Archive for October, 2008

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CNN or green bedspreads?

October 31, 2008

So today, my hospedaje asked me to change rooms to a single because they had a clutch of people stroll in from all over south america and fill them to capacity.  my new room doesn´t open out onto the garden like the old one BUT i do have waaay better cable, a better dresser and a closet with a curtain covering my clothes…. they said i could stay for a couple of days before i decide to stick with the new room or the old… but i´m so bad at decisions!

new room pros:
girls next door
cnn!
a huge window
a better closet

old room pros: view of the garden
separate entrance
familiarity
my cute green bedspreads

hmmmm, i think i´ll have to hold out and see what the shower is like before i make any rash decisions.

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Mud, Mache and Motorcycles

October 29, 2008

It’s Tuesday and I just arrived back from my most recent trip to the sierra.  This time, I traveled with Karina the loan officer to five meetings in the towns of Mache, Lluin and Agallpampa.

here i am!

here i am!

Karina and I planned to meet at 6:15 am on Monday morning so we could catch our three hour bus ride to Mache…  Except that “bus to Mache” really means “bus to Lluin and then, dirt bike to Mache”.  That’s right, I rode a motorcycle for half an hour through some crazy mud puddles to the next town because cars don’t service the area.

 

oh  man

oh man

 

 

 

 

 If you know me well, you know I hate motorcycles passionately.  But here I am admitting it: I actually enjoyed my ride.  That is, when I wasn’t scared out of my two pairs of pants and two pairs of socks (it’s cold up here).  Karina and I got off the bus in Lluin at a small crossroads where men in ponchos and cowboy hats sit atop not burros or horses but flashy, bright blue and red dirt bikes.  S/2.00 ($0.66) buys you a half hour ride to the country hamlet of your choice.  Karina and I mounted the same bike – yes three people on one of these lil things! – and off we roared to Mache.

The mining companies are “donating” a cement highway to the region to thank the people  for letting them tear all the gold they want out of the hillside.  And, coincidentally, their trucks and mining equipment won’t have to drive the dirt paths anymore.  We stalled here for ten minutes while the construction company worked on the new road. I like this picture because you can see my consternation…

 

looking worried

looking worried

 

 

 

 

Dirtbike Mike would like this picture I think.  All the mud you could ask for. I was surprised though that we didn’t get soaked in all the puddles we ran through.

 

on-road off-roading

on-road off-roading

 

 

 

 

We arrived in Mache in one piece, albeit a little dirtier.  Breakfast was fresh melon shake from an outdoor stand.  You can also see cups of jello in this picture in the display case.  To steal a line from my fellow Peruvian adventurer, Hannah: “Jello is a perfectly common dessert in Perú.”

 

un refresco

un refresco

 

 

 

 

Mache has some paved roads (unlike Cuyuchugo where I was last week).  But most of the homes lie along dirt paths and the mud is at least three inches thick.  My sneakers have had it.  Like a lot of other communities up here, the people mostly raise animals for sale to mayoristas – people who buy meat or live animals in large quantities and hire trucks to transport the product to cities for wholesale.

 

las socias

las socias

 

 

 

 

Here is a picture of one the meetings of the communal banks.  Almost all of the women (and most people in these town) also have small plots of land where they grow potatoes, corn and wheat.  If they raise cows or sheep they will also dedicate a portion of their land to pasture.  So, effectively, most of the women have two businesses: the one that their Manuela Ramos loan helps support and a subsistence farm that feeds their family. 

 

Here in Mache, many of the women are menorista cheese-sellers.  They will travel through the caserillos (tiny 7 or 8-family hamlets of 30 people or so) buying cow’s milk cheese.  They will then will bring it back to their homes to sell to mayoristas who come to town twice a week.  It’s hard to make any sizeable profit working as a menorista :  the women earn maybe $0.30 profit unit they sell for all their efforts traveling throughout the mountain towns.

