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.