A Travellerspoint blog

WEEKEND OF 6th APRIL -

A weekend to remember!!

As hinted to in my first blog this was an interesting and very strange weekend with the results running into the following weeks.
It is amazing how things can change so suddenly but have a way of working out if you pay attention to the signs....read on.....:)

 I was all set to move to Urubamba. With things the way they had been I really felt I couldn’t cope with the sleepless nights and emotional rollercoaster brought about by the energies in Cusco. After a number of visits to Urubamba looking at properties I had decided by the Saturday afternoon (6th April) that this is where I would move to. As suggested to me some time ago by Sonia if you really want something you can write down everything you must have in it, and even draw a picture. Put it under your pillow and every night ask for your ideal whatever (in my case a house) to become available for you through your prayers. Give it a try. It really works if you really want it. I had seen this house (House of Ingrid). It was lovely and light and quiet. It ticked every box I had asked it to. It didn’t give me that real wow factor but was definitely peaceful and out of Cusco centre. I had spoken to the potential new president about it and he didn’t seem to mind. In fact had tried to help me find somewhere in the valley. There were a few things I'd have to watch about the house. It had been robbed in December as it was out on its own, outside Urubamba in a beautifully quiet spot, but the landlord was going to put in security lights which would help.  I was going to buy a bike to help as the motos don't all go up that far and it was quite a walk, especially if you have bought groceries. The road on the way to the house was all dug up so it would have been difficult to move in. I had started to hear a few things about the new landlord that might have made things difficult for me. He wasn’t going to allow me to move my stuff in or even store it in an outbuilding until he had stayed there and completed the improvements he wanted to make. He was arriving before the move so we could have met. He also wanted 2 references. In Peru that was a first!! Also everytime I went to Urubamba I came back with lots of mosquito bites!! Itchy little buggars!! Anyway this is all in hindsight. On the Saturday afternoon I had decided I could see myself there and felt the rest could have been worked around so agreed to go ahead.... then on Sunday morning everything changed...doubts were planted and all seemed less clear cut!

At 6.45am my phone rang...ridiculous hour on a Sunday.....it was Rita in quite a state and refusing to work with the new NGO and president. After calming her down we talked a little longer but she was absolutely adamant. I wasn’t altogether surprised and it had been a concern of mine that Rita might react in some way following a meeting we had on Friday with him. The meeting had been more open about certain things. Until then it had all been very polite and vague. The potential new president, a lovely man but had used quite a strong management style with Rita. I was quite surprised as this kind of conversation is usually when you don’t care if the person quits and the people here and especially Rita have never been spoken to in such a strong way pushing her for answers and her commitment...no softly softly approach here! I e mailed him later that day and said I had concerns and that Rita had been quite upset. I had smoothed it over but obviously she had thought about it over the weekend and made up her mind to quit! Well without Rita LH didn’t work! She was essential to the work in the communities and had that relationship. She had been working with LH from day 1. I decided to phone Sonia in Lima a little later. She had heard from Rita but didn’t know what the problem was. I filled her in on the Friday meeting. Following our conversation she too began to have her concerns. I thought we were making a bit too many assumptions without facts so we agreed to have a meeting when she got back later in the week. Rita and I would have an emergency meeting on the Monday to prepare more detailed questions for the other NGO to understand their position. The food program was to be reinstated and so this changed things.
With all this happening doubts started regarding my move to Urubamba. Was this the right thing for me at that time, signing into another 6 month contract? I began to wonder if I should be moving to Urubamba. I decided to talk to a friend and get some advice and guidance. It came through very strongly that this was not the right move for me and I should definitely not move to Urubamba! I needed to be closer to Cusco. I hadn't heard too much from the agent (again new to the valley) I had been dealing with and it was less than a day since I had text him so just emailed him to cancel. For a supposedly enlightened person the following e mails I got from him didn't sound like it!! I just ditched them. I had told him at the time I was not happy with the way he conducted his so called business. It took 2 attempts to see the house which was a completed wasted day for me as we sat outside waiting for someone to come with the keys. The agent didn’t have them! Also the particulars were inaccurate. He tired to give me some lame excuse but how do you miss that there is no bath!! An interesting feature in the garden at the house was a huge marijuana plant!!!

