Editor's note: This is a copy of the journal that Lethbridge College student Constance Day Chief kept during her time in Peru building a greenhouse in the summer of 2013. The article about her experiences there with classmate Darcie Doore can be found here.
Day 1- Departure/Travel Day
- Arrive at airport at 6am. I am a little worried about Darcie, I hope she shows up. Glad I am able to share this experience with her. I am so nervous and scared; I have no idea what this trip has in store for me.
- I am sad and a little worried to be leaving my son behind, but my family has assured me that he will be well taken care of, and that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity
- We arrive in Houston, Texas, around 1:30pm and get something to eat with Tom and Rob, the photographer. I am really hoping that Rob will enjoy our crazy sense of humor, and is not easily offended. We somehow manage to lose Henry, but he shows up an hour later saying he went to baggage claim not remembering that our luggage is automatically transferred.
- The plane ride from Houston to Lima is super long. But at least you did not have to pay to watch movies on the plane, and Darcie and I got to sit by each other.
- We arrive in Lima after 10pm and Henry is able to get us a hotel for our long lay-over. We grab a taxi, and I think that this driver is a mad man, but it turns out that this is how everyone drives in Lima; they speed, drive in the middle of the road, and almost bump the pedestrians. There was a moment when I thought the cab driver was bringing us to get robbed, but turned out he was only lost.
- On the way to the hotel I still could not believe that we were actually in Peru, it seemed like such a long road to finally get here. Meanwhile, Darcie is so amazed that they have KFC and Pizza Hut.
- Darcie and I are going crazy with our cameras, pretty much taking pictures of anything, and everything that moves.
- We finally get to the hotel before 1am; the hotel’s name is Ferres Mira Flores. It is interesting how at the hotels you have to show your passport, and travel card that you receive at the airport.
- I was so tired, but Darcie insisted on trying to have a conversation. I try to get to sleep but the only thing I can think of right now is back home; I am hoping my son is doing well, and is not getting lonesome, because I am getting lonesome for him.
Day 2- Leaving Lima/ Arrival in Puno
- We wake up early and grab a taxi to the airport, which takes about a quarter of the time than it did last night.
- Once at the airport Darcie is having trouble getting her boarding pass, and Henry has disappeared on us again. I have to admit I was a little worried, but it all gets cleared up and we are on our way.
- Once we arrive at the Juliaca Airport my heart is beating fast and my breath is hard to catch.
- The rest of the crew is already there and waiting for us, which includes: Tom, Rob, Tia, and Tessa.
- When we are loading our things in the bus two women approach us and try to sell us their hand made products. I must say they are very persuasive; I buy 2 items from them.
- We drive through Juliaca to get to Puno. It is a real eye opener; you can tell there is lots of poverty. There is garbage everywhere and stray dogs, and I noticed that on the top of most buildings there are wires. Tom tells us that the owners of the houses and buildings do not have to pay taxes if they do not finish the buildings all the way to the top.
- When we come down the hill to Puno there is a great view of Lake Titikaka, and the city. The city is surrounded by hills with houses built into them; the streets are small and narrow with vehicles cramped into them. Once again Darcie and I are going camera crazy.
- Traffic appears to be crazy everywhere in Peru. There are lots of people in the streets, and the women are all dressed very traditional; skirts, hats, and the ones with babies have them wrapped to their backs in a type of sling.
- When we get to the hotel, which is small but very beautiful, I start to get light headed. I had no idea that the altitude would affect me this much.
- We all go for lunch except for Henry, who is not feeling very well either. When we get back to the hotel we all decide to take naps. About an hour or so later I wake up with a killer headache, a very sick stomach, and my eyes feeling like they are bulging out.
- When I go downstairs Tom tells me to drink cocoa tea, which is supposed to help with the altitude sickness. I hope I do not feel like this for the whole trip.
- Overall I am feeling sicker than sick, feeling lonesome for home, and it is freezing in our room. At this point all I want to do is go home.
Day 3- Leave Puno
- I am the first to wake up the next morning. The showers are strange and a little dangerous; they have a switch you have to turn on to get hot water.
- Darcie is still in bed when I’m almost ready and packing. I’m starting to see that she is very slow.
- We all meet Manuel at breakfast; who will be our translator at the village. Jenny, the lady who owns the hotel, tells Manuel to ask me if I want anything for breakfast. She understands when I decline because of my stomach. She is very warm and welcoming. Everyone we have met so far has treated us so well.
- When we leave the hotel we travel through Puno to head to CIRNMA’s headquarters. This is located on the outer part of Puno. Once there we meet Carmen, who will be our supervisor at the village, and she introduces us to Enrique. Enrique is the head of CIRNMA, and he tells us a little about the company, and how they are trying to make Puno and area more self-sustainable.
- CIRNMA’s biggest production is quinoa, and Enrique takes us through the building to show us the different stages in the production. I was amazed to see the ladies dividing the different colors of quinoa by hand.
