A Travellerspoint blog


5th Nov - 17th Dec 2012

Wow..this has been a whirlwind of a time here. With so much going on, I feel as if my feet have hardly touched the ground! Which probably explains why my body said enough...and I ended up with a day in bed..still doing e mails mind you..at least for a short time...not my usual 10-12 hour day , 6-7 days a week.

I’ll explain more as we go along.
So I’ll tell you about the house first. Well the water issue...i.e. the lack of ...went on for 4 days!! After the first day I spoke to Liz, (pronounced Leez) my landlady and said I must have water for the toilet. She pointed me in the direction of a tap and said it was for the toilet only. I thought she meant I wasn’t allowed to use their water (we pay for it separately) but a day or two later I discovered it was only to be used for the toilet because of the quality!! Meanwhile I had been using some of it to boil up for tea!! No wonder my tummy was a little unsettled! By day 3 I really had had enough of carting water I can tell you and so when I finally got running water again I was delighted. It is amazing the little (but essential) things, when they are taken away, then given back cause you so much happiness. The problem my water issue took so long seemed to be they (the municipality) needed to send a technician. After this debacle I have bought big dustbins to fill with water so if it goes off again then at least we have water for a while. One day of reasonable normality and then no electricity! This unfortunately had to be the day Ineke was there to help me with all the finance stuff! We had to head down to Real McCoy again and use their free Wi-Fi. The power didn’t come back on until about 6pm that night.
Regarding all the other little issues some have been repaired after about 2 weeks and constant nagging , like the drawers and lights but the drains not working in the kitchen and back area where the washing machine now is were still not repaired after nearly a month. I decided I would need to hold back the rent that month until it was done. I had to start emptying the dirty water into a drain outside the house and up some stairs...not easy with a full basin of water! These and a main electrical point that doesn’t work all add up to not being able to relax completely....other than these very annoying points I really do like the house. I have also had to begin rubbing a light film of diesel into all the floorboards..What on earth for I hear you ask..well I began to get bites over my body. Initially I ignored them as much as you can ignore something that itches! Anyway when more and more appeared and in places you don’t really want bites, I had to do something about it. Everyone said pulgas (little mites) from animal hair were to blame and to clear these you need to use diesel on the floor boards. A short time later when Rita was in the house she found a small mite from pigeon droppings on my quilt! I have a window that leads onto a corrugated iron roof and when she looked out the window she saw pigeon droppings on some rubble on the roof. OK!! So that window will no longer be opened! So as well as rubbing diesel into my floorboards I also bought a fine powder which I sprinkled over all the mattress, sheets, pillows, the lot; left it for the day then shook them all out as instructed...Fortunately Sonia had a small hoover so I hoovered the mattress. Everything else once shaken went into the washing machine which fortunately I had just collected the day before. This moving house has not been an easy transition I can tell you! I might as well continue with the stresses and then I will tell you about the nice stuff. The other big problem in the house was that the drains weren’t working to clear the water in any of the sinks! After about 2 weeks the landlady finally bought caustic soda to try and correct 2 of the drains. The one in the outside washing area was beyond caustic soda and needed changed. The caustic soda sorted the bathroom sink but the kitchen sink was another issue. It was well and truly blocked. After harping on for another few days Liz eventually came and admitted it needed a gasfitera to change the connections under this sink and the outside one. Meanwhile greasy water was building up and although she had left a plunger it really didn’t work. Occasionally the drain would clear but leaving a really dirty sink that couldn’t be cleaned effectively as the next lot of water to clean the sink wouldn’t clear. It was also difficult to pin down Liz and her husband as they were never in or didn’t answer their door! Anyway after finally emptying the sink using a shovel to scoop out what we couldn’t get out with a jug and cleaning the sink thoroughly I agreed with Liz where to go and pour out the water from our basins. This was after I had unintentionally poured into what I thought was a drain and turned out to be their water supply! Oops!! Anyway I am sure the others around must have spoken to Liz as the outside drain couldn’t cope with a full basin of dirty water and it lay around the concrete for a little while. Within a few days of this and still annoying them daily a gasfitera arrived and sorted them both. Well that only took about a month! The lesser issues such a no overhead lighting in some of the rooms took about a week to fix, and a patch for my broken bedroom window and powerpoint in the lounge area took 6 weeks!! There are a number of cats and dogs around so leaving the doors open without something in front of them as a deterrent is not an option. Sonia has adopted a young cat though that we think may have belonged to the house at some point. However it thinks it should get in too...not happening!! However somehow it found its way onto the roof outside of my windows so we had to let it in and take it downstairs, but not until Sonia had kept it on her knee and cuddled it for a while. It has done that a couple of times now, especially if it hears us both in the room.
OK onto the nicer stuff and making the house into my home. I bought my first bits of furniture which was really quite exciting! Sonia took me to Wanchaq market on a Saturday which is renowned for having furniture and basically most things you can think of. We had a good browse around all the stalls then I made my decision. I settled on a large chest of drawers with mirror and a cane settee, 2 chairs and small coffee table. Having bought the chest of drawers after a little bartering which then covered the cost of the taxi to get it back I asked the girl on the stall if she could find a suitable taxi. The taxi driver seemed a nice man and I gave him a little more to help me carry it down to the house. Luck was on my side as the husband of my landlady was in and offered to help..thank goodness as it weighed a ton and I got them to bring it upstairs too. The stairs are incredibly step..almost vertical..so I was glad it was them and not me. Needless to say we took the drawers out to make it easier. The mirror had also been detached. As the taxi man was so helpful we just kept him, back to Wanchaq, quickly bought the settee and chairs and headed back up. This time I could help him no problem. The fun was me trying to squeeze in the back of his estate car with the furniture. Sonia needless to say was in the front. She is 81 after all.  We felt we deserved lunch after that so he dropped us at Jacks; a nice restaurant / cafe at the bottom of our road.... so a very productive morning.  Back at the house I duly cleaned everything and managed to assemble the mirror onto the back of the chest myself. This was quite a feat I can tell you as it was quite a weight and size. I was pleased with myself for figuring a way to do this myself. It felt great to finally unpack a lot of my clothes and put them in drawers. The next day, Sunday, Sonia and I visited Molino, a good market but one you need to be careful in as you can lose your handbag very easily! We didn’t stay too long as it was stifling hot. They have put a roof over it so no air circulates in it now. How some of the vendors were working in that heat was a mystery! We were there long enough to buy clothes rails for each of us (Sonia was moving in soon) and I bought a few cushions for the settee. I also bought a few household items. We headed back to the house and I duly assembled my first clothes rail. It was a little awkward as there was a shoe rack at the bottom and at certain points you had to have 3 items held together and then attach the screws. By the time I got to assembling the 4th one (Sonia and I had bought 2 each) I had it down to a fine art. Sonia had brought down some salmon she had bought so we prepared this with the veg I already had in the fridge. We then sat out on our little veranda/ washing area and ate it. It was so lovely. It is a real hot spot. We had put one of the tables out there. It was one of the many things we had brought from the deposito which is where a lot of the items from Sonia’s old house went. ..all on loan of course but very useful none the less. Sonia was now desperate to move out of Esmaran’s as she really liked the feel of my house. That move happened quicker than we all thought and she was in my house the following week. Slowly but surely we are moving her many things from the other house. Between the extra things we brought from the deposito and Sonia’s accommodation in Cusco the house was pretty full of boxes waiting on her having time to go through her personal stuff and both of us for the general things. The problem was Sonia hadn’t had space to sort out her stuff when she moved to Cusco so now she was working through them slowly. You get used to seeing things lying around after a while and most were against walls so not a big issue.
The following weekend we headed back to Urubamba but with Sonia this time to see what she wanted to bring. This made the box situation and the guddle in the house quite a bit worse! However slowly but surely they are getting sorted. It is now clear a lot needed to go back. After a few weeks of sorting stuff and when work seemed to slow a little we went together and I bought a dresser style unit for the kitchen which is rather pretty with some glass cupboards. I was pleased with it and it was a good price compared to some of the others we saw. The beauty of this one is it could double as a unit for a living room, which is what I wanted. Who knows whether I will stay here or move at some point so I wanted versatile furniture. Sonia has told me I can keep the bed and some of the other things that aren’t really suitable for the children’s home so that is great. I am also in the process of getting curtain rails and curtains put up to make the living room area a little cosier and to hide all of Sonia’s stuff under the stairs, as well as a few items for Living Heart. Sonia has 2 gas heaters which, now they have arrived, will make a huge difference. Very quickly the heat builds up and that is without the curtains! We have had a visit from a maestro (common word for any expert in their field) and he has hung what he can of the curtains from Sonia’s old house and measured for the rest. Because of the close proximity of the neighbours and landlady everyone can see into my kitchen as they walk past so curtains will be good.
The one thing I should tell you is Peruvian builds are notoriously sloppy. I have to laugh as the side of my bedroom door has some squares of wood to support the door frame to the wall and so has a nice big gap all the way up one side as a result!  The whole house is built on a slope and the stairs are incredibly steep...about 80 degrees I’d say..damn near vertical! You’d need to watch if you were drunk I can tell you!
I should also tell you about that the day we went to Urubamba. Because the boys (Aquiles, the LH driver and Julio (Sonia’s ex workman from Urubamba) were helping us all day we needed to feed them as well as pay them. We all ended up in a chicken and chips place but it wasn’t too long afterwards that we realised there was obviously a problem the chicken! For about a week we both suffered on and off with pretty severe diarrhoea and weakness! We thought we would need to get tested for salmonella but we had chosen to use some alternative therapy and this with a bit more rest made all the difference. This was the day I ended up in bed. Anyway we won’t be back to that restaurant again! Chicken is always a bit risky out here but as the restaurant was so busy we thought we would be OK..not so!!

