TITTW sleeve goes to Peru

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I am in Peru for 3 months building rocket stoves for a small Quechua village near Cusco called Sipascanchas.

Here´s my first email update, I´m gonna try to do it weekly.

flight was totally uneventful. landed in Lima 10:30 PM, a taxi driver
took us to our hotel. one of the first things we saw was one of the
famous street dogs of Peru, what Tami used to call "ur dogs" aka "uber
mutts", basically prehistoric dog model. pointy ears, ridged back, upright
tail, mixed coat color. we drove through some different neighborhoods,
the socioeconomic level changed drastically at some undefined point to
become more upscale. all we did at our fancy hotel was sleep. in the
morning another taxi took us back to the airport. the driver had owned a
factory before Garcia came to power the first time (in the 90´s sometime
we think, he was recently reelected). he had 50 employees and then the
inflation rate went up to 2 million percent and he went bankrupt. Now he
drives the taxi. he said the reelection was probably due more to
forgetfulness than forgiveness.

a lot of the houses in Lima and Cusco have these unfinished upper levels
with 10 feet of rebar sticking up, apparantly it is related to how people
borrow money, one floor at a time.

when our flight got into Cusco it turned out that we had miscommunicated
and Pave had come to pick us up the day before. Fortunately Sister Nellie
had come to check for us! She got us a taxi and we went to Pave´s house.
Pave´s sister and Nellie put two beds together for us and made us coca
tea. we lay down. at 3 Pave came home, we talked, had a bit of food, and
I went to bed at 6 and stayed there until 3 the next day. L@urie pushed
herself and stayed up, then got very sick. Better by the next afternoon,

the next day, Wednesday, we went to visit the welders who are building the
stoves = Victor (father), Edy, and Edy (two sons). They will be welding
the elbows for the stoves as well as the chimneys and the cement top
plates (with rebar inside). It will take them about a month. Pave and
L@urie entered into extensive negotiations en espanol and I was left in
the dust. Later we walked back to Pave´s and stopped at a store for soup
ingredients. I was in bed at 7:30, gonna try to make it til 9 tonight.

this morning the welders came by with a total price quote. L@urie and I
had been panicking about the durability of the elbows, metal doesn´t last
but neither does ceramic (we´re talking 5 years max). fortunately they
can be replaced fairly easily while leaving the stove more or less intact.

this afternoon we went down into central Cusco to visit L@urie´s friend
Rosanna. I might take classes there next week. we are moving into our
apartment on Sunday. saw the first white faces today, Pave´s is off the
tourist track.

sleeve, Thursday, 29 March 2007 20:08 (fifteen years ago) link

damn text limit! here´s part 2

I wanted to talk about Pave´s street, Calla Del Estrella. everybody
has ur dogs and they live outside the locked courtyards (before the locked
gates) all the naughty dogs bark and bark at night, I want to record
some! Pave´s dog is named Gos, or "ghost" and looks more husky than ur
dog. the neighbor´s dog is a small dachsund looking hound type named
Laika (SO CUET). we think she is the naughtiest barker but we´re not sure
yet. fortunately we have capones (earplugs). I am going to try and hook
up Pave´s new second bathroom shower, all the shower heads are electric
and are the only grounded things I´ve seen so far, all of Peru runs on
ungrounded 220 volt power (scary!!!). Yes she has a fusebox!

We probably wont´go to Sipascanchas until next Saturday. From what Pave
tells us things are pretty dismal there, the greenhouses fell apart from
lack of care and were cannibalized for wood and plastic, there is no money
for the school lunches, and the medical supplies were sold for personal
gain. We´ll see how bad it is when we go. Pave got a car and we night
even drive there the first time, seems our licenses are valid! That
sounds even scarier than the bus, though.

the welders are going to be up there Monday through Friday and I will
probably be helping them while Laurie does clinic work. the first month,
while the parts are being made, Laurie is going to do her health surveys.
Victor speaks Quechua so that will be pretty much essential.

OK, all for now! More next week!

sleeve, Thursday, 29 March 2007 20:09 (fifteen years ago) link

I thought I´d start here by giving some background, a lot of the people on
my email list don´t know all the details of what we´re doing, plus I´m
reposting on ILX and my blog, so...

Rocket stoves are a way to reduce indoor air pollution by achieving a
higher combustion rate for wood-fired cookstoves. In much of the Andes,
the primary means of cooking and heating is with open fires in a closed
area (house). As a result, respiratory illnesss is Peru´s leading cause
of death. The stoves not only reduce the amount of smoke, but will also
have chimneys venting to the outside. In addition, the higher combustion
rate means that wood is burned more efficiently, reducing the amount of
firewood needed. We are building 120 stoves, 100 for the village of
Sipascanchas and 20 for the village of Sonco. We´re doing this with our
own finances, no non-profits are involved in the stoves.

cast of characters so far:

me- Sleeve, some guy from Oregon.

Laurie- my awesome girlfriend who worked as a nurse in Sipascanchas for 15
months (from 2002-2004). this is kind of a homecoming/reunion for her.

Pave- our temporary host, she has also done a lot of volunteer work in the

Juliana - German volunteer teacher also staying with Pave

Rossana- Laurie´s friend who runs the Machu Picchu SPanish School which I
will be attending next week.

Adela- native Quechua woman who is a teacher in the village.

OK... It´s Saturday now, feels like forever since we got here Tuesday
morning. Thursday night I had my first real sleep. Friday we got up and
went into the Centro (center of town). The first thing we saw was a big
demonstration! Probably 150-200 people chanting things outside of this
government building, probably 50 riot cops in full gear. After a few
minutes they all marched into the building, I couldn´t be sure but it
looked like a lot of the people in front were in classic anarchist black
hoods and such. There was also a press conference going on.

sleeve, Saturday, 31 March 2007 17:11 (fifteen years ago) link

When we walked down the street to try and find a bank, we saw another
march that was part of the same demonstration. This was all campesinos,
mostly older, with the mujeres (women) marching first and chanting "la
lucha continua" (the struggle continues). we applauded and smiled, I
think it´s important for them to see sympathetic white faces. We asked
around but nobody could tell us what specifically the demo was about.

Laurie tried to open an account but she needs a Peruano to go with her to
vouch for her. So we walked around a bit and saw some of the famous Inca
walls made of giant stones perfectly fitted together with no mortar. The
archaeologists and scientists and historians still don´t know how it was
done. We stopped at a restaurant Laurie had been to before and had our
first real meal - potato appetizer with some fascinating sauce, soup,
trout, and filet mignon of alpaca which was freakin´delicious. Also this
yummy drink made from red corn, pineapple, and apples.

Later we went back to the apartment and Pave came back, having spent the
day comparison shopping among welders. I´m not sure whether she called
Victor´s initial labor estimate an "outrage" or an "insult", but the point
was clear. We are going to let her do all the finance negotiations from
now on! And possibly go with another welder, as long as they also speak

I wanted to talk linguistics some, it´s very interesting. When I started
studying Quechua a few months ago, I was struck by some of the
similarities to Finnish - suffixes which change the meaning of words or
sentences, for example. Last night Pave told me that this is actually a
real similarity that linguists have found - Finnish, Hungarian, Mongolian,
and Quechua all come from some common base before the Bering Strait and
Indo-European migrations. I am also having this disorienting effect of
having my high school German come up, I want to say "aber" instead of
"perro" and "und" instead of "y". Juliana speaks excellent English so I
haven´t been practicing much German with her.

sleeve, Saturday, 31 March 2007 17:12 (fifteen years ago) link

Last night we all went down to the hardware/welding district to price
sheet metal. we decided to go with thicker metal, 1/8 inch, to increase
the longevity of the stoves. I am also looking for a voltmeter and
soldering iron, wishing I had brought mine.

Other notes... the water is only on here from 8 Am to Noon, so you need to
plan ahead and fill up pitchers and buckets ahead of time. There are
taxis EVERYWHERE, whole lines of them along the busier streets because
very few people have cars. Emissions control? Ha! Dream on. It gets
pretty toxic at times.

Adela came by today for the first time, she tells us that many things are
better in the village which was a relief to hear after all the bad news.
All the houses have running water and bathrooms now (!!!) but they don´t
really use the bathrooms yet - some education is needed. They will also
supposedly have internet in 3 months also! These improvements are due to
the municipal government, which is apparently doing a good job.

We move into our own apartment on Sunday! Hot water! (Laurie says it´s
really lukewarm at best, but still a luxury).

Next week I start intensive Spanish school, 4 hours a day. Probably
another update early that week.



sleeve, Saturday, 31 March 2007 17:12 (fifteen years ago) link

I had missed this thread before! Great stuff here, sleeve.

Ned Raggett, Saturday, 31 March 2007 17:13 (fifteen years ago) link

thx Ned

sleeve, Saturday, 31 March 2007 17:20 (fifteen years ago) link

also I apologize for the line breaks, no way to fix that that I can figure.

sleeve, Saturday, 31 March 2007 17:21 (fifteen years ago) link

You can build rocket stoves in Peru, but you can't correct a few line breaks?! (Fascinating stuff, seriously.)

Rockist Scientist, Saturday, 31 March 2007 18:11 (fifteen years ago) link

Well, if I type here first that should solve it. So here...

It's Monday. Today is a huge Easter-related holiday involving Los Señor De Los Temblores, a black Jesus who they say saved the city of Cusco from an earthquake in 1650 on this day. I bought a little pamphlet about his history today, there is a procession starting at 2.

Saturday evening after my last update Laurie and I went downtown at night for the first time. We walked into the most insanely huge and ornate church on the main plaza and they were having evening mass. The minister or whatever was leading the hymns through a fantastically distorted amp system, and the crowd was responding. The hymn was in Quechua, and with the echo in the huge basilica it was literally spinetingling - the first time I have felt not just "different country", but "totally different reality". It could have been 100 years ago. The examples of syncretism in the church were jaw-dropping, like a huge painting of the Last Supper with the Black Jesus and a table full of roasted guinea pig (a delicacy here, haven't tried it but Laurie says it tastes like chicken).

Unfortunately I will miss a lot of this thing today because my intensive course en castellaño starts today (NOTE: saying "castellaño" instead of "español" is better form). I brought a professional field recording unit (an M-Audio 24/96) and will be recording a lot of this kind of stuff as I get the chance.

We also found out that the demonstration was about Peru´s plans to privatize it's education system, which seems like a damn good reason to raise hell. There was teargas, injuries, and 1 arrest, but we seem to have totally missed all that.

Yesterday Laurie and I moved into our own apartment. We have our own bathroom! And a small fridge!!! (an uncommon luxury that we were not planning on). We got settled and then went shopping.

First up was the food market near the main plaza, an absolutely insane spectacle that would make any US health inspector keel over and die on the spot. Dogs, flies, craziness, a whole butcher aisle with heads, jaws, tongues, internal organs, and who knows what else on display. Lots of food booths and such. we stocked up for our new kitchen and got some basic stuff like a 5-gallon bucket for saving water (although our apartment seems to have in 24-7 you can never be sure). Then we went to a mercantile market, also huge and amazing, kind of like the Fred Meyer of Peru. We found speakers for the iPod so now we can rock tunes in our new crib, most excellent.

Today we kind of accidentally found a different market that Laurie had never been to by asking a cabbie where to go to dupe keys. There were no dogs allowed in this one, and cheaper blankets than Laurie had seen anywhere else. We're going back in a bit to get three blankets - one for our bedroom window and two for our beds since there is no heat to speak of and lots of gaps in the seams of the roof.

