An overview of Jan 13- Aug 13
Welcome my friends.
Apologies it has been so long since I last blogged. I felt that, now I have some time on my hands, some of you may like to know that I haven’t dropped off the planet! ...Just like the rest of you I have been up to my eyes in work and just trying to live life here as well as facing a number of challenges. My life here in Peru has been 2 faceted, running in parallel - working for the NGO and my personal journey and development. As time has gone on the personal side has taken on quite a big focus for me.
So let’s go back where I left off... to January. When I got back to Peru, after a kind of break but not a total break ( as I still had to look at the e mails most days, deal with what came out of those, and complete a grant application) I still felt pretty tired. . I was already physically exhausted after such a lot of work prior to leaving Peru in December so came back feeling a little frustrated and not fully rested, but knew I had to keep going and pick up all the office and behind the scenes stuff. Ineke could no longer work with us as she had other plans which left me on my own with all the work, although the finance and paperwork were now at least mostly up-to- date. A week or so allowed me to check things and sort any discrepancies I found.
When I got back to Peru things also felt different in the house and for work...more strained. Sonia I think was really ready to give up. With the changes last year she was fine for a couple of months but when she knew I wasn’t willing to become the president I’m sure it must have felt like going backwards. She had however met someone she thought would be the right person and NGO to support LH. Knowing what she wanted involved in and not then became difficult to know as it often changed, sometimes not a lot and other times everything. The house was still a mess and it felt more so now that I was back. I had brought back more things and was struggling to find space to put my own things. I also pushed on and tried the longer hours as discussed (45 hours a week and weekends if needed) but realized after a few weeks this was not possible for this type of work. Sonia was comparing this to the cafe work but this role was quite different. The fact that I was working alone meant there were very little distractions or downtime so you got through more in a shorter time. I also had to try and keep the Spanish going this time and agreed to 4 classes a week as up until now the NGO work had taken over even when I was here as a volunteer 2 years prior so I had to drop the classes even then. I tried the 2 hour Spanish classes as was the norm for private lessons but at the end of my working day sometimes I could barely bite my finger and the last half an hour or so I was just useless so we agreed to reduce to an hour and a half. For the NGO work and to stay here I needed to improve my Spanish. It wasn’t bad ..just not great and I needed to be more fluent. Eventually I reduced to 40 hours for the NGO which was more manageable. This with the reduced hours for my Spanish class made a big difference. However despite my best efforts and support from others to help me personally, complete exhaustion set in after 2-3 months so I was forced to start looking after myself. The work however still needed done. During these early months the stress levels had increased dramatically. Sonia wasn’t keeping well and eventually had to go to Lima for a period of time for a dental operation. We even had to call an ambulance in the middle of the night at one point which was quite an experience. Sonia really only needed her oxygen cylinder filled that night, which she used on and off when very short of breath and on this night this she was in need of it but discovered it was empty! The drama started around 12.30am and when the ambulance finally arrived, which just looked like a small truck kitted out with kitchen units, I went to meet them and show them where to come as it was a bit of a walk into the house. Before they came in though to examine Sonia I asked them to also bring the oxygen that I could see in the van. This caused a real issue and they then spent the next 10 minutes on the phone discussing whether they could do this! Eventually I said in a firm and frustrated voice that while they were discussing this there was an 82 year old struggling to breathe in the house!! At last they agreed and brought it in. They had claimed it was too heavy to carry which was rubbish...I could carry it!! They tried very hard to get Sonia to go to hospital which she wouldn’t..she said they only wanted more cash. After much to-ing and fro-ing they checked her out and left the cylinder, taking hers and saying they would return in the morning with it refilled. This they did and we got sorted out. A fun night!!
