A Travellerspoint blog


19TH June- 30th June

Before you get my next update I thought I would give you a flavour of the present moment and tell you what I am now ready to start working on. Unfortunately James and I have had to put working with the schools on hold until further notice. This is to allow us to add more value to the NGO. The short time we have had in the communities though has given us a bit of an insight into the culture and what the current state of play is re our work there.
There are a number of things I feel are right for me to do while I am here. I have mentioned (I think) about helping set up a structure that will allow Living Heart to grow thus helping other very needy remote communities that we know are out there.
From a healthcare perspective, and something I need to look at quickly, I want to get a simple Dental Project set up (i.e. a toothbrush and toothpaste for every child in the school) with a view to encouraging dentists to visit these communities (we have annual GP visits only at the moment). By having a toothbrush and toothpaste for every child you don’t distinguish between those who have and those who haven’t. In one school we were working in the new pronoei (nursery) teacher had bought them herself for the children in her class and was showing them how to use them. We have this set up in our Scottish schools (or certainly the one lovely little school I visited) so why shouldn’t these children have the same opportunity. Living heart is providing them with a great diet and we are about to extend that into the community by building greenhouses that can withstand the cruel weather (see below for the latest freak weather and the results of it!!). We will teach the children and parents how to grow and cook the vegetables so they can get the most from them. So back to my Dental Project - that’s 5 communities I need to fundraise for toothbrushes and toothpaste. The other small but vital thing missing is hygiene. The school directors have encouraged a real respect for their schools with the children helping to clean out the classrooms, in some cases taking off their shoes before they enter the classroom. When they want to go to the toilet they always ask you " Permisio Profesora" and wait to see if that is OK. This means they can take a soap dish with them to wash their hands before they come back. I can hear you saying “No, they won’t do that. They are kids!” Well I can tell you “Yes they will!” I started taking soap as well as antibacterial gel with me for myself and the minute I brought it out they all wanted to use it. I had to bring bigger bars of soap! Having spoken to the directors and teachers I know they will encourage and enforce this. I reckon approximately 4 bars of soap and soap dishes (of course) for each the classroom should do it. So currently we have 5 communities and schools (of about 100 kids in each) we work in so if anyone wants to help me please let me know by e mail, facebook, a message on the blog site or through our Living heart newsletter, blog etc. The other thing I need to work on ASAP is funding for the contraceptive programme. The injections are the best and most popular here so I must find a way to:
1. Get access to injections on a regular basis and
2. A regular source of funding for them.
The difference this reduction in unwanted pregnancies is making is incredible.It is the men who are coming forward and saying thank you!! How good is that!!!! 
I also need to prepare a sheet of the drugs they currently have, when to give them and for what symptoms depending on the age (child to adult). We can get it laminated (I hope) for the school directors to use. We receive donations and supply some reasonably strong drugs to the school director for the children and these communities to use, hopefully catching minor infections at an early stage. I am not convinced though that a conversation with Rita, our local nurse, on how to use them and for what infection etc, will be remembered!!
Once we have all this is place it will make our health programme in the communities more complete.
All that should keep me busy for a little while. 

So back to what I have been up to:
With all the noise of the festivals and winter nights getting colder I had been looking to move house. When I spoke to my landlord I decided to move room instead. Much easier considering the junk I had gathered up. The room was at the back of the house (although the central courtyard meant you could still hear some of the noise.) It had an ensuite (hand held shower though) but was brighter and warmer (well usually when the sun was out). I decided to try this for a while to see if things got better.

On the weekend of the 18th I really felt the need to get into the mountains. At home I climb our little hills/ mountains as often as I can. I get a real sense of joy and peace when I am in the mountains. I had spoken to a number of the guys to see if they knew the way to La Crux then Annabelle phoned me to say someone would show us so we set off on Saturday. Stephanie, my temporary flatmate came too. You definitely needed someone to show you as the path wasn’t clear. It took us about 2-3 hours (just because some walk slower than me) but the view from the top was lovely. You get a great view of Chicon – the glazier behind Urubamba. I’ll post some pics soon. I really must find a way to do a bit more of this. On Sunday Stephanie was going to Pisac market so I decided to join her. It was a lovely day and the views as you travel to Pisac are just stunning..well actually they are stunning on most of the journeys.  What is a real shame is the amount of rubbish at the sides of the road. When the bus stops at bigger towns usually women on children are selling ice lollies (we can’t have them ) popcorn, cake etc. If the bus driver is kind he lets them on the bus, otherwise goods and money are passed through the windows. Often the plastic or paper the food comes in is then flung out the window are we drive along! Que pena ..it is such a shame!! The Sunday market in Pisac is famous and huge. It is so colourful with lots of things you can buy. I treated myself to a pair of slippers but couldn’t find a jumper to fit. Whilst browsing a young boy in traditional dress shook my trouser leg. I looked down and it was one of the pupils from one of the remote schools. He asked me when we were coming back so I told him the following week. It was sooo lovely to see that little smiling face. I didn’t realise at that point my next visit would be the last for a little while. Getting back from Pisac proved to be a interesting. All the buses were only going as far as Calca which was 40mins from Urubamba. Eventually after the 3rd bus passed I decided we should get on one and see if we could get a collectivo from Calca which you usually can through the week. It turned out this wasn’t really an option late on a Sunday afternoon! Fortunately another couple of women whom I recognised got on the same bus so we haggled for a taxi in Calca to get back.

Time was marching on for our Nestle deadline. I had asked Jess and James for their sections for the Monday and we would all meet at Sonia’s to hopefully pull it all together. We needed things from the NGO computer to complete the work. Unfortunately as the office space is a room off someone’s living space we weren’t allowed to use the office. Sonia’s house was about to have new roof put on it so everything was being packed up so that wasn’t an option so eventually we ended up working in the shade outside for as long as our laptop batteries could cope...not the easiest way to have a meeting!! As usual things didn’t go to plan and we got some work done but not enough. James and I had schools for the next 2 days so Jess was going to do what she could with her sections. On Tuesday James and I duly got up at 5am for the 6am bus to Pisac and waited for the professor to arrive. He arrived to say we weren’t needed as it was sport’s day!! It was freezing in Pisac so I had my puffa jacket on. When we got on the bus the sun had come out so it was really warm as we travelled back. The spaces between the seats were tight so when I took my jacket off I couldn’t put it into my rucksack. We got off in hurry at the Grifo (petrol station) and it must have slipped down without me realising. I completely forgot about it until much later that day. I did check at the bus terminal but it was not there needless to say. I only hope it was taken by someone who really needed it!... Oh well!!