Our project has a name now courtesy of Pave! "Allin Q'Unchakuna" which means "better kitchens" in Quechua. I also wanted to note that although we are financing the stoves ourselves (about $6500 US), the Catholic Medical Mission Board paid for our tickets and traveller's insurance and is also giving Laurie a stipend - credit where it's due.

After this week we will go up to Sipascanchas to begin the interview process that Laurie is doing, it also includes some basic lung diagnostics. I have been deputized as the official videographer of the project, armed with Pave's 8mm videocamera (I worked on a live community television show for like six years).

That's all for now, more in a few days probably.

sleeve, Monday, 2 April 2007 15:51 (fifteen years ago) link

bump in preparation for update

sleeve, Friday, 6 April 2007 15:54 (fifteen years ago) link

As Ned would say: Noted.

Rockist Scientist, Friday, 6 April 2007 16:05 (fifteen years ago) link

WOW, xposts!

Well! It's Friday, I think it{s Good Friday. God DAMN these weird keyboards, I{m just gonna use the bracket as an apostrophe.

After I wrote the above update, we checked out the ceremony, a very solemn parade where they carry this big statue of the black Jesus through the streets downtown. There were live hymns being blasted through huge speakers in the main plaza as the Senor De Los Temblores was carried along with people throwing flower petals at him. I recorded some of it! Unfortunately I had to go to class, but afterwards we went back down to the plaza just as he was being returned to the cathedral. the crowd was packed and massive, even worse than the worst Country Fair that year they oversold. I thought we were gonna get trampled for a few scary seconds once.

Tuesday we went out for a dinner with some of the other students and teachers at the Spanish school, and then went for beer and pool with a few of the students and an Americano friend of one student. They{re really into pilsners here, that{s about it as far as beer. The pool table was ridiculously surreal and warped and we watched our balls do some highly unlikely curves and twists, but it made the game last longer. That same day, my iPod died and lost all its files. As most of you can imagine, I was less than thrilled with that development. Fortunately, it made a mysterious miracle recovery yesterday and the files are back.

As we continue to prepare for our first trip to Sipascanchas it is becoming apparent that we won{t be building all 120 stoves, probably more like 60 or 70. Not all the families have come up with their share of the cost (20 soles, about $6 US) and we decided on a deadline of April 20th. Still no photos, Laurie needs to dump her camera card onto CD first and it is kind of a hassle. Sorry.

On Wednesday afternoon Pave took us and two of the nuns to an orphanage where she used to work 10 years ago, we were ostensibly delivering a big sack of sugar but I think she wanted to give us a tour. 40 kids, from babies to teens. The whole thing is funded by two Spanish (as in, from Spain) sisters who have family money. It was really inspiring, lots of love everywhere, happy kids, clean, food, etc. They said a lot of times the babies are literally left on the doorstep. They also have a 100% placement rate for the younger kids, at a certain point adoption just doesn{t happen any more and then they care for the kids until they are 18.

Last night we had a surreal experience up in San Blas, the neighborhood above the main plaza. We were just walking around and ended up in this super small super fancy crepe place. Had a delicious dessert crepe, candles and wine, a wood stove (we were originally drawn in because their sign said "ecological wood stove" but it wasn{t a rocket type), and it felt like we were in Europe somewhere. Then back out on the streets with the beggars and hustlers, what a culture shock. I feel true pity for the next privileged hippie who tries to sparechange me back in Eugene, they{re gonna get a serious earful.

School is going as well as a one week crash course can be expected to, irregular verbs are a pain no matter what language it is. I am definitely more proficient, though, and can go shopping by myself now!

Yesterday we were on the Plaza and noticed a hunger strike off to the side of the cathedral (with signs and such). About 5-6 men, workers at the cathedral, striking (I assume) for better work conditions. We talked to them briefly and we are going to try and interview them later for possibly an indymedia article. They are very brave, demonstrations are technically illegal here (which explains the teargas from the other day, apparently that situation was only defused because the univeristy administrator agreed to meet with the student activists).

Tomorrow I take my first trip out of the city, to Quiquihana to check out one of the trial stoves. Then Sunday it{s another trip to another city, I forget which, and then we leave for Sipascanchas at 5:30 on Monday morning. We decided not to spend the whole week there, so I will probably update again this upcoming Thursday.


sleeve, Friday, 6 April 2007 16:21 (fifteen years ago) link

I think I'm running out of adjectives.

We got back early today so we are updating before we go to Sipascanchas at 5 A.M. tomorrow.

Saturday we got up at 6 and took a bus to Quiquihana, about two hours to the south of Cusco. Pave came with us. Some of the nuns have a convent there and they are in the process of building yet another orphanage. The countryside on the way was amazing, the mountains go straight up from green plains. Lots of deserted adobe buildings, Pave said that the occupants leave during the rainy season (December to May) because of the danger of landslides, then they return if they can.

The nuns gave us a brief tour of the convent and I was amazed to see a 200-watt pirate radio station! It´s so far out in the middle of nowhere that nobody cares. Those naughty nuns! Also impressed to learn that it isn´t just religious broadcasting, but music and local news as well. Then we went to the orphanage-under-construction where the stoves were to be built. Welders Eddy #1 and Eddy #2 were already there, along with two Quechua guys who we think were construction workers already on site. It took us about 4 hours to build two stoves, which were somewhat larger than the Inkawasi blueprint that is our norm. Sister Nelly was right in there with us working, Eddy #1 somehow managed to go the whole afternoon without getting his spotless and creased pants the least bit dirty. I filmed the whole process but not before we discovered we had TWO dead batteries and had to hack together a jerry-rigged electrical cable that went about 100 feet. The power kept going out and Laurie would have to go back to the blackened, melted, charred outlets and try new combinations until it worked.

Conscious of the fact that I was filming an instructional video that would not be edited, we went in stages. I would start filming, Pave would explain the steps in Spanish, then one of the local guys would translate into Quechua. Then I would stop the camera until the next phase. Laurie took pictures but (I can hear the groans from here) we won´t have them until Thursday.

The most inspiring thing was watching how quickly the Quechua guys caught on and how excited it made them. One told us that he lived in a pueblo with 70 families and he was sure everybody would want them. We fired up the stove as a demonstration, but they still needed to let it dry and form the concrete plate that sits on top. After we were done the nuns took us back for almuerzo, the big midday meal. Couldn't help but notice the two locals weren´t invited. Hmm. Anyway, we were well fed and talked about Lent and Easter. Laurie was quite taken with one of the older nuns, I bet she writes more about it.

sleeve, Sunday, 8 April 2007 21:07 (fifteen years ago) link

and more...

When it was time to go back we realized that the buses don´t stop in
Quiquihana, so Sister Nelly drove us to the next real station. All along
the way we passed people waiting for the cheap buses, more like vans,
called kombis. It was just total poverty all the way back into Cusco, I
wonder how long those people had to wait - a day? Two?.

Today we did it all over again, going east this time to a weaver´s market
that folks from Sipascanchas and Sonco have put together with the help of
the nuns. Beautiful, incredibly detailed, expensive (up to US $150)
blankets and scarves and purses among other things. The people come down
from their villages and spend the week there. This was much nicer than
the construction zone we worked in on Saturday, with grass, alpacas, sun,
and some very curious little kids. We went with three families to look at
their kitchens, Laurie took photos of the blackened walls and talked to
them some. Lots of qui (guinea pigs) running around, also pigs and dogs.
This time Adela's husband Nino came with us, he is a teacher in
Sipascanchas and will probably be supervising the stove building
operation, so add him to the cast of characters.

Again, the stove building created quite a bit of local excitement and
people picked up on it right away. As soon as we got it going, the
weavers put their big pot of natural dye on it. It got to boiling in like
10 minutes! Immediately the weavers started throwing skeins of yarn into
the pot to be dyed. So it was already being used before it was even dry!
Didn't even have a chimney yet!

During the process I took a break and walked down the alleyway because I
heard singing. It was Easter Sunday service at the local church, and I
recorded some chants and hymns for a little while, sitting outside. I
decided not to record inside any of the churches here because they don´t
allow film or pictures and, well, they deserve respect. But this church
was blasting the service out through a big loudspeaker, so I figured it
was fair game.

Also wanted to note that on Friday night I was going out for bread and we
heard the BOOM BOOM BOOM of marching drums. It was another parade for
Senor De Los Temblores! That dude gets around. They carried him right
past our apartment. Then we went down to the main plaza and saw an even
bigger statue of the Virgin Mary being carried along, apparently this is
the parade where they go out, meet each other in the street, say hello,
and go back to their respective churches.

When we got back today we took Pave and Nino out for chicken and watched
people get hyped up for another soccer game. A bunch of red-clad guys
came down the street with drums chanting the Cienciano (Cusco´s team, see
Laurie´s blog for more info) chant which goes OOMPAH OOMPAH OOMPAHPAH!!!
I also recorded the team song off of some loudspeakers. Now it´s off to
shop for supplies and then to bed!

sleeve, Sunday, 8 April 2007 21:08 (fifteen years ago) link

wtf with the different line breaks. oh well.

sleeve, Sunday, 8 April 2007 21:08 (fifteen years ago) link

I have bookmarked this thread. I have an internet friend of sorts who lives in Lima, so this is all quite interesting for me.

mitya, Monday, 9 April 2007 07:59 (fifteen years ago) link

New update!!! part one...

OK, here we go.

Donations etc… numerous people have been asking about how to make donations. It’s complicated. For starters I recommend some basic reading about microfinancing and microcredit, there are books and probably essays as well given that the last Nobel Peace prize winner was the Bangladeshi microfinance guy. But the thing about just donating the money to GIVE stoves straight up to people is, well… it doesn’t really work.

You see, people in these situations won’t use something new/unfamiliar that they don’t have a personal investment in. We have seen this directly borne out in the situation with the bathrooms at Sipascanchas. They were built by outside parties, for free, and a LOT of the people still don’t use them. They are treated like some kind of status symbol, not used for their actual purpose. One of the key philosophies of the microfinance movement is that people have to have some kind of personal stake or investment in whatever improvement is being made. So our offer is: 20 soles for a stove (which we are not keeping but putting back into a tree planting project), OR two of the families’ best cuy (guinea pigs) donated to a cuy-raising project in Sonco (another nearby village) OR donate labor for free to build stoves for the 7 or 8 single-mother families. Even then, we are keeping it on the down low that we’re giving stoves to the single moms (thanks, Drake), because if word gets out everybody will want one for free. I hope this makes sense, folks.

Right now, it seems that by far the most useful way to make a donation to this project is to go out and buy as many cheap little LED penlight/nightlight things as you can afford, preferably red (for keeping your night vision) but any color will work. We were able to find them at Tru Value Hardware in Eugene for $2 apiece, pay no more than that. Then AIRMAIL them to:

Laurie Iaccino (do not use c/o)
Machu Picchu Spanish School
Calle Arequipa #251
Cuzco – Peru

They are one of the single most useful things we have found to give people, and we are quickly running out of the 40 we brought.

If we end up needing money, Laurie has an account set up with her credit union that people can donate to, much better than Paypal.

OK, lemme get my outline out now. Some random notes to start off with…

After seeing how invasive the eucalyptus is here, and learning that the Australian colonists imported it, I have come to the conclusion that Australia deserves their cane toads. Payback is a bitch, as they say.

The weather here is crazy. It’s so high up that it’s similar to a desert vibe, hot in the day and cold at night. But it’s the rainy season, so there are periodic cloudburst/thunderstorm type moments during the day as well. Sometimes at night it just POURS like nothing I have ever experienced except the most intense Midwest thunderstorms, except this can go on for hours. Just amazing. All the streets and fields have channels cut into them for drainage.

sleeve, Thursday, 12 April 2007 17:59 (fifteen years ago) link

part two...

