A Travellerspoint blog

Peru Trip Part 6

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Thursday May 20
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Today, we went to the market where people sold sundry commodities and foodstuffs at individual stands under a big tent. Our work was to help the Street Children Center, located in the back of the market. The street children would wake up at 3am to assist their parents in setting up their vendor stand, transport goods, and sell them when the market opened. The center provided them with a cooperative environment to complete homework, relax, and play board games with each other.
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The cute boy who impressed me with his pan flute performance so much that later I bought a pan flute to learn. I made three recordings of his playing because he wanted to do better after each try. Such a virtuoso musician!
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I played checkers with this intelligent little girl.
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The little girl tried taking photos of the others with my camera.

Posted by Ceci's Cre 03:32 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Peru Trip Part 5

Wari Ruins

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Wednesday May 19

We visited the prison in the outskirt of the city in the morning. Situated in the midst of the most impoverished neighborhoods, which still lacked sewage systems and paved roads, the walls of the prison stood menacingly tall and guarded.
When we arrived, there was already a long line of women, some carrying small children, waiting patiently at the security checkpoint for their turn to see their beloved on the other side of the walls.
With guilt, we cut the line and passed into the prison after receiving couple stamps on our arms.

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Proudly sporting our prison stamps

Marisol informed us that the prison had exceeded its capacity of 700 inmates by 100%. Most of the women prisoners were serving sentences for drug trafficking, a lucrative trade that was prospering in the high mountains where the new Shining Path grew their own cocoa fields.

We were surprised by the community atmosphere inside the prison. (unfortunately, photography was strictly forbidden). There were no dingy crammed cells that we often saw on TV. Instead, the men worked on looms and various sewing machines in an open space. It was no different from a street market. The male inmates were required to weave mantas (the colorful intricate cloths that Peruvian women use to carry things on their back) to earn a living inside the prison. After they finish weaving, they would sell their mantas for 40-50 soles (divide by 2.83 to get the dollar equivalent) each to the female inmates, who would add the embroidery and sell the finished products to visitors and market retailers for 80 soles.

Besides mantas, the men would make shoes, gym bags, women purses, and tablecloths, etc. The bustling activity and productivity rendered the prison a congenial community. Although the men and women inside needed to work long hours each day and lived in sordid conditions, I was relieved to some degree to see an absence of physical abuse and violence. I left with the impression that the people here were not desperate – they worked hard to support themselves while learning a trade skill that they could use to earn a living when they leave the prison.
Before lunchtime, we had the opportunity to go see a strike in the plaza.

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It was very peaceful, with long lines of people following banners of different causes
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No a la corruption.
Corruption is a serious problem in Peru. The government, from top to bottom, is mired in embezzlements and briberies. Marisol imparted to us that some of the prisoners charged with drug trafficking were scapegoats sacrificed by both the police and real drug traffickers to satisfy the police’s work quota. On our way to the prison, we saw an unusual number of gas stations, which we later learnt were built for the purpose of money laundering.

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In the afternoon, we hiked in the mountainous regions close to the Quinoa village. Here on the summit, we rode horses across the vast grass plains.
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These photos look like shots from a movie
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The girl and boy who let us ride their horses for only 3 soles (about 1 dollar)
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the war memorial that pierces the white clouds in the blue sky
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When I spread my arms, I felt I could fly.
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On our way down, we passed through several artwork shops in the Quinoa Village, known for its great artists. At one of the shops, I saw the prettiest Peruvian girl.
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her posture resembled a Goddess

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In the village of Quinoa, you can find this exotic sculpture on top of every house. It symbolizes the church and protects the household it is watching over.

