Monday, May 31, 2010

Interviews, Plans, Meetings in PERU

Work is well underway currently and we have been busy planning, organizing, and meeting with students!

I have finally begun my interviews with the students and it is definitely a remarkable experience. The interviews are also completely in Spanish, and it is a complete thrill to conduct a full 30 minute interview in a foreign language!! The interviews are done with the intention to get to know the students more, hear their stories, their fears and hopes, challenges and triumphs...This material is very valuable because we get to know the students, we are able to let their sponsors get to know them better, but we are also able to convey their stories to the world at large. In the developed world it is so easy to get caught up in our lives, in our comfort (and hot water... which I dearly miss) and to not even realize what is going on in other parts of the world. These interviews, and these student stories, will hopefully paint the pictures of their lives, the images which many of us are unfamiliar with... and inspire us to help. The interview material will be used for projects after the fellowship, but to keep all of you in the know, I will be posting shortened and rough transcripts of each interview on the blog! It’s a little hectic right now, but I will catch up on the interview posting next week!

I had two wonderful interviews in the past week that left me smiling for hours afterwards. I can’t wait to share their stories with everybody!

Meanwhile, enjoy some of the photos below:

Lisbeth, a student I interviewed, and her brother in front of their home.

Running after buses trying to catch one to Cusco.

Hiking around the Inca ruins in Ollantaytambo.

On Sunday, we held a large Mosqoy meeting. All of the Mosqoy generations (1 through 3) were invited, as well as their parents. It was actually quite great as the meeting itself was organized by Mosqoy 1 students, Elvira and Ebhert. The intent of the Mosqoy program is to educate and create leaders in the community, so it’s always fantastic to see that the students are being proactive. We talked about the upcoming Mosqoy 1 graduation ceremony, administrative things, and addressing any questions and concerns that the parents had. It’s interesting to see to what degree the whole family is involved. This program not only gives hope to the student, but to the family as well. Everybody is involved and hopes that the promised education occurs.

Our fearless leader Ashley leading the way in a quiet afternoon hike through Ollantaytambo.

Overlooking Ollantaytambo and the Inca ruins in the back.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Inspiring Students

Today we held the first meeting for Mosqoy 3. Mosqoy 3 is the third generation of Mosqoy students, one that will hopefully begin their studies in Cusco in August. It is not yet guaranteed that they will begin in August, as not all sponsors have been found.

Today´s meeting made all our work more real. It also made me realize the emotional roller coaster that this experience will be. I can hear thousands of blurbs about the students, read thousands of reports about why it would be beneficial to sponsor students...but nothing compares to seeing their faces, learning about them, and hearing the worry and hope in their voices as they talk about their future.

The meeting was short and informal. We had wanted to let them know of a few things and make sure that they are all aware that we have a big meeting on Sunday (with all the Mosqoy generations). It is very funny how these meetings are organized here- something like this would never work in Canada. It is all by word of mouth as not all students have emails and phone numbers. We had let the word spread that we had arrived to Ollantaytambo and would like to meet, and incredibly most of the students showed up on Wednesday morning.

In order for all the donors and world at large to hear the words of the students, I will be conducting interviews with all of their Mosqoy 3 students and documenting their stories. Today, we had booked the interviews and I begin my interviews (in Spanish!!! Slightly nervous about this) tomorrow morning. I am looking forward to this as these students have very interesting stories to share. Just in the short meeting today, I was so inspired both to help them and be better in my own their anticipation, worry, and clear hope to help their communities and improve their lives through their own education and personal development was so raw and real. Sometimes, that rawness gets lost in our own lives.

Another very significant moment occured today while I was practicing English with one of the Mosqoy 3 students. We were playing around on Google Earth and he was wondering what my house had looked like. I had located my home and he looked at it a little bit. Finally, he started pointing to the different areas of my house and longingly said how one day he hopes his home has roofs like mine, and how he hopes his home has windows like mine as well. I don´t know how exactly to describe what I felt after that- I guess ´sad´kind of works. I was confused. I felt unfairly privileged. I felt like I needed to help. I felt like I CAN help. I felt like I could be more thankful, more aware, more ...

Mosqoy 3 meeting

The Fiesta That Never Ends

I am experiencing, feeling, seeing, and doing things that I have never done before in my life. This trip to Peru and this fellowship have both been incredible experiences...ones that I could not have prepared for before.

Fiesta Choquekillka has finally wrapped up which means that my earplugs can be put to rest. I no longer have to listen to the music every night until 5 AM. But this also means that the grand fiesta is now over. I can best describe the feelings of the town as something similar to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. To those that were not there, I am referring to the spirit that encompassed the whole town. But this description does not do the Ollantaytambo festival justice. As I mentioned before, the WHOLE town shuts down. Stores are closed, hostels have their doors locked, and there is not a restaurant open in town.

