So perhaps I haven’t lost my charm, if you want to call it that… Fortunately, I can con, or more positively put, “convince”, others in to helping, such as receiving support to transport materials. As cement layers were being laid for my bedroom floor, we fell short of arena gruesa (thick sand), an important constituent for leveling. In my frantic search to find more arena gruesa and a way to transport it, I came across some construction workers who came to my rescue after finding me distraught.
Mache currently is in an interesting disposition as a Sierra town since there are a significant number of construction workers and engineers contracted to construct a paved road. From the lower lying valley, they are attempting to connect these upper lying Sierra towns via a more established roadway. However, construction is nearly impossible now with the rainy season. Making headway with the roads is quickly reverted by Mother Nature – the torrential downpours destroy the pathways for the roads, forming ravines and thick mud, and causing landslides. So, now, efforts have been diverted to constructing some bridges until the rainy season lets up, perhaps in March? April? I have never witnessed so much barro/ mud. Boots are crucial. I have already made a fool of myself, which will come in various forms – guaranteed. I face planted after slipping in mud while climbing down a hillside and tangling my foot in some reeds. This happened while casually passing by a biohuerto (house garden) and deciding to stop and question the family about what they were planting, intending to see if they had vegetables (which they did not). I think I left a memorable impression…
Back to the ‘I am ridiculous bit’, or continuing with it – I really have been throwing myself out there. I have a hard time understanding Sierra Spanish, and especially the Spanish of adults that have up to a primary school education. I have a much easier time communicating with those that have a higher level of education. It will take some skill to develop the vocabulary and ways of expression used by those here in the rural areas. Instead of keeping silent when I don’t know the vocabulary I want to express, I just throw myself out there and try to finagle some words together to convey what I would like to express. I typically receive head-nods, smiles, and searching eyes, but am hoping for more dialogue in the future, especially if directing a meeting. I really wonder how much I communicate is understood and vice versa. I continually make a fool of myself, but in good humor, and therefore am hoping I am being well-received in one way or another.
With the cement bit, I ended up misunderstanding the urgency of the situation – or rather the concept of how much was needed and how it needed to be transported. I went above and beyond – I found the materials, which could have been transported by wheel barrow, although through much labor with many loads and a long distance to be traversed (it’s amazing what men smaller than me can carry and for what distance, unbelievable). Anyway, I convinced some construction workers to help me load their truck, bring it to where I am staying, and help unload. This request normally would have cost at least 50 soles, which I do not have, and it wouldn’t have been a request met if made by a local Peruvian. I guess it is nice to be a gringa (female and white) at times, but I felt ridiculous nonetheless, because I had no idea what I was doing, what I was requesting, and what the outcome was going to be. Hmmm, maybe that’s like everything I am doing. I just have to time and time again throw myself out there in good spirit and good intentions and hope for the best outcome… such as the vacaciones útiles I am trying to organize for the kids that will be around in the area during their 2 months off. I am trying to organize some classes/youth groups in order to interact with the youth, mixed in with all the more ‘adult’ activities I have been involved with. I have to keep in mind how much change can occur by working with youth, and how they can keep your outlook or perspective seemingly bright.
Amidst a plethora of meetings I had today, my host mom, Juliana, was apparently preparing a dinner for over 150 people – parents and family members of kindergarteners graduating from jardín/kindergarten. This extravagant ceremony was to include my little brother, Jean Carlos, who was serving as a pareja/companion of a girl who was graduating. Anyway, Juliana is a work horse, I mean, my gosh, rising around 4 or 5 in the morning to do hard, laborious work ALL day, and setting herself to sleep around 10 pm to midnight. She frantically was putting this dinner together with a couple of others, and I ended up scrambling to help serve all these people in the back corner of a building from the dirt floor. I am still learning her mannerisms, because at one point, it definitely seemed like she was yelling at me and was extremely impatient. After hurriedly and stressfully serving, worrying we wouldn’t have enough ¼ to ½ chickens to serve, or the rest of the chicken wouldn’t come in time, we finally finished, with hands greased and backs strained from bending over the dirt floor. We finally let up, and feasted on food left over – just enough to feed us. Juliana and I had a moment where we kicked back a coca cola (making an exception to my aversion to drinking pop), danced in the back freely and listened to the music playing for the eloquently dressed, dancing kids. Juliana and I have a hard time communicating in many ways, but I definitely appreciate letting loose and relish the times when someone who is so tight, hard, and focused can let loose. I petered out from the festive entourage around midnight – they continued until 3/4/5 in the morning – and came home to listen to recommended music by Jamiroquai and write. I look down at my tea cup, with 4 bugs at the bottom, 2 empty muffin papers (I still was pretty hungry to the point of taking them from Juliana’s store – will reimburse her tomorrow…), and think I have a long ways to go, but I can appreciate moments like these.