There is more about the Sacred Valley of the Inca below, but since some people have asked what my schedule is here in Chiclayo, first is my basic schedule, which is always complemented by the never-ending stream of new activities that every week throws at me and the Centro Esperanza staff. My two to three hour ‘lunch’ break, is not usually that long–it really just depends on what needs doing. I guess my lifestyle ‘fails’ by Canadian notions of what a latin@ lifestyle is; I rarely take an afternoon siesta, out of choice. Rather, I usually eat my heaviest meal of the day as lovingly and painstakingly prepared with fresh ingredients by host mother. Then I finish prep for my afternoon sessions.
I jump on a convi at 3:35 to head to spend time with some of the most ingenious children in the world, and their humble parents, who are not ‘blue collar’ workers, but tend to work entirely in the informal/black market economies of what would be considered slums by most standards, areas burgeoning with tens of thousands of peasants from Peru’s sierra who continue to arrive daily in search of formal jobs and education and a stable future, but who inherently, abandon their ancestral or family lands on which they knew how to grow nutritious food for uncountable generations, and thanks to which, peasants had a tested system and strategies to avoid malnutrition, as they could trade fruits, vegetables or grains with family or neighbours. Animal protein is still a luxury for peasants, but it is not exactly necessary when you consider the ‘super foods’ (quinoa, chia seeds, non-GMO corn, lúcuma, avocado…) that have been part of the Andean diet for millennia.
In the slums surrounding Chiclayo, the climate is far too dry for planting small plots of fruits or vegetables with easy success, though the ‘green thumbs’ of these people with sierra and rainforest roots and souls are impressive. As such, the below photos of my recent trip to la sierra are fitting.
8-10am: Co-facilitate homework help sessions with 12-16 year old teenagers in Antonio Raimondi
10:30am-1pm: Centro Esperanza office (planning my sessions/classes, helping plan other sessions, translating documents, etc.)
4-6pm: Co-facilitate homework help sessions with 6-11 year old kids in Antonio Raimondi
8:30-10am: Teach English class to 11-16 year olds in Antonio Raimondi
10:30am-1pm: Centro Esperanza office
4-6pm: Roundtable for the Fight Against Poverty with a group of about 15 academics, social workers and others who work in the public sector in the city centre (every 2 weeks)
miércoles: (no longer my free day)
9-1pm: Centro Esperanza office
4-6pm: Co-facilitate homework help sessions with 6-11 year old kids in Antonio Raimondi
7-9pm: Rehearsal with Chamber orchestra in home of our maestro and fellow orchestra member
9-1pm: Centro Esperanza office (now often includes a meeting with the other international volunteers and the volunteer coordinator)
3:30-5:30pm: Session with kids in La Ladrillera (promotion of reading, drawing sessions, etc.)–my favourite session because La Ladrillera is just outside the city limits, but feels like it is a long distance away from the bustle of the city.
8-10am: Co-facilitate homework help sessions with 12-16 year olds in Antonio Raimondi
10:30am-1pm: Centro Esperanza office and usually running a few errands for CE admin before the weekend (buying supplies at market for upcoming sessions)
3-5pm: Co-facilitate homework help sessions with 5-12 year old kids in La Ladrillera
8-9pm: Co-facilitate youth group in La Pinta
9-11am: (volunteer) Teach English class to 7-16 year olds in private home in La Victoria (extended family of a co-worker)
4-6pm: Alternating weeks: Facilitate youth group with 11-14 year olds in Antonio Raimondi/Facilitate skill development session with 6-12 year olds in La Pinta
11am-1pm: Rehearsal with Chamber orchestra in home of our maestro
1-4pm: Get my butt home to help prepare and then enjoy in the biggest, most important and most family-oriented meal of the week with my loving host family (that doesn’t understand why my schedule is so busy if I am ‘just volunteering’). I am fortunate to indulge in a balanced diet of traditional Andean foods and coastal mestizo dishes that Peru is now world famous for, thanks to the northern coastal region where I live.
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I thoroughly enjoy my work with Centro Esperanza and quite honestly, the kids never cease to inspire me. Today I had fun with about 30 participants from the various sites where we offer programs who came to the office for a rehearsal of the song they are going to sing for our visitors this coming week. I played my violin to aid with the tuning of the notes being sung. After discussing other parts of the event (who the MCs will be, etc.), the kids and youth eagerly decorated letters to serve as a banner for the event to be held with our Canadian visitors. What creativity and patience Proyecto Chiclayo participants have!
Despite the satisfaction I get from my job, between the here-there-and-everywhere of my duties, I can’t help but think about the peaceful days I had on my recent trip to Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. What tranquil places, what serenity in the countryside. How relaxed I felt…
The above photo was taken in Moray, an archaeological site 50km NW of Cuzco (which we visited after Chinchero). I would call the ruins “Mini Moray”, since right next to it, the well-known site of Moray can be found:
(Do you see the size of the man standing near the edge? The site goes down very deep!)
Marcela and I after going as far down as was permitted in this archaeological site. It felt surreal to actual be there; thinking about how this beautiful structures were conceived before modern construction equipment was invented left one pondering human ingenuity and tenacity to, in this case, pursue agricultural science perfection, long before Spanish colonizers set up universities and sought to destroy just about every single indigenous practice, while pillaging all the minerals, human, gastronomical, and other wealth they could steal with their dirty hands or cram onto
their ships destined for Europe or network of colonies that spread around the globe. The Spaniards saw the desired material wealth, and the monarchs gave in to counting the millions of indigenous peoples of the Americas that they killed as a necessary loss, less than ‘collateral damage’. (historians: forgive me for skipping over details)
Yet those Spaniards (and cousins of my Portuguese ancestors in neighbouring Brazil) didn’t have the multiple intelligence types to fully defeat people in what they would come to call Peru. The safety found in the protective geography of these mountains was a lifeline for indigenous, and later mestizo, Peruvians. Ironically, El Camino de los Andes (The Andean Trail) that extends over 11,000km across South America is now a major tourist draw in Peru’s sierra.
This map shows many of the places we visited during our trip, places I will post photos of in the coming days.
After Moray, we were off to Maras, where we visited something I never would have imagined…
At 3380m, Maras is a small village famous for its salt mines, made up of about 3000 small wells
each with an area average size of about 5 m². These mines were used by the Inca to generate income.
Even as the sun was beginning to set, some women and men were still trudging along,
working to collect salt.
The village felt so isolated, a world apart from the bustling city of Cuzco. I was reluctant to take the above photos; it felt morbidly degrading to capture these labourers and not give them any compensation (not that I am making money off this blog); just having the obscene privilege of being a tourist with the incomprehensible liberty of taking time off work AND traveling, of not having a baby to raise from my teenage years, I felt almost like a different human species. I knew before heading to Peru that I am a privileged human born into a British colony that ‘stamped’ me with knowledge of the most widely spoken language in the world, as the first ticket to success. I knew before I took out my camera that afternoon, in the crevice of a mountainside that I did not have the right to life any more than those labourers. To myself, I justified taking the photos by committing myself to attempting to show the world the struggles of the people I cross paths, humans who still suffer as a result of the complex legacy of colonization at the opposite end of the spectrum from where I comfortably rest, now blogging from my host family’s safe home with a kitchen full of food, constant electricity and running water, functioning toilets, and my laptop and Wi-Fi where I can seek and share knowledge.
I don’t know if that is enough justification,
but the sun was being swallowed by the twisting hills and valleys.