With time I am seeing more of the reality of the poverty here and how it really affects people´s lives.
I have now had my own small experience of the realities of living in a place of poverty. After two weeks of a bad cold it got worse and turned into bronchitis. As I was hardly able to get out of bed, a local doctor from the village arrived and I was told I would need to take injections of antibiotics or else it could easily turn into pneumonia. A nurse working at the project came to give the injections but on Christmas day didn´t arrive. Worried that I would miss one, Julio and Lucy took me to the local medical centre in Andayualillas. I was taken into a tiny room and soon after a young child was bought in with a terrible cut on his head. The doctor said that he needed an injection. The nurse showed the child the small needle they would use for him and also the much bigger needle that they would use for me and told him if he cried they would use the big needle. As the boy screamed and cried and the nurse repeatedly threatened to use the big needle another nurse gave me the injection. As the bed was occupied with the boy, they gave me the injection while I was standing. I felt a horrible, strange pain and very soon fainted. When I came to I was unable to breathe properly or move for quite a long time. Julio, who was with me, was not told what had happened and in my dazed state I was left to explain.
The next day the nurse attending me from the project went to the medical centre to see what had happened. It turned out the nurse from the medical centre had mixed the injection incorrectly, used double the quantity, put in two instead of one and put it in the wrong spot. I am now perfectly healthy and if I hadn´t recovered I could have easily gone to Cusco or even Lima and paid to see a better doctor, indeed the fortunate women working at the project always pay to see better doctors in Cusco. But for many people living here, like the little boy with his cut head, and all over the third world, this is the only reality of medical care that they will ever know.
One of the women mentioned one day that she would like to send an email. I assumed that she wouldn´t know how to use a computer so I took her to the internet cafe and discovered that yes, she really didn´t know how to use a computer. Hard to believe a woman who can knit the most exquisite doll´s clothes, without looking, while chatting, was unable to move the mouse to the right spot. After half an hour of typing and three lines completed I helped her send the email only to discover the account was blocked and wouldn´t send. I then discovered the account had been opened four years ago by the German women she wanted to email, and not been used since then. So she had been waiting four years to write an email.
We had a paint therapist here from the US some weeks ago, giving art lessons for the women. For most of them it was the first time they had ever painted. For the ones that had it was with the project with another visiting paint therapist.
I am also seeing the poverty with the children in the kindergarten. There are some five year old children who often ask for my help with putting their shoes on. At first I was a bit surprised, as five year old children are usually capable of putting on their own shoes, except that these children can be wearing shoes that they have clearly outgrown. With one girl in particular, since mid November, twice a day we struggled together to get her feet into her tiny shoes and every time she would say, ´´My mum says she will buy me new shoes for Christmas.´´ It is inconceivable to think of an Australian child waiting until Christmas for shoes that fit, but then I can´t help think, what is better, being grateful for well fitted shoes or demanding a new Iphone.
As usual, leading up to Christmas, the lunchtime conversation turns to the gifts the children will be receiving. There is one girl expecting a bicycle but the rest a very excited to be receiving new (probably second hand) clothes. As part of the Christmas gift from the project, each child received soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste. I can just imagine a child from Sydney receiving toothpaste as a Christmas gift!
There is a very cheerful, confident little girl, very skinny and missing half her teeth. I naturally presumed she had some kind of accident, until I actually saw inside her mouth and heard from a teacher that her teeth have decayed from malnutrition. She is not the only child with brown, decaying teeth.
In the kindergarten there are warm showers. One day after climbing partway up a mountain, the director offered the children to have a shower. Oh they were so excited! A hot shower! For the majority of these children this is the only opportunity they have for hot showers. Afterwards they were all talking about the experience, how the water was really warm, how they were allowed to use so much soap, to cover all of their arms and legs! One girl said that there is hot water in her house and my immediate thought was that her family must be wealthy.
For a few mornings the water was off at the project. This doesn´t happen so often because they are actually connected to a different, much better, water supply then the water supply in the village, which is frequently off. I remember the water supply being off when I worked in Sydney and of course someone immediately drove to the shops to buy enough water for all the things we usually use it for. Here I walked with the cook and a few children about one hundred metres to a neighbour and filled up buckets from her water supply. During this time I learnt that there are children in the class without water, whose family collects water every day from a nearby river.
One Sunday I was pleased to be invited to pass the day with one of the kindergarten teachers and her eleven year old daughter. She is living in the village in a little rented house. Her house consists of a bedroom, a tiny kitchen with a dirt floor, a bathroom with a tarp for a door and a small outside area. When I arrived we prepared the lunch, spaghetti bake, and as she doesn´t have an oven we walked ten minutes to a public oven which we payed thirty cents to use. We then went to a nearby developing community where she and many other people are constructing their own houses. And by constructing their own houses I mean they are really constructing them themselves. Every weekend they all go to continue building. As there is no electricity everything is being constructed with hand tools.
I asked about the water and electricity and was told they expect to wait at least three years for it to come. The eleven year old daughter quickly added, with a happy smile, ´´But it´s very pretty, there are many animals and little birds´´.