Friday, May 30, 2008

More photos!

The driver is feelin´pretty cool.
Simon and I at the waterfalls.

Playing with a girl at the orphanage.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

3 Photos Only - Internet is too slow

My sexy bug-bitten leg.
Catherine being our bus "yeller" - just like we saw in Lima.

Erika and I at the South Pacific in Lima.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Banana trees

As I sit in my bathing suit writing this, I look down at my legs, and all I see is a carpet of ugly, red black fly bites. Not even treeplanting has been able to rival the amount of those buggers who have feasted on me. From the knees down, I am a bumpy, red sea of itchiness. Erika won a point today when she got bitten on the bottom lip.

That being said, not even the bugs could keep us away from visiting a superb waterfall in the jungle today. We all squeezed into a large van and drove up dusty, windy, rocky roads until we came to our hiking spot. So, here we were: hiking in the jungle! It was such a treat – we hiked through a narrow trail, tropical trees of all sorts on either side of us. Immense leaves, sporting shiny greens, mossy vines, just like those you see hanging around in jungle movies, and colourful insects made this hike one of the most colourful and spectacular I have ever done. Once we reached the waterfall, there was a plethora of shrieks, everyone ripping their clothes off, running (almost slipping) down the path and reaching the bottom of this gigantic, shining waterfall. Just like those countless paintings you see of thin, yet eternally long waterfalls that have been painted to sparkle just the right amount, this waterfall provided the most exotic entertainment. Standing under or just by the waterfall fuelled our adrenaline, giving us the most powerful urge to scream and yell exuberantly. It was like the heaviest rainstorm imaginable – and there we were, yelling our heads off, as water pounded all over and around us. It was extremely exhilarating and refreshing, and everyone was in a fantastic mood.

Last night, the group came over for our weekly meeting. We hold our weekly meetings in the place where Yannick, Catherine, Erika, and I live, which is the community centre of our Peruvian partners: La Casa Comunitaria de Salud. Erika and I share a room, and Catherine has her own room just across from us. Yannick was given a room, but he decided to drag his bed to the unfinished fourth floor, which is essentially just a dusty ground with walls and no roof. So, Yannick’s room is the roof and a great place to hang out. At the meeting yesterday, we had chocolate cake in honour of Erika’s birthday, and it was lucky enough to rival my very own moist chocolate cake recipe. Afterwards, Yannick, three students, and I went up to the roof to chat. It became dark as we were up there, and the stars were wonderfully bright, so we all lied back on Yannick’s bed to gaze at the stars, as classical music floated from his laptop. We talked about the solar system, the sun, the moon, and the noises of Quillabamba. It was amazingly serene. We were all a little disappointed when the laptop’s batteries died and the music stopped, but then – we discovered that Jean Philippe, one of the students, is a Jukebox himself. He is a musician (and misses the piano like I do), and he knows so many lyrics by heart. So, not only can he remember words, but he can sing entire songs, completely in tune. After another two hours of him singing, and us joining in when we could, the five of us headed out for a bite to eat. We had a great time eating omelettes and sharing funny stories. Jean Philippe told us about a party he had, where they were playing baseball and someone was throwing the baseball to his friend, and as his friend backed up, he rammed into a mailbox. We all laughed about laughing at someone else’s expense, and then Yannick exclaimed, “And it’s not even funny!” as he slammed his hand on the table and broke the table’s glass. We all gasped and looked around the restaurant dumbfounded, but of course, this made us laugh even harder. Jean Philippe proudly took a picture of us sitting around the table, making sure the corner with the broken glass was in the photo. We kept laughing and then walked the students home.

After returning from the waterfall escapade, Catherine, Erika, and I went on to the roof to work on the computer and read the students’ articles. Catherine’s pants kept falling off; it was hilarious. Erika took pictures of Catherine’s pants on their way down, and we laughed for hours. In fact, we are still laughing now.

In about twenty minutes, we are all going out for Guinea Pig (Cuy), which is a delicacy here. Let us see how the group handles that..!

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Who knew that one could start a van with a rock? Yes, it can be done, and even better, I can do it!

The supervisors, Erika, and I visited the boarding school yesterday where two of our students are working. It is quite a ways out of town. We took the van of our Peruvian Partner (which only Yannick drives, since women apparently do not drive here) to the boarding school. Half the way there was paved, the other was narrow, full of gigantic holes, and extremely dusty which they call a "road".

We finally arrived there, perhaps a little bruised from the car ride, and saw right away how outstanding this place was. Again, here was another paradise; a beautiful yard and school rooms, with so many facilities, such as an art room, and a basketball court. Of course, this school is surrounded with papaya trees and shockingly beautiful mountains. These kids come from extremely underprivileged homes, and it is completely free for them. So, they stay for the week, and go back home on weekends. However, some of these kids are orphans or cannot return home, because of rape or other violence, so they stay at a kind of orphanage on the weekends.

The most amazing part of all this is that an Italian woman of 76 years old founded this institution. When she retired at 64 years old, she ended up in Quillabamba by complete chance and wanted to help the kids here. She is rich to begin with, but now she goes back to Italy every so often to fundraise more money. I had the chance to meet her, and she really has an enormous heart. She also has an incredible amount of energy and hope, which just shines all around her.

