Sorry for the delay in my last blog but as you can imagine when I arrived home I have been catching up and am also full of the cold!! I didn’t escape it after all...most people I met in Peru had it, blaming the season change..for them summer into autumn.
Well the time has passed so quickly and my final week equally so. I did manage to claim one day back when, rather than spending 2 and a half hours in taxis and transfers for a meeting that would be 20 minutes at the most (it was actually 10 minutes), I felt my time would be better utilised completing some of my “to do” list. It felt good to score off some of my list and do things that I knew needed done soon, like our gift aid form to conform to the new HRMC regulations. Anyway with a few items off my list I was ready for our children’s home meeting on Wednesday which had a different feel to it than the previous meeting. Some new people had joined us and it changed the dynamics of the meeting. With the feedback from the last meeting I suggested a few things and put together some fairly standard practices and paperwork we would normally use in a meeting at home. This gave this week’s meeting more structure without stifling ideas and it seemed to work well thankfully. The meetings are going well with lots of enthusiasm and actions resulting from the discussions. By the next meeting, which I will not be there for, they should have enough information to really put some detail behind what we want our children’s home to look like and hopefully be a little closer to deciding on a plot of land too. We were excited to hear there is a meeting of all the children’s homes next week and half the team will attend followed by a private meeting with a home some had seen the week before and thought to be of a very high standard. All in all it really feels like it is coming together. Later that day we were invited to Sonia’s to discuss progress with Living Heart and a new member to the team. I, of course knew Kim and after the initial meeting her, I had said I thought she would work well with us so it was great to see the others agreed. She certainly gelled well with us at the children’s home meetings so now she may be coming on board with the rest of the Living Heart projects. We think she will fit well into the team allowing Sonia to really step back. Fani and Kim can work out who will do what. I’ll let them sort that out and see what other support they need when I am back home. First I need to sort out the UK financial stuff.
On Thursday we were all going to see the greenhouse in our remote community and our new maestro, Jose would hold a workshop on making their own organic compost. A nice early start to the morning – leaving at 6am! As it turned out Fani slept in so didn’t make it. She has to leave Cusco at 4.45am so no surprise when she phoned Martin. Kim joined us and we spoke at length on the long journey about her thoughts and how they could fit with LH. I did update her on a number of things including our philosophy giving her food for thought....all to be discussed further with Fani. There was a small dusting of snow on the ground as we drove up into the mountains but I didn’t find it too cold. I did have a few layers on though. It turns out the municipalidad are repairing the whole stretch of road up to another of our communities. The difference in the road was amazing so I take back my earlier comments. They have not completed it yet with about 10-15 sections with 2 sets of 4 logs of wood strapped together to allow the cars/lorries to line up their tyres and cross. Meanwhile beneath this they are building up layers of concrete and soil. Most were fine as the strapping is still holding, in others it was beginning to come apart, which is fine where the level of the road is not too far beneath but there were a couple of hairy moments where the drop was quite considerable (well in my eyes anyway!). I didn’t look on these bits!
Surprise, surprise when we got to the school we found the school director and senior teacher were at a meeting in Urubamba so there was only grade 3 and 4 in school with their teacher. Rita and Jose (the maestro) decided to conduct the workshop with this group and the mothers that were there. Due to the construction of the greenhouse building the insulation has been too good and we need to put in windows to help regulate the temperature which will happen in the next two- three weeks, I am told. In the meantime the community have been instructed to open the door for 5 hours a day and water 3 times per week. This obviously hasn’t been happening as the temperature was 31C when we arrived and all the beds very, very dry!! After 2 hours with the door open, the temperature had dropped to 21C. Some of the vegetables were affected but most fortunately were OK. I have to say the first sight of all these vegetables in such a harsh and remote community was an absolute delight. When speaking to the new teacher she had felt the same when she arrived. With the door open all went to work watering the beds for the next half hour. This was when more women, who should have been watering the beds, turned up. As is the norm here their babies are strapped to their back in a shawl specially tied to keep them in place, watching mum at work.
We are still finding the community are not harvesting the vegetables unless we are there. There are instructions on the poles inside the greenhouse explaining the daily, weekly tasks in quechua and it has been stressed on every visit the jobs to be done, including when to harvest but still it is not happening! Fani is getting quite exasperated with them when there is no-one there for the workshops and they are not completing the simple tasks. The plan is to visit the next assemblea (village meeting) in 2 days time with Ian from Alma to discuss this together as a team because at the moment the community are being devious and playing one off against the other, telling Ian one thing and Fani another. It will be interesting to see how we can move this situation on. Will it just need more time and hand holding or will we need to take a different tack? We shall see.
