Good! It looks like things are breaking down like this: I get into Arequipa on Sunday, March 30 (Krista will have been there for a few days already), we'll do Colca Canyon on Monday and Tuesday, more Arequipa on Wednesday, then (hopefully) an overnight bus to Cuzco, from which we'll try to do Sacred Valley on Thursday, Machu Picchu on Friday, Cuzco on Saturday, and then I leave on Sunday. Kind of a lot to pack into a week, but I think it's doable.
― jaymc, Monday, 17 March 2008 22:58 (5 years ago) Permalink
(My girlfriend stayed an extra week, so that's why you don't see any more photos of me past the first half.)
Trip was fantastic, btw, and everything went pretty much as planned.
― jaymc, Sunday, 20 April 2008 18:04 (5 years ago) Permalink
Returning to Peru for four months...
Laurie has a comprehensive writeup of our fundraisers, thank yous, et cetera over at her blog:
The main initial focus of our return trip is to do the same health tests and interviews that we did last time for the people of Sipascancha. In the intervening 18 months, we have learned that there is very little medical data on high altitude respiratory systems. Allegedly we have accumulated one of the largest bodies of data in the world! We probably interviewed 150 people. This time, we will be hoping that the new stoves have improved their numbers. If we can show objective indicators of improved health it would be very useful for future grants.
We also have a small control group, consisting of those people who we interviewed that did not come and get their stoves. We will have to track all of them down as well.
So for our first month we will be spending a lot of time in Sipascancha. Looking forward to seeing it again. I found this amazing book of Quechua folk tales called She-Calf, and the best thing is that it has the English and Quechua side by side. So I can read stories to the kids in Quechua! Very exciting.
After we re-interview as many people as we can, we will head south to the village of Usi, near the town of Quiquihana, where we will spend the remaining three months on a new stove project. Supposedly Pave has found us a room there, we will see. That whole project is more up in the air than Sipas was last time, but we know we'll get at least something done. Our goal is to build 100 more stoves.
Our flight leaves Seattle for Lima at 7 A.M. Monday morning, we will be in Cuzco Tuesday afternoon. Regular updates to follow!
― sleeve, Tuesday, 11 November 2008 17:43 (4 years ago) Permalink
Very cool -- looking forward to these again!
― Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 11 November 2008 20:17 (4 years ago) Permalink
Well, here we are! All flights were smooth, no delays although the LAXairport can go die with their ridiculous sprawl setup. We barely made itto our plane with a 90 minute layover. Once we arrived in Lima everythingwas very smooth, we got into Cusco around 1 PM. Pave met us at theairport and we went to our hostal. The patio (that´s what our apartmentis called) wasn´t ready, they were still working on the kitchen. Werested for a while and then went out with Pave and a Spanish friend ofhers named Juana to Los Perros for our favorite pumpkin curry soup. Wehad coca tea as well, hoping that we wouldn´t have a repeat of Laurie´ssickness this time. Oh well, so much for that! Around 10 PM, after we got home, she started projectile vomiting and continued until 6 A.M., at which point we went to the clinic. ClinicaPardo was full so they sent her to a new hospital, Clinica San Jose. Theyput her on an IV drip and ran some tests. Finally, at 4 PM, they let hergo with inconclusive results. They thought it was food poisoning, wethink that is dubious at best and are leaning towards altitude sicknessa.k.a. siroche. At any rate, she is mostly recovered today, but we lostall of yesterday hence the late email. While she was in the clinic, I went out to try and get some basics to setour apartment up. It was at this point that I really noticed how muchmore capable I am of getting around than last time. San Pedro market? Noproblem! Haggle in Spanish? Sure! I even managed to recover from givinga taxi driver wrong directions on my way back to the clinic (havingconfused it with Clinica San Juan where Laurie used to volunteer). So Ireturned to our patio victorious, bearing an hervidor (electric waterboiler), a couple of cups, some ramen, some coca leaves, and a bulb ofgarlic. Several people complimented me on my Spanish, but I really need afew complete Quechua sentences because that was always asked next, like achallenge - well, you might speak Spanish OK, but what about Quechua? Last night I fed Laurie ramen and we went to bed at like 7 PM. The timeis really confusing here, I remember only being an hour off the West Coastlast time but now we are THREE (?!?!?) hours off and it gets dark MUCHearlier, like 5:30. Climate is hot, but it can easily drop 5-10 degreeswhen the sun goes behind clouds. Yesterday out the clinic window we saw aterrifying rain front several miles away that completely failed tomaterialize. By the time we were headed home it was gone. Cusco has a lot of familiar smells - wood smoke, eucalyptus smoke, carexhaust, that incense wood they burn (Paulo Santo), dust. It is really arelief to feel familiar with my surroundings this time, last time I wastotally dependent on Laurie for the first six weeks. Pave informs us that she has found a source for blocks of pumice, and shealso found a guy with some kind of table saw that can cut it into thepieces we want. A promising start. When we go to Usi in late December wewill apparently be staying in Hermana Nellie´s convent. Our favorite nun,Hermana Luz Marie, succumbed to dementia after doing an unbelievable featof heroics. Somehow she came upon a guy from the village who had tried tokill himself and she carried him on her back all the way to the hospitaland saved his life, but she never recovered physically or mentally fromthe effort. Like something out of a Garcia Marquez story, I swear... Today we are at our fave breakfast spot Trotamundo´s. Now we head out toacquire more essentials for our patio. Next week on Monday or Tuesday wewill head up to Sipascancha and start trying to track out people down tore-interview them.
― sleeve, Friday, 21 November 2008 16:29 (4 years ago) Permalink
Wow, that story of the nun. Amazing stuff. Hope Laurie continues to recuperate, and keep us posted!
― Ned Raggett, Friday, 21 November 2008 16:32 (4 years ago) Permalink
Day 6 here in Peru... After I sent the other message we talked to Pave and it turned out she had also gotten really sick from Los Perros. It must have been the coca tea because that´s what we all had in common. Big disappointment because we´ve eaten there dozens of times before with no problems. We´ll still go back but we might not have tea. We know and trust the owner and are sure he does what he can to avoid such problems, it´s bad for business.
Pave brought a bunch of exciting news about the stoves. This time, we will be building them with a layer of pumice as insulation around the rocket form. The rocket itself will be formed out of bent 1/4" rebar, using a lot less metal. The pumice pieces will then be formed around the rocket shape with clay as a glue. This means the only piece of pumice we actually have to cut is the piece that makes up the "floor" of the rocket chamber. As before, the rocket is a burn chamber in an "L" shape, wood is fed in at the righthand base of the "L" and the pot goes at the top. The pumice comes from a local mine near Quiquihana called Wayracancha ("wind place" in Quechua).
The 12,000 foot altitude is kicking our asses this time around. We realized that the last time we came we just stayed at Pave´s for a week doing nothing. This time, we had to run around and get a bunch of kitchen stuff and other essentials before we were really acclimated. It felt like we were doing OK but we really weren´t. Laurie got a really bad headache again yesterday and we finally broke down and went to a Botica (drugstore) and bought medicine for siroche (altitude sickness) along with some half-strength Valium (which is still quasi-legal here over the counter). Last night we slept for 13 hours and we are much better now. But we are plan to do almost nothing today except lie in bed, our blood oxygen levels are 92-93 which is still kinda low (I can hear the gasps of the medical folks on this list now).
My mom & stepfather got here last night, they are going to be here for three weeks. We´ve done alot of the tourist stuff locally so we´ll pass on most of it, but I would like to go see the amazing museum of Pre-Columbian art again. Ron is pretty sick with epiglottitis (!!) but has all the proper meds. They will probably need a day or two to recover.
On Wednesday we plan on going up to Sipaschancha (the village we built 100 rocket stoves in last time) just to say hi and remind people that we need to interview them again and do health testing. Once we get as many of those people interviewed as we can, we will shift over to Quiquihana where we will start the pumice stove project. Pave tells us that we can stay with Hermana Nellie in the conveny and maybe even use her 4x4 truck (which I have dubbed the Nelliemobile) to go up to Usi. Sounds a lot easier than what we did last time!
― sleeve, Sunday, 23 November 2008 17:23 (4 years ago) Permalink
Well, here we are again. The time has been a blur but it has been about a week. On Wednesday we met my folks at 6 AM and went to the Puputi bus station. From there we retraced our route from last year, taking a bus to Pisac and getting fresh warm bread at the Pisac bakery. Then we found our taxista friend from last time, Fredy, and he gave us all a ride up to Sipascancha. We were there by 8:30, which is fast. On the way up we noticed a lot more houses built, especially in Cuyo Grande. In the last village befote the upper grazelands that border the ridgeline, we saw a restaurant! We asked Fredy if anyone ever went and he said it was run by the people from the potato research park (Parque De La Papa) which is further down the mountains outside of Pisac.
Then it was onwards over the pass and down to Sipaschancha. We met Adela and the school and there were tons of obvious improvements. The courtyard where the kids play had been paved and was no longer a sea of mud, there were flush toilet bathrooms for the kids, and they were in the process of building a guest house for visitors. All very encouraging. Adela made us tea with fresh mint (bizarrely, there is absolutely no mint tea available in Cuzco anymore, everyone we asked just shrugged their shoulders and said “si, poco.” Bummer cause we drank it a lot last time). We met the other preschool teacher, who we all really liked, but I didn´t get her name. I practiced my Quechua with the kids, asking them questions that they would shyly giggle the answers to. I suceded in impressing a couple of 8-year-old boys which I guess counts for somethibng. They asked me to talk in English and I put on my best folksy Virginia drawl, which they found hilarious. One kid, when I complimented him on his woven bag, pulled out a freaking laptop!!! It looked like a Fisher-Price toy. "It has games", he said proudly. All of the elementary school students have them now. Ron and I wanted to check out the specs but didn´t have a chance. The older students use real computers (towers) in groups of 4 or 5.
We had come up with the school exchange materials from North Branch (school in Virginia where my nephews go) and we gave all of it to Adela. Her and the other teacher then organized the primary students (3 to 6, I think) into a group and they all showered us with confetti as a thank you. Then the teachers led them in these unbelievably cute songs and dances that they did for us. You haven´t lived until you´ve seen a group of 30 tiny kids doing the ukuku (man-bear) dance and singing “ukuku, ukuku.” Muy adorable. I recorded some and Ron even has video.
After that we set up in a market stall and spread out all of our medical testing staff. Laurie and Pedro announced that we were looking for people who had gotten the new stoves, but nobody was interested until they figured out that we had a booklet with pictures of them in it! Suddenly there was a crowd of 15 people thumbing through it. We did five interviews, I think. All of the people we talked to were happy with their stoves and said they were using less wood. One woman said she burned herself much less. So that was a promising start.
We also made a brief visit to Alberto´s house, where he proudly showed us his second store that he had built himself, complete with chimney. Not quite a rocket , but still a big improvement. He also showed us another house that he was building with the money from weavings of his that we had sold during the past year and a half. Pretty inspiring to actually see the effects of our little fair trade enterprise. He said we could stay there, and we just might do that.
We headed down the mountain and back to Cusco, I think then I took a nap. In the last two days we have gone to some museums that we didn´t see last time. We explored the Q’orikancha, the center temple of the whole Inca empire, which I recommend you look up on wikipedia or something cause it was a fascinating example of syncretism, Dominican Spanish construction on top of or around original Inca buildings. Today we went to another museum, the Museum of the Inca, which was a much more comprehensive look at Andean culture going back to 12,000 BC. They had these super fancy plumb lines made on carved stone that looked like animal heads. We also saw impressive pottery, figurines, and a mind-boggling exhibit of an Inca tomb, complete with mummies and ítems for the afterlife. Once we got in to the Colonial era we saw the fanciest furniture I have ever seen, with ultra-detailed mother-of-pearl inlays.
During the last week we have been having serious conversations with Nino and Pave about what to do with the people who didn´t pay for their stoves. Only 18 out of 100 paid the 20 soles that we had intended to be used for sustainable resource projects. We considered giving them one more chance and then repossessing them, but decided that was too much bad karma. Instead, we decided to reward the people who did pay with baby pigs. We would have done chickens but Pave tells us it is too cold for them to live up there. We´re going to walk away from the rest and not worry about it any more, but next time in Usi we are going to demand the money up front.
This afternoon we met out friend Carlos from Ollantaytambo for lunch at Ego´s (thankfully we have moved beyond tourist food and back to our normal fare). He is going to work in Australia in two weeks and we won´t see him again, but we plan on hooking up with some of his younger brothers for the solstice and possibly the ruined city of Choquechirao in March, a 4-day journey away (3 by bus, 1 hiking).
Last night we went to a benefit dance for an organization called Bruce Peru, although I gather there are Bruce chapters worldwide. With every drink the bar donated two soles for the kids. We had red wine and watched seriously talented salsa dancers show off until the bar became too full and they started kicking down the hiphop, reggaeton, and super pitched down versions of 70´s disco songs. We are still easily out of breath and could only dance for half a song at a time.
Tomorrow we are going to head out to Quiquihana in the Nelliemobile, spend the night in the convent, and visit the pumice mine in the morning. There is a Sunday market that people from Usi Hill be at so we can talk to them there. We´ll head back here midday for dinner with Carlos. On Monday we go back up to Sipascancha where we Hill dive into followup health interviews with all of our energy, we have 3 days a week in December to interview around 75-100 people.
― sleeve, Saturday, 29 November 2008 01:15 (4 years ago) Permalink
wow Ned, Laurie and I would both like to thank you for your kind words and links on your blog.
we head back to Sipas tomorrow at 5 AM, new update probably Thursday.
― sleeve, Monday, 1 December 2008 01:01 (4 years ago) Permalink
OK, I´m going to cheat here and c&p my mom´s account of going to Quiquihana, because she pretty much said everything I would have said. A couple of other notes, though… We were very happy to make friends with the woman who runs the store across from the convent, because we will no doubt be going there a lot. I´ve already forgotten her name though. In the market they were showing videos of huaynos songs, very elaborate productions with passionate singers lip-synching among various ruin sites. Over to you mom!
