Better late than never
2.16.06 0 °F
Leaving for Peru – January 6, 2006
My last day at home was intense with lots of things to do. I thought I had left myself enough time to finish the house, pack my clothes and even sleep before I got on the plane but sleep was the one thing that had to go. Looking back on the day, I realize that I created a day where I was so busy and so focused on getting out the door that I did not have time to focus on how I was feeling. A little scared, a little sad, and when I allowed myself the luxury, a lot excited.
As I mentioned earlier, Arlene was a godsend with the packing of the kitchen. Lana and I rendezvoused to leave the car in Elizabeth and then I was shuttled home to pack. I packed in a hurry and had 4 times more stuff than would fit, so I made quick (and not always the wisest) decisions and loaded my two bags. (Half way through the fight from Dallas to Lima, I realized I had no shampoo with me!) Bill Scebbi at 5:05 in the am arrived to whisk me away to the airport. A few tears for the kitten children and then off.
I had an 8:00 am flight and even with them eyeing my new computer with great interest, I was still at the gate ready to go at 6:20 am. Dallas has a lovely international terminal, where I exchanged money into Pervuian Soles and Quen had his first photo of the trip. He was so noisy in his excitement that he had to be placed in the carry on so that the rest of the plane could sleep.
Nothing remarkable to report on either flight. Immigration was fine and then the first of many, I assume, revelations about international airline luggage carts. The Peruvian ones where large enough and seemed to move easily enough, once you figured out how to unattach it from the one in front of it. They have some short of braking mechanism in the handle that flummoxed most of us for while.
Julie, wife of one of the owners of Hostel Torreblanco, met me with a sign that said Global Volunteers (GV from now on). Being met in an international airport by someone who is looking for you is such a wonderful thing. I adore being met at airports! She and I talked for 30 minutes during the drive to the hostel that was in Miraflores, a suburb of Lima. Having a distraction so that I did not have to watch the amazing traffic and driving was indeed a blessing. Early research has found that the most used piece of equipment on the cars and buses in Peru appeared to be the horn, the least used, the turn signal. More about this later. We are staying in Miraflores because it is closer to the orphanage and safer than downtown Lima.
In my room by 10pm with a sleeping pill, eyeshade, earplugs and no need to get up any earlier that I wanted. Life is good.
January 7, 2006
Up at noon, what a good sleep I had and then down to the lobby to begin investigating my new surroundings.
I had a single room for my first night but knew that I would have a roommate for the remainder of my stay, so I changed to a double room before my ramble. My new room overlooks the inner courtyard and the bathroom window is directly over the main entrance to the hostel and the traffic circle. The road noise will be an interesting experience. Then with a map with a 45-minute walking route that included the last leg by the Pacific Ocean, off I trekked to find shampoo, Kleenex, local candy and lunch.
The first thing I noticed during my walk was how clean the streets where. I found out later that this was implemented by the current president of Peru, President Toledo, who will leave office in July of this year. Over the next two weeks, I would see small armies of people dressed in bright green uniforms, some with dust masks in place, cleaning, sweeping diligently and even using a broom and handled dust pan to collect stuff from the gutters on both sides of the streets.
I found a pharmacy and bought shampoo, hand lotion, box of Kleenex, wonderful cookies and took time to browse to see what they had. All the guidebooks always give you a list of things to bring with you, as they can be hard to find abroad. Everything I would need appeared to be available, therefore I don’t regret leaving a lot of different supplies at home. I huge sigh of relief. If Peru has it, most places will have it.
I ended up walking through a major food and shopping district that included numerous travel agencies and all the airline offices. One McDonalds that I went into to see if they were offering anything local, but the menu appeared to be the same as in the US and it was packed with hungry locals. Found a movie complex showing Narnia, Elizabethtown and History of Violence, with different shows in English and Spanish depending on the time.
Ended the walk at the coast, even though I was high above the actual beach at an upscale shopping center with boutique shops. Decided to go back to the grocery store and pick up lunch stuff instead.
The temperature was in the 80’s with a decent breeze, but while in the sun, it was hot and easy to burn. Found the grocery store and picked up yoghurt, bottles of water (the tap water is unsafe to drink, even the locals don’t drink it), cheese, bread, more candy and an empanada (meat pie filled with beef). My Spanish is tentative but effective, but I will I walk with my Spanish dictionary wherever I go. The funny thing I found was that I would start my sentences in Spanish and yet want to say please and thank you in French. (I did it a few times with the GV group and we all laughed).
Back to the hostel to eat lunch and read all my information so I would be up to speed for tomorrow when I meet the group and we go through orientation.
There is also a take-one-leave-one bookshelf in the lobby so I looked to see if there is anything interesting. The lobby also has a computer with Internet access that I can use to check e-mails, daily if possible
That night as I was checking my e-mail, a girl was waiting to use the machine and she turned out to be Kim, a GV from New York. We had dinner together and during dinner, another lady arrived and asked if she could join us and she was Jean, my roommate, from North Carolina. I have a list with all their names somewhere, but I know most of them just by their first names.
Jean and I settled in. Our room is tiny and only one of us can be in the aisles between the beds or heading to the bathroom at one time, but at least we have windows across from each other so we can have a breeze. That is if we can stand the road noise. I wonder what I will learn about myself over the next two weeks?