 

selling cheese from  home

selling cheese from home

 

In the town of Lluin, I got to visit an artisanal bakery where a man and a wife have been baking bread traditionally for thirty years.  They wake up at 1am every morning to bake rolls, turrones and cakes.  They never take a day off either because, “the people need their bread.”

 

 

bakery in lluin

bakery in lluin

 

 

 

 

The couples’ children all live and work in Trujillo, but they don’t want to stop working even though their family can now afford to support them.  The woman says she’s accustomed to the schedule and she prefers living up here “al aire puro” [in the fresh air].

 

deelish

deelish

 

I like it up here too.  I love the meetings and talking with the women.  The vistas are really wonderful, the air nice and clean and I have all the farm animals I could possibly want.  I stalk the little piglets like a crazy person.  I just think they are so cute!

 

cuties

cuties

 

 

 

It starts to rain and the clouds swallow whole portions of the town.  Karina and I head to Agallpampa where we’ll be spending the night and conducting tomorrow’s meetings.  We’re staying at Hostal Nazareno.

 

home sweet hostel

home sweet hostel

 

 

 

It’s probably the most basic place I’ve stayed in a while.  The door is secured with a padlock and up here in the sierra there are limited hours of running water, or so I’m told.

 

hmmm

hmmm

 

 

 

To brush our teeth and wash our faces we scoop pitchers of water from these trash buckets.  Well, I think, “if Karina is swishing this water around in her mouth I guess I can too.”  The stalls at the back are combination shitter-showers, but I decide to save my shower for tomorrow when I get back to Trujillo.

I have to say though, they have the best blankets in Hostal Nazareno.  It was freezing outside and beneath two layers of fuzzy (alpaca? wool?) quilt I was snug as a bug.  The next morning I got my first taste of avena which I thought was oatmeal and I think still is maybe… just different than any kind of oatmeal I ever had.  It was like oatmeal and applejuice had a baby.  A steamy, comforting baby with pieces of stewed fruit.  Yummm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we have two more meetings today before we head home.  When the sun is out it’s gorgeous. The school kids run around in one of the pastures playing soccer and the sheep and pigs wander around eating whatever they can find.

 

nice, no?

nice, no?

 

 

 

I thought this was fun: cows wandering the streets just outside our meeting. 

 

moooo

moooo

 

 

We’re finished by noon and we decide to have lunch before the bus is to arrive at one.  We got a full meal and cokes for under a dollar a piece.  And we were sitting pretty in the sun waiting for out bus.  Here’s a picture of the plaza… before the rain.

 

 

I’m learning that it’s going to rain every day in the sierra no matter what else happens.  It’s too bad because it’s pretty dreary on top of being ridiculously chilly.  Four shirts and a rain coat and I’m still shivering.  I was glad when the bus came and whisked us downhill to the Trujillo sunshine.  Tomorrow I’m going with Karina to the La Rinconada neighborhood here in the city.  Hopefully I’ll get one or two more jaunts up to the mountains again before I leave.  Till then…

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A Day at the Beach

October 29, 2008

Today (Sunday) I got my first glance at the Peruvian Pacific Ocean.  I’m glad I made it out to the beach because really my weekend by Sunday morning had mostly consisted of writing journals, writing blogs, and eating churros.  So at noon today I decided I needed to get my butt out of my hotel room and go somewhere else besides the internet café.

 

I caught a combi (which again is the sliding door van that serves as public transportation in the city) 12 km northwest to the fishing and hippie surfer town of Huanchaco.  The ride there was an interesting one: picture a 12-seater van with 20 people crammed into it.  For the first half of the ride I had exactly three inches at the edge of a seat to cram my butt into – it was basically like doing a “wall-sit” for ten minutes.  Lil, Zoe and Paul can vouch for my wall sit skills seeing as we recently had a contest at a party where I handily out-sat them all.  But when your “wall” is jostling up and down and the person sharing the seat with you is trying to nudge you out of your claimed three inches of butt real estate, it’s tough work!  At least I wasn’t kneeling on the floor like the German girl who happened to be the only foreigner in the combi with me. Thankfully, someone vacated the seat in the front cab and I got to spend the last half of the ride safely seat-belted in beside the driver.