Work-wise I am often juggling many things and thinking and talking in English and Spanish; at some points using my creative head, sometimes administrative and sometimes figures, or just getting the job done (on the projects).
One of my biggest frustatrations has been setting up the newsletters. You wouldn’t think it would be a big job to copy a word document into a format to send but this proved not to be the case!! What you could see in front of you looked all pretty and then when you then sent a test e mail to yourself to see if it still looked right resulted in huge a complete change with huge font size, complete sections missing never to be retrieved despite many attempts and different ways of putting it in and links to websites not working! Talk about pulling your hair out and wanting to fling your computer through a window!!! It came pretty close at times I can tell you!! Anyway 2 newsletters later..which is actually 4 because each one needs to be completely rebuilt in Spanish and any alterations can result in strange things happening too!! Needless to say I didn’t do the Spanish translations. I had a bash at bits of it but my Spanish is no where good enough for this, so calling in friends is the name of the game just now. The problem is they are working so you have to wait until they can get time to check it. I have managed to fine tune the process a bit to take the pressure off them so it is only a final read through with some minor corrections now. I think I have finally sussed how to make the stupid site we use work too. Not quite how it was explained to me to use it, but much better and we get it right first time. I now know the silly little nuances to make sure the formatting stays when you send it. January’s newsletter should be a little easier I hope! Normally we do them every quarter but when I ended up with the big role I realised none had been done since March and we were actively trying to promote The Big Give Christmas Challenge so we had to make everyone aware and also update them on all that had been going on. After January we will be back to 3 monthly which is good.
The third greenhouse is fairly coming on now. The men and women have worked really hard. We had to give them a bit of a push when the rains had started and nothing was being done but they took it on board and all came together to complete it. As a wee treat we are giving them some wine..which they had hinted at.  It is cheap and cheerful so we are not going to complain. This has been a big job and now the roof is on they now need to prepare the soil and get the more slow growing veggies planted. On 30th Dec Rita and Dionicio (the headmaster) will attend a big faena to discuss responsibilities during the holidays and Rita can organises the workshops to begin the practical training. The classroom training will come a little later and will mostly be for the children who look after the greenhouse as well as with the parents. My visiting the communities on occasions, leaving the rest to Rita, seems to be working well and everyone is now very comfortable with seeing me and speaking slowly to me, so i can understand! Some of the kids are now calling me Senorita Heather, which is nice. 
Regarding fun time; with work so full on there is not much time for anything else to be fair. Most of the friendships I had built up are in Urubamba, an hour away in a collectivo so I don’t see them much. I have met a couple of them once or twice for coffee when they came to Cusco but that has been it.
2 volunteers whose time had come to an end treated Sonia and I to a very nice lunch..unfortunately Rita couldn’t make it. I also had a rare night dancing with friends in a nightclub. They are a couple so having Nino there was blessing, meaning we didn’t get hassled from the guys. Some tried but we managed to get rid of them. That is Latin men for you..and it is wearing a bit thin I can tell you!! Anyway with Nino as our chaperone, and taking his role as minder very seriously, Yeina and I hit the dance floor and really went for it..no holes barred, dancing as if we were the only 2 there..It was fab and was a real release for me!! I also decided to have my first drink of beer since arriving..boy that felt good!! Before we knew it, it was 3am and they were ready for home so dropped me off. A great night was had by all..to be repeated for sure next year! 

It is now getting very near my time to return home for Christmas and New Year , staying until 23rd January. I am tying up a lot of things up and planning what work I can do from the UK and what needs to be set up here to keep things ticking over. Ineke, our bookkeeper, is going to be my go between with Rita which is great and she will help her with a few things outstanding in the communities. I am really ready for this break as pretty much every week I have been working 7 days so the break is exactly what I need. Sonia is feeling the same as she has been dealing with a lot of the stuff since she has moved and needing to rest a little too. Well she is 81 after all! She isn’t taking much to do with LH but she has enough to deal with, with the cafe to be honest! She is off to Lima to see her daughter who is flying in and her and her husband have a flat there so a nice break for Sonia too.

Well it is time to call a halt to yet another very long blog! Apologies for that! It feels a bit rambly this time but hopefully gives you a picture of what I have been up to.

Have a wonderful Christmas to you all and I hope 2013 is a great year for you, bringing you much happiness. I feel it will be an eventful one ..but time will tell!! With all the predictions about 2012 it will be interesting to see if any play out.

Live your life to the full and follow your heart. ..that is where the truth lies..not in your head justifying actions! 

Hasta proxima vez mis amigos.... 

Posted by Heather Buc 06:42 Comments (0)


23rd October – 4th November 2012

Well what a time I am having since returning. Life is moving at a very fast pace with not much time to come up for air! Below you can see some of it. As I felt this was long enough you haven't got the most current but suffice to say life is still full on...Enjoy and I'll send the next update as soon as I can find some time to write it. :)