Saturday afternoon we met Laurie and Steven at their apartment, then all took a taxito another part of Cusco to meet Hermana (Sister) Nellie, the nun Laurie and Stevenknew from work in Sipascancha in 2007. It was at her children´s shelter inQuiquijana, a bit over 2 hours from Cusco, that they build one of their first twomodel stoves in 2007. Hermana Nellie had come into Cusco to bring another nun foran eye doctor appointment, and the four of us rode back to Quiquijana with them,squashed into the back seat of Hermana Nellie´s 4 wheel drive Toyota pickup truck.
The children´s shelter has dormitory space for 100 children, although at the momentthey only have resources (food, support, etc) for 50. As we understand it, most ofthe children are there only during the week, living there and going to school. Theywalk multiple hours to/from their villages to be at home helping families on theweekend. Some, maybe 15, are there full time, either because their villages are toofar away or for other reasons. Parents come to the sisters to ask for their kids tobe there, and pay in various ways, either 20 soles per month, or the equivalent of20 soles per month in food (potatoes, meat, etc). There is also a governmentprogram that we are a bit uncertain about, but as we understand it, families get 100soles per month, of which they pay 20 for the child to be at the shelter and therest is used for some other project (like starting a store), but somehow there arestrings attached that we aren´t sure of. Anyway, the smaller group of children whowere there over the weekend were engaging and enthusiastic, and seem happy andhealthy and well cared for. There seems to be a fairly steady stream of volunteersliving there and helping with the children, currently two young people and a familyfrom Germany. The children help with the cooking (we helped unload 50 kilo sacks offlour and sugar and beans from the back of the truck, as well as large quantities ofapples, pumpkin, and other foods) and they also bake bread.
We had tea and bread and excellent local cheese at the shelter, then went to theconvent several blocks away where we would be spending the night (Steven, Laurie,Ron, and Ellen in a room with two sets of bunk beds). Pave arrived a bit later viathe bus from Cusco, and we got some eggs and fruit from a little shop across thestreet and had bread and eggs and fruit salad for supper, with lots of discussion(in Spanish, with us following varying amounts) about buildng stoves in Usi, avillage about 40 minutes by truck from Quiquijana, the site of Pave and Steven andLaurie´s work beginning in January. They will be staying at the convent during theseveral days per week that they are working in Usi, driving to/from the village inHermana Nellie´s truck.
Sunday morning we had planned to get up in time to leave at 7 for a visit to apumice mine where Laurie and Steven and Pave hope to get pumice to use instead ofmetal as the rocket part of the stoves this time (the rocket is the right angle partwhere the fuel goes in the front and the heat comes out the top). We were up inplenty of time, blasted awake at 4:50 am by the live broadcasting of music from theconvent´s pirate micropower radio station!
Hermana Nellie drove us to the mine, about 40 minutes further from Cusco on the mainroad. The mine was closed because it was Sunday, but we walked in past the logblocking the road so Laurie and Steven could see it (Pave had been there). Different grades of pumice (for different purposes) are pulled out of the side ofthe mountain in different spots. No machinery, just picks to free the pumice beforelifting it into trucks. Laurie and Steven and Pave each carried back an armload ofthe grade they hope to use, and will experiment with cutting it. Steven and Lauriebrought special hacksaw blades with them from home!
Then we all piled into the truck again and went back to Quiquijana where the Sundaymarket was in full swing. Aside from the visit to the pumice mine, the market wasthe main point of this trip, since folks from Usi come to the market, and Laurie andSteven wanted to make initial contact with them. They had talked with the villagepresident last year about the stoves, and wanted to let people know that they hadactually come back, and hoped to start work in Usi after Christmas.
We asked around the market, but were told that the people from Usi had to walk andweren´t there yet. Pave got the man running the music to make an announcement thatwe were looking for people from Usi and they should come to the (tiny) main plaza atthe edge of the market to talk. We sat and waited, and eventually thevice-president of the village appeared and he and Laurie and Pave and Steven had along discussion, with Hermana Nellie arriving and participating at the end. Thereis a new president/vice-president from a year and a half ago, but Laurie and Steventhink this will not be an issue. The plan they worked out is that Laurie and Stevenand Pave will come for the children´s Christmas party at the shelter on the Saturdaybefore Christmas, and then on Sunday morning the Usi peope will come for market anda meeting at the shelter about the stoves. They can see the model stove at theshelter and even cook on it.
Just as we were getting our packs and leaving the convent, several more Usi peopleappeared, and there was more talk about stoves. Then we all took a taxi to Urcos, alarger town nearby, and from there we took a bus back to Cusco.
― sleeve, Thursday, 4 December 2008 14:53 (4 years ago) Permalink
Well, I fear I may fall victim to melodrama here. That was probably the hardest three days we have spent in Sipascancha. We feel like we are still processing some of the things that happened.
As before, we got up at 4:30 and took a taxi to the Puputi station. From there, we met Nino and Adela (with their new baby on Adela´s back) and we rode the bus to Pisac. There, we waited for at least half an hour, probably more, while the teachers all ate breakfast. We got sweet tamales in the street and realized that there was no good reason to have gotten up so early. After breakfast, we all crammed into a combi (around 25 people, no room to move) and rode the 2 hours up to Sipas.
Once we got there we met up with Alberto, who showed us the room we could stay in. We looked at the clinic and it was trashed, filthy, and depressing. Hardly anybody had been in there since we had left 18 months ago. Laurie´s signs and learning aids were still on the walls, dusty and neglected. We decided to stay in Alberto´s room. It was on the second floor, up a wood ladder with a tiny balcony made of rough boards, but it had a wood floor, plastic over the windows, and a good roof. Alberto´s wife Ricardina made us a traditional lunch with cuy, potatoes, and an egg. Oh boy, here we go again. Every single middle class person and/or doctor in Cusco says “whatever you do, DON¨T EAT THE FOOD UP THERE.” But we watched Ricardina cook it and she made sure everything was well done. Little Cynthia, their youngest daughter and one of Laurie´s god-children, watched us with a big smile.
During lunch we discovered that Ricardina was 8 months pregnant (she’s 39). They told us that the district doesn’t have money for a doctor to visit the outlying communities anymore, so every Sunday she has to walk three hours each way to the clinic for a checkup. A week before her due date, they have to take a taxi (50 soles, a month’s income more or less) to the clinic. She has to stay there until she gives birth, supply her own food, and have her own caregivers because there are no nurses. This is all part of the government’s plan to force the campesinos to have national ID numbers. If for some (any) reason they don’t make it to the clinic before she gives birth, there is a 200 sole fine (4 months income). Then they have to pay an additional 250 soles for the ID number (5 months… oh, you get the idea). Completely fucked up.
After lunch (brunch?) the burnout hit and I lay down for a while. Alberto furiously nailed up more supports for the ladder and balcony. When he finally showed us the finished room, Cynthia was practically bursting with pride.
Once I got back up, I went over to the teachers’ offices and started to go through our interview sheets. The names are so goddamn confusing. Not only is the spelling hard to standardize, every person has a different combination of names (the kids take one name each from the parents, but whether it’s the middle or last name can vary). I wasn’t really ready for such a mindbending challenge and got totally pissed off and frustrated, which was not the best thing to do at the time. Laurie gave up and left me alone and I finally came up with a list of all the kids we had interviewed previously so that Adela could pull them out of school the next day. After I had finished that, Laurie showed up with Cristobal (from the neighboring village of Soncco, he was our liason there). He had some bad news (“I don’t want to lie”, he said). All of the metal rockets had broken after about 8 months of use. The people there had tried to replace them with clay but they weren’t working as well because the dimensions varied.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in various stages of despair, anger, and attempting to reassure one another that our project wasn’t a total failure. Finally we crashed, miserable, in our tiny bed. I was relieved to discover that it wasn’t quite as freezing cold at night, I even took a layer off.
The next morning we gathered up our tattered spirits and went to the office. Adela started bringing in kids and we started to do the repeat interviews. By lunchtime we had done 15 kids, raising our spirits considerably. As far as improvements, well… the blood oxygen levels were uniformly lower, but that may be because we’re using a different pulse oxymeter to test them. The lung expiration volumes seemed higher, which is what we were really looking for. So that is promising.
After a quick lunch we made our way over to the school building complex, to watch the videos that North Branch School had made for the exchange program. We had a brief moment of total fear when the first disc failed to work in front of a 100-kid audience, but thankfully the second one worked fine. We had two showings, one for the older kids and one for the younger kids. They were greatly amused by the American kids’ stumbling attempts at basic Spanish.
After a bit of research, the teachers figured out that the other disc was in a Windows Media format (WHY???) and so they hooked up a computer and a video projector for the second feature. Once again it was older kids first, younger kids second, and this time the sound was really low so Laurie and I did a lot of explanation en Español. After the younger kids watched it, the teachers put in more huaynos videos like what we had seen in the Quiquihana market. It was interesting at first, with lots of different places in Peru as stages for the videos, but after 20 minutes or so we were wondering what the point was. The kids started getting restless and talkative and the teachers started whacking them with a bamboo stick (hmm, guess we won’t tell North Branch about that). After half an hour we bailed, saying that Adela had made us lunch and not wanting to get the kids into more trouble.
The rest of the afternoon is a blur, I think we spent it with the teachers. Nino came back from Soncco (where he teaches) around 4:30 and we got geared up to visit some houses. It was beyond grim. Everything was just as dirty and hopeless as we remembered. None of the houses we visited had kept their word. Not only had most of them not paid, ALL of them had taken the stoves apart and kept only the chimneys. Basically, they didn’t want to learn a new method of preparing the wood (in smaller pieces) and decided to go back to the old lazy method of stuffing whole pieces of brush into a burning fire. The rockets were nowhere to be seen, except in one house where it was sitting neglected in a corner. When we asked if we could have it back, the woman said oh no, we’re saving it for our second house (which I find doubtful). In one house, it was the father’s birthday and he and a friend were sitting there almost too drunk to talk. We did a couple of followup interviews. The mother, before she put her hand in the pulse oxymeter, said that she wanted to wash her hands, so she rinsed them off in a pail of BLACK water (they have a faucet of semi-clean chlorinated water right outside their house, for fuck’s sake). Nobody had a good answer for why they had dismantled the stoves except for saying that it was slower to cook (because they weren’t preparing the wood properly and feeding the rocket properly, of course). The third or fourth house we went to had a kid who was showing us his laptop (Linux system, 256 MB memory) while the house was filled with smoke. When we went to the president’s house, we saw a huge television antenna and satellite dish with the donor’s name on it (Vicente). Why Vincente thought shitty Peruvian corporate TV would be a good thing to give people who don’t have clean water or much of anything else, I have no fucking idea.
We walked back to the teachers’ office in the gathering rain, our spirits pretty much crushed. We went to bed and half-slept through the most intense rain I have ever experienced, seven solid hours of Midwest thunderstorm level gushing sheets. After the rain let up the wind kicked in, literally howling like a banshee. We were very grateful to Alberto when we made it through the night dry and warm.
The next morning was market day. We had breakfast with the teachers (Adela and Elwira) and asked them about the whole pregnancy thing. They told us that EIGHTY PERCENT of the women in the village were pregnant, due to the federal welfare program my mom talked about in the last update. It is called Juntos, “Together.” The families receive 100 soles a month for every child they have under nine. It doesn’t take much intelligence to realize that this is a really bad idea. Adela told us that the government is only applying the program in the poor highland areas like Sipascancha, not in places like her jungle home “where the people work hard and demand more.” She said it was to keep them lazy and poor. Elwira agreed. It certainly gave us more insight into why Alberto and Ricardina are having another kid after seven years. While in the office, we noticed a huge chest freezer just sitting there with this Vicente guy’s name on it. Of course, since the village has no reliable electricity, a freezer is useless. Why would Vicente do this? Oh yeah, so that his NGO can dump a bunch of unwanted secondhand stuff into the third world, get their tax credits, keep all their people on payroll, and walk away patting themselves on the back. Fuck you, Vicente and your Grupo ST of Spain. Put up the funding for a goddamn doctor instead of TV reception and a useless hunk of metal.
During the market Pedro and Cristobal kept dragging people in for followup interviews. By the time we left in Isidro’s truck we had completed 23, slightly ahead of our projections. Not a single one of them were using the rockets. Back home in Cusco, we slept all afternoon and made a spaghetti dinner for my folks as we told them our tales of woe. The next morning Laurie went to the clinic again and was diagnosed with giardia and a bacterial stomach thing. We learned that all fruits and vegetables have to be soaked in a bleach solution for ten minutes and then rinsed before doing anything else with them, an important piece of information we had somehow failed to learn previously. The tourist restaurants all do this (we learned later), so the problem probably came from food we bought at the market and “only” poured boiling water over.
Last night Pave came over for more discussion. Unexpectedly, a young man from Sipascancha who was studying in Cusco also came over with his sister and a friend. His name is Placido and he helped Laurie in the clinic five years ago, when he was twelve. We all sat around and talked about how frustrating Sipascancha was. Pave asked Placido straight up what he thought and without a pause he said it was because nobody there wanted to work. Laurie and I decided to use him as our translator in Usi, he is one of those guys like Pedro and Cristobal who bucks the trends and has a lot of potential. It was kind of amazing to see him and his sister all dressed up like modern Peruanos and to know where they came from. Inspiring, also.
After that impromptu meeting we went with my folks to have dinner at our friend Rosanna´s. She runs a Spanish school here in Cusco and is what you would consider upper middle class. As usual there were other interesting people living there and I found myself caught between two very interesting conversations, one between Laurie and three Peruvians about the Juntos program (their opinions were the same as the teachers, with the added opinion that the middle class were the people who really needed the help in Peru) and one between my parents and an Air Force guy from Wyoming who was headed to Afghanistan on Sunday. I sure am glad there are people in the military as open minded as him, lemme tell ya.
This weekend we plan on taking it slow and easy, Laurie and I will visit Urubamba with my parents but we plan on doing absolutely nothing while they go off to look at Maras and Moray in a tourist taxi. We return to Sipascancha for more interviews on Monday. Wish us luck.