Considering the circumstances I was reasonably calm on Sunday considering I had handed in my notice to my current place in Pumocurco and wanted out in 2 weeks! I really couldn’t stay there any longer. Over and above the issues in the house I had been having problems with my landlady’s husband Guillermo who seemed to think that trying it on with the lady renting next door was OK!! I couldn’t believe it and made it very clear that this was unacceptable. Ridiculous really when he had such a beautiful young wife and children! As he was struggling to take no for an answer I was making sure I stayed well out of his way. With Sonia out of the house I was even more wary.

My friend and I started discussing where I could go that was nearer Cusco, and when she realized I would be OK living outside she remembered a lady called Lilo who lived in Santa Teresa in a very quiet spot about 45 minutes in a taxi from the centre of Cusco. I had actually heard Sonia talking about this lady before Xmas. At that time I got a feeling I should meet her at some point. We called her a little later and she asked to see me the next day (Monday) so I took some time off work to go. It felt important. The minute I walked through her door to her garden the tears just started rolling down my face. It felt like home! I could feel the energy of the place. It felt soo right. It is a retreat and quite a big place. After a lot of talking, so she could get to know me, she showed me around the guest house (which she would rent out to me), her house and the grounds including a meditation temple. The place was just lovely, with a deep healing energy and an amazing mountain just behind. It was very safe as it was at the furthest point and part of a gated community. The most prestigious area of Cusco now. Lilo had been here in the early days but the land was now eagerly sought after. Anyway after a little negotiation she agreed I could rent the top half of the guest house which has 2 bedrooms and bathroom. I was obviously going to use the kitchen and sit in the lounge at times. I would set up the office in the other bedroom as Lilo didn’t want me using the wonderfully light landing which was fair enough. She was still running a business (a healing retreat) and was hoping to sell the property at some point so there may have been potential clients or interested parties. It was much more expensive to travel in and out if you used the taxis , at 12 /s each way. I use the combis which are a bit of a walk down to first bus stop but at 70 centimos worth while. The taxis also proved to be quite a problem with many not turning up! If I travelled with Lilo then we shared the taxi cost as she found the combis too difficult to use. She is a little older and has a few problems with her legs so getting in and out would have been difficult. They don’t hang about long either. They are more patient for elderly Peruvians than Gringas. The climb back up is always a hard one especially if you have bought a few things. If I had a lot I got a taxi, if they would go up. It is pretty steep so some of the smaller ones really struggled and the drivers complained. Lilo wanted to go travelling so needed someone she could trust to look after the place, the cats and dog while she is away. She had a housekeeper but she would probably only come in a couple of days a week. 
...So in one day I had a complete shift of where I was going to stay! The change was the right one for me though. I knew absolutely this was where I needed to be. The internet connection was a bit of an issue but I was confident we could find a work around.

