Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Longest Journey - Day 4

So after saying goodbye to Steven and Anthony, we continued on our journey toward our final destination, Laramarca. We forged ahead with our total bodies down to five. At this point I was in sheer awe of the fact that our little Nissan pickup was still running as well as it was after the beating had taken on the rough mountain trails. Squashed in the back between Norma and Edwin I began thinking about the reality of the situation ahead of Kate and I in Laramarca. Until now it had been the others we had left behind, but now it was our turn to be left alone to embark on our OLPC mission in Laramarca. The trail to our destination was quite rough and had made me the most anxious by far of all of the roads he had driven on throughout our journey. The road was not only narrow but looking out of the passenger's side window you could only see down into the abyss below. The path took us up and down the various mountains of the Andes that stood in the way of us arriving to our destination. On our way we took a short break in a nearby pueblo from which you could see Laramarca overlooking us from the next mountain. From the looks of it I could tell the nights would be bitter cold. A condition that my experience in Peru the previous year had readied me for on this trip. The pueblo who's name escapes me was home to a man nicknamed 'Bill Clinton', who is a friend of the people with whom we were traveling. The man was Peruvian in speech but his physical appearance suggested he was a gringo [which I must add is an endearing term I have come to be very familiar with that merely signifies that you are not native born or do not appear to be so]. After a quick visit with William, we continued on a journey which took us down into the valley past a major mining operation. I was told they were extracting copper and gold. We only caught a glimpse but would hear more about it in the following weeks as apparently there is an ownership conflict between Laramarca and those who found an ore running beneath the small pueblo.

The mining operation signified the bottom of our descent and the beginning of our climb up the mountain upon which Laramarca sits. The road up the mountain was the most treacherous so far and sent us up countless switchbacks on which I truly felt could be my last moments. It's a funny thing because no matter how dangerous the roads may have appeared to us foreigners, the drivers remained calm and collected. This was the case with packing people into cars in the sierra of Peru. This is something that in our experience here we have learned has no limits. Anthony told us about a time in Cordova when they were able to squeeze 11 people into a small Toyota station wagon [the car of choice here in the Andes] for a three hour trip. I am still not exactly sure how they did it. We continued our ascent up the mountain for almost an hour before we came to a reason to pull over and take a break in the form of a waterfall cascading across the road and down the nearby ledge. It was a much needed stretch break that made for some excellent pictures as you can see below. From here we could see Laramarca looking at us from above which I came to learn did not indicate that you were anywhere close to arriving there because of the indirect routes these road had to take in order to ascend the grand mountains.

About an hour and one terrifying six point turn later we arrived to the entrance into Laramarca. We passed through the main road in the small pueblo and found it to be lined with the typical adobe built buildings and people at their front door steps. We have grown accustomed to the stares we receive in every village we go. I compare it to an alien walking the streets of the USA. You have always heard of them but have never actually seen one. It is the same in these small pueblos when a person all the way from the US passes through their streets. You just have to brush it off and accept that it will happen as long as you are there. When we finally came to a stop we unloaded ourselves from the truck and climbed some nearby steps that led us into the main plaza. I have learned from my travels that Hispanic pueblos are centered around a main plaza which contains the main municipal building and a church. They also take a lot pride in their plazas and ensure that they are well maintained and spotless. I respect this greatly because as we experienced during our time in Laramarca the plaza provides a perfect space to hold community wide events. In the plaza we were greeted by the Director from the school where we would be working for the next two weeks. He took us to our accommodations in the municipal building which were both humble and comfortable in the same moment. This is another feeling that being here in rural Peru has helped me to overcome. Initially you are not only separated from the normal comforts of daily life (such as internet, cell phone, and television) but the actual living conditions are quite different than what you are used to. You are constantly engulfed in dust and showers are a rarity. In the two weeks I was in Laramarca I took two hot 'showers' from a bucket. As unbearable as it seems you begin to accustom yourself to this way of life. I am no longer constantly preoccupied with having clean clothes everyday or a shower before I begin my day. It is actually quite a relief to not always be worried about this and take more joy in the more important things in life such as food, good conversation, and bringing help to others in need. I understand in the US we have a standard for appearances and I believe it is this reason alone that makes this more simple and less focused on appearances, societal structure such a breathe of fresh air. After settling into our rooms we decided it was about time for some dinner. Kate was feeling the effects of being exposed to foreign food and a foreign environment so she stayed behind and the four of us found a restaurant in which to dine. When I say restaurant in these pueblos I mean someone's house in which you can get a plate of whatever the Señora is serving at that meal. Another aspect of life here that takes some getting used to is that the food here does not require the aesthetics that we demand in the US. It is more important here that the food taste good versus just appearing appetizing on the plate. I prefer the former to be honest. Don't get me wrong I love a good tomato that has been carved into a swan but when it comes down to it I just want good food. That night's menu consisted of Tallerín (pasta) and cafecito (cafe). The hot meal if only for a moment helped us to forget about the cold outside that had no regard for our well being. I experienced some of the coldest nights in my life in Laramarca which could only be fended off by layering on a grand majority the clothes in my suitcase and hiding beneath the four blankets layered on my bed. Up there, sleeping was more like a challenge of survival than a bodily necessity. At dinner that night we joked in Spanish over the events of our journey which had finally come to an end after four long days. After dinner it was time to retire to the cama where I would wake up in a heap on the floor the following morning. Apparently the planks of the bed frame were not enough to hold up my weight for more than four hours. Every hour thereafter the planks gave out one by one until I was lying on the mattress that had fallen to the floor with my feet above my head.

That ends my account of our journey to Laramarca. I will include a separate entry that details my experience in the pueblo over the last two weeks.

I love and miss you all and wish you the best in all your endeavors now and in the future.

The group at the waterfall just below Laramarca.

No comments:

Post a Comment