A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Heather Buc

RIDING WESTERN STYLE IN ARGENTINA…WITH STYLE!!

www.estancialospotreros.com

It´s Monday 3rd October and I´ve landed in paradise!!
Imagine.... tranquillity with only the sounds of the wind and the birds in the trees; impeccably kept grounds but not in a manicured way; just a little wild, in keeping with the surrounding area; a small hacienda within this -individualized rooms set up in existing buildings on the grounds, some adjoining, some detached from the main house; all with original, old style furniture, luxurious white linen, a fire in every room, a bath (yee ha), toiletries and unlimited hot water. A cooked breakfast if you want but always fresh bread of varying flavours, fruit, cereal and jam; a varied lunch... today it is Empaladas (cornish pasties to you)but with the lightest pastry you can imagine, scrumptious fillings washed down with locally produced wine and followed by crepes and mint tea (my choice)…..
…….Getting the picture???
…….I´m in the most idealistic setting you can think of....Ooooohhhh and it feels bliss. 

After breakfast (needless to say I have everything ) I went on my morning trek. This lasts about 4 hours and boy did it feel good. For someone who has only had about 6 lessons it didn´t feel strange or out of place for me to be sitting on this beautiful tranquil horse called Linda..riding Western style. It just felt natural...Note to self....keep this up when I get home. 
I wasn’t well equipped for this type of holiday...as I said it was just a whim but nothing was a problem to Louisa and Kevin…a nicer couple you couldn´t meet. I’ll even have a hot water bag in my already very sumptuous bed, tonight. Yep lots of smiley faces because that is what I have got..a constantly smiling face.
WOW!!! This is what my soul has been craving!...Just for a little while, anyway. 

OK now I will fill you in on my journey here from Peru…not as straight forward as I would have liked…not really so bad for me mind you …but for poor Carol and Lara...a bit traumatic!! So after a hectic day on Saturday preparing all the work I wanted to leave the NGO before I left for a week I finally made it to Cusco at about 8pm!! Now, not really in the mood or having the energy for a late night, knowing we were flying through the night the next night, I text Carol and said I would just stay in. When I arrived both Carol and Paul were already out. I had a small snack, a cup of tea and was in bed for 9pm..I was ready for it…call me sad!!
The next morning I got up and organized and actually didn´t have a huge amount of free time as I had to be at the airport for 11am. I was on an earlier flight than Carol and Lara, flying on a cheaper airline for us non- residents! When I left Carol was starting to recover having got in at 4.30am and Paul only got back at 10.30am that morning. As he walked past me, I said hello... I don’t think he heard me..still drunk I think and must have been5 knackered!! Boy was I glad I had stayed in…again.. sad I know. 
I got to Lima at around 2pm and after being able to check in my luggage to Cordoba and receive my ticket 10 hours early I had a leisurely lunch, read a few pharmaceutical journals (this is my promise to me…to read and absorb the 3 months I have received in one bundle…the individual weekly ones never arrived) or as many as I could during the week or at least while travelling and sitting around in airports. Anyway Carol and Lara weren’t due to arrive in Lima until after 6pm and our flight to Cordoba wasn´t until midnight. After lunch I had a long promised-to-myself massage in Lima airport. This is one of the upright ones where you are leaning forward in one of the funny chairs. My shoulders were sore so I asked for a firm massage and boy I got it! I can feel where her elbows and karate chops have been…but it feels a lot better. It is amazing how good those massages are in a semi- upright position.
Carol and Lara hadn´t had as much success with relaxing, expecting to do a few things including a massage at Cusco airport, only to find on Sunday afternoon they were all closed! They were also delayed sitting on the runway at Lima for about 45 mins after landing. This was not the end of the fun for them..so read on..but first a little about taking care in Lima.
Firstly when you arrive at Lima you need to be very careful about which taxis you take from the airport. You really MUST take them from a recognized group of drivers usually wearing green tags around their neck just outside arrivals in the main building..not outside..there have been so many robberies and muggings by trying to skimp and take different taxis it is not worth the possibility of saving a few soles or dollars!!
When they finally arrived in Lima airport we all went into Lima to kill some time before our flight. After deciding the cinema was not going to work out for us, we went shopping for trainers for Lara and had a wander around the department store..I can tell you, department stores and malls are the same the world over!! I could have been in any upmarket mall, in any city in the world!! I could see why the type of women I was seeing at the airport and around Lima were drawn there…with their heels they could only totter in..clothes so tight there was no room to breathe and impeccable make up, DKNY sunglasses…I’m sure you have the picture... Everything I am not...and don´t want to be, actually. Every store was an upmarket brand name..from clothes to technology..you name it is in Lima!! Carol and I discussed this for a short time. Carol is like me in this respect...not big on names and very happy in casuals. In fact Carol is probably more so than me as she wears her walking boots most of the time, walking style trousers and fleecies.
While we were wandering along, Lara began to get very upset as her earache had worsened. I hadn´t realized but with a cold which she had she often got earache exacerbated by flying. We had to head back to the airport as quickly as possible to get her meds which were in left luggage. This is something else you need to be very careful for..pickpockets are rife in Lima and even those people in the know(i.e. gringo locals) still get done over! Carol strongly recommended I stick my wallet, carrying my paperwork and passport, down the front of my trousers…so I did..next to my money belt with the money I needed to pay Louisa when I arrived at Los Potreros. I looked like I was pregnant! I could only get $20 bills so it was kinda bulky!
Back at the airport we went to a nice restaurant, got Lara doped up and I visited the pharmacy to get a few extra things to help. While I was away Carol received a visit from the security police checking everything was OK!! With Lara crying so much it had alerted the police...they are very strict in Peru (and Latin America I understand)..no parent can leave with a child without an official notarized document, for that particular travel date, from the other parent to say they give them permission to leave the country! This applies to all women married to Peruvian men…or so we thought!! When we arrived at the immigration desk a couple of hours later Carol was passed to a couple of different immigration men and eventually was turned away because she didn´t have a letter of permission from Paul!!!!!! Yep you read correctly..even though they are both British they are citizens of Peru (because of their business and the kids have Peruvian citizenship) so the same rules apply….I was shell shocked!! I had been sent on through and browsed while Carol and Lara talked to the immigration team, eventually phoning me to say they had been turned away and would maybe make it the next day…or not!! At this point (4.30pm on Monday) I don´t have all the detail and still haven´t heard if they will make it here!! It was supposed to be me accompanying them, not me here and them not!!!!!!!
In departures I watched the departures board to see if my LAN flight would leave on time. It was interesting to note that as usual the Madrid LAN flights, two of them, were delayed....I wondered if they EVER left on time!! (I had been delayed on this flight twice over the last 2 years!) Anyway my flight to Cordoba left on time, at midnight. It had dawned on me as we sat in the plane, waiting to take off, I didn´t actually know how long this flight was because I didn´t know the time difference between Peru and Argentina. I had thought I was getting 5 hours sleep on this flight so wouldn´t be too bad on the Monday…WRONG!! It was a 3 hour flight and paperwork was required for entering a new country. I realized I still had apples and a banana in my bag so quickly ate them as I ticked "no" to bringing fresh fruit into the country! Interestingly the only electrical equipment they wanted to know about was mobile phones and how many you had!! All of this eating and writing up documents resulted in only about 2 hours shut-eye! At immigration and customs in Cordoba airport there seemed to be a priority area where some people seemed to slip through in front of the rest of us. I’m not quite sure how that worked..it seemed to be if you knew this lady with the glasses..or were carrying a sleeping child! Anyway, no problems at immigration and then onto customs. Everyone seemed to have to go through the scanners and there were only 3. I wouldn´t be too long you´d think, but no. There were a lot of cases being opened, documents taken, conversations with various other customs men and women and the office, before certain articles were taken.. I didn´t see what ..some in boxes, some inside papers…possibly seeds… who knows but I was close to the front and I was still an hour!! Goodness knows when the rest got through! Out in the main building I looked for my taxi driver but I couldn´t see anyone so I waited for a short time..still no-one.... so decided to try the phone numbers I had. I turned on my Claro phone only to discover it doesn´t work outside Peru..It had never crossed my mind! It was a cheap one so I suppose I couldn’t expect anything else. I tried to use the public phone but I didn´t have any pesos as my trip was all inclusive so then headed for the exchange booth. It was now very busy so I half stood nearby the exchange booth as well as looking to see if anyone had a sign for Los Potreros. Then a nice man came across and asked if he could help. He spoke English which was great. He called the taxi company from his cellphone and then we had to wait on them calling us back. I discovered he owned a hunting lodge an hour from Los Potreros. He left once his guests arrived and a nice policeman looked after me. We then discovered an older man who was standing well back was the driver I was waiting on. He had a notice which he wasn´t displaying. He was looking for 3 people, one a child! He had seemingly followed a family outside thinking it was them and then when he spoke to them discovered it wasn´t the right group so came back to the terminal and waited. Because I was on my own he ignored me....All was well that ended well though. We headed off and were at Los Potreros in about 40 mins. I tried to nap...2 hours sleep really wasn´t long enough!! I didn´t get much of a nap though as the sun came out and I was curious to see the surroundings. We soon turned into a gate and headed up a track. Not far along I noticed everything, as far as the eye could see, was blackened with new green shoots starting to sprout in a few places. I discovered after I arrived there had been a huge bushfire that had devastated the whole area. It took only 4 hours to cause all this damage, destroying huge areas, burning all the fences in this 6000 acre ranch and beyond. For Louisa and Kevin it was not so catastrophic, although a real hardship having to replace all the fences, no grass to feed the animals and no set up for feeding them etc., they had a business that was about to take off for their busy season and summer. They had contacted all their guests to explain but no-one had cancelled. For their neighbours it was a different story! They lived off the land. They had no money coming in to feed their animals and repair their fences!! The government are seemingly going to offer interest free loans to help local people. I’m pleased to hear that.
Kevin´s family have owned this property and bought up other properties around the area for a number of years. Kevin and his brother were running the business then Lou arrived 6 years ago, on holiday and her and Kevin fell in love...It was a lovely story of how it all happened.  Lou helped Kevin build the business not realising how well it would take off. Now they are busy from October to April so have guides to help....English girls..keen riders..wanting to spend 6 months here...a very nice life if you ask me.