That wasn’t the end of the weekend antics though!
On the Sunday when going to meet my friend I noticed people in black suits outside my landlady’s house and wondered what had happened. I assumed they were going somewhere to commemorate the anniversary of someone dying...a common event here. In the plaza we noticed a lot of people but there are always fiestas on so dismissed it. There were a lot in black suits as well which was unusual. On the Monday Rita  was coming over and I was running late with Lilo so she just waited on me. She tried to explain something to me on the phone but I wasn’t altogether getting it. She said she would wait outside on the rock. I assumed there must ave been a problem getting in. They all knew Rita so that wasn’t the issue. When I got back she told me Liz (my landlady's husband) had died! He’d been killed at the weekend!....I couldn't believe it!! He was a youngish fit guy, playing football every week - around 45 yrs old. After a few rumours we heard what we think was the right story from my Spanish teacher. Seemingly one of the teachers is a friend of Liz’s (my landlady). He had been out celebrating with friends as it was the start of the Easter break. He worked in the schools. Guillermo had put his beer down and gone to the loo. When he got back a group of “delinquents” ,is the word Renzo , my Spanish teacher used, were hanging out and one was drinking his beer. Guillermo had asked him what he thought he was doing and told him to put it down. At this point two of the group grabbed Guillermo pulling his arms behind his back and the other smashed the bottle and went to slash his face. Guillermo turned further to prevent his face being cut and the guy had slashed his jugular in his neck which of course he bled out instantly! Seemingly they had tried to get a taxi but no-one would take him because of al the blood!! Horrific really!! We think the guys are in police custody. This is quite an unusual and tragic event for the city centre and it therefore made the news headlines so everyone was talking about it..even Lilo where I was moving to.
Liz is quite a bit younger than Guillermo and they have 2 lovely girls around 5 and 7 years old. I saw the girls later on the Monday looking very relaxed and lying around and thought "You haven't been told yet". Later that day I heard the screams and sobbing and realized Liz had finally told them. The energy of the whole place felt very oppressive as you can imagine. There were a lot of people coming and going; even at night over the next few days meaning it was pretty noisy. There was lots of people overflowing into the areas around the house , with all the children running around screaming. All our houses are very close so it was difficult to stay detached from it all. Rita told me these things go on for about 8 days. I tried to give them as much space as I could. I finally managed to see Liz to give her my condolences. As you can imagine she looked incredibly tired and drawn. I never did figure out who was who re the parents of each but if I was right Liz’s mother looked more upset than the man I thought to be Guillermo’s father. Maybe he just accepted these things easier. A few days later I got back to discover my keys didn’t work! I had to buzz and fortunately someone came down to let me in and had a spare set of keys I cold have. I assume Guillermo’s keys must have got lost during the night.
A tragic situation really. I just felt so sorry for Liz and the children.

So as you can see quite an incredible weekend!! One I won’t forget for quite some time!

...until my next blog mis amigos....hasta luego! :)

Posted by Heather Buc 15:22 Comments (0)

HIGHLIGHTS OF MY CHARITY WORK THIS YEAR- 2013

Jan - July 13

This has been an interesting year; busy with new projects adding some real value to the children and adults of the communities.

WATER FILTERS

The subject of water filters has been discussed on and off for a number of years but finding one that was long lasting and easy to maintain was until recently not known to us. All the offers, as well as some we received only lasted a short time (up to a year) and very high maintenance to keep them working and clean. We just knew these filters would be discarded and the buckets used for other things...there aren’t a lot of buckets up in these remote communities. When we heard about these particular filters from a very generous donor who, working with the Rotary Club, was willing to buy the first batch of filters and buckets we were excited. After much discussion and how many we could potentially get (as he was going to help 3-4 charities) we went from 1-2 filters per school to one for every classroom in the school and kitchen (to wash the veggies), training the teachers and cook in how to maintain the filters with a weekly wash out taking only about 5 minutes and if done religiously the filter would last a lifetime. As you could imagine the teachers were delighted. One of the other issues with water filters is the flow rate which drops dramatically at altitude but this group had all the trials and flow rates. In practice they worked brilliantly. The biggest job was making the hole for the filter to fit into the first bucket, using the special tool supplied...they had thought of everything so other than buying the buckets we didn’t need to supply anything else. Drilling these holes and a smaller one in the top of the second bucket to allow for the fitting of the end of the filter allowing the filtered water to gather for the children to drink as often as they wanted. We had deliberately bought half the buckets with taps to make for easier pouring and no dirty hands dipping into the water with their cups. This preparation had the whole team and even visitors working hard, getting sore hands so we had all the buckets in place in every classroom, and the director and teachers of the school fully instructed within our time in the community and school hours during a one day trip. The plastic was tough but it was important to have buckets that were meant to hold liquids so non toxic. All in all it was great seeing all the children scrambling with their cups for a drink of this water. There comments were “It tastes sweeter, lovely...” and lots of grins everywhere. We were delighted with the results. On the day we had been demonstrating and getting ready to take it away water spilt on the lid of the receiving bucket. One of the kids rushed up to suck up the water before it was taken away...Seeing that we had no qualms that the water filters were a big success. In the smaller high altitude school the kids were brilliant as they watched how we assembled the filters and wanted to help, each giving the other instructions if they didn’t get it quite right. These kids are bright but face such difficult circumstances your heart goes out to them. :)
The teachers were reminded about the doctors visit the year before and the number of conditions that were as a result of dehydration. We asked them to please encourage the children to drink constantly throughout the day. We also asked them to change the water reservoir every day. On subsequent visits we did see some of the younger ones with their mouths over the outside tap and again reinforced to the teachers the need to encourage the children to drink from the water in their classrooms....old habits die hard.
It will be interesting to see (hear from the doctors) if this new initiative has made the difference we think it will.

