Tuesday 10th May
This day started ultra early. My alarm was set for 4.45am. At 5am Rita called me (I think to check I was up!) As she doesn’t speak any English and was speaking Spanish particularly quickly, I thought we had got the times wrong. Once I left the house at 5.30am with packed breakfast and lunch I phoned Rita to confirm the times which were as I had originally thought. I needed to be on the 6am bus from Urubamba. I reached the bus station in good time with 10 mins to spare. Obviously at that time of the morning (it’s still pitch black), there were no moto-taxis I had to walk. They were shouting for the Cusco- Calca bus. This was the one I needed and needless to say the ticket office wasn’t open I just had to get on the bus. I was the only one on it so wondered how long it would sit before leaving..I needn’t have worried. It left about 10 to 6 (so mental note when I finally go I will need to be early), catching a local out who jumped on as we left the station. It wasn’t long before the bus was full to bursting as normal with lots of stops on the way. En route we also picked up Rita, the local nurse so we chatted along the way as best we could. My picnic breakfast of fruit (which I had cut up the night before, put in a sealable dish with some lime juice, adding the yoghurt and granola that morning) worked a real treat so I know this will work when I officially start. In Calca the school director/ one of the teachers of the school boarded the bus. He seemed a really nice man..very softly spoken and a really caring guy. We reached Pisac around 7am and walked to the place where the collectivo taxi was to collect us. We waited about 15 mins until the estate car/ taxi arrived. Interestingly enough 11 of us got into this car. Some got out before we reached our more remote destination. They were also teachers but going to a different school. It was cheaper for them to get this collectivo and walk the last stretch than get a personal taxi. When we finally arrived (about 30-40mins later) the temperature difference was considerable..(mental note ..more clothes required up here). At this altitude (over 4000m) Sonia was concerned I would have problems but I didn’t think I would, having done really high altitude treks before..I was pleased to see I was absolutely fine. We walked down into the school via the kitchen. We popped in to see the cook (a local woman with her youngest on her back). She was clearing up from breakfast and starting work on lunch, with her husband helping. He was cleaning the potatoes. The stove was a small wooden stove with 2 very large cooking pots on it. We went to the teacher’s common room for a hot drink before Rita and the director caught up with forthcoming events and what supplies were running low. He then took us around the classes to introduce me which was lovely. The school has been open since 2004 and has over 75 pupils and 5 teachers. One of the teachers comes from Cusco so stays up there is a small, very humble dwelling all week. In the first class he took me into (grade 3) the bowls were sitting on the tables for their main meals - breakfast and lunch. The children were so enthusiastic, especially when he said to them I was coming to take an art class with them which was just lovely, but I had to qualify the timescales to say it might be a month or so before I came back. They sang me a lovely song at full volume. This probably wouldn’t have happened before as they were so listless from lack of food and generally malnourished. The difference LH are seeing in the projects is amazing and heart-warming. I then visited each class in turn. In the next class (grade 4) 2 of the boys recited and acted out a poem. I have no idea what they said but it was great to watch. As I visited each class I took photos. In the first grade class they nearly bowled me over to look at their photo so I took a photo of each table in turn so they could see themselves more clearly. Seeing themselves on a camera is a real novelty and treat for these kids. The pre-school and grades below grade 3 can still only speak Quechua so I am not sure yet if I can get involved. I feel even if I introduce colours and drawing or colouring/ sticking etc I could still do something with them but I will need to see what the director thinks come the time. What was really interesting was the large room/ museum dedicated to the old customs and implements..really fascinating and very important to the families to maintain their culture. One of the issues can be if, before certain families get their money from the harvests they cannot buy the jotter or pencil to allow the child to go to school. This is essential for all children to attend school. To ensure the parents still take responsibility for this LH give the director of each school a supply to use at their discretion so the child doesn’t miss any schooling. This has happened in the past when the family couldn’t afford the jotters for a month or so.
Rita and I then proceeded to walk downhill for 2 hours to Jose Antonio’s house. Along the way Rita gave me a lesson on the number of useful plants at the side of the road that could be used for, colic, inflammation, anxiety to the antibacterial properties of mint... all interesting stuff what I could follow. We passed a lot of women working in the fields..the men were home weaving , Rita told me; and pregnant women carrying heavy loads. I must admit I had to ask what age some of the women were and if Rita was correct I had overestimated there age by at least 20 years. I suppose that is what living in the hard sun here will do for you.
