A Travellerspoint blog

Spring in Peru

end Sept to mid Oct

This is beautiful time, watching how quickly everything grows here. The rains have come a little early. The large expanse of fields are changing colour so fast there is something new to see most days. As each area was planted at slightly different times it makes for interesting shades of brown (as the little seedlings just start to shoot) to vast areas of green (for the more mature plants). I know this is common place for most of you reading this, but it is still lovely to see and amazing how quickly the maize and potatoes are coming up. With the heat and rain it is no wonder. There are always people working the ground too as obviously the weeds like it too, so with pick- axes (with a slightly larger blade), the preferred tool, they use this to keep the trenches clear for the water to flow past each row of maize. Various methods are used to divert the water into each channel from heavy plastic to dirt dams. They have obviously agreed with the water marshall when they will get water which is more important on the dry days.
Pisac also seems to be prone to high winds. One of these days I expect to see a pair of my knickers take off from the washing line and fly across the valley! :)
We’ve had a few incredible lightening storms too, of which we have a great view, being part way up the side of a mountain.

At the school all the beautiful events continue. These are not solely Peruvian but considered by UNESCO, and others I think, to be a necessary part of engaging and respecting children and humanity itself so appropriate ones are incorporated into the school calendar.
We have had “The Day of the Student”, where the teachers and parents all perform for the children. Each class took its turn. I became part of the teacher’s spoof, where characteristics of children were greatly exaggerated and which the children loved. This ranged from the mischievous child, the child who is late because of helping at home and then crying as they enter, the mother who needs her child at home and a discussion with the teacher about their education, the studious child, the best behaved teacher’s pet, to myself and Fielding, who were the new international students and who understood very little Spanish...and so on. Some of the performances were dances (from various countries) and then taking some of the children up to dance too; funny sketches, music etc. The parents here are from the communities high above Pisac, from various countries and now settled here, or are visiting for various reasons and possibly staying a few months. Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy the wide variety of entertainment.
Later that week (it was a very busy one) was the “Exposition” in the centre of Pisac. This exhibition was not just to show off the work of the children and show that we are not just an arts and crafts school but also an oral exam for the children. The younger classes performed spelling tests or arithmetic using rhythm as is the Waldorf way, and did this as a class, as well as a musical piece in Quechua . This was impressive to say the least. This was followed by the older children speaking publicly and individually describing a set topic, and were open to questions too. This is not easy for any child and proved too much for one poor boy who eventually gave up and hid his head while the rest continued. I did feel so sorry for him.

I am delighted that internal fundraising has also begun here. The first smaller event was a Gastronomic festival which always takes place, with each class (and now parents helping) would provide a different dish and would sell this rather than just giving it away. There was also a sales table too. The next is a huge event that will take place in Cusco and where we hope to get many more people to attend. There will be music, dancing, a sales tables, discussions and leaflets etc handed out. I am going to visit the agencies to see if they would be interested in a tour of the school with their clients (for a small fee). This we are finalizing at the moment. It will be more structured than before and anyone that has visited knows the beautiful experience they feel while there. We already have one interested agency so that is good. Getting the right balance between the experience for the tourists and not causing too much disruption to the school will be important so Hugo and I have a meeting with the teachers soon.
All funds raised within Peru are to be doubled by a very kind donor in the US.

The medics are here just now and we will be doing a clinic in Amaru this week. 2 of the older students from the school are helping them with the Quechua to Spanish translations for the full week they are here and the medics tell me they are really great; listening and learning so repeating what is needed especially when giving out meds, without being continually told. This is such a great opportunity for the students and hopefully others in the future too. 

My big focus, at the moment, is on the website but there are a few other things (some already mentioned) which take me away from this, so it is taking a little longer. I'm hopeful to get the bulk of it rearranged, as we've already agreed, over the next few weeks. This should make for a clearer message and much easier navigation for anyone looking at it, with less extraneous info on the initial pages and a few new pages added to guide you to the next, so plenty to keep me occupied.

As for my day to day life I am very settled in the house so will continue here for the time being. The garden is beautiful. It is more a wild garden with various types of the birds, including various types of hummingbirds. There are a pair of very pretty yellow and back birds and they have taken to pecking my bedroom window early in the morning. I’m not sure what they are after but it tends to be the same windows each day; upstairs and downstairs. Cheeky little things! :) There are various vegetables (although the lettuce and spinach are now finished so we are waiting on the rest coming up). I’m ever hopeful I’ll have the energy, one day, to visit Cusco on a Saturday and buy some seedlings rather than the seeds, that are taking a long time to come up. (Something always seems to get in the way and use up my energy). There are various varieties of herbs all over the garden and little rocotto plants too. There are a large number of fruit tress - apple, peach and various fruits that I’m not sure of. It really is very pretty. There are no manicured lawns and it would be nice to have a nice grassy place to sit; they are all a little rough but overall it is very peaceful (most of the time). The funny thing is the birds have such a food supply in this garden that often when we go to look and pick some stuff it is already half eaten, including the rocotto which has quite a kick! :) We have to laugh and now understand the “pecking” order!! :)

The tranquility has been majorly disrupted by the recent local mayoral elections which happen every 3 years. For 4 days before the elections, and into the night, the megaphones, music and car horns were blasting, encouraging everyone to vote for one person over another. (If volume didn’t work a little back hander seemed to be in order). It really was pretty unpleasant. I am surprised the speaker systems could cope!! Since then there have been various celebrations and incredibly loud music, as well as people talking which echoes all over the valley. This is the downside of living in a valley as everything travels!

Even the wildlife can cause a bit of chaos. I was working quietly at my computer when I heard some incredibly loud screeching. It was an animal, that much I knew, but couldn’t fathom what or where it was. After a moment I got up to see what it was. No-one else was around, only me, which made me a little more nervous. Sorry I can be a bit of a wimp at times! After scanning the area I eventually saw a rat up in the top corner of my neighbour’s room and next to a small gap in the roof. It was screaming and screaming!! I couldn’t figure out what the problem was but it’s tail seemed stuck until it eventually pulled hard enough for me to see the head of a small weasel holding on tight and biting into its bottom with the full tail in its mouth!! I couldn’t think what to do! I know nature is nature but it was gruesome to watch. I clapped my hands and shouted but to no avail. I eventually went back inside and turned up my music. A few moments later I saw the rat escaping across the patio along the wall to my house (so I quickly shut my door) along my window ledge outside and off along the roof tops that slant down to the other small house and garden below. Veronica, my neighbour, had been telling me that if she leaves food uncovered in her outside kitchen, something was eating it. She keeps some food in her room but the food she doesn’t clear up is usually over the floor the next morning. She thought it might be a rat but I’m now thinking it is the weasel; that this is his domain and the rat was an uninvited guest or would have been a large meal if he could have hung onto him!!