BUILDING NEW RELATIONS AND NEW FUNDRAISERS

I hinted at people coming out of the woodwork in my last blog.

Early on my return in January Sonia told us someone she had met the year before wanted to celebrate her birthday in Cusco bringing in lots of her international friends for a fun week. We were to be one of the 2 charities she wanted her guests to contribute to. This was to be on the Sunday night at the start of the celebrations. I met with the lady and she was lovely. She had firm ideas of what she wanted us to bring and keep track of donations. I was therefore kept busy preparing a spreadsheet, flyers with our bank details and other ways they could donate to us. I prepared a slide show that would run on my laptop throughout the night and had a breakdown of what the programs cost. Because of the issue with the food program we wanted to push that so that was all the conversations started. Aquiles brought Rita in from the the valley and for those Spanish guests she mostly did the talking but sometimes I did too..as best I could. :) I seem to have got a bit stuck with my Spanish; I can communicate reasonably well but unless I am talking it all day every day it is probably not going to move forward much. I’m still practicing a little but not overly so. If and when the time is needed and I am talking it all the time, then things will move forward and I’ll study harder. Anyway we had a reasonably good night..if a little cold as we were just down from the open roof top. It was the end of March after all. I think Sonia was a little disappointed we didn’t raise more as she seemed to think it would be a very large sum. As is always the way some who promise don’t deliver which is a shame as the hostess was trying to help us in so many ways. Her company and team have continued to support LH since that night promoting the young English guy who was climbing the highest mountain in the tropics.
Luke had been all set to fundraise for an orphanage just outside Lima but when he had visited them he had been really disappointed by the management he said. Anyway their loss was our gain. He spotted our video and emailed to enquire further. This was the start of a number of early morning Skype calls. He was quite an enigmatic young guy with lots of energy and enthusiasm. He came to Cusco for a long weekend that turned out to be perfect as we were taking the water filters around the schools discussing how we thought it could work and getting the buy-in of the directors so he saw the 2 high altitude schools firsthand. He was a bit like the pied piper as the kids swarmed around him and over him! :) If he wasn’t bought in before he certainly was now! :) We set up My Donate which was something on my to-do list anyway and they couldn’t have been any more helpful in making sure we were active within a day! This allowed him to tap into all his friends and family in England. He had been working out here for 3 years but still had a lot of support at home. What he was doing was pretty risky but he seemed to be up for the task and training hard. Needless to say he achieved his goal and a lot of money for LH.
The following weekend we had visitors from Switzerland. This was again a chance occurrence. They were setting up a charity and wanted to help children in Peru but not sure how. They saw LH video and the fact that it was heart-centred we started discussions. They were meeting other NGOs in and around Lima but would fly to Cusco to spend 2 days with us. Rita and I took them around the communities ann we installed the water filters at the same time so they got very involved with helping us. They had excellent Spanish having lived in South America for a number of years which made things easy as Rita could have long conversations too. It is surprising the misconceptions and the reasons why they thought the people in these mountains are so poor. They could see vast expanses of land and assumed it was all for each family. After some explanation regarding the community land and dividing all land equally between the children thus reducing the size of each small holding considerably over time as well as visiting the communities they fully understood the position and were willing to help us. A good 2 days spent I felt.