When we were leaving the boarding school, the van wouldn´t start. Yannick wasn´t sure what to do, so we asked a guy who worked there. He opened up the car where the battery was (incidentally, not at the front of the van, but rather inside where people sit), hit the ends with a rock, and the car started. It was magic. We all laughed. Last night, the van wouldn´t start again, so this time, I used the rock and tapped the ends of the battery. Naturally, the van started. I can´t wait to come back to Canada and become the fixer of all stalled vans with my magical rock!

Last night, our water was turned off (the people who we rent from forgot we were there for the night..?), so Catherine, one of the supervisors, could not take a shower. She was so desperate that she washed her feet in the toilet bowl. It was very funny - Erika and I even took pictures, which I will be uploading soon. This morning, we figured out how to turn on and off our water, so hopefully, no more toilet bowl washing will occur.

Showers are always cold, and there are no toilet seats. You just crouch over the bowl. Apparently, Yannick´s technique is to stand on the rim of the bowl and then crouch. He says it´s the best position for... bowel movements. Also, it is a lucky day when there is toilet paper available. To be prepared, we always carry napkins around with us.

Days here are very short - the sun goes behind the mountains at 5 pm, and by 6 pm, it is completely dark. It is their winter here, but as a Canadian, you could never tell, due to the sweltering weather. Yannick sleeps out on the roof because the evenings are cool and oftentimes windy. It is always overcast when I wake up, but the sun is always at full blast by 11 am.

It is beautiful, dusty, and buggy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Quillabamba, my Peruvian host community, is a bit of a diamond in the rough. It is a breathtaking town, surrounded by mountains with snow peaks all around. Even though it is a dirty and polluted city, there is so much greenery. Banana trees line the streets, as well as many other fruit trees. I love the fact that we can eat fruit from just off the trees here. We ate fruit called "grenadine" when we stopped in a shanty town on the way to Quillabamba. It was a delicious, sloppy fruit: it looked like an orange from the outside, but more like a pomegranate on the inside. Buying fruit and chocolates from little kids is difficult... mostly difficult to say no to these smiling, cute things and walk away... and it is hard to swallow, especially because there are seldom parents around.

We have been madly busy these last few days, traveling and getting organized. We flew from Lima to Cuzco and then took the craziest bus ride from Cuzco to Quillabamba. Dad would have died fifty times over. We were flying around roads that curve like you would not believe; we drove alllll the way up the mountains, and then came allll the way down. My stomach was all over the place. At every curve, and believe me, there were many, the tires squealed, and we would all get shoved to one end of the bus. At the end of this treacherous, never-ending-ride, the bus drive thanked us for putting up with his driving.

We visited a coffee factory today, seeing how the process works. We were able to test taste a few different kinds of coffee, which were arranged from "best" to "worst". I enjoyed nibbling on the beans. After seeing labourers dry out the coffee beans in the hot sun and then seeing them nearly break their backs by shovelling the beans into bags, bag after bag, under the hot sun, gives me a whole new outlook on "free trade". This labour looked unbearable to me. It was fascinating, yet somehow perverse to watch.

Tomorrow, we will be visiting the students at their work placements. Some are placed in orphanages, others in schools. More news about our week sorting out the students will come later.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Finally, somewhere where I am a visible minority, and people keep telling me that, don´t worry, once you get in the sun, you´ll tan and be brown.


Lima is a very exuberant city - it rests by the South Pacific and is home to 8 Million Peruvians. It doesn´t feel that big, though, because the city seems so divided into different ¨quartiers¨. Wading around in the ocean was fun; half the group went in the water in their underwear. Even though it is winter here, the ocean is much warmer than I´ve ever experienced it. What a treat. It´s also neat seeing all sorts of greenery which I don´t normally see, such as Palm trees and countless others which I could not identify. The best thing about the greenery is that it´s all over the city! Trees and bushes line all of the roads - it is so refreshing, compared to our cement and no-tree-to-be-seen cities.

Of course, the city is very loud (Peruvians are in love with their car horns) and the extreme difference between rich and poor is very apparent. Seeing young children sleeping on the side of the road and then trying to sell you some candy is very difficult to swallow, especially when the other end of town hosts a five-star, valet-parking Marriott Hotel.

People drive like complete maniacs here. The buses are interesting too - they look like massive vans, except with a door on the side and a guy manning this door. He is constantly yelling out where the bus is going, so if you want it, you wave it down, pay him the fare, and hop inside.

I love the constant language medley of English, French, and Spanish that I am immersed in. Can´t wait to get a better grasp of this language. Today, I had a semi-conversation with a 12-year old girl, so that must be a start!

Tomorrow, we are off to Cuzco. We will not be arriving in our host community until Monday, after a 10-hour long bus ride up and down windy mountain roads.

Today, we were served a mango smoothie for breakfast - I will continue to look forward to this!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Peruvian Escapades

Revitalization of my blog is happening for a very exciting reason. Tomorrow, I leave for Peru. I will be spending six weeks in a town near Machu Picchu called Quillabamba. I am going as a leader with another Bishop's student, as well as two supervisor profs. We are the supervisors of 17 cegep students.

You may follow my adventures here.

This may be hoping against hope... but what if I found a piano there?! And what if I played it?!