We decided to make good use of the day so James came back to my house and we continued to work on Nestle. I was at the stage I needed them to cast their eye over it and give me their critical opinion. James gave me some bits he thought needed changed around. I also still had the last 2 sections to do. Section 1 was the really meaty bit and I had rewritten it so many times in completely different styles! I did a full day on Nestle and James left to work on his greenhouse project with Alma. It was proving to be less straight forward than we had first been led to believe. James had a good mentor though who was helping him with that.
On Wednesday we did manage to get to the schools. This was the really early morning start 4am for the 5am bus..eek . I still hate this one!!  If you had your own motorbike you could sleep a little longer. Anyway we had a really good day in the school. We had a little competition for them. To colour in Heart’s Cafe. Then decorate their page with pictures. Some did the jungle theme we had been doing some did where they stay. They were really colourful and a couple of the kids are really good at free drawing. I still have the prizes for the winners so will have to make a trip to give them out. I decide I’d take tangerines for the rest. Our walk down that afternoon was a little longer than before as there were no taxis so we walked for about 2 hours. I actually felt it the next day..just shows how stiff I am getting..not good.  Nestle took over our lives for the next week. Apart from the weekend....
I sooo needed a break so I went to Cusco on Friday afternoon in the hope of seeing the Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun) celebrations, I had mentioned in my last blog. This is huge here and runs for about a week with lots of marches etc. Unfortunately when I finally reached Sachsaywaman where it was being held on the Friday it was 4pm. I had spent 2 hours on the bus and the guards wouldn’t let any of us cross to the stones so we had to walk down the road. It was seemingly one way by that time..Oh well maybe another time.  On the bus a funny thing happened. I turned round at some movement in the aisle to see the tiniest little pup wandering up the aisle. It then squatted down and peed down the bus..everyone just laughed although I had to open my window to let the urine smell out!! I had called Carol to see if I could stay. She had been at the celebrations with the 3 kids all day so was heading home. I joined her there as I had my big rucksack and didn’t fancy carting it around a very busy Cusco. Lara (her daughter) showed me her photos. During all the dancing they pretend to slaughter a llama (which was obviously done for real years ago). They have also turned the fountain in the Plaza de Armas into an Inca king on top of a giant rock, for the centenary of Machu Picchu. Lots of people are queuing to get their photos taken there. Paul had been away for about 6 weeks, off and on, getting ready for the film crew and Robson Green. Ultimate fishing was coming to Peru! This week was the filming and as Paul had warned them it did not run as smoothly as they had hoped!! The fisherman had said June was the worst month to come but they came anyway. They tried to save a little money by booking their own (nonflexible) tickets. It ended up costing them a lot more as needless to say timelines changed! Poor Paul was wrung out as had to be on full alert and change things at a moment’s notice. They constantly wanted to know what was being said in Spanish. I laughed when he told me, they had asked him “What did the fisherman say?” He told them “There are no fish”. They asked, “Why are there no fish?” ...I don’t think there is an answer to that. 
On the Friday and Saturday nights I chilled at their house with some beer and wine. It was lovely and Carol and Paul have a fire so it was sooo cosy - a real treat for me. The kids are great..On a Sat or Sun morning when you come down they have made a den or a shop or something, depending on what they have been watching, with whatever cushions/ rugs/ mattresses etc they can find.... Yes, I have even saw a little television! Not missing it in the slightest actually and haven’t even watched a video yet. I’m just reading a book, working on the computer or sleeping. You definitely sleep a lot more here.
On Sat I was meeting Jess to catch up with someone who we will be applying to for a grant. She is from America but travelling just now. She gave us some useful insights into how to set up the application and I think we can go for something quite grand if Sonia is up for it! It is one of her visions for Living Heart so we shall see. We also needed to go over Nestle and Jess made up a fictitious meeting to try to keep the other one short. It didn’t work we had to stand up and pretend to go. We were just taking our coats back off when she came back and asked for a picture!! Oops!! She was really nice but wanted to spend the weekend with me! Anyway we got Nestle out the way and went shopping. There were a number of things I needed including some clothes so we had a bit of fun. I could only use my credit card once though before it blocked. It’s the first time I have used it since arriving so will need to check it out. We really had fun...a girlie day. Jess hasn’t been shopping with a girl in a long time. I bought a pair of pumps as I am fed up wearing my trainers after 8 weeks! I’ll go back to the market and get some trainers later as the pumps will not last if I am outwith the town on the rough dusty roads. I had to buy a new puffa jacket after losing it. I got a North Face fake for 52 solis (£13) so not bad for just now. Mind you trying to get things small enough for me is a problem. I shouldn’t complain though. 
On the Sunday Carol and Paul were taking the kids white water rafting.My first reaction was I must do Nestle then I thought how often will I get a chance to do this. ...Yes I went and we had a ball! It was a lovely day to be on the water. The hard bit was pumping up the raft and “ducky” – an inflatable kayak. A friend Katie, who is 7 months pregnant, came. It wasn’t major rapids but enough to get soaked and create some excitement. Katie and I were rowing at each side of the raft when Paul instructed us to. I also got put into the kayak and had to figure it out..but I managed quite well I think. I got back to Urubamba about 7pm and started work on Nestle!!
Nestle was finally sent on Thursday morning (the last possible day) but it has really tested us all! We all worked from 9am to 7pm with a short break for lunch (I then worked on until 11pm) on Monday. This was the day I put all the word documents onto the application form and got them printed out allowing us to read it through in its entirety. Jess and James dissected all my sections and I read and commented on theirs. Mine was the bulk of the application and all prose whereas theirs were more facts and figures. It was particularly hard to sit there and listen to them dissect my work I must admit! Until we got it set up in the application form (at long last!!) it was difficult to see what was duplicated and needed tightening up. They didn’t change huge sections and everyone’s interpretation and idea of how it should be set out are different but the final result was something we were all proud of. I thought we were there with Nestle on Tuesday and was just waiting on one section to check, when Jess phoned me in quite a state. She couldn’t find the only copy of our work from the day before!! After lots of calls I suggested she took it to a computer expert in Cusco ASAP. It turned out she had picked up a “Trojan Horse” virus that was eating its way through her files!!! She thought she had Norton proper but what she had only covered a small amount as it wasn’t the full paid up version. Apart from losing all the Nestle stuff she had been preparing contracts for the other grant we are hoping to get; translating documents etc for meetings that week....All were lost!! I phoned James and told him we would have to pull out of the schools and redo our Monday work. As it turned out it was a school holiday which we hadn’t known about so the director had phoned James to tell us not to come. On Wednesday we got through my first 4 sections quite quickly – within 4 hours but it took us until 7pm to redo the missing sections and reread for any minor amendments. We managed to give Jess some space to redo some of her documents too which was good. Once James and Jess had left I made the amendments and sent them to Jess. This wasn’t the end of it, as the endorsements hadn’t been scanned in at that point and our total size for the application was to be a maximum of 5MB. At 11.45pm I got a frantic call from Jess. She had sent me a copy through and it was 9.2MB!! I had provided the pics and had shrunk them. To help I shrunk them even further. The problem was all the endorsements were too big so some would have to go. I suggested which ones I thought but told her to leave it until tomorrow. We couldn’t lose it all now!! Poor Jess was caffeined up on too much coffee and no food and was beside herself. She and James had a meeting the next morning so I suggested she could look at it with him then and send it before lunch. There were things James needed to look at in his budget anyway and I wasn’t about to tamper with that! When I called James he was in a nightclub thinking all was done so no use to us at that hour. Anyway all was well and it got sent off. Even if we don’t get it (we’ll be up against a huge number of other applications) it is going to form the basis of lots of changes we need to make, tightening up things and recommencing things Sonia thinks are being done and not!! This is because Sonia can no longer go to the mountains and these really high altitudes so has to rely on what she is told. It also has given us a real insight on what we will build on for a strong foundation for the future.
To top it all the local nurse went a-wall for 4 days during this!! If we had been any bigger it would have caused chaos..It was bad enough as it was, with a food buy needing done for one of the communities!! Discussions will be had when the time is right!
My work here, I feel, is around supporting the setting up of a management structure and training to allow them to grow. Jess, Sonia and I will work really closely together to first decide what all needs to be done and then prioritise who will do what and when. That will help us all. I have told Sonia I need time to go back over my notes etc as they are not very organised at the moment, to see what I have identified already.
Sonia and Jess will do the same and we should hopefully cover everything off.
A couple more blogs to follw and you will be up to date. :)

Posted by Heather Buc 13:25 Comments (0)


5th June- 15th June

I really thought I had posted this one so sincere apologies everyone. I can hardly believe it is a month since I entered a blog! I have added quite a bit in here and other blogs will follow in quick succession now. All will become clear as you read the next few blogs why you haven’t heard from me...busy,busy,busy. 
Well this is from week 8 in Peru and more people became ill this week. Salmonella seems to be the parasite of choice this week. James and Femke have both been affected; Femke more so. She has had two courses of antibiotics to try to clear it and still feeling really tired. She thinks what she thought was flu has actually been this so has been working on her for a few weeks. Because James has been affected we had to cancel the schools again. This is sad that twice now we have had to pull out but the days are soo long and hard on you, you daren’t make the trip unless you are completely well. As it turned out I took a severe dose of diarrhoea and stomach cramps on Monday night and all of Tuesday. I doped myself up hoping it was just something I had eaten. I also didn’t want more antibiotics again! It seems to have worked and I recovered by Wednesday..thank goodness!
James did manage to go to the other 2 remote communities with Rita (LHs local nurse) to look at the greenhouses there and see what the soil quality was like. I had pulled out of this visit because I needed to work on our grant application. I knew I would be able to visit later. This had been a really positive visit and James had a lovely little powerpoint to show us at our Friday meeting. One community had 6 greenhouses but they were made of stone and very low structures. What was in them???? Washing...rows and rows of washing hung up. Sonia actually wondered if these were supposed to be greenhouses or somewhere to dry their washing. Because of the climate there drying clothes would be a real struggle, plus the structure isn’t the best for growing vegetables.. the temperature variation would be too erratic. Either way following this visit and a positive meeting with the schools and a representative from the community we will now pursue the next stage of the project. This is to help these communities to become self-sustaining and progressing a trial greenhouse project. Everyone is really excited at how things seem to be moving quite quickly, although we are not there yet. We had a meeting this week with an NGO who may be able to support the funding for a pilot in one of the communities and what is also amazing is we have the go ahead from another successful NGO already supporting the building greenhouses in the area.... NGOs working together, all with a long term, self sustaining outlook providing support and training for as long as is necessary...how great is that!! This is definitely the way forward, ensuring funds are appropriately used, with a very high chance of success and the beneficiaries are the remote communities without impacting on their culture. (Sorry jumped into my grant speak ). With time being of the essence as these some of these experts are moving on we have managed to meet with the head agricultural person in the municipalidad (local council) which we had been unable to do before. It was a really positive meeting with them wanting to support us (not sure how much yet..potentially with trucks to transport soil to kickstart the projects and their own technicians) with contracts being drawn up. They will also join us at a special community meeting, in the remote community, on Wednesday to remind the community of what we have achieved to date, to present the next stage of our vision and hopefully gain agreement with them. With things moving so quickly I have had to prioritise what I need to do right now, with deadlines for the two really big projects fast approaching. This has caused quite a bit of discussion between James and I as I am pushing back on one of the schools this week because we can’t commit to our usual day...with a promise we will resume as normal next week. I must also start to get more involved in the lesson plans so will look to finish the preparation of my first one easing myself in gradually as I will then at least have been in both schools by then. It is really unfortunate we have not been able to fulfil our commitment so far due to illness (us both) and the huge projects really picking up pace. It is hugely exciting to be at the forefront of the step change and growth of this small NGO. 
To support our one school visit (the one I haven’t taught in) I have prepared a couple of pieces. First copy and cut out a humming bird and flower..not easy I can tell you when my art skills are fairly crap! I have the ideas it’s the physically producing it that is the problem.  Secondly we are going to run a competition too for Hearts Cafe using their logo and asking the children to decorate it. I had to trace it first though and get the photocopies...I’m beginning to feel like a real teacher’s assistant. 
With the extra time I have really managed to get 2 parts of the grant application knocked into shape. My Spanish has caused me some concern this week. I hit a real low with it. I’m so frustrated at how long it is taking..not helped by not talking it as much as I should, the difficulty I have understanding them talking if they talk too quickly etc..I spent quite a bit of time thinking about it and have decided the way forward is at least 2 weeks of intensive Spanish once I have this grant application out of the way..so 2 weeks time. Until then I will curtail my classes to concentrate on the grant application.
I also wrote a piece for a new magazine that our previous administrator Maureen is now working on and kindly agreed to make the first NGO piece about Living Heart... so dabbling in lots of things. 

