Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tying up Loose Ends (posted by Kie)

The Graduation and Induction Ceremony

At approximately 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, about 10-12 volunteers and I started working on cleaning and putting up decorations in the Salon Comunal of Ollantaytambo for the graduation and induction ceremony of Mosqoy generations 2 and 4.

For the decorations, I decided to go for a purple, light blue and royal blue theme which I think ended up looking really nice. We put up 50 balloons, a big Mosqoy banner, made ribbons, put up toilet paper as streamers, and cut out the words “Educar”, “Conectar” and “Preservar” (educate, connect and preserve), three words that fittingly describe Mosqoy’s goals.

At around 2 p.m., we all ducked out for a quick lunch and after eating, I went to get the Mosqoy netbook with Rolando from my hostel as he had the idea of connecting via Skype with Ashli, the founder and director of Mosqoy, as well as Reanna, the communications liaison between Canada and Peru, during the ceremony. With both Ashli and Reanna on the line and netbook in hand, Rolando and I started walking the cobblestone streets back to the Salon Comunal while I talked to Ashli and typed messages to Reanna.

Arriving back at the Salon Comunal, we finished up with the decorations and each took turns talking to Ashli. It was really fun as some of the incoming students were there and I think it was their first time using Skype! At around 3:30-4 p.m., people started trickling in with food and while the graduation ceremony was scheduled for 4 p.m., “hora Peruana” prevailed and the ceremony didn’t end up starting until 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, Lindsay took pictures with some students outside the Salon while I communicated with Ashli and tried to organize a few final things in the Salon Comunal. The leaders and I decided that we would start the ceremony at 6 p.m. sharp, regardless of whether or not everyone would be present.

As 6 o’clock rolled around, the leaders and I asked everyone to take their seats and Adrian welcomed everyone to the ceremony. After Adrian’s introduction, Elvira introduced the Mosqoy program and articulated the objectives of the program. Following Elvira, Rolando spoke about the successes of the Mosqoy program (there are 43 alumni in total) and his experience of being able to travel to Victoria, Canada last year with the help of Mosqoy.

After Rolando spoke, the leaders invited the representative of the municipality of Ollantaytambo, Paull Palma Herrera, to give a speech and I think that he did a fantastic job! He encouraged all of the students and alumni to treasure and make the most of the opportunity they’ve been given. He also stressed the importance of education and how the students and alumni need to use their education to become role models and leaders of their communities since without them stepping up to the plate, the economic and social situation of their communities and Peru cannot improve.

Following Paull, Lindsay gave the Education Generation speech that we wrote together last Monday (it’s amazing to think that we can now write speeches in Spanish after only two months in South America!) and I gave a speech about my experience with the Mosqoy program and living in the house with the students and the leaders. Afterwards I found out from the two friends I invited to the ceremony that they were really impressed with both the contents of the speech and the way that I presented it. I didn’t think I did a bad job with the speech, but I was surprised by just how good they thought it was!

After I presented my speech, we passed the microphone over to Ashli who was watching the whole ceremony via Skype. Originally Ashli had written a speech for one of us to present on behalf of her, but via Skype, she was able to give the speech personally, which was really great since the students and alumni could hear it directly from her and the words probably meant a lot more coming from her.

Following Ashli’s speech, the leaders and I welcomed every graduating student to the front to say a few words and accept their certificate, a photo of their class and an agenda. Many of the Mosqoy 2 students accepting their graduation certificates became very emotional on stage and cried as their feelings of gratefulness overwhelmed them. I was not expecting tears and it was very moving to listen to their words of thanks to the Mosqoy program and those individuals who supported them.

After the Mosqoy 2 students all accepted their certificates and graduation gifts, Rolando introduced the Mosqoy 3 students and each of them said a few words. Finally, Adrian introduced the incoming Mosqoy 4 students and invited them to come up to the stage, accept their induction certificates and a small gift, as well as give a few words.

Following the formal part of the ceremony was of course, the food! There was plenty of tasty food and drink prepared by the students and their parents which was great. Everyone was served with a portion of “cuy” or guinea pig which I finally resolved to try since it was put on my plate and I thought it would be ungracious not to try it. While it didn’t taste terrible, I couldn’t really get the image of guinea pigs as pets out of my head and therefore was thankful that I didn’t get too much meat on my piece of cuy.

After we all ate, we opened up the dance floor and got everyone dancing. Elmer, one of the Mosqoy 3 students, is a really enthusiastic dancer and he provided entertainment by dancing with little old ladies and tiring them out within a couple of minutes (I will admit that I too found dancing with Elmer a little exhausting, though also a lot of fun!).

All in all, I was really happy with the way that the graduation and induction ceremony went since everyone seemed to enjoy the ceremony and party and it was great to be able to pass the time with all of the students, leaders and their parents.


On Monday night we had a party at Casa Mosqoy to celebrate my departure and the birthdays of Rolando and Elizabeth. For the party, I purchased a strawberry and chocolate birthday cake for Rolando and Elizabeth, and some of the students prepared a huge amount of popcorn and hot chocolate which was really nice.

After everyone had gathered around the table in the living room, Adrian asked for everyone’s attention and started explaining that we were all gathered around since it was my last night in the house as well as in Cuzco, and thanked me for the leadership sessions I conducted as well as all of the work I put into Mosqoy.

Following Adrian’s speech, Elvira, Dina, Mariela, Yolanda, Nohemi and Rolando also thanked me for my work, my presence and positive energy. I was honestly so touched (and not expecting thank you speeches!) that I started tearing up. Dina, Mariela and Yolanda gave me parting gifts as well and Elizabeth and Lisbeth came up afterwards to give me hugs and tell me, “Cuidate mucho. Te voy a extrano mucho. Vuelves pronto.” (Take care. I will miss you a lot. Come back soon.).

