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....