OK, so back to my arrival... I was not wasting time sleeping!!....I’ll go to bed early tonight...I wasn´t going to miss an opportunity like this!! I had a nap for about an hour and then had cereal and yoghurt, bacon and eggs and coffee for breakfast... Coffee was DEFINITELY required!!
At 10.30am I was introduced to Linda, my horse for the morning. I discovered we get different horses and breeds for the morning trek and the afternoon trek. The horses in the morning we rode the Criolla horses which were working horses used to round up the cattle etc and the Paso Peruanas in the afternoon...a very comfortable horse.  As well as a different horse twice a day you had a different horse every day. You can understand why they have 120 horses..some out to pasture ..some working and then rotated as required.

Lou came with us on my first day and after a demonstration of how to ride these horses...(very laid back I might add) ...one handed like the gauchos and the slightest touch lets them know what you want them to do... we headed off around the extensive proprerty. It was a very leisurely trek around their amazing farm land, rolling hills, lots of wildlife, nothing but you and nature…very tranquil, very relaxed, and very chilled. The ground was quite rough and normally much greener, obviously. It had a number of rocky outcrops and paths around the farm for us to trek along as well as green pastures for the cows. Eventually we came to a cattle station where some of the gauchos lived and based themselves from. We had passed them out repairing fences...not surprising! Here there were their dogs, lambs...it is their spring after all, and horses at varying stages of being broken in. We stopped for coffee and a biscuit. Back on the horses we took another track and after another couple of hours were back at the main ranch and our accommodation. Lou and Kevin actually stay a mile from here. I was to see their place later that afternoon when we took another trail on our afternoon trek taking some of the horses out to pasture...well I wasn´t but Julio and Robyn were...they had 2 horses each as we rode along. I should explain on every trek there is a gaucho and one of the girls. Up at Lou and Kevin´s farm were the new foals and a pregnant mare who was very close to giving birth..by the way I love the Spanish word for giving birth..."dar a luz" ..to give light"...Isn´t that lovely! 

So the itinerary for the day was 8.30am to 10am, breakfast.... (it isn´t light until 7am). At 10am the first trek of the day with coffee or lemonade and biscuits along the way; back for about 1.30pm for lunch..if you want there is always lemonade on the veranda of the tacking room when you return from your treks.. At lunch you can have any drink you like with your meal..I was very indulgent and had white wine with my lunch and the odd beer! After a leisurely lunch you have a little siesta or whatever...I write my blogs..and we are back at 4.30pm for afternoon tea, which consists of cake and then the afternoon trek. This tends to be a working trek, as I mentioned above and we took horses to pasture but have also checked out the cows on the high pastures, as there is no grass, so it is a costly affair feeding them. All their Aberdeen Angus cows (the main breed in Argentina) are looking a little thin just now. This trek tends to be from about 5pm to 7pm then time for a shower and drinks which start at 8pm and dinner at 8.30pm. After our meals everyone sits around and talks. Lou and / or Kevin are at the meals and are great conversationalists. The meals were wonderfully delicious with dishes such as Empaladas or various meat dishes, (we are in Argentina after all), for lunch.... to pasta, silverside or the like for dinner. These were always followed by a light dessert, teas and coffees. In our luxurious rooms at night they even put a toffee on the pillow case. It really was a lovely and indulgent vacation.

As a novice rider I felt I got along reasonably well. Carol and Lara arrived on Tuesday which was great. They had had fun and games on the Monday. Paul had to fly to Lima and then they had to go back and forth to the Notario and immigration. Luckily when they had it all sorted and arrived at the airport and the LAN desk, the nice supervisor took pity on them and they had no extra charges to fly to Cordoba. As there was only one flight a day they came on the same flight, a day later.