Following the speeches, we sang “Happy Birthday” to Rolando and Elizabeth, ate some cake, and then commenced dancing. We danced “waino” for most of the night, which is a traditional type of Andean dancing combined with Andean music (with Quechuan lyrics). “Waino” is really fun to dance both in groups and in pairs, and we danced the night away.

While I was tired after all of the dancing, I wanted to finish up decorating the leaders’ office so I headed into the office and worked on outlining and cutting out the leaders’ names on construction paper to place on the wall of the office (earlier in the day I had put up photos of the leaders) and called it a night at 1:30 a.m.


It’s incredible how quickly time can pass by. Though two and a half (almost three) months can sound like a long time, in the grand scheme of things, it really isn’t. Starting my journey in Bolivia on June 12th, I didn’t really know what the next few months would bring... It brought a whole range of emotions including excitement, nervousness, sadness, frustration and happiness. I felt excited to meet the Mosqoy students and leaders, nervous to conduct leadership training in Spanish, sad when I heard stories of hardships from the students and leaders, frustrated when things didn’t go as planned and moments of happiness when I felt like I was really making a difference in the students’ and leaders’ lives.

Things aren’t easy in Peru. Some students at Casa Mosqoy only get 20 soles ($7) a week which has to cover their food, transportation not only within the city but back to their homes for the weekend (for example, to commute one way to Ollantaytambo it is about 5 soles), school supplies/costs and the electricity and gas in the house. The standard of living is cheaper here than in Vancouver but 20 soles is definitely not enough for one week. Some students opt to walk to their institute or university just so they can save 60 céntimos (60 Peruvian cents), the cost of a combi ride.

It’s common for there to be alcoholism and domestic abuse in the students’ homes and for a person to have 5 siblings or more, or parents who had children while they were very young because there is a lack of education in Peru when it comes to family planning. Though the Mosqoy program is assisting the students with paying for their education and housing, it’s hard on many families since the students often are not earning anything to support themselves or their families (most can only work on their “chakras” or farms one or two days a week during the weekend).

In Cuzco, tourism thrives but many who work in tourism are suffocating as the level of competition is so high. The big tour companies suck up most of the money while the smaller agencies have to resort to dropping their prices and the quality of their tours due to the intense rivalry. Then there are companies like Peru Rail, the major train company that has over 20 trains going back and forth to Machu Picchu a day, and often doesn’t pay or treat their employees fairly.

I am writing about these hardships because I think it is important for everyone to know that organizations like Mosqoy and Education Generation are making a difference in people’s lives here and I can confidently say that I have witnessed how much the support means to the students and leaders who are receiving help from Mosqoy and Education Generation. I can´t say for sure whether Mosqoy or Education Generation’s support of youth in the Sacred Valley is creating instantaneous change or change on a grand scale, but in the very least I believe that the two organizations are generating change - just in a more subtle and incremental way. One cannot always see it but occasionally it bubbles and comes to the surface – for example, with the four Peru leaders that graduated at the end of 2009 and who are now spearheading the program down here, I can see that the program has empowered them and that they truly appreciate the help that they’ve received since they have decided to continue their involvement in the program, to live in Casa Mosqoy with the students, and to put in several hours a week of volunteer work without pay for over a year. I can only hope that the ripple effect will continue.

Final Words

With this blog post, I’d like to express my sincere thanks to everyone who supported my decision to come down to Peru and volunteer (especially to those at my workplace who accommodated my leaving for two and a half months), to everyone who donates to Mosqoy and/or Education Generation, all of the Mosqoy and Education Generation volunteers, and finally to everyone who has been following my blog posts and who has been here with me in spirit.

Un fuerte abrazo a todos,

Lindsay, Elvira and I with Cynthia, a Mosqoy 2 alumnus

The leaders and I with Paull, the municipality representative of Ollantaytambo

At the Ollantaytambo community-wide event

At the Ollantaytambo community-wide event

The leaders and I on Avenida del Sol

The Casa Mosqoy Party!

Adrian, Ebhert, Rolando A. and I

Rolando H. and I

Adrian and Elvira dancing

Notes that the students left me on the communal whiteboard

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hospitals and Holidays (posted by Lindsay)


Against all better judgment, I made the trip out to Q’enqo – a remote weaving community on the outskirts of Ccorao. I met Adrian at 6:00am at the white bridge (our usual meeting spot). I warned him that this would be a rather short trip, as I had been ill since Tuesday. “Also,” I added, “do not, I repeat, do not let me eat any form of community offering.” He laughed, recalling my experience with the potatoes in Q’enqo and agreed to supervise my intake for the day. We hopped into a combi heading along the Pisac route. The combi climbed the steep hill out of Cuzco at a snail pace. This enraged passengers who were expected at work by daybreak. “My grandmother can walk faster!” said one passenger. “Let’s go back to the terminal and board another combi” commented another. As the combi driver fought back, Adrian and I sat back in our chairs chuckling.

Adrian and I met Bacelio (the President of the weaving community) at the bridge on the side of the road and the three of us negotiated a taxi to Q’enqo. As we passed over a steep section of the mountain ridge, I felt my stomach in knots. I gazed out the window trying to disturb my train of thought. “Just a few months ago, a tour bus went over the cliff here,” Bacelio said. “Sorry?” I said. “A tour bus went over the cliff here – several tourists died,” he said nodding. “Oh,” I said, and turned my head back towards the window. My stomach now churning, I grumbled “not an opportune moment, Bacelio” under my breath.

We arrived in Q’enqo just after 9:00am and immediately I set to work. I walked up the road to Sonia’s house (a Mosqoy 3 student) and was given a tour of her home. I then proceeded to the Q’enqo school complex to examine the site where a new library was being planned. Mid-morning, Adrian and I joined Bacelio on a small patch of grass and inquired about logistics of the Kallpa K’oj projects requested the previous month. Reminding myself that this needed to be a short visit, I stood up, thanked Bacelio and signalled to Adrian that I was ready to leave. As we walked to the road, we were immediately struck by the lack of taxis – after all, it was Sunday, and taxis are few and far on Sundays. Adrian and I walked back to Bacelio’s home, wondering how we would find our way back to Cuzco. (Not having been well, hiking was certainly out of the question). Bacelio appeared from the kitchen and announced that a truck would be passing through shortly and suggested that we hitch a ride. “Why not!” I said aloud, and we made our way up the road to where the truck was loading.

