July 23-28, 2011
Saturday was another workday. That night we got into a monster discussion about socialism. It is interesting to me how several of the students could not be more divided on issues of politics and the human race in general, yet here they are doing the same work in the same place. I suppose this is a reflection of how I feel about people after my journey so far. No matter what someone says they believe, how they live is what they actually believe. We are all on the same team down here.
Sunday we had to move the long wooden poles used to hold up the roof and the ceiling tiles. Wow. It was probably the hardest day of work I have ever had with Rustic. We moved heavy materials all over the mountainside for five hours. We were so tired we didn’t even work in the afternoon. We were supposed to have a soccer game but the locals didn’t show and we didn’t care. We were exhausted. Good thing that the next day was going to be a day off.
Monday was good old mountain biking and river rafting. Unfortunately, Julia wasn’t feeling too well and Molly took her to the hospital. She is fighting a very rare form of leukemia and her presence on this trip is very inspiring. We did the same routes as the other two groups, and there were no problems. At night we visited the dorm because the girls have two weeks off starting Tuesday. It was our only chance to meet them. A local author came and it was an amazing opportunity. I can’t remember if I have talked about him yet, but he is a local professor who wants to preserve indigenous traditions as well as the Quechua language. He has written two children’s books and one book of short stories for young adults. Each page has the story in Spanish AND Quechua. They are perfect for the girls in the dorm!! Our students bought 3 copies of each book to donate to the dorm. Thank you guys!
Tuesday we hiked to the top of the free ruins. I have been told that when I am living in town that I will probably hike up there a lot. It is 1000 feet almost straight up and it is so beautiful looking down on the town. It was the first day of celebrations for Peru’s independence so there was a massive parade in town. We watched from above. They also had students give speeches. One very young boy (11 or 12) gave a powerful speech. It was almost a little creepy to hear it, it sounded like one of those dictator-like speeches you see in movies. He was yelling. But that is definitely part of the culture here, as every meeting we have ever had has begun with several arousing speeches. In town, I met Mark and Claire, two motorcyclists from England. They went through Europe and Asia a few years back, and are in the process of going from Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina. I got some great advice from them and had a good conversation. Monday night I checked a very famous website for worldwide motorcycling, horizons unlimited. Before I left, there was a young man who had disappeared in Ecuador. Well, they found his body last week, he was murdered in his campground. Two suspects are in custody. Anyway, this news rocked me a little bit, and of course it is going to make me a little nervous. But, the couple assured me that they have never felt unsafe ever in any of their travels (except a little in the US), even in Mexico. It was good to hear that. Hundreds of people are traveling on motorcycles right now, and there will be tragedies. But hearing from two people that have been all over the world was very reassuring.
Wednesday was go time. We had to try and finish the galpones since there usually isn’t much time on Thursday. Two of them did not get finished but we worked really hard together. The highlight was that the town’s festival started on Wednesday. There were people everywhere all dressed up in the clothes we usually wear for our last day and they were doing the same dances that we have done. It was very cool to see that the traditions that we have been doing are just like the local ones. But, one tradition that we didn’t partake in was the excessive drinking. We were turning down drinks all day. The dancing started in the evening and went on all night. Throughout the night there were people dancing to live music all over town. Also, every hour or so there was a huge blast that sounded just like cannon fire. They definitely know how to party down here.
Thursday was Dustin’s and Peru’s birthday. We put in three very intense hours of work in the morning to finish up. We ate lunch and had a little time to chill in the afternoon before our feast and the inauguration. All day the dancing and music continued, it never stopped!!! One group of dancers stopped just long enough to lend us their costumes and let us join in one dance. Gabe came and much of our conversation revolved around next week. I can’t believe it but Rustic is almost done!! I have to figure out how I am going to get my motorcycle and what route to take back to Cusco. It is almost time for the second part of my crazy journey.
In the evening we walked down to watch the Junior National Championships for women’s volleyball. Volleyball is HUGE down here, every young girl plays. Believe it or not, the game was between the US and Peru in Lima! Raul was trash talking so I bet him 20 soles on the game. The US lost 3 games to 2. Ouch. Interestingly enough, we actually saw the Chinese national team arrive at the airport when flew to Cusco last week.
Now I sit in front of a campfire. There is loud music, dancing, and speeches going on in the background of the surrounding village. One of the students commented earlier that I looked tired. Nope, just deep in thought. I try to clean my fingers, sticky from making dozens of s’mores for the students and local children. They were made with ease as the muscles in my fingers know what to do; I’ve probably made a thousand in my lifetime. As the flames flicker and the coals begin to take over, I am once again rocked by memories. The memories begin with sleeping outside with the last group, but quickly descend down the road of my past. I think about Special Days camps and hearing American Pie for the first time, which later inspired me to learn how to play guitar. I turn to Storer Camps, singing Down Under for Andy Norman and telling Green Eyes for the Outback boys. Then I think of Inpursuit Camp and the famous final campfires. I recall Rustic last year and our epic 4th of July fire. My thoughts turn to the fire pit in my own backyard in Grand Haven, and how I am about to miss out on our famous Coast Guard Festival. Staring at those glowing embers is like looking at a reflection of the beautiful parts of my story, and it is an appropriate end to Rustic 2011. Tomorrow we leave Palomar and it marks the beginning of the end of our two weeks.