........So following a week of getting on top of emails and visits to a cafe in Cusco with Sonia to ensure we had internet connection, we are still very much in transition. Following meetings with the lawyer regarding Fani with late nights preparing the stuff that he needs and a long but good day with Ineke helping get the bookwork back into order we finally seemed to making some progress. I obviously would be unavailable for about a week as the medics visits were up and coming and are really full on. I also move house the day after, so on the Friday before I started with the medics I tried to take a bit of time to do as much packing as possible.
The medics visits started on the Saturday. To say that I was knackered after all this is an understatement!! After 5 very big days with the medics visits, not getting back until 8pm or later and back out early the next day. I then had 2-3 pretty full on days with the move with first moving then things I had accumulated then borrowing things from others so I had somewhere to sleep, a cooker, fridge etc. On the day of the move I ended up cleaning 2 houses! Carol and Paul’s house wasn’t quite so bad but I had arranged to be out for 11am so this was a bit of a struggle with washing the sheets and cleaning. To add to that it was a public holiday. One which most of the local people take so trying to find a taxi that was willing to go to my new house (it is surprising how often a taxi here says no or asks for a ridiculous amount of money) and also was big enough to take all my stuff was quite a struggle! Eventually Yeina and Nino, who were bringing me a spare mattress that they had and a 2 burner cooker, came with their taxi and I just paid all the fares. When I arrived at my house I gave over the rest of my rent money and got the keys. This is when I discovered the house hadn’t been cleaned after being painted!! I knew if I waited on my landlady it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon so said I would clean it as long as she agreed I wouldn’t have to clean it when the time came to move out again. This was written into the contract, that I had to leave it the way I found it. This meant 3-4 hours cleaning just to get the worst of it sorted....All you women know what it is like after workmen have been in!! With no brush or shovel I asked to borrow my landlady’s...well she should have done the cleaning anyway! I then borrowed her mop to clean the worst of the stoor (dust to you non-Scots ). It is a reasonable sized house with 2 bedrooms upstairs, a good sized hallway between the upstairs rooms and a small bathroom. Downstairs there are 3 areas; a good sized kitchen, a very large living area which will be the office space as well as a living room and an outside area, which is enclosed on 3 sides with a wonderful view. This is the washing area and where my secondhand washing machine will go in when I get it around the middle of November. By the time I had done this I was pretty knackered not having eaten much that morning. As time was marching on it was time to pay Sonia a visit. I haven’t told you about the fun and games around the medics visit but Sonia joined us on the first day of our clinics for a special lunch that the cook had wanted to prepare for her. Unfortunately, in the short time she was there she managed to find the only hole in the playground and trip, badly spraining her ankle! She is still unsure if there are torn ligaments or what the problem has been as it is taking a long time for her to be mobile again. Sonia kindly gave me a sandwich and after our catch up I headed back to make up my mattress for the night. The next day was our weekly meeting which allowed us to put some plans in place of what needed done next. Following this I had to meet one of the nurses, from the medics group, to collect some stuff to be kept safe for the following year. This lady (the nurse) has been extremely unwell, and was still on heavy duty medication. I was amazed she decided to come..but it was so important to her to be here again, which is absolutely lovely.  To add to her troubles some of her very strong meds were running low as she had miscalculated how many she would need so she had reduced her dose to try and eek them out!! I hoped this didn’t have too much impact on her as they were immunosuppressants and in Peru it is difficult to keep clear of all the infections around, even for us healthy individuals! We are all hoping she will be with us next year! I’ll update you a little later on the details of the, always exciting, medics visit.
I had an early start the next day with Martin (our Living Heart driver), in the 4 by 4 and Aquiles in his taxi, another driver that Sonia uses (a nice young man who is extremely helpful). I was meeting them at 7am and we were heading to the deposito where the remains of Sonia’s furniture was, that hadn’t been farmed out already, the bulk of which was in Fani’s house! We managed to get a lot of stuff, including Sonia’s cooker, fridge freezer (which I forgotten how large it was), tables and chairs for the office and a few other bits and bobs to make my life a lot easier. Getting it offloaded and down the very narrow steps to the house was quite a feat and I really didn’t think the fridge would get down but Aquiles was incredible; with it strapped to his back he carried it down from the jeep at the top of the hill! I would have loved a picture but there was no way I was asking him to wait while I got my camera! I discovered later he spent 10 years on the Inca trail..this explained his strength and technique! I thought he was a lot younger than his 32 years. The reason Sonia is using him, as he stays in Ollantaytambo which is over an hour and a half away, is to help him as he is just starting his business and he has a young family. Anyway this done Martin took off...he getting lazier as time goes on... and Aquiles and I went to Sonia’s for the computer stuff. It was at this point when I asked where I could buy a cylinder of gas for the cooker in Cusco (I knew all this stuff in Urubamba) that Sonia went off on one as the cylinder should have been with the cooker, which Aquiles lifted from the cafe in Ollantaytambo. About an hour later Sonia phoned me to tell me the chef was putting it on a taxi in Urubamba and it would be there in 30 minutes. I wasn’t to be late as it might get pinched. I questioned this as it normally took an hour for any taxi from Urubamba. Anyway I was assured this was the case so because I had other things to collect en route I had to leave the house right away. I was quite pleased with myself as I had managed to collect a couple of second-hand blankets I had purchased about a week or so earlier and visit a large shop that has every conceivable type of plastic item you could wish for...purchasing a few items there (a few basic essentials) but know I will need to go back for a lot more. Well you know what it is like ladies when you basically have nothing....you need bins, cleaning stuff, a chopping board etc...just have a look around your house and you will soon realise.  Anyway I was at Pavitos (the taxi and collectivo meeting point) in plenty of time. As I stood wondering if I had missed the taxi I got a call from Sonia to say it would be another hour!!!!! I WAS NOT HAPPY!!! I had a lot of goods already but knew I would need a taxi back up come the time so decided to go the supermarket around the corner to kill time and get some supplies. I bought a number of things on my list of basic essentials for the house as well as some food. Back at Pavitos I sat, and sat, and sat. Eventually at after 7pm the collectivo arrived. I had set off at 4pm!! My next challenge was to get everything home! Like the Thursday that I moved, trying to get a taxi was very difficult but after another 15 minute wait I found one willing to take me. The problem you see is Pumocurco, my new address is well up the side of the mountain and some taxis just refuse!! This taxi, like one the previous day couldn’t make it up to the house. If they try to take the direct route up the street climbs sharply at the top and the smaller taxis just run out of power!! I now tell them which way to go so they can at least get within a stone’s throw of my house. Anyway once we made it home, needless to say, I went straight to bed as I was so tired physically and emotionally from all the turmoil of the day! Well I did spend a little time rearranging my room. Aquiles had kindly helped me assemble the double bed we found in the deposito (a store room by the way). Before we left Urubamba on the Saturday I had bought my first tools...a screwdriver and a ratchet to tighten the bolts of the bed..quite exciting actually.. and a little difficult when you don’t know the names of these kind of things in Spanish.  Sunday was to be the day for me to tackle thoroughly cleaning the kitchen, including the fridge so I could get my food (that was starting to go off) in it...yey.  Unfortunately it was not to go to plan... I discovered the water had been switched off as the authorities were changing a connection the next day (the Monday)!! It might have been nice to have been informed!! It is surprising how much you can do with so little water. I acquired a bucket of water from Sonia’s and drained as much as I could out of every tap in the house. Carrying the water from Sonia’s was quite difficult as it meant walking down very steep hills without spilling my very full bucket! Slowly the house was starting to look like a normal house, ready to live in. I still need to buy a number of things but I could do that slowly but surely. At least I could have something warm to drink and eat and have a nice comfy bed to sleep in. There were a few things that weren’t been right in the house, such as 3 of the drawers in the kitchen had holes in the bottom of them and the drains were pretty blocked but everything is being repaired slowly but surely...with a lot of reminding!!

So time to tell you about the medics visit.
Some of you may have already seen the pictures on facebook on the Living Heart site so here is the detail. 
It is always an adventure when the medics are here and this year was no exception.  I ended up as one of the Spanish to English translators. There weren't been many body parts I didn't talk about over those 5 days. 
The medics had some really interesting and challenging cases this year including a small operation in very difficult circumstances. The lady in our first community came in with a very inflamed part of her personal anatomy that proved to be difficult to drain and treat when they operated. They gave her very strong antibiotics during and following the operation as infusions over 2-3 days. We were in that community for 2 days so Martin, brought her to the clinic (in the school) on the second day so she could receive her infusion. It is amazing what you can rig up; a plank with nails became the apparatus to hold up the infusion bag! I should say that while Julie, was conducting the operation, it was at this time that Sonia fell so all hell broke loose. Patients were put on hold until all were checked out and sorted. Once we left this community after our 2 days there Julie and Val, the doctor, visited the lady daily in her home to make sure she was OK before we went to the other communities. She was making an excellent recovery..however 2 days later her husband was hit by a car!! Sometimes it doesn’t rain but it pours!
The first day of the medics visit was a really long one as by the time we were set up and everyone settled into their roles we didn’t finish until after 7pm. The problem I had was trying to get back to Cusco! Val kindly offered me a bed for the night which was great and what a treat as they were staying in a 4 star hotel.... I did enjoy that! The shower was a delight, thick comfortable beds with lovely sheets with dinner and breakfast thrown in....How wonderful! 
I travelled back to Cusco each night after that but as I said; it made for some very long days! It wasn’t just the length of the days that was challenging but the full on day with very little time to stop. Thinking in Spanish all day added to the challenge and by the end of the day I could barely think straight never mind speak in any language! On one particular night, after I had been dropped off in Pisac and realized I couldn’t get one of the combis, a taxi (or what I thought was a taxi) stopped. He leaned down to look at me out of his passenger window and said “Cusco?” I said “Yes “and asked how much. He said 5 soles which was what you paid for the taxis, so I got in! I thought it strange he wasn’t stopping to pick up other passengers and he was driving very slowly. I was wondering if I was about to be mugged! He was an older man and seemed nice enough. He was keen to talk and we started chatting but, to be honest, this is when I really struggled after a full day of English to Spanish translating. I could barely think of the simple words!! Anyway it transpired he was ex police and a nice guy. He offered me a lift the next day and the following night if I needed it. I wasn’t leaving as early as him and as it turned out I was back in time to get a combi so never saw him again.
Each morning I arranged to meet the medics in Pisac and I always made sure I set off in plenty of time as by the time you get a combi to the street where the Pisac collectivos were(sometimes they were too full so didn’t stop) then waited for the collectivos to Pisac to fill up, you needed to allow an hour and half travel time. Unfortunately for me I then had to wait anything from 30 mins to an hour ..not because I was so early but they were always late!! Oh well it was better they got themselves sorted and it is great to have them each year.
The medics not only brought lots and lots of medicines, they also brought clothes for children with a few items for the adults too. The treats for the kids were bubbles, lollipops, pencils and tattoos. These almost caused a riot on occasions but went down very well as you can imagine, especially showing the little ones how to blow bubbles. 
I probably should have said we had eight medics this year; Val and Julie, the diehards who are the doctor and nurse practitioner and to support them this year 3 nurses, a pharmacist and 2 others helping. This made urine testing, prepacking meds, taking notes etc much easier.
Our first 2 days were in a community I hadn’t been to before. I had taught in and visited the other schools often but never seemed to make it to this one. This is a strange situation as we are feeding a school in the valley which normally aren’t too badly off but this one had a large percentage of the children from a very remote community in the mountains. I was keen to understand from which community the people we were treating came from and how many were at the school. As it turned out the majority we saw were from this very high and remote community and these children had to be the poorest I had seen since coming to Peru. When it came to the donated clothes I had suggested we keep them for those in most need. To be honest we gave a lot to these kids and the elderly because of how poor they actually were. This confirmed for me our need to continue our work in this school.

