We will be living in a rented multi-room adobe house in the small Quechua village of Obrajes, a 30-minute drive from the city of Oruro. One large room is dedicated to artifact processing, analysis, and storage. A second room serves as our kitchen and gathering space. In addition to eating and cooking here, you can read, listen to music, play cards or “cacho” (a Bolivian dice game), or simply pass time talking with project participants.
We have cooking facilities in our kitchen where we boil water daily, and prepare our own lunches and breakfasts. Our dinners will be prepared by a hired cook. On weekly trips to the markets of Oruro, we will purchase food, field and house supplies as needed. In addition to fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, and meats, there are many Western products available for purchase. Weekly shopping lists are divided among small groups of students to facilitate the shopping tasks. You’ll greatly enjoy wandering the open-air markets of Oruro, and developing relationships with the vendors we see each week. Many will foster those relationships with you by giving you a little gift (called a “llapa” in Quechua) such as an orange to thank you for your business.
Finally, there are two large rooms: one for women and one for men. Each project participant will have two mattresses lying on the concrete floor, and 3-4 very thick, warm llama wool blankets. There are two toilets in a separate outhouse building, as well as a water spigot connected directly to village wells. A 10-minute walk from our house brings you to the jewel of Obrajes, the hot springs. Natural hot springs have been developed into private, well kept bathing facilities and a pool. In years past, project participants have returned from fieldwork in time to bathe there, each in a private bath (usually every 2-3 days or so, though students can bathe daily if they so desire).
June and July is winter in the southern hemisphere, and the altiplano’s altitude of 3800 meters above sea level make for extreme temperature variations from day to night. Temperatures during the afternoon can reach 70 degree Fahrenheit, compounded with very strong sun. At night, temperatures usually plummet below freezing. That winter is also the dry season means that the air is very arid as well. Strong sunblock, regular use of moisturizing lotions, and polarized sunglasses are all required. Participating students will receive detailed packing lists before the trip, but all are encouraged to purchase or borrow three critical pieces of equipment: a warm coat, boots with good ankle support and traction, and a warm sleeping bag (rated 25 degrees or below).