, in the spirit of reflecting on the learning moments I had in Peru, I have advice for future grant recipients who expect to travel internationally. Hopefully these can be generalized to a wide variety of locations.

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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.

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Lo Mejor de Mi Vida

The adventure is over; now the hard work begins. I got back to the US only a week ago, and since then I’ve been rushing to meet up with family and friends, get my stuff ready for move-in at the Hispanic House, get trained for another year as a Tribe Ambassador, and finalize the data from my research. At this point all of my data collection is done, as is the vast majority of the quantitative analysis. From here it’s all about putting my findings into words.

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Progress! …And More Delays

In the days since my last blog post we have come far with our analysis. Reaching new findings can be difficult, especially since running statistical analysis is not a straightforward process here. As I’ve said in the past, Peru is about being ready for surprises and creative solutions. The largest hurdle for performing statistical analysis here is being able to access software since the licensing fees are extortionate, especially for a nonprofit. So on this occasion I used skills from my computer science minor to get around this hurdle. Because the process is a little boring and technical, I’ll leave it at this: I found a way to upload my excel files to my W&M account and then access a W&M desktop through the web to use Stata. Basically that’s the main reason I maintain that the Internet is a form of witchcraft.

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