This blog was written by our founder Alan Harman on the fourth day of his recent trip to Peru and Bolivia.
The drive up to Huadhua is my favourite. The first 90 minutes is main road but goes through the town (intersection) known for chichiron (roast pig) then the town (intersection) known for cuy (guinea pig) then the town for bread. You go by the town with the crazy church with the awesome frescos depicting hell. The jem is when you turn off the highway and follow a narrow, dirt road up through to mountain valleys towards Huadhua. Its 90 minutes of sublime scenery that no matter how hard I try does not translate through photos. The rare (in fact “endangered”) plant that doesn’t bloom for 100 years then blooms, then self combusts. What looks like grass or moss but are actually nettles that sting if you sit on them. The splash of deep, rich red – a peasant women watching over sheep or alpacas – amongst the green, grey, brown steep angled background. It was Ian, Octavio, Melanie and I driving. Melanie wasn’t feeling well but considering that we were at 14,500 feet and just arrived the night before from sea-level, was doing well. It was great getting “caught up” with Octavio and along the way we stopped and Ian presented all of us with Alma logo-ed jackets. It was a nice surprise. This charity feels more like a family business every day.
And then, finally Huadhua; a tiny community of 20 abode brick dwellings and a bright white school house. This looks like Lord of the Rings landscape. Or the moon. On this day the community was preparing for a festival to mark the opening of their new school house. This has been over two years in the making and started with our program and the need for a dedicated classroom. The community, the municipality and a mysterious donor (a Japanese musician with Peruvian roots who supports small school builds and whose brother knows a priest in a church near Cusco who knew about Huadhua…) came together to build the school. Today was everyone’s day to celebrate.
First we met with our two excellent teachers here, Walter and Hugo. They are obviously very engaged with the kids. Walter was busy rehearsing the dance the kids were going to perform at the ceremony. Interesting that the regular school teachers were not doing this, rather OUR after-school teacher. Walter is the guy who, along with our other male teachers, did not want the Alma butterfly on his Alma jacket because it is too feminine but here he was impersonating a bird in flight for the children dancers (looked pretty “feminine” to me) Hugo also clearly loves the kids and this community. Both of them came from arts colleges which, I think, says something about the skills needed to teach (and to really “live”) in this environment successfully and people predisposed and/or trained in the arts. The portfolios were good but Ian did have some great constructive criticism for Hugo and Walter. I doubt any other NGO would review their work with the degree of critical analysis that Ian does. I don’t think many people, likely myself included, would have picked up on the small shortcomings in Walter and Hugos’ portfolios. Made me very proud of Ian and the quality of what we are doing. It’s not even about these teachers and these kids. It’s actually something even bigger.
We met with all the community leaders and the representative from the Ministry of Education. They were mostly kissing our ass. It only reinforced myviewpoint on “community leaders” and bureaucrats from the Ministry who don’t really understand these communities and maybe not education either. Also met the mysterious brother of the Japanese donor. That was interesting and warrants a whole note in itself. What are his motives? What was he doing here? We are very, very far away from anyone who cares about these people. The kids danced which as always made me smile and laugh. There were a number of short speeches. Ian spoke (in Quechua) on our behalf. As always, he was humble, humorous, sympathetic and inspiring and 1000 times better than anyone else on the podium.
The school was christened with a hammer against a champagne bottle and then the music, food and booze came out. That was our moment to leave but they insisted that we at least eat something so we had some potatoes and alpaca then hit the road. I sat in the back of the pickup truck with Ian and a little 7 year old girl who had danced at the event. She was incredibly precocious and fun to listen to. In the cab were Octavio, Melanie, our two teachers and a mother and baby daughter who we were giving a lift to. The ride down, just like last year, was, so far, the highlight of my trip. The scenery, for me, is magical. One can almost hear the Apus. We passed by the local, unique geese and thousands of alpacas, all staring at us as if WE were the strange ones. Every turn in the road offered a different sight line. Ian chatting with the girl. She making us both laugh. The late day light. I got badly sunburnt.
Vale la pena (It was worth it).