On their second day at the ranch Carol, who as ridden horses for ever, wanted to push on and do more trotting and cantering. I must admit on these bigger horses I was finding the trot difficult to sit in the saddle for, especially with the Criolla horses...The Paso Peruanas in the afternoon were slightly easier, but only slightly. I was therefore experimenting with various positions from what I remembered from my lessons the year before and was asking Carol and the girls what was best. The full canters were much easier to sit into them but I never did master the trot..it was too bouncy. I was pleased to see the others were the same! We had a really long canter early in the week and I was struggling with that one but by the end of the week I was urging my horse on...I loved it. . Carol was delighted with these long canters as at home in Wales the fields were much smaller so didn’t last long. Two new ladies from Britain arrived on Wednesday and they were experienced riders, one being an instructor! I was thinking we would need to split into 2 groups but I didn´t think Carol would want to leave Lara. As it turned out that is exactly what happened. On their afternoon ride they went to round up cattle. We just had a leisurely ride. Carol stuck with Lara and I. 
Despite Lou and Kevin wanting rain, to help the grass along, the weather was lovely for most of the week. The temperature really began to soar so suntan cream was essential. There was part of the first 2 days when I was well wrapped up but after that I had to shed layers each day. The beauty of the saddle bags meant you could add or take off at will..and my camera was always there. I had been considering how sore my bottom would be so brought my cycling shorts to pad and protect a little. It did help but I was sore for about a week afterwards...well so would you be after 5-6 hours in the saddle every day!! It was really good fun though. Lou let me borrow half chaps and hat to keep me right. I looked a ticket but it didn’t matter. The two guides currently at the ranch were Robyn (who had 2 months left of her 6 month stint) and Ellie who had just started. Two more British girls would join them in 2 weeks as the season picked up. Basically it was their job to ensure we were safe and we had everything we wanted. This was done under the close supervision of Lou and Kevin. They did their job well and we felt very pampered.

Highlights of the week:
• Bucks Fizz at Lou’s one evening as the sun set.
• Riding into the rocky mountains and the incredible views.
• Cantering for what seemed an age on the amazing Paso Peruanas.
• Walking up into the mountains in the early morning and seeing the sun rise with no sound around.
• The amazing chatter of the parakeets in the trees at the ranch
• The leisurely meals with beautiful food and wine.
• Incredibly comfortable, sumptuous beds
• The wood burning stoves keeping the rooms toasty all night
• The young horses chasing one of the dogs across the field
• An interesting and fun game of polo..when I couldn’t get my horse to canter, Lou gave it a little tap and he took off but I had lost my footing so just hung on..quite funny actually. 

ALL IN ALL I WOULD STONGLY RECOMMEND THIS HOLIDAY...I WOULD LOVE TO COME BACK I CAN TELL YOU. 

 

Posted by Heather Buc 13:14 Comments (0)

LIVING HEART’S FIRST GREENHOUSE PROJECT

So I decided to split this from the rest of September. This project, for me, seems too important to be lost amongst everything else!!
It all started on Monday 12th September when, with Jess now away I forced into a position of having to speak Spanish. To be honest it has done me the power of good..even if my Spanish sounds crap to my ears....mostly I am understood.  Anyway Rita and I met Wilfredo in Cusco to buy all the supplies and equipment for the community and to build our first greenhouse.  Instead of two it was to be one very large on split in two..due to the area it was to be built on. Wilfredo had also amended his design of the greenhouse construction to account for the very high winds up there...I was impressed! To make sure Rita took control other than holding the money and making sure we had all the bolettas we needed I left it to her. I actually didn’t need to prompt her too much.  By the time we checked out all the prices and organised how best we could keep within budget as we had to get everything from Cusco to Urubamba where we hoped to get a truck from the municipalidad to take it all to the community it took us until 6pm not returning home until 7pm! This was from 7pm that morning!...a long day but a good one.  One of my lasting memories of this day will be seeing the very large water tanks being tied onto the top of the service bus to be transported to Urubamba where Martin would pick them up from the bus terminal and take to his house one at a time. He had a good sized house and outbuildings to store everything until the municipalidad could collect it for the community. This was very nice of him. He is a good friend to Living Heart but he does get paid well for his taxi...for Living Heart and the Cafe when they need supplies in Cusco, which is every week. By transporting the water tanks this way we saved a lot of money. It was only 20 solis for each...only in Peru. 
We discovered a couple of problems before we left Cusco. No wood had been bought and there was not enough money! Jess had miscalculated but with the savings made that day and a float Sonia had left me before she left for Lima I had enough to pay it. The problem was Wilfredo was now leaving this to us in Urubamba to find the best prices and pay for! I also discovered the shop he assured us was giving us the best price looked like they had overcharged us! Rita and I challenged him on this after our first day of building. Any excuse Wilfredo offered I explained how that couldn't be the case so he said he would visit the shop and discuss with them. I have asked him to query all prices!! He said he would also get the guarantee for the plastic that we hadn’t received. We are still waiting for all of this and it was part of the discussions you will see later!