We were introduced to the truck driver. He cleared the seats and suggested we occupy the seats up front. I examined the inside of the truck and decided that I would not survive the rocky/unmaintained road with my stomach in this condition. “Thank you, but I think I will ride in the open wagon” I said. The driver reacted with a blank stare. “I have been feeling very sick,” I explained, “if I need to throw up, it will be much easier for me to do so from the wagon.” He laughed and signalled for me to enter through the rear. I joined several locals in the wagon, who had already secured a seat on a large pile of straw-woven bags. “What is in the bags?” I asked. Adrian said something, but the word did not register in my vocabulary. I thought little of it and assumed it to be nothing more than rice or corn. “What is in the bags again?” I asked. “Excrement,” Adrian said. “Excrement?” I asked. “Sheep excrement,” Adrian confirmed. “Oh,” I said, “interesting.” I took a seat on a nearby bag of sheep excrement as the engine started.

As we drove down the narrow road, we had nail-biting encounters with cars trying to pass. One in particular had everyone on edge: a rather large van pulled up beside our truck wanting to pass. There was clearly not enough room for both vehicles on the road, and neither vehicle was willing to take the outside lane which overlooked a steep rock-face cliff. “You pass,” said the driver of the van. “No you pass,” said the truck driver. I was immediately reminded of the story Bacelio had told me just hours earlier and wondered if a similar situation had unfolded. “If I die,” I assured myself, “at least I will die doing something unique like riding in the wagon of a manure truck.” It took over 20 minutes of hair-splitting and measuring before the van passed and we were free to continue on.

Mid-point between Q’enqo and Ccorao, the other passengers signalled to the truck driver that this was their stop. I looked around, noting to myself that we were in the middle of nowhere. I wished them well on their way and we continued down the road to Ccorao. The truck let us off on the main road in Ccorao where we hopped the next passing combi into Cuzco. I was confronted with penetrating stares on the combi. At least a few minutes passed before I was able to piece together that the leers were in response to the strong odours of manure. I shrugged and took a seat near the rear of the combi. “Many visit Peru,” I thought to myself, “but few have the opportunity to experience Peru from the rear of a manure truck.” I smiled to myself knowing that these moments are the moments that stay with you.


I awoke to the sound of my alarm at 5:00am on Monday morning. Tears flooded my eyes as I knocked on the family’s bedroom door. The door opened and Tula appeared in the hallway. “Lindsay, it’s 5:00am, what’s wrong?” “Please, I need to use your phone” I said, “I need to call Elivra (one of the Peru leaders) and tell her that I am not able to travel to Amaru today.” “Of course, of course” she replied, “is everything okay?” “I have been throwing up all night,” I said, shaking my head, “I really don’t feel well at all.” “Take my phone,” Tula said, handing it to me. “Make your phone call and then I insist that you go to the clinic at first light.” “Okay,” I said, realizing that, after 6 days, I had finally reached my breaking point. I dialed Elvira’s number. No answer. I lost track of how many times I dialed her number, before finding the sense to call the cellphone of another Peru leader in the house. Adrian answered. “Lindsay?” “Yes, Adrian, it’s me” I said, “please tell Elvira that I cannot travel to Amaru today – I am really ill and need to go to the clinic.” “Okay, Lindsay, no problem” he said, “it is more important that you go to the clinic.”

And at first light, I did – I hopped into a taxi and asked the driver to leave me at Clinica San Jose. I waited only a few minutes before being seen by a doctor. He conducted a thorough physical exam, as I listed my symptoms. “Since Tuesday?” he asked. “Yes,” I said. “Almost a week,” he said, shaking his head. “Yes,” I said. The words did not cross his lips, but I knew he was thinking something along the lines of “You stubborn old goat!” “Wait here,” he said. He left and returned to the room in a matter of minutes. “Come with me,” he said. I followed him into the emergency holding room. “I am admitting you into the hospital for 3 to 4 days,” he said. Thoughts raced through my head, but I found myself too exhausted to ask why. I rested on the nearby bed. I watched as a mother tended to her young sick child in the adjacent bed; her eyes were weak and filled with sorrow. The nurse left and returned with a needle and IV line. She lifted my left hand, tapping it with her fingers to find a suitable vein. As she inserted the needle, tears came streaming down my cheeks. “It won’t go in, I’m sorry,” she said as she took my right hand. The pierce of the needle sent more tears streaming down my cheeks, though I was unclear as to whether my tears were out of fear or pain. “Don’t cry,” she said to me in a calm voice, “let’s take you to your room.” She guided me into a wheelchair and brought me to the sixth floor. “You’re burning up,” she said, as she put her hand to my forehead and helped me into my bed.

I awoke an hour or two later to a group of doctors standing at my bedside. “Lindsay,” he said, “we are very concerned about your symptoms and even more concerned that you let an entire week pass before being admitted to the hospital.” Not knowing what to say, I said nothing. The doctors made notes on their clipboards, as if I were a rat in a maze being judged for performance. I nodded and turned back onto my side as they left the room. I awoke again at 3:30pm, and rang the button beside my bed. A nurse entered the room. “When can I go home?” I demanded, “I want to go home.” She left the room, with promises to return with an answer. She returned half-an-hour later with another nurse, changed the IV line and proceeded to exit the room. I sat up in my bed and, out of frustration, I pulled the IV line out of my right hand. I walked out into the hall and confronted 3 nurses sitting at the desk. “Can I go home now?” I asked irritated, “I want to go home.” The nurses whispered amongst themselves and one left to retrieve the doctor. “When can I go home?” I asked the doctor.