During this same weekend I also had to meet a lovely couple from Holland who through the husband’s school had raised a huge amount from a Xmas Fayre. They wanted a short video with me (as Sonia wasn’t available) to take back and show the pupils...It was a busy weekend...again! No days off when you do the weekends either as there were always many e mails to be answered, something else to be done, and too many explanations as to why you weren’t working. It balanced out sometimes with shorter days where possible.

Later in the year another lovely couple from Holland decided their silver wedding would be all donations to LH. They had visited the cafe the year before and loved what we did. Their event sounded so beautiful, romantic and personal, it felt like a privilege to have had a little peak and they raised quite a bit of money too. Conversing with so many lovely people via e mail was definitely a part of the role I enjoyed.

VOLUNTEER GROUP- PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT

This was a biggie as Sonia was not happy about groups of volunteers in the community. She had had some first hand experience with some young ones many years ago and the memory still haunted her. It was challenging getting this set up I must say and at times it came very close to pulling out on more than one occasion. The problems being the attitude...they thought we needed them so they could bulldoze us...EEHHH NO!! The office lady and I had a few run ins I can tell you!...a change of coordinator too and expecting me to go over everything again...again NO..my reply... read the e mails already sent, we are too far along and I have too many other things to do to start this again. There would definitely have needed to be a slightly different way of working if we were to do this again but it was great to have the playground equipment in the community schools. Even at the last minute the plug was nearly pulled - the problem being the taking of photographs in the community. Sonia was absolutely adamant about this. I could understand in some ways but thought there was a work around. Eventually it was agreed that LH team and the team leader of the volunteers were the only ones allowed to take them. There were to be 2 groups, a week apart, the second group being particularly large so we had some of them working on the greenhouse roof repair as well. The first group got on no problems despite the main challenge of building from a photograph! There weren’t any playground gyms built from wood for us to see and compare to so changes were made on the spot meaning poor Rita was visiting various types of shops in the evening. Fortunately the carpenter that helped construct the first one was willing to travel to the other site 2 hours away to help with the second construction. This larger group had a lot more issues with a third of the group being taken to hospital, laid up in bed at any one time. From what I heard some had been a little silly and drinking where they shouldn’t despite being warned. This of course had to be the English group! The Canadians and Americans seemed to be more sensible. These issues were obviously dealt with by the team leaders and not us.

At the end though we had a playground gym with monkey bars and climbing frame, and a set of 3 swings. It was brilliant to watch the kids clambering to get onto the swings as each seat was attached! :) It was also amazing to see how quickly they learn..from not knowing how to get onto a swing to having 3 on one swing! :) It was also heartwarming as they formed an orderly queue at the side of the swings and at regular intervals someone shouted “time”, one got off with no fuss and the next one got on! :) ..Would you see that at home...I don’t think so!! :) Brightly coloured paint was bought to finish the structures off and protect the wood, as well as acting as a sealant. This meant they were visible for miles...quite a sight I can tell you.

EYE CLINICS

This came about as a recommendation from someone I actually knew and who didn’t realize I was now supporting LH. I had brought over clothes for her in 2010 for her work with the local hospital for which she was very grateful and we kept in touch for a short time, but as these things go we lost contact. I had always meant to give her a call but never quite managed it.
The clinics were being run by nurses specializing in eye care and 1-3 ophthalmologists too. They were looking for other communities to make a difference but with ongoing support. Robyn thought of LH. The US group bring eye medications and glasses, but more importantly they had made contact with a group from Cusco who would be willing to do some pro bono work providing cataract operations, overnight stays etc as required.
As this was the first time for this type of clinic in our communities despite previous notification of what we were doing I (who was manning the door taking names, ages and what the issues were) was turning away stomach aches, sore legs etc. I really should also remember my calculator for these days too as you work out their ages from then DNI card and I had scribbles everywhere...well my mental arithmetic was never that great! :) It was great to see the benefits of this clinic with prescription glasses being given making the artisan work of these women so much easier.
From the 50 people we saw 7 were identified with more severe problems and then rated for success. The cataract operations were our best bet for success if we picked the right candidates.There were a number of issues that Rita raised later regarding some of the seven. It was a shame as an impromptu meeting had been held with the eye team just before we all left each other and Rita wasn’t at it so her input came later. Her concerns were the aftercare once they were back in the community (putting in drops, away from smoky conditions etc), with small smoky houses and in a couple of cases, the care from the community would stop for certain abandoned elderly! Let me explain this one a bit further. A couple of the elderly people..I should have said most were 70+ years of age, had no family support at all so relied on kind members of the community which they seemed to have. Rita’s concern was that this would disappear if they could see well following an operation and have no food or real support. Leaving them half blind would keep this support! A hard choice but perhaps the best one under the circumstance. It was therefore decided to try the three most likely to succeed in the first instance, who had full family support. Seemingly 3 could be taken at one time and obviously with the family support it is all we could accommodate in one car down the mountain. As most of these old dears wouldn’t have left their community in years it was important they had someone with them. It would be extremely scary for them. We would only need to cover the cost of the transport to Cusco, the rest would be covered. Unfortunately all this came as I left so I’m not sure if the operations finally happened. I’d like to think so but wasn’t hopeful to be honest as a bit more coordination was needed before we were there. Hopefully ...as this would be life changing for those elderly people and word would spread so the younger people would come next year.