― sleeve, Friday, 5 December 2008 20:59 (4 years ago) Permalink
Aw man. So sorry to hear that, sleeve. My best for you all.
― Ned Raggett, Friday, 5 December 2008 21:03 (4 years ago) Permalink
thanx man, and once again we appreciate your kind words. Laurie is doing much better today and I seem to have escaped the giardia this time around.
― sleeve, Friday, 5 December 2008 21:33 (4 years ago) Permalink
That was a long week.
Sunday night Laurie and I were feeling pretty awful still, so we decided to go to Ukuku’s Bar and have a drink and maybe catch some music. It is the only place in town that has Pampero Aniversario rum (for the uninitiated, the best rum available in OLCC stores), and we are slowly working our way through their single bottle. To our delight, the band that night was our old favorites Amaru Pumac Kuntur, who I raved about last time we were here. They did the exact same set, but who cares? It really helped pick up our mood. After the gig, we asked where they were playing next and we are gonna drag Ron to see them tonight at a place called Illapa (“Lightning” in Quechua). For some reason we couldn’t quite figure out, the guy wrote “Wirakocha” on the paper as well, a very close relative to the Wayracocha pumice mine (Synchronicity #1). We will ask him what it means when we see them later.
Over the weekend, Laurie wrote an apology to Vicente, and he responded in kind. We learned that he had given other, more useful things (a pair of cuy and chickens to every family as well as building the schoolyard patio) as well as some less useful things (medicine and food which is now all gone). The more I learned, the more my anger turned to pity. He isn’t an NGO, just like us, and he just blundered into that place and got his heart tugged on by those kids. I doubt he has had much experience in this field, which explains why he gave them that insane TV system instead of a trout farm or a water filtration system (both of which would have cost less). Of course, he is the godfather of one of the President’s kids, and of course the TV antenna is at the President’s house.
Monday was a teacher’s holiday so we decided to go to Sipas on Tuesday, feeling like we needed a break from the nonstop filthy horror and apathy of that place. A friend of mine from this list suggested to me that we were dealing with the aftereffects of the Colonial mentality, but the more I learn the more I think we are dealing with something else that is newer and related to the way clueless NGO’s come in here and just throw money around without any underlying ideology of sustainability or accountability. The result is that you have villages accustomed to handouts, who just sit there waiting for the next temporary short-term handout.
For lunch on Monday we decided to have chicharone, deep fried pork with corn, potatoes, mint, and onions. It was really good at the time, but then later Laurie got pretty sick (from fat combined with stress ulcer, not food poisoning). She skipped a dinner with our new Swiss friend Erika. I went down to Trotamundo’s to meet her and ended up meeting two of the directors of the small NGO she is working with. Jorge is from Cuzco, Danielle from DC. We had a really interesting conversation touching on many of the same “aren’t these big NGOs just fucking everything up” themes. Jorge told us how an NGO had come into the barrio he works in and built bathrooms for everybody. Then, just like in Sipas, they left without educating people. Not only is the percentage of people using them low, all the bathrooms drain into a big pit about six feet from the river. I told Jorge “if these people would just live in the village for a week before starting these projects, they would have a much better idea of what the people really need.” He emphatically agreed. I told him about the TV antenna and he rolled his eyes. I mentioned that we were already looking forwards to our next project in Usi and his eyes lit up. Turns out he worked at the Health Center (Centro De Salud) in Quiquihana, met his wife there, and they kissed for the first time in Usi (Synchronicity #2). A much needed morale boost, again.
Tuesday we spoiled ourselves once more with a taxi ride (thanks to a donation from my mom’s yoga teacher) and arrived around 3 PM. When we got there it turned out that Adela was there, which we had not expected. It also turned out that Mr. Vicente had CALLED HER FROM SPAIN to complain about what horrible people we were, how dare we criticize him, blah blah. Laurie, in tears, delivered an impassioned speech about how the people of Sipas had basically shit on us, broken their word, broken their legal contracts with us and the nuns, and in general refused to do anything resembling their part. She then added that if we had showed up like Vicente, in a big fancy truck with tons of gifts, not spending the night there, and not living with the people, that folks would just be crawling all over us with adoration. Instead they ignore us except when asking for more gifts. Adela responded with a combination of blank over-her-head looks and hiding-her-head-in-the-sand denial about the total unsustainability of most of the things they asked Vicente for (worm medicine ain’t much good when the kids live in shit). More disturbing was the fact that the other teacher, Elwira, totally got what we were saying, making it all the more obvious that Adela simply didn’t want to hear it.
Once again we gathered our tattered morale and did a few interviews. One of the guys we interviewed last time, a 27-year-old with a wife and three kids, had committed suicide in the last year. Lovely. We gathered up our stuff and waited for Isidro to leave. As we were waiting, we ran into a woman who is the traveling doctor for the region (whether Alberto lied to us in order to gain our sympathy and money, or whether she just hasn’t been able to visit him, we don’t know). Her name is Doris, and she is focused on visiting all of the women who are pregnant (once again, that number is 80% because of this idiotic Juntos welfare plan). When one of those women has a stove of ours, she is lecturing them on how they need to be using it and how bad the smoke is for them. An angel of health! Knowing that she is doing this boosted our morale considerably, again.
As we rode down to Pisac with Isidro, we lightly grilled him about why Sipas gets so much aid and why the people are so apathetic. His response was basically to say that they had been dealt a really good hand, but they just sit there waiting for more instead of working with what they have already been given. He also said that there are lots of villages in the area “that don’t even have a glass of water”, and that Sipas gets aid because it is considered a future center on the Pisac-Colquepata highway.
We found a collective taxi going to Cuzco and spent a very enjoyable ride trying out our limited Quechua skills with two market women (who ride up to Sipas from freaking CUZCO to sell at the market, I can’t imagine their profit margin is very high). They were very entertained by my fumbling attempts at conversation, and tried to teach us some more basics while a teacher next to us translated.
Over the last two days I have been dinking around Cuzco with my folks taking care of errands. Wednesday we got a further morale boost by eating an excellent tapas dinner. Turns out I got the same giardia Laurie had, but now they have these great pills that you only have to take for two nights (last tiem it was 10 days of double-dose Flagyl). You can even drink on them! I took our landlord’s broken guitar in to be fixed, so that I can practice and play. They were a bit taken aback when I asked for “only the higher four strings”, but that’s how we roll in my band. I don’t think I could adapt my chord forms now even if I tried.
Last night, Pave came over for dinner. We planned a budget session for Usi, and there was general venting. She said that despite seven years of her working there, people never thanked her for anything (in fact, they are now trying to blame the lack of tourists at the C’Orao market on her, which is absurd). Eventually she gave up, and totally understands our frustration. We noted that Adela is trying to create a better life for the kids during the half day that they aren’t in their houses, but we agreed that in her passion and goodheartedness (not a real word, I know) she seems to be grabbing at any short term solution she can get without thinking about the long term consequences.
We have decided, with Pave’s advice, to simply keep the small amount of money that 10% of the Sipas people actually paid. Partly this is to refund our $45-per-stove costs, and partly it is because we have decided not to expend one more iota of logistical energy on behalf of these people. Laurie is beside me right now composing a very polite kissoff letter to the president, telling him we will never return after this next/last week, and why. As per our earlier experiences, we look forward to a much easier time in Soncco, after the Navidad holiday. There are about 8 people in Soncco that paid for their stoves (out of 25, three times the percentage of Sipas), but since they are all still actually using them we plan on giving those 8 families replacement pumice rockets in March.
Thanks to everybody who responded with encouraging (or challenging) words last time, I apologize for my bitter compassion-fatigued rants. We are really excited about working with Soncco and Usi, and are ready to move forward.
― sleeve, Saturday, 13 December 2008 15:35 (4 years ago) Permalink
oh, now that the post got justifiably deleted I should note that in between my two long updates there Mr. Vicente wrote Laurie a very angry letter taking her to task for my harsh words.
― sleeve, Saturday, 13 December 2008 15:58 (4 years ago) Permalink
A catchup post here, noting things I forgot and some new stuff.
Sometime last week, I now forget when, Laurie and I and Ron and Ellen had dinner with Jorge and Erika of the Hampy NGO, since Laurie had been sick the last time. We found out a lot more about Jorge’s work in the barrio of Choco, his organization has been there for five years and he says that now they are finally making some progress. He is experimenting with water purification using sunlight, it seems that if you put water in clear containers and leave it in the sun for 6-8 hours, the UV and IR rays kill everything bacterial and/or parasitical. Erika has decided to move on, Cuzco is not for her what with the altitude and the constant paranoia about food-borne diseases. While she was here, she was making these amazing crocheted purses and shoulderbags out of recycled plastic bags. She cuts them into strips, ties the strips together, and uses it just like yarn, with knitting needles. She also invented these cool billfold/wallet things made out of aseptic containers (like for soymilk). Most impressive!
Jorge told us more horror stories about NGOs here. He said that once he had two Dutch girls in his office who were literally in tears because they had paid $5000 each for TWO MONTHS to some lameass organization that just told them “oh, just think up something to do with these kids” and gave them no further guidance or help. They had come to him to say “um, is this normal?” It seems they confronted the NGO when they returned to Holland and got the typical “administrative overhead” BS along with the “well, you signed our contract” BS. I have yet to see an NGO from outside this country that has done even 10% of the good they claim to have done.
In a similar vein, I forgot to mention our day trip to Ollantaytambo. Laurie got to hang out with her friend Carlos some more. He said that the entire Sacred Valley has been ruined by the NGOs, and that his organization (Corazon Del Mundo) is looking further afield for places to help out.
Partly because of increasing consciousness about these negative effects, and partly due to our own dissatisfaction with the results of our project, we are engaged in a comprehensive reevaluation of our next steps. A business-oriented friend of mine said that our high failure-to-adopt rate reflects a failure to meet needs of the population that we hadn’t perceived. This may well be true, but I think it also reflects a failure on our part to see just how much reeducation is needed for people to be able to use the stoves properly. In other words, their needs are perceived needs, but not necessary ones if the rockets are used properly. In all three of our villages with stoves, exactly one person has fully understood the rocket principles and run with it. But we noticed that he was also doing other things like trying to separate the animals from his kids, and having his kids wash their hands in hot water from a third burner that he had put in himself.
So, in light of all this, we have decided to scale down. We think a large part of our previous failure is because we didn’t spend enough time with each family, and there is no way we could spend enough time with 100 more families. So we have decided to try and focus on a smaller group, 20 families at most, and spend an entire day or two with them and our assistants, cooking, translating, and talking about other holistic health aspects such as hygiene and animals. At most in our 2 ½ months, we could spend 2 days with each of 20 families. We will be spending more of the project money on assistants, teachers, and translators, as well as a small hygiene kit for each family (nail clippers, bleach, etc). We will also be introducing retention cookers (insulated hotboxes that continue to cook pots after they are removed from the stove, minimizing wood use even further) along with the stoves this time, and we will need to source and buy those supplies.
Back here in Cuzco for a few days, we are planning on taking some language classes from Rosanna’s school. I need a bit more Spanish (especially past tense) and we both want a few days of basic introduction to Quechua. I have torn through a couple of good books (highly recommended: Alexandra Fuller’s “Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight” and Geraldine Brooks’ “Foreign Correspondence”, both autobiographies). I am also continuing to slowly plow through Gravity’s Rainbow for the second time, man that thing is dense.
We dragged Ron and Ellen out for a late night to see the band Amaru Pumac Kuntur, they were very impressed and bought three copies of their CD for friends. They played in this ridiculously tiny bar (Illapa, Quechua for lightning) upstairs. The place was packed and I think everyone except me was worried about the floor. At one point I poured a glass from a fresh liter of beer and decided I had better put it on the ground next to me so that someone didn’t knock it off the table. Of course, it slipped out of my hand. This unbelievable geyser of beer shot up, totally drenching Laurie’s left side from butt to boot. When it settled down ¾ of the liter was gone. Must be the altitude, I thought to myself as I apologized profusely.
We are honing our comebacks to the street sellers, most of whom probably don’t recognize us (all us blancos look the same, after all). Restaurant? No, I cook in my house. Shoeshine? No, I clean my shoes in my house. Massage? No, I have her/him. Tourist information? We’re not tourists (that last one is a pretty good all purpose reply, it seems to get people off our backs right away). Sometimes it feels like being the only two people in a mosquito-infested swamp, the tourist season is pretty much over now until late April.
Oh yeah, and the exchange rate went up! We now get 3.05 soles per dollar instead of 3. Every little bit helps…
Next week we will have more info about our plans for Usi, with our new approach taken into account.
― sleeve, Tuesday, 16 December 2008 23:42 (4 years ago) Permalink
OK, here we go again.
A week and a half ago we went to C’orao to do followup interviews and updates, as I mentioned before. I also mentioned that we had checked out the stove of a guy named Tomas, and that he had done some interesting things like include a third burner to heat water for his kids to wash their hands. Javier the taxi driver was with us and was equally enthusiastic about the stove. It was clear that Tomas was one of the only people we had revisited who was qualified to teach others.
After we looked at Tomas’ stove, we walked back to the weaving market (Purikuq) with Timoteo (Tomas’ wife) and Anna (his sister). Our mood was better, since we were seeing better stoves than in Sipascancha. We were excited about the possibility of using Tomas as our trainer in Usi, and we had told him that we would talk to Pave about it. He said that was fine.
When we approached the market, Pave was there. We began to tell her about our plans. Angrily, she cut us off and began to badmouth Tomas, saying really rude things about him right in front of his wife and sister. They turned bright red. Our collective jaws dropped open. We really couldn’t believe how she was acting, it was very irrational and clearly had nothing to do with our project. Our good mood disappeared like a popped balloon.
We walked away from the market and back to Honorata’s house. We apologized profusely to the women. “Ella esta MAL”, said Timotea bitterly. With Javier translating, we learned that some of the conflicts in the market had to do with Pave demanding that Tomas and Timotea produce more stuff, more rapidly, while they didn’t see the point since the stuff that was already there wasn’t selling. Again, all this was translated through three languages, so whatever.