 

Me and the barcos

Me and the barcos

 

 

 

Here I am newly arrived at the Huanchaco beach Playa Varadero.  This picture was taken by my new friend Nadine who has sadly now moved on to her other travel stops in Perú.  She was the German girl on the combi with me.  We disembarked together, both alone, and made fast friends.  It’s too bad that it was only for one day: she is off to Lima tomorrow and I will be staying here.  That’s okay though, we still had fun and kept each other company for at least one good day.

Nadine is from Stuttgart (sp?) and is traveling through South America before she returns to Germany in September to start her career as a high school teacher.  We happened to cross paths as she makes her way from Ecuador, through Perú, and then on to Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.  In a weird coincidence, she also has a boyfriend of five years who will be visiting her in South America the exact same week as Paul.  To make things even more ironic, we both arrived and are leaving South America the same weeks of October and December…

Anyway, we strolled down the beach, checked out the surfers, and had a lazy sun-drenched lunch at a local hostel.

 

nadines ice cream and my burrito

nadines ice cream and my burrito

 

Huanchaco is less than fifteen minutes and $0.50 from where I live – I think surfing lessons might be in my future!

 

business in the front, party in the back

business in the front, party in the back

 

Check out these cool fishing boats.  The hole at the back isn’t for the person, it’s for the fish!  The fisherman kneel in the middle of the boat just in front of the basket at the back.  They paddle out to sea with the split shaft of a large bamboo to their crab pots and fishing nets.  The haul gets chuck into the back and they paddle home to the beach side restaurants to provide for the ceviche’s and steamed fish platters.

It was a great relaxing day at a lovely and easily reached beach.  We did a little shopping and mostly just enjoyed the views.  The Andes foothills and the coastal desert loom in the background.  The desert makes it seem like the beach reaches all the way back to the mountains.

 

sunshine and sand

sunshine and sand

 

When Nadine and I returned to Trujillo we decided to make the most of our time – since Nadine had an 11:00 pm bus to Lima – and treated ourselves to a nice Italian dinner.

 

vino and piña colada

vino and piña colada

 

On the way back home, we stopped by the fundraiser concert at the Plaza de las Armas.  The firemen are raising money for new firetrucks.  How random, no?  Both of Nadine’s parents are firefighters in Germany – in fact, her mother was Stuttgart’s first female fire-woman. 

Anywho, it’s bedtime for me since I wake up tomorrow morning early to travel back up to the Andes with Karina, another loan officer with Manuela Ramos. I will spend my first night away from Trujillo in Otuzco, so until then, Besos! xoxo

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Manos Unidas (United Hands)

October 25, 2008

Yesterday in Chongoyape, a farming town one hour north of Trujillo, I attended the monthly meeting of Manos Unidas, the “United Hands” communal bank that serves the women of Congoyape, Lipote and Saucipe.

 

Our meeting is starts at 3:00 pm sharp and Mara the loan officer is counting up the vouchers the women are turning in as they arrive—these vouchers serve as proof that the borrowers have gone to the local commercial bank to pay their monthly debt obligation.  My MFI Manuela Ramos has deals with two national banks who will accept payments for them and in return will provide a voucher as a receipt to the socias.

 

After the roll call, Mara announced to the group that we had all vouchers turned in save one.  Nevertheless, Mara led them briskly through the opening of the meeting and a short business practices session.  She even had them act out a skit as though they were selling fruits to difficult customers!  Everyone played along, although for the most part people chat and gossip and catch up through the beginnings of the meeting.

 

After the skits and discussion session, the banks books were opened and the treasurer of the group asked for names of women who would be requesting loans from their internal account.

