Archive for the 'Peru Travel Log' Category

Peru House Project – June 2013

Jon Ross on Jul 11th 2013

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Poverty is not Picturesque

I spend a lot of time in impoverished areas—ones that have also experienced disasters—so the neighborhoods where I do projects are not usually considered “pretty.”

the view from our new rooftop

no mini-warehouse to store things

part of the old house

A traveler I met in Ethiopia once remarked, “poverty is not picturesque.”  I agree, but often the surrounding areas are quite scenic.  I thought I’d share some images from my daily walk to and from work here in Urubamba in the Sacred Valley of Peru.  I purposely chose to rent a room a 40 minute-walk away from the project site so I could get some exercise every day.

We work from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. so the morning and evening walks give me a time for private reflection, as well.

Here are some of the sights I see along my route to work:

15,000-foot snowcapped mountains rise above the town of urubamba

the street where you buy food for your llama

after 20 minutes walking in the cold, sometimes i debate whether to take a moto-taxi

the blue wall - half way to work

other people going to work at 6 a.m.

monesterio san agustin

just outside of town - inca-trail guides cleaning their equipment, and themselves

how could such a beautiful river destroy so many lives - rio vilcanota behind our house

arriving at work

looking back from the site

on the way home, i might stop and get a snack in town

deep-fried sweet potato- and pumpkin-flour doughnuts with fig syrup - picarones - yum

lots of moto-taxis ("motos") in asia they call them tuk-tuks. half motorcycle, half pinball machine

moto-taxis ("motos") are called tuk-tuks in asia. half motorcycle, half pinball machine

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Travel Log – Peru – June 2013

Jon Ross on Jul 11th 2013

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MicroAid in the Macro World

Here at MicroAid we are committed to being as environmentally conscious as possible; even on a personal level I attempt to generate zero plastic waste.  I bring my own bags to the market and do not buy water in plastic bottles.

I use a SteriPen to purify water from the local tap.  Not only does it save the environment, but it saves money too.  It purifies water using ultra-violet light, and has become one of the most essential items in my travel kit.

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Peru House Project – June 26, 2013

Jon Ross on Jun 26th 2013

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Living La Vida Loca

After two months in Peru, I think I’ve come to accept the fact that I am not just visiting to do a quick project, I am living here.  I figure, if I’m renting two apartments (the one below shares a compound with an orphanage in Urubamba) in a country for more than an entire season, and I go to the market everyday to buy food, and know people in the street, I think that qualifies as “living.”  Of course, my Spanish is getting just good enough so I can make myself misunderstood.

my second floor apartment in urubamba

I have stopped thinking that I can maintain a close continuity with my life in the U.S. during my absence, but I look forward to resuming my routines and my friendships when I return.

The project is going well—the walls are up and the wood forms for the beams in place—and I feel strong, even though I continue to deal with persistent and tenacious intestinal parasites.  (Ah, the pleasures of working in the field.)  And I had to extend my return date till August 19th so that I can complete the project.  That has always been part of the MicroAid plan: stay till the project is done.

There will be three weeks down-time at the beginning of July, while the ceiling-beam concrete dries.  I will head to Mancora on the north coast and visit my friends there and surf.  Better than watching concrete dry.  :0)  When I return to Urubamba, we will remove the wood forms, finish the walls, plaster the inside, stucco the outside, pour the floor, and install the doors and windows.  (That big wall in the background is not part of our house.)

It feels strange to miss the northern hemisphere summer—we just had the winter solstice here.  The solstice is a big reason to celebrate the return of the sun and the longer days in the towns in the Sacred Vallley and the Inca-Quechua-Spanish culture—lots of interesting festivals, but freezing temperatures—at night, especially—11,000 feet in the mountains. (Above, a potato competition in the country where they invented the tuber—2,300 varieties.)

As I type, I am sitting at the worksite in an overcoat, with a hat pulled down over my ears.  My gloves are off as I type this draft—to be sent later when I have Internet—but my fingers are getting numb.  More later after the thaw.