Our day at the school was great. This is our later start...5am ..woo hoo!! Each session, in this school is 1 ½ hours long. In one case the teacher takes half the class away and spends time with them on the computers that have been donated to this school. These are the first I have seen here. We did a little English (James picked up where he had finished)- real basic stuff but it is surprising what they remember and they really enjoy it. In the older class it was phenomenal what they could recall. The teacher there also listened in (not knowing any English herself). I think it would be important to give these kids some basic English to give them a little headstart for secondary. I am in charge of finding out what utilies (essential school supplies) they need. It quickly becomes obvious those children from the poorer homes. I wondered why 2 girls were taking so long to draw something only to discover they only had one pencil between 2!! We supply the director with what he needs and he gives out as required and discreetly so every child can attend school and work at the right level. On the way home from Pisac we got stuck for about 30 mins while one of the festivals and processions took place in Yucay. They were in no hurry to get off the road, blocking both sides! The band played, the large crosses draped with elaborate colourful drapes were being held by the church dignitaries and we all had to sit and wait until they moved off. I had arranged to look at some properties with a friend whose Spanish is better than mine so had to call her to delay our visits. The room I am currently in is cold and very noisy as the house sits right on a junction and this road seems to be the main route for all the moto taxis and collectivos from neighbouring towns. When they all reach the junction they peep their horns!! I looked at various properties but in the end spoke to my landlady and they offered me the room opposite for a little more. It has an ensuite with a handheld shower but is definitely warmer so I took it. With the central courtyard you can still hear noise but it is not quite so bad. I will try this for a little while and see how it goes.

On Wednesday we had to be up at 4am to get the taxi to the remote community and the meeting at 10am. There were 5 of us including Martin (the regular taxi driver we use); James (our greenhouse expert), Jess (our trainee manager and administrator who speaks fluent Spanish and a little Quechua), Rita (our local nurse who speaks Quechua and would translate what James and Jess would say), me (as a trustee for Living Heart and hoping to take a few pics). This village is 3 hours from the nearest main town and the road is incredible (as in very difficult to pass). We were in a taxi and at times I thought the sump was gone. The road is a dirt track after about an hour from the town and extremely uneven where lorries have tried to pass, making deeper tracks in the mud and which a car could get lost in! As the day progressed the heat built up and Martin opened the window but the dust then circling inside the car was awful so we had to keep asking for the window to be put back up. About 7am we stopped for breakfast (rolls Jess and I had made up the night before as she stayed with me that night). Where we stopped we the view were fantastic with a beautiful view of Veronica- an amazing glazier. I needless to say took some really lovely pics here...to follow. We reached the community about 9.30am and visited the school. It is set in a lovely little valley with amazing views but you can see how they could be easily cut off. The ground is not great quality with a lot of stones plus the weather and temperature variation makes growing anything other than potatoes nye impossible. At the school we met the president of the community who invited us up to join the community meeting. We had agreed I would only take photos if it was appropriate. These communities are not happy about photos sometimes so you have to be careful. The municipalidad technician and associate had arrived too so we all went into the meeting together. Before we went in we discovered the municipalidad had a small greenhouse project they wanted to introduce into this community. It involved building Iittle individual greenhouses for 7 families providing them with seeds, a little training on how to grow and then leave them to it. With our project it would provide vegetables and instruction for all so it made sense for us to work together and share resource too. We walked into the small building where the meeting was and I saw what appeared to be the whole village with women and children there too, all sitting quietly. It all felt very official and a little daunting! I also knew I wasn’t taking any pictures. We were introduced and James, Jess, Rita and the municipalidad all took it in turns to talk. It quickly became apparent that the younger members of the community could understand Spanish but the older ones needed the Quechua translation. The technician spoke quite forcefully about what great work we could do and they must support it, which was great for us. By luck the municipalidad began taking subtle photos at the back of the meeting. I waited a short time and then did the same. Jess had prepared posters to help with our discussions. They looked great and really added weight to what we were trying to do. The meeting was hugely successful with the community voting for the projects and they even asked us to stay for trout and potatoes which one of the wives was preparing. It would have been impolite not to stay so we did. It was lovely. When we left we were on a real high about how well it had gone. What an experience !!!! 

As I mentioned above this is a never ending festival season in one village, town or another. In Urubamba starting the weekend before on the 11th it was the Festival of Saint Torrechayoc – the saint of Urubamba, with lots of dancing, bands playing, street vendors with food etc...all leading up to the Festival of the Sun on 21st . This is the biggest festival and takes place in Cusco. The Festival of the Sun – Inti Raymi lasts pretty much a week. The Festival of Saint Torrechayoc started at the weekend, went on all weekend, through the night and starting early each morning for the whole week. There were various marches through the streets all with loud music of course. The big drums were the worst when you are trying to sleep. Don’t they know I have a lot of early mornings!!!! The very elaborate costumes (photos to follow),which seemingly each family take turns to pay for each year, are for the all group of dancers (there are lots of individual groups) and supposedly can cost up to 10,000 dollars! I’m not sure how they get that kind of money but there appears to be some reasonably well off families around. The social divide is certainly widening here.
On Sunday I had the offer of joining some friends for a lovely lunch and meeting a few new people. We went out to a beautiful place next to the river below the Maras Salineras (Salt Mines) called Arco Iris del Puente. It was a lovely day and we just chilled in the garden, eating under a straw umbrella. As much as the restaurant was glad to see us they were dismayed at the numbers as James and Femke hadn’t told them how many of us there were. There were about ten of us - Fran, Laura, David, our usual crowd and Julia and Jasmine. Fran was really fun and we will definitely meet up in Cusco where she stays with her Peruvian husband. She is working for and NGO involved with children’s homes, coordinating a few and looking for funding. Laura is a volunteer coordinator involved with disabled children. When we went back into the festival, about 5.30pm it was still in full flow. Alcohol was being consumed by the bucket load by all. It is OK to drink freely on the streets here. It also seems to be quite OK to pee in the open not far from view. Often you can be walking along a lane/ road into the town and someone (usually male or child) is peeing reasonably discreetly in a corner. I had to try not to laugh as I walked down a street in the centre of Urubamba and an old man was walking along (well staggering) and peeing in front of him!!  Not sure what is gonna top this one!
I also got a text to say I had new house mate for 2 weeks, Stephanie from California who was volunteering with Elise in the Spanish school and helping her build some English.

Posted by Heather Buc 20:32 Comments (0)


260511 - 050611

Things have been busy over the last 2 weeks so this is another long one... so get your cup of tea or coffee and a comfy chair :)

So first an update on my health...after some further investigation about Guardia (as I actually did know a little).. it is a water based parasite so it has been from the drinking water probably. Trying to be kind to the environment, I have been boiling and cooling water rather than buying a multitude of plastic bottles that are seriously clogging up this country! What I now need to do is boil the water for a few minutes, so I’m told, to kill the parasite which is really common here..Guardia and Salmonella. The problem is there is soooo much conflicting information about how long to boil the water for! It ranges from zero minutes to 23 minutes (although the latter has come from a verbal recommendation and I haven’t seen it written anywhere). I’m now opting for about 10 mins. The medicine and infection has been pretty rough on me I must admit. My energy levels didn’t recover until Thursday (5 days later) and the nausea...well I’m still waiting!! The one thing about the medicine is you must eat so I have to think carefully about what I can face... the very smell of food is a problem for me. There are no frozen foods here and obviously no microwaves so you need to prepare everything..so no quick meals. The 2 course meal in the market has been a great help as this is sometime my only main meal and it is really nutritious. I often tend to have the veggie option. I’m definitely tasting lots of new vegetables these days. :) Since then a friend has developed similar symptoms but she has been diagnosed with Salmonella. Being as stringent as possible with hand hygiene, washing all veggies in boiled or mineral water and cooking everything thoroughly seems to be the common threads in all these infections. The lack of hot water through the taps is a problem regarding rigorous hand washing and when we are at the schools in the mountains there is no soap, hot water or toilet roll so I will need to be extra careful up there...especially as the children like to hold your hands etc, which is lovely as long as I can keep myself well.