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We walked at sunset towards the Wari Ruins. This historic archeological site contained the last vestigial relics from the Wari civilizations in 500 CE, way before the Incan Empire, which came into being in the 15th century.
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The lovely sunset and Pablo

Posted by Ceci's Cre 03:22 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Peru Trip Part 4

Visit to the Nursing Home

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Tuesday May 18
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Good morning Ayacucho!
The second day, we went to a nursing home about 10 minute walking distance from la casa. The weather was beautiful, sunlight showering the lovely gardens and mango-colored buildings, painting everything in a cheery golden tinge. The nursing home was divided into the men’s quarter and the women’s quarter. Marisol told us this separation was made to prevent love triangles, which may cause trouble for the nuns who managed the place. This intriguing piece of information shed light into the lively humanity inside the nursing home.

One elderly woman ran to hug us with heartwarming enthusiasm, when we entered the main courtyard. There were around twenty elderly women, some sitting on the benches in the shade, some lounging in the long corridors that border the rectangular activity space. There was a giant cage with peacocks prancing inside at one end of the court.
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Kemi and Pooja accompanying an elderly woman who liked coloring

We danced, drew pictures, and shared photos with the residents of this nursing home. One of the old women wanted to keep a prom picture of my friends and I, and I gladly assented. We did not have much verbal communication, since they spoke Quechua (the language of the indigenous population) and I could only say one Quechua phrase: “Manam Ganchu Huoleke” meaning “I do not have any money.”
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It was the first time that I saw peacocks running around freely
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Dancing to Spanish songs with an old Peruvian woman

Occasionally, she motioned her head towards another elderly woman sitting behind some bushes, and spoke in rapid Quechua. She seemed to tell me that she did not like the other woman, deciphering from her facial expressions. Luckily, she did not expect my response, and we would resume our dancing.
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Back in the kitchen, Marisol, Melissa, and others worked hard to prepare the vegetables for lunch.
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Before leaving, we gave the adorable granny a smothering group hug.

The experience at the nursing home showed me how far a little affection could go to light up someone’s day. Melissa said that sometimes one second could change someone’s life. I hoped our presence softened their feelings of isolation and loneliness. Love is the sunlight that warms the heart.

Posted by Ceci's Cre 03:17 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Peru Trip Part 3

Wawa Wasi

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Day 2 Monday, May 17
Today, we began working at Wawa Wasi (baby care center). We learnt that there were hundreds of Wawa Wasis spread around Ayacucho. At each Wawa Wasi, trained caretakers, whom they called “moms,” took care of eight small kids each. This was a government-sponsored social program to provide poor street vendors with a safe place to deposit their kids during work hours.
Danny and I were assigned to one of the smallest Wawa Wasis, which was a single-room building inside a courtyard, with another two-room building, a chicken pen, an outdoor bathroom, and a sheep roped to a tree. Selinda, the mom, allowed us to play with the kids even though a couple started crying the minute we walked in. The little chicas and chinos (girls and boys) warmed up to us soon after we sat down on the play mat to engage in different games.
Danny formed a close bond with an adorable chino also called Daniel. Their favorite game was passing an air-inflated ball back and forth. I loved pushing Marjorie, the naught girl who liked to start trouble, in a stroller along the uneven dirt path between the two houses. There was another girl who caught my attention called Lydia. She had the name of my favorite song, and her quietness in comparison to the rambunctiousness of her peers made me want to hug her and not let go.

I apologize that I do not have photos of the Wawa Wasi because that morning I had left my camera in the van (luckily, the kind Alejandro retrieved it for me).

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In the afternoon, we went on an orientation around the sprawling city of Ayacucho. The first stop was on top of a mountain, with a sweeping view of the clustered civilization below and the magnificent mountains in the far distance. Marisol, our tour guide, briefed us on Ayacucho’s basic geography before setting us free to take tons of photos.
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Ayacucho’s mountains have an unspeakable silent beauty about them.
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A small child emerged out of the bushes, his lone figure cutting a dramatic sight in the deserted land contrasting against the crowded houses below.
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Robert and Pablo
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A prayer before the sacred cross

