By Daniela Pereira (Portugal).
Original post on the blog of My International Volunteering.
When I look back at my first days and compare it to today, a lot has changed in these 3 months of living in this magic Ollantaytambo town, in Peru. Doing this appreciation on this Project, I recognize that I am a different person, for the better. Before, I had met in my life a few people with disabilities, but never in a close way. With My Small Help, the association I’m working with, here in Peru, I work every single day with people with physical or psychological disabilities, with whom I relate sometimes at the intimacy level.
I can say that at the social level, I was able to develop the inclusiveness skill, by improving my capacity to empathize with others different from me, and also showing them that they are included in the sometimes complex “game of life”, so their differences are not an adverse factor. This happened with some beneficiaries, like Nati, an old lady with both legs paralyzed, who cooks and takes care of her house alone. Whenever we visit her, we help by taking some eye drops, washing her clothes, starting a fire so she can cook, or with a simple conversation to make her feel cared and supported. Also Anita, a young lady, who cannot move without her wheelchair, we teach her English and informatics programs, so she can develop her computer skills, and move around the internet world. Meeting some of our beneficiaries’families and their houses, woken some of my frustration.
This happened with some beneficiaries, like Nati, an old lady with both legs paralyzed, who cooks and takes care of her house alone. Whenever we visit her, we help by taking some eye drops, washing her clothes, starting a fire so she can cook, or with a simple conversation to make her feel cared and supported. Also Anita, a young lady, who cannot move without her wheelchair, we teach her English and informatics programs, so she can develop her computer skills, and move around the internet world. Meeting some of our beneficiaries’families and their houses, woken some of my frustration
Meeting some of our beneficiaries’families and their houses, woken some of my frustration feelings, because we get to know children living without a proper support, sometimes without food or hygiene. Because of that, I developed a personal skill, my critical thinking, I learnt I couldn’t be so emotional, instead I had to use my objectivity to analyze their situation and figure out what I could do to help them, by speaking to them and play or helping with their school homework, at the same time that I could teach them some basic education and hygiene habits. Another skill that I was aware I would be developing by living in Ollantaytambo is my sociocultural awareness. Since I’m working with children and adults, I have seen them facing many difficulties, some of them live alone and so we accompany them to doctors’ appointments and other medical assistance, others are deprived of financial aid for basic day-to-day necessities and appeal to the association for support, other beneficiaries have parents with a poor education and the children are neglected.
I’m more conscious about this dark world where people don’t have opportunities, and sometimes they are alone, and have nobody to count on but themselves and the kindness of volunteers. Aside work, the culture is very different from what I was used to. The people in the Andes are very spiritual and here in the Sacred Valley, “el Valle Sagrado”, we can feel a different energy and see signs of it, all around. For instance, some of the mountains are believed to be sleeping Gods. The Sun and the Moon are the masculine and feminine expression and power each, and have a high importance in their culture, and there is a special respect for the condor, the puma and the serpent, symbols of knowledge, real and spiritual. About their meals, they have 1000 different types of potatoes, with all the possible colors. One of their special dishes is called “ceviche”, which is raw fish and it can be accompanied by “arroz chaufa”, a very tasty rice that reminds me of the famous “arroz chao chao”, from the chinese gastronomy. My favorite meal is the traditional Pachamanca, a very interesting and delicious way to prepare food, on the soil, and with the aid of hot stones, they bake lamb, pork or chicken, marinated in spices, sometimes with beans, sweet potato, and yuca. I became a fan of the chicha, one of their favorite drinks, a homemade fermented or non-fermented drink, usually derived from maize. The local bus, so called “combi”, seems very disorganized the first times I
The local bus, so called “combi”, seems very disorganized the first times I traveled in it, but after some weeks, I became used to it and actually comfortable. It takes every time a different time, since it stops for any person who wants to get in or out, on the way, and the prices are very reasonable. Compared to my country, where buses are not allowed to stop out of the defined stops, this liberty in stopping whenever there are people who want and need a transport, is actually a breath of fresh air. One obstacle I had to overcome while adjusting to the living here, was the different treatment from the local shopkeepers and traders. They would think I was just a tourist and so, they would sell me their products for higher prices than to the locals. As Ollantaytambo is a very small town on the way from Cusco to Machu Picchu, it is a common stop for many tourists, who visit it for a day or two, before continuing their way to visit one of the Wonders of our planet. Therefore, everyday there are many tourists around the center, and they bring life, confusion, movement and a lot of money to the town and obviously, to the local businesses, who, in their reasonable judgment, take advantage of the tourists’ ignorance of the normal prices. The first week we arrived, both Mayra and José Luis, the coordinators of the association, introduced us to some of the local.
The first week we arrived, both Mayra and José Luis, the coordinators of the association, introduced us to some of the local “caseros” around town. Here they call “casero” to a shopkeeper where they go frequently. So, from the first days we had an idea of the real prices and we had to deal and negotiate many times the prices of fruit, vegetables, transport, and other basic items. It took some weeks before locals start to know us, we are lucky to live very close to the market, the main plaza and the “combis” stop, so every day we passed by these busy central places, so the local people started to see us regularly, and little by little, we started to be their “caseros” too. I’m sure I will learn more about myself and Ollantaytambo the next weeks! Daniela Pereira Ollantaytambo, Agosto, 2017
Daniela Pereira, Ollantaytambo, August, 2017