â€œPlease visit http://issuu.com/mattloosley/docs/peru2 to view the complete set of accompanying images from my photojournal.â€?
In June/July/August 2011 I traveled, with funding from the Bedford scholarship, to volunteer in post-disaster relief for Pisco Sin Fronteras (an NGO in Pisco, south of Lima, Peru.) I was able to stay for 23 days, before traveling for a further 19 days on my journey to Maccu Piccu. This report contains extracts from my personal blog, available at mloosley.tumblr.com The aim is that the report is narrated by my thoughts at the time, rather then a description from memory once I had returned, making it a more accurate representation of my experiences in Peru. This is one half of my report, the second half being the accompanying photo journal,
which should be read alongside this text to provide a better understanding of the projects I worked on, the dramatic landscapes, the people I met along the way… 27 June Leave UK 28 Arrive Lima, Peru 29 Arrive at PSF 30 Start working on ‘Maria Parada’ 31 Maria Parada 01 July Huacachina (R+R) 02 Huacachina (R+R) 03 Maria Parada 04 Maria Parada 05 Cooking at PSF 06 Start working on ‘Original Dirtbags’ 07 Original Dirtbags 08 Original Dirtbags 09 Nasca (R+R) 10 Nasca (R+R) 11 Original Dirtbags 12 Start working on ‘Jesus Bathrooms’ 13 Jesus Bathrooms 14 PSF Tour 15 Paracus National Reserve (R+R) 16 Cooking at PSF 17 Jesus Bathrooms 18 Jesus Bathrooms 19 Maria Parada 20 Leave Pisco Sin Fronteras 21 Arrive in Arequipa 22 Colca Canyon trek 23 Colca Canyon trek 24 Monasterio De Santa Catalina / Leave Arequipa 25 Arrive Cuzco 26 Cuzco 27 Sacred Valley Tour 28 Cuzco 29 Iglesia De Santa Domingo 30 Inca Jungle Tour 01 August Inca Jungle Tour 02 Inca Jungle Tour 03 Maccu Piccu 04 Leave Cusco 05 Arrive Lima 06 Central Lima 07 Iglesia De San Francisco 08 Lima
09 Leave Lima 10 Arrive back in UK 29.06.2011 Blog Extract “I’m now at PSF, I left from Lima this morning. I had to take a taxi from my hostel to the bus station, after that Pisco was a four-hour bus ride away. Another short taxi ride and I was at PSF. I’m not the only one to arrive today, others arrived after me and since there were no available beds, they had to find a Hostel a short distance away. I had heard that everybody here was really friendly, and that the atmosphere was like a hostel, which I have found to be true. I have met so many people in such a short amount of time that I have to keep track of names in my notebook that I carry with me everywhere. Today is a national holiday for Peruvians, and as such, it was a day off work for the volunteers here at PSF. I have been told that it’s hard work and long hours, but people stay for months and months. It is 11PM now in Pisco, so I’m about to go to bed so that I’m not tired for my first day of volunteering.”
Introduction In August 2007, a magnitude 8 earthquake hit Peru and destroyed 80% of the buildings in Pisco, the region worst affected by the earthquake. Most dwellings were made of adobe and simply collapsed. According to the National Institute of Civil Defense, 519 died, 1,366 were wounded, 58,581 houses were destroyed and 14 hospitals were destroyed. According to the official United Nations count, 40,035 families were made homeless. Pisco Sin Fronteras translates as ‘Pisco without borders’ since the first volunteers were from the ‘Burners Without Borders’ organisation and wanted to establish a NGO that would be able to help the people of Pisco in the long term. Immediately after the disaster, many aid agencies came to help and provide temporary shelter and relief, but PSF identified that after the aid agencies left Pisco, the area had still not recovered. Many people lived in wooden shacks with tarpaulin roofs and poor levels of sanitation; Pisco has a very low level of social mobility and the effects of the earthquake can still be seen today. Other than simply providing help to those who need it, PSF aims to show the municipality that a lot can be done to help people, with not a lot of money. Pisco doesn’t need massive investment in social housing or infrastructure, but bottom-up aid where local people are given the knowledge and funds to help themselves. My experience of volunteering gave me first hand experience of how problems were identified and solved, from the first stage of somebody applying for help, to PSF identifying a suitable solution or approach, and organising and mobilizing volunteers to help.