On Thursday 15th September we started building our first greenhouse in our most remote and needy community. It started extremely well. About 60 men turned up...even the older ones including the 80 year old man we saw at the medics visit!! In the afternoon some of the women were helping as were the children. When we arrived Jess had said she thought the old greenhouses would be down but all were still standing. However it only took them 30 minutes to take down what was required to be taken down. They left one wall and part of a side wall in each greenhouse. These would form part of the new structure. I had suggested we use the plastic off the 2 roofs as it looked in good nick!! I think they are going to use this somewhere in the new greenhouse. The main roof needs clear plastic so it allows 60% of the light in. This will be the new plastic. They then set out the size, dug trenches, built up the lower side as it was below the level of the rest and brought huge boulders down from further up. Watching the men working in teams with their feet to move and hold rocks in position and the wooden poles, off the old greenhouse roofs, to lever the huge rocks, was absolutely amazing and very exciting!! It felt like being in the Inca times!! (The nearest trees for this village are 30 mins walk away..that is how poor the soil is!!) The slightly smaller boulders took 3-4 men to move them. Once the boulders had been moved a certain amount some of the men, lying on their backs holding the boulders in position, allowed others to place smaller rocks underneath to hold it in that position then reposition themselves to roll the boulder over. This was one way or those with poles used them to get a new position and extra leverage to roll the boulder further. The older children and the women were packing smaller stones into the holes and will then put mud in to seal the walls. This will make them wind and weather proof. The older men were digging a hole but I'm not sure what this is for yet.. I didn't quite understand what Wilfredo (our maestro) was telling me! I took about 300 pictures that day. The president of the community has asked if he can have pictures of them working as teams to show the municipalidad. I was already thinking it would be good to give them a large poster with lots of photos of the progress or maybe it should be an album to show people. One of the lovely sights was 2 little ones imitating the men and trying to move boulders with their little sticks and dig trenches. :) I was still eating my breakfast of fruit, granola and yoghurt midmorning as just before 6am we had arrived at Ollantaytambo and had a coffee and cheese roll. The 2 children were watching me so I gave them a couple of spoonfuls into their cupped hands. They demolished it...don’t tell me kids don’t like good food!! 
We all stopped for lunch with The Living Heart team and the Alma coordinator, Ian. Alma is the company who is giving us a partial grant for the work. We ate the same as the school children which was green lentils, rice and salad. Some of the older children had caught a few small trout for us too which was lovely. You can eat everything from these little trout but I find it hard to eat the heads! The food was lovely and very nutritious. The kids demolish it I can tell you!
In the afternoon after lunch Wilfredo took the older school children and Alberto (the school director and main teacher) to the little greenhouse that was left, and that three of the mothers and one of the men had prepared that morning. There he showed them how to further prepare the ground and plant the seeds. Earlier he had shown each of the packets of seeds to the men and women and explained how long it would take to germinate them etc. They were very excited by this. We left about 4pm. During the day Rita took my folder with all the contracts and got their signatures. The great thing is everyone in the community wanted to be part of the greenhouse association..brilliant! We need to take up more sign- up sheets!! As part of their responsibility someone needs to take overall responsibility for the watering of the greenhouse, looking after the tools etc. This role will attract a small wage to ensure it is done. The school director as well as the community leaders have a vital role to play in this project, especially when it comes to ensuring the children attend the workshops to help them understand how to grow the vegetables and herbs, harvest them, prepare and cook them properly. Similar instruction will be given to the community members too at a different time. When we left the progress made was incredible considering the lack of heavy equipment!! Before we left I wanted to make a big thing of how well they had done so we gave them a big cheer and handclap. It went down well. 
I was very impressed with Rita and feel she will have no problem acting as the Living Heart coordinator in the community. She is absolutely needed there as she has the relationship with the community and speaks Quechua whereas Wilfredo does not. She takes control, keeping a journal of everything for our report and works well with a few prompts. We will be able to support her from the office with no anticipated problems.
After a few issues getting the municipalidad to provide the community with a truck to transport the rest of the supplies to the community from Urubamba everything was finally there by 26th. It took two trips and Rita making breakfast for the driver though as he was dragging his feet!! The reason being the truck wasn’t big enough for the large poles for the roof, 2 by 1000l water tanks and the rest!!
Rita and Wilfredo returned on 26th to start early on 27th. However when they got there, there was a few issues. Firstly the workforce had been distracted by the electricity going in, helping them, and working on the Inca trail (obviously to give them money) and there were only 30 men and women there, but one of the biggest issues was the appalling weather. There had been constant rain and snow up there so as a result the walls weren’t finished. I had tried to reach the community on the 27th with Susannah, Sonia’s daughter who was in Peru. From brilliant sunshine in Ollantay at 5am the road and weather deteriorated dramatically. Often Susannah and I got out and walked while Martin tried to get through the mud. Eventually near the highest point..still an hour and half from the community..we had to give up. Martin was stuck! We had to dig amongst the snow to find stones to put under the wheels. We only found one! The side I was pushing didn’t have a stone. The consequence of this was the front wheel spinning in the mud and ...yep you got it. I was black with dirt!! Poor Martin’s taxi was filthy as the mud dried and fell off me! On the way back we met another taxi that was trying to take a couple higher than our community for coffee. Would you believe it; they were going to persevere until they saw Susannah and I!! We also met another larger NGO heading up in a 4*4 jeep. We discovered later they did make it. I can tell you we are now very focussed on fundraising for a 4*4 as this is unacceptable situation for us! Currently Rita is travelling up on the back of Wilfredo’s bike and that in itself is risky in this poor weather! If you are thinking..why did you start building... this is frak weather with the rains coming very early.
Wilfredo and Rita agreed to visit the community on the following Monday while I was in Argentina. However things deteriorated dramatically!! On this occasion only 11 people were there and it was the older men and women! The walls were built but nothing else could be done so it was a wasted trip and money! To compound this Wilfredo’s bike gave up in the community and they had to walk back!! He hadn’t been looking after it so it packed in and would require a lot of work. When I got back from Argentina on the Sunday I wasn’t even out of Cusco when Sonia phoned. I visited her that night. Because we needed to make sure the community knew the gravity of the situation we had called a meeting but they were reluctant to attend and Sonia had been dismissed by the president of the school board (APAFA). This plus a few other things gave Sonia real concerns so we were forced to do what we hate doing....withholding the food for the children! A meeting had been called for 8am on the following Wednesday to discuss the problems. We weren’t sure if all the relevant members would attend as communication there is very difficult. There is one public phone that is charged by the sun...so no sun..no phone!! It is only available from about 11am to 4pm and if you get a child then you can forget having a conversation!!! Anyway we were pleased to see the school director, president of the APAFA and the president of the community. After Sonia did the introductions, and opened the meeting it was passed over (rightly so) to Rita. The outcome was what we hoped for and they would have a faena the next day. This is when all the men of the village come together to help each other. What we then discovered later that day was Wilfredo still didn’t have his bike back! It would be another week! He wanted us to pay for the hire of a bike and I was adamant we wouldn’t pay that. There were a few problems we had to iron out but I was not letting him think we were a bottomless pit of money! It was agreed he would go and hire a bike for himself and go up to supervise the roof going on. This didn’t happen due to the cost of the insurance! Later that week we discovered he couldn’t pay for the vast repairs to his bike. Eventually we agreed to advance him the money for the finish of the construction in advance. This would have been paid in about 2 weeks anyway. I was not happy to pay anything else! Jess was back and came to support us with this. We have amended his contract to make sure it is crystal clear what has all been agreed. I feel confident all will go better now. He has a good reputation in the district and among NGOs so he will not want that damaged!! We were very concerned for the germinating plants as the lettuce was ready for transplanting. Rita had managed to contact the community so they could do something but they really needed Wilfredo to show them how to put on the roof. To catch up it has been arranged that Rita, Wilfredo and the community faena will push on to catch up on Wednesday 19th October, Thursday and if necessary the Friday to catch up. To have a totally sealed greenhouse and the ground prepared to transplant the lettuce plants. Rita must get all the rest of the information that the community were dragging their heels about next week. It is not acceptable to delay any further and they know that.
We will need to see if this can stay on track. I am hopeful as it is so important for this community. As for the food... we sent it on Saturday. This is one thing Living Heart has over other NGOs... the food program is very powerful and collaboration is essential. Just to help you understand there is one community much closer to Ollantay that has about 20 NGOs working in it! The community are very lazy and expect everything to be handed to them. They are pilfering the money left and basically it is a nightmare. We wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole! We look for communities off the beaten track that others tend to ignore, where the community is engaged and wanting to work with us; and where there are obvious signs of the children being malnourished. We are proactively assessing communities who have approached us and looking for funding to extend our amazing food program. The difference between our food program and others is ours uses local nutritious ingredients in season, with tried and tested recipes ensuring the children get the right balance of protein, carbs, and vitamins they need. There are some amazing cereals here..quinoa being one. I really like it.

Posted by Heather Buc 07:05 Comments (0)

OCTOBER AND MY LAST WEEK IN PERU.

Well other than my trip to Argentina which will follow shortly. I’m afraid my time is drawing to a close! I can hardly believe where 6 months have gone!

