Hello there and welcome to part 14 of my blog! I'm doing this blog today as part of the "write a blog for PSF" project that I signed up for in lieu of...you know... working!! Hence why this one's a bumper issue in extra detail! So this will be up on the swanky new Pisco Sin Fronteras website.
A week in the life of a PSF volunteer!
On Saturday morning I got up at about 8am, stumbled to the yard for breakfast, then sat down for the morning meeting. A typical morning meeting consists of new volunteers introducing themselves to the group, then any anouncements are made, which range from anything like "make sure you clean the kitchen on the weekends" to "NO SEX IN THE DORMS!!!". Next cleaning jobs are volunteered for (cleaning bathrooms, sweeping corridors, washing dinner dishes etc.) before the project manager, Thays takes over to assign jobs for the day. These are all written on a big whiteboard and range from building houses to making bio-diesel. This meeting was kind of special as TBC (real name Dave Gwyther), PSF's director had returned from a month-long break the previous day and had to re-introduce himself. On Saturday, having seen a couple of projects I liked the look of fill up remarkably fast, I reluctantly signed up to teach English at Ludotecca, the child care centre in the poorer district of Alameida. It is run by Vitalina, a enthusiastic and caring woman who has been working there since UNICEF built the centre after the earthquake. So after gathering my materials and reading through the lesson plan, I hopped in a tuk-tuk and set off for the centre. There were two sessions, one from 10-11am, which was for young children and one from 11-12pm, which was for older children and adults (although no adults showed up for this particular one!). The morning session was particularly challenging as the kids had pretty short attention spans. The lesson plan also recommended that I give out random books to the kids in order to demonstrate the words my, your, their, his etc. This was a bad idea as they just started reading the books!! I also started teaching them the daily routines in English, then asked them to mime the routines and see if the others could guess the action. In the later session I had one particularly clever twelve year old, who before the lesson started took it upon herself to teach me Pythagorus' theorum!! I did the same lesson, but with fewer interuptions and dare I say more success!
Saturday afternoons are often rather lazy and quiet around PSF, so I retired to my room to start reading up on my Macchu Pichhu trip (which I'm starting this weekend), before I went with Michael, my new roommate to the market to find him a towel then heading to the plaza de armas (the very centre of the town centre) to get some money out. We also had a look around a few bars and cafes to see if they were showing the Arsenal vs Liverpool football game (Michael is an avid gunner!). When we headed back, with the yard still pretty lifeless, we headed to the old school house, a hostel that used to be the PSF HQ, to watch a DVD. Later on in the evening a big group of us headed to the town centre to get pizza (the first I've had since arriving in Peru two and a half months ago!) and ice-cream. The place we got Pizza from had a darts board, so we had a couple of games during the long wait for pizza. Afterwards we headed back to the house and had a couple of beverages before I threw in the towel and headed to bed.
Remember, Remember the... 15th of August?
Sunday was a pretty important day for Pisco as it marked the 3rd anniversary of the Earthquake that shook the town and destroyed 80% of the buildings. So after watching the first half of the football with Michael, most of the volunteers headed over to the Blind People's Modular, where we had built them a modular house for them to make handbags, belts and other woven items in. Sunday was the inauguration of the modular, so about a dozen of the blind people joined us for a party. After about half an hour of meeting and greeting, some of the women started singing us songs, which TBC was forced to dance to along with a few others. The grand finale culminated in Thays, the house's godmother and the president of the Pisco Rotary Club, the house's godfather smashing a bottle of wine over the door frame to officially christen the house which was followed by some speeches by Thay's TBC and some of the blind folks. The vast majority of the volunteers and the blind people's association then headed over to Diana's, a big restaurant popular amongst PSF volunteers for lunch. We had to hurry our food because we had planned a march down to Pisco playa to commemorate the anniversary of the earthquake. All of the volunteers, along with past project families and friends of PSF set off down the road with our banner and signs with slogans on them, while we chanted and hollered!! Quite a few people cheered us on and a few even joined the parade. At the end of the parade a few speeches were made before we went back into the house and said our goodbyes to our guests.
On the night we played a few drinking games before heading out to our usual watering holes in town to erm... celebrate the earthquake!!
Happy Birthday PSF!!
Monday was another special day, as it was the 2nd birthday of PSF. For this we had the day off. In the morning I had the genius idea of making a bacon sandwich, again the first I've had since arriving in Peru. After chatting with some people and hanging around the house, I spent the rest of the day killing time, first at the internet cafe, then at the old school house watching another DVD. When the evening finally came around we gathered at the house for an extra special meal cooked by some local Peruvian women. We were given massive portions of chicken with avocado, peas and salad. Later we had a PSF birthday party, with Vitalina and Flaviola, the woman who runs the cake and beer shop around the corner, coming over and making us a birthday cake. After a few beers I headed to bed.
