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!
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)