- Before we leave Puno we stop and pick up Miriam, our cook, and our food supplies. Then we leave back to Juliaca to pick up Roberto, who works with CIRNMA and was Tom’s contact for this entire project.
- There was some funny moments on the way to the village; first was when the girls needed to stop to use the bathroom, and apparently one of them had never had to squat before because she had taken her clothes off in the process; second when Darcie asked Manuel if we could take pictures of the scenery and people, and Manuel’s response was “sure you can… five soles” (which meant that we would have to pay him money to take the pictures).
- On the drive to the village I cannot help but compare the landscape to that of the mountain region of the state of Montana.
- I am amazed to see that the crops of these individuals are handpicked by them, putting us to shame at home because of the big machines we use.
Day 3 Continued- Arrival at Yanico-Caturi
- When we arrive to the school where we will be building the greenhouse, all the school children are waiting for us and some of the community members.
- They have us sit while the teachers welcome us, and then they sing their anthem.
- The children have prepared some dances for us. They do three dances in total, which they perform in their traditional dress.
- Once they have finished welcoming us, and their dances, they bring us to where our kitchen will be. There we find a table full of potatoes, which we learn they cooked in the ground. With the potatoes they offered a sort of dip for them, which was essentially clay, and it just added a dirt taste to the potatoes.
- After Miriam cooks us supper, which was awesome by the way, Tia and Tessa had to leave back to Puno with Roberto. We wish each other well and to be safe.
- We then arrange where we will be sleeping; the boys are in one room, and Darcie and I are in another with Carmen and Miriam. Darcie and I play musical beds for a bit there, which amuses Carmen and Miriam. They always say “ah, chicas”.
- After, we go and explore the school area; we are a little taken aback at the bathroom situation. But we make the best of it and say at least we will go back home with some toned legs.
- Night time comes at around 6pm, and we have no idea what to do so we congregate in the kitchen. Everyone else comes in there as well; it is nice to sit around and visit with no television or other electronics to be distracted by. It’s good to just have “people” time, something that is hard to do back home.
- On our way back to our room, we are amazed at how different the stars look here; Manual shows us the “llama eyes”, “southern cross’, and “Scorpio”.
- We then go into our room to visit for a bit. I feel a little better by this time, both physically and emotionally, but it scares me to think about how much time we still have in Peru.
Day 4- Village/ Day 1 of Greenhouse
- I wake up around 7:30am, and both Miriam and Carmen are already awake rummaging in the kitchen. So I freshen up, get dressed, and make my bed. Darcie, the slow poke she is, is of course taking her time. So I join the others for breakfast without her.
- For breakfast I have more cocoa tea, hoping it will help with the altitude, and toast with jam. I pass on the quinoa drink, which the boys say taste yummy, but I can’t get passed the texture of it.
- We wait for the villagers before we go inspect the greenhouse; prior to us arriving, the villagers built the shell of the greenhouse. Darcie and I are walking around lost not knowing what to do, but we are soon put to work.
- We are told to help water down the soil/fertilizer for the greenhouse. The ladies from the village lift up water from the well, and dump the water in pails for us. Once we are finished we look for more work to do, but Carmen tells us to take it easy. It appears she is trying to baby us; she is scared for something to happen to us.
- We notice that the children are on their break, so we ask Manuel if he can tell the children if we can play volleyball with them. We play with the girls, and are put on one team with three girls from the school. They laugh at us when we mess up, and the rest of the kids have gathered around taking pictures and videos. They are all very wary of us and would either walk away or look away when we would approach or make eye contact.
- At around 2pm the kids are sent home, and the helpers for the greenhouse leave around 4:30pm. We ask Manuel if we can go for a walk and he takes us down the road a bit. It is such beautiful scenery, with lots of livestock that includes: llamas, sheep, and cows.
- Later that night we all go to the kitchen again, and talk about the day’s events, and then Darcie and I head back to our room.
- In our room we come up with a great idea to move our beds again, and I end up making the bed fall apart. Tom, Rob, Carmen, and I are all working to fix Darcie’s bed while she’s laughing and taking pictures. We decide that it is best to leave our beds as is after this.
- My body has slowly started to get used to the altitude, and I’m starting to be more comfortable around the new people I have met.
Day 5- Day 2 of Greenhouse
- I wake up before Darcie, as usual, and head to the kitchen for breakfast. We laugh about the bed situation from the night before.
- We head to the greenhouse when the villagers arrive again. Today Darcie and I help dig up the roots on the inside of the greenhouse, and dump them on the outside.
- I am feeling a lot better today, so I jump right in and get my hands dirty. Darcie starts to help, but later only picks up the roots that I miss throwing in the bag. Henry is still not feeling well, but he is outside with us monitoring and keeping conversation.
- I am hard at work when one of the men calls to Manuel and says something to him while pointing at me and the young man beside him. When I get Manual to tell me what he said, he informs me that the man wants me to marry his son. So here I am blushing with everyone laughing and making jokes. But I was very flattered, any woman would be happy with a hardworking man like those of the villagers, but I am not quite sure my dad would approve.
