14 May Peru: In the beginning….
After spending many hours on flights, participants walked into the Lima airport on Wednesday to find their leaders, among throngs of taxi drivers and hotel clerks, wielding a big orange sign that read simply, “Gringos”.
All but one (who arrives this evening) have since canvased as much of the capital city as possible! After a good first night’s rest, we took the first day head on. The morning was spent hooking people up with cell phones and playing Samurai in the middle of an Inca Market. In the afternoon we learned about the Conquistadors on a walking tour in historical central Lima and then met the Canadian Ambassador at the Canadian Embassy. We learned about the trials and tribulations of operating here in Peru. For example, there is currently a strike by cotton farmers which has crippled the PanAmerican highway around Lima. Instead of filing grievances with courts and governments, people here will perform outrageous acts such as blocking highways with rocks, burning down schools, etc. to make their point. Our first lesson in the culture of Peru.
We then finished it all off with a family meal of (hostel)-made Lomo Saltado (beef stirfry, Peruvian style, with french fries mixed in). Not bad for our first attempt at the dish!
The next morning, in our first encounter with public transportation, we took a 1 hour bus ride outside of Lima to Pachacutec, one of many slums that surround the city. An eye opening experience for many, we visited a school and three daycare centres there. In a shantytown of 80,000 people and their district simply labeled, ‘Block E’, these children were happier than any kid back home with a Playstation. We enjoyed the visit immensely, and the kids really enjoyed our muddled Spanish introductions to the class (Me llamo …es…?). Though inspiring, it was also a chance to critically analyze what we wanted to accomplish in our volunteer work here in Peru, and provoked interesting conversation that evening on the importance of sustainable, community-requested projects.
Today was a bike adventure through three of Lima’s 42 colourful districts. An amazing local guide brought us all along the coastline, teaching about the history and culture of the area. After a quick stop at the historical Juanito’s bar in Barranco for the famous Jamon sandwiches, we continued on to ‘El Parque D’Amor’ (‘The Park of Love”) and will most likely (not) be included in the photo album of two local newlyweds.
Making it back to the hostel without a scratch, we await another hostel-made supper and a crash course in Spanish. Tonight we, strictly for informational purposes, will also sample the Lima nightlife. Our final participant will also arrive, completing the group of 11 participants.
Though the tourist thing has been great: sampling Peruvian food (empanadas, picarones, palta reyena), learning ‘un poco de castellano’, playing the longest game of ‘the human knot’ in history, not to mention getting to know each other, Sunday is our last day in Lima. Tomorrow we have our full day Lima Scavenger Hunt and Monday we bid farewell to our wonderful hosts at Casa de Mochileros.
We will begin our work in Pisco with our partner there, Pisco Sin Fronteras. We will work with their already amazing group of (60) other volunteers on various exciting projects including a park which we’ve already agreed to sponsor.
Everyone is so excited for what’s to come but still enjoying every moment. We will take turns blogging throughout the trip, and will keep everyone updated!
Laura and Jonah and the OG Peru Disaster Relief team!