Sunday, January 8
During orientation, we find that we are 11, ranging in ages from 19 to 74. Bob #1 and Myrna are the oldest and are from upstate New York. They have done two other GV trips to Costa Rica and Ecuador.
Mary is Hispanic, a nurse from Orange County and did a GV trip to China. We will want to keep her near at hand for assistance with our Spanish.
Next are Mitzi and her adopted Indian daughter Alicia from St. Paul. This is a first GV trip for each of them and for only one week.
Patty is from Sacramento (19) and this is her first international trip. Her luggage is somewhere between the US and Peru but she is being a good sport about it.
Barb from Lancaster County PA is a hoot, 46, part owner of a Chem lawn business and a real go-getter. This is her first GV trip and she is also only with us for one week as she will be walking the Inca trail for 4 days to see Machu Picchu.
Kim, from last night, also has parents who were from India is from New York and is planning to begin her Master’s when she returns to the States.
Roommate Jean is a retired school psychologist married to a PhD in Psychology and has been on a GV trip to China. She has a big heart, asks lots of questions, knows lots of good books to read and has many interesting stories.
That bring us to 10 with me and our last person is Bob #2, so named because we had already begun introductions and name games and the name Bob was already taken. He is 48, turning 49 at Machu Picchu, an art gallery owner from Santa Fe and previous worked with GV in Jamaica.
Mili ( Milagros = Miracles) Flores Chamachumbi is our in country director and leader. She is Peruvian, 25 and we are the first team that she is leading by herself. She has great English, a wonderful sense of humor and had been doing her internship at the orphanage for her BS in psychology. She is about ready to present her thesis to get her BS, take the licensing exam and if she passes, can then go on for her MS.
She has her hands full because many of us have strong personalities and want so badly to help (as we see it) that we can’t avoid offering well meaning but sometimes-unsolicited suggestions. Mili told us we must think like Peruvians and not like Americans. I asked her part way through the trip is we were as difficult as the toddler and kindergarteners and she just smiled and looked at me. Hmmmmmmm?
Orientation included getting to know you games, what makes a good team, team goals, description of the programs to we can do to assist the orphanage, general topics such as safety and what to expect and the list of evening dinners and activities. The weekend we have off and we are offered an excursion to Paracas (to the see the poor mans Galapagos and the Nazca lines), or there are local tours of museums to see.
Mili explained the most important part of our experience would be FLEXIBILITY. Our first time to practice this was during the picking of our projects. Mili indicated that the entire nation is on summer vacation and school break and therefore, most of the kids have gone home, if they have families. Therefore, we will only have 150 kids instead of the usual 550 during regular school. We will sign up for 2 projects, but we may find that we need to be FLEXIBLE if a need is greater in another area.
My first chance at flexibility comes when I find out that there were no little babies to hold. Sigh, no one to sing lullabies to, or so I thought!
The projects from which we could select (1 in the am, 1 in the pm) included:
Summer school – go with the kids off campus to another sight for mainly outdoor fun activities that might include swimming.
Toddlers – play with the smallest guys (1-3 years) and possibly assist with feeding.
Boy’s bathroom construction project – in the dorms for the oldest boys, there were not stalls around all the toilets. The Brother who oversees that area in really interested in us at least starting this project.
Clinic duty – this is for one hour only and is for us to visit and play with those in the infirmary.
Outdoors with the oldest boys – This mainly includes soccer
Teaching English to the older girls – This was supposed to be teaching English, but turned into assisting the Nun with knitting, cooking and sewing workshops
Playing with the kindergarteners – the was mostly play ground guards, with occasional quiet time with learning games and short projects
Siblings group – As the children are separated into age groups and by sexes, some siblings don’t get to see each other. This is a chance for them to have some time together and to play.
Sweet Dreams - This is where volunteers go in to say good night to the 3-5’s. It is done pretty early right after their dinner, so they don’t really sleep, but they are restricted to their dorms.
I signed up for Toddlers and Siblings and Sweet dreams on Wed of the first week.
We then went on a four hour city tour of Lima and saw the main cathedral & catacombs, the main post office, residence of the president, palace of justice (injustice according to our guide), and went through the area where most of the embassy’s and politicians live.
Downtown Lima is big, noisy and a little scary. It is a city of many contrasts with the poorest of the poor living within eyesight of the very rich. Even though Lima is on the coast, it never receives any rain. All of the rivers were dry and the city was dusty and hot. People are everywhere trying to sell you things, shine your shoes, and lure you in to their restaurant or shop, anything to make money. At traffic lights (which are very few) little boys appear in the cross walk and juggle or do tricks for money. In addition, as you are stopped, people walk up and down with everything from soft drinks and food, to batteries, hats and souvenirs. There isn’t a lot of out-and-out begging to be seen, but when you want to take a photo that might include a specific person, you should have your small change ready, because they expect a tip.
The dogs on the streets are almost always males (not a neuter in sight) and a ragtag bunch. If we have Heinz 57, these are Heinz 114. Thin and hungry looking, they don’t make eye contact and don’t appear to be owned by anyone. They aren’t aggressive, but know that they are low on the chain. The guidebook said to be very aware in Lima and I am glad I am there with a group.
We return to have dinner in our hotel and to have our first Pisco Sour, a drink made from the native brandy called Pisco. It is excellent, like a whiskey sour, and we all have one, as the drinking age in Peru is 18. We all begin to bond and exchange stories and look forward to our first day with kids.