Andahuaylillas…a brief introduction

So Andahuaylillas…Photos at the bottom.  Located about a 40 minutes drive to the south of Cusco is located in the Quispicanchi Valley is situated between two mountains in a valley coming off the main valley through Quispicanchi.  There are two other towns we work with (Huaro and Urcos) that are about 5 and 8 kilometers respectively to the south of Andahuaylillas.  I don’t know the names of the rivers or mountains yet, but I will be picking those up as time goes on.  Everything is currently very very green and it is almost time for the corn to be picked.  We’re in the middle of the rainy season and it rains every day.  Some days it’s a brief down pour in the afternoon, and other days (like today) it is a slow and steady drizzle.  It gets cold at night, probably around 40° or a bit lower.  And when there are clouds in the morning things are slow to warm up.   I’ve heard that the dry season is a bit warmer during the day and a bit colder at night (sub freezing).

We´ve been here now 8 days.  The first few days were spent getting used to the altitude (around 10,000 feet) and explore our surroundings.  We also took a trip into Cusco on Saturday to look around.  While the school year doesn’t start until the 7th of March we started working on Monday.  Mateo and Mal headed off to Fe y Alegría to meet the staff and begin prepping for the school year.  Jess, Cara, and I met with Padre Oscar to discuss things that needed to get done before the students started coming.  My main job will be helping to run the comedor in the parish, but there will be many other things that I/we end up doing.  Helping with Catecesis, Confirmations, First Communion, El Camino Ignacio (Ignation formation for older students), after-school programs, programming for parents designed to give them alternatives to alcohol, tutoría program to help accompany the students who come to the parish after school (keeping track of their health, appearance, grades, and being responsive to their home situations)…among other things.  While I don’t know yet what everything entails, it will prove to be a busy experience with programming on every day of the week.

Since Monday I have spent the days hiking up into the valley visiting the indigenous towns.  Many of the students in Andahuaylillas come from these towns, and the comedor´s main focus is to provide nutritious lunches to these students.  To this end we (Silvia and Yusi and I) have been taking a colectivo up the mountain for about 30 min and then hiking further up to towns we need to visit.  Then we essentially knock on every door asking for the students who commute down to Andahuaylillas every day for school.  Then we explain the comedor and sign up the students if the parents want their children in the comedor.  Most do because it only cost about 2 USD per month for each student, and if the parents don’t have the money to pay this, they can pay in products like corn or potatoes.  Yusi speaks Quechua so when we encounter parents who don´t speak Spanish she is able to communicate who we are and what we´re doing.

It has been an incredible experience to hike through the valley getting to know where the majority of students that I will work with come from.  They live in a gorgeous land, but the life they lead is hard.  It is a life of subsistence farming…living day to day on what you bring in from your farm.  And the farms are situated in the valley as well as up the mountain sides.  I think the highest up I’ve seen a patch of potatoes growing is about 700-1,000 feet up from the valley floor.  Most houses are made of adobe bricks and are 2 stories (probably because of the rains and flooding that can occur).  They have dirt floors and there are farm animals everywhere.  I’m still trying to figure out how they keep track of which pig or chicken belongs to who because they are all simply allowed to roam free.  One of the days we hiked up to where the electricity ends and thought that we had reached the end of communities in this valley, but on the way back down we learned that there was another community even further up the mountain which we will have to return to later.

That’s all for now…more on the church in Andahuaylillas and the way of life in the valley.

— The bell tower is in the background with CCAIJO in front.

 

— Inside the Sistine Chapel of the Americas…the two oldest organs in the Amiercas are located to the right and left.  Lots more later on the history of this church and the decorations.  This is where I work!

 

— Found the land then a ortunatedly they are a 30 min car ride and then a 1.5 hour hike from where I live.  Hoping to find some closer to home.

 

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Andahuaylillas…por fin

Wednesday morning, after 20 some hours of riding buses we made it to Cusco.  Reunited with Cara and met Padre Oscar…packed all of our luggage into the parish truck and drove the 40 min south to Andahuaylillas.  We were exhausted, but not ready to sleep…exicted to see and meet all the new people and get acquainted with our diggs for the next 2 years.  This place is unbelievably beautiful.  Green mountains everywhere.  Rivers.  We´re nestled in between two mountains with a river on the other side where you enter from…I¨ll get pictures for you all when the internet cooperates.   THe internet is very slow because its Febuary…or so they say.  When everyone gets back from vacations in March things are supposed to pick back up, so we will see.

We now have 2 weeks to prepare for the school year and get everything situated.  We cannot move into our house yet because they are re-doing the bathrooms.  But we are meeting the people we will work with and getting adjusted to the altitude.  Everything is going well…just wanted to give you all an update.