I have spent 2 days at Sonia’s discussing Living Heart and making a really good start to the award we are applying for. Our friendship continues to grow the more we get to know each other and there are so many little things I can help her with which feels really good. We will definitely have a lot more of these meetings. I visited a house with her today and as we walked back her gardener, and personal help, spotted something on the stone wall. It was a huge wasp – about 2 inches (5cm) long and in its mouth it had a huge spider...a black widow spider! I had to ask if that was right and were there black widows in Peru. Sonia assured me there were and usually in the countryside...EEK! I’ll need to be careful and look out for those now! You know when you wished you had a camera...creepy as it was, we watched...fascinated... for a few minutes as this large wasp carried the spider in its mouth, carefully picking its way sideways along the wall to its nest (we assumed). I think the weight of the spider was probably the reason they were both facing down and the wasp had to walk sideways.
On a less gruesome but still irritating point I’m still getting bitten but only around the ankle area. The mosquitoes or whatever can still get up inside your jeans...the little buggers...so I’ve had to look out all my longer trekking socks!! I’ll beat the little blighters yet!! I am also back to using insect repellent on occasions to try and allow the bites to subside.

As per my work with Living Heart I heard back from MSD from whom I had applied for donations of Implants, to further our contraceptive programme but have been turned down. I will not give up though, following discussions we are going to focus our attentions on the contraceptive injections as these are the best tolerated and the greatest success rate for our women here. With the heavy work most of the women do the implants were moving so only suitable for a very small number. We use a lot of injections here and currently pay for them, so as soon as possible will actively seek a sponsor for us to provide the injections allowing us to further our ambition to start new projects as there are a number waiting patiently in the wings.

James and I finally managed to sort out all the educational supplies. There was quite a range of them had built up (not sure the time period but as so little help has been available to Sonia lately I’d assume a little while). James and I will use a little and distribute the rest, as required amongst the neediest schools. The requirements vary considerably I have found, as I am now visiting the schools, depending on how benevolent the alcalde (the mayor in the municipality)has been that year or any other sources the school director can access (not many usually). As we (LH) move forward we are realising it is time to update the website and the cafe with more accurate information of what the most useful donations we require are. All donations are brilliant but I feel sure if we gave a little more direction and information we would generate more of the most useful requirements for the current time, updating on a more regular basis. (see later)

My weekend was a busy one and reasonably productive with my first Peruvian haircut and colour. As you can imagine they don’t have climazons (heat lamps) here but I had been recommended a hairdresser that all the expats use and it proved to be successful. My first challenge had been to get the instructions Jim (my hairdresser in Scotland) had given me, translated into Spanish so I could explain to Cesar. What was most helpful was firstly my passport photo as I had it done just after a haircut. This and the instructions about how tight to razor and texture my hair, both seemed to do the trick. With the lack of intense heat I had to sit for 4 hours while the colour took. Apart from the fun and games with 2 of them trying to keep the blonde separate from the red as they rinsed it and scalding my head at one point, the overall effect is pretty good. (They used linen type strips which didn’t hold as well as foil when trying to rinse out the red.) If you can picture 2 heated Peruvian ladies trying not to panic and keep their voices down so as not to alert either me or other clients it was quite amusing. Spanish was being whispered at great speed during the whole process. :) I didn’t see a lot of point in panicking as they would have to sort any problems. I am down to 2 colours with a brighter red all over (through a misunderstanding about what colour went where) and blonde. Cesar, I was glad to see, used thinning scissors for texturing the top and seemed to really enjoy cutting my hair, with his tongue sticking out as he put his creative skills to work. I’m sure there aren’t many short haircuts around here. The upshot is I am getting lots of people looking and commenting on my hair again as I walk through the streets. I was shocked at the cost (by Peruvian standards) but when I asked they explained it was the amount of tint required to colour my hair. We will see what the next one costs as they seem to think it will need less colouring mainly the roots.

I also went looking for my Pharmaceutical Journals which I had rerouted to what I thought was a safe address but with no success. Neither the pub (the address I had been using) nor the post office had seen any, so goodness knows where the last 9 weeks have gone! I have now changed to a different address (c/o Sonia) to see if that will work.

I had spoken with Carol to see if we could meet for coffee while I was in Cusco but she was working. There was a big football game on that all the guys were watching that afternoon. She suggested I join them for the evening and stay overnight which was great. We went to a birthday party that started badly as we all got flung out for being too noisy!! I know the guys had been drinking watching the Barcelona/ Man U game but they really weren't bad...at that point. It was a new restaurant and the owners wanted new businesses to promote their restaurant. Half of these guys have their own tour businesses so could have recommended them to their customers. By being incredibly shirty and throwing us out they have really shot themselves in the foot! We went on to their usual haunt "Cross Keys" where they did indeed get a little more rowdy as the alcohol continued to flow and ended up with the usual tradition of the birthday cake being pushed in the face of the birthday boy. It was all good humoured though. During the evening we all had a little salsa and chatted back and forth with a number of us playing darts by the end. I was throwing some good darts actually once they explained to me about the game and our aim. It was an usual version but fun....another new sport for me. :)
Unfortunately I couldn’t drink any alcohol because of the tablets for the Guardia which was a bummer as I would have loved a beer! Pineapple juice and water were my tipples for the night :)............All in all it was a fun night.
Paul, Carol’s husband returned briefly after being away all week and left at 6am the next morning. He is helping set up an Extreme Fishing episode with Robson Green (I think in June) so watch out for that. He’s been all over the place with the production team researching it... Can’t be bad!

This week has been all about Living Heart with a little Spanish studying thrown in. I am really trying to focus on the award we need to submit. James and I also had two interesting days in the schools which I will now tell you about.

