Thursday, December 25, 2008

merry christmas everyone! it´s quiet here, all the hub-bub of the last couple days in cusco has settled down. quite amazing really to walk down to the plaza and see everything and everyone gone! it was a crazy crowd yesterday. in fact so crazy we ended up getting our camera stolen. most pictures are on our flicker site, but unfortunately our photos of christmas at the shelter, of the adorable baby bassett hound now living there, Pipo and our stove testing in córao are now in someone else's hands. hopefully tomorrow i will be able to replace it, as very little is open today. steve is home resting with a tummy-ache and i am entertaining myself here. i had wonderful conversations with my mom and dad, brother, my old dear friend, sue from eureka, and of course my son, josiah! unfortunately i was only able to sing a little merry christmas tune to my other son, mica.(so, should you read this honey, i love you and miss you and hope we can chat soon.)

so today we spent christmas morning in the village of mandorani meeting with the 20 families of our new (and improved) stove project. mandorani is a small little section of córao.  we met at the home of victor, the secretary of the village and were joined by children, women and men, not to mention chickens, pigs, puppies and dogs. what was very cool is to see and feel the difference of a community actually motivated and ready for a project such as this! we all discussed all facets of the project including, the type of stove, (previously discussed when we did the testing of the stoves as to how long each type took to boil water, fuel used, etc.), what we wanted to do (the exams, the education, home visits), what we will provide (the stoves parts, the education, the retention cooker, a little kit including nail clippers, bleach, etc, and the people to build the stove) and what their part is (to meet with us 1-2 days, to allow exams on all family members, to use the stove correctly, to have their adobe, clay and 30 soles.) so we had alot of participation, great questions and comments, and plenty of applause! we go back the 8th of january to get the list of names (this time husbands' and wives' names!) and the money and then we begin the process of buying materials. it was a very merry christmas for all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wishing you peace, inside and out at Christmas and all year long!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

rather than duplicate steve´s entry, i will include it here with a few comments of my own at the end.

so, per steve, 

OK, here we go again.
A week and a half ago we went to C’orao to do followup interviews and updates, as I mentioned before. I also mentioned that we had checked out the stove of a guy named Tomas, and that he had done some interesting things like include a third burner to heat water for his kids to wash their hands. Javier the taxi driver was with us and was equally enthusiastic about the stove. It was clear that Tomas was one of the only people we had revisited who was qualified to teach others.

After we looked at Tomas’ stove, we walked back to the weaving market (Purikuq) with Timoteo (Tomas’ wife) and Anna (his sister). Our mood was better, since we were seeing better stoves than in Sipascancha. We were excited about the possibility of using Tomas as our trainer in Usi, and we had told him that we would talk to Pave about it. He said that was fine.

When we approached the market, Pave was there. We began to tell her about our plans. Angrily, she cut us off and began to badmouth Tomas, saying really rude things about him right in front of his wife and sister. They turned bright red. Our collective jaws dropped open. We really couldn’t believe how she was acting, it was very irrational and clearly had nothing to do with our project. Our good mood disappeared like a popped balloon.

We walked away from the market and back to Honorata’s house. We apologized profusely to the women. “Ella esta MAL”, said Timotea bitterly. With Javier translating, we learned that some of the conflicts in the market had to do with Pave demanding that Tomas and Timotea produce more stuff, more rapidly, while they didn’t see the point since the stuff that was already there wasn’t selling. Again, all this was translated through three languages, so whatever.

Laurie wanted to just leave without talking to Pave, but I thought I would try to say a few things. Calmly and carefully I told her that we didn’t want to talk right now, that we weren’t coming to visit her house later that day with Ellen and Ron as planned (because all we would have done was argue about what had happened), that we didn’t believe her bad words, that they were without excuse, and that we could talk at our meeting in Quiquihana next week. Pave then ran past me out to the street and began yelling at Laurie. I gave up and sat in the taxi with Javier. When it became obvious that Pave was going to continue to argue and not listen to Laurie, I urged L to get in the car and go. Eventually she did, and we left, but not before Pave threatened “it’s him or me.”

Back in Cusco, miserable and confused, we sat and talked with E&R for like five hours, and they helped us draft a letter to Hermana Nellie. In it, we said that we had run into differences of opinion with Pave that made it potentially impossible to continue the Usi project, and would she please mediate since we all respected her. We emailed it to Hermana Nellie, and dropped off a copy of the letter at Pave’s the next day since she never reads her email.

