Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Peru.

Huancayo, Peru: Updates from the first week.

Posted in Peru on April 18, 2011

We all arrived in Lima at different times, odd times, early or perhaps late times. Our team leader Tom Fair had everything organized so it was trouble-free travel upon arrival. There was a driver with name cards to identify us at the airport. In no time, he drove us to the Bayview Hotel in Miraflores. Dan and Tom arrived about 1:30 am on the 7th, just in time to have a celebratory beer. Paul arrived about 5:30 am, knocking on Dan's door to get a couple hours shut-eye before starting the Lima adventure. Conny flew in from Germany on the Apr 7th at about 10:00 pm. Finally Judy arrived on the 9th at 1:30 am, bursting through her roommate Conny's door and waking the whole hotel up. Judy's energy continues to carry on through this Peruvian adventure.

Tom arranged accommodation at the Bayview Hotel in Miraflores. It is quaint and very central to the action in the neighbourhood. Miraflores is an upscale part of Lima close to the coast. Staff at the hotel are friendly and helpful. One of the highlights of the hotel is a big turtle in the back patio. The team has named the turtle Charlotte. Dan is deathly afraid of Charlotte and has nightmares of her biting his toes off. However, Dan and Charlotte grown to live in a state of happy co-dependency, as Charlotte is fed fruit daily and in turn acts as a wine caddy by night.

It is unusual to have few days of free time before starting on the project in Huancayo. Some planned for a day or two to get adjusted. However we were set back a day because of the Presidential election, which wasn't hard to miss as every street was nearly covered in campaign posters or graffiti of various parties and their candidates. Everything shuts down for the day including buses to Huancayo and the sale of wine and beer. Given extra time for team building, the first order of business appeared to be to create names for team members.

Some how, it is a long story that no one quite remembers (or perhaps chooses to forget) but Dan was given the name red chicken. He didn't like that so much so we changed the name to 'Pollo Rojo' (red chicken). He still doesn't like it but consensus ruled. Since then he has become Senor Atlas. Another long story is how Tom got his name but everyone remembers this one. While eating at a restaurant the first evening in town Tom adventurously ordered a dish he was not familiar with. When the dish arrived, there was a large pile of what looked like chicken livers. Dan and Paul tried a piece each and agreed that one piece was just fine. Tom dug in and eat about half. Turns out that they were chicken hearts, thus the name Muchos Corazones, or Many hearts. Tio Thomas (Uncle Thomas) is Tom's other name. Conny quickly received the name Pequeno Diablo (Little Devil) because of the sparkle in her eyes. She brings really great energy to the team and adds a more international flavour to the group. When she speaks Spanish it is her third language. Judy has few names. Lima is hot and with her fair skin and red hair she was soon known as Frito Camarones (fried shrimp). And day or so later with some attention from local boys Roberto and Alberto she also became known as Abja Reina (Queen Bee). At times she shares the same name given to Paul, which is Momma Sito but hers is the feminine form of Momma Sita, for at they times parent the group. Possibly from missing their children at home. Paul is also known as San Pablo (Saint Paul) he acts as body guard to Conny and Judy when out on the streets seeing as he stands a good foot or two above the locals and keeps an eye out for possible danger. A better name would be Grande Pablo.

On a more serious note, we discovered that Lima has excellent cuisine (aside from chicken hearts), good shopping and many interesting districts to visit. Dan and Paul had a go at surfing. The ocean off Lima has a consistent 5 foot breakers and it was tough even getting out to try to catch a wave. The instructors would yell 'paddle! paddle! paddle!' for encouragement and one time Paul (or maybe Dan) turned back to their instructor and yelled 'But I am!'. Dan successfully got up after a few tries, whilst Paul only managed to get to his knees on the board then toppled over. However they got back to the shore they were both happy with the experience. Dan and Paul weren't the only ones to catch a wave though. Conny, Tom and Judy had stayed on shore to watch the boys surf. Before heading out Paul had prophetically mentioned never to turn your back to the ocean. Well, apparently the ocean doesn't like to be ignored either! During a conversation between Judy and Tom a rogue waved completely doused the two from head to toe. Conny being more mindful of her surroundings managed to jump out of the way and was spared wet clothing.

We took the bus to Huancayo on the 12th and started our project at the school on the 13th. The bus ride was long but comfortable as the bus taken was a double decker tour type. We were able to watch three movies in big reclining chairs and was served a dinner too. The road was twisty and seemed to climb endlessly into the heart of the Andes. At times the bus slowed to a crawl and we were able to watch the Andes 500 as other vehicles would dangerously pass us on the narrow roads; one side at times being a cliff and the other the mountain wall. So there was little room for error. The best way to deal with this was to just go to sleep and hope you woke up still alive.

Our bus driver safely brought us into Huancayo late in the night and the team was greeted at the bus terminal by a large contingent of locals involved with the project. We immediately felt very welcomed and watched our luggage be whisked away by truck to the hotel, Los Balcones. After being on the bus for 8 plus hours a walk to the hotel with Violetta (the project co-ordinator) sounded perfect. We all felt the altitude (Huancayo being 10,500 feet) by the time we arrived. Even after being here a for nearly a week climbing the two flights of stairs to our rooms leaves us out of breath at times and it is not that we are in bad shape or so we hope anyways.

Work started on the 13th and so far the team have put in three full days. The day starts with breakfast at the corner cafe and the van picking the team up at 8:15. The same route to the work site is rarely taken more than once so there has been a great opportunity for the team to see Huancayo. There are many Volkswagen Bugs used as transportation in Peru and naturally the game Punch Bug was started to pass the time during the drive to the worksite. It has now become a death match game between Dan and Judy with Conny and Tom being helpful at pointing out the upcoming Bugs for the two of them.

The plan for the group originally was building desks, unbeknown to group leader Tom the plan had changed. The team was now to paint the upper level of the administration building. Day One had the team scraping and sanding the walls and ceiling smooth for the paint. We are all fast workers and in a couple hours had that done. We felt good about our accomplishment and looked forward to the next day's schedule of painting. Days two and three were spent filling holes and cracks with putty and then scraping and sanding the areas smooth in preparation of painting. The afternoon of day three the team was able to put up the first coat of paint. Day four saw the second coat and then a third coat of paint go up. Week two has been scheduled for working on garden plots which are incorporated into the walkway design in the courtyard area. The walkway was made by a previous DWC team and their team members names can be found written in cement tiles, sometimes accompanied with Canadian pins or Canadian money for embellishment.

Each day the group is greeted at the work site by their interpretor, Jesse. Jesse spends the day with us and helps with communication between the painter and the team members. We tend to make a mess of the Spanish language but no one can say we don't try. Jesse is very patient with our attempts at it. At lunch time the Huancayo home team, consisting of Nancy, Christian and Huan Carlos, arrive with lunch. The meal is always delicious with a lot of variety to choose from. The home team has been very accommodating and helpful.

Jesse has also worked as a tour guide for the team. She has taken the team to see many sites in and out of Huanycayo and helped to explain some of Huancayo's history. One night she arranged for the group to go see traditional Huancayo musicians complete with dancers who performed two dances specific to the city of Huancayo. At one point the dancers picked Conny and Dan to join in on the second dance. The team has also seen how alpaca wool is made into yarn and weaved for blankets.

Come back and read up on the team members various adventures and illnesses!

Collaborative effort by DWC Participants,
Judy, Paul and Dan

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