I’ve also seen a few little possums here. We had a little incident some time back when Larissa, my other neighbour, found 2 possums stuck inside a large water reservoir. It was empty but they couldn’t get out as the concrete walls were high and sheer. Her friend helped retrieve them with the use of thick gloves, a large stick and a plastic dustbin, as they can really bite. One we released back into the wild but the other we realized had something stuck in it’s tongue and through it’s cheek. The poor thing looked in agony. So we arranged for the local family to kill it, to put it out of it’s misery, as none of us could do it. They used a big stone to do it!! The family then said they would eat it! I think the family were also looking for the other possum but fortunately didn’t find it.
Oh, the fun we have here!!! :)

Meanwhile to relax amidst all this chaos I have been reading avidly. A beautiful friend gave me her old kindle and this has been a godsend. It is surprising how much is free on Amazon. Currently I’m reading lots of nice romantic novels which make me feel all cosy and is a lovely way to relax. Don’t mock..you all watch stuff on TV and I don’t have one! The DVDs have taken a back seat..in fact Veronica now has my old laptop for the time being and is completely addicted to all the films I have that have Spanish language as an option so it is working well for us all! :) I’m onto the classics now and really enjoying them. As a nice little treat and inexpensive is the sweetened puffed maize they sell here. I munch on this while reading. A good sized bag is 1 sol which is 25p and can last me from 1 day to 4 depending on how greedy I’m feeling at the time! :)

I thought you might like to hear of a couple of little asides. One day I decided to try the bus from Pisac to Cusco to see if it was any quicker. The combi was empty and the bus was just about to leave Pisac. (The bus sits in the centre for about 10 mins before heading off to Cusco). Seat belts are now compulsory here, for those sitting in the front, and the combi drivers usually ask you to put them on as we are entering Cusco or see a police car at the side of the road. It is not unusual to be stopped. I usually put it on anyway, just because of the way they drive!! . On the bus I sat behind the driver who appeared to be wearing one, and to any watching policemen he looked legal. From where I sat, which was behind him, I had a clearer picture. I had to avoid the dangling seatbelt attachment ( a heavy lump of metal) that should have been secured to the wall!! So this wasn’t going to do him much good then! :) The buses are pretty rickety and I have been on one when we stopped and all the tools were brought out and there was lots of banging under the bonnet to get us going again. To be fair the bus was in bad shape before but better after. Obviously you need to be a mechanic and a driver to get the job here! :)

The combi is always quicker I discovered. Even if we have to wait 30 mins on it filling we always overtake the bus at some point.

I also took one of the buses travelling in and around Cusco recently and had forgotten that people often jump on to play music or to try to sell you things. This doesn’t happen on the longer hauls, between towns. On that day a saxophonist had jumped on and he was pretty good. It made for a very pleasant journey that day.

Oh well my friends that is all for now.
I’d love to hear how your lives are progressing too. Please drop me an email.

Sending you all love from Peru. :)

Posted by Heather Buc 11:18 Comments (0)

…...And off we go

Aug 14 to mid Sept.

Since I last wrote there have been many exciting happenings here.
I’ll see how much I can give you before adding the rest to another blog.
Firstly the changes in the school....after a slow start we really have started to pull things together which is great.
We have a plan for when things will be done, with everyone’s ideas within this.
Everyone is clearer about what is happening and with our new communication board and the chance of good grants etc, things seem to be happening. The downside is with the small group everyone is feeling the pressure as other things land on our plates at short notice. Therefore some things have been put on hold until we can find some breathing space. One thing I am sure of is what these guys are doing here. The difference they are making and the level of education, using various styles and models, is making a huge difference to these children, exceeding other schools around them.

August has been an interesting month which I discovered is a difficult month for all. The locals celebrate the end of it, which I thought was interesting.
I will mention of a few of these below, which you might think oh well it’s just life, but the feeling here is August is when these things tend to happen.
We have had a number of large fires on the mountains in front of us which have caused a little chaos. From the house we have a huge vista of the mountains, land and the village of Pisac with other smaller villages dotted around too. Because we are in a valley it is surprising how the noise travels. I am glad I am not closer to it I can tell you!
People have fallen badly where they have never fallen before and a little child was run over by a bus driving up one of the narrow streets in Pisac which is the norm but until then there had been no accidents.
The town had a week with little to no internet following the antennae being struck by lightning. We also heard that the Cusco guys had found a way to hack into our signal, de-blocking it so were also using our server...this caused havoc for us all for that week I can tell you! This is a tourist town as well as the work we are doing at the school and tourists didn’t appreciate no internet! Internet can be bad here at the best of times so we don’t need anything else affecting it.
September was been a little calmer with some excitement for us all with a wedding of one of the teachers. Lucia teaches weaving at the school for all the children. She lives in one of the local communities, closely linked to the school, called Amaru. heavily pregnant with baby number 2 they were now getting married. This is pretty normal here (which I found unusual in such a large Catholic society) as they can’t always afford the wedding. You will understand more as we go along. So Veronica (my neighbour and fellow volunteer) headed off for the church service at 10am. What neither of us knew was that very few would be at it, so we sat there getting colder and colder as the Catholic service dragged on, with lots of talk about going to confession. I thought Walter, Lucia’s husband, looked quite worried. The reason for the hour and a half service was they were being christened first. The doors to the church had been left open and during the service women came in with a big bucket of flowers and people left their pews to buy them. I wasn’t impressed at the tourists though as they came in and walked to the front to take photos. Pretty rude if you ask me!! Anyway after an hour and totally frozen we crept out into the sun. When they finally came out the music began (the band from the school); lots and lots of confetti was thrown over everyone and everyone gave the happy couple flowers until their arms were brimming. I was told this wasn’t a lot because we were still in winter so there weren’t many around...looked like a lot to me I can tell you.
So off we all trundled, with the musicians playing, walking through the town to the reception venue. There after a time of setting things up, more and more of the community arriving (it is a big community) congratulating them the civil ceremony began. Fielding and Roman were witnesses for them proving they had known them for 3 years. People then started filing up to greet the couple and witnesses (top table) leaning over the table giving more cheek kisses and hugs (as always) and handing over the presents. There was quite a stack on the floor in front of them and these stayed there (although put into large sacks) as the night wore on).

The speeches then started which seemed to go on forever, followed by food. This was hilarious as the venue is a hall with a curtain flung up at a side area to hide them preparing food. With limited facilities a lot is done elsewhere. You know food will come soon when you see large buckets of cooked pig being carried in by men across the whole hall and through the curtain. Eventually a plate comes out with 2-3 potatoes, a large (and I mean large) portion of chanchon (cooked pig) and 2 rolls. I ate some of the pig (I had fortunately been given a smaller piece), the rolls (which were nice) and left the potatoes when I realized they were the ones which are allowed to freeze then dried and stored. They have a blackish tinge so you can usually tell which ones they are. They are harder than most potatoes and I’m not a big fan, in soup or otherwise. A little later they came around handing out plastic bags for everyone to take away what they wanted. Most people have dogs so want bones or whatever leftovers people have. At various functions and events I have attended at the school, everyone is scrambling for the leftovers. I sometimes wonder if a fight would ensue when you see the expressions on the faces! :)
Fielding came around and told Veronica and I that as part of the tradition people pin money to the bride and groom. This is over and above the present. I had just given all my change away so Veronica and I took our leave, headed for a coffee and pisco sour (to settle our stomaches of course!! :)) Once we returned this part was underway. It was all rather strange as the master of ceremony armed with microphone would shout out how much had been pinned to the happy couple and who they were. The person would then speak and wish them well. This went on for quite sometime I can tell you!! We had assumed Lucia and Walter would walk around the room. This didn’t happen and those pinning money seemed to be family. The money was then unpinned and added up., and the total shouted out. I seem to think it was quite a few thousand soles, so a nice start (well not start) but great for setting them up more comfortably with baby 2 on the way.
The cake was cut, more photos and speeches and then the fun started! Lots and lots of crates of beer and some fizzy drinks were brought in. These were then duly handed out to everyone with the rest stored behind. You only needed to go and ask for one. They do know how to throw a party!
The band - Wiñay Taki and few others supporting them began to play in earnest and the traditional Andean dancing and singing began. There really is only one way to dance to this music and that is in groups of 2 or more, swinging your hips and skirt as you move around in one direction then turn and proceed the other way. Depending on your partner they occasionally dip their shoulder in which you should also do and move a sidestep a little more quickly. I’m nit sure I’m describing it very well but the dance fits the style of music. Everyone dances this way. Poor veronica got stuck with a drunk man at times which caused us all a bit of hilarity. Overall it was a really good day and good chat. My Spanish still sucks but I get by and understand a lot, not al but a lot.
We (Veronica and I) intended to head up to the community the next day for more of the same but Veronica was quite unwell (from the pig you understand - not the 2 very large beers and pisco sour!). I woke up with no voice so we decided to stay put. I was supposed to get a message from some of the teachers to tell us when they were going up, and share a taxi, as it is 45 mins away, but we didn’t hear from them either. As it turns out we didn’t miss anything. Most of the ceremonies in the community were closed to only the immediate family and witnesses, and then there was an accident with one of the children involving him being taken to hospital in Cusco. As it turned out all was well - they thought he had broken his nose in a rough and tumble session with some other boys. This however took the only singer and the harp layer away so the music ground to a halt too. Oh well I’m sure they made their own music.