Soon we reached Jose Antonio’s house. I was taken into one of the building where a small area had been sectioned off with hessian bags. Behind which was a bed with a sheepskin, mattress and lots of padding to help prevent bedsores with a lot of covers to prevent him getting cold. The little soul was lying with his head sticking out – his head arched back. He had been suffering with a cold all week and with lying in the same position one of the issues was getting his bowels to work the way they should. Despite all his problems he really was a cheery wee soul. He now lives at home and is much happier following over 2 years in a clinic that was over crowded and could do no more for him. The family were really keen to get him back home and had approached Living Heart who had been doing work in the village nearby. They visited their home and could see the lovely fabrics and articles he was making . They arranged to sell them in the cafe and seem to go very well really allowing him and his family to build their business and pay the expenses to keep Jose Antonio at home. They are just so lovely and caring of their son. He is one of 3 children..the youngest one. LH also arranged for Rita to learn how to carry out the physiotherapy to support the family at home each week. Rita visits once a week and does physio with him encouraging him to strengthen and straighten out his hands and legs. When Rita is not there the parents do these exercises with him. To encourage him they use dolls, a soft ball to squeeze and try to kick... anything that will get him to do the exercises. The pet cat, Percy, is also great therapy. Rita also massages a liniment into his hands and feet. She has seen a marked improvement in his hands (which were permanently curled before) and his legs (also permanently in a crossed position). What I saw were slightly more relaxed hands and his legs in a slightly straighter position. His legs are such that he will never be able to walk but the therapies certainly help. While the initial assessment and setting up of an area for Rita to work with Jose Antonio, in the main area of the room where his cot, 2 sewing machines and articles ready to be sold were hanging,; Crisologo, Jose Antonio’s father took me to his weaving room where 6 looms stood. He proceeded to show me how one of them worked (interestingly enough this was the very design I had bought the previous Saturday – a scarf). He asked me if I wanted to try. I quickly refused.I’d hate to think what kind of mess I would have made of this very intricate and labour intensive work. Each row would take about 5-10 seconds as he adjusted, checked and ensured it was absolutely what he wanted before he moved on. He was pressing peddles with his feet, pulling on wool and lines above his head, while working with a bone devise to adjust and firm up every row..incredible to watch!! He then proceeded to explain to me what each design (usually 2 or 3 significant symbols) on each loom meant. In a different building they dyed all the wool. I had assumed it was alpaca but he said it was sheep wool, very finely spun. We then went back inside to watch and support Rita with Jose Antonio. Our support was one of encouragement when he did an exercise right or to encourage him to do it in the first place. I took a number of photographs which he really enjoyed looking at. His father spent time with him on his knee and this was a joy to watch. When we were finished Pedro wanted me to have a gift and gave me a bracelet. I also bought a couple to bring home. As we headed for the door Jose Antonio, being carried by his father, seemingly indicated he wanted me to have something from him. He gestured to his parents he wanted me to have a lovely little pin cushion. I will treasure these forever!!
Outside in the small yard I had seen a strange tripod and had wondered what it was. They proceeded to tell me it was made specifically by Crisologo for Jose Antonio. His mother proceeded to pull out the sling they had made with hessian and woven straps to hold and support him. Once set up, they put Jose Antonio in it to show me how it worked. Percy, the kitten proceeded to climb up to the point and sat there. Pedro had made this for him to help encourage him to feel for the ground. It was just at a height that his feet just touched the ground. This also allowed him to be outside with his brother and sister while they played. It was brilliant! While I took photos Jose Antonio got really excited because Percy was there. You could see how Percy could obviously play a big part in his therapy as he would try to reach for him, lift his head to look at him etc. Jose Antonio is just such a darling little boy, the love and care the family have for him and what they are doing to ensure he gets the correct food (there is a special diet sheet on the wall in his room) is just humbling. The family need 350 solis a month for Jose's special diet and treatments. LH sell his designs from the cafe with a note about how this will help Jose Antonio.
What was particularly poignant for me was, in this very macho society, to meet such a mild mannered, doting father of a disabled child who would do anything to make sure all his family were looked after....Real heart-warming stuff.
I want to print some of the pics and send them with Rita. Jose Antonio seemed to get such pleasure from seeing them. I would also like to visit again once my Spanish is a lot better.
I also have some ideas I will share with the LH group, on Friday, re a couple of easy designs that I think would sell well, how to market his current stock to potentially encourage further sales and a slightly more radical idea of how Crisologo could raise his profile and increase his sales of stock. My Spanish wasn't good enough to suggest this during my visit.
All in all I had a really good day with Rita but it has made me more aware of how much I must work on my Spanish as it was so frustrating not fully understanding the school director or Pedro! I will discuss what will be best re when to start and which schools at my next meeting on Friday but I think the thoughts are I will start at the school nearer Urubamba as their Spanish is much better, and break me in slowly. I’ll need to look into what I want to do with them first and get in my supplies. Elise, my Spanish teacher has offered to help me prepare and practice for the classes which is great.
If you want to see more of what Living Heart stand for and do you can visit them at ...www.livingheartperu.org. We currently working on getting a justgiving website set up so if you would like to support this amazing cause watch this space.
UNTIL LATER MI AMIGOS....CHOW.