When we went back to the cathedral, the hunger strikers were gone. No idea what happened, but today I watched a march of differently-abled folks demanding rights and respects (one sign said NO MAS EXCLUSION, no more need be said). Just yesterday on our way back from Sipascanchas I asked Laurie “boy, people in wheelchairs are just shit out of luck in this country, aren’t they?” So this was yet another example of recent synchronicities (more on that later).

My friend Root has a brother who is working in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, and he had an interesting take on the smoke which was that, in the jungle at least, it keeps the mosquitos away and reduced the spread of malaria. A mixed blessing for sure! Laurie’s response is: “They need to use nets, not smoke”.

Monday morning we got up at 4:15 A.M. and caught a bus to the town of Pisac with Nino and Adela. When we reached Pisac, we bought fresh warm bread from a panaceria and waited for a kombi, kind of like a big van with 8-10 seats. Probably 15 people crammed into it, we were early on purpose so as to get seating. Up the mountain we went, at points there was literally a thousand-foot drop down to a river that started FOUR FEET OR LESS away from the tires. I will try to get a picture next time.

About two hours later we were dropped off on the road above Sipascanchas, it is impassable during the rainy season except to really big trucks or 4-wheel drive vehicles. We decamped and sorted out where we were going to stay, we ended up in the old clinic which has been pretty much unused since Laurie was last there. All over the walls were educational posters that she had written during her last stay here, very weird and surreal.

We arrived around 9 A.M., during a break in the school day, and were constantly followed around by 25-30 curious children, probably ages 3-10. We unpacked, had tea, and watched the men building the roof to a new kindergarten – first the framing, then a thick layer of bamboo, then mud, then these half-cylinder type pieces of clay called tejas (I think) that were laid out in rows, one up and one down, overlapping so as to drain the rain off. A guy named Alberto invited us to lunch (almuerzo), Laurie is the godmother of his youngest daughter. Well, here we go! The daughter led us to her house, straight up a 30 degree slope, occasionally looking back with this puzzled expression as we struggled along behind her. Sure enough, the meal was fried cuy (see above) which was actually quite good and well seasoned. Also potatoes, more than I could ever even think of eating. After we gnawed all the meat off of the little cuy legs we threw the bones to the dogs. Unfortunately, it was partly an elaborate setup for him to ask Laurie for a lot of money. I’ll let her comment further on that.

Periodically during the day the clouds would roll in, the temperature would drop 20 degrees, and it would rain. Almost everybody walked around in the cold mud with nothing but sandals, some of the better off folks have rubber boots now. Mud and cowshit everywhere.

After lunch we interviewed Alberto’s family, Laurie has a number of medical test devices to measure lung capacity, pulse rate, and percentage of oxygen in the bloodstream. Later in the day we interviewed the family of the new president, who seems sharp and motivated. She was puzzled because all of the numbers seemed really low (i.e. bad) – more on that later.

Tuesday we spent a full day, eating, napping, and interviewing. We are limited in the times for interviews because the whole family is usually home in early morning and early evening only. After a couple of fairly exhausting treks (mostly done by Laurie), we decided to have the families who live further away come to the clinic for the interviews.

The houses are humbling – dirt floors, blackened ceilings, smoke. Occasionally a TV/DVD setup, weirdly enough – two out of five so far. There are more stores in the village now, another sign of improvement, although the term “store” is used fairly loosely here.

On Wednesday, we attempted to do some more interviews but it was too late in the day – we went to three houses unsuccessfully. Feeling defeated, we retired to Adela’s room/office for breakfast (desayuno). Totally by chance, there were two folks there visiting the village – a doctor from the local health department of sorts (Humberto), and a lawyer friend of his whose role was somewhat unclear to us (Meribel, she lives in Cusco so we will find out more). We would have missed them if we had been doing interviews. Humberto explained to Laurie that her readings were normal, they just acclimate to the low levels. He also offered to help us get the donated vitamins that have been held up by customs in Lima! Very, very fortuitous.

sleeve, Thursday, 12 April 2007 18:00 (fifteen years ago) link

part three...

On Wednesdays there is a market set up and people come from even further out. The men get drunk on chica (fermented corn beer) and the women sell stuff (with a few exceptions, notably Alberto, who was at his table the whole time). We bought some essentials for our time there like a blanket, dish soap, bleach, matches, etc. Packed everything up in our room behind two locks and caught a ride back to Pisac with one of the big trucks that comes on market day. Laurie and the driver knew each other from before, and we chatted with him on our way back down, maybe 90 minutes. On the way into Pisac, he was stopped by two very intimidating Peruvian cops for no apparent reason, I’ll let y’all know how that turns out because we disembarked at that point. We decided to pay for a taxi back to Cusco because we were feeling burned out, the buses are crowded and it sometimes takes a while to get one with enough room. The first taxi we asked wanted 40 soles! We expected 15 at most. Laurie went off on an inspired tongue-lashing in Spanish, people across the street were watching and laughing. We stalked away down the street with our backpacks as the taxistas followed us, progressively lowering their offer until we got down to 20 soles. Laurie continued to (justifiably) lecture the driver as we headed towards Pisac, pointing out all of our bullet points: not tourists, volunteer workers, been here before, and WHAT THE FUCK IT’S 40 SOLES TO TAKE A GODDAMN TAXI ALL THE WAY FROM SIPASCANCHAS TO CUSCO (my emphasis, not hers). She told him to let all the other drivers know who we were and not to try and rip us off anymore or we would just take the bus (which we will probably do a lot anyway). I love my girlfriend!

Once we got to talking basic chit-chat, it turned out that our driver lived in one of the smaller towns along the way and knew this family that Laurie has another godchild with! Small world, ain’t it. She wrote a note for him to deliver to them and we paid him an extra 5 soles, we were on good terms when we were finally dropped off in downtown Cusco.

We decided to celebrate our good fortune with the doctor etc. by going out, so we went to one of our fave local spots, Los Perros (The Dogs) for a magnificent meal of: two 14-ounce glasses of fresh juice, a chicken and avocado salad, two big bowls of one of the best pumpkin curry soups I have ever had, and two STRONG mugs of rum-laden hot chocolate to finish off. Total was approximately $20 US. We walked for a while, hung out at our apartment for a few rounds of Yahtzee, went up to the crepe place for a dessert crepe (chocolate and fresh pear this time), and then down to a local bar where they have traditional music. Drank some more rum (straight dark stuff from Cuba this time) and watched a 6-piece band run through a bunch of great-sounding traditional stuff. Electric bass, drums, this fascinating mandolin-type instrument with 10 strings (5 are harmonic strings, like a 12-string guitar), two guys playing flutes and/or panpipes, and an acoustic guitar. Finally got home around midnight and slept, but our sleep cycles have been pretty whacked out so it wasn’t as restful as we hoped. Sorry for not closing the door, Laurie! (the lights shine through and keep us up).

In about 90 minutes I’m headed to my penultimate Spanish class, I paid for 5 days which takes the form of two two-hour sessions per day with different teachers. My early afternoon teacher, Karina, told me about this movement in Peru called the “neo-rural” movement, where people from the cities take over abandoned pueblos and renovate them. Nobody else has had a clue what I’m asking about when I try to get more info, so I am going to grill her about it.

As a final note, I asked Adela about the land situation when we were up in Sipascanchas. She said that families reserve pieces of land for their kids with the understanding that they will give some of the produce back to the community as a whole. She also told us that there are no papers of official records of any kind for any of the land. I’ll just let you Americans roll that concept around in your head for a while, it warmed my anarchist heart lemme tell ya.

Until next time,


sleeve, Thursday, 12 April 2007 18:01 (fifteen years ago) link

and off I go to modrequest to googleproof my GF's name, oops.

sleeve, Thursday, 12 April 2007 18:01 (fifteen years ago) link

also, flickr account coming soon! Pictures galore!

sleeve, Thursday, 12 April 2007 18:07 (fifteen years ago) link


Ned Raggett, Thursday, 12 April 2007 18:07 (fifteen years ago) link

here's the flickr link:


sleeve, Thursday, 12 April 2007 18:59 (fifteen years ago) link

new update!

OK, it´s a slow sleepy Sunday in Peru… We got to take in easy in Cuzco
for a few days, Laurie went to the welders and ordered our 100 stove parts
after waiting in lines at the bank all day. I went to Spanish class.
Friday we spent a night out on the town and last night went to an
“electronica night” at a bar just up the street where it´s all couches, no
dancefloor. Place was tiny and crowded by 11 PM. One guy spun vinyl, the
others used CDs or possibly MP3s, couldn´t tell. We ended up talking to a
friend of one of the DJs, they were both from Holland and in Cuzco for a
week. All the Holland people Laurie and I have met are really nice and
speak excellent English. We plotted to get me an off night opening up as
a DJ there. We definitely aren´t on the tourist schedule here, they all
stay up til 5 AM dancing!

Today we went back to C’Orao with Pave to do interviews with the 3
(possibly 4) families who want stoves there. We’ve got it down to a
routine now, depending on the number of kids it can take less than 45
minutes. One family, Andre’s and Honoraria’s, had a 13 year old daughter
with a brutal toothache, she was really miserable and crying quietly the
whole time. Laurie took a taxi back after we returned to Cuzco with pain
meds (Tylenol etc.) and a few other things like some colored pencils for
the other kids (3 younger boys, super cute and studying diligently, I took
pictures). C’Orao is close, she was back in under an hour. I showed Pave
the Flickr site (where I mislabeled Claudio as El Presidente, hope Laurie
fixed it).

We also brainstormed with Pave about getting more turistos to stop at the
weaving corral, it´s kind of like a flyover zone to the more well known
and popular market & ruins in Pisac. We decided to make flyers in English
and hand them out ourselves. In another positive development, the nuns
had brought in a sewing machine and a loom and some locl women were
teaching the Sipascanchas folks to use them in return for being able to
use the machine/loom for their own projects. So hopefully they will stock
up before the main tourist rush hits (in late May when the rain dies off).

Tomorrow we head back to Sipascanchas, we’ll probably write more on
Wednesday evening.

Take care, all


sleeve, Sunday, 15 April 2007 23:41 (fifteen years ago) link

It´s been beautiful here the last few days, sunny yet temperate as we head
into the fall season south of the equator. We are settling into our
routine, this week Laurie did seven interviews up in Sipascanchas (I think
I will say ‘Sipas’ from here on). I had less to do this last time, but in
the coming week I will be videotaping some interviews and the construction
of the first model stove for Sipas. They got a lot of work done on the
jardin (aka kindergarten) building while we were gone, there was a whole
playground installed with slides, climbing structures, and grass! They
cut the sod from somewhere else. It isn´t going to be finished until the
end of the month, so they keep chasing the kids away from the playground.
There will be a big party on the 2nd of May to celebrate. I recorded some
cool stuff – an deeply weird radio play in Quechua that we heard by chance
(only an excerpt but WOW), the sound of the men calling a village meeting
by blowing on conch shells, and the maniacal garbled radio noise that our
neighbour starts blasting out of a big speaker at 5 A.M. I can’t figure
out whether they’re showing off or performing a public service in the form
of a wakeup call.

My initial impression of Sipas was somewhat inaccurate, it is actually
considered somewhat of a happening place out there in the rural Andes.
People move there from places even further out, kind of like the
equivalent of La Grande or Kelso/Longview. And there is a lot of work
being done. Still, they won’t pay one sole a month per family to
chlorinate their water, go figure.