Laurie wanted to just leave without talking to Pave, but I thought I would try to say a few things. Calmly and carefully I told her that we didn’t want to talk right now, that we weren’t coming to visit her house later that day with Ellen and Ron as planned (because all we would have done was argue about what had happened), that we didn’t believe her bad words, that they were without excuse, and that we could talk at our meeting in Quiquihana next week. Pave then ran past me out to the street and began yelling at Laurie. I gave up and sat in the taxi with Javier. When it became obvious that Pave was going to continue to argue and not listen to Laurie, I urged L to get in the car and go. Eventually she did, and we left, but not before Pave threatened “it’s him or me.”
Back in Cusco, miserable and confused, we sat and talked with E&R for like five hours, and they helped us draft a letter to Hermana Nellie. In it, we said that we had run into differences of opinion with Pave that made it potentially impossible to continue the Usi project, and would she please mediate since we all respected her. We emailed it to Hermana Nellie, and dropped off a copy of the letter at Pave’s the next day since she never reads her email.
Well, this past Saturday we went to Quiquihana. We had not heard a word from either Pave or Nellie, but we went anyway. After a while we got to sit down and talk to Nellie. She had not seen the email. She had been to Cusco the other day, at which point Pave had given her our Xmas presents for the kids, given back the 40 soles we had sent her to buy food for our planned Usi demonstration, and given back the pumice-cutting saw blade that was a gift to her – in other words, given everything back. She said she would not do the project, and said that everything was my fault because I had closed the car door (???, we think it made her angry that I told Laurie to give up and go, again this is translated through Nellie), and left. Basically she has deserted the entire project, as well as Laurie, her friend of five years. We talked a lot more to Nellie who offered no judgments, but she did say that she felt it was a bad time to try and work in Usi because of the rain, that the road was not safe. We decided that in light of that and all the other stuff, she was right.
On the way there that day, Laurie had come up with an excellent alternative plan (we had a few kicking around our heads). She suggested that we return to C’orao since there were 20 other families in this neighborhood association (in addition to the four we had already worked with last time) who all wanted improved stoves as well. Last time we were here, they sent us a very polite and well written letter asking us to help them out (which came as a total surprise to us, since Pave had neglected to mention them and had basically appeared to play favorites within the group). It seemed like an obvious choice – C’orao is much easier to get to (20 minutes from Cusco), and the people had already demonstrated motivation. We talked to Nellie about it and she agreed it was a good idea. She also agreed with our “less families, more education” approach. After Laurie filled out a little nutritional primer for the nuns, we went downstairs to watch the kids open presents (and also to play with the most adorable basset hound puppy in all the world, Pipo, who was a new arrival to the shelter – see Flickr site).
We are still confused and hurt by Pave’s actions, but we are writing her an apologetic Xmas card in the hopes that she will at least resume contact with us.
So today, we went back to C’orao to do some tests on Tomas’ stove versus the rocket in Andres’ and Honorata’s house (the ones with daughter MaFre and the three cute boys we took pictures of last time). We used the same amount of water, the same pot, and the same amount of fuel. The time it took to boil the water was essentially equal (approx. 27 minutes from a cold start for 2.5 liters), even though Tomas’ stove is not a traditional rocket design. We talked business with Tomas and Andres, how much they could work to help us, how much the families could pay, how much they wanted to be paid, etc. They also talked a lot about design, and we have tentatively decided to use Tomas’ stove with a few modifications to be more like Andres’ – slightly lower holes for the pots, slightly more space around them, and a burn chamber made out of a clay/hair/cactus juice mixture. In the spectrum of rocket design, we are leaning towards less wood efficiency and more smoke removal, since “it cooks too slow” was one of the consistent complaints we heard in the other villages.
On the 25th, we are going to go to a meeting of the whole association starting at 10 AM. It looks like we will be moving forward on this project, and we are excited that we can find most or all of the necessary supplies in C’orao (they have a welder there, we just need to find baskets, bags and straw for the retention cookers). It has been a long tough road this last month, but it looks like we have a new (old) project to work on now. As if to underscore our decision, we were almost immediately picked up while hitching back to Cusco, by a German woman who has lived in Pisac running a restaurant for the last 14 years. She was headed directly past our house and dropped us off there. We promised to come and try her cheesecake next Monday, after we have our last meeting in Paucartambo province at the village of Soncco.
Here in Cusco, the campesinos are descending on the city in hordes, with visions of free chocolate dancing in their heads. The municipal workers are setting up portapotties in the plaza right now. I need to go to the market and get a shave, when I finally found an adaptor for my electric razor I must have plugged it into the wrong polarity (there’s no ground here so you can’t tell which way is which) and it blew up in my hand. We are also going to go to Rosanna’s tomorrow night for an Xmas eve dinner.
― sleeve, Tuesday, 23 December 2008 19:24 (4 years ago) Permalink
Last time I mentioned that the campesinos were descending on the city. Well, when we got up on the morning of the 24th the entire plaza was packed full of stalls selling every kind of gift or knick-knack one could imagine. It was like a super jam packed version of Saturday Market. Laurie and I wandered around and I bought a few gifts for people. Later we went up to our internet café of choice and I discovered that yes, once again I had been an idiot and not kept the camera bag in front of me at all times. As usual, some lameass piece of weasel shit had taken advantage. The camera was, of course, gone. So the pictures of Pipo The Most Adorable Basset Hound Puppy Ever have been lost for all time. Sorry. It completely ruined my day, I was a lot less upset last time we were here when I got my pocket picked for around $125 in cash. Somehow, losing all the pictures made it worse.
There were a lot of campesinos selling plants for people’s crèches, apparently anybody who is anybody in Cusco must have a crèche for Xmas. We ran into someone from Sipascancha who we bought some things from, and one of our Stove Project people from C’orao who we bought some pine cones and a crazy looking plant from (bright red, yellow, and green, when we get another camera I’ll take a shot of it).
On Xmas day we went out to C’orao for our first meeting with the Mandorani group (Mandorani is a neighborhood in C’orao). Laurie wrote about it on her blog and I will now c&p:
“so today we spent christmas morning in the village of mandorani meeting with the 20 families of our new (and improved) stove project. we met at the home of victor, the secretary of the village and were joined by children, women and men, not to mention chickens, pigs, puppies and dogs. what was very cool is to see and feel the difference of a community actually motivated and ready for a project such as this! we all discussed all facets of the project including, the type of stove, (previously discussed when we did the testing of the stoves as to how long each type took to boil water, fuel used, etc.), what we wanted to do (the exams, the education, home visits), what we will provide (the stoves parts, the education, the retention cooker and the people to build the stove) and what their part is (to meet with us 1-2 days, to allow exams on all family members, to use the stove correctly, to have their adobe, clay and 30 soles.) so we had alot of participation, great questions and comments, and plenty of applause! we go back the 8th of january to get the list of names and the money and then we begin the process of buying materials. it was a very merry christmas for all.”
So yeah, it was an inspiring visit. The secretary told us that he thought there would be a few families who wouldn’t be interested, but we are going to go ahead and make 20 stoves since we always run into other people who want one. We also told them that when we come back (we’re thinking 2 ½ years cause this rainy season shit sucks) we will give them their 30 soles back plus another 5 in interest.
That night Laurie started having some kind of problem in her hip, we still aren’t sure what it is but she was bedridden and in a lot of pain for the last two days, unable to walk. This morning it was better although still stiff and painful, and she has managed to walk down here to the internet. So we are hoping that continues to improve. We get another day of rest tomorrow, and then we are planning to go to Soncco on Monday, our last visit to Paucartambo province for the foreseeable future. From then on, we will be xeroxing teaching aids and pricing stuff (baskets for retention cooking) here in Cusco until our meeting on the 8th. After that, we will be going to C’orao every weekday to spend time with the families.
Some trivia about Cusco I keep forgetting to mention: It is one of the five worst cities in all of Latin America in terms of air pollution. The worst offenders, interestingly, are the fancy expensive tourist buses which constantly belch horrible clouds of toxic black smoke. The regular inter-city combis and taxis are better, although we also read in the paper that 99% of them are over 12 years old and that 25 of the 40 bus lines are essentially operating without licenses. Ironic that as we try to clean up the air in the rural houses, the city dwellers are maybe getting it even worse.
― sleeve, Saturday, 27 December 2008 22:56 (4 years ago) Permalink
Been a while since the last update, but I wanted to wait until we got the project rolling.
On Monday the 29th we got up early in the morning with the intention of going to Soncco, to give the villagers information about how to replace their broken metal rockets. We met our taxi driver Fredy in Pisac and as we started driving up he warned us that the mud was very bad. Well, he wasn’t exaggerating! Before we even got to his house in Cuyo Grande we decided to turn around. For some incomprehensible Peruvian reason, the municipality had dumped truckload after truckload of dirt on the road right before the start of the real rainy season. Very similar to what Fredy and I had to dig through the last time when we were coming back from Sipascancha, except this time it had simply melted all over the road. On our way back down Fredy explained that he had been leaving his taxi in Pisac overnight and taking a combi up to his house! The combis carry more people, have more weight, and can negotiate the road better. We decided to return to Soncco sometime in early March when the road has improved.
On the 31st Laurie and I started our classes in Quechua at Rosanna’s school. Our teacher is a guy named Juan who is pretty good given the headsplitting complexities of a primarily oral language. His version has some maddening inconsistencies with the Lonely Planet phrasebook that we have, mostly around the variants of u/o, a/e, and k/q in spelling. Often the same word will be spelled three different ways between our four dictionaries! Not to mention that the Spanish-ized version does things like substitute “hu” for “w” and other such things. However, Juan is patient and smart and usually we can get what he’s talking about. I do wish that I didn’t have to learn the language filtered through Spanish first, but finding somebody who can teach Quechua in English is basically impossible.
New Year’s night we stayed at home, listened to The Smithsonian Anthology Of American Folk Music (all of volumes 2 and 3), drank wine, and went to bed at ten. The fireworks only woke us up briefly. Outside, it was a total zoo, with people selling every imaginable kind of thing. Yellow is the official New Year’s color, and kids were selling these things that looked like leis as well as confetti and who knows what else. It was all over the streets the next morning.
Oh yeah, also on the 31st I came home from class and our kitchen ceiling had collapsed. It looked suspiciously like some worker had been up on the roof and put his foot through it, there was dirt and clay tiles and bamboo sticks everywhere, and dust over everything. Fortunately it was not raining, so it was all dry! Laurie called our landlord and told him in no uncertain terms to get it fixed before the holiday, and they patched it enough so that it only leaked a little. A few days ago they finally came in and did the (semi) permanent repair, it is much better now.
On the 1st we received an invitation to join Nino and Adela at their house for lunch. It was a relief to see that our philosophical run-in with Vincente hadn’t done any permanent damage to our friendship with them. Also present were Nino’s mom and Dad, Adela’s father from the jungle town of Quillabamba (where she grew up), and two of Nino’s brothers. We ate turkey, pork, cucumbers, spaghetti, and probably some other stuff I don’t remember. There was also wine, and toasts were made in Spanish, Quechua, and English. The conversation was a fascinating mix of Spanish and Quechua, often in the same sentence. We told them our sob story about the stolen camera and they suggested we look in the Santiago flea market, which we had wanted to go to anyway.
On the 2nd, Laurie finally got fed up with the problems in her hips/legs/nerves and decided to go to the clinic. She spent seven grueling hours going to two different doctors, a couple of different dead ends for X-rays, and like 4 pharmacies. All this while she was in so much pain she could barely walk! But by the time it was all over she had a clear diagnosis (sciatica), better drugs, and a foot in the door at a physical therapy clinic. Meanwhile, I continued to bang my brain against the mental wall that is Runasimi, the Quechua language.
The next day we went up to the land of the flea market. It is kind of funny how horrified all the cab drivers get when you ask them to take you there. They get really protective and tell you over and over again to be careful. But having been there before, the reality is that your only risk is getting your pocket picked. If you don’t carry much of value you are quite safe, there are people everywhere. We looked around, hung out with Nino’s parents for a while (they have a booth there), and bought some supplies for our project (two dozen nail clippers as part of our hygiene kit and some rice bags for our retention cookers). I also found a booth selling some vinyl LPs and bought five records, three from various Peruvian groups, one cumbia best-of type thing, and an excellent looking “salsa with disco rhythms” thing that has to be from the 70’s. We didn’t find our camera, oh well.
On Sunday we got an unexpected visit from Pedro, our friend from Sipascancha who helped us build the stoves last time (and took a lot of the photos of the finished stoves that you can see on the Flickr site). He was in town buying roofing material for his mom’s house. He said it had rained in Sipascancha the whole week, and he had a cold along with everybody else there. Laurie made him Italian stuffed peppers for dinner and gave him a bunch of medicine and Vitamin C. He spent the night with us, got a hot shower, the works. For him it was probably like our experience in a nice hotel, with the added benefit of an on-staff nurse! After making him breakfast the next morning he went off on his errand. He also gave Laurie another beautiful woven purse as an Xmas present.
This week we began negotiating with a woman at the San Pedro market about buying 25 BIG (24”x30”) baskets for the retention cookers. On Monday, we finalized a price, agreed to return in a few days, and left a deposit. Monday afternoon I took a quick trip to Pisac to exchange books at the best book exchange we have found so far. Unfortunately some discerning soul made off with the Leslie Marmon Silko book (Storytellers), but I found some decent trades. Tuesday we finally got a new camera, an Olympus with the capability to shoot video. I also made a couple of unsuccessful visits to my tailor to try and get measured for a new suit.