Well, this past Saturday we went to Quiquihana. We had not heard a word from either Pave or Nellie, but we went anyway. After a while we got to sit down and talk to Nellie. She had not seen the email. She had been to Cusco the other day, at which point Pave had given her our Xmas presents for the kids, given back the 40 soles we had sent her to buy food for our planned Usi demonstration, and given back the pumice-cutting saw blade that was a gift to her – in other words, given everything back. She said she would not do the project, and said that everything was my fault because I had closed the car door (???, we think it made her angry that I told Laurie to give up and go, again this is translated through Nellie), and left. Basically she has deserted the entire project, as well as Laurie, her friend of five years. We talked a lot more to Nellie who offered no judgments, but she did say that she felt it was a bad time to try and work in Usi because of the rain, that the road was not safe. We decided that in light of that and all the other stuff, she was right.

On the way there that day, Laurie had come up with an excellent alternative plan (we had a few kicking around our heads). She suggested that we return to C’orao since there were 20 other families in this neighborhood association (in addition to the four we had already worked with last time) who all wanted improved stoves as well. Last time we were here, they sent us a very polite and well written letter asking us to help them out (which came as a total surprise to us, since Pave had neglected to mention them and had basically appeared to play favorites within the group). It seemed like an obvious choice – C’orao is much easier to get to (20 minutes from Cusco), and the people had already demonstrated motivation. We talked to Nellie about it and she agreed it was a good idea. She also agreed with our “less families, more education” approach. After Laurie filled out a little nutritional primer for the nuns, we went downstairs to watch the kids open presents (and also to play with the most adorable basset hound puppy in all the world, Pipo, who was a new arrival to the shelter – see Flickr site).

We are still confused and hurt by Pave’s actions, but we are writing her an apologetic Xmas card in the hopes that she will at least resume contact with us.

So today, we went back to C’orao to do some tests on Tomas’ stove versus the rocket in Andres’ and Honorata’s house (the ones with daughter MaFre and the three cute boys we took pictures of last time). We used the same amount of water, the same pot, and the same amount of fuel. The time it took to boil the water was essentially equal (approx. 27 minutes from a cold start for 2.5 liters), even though Tomas’ stove is not a traditional rocket design. We talked business with Tomas and Andres, how much they could work to help us, how much the families could pay, how much they wanted to be paid, etc. They also talked a lot about design, and we have tentatively decided to use Tomas’ stove with a few modifications to be more like Andres’ – slightly lower holes for the pots, slightly more space around them, and a burn chamber made out of a clay/hair/cactus juice mixture. In the spectrum of rocket design, we are leaning towards less wood efficiency and more smoke removal, since “it cooks too slow” was one of the consistent complaints we heard in the other villages.

On the 25th, we are going to go to a meeting of the whole association starting at 10 AM. It looks like we will be moving forward on this project, and we are excited that we can find most or all of the necessary supplies in C’orao (they have a welder there, we just need to find baskets, bags and straw for the retention cookers). It has been a long tough road this last month, but it looks like we have a new (old) project to work on now. As if to underscore our decision, we were almost immediately picked up while hitching back to Cusco, by a German woman who has lived in Pisac running a restaurant for the last 14 years. She was headed directly past our house and dropped us off there. We promised to come and try her cheesecake next Monday, after we have our last meeting in Paucartambo province at the village of Soncco.

Here in Cusco, the campesinos are descending on the city in hordes, with visions of free chocolate dancing in their heads. The municipal workers are setting up portapotties in the plaza right now. I need to go to the market and get a shave, when I finally found an adaptor for my electric razor I must have plugged it into the wrong polarity (there’s no ground here so you can’t tell which way is which) and it blew up in my hand. We are also going to go to Rosanna’s tomorrow night for an Xmas eve dinner.


and my comments:

so yeah, unfortunately and fortunately, we have abandoned the Usi project as result of Pave being unable to mediate with us about what happened in Córao. as i have explained to a few people with each visit here, i understand more (or think i do!). in the beginning i would have never thought of challenging anyone, as there was so much that went over my head. now however, its harder to let things pass that really go against who i am. and this incident with tomas was one of them. and because of this i was also concerned we would not get her OK on downsizing the project as well. (she likes numbers, and as we told the hermana we wanted quality vs quantity this time.) so yeah, i am hurt that pave could not cool off over the week before our proposed usi meeting, talk with us, and enjoy a little Christmas at the shelter together. as a group we needed this skill, ie., to be able to mediate. and as i told the hermana, possibly this wasn´t in ¨God´s plan" afterall. ( interestingly enough, awhile back she had written me an email saying that the Usi project would go "si Dios quiere....," and at the time i thought, "well,....hmmm....what does she mean by that??") so, i know now. with everything that has passed in the last month we needed to be with that and pay attention and do things differently, not automatically. (not to mention the upcoming rain in usi....)