The workshop with the younger ones seemed to go well with the teacher helping and she will supervise the children and the harvesting of the vegetables for the school. On our next visit with the maestro he will show them how to prepare the beds for seeds again so we have vegetables at various stages ensuring a constant supply. (The initial seeds were sown in of the older greenhouses so they could start growing, and then transplanted into the community greenhouse once it was ready.)
On our return journey to Urubamba we had two little incidents. The first incident was a traffic jam on this narrow road as a recovery vehicle (well a lorry with a telescopic arm) tried to retrieve a vehicle that had gone off the road. What I discovered later was it had been a collectivo and it had landed in the river much further down, killing 2 people – an adult and child!! Tragic really!! Once we eventually got passed this we came upon a jeep, full of police, some in uniform and some in plain-clothes, menacing looking men actually, who blocked our descent then searched the jeep looking for cocaine. It was fine obviously but a little unnerving when we first came across them. This is one of a few common routes (small back roads) to bring drugs into the country from the jungle. We reached Urubamba about 5pm. I had thought I might make Salsa that night but not a chance. I am very conscious of a limited number of days so I had to sort out the photos from the day to put on the LH computer the next day, prepare my tea and do a little washing. After all this the second Salsa class was well under way and I was really rather tired....bed seemed way to inviting. With the LH meeting on Friday and working in the cafe on Saturday I felt this was the best option. Friday’s meeting mainly consisted of preparing the posters with photos already printed out. These are for the cafe and as various meetings took place Mary and I made a start to the photos. I was conscious we wouldn’t get more than one or two done so asked Mary, who had sorted them into themes 2 days before, which were the most impactful. The greenhouse came up trumps and there were enough photos for 2 posters. Once a design had been agreed (i.e. with more or less photos on each poster) we went to work with Rita and I taking one poster with the construction and planting of the seeds, while Fani and Mary took the other which included the caring of the plants and harvesting. We agreed Mary’s idea looked best with less photos and more space. They did look super and quite impactful once we had finished. We managed to persuade Fani that writing and words were not required other than the title “The Greenhouse Project”; letting the photos tell the story. Some of these photos were mine and some from other volunteers as the project had progressed, all in all they looked great when set out.
In the afternoon Sonia and Fani had been invited to Mary’s landlady’s house for lunch. I decided I would like to revisit Pisac so Ineke and I decided to go for lunch and a wander. It was a lovely afternoon if a little windy when we arrived. Ineke and I hadn’t spent much time together on my current visit to Peru so it was nice to be able to do this together. As the bus takes a minimum of an hour we only had about 2 and a half hours there, just long enough to buy a little more. On the way home the bus was absolutely packed for the complete journey. A lady told me it was because there were no taxis at that time so we just seemed to keep picking up more people. As 2-3 left another 8-10 tried to squeeze in!! “Sardines in a tin” is definitely the vision you should have in your head just now! I was lucky enough to get a seat at the front which had very generous leg room. We allowed some of the children to stand in front of us to relieve the congestion. It can’t be pleasant being pressed against these taller adults in a hot and stuffy bus!! An older gentleman, who I think was probably a little drunk and with very few teeth, decided to strike up a conversation with me. I hadn’t even seen him further in front and didn’t realise he was talking to me initially! His questions caused quite a bit of amusement to those around us. I humoured him as he seemed harmless enough. I didn’t understand everything which I blame on my Spanish and his slurring but he shook my hand as he left the bus, so no harm done.
On our return at about 7pm I collected 2 photos I had put in to develop. One from the Monday visit (a picture of the mother whose weavings we were going to sell in the cafe) and the other was a lovely picture of the children cheering after they had harvested the radishes and swedes. I shall explain a little more about the lady from Monday. On our visit to the community on Monday one of the women had brought some of her weavings for us to see. Fani had mentioned 3 women had visited the office to ask if we could sell their weavings in the cafe and they had no other way to sell them. This was one of these ladies. She was a young woman and she helped the cook in the kitchen. She had 6 children!! Her weavings were lovely and Rita had suggested we could talk to Fani about taking them to the cafe. As I was working there on Saturday I felt there was no time like the present so we selected about 25 items to take and the prices for each. I photographed her so we could display it next to her work. I was unsure of one of the items so asked about it. It turned out to be a belt and they duly showed me how it was worn. I decided to buy one to wear on Saturday to show the tourists. This proved a very good idea (more below). The other (of the children) was to finish off one of the posters and again it looked great when in place.