..So what kind of complaints did we see and what were the memorable moments??

...Dehydration was a big thing. The number of kids and adults actually that had complaints mostly derived from drinking very little water was considerable. I became like a stuck record encouraging them to drink more water and telling them how much that meant.
Chapped skin on most faces was extremely common so a good emollient was given to almost everyone, in fact as I was trying to find out what was wrong Marco, one of the nurses, was often rubbing cream onto the child’s face. One young girl who came in said her problem was she had black skin and wanted white skin...this made us laugh and she got her tub of cream. 
Acid reflux and indigestion of varying degrees in the women was a common problem -the main culprit for this was the very tight belts they wore around their skirts. They did explain to me it was part of the tradition but I had to try and encourage them to slacken them just a little and why. Marco couldn’t even get 2 fingers under to try and press lightly to check for other issues! One thing I should explain is the women are very bashful and also the clinic area was reasonably open unless the medics wanted to examine more closely in which case we held a curtain in front for more privacy. This meant a lot of examining had to be done as subtly as possible and with respect. The ladies wear a lot of layers..and I mean a lot!! Just trying to get a stethoscope near the flesh was quite a feat!
We did find some parasite infections for which we had anti parasitic drugs (purchase here as the US didn’t have the right type) and antibiotics depending on what Val, the doctor felt was required. We (Living Heart) are hoping to put water filters in the schools and then eventually into homes soon as we have now found pretty good quality filters with a good flow rate, providing plenty of clean, parasite- free water. This should hopefully help with a lot of these problems. The big issue with the filters is getting them into the country!! We are working on that.

Some of the individual, memorable consultations included an elderly man who had dropped a stone on his foot about a week prior but neither him nor his wife had understood he needed to take the antibiotics he had purchased, as part of that initial consultation with the Peruvian doctor, as well as the painkillers. It actually took us quite some time to get to the bottom of this and I had to ask his wife to go back to their house twice until we understood what he was currently taking! The problem was his foot was in quite a mess.... very swollen and infected. We had to stress to him if he didn’t start taking the antibiotics he was going to lose his foot!! We gave him a different course of antibiotics just in case one lot didn’t work and instructions on when to use them if he needed them.
Another man came in who had broken a number of his ribs and was badly bruised. He had applied a poultice of herbs, coca leaves and newspaper to hold the herbs in place. This was quite a mess when Val peeled off the newspaper! Once he had been cleaned up he was given some tiger balm..this had gone down a treat with a lot of people actually as the heat really helps alleviate the muscle pain....note to Val to bring even more next year. 
The lovely elderly 100 year old man, who we saw last year, came in again and after his treatment we found a warm coat and jumper for him to take away. I could see his jeans were held together with a piece of string but unfortunately there were no jeans to fit him.
In another community we had a lovely old man with hearing difficulties which was mostly caused by wax in one ear. It was this ear that Rita was shouting in until I told her.. it did made us laugh! He got it syringed which helped.
One of the sad cases was a young child with suspected epilepsy who was unlikely to seek out a specialist and be able to afford treatment as they were very poor. This and a few other cases may need us to see if any of the other NGOs are aware of specialists around and see if there is anything we can do. This little girl was so young and you just know others will be unlikely to be treated! These are the difficult ones!!
On our last day, when the team picked me up in Pisac they had picked up another lady with a problem. Rita had become aware of her the day before. She stayed in Rita’s town so after picking her up she travelled with us to the community, got some clothes, got fed and also had the ¾ inch thorn removed from inside her ear, which had been there for 3 weeks ! She was very lucky!! It took Corey an hour and half of gently syringing to get it out. We laughed on the way back as we felt the lady’s family would be wondering where she was!! 
One issue working in the schools is the lack of privacy from outside (not just inside) as the kids like to climb and peer in the windows. We chased them as much as possible and put covers over where we could. The examining beds were the desks pushed together and covered with sheets the team brought with them.
On a funnier, and cute note 2 little pet lambs came in one day and were wandering around the clinic ...were they just following their young owners......or were they looking for treatment we wondered?? 

So as you can see there is always plenty to challenge them with some funny moments thrown in for good measure. 

On a personal note for Val she was getting money out of a cash machine one day when the electricity dipped for a minute and it kept her card! The problem was to try and retrieve it she had to phone Cusco, which a nice man beside us did for her, then Val would need to visit Cusco, wait (which takes hours) and then once they confirmed her identity someone who come to Pisac the next day (no idea when) and retrieve her card! This card had all her money in this account. I suggested she would be better to cancel it and find another way of getting cash..safer as well considering the card was still in the machine. After much debate she decided to do this.

Whilst we were at one of the communities we managed to find time to see how the new greenhouse was progressing. A few changes to the original plan had taken place but other than some minor suggestions to what they had done all seemed to be well. The community were holding a number of faenas, where all the men came (and some women) meaning construction was really moving along which was great. I’ll need to visit again soon. The children had also started germinating the seeds in the small garden area above the greenhouse. This will make a big difference as when they transplant there will be some plants well on the way. Rita is doing really well and taking her role as Project Coordinator very seriously. This is the best I have seen her and Sonia and I are both very pleased with her renewed confidence and commitment to the work.

Well I feel this blog is quite long enough! I hope I haven’t bored you all too much by providing a bit more detail...so until the next update..as soon as I can find some time to write it. (It is now way past my bedtime!!) ...Keep well everyone and live life to the full. 

Posted by Heather Buc 20:43 Comments (0)