Most things start early here and with public transport you must allow plenty of time and lots of hanging about. I try to take something with me, like Spanish revision, to make best use of some of it...in some cases it is eating breakfast on the bus or sleeping. We are usually lucky enough to get a seat as we are on early in the journey. James and I tried an overnight in Pisac (saving us an hour and a half on the bus) for one of the remote schools. It is the furthest away one and we have to meet the teachers (school director and one other teacher for this small school) for the collectivo at 6am. A killer! We then travel another hour into the hills to the school of about 40 kids. Interestingly you can see the other school we are teaching at high up on the opposite mountain...not walking distance of course! We arrived at school about 7am with breakfast being served for the kids at 7.3am. School starts at 8am. We had the porridge drink with them with some bread we had brought up for the teachers. We thought we had brought up bananas, little ones, only to discover you actually cook these ones for about 20 mins. They then taste like potatoes...weird! Before breakfast the director proceeded to show us where the school was needing painted, I think he wondered if we had any funds to help him. I had a list of what medical supplies had been sent up and needed signed for. I also reviewed with him what educational supplies they were desperate for so we gave the right things to the right schools. When he had been showing us around I noticed a lot of jotters, pens, pencils etc which I asked him about. These had seemingly come from the local alcalde that year..his first year in office which is great but not sure if it will now happen year on year. The alcalde won’t pay for the school to be painted though. In each classroom each child’s name was on a packet of crayons, scissors, glue. This made them incredibly careful with their things. The other amazing thing is the director makes the children tidy up and sweep out the classrooms so they are taking pride in their surroundings. They also take their sandals off to enter the classroom so we need to watch we don’t stand on their feet with our boots! He has also started a mini agricultural program, showing them how to grow things in a slightly damaged greenhouse above the school. James and I had a look at it and you can see what he has been trying to do, but for 4 months of the year there is no water so they need a good sized tank to store water for these months. The day outside was hot but when we started in the classroom it was freezing, as it sits in the shade and all the windows were open. I had put on more clothes because of the altitude but not enough..I need thermals for next week! You can’t close all the windows as the children’s hygiene is limited in some cases. In this school they have a reasonably good toilet block – no toilet paper or soap but at least a flushing toilet and running cold water.
Our art lesson in the class was good but hard work when you have a class of 15 kids for 5 hours and trying to keep them under control and interested. We had 15 children ranging from 5 to 13 (who actually looked about 9 going by their size!) A couple of the girls were a bit rowdy and causing some disturbance but I used my "mummy" eyes and made sure they completed the colouring before cutting out (like everyone else). James took one of the girls out at one point because she had been up to mischief. I didn't see it what had happened but it worked and she calmed down so well done him! James did a jungle theme that week so after discussing what kind of animals you can find in the jungle we had them copying animals from books and drawings or drawing round some stencils we had made, for some of the younger ones. As with all kids some were really good at free drawing...better than James and I which wouldn’t be hard where I am concerned! They spent all day copying a lovely book we had found amongst the educational supplies and books I found at the back of the class. Others, although we managed to get them started free-drawing snakes they preferred to trace around animals that I was cutting out after my feeble attempts at drawing some. My butterflies went down well though. :) We were winging it a little that day so were thinking of games etc if we needed them, but making their animals and then creating a jungle scene on a larger sheet, to stick their cut out animals to, seemed to work well and took us to within 30 mins of finishing. To give them a treat we discovered someone had bought lengths of ropes for the school and most were skipping really well..impressive! They even had James and I skipping. I was impressed with myself as I managed both skipping front and back with crossed arms for as long as my lungs lasted at this height! Rope is something I would be tempted to buy for the other school if they don’t have any. I’ll investigate this week and have sourced my supplier.. a previously grumpy vendor who seems to have mellowed a bit now. This is such a great way to exercise and easy for them. James had bought a larger rope so we used that with them before lunch with the children jumping in and out as we all counted how well they did before they got caught in the ropes. As you can imagine the girls did do better than the boys but there were some exceptions. :) My Spanish is still pigeon-like but I seemed to get by that day. I am sure I will grow in confidence as we progress. James will do next week and I will prepare the following one. We are having a bit of bartering back and forth re how long he will support me and also prepare teaching plans. I’d like to think he will help me for the next 6 weeks while he is here as it does make a difference with two of us in the class.
Once the classes finished at 1pm we had lunch with them..a soup which was nice..and the kids obviously enjoyed it as some came back for seconds. (We had discussed this with Sonia and the need to bond with the teachers and pupils it was important for us to eat what they were eating.) To return home from this school you must first walk downhill for a full hour to meet the appropriate road and wait there for up to another hour for a collectivo bringing the secondary kids home. Recently the government have introduced a truck..and I mean a truck...an open topped truck filled with kids dropping them at various points all the way back to the village we had just come from. This is making a huge difference to these kids who used to get dropped off where we had walked to and had to walk back up the hill for about an hour and a half to get home (it is fairly steep!) The amazing thing is these teachers do this every day for school. Seemingly they just get placements (told where to go) for a year which is usually for the teachers and longer for the directors. Their pay is the same as those who work in the towns which seems a little unfair but I suppose if they all get sent to the villages it will even out. This means a little less continuity for the kids but might also mean they get new things they hadn’t had before depending on the quality of the teacher. In this school the teacher of the lower class had started teaching them Spanish which is great. In the pronoei class (preschool) the new teacher (who was just 17) had bought them toothbrushes and toothpaste and was really working on their hygiene with soap dishes outside the toilet while she supervised them and how to brush their teeth. She was also showing them hopscotch at one point. The kids were all sitting along the path she had drawn the hopscotch board on and were watching and listening intently....great!
On Thursday instead of teaching at the second school it was a very special day for them. We had a clown/storyteller with us, who offered his services free. We just had to provide the transport. This was the bigger remote school and when we arrived the children (and some of the adults) were waiting on us, mostly in traditional dress, and very excited. After a song from Janie which she had them all singing while Nino changed, Nino began his clown act. Soon the children were laughing and he had them joining in his antics, including a teacher and our local nurse. He used a lot of mime and then went onto a Peruvian fable about a condor, fox and hen. I could only catch some of the story but the children were transfixed by his story and actions. While he was doing this 2 large eagles circled the school...creepy :). Janie and Nino then played a balloon game with them – the boys versus the girls. It went down very well. It all took place in the schoolyard so it was great it was such a lovely day..you just had to stay in the shelter out of the strong sun. We videoed it and took lots of pics. I’ll post more pics soon. I also reviewed the educational supplies the school needed. They seemed to be in a very different position to the other school from what I could see but it is not usual for things to be hidden to get extra supplies. I’ll check when we are back teaching next week just so we give the supplies to the most needy schools. As you can imagine every director wants as much as he can get for his school. It would be great to set up something similar to the other school with individual glue, scissors, and crayons for each child. I’m not sure if this would work here as this director is much more laid back so things may go missing. I will discuss it with him next week. It was shame Sonia couldn’t join us as she is not allowed above Cusco height (3300m) now as she went blind with a mini stroke the last time she went to one of the schools. Her vision has returned thankfully but she has to be so careful. We are her eyes and ears updating her each week with information she needs or just how things are with these schools. Once Jess has had time to get the administration under control she will become the coordinator which is definitely required and been missing for a little while. All in all the two days have gone really well but leave you very tired. Next week I have pulled out of a couple of visits to allow me to concentrate on the award as time is marching on. I can visit these other communities later when we have submitted the document. Things are really getting busier and trying to fit everything in at the pace you need to go at here is a bit difficult. The infrastructure doesn’t allow for streamlining your daily lives to free up time...oh well I’m sure after this month things will become a bit easier. The downside is my Spanish is taking a bit more of a back seat but I think as long as I start conversing more it will help.
James is feeling it a little too as he is trying to work on his own personal websites as well as getting the potential new projects we are looking at, to a place he can leave them in safe hands, know they will go forward and are sustainable. To present our best case for the award James and Jess are taking on a couple of sections that they have the information and expertise for. We will all need to sit down in about a week and pool our information... Our Friday meeting is also getting slicker which is good. It is quite exciting at this moment as we try to take this small NGO forward and build on Sonia's great work and ethos.... All in an exciting day’s work at Living Heart :).

This is the weekend of the election in Peru and a state of alcohol abstinence started from Friday night. This is serious stuff here. If you are caught selling alcohol you are fined 1000 solis. It is also obligatory to vote or you get fined 1000 solis. I took precautions re the alcohol and bought in some beer earlier in the week just so I could treat myself to a bottle of beer over the weekend! :) I'll update you of any developments at this end depending on the outcome of the elections. Ollanta - one of the candidates actually comes from Urubamba...An interesting time in Peru just now.

I also decided to make chicken soup with the ingredients I could find here. I chose the cheaper option to buy my chicken and went to Ricco Pollo, a shop which never gets the huge white boxes they receive, unpacked. They sell straight from the boxes. The girls are well dressed for the job in white willies, white overalls and hats. There are always queues here. I had to queue for 15 mins to buy my chicken and had to shout through a railing to a security guard who brought it to everyone. This is where everyone comes for the cheaper but good quality chicken and most were taking away 2-3 bags or sacks of chickens to sell on or cook with. There are loads of street vendors here selling cooked foods all day and night. We gringos don’t buy from there but they are very popular with the locals. When it was my turn I stuck to what I knew and bought a chicken without the head and feet! It costs 6.50 solis/ kg here and 9 solis/ kg in the market. I was really pleased with my soup and it will last me a few days managing to fill the small freezer box with some tubs of soup. I even bought a lot of other veg to make a stir fry...I’m getting adventurous. :)

I must admit I feel a world away from what I am used to...all very interesting ...especially trying to explain in my pigeon Spanish what I want...e.g. no head or feet for the chicken and trying to get a courgette (they are enormous here) rather than squash..the Spanish words are similar and I think my pronunciation isn’t the best! I have also discovered they don’t use the Spanish word but a Latin American word I hadn’t known...Oh well I’ll get there!
Anyway time to sign off mis amigos...until my next blog..Chow. Hasta luego. :)

Posted by Heather Buc 18:24 Comments (0)


This is a bit of an overview of living in Peru ..for me anyway.

This is a magical place...the scenery is outstanding and the type of life you could lead if you had a little money is pretty good. That is why there are so many gringos here I reckon, but it is world away from what you will have known at home...wherever that may be. As you walk along you see kids sitting amusing themselves or playing in dusty, stony “streets” with a ball or sticks. The only thing tarmaced once you leave the cities is the main road between towns.. possibly a couple of main streets and the square in each village..unless it was made by the Incas and real tourist attractions, e.g. Ollantaytambo and Pisac where you find cobbled streets and the maintenance if these streets is a higher priority. The children usually give you a grubby cheesy smile and say “Hola”..you can’t help but smile back. There are a lot of dogs, most in reasonably good condition and some playing with balls with the kids or lying in the sun. If one strays onto another’s territory though you hear the row! Most are OK but as I walked to Sonia’s the other day one decided to go for me. It missed biting me by millimetres!! I think the moto-taxi had wound him up but it just reminds you to carry a stone!

Not all the people here are pleased to have gringos here. As Inike and I walked down one day an older man kept asking me what I was doing here. I first I thought he was being polite but I soon realised he was not happy... There are elections coming up in June and one of the party candidates is a revolutionary so I have heard who doesn’t want gringos in Peru, buying property etc. He seems to have a lot of support. There are lots of meetings/canvassing in the squares, small rooms and from taxis and motos around the town. We will see come the time if there are any issues.