Project: Organizacion Social de Base Jesus de Nazareth AKA ‘Jesus Bathrooms’ Total cost S./ 6,143.35 Equivalent £1388.31 (on 02 September 2011) Jesus is a community in Pisco with very poor levels of sanitation, and the aim of this project was to improve this by building a small bathroom block for the neighborhood. The project was run in parallel to an earth bag community centre also built by PSF volunteers. Initially, the volunteers would have had to dig a long trench to connect to the nearest sewage infrastructure. Partly in response to the new bathroom project, the local municipality laid sewerage pipes throughout the community that families could connect to themselves. The frustrating thing is that it only took one day for a digger to dig up the earth in the streets in preparation for the new infrastructure, but it took nearly three years after the earthquake before this was eventually done. Without the intervention of PSF this may have taken much longer. The education about construction techniques for the modular homes and dirtbag buildings is the new direction that PSF is aiming for. These techniques have yet to be widely adopted in preference of the existing concrete framed buildings in Pisco and throughout the developing world. There are two main advantages to schemes like this over schemes that only help one family, building a single modular home, for example. Firstly, community bathrooms have been proven to be successful by PSF. As part of the initial relief efforts, community bathroom blocks were built and are still being used today. They have a positive impact on the whole community and not just one family; the community feels a sense of ownership. Secondly, It is a difficult task to decide which family is most deserving of assistance and there can be the feeling of resentment towards families who receive help, by others who feel like they themselves are more deserving. The bathroom block consists of four cubicles containing two WC’s and two showers. It has earthquake proof construction of a concrete frame with deep foundations and brick infill. All of the walls are rendered with concrete and the cubicles are tiled. Like most PSF projects, there is a PSF project leader who will stay on the project until it is finished and a local builder to advise on construction and demonstrate to volunteers what to do (how to render, for example). There is then a team of volunteers who have chosen to be on a specific project, though they can move from one project to the next (I spent only 5 days working on this project.) was personally involved in the final stages of the concrete pour for the roof beams, concrete roof pour and the rendering; the project was completed two weeks after I left PSF. The original application for this project was completed in December 2009, construction started in April 2011.
Project: Alejandrina Uscata Vda de Tomairo AKA ODB (Original Dirt Bags) Total cost S./ 6,463.82 Equivalent £1460.73 (on 02 September 2011) This is the first dirt bag house project by PSF, for a disadvantaged family consisting of three children, their mother and disabled grandmother. The family lived in an adobe house, which collapsed during the earthquake. The land titles were in a relative’s name, who passed away, and the family doesn’t have the money to change the titles over. Other families in the area that have the correct land titles have been eligible to receive money from the government towards the cost of rebuilding their homes. There are two boys aged 7 and 9, and their sister who is 11. She has to take care of her grandmother and brothers because her mother works 6 days a week, picking cotton in the fields. The conditions that they live in are typical for Pisco, they lived in a modular home given to them from the government, a small wooden structure intended as short term relief, but which has been used as a home for three years. This is also typical of the way in which many of the relief efforts after natural disasters, intended as temporary, end up serving for much longer. The modular home sat on the concrete floor of their previous dwelling, though it is not unusual for homes to just have a dirt floor. They don’t have a bathroom so they have to use a neighbours, and all sleep on a mattress on the floor. Because Pisco is a desert, it gets very hot during the day and cold at night. An earth bag house is far better suited to the climate than the wooden modular house due to its high thermal mass. The 9-year-old boy has been ‘adopted’ by their neighbours as a house servant, they feed him in return for doing chores, an arrangement that exists until he is 18. This too, is not an uncommon occurrence, and the desperate situation of the family forces them to agree to it. Earthbag houses are resilient