He stood up from his seat. “You have salmonella,” he said in a firm, but calm voice, “you are not permitted to leave this hospital.” “Sal-Salmonella?” I stammered, “how?” “Yes, salmonella” he repeated, “you are not permitted to leave this hospital.” I shuffled backwards trying to absorb what I had just been told. “Okay…” I said, feeling beat, “…can I at least return home to gather some of my belongings?” I asked. “You have one hour,” he said irritated, “and give me your passport – I am going to hold on to it until you return.” Before I could ask why, he explained, “so you come back, Lindsay…so you come back.” “Okay,” I said and begrudgingly handed it over. I returned home, gathered a few of my belongings and hailed a taxi to the nearest internet café. I frantically emailed anyone I thought may be able to help me sort through my emergency health insurance in the one hour that I had been granted. I felt relief having been able to connect with a work colleague who kindly offered her assistance.

I returned to the hospital at 5:00pm. The doctor handed me my passport and ushered me into my room. I changed into sweatpants, effectively resigning myself to my hospital bed. A nurse entered a few minutes later. “Why did you remove your IV line?” “And why did you leave the hospital?” she asked angrily. “I am sorry,” I said, “I am sorry…I just…I just wanted some of my things.” She looked at both of my hands and shook her head furiously, knowing that she could not insert another needle into my swollen hands. She rolled up the sleeve of my left arm, patting my arm for a vein to appear. She inserted the IV line and left the room without saying a word. That evening, a nurse returned what felt like every 3 to 4 hours to change the fluids and increase the antibiotics.

I was woken at 6:00am by a nurse tinkering with my IV line. “Good morning,” she said cheerfully. “Good morning,” I replied. I spent the better half of the morning watching television and asking passing nurses when they thought I could be discharged. “Lindsay!” I heard from the doorway – “why didn’t you tell me you were in the hospital?” demanded Tula (my Peruvian mother). “I did,” I said, “I told your husband.” He must have misunderstood, we both realized. An hour later, I was surprised to see Kie and Elvira walk into the room. Kie recounted her week’s events at Casa Mosqoy. The morning turned into afternoon and my questions about when I could be discharged became more frequent. “When can I go home?” I asked one nurse. “Not anytime soon, my dear” she replied, “you are required to have 4 more IV lines before we release you.” I slumped back into my bed and spent the afternoon watching television.

I wasn’t released from the hospital until nearly 9:00pm. As I waited for my release papers, I struck a conversation with a small group of Italian tourists. I learned that their friend had fallen from the peak of Wayna Picchu earlier that day, breaking her arm clean. I wished her a speedy recovery and left the hospital. Eager to leave, I had forgotten to remind the nurses to remove the IV tube from my arm. I thanked my lucky stars that Eloy (my Peruvian father) is a jack of all trades and was able to safely remove the tube when I returned home. As I crawled into bed, I sighed with relief, “home at last” I assured myself.

I spent the majority of the week recovering in bed. I was eager to continue on with 5 days of rehydration and antibiotic treatments, though I had lost all remaining desire to eat. It took far too many words to explain to the family that nothing kills your appetite faster than a good bout of salmonella. Thursday came around and I found myself restless, eager to continue on with my work. Against my doctor’s orders, I decided to make the trip out to Huaran and Calca to meet with the community weavers. Although my visit was short, I was happy just to have left my bed for the day. By Sunday night, I was feeling much better than I had been over the past two or so weeks. That night, the family came over for dinner, allowing me the chance to say my goodbyes to everyone. I felt compelled to gift a picture of myself (together with my sisters) and chocolates as a small token of my appreciation for the hospitality they have shown me over the past two months.


On Monday morning, I set off for Ollantaytambo. I secured my spot in the combi beside a charming woman from the United States. As we got to talking, we realized that she knew and, in fact, was friends with my homestay family in Ollantaytambo. “Small world!” she said. “No,” I said laughing, “small Ollantaytambo.” I arrived in Ollantaytambo just after 4:00pm and settled into my homestay family. The family had ordered pizza for dinner, but, Nelson, the little rascal that he is, decided that pizza wasn’t enough, and so he ate an entire bag (sandwich-sized) of mayonnaise!

The next morning, I woke up with a strong desire to tackle the ruins that tower over Ollantaytambo. It was a 20-minute scramble to the top, and well worth it (the view was absolutely breathtaking). I sat at the base of the ruins for a while, reflecting on my experiences in Peru. I found myself smiling, reminded of the incredible journey I have had and of the importance this will hold later in life. I returned home later in the afternoon and stumbled upon Nelson in the plaza. He was eating ice cream – though, by the looks of it, he had gotten more on his face than he had in his mouth. I spoke with my homestay family and learned that Nelson had been ill all night. I reminded her that just last night he consumed an entire bag of mayonnaise. “You are right!” she exclaimed, having completely forgotten. I laughed and asked her if she wanted more children. She looked at Nelson and then back at me and shook her head. “No,” she said, “I think 3 is plenty…” I chuckled, knowing she probably could not handle another Nelson. I remain certain that he would be perfect for the role if a Peruvian version of Dennis the Menace was ever to be released. That evening, I sorted through some graduation packages in an effort to get everything in order for the Mosqoy graduation and induction ceremony on Saturday.

On Wednesday morning, I took to the streets of Ollantaytambo. I spent the day exploring the cobblestone streets of Ollantaytambo and the artisanal markets. In the afternoon, I went searching for Victoria, the President of the Cancha Cancha weaving association, in hopes that we could reschedule the meeting that I had missed the week prior. Unfortunately, I had no luck finding her or anyone who knew of her in Ollantaytambo. I laughed at the irony of it all. I returned home late afternoon for a bowl of white rice – the only thing I feel confident I can eat at this point - and Nelson and I played a game of soccer in the streets. I spent the evening closing out project tasks before turning in for the night.

