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Peru, Week Three

As with last week, this one got better as it went on (lots of pictures below!), but Week Three in Cusco got off to a particularly strange start.

We arrived at the Arariwa office on Monday morning and gathered in the conference room with the other staff for another talk – the topic this week was “identity and self-esteem”. What we didn’t expect was that we would start with 20 minutes of stretching, followed by giving each other massages (shoulders, neck and head). Everyone was a little uncomfortable, so it nice that when the person in charge talked about grabbing your partner’s hair there were a few jokes at my expense. After that, we each stuck paper to our backs and mingled so that everyone could write “anonymous” positive comments about each other (the only one of mine I remember was deportista). 

I went to another Spanish lesson in the afternoon and Maria introduced the imperative verb form (used for giving orders/instructions). The information is coming thick and fast in these lessons and I’m not finding much time in between to study what I’ve learnt. 

On Tuesday morning, we had our much anticipated meeting with the boss, Señor Hugo, in a bid to clarify our role and decide how best we could help. We agreed that from next week we would start working mostly in the afternoons, because this is when the most important and interesting work happens (as opposed to the mornings when it’s just administration and paperwork). It’s a step in the right direction and should be more interesting, but I’m still not really sure how we can contribute. He also gave us a mandate to research different revenue streams – me using my European contacts (!) and Paula using her North American ones… does anyone have any ideas?!

I stayed on in the afternoon to accompany Sankiyo on his visit to the rural community of Andahualyillas. I was ready to leave at 1pm for the 2pm meeting, but for various reasons we set off at 2:30pm and arrived at 4pm. Neither of the two groups were particularly pleased, but Sankiyo handled it well and we collected the loan repayments we had come for. 

My role was limited to counting the money And making change, but I was also more than happy to look after this little guy for the first group leader:

He’s the size of my hand!

After the work was done, Sankiyo had an errand to run at the town’s police station, which meant we didn’t get home until 8pm. I did, however, see this arco iris:

Work was typically quiet on Wednesday morning and I had another Spanish lesson in the afternoon. In the evening, I returned to the Arariwa office to tutor the eight year old daughter of one of my  colleagues. Marcia was extremely polite and keen to learn English, but after 90 minutes I had to call it a night. She had a test the next day, so let’s hope it helped!

On Thursday I arrived in the office early and was immediately asked if I wanted to tag along with Sankiyo and Leidy to their client visits in Huaro and Urcos. The bus ride there was notable for the guy who lectured us about being eating healthily for 45 minutes. I wonder if he sold any of the ginseng products he was peddling. 

Once in Huaro, we made a few planned stops to clients who had outstanding payments, but also bumped into several other clients around town. It was nice to see that Arariwa had such a big presence in the community. 

This was my office for the day

This growling dog stood between us and our client

We also visited a local museum; so what was supposed to be a two-hour trip took more than twice as long. Rather than going back to the office, it was time for lunch, which meant I was done for the day (and the week). 

That evening I was invited to Mila’s house for dinner with Nic and the other volunteers, Paula and Emmanuelle. It was nice to have everyone together and, during the conversation around the dinner table, the possibility of helping on another project arose…

…So that’s exactly what we did on Friday. The five of us met up early and travelled to Chinchero by taxi, bus and then another taxi. We met a local family who we would be helping to build a stove for. The bricks, tiles, mud and tools were waiting for us and there was a local man with the expertise to show us how to do it. It was a very satisfying experience as we got our hands dirty (literally) for the first time in Peru. 

Before

After

The family seemed appreciative of our efforts and we ate potatoes together after we’d finished. Everyone except me went home afterwards, but I decided to use my Boleto Turístico to visit Chinchero’s Parque Arqueológico. On my own and without a guide, I don’t think I got the best out of the ruins, but I did stumble across a lovely walk along an Inca trail:

On Saturday I went along to the early morning football game again. There were quite a few different players this week and the average age was bit lower. We played six-a-side, which was a bit too congested really. Because of my plans for the rest of the day, I volunteered to play in goal for the last hour or so and I managed to snap a picture:

After football I went for my first 10k run of my trip, inspired by my cousin Claire, who was running a marathon the next day (she smashed it by the way, well done Claire!)

I felt pretty tired after that but my Boleto Turístico wasn’t valid after the weekend, so I had to get out and about.  

I started at the Museo Historico Regional, which was quite interesting, particularly in respect of two main figures in Peruvian history, Túpac Amaru II and Garcilaso de la Vega

Painting that depicts the execution of Túpac Amaru in Plaza de Armas, Cusco

I moved on to the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo and realised that I don’t understand/appreciate modern art. My favourite pieces all had a clear subject:I went to Museo de Sitio de Qorikancha, but I was underwhelmed by the small museum containing fragments of artefacts and some skulls. As the sky was starting to darken, I went to the Monumento de Pachacutec:

I left early on Sunday to get to Ollantaytambo and had a nice morning stroll around the ruins. Still inspired by my recent hikes, I followed a path away from the other tourists and climbed up to get a birds eye view of the town. 