Before I continue I would like to thank all you lovely people for reading, and hopefully enjoying, my ramblings from Peru.  I have been astounded by the number of hits my blogs have had, averaging around 400 for each. The first few getting 800!!
This experience doesn’t feel like the end for me though, but only the start of something exciting..to hopefully continue to work with and help Living Heart in future. It is amazing what you can do on Skype!! Because I have become very passionate about this small NGO I have reduced my work days, thus changing my job, so I can work with them remotely one day a week. I am now officially the Coordinator and Treasurer so will Skype regularly with Ineke who is our part-time office manager. Jess has come back from her month off and has decided to return to the UK to get herself well etc, but she will continue to do some freelance work for us which is great. To grow though and do all we want and need to do we do need some more help so Sonia is looking for the right person. We only pay local wages which doesn’t suit a lot of people but it is absolutely right as the cost of living is much less! We should have interviewed someone on Saturday but she was ill so didn’t make it. Sonia will now do this alone.

My last week has been a manic one!! With the problems with the greenhouse and others wanting to see us I had three meetings as well as moving into Sonia’s, finishing amongst other things the finance stuff as we finally got the information we had been looking for (for 2 months) from Washington, our accountant. We only got this the Friday before I left for Argentina, after I sent another e mail to him explaining why and the urgency of this! Ineke and I had to sit in his office for 2 hours and only spoke to one of the girls but got what we wanted! On the Saturday (1st October) before I left for Argentina I had a manic day preparing information for Sonia and Ineke..it felt like home and trying to go on holiday!!
This week I ended up working a 6 day week of 12 hour days!! Hopefully this will mean I have time to relax a little before picking up the reins again..although I do have to finish completing a grant application that was originally for December but they have changed their application deadlines to the end of October! Anyway I really think we achieved such a lot. Ineke will do a lot of research stuff for me and I can put stuff together. To take the pressure off Sonia we will try and do as much as we can ourselves. With the cafe now moving in a month she really has a heck of a lot on her plate..never mind the fact that she is 80 years old. She also has a new little dog..onyx. He is a lovely thing if a little energetic. He was a poor soul that Sabrina and Sonia found outside the cafe while I was away. He has been quite a lot of work for Sonia but Sabrina is helping with him too. His behaviour has improved a lot while I have been staying so hopefully this will continue. He is a good friend and company for Sonia though.
I did manage to get to my last Salsa class on the Wednesday night despite my long days..I was a little later than normal but still had a lot of fun. Everyone there wished me well when they realised this was my last night and that I should return soon as they needed me in the class. That was nice. 
Saying goodbye to the Living Heart team was really hard though. Rita, Sonia and Sabrina’s goodbyes all ended in tears and how were they going to work without me there. It was so lovely and really hard as this becomes your life after 6 months. I think I am in for a big shock when I come back to Scotland but I’ll settle in I am sure...I hope! I am really looking forward to seeing Scotland and everyone though.... with lots of hugs, kisses and a few glasses of wine..maybe even a wee bottle of bubbly.  Skype has been great to keep in touch. It makes the world a smaller place.  I am definitely a different person to the one who left six months ago so what the future holds for me we shall have to see. I will follow my heart though..
Please watch this space or drop me a message if you would like to help support my cause.  I am hoping to hold a Scottish night with bands and food early next year with the help of some very good friends.  I have set myself a target of £5000 for the NGO with this, a car boot sale, and few other initiatives. I’m also trying to set up a UK fundraising team with all the kind people who donate to Living Heart currently. My letter for this goes out to all those people on Monday.

So mis amigos it is time to sign off. . Thanks again for following my life changing, amazing experiences.

Live your lives to the full and follow your hearts...who knows what will happen in the future..so get on with living now. Take care and lots of love. Heather xx

Posted by Heather Buc 07:02 Comments (0)

SEPTEMBER continued

11th - 25th Sept

On Sunday 11th I woke up feeling decidedly crap...another tummy bug!! Sods law... I was supposed to be going to a birthday party for my salsa teacher so lots of salsa dancing. I had been really looking forward to it all week!! Anyway I eventually managed out of bed and began to move around slowly. Yeina needed more painkillers and her hubby has left for Cusco for 2 days! I had given her painkillers earlier that were the next stage down from what she had been on. They were now finished! I had a few of a weaker strength so said I would come up when I was feeling a little better. She had some herbal capsules for the stomach...cat’s claw.. to help me too so we agreed a swap. It did help.  Interestingly there were a few of us in the area feeling under the weather that day. We couldn’t get out of bed that morning. Some said there was a strange energy around!! It is the one thing about this part of the world....the energies are very strong here. You feel it in various places, from the ruins to nature..the trees, the stones..all around. I think this is what draws and keeps people here...they love the energy. 
I must admit meditation has become part of my life and it feels good. I have a real problem..as I am sure many of you know...getting my brain to switch off so to encourage some quiet brain time each day is quite a relief actually. 

Anyway I thought I was not starting another (heavy) week of work without a little fun! I’m not dead!! I’d received a text from Annabelle to say there were men all waiting to dance! Both of us have been at the salsa class since the start ...about 8-12 weeks now...on and off. OK says I..time to pull it together and go. Raymi and Wimmie stay at the opposite end of Urubamba from me so to walk would have taken me about 50 mins. For the first time EVER there was not one but two moto taxis at the top of the hill above Ccatan...Fab!!! I jumped in one and was there in 10 mins..Great!!!  As I arrived at about 5pm (5 hours after it started) I met some of the boys from our salsa class leaving. Inside there were another 5 males of varying ages from Cusco. They were Raymi’s friends... 2 were teachers and as I danced with them I discovered who they were. They were great to dance with as they gave you very clear direction.  There was an older guy, who I discovered was a Spanish teacher, but he was a little sleazy..us girls all agreed that! Anyway I stayed for about 3 hours and then Annabelle and I left. I didn’t eat anything as my stomach was still not quite right but I did have a glass of a very nice red wine I took with me (sheer chance actually as I had no idea which was a good one) and that really hit the spot.  Elise (from the Spanish school) was still there saying she would stay just an hour or so longer..needless to say she was there until 5am!! She had no classes on Monday morning unlike the earlier start Annabelle and I had! I had to be ready for a 6am collection the next morning! This was for the buying of the tools etc we needed for the greenhouse project.. a lot of stuff actually. (See my next blog for that). There was an American girl at the party whom I had met once who was working for another NGO. She knew a different version of salsa and was very good. The guys were all trying very hard with her...one of them succeeded! The writing was on the wall as we left. I asked Raymi about this style of Salsa..I think he called it Salsa en Linea...he thought it too effeminate...he preferred the more manly Salsa Peruana. It was very funny watching him describing and imitating the different salsas.  Anyway it had been a lovely few hours and cheered me up. The traditional “birthday cake in the face” had been kept up and we were all wearing some of the icing by the end!! I’ll put a few of these photos on facebook. 