 

***ASIDE – The communal bank’s internal account consists of the accumulated savings of all of the women.  The internal account is vital because individuals in the group can “borrow” from their own savings at an interest rate set by the communal bank.  In this way the women can tide themselves over month to month when their other sources of income (their businesses’ profits or Manuela Ramos loan) don’t cover their expenses.  Also in this way, the bank earns money for itself by charging interest – albeit by the women paying to use their own savings.***

 

Almost everyone is raising their hand to draw from the groups internal account when the treasurer asks for new loan requests.  Of the seventeen women present fifteen wanted the maximum they could withdraw.  It will be two months before harvest time in December and this is one of the most difficult seasons of the year when people are saving up for Christmas festivities and school holidays.  The women are allowed to withdraw up to 80% of their savings at a given time which must be repaid at 3.5% monthly interest and must be repaid within the same term of their Manuela Ramos loan.

 

Mara told the treasurer to take down the names and the amounts requested but also informed the socias that they were short one voucher and that they knew what that meant.  There is one essential caveat to internal account borrowing that is about to make this meeting turn on its head:  ALL vouchers must be turned in for the internal account to release new loans to the socias.  If one person is late on paying, or even if she has paid but has not turned in her voucher, the bank closes without a single loan disbursal.

 

The women know this rule well, but they assured Mara that they knew the woman had paid, she is running late and she should be here any minute now.  The treasurer went ahead and noted down the names of every woman requesting money; the amounts they wanted ranged anywhere from $30 to $250.  For every name called the process was this:

 

Señora MaryLou, how much would you like to withdraw?

 

How much am I allowed?

 

80% of your current total is… 600 Nuevo Soles, señora ($200).

 

Yes, that then.  Three months please.

 

Only one woman wanted 30 soles, less than her maximum allowed.  She requested S/30.00 – the equivalent of $10.

 

When the list was completed the meeting was an hour and a half in and it was apparent that the woman was dangerously late.  The socias, fearing for their loan requests, moved to action.  They began to search for her telephone number.  They called her mother’s house to see if she had a cellular number.  They peered outside every time a mototaxi drove by to see if she had arrived in it.  They sent a messenger to her home to see where she was and if she was on her way.

 

At her mother’s house the messenger was informed that she had gone to an Avon sales conference earlier in the afternoon but that she planned to attend the communal bank meeting.  The socias asked the loan officer, “Señora Mara, please wait a while longer, she has made her payment and she’s coming any minute now.”

 

Mara agrees to wait another half hour but is worried that she will be late to her next appointment in Paiján.  The time passes anxiously with everyone peering at the clock on the wall and whispering to each other about the woman’s tardiness.

 

But the half hour passes and she doesn’t appear.  Mara and the treasurer start to count the currency in the lock box to prepare to close the bank.  The room is silent and all you hear is the clinking of change and finally, the clank of the lock box shutting and locking.

 

Mara packs up her things and the women still peek out the windows at the passing mototaxis, hoping that the woman will appear in one of them.  And as Mara picks up her bag to leave, she suddenly does appear!

 

Here she is, señora! Open back up the bank! Here she is with her voucher!

 

But no, it’s too late.  It is ten minutes until her next meeting starts and Mara must travel to the next town and she will surely be late.

 

 

And the room is in an uproar:  the woman are scolding Mara for her impatience and inflexibility, scolding the woman who came late, complaining to the bank president about what’s happening to them.

 

Why didn’t you send your voucher with someone else? We’ve been here waiting!

 

Why, señora, can’t you give us our money? We need it! We can’t wait another month!

 

Why didn’t you plan ahead, Nancy? This is your fault we are like this!

 

My father is sick, I couldn’t leave him for long and this other meeting I had was an obligation I could not miss… Here is my voucher here, take it, Señora Mara.

 

Excuses, Señora Nancy! You must not do this to us!

 

And,

 

Mara, por favor, open the bank it will only be five minutes, please señora.

 

But it is too late and Mara excuses herself rapidly with apologies and a final explanation: Understand my situation señoras; we must all be on time with our attendance and our payments.  What would happen if I stayed to reopen the bank and was thirty minutes late to my next appointment? I’m sorry señoras but I can’t, that is my obligation and you must wait until next month.

