Wednesday, 7 November 2012

still in Andahuaylillas

Now I have been in Peru, as a volunteer, at the Qéwar project for two months and I really feel a part of everything, I am always happy and comfortable here. I feel like I could just stay here forever!

I had a really nice visit from my mum, which seems like a very long time ago! We travelled to the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca, Macchu Picchu of course, spent some days in Cusco and I had the pleasure to show her around the project and Andahauylillas and introduce her to all the lovely people here.

I have been busy with the kindergarten, I am helping the teachers, translating songs, games and stories, and mostly just sharing ideas. Two weeks ago we had a meeting with the parents in which I gave a talk about the importance of play and why children shouldn´t watch television. It was very difficult but a good experience to prepare in Spanish! I was soooo nervous someone would ask a question that I wouldn´t understand, but mostly they are so shy and don´t say a word. As each parent arrived there was a brief form for them to fill out. I was surprised to learn that at least three of about 20 parents were unable to write their own name.

I also visited another (kind of) Waldorf kindy in Cusco. The teachers are a middle aged couple and the kindergarten is inside their house. There is a small courtyard in the centre as a playground and a small inside room also. I gave my talk at their parent meeting, I am pretty sure my popularity as a speaker is more to do with me being a foreigner then because of anything that I have to say. It was very interesting the difference between the two groups of parents; Andahuaylillas and Cusco are less than one hour apart but the people and their lives are so different. In Andahuaylillas only one parent spoke the whole meeting and the majority didn´t look at me the whole time but in Cusco they all spoke nonstop, sometimes four at once.

I have some friends here around my age which is really nice. There are two German volunteers; Sandra and Martina and I have made friends with the kindergarten teachers and some of the women who make the dolls. It is very interesting for me to hear about their lives which are so different to mine. In particular I have made friends with one girl, aged 22, a year different to me. She is studying nursing in Cusco and has one older brother who is working in the jungle to pay for her student fees. When she finishes her course, she will work to pay for his study. Each morning she wakes at 5.30am, cooks lunch for her parents and her and leaves to study in Cusco. She returns at 2, eats lunch with her parents and works from 3 – 6 (or when it is busy, until 8) Then she studies until 11pm. On Saturday she works a full day and studies on Sunday. Her mum passes the day caring for their sheep and her dad passes the day drinking. She will finish her course in July and wants more than anything to work as a nurse in Canada. She doesn´t have the money or at the moment the time to go to classes, so for now is learning from any English speaking person she meets.

I have done some travelling with with Julio, Lucy, Sandra and Martina to Puno (The Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca) and Arequipa. I really love to see beautiful places, explore the area, try different foods and drinks, admire local handicrafts and all these things but my favourite part is meeting interesting strangers on the bus, both Peruvians and travellers. My least favourite is most definitely the music on the bus.

On the weekend we sometimes go to Cusco or other nice places nearby. We have been to discos with some of the Peruvian girls who are much milder partiers and especially milder drinkers than Australians (and Mexicans). One night we went to a disco in a nearby, slightly bigger village. It was a concrete room covered with graffiti, no tables or chairs, a one sole (40c) entrance fee and a tiny bar with one type of drink for sale – a horrible brand of beer. The German girls and I felt like we must have been the first white people to ever enter, as when we did everyone stopped dancing to turn and stare and whistle.

It´s really interesting the separation between the areas tourists do and do not go. In Andahuaylillas there is a famous church that brings busloads of tourists every day. But outside the plaza where the church is, apart from the other volunteers, I have only once seen other foreigners. And it was such a strange occurrence that afterwards two people asked me if I know who they are. In Cusco the central part is completely designed for tourists, but go two streets away from the centre and there are no foreigners. When I walk just ten minutes from the centre all of a sudden I go from being a regular person, hassled to look at paintings and buy sunglasses, to a complete novelty. Children come to me to speak English, which is usually ´hello´, followed by something elsenot understandable or ask how to say ´how are you´ in English, men constantly call out at me, and if I ask for directions I am usually asked why I am here.  

Also I have been walking in the farmland. Everywhere there are little plots of maize, growing in the valley and partway up the mountains and tiny little mud brick, usually one room houses dotted around. It is so beautiful and different I feel like I am walking in a dream. The people are very friendly, they always call out hello and sometimes just wave at me and laugh. I passed two water catchments for the irrigation. They don´t look very clean, are about the size of a big family swimming pool and had people swimming in them.

 Last weekend, the German girls and I finally climbed one of the Andes Mountains. We left at 5.30am (to avoid the midday sun), the sky looked perfect, a few clouds but not too many. We felt well prepared with all our water, lunch, sun hats and sunscreen. We found a path and started off. After about 10 minutes the path disappeared and soon after the rain started. So we had a great adventure, climbing through bushes (some very spiky) and freezing in the rain. But the view was so beautiful (when it wasn´t blocked by mist) that it was definitely worth it. Next time we will try one of the many surrounding mountain with clearly defined paths.... (and bring rain jackets)

For October and November everyone is very busy with doll orders for Christmas. I have been involved with different stages of the making process and every time I am just amazed by the amount of detail and care taken. The curly hair alone takes over a day to make, there are different styles of underwear for boys and girls, each head is weighed at least twice, and for each piece of clothing, the bits are extracted by hand, then washed by hand and then brushed with a toothbrush. Everyone is working very hard, the women are given the choice to work two hours overtime each night, but no one as hard as Julio and Lucy who spend almost all their waking hours co-ordinating the orders and making the dolls. I have really come to understand that it is only with such an incredible dedication that something so amazing can be so successful and help so many.
I have now decided that I will stay here for Christmas, I think it will be so lovely, and I would atleast like to be able to spell Andahuaylillas before I leave.  The longer I stay, the longer I want to stay!


Aa little village an hour and a half walk from Andahuaylillas

The view from the mountain

Wawa Munakuy, the kindergarten

The playground
Lake Titicaca

And finally... the dolls! 

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