Huancayo and Huancavelica
(pics: view of huancavelica, andes during the drive, view of Huancayo from my hotel, carmen and I playing spanish scrabble) I have finally made it to my final destination for my CUSO placement, but before launching into my first impressions of my home for the next two years, I thought I would give a bit of detail on the journey here. And a bit of housekeeping: yes, lesley, i do read my comments, all of them. So thank you for making the comments--- especially when they involve nana's and/or constant reminders to post pictures. (I know i keep saying i am going to post them, but things are just too hectic and chaotic right now-- i anticipate having my head screwed on right to get some pics posted when i have a place to live. However, suffice it to say i do indeed have a pcture of an alpaca.... but i digress a touch...)
So we left Lima early saturday morning, and took the 7 hour bus ride as far as Huancayo. The altitude was an issue, but not overwhelming (ie: Carmen was telling me stories of people throwing up, etc... so I count myself lucky). We arrived and literally crashed. Couldn't even carry our bags--- thank goodness for kind taxi drivers and hotel staff--- I was having trouble carrying my purse without feeling dizzy and winded! Amazing the effect on the body-- a unique experience. Headachy, short of breath, exhausted-- maybe i was having a mild heart attack instead? :)
After a 3 hour nap, we decided to take a very slow walk around the plaza (which was right beside our hotel--- AWESOME hotel, for a great price--- called Los Balcones (on Calle Puno) if anyone is ever in the city. Is not in the Guide books, but should be--- wonderful location and very comfortable rooms.) We almost stopped our walk in the lobby of the hotel, since the elevator trip down kinda winded us... but we persevered... :) Had a very light dinner and drank LOTS of coca tea, which is the recommended remedy for soroche, or altitude sickness.
Huancayo is a really nice city--- i got a very good vibe. Not at all like Lima, much smaller, etc...-- but there is lots going on as we found out the next day when we were almost mowed over by a bunch of military people and parade floats. Celebrations abound in smaller communities in the sierra, I have been told, and on Sunday Huancayo was celebrating some saint-- didn't catch which one--- but there were bands playing and kids singing and giant pictures drawn with sand and clay in the closed-off streets around the plaza. We also almost crashed a solemn church service, where they were replacing the saint back into its nook in the local church--- whoops!Sunday is also market day in Huancayo, so we spent a few hours wandering around there. Not a lot of veggies--- but tons of alpaca stuff, shoes, clothes (both traditional peruvian and western), and the huancayo specialty, elaborately decorated gourds. Beautiful! Also took advanatge of being in the closest city to Huancavelica to search around a bit for the grocery store, farmacia, etc... Even got a quick game of scrabble in (ahah! couldn't resist--- even took a pic!)--- though we played in spanish which was a challenge.... eep!!
Monday morning, we got a driver to take us the rest of the way up to Huancavelica. We thought we left at a good time, and the roads were good and we were scooting along, until we got to a small little place that starts with an I--- can't remember--- but we had a delay of 1 1/2 hours there because the ighway was being repaired... whoops... so after a mate in one of the smokiest rooms i have ever been in (smoke from the wood stove--- and we were by the door-- i pity the cook!), the road opened and were able to continue pr journey, which consisted of 80 KMs of mud... what a trek. However, though it was bumpy, it was also spectacular--- i took some pics out of the car window--- surreal doesn't begin to describe driving along the cliffs in the andes, hugging the curves to avoid hitting the donkeys and llamas, driving through clouds, which were resting on some of the peaks we were driving on. Stunningly bizarre.
Anyway, after the last big peak, when I couldn't imagine being able to settle down to earth after driving in the clouds, we looked down in the vally to Huancavelica. It was a bigger town from that view than I expected, but also about as rough as I expected. Not a lot of cars at all so no beeping taxis which was nice. A few paved roads, but generally things here are unpaved, or crumbling. Lots of people around that main plaza (which is where our hotel is, which is convenient), roaming dogs which unnerve me a bit, had a spectacular lunch of lomo saltado (my best meal so far i think), and went to try to find the EDUCA office. After some crossed paths, we all found each other, and I had an inital orienting meeting with Oscar and Alina, whom I will be working with here. Incredibly welcoming and friendly-- I anticipate this to be a very good working relationship.
So now am trying to get oriented, keep asking people if they know of places to rent, but so far have come up empty (eep!), another meeting with all of us together for lunch before Carmen, my intrepid and omnipotent travel companion, leaves to go back to Lima tonight. However, I will be kept busy. Early Thursday morning, myself and the EDUCA people are going away for three days to attend some meetings in some more rural communities. Yikes! Hit the ground running, anyone? Will post more when I am back after saturday night, but I anticiate that it will be a great introduction to the work being done, and a great way to bond a bit with my new coworkers.
So i will sign off. It is indeed cold, but not unbearable so far, the housing situation continues to give me ulcers, the food is good despite my indigestion, and i am feeling a touch culture shocked. But all in all, am doing fine, for being at 3700 meters above sea level in the Andes of Peru... holy freg....
Keep in touch! :)