so onto córao it´ll be. when we left after our last trip here we were given a letter by the 20 remaining members of this collective in Córao (actually this area of Córao is called Mandorani) requesting us please to ..."please hear the clamor of the other mothers wanting an improved stove...." and on the bus to quiquihana nervously approacing the shelter and anticipated meeting with pave, i realized we wanted to do just 20 people, and if all were to crumble right before our eyes, there were the people of mandorani right u8nder our noses who would be ready to work with us! they were motivated, in the midst of a bathroom-for-all project, close by and conceivably, it could be something we could do ourselves, with the help of a local person or two. so happily it seems to have come to pass. tomas is thrilled to be working for his compañeros and with us. he and andres will be our team. all enjoyed the testing as much as we and it stirred up quite a conversation of what to include of the original and what to include of tomas´model. this conversation will continue on thursday at a group meeting! so it won´t exactly be a rocket but it will be the product of what the people want there with a chimney! the material for the combustion chamber will be a mix of clay, some sort of cactus juice, grasses, people, pig and cuy hair and sand. (it is a mix tomas has used with ovens also.)  on our inspection it is very hard and does not appar damaged in the last year and a half of use.  he has maintained it though. he says with maintenance it will last three years. (we will be following up on this.) his includes an oven and the other twenty will not.  we will fluff up the other three!  there is a local welder to access for the chimneys and rejillas. our project will include more teaching, more on home management in terms of "home and people hygiene". and we´ll introduce a retention cooker to each family, including the original four participants.  And we will continue our interview and testing of family members to try to establish a correlation beteen less smoke and better respiratory health.

so as steve alludes its been quite a month. the minute we were headed in a certain direction, it changed! we have learned alot from our experiences and hope with those lessons we will have a positve project for all included. 

Feliz Navidad y Año Nuevo a todos!


Thursday, December 18, 2008

we are taking some time off and reevaluating what we have discovered over the last month. we will be going to quiquihana this weekend to meet with our cohorts here and on sunday, provided all goes well, with the folks from usi. i am hoping all realize we have to make some changes if we indeed want cocinas mejoradas to contribute to vidas mejoradas. below steve explains more.

i am getting over yet another episode of giardia! unbelievable. i have decided anyone who really wants to lose weight should contract it, poop for a few days and then take the two pills required to rid one of it. i am down maybe 10 pounds but trying to eat more as it resolves. steve is studying past tense in spanish these few days and next week we will take a quechua class together with saul. he´ll help us get down the phrases we need to evaluate cooking habits, hygiene, health problems, give us useful verbs, etc so can have a simple conversation. rosanna my friend at the spanish school is giving us a deal.

so below a portion of steve´s update...

Partly because of increasing consciousness about these negative effects, and partly due to our own dissatisfaction with the results of our project, we are engaged in a comprehensive reevaluation of our next steps. A business-oriented friend of mine said that our high failure-to-adopt rate reflects a failure to meet needs of the population that we had not perceived. This may well be true, but I think it also reflects a failure on our part to see just how much reeducation is needed for people to be able to use the stoves properly. In other words, their needs are perceived needs, but not necessary ones if the rockets are used properly. In all three of our villages with stoves, Pedro, and Tomas (maybe more but we won´t know because some homes are impossible to reach to evaluate) have fully understood the rocket principles and run with it. But we noticed that particularly Tomas was also doing other things like trying to separate the animals from his kids, and having his kids wash their hands in hot water from a third burner that he had put in himself. So, in light of all this, we have decided to scale down. We think a large part of our previous failure is because we didn´t spend enough time with each family, and there is no way we could spend enough time with 100 more families. So we have decided to try and focus on a smaller group, 20 families at most, and spend an entire day or two with them and our assistants, cooking, translating, and talking about other holistic health aspects such as hygiene and animals. At most in our next 3 months, we could spend 2 days with each of 20 families. We will be spending more of the project money on assistants, teachers, and translators, as well as a small hygiene kit for each family (nail clippers, bleach, etc). We will also be introducing retention cookers (insulated hotboxes that continue to cook pots after they are removed from the stove, minimizing wood use even further) along with the stoves this time, and we will need to source and buy those supplies.

chao por ahora amigos. for more info and photos go to the blog

Saturday, December 13, 2008

i am moving on. both personally and in regards to our projects. i can´t explain the exhaustion one feels when they try to give. and in my case sometimes too much. and when one is trying to fill something up in themselves that simply can´t be filled by helping others, especially when things go bad and blame gets slung. so, i am making decisions that are about caring for myself first and will hope this trickles down and improves our projects in the long run.

it all came to a head once we had heard from a donor to Sipascancha. people were offended and for this i have apologized. then came much in the way of soul searching. like always, questioning my intentions, looking at my errors, admitting what can´t be changed and gleaning the opinions of people i respect here in Peru. sort of like shutting up and listening both to my inner voice and of others.

