I have been up in Hualcayán, Peru for the past several days. As I noted in my last blog post, the place is well off of the beaten path and does take quite a bit of effort to get to. So the trip took 28 hours to get to within a 90 minute further drive up an unpaved road. On my other blog, I wrote about that process.
Even though the temperatures get down into the low 30s at night, there is no heat, there is no hot water for a shower, we sleep in sleeping bags on a cement floor and the 3G wireless connection is tenuous, at very best (don’t know when I will actually be able to publish this piece) – but I am having an absolutely fantastic time.
- The students I work with up here are truly fantastic. They want to be here, have incredibly positive attitudes in a less than ideal environment for Western creature comforts. I thoroughly enjoy working with them.
- I am pleased that I have a real opportunity to not only apply my professional skills, but the project is also something that I believe in.
- But the best part of my experience is getting out of myself and being able to engage with and learn from other folks. Here is a story about that: I was sitting in our lab with my coat and hat on for warmth last night doing some after hours work. A woman from the village and her daughter stopped by to have a conversation with the project co-director about various issues. I was downloading images from my camera taken earlier that day. When I looked up, I was startled to see Lorenia, the thirteen-year-old daughter standing beside me, looking intently at the photos as they flashed through iPhoto on my laptop screen. My first reaction was wanting her to disappear so I could continue with my work. That was not going to happen, as she pulled up a stool and sat down right next to me intent on my laptop screen. We ran through the limited conversation my Spanish allowed – age, family, school, the weather and so forth. She did not budge. So, I ran through pictures I downloaded of her classmates at the school celebration the day before, then photos from the village cultural heritage festival last year. Her mother was still in conversation and Lorenia was not going anywhere. I then went through photos of my nietos, nietas, esposa, hijos, hihas, perros, and more. I pretty much exhausted my iPhoto images that might be entertaining. I then booted my Rosetta Stone Spanish Language software and we played that game for a long time. The mother’s conversation ended and they left after about 2 hours. This is a story I will probably remember for a long time. Like many other experiences in life, I tend to remember those stories where I am able to get out of myself and relate to others. Of late, I have come to wonder if these events/stories will prove as memorable to other participants, like Lorenia.
Where does all of this come back to recovery? Last night the students were passing some sort of clear Peruvian brandy around the table where we eat dinner. The glass got to the person sitting next to me, a student I worked with previously, who knew I did not drink. She did not offer me the glass but passed it on to the next person. Another student suggested I might want some. I declined. No big deal to anyone.
But as I sit here now and reflect, I think of how, with one drink, all of the wonderful experiences I had in the past few days would go down the tube. As well, I would never come back to Hualcayán. Had I not been sober, I would never have gotten here to begin with. I would never have been in the position to have the childhood friend of my step daughter who is the director of the project invite me to participate in the first place.
For all of the above I am truly grateful.