Monday, 12 May 2008

In Urubamba

Written by Hannah Reid - Peru 2008 Year Out Volunteer

Ok, so my goal of writing a group email every week has already failed! Gotta say though, living in a family in rural Urubamba is draining, and although interesting for me, possibly rather boring for you to read about.

We arrived in Urubamba on Saturday (26h) morning. It was a two hour bus ride (buses are a lot slower than taxis!) but we couldn’t sleep for the breathtaking view. The green fields with little colourful workers in them, the startling blue sky and the white fluffy clouds- seriously Peru doesn’t know Melbourne’s ugly grey clouds, they are always white and fluffy and make me happy!- it’s just gorgeous. At some stages in the journey you can see the top of a mountain which is topped by snow. Apparently it had much more snow on it ten years ago, but it is still beautiful. I know it is clichéd, but the photos really don’t do the landscape justice- the Sacred Valley is just beautiful.

Anyway, so we got to ´Bamba and two by two we were taken from the main square by our host mothers. Apparently we were not capable of carrying our packs three (very small) blocks so our mother, Monica, got us a tuktuk – three wheeled taxis driven by people who enjoy running us down! We turn up to our house and figure out that it is a hotel/hostel thingy, meaning Gem and I are living in relative luxury, each with our own massive (but very cold and empty) room and free internet. Spoiled! The family consists of Monica (runs the hostel), Raoul (works in tourism and is only home 3 days a week), 18 year old Paulo, and 8 year old Patriciso – will I never escape brothers??

Saturday and Sunday was just exploring and settling in. Monday we all turned up to school. When we got to school the kids were made to stand, military style, in their class groups while we were seated on chairs in front of them. Each class then sang us a song or recited poetry. Very cute. Then the whole school sang the Peruvian national anthem and some smart cookie suggested that we sing ours to them… We decided to only sing the first verse as, in a ratio possibly true to that of Australia, only two of the nine of us knew anything past the first verse. It’s really sad how many times we all had to think ahead to remember the words.

On Tuesday, after teaching, Gem, Izzie and I went to Cusco with Guille (our in-country agent) to buy the school a much needed photocopier. We presented the photocopier on Wednesday and again were serenaded and showered with confetti.

Wednesday night saw Gem, Izzie, Jess and I very excited about infamous quiz night at our café, the Muse Too. Unfortunately, due to giardia slowly dwindling our group down, we became ¨Team Aqium minus 6¨. Needles to say, we four Aussie girls failed miserably against the two other teams of six or seven British and American volunteers in a quiz, might I add, shamelessly dominated by questions about British football and rugby- biased much? We are determined to do better this week though!

Anyway, the rest of the week as mainly teaching. Sports class is great- they love Hokey Pokey and Duck, Duck, Goose. And English is lots of fun (but challenging) for us. We went to Cusco again, I went on a quest to find Vegemite, which is apparently available at one place in Cusco… sadly they chose not have any in store for me! Now, I’ve got to tell you… the taxi ride from Cusco to Urubamba is like an hour long roller coaster ride- you just never know if you’ll survive it. It costs 6 soles each (about$2.50) and I´ve come to the conclusion that, despite the lovely countryside, it is best to stick your ipod in and close your eyes so as to ignore it every time you almost run over a dog or, you know, a small child. Taxi drivers do not like
to abide by speed limits, and enjoy overtaking other speeding taxis, especially around blind spots.

On Sunday we went to Pisac- about thirty minutes away, and a whole lot less life threatening taxi trip- where they have this amazing markets. It is like Queen Vic markets, only cooler, much cheaper and possibly larger.

This week we started the construction side of the project- hiring a builder, buying some of the materials needed and groping around in bank accounts for the fundraising money which we seem to have spent on a photocopier and a builder. We may have just enough to finish the initial project, a fence surrounding the school, but at this stage we won’t be able to start anything else like buying toilet paper for the kids, buying notebooks and pens, and starting a hygiene regime which the kids really really need! This week’s puzzle is how to fundraise in Australia, from Peru… any ideas, let me know!?

Yesterday Jules and Sarah stumbled across a goldmine. They went out to buy chocolate but were approached by the shopkeeper, asking if they were Australian volunteers… Turns out that above their shop is a room dedicated to the Antipodeans Abroad volunteers. The room includes:
- Comfy chairs
- Big screen TV
- DVD player
- Sound system
- Restaurant food and service
- Bar, and if we get tired from too much food, alcohol and dvds,
- Mattresses and doonas!!!

After school today we all went to check it out and came to an instant consensus- we are in love. The first thing Rosie and Jose, the shopkeepers/gods, said to us was ¨this is your home, treat it as your home¨! Seriously, sorry mum, not coming home! Did I mention that they sell chocolate that tastes like lindt?? Love!

Anyway, I’ve gone on enough. Must go, we’re having dinner at our newfound oasis and then beating the British at Quiz Night.

Love Han


  1. Hi there,

    Think it's important that you give those Brits a run for their money in quiz, once you all stop going to the clinic, a bit of Trivial Pursuit practise in order I think. Challenge them to the Aussie version!! The secret room sounds very Lion,Witch Wardrobe/Harry Potter/Peru Style.
    Have fun.
    Oliver's Mum

  2. Hi Hannah.
    My names Kate Reid, I went on Antips last July-Nov and was at Ccotohuincho school too. I just wanted to know how our fence (well...poles) are going & say that its great you're going to finish it! We ran out of time/money.
    Also, not sure if you'd know, but are any volunteers with a family with Juan-Carlos & Paqui (parents) and Andrea & Camilla (daughters) in Calca? They were my family last year.

    Hope you have a great time.