Starting on Monday afternoon, we were blessed with around 48 hours of nice weather, very uplifting after two weeks of constant rain and temperatures in the mid-50’s (I kept saying “THIS is SUMMER?!?”). That finally broke yesterday afternoon when we had the most torrential downpour we’ve seen so far on this side of the mountains, complete with hail. Last night it was hailing balls the size of large peas! Yesterday we also foiled an attempted robbery as we were carrying our first three baskets home from the San Pedro market, Laurie caught some woman pulling at her purse and yelled at her. When we got home, we discovered that the woman had actually cut open the purse with a knife! Fortunately our quick reactions had prevented her from stealing anything. Laurie is still pissed, if she had realized it at the time she would have tackled her and punched her out before calling the cops. So she got away lucky…
Finally, today we went out to C’orao in the morning to begin the initial stages of our new project. Not surprisingly, only 9 of the 20 families had come up with their 30 soles so far, but we were promised that the rest was forthcoming in the following week. We went through a detailed cost analysis with our builders Tomas and Andres, as well as the organization’s secretary Victor. Then we had them all sign a detailed plan and receipt, and passed over the initial startup money. They are going to come into Cuzco to buy the supplies this Saturday, and the welder will start work next week. Next Friday we will return for the rest of the money from their end, and hopefully we can start our home visits and teaching sessions at the end of the week, or at the latest on the 26th. That gives us just enough time with each family before we have to leave! I can hardly believe we only have nine weeks left.
Some people have asked about pictures, you can find them on our Flickr site at http://www.flickr.com/stovesforperu .
I’d also like to give thanks to the people who have continued to donate and/or give us press. My friend from the ILX messageboard Ned Raggett wrote some kind words about us which you can find here: http://nedraggett.wordpress.com/2008/11/23/not-just-a-blog-recommendation-but-a-thread-one-about-peru/ . Laurie and I had the pleasure of meeting Ned in person (and eating barbecue with him!) at last year’s Terrastock 6 festival in Louisville Kentucky. Nan Rothwell also continued to bring in donations long after her pottery sale was over, and her son wrote a bit about us here: http://www.philanthromedia.org/archives/2008/11/neighbors_here_and_in_the_ande.html . And of course, there was also the article in the Waynesboro News Virginian, here: http://www.newsvirginian.com/wnv/entertainment/people/article/the_art_of_giving_to_others/31534/ Also thanks to Charles Elkins and Betsy White for their generous donation. It’s sometimes easy to lose perspective here, and these people have helped us to keep it through some difficult times.
― sleeve, Thursday, 8 January 2009 21:51 (4 years ago) Permalink
Hey, too kind. :-)
― Ned Raggett, Thursday, 8 January 2009 22:15 (4 years ago) Permalink
We have learned more lessons this week. The day after I left off last time (i.e. Saturday the 9th), we got a call from Victor and Juana, the president and secretary of the Mandorani association in C’Orao. They said they wanted to come into Cuzco and talk to us on Sunday. Well, sure, we said, although in our hearts we were thinking “what now?”
When they arrived we were expecting maybe some changes in the numbers of people who wanted stoves. But no, they presented us with a different design that they said five of the 25 families wanted. There were several obvious and immediate problems. First of all, the design they presented came complete with shower and hot water system, and cost 300 soles just for materials (ours is around 65). Secondly, they wanted Victor’s cousin (insert alarm bells here) to build them, when we asked how much it would be he told us 150 soles each (we are paying Tomas and Andres 50)!!! We politely said NO FUCKING WAY. Then they started in on how they didn’t want Tomas to build their five stoves (but that it was perfectly OK with the other 15, who also supposedly do not want this fancier design). All of their arguments were dubious and unconvincing. After three hours, we came up with a compromise: we would only buy them the basic stove, no extras. We would buy them the same stuff we buy for the other 15 families, and they would have to buy the extra rebar for the design (another ten soles). We would only pay the cousin 50 apiece to build them, the same as our builders. Finally they left, but we were still bothered by the whole thing.
I think the most frustrating aspect is that there is this constant scheming, backstabbing, and manipulation among the rural poor. When you introduce what are basically gifts, it is amplified. Reminds me of my stepfather’s story of a Peruano he knew who bought a large plot of land and tried to establish a commune type situation with some campesinos. They constantly plotted against each other and refused to work together, it eventually broke the guy’s heart and spirit. In addition, there is the depressing feeling that nothing we do is good enough, that people are always going to act put out because you aren’t giving more. Just like the little kid in the shelter who kind of guilt-tripped us because he didn’t get a remote controlled car like some of the other kids (the nuns distributed our 50 presents at random). I have no doubt that this is a legacy of colonialism, but that doesn’t make it any easier to work with in the here and now. If we were like your typical NGO and didn’t treat them as equals, there would be fewer problems. But since we are working directly with people, we keep encountering this kind of behavior.
So, last night, we consulted our expert in all things NGO-related, our friend Jorge (http://www.hampy.org). He told us to take back our offer and insist that either everybody accept our design and plan, or not get a stove. He also told us to put it down on paper (fortunately, we already have). So when we go to C’Orao for our next meeting this Friday, we are going to say to the five families “sorry, either you take our design and our builders, or you can take your extra money which you obviously have and buy one of your own, since this guy is supposedly charging 100 soles more”. Also, since it turns out that this cousin was a guy we met in C’Orao and told about our project, we unfortunately feel like we have to keep our mouths shut about what we are doing from now on. It seems clear to us that this guy saw a business opportunity and moved in on it. Plus, he isn’t even part of Mandorani! Double plus, they gave us all this talk about how unfair it was that we divided the community by only giving four stoves before! Yet apparently it is totally OK for these five families to further divide things. OK, rant over.
This morning we met Jorge again so he could take us to a dentist friend of his (his dad is/was a dentist also, so he knows lots). Laurie and I are both getting some work done, I am getting (finally) a replacement crown for the one I got a temporary of almost ten years ago in Duvall, plus four fillings. Total is about $185 USD. Laurie is getting a bit more, two crowns plus whitening. We made appointments for, like, this week. Very efficient.
While we were waiting we got a call on Laurie’s phone. Somebody had been trying to call us all morning (and not leaving messages, of course), so we were on alert. I couldn’t understand it and Laurie was with the dentist, so Jorge translated and said it was Juana. At first we thought this was Juana the secretary of Mandorani and had the same “oh god, what next?” response. But after we left we were called again, and it turned out that it was Pedro’s mom Juanita. She was waiting for us at the bus station with Pedro’s pregnant wife-to-be Paulina. Neither of us can understand Juanita because she talks in rapid Quechua like we can speak it, and only speaks a little bit of Spanish in response to direct questions. Paulina speaks no Spanish at all.
When we arrived at the station they had a note from Pedro. Paulina had an infected tooth. Well, we just turned right back around and marched back to our new dentist with these two campesina women. Laurie gave up her appointment tomorrow when it turned out the tooth would have to be pulled. It also turned out that instead of coming on Saturday, Paulina was here for a pregnancy checkup that was scheduled for 7 AM tomorrow. Right now, Laurie is at the hospital with them in the hopes that she can get checked up today, since the dentist is at 11 AM tomorrow. It will cost 30 soles to pull the tooth, which of course we are paying. We will also put them up at our place tonight. Just another normal day for Vidas Mejoradas…
Oh yes, we also bought all of our baskets for the retention cookers, you can read Laurie's account of it at http://www.pencilsforperu.blogspot.com .
For your amusement and edification, let me present an example of phrase construction in Quechua:wasi = housewasicha = little housewasichayki = your little housewasichaykikuna = your little houseswasichaykikunamanta = from your little houseswasichaykikunamantachu = from your little houses?
The rule is: suffixes, suffixes, and more suffixes. The accent is always on the second-to-last syllable.
― sleeve, Wednesday, 14 January 2009 18:55 (4 years ago) Permalink
The language rules alone would honestly do my head in.
― Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 14 January 2009 18:58 (4 years ago) Permalink
Living here in Cusco is kind of like being trapped in Disneyland, but without the rides. There are tourists everywhere, which gets old fast. I have seen some charts of the increasing amounts of tourists to Peru over the past few years, and this city is almost full to capacity even in the off season (which is now). The other day I had to walk ten blocks to find an internet center that wasn’t full. I have no idea what they will do if the numbers continue to go up, the infrastructure just won’t take it. Once you run out of cool ruins and museums to visit (which takes 2 or 3 weeks), you are left with innumerable bars and restaurants. 50% of these are overpriced tourist traps, and another 40% are dives that will make you sick. The live music, however, is much better than Disneyland.
It is summer vacation in Latin America, and tourists from Argentina and Chile seem to predominate. Most of them are young, rude, arrogant, and spoiled. Twice now people from Chile have stayed next door to us and thrown their trash over the wall into our patio (to attempt to be fair, there is long-standing animosity between Peru and Chile). The Anglos aren’t as rude, but they sure are clueless. Many of them go around dressed in shorts and sandals, manifest idiocy in a climate where it can drop 20 degrees (to the 50’s) and pour down rain at a moment’s notice. I have decided that this is due to the fact that none of them stay here long enough to get truly sick. We certainly made some tactical errors in not taking winter clothes, both of us ended up at the hospital again yesterday morning. Laurie is on three days of doctor ordered bed rest with “atypical bronchitis” (which means she is coughing like she is going to die, it’s like a knife through my heart) and I started getting a bad sore throat and am now on Amoxycillin CL.
Also Disney-ish is the unrestrained capitalist frenzy (although it is immensely less regulated here). It would be a lot easier to take if the exact same people hadn’t been hassling us every day for the last two months. We have started directly confronting them and explaining that yes, we LIVE here and don’t appreciate the same questions every day. This is again due to tactical factors, we have to walk through the heart of the tourist district to get anywhere from where we live. In general, the people who are actually street vending are totally cool, it’s the people who hang out at the front doors of the tourist agencies and restaurants (trolling for suckers) who won’t leave us alone.
Fortunately, we have good books and music to distract us. I recently finished The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger, very very good), Daisy May & The Miracle Man (Fannie Flagg, meh, from a book exchange), Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries (pretty good, Laurie liked it more), Carl Hiassen’s Nature Girl (another book exchange score, not nearly as good as Sick Puppy), and Child Of The Dark (Carolina last-name-I-forget, devastating and well written first hand account of life in the Brazilian slums of the 50’s). I am now reading Isabel Allende’s Stories Of Eva Luna, which is completely amazing and fantastic, the best one of hers I’ve read yet. iPod faves have been Robert Wyatt, Animal Collective, Six Organs Of Admittance, Grouper, Eno’s Music For Airports, and Tall Dwarfs.
When we returned to C’Orao for our meeting with Victor (to tell him we would not be making the compromise we had discussed involving his dubious cousin), it immediately became apparent that he had lied to us about Tomas and Andres being there for the meeting. We believe he was also planning to further undermine our project and try to give more business to his cousin, but he was so taken aback by our uncompromising stance (we refused to even talk to him until Tomas and Andres were summoned) that I think he gave up on that (at the time, see later). As usual, a three hour meeting followed. You could tell that our builders were very offended by Victor’s plotting and slander. We received mixed responses from the villagers who were there – some were supportive, some were dubious. Finally, Victor gave like a 20-minute speech in Quechua. Anybody who needs to explain themselves for THAT long isn’t being honest. That guy could talk the ears off of an elephant. We left with the money from 15 people, and the promise of two more. We planned to start building the stoves next week (i.e. this week). But then…
I’ll lift the next bit from Laurie’s blog, since I wasn’t there (to her great dismay):
“and we continue to learn more! geez...it never stops!! yesterday in the morning as i laid in bed recovering from the gripe, i received a call from tomas indicating some sort of problem.
(Background: we did return to mandorani and tell them in no uncertain terms all would receive the same stove, that it the only fair way, and if they chose to have the more expensive model that their neighbor (but not member of the association, just Victors cousin...hint, hint...) had , they had our blessings. what appeared to be the result of this meeting at the time was that all wanted what we had to offer. But, big mistake on our part was to not immediately construct a document and obtain signatures verifying agreement. in fact we failed to do this as well when we had the original meeting on christmas! we did have folks signed up and practically all the money collected however.)
so, back to yesterday and this unintelligible phone call. as i have said before no one seems to know how to talk into a phone, so i decided to make a "quick trip" to see just what in the hell was up. apparently juana said something to tomas that was disrespectful in regards to him building her stove. (she was to be at the meeting but was not.) and according to juana it was tomas who had insulted her. so, off we go to victors to make sure all is still understood, as juana always says she cannot speak spanish well enough to make herself understood. much conversation in loud quechua ensued. and it was just juana, victor, tomas, and a woman on the board, but who did not live there fulltime. i was sick and short tempered myself. more than once i asked simply (actually i had to yell) if the project was on or off. victor said it was off. (speaking of victor he has now more than once lied to us about who will be at the meetings, not to mention the original agreement on chritmas that everyone including him appeared to agree upon. despite it being verbal.) i tossed him the money and left. i then realized he had no right to speak for the people we had met at the original meeting on christmas day, who, ironically, are never at these little meetings but at the time very motivated to proceed. so i stormed back in and asked him if he indeed had that right to speak for these people and if this was how he defined democracy. he paused and said no, as did the few others there. so after what seemed three hours of much unintelligible quechua it was decided the five who wanted the more expensive decked out stove model would back out of our project and receive their money back and the remainder will meet at tomas´house tomorrow to review everything, the agreement (which i have just written for signatures), materials, etc.”
One thing Laurie misses in this account is that Victor and Juana actually had the nerve to accuse Tomas of meeting with us in secret! Laurie looked around at the group and said to Tomas “Do you even know where I live?” Of course, he does not. Then she said that the only people who had tried to have secret meetings with us were Victor and Juana. Good job, Laurie! The final meeting she refers to took place two days ago (Tuesday the 20th). We breathed a big sigh of relief when we finally got our contract signed by the people who were still with us.
On that day, we discovered that a few more people than the original five had dropped out (including one woman who was in the government of the association who didn’t want to deal with the bad vibes Victor and Juana would give her and said as much, to her credit), bringing our total to ten (maybe eleven, one person wasn’t there). This is OK because we will simply take our extra stove parts over to Jorge’s project in Choco, and hire Tomas to teach somebody there to make the stoves. Then hopefully we will have the time to do the same intensive one-day trainings over there as well. Our first houses in C’Orao will be done next week, and we begin the visits on Friday. We also went to the welder’s shop in C’Orao and everything is coming along fine.