11th – 22nd Oct 2012

OK guys this is a long one so make ure you are quite settled and have a nice glass of wine in your hand...or a cup of tea will also do. :)
So let me start with my new location....Cusco.
Cusco is different and taking a little bit of time to get used to. It is obviously a city and getting around has taken time to sort out. Cusco sits in a valley with a lot of it built up the sides of the mountains so at some point in your journey you will be climbing and it can be pretty steep whether you are going up or down! The bike has quickly got relegated to the back room. Not sure if I mentioned this but to save money as the house is quite far out of town I asked Carol if she had an old bike I could borrow..only to use if I was going into a house or it would be stolen. Anyway it is of no use. I am missing Urubamba a little with less dogs and my salsa class. You can also walk about in reasonable safety there at night. Hopefully I will catch up with friends there at some point. At the moment though with such upheaval I am working crazy hours so exhausted at night and in bed for about 8pm at the latest! Once it all settles Esmaran and I are going dancing. Yey! 
I feel this is the time to tell you about the dogs in Cusco...a real issue actually! I have never been so scared passing dogs as I was on 2 of my walks. I tried altering my route but it was worse. I haven’t ventured down there again. Basically these dogs rule the steps and there are a lot of steps you need to use!! I am now very aware of the dogs and if I think there will be an issue I will look for a stone and carry it. The roads are very rough here so rubble isn’t difficult to find. You usually only have to show them the stone and that makes them back off but you do have to watch your back when you pass as well especially if there is more than one of them. A volunteer here, who helps us occasionally, has been bitten twice and now getting injections at great cost. I had considered the rabies vaccine before I came out knowing the issue with dogs in Cusco. He said it only buys you an extra day to get treatment and instead of 10 injections you need 3! He seemingly had ignored the dogs as he walked past and they came up behind him and bit him!! Incredible and a bit scary!!
The combis here are interesting too. They are just little minibuses and it is interesting to see how many people they can pack in. Haven’t done a head count but we are like sardines! I am starting to get the hang of which ones I can take to where before I change for another one. I can get closer to Sonia’s on the way there than on the way back. I have to walk a bit more that way to get the next combi and along quite a narrow street with no lighting so get a taxi if it is dark. On the combis you have a person, usually young adults about 16 -18 but I have seen an older lady on guard too. They are a bit like conductors but they have to be fit. They are in charge of the door and ride shotgun (if you can picture that). When we are all crushed in like sardines these guys are crushed against the door! They collect the 60 centimos from everyone. Great value actually as it is 60 centimos regardless of how far you go. This is about 15p to you. They shout out the name of the next stop and we respond if we want off with “Bajo”. They then repeat to the driver “baja, baja “or “nadie” -which translated means “stop, stop” or “no-one”. Along the way at set places there is a machine that they punch a card. The driver will say “tarjeta” (ticket) and as the combi slows down these guys take the ticket, jump off, punch the ticket and jump back on. The combi never stops, only slows down. Quite fascinating, actually. 
Weather-wise this is spring which here means very hot sun in the morning until mid afternoon then the rain starts. When it rains here is really rains. We are getting some thunder and lightning too. When it stops though, it doesn’t take long to dry up because of the strong sun.
OK so a little about what has happened here and my change in role. Talk about right place, right time. I couldn’t have timed my arrival any better.  So Fani, who was to have been our new president has been dishonest to the extreme..so much so we have had to get lawyers involved and we have all had to make statements. So our new structure (like old times ) is Sonia, as President – she is doing great after 2 months rest. Me as Treasurer and ...well this name keep changing to try and reflect all I do.  I’m opting for overall Administrator supporting Sonia and Rita. Sonia prefers Director but I am a little uncomfortable with that title. Ineke who had recently left will help me one day a week for a short time to get caught up as things have slipped a bit and Rita will resume as project coordinator. It has been heart warming to watch Rita grow in confidence again and so quickly. She really has the respect of the communities and the experience for all we are currently doing. Nutrition, Health and Contraceptive Program (which with new money we are getting we will extend to the teenage girls, plus we can then apply for a grant from an organisation we know are keen for us to apply for this project) and Greenhouses. I actually feel as if I am back in my area manager role to a certain extent, juggling lots of stuff and working in harmony with a great team. The ideas are really flowing and it is just such a great feeling to be a part of all of this amazing stuff helping to improve the lives of those less fortunate. I love that people know me and all the familiar faces. After 3 weeks of flat out working seven days a week I feel I am now getting into my stride and feel absolutely in the right place...it feels great actually...albeit tiring at the moment.  I am really enjoying my new role and the challenges. To be honest I don't need a title, I just get on with what needs to be done. I check in with Sonia to see what involvement she wants and how we share decision making but otherwise I am getting on with it. We are getting past the crisis managing which was nothing that we couldn’t handle. Days were particularly long when we had to go to the communities and then coming back to do e mails. I need to keep facebook active, sort the website and keep it active to keep it high on google and get a newsletter out soon before reports for those who have donated to us are due in a couple of weeks. Meetings need to be had to meet and discuss how various people who have emailed us and shown an interest in supporting us...Plenty to keep me out of mischief. 
The medics arrive on Friday 26th October for 5 days, 9 of them this time, so I am organising that with Rita at the moment. We are rearranging where they are going as we had real concerns for the health of two of them who have been very unwell. Going to the community Fani had suggested would leave us in a real predicament if someone took ill. It is a 3.5 hour very steep climb in and the only way out if someone collapsed would be a helicopter at an exorbitant cost! Sonia, Rita and I have agreed a change without impacting too much on this community. They will come to us which the kids do every day already as they go to a school in the valley instead of the one in their community. We have just heard about this school actually. You would wonder why we didn’t know but it is quite a big and widespread community and as I said very difficult to reach for us gringas! The children don’t go there because the teacher seems to be a drunk and has been reported to the authorities for attacking women in the community but he seems to have relations in the education authority so he is left alone!

A couple who run a small NGO in the US have donated a considerable amount of money to build a greenhouse at our last school. I met with them last Friday after lots of other meetings. I then updated them of the change in the NGO which I wasn’t sure how they would respond but they were absolutely fine and more concerned that the greenhouse would be built so they could tell all their donors. I had to be honest with them about my concerns at the plan that Fani and Saul had done but explained we had a structural engineer at the moment as a volunteer and he was helping us. The important thing for me was to see how the community was getting on with digging away all the soil to make it flat. You are never sure how many men will be available to work on each agreed day. On the Wednesday prior to this when Sonia visited (we were also there with Shop 2 (which is just the vegetables and the smaller shop for the month) ) there was a faena when about 30 men turned up and were working with picks to dig away the banking to level the ground. They had hoped for a machine from the municipalidad but that hadn’t turned up. It was amazing to watch them all hard at work. I was so pleased when we returned on the following Monday with Carlota and Joe (the American couple who had raised the money for the project) that there were still about 10 - 15 men and some women working to clear back to the main wall next to the school. Joe’s background is construction and greenhouses so, albeit his experience is not here in Peru where there are fewer materials, he can provide a lot of insight. As is always the case here plans constantly change. Now the municipalidad are offering to build the community a library which is great, but this is the only available plot of land so both the green house, big enough to feed the kids and future proof it (Dionessio is now asking for a 2 storey replacement for an older building to cope with the increasing numbers coming in). With our discussions with Clive we had thought 2 smaller ones would be better but now it will have to be one with dimensions between what we had thought for a smaller one and what Fani had considered. Well on Monday with so many people in the know Dionessio, another male teacher there, Joe and Rita eventually came up with frankly a great solution. It felt like a really productive day..it really did!  On top of that we were delivering the veggies for the other community on the opposite mountain and looked at the newly repaired greenhouse there. Unfortunately it was already encountering problems! So again with Joe and Emilio (the headmaster here) it was agreed what needed to be done to stabilise it. It is disappointing Fani had not done this one properly! We are not sure why. We will need to find funding for this though as Joe and Carlota are keen to support the one community with their greenhouse, very dangerous stairs where the huge pots of hot food are being carried down and the kitchen – to make it more smoke free as we have struggled to get this kitchen as good as the rest..possibly the location. This is to be done if there is money any left. By the end of the day Joe and Carlota were real converts of our projects and this community. I think we will work together over many years which will be great. They are such a lovely couple and so aligned with the way we work..which is actually why they picked us actually. We were British and they could see we would ensure the completion. 
On the Wednesday we were back up again, I brought my laptop this time as the rough drawing from Monday needed converting into useful information on what and how much to purchase and for Clive to come up with a drawing that the community could use. Just to remind you, Clive is the structural engineer. This again was a big day with a lot of discussion about how many supports were required, what the roof would look like and right down to the amount and size of nails we would need. I was pretty shattered after this I can tell you. While we were working on the detail of the design lots of men were continuing to dig away the banking against a stone wall we were now going to use as a main wall for the structure to maximise use of the available plot. Helping them were some women carrying away stones or rubble in their shawls. These women tend to be from the families where the men are away or there are no husbands so all are involved. It is incredible to watch I can tell. So in the space of just over a week these men have dug away a 35 metre steep banking turning it into a level area with the foundations dug down a metre, ready for the large stones/ rocks to go into. On this day the men had split into 2 groups because the alcalde (the mayor of Pisac) had given them a large lorry to fling rocks into and bring down the mountain. This was the nearest place for rock..about an hour’s walk up the hill. How they got them into this lorry I don’t know because it was a beast of a lorry and the rocks were a fair size I can tell you. All the equipment the men were using was on loan from the municipalidad which was brilliant as it was good quality and it needed to be for this terrain I can tell you. Amazing to watch how, with the enthusiasm and will of the community a barren hillside can be turned into a flat, workable area ready for the foundations and walls of the greenhouse....and not a heavy machine in sight. :) The president..new since last year, thank goodness as last year’s was a real numpty..(he was the one who forgot to tell the community about the medics visit!)..asked if we could purchase the equipment and all they needed to build (other than the adobe bricks of course that they had already made them) as there was to be a faena every day to make sure the greenhouse went up quickly . I discovered the real haste was because potato planting time was fast approaching before the rains started in earnest. Rita and I arranged with Martin to meet early in Cusco and do the shop on the Friday. As it turned out we were a little early for the shops so had to wait half an hour. They needed breakfast so I waited with them. As is the norm here it is sopa (soup) with potatoes, root veg and meat. Now there is no finesse to this soup you get a big chunk of meat you pick up with your fingers, whole potatoes, and large chunks of root veg. Also on the menu apart from the standard chicken was cow’s stomach soup...nice!! The old lady behind the desk was a little scathing that I didn’t eat..but tough..my tummy was still a little rough (see below for the reason!) We had a good 4-5 hours and got the best prices we could. It really felt like déjà vu as it is almost a year to the day since I last did this for our first community greenhouse.  This time because Martin now had a mini bus he could take the large water tank on top of his van as well as all the things that were in stock - just a few things to follow.