The Journey Continues…

They say you haven’t traveled until you have taken on South America. I hope that my time here shows this to be nothing short of true. In reflecting on my experiences in Peru, I feel grateful to have been awarded such a unique opportunity and am proud to have contributed to something both tangible and sustainable. I have been humbled by my interactions with the weaving communities and remain hopeful that I have, in some way, impacted the lives of those living in rural Peru.

Though, I admit, I am sad to be leaving Peru, I find myself eager to continue on with my journey. I part now to Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Venezuela and, time permitting, Guyana. I anticipate and am sharp to take on more challenges. And I am ambitious to absorb new experiences ahead, because, for me, experience is the journey.

Signing off,

Lindsay Zibrik
Education Generation Peru Fellow 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Counting down the days in Peru (posted by Kie)

From attending a wedding on Friday evening, buying office furniture for Casa Mosqoy, purchasing decorations for Saturday’s graduation and induction ceremony, and possibly spraining my big toe during a soccer game yesterday, the past few days in Cuzco have definitely not been boring.

On Wednesday night of last week, Adrian, one of the Peru leaders invited me to attend a local wedding on Friday in Cuzco. I accepted his invitation to attend as I thought it would be an interesting cultural experience and I haven’t been to a wedding for a very long time (I think I attended one when I was about 4 or 5 years old, but I don’t remember much of it since I was so young). The wedding was of a classmate of three of the Peru leaders, Adrian, Rolando and Ebhert. The wedding was supposed to start at 5 p.m. but we didn’t end up leaving the house until just after 6 p.m. I thought that we were going to be late but the wedding ceremony didn’t end up starting until 7:30 p.m. so it all worked out in the end.

The hall where the wedding ceremony was held was quite spacious and the ceremony was very nice. Originally, I was a bit worried about my attire since I didn’t bring any formal clothes to Peru but there were quite a few people who were casually dressed (in jeans and/or track jackets) so thankfully I wasn’t underdressed in the end. Though Elvira and I didn’t know the bride or groom, we were invited to the stage to take photos with the bride and groom which was pretty funny.

Afterwards we headed to the reception hall (at the School of Journalism) which was decorated really nicely in purple and white. The party started off with some dancing followed by the throwing of the bouquet and some speeches by the bride, groom and a few of their family members. At around 11 o’clock, dinner consisting of lechon (roasted pork) with beet salad, a type of potato and a corn dish was served, accompanied by pisco sours and chicha morada (a purple corn drink). Dinner was followed by more dancing and cake at around 12:30 a.m.

The next day, Elvira and I were supposed to wake up at 7 a.m. in order to go and buy furniture for the leaders’ office in Casa Mosqoy but considering the late night, we didn’t end up waking up until 9 a.m. First, we headed to the internet café to check our e-mail and I saw that I had received an e-mail from Reanna about an Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IFAD) grant that Mosqoy is applying for and for which the Peru leaders would have to write a letter regarding how Mosqoy assists and empowers indigenous people and communities in Peru. After checking our e-mails, we headed to El Mercado Molino to scope out the furniture. Thinking that maybe there might be cheaper furniture at El Baratillo in Santiago, a market held on Saturdays infamous for the sale of stolen goods, we decided to head there (but not to buy stolen goods). After looking at many tables and chairs, we settled on purchasing a big table and four chairs from a shop that was somewhat arbitrarily chosen (it was pretty hard deciding where to buy from since all of the wood furniture at all of the stores seemed pretty similar).

The next half an hour was spent trying to chase down a taxi that would be willing to drive us back to Casa Mosqoy with all of the furniture. Elvira walked up the street a little bit in the hopes of that it would be a bit easier to catch a taxi while I guarded the furniture. 5-10 minutes later Elvira was in the passenger seat of a taxi and had negotiated with the taxi driver that he would drive us to Casa Mosqoy for 9 soles.

The next morning at 8:30 a.m. the leaders and I started our work on the IFAD letter on the rooftop patio of Casa Mosqoy. It was interesting to see how the leaders articulated their ideas and worked together. We ended up working until approximately noon when we decided to go to the Lima vs. Cuzco futbol game at the main stadium in Cuzco. We took a cab to the stadium and bought our tickets for the game. I was really excited to watch the game since I had been wanting to watch a futbol game in Cuzco before leaving the city. It was a great game since there is a high amount of rivalry between Lima and Cuzco and the Cuzco fans in the front had some red gas that they released (which I hope and believe was harmless!) as well as threw toilet paper on the field while jumping around and cheering.

After the futbol game, the leaders and I had a late lunch and later that night, after I went to visit my homestay family, we worked on the IFAD letter a bit more but as it became quite late and everybody was tired, we agreed to finish the letter the following night.

On Monday morning, I gave Elvira and Ebhert their official letters regarding their acceptance to come to Canada, study English at the University of Victoria, and give workshops/speeches about Peruvian indigenous culture. When I gave Elvira her letter, she smiled and said “Que chevere!” (How great!). I am really excited for Elvira and Ebhert to come to Canada as I think it will be such a great opportunity for them both and I am hoping to give them a tour of Vancouver when they come in January!

After giving Elvira and Ebhert their acceptance letters, I met up with Lindsay to write an Education Generation speech in Spanish after which I did some computer work.
That night, the leaders and I finished writing the IFAD letter and sent it to Reanna, Mosqoy’s Canada-Peru liaison. We all felt pretty good about the end result since everybody worked together as a team and were able to express what they wanted to say in the letter.

Tuesday involved purchasing decorations for the Graduation and Induction Ceremony that is coming up this Saturday and teaching a semi-private English class to Elvira, Ebhert and Adrian. After the students cleaned the house and their rooms and bathrooms, 10 of us went to play soccer. Mariela, one of the students, ended up kicking the ball too hard and it went over the fence into the city streets below. Alex and Elmer ran to get another ball from the house and we continued playing though about 15-20 minutes later, I kicked one of Adrian’s shins too hard and hurt my big toe on my right foot quite badly (I think it may actually be sprained) so I had to sit out the rest of the game.