So, as a result of all of this scheming and backstabbing, we have had more down time than we planned. Basically we lost three weeks dealing with the hassles Victor created. Hence our relative boredom and my venting about the Disneyland-esque feel of this city. Once we get started in Choco, however, our weeks will be full.
I would also like to make a note to our generous donors and supporters. Due to the downscaling of our project, I am pleased to announce that we will have approximately $2000 left over, which will stay in the savings account we have created for the nonprofit. This will be used for our next project and followup health testing, a little over two years from now. So we are already making progress on those costs! Thanks to everybody, again.
― sleeve, Thursday, 22 January 2009 20:58 (4 years ago) Permalink
Crazy. Victor posted something further over on that blog entry of mine, FWIW.
― Ned Raggett, Thursday, 22 January 2009 21:15 (4 years ago) Permalink
oh wait, you mean Vicente. Different dude, Victor is the secretary of the association we are currently trying to work with in C'Orao. Vicente is a guy who has been helping out Sipascancha, the village we worked with last time.
"for sleeve: ” the freezer” you know who the same professors said that the food no longer estaria failing, and knowing that the light goes and comes, for that reason to the one of the generator, and many, but that many but things, piles of foods, medecines and this does not finish here, paved of the patio of the school, solar paddles, although still they do not esten placed, I am sure that in some things it will mistake to me or will let take to me (antenna of t.v) but they are happy and I also, and the best thing of everything is than I do not request anything to canvio, good, the smile of the children and who noncritic which does others, and sent to the excrement ......... but that this others to me, I I only want to contribute in which goodly pueda.pero I request respect, as give it others"
so yeah, looks like things are cleared up.
― sleeve, Thursday, 22 January 2009 21:27 (4 years ago) Permalink
Oh right, okay! Sorry, confusing the names there.
― Ned Raggett, Thursday, 22 January 2009 21:28 (4 years ago) Permalink
So, last Tuesday we went out to C’Orao to make a progress check. We found out where the first stove was being built and walked out there in a sea of mud and animal shit (it had rained overnight). Bernardina and Florencio’s house is one of the furthest ones, it was really beautiful once we got out of the main area. Lush fields, a mountainside, clean air, and a huge sky.
To our immense relief as we got closer we could see construction underway, they were putting in the chimney. The stove was well underway. We thanked Tomas profusely and scheduled our meeting with the family. We also learned that another person had signed on, a friend of Tomas’ named Erasmo. We gave each other high fives and went out for dinner at Los Perros to celebrate.
In our two days of down time we read a lot. I finished Shadow Of The Wind (SO EXCELLENT) and also blew through William Gibson’s latest book Spook Country which was a lot of fun, with a sly punchline ending. Our local source of English book exchanges (Jerusalem Books) finally decided to keep their regular hours so I was able to trade some.
We also got a call from Jorge, saying that two people had shown up to volunteer at Hampy and that they had stove experience and wanted to do a project. They are going to come over tonight and we will share our hard-earned lessons with them, and probably give them however many stove parts we have left over. We are excited to meet them – we don’t even know where they are from!
Yesterday we did our first teaching session with Bernardina and Florencio. The difference between C’Orao and Sipascancha is huge. Part of it has to do with the women speaking Spanish instead of Quechua, we can actually have conversations. We fired up the stove (the clay was still wet) and brought a pot of potatoes to a boil, then put it into their new retention basket (they used sheep skins inside of plastic rice bags for the insulation). Then we did our health tests, talked a bunch about hygiene and related things, did our interviews, and left them with a basket full of potatoes cooking away. Around three hours in total, more time than we ever spent on a family in Sipascancha. They were really nice folks and very together in most ways – animals were separated, food was in bags, and they used a latrine hole (since nobody in C’Orao has bathrooms yet). We also called Tomas in to discuss some fine tuning of the design, we may need to buy extra grates for the wood (to keep air flowing under the wood as well as over and around), because he is using the grates we bought for the ash chute. He also developed this really cool staggered stairstep thing for the burners so that they can fit different sizes of pots.
After we finished at that house, we visited the next one and set up our appointment with them for Monday morning. Finally kicking into gear! Also, we learned that another person from the original group had decided they wanted a stove as well (he had been undecided before), bringing our total to eleven families. We are hoping a few more of the holdouts end up changing their minds when they see the finished product. If we keep up a good pace we could be done by the 3rd week of February. As a result, we are considering the possibility of coming home two weeks early, the climate here is just brutal. It was 46 degrees on Tuesday night, keep in mind this is the equivalent of July here. Yesterday Laurie went back to the doctor after an awful, terrifying two hour coughing fit in the night. She was re-diagnosed with a kind of reactive bronchitis almost like asthma. They gave her an inhaler and a different kind of cough syrup. Another reason to leave early. I have decided to trust the doctors and try not to worry, but it’s hard. On the other hand, her back is fully recovered.
Laurie has also been keeping up a brisk correspondence with the Bio-Energy mailing list where all the stove people hang out. Another guy on the list is starting a project in Peru (near the coast) and so we have been sharing our lessons and hearing about some other experiences. A guy named Charlie Sellers (who we met last year at the ETHOS conference) said that when he did a project in Peru he ran into many of the same problems – stoves being changed, deconstructed, etc. Like us, he found that the need for warmth and the necessity of fast cooking times often outweighed the more efficient but slower rocket design. After all, nothing can bring water to a boil faster than a traditional three stone fire. These are some of the reasons we have skewed our model away from the rocket design and more towards a hybrid type. Our focus is less on fuel efficiency and more on removing the smoke from the room. Another problem with the Lorena design that was used in Sipascancha was that the second pot never got hot enough, since it only had the hot airflow on the way to the chimney as the heat source. Now, both burners have the potential for flames directly under them. Less efficient, but we were pleased to note that during our cooking yesterday the wood was burning very cleanly, with very little smoke.
We (finally) have some new pictures up on the Flickr site, you can see them at http://www.flickr.com/stovesforperu .
― sleeve, Saturday, 31 January 2009 17:03 (4 years ago) Permalink
brief update of OUTRAGE:
quoted from Laurie:
one other thing. we found out something SHOCKING yesterday. while having coffee at a little local cafe, Ayllu next door to the main cathedral, we discovered that STARBUCKS (of all f*****g things) is aiming to take over this space! apparently it is owned/managed by no less than the ARCHBISHOP. He is refusing to reauthorize their lease. (see reason below!) they have been here 37 years! this location is on the MAIN PLAZA where Tupac Amaru was pulled apart by four horses back in the day. this is HISTORY here folks. First, I am shocked that the ARCHBISHOP seems to think so little of their history and culture to put something like a STARBUCKS here. Second, how outrageous STARBUCKS has the balls to set themselves up here. (they are apparently denying it at this point.) as far as i am concerned big f*****g deal they use advertising ploys claiming they support poor coffee growers. it is totally bullshit. i am ashamed they are a northwest born organization and doing this. we all know they are going out of business thanks to greed in the states and are now particpating in the ruin of the culture here. shame on you Starbucks.
And shame on you, Mr. Archbishop. the archbishop will receive $10,000 a month from Starbucks for this spot and unless Allyu can pay this, they are out. Apparently on review of some internet sites here, he is also the one responsible for something no less despicable, a McDonalds´a few doors down from this quaint coffee shoppe. (get this: they import frozen potatoes from Idaho, no less while in the country where the potato was literally BORN.)
Comments from tourists on various blogs wonder what Cusco residents think of this. the sad part of this is that residents of places like cusco are dependent on tourism. and then we have the greedy catholics. we tourists and visitors can make a difference. Write! if you come here, please only support the local businesses and keep these trashy places where they belong, on strip malls on ugly main drags in places like the US.
it is such a shame.
Here are contacts:
Mailing Address Archbishop:Arzobispado, Apartado 148, Hatun Rumiyoc s/n, Cusco, Peru# Telephone: (51) (84) 22.52.11# Fax: (51) (84) 22.27.81arzcusco@spe✧✧✧.c✧✧.peseccu✧✧✧@spe✧✧✧.c✧✧.p✧Official Web Site: http://www.arzobispadodelcusco.org/
email contact for Starbucks Peru:http://www.starbucks.com.pe/content/pagina23.php?pID=139&pIDSeccionWeb=10
― sleeve, Tuesday, 3 February 2009 17:49 (4 years ago) Permalink
that's arzcusco at speedy dot com dot pe
― sleeve, Tuesday, 3 February 2009 17:50 (4 years ago) Permalink
the same week that the McDonald's opened in Cuzco, Gaston Acuria opened a restaurant in SF... I noted the cultural trade imblance in my travel journal.
― (*ﾟーﾟ)θ L(。･＿･) °~ヾ(･ε･ *) (Steve Shasta), Tuesday, 3 February 2009 18:00 (4 years ago) Permalink
I was just talking about going to machu picchu today
― Edward III, Tuesday, 3 February 2009 18:41 (4 years ago) Permalink
Hi Edward, yeah I noticed that on yer beautiful cloud thread!
Here's a new update:
A long and productive week… last Saturday we got to meet Jorge’s volunteers. Inanother bizarre small world coincidence, one of them grew up in Eugene and knewLarry Winiarski (the “grandfather” of rocket stoves). Another was from Seattle. SoDan (Eugene guy) and Cynthia are married and had spent the last two years inNorthern Peru working for the Peace Corps. Brian (Seattle dude) is new here butspeaks very good Spanish. We hung out with them and Jorge, talked stoves, etc.
On Monday we all went out to C’Orao for our second home interview, they also broughtalong another volunteer named Christian, so there were seven of us! Victoria, thewoman who had the stove, was very psyched about the new one. She buried her oldone! There was much discussion as Tomas was there also. We boiled up the potatoesand did our whole interview rap in about two hours. After that, we went to Anna’shouse for our 2nd interview, but she was working in the chacra (farm). So we caughta bus back to Cusco and I went to check in with Victoria about the potatoes onTuesday morning. She said that after two hours they were a little overcooked, whichis awesome. This means the retention cookers are performing well, I deliberatelyselected biggger potatoes for her.
Tuesday was a doctor and dentist day for Laurie so I amused myself on the internettrying to find eBay bargains. Since we decided to leave two weeks early I have alittle bit more disposable income to play with. Wednesday we went to Urubamba inthe hopes of finding a better climate, we were not disappointed. It was gorgeousthere, hot and sunny with perceptibly more oxygen in the air. A nice market on thestreets. Laurie bought a sun hat. We hung out in the plaza for like two hours andnobody tried to sell us anything, a huge relief after the almost-abusive hard sellonslaught of Cusco that we have to negotiate every day. We spent a long timetalking (more like being talked at, really) to a German/Spanish guy who had done alot of work with the indigenous movement since the 70´s. Interesting to get some ofthe history around the struggle to get the UN to recognize indigenous rights. Hesaid the Quechua people were having a harder time organizing than (for example) theMapuche of Chile, but I never got a chance to ask why.
Thursday was another doctor/dentist day, Laurie is almost caught up with the dentalwork and her health is steadily improving. Somewhere in all this (last weekend, Ithink) we finally got caught up with the new season of Lost by downloading episodesat our local internet cafe and watching them using a signal splitter for two sets ofheadphones. So exciting! Anyway, while Laurie was at her appointments I went outto the “suburb” of Choco, where Jorge’s Hampy project is working.
The first thing we did was take a taxi to the edge of Santiago, past where Nino andAdela live. Then we walked for a few minutes and came to the “lower” community,called K’uychari (“rainbow” in Quechua). Here, an organization called World Visionhad recently (like, last week) built 15 stoves. Jorge had not seen them and we wereall curious. The model was VERY similar to what we are building with Tomas, exceptthat they used a metal plancha (plate) for the top of the stove where the burnerholes are. They also had a flue/damper flap built in. The family was quite pleasedbut apprehensive about how long the metal would last – it was quite thin. Picturesare on the Flickr site, for the curious among you.
After spending a leisurely morning discussing various other issues with the family,most of us continued our walk up to Choco proper. There, I checked out anotherstove that Jorge had built for a woman, it was closer to a traditional model and waslacking a chimney. However, it was drawing properly and all the smoke was pouringout of the hole where the chimney should be. It is my understanding that this woman(Juanita) will receive one of the five chimneys we are giving to Hampy.
As we were leaving, we stopped in briefly at another stove that had been built nextto the Choco community center. This one was poorly designed and rarely used. Ihave no idea who built it but it was far too expensive for what they got. Again,photos on Flickr.
Yesterday we returned to C’Orao for more interviews. We made our way to the firsthouse, one of two families with a padre named Juan Quispe. As soon as we walkedinto the yard, we knew something was wrong. Smoke was pouring out of the front doorof the building where the new stove was. When we went inside, we realized that itwas a two-room building with a half wall separating the two rooms. In the othersection, five feet away, a traditional stove was smoking like crazy and filling bothparts of the building. Laurie just barely kept her temper. As we looked around alittle more, we realized that this was definitely a family that needed moreeducation. There was a muckpit of shit and trash in the middle of the yard, thekids had no shoes on, chickens and puppies were running around with the kids, etc. So we sat down with the mom (who was 60) and two of her three daughters, both ofwhom appeared to be single mothers. We fired up some potatoes for the retentioncooker and did our health rap. When we brought out our poster of the “family withproblems”, we asked the older daughter what she saw in the picture. Did she commenton the trash, the baby with diarrhea, the drunk father, or the pregnant mother? No,the first things she pointed out were “Oh, look, there’s a tree! And a squirrel init!” Our work was cut out for us.
So after we discussed the proper uses of bleach, soap, fingernail cutters, etc., wedid the health interviews. When we got to the questions about wood collecting andfood being cooked, we discovered that for some reason the mother and her daughtersrefused to work collectively. Each had their own stove. Each gathered their ownwood. No, of course the daughters could not use the mother’s new stove. We leftsomewhat discouraged, but resolving those problems was clearly beyond us. Hopefullythe other daughter can also come up with 30 soles for one of our spare stoves, theywere definitely interested in doing that.