Work continued with various meetings previously arranged to help organize up and coming events, rather than the last minute rush that has happened in the past. There was another volunteer here with huge experience in website s and communication with organizations so had a lot of meetings with the team helping to really form their ideas of what they wanted. This gave us even more to work with which was good but will take time to sort all this out as things already started were still continuing. Eventually we have had to pull back from somethings until everyone is a little less overwhelmed...just too many things happening at once. It may sound like we should have seen this coming but it was just timing and the expertise, when they arrive need to be taken advantage of. At least armed with the stuff we can plan it in further down the line.

Away from school I was taken by surprise one night, a few weeks ago, with my whole bed shaking. I wondered what it was and discovered later there was an earthquake with 8 killed and 45 houses,in a small village (Misca) outside Cusco, being destroyed. We’re living in some crazy times just now, with even more crazy things happening around the world!

Onto a more fun note, I was in Cusco a few weeks ago, to buy fabric for the roof in the house here, because of termites or whatever they are eating away at the beams. As The owners want to decide how best to treat it when they come back next year we agreed I’d buy fabric to keep the dust from falling onto my computer and cooker etc. It looks a bit like woodworm to me and I can also see it starting in all the downstairs rooms now as well as the stairway (which is actually a fancy ladder), so we shall see how it progresses. I’m hoping it will be fine until they return next July.

Anyway what should have been a straight forward trip, of 40 mins, back to Pisac turned into a 5 hour saga and quite and adventure!

I left Cusco on the Monday afternoon after a lovely evening watching a well known Peruvian band the night before and spending a pleasant morning catching up with friends in Cusco. About 10 - 15 mins out of Cusco, in a taxi, everything ground to a halt. After sitting for about 20 mins and not receiving any info I got out and spoke to a policeman who could tell me the road was closed until 5pm for a car race. That was 3 hours from now! After a few minutes of indecision I decided not to wait and see. This is Peru after all so 5pm was definitely not a certainty. Time means nothing here! There was no direct route to Pisac, only via Urubamba. A long way around I know but at least I was hoping to get back before it is dark.

I managed to catch a couple of buses getting me back into the city and to the Urubamba bus. After waiting another 20mins on the bus filling for Urubamba we set off. Just above Cusco we ground to a halt as there were major road works going on. Not suing this route now I wasn’t aware of the chaos up there. Our taxi eventually pushed (literally) his way into the traffic as we tried to join the main route out. They don't seem to care about hitting each others' cars! Eventually we got through this mayhem, only to draw into a petrol station to fill up. What happened next? The driver started taking all our fares so he could pay for the petrol!!! Everyone was mumbling but paid up. This is a recognized taxi and no fly by night but to be honest nothing surprises me these days...even when your regular bus pulls in to fill up too! The driver could only get 30 soles worth but at least we were back on the road again.
Two villages later and passing some slow, very long lorries, we stop again so the driver, now with a little money, could buy coke and crisps! Meanwhile one of the lorries passes us again! This really got everyone going and they all started complaining to him when he returned. At least they didn't have to try to get to Pisac after this trip!! I was fast deciding I'd made the wrong choice for my journey home. He then started driving like a maniac so I had to ask him to slow down on the corners as we were nearly on 2 wheels! I was sitting behind him so could put my hand on his shoulder and get his attention. We did eventually get to Urubamba at 5pm and, again I wondered if I'd done the right thing as I suddenly thought there might not be any buses or just huge queues of people waiting because this bus would eventually have to join the closed road. Incredibly luckily though I got the last bus as it was leaving. It was only going to Pisac because of the "carerra" which the driver said was on until 9 that night ! So maybe I had made the right decision. I had also heard of a few people who were still stuck in Cusco so considered myself lucky that I was still moving in the right direction. When we arrived in Pisac we could only drive so far in then we had to walk the rest as the place was completely grid-locked, as you would expect, having the main road blocked for most of the day. Mind you it didn’t stop all the frustrations of car horns going and stupid people deciding to drive up the wrong side making matters much worse. I arrived back at the house, rather tired to say the least, as I was carrying more stuff than normal, around 7pm. It was dark needless to say. I could still hear the cars racing along the mountain road across from the house so at least I knew I had been right to take the detour. The road seemed to reopen about 7.30- 8pm and you could see the slow trail of lights as Pisac started to move again, and probably Cusco.
I discovered later that the race was a big race between Peru, Bolivia and Chile..not some piddling little thing!!  Wouldn't it have been an idea to let people know? Wouldn't you think the regular combis should have been told? They all leave from the one place so not a difficult thing to do! No-one - no buses that use the route to the ruins just outside Cusco, taxis, buses, no-one seemed to know! When I left the taxi just above Sacsaywaman the road was chockablock with all kinds of vehicles and people standing around. Some were walking to who knows where. I had to laugh at the entrepreneurs who'd brought their horses along to see if anyone wanted to go across the large expanse of Sacsaywaman to get to the other side. This is actually a bit dangerous as some are not to be trusted and robberies have been known to happen when you are in the middle of nowhere. The only ones in the know were the car drivers and the police from what I could see! What a day!!

On that note, mis amigos, I’m going to close..until the next time...which hopefully won’t be so long as I fill you in on the rest of Sept and October.
Take care of yourselves during these crazy times, and try to stay grounded and aware. :)

Posted by Heather Buc 15:39 Comments (0)

Sights and Sounds and Frustrations

July to Aug 2014.

I was asked a number of times, before leaving, if I was excited to be going back to Peru and I didn’t have a reply at that point. I think it was because there were so many unknowns for me; the 4 flights and all my luggage, where I’d stay, getting used to a new place and no friends there etc. I can now safely say all is well and I am beginning to feel much calmer and settled. This feels like where I should be for the foreseeable future. We shall see how it all goes.
Don’t get me wrong Peru is full of challenges but it still feels right for me.