More to come in time and with internet speed!

Escape

E S C A P E

As I sit here looking out over this barren landscape with the sound of cresting waves in the background, it is hard to deny the beauty of this world.  But at the same time it is difficult to ignore the blaring ugliness of humanity. 

I´ve never found the beauty in a desert landscape.  Perhaps it is my upbringing in the land of deciduous forests and fields of cotton that give me a flavor for the greener side of life—a green that simply isn´t found here in this desert.   This month has been the longest excursion into this “wilderness.”  A wilderness of rocks, dust, sun, wind, and the tantalizing beauty of the Pacific Ocean—tantalizing because I haven´t been afforded the opportunity to go swimming and yet every day we work under the blazing sun looking out over the cool blue knowing that its waters would refresh our weary bodies. 

There exists a beauty in knowing that these rocky shores of Peru are a part of a much larger wilderness.  We are perched in the foothills of the Andes—those majestic mountains ranging from the end of this word up into the canal that Roosevelt built.  These mountains are the source of the mighty Amazon as well as home to the capital of the vast Inca Empire—a place which I will call home in a few short days.  And we are connected to all of these places by the soles of our feet.  But this is a temporal connectedness.  There also exists a historico-social connection. 

Just a short walk down the coast we encounter the ancient fishing grounds of the Inca.  Marked by two large stone circles we see where they would unload their catch for the waiting Chaskis.  Then long trek towards Cusco would begin as the chaskis would sprint the daily catch up into the mountains thus ensuring that the Inca Empire would have fish for dinner.  Additionally, this coast is retains a dark history of conquest—the unflattering picture of invasion, integration, and apparent self-denial of Peruvian roots.  The importance of the coast on which I sit is highlighted even more as we watch the fishing boats come into port; unload their holds of the bounty which the sea has provided.  Once securely stored in whichever car, truck, or van it is immediately shipped off to Lima or some other large city along the coast that will barely recognize the name of the port from which they eat. 

Acknowledging these connections is easy.  Understanding, however, is not.  Removing myself from the ugliness found in humanity proves to be difficult.  From our work on the side of the mountain I look down.  First I notice the ocean and then I see the town in which we have been serving for the last four weeks.  If I wanted to I could count the house, but there appear to be 60 or so.  The majority of which are single rooms made of “Esteras” – a woven grass of sorts.  But this is not the only reminder of the poverty ingrained into this fishing village.  A special care is needed when walking through town as to avoid the piles of human feces that serve as a physical and an olfactic manifestation of the neglect felt by this village.  Their government has failed them.  It has failed to provide the basics which we, gringos and Peruvians alike, take for granted.  The smell of burning plastic in the morning serves to remind us that there is no trash pickup.  The scene every Saturday morning of people taking their water containers to the corner to quench their thirst for the week reminds us of a lack of running water.  And even that water is not a guarantee from their government as right now they are trapped in a nightmare of intergovernmental bickering.  They have been without water for 10 days because they have been disowned by their own district, and their neighboring district will offer no assistance.  They live on a border between two localities and neither one wants them.  Their humanity has been forgotten as they are transformed into a red number on the bottom line; a subtraction of 350 soles each week from the budget—the cost of water for this village.

But the government has not wholly forgotten.  They did build the village a medical post in 2009.  A lovely blue and while building that has lain vacant until 51 Peruvian adolescents, 5 teachers, 2 cooks, and 3 Jesuit Volunteers moved in a month ago.  Conveniently the government found the money to build a medical post, a sign of goodwill to appease the villagers, but they have forgotten to provide the personnel and supplies necessary for the health of this village.   

But every night, for a brief moment, the beauty of this port is restored.  Mateo, Greg, and I sit on the front porch of the medical post, wave to abuelita, and watch the sun set over the tranquil Pacific.  The transition from yellow to orange to red to night reminding us that it will rise again—bringing with it the hope of a new day.    

Returned…

And we´re back…after 28 days along the coast working with too many Peruvian adolecent boys.  We survived and all have returned alive (more or less) and are currently awaiting documents from migrations.  Once our documents arrive in Chili we will cross the border to Arica, pick up our visas, and move up to Lima.  We have to stop in Lima to get our residency cards, and from there we move to Cusco.

At some poin in the future I will try to post something more about Mes de Misión, but for now I just wanted to let you know that I was safely back in Tacna.

Also, my address is changing…the new address is:

P. Oscar Morelli, SJ
Sam Hay
Triunfo 339, Apartado 276
Cusco – Peru

Mateo, Greg and me as we arrived home after a month…