to earthquakes, mould, fire, hurricanes, floods and insects/rodents. Although they require a lot of labour, they use inexpensive materials. A local engineering firm donates the bags in return for English lessons, which PSF use for building earth bag community centres, and now the first earth bag house. Most PSF volunteers have no previous experience in construction, and can build an earth bag house without the assistance of a Peruvian builder (an extra cost on projects). They have low environmental impact and can usually be made with locally sourced materials. On this project however, S./1,100 had to be spent on topsoil delivered to site due to the lack of soil available in the Pisco desert, approximately 17% of the total build cost. The technique for building an earth bag house consists of a deep foundation that will withstand earthquakes, and then the base can be marked out for laying the bags. The lower levels can be concrete filled bags for added stability, with moistened earth filled bags for the upper layers. Each layer has to be firmly compacted before the next layer is laid, and barbed wire between each layer ensures minimum slippage during a seismic event. Above the top layer of earth bags is a concrete beam than runs around the perimeter of the structure, adding increased stability. This also means that water tanks can be added at a later date and the beams will spread the loading. There is very little precipitation in Pisco, so the primary function of the roof is shading. The roof needs to
be light so that in the event of an earthquake it wonâ€™t cause much damage if it collapses. For this reason, on top of the bamboo rafters there is a thin concrete roof, with crushed shells as an aggregate, creating a lightweight concrete. All of the walls are rendered with concrete, which may crumble away during a seismic event. This render is purely aesthetic and can be easily replaced if it comes away from the wall. This project was also completed shortly after I left PSF, and I was only involved in the rendering stage of the construction. This project had a very short turn around, lasting three months from when the materials were purchased, to when the home was completed.
Project: Maria Parado Total cost S./ 49,548.61 Equivalent £11,197.28 (on 02 September 2011) This project was the construction of a school canteen and bathroom block for a school, damaged by the earthquake. The concrete framed school was damaged beyond repair during the earthquake, so the children currently study in prefabricated classrooms. Usually schools in Peru are well funded and more often than not, the most well-built and maintained structures in any district. Maria Parado School has 900 students. The project was funded by the French organization ‘La Goutte D'Eau’ because there is currently no provision for food to be cooked at the school and poor levels of sanitation. The concept is that the children will be able to concentrate more easily if they have an adequate number of meals per day, not just eating chocolate and biscuits (if they can afford them) from the small shop on site. Like all PSF structures, the canteen had to be earthquake proof, so the architect (an English part 2 student from Newcastle) contacted engineers to ensure that the concrete frame would be earthquake resistant. This meant using different ribar techniques to what Peruvian builders are used to, who build concrete framed buildings all the time, to a very poor standard. It also had a concrete roof like the Original Dirt Bags project, with lightweight aggregate. All of the projects that I had the opportunity to work on were textbook examples of unsafe and poorly managed sites. Maria Parado carried the most risks as the project was on the grounds of a school and there was no perimeter fence preventing young children from entering the site. When I worked on this project, this only amounted to the nuisance of children walking over wet concrete though there were numerous other risks. Power tools and cement mixers used by untrained and inexperienced laborers like myself posed the greatest risks, not to mention 2m deep trenches used by children to play in, with both the parents and children unaware of the dangers of a collapse.
09.07.2011 Blog Extract “There was going to be a party on the beach as a few long-term volunteers were leaving. Amongst the drinking games proposed for that night was a game called ‘Redneck Football’. To play this glorious game you need to wrap a toilet roll in chicken wire, set it on fire, then play football with it. Though I’m sure it would have been a spectacle, I doubt I’d have joined in with the game - I’ve checked my insurance documents and I don’t think I’m covered for serious injuries received by playing with fireballs.”