Wednesday night is my favourite as this is our Salsa night as I have told you. I absolutely love it.  I’ll need to look into possibly classes when I get home. I know what I am learning will be different as this is Salsa Peruana.....If not I will go for the Zumba... not quite the same but at least a little dancy. 
The following weekend (17th) Annabelle and I had agreed to go walking. She was going to be in Ollanta at her boyfriend’s so we agreed to meet at Heart’s Cafe for breakfast at 8am. This meant a 6am start for me!! It does mean you get the main part of your walk done before the sun gets too hot though. We walked to Puma Marka... a good 2 ½ hour hike at a good pace. It was beautiful and so tranquil. The views from these ruins were amazing! We spent an hour there just sitting enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. The weather is trying to change at the moment.....a bit more cloud and rain. When it rains it tends to be quite hard rain then the sun comes out again...so not bad as long as you have a jacket with you. When I got back to the cafe there was a tour company and their group in. This company..Contour Travel.. visit our cafe and if they don’t eat their full allowance of food, the children (ie Living Heart) get the rest. After they have eaten Sabrina (the manageress) gives them a little talk and thanks them for visiting. She asked me if I could help her so I told them about what we were doing and our new greenhouse project. They also kindly left us T shirts and pens for the schools which was lovely. Sabrina and I also had our picture taken with them.

Yeina and Nino were having a full day inauguration of their new children’s theatre to which I had been invited. There were going to be lots of helpers as Yeina was obviously still in a lot of pain. It started at 2 and finished at 10pm. I eventually arrived about 4pm..in time to see some young musicians and see the holistic blessing of the organisation. This very traditional ceremony included asking Pacha Mama (Mother Earth) for her blessing, burning holy wood and blessing the building with the smoke wafting it around using condor feathers (although I am not a fan of buying these because it encourages more killing of these beautiful birds). Everyone there then took 3 coca leaves, splaying them out like cards, breathing a prayer onto them and burning them in the special small fire, sending their prayers to the heavens, and finally toasting the new business by first giving some of the chicha (a local drink) to Pacha Mama and then taking some yourself. It was a lovely little ceremony and all very interesting. Before I left Julio, who stays in my hostel, sang a few songs. He is a music teacher in a local school and he sang very well. He wanted some photos so I duly obliged as I had my big camera with me.
On Sunday: Decisions....decisions.... the Bioferria in Urubamba, with all the nice foods and organic/ hippy things or a day just chilling at Ccatan?????.....Guess what won???? Yep.....Ccatan!! I was pretty tired. It had been a big week preparing, supporting and starting the new greenhouse project so a lot of early mornings and stresses. Jess was now relaxing and sunning herself on a distant beach...hopefully getting herself well!! On the Thursday I had to be up at 4am. I had my salsa the night before...and I wasn't missing that! This meant I had only four and a half hours sleep!!!! Surprisingly I was still reasonably OK that night as I didn't get back until 7pm. I did go straight to bed though! I wasn’t too lazy on that Sunday though as did a lot of hand washing..it’s either that or walk 30 mins to the other side of Urubamba with my stuff and wait 2 days to get it back...so the hand washing wins every time. I have it down to a fine art now. I use the electric shower, which I now know how to set to maximise the heat, and the basins we now have at Ccatan...before that I was improvising using various sized saucepans for my different coloured clothes. It rained on and off all day too so that makes you feel more tired and lazy. I also worked on my blog and nibbled lots of food...just what I needed...a pig-out day! 

The following week I have been focussing on getting things sorted...I only have about 2 weeks left before I return home....where has the six months gone!!!!!!!!
I managed some of it but as usual things got in the way and meant I lost some valuable time....things like us not knowing to pay the Claro sticks so no internet and no bills to pay them with so that took us a half a day to sort! All in all we did seem to get through a few things though so that was good. By the end of next week I want to be in a position where I have very little to complete here, which is urgent and needs files, and I am tidying things up before I go...... Yes I am continuing to work with Living Heart when I get back to the UK. I’ll be fundraising...so watch this space to see what I have planned and hopefully you will all support my fundraising efforts.  I will also be writing some grant applications, time permitting, to help us expand our efforts. We will explore what I can and can’t do when I am home but I will definitely skype with them regularly. I have found that great while I have been here. This is a great way to keep in touch with home but also Shona, my sister in Australia. The world is a small place really!  The time difference for us and Peru works in quite well. Early afternoon for them is early evening for us.
I’m off for a week’s holiday in the first week of October then I only have one week before I have to be packed up. It is incredible what you gather up in 6 months though!! I have started sorting some of it out now!

This weekend....well Sunday...has been another first. I became godmother to a little Peruvian girl today.  You will have read about the little disabled boy, Jose Antonio, we support with Rita’s visits each week. Well the family decided they wanted the children christened and asked Rita, myself and Sonia’s daughter (as Sonia felt she was too old) to be their god mothers. They are called spiritual mothers here. This is a reasonable commitment cost-wise before the event. The god mothers have to completely kit out the children for the day. Now I know you are thinking ..yey they saw you coming Heather but to be honest these people live in meagre conditions but spend a lot on costumes etc for all the different ceremonies. Anyway Sonia, Susannah, Rita and myself attended with all their relations at the local church to us..Torrechayoc. This was a lovely service.. the priest conducted the main service then invited all those who wanted christened to come forward. Like home the godparents and parents had to reply to the questions re following in the faith...we just repeated what Rita said! The children were then blessed with water and a prayer and the candles that were given to them by Rita were lit and they held them for the rest of the service. This menat a lot of candle wax on some of the clothes by then end but Lonita was trying hard to keep it off her pretty dress.  The children..Juan, 15, Lonita, 8 and Jose Antonio, 7 looked great in their new suits and Lonita’s lovely white dress. She does need a little cardigan to wear with it though as she was cold so I gave her my big black cardigan to wear which she never took off until I left later that afternoon...I’ll need to see what I can do.  It was really lovely as periodically Lonita would come for a cuddle and just hold onto my arm and cuddle up for about 5 minutes then disappear and play with her friends. Because the family are so involved with Jose Antonio she does get left out a bit. Juan is that little bit older so it is easier for him but Lonita is struggling with it. She is a bright wee thing and girls don’t get encouraged to continue with their schooling so we are trying to help some of these girls as an NGO. We are looking into whether this is an area we could get funding for in each school...to allow the girls to go to higher education and then support their areas with their new found knowledge, e.g. nursing, teaching etc. While working in the schools there were a number who could have really benefitted from it. Anyway after the service we took photos and all went behind to have them officially registered and christened. The next bit was like a wedding...Rita had a plastic bag with lots of sweets, little biscuits and confetti...we had to put in some 10 and 20 centimos. At the main doors we then took handfuls from the bag and threw it in the air. Outside were children and adults all scrambling for whatever they could get as we threw it. We then all climbed into Martin’s car and headed for Rita’s house. This was a little closer than Crisologo and Paolo’s house as we would have struggled to get back from there, late on a Sunday afternoon. Paolo had prepared a roast pig, and turkey which she had brought down. With this we had a slice of melon, broccoli, a special tortilla stuffed with corn and other ingredients wrapped in maize leaves; and risotto in a lovely sauce... it was absolutely scrummy.  They served Susannah and I first as god parents and the plateful was huge! Having said that I ate my way through it all. Martin commented that I had a good appetite...I agreed  To wash it down they had bought beer which Susannah and I also partook in.  Rita had made Apio soup...with papa frites...celery soup with little potato croutons..This was to aid our digestion after so much meat.... It seemed to work  They had a small band and a young girl singing traditional songs. Once we had finished Lonita and I were coaxed to dance and then the others got up. Eventually we had everyone up dancing. We were eating out in the small back area at Rita’s. These are open areas, unpaved but smooth with people constantly walking on them. We had fun dancing around the table showing them Scottish twirls and so on. At about 3pm we heard the thunder and it started to rain. Martin wanted home so Susannah and I said our goodbyes and thank yous..with lots of kisses and hugs and left. It was a lovely day. 