One thing is for sure I will be fit working here. The climb to the school is quite something and you have NO option but to hike up to it. They are just inside Pisac Archeological Park and at the foot of the terraces to the Pisac Ruins. Even some of the locals (with the exception of the kids) puff and pant on their way up, stopping to rest on occasions. Carrying my laptop, notebooks, various layering (as the rooms are very cold when you are out of the sun), and drinking water for the day doesn’t help the situation! It is also great for your figure as you walk miles in a day! :)

On one such occasion, while climbing up to the school, I found a little girl whimpering at the bottom of the steps. Everyone else was in school and when I asked her where she was going and what was wrong I discovered she was scared of the grazing sheep on the steps. She was in kindergarten and seemingly her mother just sends her off on her own. I took her hand we we passed easily, dropping her into class and explaining the problem. She was a lovely little thing called Marisol. It always feels nice to give a little one a helping hand. :)

I thought you might like to hear about some special moments for me:

While staying at the hostel a beautiful thing happened. I was showering in one of the shared bathrooms and as I dried myself a butterfly flew onto my arm. It stayed there for what seemed like quite a time as I continued to moisturize. It was quite incredible and very special. It then flew to the door and I opened it to let it out. Beautiful!! :)

During a walk into the mountains a beautiful dog came to me at the bottom of the mountain and then proceeded to stay with me during our one hour’s walk. It had the most beautiful nature and stayed behind me most of the time, gently touching my hand or leg on occasions. When I reached a point high in the mountains I rested for quite some time soaking up the sensations there and he/ she sat with me until I was ready to return. It followed me back to the house and I fed it. I wasn’t sure if he/she would stay but it sat outside the door curled up, not wanting to come into the house. In the morning it was gone. I have seen it a couple of times since (including at the entrance to the school when I was with Marisol, the little girl) and it always greets me. It tried to follow me one evening but was chased off by an Alsatian that stays at the foot of mountain I live on. I was sorry about that but feel it could be difficult as this Alsatian doesn’t like other dogs and there was no way to keep the dog safe.

Before school finished for their winter break (remember I am now in the opposite seasons to Europe) I had the most heart-warming conversation with one of the teachers about his own relationship and wife and how truly beautiful and harmonious it was; about the TRUE meaning of love and finding the right partner, truly understanding about sexual energy and when you find that perfect woman for you, working at the relationship, taking a long time to learn about each other, respecting each other and loving each other before moving forward to fully consummate the relationship; learning your own flaws and dealing with them first. He talked about some of his experiences growing up in a truly traditional remote Andean community amidst elders and healers very much in touch with Mother Earth and about creating music in tune with the Universe. He explained how he and his wife (the music teachers and who are in classes every day) offer to be an ear for the children, especially the adolescents, to listen and help them if they wish. They are a younger couple so the children will naturally gravitate to them.
I can’t explain how truly beautiful this conversation was other than to say the tears just started to flow freely and we cuddled at the end, greeting each other as brother and sister. I truly feel blessed to be living and working alongside these amazing people! :)

...and just the other day, while sitting outside 2 hummingbirds, usually very shy creatures circled above my head in what appeared to be a mating ritual. To be honest this one gave me quite a fright as they were so close to me!

..Just beautiful all the same! :)

So, as is always the way here, there are challenges everywhere just to live and move around and moving all my things into the new house that I am renting for the year, was one such occasion. One of the women from the school, Edie, helped me arrange a truck to go to Urubamba and collect all my things. I had visited Urubamba earlier in the week to try and organize my things but unfortunately I could only see one friend so when we arrived at the other location, where my furniture and various things were, I discovered Elise wasn’t sure what was mine and what wasn’t. I had emailed her to ask if all was well but until the time of gathering up I don’t think it occurred to her. Likewise I hadn’t realized quite so many of my things were distributed all over the place, and what should have only been 2 months storage had turned into 7 months. Such is life and I was grateful most of my stuff was still there and intact..just a few casualties and losses along the way.

On the day of the move, and just before we got to the truck, Edie announced she wasn’t coming which kind of left me in the lurch; we then spent the next half hour with the owner of the truck finding a driver. He found an old guy who it turned out had forgotten his glasses so was fined by the police as we were stopped before reaching Urubamba. As he was a little deaf and insisted on stopping as soon as we got into Urubamba and then again in Pisac I had to keep urging him on to each destination!! Once I had settled into how the day was going it was a little amusing! :) Once we were loaded and back in Pisac getting it to the house was a big challenge; requiring us to unload the truck, with all my stuff sitting around the church as we ferried it as close to the house as possible in a small moto-carga (a 3 wheeler with a small trailer attached). From the end of the dirt track everything then had to be carried up a very steep hill (about 10 mins walk uphill). I was very glad to have the help of 3 boys from our farm project. All in all this took us until 5pm having started around 9am. This wasn’t because there was a huge amount of stuff, as the dresser went to the school and my washing machine went to Edie and her family, but because of all the chaos. With only one piece of furniture left and the trouble getting everything here I have promised myself I will leave this house lighter than when I arrived. 

The house is fully furnished so this has made things easier. With a year’s lease and the option to extend for an extra year I could be here for some time. It is beautiful with lots of hummingbirds and stunning views surrounded by the mountains. being in a valley we can still here the bells, fireworks and music from Pisac but at least it is a little further away. We have a few challenges with the water system and building still going on but slowly but surely we are getting there.

To be fair it has taken that first month to let things settle as I had one of my close neighbours staying for 2 weeks as her small accommodation was still being built and all the hassles of very inefficient Peruvian working made those first weeks pretty tough! We still aren’t there yet, and ongoing internet issues but it’s Peru and so you have to accept that this is the way it is!

I have also found my energy has dropped through the floor so I have finally given into it. Although I have started back with the school I am finding if I work a full day I am wiped out the next day, so I will have to pull it back where I can. I can see that working with them is going to be wonderful, hopefully really bringing a lot of things together. Basically they needed someone to help and I think looking at it with fresh eyes has highlighted a number of things. We have a few deadlines but I hope to be able to spread this out a bit after this initial surge.
Everything seems to be falling into place and I know that this is where I am supposed to be. It is a funny feeling when you really feel connected with somewhere. I am not sure for how long but hopefully for some time, depending on my visa situation..at least I have nice accommodation for quite a period of time.

The house and the lovely feel of the place has already helped a couple of friends needing space and time. I have rearranged things quite a bit to make it feel really comfortable. I’m not a great one for formal settees so both were moved out into the bedrooms and one of the single mattresses off the bunk beds put sown and a comfy area made. This with lamps dotted around makes it very inviting I think. Curled up on this with a blanket makes everything feel better! :)

The mountains are truly beautiful here too and I am nestled in the middle of them. At night the stars and moon are truly magnificent. I have found a lovely spot to sit just above the house and when the sun is not too hot I just sit here and take in the feel of the place, watching the butterflies and all the lovely birds.

There is a fairly extensive garden area that is maintained by the Peruvian family (well it is supposed to be! :)) The downside of all this lovely outside area is I am constantly covered in bites! I can’t figure out how and where they come from having tried various different approaches but so far no joy! Oh well ,I am glad I have my supply of antihistamines.