With the state of her health I therefore felt I couldn’t push her to sort out all her stuff...she took another panic attack when I tried to discuss how we could just rearrange things to make it more pleasant to live in..... therefore the house remained a real mess and actually got worse...however I kept quiet and tried to ignore as much as possible. Working and staying in such a muddle didn’t help me feel as if I was moving forward or my stress levels. This and the energies in Cusco (I’ll explain more in another blog), which are pretty powerful, made for an incredibly difficult period for me. The energies were playing havoc with sleep and emotions for lots of people not just me, and again didn’t help. Cusco is recognized as one of the power centres in the world so there are lots going on here affecting people in different ways...some feeling a little to others being affected in a much stronger way. If you are at all sensitive to the energies you were in for fun here....an emotional rollercoaster....perhaps pain you thought was long past resolved, emotions up and down etc are brought to the surface and better dealt with if you didn’t want to crack up! People arrive and wonder what is wrong with them! With the fun and games from the energies, sometimes waking up and feeling absolute shit and trying to keep working it was Re this other NGO Sonia had found , she felt we could be supported by them and still keep a lot of our identity. I was looking forward to more office support and all the financial side being taken on by them. Their philosophy was slightly different to ours, in that the president didn’t believe in giving the local people anything, only teaching, giving them ideas on how to help themselves...and definitely not the food program. As we now had insufficient funds to run the full food program for another year anyway Sonia felt this was the way to go. I would need a work visa to work for this NGO (I should have one anyway) and we started the process but with all the legalities re this and the changing of the NGO coupled with both Sonia and the other president being away at different times things didn’t progress very quickly. I was pretty concerned at the wording in the work visa around the hours etc and eventually I managed to speak to who was to be the new president about this as Sonia had kept referring me to him when I asked questions and she was also away at this time. Despite my nervousness he was wonderfully supportive which put my mind at rest instantly. As time went on though and we all had various discussions (i.e Sonia, Rita and I) we all felt the food program was needed in some form supporting the new food program being introduced by the government. This was after all the basis for LH’s work......
When something is really needed it seems to have a way of sorting itself out and suddenly we had new people appearing offering to fundraise for us for the food program. We organized a picture show and handouts with bank details for a birthday party held in Cusco with lots of international guests where donations were being given to ourselves and one other charity. Mind you the prep for this kept me very busy over a week with the birthday party being on a Sunday night. A young guy all of a sudden wanted to understand our work and decided to fundraise for us while he was completing a challenge and another family appeared to understand our work and potentially give us money. Other regular supporters also rallied. It felt great ti all of a sudden see all this support!!
I was at the stage of needing to get out of Cusco (the energies were just too much) and had started looking at Urubamba again. I had discussed this with the potential new president and Sonia. In the valley it was calmer and easier to sleep and work...the energies not so strong. My 6 month rental contract was due up at the end of April. I prepared a letter re not renewing my contract and discussed this with my landlady at the end of March. This caused another issue as because of all the issues in the house I had decided (after speaking to others for advice) that the deposit would be my last month’s rent. This caused quite an issue and my landlady tried to tell me it was too short notice and she couldn’t pay the children’s private school fees that month. I explained a deposit shouldn’t be spent and if she didn’t have the money now she probably wasn’t going to have it at the end of the month when I left either. The husband tried to talk to me too but I managed to avoid that one with my insistence on having someone else there! A bit scary for a little while actually when they stay so close to you and being surrounded by their family! I therefore started looking seriously for somewhere else around mid March and visited the valley about 3-4 times looking at places. I had once been told to help manifest/ get what you really want you could write it out in detail and maybe draw a picture, putting it under your pillow. This I had done and eventually after realizing I was going to have to pay considerably more (rent was already higher in Cusco anyway) for what I truly wanted I decided this was the way to go. This time I wanted something I really felt at home in and happy there. I had stayed in mediocre places long enough. I found the place that ticked all the boxes I had asked for. It didn’t give me that real buzz but it was lovely. I had heard a few things about the landlord so wasn’t sure how that was going to go. He was not there most of the time so we would see. They had also had a robbery in December but they were going to put up security lights. I wasn’t being allowed to move in when I wanted either as the landlord wanted to visit and sort stuff first so I would need to find an interim place which also meant two removal charges (basically a truck and some guys to help). All in all I had decided to go for it on a particular Saturday afternoon following a full visit there..that was the weekend I will remember for some time! I’ll explain this in more detail in a later blog. A few things happened early the next morning and the upshot was by the Sunday my plans changed from going to Urubamba to being back in Cusco and by the Monday I knew where. It was a wonderful property and this I knew was absolutely right for me. As I walked through the door to the property the tears just started to flow...as if I had come home. It was a little further out of Cusco but too perfect not to make it work ...... and by the end of that week we were no longer going to merge with this other NGO either!! Quite a turn around in such a short space of time!! During a special meeting where various options were explored we came to the decision to continue as we were with Sonia as president. I was a little sad in that the office support wouldn’t happen but we would do what we could until more help arrived, although weren’t sure from where. I knew we had a volunteer coming in June so that was always a good start. There were three projects looming and two were back to back as well as visitors so that kept us really busy over the next couple of months. The last 2 projects were very new to us; a volunteer program building playground equipment in the 2 high altitude schools and eye clinics. I’ll talk about the highlights and successes, during the early part of the year, in my next blog as I think this one is long enough!!