Taking our leave of the stunning panoramic sight, we drove into Santa Ana, a rectangular plaza lined with artisan workshops that sell unique and souvenior-worthy artworks.
In the first shop, we found an amazing display of alabaster sculptures and ornaments, such as lovely angles, elaborate chess boards (Spanish against Incans), delicate earrings, and diverse depictions of nativity.
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Marisol, our kind and knowlegable guide
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The detailed sculpting craftsmanship
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Peruvian drum key chains

The second shop we visited sold traditional Peruvian rugs, made from Alpaca fur (one of the four species of llamas). This one in the photo described the history of Peru from the Incan Empire to the encounter with Pizarro’s conquistadors, from the spread of Catholism to the scourge of Shining Path’s civil war, to the present peaceful development.
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After the feast of local artworks, we went to the market where we can buy everything from food to clothing at excellent quality for a good price. We also learnt we should haggle everything at least to half of the call price.
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Posted by Ceci's Cre 03:03 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Peru Trip Part 2

First Day in Ayacucho

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Day 1 Sunday, May 16

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Driving through the narrow paved roads flanked by adobe houses, we never lost sight of the majestic mountain in the background.

We arrived at our headquarters, the Cross Cultural Solutions house, at 7am. We called it “La Casa”, the Spanish term for “the house.” The house consisted of three levels: living room and kitchen on the first, bedrooms on the second, and an open rooftop with couple more bedrooms on the third. When we enter La Casa, we had to walk up a steep flight of steps because our space was situated on top of a restaurant.

We had our first gastronomical encounter at breakfast: baked bread served with cheese, strawberry jam, and butter, juices, Lucama yogurt, and a basket of fresh fruits (which would become the signature component of all Peruvian meals we enjoyed).

To start off our day, our gregarious host who was also the CCS site manager, Rudy, recommended us to visit the Plaza because there was going to be a parade of school children. We went on foot to better observe the busy bustling streets.
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What a delightful shock to see these familiar Korean and Taiwanese dramas here in Ayacucho, Peru

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The crowded Plaza while hundreds of students wait for the parade with parents standing on the side
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The beautiful Peruvian girls
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They screamed when the boys came over to take pictures with them.
(The girl in the middle was too shy to show her face, while the one on the right was unabashed perhaps from the greater distance between her and Danny).

While I was trying to communicate as much as I could with my limited Spanish, I understood one phrase unequivocally. They asked me for Eugene’s name, and told me in an excited voice that he was “Beautiful!” Their crush on the boys on our team was adorable.
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Eugene swarmed by little girls asking for autographs
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Danny and Kemi busily granting autograph requests

The autograph “phenomenon” quickly engulfed all of us. I was a target for all the tiny pink and white slips soon after I began signing my name in Chinese. The Chinese characters sparked their curiosity, prompting the others to seek me out for an autograph. My pen worked unstoppingly for sometime. To my alarm, I could not see any of my fellow volunteers when I took my eyes off the autograph papers. Thanks to a sympathetic girl who understood my anxiety from my facial expression and frantic gesticulations (since I could not ask questions yet in Spanish), I saw my group sitting on the curb on the other side. I made a move to cross the street, but quickly discovered that I had five layers of human barriers to overcome. Panick seized my mind momentarily. But I quickly regained my composure, went back to taking autograph requests, while I kept an vigilant eye on my pals out of the corners of my eyes to make sure I would not be left behind. Just as the heat of noontime and the strain from writing began to tire me out, Eugene rescued me from my innocent “kidnappers.”

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Green uniforms
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They walk with wide strides and arms swinging 180 degrees
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In the afternoon, we returned to the plaza to get ice-cream from a famous place called La Miel.
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The empty corridor in early afternoon

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La Miel was packed in the front. The nice service girl led our BIG group to the back, and put together three tables for us.
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My awesome Ayacucho team (with me on the other side of the camera, and Alicia resting in bed)
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Concentrating on eating the delicious Muyuchi (the local name for it)
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Microfinance firm that we ran into on our way back
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Chinese restaurant serving La Chifas (Chinese food)
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The tranquil dusk

Posted by Ceci's Cre 02:42 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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