Just the first 5 days, but what a roller coaster! Written by Alicia Machin, very entertaining.
WEDNESDAY 24TH FEBRUARY; to Lima and the slums! We got bus to the airport at 5.30 I´m the luckiest person – was upgraded to First Class and given an invitation to the VIP lounge. I was so smug and smiling like a Cheshire cat! Free food and drinks and internet! However it wasn´t so great as our flight was delayed and delayed until finally at about midnight they eventually said we couldn´t fly until tomorrow. We were taken to Holiday Inn which was incredulously luxurious…. enormous double beds and SO comfortable although we had to be up at quarter to 5 so had hardly any sleep.
THURSDAY 25TH FEBRUARY; a very smooth two hour flight to Lima where we stepped out of the aeroplane to a wall of heat and we met Alejandro and Lucho who work for Quest and run the school and our program in Villa Maria. They filmed our arrival paparrazi style! About an hour in a bus, so hot. We were all very excited and nervous at the same time. Lima doesn´t seem very exciteing, unnatractive and bustling and it´s surrounded by shanty towns. We were greeted with “GRINGOS!” by all the children in Villa Maria. Lots kissed us hello and were so sweet.
The school is a basic wooden and cement structure with a corrugated iron roof, but very adecuate. There are three rather cramped bedrooms on the top floor with bunks. SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND people live here in Villa Maria, CRAZY! We are at the bottom of the hill where the slum ascends. Brightly coloured half finished structures precariously built into the rock/hillside. It´s now midnight and what a busy day. I love it though, so much! We played football and chatted to children while the cooking team ventured off to discover the market and culinary facilities. We have a small basic kitchen with only a gas hob to cook on so will have to learn to be adventurous with the cooking! We had a feast on the balcony/terrace area – it´s covered but no walls. Ripe tomatoes and avocado, boiled eggs and bread.
Then we trekked up a million steps to a football pitch and after ignoring some rude youngsters who were far too cool for gringos and games, we attracted a bunch of younger children (from the age of about 2 to 12) and entertained them with Follow The Leader, Simon Says (aka as El Rey Manda), Stuck in the Mud and The Oky Koky which was hugely popular. They were so happy! Then we shouted PISCINA and like the Pied Piper of Hamlin leading a pack of rodents we escorted hoards of excited chilren to the complex which is below the school to go swimming. It´s crazy all these chilren of the same age are each others aunts, uncles nieces and nephews as each family has six of seven children! Also brothers and sisters of 10 years old look after baby brothers and sisters by themselves. A big outdoors pool with tons of children. I played with Jon and Junoir in the pool and taught lots of children A Ring of Roses which they loved. When the whistle was blown we hauled shivering children from the water. I had an adorable girl Elisabeth on my back all the way up the hill. Somehow everyone else escaped upstairs but I was stranded and bombarded by hundreds (about 20) new little faces. Lots hadn´t come to the pool today as it was a cloudy afternoon.
We watched 12 year old boys and girls having a Spanish style sexy (Step Up!) dance class and all wished we could dance like them! I taught them a Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea which was possibly an error as every child wanted to play with me and were fighting over me for the next hour. At 6.30 we went in tuk tuks (they are the main means of transport here and the place is infested with them) with Lucho to the centre of Villa Maria which is very civalised for a shanty town. We had no idea what was on hold…… and ended up representing Inglaterra with just the measely 9 of us as invalids and cooks had stayed at home. There is a big dance show/spectacle this weekend which large groups of youngsters from Chile and Ecuador have flocked here for, in their matching outfits.. we felt slightly left out! There is a huge stage in the Plaza where we too have to perform a dance tomorrow. AHhhhH. Quite intimidating as the other countries appear to have been practising for ages and are taking this very seriously. The thing is organised by a well known Peruvian dance group called La Nueva Semilla (or New Seed) and they are organising events in Villa Maria for the next 3 weekends which is a big thing here.
Tonight was the integration of the countries so we played stupid games on concrete tennis courts like who can eat the most, a variation of an egg and spoon race with mouths and lemons, and I being the shortest was wrapped in loo paper like a mummy. Unfortunately our team was in rather mal humour (prob due to the lack of sleep) and the fact that each other country had c. 50 participants and chants! We got back at 9 and had pasta with chicken (that the cooks had bravely butchered) before a very well earnt bed. Quite comfortable in our sleeping bag liners apart from there is an abundance of ants which I sincerely hope do not molest me. I can hear a million dogs barking AH go to sleep doggies!
VIERNES EL 26 DE FEBRERO We woke at 8.30 to a beautiful blue sunny day! The breakfast team had prepared a fantastic array of mango, banana (of which there are a prodigious amount of varieties, these particular ones were orange coloured!) and oats and milk. We then trudged up to the top of Villa Maria to visit one of the poorest communities who live in slapbang houses. We saw a few houses that Quest built and we are going to paint some and build two more. We had lots of children following us like bees to a honney pot. I had two very cute limpets who clung to me; Lady and her sister. Lucho taught us a marionette/puppet 80s style dance for tonight. Aaron and Tom control the rest of us with strings! Quite entertaining!
