Every year in December Threads organizes a Chocolatada in Chaullacocha, the remoter of the two communities we work with, along with Apus Peru, a responsible trekking company which helps to fund our project.
A Chocolatada, as you might be able to guess from the name involves preparing a large amount of hot chocolate, which is shared out amongst everyone along with fresh bread buns. This is a form of spreading a little Christmas cheer to everyone in the community!
When we set out in the morning (3.30am!) for the long drive up through the Sacred Valley we don’t know what kind of conditions to expect, although I heard so much about the rainy season in Cuzco before arriving, this year has been extremely dry so we are hoping that we will be able to drive all the way to Chaullacocha.
However the combination of 11 people in one two-wheel drive van carrying enough hot chocolate and bread for 60 people along with the mud roads means that we have to stop around a two hour walk from Chaullacocha. Although we all get out and push, the edges of the road are literally falling off and rolling down the hill side so we decide walking is probably the smarter option.
We set off on the hike and although the weather is wet and windy the scenery more than makes up for it, it’s quite eerie walking through the deserted and silent landscape but then you turn a corner to find yourself face to face with a llama! The llamas themselves are utterly unmoved by these encounters.
When we reach Chaullacocha bedraggled and hungry we set to work straight away cooking up the Chocolate in HUGE pots over little portable stoves, I can’t see how it’s going to work but pretty soon there are chocolatey fumes in the air and all the children are running around in excitement, their cups clean and ready in one hand. To try and distract their attention, Willy, one of the guides from Apus Peru organizes games for them, even though I can’t understand the Quechua instructions I can recognize the games from my own experience, cat and mouse and then later oranges and apples.
All games stop when two enormous steaming pots are brought out filled with the creamy hot chocolate. A line quickly forms, all the children jostling each other to try and see the pots, even the grown men and women look excited although they hide it a little better than the children! It’s a hectic next thirty minutes ensuring that everyone gets a cup and a bread bun to eat, luckily we have brought plenty so we can satisfy even the children coming back for thirds, and there’s still enough to spare when curious people from the neighbouring villages drop in.
Thanks to the generous donations we receive, we were able to buy a Christmas present for every boy & girl in the village this year, trucks for the boys and dolls for the girls. The children have all seen the large sacks being carried in and are waiting excitedly to see what’s inside them.
From the point of view of an outsider it’s quite difficult not to compare my normal Christmas at home to the one we try to provide here. At home my nieces and nephews normally get around 10 presents each year, they unwrap one, say ‘cool!’ and then put it down so they can concentrate on opening the next present, compared to their blasé attitude its really heartwarming to watch the reaction of each child in this community. They approach with a concerned look, then a shy smile as the present is brought to them, then when they hold the present and know it’s truly theirs the massive smile breaks out and they run off shouting to their friends and holding their present close to them. The other volunteers get involved with handing out the presents and the shouts and yells are deafening!
As a special gift this year, thanks to Tianna Meriage-Reiter and her husband Yuri we were able to give clothes to everyone in the community, for the young mothers especially this was a wonderful gift and I liked that we were able to give something to everyone in the community, even if it was a hat for their baby or just a hot drink on a cold day.
As we set off on the long hike back to the car we were all exhausted, cold and dirty, however for the first time this year I felt that elusive Christmas spirit and excitement which as an adult is so hard to recapture, I think we all felt it as we had done something, something which Christmas is really all about – sharing what you have with others, and making other people happy.
Happy Holidays everyone!
Apus Peru & Threads of Peru would like to thank all the participants in this years Chocolatada, special thanks to Jerzy family for their contribution, again to Tianna Meriage-Reiter and her husband Yuri for donating the much needed clothes, to the Apus Peru clients who generously donated their time on the day and from year-round donations to Threads of Peru.