January 25, 2012
A few things first. GVSU published a “success story” about me and this trip. I am very honored. To have my university recognize what I have chosen to do with my life as something meaningful and worthy of sharing means a lot. And I need to write out a HUGE thank you to all the former students, classmates, family, friends, and colleagues who have written me a short note saying nice things about me over the past few days. You are all the ones who inspired me to do this in the first place, so thank you thank you.
As for life in Ollantaytambo, things are the usual ups and downs. We had a group from Minnesota come and give us a monster day of volunteering and cleaning out dirt from the dorm. My old volunteer house was robbed and the two volunteers there had their laptops stolen. I had a crazy ride deep into the mountains through treacherous mud with Kari to get to a meeting. Ana and Alicia are getting a long overdue break from Peru with two weeks in “normal” Argentina. I got at act as a tour guide for Vanessa in Cusco when she came to visit Ana and Alicia. And I have recently added ringworm to my list of Peruvian ailments, including a scar.
Last week we stopped by the new dorm to make sure our new landlord was progressing on all the repairs she promised. She had been working hard and everything was looking amazing. On our way out, she mentioned in passing that her sister rented out the two rooms on one side of the courtyard to an old woman and a very nice family.
The dorm is a square and she owns three sides. The fourth side was apparently empty and owned by her sister. She told us those rooms were empty, she was fighting with her sister, she doesn’t even talk to her, and signed in the contract that they would stay empty. Um yeah, not only is her sister actively involved in those rooms, there WAS ALREADY A MAN LIVING THERE!! She just didn’t bother to tell us that a man was living in the same housing unit as the future dormitory for 11 teenage girls. AYKM? I understand in Peru people live together all the time so for them is it not a big deal, but NO.
So now we had to scramble to find another new home. Arg. Fortunately my friends at Awamaki came through again. They just voted to not renew the lease on their volunteer house, which so happens to be the exact size we need for a completely safe and enclosed dormitory. We signed the contract last week and moved out today.
I am the only volunteer here for SVP right now since Ana and Alicia are gone. It was a pretty good feeling helping out at the move today. I rented the truck and helped smooth over a touchy situation with the landlady as we moved our stuff out. All the families came down from the mountains to help. I felt proud to be moving all our stuff through the plaza full of tourists alongside these indigenous people wearing my tire sandals. After we finished, we found a house selling cheecha and sat down for a few glasses. As we sat there, chatting in Spanish, in a rundown typical Peruvian home, it was another moment that I wanted to remember forever.
I know people travel all the time to exotic, dangerous locations and do really amazing things. I read articles about people who put their lives on the line everyday to fight injustice, sexual slavery, censorship, war, and many other things. They are often imprisoned and killed. (Subscribe to Nicholas Kristof on Facebook) Life here is a piece of cake compared to that, and I most certainly am not putting myself in their number. But for a moment today I did feel like I picked up a starfish and threw it back into the ocean. Only 999,999 left.