I treated myself to a meaty pizza for lunch and then headed up the other side of the valley to Pinkullyuna. 

Afterwards I wanted to go to Moray as the last thing on my ticket, but this is where my lack of planning caught up with me. I took collectivos from Ollantaytambo to Urubamba and then to Maras, but I was still 9km away. While I was contemplating what to do, I was able to get these pictures:

Plaza de Armas in Maras

Because every post needs a dog (apparently)

In the end I negotiated a taxi to take me to Moray and wait 40 minutes to bring me back again; and it worked out well: 

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Bolivia, Week Six

This week has been non-stop and there’s lots to say, so I’ll take it a day at a time.

Tuesday

My night bus from Uyuni arrived in La Paz at 5:30am; three mini-buses and 90 minutes later I was back home. That gave me a few crucial hours to plan my third English lesson.

During that time though, I met our two latest volunteers – 18 year old Lucy from Timperley and Nikki, a 23 year old veteran volunteer from Nebraska. The campsite was also hosting a group of volunteers from American non-profit Globetrotting for Good (I’ll call them GfG for short). They had arrived over the weekend and already started work in the local school, but more on them later.

I wasn’t quite as prepared for this English lesson as before, but fortunately Justa was able to assist, whilst Lucy and Nikki modelled some conversations for me during the lesson. The twelve students and I were also joined by Jasmine from GfG; she observed the class and then asked me to do an interview – my second in as many weeks!

We went straight to the Albergue after that and made bracelets with the girls. The session was a bit disjointed but went ok.

The evening was spent planning the following week’s activities and getting to know the new arrivals, but it was an early night all round.

Wednesday

Despite not being scheduled to go, I went to the morning session at the Children’s Centre because I’m running out of time to visit them (the other sessions clash with my English lessons). I was helping in Giovanna’s class and, outside of the normal mealtime struggle and not-so-normal weighing/measuring of the children (they do it once a month but I hadn’t seen it before), I had good fun playing with the group. Our “organised” activity involved the children guessing the animals from their outlines and then we all made the appropriate animal sounds – led by Constança, who is a natural animal impressionist!

We then went straight to the Albergue to set up the orientation game that Constança had devised. We hid four sets of coloured paper hearts around the outside area and gave each team a map to find them in order. They loved it! The teams were a mixture of ages and genders but they were all running around and searching high and low to help their team win. Of course we gave them all a prize (chocolate), but in this case they all deserved it. It was my volunteering highlight of the week and great to see Constança’s hard work pay off.

Even so, we still had 90 minutes of the session to go. As we hadn’t played football in a couple of weeks, we played an epic game of 11-a-side. The game was aided massively by the arrival of coloured bibs, which gave it some much needed structure, and obviously my team won (backed by a defence of me and five girls under 12).

In the evening we all gathered for a tea party in the Agora (the marquee in the campsite). After a couple of hours of eating and chatting, the formalities started – first of all for Constança’s despedida and then for the official thank you between Up Close Bolivia and Globetrotting for Good.

GfG is a hybrid between charity and volunteering. They identify worthwhile projects to support around the world, ascertain what the projects need (often by just asking them to name their dream wish list) and then set about trying to supply everything on the list.

A lot comes in the form of donations of second-hand goods; such as a laptop and projector from an American school for the English classes; or riding materials from Samuel Grey Horse (a Native American who is often seen roaming the streets of Austin, Texas on his horse!) Each of the volunteers also fundraise before the trip and this money goes towards things like two-years worth of WiFi in the Children’s Centre!

Whilst chatting to the GfG’ers, two of them said something that was of particular interest to me:

Firstly, Joseph, who is the co-founder of GfG and who has been all over the world in the last five years. He told me that, as an Up Close volunteer, I had “won the volunteering lottery” by being here – and he’s a man that knows. It’s not necessarily just because of the projects that we work on (as amazing as they are), but also combined with our living situation in the houses with the campsite, which he described as unique in his experience and possibly worldwide!

I also spoke to Lizie the dentist, who is volunteering here in Bolivia, but is actually from Cusco in Peru. When she heard I would be moving there in September, she offered to exchange details and suggested that we keep in touch, so I have a familiar face in the city and she can practise her English!

Thursday

I had a Spanish lesson first thing, before I went to another English lesson. This one was very different because I was joined at the front of the classroom by Nikki: she’s an experienced English teacher (relatively), speaks fluent Spanish and is far more of a natural at taking centre stage. She also has a different approach to planning the lessons and is far happier just going with the flow and seeing where the lesson takes her. I think our first lesson as a duo went quite well, but I expect them to get better as we continue to work together.