After the game and dinner, the leaders and I made a few short thank-you videos for my law firm, Koffman Kalef LLP, who donated a great deal of funds to Mosqoy and Education Generation and were incredibly supportive of me coming over here to volunteer. Making the videos was pretty funny as the Peru leaders struggled with pronouncing “Koffman Kalef”. I told them that some people back home also have problems with pronouncing the name of the firm.

Following the making of the videos, we went over the Graduation and Induction Ceremony agenda for Saturday and assigned speaking roles for everyone.

As you can see, it’s been a very busy week for me and the next few days will also be packed!

Tonight I am holding a trivia night for the students at the house; tomorrow is the final Mosqoy 4 meeting during which we will make the final preparations for the Graduation and Induction Ceremony and the soccer and volleyball tournament; Saturday is the Graduation and Induction Ceremony; Sunday is the community-wide soccer and volleyball tournament; and finally Monday is my last night in Casa Mosqoy so we’ll probably have a party of sorts!

It’s really incredible how quickly the fellowship has passed by and I’ll be sad to leave!

The Reception

Our table with the bride

The boys, Rolando, Adrian and Ebhert with the bride and maid of honour

Sunday morning meeting to write the letter to the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility

We needed some entertainment (Rolando and Ebhert dancing; Rolando has a shirt on his head to display that he is playing the woman in this dance)

When we lost our soccer ball...

Group photo at the basketball court which we use to play soccer

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Moving into Casa Mosqoy (posted by Kie)

On Monday I arrived at Casa Mosqoy at around 1 p.m. with my bags only to find that I could not open the door with the key that Elvira, one of the Peru leaders, had lent me. I knocked on the door to see if anyone was home and could open the door from the inside. Dina, one of the students, came running downstairs and I asked her whether she could open the door from her side. She said that extra security had been put in the door (which I may have put in by accident by turning the key in the lock so many times) and therefore she could not open the door.

After trying to open the door multiple times from my side, I asked whether anyone would be coming home from lunch and could possibly open the door. Dina responded that ‘yes, there should be other students coming home soon’ and ran up to the second floor where her room was in order to keep a look out for any students that might be arriving. Approximately 5 minutes later, she saw Sandra get off a combi and called to her to come to the house and help open the door. However, Sandra did not hear Dina and started walking down a street away from the house. I asked Dina for Sandra’s phone number so that I could call her and when Sandra picked up, I asked her if she could come to the house since I could not get in.

Sandra showed up a couple of minutes later and she tried opening the door for about 10 minutes but could not. I decided to call Adrian, the Peru leader in charge of house supervision, and he mentioned that he had another set of keys in his room that might work. However, they did not work either. After another twenty minutes of attempting to open the front door from both sides, we finally managed to open it which was a great relief. In other news, living at Casa Mosqoy has been fun though a bit noisy (people really like to blast their music here!) and there is no aguas calientes (ie. hot water).

Coming from a developed country, I have been spoiled with always being able to access hot water so it is definitely difficult to shower in ice-cold water. Just the thought of it makes me shiver! At times there is also no running water: though you can turn the tap upstairs to get the water running, the leaders and students turn it off at certain times during the day so that they don’t use it all up. The house definitely needs a lot more amenities including a fridge, shelves/cupboards to put food and kitchen supplies in, an oven, perhaps a microwave and more furniture in general. I am thinking about doing a fundraiser or two when I get back home specifically for these amenities.

After I moved in, Elvira, Mariela and Yolanda helped me set up my bed and at 8 p.m. we had a Casa Mosqoy meeting to discuss the cleaning of the house, the new Mosqoy rules and the invitations for the Graduation and Induction Ceremony next Saturday. The students agreed to buy the invitations the following day and to go to Ollantaytambo on Wednesday afternoon in order to distribute the invitations.

The next morning, Elvira and I went to visit Lindsay in La Clinica San Jose as she had contracted salmonella. I was happy to see the Lindsay looked and felt a lot better. A few of us had been urging her to visit the clinic for awhile but alas, due to her stubbornness, she did not go as soon as she probably should have. After visiting Lindsay at the clinic, Elvira and I went to Western Union to withdraw the funds to pay the institutions for the students. We had to wait there for awhile and after we received the cheques to withdraw the funds from Scotiabank, we decided to grab some lunch before heading to meet Mariela and Yolanda to choose and design the invitations.

Following lunch, Elvira and I went to Scotiabank to withdraw the funds for the institutes. I was happy to have a secure “secret” flap in my backpack to hold all of the 17,487 soles! We headed to Antonia Lorena and Khipu to pay them. At Khipu, we were told to come back at 5 p.m. because in the past, Mosqoy had obtained a discount for all of the students since they are affiliated with an NGO, but the person receiving payments could not authorize the discount and so we had to wait for Senora Violetta who approves any and all discounts (I will admit this was just a teensy bit frustrating since it was probably my fourth or fifth time at Khipu in the past week).

That night, the leaders and I held an impromptu meeting with some of the students in order to determine who should be invited to the Graduation and Induction Ceremony. We wanted to make sure to invite some important members of the Sacred Valley such as the mayors of Ollantaytambo and Urubamba. The previous mayor of Ollantaytambo attended the Graduation Ceremony last year so we are hoping that David Canal, the current mayor of Ollantaytambo, will be able to attend the Graduation and Induction Ceremony this year.

On Thursday evening, I held a leadership session with the Peru leaders where three of the leaders gave 5-10 minute speeches on a topic of their choice. Adrian spoke about technology and different communication methods; Rolando spoke about the problem of tourism in Cuzco; and Elvira spoke about the maltreatment/abuse of children. It was interesting listening to their opinions and seeing how they communicated differently. Each of us also filled out evaluations about each speech so that all of them can see what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Following the speeches, we discussed constructive criticism and I asked the leaders to think of different situations and how constructive criticism could be applied to those situations. Rolando asked how constructive criticism could be used in a situation where people disagreed on the number of guinea pigs to bring to a Graduation Ceremony (for example, if some people thought that one guinea pig should be provided by every person and if some people thought that one guinea pig should be provided for every two people). Elvira said that in this situation she would ask whether everyone wanted to eat and if so, they would have to each bring a guinea pig. Then the leaders asked me what I would do, to which I responded that I would probably ask everyone to vote and the majority would decide the outcome.