The house is 20 minutes walk to town (with that steep climb back up). Motos are non-existent along this road and if you decide to take one back it will cost you 8-10 soles which is ridiculous here! The same distance across the river is 1 sol. I think it is because there are less of us here and it is a dirt track. Because of this you don’t just nip in for food and so I am cooking a little more. To be honest there are only a small number of eating places and most are geared up for the tourists so expensive. With all this walking, eating much more healthily with limited good sweet stuff available my weight has dropped off quite a bit. I may need to find a seamstress to take in my trousers! :)

I have ventured into Cusco for lunch and the local sauna which is a little rougher than you guys are all used to but it is good. I spoke about this last year. It is good to get out of the valley every other week to meet friends and it is only half an hour once the taxi leaves. I have avoided getting into the Pisac culture, one because of the distance I am from town and two because there is a very large hippy culture here dabbling in a lot of weird and wonderful stuff. I am fortunately and the opposite end of town from them.
On my last trip I was taken to the new Plaza with its multiplex cinema and top of the range shops..boy was that a shock to my system! I can’t help but feel this could be a white elephant, especially with the current shops as Cusco doesn’t have that kind of money! They have based this on Lima which does have more cash and a bigger travelling clientelle happy to shop. When tourists arrive in Cusco they are here for the cultural experience and treks,,,not the out-of-the-way expensive plaza! I hope not to be in it again for quite some time!!

So back to sleepy Pisac.....I must admit I do enjoy the walk and seeing how the chakras (large area of communal agricultural land) change. Watching them work the ground as we would (well some of us! :)) , lifting stones, working it by hand, with oxen, or the odd tractor if it is a larger area and owned by a lot of people. and all the different birds here. This is a truly agricultural area. The other areas I have stayed in were much more urban for here, the city or a market town.
When I arrived there was an amazing splash of yellow across a large area of this flat land. This was the drying corn ( as in sweetcorn). They leave it dry out so that when they take it off the husk it can be stored for up to 7 years. They use this a lot, roasted and salted, so like popcorn in a way but much harder obviously. They also use it in their soups.
Just to remind you soups here are a main meal at any part of the day. Soup for breakfast is very common. This is not one of your subtly blended soups. Often the liquid is boiling with only the potatoes (large ones floating around in it and the chicken and veg, which have been previously cooked are stored under a cover(if you are lucky) separately. I should also say that the potatoes are a different variety that are often freeze dried so they again will keep for longer. They also hold their shape in the soup too. They have a black tinge to them. The chicken and veggies are added just as you ask for a plate. I visited one such stall with a young volunteer. This lady comes highly recommended and is actually the mother of one of the teachers at the school. In her case you get the vegetables on a separate plate to add as you wish because there are so many. She has a supply of poly bags so you could take some chicken or veggies away with you, as it was unbelievably filling. She keeps topping up the liquid as you need it too. I managed most of the vegetables, a few of the potatoes but took the chicken back and ate it over 2 days, it was so large.!! It was great value for money , working out at £2.50. I will definitely visit her again.

So back to the Chakras. They had obviously grown all this corn in each plot and then laid it out in an area closer to Pisac for security reasons. Then over a 3 day period this area was full of ladies and some men removing all the corn off the husks and bagging it. It was incredible to watch I can tell you! If I ever get decent internet I can share a couple of photos. I am not sure where they have taken it to be stored or sold it I imagine but all is cleared, even the husks have now been bagged and removed. The fields have now been cleared of all the dried stalks, being fed to the animals and the oxen brought in to plough each area in readiness for the next crop. Watching the children run in front of the oxen to help keep them travelling in the right direction and them pulling the large wooden poles to which the metal knife of the plough is attached is quite mesmerizing. As I have said before it is like living in post war times here. I am not sure at this stage if it will be more corn or perhaps potatoes that will be planted. We shall see.

Well my lovelies that brings you up-to-date with my Peru life.
I hope life ifs treating you all well.

Hasta luego :) xxx

Posted by Heather Buc 12:40 Comments (0)

Beginning at the school and beautiful events

June 14 -

Sorry for the delay but as you will discover over the next 2 blogs I have had a few challenges! :)

I feel for me I truly started to work for the school on Tuesday of the following week after arriving. However it was all a little overwhelming and disjointed to begin with for various reasons...everyone was especially busy as it was also a special week with solstice at the end of it.... and poor Veronica, a key contact for me was still pretty sick. All this meant things didn’t become clear and more settled until the middle of the following week. All those that know me will know I am never idle so I used the time as best I could to make sure I was clear of what I was doing and already I was building up e mail contacts (which Fielding wanted me to foster very quickly) providing them with the necessary things or discussing what we intended to do. One of those key contacts was a tech guy who I will work closely with on the website, to add pages, complete and tweak current stuff, as appropriate. My personal thoughts are this is something we need ASAP to give us a strong foundation and it became clear this would have to take a back seat for the moment while we looked at certain grants etc.
This is where a planning meeting would have been soooo helpful. Oh well, such is life. I will still try to encourage this when everyone is back in August. after the winter break here. Veronica and I will work over the holidays for about half the time to try and move things forward a bit.

So what did I do with myself over this weird time?

Well on my first real day at the school, the Monday I discovered we had no WiFi so
left to my own devices I began the translation of the first video on the website to help anyone watching get a real flavour for what the school was about. I had identified a number of issues we needed to address and this was one. Fortunately I had received the original video from the guy who had done it for the school so had it downloaded on my laptop. This and a few other this kept me busy that first day.

On Tuesday and Wednesday Fielding wanted to bring me up to speed as quickly as she could because she and her family were leaving the following week for 5 weeks. The team that I will be part of is Fielding, Veronica and myself. We are in charge of development. However with Fielding soooo busy and Veronica really unwell (as I saw on Tuesday) I was left on my own trying to make sense in my head of the huge amount of notes I took and reviewing some very large documents. I eventually decided to make mini boards (on A4 sheets of paper with headings at the top to identify different groups of people) using post-its with each name and a little about them on it. This helped me a lot. The reason being they have already built up a number of regular, very important supporters, agencies, organizations etc for the school. None of this seems to be written anywhere from what I could gather and the information I received over those 2 days was a little disjointed because on the second day we mainly sat with another possible new supporter for the school while Fielding went over similar stuff from the day before.

A lovely moment on that second day was when Fielding arrived she said she awoke that morning with genuine excitement as she now felt she had a team to help her work on development, and she was no longer drowning. That felt good! :)

Thursday was the big celebration at the school for Fathers Day and Winter Solstice with the children presenting gifts they had made to their fathers and beautiful, haunting music performed by various indigenous groups coming from Bolivia, Lake Titicaca, the Queros (of which there are very few left of this indigenous population from the mountains); representatives of the Shipibo tribe from Pucallpa in the jungle (wearing the most beautifully embroidered and brightly coloured clothes) and finally some of the founding parents and children wearing costumes and performing a dance representing the spirit of the eagle and bear! I will share these photos with you soon through Drop Box or they will be on our FB site (Kusi Kawsay) which I will send you a link to. I am not sure when that will happen yet as I still don’t have access to FB for the school and our processes for vetting photos etc are all currently taking too long.

Friday was a holiday for the school and all of these guests were staying at a cultural centre, set up by some of the parents, for Solstice and various other activities over the weekend.

I was invited to the very special, sacred ceremony throughout that night leading into Solstice. I really felt extremely honoured to be invited. Although there were around 200 of us, there were about 30 of us that were not family or those performing. I have never stayed up all night before and wasn’t sure how I would cope. We were recommended not to eat after lunchtime as part of the ceremony and to wear a skirt. Needless to say I managed to find thermals to wear under my leggings and borrowed a sleeping bag as most of my stuff was still in Urubamba. No photos are allowed at such events but the memories I have are amazing. The music is so much more powerful when you are in such close proximity to it and as they danced and played around the fire in these incredibly colourful costumes. The stars and milky way were so clear in the large dark sky above us and I was surprised at how long it was before we saw the crescent moon that, because of the angle just looked like it was grinning at us! :) The tall trees in the background seemed to be looking down on us and acting as protection and the way they set up the fire the sparks from it danced high into the incredibly dark sky. It was magical!! :)
We (all guests) were given a particular area to sit in which meant we were layered along and up the earthen bank and so were a bit like sardines, which was actually OK as we all huddled together, cuddled into our sleeping bags at times as we watched. In this position it can only work if everyone works together and that is exactly what we did as knees and feet occasionally became uncomfortable we had to move around again.