I am starting to dissolve in the sea of languages here, I can feel the
English kind of floating away.

Other impressions of Cusco… we have made a habit of going out on Sunday
evening before our Sipas trip and taking our leftover food in search of a
single parent begging on the street. Sadly, we haven’t had to look for
more than ten minutes yet. The first time it was a mamita who was nursing
an older boy, probably four, because she had no other food. Sigh. The
second time it was an older man with a young boy.

Is it some kind of law that every European under 30 has to have
dreadlocks? I swear, it awakens my inner cynic.

They burn some kind of scented wood here, not like cedar but sweet. I
know the smell has already percolated into my DNA in that unique way that
only smells have, it will always remind me of being here.

sleeve, Friday, 20 April 2007 17:57 (fifteen years ago) link

part 2, skirting the text limit again:

Yesterday we spent a long time in the huge Molino market, Laurie got a
portable CD player and a bunch of CDs from local or regional artists (plus
superstars Mana and Manu Chao). As she was listening to various things, a
guy asked me what kind of music I liked. It turned out he was a bar owner
and was looking for new music. I hit him up for a DJ gig and it was
decided I would come by in the evening. Turns out they show movies at his
bar until around 9, then they have music. Like a lot of the bars and
restaurants here, it is entirely filled with couches/sofas. No dance
floor there, but they have cool games for people to play (Pictionary,
Scrabble, lots more). I started playing stuff off of the iPod (which
seems to be OK as long it’s not on battery power, thank god) around 10 or
so and kept it up until after 1 A.M. The owner (Cesar) was happy although
along the line it was requested I throw in more rock and less dance, which
actually works better for me. A brief note on DJ psychology: You need to
read the crowd, figure out why they are there and what they want (and how
to get them to stick around). These folks are mostly hanging around after
the movie and want to talk, drink, and play games – not dance. By 1 the
place is usually cleared out because the turistos have headed out to the
dance clubs. I am going to try and have a regular gig there on Friday
nights after the movie, so I’m going back tonight.

Last night we also had an old friend of Laurie’s over for dinner, he went
with us to the bar and they cheered me on. He is from the north and told
us some fascinating stories about his indigenous tribe, who were conquered
by the Incas sometime around 1000-1200 AD, probably. They are the people
who were doing brain surgery in the years BC (!!!). He said the Incas
took the wisest people from his tribe south with them, which was a typical
Inca move it seems – they imported a lot of knowledge from the conquered

Tomorrow we are having the doctor and lawyer (who are married, it turns
out) over for dinner. Sunday we go to C’Orao again to meet a busload of
American turistos who are coming there. Pave is sick so we will be their

In the past week I had had increasing problems with one of my canine
teeth, so yesterday I went to a dentist who Laurie knew from before,
definitely NOT sketchy and quite the professional. He is giving me four
fillings for the equivalent of approximately $80 US. The value-for-money
ratio is really mindboggling here sometimes, Laurie bought a bag of coffee
for a dollar yesterday. The nurses she knew in the hospital when she was
here before made about $80 US per month. And Peru has the most
up-and-coming economy in all of South America!

Until next week…

sleeve, Friday, 20 April 2007 18:03 (fifteen years ago) link

OK, we have all the LEDs we need. Thanks everyone!

Well, it´s been a month. Today we went and checked on the welders who are building the stove parts, everything seems to be going fine. The rockets weigh around 15 pounds apiece! Good thing Isidro has a big truck. We also searched unsuccessfully for used bikes, but we found a place that sells cheap new ones with the help of a very nice Peruvian guy we met in one of the bike shops.

It is my patriotic duty to inform you, as a temporary Peruvian, that today was the day Peru had a big push to get people to vote for Macchu Picchu as one of the New Seven Wonders Of The World. When I walked down into the square this morning, there was a huge hoo-ha going on with an endless parade of schoolgirls, campesinos, dancing troupes decked out in traditional finery, guys in suits, military marching bands, etc. All of them had banners and balloons and such urging people to vote. As Laurie pointed out to me today, one good reason to do this is because it will enable Peru to further protect the area. So if you so desire, go to www.n7w.com and vote!

Last week in Sipascanchas we went to build the first demonstration model stove in the kitchen where the mothers cook for the kids, which has been unused recently due to budget shortages. We had it all planned – a friend of Pave’s was going to drive us and Edy #1 all the way up to Sipas, wait for Edy to complete the work, and take him back. It was a good deal, too. So at 6 A.M. on Monday Laurie and I made our way to Pave’s to get picked up. After an hour, Pave discovered that the cambi driver was drunk (at 6 A.M.!!) and had lost both the keys and some important card (license? registration?). It was Pave’s car! She was furious, seems that she has helped this guy out a lot in his life.

Anyway, off we went on the bus to Edy #1’s shop. He was barely ready as well! Good thing we were late… Then we hired a taxi to Pisac and after that a taxi to Sipas, cost us almost twice what it would have.

When we arrived there were a bunch of guys sitting around doing nothing and no adobe bricks (which we had thought we lined up beforehand). We found out their plan was to have each mother bring one brick! Except… almost all the mothers were in the city of Puno (8 hours away) for a microfinance conference! And they wouldn’t be back until Thursday! Hell of a lot of good that does… So we ended up reluctantly buying some adobe, which of course sets a very bad precedent. Hopefully nobody will complain about having to come up with their 40 adobes on their own now. Later we learned that the guys were sitting around for a big community meeting, not waiting for us – a good example of how easy it is to misjudge things with the language/culture barrier.

sleeve, Friday, 27 April 2007 21:42 (fifteen years ago) link

damn text limit.

sleeve, Friday, 27 April 2007 21:42 (fifteen years ago) link

The stove was built quickly, there are pictures up on the Flickr site. Later that day, I started to get diarrhea, and by the time we came back to Cuzco on Wednesday and consulted Laurie’s invaluable “Where There Is No Doctor” book, it was obvious I had giardia. A little more research on Wikipedia and the U.S. CDC website followed, and we learned to our surprise that it is not just waterborne – it takes the form of a hardy dormant cyst that can be found in just about anything – dirty hands, dust, toys, food, etc. Once ingested it turns into the amoeba. Washing my hands fanatically appears to be the only other thing I can do besides the precautions we already take. Laurie and I are still mystified concerning the wheres and whens of the transmission vector, since she is not sick and we eat almost exactly the same stuff. Anyway, I am now on 500 mg of Flagyl 3 times a day for 7 days – this was the pharmacists’ recommendation since the giardia here is tougher (normally 250 mg 3x/day for 5 days). Hope that’s the end of that part of the story! I will say it was much less unpleasant than I imagined – no pain, no fever, etc.

On Wednesday we found out that it was a special day – The Day Of The Cows (Dia De Las Vacas). Celebrated in all of Peru, but more so in our region, it is a day where all the cows get special treats from the children (apples and flowers), get to stay in their stables all day, don’t have to go grazing up above in the mountains, and, if they’re lucky, get to wear garlands of flowers on their heads all day. Adela led me and the whole preschool class (about 25 kids) to a stable where the kids said hello to the cows. Then they all took turns laying down their gifts on a blanket while saying blessings to the cows in Quechua. Again, there are numerous pictures (of a cavity-inducing level of sweetness) up on the Flickr site. I think there was more to the ceremony, but I had to leave to catch Isidro’s truck back to Pisac.

Last night was the big soccer game, Cuzco’s Cienciano team against the Mexican Toluca team. They put up a huge screen in the plaza so everybody can watch. Laurie, our friend Chicho, and I went to a local bar for the first half. We were just a tad early and snagged a table, 15 minutes later the place was full. It was fun to watch crazy Spanish TV during the pre-game. The Toluca team had these cheerleaders who were so outrageously over-the-top sexy that it actually worked somehow (more raw, less airbrushed), there were quite a few whistles in the bar at that point. We settled in, the game started, and… they got slaughtered. I used to play futbol aka soccer and although the score was only 1-0 (from a dubious penalty kick awarded to the Toluca team) at the end of the half, they would have been down 15 points if it was basketball. Consistently outplayed, it was harsh. Peruanos in the bar were putting their heads into their hands and shaking them as their beloved team made bad pass after bad pass. The score ended up being 2-0. Today Laurie asked a cabbie about the game and he didn’t even want to talk about it.

sleeve, Friday, 27 April 2007 21:42 (fifteen years ago) link

My friend Eric asked about the names in Sipas, some of the photos are misleading because that was one of the only families so far where all the kids’ names were Americanized. Significantly, it was also one of the only houses with a DVD/TV setup. Some of my favorite names so far: Incarno, Narcissa, Honoraria, Efraim, Cyprian, and Flor De Mayo.

We’ve been trying to read the local papers, which sometimes gives me a surreal and incomplete idea of the news from home (hmm, ships trapped in ice in the North Atlantic, hmm… KRYPTONITE DISCOVERED IN SERBIA!?!) I saw a particularly memorable political cartoon a few weeks ago, a replica/parody of the Iwo Jima flag raising scene except the soldiers were raising a Confederate flag and there was oil spouting out of the ground where the flag went in. ‘Nuff said there.

Next week is a big week, we will spend 4 whole days in the mountains including a bike ride to Colquepata (about 2 hours probably). Won’t be back until Friday, I’ll probably write again next weekend.

Regards to all,


sleeve, Friday, 27 April 2007 21:43 (fifteen years ago) link


sleeve, Friday, 27 April 2007 22:07 (fifteen years ago) link

wtf. how to link Flickr when there's no jpeg file extension?


sleeve, Friday, 27 April 2007 22:09 (fifteen years ago) link

As I said before, it's great to read all this, and see it too! (Link to the individual image, not the page it's on.)

Ned Raggett, Friday, 27 April 2007 22:15 (fifteen years ago) link


sleeve, Friday, 27 April 2007 22:21 (fifteen years ago) link

Happy International Workers of the World Day! Celebrated in a lot of places but not the US, god forbid we should have the same holiday as those communists. The internet café is still open, the girl here works 7 hours a day, 7 days a week, and goes to school in the mornings. She doesn’t keep any of the money, it all goes to her family (Laurie found all this out the other day). There are a lot of places closed today.

As some of you know, we decided to stay an extra week. There were several reasons for this. One was that we were leaving on the morning of the biggest holiday of the year here in Cusco, the summer solstice aka Inti Raymi. People were urging us to stay and it also was a bad day to travel. In addition, we have come to the realization that we are working a lot. Even on our days off we have been planning, checking in with people, and dealing with banks. This week we got our first real time to chill and have a few days off. So we are planning to actually act like tourists for a change at the end of June, see some ruins, and relax before our redeye flight from Lima.

Friday, after the antibiotics finally started to kick in, we went out with Chicho to my DJ night, but they decided they didn’t want me to play after making us sit there for an hour. It was hard to parse all the reasons (the bar has this weird family scene), but I think Cesar really just wanted to copy my iPod. Laurie was pretty pissed, I was just confused, and Chicho said it was dishonest and lame – so that time it wasn’t just cultural differences. So we went to see one of the traditional groups. There is this group of bars that cater mostly to middle class Peruanos – I asked Chicho where they worked and he said “in tourism”. They are all kind of allied, put on events together and such. Saturday we did the same (at a different bar) except this was a group that Chicho is friends with and that Laurie had seen before on one of my DJ nights. They were called Amaru Puma Kundur (a reference to the Inca worldview – serpent below, puma on earth, condor above). They were super excellent, reminded me of Hamsa Lila. I bought their CD. They would go over real well at the Country Fair, lemme tell ya. But I don’t think the Fair pays airfare for nine people!