From there I went straight to the Albergue, where we made plasticine animals. I think I’ve said before that there is a lot of talent in the children’s home and this was proven once again. I’m not sure these pictures do some of them justice, as some were particular small and intricate, but here are some of their creations:

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Triceratops, elephant, rhinoceros, turtle, pig, penguin, cat, cat, dog

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Plasticine yoda!

 

In the evening, we ticked off one of Constança’s last week wishes by going for pizza at Il Portico (my third visit so far). During the meal, Justa instigated a personality test/game, which revealed that I’d like to be an invisible kangaroo, a volcano or a football, but not a bat, a gun or a dodo.

Friday

The morning was supposed to be free, but I was still up early to try and sort out all the new materials GfG had brought. Despite unsuccessfully connecting the computer and projector, I decided to go with Lucy and Lizzie to see how GfG were getting on in Jupapina school. As expected, we saw the classroom they had renovated and the mural they had painted, but things quickly escalated from there!

As soon as the call went out, the entire school descended into the playground ahead of a present giving ceremony. There was some singing and then garlands of flowers/fruit were presented to the GfG five and Rolando and I was happy taking pictures. But then all of a sudden, I was roped into the festivities with Lucy and Lizzie. Before we knew it, we had flowers round our necks, we were in all the photos and then we all joined 12 schoolchildren in a traditional dance!

Lizzie, Lucy, Zebra and me

Back row: Jasmine, Lucy, Lizzie, me. Front row: Lizie, Elese, Sally and Joseph

The fun continued as they were also celebrating Elders’ day. Eight grandparents were interviewed, and they gave their name, age and number of grandchildren (I think 90 and 17 were the largest numbers). They were then presented with an assortment of daily essentials from the local shop, ranging from fizzy drinks to toilet roll.


We weren’t done yet though as dozens of tables of food appeared. So having popped to the school for a few minutes, we ended up sharing the limelight amid a crazy couple of hours (Joseph of GfG again described it as possibly the best “thank you” he has received!)

In the afternoon, we went to Porvenir and I had another exhausting session – I’m sure the children are getting more demanding!

Actually, I am starting to notice changes in some of them. Some are becoming more expressive and active, for example, whilst others are simply making friends and playing together more than before (when previously they may have stayed close to mum or dad; this may also indicate a change in the parents).

Saturday

Today started like any other Saturday, with an early start at Porvenir, but I wasn’t to know yet that it would turn into a Day in the Life of Amy Souster! Amy is from Sheffield and works for the NHS, but she’s currently volunteering in Bolivia for nine months – predominantly at FUNPROBO (Fundación Prótesis para Bolivia), but also Porvenir (because she’s horse-mad).

The Porvenir session was another busy one for me, but we had a half-time break when the GfG team presented all the horse paraphernalia that had been donated – thank you Mr Grey Horse.

After the session I accepted Amy’s invite to visit FUNPROBO and see the place in action. It’s in Sopocachi, which is an hour away on public transport, but it was well worth the journey!

First of all I met a young amputee who was walking on his new prosthetic leg for the first time and then Amy showed me the workshop where most of the limbs are made by Florencio. In the office I saw some home-made prosthetic legs that patients had left behind – one was crudely crafted, in part, out of a drinks bottle and another from cardboard. I saw my first ever 3D printer, which is used to print hands, and was unexpectedly given the chance to help Amy and her partner John in putting one together!

John and I, deciphering the instructions for putting a prosthetic hand together

It really was a fascinating afternoon and this video is an excellent insight into the work they do at FUNPROBO. Worth watching.

It started to rain on my way home and by the time I arrived, an incredible electrical storm had begun. The night sky was regularly lit up for the next 45 minutes as the fork lightning danced across the sky – I spent half of that time outside in the rain because it seemed like there were storms in more than one direction and I couldn’t see it all. I didn’t get any of it on camera, but Alison (who works on the campsite with Helene – check out their blog here) managed to get these stills from a video:

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Sunday

On Sunday morning I was back at  Porvenir for our last session of the week. Everything was a bit wet from Saturday’s storm, but that didn’t deter the children. Amongst all the usual fun and games, an impromptu game of football broke out (as opposed from the usual passing circle). It got quite lively and my volunteer-bib was ripped after Mateo tried his superhero moves on me.

It was Constança’s last day and her  final request was to go to Pollos Copacabana, the Bolivian favourite for fried chicken. Interestingly, you won’t find McDonald’s after they closed all their restaurants! So Lizzie and I accompanied her and we shared a large bucket of chicken. I was actually quite satisfied. After that it was a quiet evening as we said farewell to our Portuguese friend. Tchau!