last night we met with Pave about the Usi project. i explained to her day by day while in Sipascancha, it has becoming increasingly obvious to me that we need to complete that project, cleanly communicate the findings and learn from all our mistakes and observations. Further below is my letter to the president in Spanish and brief translation.

so the meeting went well. this week will be our final week in sipascancha. i have presents for the families of my godchildren and have heard an organization will be supplying christmas presents to all the children. the week after we will vist soncco and see how things are going there. because they have been using their stoves (or we are told...) as originally constructed, we plan on supplying all who paid (again not all) with new pumice rockets. plans for usi feel clear, simple, and realistic. Pave shares our opinions and in that we are all committed to creating a new project learning from our errors and hoping to minimize our footprint, if other groups are to follow. the 20th we´ll be in quiquihana for a christmas celebration at the shelter. the 21st we have our meeting with the people of usi and will be showing how the stove functions by cooking a typical meal to share. we´re ready to do at least 100 stoves with chimneys and will know more as a result of that meeting. costs will be clearer then as well. we will look for locals to translate and educate in the building and use of the stove. and we´ll have a consistent presence there thanks to the use of the hermana nelly-mobile and lots of help.

i went to ollanta to visit with friends recently. i have mentioned carlos numerous times in the past. he and his family have worked with the children of outlying communities for years. his comments mirror many of our Peruvian friends´comments in terms of what happened in sipascancha. good intentioned NGO´s without thinking giving things away without education or investment on the part of the community with results being unintended unfortunate changes in the culture, traditions and pride of indigenous people. optimistically, i met a man from a village three days walk up into the mountains. he was in attendance at a home i was visiting and there as a worker for this particular person. we talked about cocinas mejoradas. we talked about the fact that we were here doing a project and he asked if we could come there. i explained we did not have the funds for a second one right now. i explained the construction of the lorena models and of larry winiarskis recipe for a high concentration organic material brick that can be dríed in the sun and then fired as a result of the first fire burned in the stove. i explained they do not last forever but can be built in places as far out as his village. we talked about the cost of chimneys. i asked how much a skirt cost for the women of his community. he replied, "100 soles." i then said, " well are your childrens´ lungs worh 50 soles (ie, the cost of a chimney.)?" and he got it.
(ps look for new photos in our flickr site on the sidebar. there are some of the mine!)
and here is the letter, briefly translated in italics:
15 de diciembre 2008
Estimado Cyprian, el Presidente de la Comunidad Campesino Sipascancha Alta,
(Dear Cyprian, President of the Campesino community of Sipascancha Alta)
Estamos escribiendo esta carta que notar los resultados de nuestros proyecto, Cocinas Mejoradas, Allin Qúnchakuna. Incluyendo en esta carta es el contracto por su referencia. Porfavor Usd puede compartir esta carta con su gente de Sipascancha.
(We are writing this setter to note the results of our project Cocinas Mejoradas. Included in this letter is a copy of the contract for your reference. Please share this letter with the community of Sipascancha Alta.)
1) la mayoria no pagaron por sus cocinas, y por eso, no haya un proyecto que plantar arboles. (The majority of people did not pay for their stoves as promised, therefore the tree planning project will not come to pass.)
2) la mayoria han desconstuiendo sus cocinas y no estan usando el parte se llama, “Rocket”. Ellos tienen sus chimeneas y estan las usando (The majority have taken apart their stoves and are not using the part named “Rocket”. The chimneys still exist and people are using them.)
3) Apparentamente, la mayoria no entienden el uso de su cocina y esto es porque ellos no podrian ver su modelo y practicar (porque siempre cerrado con llaves), tambien en las reuniones antes, ellos no quisieron a venir y no pagaron ningun atención a los avisos que ayudarlos que aprender mas, y finalmente en los dias nosotros estaron en su comunidad (casi cada lunes, martes y miércoles, menos los dias enfermos, dos años antes y ahorita este año) ellos todovía no quieren avenir que aprender mas. (Apparently the majority did not understand the use of the store. Reasons for this are the model built was always locked and not available for practice, also in the meeting we scheduled before, it seemed no one on the list of interested people wanted to come and paid no attention to the postings announcing the meetings, and more, the days we lived in Sipascancha to hold the meetings , minus the days we were sick, still people did not come to learn more about the stove.)
4) Dos años antes y ahora, ella no estan interesante en completado sus entrevistas, como en el contracto. En este, gracias a el Profesor Nino por acompañarnos a las casa cercas que completar unos, y por Profesora Adela que ayudarnos que completar los examenes de los alumnos. Tambien gracias a Pedro por su soporte en este proyecto. (Two years before and now, participating familias do not seem. concerned with completing the interviews and exams as listed in the contract. However, thank you to Nino for visiting homes with us, for Adela in collecting students to complete their tests and to Pedro for his support of this project.)
En las visitas a las casas cercas, todovia muchas de las familias estan viviendo en suciedad. Todovia los niños estan jugando y viviendo con los animales de las familias. El alcoholismo esta igual. Muchas mujeres estan embarazadas y haya otros niños crecien en todo de este. Entonces los resultados estan decepcionantes y estamos triste por la mayoria de los niños y madres. Gracias a Dios, hay un medico se llama Doris de Colquepata y ella estan tratando que impresionar a las mujeres embarazadas que usar sus cocinas, al minimo sus chimneas porque pueden minimar el humo de las casa. y tambien gracias a Dios hay pocas familias pensando en todo de este y usando sus cocinas y tratando que hacer las vidas de sus niños mejor. (In the visits to the houses close by, still many familias are living in filth. Still the children are lving and playing amongst the animals of the families. Many mothers are pregnant and more children will be brought into this. So, the results are disappointing and we are sad for the children and mothers. Thanks to God, there is a doctor visiting from Colquepata, Doris who is impressing on the mothers to use their stoves, even if there is only a chimney as this reduces the smoke in the houses. And also thanks to God, there are a few families who understand all of this and are trying to improve the lives of their children.)
y finalmente es claro hay muchos proyectos de los grandes ONG´s, tambien el gobierno municipal y otros individuales en su comunidad. Pero en nuestras opiniones, que tener todo de esto puede hacer una comunidad que paracer mejor, pero en las vidas de muchos niños y mujeres no hay ningun cambio menos el 50% de veces los niños estan en el centro, en las escuelas, y no en sus casas. Muchas veces en proyectos como estos es imposible que hacerlos sostenibles. y porque de los ejemplos de estos tipos de proyectos, la gente pueden tener un mal ejemplo de regalos sin la obra del mano. y en este punto, nosotros sentimos usados porque muchos no pueden dar su parte en este proyecto bonito, solamente que esperamos y preguntarnos por mas en la forma de cualquier cosa gratis. (And finally it is clear there are many projects in place in Sipascancha from the large NGO´s, municipal government, and to individuals. But in our opinion, to have all of this can make a community seem better, but in the lives of the women and children there are no changes, except for the fact the children can be in the center half the time and not at home. Many times projects such as these are not sustainable. And because of the bad example receiving gifts without the hard work that accompanies change, we feel the people did not do their part in our project, and we feel used. Rather than complete their agreements, people can only ask us for more of whatever may be free.)
No hay nada en este mundo por gratis. Siempre haya una cuenta. (There is nothing in this world for free. Always there is a cost.)
Buena suerte a su comunidad y gracias a la gente que darnos bienvenidas. Es nuestras esperanza que continuar el intercambio con la escuela en Sipascancha y en EEUU por el beneficio de los alumnos. Hemos aprendido mucho en este experiencia y esperamos que applicar los lecciones en otros comunidades. y esperamos que ver resultados mejores en mas proyectos de cocinas mejoradas en los otros pueblos. (Good luck to your community and thank you to all who welcomed us. It is our hope to continue the school interchange between the school in Sipascancha and in the United States for the benefit of the children. We have learned a lot in this experience and will apply the lessons to other communities where we work. And we hope to see better results in those communities where we bring Cocinas Mejoradas.)
Laura Iaccino
Estevan Boston
Pedro de Sipascancha
Profesora Adela
Profesor Bacilio
Profesora Pavela

