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10 May

Claro? Huh?

Claro was the mobile phone provider we used in Peru; Claro is just like Vodafone, except it actually works.  Since returning back to Sydney, I come across things that remind me of my trip to Cusco. The other day I came across my 70 soles ($20) phone that I had used in Peru. I put it on charge and then went back through the messages. In this blog, I will share a few of the messages that were sent and what they mean to me.

Myself > My Mum

“MUM!! You have to see this! This place is beautiful, the people are stunning, and the atmosphere is vibrant. I never want to come home.”

This message was sent straight after we saw the village that we would be working in for the first time. Cusco was an amazing city, it really was stunning. The view from the community took my breath away, huge green mountains staring a shadow down were bold and magnificent to look at. The Peruvian people living in the community had a sweet presence on them, they were so happy, warm and welcoming. I loved the whole experience!!!

Myself > Renee (sister)

“We can do more. These people are so beautiful and they need so much more. Why are we all so self focused?”

This comment is self explanatory. It’s true! We think of ourselves and not others. Living in a poor community for a month opens your eyes in a new way and it is hard to deal with when you return back home.

Myself > John Shamon (friend still in Sydney)

“Johnnnyyyyy.. matey. I miss yuouu. I wishh you were here. We re celebrating big. Just finished our work at the community! The women are B.E.A-utiful. I’m nearly drunjk., “

You may be laughing at this message or you may be, well, confused. On our final night in Cusco, we had a big one. Yes, a big one. Lots of drinks, lots of party and way too much alcohol. We were celebrating the work that we had achieved. I don’t recommend getting drunk but I do recommend that you celebrate when you achieve something. We had achieved so much over the month and we had a right to celebrate. You probably shouldn’t send drunken text messages but this is what I sent to one of my best friends in Sydney. And it’s true, the women were beautiful. ❤ haha

Myself > Gran

“These people have nothing but yet they are so happy. Happier than you and me.”

The people literally have nothing; they have to grow their own food because they have absolutely no money to buy anything. But, I do believe they are happier than most of the people in Australia. They are so happy!!! They made me realise, that there is more to life than monetary rewards and assets. The Peruvian people valued family and friends over money and possessions. We can all learn something from them. This challenged me when I returned home to Sydney.

Myself > Mum

“This was the best month of my life, I can’t wait to see everyone very soon Love you”

The month when I was away was so rewarding for the community and myself. I enjoyed myself so much, while learning a lot about life. I learnt how other live and what I value. I did miss home at some times throughout the trip but if I had it my way I would have stayed much longer. It was great to see family again and when you spend time away from home, you realise what you value most in life.






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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