On the Wednesday, back at the school, it was also a big day for the 6th grade pupils as they had a cooking competition with posters with ingredients and how they prepared their dish. They then had to present this to Dionessio, the headmaster, Rita and myself. I understood a little. We had to judge the presentation, nutritional value and taste. There were about 8 groups some boys, some girls. It was really refreshing to see the boys preparing food and to be honest one group of boys had prepared my favourite dish. To help them fundraise we bought what we ate. I had 2 plates of theirs – the plates were very small I might add- like saucers. Their dish was fried potato shavings, a special bean that you boil for some time– very good for the digestion I was assured, onions and mint to accompany it. It really was yummy. I was very generous and gave them 5 soles for their funds. By the time we were ready to leave I needed to loo and felt I really didn’t want to go to the toilets up there. I asked Martin if he could drop Joe, Carlota and myself at their hotel. (I had used their, more public toilet downstairs the last time I had been there.) The way back was a little rough on me as the road surface is far from smooth and I was beginning to struggle I can tell you. I didn’t hand around long once we stopped either! Well....was I glad I waited!!!!!! Talk about an enema effect!!!!! I felt off for about 4 days and am still not 100%! No more beans for me!!

Because of the Fani situation Sonia and I have agreed I would look for other premises big enough for the office to be with me and I now think we have found the right property. Only after a number of days looking and sore feet – mostly mine because Sonia struggles with the steep streets here... well she is 81 after all.... and when I say steep I mean really steep. As I mentioned before Cusco is built from the valley and up the sides of the mountains which make our mountains look like lovely hills actually, much as I love ours they are quite a bit smaller. The house is in a lovely part of the city, high up near Sachsaywaman – the wonderful ruins I love. I will be living in a house which is in a mini complex where the family houses are around me which means it will be very safe. We have discussed the changing of some of the wall colours as the green was pretty rank! We are hopeful we will get all the furniture that Fani and Saul borrowed from Sonia when she moved in with Esmaran into her very beautiful fully furnished house..the best in Cusco we all think.  The house I will stay in is also only 2 or 5 minutes walk from Sonia and Esmaran...depending on whether you are going up or down the hill!  I have just bought a second hand washing machine, an oil heater, a rug, a soft blanket and a shower curtain from a lovely Irish girl I met last year so all in all I think I will be sorted.
I don’t intend to visit the communities too often but leave this in Rita’s capable hands. It doesn’t make sense for us both to be going up. Otherwise one of us would not be needed! I will visit to take photos for the website and facebook and discuss anything I find at the time....once every 4-6 weeks should be about right. My role is really behind the scenes, on the computer and talking to people visiting occasionally when needed. They will be able to come to the house which is good. It kinda feels like déjà vu and I have been transported back to last year with a bit more understanding of the operations now! There is loads to do though so Ineke is going to help me one day a week while she is still here as her and her boyfriend are hoping to move. After our one meeting I already feel I understand a little more of the detail I was not involved in before.

Re Mr Ratty!! I haven’t heard it lately which is good but the small cup that is on a tray on the next bed has been toppled over in the morning a few times so he is still around! I am conscious of putting my rucksack in the wardrobe now so there is no more eaten food. Edgar who is the main guy for the travel company here finally came to see me after a week and a half and said he would do something later that week...so 2 weeks later! Oh well! I have had a couple of issues in the house where my food has been taken and the water I pay for is being drunk by both Pilar, the nanny and Julia, the cook who are here constantly. I was expecting them only to be in occasionally which is what I was originally told but a few things have changed since then! They also use way more gas than me as I am never there to cook, but I am still paying for it! They are not making things easy for me despite the fact that I have discussed that I am paying a reasonably big rent for the house so I have had to put signs on the fridge and water, which needless to say is not working. Also the fact that it is my friend’s house you don’t really settle the same to make it your own so it is best I move. I don’t want the friendship to be soured by this. The fact that I need a place for the office is the biggest factor of course.

Oh well my friends I think this blog is quite long enough!! Next week I must ensure I am on top of the paperwork, reports and updating our media before the medics come on Friday and we start a 5 day stint in all the communities from the Saturday to the Wednesday...no rest for the wicked....then I will hopefully move in.

Posted by Heather Buc 16:20 Comments (0)


3rd - 10th October

Well following my meeting with Fani yesterday and reviewing a lot of emails I had identified a number of things needing followed up and questions for Fani. I was meeting her at San Blas market at 8am the next morning. Pilar (the nanny) who it turns out is staying in the house too told me there was a strike the next day so getting transport would be difficult. It was time to try out the bike! Now I haven’t ridden a bike for about 3-4 years and negotiating Peruvian traffic was going to be interesting. I was hoping the early hour would be in my favour but allowed 30 mins in case I had to get off and push. Sure enough I did as some of the gears didn’t work. I discovered later that the 2 sets of gears worked the opposite way! I’d never seen this before. I’d need a really low gear for some of these hills and to be honest the cobbles would be a killer. The traffic was a bit of an issue, not helped by 2 taxis stopping side by side to have a chat with no care about the traffic behind them!! Fani led the way up to her house with little Sancho (her street dog that resembles a St Bernard) in tow. He is only 5 weeks old and was doing quite a bit of complaining/ whining as he had been a sleep and Fani had to wake him to bring him. It was quite a climb with a bike I can tell you and way too many steps to contend with. If I had been walking it would have been very enjoyable- still steep but very pleasant..with a bike it was a nightmare! Little Sancho, every time he was put time curled up to sleep.  He really is quite adorable. We made it and Fani showed me around. From this vantage point they have an amazing view across Cusco. It is a nice house over 2 stories and with Sonia’s downsizing they have gained quite a bit of furniture which makes it quite homely. We spent the next 5 hours going over various spreadsheets and what Fani was looking for. As we continued I could see a lot of this being a bit mind-numbing so we discussed how we might share this workload and I would help with writing etc under the marketing heading. I think my job will evolve. Sonia wasn’t over impressed by the assistant part of my title but again we will see. The return journey was different altogether as they live close to the main road so this is the way I returned. Not to be done in reverse I can tell you as the slope down was pretty scary with lots of corners to add to the excitement! I was braking the whole way. I was pleased I had figured my way back successfully and reaching the house I realised I had a problem. I hadn’t brought my keys. The door to the house has never been locked since I have known Carol and Paul. Today it was and no-one had spare keys! Pilar was away until 5 and Edgar until 3pm. Peruvian time you understand, so this turned out to be 6pm and 6.30pm respectively!! I did have an external drive which I could connect to one of the computers in the office but for some bizarre and frustrating reason it wasn’t going to let me copy and paste from excel sheets to make a real start on price fluctuations of food so we could budget accordingly. I opted for e mails and follow ups. Eventually I did find a way around some of the issue which allowed me to get it started as this was one of the mind numbing jobs I wanted out of the way! I worked on until 7.30pm so my first full day was 11 hours. Mmmmm - what does this remind me of???? A certain role not in the too distant past. 
Needless to say I will do a little more than basic admin and put my oar if required. :) A typical example: I have just done a spreadsheet with price fluctuations in the foods etc we buy for the communities, to make sure we are budgeting correctly...majorly boring as I checked EVERY boleta and factura (invoices to you) since May. Anyway we have just moved the bulk of our buying to Cusco as it is closer for 2 of the communities and I noticed quite a difference in the prices. I have highlighted all discrepancies from our new supplier and also where we were under or over budgeting with my recommendations of change or let's just see what the next couple of shops looks like. We might need to barter a bit if this lady is good and just make sure she is giving us the best prices. As you can see I can't keep my mouth shut. J I also thought it was a good opportunity to improve my Spanish so made sure I knew what everything was in English. Never like to miss an opportunity. 
Following the incident when I was locked out I received an e mail from Paul regarding using the office and I should be in the house. Unfortunately the Wifi in the house is very temperamental. I have tried to reason with him as I am not disturbing anyone and it doesn't seem to be affecting the speed of their computers however Paul will not budge so I may need to review my time here if I can’t work. I am paying a normal rent for "house-sitting". Normally you would have a landlord to support you but this is not the case here. No-one cares. I have now discovered I may have a rat in the room as I have heard it and felt it at 4am once morning. It was eating my cod liver oil capsules, ignoring the chocolate...go figure! When the capsules were no longer available it went into my bag and chewed on a cereal bar! Everything is in the wardrobe now and so far seems OK. I know the girls (Pilar and Julia (the cook) have been in my room as often the door is open when I come back and they are using the gas more than I am and have to pay for. They are also drinking the bottled water. I am not going to argue about it just deduct it at the end if it becomes an issue. I have since locked myself out again. Pilar had asked me to feed the chickens and bring them in and when I went out to do this the door shut behind me!! I had been so tired when i got back i had forgotten to move the clothes peg to keep it open. After much fretting Dougie helped me smash a pane of glass to get in. It will have to stay like this until I can get another. Dougie must be sick of the sight of me! I had to go to his house late on the Saturday after a very big day’s work as I couldn’t unlock the second lock to get through the gate!! Fortunately I had learnt where he stayed and he was in. Paul had suggested I speak to his IT lady to help me with my connection in the house so I did. What a really lovely girl (young woman). We had a great chat that night and we are going to help each other with our Spanish and English. She can then correct my mistakes but to be honest I am getting by just now although I keep asking people to speak slower so I can understand. I think I am going to opt for one private lesson a week and time with Rose. We haven’t caught up since that night with things being so mad but I am sure we will. Esmaran is also going to speak to her tutor for me for a private lesson. A bit more expensive but should hopefully help me progress quicker.