When I finally got home and with time passing so quickly I felt I had to start packing.
On Saturday I dropped off some of my bigger items I wanted washed to the laundry and was hoping to get all of them back on Sunday. When I arrived at the cafe I was pleased to see there was now a suitable number of staff and, as it turned out, we weren’t not too busy. You just never know! Mary came and we discussed where to put the posters. We also sold quite a number of weavings that day including the belts and bracelets from people seeing me wearing them. I think we should encourage other volunteers to do the same. Mary and I couldn’t stay late due to transport and I had to do more packing but they had a party of 34 coming in. Fortunately the kitchen knew what they wanted to eat so could begin preparations. They also had enough people on so I didn’t feel too bad. Needless to say they were closing the restaurant to ensure they could give them the best service possible. To date I haven’t heard how it went. This was a new tourist agency for us so I thought I would make contact in case they wanted more information. Mary and I had had lots of discussions with the customers about the NGO that day so it is worthwhile for volunteers to work there as the cafe team don’t have time or the knowledge.
On Sunday, a beautiful day, I got ready for the eco-ferria. Fani wasn’t able to join us and Sonia was exhausted so I asked if she wanted me to come up later to let me know. Rita, Mary and Ineke came, which was lovely, with Catherine joining us for lunch. Kim, who had developed quite a bad throat infection after our visit to the community, came in briefly. It was a lovely relaxed afternoon with a tasty lunch of lamb soup for me (pumpkin for the others) with homemade bread and cheese.
I was just about to phone Sonia when she rang me...freaky. She was feeling better and so I headed up to her house. Needless to say the motos weren’t interested in taking me with the festival still going on! A procession had marched around the square earlier. I recognised the drums..I had heard it early that morning!! While at Sonia’s she received a call from Catherine who was going to conduct a fire ceremony for the full moon. I was lucky enough to be invited along. Seeing Catherine in this setting was quite enlightening. She was completely at ease and glowed, in fact shone! In our children’s home meetings she seems so much more uncomfortable but here in her own setting she was absolutely at home. It was a lovely ceremony and different to others I had been part of. This one was based on North American Indian tradition with drums and other instruments while we sang and danced around the fire as the moon arose...lovely and very peaceful... a nice way to finish my trip.
Monday turned out to be quite mixed up day as I wasn’t sure if I was going to a meeting or not. The changes had been happening for 5-6 days which meant it was difficult to plan anything. The Claro stick I had been using for the internet had stopped working on Sunday so I couldn’t access e mails etc. It wasn’t just the time of the meeting that was changing but the location too! It went from 8.30am in Urubamba to 7.30am in Cusco and various options in between. Finally it transpired the meeting was cancelled which turned out to be lucky for me; I could then finish packing calmly. I also had a lovely lunch with Yeina before heading for Cusco with Martin. My final hours in Cusco were also very pleasant with Carol and I spending the late afternoon and evening together. She had come second in the ladies section of the downhill cycle race at the weekend so she was still on a high. Paul on the other hand, although well placed, was beaten by his rival so was still licking his wounds and decided to build Lego with the kids, which I am sure they loved. Carol and I went for a pedicure which was a little embarrassing when I saw the colour of the skin buffed from my feet...what can I say other than Urubamba is very dusty with lots of roads just dirt tracks. I defy anyone to keep their feet, socks and shoes clean. After a lovely pedicure and sporting lovely purple toenails, Carol had green nails with flowers , we headed for a new pizza restaurant in town. For a Monday it was very busy so word had spread about how good it was which we agreed with. When we arrived back home I headed for bed while Carol sat up with Paul for a little longer. In the morning I decided against going into town and just finished washing and putting the items I was leaving away. Carol began to get me quite uptight telling me about 2 couples from Britain who had arrived at the LAN flight desk to be told their flights didn’t exist! Also you shouldn’t book on the last LAN flight out of Cusco as often they cancel it. She suggested I head in earlier and see if I can get on an earlier flight to be sure. I decided to do this. It also gave me more time in Lima as LAN never book your luggage straight through from or to Cusco regardless of what any airline might say. You always have to collect it at Lima. I was lucky and got on an earlier flight and everything ran pretty much like clockwork with only a little delay in Madrid but not enough to affect my flights. So for the first time I made it home on time via Madrid – yey!!
So my friends this is the end of this little adventure............until the next time...... Adios mis amigos and remember to trust and follow your heart...it often knows best.