In the fields you see large oxen/cattle pulling ploughs in the small fields that border the towns and throughout the countryside. These are usually being directed by the fathers or sons. A lot of women work in the fields harvesting or preparing for the next crop. Invariably there are small children there too. Some babies covered in the red shawls they all wear to carry them or their heavy loads as they walk around (protecting them from the sun); or toddlers amusing themselves with whatever they can find to play with. Despite all the voluntary programs and more schools being built you still see older children in the fields helping. Some fathers are scared if they get an education they will not want to come home to work. Sometimes it is interrupted learning as the crops need to be harvested.
The quality of the clothes that I have seen for sale here are not that great and won’t last that long. Don’t get me wrong there are some jeans stalls and some slightly better clothes but I think the used clothing shops or where NGOs arrange for clothes drops are vital here for a large part of these communities, especially those in outlying areas.

As regards living here you need to allow for the different infrastructure here. Everything takes at twice as long..at least! The Peruvian minute is whatever length they want it to be!
There is a standard joke around here when someone mentions time and how long you will be ...Is it real minutes or Peruvian minutes?? They are quite incredible. Time just doesn’t come into it!
If they say something will be ready..don’t bank on it! (I’m going to try again to pick up my laundry – 3rd time lucky!!)
If they say they will do something..don’t bank on it!
If they say they will be there, e.g. for a class...don’t bank on it!
These are some of the frustrations trying to get things done. But you either go with the flow or you will go stir crazy!!

What am I missing... a nice hot bath! There are no baths here and certainly no hot water for one! All the taps run with cold water. You wash your dishes with a strange substance called "Ayudin" with cold water and a scourer. I have taken to boiling water to wash myself on the non shower mornings and for washing my smalls. I take the rest to the laundry. This shower in my new house at least has warm water...much better than the cold ones and the pressure is slightly better (but not great..if you had long hair you would be there for a while!) The showers are electrical and so heat as you wash. Like a lot of countries you can’t put toilet paper down the toilet and use the bin beside you. I have struggled to find a nail brush (my nails and fingers seem permanently filthy) and is part of my list when I go to Cusco. Face wash seems to be a definite no-no here. You use soap. There is face scrubs though if you want. Towels are not easy to come by. I am glad I have my travel towel and it was a large one. A number of things take a bit of sourcing, e.g. conditioner for coloured hair, shampoo etc , nothing is in one place...what I would do for a big Boots right now. 

I do feel safe walking around Urubamba even at night and it is smaller so I’m getting to know it, although some say there are a lot of thieves here too, mostly opportunistic I think, so I just need to be careful. I only change 100 dollars at a time so no-one thinks I have a lot of cash. I have now stashed things in different places in the room too in case I'm broken into but I think it will be fine. There are bars on the downstairs windows, and all the locks right through triple lock! I have a gas hob here but no oven so will need to cook on the rings only.
Every weekday all the gringos (that is what we are all called here) meet for a 2 course lunch and drink on the 3rd floor of the market. It is very sociable and you meet new people most days. The food is good...either veggie or meat and I have discovered a lovely lady who does the sweets and good coffee. I had a lovely apple crumble through the week..loads of apples..great! This tends to be my main meal of the day although I went to this great pizza place the other night that had live music...salsa style, playing Santana etc. It was full of Canadians and most were doing a little Salsa. I didn't join them but really enjoyed the atmosphere. There are a lot of young volunteers here – mostly girls 18-24 as part of organised groups doing research or other activities with NGOs and staying together in host homes or hostels. They stay for about 4-12 weeks mostly so I’m not sure how much they can achieve in such a short time that is sustainable. Some of the projects include looking at sustainable agriculture – here and in the jungle, where a lot travel to as well. Organic is big here as is vegetarianism (among the large gringo population in Urubamba).

My meals tend to be a good breakfast of fruit, granola and yoghurt; my main meal at lunchtime (or night if I am not in Urubamba) and filled rolls for my other meal. There is a great little French bakery where I get my rolls. I tend to buy plenty as I eat about 4 at a time and if they are too hard I toast them in the frying pan first. I have a ready supply of boiled eggs, cheese, tomato and jam so the rolls are all set. What I haven’t found in Urubamba is a source of nice jamon. ..maybe another thing for my list in Cusco.

In the market on our way upstairs there is a man sits in his wheelchair at a little sweetie stall and he is always knitting. He makes an adult jumper every 3 days while he sits there...Brilliant!!

The temperature varies a lot here. Between 10am and 4pm it can be very hot and you need you shorts with a light weight shirt (to protect from the sun) but outside this you need to put jeans on and a fleecy or jumper. The temperature drops quickly. As this is their winter and dry season the rain is getting less but when it rains it does rain...with the strength of the sun though it dries quickly.
Currently I am settled in and the pace is building, although I will need to temper this to ensure I can achieve what I have agreed to take on. The one thing you do here is sleep a lot more. I am not sure how long I will be allowed to stay in this accommodation or will want to stay here once the other volunteers arrive that Wimmie is looking for. She is taking on her own young volunteers to help them have a great experience here. I think she is pitching at 18-24 yr olds. The downside for me is these young volunteers will have just left home and I don't fancy playing mum to them...so we will have to see!! I’m enjoying living on my own but it all feels like living like a student again! Who would have thought it at this time of my life?  All interesting stuff!
Hasta leugo mis amigos.

Posted by Heather Buc 17:44 Comments (0)


