Expression through story.

20 Apr

I have understood that the way I cope and celebrate my achievements is to write a story about my experiences for others to read and to enjoy. This is a story about my experiences in Peru, it may be a touch long but I hope you enjoy it.

“Mas barrow, mas barrow, uno mas” was screamed across the worksite as I scooped water drenched mud into buckets that I was frequently passed to Selby who was standing knee deep in mud wearing a faded football jersey. The mud was used to make mud brick walls that will help support Indigenous Peruvians of Cusco. Hours pass. The hot sun beamed down and made sweat drip down the side of my cheek. I’d count down the minutes until it’s time to go back to the hotel and only images of smiling locals and the knowledge that it was for a good cause kept me going and motivated me to work harder. The trip was more than a holiday, it was a life changing experience.

Cusco is a city in south east Peru, near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range. The city has a population of 359000 and its altitude is around 3400m which make things even more difficult because of the lack of oxygen. Cusco was the site of the historic capital of the Inca Empire which still means a great deal for the Indigenous locals.

Out of 19 group members there were so many different nationalities all on the trip, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Spanish, Filipino, Malaysian and Australians, However we all had the same thing in common, we were all from Macquarie University and we all had a passion for helping this community succeed. Pedro stood out to me in the group, his English was more broken than a shaded piece of glass, yet he still had the courage to go on an overseas trip with English speaking people because he was excited to impact this city.

Holding on tight, praying to God and sweating nervously, our budget domestic flight came in for landing. We made it to Cusco. Looking out the plane window I could see giant mountains ranges stretching far and wide, hills with the greenest of grass and mountains with crosses on the top of them. It was an unreal experience, one that you’d expect in the movies, not in real life. It looked hot outside with the sun brightly shining but I was wrong when we finally got out of the airport. We noticed altitude, more than the weather being cool, we could feel the effect of a low amount of oxygen.

“Man, I can hardly breathe”, Sam said as we were loading up our bags into the bus that came to pick us up in. I fully noticed the altitude on the first day when I was walking up the stairs to get to my bedroom, that was located on the top floor. You could hear me panting from the bottom.

Putting on my ten dollar op-shop pants, throwing on my daggy shirt and tying up my old sneakers meant I was ready for my first day of work at the village. “Beep Beep” we heard, meaning the bus is ready to take us after we strategically position ourselves in a tiny mini bus that we can’t believe we all fit into. It didn’t matter what we smelt like, because we were jammed packed together, all the smells would combine and you could blame in on the wildlife outside.

It’s a special moment meeting the community in which we would stay in for the next month. My expectations were met as my heart melted for the locals. The children were adorable as we were welcome with flowers and a traditional Peruvian song. We became connected to the locals as we were spending so much time with them. One of the men in the village smiled every time we said something which was warm and comforting even though he didn’t have many teeth and the teeth that he did have were yellow and crooked.

“Last one, help him” Selby said as the last brick is place into the wall. A week had past and the first project, the mud brick was completed. The 7-foot wall stretching 20 metres was standing as strong as rock and the village people were over excited. We were achieving in the village at a high frequency but the challenges to come were going to slow us down.

“Lucy, there’s something wrong with me” I said to my blonde headed team leader.

With the worried look in her face she knew that I am the next victim to the Salmonella bug that was rapidly spreading amongst the group. In an instance, she called the local doctor for the dreaded check up as I ran to the bathroom to a once clean toilet. The Peruvian doctor speaking no English shacked his head which was a sign that things aren’t good and I’ll be spending the week in a local hospital. This broke my heart because I was so excited to complete the work that was going on. I had travelled half the way across the world to lie in a bed but I knew it was the best thing for me in order to get well and not spread the illness to my team mates.

“Hello Michael… Thanks for calling” my mum answered in an over enthusiastic tone. Tears dripped down my cheek and fell from my chin as I was devastated to tell my mum the news that I was in hospital and the overwhelming feeling of speaking to my mum for the first time that year. I wouldn’t say I’m missing home, but as I was sitting ther starring into the ceiling, eating a bland mix of food, all I can think of is home, and how it would be nice to be in my own bed with mum walking up and down the stairs with lemonade and a bright smile.

Lying in bed, I swiftly flick between the BBC channel, CNN and ESPN, the only three English networks accessible. Being in hospital wasn’t too bad it was a great chance to get to know JD and Jen, two other members who were stuck in hospital with me. JD’s personality made me chuckle as one minute he’s flirting with the non English speaking nurses and the next he’s screaming profanities across the room.

“Fuck me, Fuck, I don’t eat vegetables” 23 year old JD screams across the room to show he’s opinion on the hospital food while Jen and I have a cheeky look on our face as we eat broccoli and continue our game of snap. I wasn’t getting any better but I was determined to get well so I could go back and finish the construction work. As a joke, I asked the nurse for more drugs to see if she would laugh, instantly she pumped a stack load of morphine into my arm and I realised how people can get addicted to it.

A loud applause echoed through the village as I got out of the bus the next week. It was my first day back at the worksite and it was our final week in the village. We worked harder than ever before to finish the work we had previously started.

“Your muscles are getting bigger” Pedro said to me in his broken English. I replied with a smile while I picked up another 4 bricks which made me realise the extent of the work.

At our farewell on our last day in Cusco, the principal of the school stood up and said “Thank you for all your hard work in completing two mud brick walls and completing a class room. We are very thankful and God bless you”. This was followed up by song and dance. The little children were so cute as they walked up to us individually giving us a large amount of flowers and a special card while throwing confetti on our heads in a way of appreciation.

As we pulled away in our mini bus, again tears ran down my face from the pure emotion of leaving the village for the last time, John immediately called me soft and a little girl before the next morning where he admitted that he was doing the same thing just with sunnies on.

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2 Responses to “Expression through story.”

  1. angelenepenguin April 20, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    Wow I love your account of the trip!!! It reminded me of every little moment that I so dearly miss. Your descriptions were vivid and made me laugh and tear up.

  2. Tina May 1, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    love your story!!!!

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