This wasn’t the only service I attended that day. At 7am...yes 7am.... I attended another service...an Andean service in a retreat next door to Ccatan. I knew they happened but i had never attended one. Because Susannah was there Sonia was going and had invited me. I had never been in Samana Wasi either so was keen to see it, It was lovely. It reminded me of the Holy Isle actually. There were only a handful of people at this service and it was centred around the 5 elements..a very traditional Incan ceremony. We stood during this one and finished with kissing and hugging, wishing everyone a good day. The short service was followed by some excerises to free up your energy and a prayer. Because we had the christening later we didn’t have time to go for breakfast as this takes one hour...shame really. It would have been nice to chat to the people there.
.............Anyway a fun filled, busy day with lots of firsts for me. 

Well before I sign off again I have to share the new “friend” we found in our kitchen....a huge tarantula!!!! It was eating another slightly smaller (but bloody big to me) spider. All the Peruvians just say...ahh they won't kill you but MY GOD THEY ARE HORRIBLE....too hairy for my liking! I must admit before I go into the kitchen now I lean in and switch on the light on and make a lot of noise before I go into the kitchen!! I took a photo of it and got as close as I dare but it doesn't do it justice! To be fair if it is visible at least I know where it is. When I can’t see it I am wondering if it will be in a pot when I lift it out! A week later I noticed it was dead on the floor so I’m not sure what happened. I think there are other tarantulas around though, so I just have to be vigilant. One of the girls found one under her pillow one day! Talking of beasties just when I thought I was bite free I was drinking some cheap wine in the evening air with a friend here which resulted in 3 new bites on my legs...I’d just like to know how the hell they get half way up my leg!!! Since then I have found them on my back, on my arms...almost everywhere!! I noticed though that I now have little fleas in my room at night. I think with the warmer and wetter weather..it is now coming into their Spring.... there are more flying insects and mosquitoes around. There are also clear corrugated sheets in the roof that act like windows. They don’t fit very well so flying bugs do get in. These sheets are great for letting in light but not for keeping the bugs out! Oh well!! Thank goodness for creams and antihistamine tablets. 

Another thing I discovered this week......
MOTOS – I’ve just discovered that motos are glorified bicycles with 3 bicycle chains driving the 3 wheels...one up front and the 2 back ones. I’m a girl so had never considered how they operated! I thought of them like a Reliant Robin...the same as Del Boy’s in Only Fools and Horses...you know the one?? I knew they needed petrol but never thought anymore about it. While Ineke and I were going to Sonia’s one day we had to get out and he turned it up on its side. Another moto driver stopped and helped him. They put the bicycle chain back on and off we went again. Amazing!!! It runs on very little petrol, is cheap to travel and gets us from “a” to “b” quite speedily....not a bad little mode of transport., economically and environmentally. 

Well mis amigos my blogs will be coming to a close soon when I leave Peru.... ....but I do intend to return next year...I’m not sure for how long..we will just have to see how things are going....

If you have enjoyed my blogs maybe I could start them up on my return to Peru...you can let me know...but in the meantime..until my next entry which won’t be too long as it is about our new Greenhouse Project...photos are already on facebook......Hasta luego. 

Posted by Heather Buc 17:53 Comments (0)

September

Just when you think things are settled - 10th Spetember

Well just when you think everything is settling down and I have some kind of routine a curve ball is sent to throw you into turmoil! Yeina and Nino, friends of Sonia and I were involved in an accident coming back from Cusco on Monday 30th Aug. You have heard me talking about the combis to and from Urubamba and Cusco well they had an accident in one of these....not the fault of the driver I might add..in fact he probably saved them.. but bad enough...one young 21 year old girl died despite the best efforts of her medic boyfriend! It eventually emerged that a small lorry carrying eggs decided to overtake a small car on a blind corner and met the minibus coming the other way! The driver of the minibus veered to try and find a path through and was heading for the long drop over the other side of the road. At the last minute he swerved to the opposite side of the road and tipped over on his side still travelling along at about 80km/hour. Inside everyone was thrown from one side and then to the other. The big problem in Peru is there are no safety belts except for the front 2 seats so accidents are made all the worse. Inside the vehicle the people were sitting 4 abreast. When the minibus tipped over it blew the windows out which meant the girl next to Yeina was below 3 people with her head and body taking the brunt of the skid at 80km/hour. This poor soul acted as a buffer for Yeina and the men! Needless to say she died of her injuries shortly after they left the scene on the way to the hospital. Yeina was the next most badly hurt in the van with 2 broken ribs, a broken collar bone and severe bruising and whiplash. Some of the damage may have come from people standing on her to get out the back window!! Her husband Nino managed to escape with only whiplash. The next problem they had was the next combi was racing to get them to the hospital in Cusco (about 20 minutes away) and twice had to break sharply to avoid another accident. As you can imagine there was a lot of screaming in the van. There were children and adults all in shock and not ready for a careless driver. When Sonia and I heard about this we managed to find a taxi to take us to the hospital to see if we could help. It was 8pm when we arrived in Cusco. They had all been taken to the state hospital initially and when we arrived Yeina and Nino were sitting outside the hospital with a nurse waiting to be transferred to a private clinic...the minibus insurance was now paying the costs. Prior to this a television camera and reporter had interviewed them, although Yeina said they had no idea what they had said as they were in so much shock. The private clinic was much better than what Yeina had described the state hospital environment and expertise. They had seemingly been very brutal removing the stones from her injured arm. When we arrived the blood was dripping down her arm and she was in a lot of pain. We took them to the clinic in our taxi. After X-rays and assessments they were kept in overnight and eventually allowed home late the following night. They were in a much more comfortable environment when I saw them on the Tuesday. They had a private room with cable television and reasonable meals..for a hospital.  Once home their recovery seems to be coming along nicely with a little pharmaceutical assistance from me for Yeina.  Sonia and I made some meals for them at the start until Nino was feeling a bit better.