Our next two interviews were with families we had already worked with before, sothose went much faster. Mostly we discussed the use of the retention cookers. Whenwe were coordinating the next few families with Tomas, we discovered that Andres(MaFre’s dad) was for some reason dragging his feet on his stove, had not collectedthe clay, and kept putting it off. We promptly marched down to his house to askwhat was up, and he was disturbingly evasive. Since he is one of the key people atthe Purikuq market, we are very concerned that Pave refused to let him work withTomas and is possibly also refusing to let him have a stove. Of course, he did thattypical Peruvian thing that isn’t exactly lying, but simply refusing to talk. Weoffered him a job doing the checkups on the families for the next two years, and hewas also evasive about that, saying he would have to think about it. HMMM. We aregoing to be doing some detective work this Sunday!
Last night was a big night, we went out for the first time since Laurie got sick,it’s been like a month! We went to Ukuku’s to watch music. As we arrived, we saw abouncer marching a well dressed Peruvian woman down the stairs and out the door. Ihave never actually seen a bouncer dust his hands off after ejecting someone! Unfortunately, the band was only half decent and the sound was TERRIBLE, harsh andbright and full of treble, excessively loud as well. So we ditched out quickly, butit was still nice to be out. I noticed to my great delight that this excellent bandcalled Totem is doing some shows at the end of the month, I got to see them whileLaurie was sick.
Now we are here on the internet. Laurie is applying for new jobs and writingletters to Soncco and Sipascancha about how to fix their stoves. We are waiting forEpisode 4 of Lost to finish downloading. We have a full schedule this week, fourdays in Mandorani. We booked our flights, and spent a little extra to fly directlyinto Eugene instead of Seattle. We arrive on March 4th.
― sleeve, Saturday, 7 February 2009 16:43 (4 years ago) Permalink
Laurie has gotten way ahead of me on updates this week, so I am stealing some from her again.
“i am just now back from another day trip to mandorani. steve left early after not sleeping well last night and what was a challenging first family. rather than challenging "first family", i should say, challenging stove. this particular stove, while no different than the others (perhaps other than it´s position) lit fine but the draft was so rapid, it prevented the flames from really licking the bottom of the pots and blew through nearly sideways. so it took forever to boil the damn potatoes. which of course threw off our timing. oh well. more important than the timing was the fact tomas was also there and that we all witnessed this. this is why it's so important to see every stove in action! so in another post where steve mentioned going to choco, he described a stove that had been positioned in line with the door to aid the draft. in this case the stove was off to the right side of the door with the chimney in the corner. We talked to tomas about adding a flue. and he brought up the point about it perhaps needing to be in front of the door. later he also talked about repositioning the stove. regardless, it was clear there was a problem. it used way too much wood for just a pot of potatoes not to mention way too much time. our gracious homeowner´, jose luis (there in place of his mother) understood the problem and is expecting tomas tomorrow to come and correct it.
teaching went fine but yet again, the difficulty in testing all family members came up. not everyone is home all the time. and what with just 14 families participating it is looking unlikely we will acquire enough clinically significant data. i (on the more positive note ) said, "well, if so and so tests this volume this time and is improved the next, what´s wrong with that?" Steve´s comment (on the more negative side, but true) was " we will not qualify for grants if we don´t show more numbers." today it had been our intention to catch up and do bernadina´s kids and tomas' sons also. what we failed to remember are buses are not as dependable on sundays, not to mention the unexpected time duration at jose luis and the fact when i got to bernadinas, no one was home and then on return to tomas´s house, his kids had to go to cusco! yagain, oh well. what is a girl to do??´ my only thought at this point is to set up one day where we go just to do that and announce it prior, maybe our last sunday here?
second home was that of simon. he is a member of the local government but proudly is bucking their system and wanted a stove anyway. what a house! (steve really missed it!) about the cleanest i have ever seen in these parts! a living area in the middle with the kitchen on one end and a bedroom for the kids on the other. and in the kitchen everything was hung up in neat little rows on the wall and a seating area sat opposite the stove. sweet! so this stove fired right up with the potatoes boiling in less than 20 minutes. the teaching was a breeze! All of his sons were home, less one that lives in lima. his wife however was not home. (so we did get more testing done here!) what i thought was sweet was to see him discuss in quechua with his three sons, (20, 17, 14) the posters we have of the dirty household vs the cleaner, more organized one. it was striking to see him discuss this with his near adult sons. the potatoes did their fifteen minute cook time and we illustrated the retention cooker. he proudly said his boys helped their mom and would show her how to use it.
one other note. Lucita came by the house of jose luis earlier today. appparently she was one of the original 20 families and somehow was later claimed to be one of the five who did not want a stove by victor. well as it turns out she wants her stove and if i understood correctly she had paid for it and victor had not given her money back. so of all things she insisted i not go to retrieve her money. she gave me an additional 30 soles and will have tomas retrieve the money she origianlly paid to victor. so we are up to 14 families now in mandorani!
otherwise, there was not much time for detective work re: this andres mystery. timotea did allude to the fact another problem is that andres is pretty tight with juana and victor. i still wonder what pave may have to do with this. the truly unfortunate thing is that his wife needs the stove. and if he actually builds it, fine, its just that he paid, signed the contract agreeing to tomas to build it, to the visits and for receipt of the retention cooker. we need some one-on-one time with him. after our visits tomas, timotea and i batted this around a bit over a delicious cuy dinner coming to the conclusion everyone can make their choice.
one very nice thing he shared with me is how much each family has noticed and liked that we are coming to each house. this appears to be making the impression that we indeed care about each stove working well and giving each family the attention needed to use it correctly, along with the retention cooker.”
Friday we returned and went to Lucila’s house. As Laurie noted, there was a lot of trash in the yard. When she asked Lucila about it Lucila said that it was her neighbors! Please note that these neighbors are the same problem family that I talked about before who had the kids without shoes and the separate kitchens that they would not share. A good example of how bad apples can impact the whole community. I was pretty pissed off and decided to come back with empty bags and gloves, clean it all up, sort and separate, and give it back to the offending family with instructions to knock it the fuck off. As Laurie mentioned, Tomas has been very helpful and he agreed to take our notices of a followup meeting for health testing (Saturday the 21st) to some of the further-away houses. We checked in on the stove that had given us problems on Wednesday with the excessive draft, and Tomas had installed a damper in it which had solved the problem. We also talked to Andres and worked everything out with him, he is in the middle of the village politics but he will build a new stove when he has time. As we did the interviews, we discovered that MaFre (the older daughter) has some major problem with her cornea and needs an expensive operation, the diagnosis alone was 150 soles. We are going to help them out as much as we can.
Last night we were supposed to have dinner at Rosanna’s. I failed to mention this story before, but back in late November or early December her business partner was robbed at gunpoint of $14,000 (!!!). He was taking it to pay a lot of people somewhere in the jungle where there are no banks, if you are wondering (like I was) why the hell he would carry that much around. Anyway, she needed to make a loan payment and borrowed $2K from us. We have had some problems getting her to pay it back, her not returning calls, etc. We were getting kind of worried (although she only owed us like $400 by this point) and so Laurie went to the school to talk to her. We learned that she had been taking care of two German students who had arrived at the school with Dengue Fever and malaria, respectively! Yikes! Also, she has set up an entirely new business which is inspired by our discussion about welfare and the Juntos program, she will be teaching single mothers how to teach English. We are going to see her new office on Monday.
Anyway, Rosanna got stuck in Urubamba last night and had to cancel dinner. On a whim, we decided to spend money and went to Cicciolina’s, probably the best restaurant in town. We had one of the most unbelievable dinners I have had in years. We started with tapas – an amazing lomo saltado skewer (beef sauted with onions in a kind of soy-based sauce), hummus and grilled zucchini, a smoked trout and wild mushroom and red pepper thing on bread pieces, a dizzyingly delicious skewer of fried prawn with sweet potato and a wasabi sauce, and then their mouthwatering fried calamari with a hot/sweet sauce and more hummus on bread. We each had a red wine from Argentina called Trilogie, a blend. Then we got two more of the prawn skewers and an antipasto plate that was also exquisite. Dessert was an incredibly perfect little glass of espresso and Bailey’s with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top. Just a little side note there for the foodies amongst us. Our total bill was slightly over $20 apiece with tip.
Today we went back to Calle Huayruropata where I bought my rubber boots, since I discovered that the reason the right one was hurting was because it was a quarter inch narrower than the right! The woman remembered me and very graciously agreed to let me trade them in for a bigger pair, it is so much better. We also bought rubber gloves for our cleanup plan. In the afternoon we went to the used market in Santiago for several reasons. We wanted to find a new Swiss Army knife for Laurie, since hers was stolen by a scumbag taxi driver about a week ago. Nino and Adela have a booth there and they sell knives, plus we wanted to talk to them concerning several items of business (school exchange stuff, visiting, etc.) As we wandered around waiting for them, I encountered a booth full of vinyl records! My eyes bugged out when looked through them and I realized that the woman had run a store in Cuzco, probably 25 years ago. The 12” LPs were beat up garbage, but she had two or three hundred 45’s that were totally unplayed mint Peruvian pressings of stuff from 1977-1982. B-52s, Go-Go’s, Fleetwood Mac, disco stuff, oh my goodness. I ended up buying about 25 of them for a little under four bucks. Then later on we found ANOTHER stall selling all-Peruvian records, I got an LP of solo guitar by various artists and another LP of ceremonial dances and songs. Needless to say, I was very pleased.
We have three families left out of 15, only one of them has a completed stove because the other two have not paid their 30 soles yet. We will be doing his house tomorrow. Monday we need to spend a big chunk of the day extending our visas. I was off by one day about our return, we get back in the afternoon on Thursday March 5th. At this point we are counting the days and trying to make sure our to-do list includes everything. On Monday we are also transferring our 5 extra stoves over to Choco. Somehow we ended up with three extra baskets for retention cooking, not sure what we’ll do with those yet.
Last week we went to a jewelry store and bought two very simple silver engagement rings. We would appreciate it if people didn’t make a big deal out of this because we aren’t going to. There are a number of very practical reasons why we are considering a civil union. Our relationship does not need to be legitimized by the state. That said, we might have a big party this Halloween, which will be our 4th anniversary.
OK? OK. Only seventeen days left until we leave Cuzco, probably two or three more updates.
― sleeve, Saturday, 14 February 2009 21:14 (4 years ago) Permalink
One week left! Last Saturday Dan and Cindy came over for dinner, we made spaghetti and meatballs. About halfway through dinner something that was (to me) very weird happened. My first thought was “why is somebody pounding on our door so hard?” Literally less than two seconds later, Dan and Cindy had leaped out of their seats and into the doorframe of the kitchen. About half a second after that, I realized that it was an earthquake and dragged Laurie into the doorframe with me. Then, of course, it stopped immediately. Dogs were going crazy everywhere. Our friends are from Southern California, which explains their reaction time.
On Sunday we went out to C’Orao and did another interview, this one at the house of the soldadura’s (blacksmith’s) father, Lucio. He had a complicated family with stepdaughters and various other configurations, and his son had also tricked out his stove with an oven (!!!) and a third burner. We talked to Victoria about doing our followup visits and she agreed. As our last item of business, we took our big rubber boots and our arm-length rubber gloves, went over to Lucila’s house, and cleaned up most of the trash her neighbors had thrown into her yard. We stuffed three rice bags full, and the rest was in standing water that was too deep to wade into. Good thing I’m a hardened Oregon Country Fair Recycling Crew expert, there were used diapers, bottles of urine, and all manner of mud-filled tins and bottles. I am pushing for us to have Victoria keep tabs on that situation to make sure the neighbors stop their behavior, we have a little bit of incentive since they got a stove and want their 30 soles back.
Monday morning we went off to the Visa office, bright and early. Last time it was a major production, we had to go pay at a different bank, bring back a receipt, go to a copy shop to copy forms, wait in lines, the whole nine yards. This time they had greatly streamlined their process, we were done in less than an hour. We were amazed and pleased. With some of our extra time, we visited Rosanna’s new “Second Chance” project, which is just getting off the ground. They are still doing construction work within their rental space. Later that afternoon, we sent off our first stove to Choco, and had a lovely dinner at Rosanna’s, talking to a Swiss and an American as well as her family.
As the week progressed we did some grocery shopping since our budget is getting tight, sent off another stove to Choco, and had another one of Laurie’s friends over for dinner (Carlitos, a guy who had been working in the jungle as a vet at a rare animal shelter). On Thursday Laurie spent the day in Ollantaytambo trying to get Hermano Vidal’s stove working, but he hadn’t gotten all the materials together so it wasn’t finished by the end of the day. That night we went with Carlitos up to a bar in San Blas that we didn’t know called Siete Angelitos (7 Angels). As we scouted around the bar for seats we were quite surprised to find most of the Hampy crew (Dan, Cindy, Brian, and two newer folks) hanging out in a little room off of the main bar. Turns out most of them live near there in San Blas. We stayed up late and got fairly drunk, at some point I was talking with Laurie and Carlitos and realized that for the first time ever I was actually talking and thinking in Spanish… finally. Right before we were leaving, it started to POUR down rain, more than I’ve seen anytime except that one night in Sipascancha. The streets literally looked like rivers, with several inches of rushing water in them, pouring down the steep inclines. After 15 minutes it stopped.
This past Saturday we had planned a big meeting in C’Orao, we had sent notices out to all the families and were hoping to get more interviews of people we had missed before. Silly us, thinking we were more important than working in the fields or markets. Almost nobody showed up. Tomas had been called away for an emergency in Cusco, Lucio (the welder’s dad) showed up to say that the two women in his house couldn’t come (they were in the fields), and Erasmo showed up just to say hi (we had done his whole family already). So we decided to go off and start looking for people. We ended up getting six more interviews from various houses, bringing our total to 48 out of 70. Even though that is pretty good, we decided to go back this Wednesday and try to get some more. We also discovered that the first stove that had been built, at Bernardina’s house, was having excessive draft problems similar to the one Tomas had put the damper into. We left a note for him and will make sure the problem gets resolved when we go back this week. We also promised Timotea that we would take a rain check for her lunch that she had planned, now we have it down for next Saturday. Sadly, the watermelon we brought won’t last until then, so we need to eat it starting today.