I have mostly been on the super bland diet, but yesterday we went to Eggo’s for our traditional mid-day meal. They had adobo con chancho (pork adobo) and warned us that it was picante. FINALLY! Actually, it was cooked with a pepper that you could choose to cut open if you wanted to ramp up the spice factor (in this case times ten). It was very good but a bit overwhelming, today I am back to mostly blandness although I sampled some of Laurie’s chicharron today. Tomorrow we leave for Sipas at 5 A.M., ride bikes to the Colquepata health department (so Laurie can see the records for what kind of health problems the village has had during the last year) on Thursday morning, return to Sipas that afternoon, and go back with the teachers in the cambi sometime on Friday afternoon.

sleeve, Tuesday, 1 May 2007 22:08 (fifteen years ago) link

We have been going to the crepe place more and more, we discovered these cheap dessert style crepes for like 5-6 soles plus they have the best and cheapest café con leche we have found so far. Last night our waiter was a young American woman whose mom had married a tourist guide. They are involved with a children’s library in Pave’s neighborhood, this library also has adobe stoves! We plan on visiting at some point soon.

The street vendors are getting to us, especially the relentless “massage” girls who seem to own the street next to ours. Laurie has started lecturing them – “look, I’ve walked past you every day for a month and said no, gonna be here two more months, can you please stop asking?” On an individual basis, this seems to work. We have also started sitting in plazas once removed from the main one, which helps a lot. The other tactic that I finally started ignoring yesterday is for someone to ask “Where are you from?” after you’ve said no to whatever item you’ve been offered. If you respond, it triggers this script where they say “Estados Unidos! Capital Washington D.C.! President George Bush! Former president Bill Clinton! Monica Lewinsky!” (I wish I was making this up). Then next comes “Por que no?” Sigh. Other than that, I have made it a point to be nice and say no, lots of tourists act like those people don’t even exist which is icky.

Till next time,


sleeve, Tuesday, 1 May 2007 22:08 (fifteen years ago) link

Well here we are back in Cusco. After I last wrote we were kept up all night by some crazy May Day celebration down in the Wanchaq district, away from the turistos. Wednesday morning we got up at 4:15 to catch the bus to Pisac as usual. We bought yummy fresh hot bread in Pisac and piled into the cambi with the profesoras. Nino made some last minute adjustments to our new bicycles. Wednesday evening we managed to squeeze in two more interviews. One of the houses had a little calf living under a bed, surely one of the cutest things I ever did see (yes there are pics but not yet)

Thursday morning after a light breakfast we headed out on our bikes to Colquepata, allegedly a 40-minute bike ride. It took us two hours. The ride was gorgeous, we were way high up in those mountains and the scenic vistas were staggering. We fortuitously met the president on the way there, he was working on road repair. So Laurie got to discuss our concerns and set up a meeting for later in the evening. As we descended down into the town (population circa 1500) we noted with dismay that we were riding down a long, steep, rocky hill.

Once in the town, a young man (Ediberto, age 17) who had ridden with us most of the way went and found the director of the radio station. Laurie had her first on-air experience! “Hola Sipascanchas, soy Laurie!” She told the village to have their adobes, mud, and ceniza (ashes) ready for Sunday the 6th when the delivery of stove parts was scheduled. This was Adela’s idea and a good one. While she was in the station I had a moment of concern as I was surrounded by six men who were very curious about the bikes and eventually asked if they could exchange one of theirs for mine! Um, NO.

Once Laurie finished being a radio star we went down the block to the health center to meet Humberto (the doctor we previously met in Sipas). He was full of advice – the guys on the street were harmless, my giardia almost certainly came from the water in Sipas, not the food, etc. He had all the demographic info Laurie needed on his computer, unfortunately we didn’t have a blank CD so we will copy it later when he’s back in Cusco.

After a quick meal at a local restaurant Humberto took us to, we prepared for our return. We walked up most of the steep slope out of the town, and then found to our further dismay that it was basically uphill the entire way back. It took us three hours in the blazing afternoon sun. Laurie started to feel worse and worse. We were in sight of Sipas when Nino caught up to us, riding his bike home from the day teaching in Sonco (one of the small towns in between and the site of 21 more stoves to be put in). By that point Laurie had to stop and was vomiting, with a severe headache. I booked back to Sipas on my bike and met up with Nino who had taken a shortcut on Laurie’s bike (breaking both pedals in the process, cheap ass plastic bullshit). I gave him water to take back to Laurie, then he returned to where she was and led her down into the valley and back up on foot carrying his bike. She barely made it. I ran to meet them once I could see them on the trail with some coca tea for Laurie.

sleeve, Saturday, 5 May 2007 22:19 (fifteen years ago) link

We put her to bed and rested for a couple of hours, but then she began to get worse – headache not responding to pain meds, vomiting, etc. I went to get Nino and Adela and looked up stuff in the “Where There Is No Doctor” book, for a few terrifying minutes I thought she had heatstroke but her temperature was too close to normal. It was probably heat exhaustion. Nino and Adela swung into action (Adela comes from a jungle family of healers) and mixed up a concoction of coca, urine (Adela’s) and rubbing alcohol which they rubbed on her legs. Then they wrapped her legs up in a towel, Laurie said it heated them up until well into the night. They also mixed up egg whites and put them in her hair, covering her head with another towel afterwards. At some point during this Cyprian (the president) showed up, but it was obvious we couldn’t meet with him. Adela and him went off to discuss our main bullet points, Nino stayed with Laurie and I.

We spent a miserable night in the clinic, Laurie’s cough got worse and worse. By the next morning she was a wreck and could barely walk up the road to meet the cambi back to Pisac. We took a taxi from Pisac (after having to lay down the law to the cabbies once again) and Adela took her straight to the clinic in Cusco. She was diagnosed with sinusitis and pharyngitis. They shot her up with antibiotics. Last night was another sleepless, cough-filled night, so harsh. About an hour ago we returned from our second visit to the clinic where she got another shot and (finally) a cough suppressant. Wish her a speedy recovery, folks!

In the midst of all this Pave called us to say that the soldaduras (welders) weren’t ready. They were still working on the small grates that hold the wood up above the base of the rocket entryway. Yesterday she came over and with her communication skills and Laurie’s cell phone, we managed to reschedule everything for NEXT Sunday – El Dia Las Madres! Seems appropriate. So now the plan is to meet Isidro in Cusco Saturday night, load up the truck, have him stay in town overnight, and go up in the morning, returning to Pisac after we offload 100 rockets, 100 chimneys, 100 grates, and 1000 chimney hats into the almost-abandoned church. From then on, our role is mostly supervisory, plus continuing the interviews. So we have a whole week to rest in Cusco and recuperate, I am going to work on my Spanish and Quechua.

OK, back to the apartment to start some chicken soup. I had planned a more general update, writing more about history and language and culture, but that will come later this week.

sleeve, Saturday, 5 May 2007 22:19 (fifteen years ago) link

That was the longest time between updates, I think. After we got back to Cusco and Laurie went to the clinic, she returned the next day for another shot. Then she went home with some more drugs, but two days after she stopped those (last Thursday, this was) her headache started to get worse and she went back to the clinic. By this time I was flat on my ass with my own flu-like sickness, which lasted around four days in total. Around 9 PM Pave came and got me, we went to the clinic and it turned out they were keeping her there.

She just got out this afternoon after spending four nights there. In addition to sinusitis and pharyngitis, she was diagnosed with a case of near-bronchitis, salmonella (“only at normal Peruvian levels though”, says the doctor), and another amoebic parasite whose name began with “H” that isn’t in our books. They gave her excellent care which is fortunately being covered by our traveller’s insurance. Every morning this entire delegation of doctors and nurses and etc. would visit her and discuss her condition.

After the second day I started walking to the clinic, it takes about 15-20 minutes and I go past the Wanchaq Market which I have mentioned before. It is cleaner and more utilitarian than the San Pedro Market - where, in addition to all the animal parts you could imagine, there are better flower stands, more dried goods, and a whole section of ultra-creepy dead mummified fetal goats and pigs that the brujas (witches) use. Wanchaq has more locksmiths, barbers, and such. There are different districts, Wanchaq is one of them. They are kind of like the boroughs of New York and have some degree of independence. After five minutes of walking I almost never see any more tourists, but this part of the city is quite safe even at night, very populated and open with lots of vehicles and lights.

sleeve, Monday, 14 May 2007 21:08 (fifteen years ago) link

Saturday night while Laurie was in the clinic, it was time to load up Isidro’s truck with all the stove parts. Pave met me at 6:30 and we headed into the rough, crazy, and somewhat dangerous Santiago district to meet Isidro (this is the one place we have repeatedly been warned about by friends and strangers alike, Chicho says gangs use trained dogs to rob people and he has had to run from muggers on his way home before). When we arrived at the welder’s, the HUGE (multi-block) weekly used/flea market was just breaking up, it was dark, and there were piles of trash and dogs and sketchy guys everywhere. Since the streets were still blocked we walked down and met Isidro under the Santiago bridge, the whole scene was very Blade Runner-esque. We drove and loaded up the barillas (rebar pieces to support the pots) at a different place. By the time we got back, the street was open. Isidro, the welders, and I loaded everything in while Pave counted and took pictures, then I paid them the huge sum (6350 soles, about 2 grand) that I had been carrying around warily thus far. The dogs ran around, security guys randomly blew their whistles, and about a dozen middle-aged women did a slow, graceful pre-Mother’s Day dance with each other in the middle of the trashed-out street while torches flickered and music played on a boombox. Not for the first or last time I reflected on how far away my experience is from anything the average tourist would ever see.

The next morning I got up at 5:45 and met Pave and Nino at the Puputi bus station, after taking the bus to Pisac we met Isidro and drove up to Sipas. There were a bunch of people there to help and everything was loaded into the church in 20 minutes. We drove back down and I ended up home at 12:30. Six hours of travel for 20 minutes of work! But it was worth it, now all Laurie has to do is distribute the stoves to the families and get more interviews in the process. There is some question about the Sonco stoves (missing people on the list), but that will be resolved eventually. Our job is more than half over, so is our time here.

In the intervening days I walked around in this weird limbo, a non-turisto in the tourist places (mostly due to needing a lot of fairly reliable good food to recover). Laurie and I watched a lot of cartoons, Camp Lazlo and Rugrats are pretty funny when all the voices are in Spanish! On Mother’s Day almost everything was closed, there were a bunch of confused tourists wandering around. I have been drinking the local beer, Cusqueña, which is actually quite a decent pilsner brewed with Saaz hops and local barley. There is a sweeter dark one too. Root asked me about the chicha (corn beer) but after all this sickness I am afraid of it, plus that’s one thing people warn us NOT to drink, especially up above.

In the midst of all this, it turns out that the village is going to start paying to chlorinate their water again, so THAT’S a relief at least. Laurie was in full on rant mode the other day about the sanitary conditions up above, quite justifiably I think (the doctors told her “all those kids are loaded with parasites”). So we will try to be even more careful. Who knows how she made it through that 15 months 3 years ago with no ill effects whatsoever!

Thanks for everybody’s words of support! Laurie is updating as well, and soon we will load up more pictures on the Flickr site.

Until next time,


sleeve, Monday, 14 May 2007 21:08 (fifteen years ago) link

bumping this once more now that the new photos are up on the flickr site:


sleeve, Monday, 14 May 2007 21:51 (fifteen years ago) link

i really need to atch up on reading this thread! i will shortly okay.

Mike McGooney-gal, Tuesday, 15 May 2007 19:38 (fifteen years ago) link

atch = catch, of course.

Mike McGooney-gal, Tuesday, 15 May 2007 20:18 (fifteen years ago) link

Agreeing with Mike here!