Then we went swimming before lunch…… more children than yesterday, lots of jumping and ring of roses, and a train. Tuna and bread and peppers for a late luncheon before a very lethargic dance practice in the sun. We assembled our costumes and plastered our faces and hands with white rather toxic looking paint which I´m not sure is supposed to be for the cuerpo. Romy being make up chief designed our red heart shaped lips. All black outfits. We arrived at the Plaza in a little bus to a booming BIG crowd surrounding the stage. We then had to watch about 5 dances and musical performances by Peru, CHile and Ecuador – Folkdance and traditional dress. Lots of sweet little children danced too. Tons of people kept asking to have their photo taken with us. OUr dance was quite a success. MIraculously remembered our moves. We had take away CHIFA (what they call Chinese) for supper after 11. Bed time!
Saturday 27th Feb
The usual breakfast with delicious granadilla (kind of passion fruit) which are quite a novelty. We prepared stalls for the Fair which we put on every saturday on the tarmac outside the school. We coloured posters…. I had Cuenta Chapas (Count the bottle tops in the jar) which was easy as pie to prepare so I went with Pato (another Peruvian who works for Quest) to a big market a 20 min walk. Such a discovery. A large sheltered array of little shops; grocers, a spice shop, repulsive looking fly surrounded fridge non existent butchers….. I think I will be vegetarian from now on!!!
The fair started at 11 and was quite a success. Auriole did face painting, Romy hoops, Constance Twister, and the boys football amongst other games. Hoards of children appeared from all the different nearbly communities which make up VIlla Maria to participate in the different activities and we rewarded them with sweeties. Strraight after we trooped to to the pool. Normal spashing and jumping and GRINGO! We keep telling the usual suspects our real names. I made lunch with Vicky, Panzanella and garlicky pesto pasta salad. Lucho made up a dance to a remix of Boom Boom Pow, quite hysterical, hip hop. A frenzied hurry putting on gringo trousers (stripey pyjama articles) and clockwork eyes with black paint and we piled into a little bus to VM centre. We were pushed later and later so we ended up not doing our dance at all. After watching some quite disturbing 12 and 13 year olds wearing nothing and doing “Sexy Dance” like strippers in a night club (is it surprising they have children so young).
At ten we went to Marta´s (she works in the Quest school too) daughters 8th birthday dinner. The house is in a slighly wealthier part of Villa Maria ans is very swank and modern with spanking new technology and a huge sound system. We performed our dance for her family and cousins and friends who were all very welcoming and then ate fried chicken and potatoes and a sticky brightly coloured icing clad birthday cake! We hit the road at midnight and were all falling asleep on the side of the road whilst waiting for a random bus to randomly pass to take us home. Oh I forgot – this morning we were all put on red alert by the news of an 8.8 richter scale earthquake in Chile that happened this morning and has killed lots of people. SCARY! Also Emily couldn´t resist informing us that the whole of the Pacific coast has been put on tsunami scare. That is right here, ah I wish we weren´t told about these things!!
SUNDAY 28th FEBRUARY aka domingo familiare (family sunday).
After breakfast we sat on the roof in our bikinis (slightly suffering in my and Romys case due to the thirds of cake last night) and made the most of the sun and a bit of free time…. we discussed various phenonoma and reminisced over English holidays and Cornwall and Romy´s grandfather in Montecarlo. Lunch was GOOD; eggs and mayo and avocado and bread. Dance practice before family sunday at 5pm at the complex when we made fools out of ourselves infront of lots of children and their parents. We put on huge big dusty disney costumes to our disgust in this heat, and pranced and danced around on the basketball court. Then we did our puppet dance, and Boom Boom Pow and our Recycled Fashion show. We prepared our outfits this morning.
We got a bus to the big stage for our last performance in the Plaza. We went to a Chifa for supper before. There is a copious amount of Chinese here. I hung out with the young dance group from our community who also performed. Eventually we did our fashion show, such fun strutting up and down the catwalk! I sported a water box branded “Vida” as a skirt, a shiny silver bag as a bonnet and a bandeau bikini top. Others had been more creative. COnstance had created an amazing dress out of a bin liner and cigarette packets. Aaron was the best strutter out of the boys. Tom did a hysterical horse trot up and down! We had to wait a while before Boom BOom Pow. It was AMAZING! At the end the boys lifted me up really high (being the smallest is rather irksome at times!) and I had to balance and throw my arms out to the crowd!
Back home (its quite bizarre that we all call it that now!) and time to hit the straw. It´s March tomorrow and lots of schools here go back although our school starts on Wednesday so we have a couple more days of peace! On Tuesday we are going to visit schools in small groups and help with non academic classes like painting. Can´t wait! We are all loving it here so much and the children are so tremendously happy. In fact all the people here seem to be joyful, far more so than the glum Ecuadorians who we ecountered in Quito. The people here don´t seem very religious but they do have a few very simple churches here, we passed a small ordinary looking building earlier which was echoing with gospel like singing and Emma and I have planned that next sunday that we will go and endure a mass experience here. We were all laughing on Saturday morning at the thought of our parents sitting by the computer all day on BBC World News and in trepidation about the earthquake and tsunami scares, but DON´T PANIC, we´re alive!
Oh, and Joe is back fit and well!