Sunday, December 07, 2008

i sure wish i were feeling better. i haven´t hardly slept through one night since being here. last night i fussed with a dry cough, a pulled back (as a result of a cough where my mid back falls into a dip in the middle of my bed), occasional bouts of diarrhea and guilt for the post below. i just reread´s honest, no doubt, but what i want to acknowledge is what we can do better the next time.

and that we who try to help keep learning as we go and its not a simple matter. it reminds me of a story told by michael, a guide i met here who had read a book about a guy who had made his money in the internet. com thing and then traveled and wanted to give it all away. it was apparently not easy and he ended up taping it to peoples animals when no one was looking.

so what can we do better? first more education. in our defense and not to make excuses, to reach every house at more than 14,000 feet and personally educate everyone on the correct use of the rocket is next to impossible. i suppose i could´ve rented horses? we had lots of meetings and very often not everyone attended. the sharper more motivated did attend and they were the ones who worked with us, and are using the stoves properly. and they lived closer. in usi we plan on approaching the education entirely different. we want to build two models, one with just a chimney and another with the rocket and chimney and illustrate the difference by cooking food on both. (the food they normally cook. no more of this cocina being locked up in a safe place without the opportunity to use it.) we hope people will come. we will have more people working with us also and will afford us a more contnuous presence. and the village is more habitable. the houses are less strewn around at crazy altitudes. and to coniue our approach of folks paying for it, but this time up front. we want them to value it. and all of this being said with respect to the fact you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

as to the metal rockets. i wish over and over we had had different material, but we didn´t. part of why we did follow-up was to see for ourselves, and to also repeat the health exam. so we have to face the reality they did not cut it even when they were used properly. and that is our responsibility. we are lucky enough to have this pumice closer to work with to the next village. i am very hopeful the duration will be longer. we want to replace the rockets for the folks who paid. and the ones who have used the stove properly. and to do something that acknowledges the folks who paid, like i said before a pair of rapidly reproducing animals so there is a good protein source.