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 15 May 2007 20:25 (fifteen years ago) link

So, this has been the least amount of time we’ve spent in Sipas yet. After my last update, we went up for a day while the market was happening to publicize our stove distribution plan. Laurie already wrote about this on her blog, so I’ll skip that. Tomorrow we are going up for a single-day visit again, hoping that a lot more people signed up on the sheets Laurie left with Adela.

This past weekend we went to one of the private museums that isn’t covered by the official 10-day tourist ticket. It was a truly amazing collection devoted to pre-Columbian art, a lot of it on loan from a Lima museum that has the world’s foremost collection. Many beautiful examples of bottles (carved like cormorants, owls, or realistic likenesses of human heads), strikingly painted plates, and a really stunning wooden staff with a duck head, so simple and so realistic. The Mochila people did the best wood carving, and the Nazca had the most elaborate painted bowls. Also examples of other pre-Inca cultures like the Huari and Chan Chan. As it turns out the Incas were only on the scene for a couple of hundred years – more on that later.

Yesterday Laurie and I took a bus to the town of Urubamba, you go north from Pisac instead of east to Sipas. We passed through the town of Calca, regional pride increases as you travel north and Calca has signs saying (loose translations) “Calca: We Don’t Vend, We Defend” and “To Lie Is To Act Like A Slave”. Urubamba was small, clean, and lazy, with a tiny little Plaza De Armas. We ate lunch at a tourist sofa bar and then continued on by cambi to Ollantaytambo, our destination for the night. Laurie is friends with a family who lives there.

Ollantaytambo is where the royal Incas fled after the Spanish conquest. It has unbelievable ruins that are directly above the town on the mountains, with huge steps that the Spanish couldn’t figure out how to climb (there was a secret back path). After the Spanish dealt with that (it took them a while, it seems) the Prince and the remaining Incas retreated to Patakancha, 1200 meters up into the mountains (higher than Sipas!). Today they are 90% pure descendants, but of course have lost most of their culture and heritage (and I note again that the Incas basically gained a lot of their knowledge through conquering others and were really kind of latecomers compared to the Huari empire). Anyway, Ollantaytambo has that “never really been colonized” feeling bigtime. The streets are pretty much the same as they were pre-Conquest, with gorgeous little canals running all through them. I took a ton of pictures. It felt like being at the edge of the known world.

There’s a new wanna-be conqueror in town though – global capitalism! Since Laurie was there 3 years ago, hostels and cambis have doubled in price. There is an explosion of turisto type places. The family Laurie is friends with owns some property in town where they have a non-profit restaurant setup that feeds local kids for free. Since the last time, they have moved the restaurant to new digs down the street and are now renting out the space to other businesses. Carlos, the lead kid of the family (there are like 5 brothers) said that it is good for the economy, but that some customs are being lost. Interesting to note that there are a lot of cultural pride type measures going on, though – I kept wanting to mention that there’s this whole program in Sipas where the kids get traditional style backpacks instead of whatever hand-me-down 1st World Disney or Nike crap comes their way. That’s just one example – the Calca signs are another.

Last Sunday we also gave away our first stoves in C’Orao! Very exciting. They have to sign an official contract saying they can’t resell the stoves. We are going to post everybody’s picture when they receive their stove. Tomorrow after our visit to Sipas we will see the first ones fully built and installed in people’s actual homes!

I am continually amazed by the hidden courtyards here. A door you never saw open before can suddenly reveal a whole world behind it. That and the narrow stone streets really appeal to my Dungeons & Dragons sensibilities. I bought a map of Cusco and have been studying it, walking around to fill in the gaps of my knowledge.

This coming week Laurie goes to Trujillo (north of Lima on the coast) to visit friends. I will be wandering Cusco solo, perhaps even visit some outlying areas although most have to wait for our ten-day tourist ticket period at the end of June. More news next week…


sleeve, Tuesday, 22 May 2007 23:32 (fifteen years ago) link

Laurie's blog btw:


gonna bump this once more when I get the new flickr photos up

sleeve, Tuesday, 22 May 2007 23:34 (fifteen years ago) link

OK, I had a big computer crash at the internet cafe and only posted ten photos, but they are really cool ones - link is above in the thread. More will come tomorrow.

sleeve, Wednesday, 23 May 2007 22:55 (fifteen years ago) link

It’s a rainy Wednesday in Peru. Laurie gets back from Trujillo tomorrow! It has been a quiet week, I have had exactly six conversations in English, most of them short. Also have become proficient enough in Spanish to have conversations, which is nice. I keep buying the papers and reading them, looking up words I don’t know over and over. Past tense is still elusive, but whatever. Quechua remains even more elusive, although I can pick out words I know at times I still can’t form sentences more complicated than (e.g.) “don’t touch” (“ama llami”, but different pronunciation than Español). I bought nail clippers from an old guy on the street who was delighted when I thanked him in Quechua, most people here get enthusiastic when I say even my bare minimum of words.

Last Wednesday, we had a successful day at the Sipas market, giving away 16 stoves! Our total is now 20 that are on houses. Soon we will post photos. When we returned to Cusco, there was an email for us from a German guy who is also doing freelance stove projects. He gave us important new info – that the metal rockets don’t last very long in the Inkawasi models and that we should coat them with clay before installing (with the ash layer around that). This results in a fired piece of clay in the shape of the rocket once the metal wears out. So we scrambled around that night to coordinate with Pave about getting a message to the folks we had just given stoves to!

The same guy also told us that they were training ceramicists to make rockets for a tenth of the cost of what we just did. But there is nobody even near Cusco yet who could do it, and we still aren’t sure how they could possibly be transported up the mountains to Sipas! So perhaps next year…

I have been walking a lot, about two weeks ago it was like somebody flipped a switch and there are noticeably more tourists here. New traffic lights keep appearing as well, the latest one right on the street outside our apartment! Yesterday I discovered an entire street devoted to shops with religious wall hangings. Scrounging the few English book exchanges for good books, we have gone through what we came with (me: Ulysses, Laurie: 100 Years Of Solitude).

I have finally managed to stay up late enough to check out some of the bars and clubs, which don’t really get going until 10:30 at the earliest (for bands) and usually midnight (for dancing). Went to Ukuku’s around 1 A.M. on Friday with two friends (Chicho and a Belgian woman named Karen that Laurie and I met in Ollentaytambo) and it was full of dancing and revelry. Last night I discovered a yummy pastry place that serves little savory empanaditas.

Eating breakfast specials in the morning, usually a bowl of fruit/yogurt/granola plus juice and coffee for five bucks, pretty expensive but good fruit is a luxury. I could eat meat and rice down the street for a dollar. And that usually is what I have for lunch, although the lunches are huge and come with soup for about $1.50. I have experimented a little bit with pisco, a clear grape brandy that is Peru’s national drink, but only had one kind that was truly good, very grapey. Mostly I stick with the Cusqueña, brewed locally and quite drinkable.

During breakfast, I can look out a balcony onto the main plaza. There are small armies of cleaning people dressed in blue that totally remind me of Oompah-Loompahs. They sweep the streets and sidewalks. There is another group of people dressed in green – the Garden Gnomes – who tend the flowers and grass of the plaza. Ironically, the dogs are given free reign to run around everywhere including the plaza, while people and even toddlers are chased off the grass. The dogs in the city are totally indifferent to people, often running in groups on some top secret doggy mission. Or else they’re just casually wandering the streets or pissing in the flowerbeds on the plaza. Or sleeping on the sidewalk. This is in great contrast to the dogs of Sipas, who are always scrounging for food during the day and very hostile and territorial at night.

It is moving into winter here, we have learned the meaning of the term “abrigarte!” (“cover yourself”, roughly). Next week we will return to Sipas for three full days and hopefully give away the rest of the stoves for them. Then it’s on to Sonco and one last visit to Sipas before we morph into tourists and then return.

sleeve, Wednesday, 30 May 2007 19:47 (fifteen years ago) link

Three weeks left! Last week we had a few extremely busy days in Sipas. Of course, everybody waited until the very last minute so Wednesday was absolute chaos, but when the dust settled we had given away every single stove! Early on Wednesday morning I went with a truck and 34 stoves to drop off in Soncco (alternate spelling is Sonqo, Quechua is one of those indefinite languages like Arabic where there is no exact spelling). We were worried, because that left us short on stoves for Sipas, but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending, since now we don’t have to buy more) we had enough no-shows that it turned out OK. The last three people had to draw straws for the last two stoves. We included a bunch of new people (around a dozen, I think) who we put on a waiting list until 10 A.M. when we decided we had given the slackers enough chances. Most disappointingly, a number of the no-shows were families we had already taken the time to interview. Sipas has a really bad reputation for this kind of behaviour, we will see if Soncco is different next week.

We also took some time on Tuesday to give out all of the pencils that my nephew’s school had donated. The power outlets were hellishly capricious as usual, so I only got around 8 minutes of video, but that included a class of kids singing the Sipascancha theme song! Also lots of photos, I think we’re going to have a Flickr posting marathon this weekend.

Today I went and got fitted for a tailored suit that I am having made. In my search for the Yanapay school (more later) I found a whole street of tailors and decided to take advantage of the hideously unfair exchange rate to get a suit for about $70 US. It’ll be ready next week. After much searching, I finally found a hat to go with it in the San Pedro market today. The look is very classic, like a Bogart movie.

Next week I am going to spend a few afternoons tutoring math at the Yanapay school, a local nonprofit. It should be fun, the kids range from six to twelve. Discussing the current curriculum with their teacher, I had the horrifying realization that I can no longer remember how to derive square roots (or cube roots, etc.) through the long division type process that you use for such things, I need some math books in Español! Since they (of course) don’t have any I will buy them some and do a quick crash review before next Thursday. The following week, we are going back to Sipas to say our goodbyes and then starting on a crash course in tourism at the end of the week.

I thought I’d describe the journey to Sipas in a bit more detail, it is just a little too familiar to me now. We get up at 4:15 A.M. on Mondays. Usually we walk to the Puputi bus station, only about 10 minutes away. We catch a bus to Pisac at 5 A.M. which is invariably packed to capacity. It takes maybe 45 minutes to get there. In Pisac, we fight our way off the bus through pushy crowds of Peruvians vying for seats, and then we immediately go to the panaderia to get fresh hot bread – the best part of the morning! Then we wait with the other teachers for the combi (basically a stripped out VW van type vehicle with seats) and pile in with (not kidding) twenty other people. They usually insist on us sitting, so I’ve only had to stand once so far. It can get really insane.

The combi travels up past Pisac, and the road turns into a dirt one. We drive along the side of a mountain for a while (see earlier picture on Flickr of the view down 1000 feet to the river), and then climb through a number of different communities. One of these is the Parque De La Papa, essentially a bioreserve for potatoes with over 200 varieties cultivated and studied. Then comes Cuyo Grande, then Quello Quello, and there are a few more. All of these places are a little more urban and well-off than Sipas.

Finally we come to the last pueblo and the road continues to climb through grazeland until it starts a series of switchbacks that take us over the mountain pass into the next valley – the District De Colquepata. Sipas is just over the mountain, down another set of switchbacks. The combi lets us off up above the pueblo because the road is too rough for anything except big trucks (although some hardcore Peruanos do drive their cars down it on market day). Then it continues on to Soncco, which we will also do next week. The trip from Pisac takes about two hours. It can be very bumpy, some combis are worse than others. Finally, we hike down the hill to the clinic, usually arriving around 8:30 or 9 A.M.