Although I had put on weight while at home with all my overindulging I can see it falling off with negotiating all these hills and the altitude. Your appetite falls dramatically too. I will need to watch my night-time meal and make something. I have been cheating a little as there is some leftover food so I have been reheating this. That is one thing about being in Carol and Paul’s. They have hot water through their taps and a microwave. Although they have a big house I haven’t spent much time in the living room as the TV doesn’t work and it is a big space for me so I tend to head up to bed. Nothing changes. 

Things are really moving along nicely with the greenhouses as the one community left to receive one is about to start. The community had been resistant to donate the land until Fani visited and showed them the pictures of our first one. They decided on the spot that they wanted this and gave us the land. There were adobe bricks already made for a wall the headmaster had wanted built but he has said they could have them for the greenhouse. We are visiting on Friday to show them the plans and look at the site measuring it out. We were setting off at 7.30am and I have to get back up to Fani’s house as this is where the jeep now is! I think it will be time to try out the micros/ combis who pass close by Fani’s turn off. I’ve been told which ones to look for. When we got to this community and started asking questions I was a little concerned about the plans, that I discovered Fani and her husband Saul had drawn up. The building was huge and they have no real skills other than what they had seen in the other 2 communities. Fortunately Clive, a volunteer structural engineer was there and I asked him to look at them. What also concerned me was when they were looking at the area it was to be built it was only when Clive said about the big slope that they started to discuss this! This on top of Saul’s crazy driving in the LH jeep has meant I am probably not flavour of the month. I saw a different side to Saul that I didn’t like that day I must admit!

Well since that day there has been a huge upheaval that I can’t really go into yet other than to say my role has changed dramatically and I am working crazy hours at the moment with no time off. It should settle down I think but at the moment it is PRETTY BUSY!! Other than being exhausted by the time late afternoon comes I am enjoying the challenge.
I have now visited the cafe and met the new manager, Jane who is really lovely. I have visited the proposed site of the Children’s Home but at the moment this is a no go as 1. The Alcalde (Mayor) didn’t turn up and 2. From what we can see the only plot they are offering would mean a walk of at least one hour for the children...not what we want. Senor Alcalde has since phoned and was very apologetic. We may arrange to see him nest week here as this was a wasted day for us. There has been a mention of 3 plots but we are unaware of what that could be.

I am now getting the hang of the combis and need to take 2 to save walking too much and reduce my travelling time. It is still 30-40 mins if I am not walking very far but a bit easier on the legs and back if I am carrying my backpack.

Well my friends I had better go make something to eat and if I can stay awake long enough a video to chill. I think I am getting a cold unfortunately.

By the way the weather is very pleasant at the moment. The rain seems to have passed but you always carry a jacket just in case. It hasn’t been too cold at night either but I still like my hot water bottle as I find it very comforting. 

Hasta la próxima vez mis amigos.

Posted by Heather Buc 17:28 Comments (0)


27th Sept to 2nd Oct

Hello to all following my blogs. We are up and running again.

Following my return to Scotland in June I have changed my life dramatically. This seems way out there for a lot of people and I can understand that as when I think back to what I was like only a few short years ago I would also think I had taken leave of my senses! All I can say is when I am working in Peru it feels right. I’m not here on holiday, I live a fairly basic lifestyle with little amenities but working with the charity and the people I meet feels like this is where I should be. Don’t get me wrong I have down days but I usually put on some good music and dance about like a loony. That works for me. 
So what have I done???????..............My idea is to turn the whole thing on its head, i.e. spend most of time in Peru helping the charity and returning to Scotland for a few weeks every 6 months. I will buy a flexible ticket so if an emergency arises I can get home reasonably quickly. I have resigned from work totally, although following some good advice I will keep up my pharmacy subscription and continuing professional development (mandatory for us pharmacists). The current situation of just going to Peru for a few short weeks wasn’t really working for anyone. It was frustrating not to be able to do all the things I felt I needed to and wanted to do for the charity and it was still very disrupting at home even when it was just for a few weeks. My radical decision has been difficult for everyone and there were times I wondered if I should give up and just leave things as they were. However I knew if I did this I would not be true to myself and would just continue to do what was right for others and not necessarily for me. Deep down I know my family realise this, albeit difficult just now. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for attempting to understand and for their support during a very trying period!! This has also been a time when my true friends have shown themselves and helped me through this. I am eternally grateful to them too. 

I am now out here for 3 months, until just before Xmas and this will be an interesting time for me. This will be an exploratory time for me to see if I can make this work, but within my heart it feels right. I am a great believer in fate. If it is the right thing I am doing, it will work out. I am hoping to be able to work for Living Heart Peru and as there have been a number of changes, people leaving etc I am hoping to slot into one of those positions. I am house-sitting for friends and paying a reasonable rent for a very nice house for the next 3 months so this will give me time to look for the “right “accommodation. I don’t need a lot but if possible would like somewhere light and not too noisy. I must have access to a kitchen and at least an electric shower, as this is the only hot water you have. The kitchen must have at least 2 burners and a fridge if possible (or I’ll need to buy one). You may laugh but a kitchen here means a sink and that is it!
It feels like I am starting again actually from the Peru point of view due to the changes since I left in June.....out with the old and in with the new. This keeps life interesting and exciting. The office is now in Cusco in Fani’s house. This is to save administrative costs. Something I love about this NGO. We keep administration to a minimum so the money goes to those most in need. Sonia has also moved to Cusco so this is where I will be staying. Because of this Ineke feels it is too far to commute and has resigned.