VOLUNTEERS

We had 2 over my time this year and Annie is still here. As we have no volunteer coordinator we make it very clear volunteers need to be self sufficient and come ready to help in perhaps different ways from our first discussions depending on the circumstances. Normally there is not too much deviation but with the recent changes there has been quite a change for Annie.
Linda arrived at the end of Feb for 3 months and was going to work in the cafe as most of the projects didn’t begin again until later in April. She was a lovely English lady with lots of ideas from her fundraising experience in the past which she shared with us before starting in the cafe. She did manage to visit the communities with us before she left and gave out the clothes donations as Rita and I did the heights and weights. That was a lovely and interesting day for us all. I hadn’t done the heights and weights before and was shocked at the numbers of incredibly underweight kids coming into the school that didn’t register on the scales... they were usually under 12kg. I had to lift these children and we subtracted my weight! The sad thing is I got to know despite the clothes and I automatically lifted these children. I gave Linda some hints on how to decide who needed what, clothes-wise. Basically if I needed to lift the child and to look at their legs and feet. If their woolen leggings were tattered, their sandals were the worse for wear or their skirt or trousers were tied up with string because they were too big (probably a hand me down from an older child) then they got the best stuff and if possible 2 pieces. We brought things for the children and mothers. The men tended to spend any money on themselves, especially if they were on the Inca trail, so they could attract other women, or spend it on booze! The male clothing was kept for the elderly whose clothes donations happened a little later. Linda thoroughly enjoyed the day and had wished it had come earlier so she could share with the tourists passing through the cafe. A lovely idea but the timing wasn’t right this time. She was hoping to return so we shall see if she makes it back or gets caught up (as is so easy to happen) with her life back home. She was starting a course on medicinal herbs when she got back.

Annie arrived at the start of June. She was a sound recordist in London and was here to do a lot of media stuff for us for 6 months which was great. She came just as the second volunteer group were building the playground equipment so got some great footage of that and the eye clinics the following week. With all the brouhaha that followed shortly afterwards she was panicking a little about what she would do but seems to have settled into some kind of routine. She has moved from Cusco to Urubamba and is much happier there as it is a lovely market town. Workwise she is doing some stuff for LH, filming for others and working a little in the cafe.

I wanted to share these little snippets with you so you had an idea of what I had been involved in. This and a lot of the day to day stuff, moving other stuff along it was a busy 7 months with so many changes of direction throughout this time resulting in lots of different types of documentation - financial and otherwise needing prepared...very up and down to be honest.
Now it has all finished I have kept only the things I had gathered up myself as possible useful follow ups, just in case I may need them in the future.

Until my next blog mis amigos...hasta luego. :)

Posted by Heather Buc 14:07 Comments (0)

A somewhat belated update from Heather :

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.
BIG CHANGES! :)

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...:)

Posted by Heather Buc 09:32 Comments (0)

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