Yesterday, as usual, we walked unsuspectingly down the street towards our fave breakfast spot and were confronted with a massive hoo-ha (word coined by my friend Rachel, means a big party essentially). It was El Dia De La Corpus Christi! The cathedral had a huge amplified mass out on the front steps. Everybody eats a traditional meal on this day called chiriuchu, which we had for dinner at Eggo’s. It consists of indigenous food – cuy, chicken, toasted corn kernels, seaweed, fish eggs, dried and reconstituted mutton (salty, like a lunch meat), and sausage (which they were out of). Also, everybody eats coconuts and sugar cane. It was the biggest fiesta I’d seen yet, at 2:30 I tried to go to the Yanapay school and literally could not get into the plaza. Around 4 in the afternoon it started clearing out a bit and Laurie and I walked around some. I made field recordings of the numerous different brass bands competing with each other, and we drank a bottle of beer with two older Peruano men who turned out to be artists. One was the director of the Museum of Popular Art in Cusco, and he gave us free tickets! We talked to them for a while, it was fun to converse with intellectual left-leaning atheistic Peruvians. Definitely a different perspective. We asked them what they thought of Bush and they said they thought he was a dry drunk who beat his wife. We also talked about the U.S. treatment of indigenas and as usual I had to apologize for my fucked up country, which they really sincerely appreciated. EVERYBODY was drinking in public, it is one of the few days where that is tolerated. Corpus Christi is not, apparently, an official Catholic holiday, this is another example of syncretism.

Next week we will report back from Soncco, and then we start to say goodbye and wrap things up!

Love to all,


sleeve, Friday, 8 June 2007 22:40 (fifteen years ago) link

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)

tehresa, Sunday, 10 May 2009 19:35 (thirteen years ago) link

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 (thirteen years ago) link

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 (thirteen years ago) link

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 (thirteen years ago) link

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 (thirteen years ago) link

one year passes...

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 (eleven years ago) link

link to Paskay here:


sleeve, Wednesday, 9 March 2011 00:53 (eleven years ago) link

I love peru

Slow lorax loves getting tickled (dayo), Wednesday, 9 March 2011 01:17 (eleven years ago) link

three weeks pass...

we´re here!

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 (eleven years ago) link

cusco is so awesome. i bet that main square is abuzz with political signage, etc.!

lil sis is kickin it in lima for a few more weeks and i'm jealous of both of you.

tehresa, Friday, 1 April 2011 20:08 (eleven years ago) link

Lima still kinda scares me, so big and crazy. Trujillo was really crowded and crazy too, more so than Cusco. And yes, there was a rally in the main square yesterday by supporters of Alejandro Toledo, one of the front-runners and kind of a centrist as far as I can see. He also ran in ´01 and ´06.

We went out to Mandorani today and all of the stoves seem to be working great! Very relieved. The one kinda problematic family from before seemed a lot more together. Apparently there is some legal fallout still from our conflict with Victor (who is now the president of the neighborhood association), and our friend & stovebuilder Tomas is being taken to civil court on Wednesday. Victor is claiming we never gave him his money back, that´ll teach us to not do receipts. Fortunately Laurie has blog entries referring to it that we are printing out, complete with dates. We also have witnesses who remember us talking about it. The end result is that there are six families that (according to Tomas) don´t want to have anything to do with us (although their stoves are working fine as well).

At worst we will have to pay the money again, I am actually kind of curious to see a court process. We called our lawyer friend Maribel to see if she can help us. They are also claiming that Tomas, as part of the association, had no authority to accept our money and (I think) they are demanding that he pay it to them? This is one of those times when we wish we were really super fluent in Espanol.

The important thing is that the stove design has proved itself to be solid and dependable. Even the initial one that was built in June of 2007 is still working fine.

We also saw our young friend MaFre (now age 16) who we helped get eye surgery last time. She is doing great, does not need more surgery, and is in college studying to be an accountant. She´s also learning English.

We were planning on having a big meeting next Sunday, but then we realized it was Election Day! So no way will we get anything done then. We switched to Friday for our followup visits and testing.

sleeve, Sunday, 3 April 2011 19:37 (eleven years ago) link

Well that was a rough couple of days, but everything turned out OK. Laurie got sick yesterday and ended up in the hospital for a night with altitude sickness aka soroche. After an IV drip and a night of oxygen she was OK enough today to go home to our little hostel room where she is resting now after a big lunch of quinoa soup.

On Monday we finally found our friend Rossana who is a local mover and shaker, and discovered she is running for Congress! She´s probably gonna win too, polling at 70%. She is amazing. She´s on the PPK ticket (Pedro Pable Kuczynski, one of the presidential candidates). Her boyfriend Mario is a lawyer and he told us he would help us out (Maribel never got back to us which is not at all unusual in this country). We agreed to meet in front of the hostal at 10 AM on Wednesday. Then we got sideswiped by the hospital trip, but we made it out this morning and were on the corner at 10 sharp.

And after all that, we didn't even have to go to court... all we have to do is sign some papers on Monday. I even bought a dress shirt at Topitop! Oh well. Our friend Carlos also showed up to translate into English and offer moral support.

It was a bit more complicated than we thought - Mandorani is run like a commune, the land is owned by the association not the people who live
there. So what they were doing was trying to use the fact that Tomas worked with us to take his land and house away. As Carlos said, "Tomas'
land is the sandwich they wanted, the money Victor was claiming you didn't pay was just the mustard".

Mario said that providing copies of the contract and LVM info (website etc) was plenty of proof that we were an autonomous American NGO and not bound by Mandorani association rules. We were reassured from all sides. Carlos told us that he had had a similar experience with his guinea pig farm (i.e problems with local gov't), and ended up only working with individual families on a private basis. So that is our path from here on out.

It was so awesome when we were waiting on the corner with Tomas (the dude who built our stoves last time and a great guy), and Mario and Rossana pulled up in their tricked out PPK-mobile pickup covered with PPK flags and big magnets and their crew riding in the back, it was like the cavalry arriving. I cracked up when Rossana, never missing a trick, started campaigning for her party with Tomas and asking him how PPK was doing in Mandorani.

Then Rossana told us not to go back to the hospital so we took her advice. Carlos came with us and we paid our bill - $400 for an overnight stay, IV drip, oxygen, and lab work. A lot more than last time but we ain't complaining.

So now that we´re back on track, we are planning on going out to Mandorani on Friday to give money back as promised and do the health tests. One thing that was kind of a bummer was that the retention-cooker baskets we had provided were nowhere in sight at the 6 houses we visited on Sunday. But hey, the stoves work, that's the important thing. Oh and there are only four families who are siding with Victor now out of the 15! I´m still gonna go to their houses and give them their money back, with a receipt this time.

Early next week, after the elections, we'll be headed downhill to Ollantaytambo where it will be warmer and more oxygenated. We may end up leaving a week early, we don't know yet.

sleeve, Wednesday, 6 April 2011 21:45 (eleven years ago) link

some more random impressions...

We spent a few days in Trujillo, on the coast. Very bizarre weather patterns, not like anything I've experienced. Hot in the mornings, cold in the afternoons, some rain, humid at night. Laurie has a godson there and we stayed a block away from the family and hung out with them pretty much all the time.

One day in Trujillo we went to an archaeological site called Huaca De la Luna (wall of the moon) that was built by the Moche people starting around 300 AD (I think). The amazing thing is that five consecutive times over hundreds of years they filled the temple in with bricks and built a larger one on top. It is now being excavated and is open for visitors, which was not the case two years ago. The wall frescoes alone are staggering.

Cusco seems more polluted than before, the cars/buses in particular are awful. On the Ethiopia thread somebody said that they thought Addis Ababa was where all the vehicles that fail their emissions tests are sent, but I think that dubious honor belongs to Cusco. Sometimes I literally cannot breathe for upwards of 30 seconds when walking on the street, which sucks when your oxygen levels are low.

It's really hard to tell who's going to win the presidential election - it looks like Ollanta Humala (the most left/populist candidate) has a slim lead. You read a lot of fear-mongering in the more right-wing papers about how he's gonna be just like Chavez or Castro, but I seriously doubt the military (or most of the country, in fact) would allow him to pull that kind of power move. We'll see!

sleeve, Friday, 8 April 2011 14:56 (eleven years ago) link

It's Election Day!

Voting is MANDATORY in Peru, 20 million people are expected to cast votes today. Charmingly, they won't have results until Tuesday. The whole country is under a dry law that has been rigorously enforced since Friday at noon, you can't buy alcohol anywhere. It lasts until midday on Monday. Obviously we are for Humala the quasi-socialist, but all of the candidates except Keiko Fujimori seem like they would do a decent job.

We had a great visit in Mandorani yesterday, now we have seen almost all of the stoves and tested/interviewed most of the people from before. On the whole, the project has been even more successful than we hoped. Also, we saw a lot of chimneys in the village that we didn't build. The idea is catching on, which is what we wanted. Anecdotally, people are reporting less wood usage, up to half of the previous amount. Lung expiration volumes seem higher as well, I'll have to crunch those numbers later.

sleeve, Sunday, 10 April 2011 16:13 (eleven years ago) link

OK, I feel kinda dumb because that election ended up being like a primary... I think if somebody had gotten over 50% it wouldn't have been? Anyway, the REAL election is in July.

Anyway, what happened was that the three centrist candidates split the vote, so we have ended up with lefty Humala versus super-right Fujimori, a choice that Mario Vargas Llosa compared to "AIDS vs. cancer", um not really helping there dude. M.V.L. later said that he would never vote for Keiko Fujimori, but he "could work with" Humala. The 3rd place party, PPK, has vowed to support Humala, I would be surprised and very disappointed if Keiko wins.

Spent the last few days wrapping up loose ends. An internet friend of ours who we had never met came and visited us. She's Peruvian, but was at college in Portland when she found our website. Oldest of ten kids, from a super poor region, now she has a degree in natural resource management. We hope to work with her more in the future. Laurie and her went out to Mandorani to do the last two family interviews while I finally got the rest of our things back from Rossana's, where they had been in storage for two years.

We also finally met our friend Leander IRL, she runs a nonprofit called My Small Help and has been focusing on getting help and education for disabled kids. We also met Lourdes, an 18-year-old Peruvian woman with spinal bifida who had literally never been outside of her house in her whole life until the last six months. Leander somehow got an appeal for a wheelchair onto Peruvian national TV and one was donated from Spain. We had dinner with her and Lourdes, watching Lourdes in Cusco was some really amazing flower-blooming Helen Keller type experience. She is now involved in making silver jewelry to support herself.

Today we leave for Ollantaytambo, Leander is kindly putting us up for free this week. Sunday we have a table at a local environmental fair in Urubamba, we have 100 copies of stove plans and some other visual aids. The rest of the week we will be visiting various projects of Leander's and Carlos', we may even get up the nerve to go back to T'Astayoc (at 14,000 feet where Laurie got so sick at the end of our last time here).