I am currently writing this from Starbucks in Lima airport as I await my last flight. It is 7am! This is the only Starbucks I know so I am taking the opportunity to have a nice coffee before I head off. The flights haven’t been bad considering and as usual I am stretching the airline’s generosity with the maximum hand luggage I felt I could get away with. I also paid for a second piece of hold luggage to get some extra things across, like a duvet, which you can’t buy in Cusco, cosy things for when I feel a little low. I also brought a teddy that has long arms to cuddle me, courtesy of my mum . Despite a couple of hiccups like mislaying my passport when about to board my first plane (thanks to Jen for helping me focus here ) the flights were OK. The long haul flight from Madrid to Lima was the next hiccup where a number of us were pulled out as they didn’t like our hand luggage and making us put one in the hold. I thought I was being smart and filtering out all the stuff I would need for that night flight but this was the mistake as it made me look like I had 3 pieces of hand luggage. I then had an “Oh shit” moment as I realised the bag I had sent down this very steep slide crashing into the other bags already there included my laptop and camera!! Fortunately they were all OK and arrived safely and intact. Finally one of the handles of my hold bags ripped as I lifted it off the conveyor belt in Lima..well will only be going one way!!! However all in all the flights were not too bad.
For some reason I was more anxious travelling this time. No idea why but I was. Now I am in Lima I seem to have settled down although the time to get our luggage from the plane in Lima was unbelievable. An hour and a half I waited and some were still waiting as I left to go through customs...a red light again so more X ray machines but OK so that was good. I must admit I really have overdone the hand luggage as the zips are straining at the seams. Unfortunately the lady at security in Glasgow decided she wanted to see in one of my bags and I couldn’t repack it again! I eventually played around with what was where to get it right so took up a disabled toilet in Madrid for about 10-15mins!! It was more organised though. Mental note...less stuff in hand luggage! I have now found out though that you can take up to an extra 4kg over the weight and not be charged as the scales have a 20% discrepancy so I won’t worry quite so much or weigh them as often next time. 

It is now Saturday afternoon and I can finally resume my blog. I am in limbo at the moment as there seems to have been some misunderstanding. Carol had expected me to stay elsewhere until they left and my room is full of their travel clothes and equipment...lots of equipment for every kind of sport you can imagine! This caused a bit of a quandary as I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I offered to sleep in my sleeping bag in the living room until they are packed and go but Carol suggested the office. There is a bed in there and it was fine. I have brought a reasonable number of things with me this time as mentioned above and it is all parked at the front of the entrance to their house so trying to find things is a little difficult. The problem is all my regular stuff that I have been leaving, to use here, is in a wardrobe in that room, including all my adaptors to connect to the power! This has left me wondering what to do?? Not too much activity! Practice what I preach. (I had been giving a couple of girls some advice in Lima as their travel company hadn’t been very forthcoming). The altitude is certainly affecting me just now (more so) as I have been away for 3 months at sea level and I was in the habit of staying slightly lower in the valley which seemed to be easier. So despite a good sleep on the plane (about 9 hours) by the time 8pm came on Friday night (1am in UK) I was knackered and feeling crap. There I was sitting with makeup and smarter clothes on, waiting to go out with Carol and Paul after they returned from a lantern festival at the school, and I was curled up on the settee with a blanket watching their TV with the equivalent of sky (before it gets switched off). Needless to say I did take the sensible approach and went to bed. Good job really. Carol, despite best intentions didn’t come in until 1am and Paul..about 5am!!
I was up bright and early the next day (around 7am) and after sitting around quietly reading, waiting to see if Carol was going to surface (she mentioned she fancied a walk) I decided to investigate the area myself. Carol had told me about stairs I could take leading to the mountains so I decided to see if I could find them. Despite a pleasant uphill walk (slowly I might add) I didn’t find much other than lots of dogs and houses. I discovered I had taken the wrong stairs! Oh well maybe tomorrow or later. I also decided to walk into Cusco from the house, about a 45 minute walk to get to the centre. I was meeting up with Sonia. This was a pleasant walk too although quite uphill on the way in and I felt I was now starting to get acclimatised, after walking back too. The gods were shining on me as it was trying hard to rain but held off until I got back. We’ve had some very heavy downpours over the last 2 days. Brilliant sunshine and then down it would come. Sonia is looking great now she isn’t working so hard. We had a big discussion about what she had been up to. As I still couldn’t access my computer because of no adaptor Sonia thought she had one I could borrow so returned with her to Esmaran’s new rental...All I can say is WOW!!! I have never seen such a beautiful house. It’s situation up near Sachsaywaman ruins gives it the most amazing panorama over Cusco. It is a modern build, a large open plan modern white space with windows along all the walls and beautifully laid out with gardens on all sides. I have never seen a house like that in Peru or many countries actually except on the TV! I am sure the rent must match its magnificence. Absolutely beautiful! :) Sonia has her own ensuite as well with a raindrop shower! Not bad eh!

On Sunday as this was the big pack for Carol and Paul I decided to do my first supermarket shop to give Carol and Paul space. In the past I would buy only what I couldn't get in Urubamba and then get the rest there, especially fruit and veg. This time I am obviously buying everything in the supermarket until I can source a good market for fruit and veg. It is great that I can walk there. I was a bit optimistic however that I would be able to walk back but had to resign to the fact that I had to get a taxi. The girls in "Canasta" supermarket were lovely and helped me outside, found me a taxi and helped pack me in. :) They were all laughing at my mispronunciation and getting words wrong but at least I am trying and getting there slowly... I think. As long as they speak more slowly to me I am understanding more of what they say which feels good.

On Monday I’ll catch up with Fani when I will hopefully be able to see where I can slot into Living Heart. Not wanting to miss an opportunity I have also arranged a meeting with Rob (a friend of Carol and Paul) re grant application work. He was at Carol and Paul's on Sunday. Cut a stick when you see it I always say. We had discussed a meeting in April but ran out of time. Rob is a very busy man and has just won a grant for $1 million!! He works for Frankfurt Zoological Society doing Animal Conservation. I thought no harm in picking his brains and he kindly agreed. :) His office seems to be only 5 mins from the house so that is brill.

Despite a good meeting with Rob where he gave me a few pointers and said he would keep his eyes open for other websites that might help us with our children’s home and fundraising it still felt like a really tough Monday, especially at the end of the day. I had been feeling it all day and had decided to find the other stairs to the mountains. This I did but the dogs were just ridiculous and downright dangerous all sitting on the stairs just daring you to come up! I will not be using that route again! Despite the fact I had 2 stones in my hand and having tried the soft approach as well as the loud approach threatening them with the stones, nothing seemed to work and on a few occasions I nearly got bitten!! Carol agreed it was the most frightened she had ever been. Later in the day Fani cancelled as she had a number of other things to do and this left me a bit flat, keen to understand her needs for Living Heart and how I could slot in. What I did instead was unpack everything, sort it all out condensing what I had left previously with what I had this time; take down the posters in the bedroom and put up things I liked making it feel like my room and home. I like a room that makes me smile when I walk into it. This one now does.  Tuesday however felt so much better. Finally I feel I have acclimatised and have now walked into and out of Cusco a couple of times and............ I now have an official job with Living Heart..yey 
Fani and I had a great chat and she is really taking the NGO forward from marketing to projects as people are offering us money. It will be great to work together. My official title will be Administrator, Finance and Fundraising Assistant. I started right away. There also didn’t seem to be too much of an issue with me travelling home twice a year as I really want to raise awareness and if possible fundraise, plus some of my work can be done remotely. So all in all I am really chuffed.
It is funny what a small world it is too. As I power-walked into Cusco I realised someone in front was carrying a disabled child. What drew my attention were his feet facing the wrong way, they were just dangling. I suddenly looked closer and low and behold it was Crisologo and Paolo who was carrying Jose Antonio in a large shawl that are common place here for carrying anything or anyone. I always found this strange as Jose Antonio is quite a big boy and Paolo is small. He must be a ton weight even though there isn’t much of him. After hugs and quick discussions I headed off at pace but realised Paolo was running to keep up. I then realised they wanted to meet Fani with me so I slowed down a bit. Fani had quite a discussion with them before we started. Things seem to have blown up regarding the weavings and them not being totally honest with us, so everyone is being pulled into the discussions. I tried to keep out of it, saying to Crisologo when he tried to pull me in I didn’t fully understand. That was the first coincidence; the second was on the way back to the house, via Avenida de la Cultura where I met Ian who had worked with us, as the Alma representative, on our first greenhouse project. We chatted for some time and he has offered to help me in Cusco if I get stuck. He is a nice guy. With Cusco being such a big city I thought it quite surprising to be bumping into people. When I got back to the house I got stuck into e mails and follow up stuff feeling much more relaxed and focussed now I knew what I was doing.
Oh well mis amigos here endeth the first of my blogs for the second half of 2012. I hope you have enjoyed reading it.
Until next time. Hasta leugo...See you later and take care of yourselves. Time for me to sleep.

Posted by Heather Buc 20:22 Comments (0)

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