On Tuesday, eager to get stuck back into some dirty hard work, I signed up for the French School project. This is currently the biggest project at PSF, concieved by the French charity organisation La Gout D'eau (or something like that, I'm struggling enough with Spanish as it is!!). We were building a dining room and toilet block for the school, who were promised free meals from a government organisation on completion of the construction. That day we were pouring concrete foundations for the toilet block, so after an hour or so of preparing the metal columns and clearing up the debris from the trenches we started mixing the concrete. Concrete pouring involves three main steps: first pouring a couple of buckets of water into the cement mixer and adding cement, second shovelling the sand and rock aggregate mix into the mixer and finally pouring the mixed concrete into wheelbarrows to be dumped in the trenches. We knocked the trench out in about an hour, leaving me the afternoon to help make metal cages for the foundations, while the professional architect, structural engineer and builder volunteers worked out the dimensions and measurement of the trench for the dining room. At about 4.30pm we packed up to leave. The truck was late however so we had to wait until about 5.30, when it transpired that the truck had been in an accident, with a bus clipping the truck when the truck was turning off for the school. A heated argument later we left the driver our details and headed back home just in time for dinner, which was pretty tasty kebabs.
On the evening we had our weekly football game against the tour guides, a group consisting of Harold (PSF's founder and President) and his work friends. Traditionally we have had a pretty bad record against them, with us failing to win a game in about 6 months up until last week, when their two best players (harold and his cousin) joined our team. This week we had our turncoats again and subsequently squeezed out another heroic victory, this time 5-4, with some amazing goalkeeping from our star player (Me). After the game, with the Gentlemen's club (a small 4-man room) getting a bit cramped, I moved into the School house (I had spent most of the last week there!). After showering a group of us gathered by the fire for Lizzy's (a long term volunteer) last night, where she sang some songs and played her mandolin. After a rousing rendition of "Wagon Wheel" I headed to bed.
How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck....
On Wednesday I headed up a team of ten people to go to Aceros Arequipa, a huge steel factory, to collect our free wood that AA donate to PSF, which we then make in to panels for our modular houses. We got a tuk-tuk to the market, then after wandering around lost trying to find a bus that goes via Aceros Arequipa, we finally found one. We arrived at the plant at about 10am, then after meeting with Leeward, the environment department manager, we were escorted to the metal cage where the wooden palettes are stored. After about an hour of sorting and loading the wood into a truck, we moved on to loading tarps, which are used on roofs and also on the wooden panels. After sending the first truck away a second truck was summoned and was loaded with two piles of 4x4 planks by a massive forklift truck. I rode the second truck back to the wood yard, where I organised a group of people kicking around the house to unload the truck. After about half an hour of work we had dumped all the wood out. Half of us then headed to Chicho's, a nearby restaurant and had lunch. After lunch we went back to the wood yard to organise the unloaded wood and sorted them into piles of good, usable wood and bad wood that would either be given away or used for the fire. After that was done we started de-nailing some of the planks we had collected before calling it a day at about 4.30pm. After getting dinner and desert (that is sold every Wednesday to raise money for PSF) a group of eight of us headed over to the school house for a game of poker. My run of form playing poker at PSF to this had been nothing short of dismal, with me not winning a single game. However after a shaky start, I started getting into my stride and after an epic heads up battle with Anton, I finally got the monkey off my back and won!!
I signed up to do dinner duty on Thursday with Delia and Martin, two Peruvians, for which we were making Lomo Saltado, a Peruvian dish consisting of beef, tomatos and onions, served with rice and chips. We first had to get the ingredients, which required running around the market to about five or six different stalls finding the various foods. When we got back I had about an hour of cutting vegetables before being dismissed for lunch. Liz, the other person cooking, and I had some leftover scones and jam before heading back to work, only to find that Delia and Martin had it covered, so I was again dismissed until I was required to set up tables and plates. After enjoying the fruits of my labour we went for another game of football, this time just PSFers vs PSFers. We split into Britain and Ireland vs the rest of the world and after a hard fought battle, the Brits prevailed 6-5! Tired, I headed back to my room to watch TV before crashing at about 11pm.
On Friday I headed over to a nearby house to work on a demolition. This project required a pretty big floor to be demolished to make way for a new house. This entailed using the jack-hammer to smash through the top layer of the floor, then the rest was pick axed and breaker-barred out and shovelled out into a pile of rubble. This was back breaking labour, but it made the beer at the end of the day that little bit sweeter! On the evening Emily, the events co-ordinator organised a bingo night, with four games with prizes of chocolate, alcopops and a PSF T-shirt. We had one round played regular, one round in Spanish, then one in Swedish (by Simon, the Swedish-Australian kitchen manager, with translations in English) and finally a speed round. I didn't win anything but still had a good time. Afterwards we fired up some more drinking games, before heading out to Afro-Cafe again and dancing the night away!!!
So that's a (sort of) typical week in the life of a PSF volunteer for you. For anyone considering volunteering here I couldn't recommend it enough. The few months I have spent here have been without doubt the best months of my life. I have met so many interesting people and learned so much stuff I thought I'd never learn. If you want to hear more about my times at PSF I do a blog for my friends and family at www.offexploring.com/tom-janes which also has a few photos (from before I broke my camera!) so check it out. Thanks for reading!