Occasionally we were invited up to dance and automatically you picked up the rhythm and style of dancing of the natives, holding our skirts, swaying and dancing around the fire. On a number of occasions a chain would start that weaved around the fire and out into the dark exterior, eventually weaving back in. There were lots of laughter throughout the evening and the founding families made sure everyone was OK; dressed in their black bear costumes and masks this made them a little scary if they came up behind you! :) A special seat and blankets had been prepared for a recognized and revered elder (now in his 90s), known for his outspokenness, wisdom and knowledge of true Andean visions and philosophy from the Incan times, prior to the Spanish invasion and destruction. Often someone would squat beside him and have deep conversations with him, I’m sure also checking on his welfare throughout the cold evening.

We all saw the dawn and occasional peaks of the sun as cloud cover came in, with heightened celebrations into the early morning. At a given point everyone formed a line and somehow within the circle everyone was greeted and kissed to bring in the New Year. The main greeting used was Quechua “ Urpillay Sonqollay” meaning “our heartfelt thanks/ my heart flutters like a dove in thanks”....so beautiful!
Eventually things quietened and everyone sat or moved around talking until large pots of soup were brought out, serving each person in turn. We were the last so had to wait for plates to be finished and washed. I must admit I was pretty hungry by that time. The soup was a clear soup with corn (the latest crop to be harvested here and a chunk of meat (beef I’d say). It is surprising how quickly this fills you. I couldn’t go back for seconds. Not wanting to arrive empty handed I had brought bread and bananas the night before, which I had left with the them in the kitchen to be used at a later time by them.

I had decided to walk to the Cultural Centre the night before and wasn’t sure that I had the energy to walk back as it is a good 30 minute walk but as I set off that morning I just kept walking. It felt good and as the day wore on I only rested for about 30 minutes, not sleeping until the Saturday night.

Sunday is the big market day in Pisac so decided to look around buying my veggies and fruit in the main square that day. I realized it was the same vendors from the main undercover market and a few more from the remote communities but there is a nice atmosphere.

As I was living in the hostel for the first month, sharing a busy kitchen my cooking has been limited to a fruit bowl with granola and natural yoghurt (made locally and delicious and creamy) vegetable stir fries, with some quinoa added and rolls at night filled with avocado, egg or cheese with tomato. To vary this I eat a “menu del dia” as discussed in my last blog. When I am nestled into the house and well out of town I will look for other options and recipes, using more of the readily available ingredients here. There are lots of pulses and veggies so it would be easy to be a vegetarian but I’ll definitely buy chicken and freeze it too.

I think the loss of a night’s sleep and still no real contact with my team to discuss things meant the first 3 days of the following week were particularly tough for me!! I think the guys were a little worried about me, but as the wifi was still down at the school , and to be fair all of Pisac was out that day, I left and found a quiet place to work on my own. This worked well for me that day. The problem with where we are in the school is there is nowhere to work. There is constant traffic, discussions etc going on. We have just applied for a grant to build an administration area to allow the general hubbub of the school to continue above leaving us to work quietly. Currently we have moved into an empty classroom as we don’t have sufficient funding and teachers to split some of the composite classes yet. It’s better but not great as you can hear the lessons happening next door..and that isn’t quiet! Currently if I’m on my own I stick in earphones and put on some music. I hope to be able to work from home for part of the week as I feel I will get so much more done when I can stay focussed. I think the school team find this strange as they kept looking in on me later in the week, or maybe they were still worried about me, which was lovely. During those early days they were so friendly offering to listen if I needed to talk or whatever, saying not to be alone, we were all one big family. I know this is going to be a lovely working environment but if I want to get ore done for them then working away from the school will be necessary for a least part of the week.

Once I got together with Veronica it instantly felt better and we discussed the few things she and Fielding wanted us to focus on at the moment. Veronica understands a little English but her forte is official Peruvian documents and grants. Part of my work will be those grants we need in English.
I also discussed my own thoughts from what I had seen. I discovered that Veronica stays near where I used to stay on the outskirts of Cusco, which means it takes her 2 hours to travel to school each day!! No wonder she works from home on certain days. She was going to stay nearby the following week to reduce her travel so we should have a productive week however this didn’t happen as she became even more ill and was confined to bed. I also discovered she was newly pregnant. Even Fielding didn’t know.

During those 2 days with Fielding it became clear the biggest stress and concern, as you can imagine is the operational costs of the school to keep it open and going forward. The teachers don’t get big wages but they need a wage and to make this new school (now only 5 years old) legal the teachers needed to have their benefits as a legal requirement. This obviously takes more cash and was our primary focus. Fielding had mentioned a grant which she had been told about that could really help us operationally. Veronica showed it to me. It was all in English and as I scanned it looking for criteria and the type of grants they had given before a number of things became clear...very quickly. This company was soooo not going to give us a grant! It didn’t pay wages ,except in exceptional circumstances, they didn’t fund children and young adults and most importantly they didn’t give to schools!! Whoever suggested this grant obviously hadn’t read it at all!!
We were back to the drawing board but there were a couple of options we could possibly progress.
With Veronica off and Fielding away I continued to work on various smaller things that required very little input, talking to the current volunteers at the school and side project ( a small organic project) and generally observing. These and photographing another couple of events at the school kept me busy until the school closed. During that time a few rather urgent ideas formed that I have now shared with Fielding. Although we are development this (for me) means inside the school as well as looking outside. I think with a little tweaking and taking time to put a few processes in place it should make for smoother operations within the school.

2 of the smaller events were a “desperdirle” for Teresa, a lovely lady and an English teacher who had been there for 4 months; and an evening event with pizza from the new school clay oven with some beautiful performances from the school founders (who are incredibly talented traditional musicians) and families, for some special guests who were visiting and who are supporters of the school.

A bigger event was the Watia which is an ancient tradition making small clay ovens and then cooking potatoes or vegetables in them. The soil is very dry here so it is easy to use larger clay pieces and break them up a little to fit. (Well, to loosen the soil in the first place, picks were needed)! Some of the founding parents began preparing larger ovens earlier in the day; then around 11am the children came out of class and were talked through how to make an oven. They then, through choice, began to make their own. Try to stop children working with dirt! :)The most difficult part, I think, is to get the opening to support itself as it is a semi-circle, supported only by its own weight. then a circle of clay pieces are formed behind it and built up steadily until reaching a point. Sorry for the explanation but once you see the pictures you will see what I mean. With locations all over the school I was pretty busy running around photographing that day. Once built they add loose soil to fill in more of the holes then build their fire inside (through the little opening) and keep stoking it until it is burning well. There is also a bigger stone at the front of the opening (I think to reduce drafts and build up heat inside). Once hot enough the potatoes and veggies are added and the whole thing carefully pushed in so it collapses around the food. This is done quickly to try and preserve the heat and then more soil piled on top to seal it all. After 20 minutes each oven (pile of soil now) is carefully dug/scraped away and the hot food collected to be eaten.
We had various types of potatoes, beans even bananas. Sauces had been prepared and slices of local cheese to eat with this very large feast. My favourite were the really small potatoes (whose name I have forgotten) but they were so sweet and very more-ish! :) After my initial doubts of how to eat this we were demolishing the complete potato, dirt and all..it was roasted after all! :)
It was a lovely day and really brings the school together, teachers children and all of us that are helping too.