Interdispersed in all of this was a lot of meetings organising our new greenhouse project and discussions re Jess and her health. Jess’s health has continued to deteriorate so is now taking a month off as agreed by Sonia with me supporting the meeting. :) Fortunately Jess had been thinking she needed to take time off too but didn’t know how to broach it. Life in Cusco is not the most conducive to a full recovery especially if you are a 25 year old...too much temptation! Sonia and I both felt to go home would have been the best solution, however she can't afford to do that so is going to the coast and Sonia has been a gem and given her a month's pay and expenses. I really hope she takes this very generous offer and lifeline given to her allowing her this time to heal herself from the inside out regarding her health and emotions...coming back to us a changed person..... Time will tell!!! What does this mean for the projects...........yep you’ve got it...it means I step up to the plate and coordinate events form our end!! I had been a little out of touch with the nitty gritty detail of the project as I was concentrating on the finance and preparing information for the UK...We now have gift aid which is brilliant and it has been backdated until November 2009 so I have been preparing documents to send to all our donors..I’m becoming quite the word document expert adding little boxes etc. .... with our new logo it looks really snazzy.
Anyway back to our greenhouse project Jess and the rest of the team attended the assemblea in the community last week with the community really excited about getting involved and keen to start ASAP so they had agreed to fast-track the project to commencing in 2 weeks. Jess had prepared all the contracts in Spanish but there were still a lot of logistics to sort out re buying of the tools and ............, getting these to the community, getting all the contracts signed etc. This is all fine.. after I had been given a very quick download as Jess was finishing yesterday I felt completely wiped out, but after I had a break for a couple of hours I worked on it last night to make sure I was clear about what we needed to do for next week. The problem is getting our maestro on the phone! He is the expert building the greenhouse (now down to one very large greenhouse because of the position). I need to meet him in Cusco on Monday with the money and make sure we have all the receipts. We need it all delivered on Wednesday for a Thursday start. Rita (who will normally be travelling with Wilfredo on his motorbike) is coming with me in the car on Thursday..another 4am start!! Rita will be working closely with Wilfredo and will prepare the reports for us. I want to observe mostly and support as necessary as I am only here for one more month. Wilfredo has a lot of experience in building these greenhouses at altitude with the communities so Rita can learn a lot from him. This also means Rita can answer any questions and make sure the community are doing what they should be doing when Wilfredo is not there. I am hoping, once I completely understand the project and its detail which I will read through next week, that it will not take over and I can still complete at least some of the stuff I am working on. The hard thing for me will be I will be spending full days in situations with only Spanish speakers and trying to make myself understood! My Spanish is getting a little better and if they talk slowly I can get by. It should be good for me but I am a little nervous of it too.

Anyway in amongst all of this I don’t have much time for me. Ccatan is still a lovely space even if we have to do our own cleaning as our landlord doesn’t, they pinch our food, and there is never any toilet roll!! Sylvia Debra (who developed our new logo) and I all had a lovely lunch through the week to say goodbye to Debra. I had lots of veggies in the fridge so we all mucked in and we had a vegetable stir fry with a little wine I had...very civilised I can tell you!! She is off on her travels again but will stay in touch. She is also going to revamp the cafe website using a similar theme to our Living Heart logo. She has some amazing designs and had worked for a record company in London for a number of years I discovered.
I love a Wednesday night..this is my big night out as I go to Salsa...until 11pm!!! (I am normally in bed for about 8 or 9pm otherwise..cuddled up playing a game on my computer, watching a DVD or reading a book..very pleasant. ) Anyway the classes have taken off so Raymi has split them so the beginners are first then us intermediates are next. I go a little earlier to help the beginners and act as a chico (man) for that. We don't have many men so we take it in turns or the most experienced act as men...although the last 2 weeks more men have been coming again. It is great fun and very energetic but often because of the time I struggle to get a moto back to Ccatan. I have been advised against walking alone at that time of night. The road is very quiet so I suppose it makes sense. I tend to walk down to Urubamba around 7.30-8pm though as there are no motos so it’s the only way to get there. 
Raymi is my old landlord and he is having a birthday party this weekend to which I have been invited which means more Salsa...yey! I am looking forward to that.

The temperature here, as we move into their winter, has picked up so it is much warmer through the day and even at night (bizarre to get your head around I know)..clothes I had put away are now being brought back out. I may even get to wear a dress...maybe for the birthday party. I only brought a couple in case of special occasions but I have only managed to wear one once! I must be acclimatising though as I find as long as I am not brisk walking jeans and a cardigan or fleecy are absolutely fine. If I do wear one or my shorts I always feel you need to bring extra clothes and jeans for about 4pm...similar to home I suppose.

Last weekend I had my last haircut and colour here before I return. It seems strange I almost onto my last month...where has the time gone!!! As my hair appointment was at 9am I decided to stay at Carol’s the night before. When I arrived Carol told me her and Paul were going for their weekly massage before going to the pub for food and darts...with a few drinks thrown in.  I decided to join them for the massage.... It was lovely. I had asked her for a strong one and boy did she give me a strong massage.  I had been feeling a little nauseous coming into Cusco but had blamed it on reading on the bus. I decided to have a steak with Carol and Paul but was really struggling to finish it..by about 11pm and one beer later I was sooooo tired and feeling a little unwell. I waited on Carol and Paul for another hour then Carol and I went home. Paul decided a big night was due and stayed out all night.  At 3am I felt really nauseous and soooo cold!! When I got up the next morning I felt no better, I couldn’t eat either. I wrapped up well and went to the hairdressers. The funny thing (well not so funny at the time) was the hairdresser's, normally very warm places, insist on leaving their door open. It is a small place so gets cold very quickly! It was cloudy until about 11am so the temperature doesn't rise until you have full sun. In Cusco, being that bit higher, means the temperature is lower. I was frozen and asked for the door to be closed which it was..but 2 mins later someone came in, either a staff member (the shop is split in two side by side) or a customer, or a child or husband of a customer so the door was left open again and again...aaaarrrggghhh!!!! I was feeling utterly crap so eventually resorted to the hairdryer...yes the hairdryer..running it over my body to heat myself up. It worked for a short time but I did have to repeat the process a few times. :) I didn't stay long in the centre of Cusco once my hair was done, I can tell you!! I headed for Carol's house and slept for the afternoon. That night I was feeling a little better. I tried a little pizza but managed a slice only. I was in bed at 8pm...before the kids!! Carol called me a lightweight!! The next morning I was feeling better if still a little weak but managed some cereal. I thought it had been the steak ..the first read meat in quite some time..but when I got to Ccatan on Sunday I discovered we had all had it. Really strange as we don't eat the same things but then the hygiene and dishwashing leaves a little to be desired here!
I also got a nice surprise from Paul. They have decided to use 2-3 of my photos in their calendar this year so will give me a couple of copies to bring home. I was quite chuffed. Each agency also supply photos for other companies but if anyone wants mine he will make sure I get the credit and a good donation for Living Heart..nothing so far but at least they are there.

When I return I am going to do a Scottish night for Living Heart at the beginning of Dec (I hope)..around St Andrews night. Originally I was thinking of something much more low key but a friend set my sights higher so I (well the girls are helping me actually) am now looking for somewhere much bigger. We were thinking of a band or two with a DJ in between. I’ll try and run our own bar to maximise the profits. I’ll have a little slide show running in the background with our Living Heart leaflets printed out. Any suggestions or offers of help would be gratefully received regarding suitable locations, what kind of music or band would inspire you to come along to our event, or anything else you can think of. The team in the Ayrshire Post have offered to help me in whatever way they can which is wonderful...helps when your daughter works there.  I am setting a target of fundraising £5000 for them through this and other things after Xmas probably. This will really help us get a number of projects off the ground while we look for grant funding. Hopefully all of you lovely readers will support me in this. 
Well that’s all for now my lovelys I have to prepare for my meeting this afternoon (Saturday)...no rest for the wicked. 
Until my next blog..take care of yourself, those around you, and live for the moment. 

Posted by Heather Buc 18:25 Comments (0)

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