(Sorry for only one picture, my camera died. I will post some later.)
Tuesday morning was a day I had long been waiting for. Monday I ran into Felipe, the president of Palomar, at the market after I had finished my usual arroz con huevos breakfast. He asked me when I was returning. I told him it had been on my mind but I had been busy. This was mostly true, but I also knew that a return visit would be less than ideal with my limited speaking skills. I needed someone to accompany me who knew the language.
I told him I would visit the next day. I went straight to Maria that afternoon and asked her if she wanted to come along. She thought it was a good idea so we planned a 9 am departure for the following morning. I picked her up on the motorcycle and off we went. I had made the 45 minute journey half a dozen times in a bus with students, but never on the bike. Of course it is more beautiful on a motorcycle when you can see everything. The train to Machu Picchu was on our left and the river below was covered with white rapids.
Back in Palomar
Driving up the steep slope near the soccer field is when the memories came rolling back. That was my home for a month, and the thoughts of all the good times we had made me smile. We continued through town to Felipe’s house. We talked with his wife for a bit before he came down from the fields. The fields were full of villagers working to plant before the rainy season begins. We chatted for awhile and Maria explained in depth about the dorm and the girls. He really liked the project and asked if he could stop by someday.
I then asked to see the galpone. This was a big deal for two reasons. First, I was told a few weeks ago that the doors hadn’t arrived yet. The municipality’s part of the contract with Rustic and the people was to provide doors. So this was a big deal that they had not been delivered. Second, I was curious about how they were working out. For two summers I have been building these things with students. Do they really help the families? Are they thriving? Do they really sell them for extra cash to help out? I wanted to see and ask first hand.
Well, good news on both counts! Every family received their doors last week. It is quite late but they still came through. Second, the guinea pigs seemed to be thriving and reproducing. One family had ones that were 2 days old!! Apparently they reproduce about once a month and have around 1-3 babies. They also showed me a comparison between the Rustic guinea pigs and the ones that they already had in their homes. The Rustic ones were visibly bigger. This is what I had been told, that we provided a bigger and better breed. Overall I was happy to see the people and the work that the students had done. We ended up visiting Lee and Maddy's, Alex and Claire's, Carlos and Kevin's, Reid and Oliver's, Dakota and Minnie's, and Nena and Carolyn's galpones. All the families say hi and miss you guys!!
We didn’t stay too long because Maria had to get back to the dorm to make lunch. So we headed off, but a different way. We crossed the river to the other side, which happened to be Camicancha, the hometown for Katy. (Now the only place I haven’t been is Sylvia’s community.) We took a little two track the whole way back to Ollanta. The ride was beautiful as always, and about halfway we came up to a small river. The water was about a foot deep. Yes. After running Buchanan Trails with Jeff this was no problem. Maria crossed on a small footbridge so she wouldn’t get wet. I twisted the throttle and blasted through. A huge sheet of water flew up as the bike went through with no problems. A group of construction workers were on the other side and clapped after I crossed. It was great.
It was good to finally get back to one of the communities, and I plan on hitting the other ones soon. I feel like I am making some strong connections and becoming a small part of the overall community down here.
The past week or so has been great for becoming a part of the community as well because I joined a volleyball team. Lisa got a group of Ollantinos together and asked if I would like to join. Heck yeah! I really miss playing and watching sports down here, so volleyball is a great thing. I’ve played enough beach volleyball to be able to play well, and the nets are so short my height is a real advantage. So there are 12 teams in the league and every evening at 6 pm they close off part of the main plaza and the games begin. There is music playing, an official scorer, and 4 floodlights. The lights are a great example of how things work down here, twice all the games have been cancelled because there wasn’t enough electricity to power the lights. I don’t think that would happen in the States. There are also crazy rules too like every team must have four women and two men, two must be mothers, two people under 24, and no more than one foreigner on the court at all times. My team is 1-7 at this time, but that’s okay, I am having a blast and meeting a ton of local people. Strangers come up to me in town and talk volleyball with me.
One interesting note is the job of several of my team members. Tourist buses are constantly pulling in and out of the main square. Once a bus pulls in, it is immediately surrounded by people selling things, from postcards to hats to paintings. This was a never-ending issue during Rustic, I felt like I was constantly brushing these venders back away from the kids so we could get our stuff done. Now, I am friends with several of them. When I watch my teammates during the day sell paintings to tourists it has changed how I see that part of business down here. Instead of thinking “man, just leave them alone”, I want to hop on the buses and tell people to buy from my friends. I feel like that would be a tough way to make a living.