 

The group spills out into the dirt road and there is a crowd around the one late señora who defends herself valiantly.  Surely, they all have problems but she has hers too with a sickly father and her child here in hand that she must bring everywhere with no one to care for him but her.

 

 

I am traveling down the road to one of the señoras houses to see her business and the bank president Señora Elvia is walking with me too.  With a sigh, the Elvia tells me this is the first time in eight years that this has happened to her bank.  She had planned to take out money as well but she was stalwart in the meeting, holding firm with the women who complained to her.  In the end it was she that dispersed the group and sent the señoras circling the delinquent woman home.

 

Elvia and the other señora and I talk about the meeting and the woman’s excuses as we pass the sugar cane fields towards Saucipe.  It is a shame, but the women seem to understand that it must be the way it is.  With nineteen women all relying on each other for 8 years it was bound to happen once, they say.  Still, it will be hard this month, but to that end they seem resigned and accepting of it.  As we go futher down the road the conversation turns to asparagus cultivation and life in Cuyuchugo and it’s really lovely with the setting sun.  I love it, but it’s bittersweet too.  I feel a tinge of regret that Mara couldn’t stay even if it would be an affront to the women I don’t know in the next meeting.  But I suppose like the señoras I should accept the way things are.  They are more stoic than I, and here I am feeling indignant even with my bus ticket back to my hostel and my life … 

 

Here comes my bus and Señora Elvia is seeing me off and inviting me back the next time.  And off I go and off she goes down our separate roads and I guess that’s how it will be – at least until next month.

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The Farms

October 25, 2008

Today I went an hour north of Lima to the farms of the coastal desert.  Mara, one of the newest loan officers, and I had a nice lunch together in Trujillo and then took the bus out to Chongoyape, a tiny town off the side of the highway on the way to Paiján.

 

dirt road in Chongoyape

 

The meeting was taking place in Chongoyape, but the women also came from the towns of Lipote and Sauscpe.  None of these places make it into the guidebook.  Chongoyape is a community of homes spread along one dirt road.  At a certain point, this road becomes Saucipe. 

 

the road to Saucipe

 

People living here grow mainly sugar cane and asparagus.  It’s hard for me to imagine anything growing in such a dusty, hot place.  But one of the señoras tells me that they are allowed six hours of water per day for irrigation.

  

farming asparus

 

The towns are so small, taxis don’t serve the area.  If you want to get here from Paiján you have to take a mototaxi.  I’d be afraid to ride these rickety machines down the highway, but everyone does it.

 

 

can you see the mototaxi?

 

Most of the houses in the town look like this.  I interviewed this señora who sells foods and socks and underwear from this stand in her house.

 

 

señora sells from the window on the right

 

There is a canal that runs the length of Saucipe.  This lady is going to use the water to mop her house.

 

 

the canal

 

It’s super calm here, although the wind is kicking up and giving me an eyeful of dust.  I cross the highway and walk to another señora’s house.  Her loan is for clothing but because sales are slow she invested the Kiva money in her asparagus crop.  Along the way she tells me about the art of cultivating the finicky asparagus.  Here is a picture of the mountains and the path we walk to reach her home.  It kind feels like the beach.

 

 

reminds me of the beach

 

Afterward we visit her store, it’s time to flag down a bus headed for Trujillo.  Señora is kind and she waits along the side of the highway with me.  The meeting did not go well today for her communal bank but she is still cheerful.  Her little dog has followed up through the whole town during our walk together.  It’s name is Azul which means Blue.  Funny huh how some things are so similar?

 

On the ride back on the bus we drove through a moonlike landscape.  Without irrigation, the coast is a barren mix of gravel and sand dunes. I just happen to sit beside a man that also does microcredit loans to farmers.  We walk home from the bus stop and talk about his family, my family, and of course the economy and the election.  He is worried about the America economy also: the price of asparagus has fallen from $2.00 to less than 50 cents and he worries that his clients will refuse to grow the crop at those prices.