On that note I think I should end as this feels like more than enough for this blog.
More to follow....
Hasta luego mis amigos. :)

Posted by Heather Buc 11:07 Comments (0)

My New Adventure - 2104

June 2014

Hi everyone
After a long break I'm back again! :)

To bring you up to speed and possibly a little repetition so sorry; towards the end of my time in Peru last year, (Sept to Nov) I wasn't sure what I was going to do. In Sept 2013 the time had come to leave Lilo's beautiful property and find somewhere to store my things safely while I returned to Scotland. I was still unsure if Peru still had a need for me or if my time was now finished. Not that I had any idea what would take its place! :)

After much e mailing, my friends in Urubamba came up trumps and my few pieces of furniture, clothes and general stuff was distributed between them all, to use or store as needed. This amounted to quite a lot when you see it in the back of open- backed truck; the normal way to move your stuff here! There was some damage to some of the items on the way there but overall it was ok, with the help of very good friends all was set up until I could return. :)

I found accommodation for my remaining 5 weeks and looked into possible volunteering opportunities, deciding if nothing came forward I'd come back to Peru for 3 months and see what unfolded..... if anything. The options in Urubamba didn't seem a good fit and then I started to remember ( fleeting pictures in my head) of a lady I had met at a fundraiser, way back in April. Her and her husband were 2 of the founding members of an amazing little school. I tried a couple of ways to contact her but heard nothing so eventually visited with another volunteer. We met Fielding and Rene, 2 of the directors of this small school, and talked about how I could help. From there it soon took off with only 3 weeks before I left We had talks on what they needed and therefore what I could do, what my role could look like, fitting in around the others and we completed a short video with another volunteer before she left Peru too. Things became simpler when I offered my services as a volunteer. It felt wrong to fundraise and take some of that when there was so much needing to be done.....including feeding the children!! What sold me on this school was the real difference they were making to these children, especially the girls; really empowering them, teaching great values of respect for each other and everything including the planet. Parents are also asked to attend various meetings to understand what their children are learning thus ensuring the children have support at home... that is huge here!

If you have reread my last blog in 2013 here is a little update for anyone with questions.

Lilo, my landlady unfortunately died suddenly in January 2104 with complications from an operation she needed to have in Cusco. The private hospitals are not bad here but it’s not the NHS and there is no real follow up. You have to go there. Lilo did have friends who were doctors and I assume they would have supported her. I am sure she is at peace now and happy in her new home! :)

I had heard Luis and his wife were seeing Lilo for counselling and were also helping her by driving her to places and the hospital I assume. I did indeed take Hamish’s picture up the hill at the farm but instead of the top it felt right for it to be placed in a warm, cosy spot in some reeds at the loch. Here it was in the shelter of the hills and it was like they were watching him. :)

I haven’t heard much about Isabel and the hogar (not quite a children’s home but somewhere for the children through the week so they can attend school) but a few things changed for me. When I moved from Cusco I had a huge bag of things that went to the hogar for the children, including a rucksack that would have be perfect for a schoolchild. I am not sure why but Isabel was using it when I next visited. This didn’t sit well with me. Annabelle, who helped with after-school tuition there, was going to try and find out more but I never heard so all the clothes I have will go to the poorer children in the school and the communities above. Isabel seems to have a pretty good support network as the children were wearing lovely clothes, even by our standards, much better than the school children.

Back to this year:
Returning from Scotland it was important to me to get the priorities right. I came armed with one or two potential nuggets for the future for the school but first I needed to find a place to stay....long term this time, keeping it on while I visit Scotland for a few weeks in January. I then needed to see what their (the school’s) thoughts were, work out what I could and couldn’t do without checking in and decide their priorities. This was a meeting we conducted in the last NGO and it worked really well with most things being completed.

Further to these 2 points: Regards the meeting like all these things you try to organize , it didn’t quite work that way because of other factors here so I got pulled along, feeling a little disconnected which with all the other uncertainties in my life and readjusting at that time meant it was a tough week!

With regards to accommodation: literally on the last day before I left, I went from having nowhere to stay to finding some potentially really great options, which have worked out.
The angels are shining on me right enough! :)

I left on 10th June and my flights to Peru had only a couple of hiccups and some great conversations. :)
Thanks to all the wonderful support I had a great supply of donated clothes which I checked in. Spread over 2 cases and vacuum shrunk both were a few kilos overweight. However with a little rejigging, so most of the weight was in one, the very kind ground staff only charged me for the extra case, and not the extra weight. They gave me a slip though as if I had paid it so I could show it to LAN desk in Lima, where I would next handle my luggage. I also discovered that there may be an option to get reduced rates or free passage of extra luggage for the charity if I contact the airline in advance.... something to follow up for next time! :)
My flights were mostly uneventful but this could have been soooo different!

Thanks to having to change my outward Glasgow flight, bringing it forward, I managed to offset a bigger issue. When I arrived in Heathrow I decided to check the departures board, just in case there was info on my flight already. I had about 3 hours to kill so didn’t expect to see much. On the board, against the 19.10 flight it said "gate opening at 20.50". ....strange I thought!! After checking another board I decided I'd better check with customer services and sure enough, even although it didn't say delayed, it most certainly was!!..... not leaving until after 9pm!! I would definitely have missed my once a day connection from Madrid to Lima in that case! Luckily I was early enough for the BA stewardess to change me onto an earlier flight ensuring I caught my connection.... mental note and e mail to my travel agent contact that we use earlier flights out of Glasgow just in case of a similar situation arising again. This did happen once before and I was stuck in Madrid for 24 hours with only hand luggage as the rest was in transit! Not an experience I wish to repeat!! I was especially lucky this time because of the World Cup in Brazil believe it or not as there were a lot of flights from Heathrow to Madrid so the fans could catch their next connection. It wasn’t difficult to spot the fans either..most were in shorts and carrying a football! :)

Next brief hiccup was at security in Lima airport. The immigration guy decided to be really mean and was only going to give me 3 months on my tourist visa. I tried pleading my case as he flipped through my passport looking at all the stamps and tutting...... eventually he sent me to his boss who was really nice and gave me 6 months. I have since discovered that there has been a real tightening up at the borders and some are only giving a month if you cross by bus. I’ll try taking a letter from the school to show that I am supporting them and to please give me longer.
This is something we will need to look at carefully for the future if I am to continue in a meaningful way and not leaving the country every few weeks! I have also learnt there may be a couple of options, one a short term fix but another might be a better long term option. There is an agency in Lima called APCI who if you are accredited with them you can get a lot more things into the country and seemingly there is a recognized tourist visa for people like me who aren’t getting paid. The school is currently applying to APCI so this could be very helpful. We will need to look into this further of course so let’s hope that is still in existence. Who would believe it could be so difficult to help people! :)

On the Madrid- Lima flight I also came across a small English tour group and they helped me through the X ray machines with my heavy luggage which was great and appearing as if I am part of that group I also felt would be helpful..and it was. :)

When I arrived in Cusco I expected just a taxi driver with my name but discovered Ina, a new addition to the Kusi Kawsay team who called the taxi back into the airport and set me off for Pisac. I was set up in a hostel for the moment, which to be honest was not great. The guys weren’t to know they thought it would be good. The people were lovely but the room was a little dirty as was the bathroom and the shower didn’t work. I’m sure I could have changed and we could have sorted something out but the room was dark so I thought I needed a better option. If I was going to rent Annie’s house I couldn’t move in for another month. I’m a person that needs light so staying in this hostel wasn’t an option.