and yeah the contracts. simply they were broken. i wish folks had kept their word and they didn´t. next time no contracts and more education.

ok. today we prepare to head back to sipas for three days. we expect a bit less and maybe will be less disappointed. i apologize if i offeneded anyone (sleeve also). i want the people who have supported us to know we have not given up and are not angry. its hard to stay angry at folks who perhaps only know we we have all taught them to expect. suffice to say its hard to reconcile both for us and likely the reader. please continue to have faith in us and we will try to do better.

Friday, December 05, 2008

well, here i sit drinking a coca-cola as the locals say it´s the best thing for giardia. i am also taking some wonder-medicine that requires only two doses after visiting my very nice Dr Pinedo yesterday. i had thought my colitis was acting up but it turned out to be the nasty giardia thing and some bacterial infection. i feel fortunate to have him nearly at my beck-on-call. now i know all fruits and vegies we buy at the open market in san pedro need to be soaked first in a mild bleach solution for ten minutes and to ask at my fav restaurants if they are doing the same thing! so, my sweetie is next to me pecking away. below, our experience in quiquihana and following that, i will paste sleeve´s rather bitter but honest entry of our experience in sipascancha. forgive us both (the language) but it´s the grim reality.

First our trip to quiquihana: we rode with hermana nelly and another nun, i´ve forgotten her name in the nelly-mobile about 1 and 1/2 hours south of here. we went directly to the albergue, or in english, shelter that was completed since we had last been there. they have one of our first stoves set up to cook for lots of children at the shelter. not many kids were there as it was the weekend and apparently the ones who live within a five hour walk go home for the weekend to work with their family. other children there are abandoned, and others are there at the request of the families to be in a better position to receive their education. some pay 20 soles a month, some parents bring food and i imagine the abandoned kids are there courtesy of hermana nelly and the other columbian nuns. its really quite the set up. i asked her how it was for the campesino kids to adjust to all of it. she said even to get used to sitting on a toilet required them first using the squat type toilet and then graduating to the sit down kind we first-worlders know. because they all sleep inpractically a nest, to sleep in a big spacious room decked out with new bunkbeds is quite scary. betsy, alberto´s daughter, 9 years old (from Sipascancha) seemd quite adjusted, even smiling without too much hesitation. they have a variety of volunteers who circulate through, most from germany. the volunteers sleep in the shelter near the children and another family from germany stay at the nuns´ home to keep some semblance of normality for their own children. they have bathrooms with rows of kid sized sinks and toilets. outside there is a playground to play soccer, a panaderia (bakery). and a kitchen. all the kids help cook and bake. they go to school in quiquihana. a library at the shelter affords them additional books and places to study. all quite impressive. we left there and headed to where the nuns´live. across town they have a two stroy place where once we arrive there for our USI project, we´ll be able to cook and eat. upstairs are extra bedrooms and bathrooms. we all slept together, in two bunk beds, ron, ellen , sleeve and i. we awoke at 4:50 AM to huaynos music blaring from i thought outside. (we are told it´s the happy way to wake up!) well, it actually was coming from the pirate radio station of the nuns on the first floor! so, i guess when we begin our work there i will have to get accustomed to waking up "the happy way"! we headed out early to the mine to view this pumice rock i have heard so much about. it was about 40 minutes south of quiquihana. sleeve and i rode in the back of the pick-up enjoying the spectacular scenery. because it was sunday we had to park and walk in. all levels of pumice are there and apparently no heavy equipment is used to remove it. the townsfolk of the mine (Wyracocha?) work the mine and receive the money for whatever they remove and load up into trucks. roads are cut through out it, where apparently people await customers. rocks are excavated for a variety of purposes. so, we finally arrived to the site of the lightest rock, all burnt orange in color. we grabbed some pieces to experiment with and headed out. once the time comes to go with our hired truck, pave will handle the business. she said everytime she goes she hears a different price! none-the-less it will be cheaper material for us to work with, let alone a vast improvement on our metal rockets of our first project. so the visit ended with parking ourselves at the market awaiting people from usi. we all meandered through. while trying to buy some mint leaves for sleeve´s favorite tea i was fiercely yelled at by a woman in quechua for buying from someone else than her. i was actually scared for the first time ever in a market! finally we met with the vice president and a few others to discuss the stove project. a meeting is set up for the 21st of december to show them the model at the albergue and to discuss the finer points. we´ve invited a sipascanchér to speak on our behalf, alberto, as he is picking up his daughter after the christmas celebration. and we too will join in that celebration bringing the 50 some present i brought from the states.