 

In the end we agree that Bush stinks, that no one knows what is going to happen to the economy, but that I’m going home to eat and he’s going home to his wife and we will be grateful and happy with what we have going for us.  Cheers to that!

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A Taste of the Andes

October 25, 2008

It’s 2:30 am and I’m awake before my alarm: today I’m going to the sierra. Two pairs of pants, one backpack, three shirts, one hat, a scarf and two jackets later I’m stepping outside into the night to meet Dalylah, the loan officer, to go to the bus station.

 

3 am at the station

3 am at the station

There are piles of rocks in the sidewalk.  Here the driver is tossing them to the side so the bus can pull off the road into the bus terminal.  And look, Mom! I found a gym!

 

 

Despite our late night departure, the music is blasting in the bus.  I wonder if it helps keep the bus drivers awake.  At some point during the journey a garbage bag full of something (thank God) soft falls on my head from above.  I vaguely remember rubbing my nose and looking around to see who threw the bag at my face before falling back asleep confused. It’s okay because I wake up among the clouds.

 

Dalylah is getting off at Otuzco, but I’m continuing on another hour and a half to Cuyuchugo to meet the women of the San Juan Miraflores bank.  Dalylah’s last stop isn’t Otuzco either – from here she will hire a mototaxi to carry her to her 8am meeting somewhere higher up in the mountains.  Mototaxis are motorcycles with a small passenger cart on two wheels attached on the back.  I’m thankful for my crowded, but four-wheeled, bus.

 

Descending to Cuyuchugo

Along the way I’m the girl with the camera.  I just love the vistas of mountains, clouds and rustic streetscapes.

  

Streets of Otuzco

Streets of Otuzco

 

 

Cuyuchugo! Bajo! Bajo!

 

It’s my turn to get off the bus and here I am: mountains, clouds and the Cuyuchugo main square.  It’s a small rectangle of grass the size of a basketball court bordered and criss- crossed by dirt paths.  There are a few buildings surrounding the square including a church and maybe a municipal building.  I would have taken a picture, but I was wholly engrossed in figuring out who I was supposed to be talking to and where they were – someone was supposed to meet me!

 

… A few faltering steps in a couple of directions, mostly just tottering around the square waiting to be found… And nothing.  It’s time to ask questions.  And what do you know, the first person I come upon leads me down the street to a room full of women.

Here they all are – gathered waiting for me!… Oh my… It’s my first solo meeting and these are some somber looking señoras… Well, here goes:

“Good morning señoras, my name is Jenny. I am a representative from Kiva, an organization that works with Manuela Ramos.  I am here to do some short interviews with you and take your photographs for a report we are doing on each of your loans.”

“What is Kiva?”

“Why do you need our picture?”

“What does this have to do with our loans?”

“Don’t start yet, not everyone is here.”

There was a lot of explaining to be done.  But the women were patient with me.  In fact they all waited their turn as I called them one by one up to the desk to conduct a short interview.

 

The socias were almost all born and raised in this tiny pueblo in the mountains.  To be sure, life here is difficult.  Most of the women sell livestock, corn or clothing here in Cuyuchugo or in neighboring towns. Their profits are slim in almost all cases. One señora buys and sells her goods with a profit margin of S/1.00 – $0.30 – per piece she sells.

 

For me, some moments of the conversation weigh heavily on me.  As the interviews continue, I start to modify my questions based on their reactions to my queries:

 

“And how long does it take in a car to get to Coina?”

 

“In car, señorita? No, five hours walking, every Saturday.  We’ll sell clothing at the market there.  And then Sunday we walk to the market in Caribamba, four hours.”

 

I also start to reconsider my regular “What is your goal or wish for the future?” question.  For the city socias, this was more easily and readily answered.  But among these women, it’s different.  They tell me life here is suffering.  They tell me they just want to survive or that they just want to earn money to get by. 