14.07.2011 Blog Extract Had another day on Jesus Bathrooms today with some more rendering, plus I spent a good few hours chiseling away at concrete with a wood chisel. Got back to PSF where the French volunteers had been in the kitchen cooking the evening meal, it’s Bastille Day today. The tables were laid out with French flags and candles in beer bottles, the girls in the kitchen were dressed in French maid outfits and served us the food while we had a quiz on France and a talk, dispelling French stereotypes. We even had red wine, albeit from a carton. I was on DISCO, not sure what that stands for, but it means we have to wash up after dinner, and was rewarded with extra wine for doing so. Having spoken to the other volunteers about where to visit in Peru, given the amount of time I had, I decided to catch the bus to Arequipa, then Cusco before returning to Lima to catch my return flight. Volunteering at PSF means being part of a community, compared to the rest of my travels where I traveled alone. Staying in good hostels helps, as there are always other English-speaking tourists there. I also had to be more independent in the second half of my travels as I hadn’t organised anything before leaving England! The following blog extracts are from those weeks as I made my way to Maccu Piccu… 24.07.2011 Blog Extract “The monastery (Monasterio De Santa Catalina) occupies a whole page in the LP and was also recommended to me by Rupert (fellow architecture student and PSF volunteer who had stayed in the same hostel as me.) Both of these reliable guides warned me of the high entrance fee of 35 soles (approx 8 GBP) but assured me that it was justified. And it was. The whole complex occupied a whole block and had been rebuilt a number of times due to earthquake damage but was still in white stone with the typical shallow barrel vaulted ceilings, that one would rather not be standing under during an earthquake. There was some brick vaulting as well, though fortunately no hideous, shoddy, in-situ concrete to be seen. I explored the complex for 2-3 hours, taking hundreds of photos. It was a delight to walk around and I enjoyed the experience even more, having just read In Praise Of Shadows by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. The dimly lit rooms with their rich textures and mottled colours gave the place a very calm and reflective atmosphere, enhanced by the whispers of the other visitors who also felt that this place was best enjoyed in near silence. Some of the courtyards and streets were painted a rich blue, and others red. No two rooms felt alike, with variations in the colour and intensity of light, usually reflected from the coloured walls outside, giving them a unique character.”
26.07.2011 Blog Extract “I sat and sketched from a bench and another man came over to talk to me, though I enjoyed talking with him. He was from Arequipa and was training to be a tour guide in Cuzco. He spends his spare time talking to tourists to practice his English, which was fine with me as it gave me the chance to ask questions that I had been thinking about but not found the appropriate person to ask. Like: “why do the police ride around on segways that have rainbow flags on?” and “how come the police have a relaxed attitude to hard drugs, but as soon as I jaywalk, a man EMPLOYED BY THE MUNICIPALITY, wearing a novelty mask with a big nose, shouts at me and hits me with some rope?” The answers, in case you were wondering, are that the rainbow flag is the flag of the Incas. I still have no idea about shouty rope man, but apparently it only happens in Cuzco, and only on one street. To me that’s like going to London and having Beefeaters throwing plums at your knees for putting paper in the glass recycling.” “I have to confess, I did something I shouldn’t have done today. I stumbled upon a restaurant called ´Real McCoy´ run by Brits and, with a blatant disregard for the culture of Cuzco, Peru, and the whole of Latin America, had bangers and mash with onion gravy, carrots and broccoli. It was good though, so so good.”