Perhaps the most amazing part of the festival was the accepting and friendly nature of all the locals. We would watch and say hello to our students who were keen to take us into their dances and introduce us to their friends. We would often times join the group by the name of Qhapaq Negro to which Raul, the co-founder and co-director of Mosqoy, belonged to. Offers of food and beer could never be refused, and the dancers always made sure we were welcome, dancing, and were well fed. The last night of the festival, there is always a huge procession from the church to the center (where an all night rock concert occurs after). Each group dances along the way showing off, for the last time, their proud steps. Ashley, Jasmine, and I were quickly swept up in the dances, given their heavy hats (which included jewels, sequins, and ... lots more) and we danced the procession away. It was incredible. Along the way, we managed to scoop up a TV reporter, dress her up in the costumes, and dance along the cobblestone streets with our very own marching band behind us.

The whole time I was disbelief at the beauty of life, and realizing that it is the relationships in one´s life that make a person happy.

Ebhert, Mosqoy 1 student, and star of the festival!

Dina and Yolanda, sisters and Mosqoy 2 and Mosqoy 3 students.

Ashley, Jasmine, and I with Mosqoy students and festival dancers. I love this photo. The students are incredibly friendly, welcoming, and nice.

Ashley joined in on the dances. Jasmine and I did as well, but unfortunately there is no photographic evidence of this. Needless to say, I looked very tall.

The many props we had tried out.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Welcome Home!

Welcome to my new home! I will be spending the next month and a half in a quiet, little Inca town by the name of Ollantaytambo. I named the last blog ¨Among the Incas¨, but that title is much more appropriate for this entry!

The 1.5 hour drive to the new home was stunning. Around us were beautiful mountains, crisp blue skies, and the occasional llama of course! The Peruvian landscape is stunning. I have met up with Ashley and Jasmine, the director and assistant director of Mosqoy, and together we made the trip out to Ollantaytambo. The three of us have been arranging and planning the next little while in Peru and the work that needs to be completed.

Ollantaytambo is a beautiful Inca town, with a population of around 2000 people, situated admist Peruvian mountains. The official website of the town definies it simply: ¨There's only town in the Earth of the Incas, where the time took a rest.¨ The Inca water system still runs through the narrow, cobblestone streets, while the Inca ruins remind us of the greatness of the people that walked these very same streets as us, and lived in the very same homes as us. This is my new home. I will be visiting many of the students in the surrounding villages.

I was and still am slightly nervous about spending an extended period of time in such a small place (it could not be a bigger difference from hustle and bustle of living in Hong Kong), but I am looking forward to this challenge. I think it will be a really unique chance to focus on my work, on the Peruvian culture, and on building strong relationships.

We came to Ollantaytambo to a perfect welcome as we made it right in time for a four day festival and celebration in honour of the town Saint- Sr. de Choquekillka. This means that Ollantaytambo is on pause, and a grand fiesta takes over. Almost the whole town is split into 17 groups (dances) and every day we enjoy beautiful costumes, scary masks, delicious Peruvian food, and dances in the square and around the town. Today, we even watched bull fighting..matadors and all! It is absolutely unbelievable ...I still cannot believe I am in Peru. It is really great as four Mosqoy and Education Generation are dancing in the dances and we have had a great time watching them!

In between the attempts at Spanish conversations, festival watching, planning, and Peruvian culture...I snapped some photos. Enjoy:

Our student Ebhert dancing with his group in the square. He is in the middle with the big-nosed mask. This was before he had eggs, water, and a slew of other things thrown at him as part of the dance.

The many masks of the festival.

The residents tirelessly twirl and dance for four days straight. Last night, or well morning, the festival went until 7 AM. As the town is small, we could hear the music and fireworks the whole night. It was the first time I slept with earplugs!

The procession from the Church to the center.

I am contemplating bringing back home a really cool Peruvian mask.
The devils of the festival dance on the roofs.

Bullfighting was part of the festival and we watched in horror, interest, and curiousity as the matadores teased the bulls.

Fighting the sniffles with delicious coca tea while watching the festival.

My new room!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Among the Incas

It is already my third week in Peru! How unbelievable! Life in Peru has been great so far. I did not even think that I would be travelling so soon yet again, let alone spending my summer living in South America, but that is life…!

My third week in Cusco has been fantastic- aside from the sore throat and the sniffles, things are great. I have been drinking lots of coca tea, though, which is supposed to help! I also have a bag of coca leaves to chew, but they don’t taste that great…and so I am not too keen on doing it.

As I have not begun my official Education Generation and Mosqoy duties, my week has mostly consisted of learning more Spanish and enjoying the sights of Cusco. Learning a language can get frustrating at times and not being able to completely be myself in Spanish (as one of my housemates put it) is rather challenging. But at the same time, it is SO thrilling to have a conversation in Spanish.