And now the grim reality per sleeve: Well, I fear I may fall victim to melodrama here. That was probably the hardest three days we have spent in Sipascancha. We feel like we are still processing some of the things that happened.

As before, we got up at 4:30 and took a taxi to the Puputi station. From there, we met Nino and Adela (with their new baby on Adela´s back) and we rode the bus to Pisac. There, we waited for at least half an hour, probably more, while the teachers all ate breakfast. We got sweet tamales in the street and realized that there was no good reason to have gotten up so early. After breakfast, we all crammed into a combi (around 25 people, no room to move) and rode the 2 hours up to Sipas.

Once we got there we met up with Alberto, who showed us the room we could stay in. We looked at the clinic and it was trashed, filthy, and depressing. Hardly anybody had been in there since we had left 18 months ago. Laurie´s signs and learning aids were still on the walls, dusty and neglected. We decided to stay in Alberto´s room. It was on the second floor, up a wood ladder with a tiny balcony made of rough boards, but it had a wood floor, plastic over the windows, and a good roof. Alberto´s wife Ricardina made us a traditional lunch with cuy, potatoes, and an egg. Oh boy, here we go again. Every single middle class person and/or doctor in Cusco says “whatever you do, DON¨T EAT THE FOOD UP THERE.” But we watched Ricardina cook it and she made sure everything was well done. Little Cynthia, their youngest daughter and one of Laurie´s god-children, watched us with a big smile.

During lunch we discovered that Ricardina was 8 months pregnant (she’s 39). They told us that the district doesn’t have money for a doctor to visit the outlying communities anymore, so every Sunday she has to walk three hours each way to the clinic for a checkup. A week before her due date, they have to take a taxi (50 soles, a month’s income more or less) to the clinic. She has to stay there until she gives birth, supply her own food, and have her own caregivers because there are no nurses. This is all part of the government’s plan to force the campesinos to have national ID numbers. If for some (any) reason they don’t make it to the clinic before she gives birth, there is a 200 sole fine (4 months income). Then they have to pay an additional 250 soles for the ID number (5 months… oh, you get the idea).

After lunch (brunch?) the burnout hit and I lay down for a while. Alberto furiously nailed up more supports for the ladder and balcony. When he finally showed us the finished room, Cynthia was practically bursting with pride.

Once I got back up, I went over to the teachers ’offices and started to go through our interview sheets. The names are so damn confusing. Not only is the spelling hard to standardize, every person has a different combination of names (the kids take one name each from the parents, but whether it’s the middle or last name can vary). I wasn’t really ready for such a mindbending challenge and got totally upset and frustrated, which was not the best thing to do at the time. Laurie gave up and left me alone and I finally came up with a list of all the kids we had interviewed previously so that Adela could pull them out of school the next day. After I had finished that, Laurie showed up with Cristobal (from the neighboring village of Soncco, he was our liason there). He had some bad news (“I don’t want to lie”, he said). All of the metal rockets had broken after about 8-10 months of use. The people there had tried to replace them with clay and they are still using them but are unhappy at the holes that developed in the rockets.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in various stages of despair, anger, and attempting to reassure one another that our project wasn’t a total failure. Finally we crashed, miserable, in our tiny bed. I was relieved to discover that it wasn’t quite as freezing cold at night, I even took a layer off.

The next morning we gathered up our tattered spirits and went to the office. Adela started bringing in kids and we started to do the repeat interviews. By lunchtime we had done 15 kids, raising our spirits considerably. As far as improvements, well… the blood oxygen levels were uniformly lower, but that may be because we’re using a different pulse oxymeter to test them. The lung expiration volumes seemed higher, which is what we were really looking for. So that is promising.

After a quick lunch we made our way over to the school building complex, to watch the videos that North Branch School had made for the exchange program. We had a brief moment of total fear when the first disc failed to work in front of a 100-kid audience, but thankfully the second one worked fine. We had two showings, one for the older kids and one for the younger kids. They were greatly amused by the American kids’ stumbling attempts at basic Spanish.