At the end of the leadership meeting, I asked the leaders to each write their name on the bottom of a piece of blank paper and pass the piece of paper to the left, after which each person had to write a couple of phrases expressing what they valued about the person whose name was written on the bottom of the paper. For example, a couple of things that the leaders wrote on my piece of paper include: “I like your behaviour with us [the leaders], the students and the way that you use to express yourself” and “I like that you are happy, very interesting, tolerant and a person who collaborates a great deal with others”. It was a really positive way to end the leadership session and I think that in general, people don’t compliment each other enough which is why I really enjoyed doing this exercise.

The next couple of days will be filled with buying furniture for the Casa Mosqoy office, my final leadership session with the leaders and holding a trivia night for the students.

I’d like to end this blog post on a happy note – more than half the money has been raised to bring two of the Peru leaders, Elvira and Ebhert, to Victoria and Vancouver next January! They will be in Victoria to study English and also give workshops and speeches about traditional Peruvian Andean culture.

Just another fiesta (in Ollantaytambo, August 15)

Monday morning in Ollantaytambo (August 15)

A box of suggestions, compliments and comments for Casa Mosqoy that I made on Tuesday morning

The invitations for the Graduation and Induction Ceremony (quite happy with how these turned out)

Inside the invitations

Charades on Tuesday night at Casa Mosqoy

Me, Dina, Mariela and Yolanda during charades on Tuesday night

Adrian, Ebhert, Alex and Rolando H. during charades on Tuesday night

Sunday, August 14, 2011

One Potato at a Time (posted by Kie)

One potato at a time (or one step at a time) – I made up this motto this week as the past week has not only been a test of my potato eating skills (I still haven’t gotten used to the amount of potatoes people eat here), but a test of my patience. While I am generally a very patient person, my tolerance has been tested this week with people being late or not even showing up for various meetings (and for some reason not contacting me in order to notify me that they are running late or not going to be able to make it). However, I have decided to take all of this in stride and simply explain to those tardy individuals that one should contact me when they are running late or not able to attend a meeting or reunion.

Today some of the Mosqoy 4 students and I went on a teambuilding daytrip to Pumamarka as one of my objectives during my time here is to integrate the Mosqoy 4 students and make sure that they are all comfortable with each other before they make the move to Cuzco. All of the Mosqoy 4 students and I were supposed to meet in the Plaza of Ollantaytambo at 6:30 a.m. sharp (I reiterated this point to them yesterday although we had set up this meeting a long time ago) but only one student was in the Plaza at 6:30 a.m. After we waited for about half an hour in the cold, I decided to call one of the other students only to find out that she was in the middle of work. She told me that her and another student would arrive in approximately 15 minutes (which turned out to be more like 30 minutes) but I was glad that they came as it would have been rather pointless to go on a Mosqoy 4 Excursion with only one student since the point of the daytrip was to have the Mosqoy 4 students bond with each other (I also would not have known the way to Pumamarka). While two more students were supposed to come, we decided to leave for Pumamarka since we did not know where they were and they did not answer their cellphones.

The hike to Pumamarka was very picturesque as you get great views of the mountains and pass beautiful streams along the way. The three girls and I chatted about their work, families and communities as we hiked, and we also tried a few plants and berries along the way. As two of the girls currently work for PeruRail (a train company that runs trains from Ollantaytambo and Cuzco to Machu Picchu), I asked them what their work schedules were like and was quite taken aback when Karina told me that she works from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. (12 hours) and Rosmery works from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. (12 hours) every day but only get paid 465 soles a month (approximately $170 U.S./month). I thought that it was quite unfair that they get paid so little when the cheapest PeruRail tickets from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu cost $35 U.S. (for an hour and half ride) and there are at least ten trains going every day. It was also interesting to find out that the company is actually Chilean-owned and therefore is not subject to the minimum-wage law that the new president of Peru just instituted as the law only applies to public companies (the law deems that minimum wage should be at least 675 soles a month for Peruvian public companies).

After hiking for approximately two and a half hours, we ran into Edison, one of the Mosqoy 4 students who we were supposed to meet in the Plaza at 6:30 a.m. in Pumamarka. Apparently he and another student, Marco, showed up at the Plaza at 7 a.m. but somehow we managed to miss each other. We hiked a little higher to find a place to rest and then brought out our snacks to share. While resting, we talked about travel, country life and how I was the only one in the group who had never owned any “cuys” (guinea pigs) or worked on a farm. After resting for a little while, we got up to walk around the ruins and take some photos and then decided to hike back towards Ollantaytambo.

Tomorrow I return to Cuzco and move into Casa Mosqoy to see how the students live on a daily basis. While the amenities will be very basic (I expect cold showers, no running water during certain times of the day and no heating), I look forward to my new experience and to delve even deeper into my volunteer work!

Pumamarka ruins

The Mosqoy 4 students

Rolando's family (taken during my house visit yesterday) - The point of the house visits is to see and document how the students and their families live for Mosqoy and the students' sponsors. Rolando is only 18 but his oldest brother is 45. In this photo, you can also see his adopted sister who is 6 years old.

Nohemi with her family (taken during my house visit on Friday)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Beat, But Not Beaten (posted by Lindsay)

For me, travel has always been the true test of adaptability. Travel brings many challenges – both mental and physical – testing your ability to absorb the unanticipated and to rebound from the negative. This week has brought for me a test of resilience and endurance.