- Just then the kids come out for their break, and just in time too because I was feeling a little awkward and no doubt the young man was as well.
- Today we have a game of basketball with the boys and a couple of the instructors. It’s funny because I am a lot taller than the majority of them, and every once in a while you would hear one of the boys say “alta”, which means “tall” in Spanish.. We win the game, and redeem ourselves from the lost volleyball game from the day before. The children are more comfortable coming up to us now, and all want to take pictures with us.
- Miriam calls us to eat, and we want to stay with the kids, but she insists. We cannot refuse her of course. Miriam is so much of a mother to us; she makes us feel at home.
- After we eat and the villagers go home, we go on another walk that takes us on a different route than last time; it brings us up a hill towards one of the main roads in the village area. There are times when we have to run off the road for the oncoming traffic.
- By bedtime I am exhausted from the day’s events, and find myself feeling more at home. The people here are becoming more like family, and I am very happy to be here.
Day 6- Day 3 of Greenhouse
- Today after we get ready and have breakfast. We help haul the rest of the roots out of the greenhouse.
- Today the villagers, along with Tom and Rob, start plastering. It is messy work and I am glad we do not have to help out with it, because knowing me I would probably mess it up. We basically watch them the entire time, but we get some excitement when Rob uncovers a tarantula.
- When the children are on their break we play volleyball with them, but this time we play with some of the boys as well. We thought the girls were good, but the boys kicked our asses.
- I really wish we could speak better Spanish, because we want to converse with the children and you can tell they did as well.
- After we eat, some of the villagers have stayed behind to start putting the pillars on for the roof. So everyone goes outside to watch them do this.
- It is a lot cooler today, it starts to thunder and rain, and then it starts to snow; which makes us cancel our walk we were planning to take later on.
- Tom tells Miriam to relax tonight because he will cook us something tonight. So we all gather in the kitchen while Tom fires up the stove, and begins making grilled cheese and egg sandwiches. As Tom is doing this, Miriam teaches Darcie how to make the boiled apples, and they are added to our feast.
- Sitting at the table with our group is bitter sweet, I am glad that I had the opportunity to meet each of these people. We try and convince Tom to somehow get me and Darcie to be able to stay for the following week, but we know we will not be able to.
- After we are finished in the kitchen me and Darcie head to our room to start packing. We reminisce about our time at the village, the funny times we had, and the people we have met.
- Going to bed I am dreading tomorrow, it is going to be hard to leave the people of this village.
Day 7- Day 4 of Greenhouse/ Last Day at Village
- Today Miriam says she can heat some water for us to wash up with, which is awesome. Showers are the one thing that I miss; I do not mind the bathroom situation.
- Once we are washed up we finish packing the rest of our things, and tidy up the room for when Tia and Tessa arrive.
- We are waiting outside for the villagers to arrive when the van pulls up with Tia, Tessa, Roberto, and another CIRNMA worker.
- We tell each other of our own little adventures we have had. It’s good to see them but I am a little jealous that they will be able to see the end result and we will not.
- We all wonder around aimlessly watching everyone work, there is really no need for our help today, because the children from the school are helping out today as well.
- In keeping up with our daily ritual, we go and have a volleyball game with the guys and girls. Then the guys are called to help with the roof of the greenhouse, so the girls ask us to have a basketball game with them since we haven’t had a game with them yet.
- There is a ritual they have before they put the roof on the greenhouse, which includes killing a sheep and splashing its blood on the walls of the greenhouse. It was very interesting to watch the process of this; it was pretty much one woman who was gutting the sheep, all while she had her baby boy on her back. Tom decided to buy a sheep as well to add to the feast that was going to be prepared for the village.
- Both Darcie and I walk around and take pictures of everyone, because now everyone is more comfortable being around us. Manuel informs us that the villagers refer to us as “the smiling, laughing girls”, which I quite like, because it means we have left a positive impression on the people of the village.
- When the feast is finished being prepared, Roberto tells us that it is time to go. I have been dreading this the whole day, and cannot stop the tears when I have to say my good byes to everyone.
- I cry most of the way back to Puno, and Roberto tells me it is ok, “this village and people will forever be in your heart”. And he is right; I will never forget my time in Yanico-Caturi.
Conclusion I did not think it was possible to make a connection with people in such a short amount of time, but I did, and not a day has gone by that I don’t think about my time at the village. It does get sad sometimes thinking about it, because it had such a positive impact on my life. I made a connection with this country that I never thought was possible. Prior to leaving on this trip, I only saw it as just another thing to do, but it became so much more than that. I want others to know and realize what a big world it is out there, and how much going to school and getting an education opens a world of opportunities.
I am very grateful to Tom for choosing me to be a part of this experience; it was really life changing. Words cannot describe the effect this trip has had on me. It made me have a different perspective on everything, and realize the things that I take for granted. I believe, and hope that this trip has made me be a better person.