The week consisted of sightseeing, partaking in the seriousness that is winning a volleyball tournament, pisco sour tasting (a popular Peruvian drink that mixes eggs and alcohol), some salsa watching, more mini-bus hardships, and meeting new friends.
I have also made a visit to Casa Mosqoy and met four other students. Casa Mosqoy is a house where the students can live in Cusco free of charge while they study. They have recently moved to a bigger house at the beginning of May and I met up with Rolando who introduced me the other students. Currently, there are about 5 other students living in the house as most of them are either doing their practicum or are back at home in the Sacred Valley as school is not in session right now. We hung out for a little bit- speaking in Spanish and English. They explained to me what they were currently doing, the joys and the problems that they have encountered while moving, and we also had laughs and about romantic relationships!

Ashley and Jasmine from Mosqoy are coming tomorrow, and I need to get healthier, so I am off to sleep. Enjoy the photos below of some great touristy times in Peru.

On Sunday, we had decided to venture off to a nearby town called Pisac. It is popular for its large Sunday market and also the Inca Ruins on these mountains. We had decided to opt out of the easy way of taking the bus or taxi to the ruins on the very top, and decided to instead hike the mountain you see in the photo. It was exhausting because of the altitude, but very worth it!

The colors of Peru

The unbelievable Inca remains

Along the hike we enjoyed stunning Peruvian scenery.

Traditional Peruvian wear amidst Inca ruins.

On my way home one day, I stumbled upon some sort of political gathering. “Willy-We are with you today, tomorrow, and forever.”

The beautiful streets of Cusco

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mosqoy 1- Rolando

Mosqoy 1 is the first generation of students from the Sacred Valley of Peru which Mosqoy and Education Generation have funded. Through the generosity and kindness of many donors, this group of students has finished their studies and are now completing their programs by doing their mandatory practicums.

This week I got a chance to visit one of Mosqoy 1 students and see him in his practicum action! Rolando is 20 years old and is from Ollantaytambo- a town nearby Cusco. He spent the last four months studying English at the University of Victoria as well, so we would switch between Spanish and English- both wanting to practice the other's language. Having studied tourism, Ronaldo is doing his practicum at a travel agency in the heart of Cusco- Plaza de Armas.

We first met on Saturday and spent the afternoon talking about Mosqoy, his experiences in Canada, and his plans for the future. He invited me for lunch with his friends and I had a typical local meal...and also tried to understand what his friends were talking about in Spanish!

After completing his practicum, Rolando hopes to continue work in tourism. He also practices English every day and currently we are planning practice english practice sessions. Also, we are setting up times when I will visit Casa Mosqoy and hold English conversational classes with him and the other Mosqoy students!

I stopped by the travel agency today as well and took a few photos! Enjoy:

Rolando with his coworker

Myself, Rolando, and his coworker

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Los Turistas

My first week in Cusco is coming to a close and it's certainly been an unforgettable experience. Most of my days are spent studying Spanish as during the day I have lessons, and at night I work on my homework. I actually quite like this routine. I take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the everyday life in Peru.

My days start off with breakfast with my Peruvian family. It's incredible how much we take language for granted..I've quickly learned how frustrating it can be to not be able to express myself and precisely describe what I mean. But within this challenge lies fun as well... as at every meal my Peruvian family and I sit together and try to converse and find common grounds in foreign thoughts and languages. We come from different parts of the world, see the world through different lenses, yet manage to to laugh together every morning about some minute details. This is why travelling is so great. And why life is really very simple.

One of the highlights of my day is getting to school. Although taxis have a flat rate of around $1CAD and I could go to school by taxi every day, I instead take public transit each morning. At a cost of around $.20CAD, the public transit in Peru is something else...The main component of public transit consists of mini-buses which are basically slightly larger vans. In Peru, however, these vans fit ... simply put, incredible amounts of people. Or not even incredible amounts- uncomprehensible amounts is the better description. So here I am each morning, taller than everybody, sitting (sometimes standing bent over) with 20 other locals in a small van. It's incredible.

Cusco is a very interesting town. I try to take in everything for what it is and not pass judgement. The city is beautiful in its core center, but is also surrounded by obvious poverty, unfinished homes, and struggles. The struggle of the locals can often times be seen on their faces, but so can the passion for their friendships, children, or their love for sports and dance!

Below, enjoy some of the things that my eyes have been feasting on during my time off from school....

Plaza de Armas

Beautiful cafes in the center

There was a festival in Plaza de Armas

Traditional Peruvian wear

My teacher took me to a cemetry in Cusco. They are very different than those in Canada.

View of Cusco from above


Cristo Blanco overlooking Peru