Yesterday was supposedly “Carnaval”, but it was totally dead and very little went on. The night before seemed more festive, we went to Kamikaze for a bedtime shot (having discovered an acceptable kind of rum, the Cuban Matusalen brand) and they were gearing up for a busy night, with masks and all. If anything did go on, we missed it ‘cause we were sleeping. The only thing that happened yesterday was that a bunch of annoying teenage boys ran around throwing water on people, especially women. Since it was cold and cloudy, this did not seem amusing. I tried to put on my “lens of cultural differences”, but it still seemed like a bunch of macho bullshit in the end.
Today we are knocking off a bunch of errand-type stuff from our to-do list, and I am going to attempt to visit the Cusqueña brewery to take some pictures for my brewer friends in Eugene. Carlos is also trying to get us to visit a village up above Ollantaytambo where he is building a comedore (kitchen building) along with some other projects. We might do that Tuesday or Thursday, but time is running out!
― sleeve, Monday, 23 February 2009 15:20 (4 years ago) Permalink
Here I am at the internet café, Laurie is pre-packing staff. It’s Saturday. Last Monday I tried to go visit the Cusquena brewery. As I walked around it trying to find the visitor’s entrance I realized it was HUGE. First I found the truck/loading entrance but the guards wouldn’t let me in. Finally, after circling an area that was maybe 6-8 city blocks, I found the visitors’ entrance. Unfortunately, they wanted me to make an appointment and told me that photos were strictly prohibited. So I gave up. Sorry, brewer friends! Please note that Cusquena is the only Peruvian beer that follows the German Reinheitsgebot, the beer purity law that allows only barley, hops, water, and other natural ingredients like fruit flavors, spices, whatever. They have cheaper beers here, but they are vile hangover-inducing swill. There is a “craft beer” that they brew here in Cusco, but I tried it last time we were here and was not impressed.
On Monday night our friend Carlos came over, he postponed his work trip to Australia because he ran into some woman from Singapore who is financing a big project in a village called T’astayoc up above Ollantaytambo. As we talked, it became clear that he needed some help with the stove for the kitchen they were building. When it is a whole kitchen they call it a comedore. The stove needed to be double size, so we couldn’t just give him our plans. We decided to hire Tomas to come up there, and made plans to meet up early in the morning on Friday, come up to the village, and document the building process with photos (which we hadn’t had the opportunity to do yet).
Tuesday I was taking laundry to our lavenderia and walking through the plaza when I encountered Laurie’s old friend Oscar. I was delighted because he sells bootleg pisco which is exponentially better than the stuff you can buy in stores or bars. We had thought he was out of town in Ica, the part of Peru where the best pisco and wine is made. And we had run out of the bottle from last time. So I bought one full bottle to mail home and one half bottle for our last week. We went to his house and he poured it out for us out of a 5-gallon jug, into recycled bottles. I had some trepidation about mailing it because it was totally bootleg, no label on the bottle and no receipt. But the woman at the post office didn’t care as long as I paid the staggering sum of $40 to mail a package slightly over 1 kilo. Needless to say, it will be saved for special occasions. I’ve never tasted anything like it.
On Wednesday we had to go out to C’orao to see if Tomas could do this crazy stove thing we had decided on with Carlos. When we arrived bright and early at the Puputi station they told us there were no buses to Pisac that day?!? What the hell?!?! We got into a taxi with 3 other people and quickly learned that there was a strike on. The background here is that for at least two months there has been a major controversy brewing because of a border dispute between two regions of the Cusco Department (departments are like our states, regions are the next biggest entity and then provinces which are like counties, kind of, except regions are in between). Apparently the border between Calca and La Convencion has been redrawn for some reason, putting two and a half provinces that had been in Calca into the jurisdiction of La Convencion, and resulting in 29 schools being transferred. The Calca folks (Calquenos) are PISSED about this, and we can understand why. Not only the schools and students, but all the jobs and state money that come with them are being transferred.
Our time in C’orao was uneventful, Tomas agreed to do the T’astayoc trip and we also stopped by to see MaFre who had just had her eye operated on with money donated by Laurie and my mom. She was going to lose her vision otherwise and she is to smart to have that happen. Plus, we really like her and her family. So there she was, all bandaged up. Her brothers, who are 6, 7, and 10, all kept poking into the room and it was obvious they cared a lot. The middle one, Lenny, had a Pikachu doll and played with it in a most adorable fashion. Her folks boiled us up some fresh corn and it was delicious. We discovered that the doctors had, um, neglected to give her pain meds so we grumbled our way across the street to the Centro De Salud to buy ibuprofen. On our way back, oh shit, here come the Calquenos! They were marching on Cusco in a huge procession of buses and cars and combis, all flying the blue and white Calca flag. We later learned there were around 8,000 of them.
We gave MaFre her meds and caught a taxi back to Cusco. When we approached the city, the Calquenos’ plan became apparent. They had blockaded the entire road up above Cusco heading to Pisac and Calca.The taxi had to stop, but we were able to walk through down the hill with no problem, it was a one-way blockade. We had to laugh as we saw several doomed tourist buses optimistically heading up the hill past us as we came down. Calca isn’t a tourist town and is proud of it.
Later that day the main body of Calquenos came down and marched on the central plaza and the Municipal Palace. They also blockaded intersections in the streets. The next day, we read the same typical foam-at-the-mouth bullshit that you would have read in US papers about a boisterous protest. OH MY GOD SOMEBODY BROKE A WINDOW!!! Violencia injustificable!!! For a protest of 8,000 it was really quite calm from our point of view. The next day, Thursday, they called off their “huelga indefinida” (strike with no ending point), the roads returned to normal, and the relevant authorities agreed to hold talks between the two regions. I really don’t see how Calca can prevent this though, as Laurie noted it seemed more like a face-saving exercise to me – letting people know that Calca can’t be pushed around without a fight. The rest of the day was uneventful although I must note that Laurie made some really really good pork chops for dinner, which we had been planning for a week or more.
On Friday we were up at 5 AM. Carlos had told us about a street where there were cheap buses directly to Ollantaytambo, and he was right. Ten soles! We rode with three nuns and some other guys while the driver played a gruesome selection of the worst romantic ballads that the 80’s had to offer. You know it’s bad when Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You” represents a distinct uptick in quality.
In the plaza at Ollantaytambo we met Carlos’ “chauffeur” (i.e. friend with car) and Tomas showed up a little later. The chofer tied the double-size chimney on top, and up we went. And up, and up. This was new scenery to me and it was stunning. Native forests, cataracts rushing down steep mountain slopes, up into the clouds we went. At the very peak, we arrived at T’astayoc, which tops out at 4200 meters. From there it is downhill to the jungles of Quillabamba.
We met up with Carlos’ dad, Ismael, also his dad’s 2nd wife and two daughters who we were previously unaware of (Laurie has known the whole other side of the family, mom and five sons, for years now). They had finished a wide variety of impressive projects including a big greenhouse (too cold for vegetables otherwise) and solar powered lighting. About 75 people live there, and there are 30 kids. The houses are made of STONES, with thatch roofs. I started taking pictures, and we will have them up on the Flickr site later tonight or tomorrow.
Unfortunately, Laurie almost immediately became very sick with siroche (the Quechua word for altitude sickness). We hadn’t thought 13,000 feet would be much different from 11,000 feet, but we were very wrong. Within half an hour she was vomiting with a splitting headache (siroche causes edema, actual swelling of the brain, and you can die from it further up than where we were). So I alternated between taking photos and massaging her head. There were a bunch of other guys working on the comedore while Tomas built the stove, I’m pretty sure some of them weren’t from there. For lunch we were served a delicious soup of quinoa and alpaca meat, plus strong black coffee with sugar.
Carlos had mentioned earlier that he would be up to get us around 3 in the afternoon, and Laurie was ready to go by 1:30. Tomas, however, needed more time to complete the stove because Carlos had drastically understimated the amount of available adobe (we needed 40, they had 15 plus a bunch of broken pieces). As a result Tomas had to improvise and change the model to accomodate that. Ismael promised us that Carlos would be there to get us by 4 or 4:30. At 4:30, Tomas finished the stove and cleaned up. Laurie was still very sick. We walked up to the road to wait.
We kept waiting. Once it hit 5 PM, the sun went behind the mountain and the rain kicked in. We had no gear at all for spending the night. We started trying to flag down cars and trucks, all of which refused to stop. If it had been a real emergency somebody could have died. Laurie vomited some more and was reduced to tears. Finally at 6 PM Carlos showed up with his friend and the car. Laurie is still pissed at him, he really didn’t acknowledge that there was any breach of contract or problem. By the time we got back to Ollantaytambo it was pitch black and too late for Tomas’ bus home. We took him to Cusco with us on an empty tourist bus, and put him up at our house.
This morning we went out to Mandorani to say goodbye. There was a little party with cuy, potatoes, and orange soda. We also said goodbye to Andres, MaFre was in Cusco so we assume she is recovering just fine. Laurie has just informed me that we have run out of room to pack stuff and are going to have to start triage. We have leftover soup for dinner tonight, and if we are really lucky the crepe place will be open and we can have dessert crepes. It is like winter at the beach here, the absolute bottom point of tourism. The tour and restaurant hawkers sometimes walk a block to try and catch us. They are invariably disappointed. Fortunately Los Perros reopened after being closed for most of the month, so we plan on having a last meal there on Monday night before we head to Lima. I may update from Lima, but it’s equally likely that I’ll wait until after our 16 hours of airplane/airport hell. We’ll see.
― sleeve, Saturday, 28 February 2009 23:38 (4 years ago) Permalink
i am going to peru for two weeks but thread is v v long. can someone pls to summarize highlights?
― tehresa, Saturday, 9 May 2009 01:08 (4 years ago) Permalink
― tehresa, Sunday, 10 May 2009 17:26 (4 years ago) Permalink
hi! where are you going to be? or are you trying to plan destinations?
― sleeve, Sunday, 10 May 2009 19:29 (4 years ago) Permalink
Machu Picchu really is the must see if you will be in Cuzco at all. Lima is huge and intense, not that great except for maybe a night or two of restaurants and or clubbing. Arequipa and Urubamba are also small beautiful towns in the highlands.
― sleeve, Sunday, 10 May 2009 19:32 (4 years ago) Permalink
For $$$ you can also take 3 or 4 day jungle tours from Cuzco to the Manu Jungle which I have not done but really want to.
― sleeve, Sunday, 10 May 2009 19:34 (4 years ago) Permalink
lima, arequipa, and cusco i think?
my sister lives in lima but is v bad at communicating/planning so i'm trying to figure out what things i should study up on/not miss.
― tehresa, Sunday, 10 May 2009 19:35 (4 years ago) Permalink
i think i've been told we're not doing any jungles (i checked on this like 30 times becaue i needed to figure out whether i needed the yellow fever vaccine)
yeah you need that, there is also a malaria/dengue fever risk.
I haven't been to Arequipa but it should be good for just chilling. In Cuzco on Avenida Del Sol there is a tourist office where you can buy these tickets that get you in to like 15 attractions around the region. This is separate from the whole Machu Picchu thing, where you take a train from Cuzco, stay overnight in Machu Picchu Pueblo (because there are no roads there, train or walking only) and buy a separate ticket. That takes up most of three days. The tourist ticket is good for ten days, key locations are the Temple Of The Sun, Q'enko, Moras and Moray (near the town of Urubamba), Saqsayhuaman, Pisac, and the local museums. There are also a bunch of other locations on them, you would have to stay super busy to do them all in ten days.
u can webmail me thru ILX if you wanna know more details. Decent Cuzco restaurants are The Bondiet for empanaditas, Trotamundo's and Los Perro's for good tourist food, Cicciolina's for fine dining, and the cheap sandwiches at Carmen's Refrigeria on Plateros.
― sleeve, Sunday, 10 May 2009 19:44 (4 years ago) Permalink
also if at all possible take a plane from Lima to the highlands, it's 24 hours by bus and grueling.
― sleeve, Sunday, 10 May 2009 19:46 (4 years ago) Permalink
and be careful of eating too much or exerting yourself too much the first few days, altitude sickness is a bitch. The pills they sell in the boticas as "siroche medicine" do work though.
― sleeve, Sunday, 10 May 2009 19:47 (4 years ago) Permalink
sister also recommends cocoa leaves!
all the doctors i've talked to have said i don't need yellow fever if i'm not going to the jungle. honestly, i'd like to go to the jungle, but it seems time limits prevent that?
― tehresa, Sunday, 10 May 2009 19:53 (4 years ago) Permalink
here we go again
Leaving on the 27th for a month to do some followup work in Mandorani, health exams and interviews for the 20 families with stoves (or as many of them as we can track down).
Then we're gonna be looking at a few projects our sister organization in Peru, Paskay, wants us to help fund.
We're also slowly getting the application together for 501c3 certification, and hey we have a website now!
― sleeve, Wednesday, 9 March 2011 00:52 (2 years ago) Permalink
link to Paskay here:
― sleeve, Wednesday, 9 March 2011 00:53 (2 years ago) Permalink
I love peru
― Slow lorax loves getting tickled (dayo), Wednesday, 9 March 2011 01:17 (2 years ago) Permalink
man I love Cusco, we just got here around an hour ago. Trujillo was awesome too, a few days of vacation on the coast before we start work in the mountains. Found some LPs in the used market, fixed our friend´s stereo (blown fuse from accidentally switching from 220V to 110V), played with kids, and ate insanely good local food (ahi de gallina, anticuchos, and ceviche).
It´s a really interesting time to be in Peru - they're having their once-every-six-years presidential election and there are five parties with significant voting blocs. The top three have been in a dead heat for months, switching back and forth. The election is April 10th so we will be here. One of the candidates is the daughter of disgraced (and imprisoned) right wing icon and mass murderer Alberto Fujimori (former president), she is running on a tough-on-crime ticket. Pretty surreal.
― sleeve, Friday, 1 April 2011 19:27 (2 years ago) Permalink