On Wednesday evening (August 6), I found myself at Casa Mosqoy conducting interviews with the Peru Leaders. Half-way through the first interview, my head began to feel heavy. Minutes passed, and the heaviness turned to dizziness. My eyesight began to blur and I could feel the room spinning. I backed slowly against the wall, knowing that I would fall faint to the floor without support. I crouched on the floor, trying to regain control, wobbling the camera as I attempted to continue filming.

As we walked back from Casa Mosqoy, I could feel my stomach turning. I sat down at the table, and ate dinner – a decision I would later regret. The upset in my stomach was worsening. “I feel horrible – I don’t know why, but I feel horrible,” I muttered to Kie, looking for some sort of explanation. Of course, I knew, she could not elucidate the situation and knew, from past experience, finding the cause of upset would be near impossible. I turned in for the night, hoping that I would wake the next day feeling better, particularly since I was set to leave for a five-day hiking trip into the remote weaving communities of Parobamba, Bombón, and Pitukiska.

I woke the next morning at 9:00am, exhausted from a long night of coughing. “How do you feel?” Kie asked. “Not good,” I groaned, “not good at all.” “I can’t make the trip out to Parobamba, Bombón and Pitukiska,” I muttered as my head dropped back to my pillow. I woke again at 5:00pm and wandered downstairs. I was greeted by Tula (my Peruvian mother). “You don’t look very good…I want you to go to the clinic,” she said in a concerning voice. I shook my head to communicate that I would not be going to the clinic. “You were up all night coughing,” she said, putting her hand to my forehead, “you really need to go to the clinic.” Tears came streaming down my face. “I will be fine,” I choked, not really even believing my own words. And, for the first time in two months, I found myself homesick. “Weak in body, weak in mind,” I reminded myself and crawled back into bed.

I awoke the next morning feeling as horrible as the day before. I sunk my head back into my pillow and declared another bed day. It was not until Saturday that I felt well enough to leave the house. I laced my running shoes and convinced myself to leave the house, even if just for a few minutes. Not knowing where else to go, I walked to the nearest internet café. Almost immediately, I felt faint and short of breath under the penetrating rays of sunshine.


Sunday I awoke with strength and determination to leave my bed. I set off for Urcos, a small town an hour outside of Cuzco. I didn’t know much of anything about Urcos, only that I had seen the town featured on a postcard in Cuzco once. Though, I was not bothered, as my only objective for the day was to leave the house. I took a seat beside an older gentleman on the combi. “Where are you from?” he asked politely. “Canada,” I said, smiling. We struck up a conversation that lasted until we reached the perimeter of Urcos. “Welcome to Urcos” he said to me as we passed by a big blue lagoon. “It’s lovely here,” I said, wondering how I would spend my day.

Captivated by the deep shades of blue in the lagoon, I decided that the lagoon would be my first stop. I spent a good couple of hours walking the perimeter of the lake, stopping to take in the sights of wild pigs, sheep and children playing by the lagoon-front. I was greeted by many locals from Urcos, who were also spending a leisurely Sunday by the lagoon.

I followed the road back into the town centre, where I would join hundreds of locals shopping for a bargain in the traditional Sunday markets. I was taken by the sheer breadth of the markets – dozens of vendors set-up shop, selling everything from fruits and vegetables to undergarments and chickens. I spent the afternoon examining the offerings of each vendor, before settling on purchasing 4 mandarin oranges and a small package of laundry detergent for 1 sol. The vendor looked at my once-white runners and my pants which have been covered in thick film of dust since June, and handed me another package. I laughed, assuring the vendor that one would be enough.

I hopped on a combi in the direction of Cuzco, stopping briefly in two small towns on the outskirts of Urcos – Huaro and Andahuaylillas. I also passed through Oropesa, a town that is known to locals for its giant rounds of bread.


On Monday morning, Kie and I left the house in search of a birthday cake for Elvira (one of the Peru Leaders) who had celebrated her 22nd birthday on Sunday. We walked from shop to shop, struggling to decide on a flavour, size or price. After some time, we stumbled across a small bakery and found a cake that was to both of our liking. We returned to the house and in the afternoon, Kie and I met Ebhert (another Peru Leader) and set off for central Cuzco to purchase some well-needed items for Casa Mosqoy. After much deliberation, we settled on buying a stainless steel kettle, a large 2-litre thermos and a whiteboard for the house. I was content with our purchases, feeling confident that the students of Casa Mosqoy would put these items to good use. In the evening, Kie and I attended an English class taught by a new Mosqoy volunteer (Lisa), who became interested in the organization when she was on tour with the travel company that one of the Peru Leaders works for. She taught basic vocabulary and phrases to the students, but made a few crucial spelling errors which made the students burst out into laughter. I joked to Lisa that I would be holding an English class the next evening if she were interested in attending.

As 7:00pm rolled around, we gathered in the common area of Casa Mosqoy and I signalled for Ebhert to retrieve Elvira so that we could get her surprise birthday party underway. We waited in the dark for what seemed like ten minutes, before Elvira and Ebhert walked through the door. “Surprise!” we yelled, breaking out into song. For the remainder of the evening, we talked, listed to music and danced. Just before 8:30pm, we called it a night and headed back to our homestay, a mere 15 minute walk from Casa Mosqoy.

As quickly as I began to feel better, I became ill again. On Tuesday night (August 10), I developed symptoms classic of an ingested bacteria and/or parasite. Feeling much worse than I had the week prior, I have been confined to my bed for the entirety of the week. “Beat, but not beaten...” I grumbled to myself, wondering what else was in store for my vulnerable immune system.

It is my hope that I mend fast and am able to enjoy the remainder of what little time I have left in Peru. I am eager to rejoin the weaving communities and complete all outstanding activities, particularly since this week (August 9) marks the United Nations' International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, a day that highlights the need for preservation and revitalization of indigenous cultures, including indigenous arts, crafts and intellectual property.

Note: Because I have little to document in the way of photos this week, I am attaching several photos from a Cuzco festival attended back in July, as well as photos from Urcos.