Although this is week 2 it starts on a Friday and this is a long blog so make yourself comfy with a cup of tea before you start! :) (by the way the squares are the smiley faces that didn't transfer from my word document!)
The meeting with us all at Living Heart, on a Friday, is working well with everyone chipping in. James will be back next week so it that will be another set of ideas....all good stuff. This week it was discussing the American doctors who come and work in the poor hospitals here. They have been before so know the score. They must bring all medical supplies with them as the cost to buy here is way too steep. They come in August. I’ll be really interested to meet them when they come. Part of today was to get us ready for the project drop offs.... of clothes, educational and medical supplies that have run low. As mentioned (I think) the parents must take responsibility for supplying a jotter and pencil but the schools require a reserve supply and other things to allow them to further develop these children. Also they get a supply of the required jotters and pencils. It’s not just any old pad it has to be non ring bound and have squared paper inside....No idea why!! After the meeting finished Rita and I got stuck in about sorting out all the clothes. Sabrina had made sure they were in some sort of order, i.e. kids, adults and infants all separated. We had to then sort these out according to the villages (those at higher altitude getting the warmer stuff) and the quantities according to the number of children in the school. Actually I was just assisting with the counting and bagging, Rita knew what was required where. This actually took us 2 hours once we made sure we had all the clothes divided up and no hidden bags anywhere. The cafe seems to be a great source of clothes people decide to leave.. but it is amazing what some people think is OK to hand in! I’m sure anyone who works in a charity shop will already know this. To be fair it was only a very small amount of inappropriate things the rest was great. The parcel I had sent from Scotland had also arrived safely which was good. Sabrina has started sorting these out at the cafe to make it a bit easier, i.e. kids polos, adults etc. We just need to divide according to the village requirements. Next week we will look at the educational supplies which will mostly need to be bought as each school director has given LH a list.
On Saturday I decided to go to Ollantaytambo to the cafe. As always happens in Ollantaytambo there was a traffic jam on the way in. This beautiful Inca town with narrow, heavily cobbled streets isn’t really geared up for the number of buses trying to get in and out, as well as taxis and private vehicles. We all eventually got out the taxi, paid and walked the last stretch or we would have been there all day while they tried to sort it out. This must happen about 10 times a day I reckon. Apart from great food in the cafe, it also has Wi-Fi so I could load on the photos for the last blog. I had trouble with this in Urubamba. Sabrina was there and we discussed my frustrations with my Spanish. She suggested I look at working in a cafe where I must speak Spanish. She is right of course. Hearts Cafe is 40 mins from Urubamba and mostly has English spoken customers but the staff are all Spanish and Sabrina forced me to speak to her about things in Spanish, correcting my mistakes as I went along. I think there could be a benefit from spending 2-3 hours there to help me. I will speak to her about that in the early part of the week. While there I dumped my bag with laptop etc and went on a walk around the town. There are ruins that a few of us climbed to 2 years ago during the Breast Cancer Care/ Lares Trek and I wanted to take a trip down memory lane but also take some photos at an earlier part of the day. What I had forgotten was I had worn my newly purchased jeans which were a little tight around the thighs for climbing. That made the climb up more challenging than it should have been! Anyway I took some lovely photos, spent a bit of time looking around and then headed back to the cafe and Urubamba.
Back at the house I chilled out and discussed whether I would join the girls on their night out. There were 2 events that night. A leaving do for 3 British girls heading to a different part of South America, some volunteering , others working; and a themed graffiti night for a local bar that we had tried twice to visit in the early evening or afternoon and had never been open. The girls were particularly tired though after their visit to the Nasca lines. They should have returned 2 days prior but because of riots somewhere up there their buses couldn’t get through and they had been travelling for 2 days in a very round about route to get back. It had taken them quite some time to find even this way back and obviously at an additional cost. This is not unusual for Peru. Since hearing about this I have heard of others who have got stuck due to riots. Maureen, trying to update her visa by going to Copa Cabana in Bolivia due to miners strikes and another group of volunteers but one of them has a father who work for the Venezuelan government so would be able to sort something out for them.
I decided to make an effort and go. Unfortunately we didn’t end up going out until midnight. When we reached the first bar I quickly realised I had dropped back into my student years........... they were all soooo young!!! Maureen was out of town so I felt really out of place here. I had a beer and sat at a table with some of them for a while. Some interesting conversations were had I can tell you. One guy actually asking me what I thought of young boys!! I kept asking him what he meant until he eventually said “that they were all drunk”. I said “They are young!” That halted that conversation! We were there for about an hour before everyone moved on. In Kai (the bar with the graffiti night) there was a type of salsa music playing. On bare walls there were 3 different artists spraying amazing designs on the walls. It was pretty impressive actually. I decided about 2am it was time for home for me. It was a beautiful night and I discussed the option of walking. Elise thought it would be fine as it was well lit, most is along a major road and there was a good sized moon. I headed out just as another guy was leaving. I initially thought he was being very kind and wanting to escort me home I quickly realised this was not the only reason....This is where my natural walking pace..which is fast, comes in handy!! It wasn’t too difficult to out-walk him as he was pretty drunk (as were most of the people actually when we had eventually arrived). I was half way up the main road at my natural walking pace when I rapidly came upon 4 guys staggering in the same direction as me. To be polite I did say hello but then the questions started about where I was going. I ignored them and kept walking. Unfortunately one decided to run (that was the only way he could keep up with me) alongside me and continue with the multiple choice of where I may possibly be walking to. After a minute or two he did drop back and I thought all was well until about 5 mins from where I was turning off he decided to catch me up again and jog in front. I quickly ascertained the others were well behind so it was only him. As I turned off he said, “Chow” which I replied to and kept walking glancing back occasionally. All was well though. At the hotel at the top of this road there are always security guards and he would have known this. He didn’t need to know they were not there at that time (so I discovered) and that was not my final destination, although they had made this assumption. There were a few lessons I have learnt from that night. As I will be in Urubamba town as of Wednesday I will have to make sure no –one is following me to my house. Not that I think I would be in danger but the nuisance value of getting rid of them would be enough. I’m not sure I will repeat this type of night out again as it wasn’t really my cup of tea. I think the occasional trip to Cusco and meeting up with the ex-pats might be more up my street.
On Sunday there was an organic market in town and also another religious celebration which caused grid-lock as I walked into town. It was quite amusing how over-excited people get shouting out of taxi windows as vehicles try to pass each other. The streets in Urubamba aren’t really geared up for 2- way traffic.  The market, in the Plaza (the main square) was small but really nice. I would say most of the vendors were gringos and not locals. Some had small farms on the outskirts of Urubamba. As always when there is a celebration (religious or otherwise) all the street vendors are out and bedlam pursues as moto-taxis, people and vendors all vie for space in these narrow streets. You have to have your wits about you or you could get run over quite easily. There are no pavements so it is every man for himself.  At the market I had some organic Empaladas and quiche for a late breakfast and bought some herbs for my move to my own place. Sonia had contacted me the day before to see if I would like to join her for lunch which I accepted. Once I had finished at the market I headed to her house. She had made a lovely salad, veggie burgers (her own recipe) and baked potatoes. It was scrummy. I had bought some nice buns from the market for dessert. We chatted all afternoon about various things but I think there is a number of things I can do to help Sonia and the charity, at the stage it is currently at, which feels good for me and hopefully of use to them too....from my pharmacist knowledge, to my manager experience to working with the children....all good stuff I hope.
The following week (we are now at Sunday 22nd) seems to have flown in. James came back from England having been offered a place to do his masters in sustainable agriculture and leadership (I think). There were only 12 places and 200 applicants so he did really well. This means he is only with us until mid August. Him and I have had a number of meetings (well chats is probably a better way of putting it). He suggested we could work in the schools together. One of his frustrations had been trying to deal with the large class on his own so he thought if we worked together he could help me with my Spanish, allow me to get integrated with the schools and obviously 2 of us together would be helpful. He suggested we start the following week. I agreed and we decided to work on our own class plans then get together. I also thought before we jump in too quick we should meet with Sonia. I called her and we agreed to meet in Ollantay at the cafe before 11am the next morning. Because of Spanish classes (James is determined to become fluent before he leaves so has enrolled in some of Elise’s classes) we decided to go early so would meet at the bus terminal and collectivo taxis at 8.30am. We’d have breakfast at the cafe. As it was I was up and out early so was there at 8am. The number of vehicles that stop to ask if you want a lift though is incredible while you wait at the side of the road. On the collectivo we had a really good chat about what his aspirations for working with LH were and what he could realistically achieve in his remaining time. I think regular meetings with Sonia were going to be essential to allow James to use his expertise and contacts in sustainable agriculture (mostly looking at greenhouses) and his website experience as he has a web based business as well. This stuff is vital to LH so it is important we get the balance right, between teaching and what else we can offer. We both have other strengths which will benefit LH so we have to balance what is going to benefit the organisation the most. We agreed on 2 days a week at the 2 most remote schools (over 4000m so very remote) as they were in most need concentrating on art, creative thinking and getting them to think more strategically through games etc. From what James has told me some of this will need to be very basic and definite instructions given as this is all new stuff for these kids. From his 6 weeks experience in the schools they are roughly 4 years behind their actual age and some even further. There is no one to one teaching, as you can imagine, and if they can’t keep up or miss school (kept at home to help on the farm) they are just kept back. When we got to Hearts Cafe we discovered Sonia wasn’t there. I then saw I had a voicemail from her..must have come in while we were in the taxi. She couldn’t make it and wondered if we could come to the house. We agreed to see her about 12.30pm to allow us to sort out some other stuff first. The meeting went really well and we discussed all our thoughts with input from Sonia on what she wanted. To be honest it was more about getting agreement on the schools and what James could be working on for his time, updating Sonia on what he could now commit to.
During the week I followed up one of my earlier ideas for a creative plan for the schools and having downloaded what I needed and discussed it with James there are loads of ways we can use it to build on week on week. My idea was to use fables because these link very closely to their culture, they have a moral and are short. However I had to translate it into Spanish, get it corrected by Elise and then work on the rest. It will need to be done in very easy stages, even for the older ones. Even though it is only half a page (if that) it may still be too much for the little one with no, or next to no Spanish. For these children we may just stick to cutting out, drawing, colouring, making instruments, drama, but I will see how it goes in the older classes first. If I can I’d like to introduce some salsa for the older ones at a later date.
Regarding my Spanish classes, I have now dropped the beginner’s class as too much of it was things I already knew. I now have my private class, and will also do work with James while at the schools. I have asked for the worksheets the beginners get so I can work through them in my own time and we can look at these in my class, answering any questions I may have. Elise is going to set up Inter- Exchanges for some of us, i.e. she has Peruvian intermediate students learning English, who we can meet up with and start talking to, to help us both. The idea is I’ll talk Spanish for half to one hour with them correcting me and then they talk English for half to one hour and you correct them. She is also going to sign up for a website that I can use to help me. I'm also looking for a Spanish book to read. All in all this should really help me along. Some will take a little longer to set up I know...we are in Peru and nothing happens quickly here. The other slight problem is some words I already know are not all used in Latin America. James has found this too. Some of the terms we are learning aren’t always grammatically correct either but are common expressions here so we need to know and use them to be understood. These private classes are going well. I have started writing text about what I have done the day before then Elise corrects it. We have a spoken conversation about other things I have done and so building on both. It is surprising how well this is working and I am starting to feel a little better about communicating. I know it isn’t all correct but I can get by and I know it is getting better as I understand more. Elise says I am a model student! I should be for the amount of work I am putting in!!
On Wednesday I moved out of Maureen’s and into Urubamba. I had arranged with Sonia to use the taxi we use for Living Heart as I have a lot of stuff including my laptop so didn’t want just anyone helping me, plus Maureen’s is a bit inaccessible. Martin (the taxi-man we use) was lovely. He got as close to Maureen’s as he could then brought all my bags to his car. I had managed to get them downstairs myself. Getting stopped outside the house in Urubamba proved to be a bit difficult, causing a traffic jam on the first attempt with lots of peeping. The one thing I would say about Martin is nothing seems to faze him...very unusual for a Peruvian. Eventually he had to concede and go around the block again. It wasn’t cheap but to be honest it was worth it. When I arrived Wimmie (my landlady) and the others were still working on the finishing touches on the house, which took them all day. I was given the guided tour and then went to unpack. I was quite lucky as the boys took my cases upstairs. There is a little courtyard in the centre of the house, open to the fresh air but the stairs up to my room are covered by a plastic, corrugated type roof. I rearranged the furniture the following day – just a little - to use this lovely courtyard, which is the access to the toilet, which is downstairs. This is a little strange but fine as there is so little rain just now. Once I had a table and chair set up in the courtyard and my music on, I started work on what my lesson plan would be for next week. I looked over all the downloaded items and had the idea sorted in about 15 mins which was great. As the week wore on though I realised how much work still had to be done for this and began to panic. It also became clear James was starting to take a back seat already and I was to prepare everything...It was all moving too fast for me! With my Spanish still not great, by the time I had done the translation of the fable, I wanted to use as my first theme; preparing how I would ask them to do other things, preparing colouring pages, dot-to-dots etc there was no way I could do this and everything else I was still required to do! I was also acutely conscious I had agreed to prepare this brief for new funding for Living Heart and hadn’t started that yet and time was marching on. I mentioned this to James and have agreed he will prepare the plans just now. The extra work he has to do for LH is minor in comparison, he knows the children and his Spanish is a lot better than mine. As it turns out this was for the best as I ended up in bed all day Sunday and part of Monday with what I think might have been food poisoning....not a nice experience. I’m only gauging that this is what it was from James’s earlier experience as I was nauseous and had flu-like symptoms. I had fortunately bought a herb called “Muno” which is brilliant for this. I had a few cups of this throughout the day, when I made it out of bed! I will need to see how I am feeling to see if I will make it to the first classes as these are big days and I am still pretty weak.
The house in Urubamba is nice but there are a few issues I think Wimmie needs to address before she introduces her volunteers. Little things mostly, but I think it will make a difference. The biggest problem is the ants in the kitchen. I know this can be a problem in warmer countries but you can’t leave anything on the work surfaces here. She has an electric kettle and there are always ants in it. I tried leaving my washed fruit in the fruit bowl on the top but it was covered in ants by the next day. The only safe places are the fridge top or in it, and the table in the next room. I think I know where they are coming from and someone has suggested I buy ant body powder as the smell is so strong they don’t like it. I now need to source this. I have also discovered 9pm at night is when they are very active..even in the cupboards! I have bought clothes pegs to seal all the packets I have open. I was also a little worried because of where my house is situated that it was going to be very noisy. There is a lot of peeping as we are close to a junction and everybody peeps as they reach it, plus there are always traffic jams and that causes even more peeping. Most of the bedrooms are on the side of the road but it is not too bad..I’m starting to get used to it (a bit!) It does quieten down quickly at night (about 6-7pm) and starts at the same time in the morning! 6.30am is when the Bin Men come with lots of load music to let you know to bring your rubbish out. I nearly missed them as I wrestled with the locks trying to get out! All the locks triple lock which is good unless you want in or out. They are a little temperamental in that you have to pull the key out a little before it will turn...sometimes I get this first time..sometimes it takes about 4-5 attempts or more!!!! Sundays you would think would be quieter but no!! There always seems to be lots of activity..religious festivals or whatever requiring lots of motos passing my door! The set up in the kitchen and courtyard is nice. When you have been cooking or boiling water the heat from the gas hob heats the dining area so it is a nice place to work at night...warmer than anywhere else I have been. The courtyard is sheltered and the sun reaches it in the afternoon. Not shining directly in so you can sit comfortably in there for a lot of the day. There is no oven in this house so any cooking I do will need to be on the gas hob. I have a notion to make mince and tatties but will need to ask about for the best source of meat. There are plenty of meat stalls in the market, but I want to know if any of the gringos have used them (and been OK!)
At the Friday meeting we didn’t get time to sort out the educational stuff as too many other things crept in. I ended up sorting out drugs with Rita that had been left/ donated. I must admit she did need my help. I spoke to Sonia about this and I will make up a list of drugs that are OK to use in the schools, doses etc. Some of the antibiotics they use are heavy duty stuff. The disappointing thing was the amount of out of date stuff too. We segregated the items I felt were more appropriate for the doctors to use (when they come in August) but some stuff we will have to bin. I also discussed how to safely do this. James was looking at the video camera as there is a story teller and mime artist who will visit one of the schools with us in June and we want to video it. In the afternoon James had wanted us to go to Pisac to try and catch the teachers as they came down from the schools. This is around 2.30pm (they start at 8am) and also look for a hostel we could stay in overnight to save the very early (4.30am) start for the second school. We did catch the teachers but it was interesting that what James expected, i.e. a little enthusiasm, wasn’t there. He said he had found it difficult to speak to them and often they would resort to Quechua so you couldn’t understand them. The female teachers have a different room. I think I will sit with them! James found them easier to get on with.

