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.