02.08.2011 Blog Extract “Yesterday (the 1st) was the hardest day, though a lot easier than I had expected. After a filling breakfast of bread, jam, omlettes and banana juice, we set off. The walking was easy and punctuated by many breaks which were usually longer than they needed to be. We walked through the jungle and Herbie explained the types of agriculture in the region, and about the ‘El Nino’ climatic event that affects Peru every 4 years, causing floods and landslides in the sacred valley region. We walked through a deserted village that had been flooded because it was on lower ground than Santa Maria, the village where we had spent the night. Herbie: The villages grow fruits, coffee and coca leaves, then go to market on trade them every Monday. The government monitors the growth and sale of coca plants because they can be used to make cocaine. Sometimes though, the villagers trade goods for other goods, instead of buying and selling. Me: Is that just so they don’t have to pay tax? Herbie: Yes. We then stopped at an organic coffee farm, owned and farmed by just one family (they have cooperatives instead of massive land owners who employ villagers, so it seems quite fair on the farmers.) The coffee is then exported to Europe and the US and sold as Maccu Piccu coffee. After more walking, we arrived at a restaurant where Herbie dashed into the kitchen to prepare our starter of fresh guacamole, the man never stops. Before the restaurant, we hiked a section of the Inca trail, though landslides had destroyed the section after the restaurant, forcing us to walk beside the river. We then hiked to the hot springs, where I first grabbed a cold beer, then entered the pool. By this time, it was evening, and starting to get cool, though the water was still 35 degrees C. We had an hour at the springs, then walked to our next hostel in the dark. We woke while it was still dark outside, and needed our head-torches as we made our way towards the path that leads up the entrance. The site of Maccu Piccu is on top of a mountain and can be reached by bus or foot. Since walking is free, we climbed for 40 minutes to the top and joined the queue. There is a limit of 2500 people per day that can enter Maccu Piccu and it’s especially busy this year, on the 100th anniversary of its discovery by Hiram Bingham. Very soon after entering the site, the ruins reveal themselves, perched on top of the mountain and overlooked by Wayna Piccu, The surrounding mountains to the east were still partially silhouetted by the sun as it rose. Everybody gathered at this vantage point to take the compulsory photo of themselves standing proudly in front of the Inca ruins. This time was best for exploring the site whilst the air was still and quiet. Most tourists arrive later so it’s not very crowded and you are sure to be able to find somewhere to spend a few
minutes to just stop and think, admiring the monumental settlement with it’s incredible stonework. I had a ticket to climb Wayna Piccu at 7am, along with only 199 others, though I entered nearer to 8am. The climb is also around 40 minutes but much steeper, and has ropes to hold onto when it gets too steep. When I neared the top, I took the ‘wrong way’ to the top. This meant it was longer to reach the summit, but this route was deserted and gave me another chance to stand among the ruins, with a panoramic view of Maccu Piccu and the valley below. After a few minutes, I continued to the summit in hope of an even better view and the chance to see the rest of the group again. About 20 people were on the summit and had scrambled onto some massive boulders to perch and eat some well-deserved snacks. I felt a bit like a giant looking down on Maccu Piccu, as Wayna Piccu is so high. It was a bit precarious on those boulders so I tried to limit my movement and taking about twice as long as was necessary to move from one place to the next. We knew that Herbie was waiting for us at 10AM to start the tour (he has been to Maccu Piccu around 200 times now) so we descended back down to meet him. I hadn’t read much about Maccu Piccu before going, so I was astounded at all of the information Herbie was giving us. All of the symbolism and astronomy related devices were astounding, not to mention that the whole site had been constructed in around 40 years, even though it felt to me like it must have taken hundreds
05.08.2011 Blog Extract So, back to the hostel again, where I studied the map on the wall so I could decide how exactly I could spend the next few hours while it was still light. The beach looked an easy walk but I couldn’t tell the scale of the map, it turned out to be a 30-40 minute walk through Miraflores. In Cuzco, and most places where tourists go, I felt like a walking dollar sign, so I put my hood up when walking through Miraflores to hide my blonde hair and I felt almost normal again. I was ignored rather than noticed, and seen as more of a shady character than a vulnerable one. I reached the beach, taking note of the street names so that I wouldn’t get lost on my return. I walked along for a few minutes, pausing to take night shots of the coastline as the bay stretched out in front of me. I reached a group of friends, sitting on a bench, and one of them was holding a guitar. I stopped to take my harmonica out of my bag and asked him if he would like to jam. We played