There was another leaving do and fund raiser for another NGO, in Ollantay on Friday night which we all shared a taxi to. I decided to see how this one went. I did suss out that I wasn’t up for a 5am finish so if some were leaving at say 2am I was up for that. Femke thought they would leave around 1am. There were 13 in our mini-bus and they came armed with Rum and coke. When none of them had arrived at the agreed time and meeting place I had arranged that they call me when they were all ready to leave and I went home. I wondered why they were taking so long to get to the taxi but when I saw the rum and coke, and plastic cups all became clear! By the time we had reached Ollantay one bottle of Rum was finished and there were some merry people aboard. Lucas, beside me must have been on something before he joined them as he was absolutely gone by the time we arrived. Mind you drinking rum straight from the bottle wouldn’t have helped I’m sure! One of the girls is also very quiet but by the time we arrived she had gone from drinking nothing to hogging one of the rum bottles! Needless to say these 2 were definitely on our taxi back at 1pm! The night was held in an English pub in Ollantay and was actually a good night. Kai (the Urubamba night club) provided the music so some of us danced most of the night. There was a salsa session but I must admit I still don’t really know it yet so was a little reluctant to take part as they are all sooo good. The fundraising was auctions for various activities that had been donated. Not sure how much they raised as we left early. Trying to get a taxi back proved to be interesting. There were none! One of the girls phoned Urubamba and arranged for one from there to come and get us. We had to wait 20-30 mins in the cold for it, with some people who were really not very well! When it arrived there was quite a discussion about cost and how many we could fit in it. There was a policeman with us too but he seemed OK about it all. We squeezed 8 of us in at a cost of 50 solis...not bad actually considering it started at 80 solis. Plus I’m sure the policeman told him we had phoned for a second taxi!

On Saturday I decided to help out at Hearts Cafe that night. Sabrina had said Friday, Saturday, Sunday nights were the best times to help out and we could share a taxi back as she came to Urubamba on a Saturday night. I got there about 4.30pm for the shift until 9pm. I was introduced to the staff and they were told I was trying to improve my Spanish so they could help me. I really enjoyed it and got mucked in with washing and drying as well as the other things Sabrina needed me to do, telling me in Spanish of course. As I learnt new words I wrote them in my little book. I’m sure the spelling will be wrong but I’ll sort that later. I also had an opportunity to speak to 2 different people regarding LH and how they could help us. The first was a young German girl who had just had a bad experience working with a Catholic group in the jungle. She was just about to write the story and was looking for the right projects to give the proceeds to. I think she will donate to us...yippee. She has also agreed to provide a translation (well her and her friend) of the website for LH and the menu for the cafe. This was an extra job I agreed to at last week’s meeting. I need to find kind people to translate our website into Spanish, French and German (hopefully I have the German sorted but I will need to contact this girl when she gets home). If there are any kind souls who can help me please let me know!
I also spoke to a lovely New Zealand couple who have started up a Fair Trade company – non-profit to support various people. Raewyn (the lady) had a number of contacts who were keen to support NGOs and wanted to know what LH would be interested in. What appeals to everyone (me included) is this is not just a hand-out organisation but it’s about the communities taking responsibility for themselves and how we can work with them, getting buy in and therefore more sustainable progress.

Sunday, as I have mentioned above was a write off. I slept most of it. I have since been told it could be food, a parasite or even the paper money (although some have said this is unlikely) . Who knows but I wasn’t well. I must admit I have been a bit lax about using my antibacterial hand gel so I need to rethink this and get it back out. Sonia phoned me this morning and gave me into trouble for not telling her and I mustn’t do that again. That was really nice of her I felt and I would let her know the next time. She also has a remedy that is helpful for such situations, which if I need it again (hopefully not!) I can ask her for it and someone will bring it down. I will need to give up the idea of travelling to the schools this week and allow myself time to recover. I have also visited the local clinic to get myself tested for a parasite just to eliminate that. It was reasonably cheap, quick with the results in an hour. I found out I had a Guardia infection and was given Metronidazole to treat. Fairly common here but I’m glad I didn’t hold off before going. Cost – less than £10 so well worth it. I just need to eat three times a day now to take the meds!!

Posted by Heather Buc 17:41 Comments (0)

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