Next Friday we'll be headed back to Cusco for our last weekend, we are hoping to make it to Sipascancha as well!

sleeve, Friday, 15 April 2011 14:48 (eleven years ago) link

So, we wrapped everything up in Mandorani on the 15th. Laurie and our friend Luisa went out and did the last two family interviews. A few words about Luisa – she is a Peruvian who contacted us on Facebook while she was getting a degree in Natural Resource Management from a college in Portland. We were never able to meet her in the States, but she took a bus from her hometown of Andahuayllas (sp?) to meet us and see some family and friends (in a strange coincidence, she has a sister in Soncco, where we built 20 ill-fated Inkawasi stoves in 2007). She is the oldest of ten children, from a very poor village in one of the poorest parts of Peru. The new mayor in her town is unfortunately not very receptive to her ideas (the old one was), and so she is now looking for projects to get involved in (or start). Laurie gave her some personal money to get started, and we are considering working with her in the future because she is smart and dedicated and amazing.
The next day we found a great cheap bus line that goes direct from Cusco to Ollantaytambo called Diamante Express (10 soles!). Our friend Leander of My Small Help kindly offered to put us up in her house. We were thrilled to see such unheard-of luxuries as a full size fridge and a WASHING MACHINE!!! Nice beds, too.
Once we got settled in, we continued preparing for a table at the Urubamba Bioferia (kind of an eco-fair & craft market). Early on Sunday morning we headed out to Urubamba (a 20-minute drive) where Tomas had agreed to meet us. For a while we just sat there as people set up the tents and tables, they all seemed to know each other and were really busy. Once things got rolling around 10 AM, we were mobbed by people for six hours straight. Between Tomas, Laurie, and myself we must have talked to 60 or 70 people. Most of them took stove plans (which we had for free), and about twenty took Tomas’ number down. Hopefully he will be able to make some money while helping people! The vendors were eerily similar to the Oregon Country Fair demographic, lots of dreadlocks and hippie garb. But they all turned out to be really nice (lots of these expats aren’t), and we bought a few things from various tables as the day went by. Another nice thing about our table was that it was set apart from the main section, and almost all of the people we talked to were Urubamba families in town for the regular market day (which was also happening up the street). Exactly the people we were hoping to reach. We left at 4 PM, sunburned and exhausted but very happy with how things had gone.
On Monday we took a hike out to where our friend Carlos wants to eventually build a type of eco-village for tourists. Laurie very reluctantly rode a horse partway, while I just huffed it up the constant slope. It took about an hour to get there, and once we did we were maybe 2/3 of the way up the ridgeline. Below us, on the other side of the valley, we could see where we had stayed for the Solstice dawn in 2007. The land has a lot of potential, but the only real development aside from organic crops has been a partial building frame (roof, corners, and floor joists). Carlos is going to be travelling and working over the next year or two and then he might have more resources to put into the project.
Tuesday we went with Carlos to buy food for the children of Thastayoc, the small village with stone/thatch houses that Laurie got so sick at last time (it’s at least 14,000 feet). We delivered the food and checked out the larger-sized stove. Tomas had originally built one with us in 2009, but we ran short of adobe and the stove apparently had not functioned well. It had been rebuilt with a big range hood that connected to the old chimney, and was doing a surprisingly good job of pulling the smoke up and out. Unfortunately, all of Laurie’s careful preparations (no food, coca tea) came to naught and she spent yesterday evening being very sick with soroche once again. So we decided not to visit Sipascancha this Saturday.
Carlos also took us by a school on the Ollantaytambo-Urubamba road called Pachar. It seemed like a location that could really use some help – the greenhouses had fallen into disuse and disrepair because the government had not repaired the water/irrigation system (meanwhile there are two huge rivers within a few hundred feet). In an area which is routinely (and deliberately) neglected by the government because of their leftist voting habits, this wasn’t exactly a surprise – but it was sad. They need an internet connection, those are much more difficult and expensive around here than they are in Cusco. We talked about the possibility of a school exchange with the head professor. As usual we saw a plaque with several nonprofit names on it bragging about the greenhouse, we would bet money that none of them have ever been back to check on it.
This morning we had a long talk with Sonia, the founder of the Living Heart NGO. We will be funding a community stove for them in a village of their choice. Tomas will build it and they will provide followup and updates. We are very happy to be able to work with them, they share our values as an NGO.
Today we are going to visit a family that Paskay helped out with some of the money we paid them for Mandorani follow-ups, and then in the afternoon we plan on visiting Lourdes’ family with Leander. Thursday is free for now but we’re sure it will fill up quickly. Friday we head back to Cusco for a few days of relaxing before the flight.

sleeve, Wednesday, 20 April 2011 15:55 (eleven years ago) link

argh no line breaks, sorry.

sleeve, Wednesday, 20 April 2011 15:56 (eleven years ago) link

As always, enlightening and fascinating reports you provide.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 20 April 2011 15:58 (eleven years ago) link

six years pass...



that happened fast

sleeve, Wednesday, 21 March 2018 20:45 (four years ago) link

seven months pass...

totally fascinating article on recent breakthroughs in the decoding of the khipus (elaborate knotted cords that may in fact be a language)


#BreakingTheWorld (sleeve), Thursday, 15 November 2018 16:03 (four years ago) link


marcos, Thursday, 15 November 2018 17:01 (four years ago) link

Cool! I've been interested in these since they were used as a major plot device in Stefano Benni's "Terra!"

the girl from spirea x (f. hazel), Thursday, 15 November 2018 17:04 (four years ago) link

have to say though i don't like the headline - "we thought the incas couldn't write" who thought that? maybe the spanish but they burned and destroyed so many of the khipus bc they knew they were sophisticated communication tools

these folks have been doing some cool stuff btw https://projects.csail.mit.edu/khipu/ and there is also this cool database https://khipukamayuq.fas.harvard.edu/

marcos, Thursday, 15 November 2018 17:07 (four years ago) link

good point, and thanks for those links!

#BreakingTheWorld (sleeve), Thursday, 15 November 2018 17:10 (four years ago) link

one year passes...

not sure what's going on today, but this doesn't seem good:


howls of non-specificity (sleeve), Wednesday, 11 November 2020 15:21 (two years ago) link

This is bad.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 11 November 2020 17:32 (two years ago) link

Protests in Peru. How it started, how it's going. pic.twitter.com/AjC2CFEw0m

— Rodrigo Barrenechea (@RodrigoBarrene4) November 13, 2020

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 14 November 2020 21:07 (two years ago) link

3 dead in Lima so far in the protests

howls of non-specificity (sleeve), Sunday, 15 November 2020 05:50 (two years ago) link

anecdotal evidence: we have around a dozen Peruvian friends that we know via FB, across the political spectrum. ALL of them are pissed off at this guy today.

howls of non-specificity (sleeve), Sunday, 15 November 2020 16:44 (two years ago) link

WaPo reporting that interim president Merino is resigning.

howls of non-specificity (sleeve), Sunday, 15 November 2020 18:50 (two years ago) link

one year passes...
three months pass...

Police repression of a protest of working class people against price rises in Peru... under the new 'socialist' president... we need a revolution, not just new masks for the domination of capital! https://t.co/KulTOlXAKH

— AngryWorkers (@WorkersAngry) April 3, 2022

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 5 April 2022 09:13 (ten months ago) link

Peru is a never-ending heartache for me. I lived there in the early- to mid-90s. Sad to say, stability is more the exception than the rule.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, 6 April 2022 17:11 (ten months ago) link


thinkmanship (sleeve), Wednesday, 6 April 2022 18:02 (ten months ago) link

I'm really enjoying reading your emails, sleeve. They bring back memories. We lived there during the Fujimori years, the "dictablanda" as our Peruvian friends called it. Odd how he ended up in prison and his predecessor, Garcia, who had fled the country, was re-elected. This despite every Peruvian we knew being truly traumatized by the hyperinflation of the Garcia years. There was never a dull moment.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, 6 April 2022 18:20 (ten months ago) link

thank you. we are still in touch with numerous people from that era of our lives, we even do video calls these days

thinkmanship (sleeve), Thursday, 7 April 2022 01:50 (nine months ago) link

also, I miss eating lucuma

thinkmanship (sleeve), Thursday, 7 April 2022 01:51 (nine months ago) link

one month passes...

"But Ramos Salinas is not entirely without hope. “There can be joy in unlikely circumstances,” he says. “In Callao, during the recent protests, young people who’ve never had access to swimming pools blocked the road with inflatable pools, these cheap ones made in China. And they had the best time.”"

I wrote about the latest crisis in Peru! https://t.co/zhykoRT274

— Valeria CK (@valeria_wants) May 9, 2022

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 10 May 2022 09:51 (eight months ago) link

one month passes...
five months pass...

Well, it gets worse

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 7 December 2022 23:20 (one month ago) link

oh great, what now

sleeve, Wednesday, 7 December 2022 23:21 (one month ago) link

oh I see. here's what one of my oldest Peruvian friends has to say:

It's sad to see that in our country since those times of the gamonales the poor, the provincial, the people will always be marginalized, discriminated, humiliated, trampled and mocked. Many of us have lived when we came to the capital to study, there were always these hits and now these times this discrimination is maximized Is it a crime to be poor? Is it a crime to come to power being a provincial? Is it a crime to come from a people? How sad and unfortunate that our corrupt congressmen set a bad example for our children, teens and young people. Perhaps at school we always promote and ask that: when someone has problems we must support, when someone fails we must motivate to improve, when someone is going through difficult times we must give a hand, teach also not judge, be empathetic, active and now what will we say to our CHILDREN ABOUT LOYALTY. But now all we're going to see is hypocrisy, how can there be mediocre people laughing at other people's pain adding that they won. Of course he won power, corruption, mafia, wealthy, ambition. I also once heard that a teacher will always be another teacher's enemy oh how true it had been. But there is a lesson learned THAT SHOULD NOT TRUST ANYONE I believe in moments of sadness, bad luck even our shadows betray us. But if you will happily stay as an example THE LOYALTY OF A MAN TESTED as Doctor Anibal who teaches us that loyalty to someone must be until the end. Now what is the use of the elections if months pass again say VACATION, VACATION, if the rich and corrupt do not give their taste join all the mafiosos of the jam and capitalist press and so they lay it down because they will never leave their m woodpecker, their nests of gold, as it will always be. These are the consequences of no longer educating in values, lack of identity, which are all rights, rights and there are no duties, we are influenced with the external or ideal but does not exist and RESPONSIBLE for all that happens but defend n others have a name, Mrs Keyko who for dignity and record loving Peru should not run as a candidate, so the fate of our country can be different. Not to mention "JUSTICE" everything is taken over by the groups of power, who do and undo what they want in Peru. I better not even talk about congressmen...... Neither will we stay quiet in front of so much mockery and hypocrisy, always for the rich rotten class and the people will be an obstacle, But yes, I feel proud that although short time that the son of the people ruled in a country of rich, Thanks Mr. President. I just ask God to guide everyone. It's my personal opinion. Long live all the peoples of Peru and down with the corrupt and discriminators!

sleeve, Thursday, 8 December 2022 05:53 (one month ago) link

Did laugh at a random tweet which said that Peru's political culture is what's coming to many countries.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 8 December 2022 08:13 (one month ago) link

another update:

The real issue in Peru is that Pedro Castillo wanted to change the mining contracts to ensure more community support from the profits. Obviously those companies dont want this. Contracts have no end date but have to be renewed every 5 years. According to government info, these are the contracts that would be up for renewal in 2023. No doubt the bastards who ousted Castillo will sign them as they are and get a substantial backhander. There is only economics in politics these days. The ownership of these companies is international, not Peruvian, with most liked to US / Canada.

sleeve, Sunday, 18 December 2022 17:04 (one month ago) link

and of course


sleeve, Sunday, 18 December 2022 21:01 (one month ago) link

one month passes...

state of emergency in Lima and three other provinces as of Friday

sleeve, Wednesday, 25 January 2023 01:45 (one week ago) link

our conservative friend unfriended me on FB, we assume b/c I commented "follow the money" on a post. she's still friends w/ my wife.

sleeve, Wednesday, 25 January 2023 01:46 (one week ago) link

our other adult friend on FB is a teacher and she is very, very angry right now

sleeve, Wednesday, 25 January 2023 01:47 (one week ago) link

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