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Peru House Project – Shout Out

Jon Ross on Jun 23rd 2013

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Erin

A complete oversight all this time: I have neglected to mention Erin O’Rourke, an expat American living and teaching English in Urubamba.

with angela

She directed us to our worthy beneficiary family, and has been our MicroAid interpreter since my preliminary fact-finding trip last year.  Erin knew that the Ormachea-Hermoza family had lost their adobe home in the floods of 2010 and had been living in tents and shacks ever since.  That introduction, her language skills, and her patience have proved invaluable to us and especially to the family.

winter solstice - sunset over the andes

The fate of life that leads MicroAid to survivors of disasters is truly remarkable.  Our heartfelt thanks to Erin for her help!

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Peru Travel Log – June 10, 2013

Jon Ross on Jun 13th 2013

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6-10-13

Pisac Poseurs

The crew works six days a week, so on Sunday, Melissa, Erin, and I went to Pisac, the other quaint tourist town, after Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley.

ollantaytambo tranquilo

Terraced Inca ruins flow toward the town down the steep verdant hillside.  The wide floodplain below glitters with the snaking Vilcanota River and irrigated fields.

Pisac itself is geared for tourism, being the first town in the valley that you hit after leaving Cusco.  We saw more white people and heard more English than anywhere in Peru.  The main plaza is filled to capacity with stalls selling souvenir everything: alpaca scarves, “Inca” figurines, “natural” artists’ pigments, and llama keychains, in addition to fruit, vegetables, and roasted meat on skewers—probably guinea pig.

Overheard at one of the stalls: an American dad saying to his teenage son, as the kid hands over $15 American dollars for an ”authentic” Inca keychain worth about 2 soles, “Once you make a deal you have to stick with it.”  Talk about roasted meat on a skewer!  Is that true?  I’m from Los Angeles; I’ll have to ask Mike Ovitz about that one.

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Peru Travel Log – June 8, 2013

Jon Ross on Jun 13th 2013

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6-8-13

Eating for Two

Just rid myself of some kind of intestinal parasite after three weeks trying to use a local homeopathic remedy: eat a big handful of mint leaves upon waking up and just before going to bed.

urubamba market - my mint dealer

Ultimately, I had to resort to antibiotics, but because of my total aversion to them and my mild state of denial, I wanted to try the natural cure first.  After local advice and some Internet research, I was convinced of the efficacy of the minty-fresh leaf.  Apparently, the mint should cause an environment in the gut that the parasites don’t like—at all.  It should send those critters running for the exit—so to speak.  For a little while it seemed to have worked, but alas, no, they came back angry at being annoyed.  So, I had to go for the nuclear option and bomb them with Cipro.  That worked.  Now I just have to reestablish all the good bacteria in my system.  Luckily there is a real Korean restaurant in Cusco with authentic kimchi, which will help.

the real deal at sa rang che

I might also continue the mint regimen, as I was beginning to enjoy my morning and evening “salads.”  Ah, the challenges of working in the field.

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Peru Travel Log – May 21, 2013

Jon Ross on May 22nd 2013

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5-21-13

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I got to see the Torrechayoq festival in Urubamba on Sunday.

A day-long parade of dancers and musicians—dozens of crews in different amazing costumes—snaking through the town from 9 a.m. till 7 p.m.

Like the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, except this one goes on all day.

A test of endurance for Jesus.

But also Quechwa celebration and fun.

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Peru – Travel Log – May 14, 2013

Jon Ross on May 15th 2013

 

5-13-13

Things are good here.  Projects are moving forward—slowly, but surely.

our site in urubamba backs up against another structure

While waiting for plans to be drawn up for the MicroAid homes…

Here are a few pics from an adventure I was taken on over the weekend by some archeologists: a little-visited Inca site about two hours from Cusco.

curved and perfectly matched stones indicate a ceremonial site

We all piled into combis and taxis to get to the ruins near the town of Anta and a half-hour hike up the mountain from a nondescript spot along the road.

Plenty of ancient mojo—with caves with Inca walls inside, sun dials, and alters perfectly aligned with astronomical features.

The site had that “Raiders of the Lost Ark” feel, and one of the archeologists was definitely channeling Indiana Jones.

nobody really knows how the Inca used this “sundial”

We didn’t find any golden idols though, but the potential is still there, I am told, if you know where to look.

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