Powerlessness in Hualcayán, Peru


Children respond to me pulling out my camera in a classroom in Hualcayán, Peru.

So, I have this new understanding of being powerless.  The power has been out since last Thursday in this remote northern Andean village where I have been for the past couple of weeks, and with a couple more weeks to come.  Turns out being without electricity really did not make a difference.  The only real downside was that all the laptops eventually went dead, meaning no more internet.  Solar charges were only good for iPads, iPods and other devices that could not hook into the tenuous 2G network up here.  I came to like it.    I got much more in tune with the village life where electrical outages are common and can last a couple of weeks.

It reminded me of a much simpler and enjoyable time.  When we were painting the inside of a building that will turn into the Hualcayán Museo in a couple of weeks, there was a tinge of nostalgia that was very satisfying about the experience.  The same with eating dinner by candle light, visiting other folks in their homes and shops illuminated only by candles or cooking fires.  Seems we outsiders were the only folks with flashlights and headlamps.  My solar charger was the only one in the entire village.  No one had a gas generator either.  The folks of Hualcayán simply take it one day at a time on this issue.

One of the most memorable parts of the experience was a conversation I had with a student who traveled to Peru from the U.S. on this project.  She was very self-critical of her work down here, second guessing herself way too much.  So we discussed how doing things the first time is messy and not precise.  We were able to talk about her work and let her know that she was doing an absolutely spectacular job.  After the conversation I took her aside and commented that I was not certain what led her to such intense self-criticism of herself.  I shared my experiences of dismal feelings of self-worth in my past life.  I noted that mine came from my alcoholism and that it has taken a long time to feel comfortable in my own skin. I was just wanted reassure her that she was a spectacular young woman doing phenomenal work.  She was quite appreciative of me sharing my experience, strength, and hope.

So here is my punch line for the day – I thoroughly enjoy that recovery is present in all of my thinking – whether in the loss of electricity, or someone in distress for who knows what reasons.

Now I am sitting in Caraz, a town with power where we will have meetings the next two days about collaborative projects on a new museum planned for this small town in the Huaylas Province.  I look at the chair next to my bed and see an iPad, cell phone, and iPod being charged with power.  Sometimes powerlessness is the better choice.

2 thoughts on “Powerlessness in Hualcayán, Peru

  1. I dream of a world without internet and devices, only because I love mine too much. What a great photo (again) and I like that you took the time to share your experience, strength and hope with the self- critical student. That is the stuff that makes a difference.

    • Thanks for your comments. Yeah, being without internet can be a really pleasant experience. I find that suddenly, I am much more aware of my surroundings, sounds, and experiences.

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