After a bit of research, the teachers figured out that the other disc was in a Windows Media format and so they hooked up a computer and a video projector for the second feature. Once again it was older kids first, younger kids second, and this time the sound was really low so Laurie and I did a lot of explanation en Español. After the younger kids watched it, the teachers put in more huaynos videos like what we had seen in the Quiquihana market. It was interesting at first, with lots of different places in Peru as stages for the videos, but after 20 minutes or so we were wondering what the point was. The kids started getting restless and talkative and the teachers started whacking them with a bamboo stick (hmm, guess we won’t tell North Branch about that). After half an hour we bailed, saying that Adela had made us lunch and not wanting to get the kids into more trouble.

The rest of the afternoon is a blur, I think we spent it with the teachers. Nino came back from Soncco (where he teaches) around 4:30 and we got geared up to visit some houses. It was beyond grim. Everything was just as dirty and hopeless as we remembered. None of the houses we visited had kept their word. Not only had most of them not paid, ALL of the people we visited had taken the stoves apart and kept only the chimneys. Basically, they didn’t want to learn a new method of preparing the wood (in smaller pieces) and decided to go back to their method of stuffing whole pieces of brush into a burning fire. perhaps it´s simply warmer? The rockets were nowhere to be seen, except in one house where it was sitting neglected in a corner. When we asked if we could have it back, the woman said oh no, we’re saving it for our second house (which I find doubtful). In one house, it was the father’s birthday and he and a friend were sitting there almost too drunk to talk. We did a couple of followup interviews. The mother, before she put her hand in the pulse oximeter, said that she wanted to wash her hands, so she rinsed them off in a pail of BLACK water (they have a faucet of semi-clean chlorinated water right outside their house, go figure). Nobody had a good answer for why they had dismantled the stoves except for saying that it was slower to cook (because they weren’t preparing the wood properly and feeding the rocket properly.) The third or fourth house we went to had a kid who was showing us his laptop (Linux system, 256 MB memory) while the house was filled with smoke.
We walked back to the teachers’ office in the gathering rain, our spirits pretty much crushed. We went to bed and half-slept through the most intense rain I have ever experienced, seven solid hours of Midwest thunderstorm level gushing sheets. After the rain let up the wind kicked in, literally howling like a banshee. We were very grateful to Alberto when we made it through the night dry and warm.

The next morning was market day. We had breakfast with the teachers (Adela and Elwira) and asked them about the whole pregnancy thing. They told us that EIGHTY PERCENT of the women in the village were pregnant, due to the federal welfare program my mom talked about in the last update. It is called Juntos, “Together.” The families receive 100 soles a month for every child they have under nine. It doesn’t take much to realize that this seemsa bad idea. Adela told us that the government is only applying the program in the poor highland areas like Sipascancha, not in places like her jungle home “where the people work hard and demand more.” She said it was to keep them lazy and poor. Elwira agreed. It certainly gave us more insight into why Alberto and Ricardina are having another kid after seven years.

During the market Pedro and Cristobal kept bringing people in for followup interviews. By the time we left in Isidro’s truck we had completed 23, slightly ahead of our projections! Not a single one of them were using the rockets, but were using the chimneys. Back home in Cusco, we slept all afternoon and made a spaghetti dinner for my folks as we told them our tales of woe. The next morning Laurie went to the clinic again and was diagnosed with giardia and a bacterial stomach thing. We learned that all fruits and vegetables have to be soaked in a bleach solution for ten minutes and then rinsed before doing anything else with them, an important piece of information we had somehow failed to learn previously. The tourist restaurants all do this (we learned later), so the problem probably came from food we bought at the market and “only” poured boiling water over.

Last night Pave came over for more discussion. Unexpectedly, a young man from Sipascancha who was studying in Cusco also came over with his sister and a friend. His name is Placido and he helped Laurie in the clinic five years ago, when he was twelve. We all sat around and talked about how frustrating our experience in Sipascancha was. Pave asked Placido straight up what he thought and without a pause he said it was because nobody there wanted to work. Laurie and I decided to use him as our translator in Usi, he is one of those guys like Pedro and Cristobal who bucks the trends and has a lot of potential. It was kind of amazing to see him and his sister all dressed up like modern Peruanos and to know where they came from. Inspiring, also.

After that impromptu meeting we went with my folks to have dinner at our friend Rosanna´s. She runs a Spanish school here in Cusco and is what you would consider upper middle class. As usual there were other interesting people living there and I found myself caught between two very interesting conversations, one between Laurie and three Peruvians about the Juntos program (their opinions were the same as the teachers, with the added opinion that the middle class were the people who really needed the help in Peru) and one between my parents and an Air Force guy from Wyoming who was headed to Afghanistan on Sunday. I sure am glad there are people in the military as open minded as him, lemme tell ya.

This weekend we plan on taking it slow and easy, Laurie and I will visit Urubamba with my parents but we plan on doing absolutely nothing while they go off to look at Maras and Moray in a tourist taxi. We return to Sipascancha for more interviews on Monday. Wish us luck.