for a few minutes, surprising everybody that this shady gringo character was now jamming with their friend. The guy playing guitar was Raul, and they were about to go to a bar in Barranco, so invited me along. Raul had been playing guitar while Maria was singing a Beatles song, she had an audition at a bar in Barranco so her friends were going along to support her. They all spoke brilliant English and only had to revert to Spanish a few times when talking between themselves. I was surprised that I was invited along, but decided to be spontaneous nonetheless. Barranco was a bus ride away, making a mockery of my notes of a walking route back to the hostel!We reached the bar, Posada De Angel around 9pm and it was practically deserted, Peruvians don’t usually start going out until much later. The bar was an opulent, colonial style place with period features and decor, dimly lit by candles and small lamps. The performance space was elevated only 1 step, with a backdrop of a stained glass window, mezzanine floors overlooking from both sides, with the bar underneath the mezzanine on the side of the entrance. We talked for ages while waiting for the first performer to start, a male singer/guitarist who played a 30-minute set of Spanish and Mexican influenced songs. Sometimes when I’ve met people with limited English, conversations seem to repeat themselves and can be awkward, but with Raul and friends this was not the case! They all study at the same university and most study Sociology, and were intelligent and educated people that made great company. It was then Maria’s turn to perform, she was shy with nerves and getting quite anxious. When she started to play and sing though, I could see no reason for the nervousness as she had a beautiful voice and great control. She sang a variety of delicate songs that made everybody speechless (including the couple behind us who had been talking loudly during the previous performance.) After the set, she returned, worried about her (undetectable) mistakes but brimming with excitement. We stayed for a few minutes longer, I took her portrait, and then we all left. The bar owner told her that he liked her performance and that she could return if she wanted, though unfortunately busy university lifestyle would limit her opportunities to return. I felt privileged to be invited along to Barranco, and even more so when Raul offered to meet me the next day and show me around central Lima. Four of us jumped into a taxi, which dropped me off at my hostel, only two minutes away from Carolina’s house, which I was to visit the next day.
06.08.2011 Blog Extract Yesterday (05-08-11) Raul said that he would be able to pick me up from my hostel at 10am, managed to make it for midday. We walked the short distance to Carolina’s house before going out into central Lima. I explained that I study architecture and liked her family’s house, so I got a brief tour. I would have felt rude taking photos, which wouldn’t have done justice to the story that the home had to tell, voiced through it’s occupants. Before we went into central Lima, we had to go to the University (Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru) to run a few errands and meet Julian. The quality of the construction in Lima is far superior to the rest of Peru; everywhere else, ribar is left exposed on the top of columns so that the building is unfinished and the tax is avoided, but this doesn’t happen in Miraflores as it is a wealthy, middle class district. After university, we took a bus into the centre of Lima close to the Plaza of San Martin. We made our way through a famous restaurant next to the presidential palace. We shared two dishes between the 4 of us because the portion sizes were generous - the restaurant features in my LP where it says that since 1905 every president of Peru has eaten at that restaurant. We then walked to a wide, paved, pedestrian street beside the river where there were many stalls serving food, mainly traditional Lima deserts. They also sold cow hearts on a skewer (anticuchos), so this was my chance to finally try some (I wish it hadn’t eaten from a street vendor, but I’m feeling fine today so it can’t have been too bad.) I shared food with Carolina and Raul, they bought 1 small desert that we all shared, then moved to the next vendor. This was a great idea as I got the chance to sample all of the deserts, and Raul and Carolina explained them to me in terms of origins and ingredients. All the time that I spent with me new friends had been very interesting, I learnt more about Peruvian culture, history, society and politics than I had in all of the previous 5 weeks. Raul and Carolina were eager to share their knowledge and educate me about the city and country that I was in.
I learnt many things from traveling in Peru, and especially from volunteering. It feels good to help people, to work hard and see the results, and to know that you were part of an organisation which improves the lives of many in Pisco. From the outside looking in, it may be difficult to fathom how the volunteers can get so much enjoyment from working so hard for no pay, when they could be exploring South America and all it has to offer. On reflection, I wish I had spent more time at PSF and maybe, like many other volunteers, someday Iâ€™ll return.
Report for the West Yorkshire Society of Architects