Luz's family donated their home - and moved out - to the Light and Leadership Initiative. Luz is a co-founder of LLI, along with Lara from the US. In the Huaycan shantytown (i.e, slum), our home is in Zone D. Zone letters define how developed a section of the shantytown is. So, we basically live in a palace. LLI supports Zones R and Z, neither of which as running water.
We have a roof over our heads. We running water most of the time, although we do not have hot water at all. With cold showers in the morning, who needs coffee? Having no toilet seats cracks me up. Since this is a co-ed home, no toilet seats means no fighting over whether it is up or down!
The bottom floor is where classes will be taught and children will play. The kitchen and dining area are on the second floor, as are two bedrooms and one bathroom. The third floor has two more bedrooms, a bathroom, and an outdoor laundry area. I am on the third floor in a room which houses four volunteers. Since I am volunteer #1, I get the room to myself for a couple nights before the next volunteer arrives on June 1. Laundry is done by hand and takes two days to dry. Doing laundry is a great way to get rid of the grime underneath your fingernails!
The kitchen had no appliances except for a very old stove before Lara moved in a week before me. Can you imagine no fridge? Needless to say, there are a number of 'friends' running around the kitchen, since food is left uncovered on the countertops all the time.
Lunch is the biggest meal of the day. Lentils with rice, and bread with cheese and tangerines are two examples. Breakfast is bread and maybe fresh (and wonderful) fruit juice. Dinner is bread and tea. Let's just say that I am carbed out!
I did take out a few folks for lunch on my second day here, and I had a 'delicacy' - donkey's heart. I can't believe I tried it. I think it was the crazy Frenchman, Arnaud, who convinced me. Arnaud is living in our home and interning at a micro-financing company as part of his MBA program.
Bottled water, instant coffee (made with bottled water) and Inka Cola are my drinks of choice.
Taxis and cars don't come to Huaycan, unless it is for a special occasion, like dropping me off from the airport. Options are the three-wheeled moto-taxis (average trip cost: 33 cents) or the craziest buses I have ever seen (average cost: 16 cents). There are only two paved roads in all of Huaycan, so try to imagine how dusty everything is. I wear my sunglasses anytime we go outside to keep the dust from irritating my eyes. I'm not being high maintenance, but I really can't keep my eyes open!
Like most markets, Huaycan's market is colorful. It has a cover of ash and dirt over it though, dulling it a bit. And, the smell is just rancid. I had to look straight ahead when we got to the meat section because the sights were just a bit too much. Maybe it is good that we only eat bread. It is quite crowded, too. I wanted to bring my camera, but Irma would not let me - too dangerous.
The sounds here are completely different. Lots of roosters cackling, street dogs barking, moto-taxis whirring, current events delivered unintelligibly over loud speakers throughout the hood, vendors whistling, ladies screaming "TAMALES" every morning at 6 am, babies crying (but it is a very different kind of cry). I am glad it is so loud since I don't have a television to fall asleep to!
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, THE PEOPLE OF HUAYCAN
The huge circle of family and friends of Luz and Irma are amazing. Everyone is so welcoming, polite, generous and protective of Lara, me and Arnaud, the only three 'gringos' in a 30 mile radius. Huaycan children want for nothing except to learn. It is quite amazing and refreshing to see.