I had decided to move house the week before my 6 month contract ran out as the following week would have been my birthday weekend and I wanted settled before that. My new place was wonderful but had it’s challenges because of its proximity to the mountain making the internet a problem. I was finding a way to make this work but more and more Sonia had some issues with my work and the vicinity of my new home. I knew where I was, was exactly where I needed to be and I was paying the full rent so there was no cost the NGO. Now looking back I should have seen and recognized that changes that were coming. Deciding to move when I did forced Sonia to have to move all her stuff. She had already decided to leave the house anyway and had moved out a few weeks prior, but not all her stuff. The house was still a huge mess. (Sonia had been living rent free since moving to Cusco which was our way of trying to help her, to make life easier for her and to take some pressure off).
I felt distrust building in various ways and being shouted at for things that I knew nothing about was beginning to become quite a problem for me. At that time my energy levels were so low I accepted this without saying too much but it had a big effect on me as you can imagine. There were moments of consideration and understanding but often these were negated by the negative stuff. Being further away and in this new place was helping my health hugely and releasing some more personal stuff so I was feeling worse at times but knew this was part of a process definitely required and long overdue for me. The property with it’s lovely garden and the pets were just lovely and have helped me in so many ways.
During some recuperation and support some weeks later after moving in, it became clear an honest conversation was needed to make the working conditions more manageable and a clearer understanding of what work was manageable and now necessary. A number of things kept being put on the back burner as other things cropped up. This conversation I knew was going to be difficult and I didn’t want to hurt anyone, only clear the air for all our sakes. I could see how things could move forward and stronger foundations be built to help the NGO move forward, taking the pressure off Sonia if she trusted me to do it, however there had to be a change in ways of working including clearer communication, guidelines on what I should continue on alone or get feedback on and respect and consideration for those in the team ...we were all working towards the same goals after all ..to help the children; and I was passionate about this....I had given 2 years of my life, helping in Peru and in the UK. I was feeling so much stronger following an incredible 3 day session (again more detail later) but I am sad to say that despite a quiet but honest conversation (setting the scene in as compassionate a way as possible) Sonia decided to reduce the work of the NGO, not wanting me to push on, and with the NGO only keeping on the essential work with Rita the nurse as project coordinator , some help from the volunteer who had recently arrived and a girl who had been working in the cafe completing the urgent and ongoing e mails only.
I am now taking the time to relax, sort out a number of things that have been pushed aside over the last 2 years including my blogs. ... and see what is next for me. I feel I am here for a reason and as they say ...as one door closes another opens. This is now a waiting game. The old Heather would have been planning and trying to push on but the new me is trying more and more to go with the flow...often if you push and it isn’t right things are put in the way to block it...have you ever found that?? It is a strange situation for me as I can’t think of a time when I have not been working but am really enjoying it and tidying up my life here as well as reading, walking etc.
All in all I have gained a lot from this experience so far. I am grateful for all the lessons, personal and otherwise. I also feel I have contributed a lot over the 2 years; me and all those who have passed through LH; to take Sonia’s initial idea and hopes and the learnings along the way of what was working and not, to the great model it is now. Time will tell how this will now continue. I just know my time has now finished and it is time for the new........whatever that may be.
(It is a sign of my growth, I feel, that it is not freaking me that I don’t know what the future holds, that I trust my money will hold out during my time here, and I feel I have much more to learn on a personal level preparing me for what is next, so I will enjoy this time to clear some stuff and tidy up, as well as enjoying climbing the mountain (well part-way) every day with Chikita the little dog here).
....Until my next blog my friends which will be some of the highlights from my work.
Hasta luego mis amigos...