I wanted to sort things out as quickly as possible (such as the hostel, accommodation, touching base with the school etc) so went to the Pisac Inn to see if anyone was around. I was having a problem adding credit to my phone, ever since Lima so had been unable to contact anyone but finally I managed and called Annie, the lady with the bigger property. That worked out beautifully. She was just coming back in from Cusco so we met up and instantly connected. We chatted, went for lunch with her kids to one of the cheap Peruvian cafes offering “menu del dia” and generally got to know each other a little better. If you can find a good Peruvian cafe, where other gringos go, so the food is probably safe, that is a great cheap option for a meal. Unfortunately for me pumpkin is something that doesn’t agree with me and they use it a lot here so I have to check what’s on before committing. If it’s OK though you can have soup, a main course and drink for £1.50....not bad!!:) There are other more expensive options but this is a good one on occasions.

Although it was my first day and I was feeling the altitude (Pisac is just a little under 3000m and I had now been away for 7 months) I was keen to visit Annie’s house and see how it “felt”. You ladies will understand that! :) I had been in various houses the year before and after almost settling again way back in April 2103 I found accommodation that instantly resonated with me so changed at the last minute. That was a lesson for me. I am now fed up with being in accommodation that just isn’t great. I was looking for that feeling again as I was going to be there for a long time. Well as I said the angels have been shining on me... after a slow walk out to the house, because it is 15- 20 minutes walk out of Pisac, I was standing looking at the incredible vista from Annie’s living room when I felt such a sharp sensation in my chest it actually pulled me forward! Although it was a strong sensation there was a calmness about it. WOW!!! OK so it was more than I had hoped to pay but it was just sooo right that I felt I would have to stay there. To be honest I did look at a 2-3 other options, being a canny Scots lady, but nothing was even remotely close and I knew I wouldn’t last in them. If I wanted to do my best work and really settle it had to be Annie’s!

It has taken us a little time to catch up again but we are pretty much sorted now and I am delighted. To make the deal even sweeter we have free internet because the local man wanted to put up an extra satellite dish to bounce a signal to Taray, across the valley. Great for us! This means for no extra cost we can work from the house. I certainly hope to! There will be 3 of us on the property. An American lady that now lives here, living under the radar and a Chilean lady who will be here for 6 months I think. This means we are not on our own either but we have our own space which is nice.

I can rent this house for a year, with a possible option to extend to 2 years (minus 5-6 weeks in between when the family return). The 20 minutes walk from Pisac town is up a dirt track and nestled into a mountain so this makes getting things in and out a little difficult. Regarding moving my things from Urubamba though, Edelmira, from the school, has got me all sorted with a truck and helpers. From Pisac everything needs to be ferried in on motocargas. These are the 3 wheeler motorised bikes in most fo the towns here but with an trailer as opposed to the place for passengers to sit. I will move in the day before the family leave so one one large piece of furniture that I want to keep can be hoisted over the balcony! The house is built in the old style as there was already a small property there so the rest of the build had to be in keeping with this. Yes, building regs apply here too!!! :)


That first day Annie also gave me some wonderful tips on Pisac including a hostel they use for accommodating US students whom her husband brings over as part of a field trip. He is a university professor in Agriculture.

The next day, early, I visited and spoke to the hostel owner, moved my stuff and was in the school by 8am!! My body clock still hasn’t adjusted yet!!
The new hostel is cheap and cheerful. It has internet which is great, and works especially well when only a few of us are on it (there are 20 rooms here). I am on the top floor (3rd floor) and the furthest away room but this is compensated for by giving me access to the roof out of my window and I am using that a lot, especially when it is a little cloudy or in the later afternoon where I can sit and enjoy the beautiful mountains and view. I’m sitting on a pillow on a concrete roof but hey who cares! :)

The chapel is close by so we get lovely early morning bells (around 5.30am), which go on for a surprising amount of time!! It sounds like a fight between the 2 different bells!! :) There are also the delightful bangers which go off around the same time. The next door house which, as with all Peruvian properties is very close (I can see into their house from the roof) has taken to playing loud music around 5.30am on a Sunday....nice!!! The music is good actually, Western music...but it’s Sunday for goodness sake!!!!

The couple who own the hostel are lovely. We can share the kitchen with them although this can be a bit congested at times if everyone wants to cook so sometimes you have to go away and come back later. My room is large and bright with a shared bathroom which is right next to my room. The shower on this level isn’t great but because of its proximity I use it.

The hostel (called Inti Hospedage) is also quite close to the school which is great. I did try going to the school on day 2 of being here ( as I mentioned above) but as it is even higher and a steep climb with no other access than foot I felt pretty awful so only stayed a short time. It wasn’t helped by the fact that I moved all my stuff that morning to the other hostel so a bit too much exertion!

After that I decided I needed to settle myself a little more. Neither Fielding nor Veronica were available, so I felt I had some time anyway. I decided to visit a friend in Cusco the next day and that in itself helped me enormously with familiar surroundings and people. When I got back off the combi at Pisac I felt an instant feeling of calmness and being settled which was great.

On the Saturday I met Rita, the nurse from the last NGO, for lunch. It was lovely to catch up with her. The freaky thing is she called my mobile just as our plane was getting ready to leave Lima! I have no idea how she knew I was on my way back unless some of the local “gringas” told her. She told me it was intuition! :) She asked me if I would be willing to help a new girl who was going to pick up the reins but I had to politely decline. I was now committed to Kusi Kawsay for the foreseeable future.

On the Sunday I had to go to Urubamba to collect a few essentials to make things easier. It all worked out well and I found a few more ways to get there. It's not as easy as it should be travelling along Sacred Valley. I also had forgotten just how many people they can squeeze onto a bus! You have never seen anything like it. The conductor could barely close the door at times and we were all like sardines in a can but less orderly! This big bus was jam- packed. I had a seat but I only had one cheek on it for most of the hour journey and at times my face was very close to the windscreen!! :)  Anyway I am enjoying having my little speaker back and listening to some nice music, in bed cuddled up with my hot water bottle as the nights are cold. It is winter after all! I am back to blankets at the moment but there is only so much weight you can cope with so I have a fleecy and my warm dressing gown flung over the top as well. All of this is now keeping me warm. As I’ve said before there is no heating here so in the early morning it is particularly cold and it can wake you up! I found my candles too so a much softer light than the harsh overhead light in the room make’s it all so cosy! :) 

I’ll just say, to finish, that although it has been seven months since I spoke any Spanish I am managing OK which is a welcome surprise. I have been told about a new Spanish school here which is supposed to be very good but I really could face it, so I’ll work away as I am and will set up at least one “intercambio” with one of the teachers or Veronica, whom I will work closely with. That way they learn some English and they correct my Spanish as we take turns at talking. Much better than sitting in a class I think! :)

As I think this is probably long enough for one read I’ll call a halt there and say “Chao y hasta pronto mis amigos.”

If anyone would like to email me to tell me how you are doing that would be nice! :)

All about the school to follow. :)

Posted by Heather Buc 13:53 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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