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.