 

But really, the conversations were not all gloom and doom like I’ve been making it seem.  When I ask the women if their work is difficult, they all tell me – “No, we’re accustomed to our work, for us it’s good because it earns our living.”  I ask if they like Cuyuchugo, and they do.  Life here is tranquil, the air is fresh, the weather is nice today.

 

And it is.  The sun is shining in patches and the rest of the sky is made up of dreamy clouds that seem within an arms reach. After the interviews I walk to each of their houses and take photographs of them for their journal updates.

 

The town is more like a park to me.  There are dirt paths leading here and there, but you could just as easily follow a stream or a wooden fence to someone’s house.  There is green grass everywhere – it’s as though the town has been set down on one huge lawn.

 

 

The houses are made of earthen bricks.  Inside some of the homes I find cuys – little guinea pigs that people raise and eat or sell.

 

There are farm animals everywhere.  Chickens, pigs, donkeys, sheep and of course inside the house the little cuys.  Here is a picture of one of the señoras butchering a lamb to prepare it for sale.

 

Another Sheep bites the dust

Another Sheep bites the dust

 

 

And along the mountainsides far up into the cloudline are fields for growing corn and other crops.  Here is a picture of a man plowing along a steep incline with his oxen.

 

The señoras have all been very kind, letting me into their homes and sharing their lives with me for a little while.  Señora Julia and I hit it off particularly well and we chat for a good bit about the United States and Cuyuchugo and the differences between the two.  She invited me to breakfast here with her family here in her lovely garden.

 

 

I would have loved to stay and enjoy her and her family’s company. But I hear the honking horn announcing the approach of the next micro for Usquil where I have my next appointment.  I wish so much to have stayed, but instead I’m roaring away in a big bus up the hill to the next town.

 

 

Usquil seems like it has a little bit more going on than Cuyuchugo.  There is a national bank office in the main plaza and concrete benches and sidewalks surround the square.

 

 

 

 

Here I don’t bother to wait for someone to approach me and ask straight away for the women of the Usquil communal bank.  After a few tries I’m directed to a restaurant right off of the plaza.

 

 

 

 

They were not expecting me, via some sort of miscommunication with the loans officers; but, no matter, there are only three women in the bank and messengers are sent to bring them down from their houses up the hill.

 

My interviews here are shorter – everyone is busy and has other things to attend to.  I have quick conversations with three women: a soda-seller who works out of the restaurant on the plaza corner, a woman who cooks in the restaurant by day and sells beef heart kebabs from a street cart at night, and a woman who raises, butchers and sells pigs. I’m only in town for an hour, but I do manage to see some recently born piglets.

 

 

And I also take a little impromptu tour of the town.

 

 

Unlike Cuyuchugo, Usquil is set among the hills.  Every street trends up or downhill.  Sometimes the streets have stairs and a lot of times the streets have little burros.

 

 

 

Even though Usquil is more dense than Cuyuchugo it is still quiet.  The picture above is Thursday midday along one of the main streets.

 

 

 

Again I want to stay, but I hear the micro roaring into town.  When the bus draws near, it honks the horn so people know to come outside to flag down the driver if they want to get on.  Likewise, when they want to get off, they walk to the front of the bus and are can disembark at whichever corner they desire.  Our bus was super crowded on the way back to Trujillo.

 

 

 

 

These people had to stand for two hours until they arrived at Otuzco when more seats opened up.  One of my favorite moments of the ride was when we were stopped to let someone off and the conductor hung the ladder on the side of the bus to fetch the luggage tied down on top.  All of a sudden I hear baa-baas and see a big ole sheep is being lowered by a rope off the side of the bus.  The poor thing had a rough landing – he got dropped the last couple of feet.

 

But I suppose if his future is anything like the half-butchered sheep I saw this morning, then that’s the least of his worries.  For the rest of us it’s on to Trujillo and to our beds to rest!

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Accidentally…

October 24, 2008

Tonight for dinner I accidentally ordered fried mollejitas! Oop – I thought a mullejita was a drumstick.  Daaaaang