Saturday, July 18, 2009

Huaytara and How I got to School on Friday

On Monday, July 6th, after having been in Ica for five days, Kate, Anthony, Ben, Steven and I traveled to the pueblo of Huaytara. You may remember from my description of the four day journey we took to get to the first schools, that we stayed in Huaytara for a night to start that trip. We came to Huaytara thinking we were going to be there for three weeks. Well last Friday we found out that public school vacation would begin on the 15th instead of the 24th as decided by the national government in an effort to prevent the spreading of the Swine Flu. That meant our trip was cut a week short affording us less time in the schools working with the kids. We were however able to give 5 multigrade teachers a 2 day, 12 hours per day, crash course on the XO. I will get into Huaytara more but for the first four days Kate and I were working in a school (Muchic) about 15 minutes by car from Huaytara while Steven, Anthony and Ben (Who left Thursday) rode with us to get to their school (Cuyahuasi) which was just a few more minutes down the hill past ours. Everything was fine until Friday because all of our transportation had been arranged up until this point. And without any further description here it is. (And sorry for the repeat information.)

My 'How I got to school on Friday' story:

So for the last week Anthony, Steven, Ben, Kate and I have been living in Huaytara. Since Tuesday we have been in two groups with each group visiting a different school. Kate and I make up one group and the other three guys the other group. We have come to find out that transportation up and down the mountain in this valley is next to impossible to find. Well I guess I should say I found this out on Friday. For the entire week the five of us have had a driver arranged to take us to and pick us up from the schools which are about a 15 - 20 minute car ride away from where we are staying in Huaytara. Well come to find out on Thursday upon our return in the afternoon that our driver cannot give us a lift on Friday. Not being too concerned we went about our business until the following morning when we realized it was at that point an immediate concern. Our Ministry of Education pointman, Edwin, and fellow intern by the way had taken off already on this day leaving us with no one to help us to arrange anything. For Anthony and Steven it wasn't of grave concern that they make it to school that day, but Kate and I on the other hand needed to show up as we had already arranged a meeting with the parents and also having one of the students laptops in tow. I'm not sure how many of you know this about me but I have some sort of determination to accomplish something when I decide that I am going to do it no matter the steps involved. And for me on this day that meant getting to school before noon.

Well at around 7:30 am I woke up and immediately set out into the village to arrange a ride with a different driver. In around 10 minutes I had set up something or so I thought for 15 soles or 5 dollars total each way. I went back to tell the others after which we embarked on our usual breakfast of coffee, fried eggs, platanos and rice. After feeling satisfied with this sufficient breakfast we met with the driver who told us that she was not so set on the original price. We have gotten used to this entire process as most purchases in Peru are negotiable. I also might add that there are typically two prices for items here: one for peruvians and one for non peruvians. It is up to us to negotiate the latter as close as possible to the former. The difference in the prices we have come to dub as the hustle factor. It sometimes becomes frustrating as we are not merely tourists but volunteers working in the schools through our own financial means and donated time. So after being fed up with this particular lady's indecisiveness we sought other means of transportation. After about 20 or so minutes I went to the local Ministry of Education branch and pursued help here. I got about a half an hour's worth of the run around and some crazy talk about that's how much we were supposed to pay when we had not paid that much for the last three days. It was at that point Anthony and Steven decided they would be spending that day in Huaytara while Kate and I forged on.

Our first thought was to get to the road where we would wait for a passing car that had space to give us a lift to our destination of Muchic. When we had finally made it to the main road we stopped for a moment to contemplate our next move. I decided at that moment to keep walking toward our goal and hope to flag down a car in the process. It was quite hot on this day and I was sporting my Timbuk2 shoulder bag packed full of necessary items. We walked onward for around 15 minutes when a Quechua-speaking construction worker asked us where we were going. His friend translated and upon our response told us we should wait at the next grouping of buildings just down the road. When we got there we waited for a good three or so minutes before I decided this was not sufficient for me and I continued walking. Kate stayed and eventually, after no luck with a ride, returned to Huaytara. I then began walking the route we had taken for the past three days which was the most beautiful road I had ever walked on in my life. Well the road itself was made of asphalt but the surroundings were indescribable. The surrounding mountains made for nice scenery as I stuck to my goal of reaching the school. I was passed by the occasional car but without any of them stopping and offering to take me down the road. Along the road were numerous pastures full of either crops or livestock. I couldn't help thinking back to the times on the roads in the mountains when our car would be chased by protective dogs until we were clear of their territory. The road was beautiful but I could picture myself being chased down the road by an angry dog at any moment. For just over an hour I found myself traveling by foot feeling as though I was going nowhere. It was at that moment that a large white truck passed my outstretched signaling hand and came to stop about 100 meters ahead. I made it to the truck before it started back up and politely asked the dumbfounded driver if he could take me the rest of the route to Muchic. He hesitantly said yes and pointed to the top of the truck. I climbed an attached ladder and settled myself on the top of the truck's wooden frame. It was satisfying knowing that I would soon make it to the school and without having to walk another meter. The truck after an extended wait started back up and headed down the hill another 5-10 minutes before pulling up to the entrance to the small village of Muchic. I finally made into the classroom where I was received with an enthusiastic greeting from kids. They and I were glad that I had made it to school on that day.

The day went well which was spent on the XO's in addition to the meeting with the parents to whom I gave an introductory course in using the laptops. That afternoon without an organized ride to return to Huaytara was spent at the mercy of waiting for a passing car to stop and return me back up the hill. The teacher from the village preschool waited along with me. She informed me that if we were lucky we would only wait 30 minutes to an hour. Lucky huh? Well it must have been that kind of afternoon because no more than 10 minutes after I proposed my question a gleeming gold van zoomed around the corner and came sliding to a stop in the dirt area just in front of us. I was relieved at the sight of this beautiful (well not so much in hindsight) Toyota van. For only 1 sol (or 33 cents) the driver took me and the rest of the passengers back to Huaytara. When we arrived I went straight back to the room where I found the others to whom I recounted the day's events. Surviving something like that always makes you stronger, no matter how you feel in the moment in which it is happening.

Anthony and I would, only a few days later, repeat this type of adventure on foot from a school that sat on the top of the mountain. I'll detail that in my next entry.

Much love.

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