The work begins

View from center of Town
Pachacutec, the King of the Inca who was responsible for the great expansion of the Inca Empire.
Plaza d’Armas festooned for Xmas

Volunteerism has a host of benefits. Let’s review them from the top. Foremost, people in need are impacted upon with the intent not being merely to resolve their problems for today but to implement practices for them to carry on down the road to success -be it Morocco, Zanzibar, Rio, Singapore or anywhere else that there is a need for Hope (not to mention Lamour and Crosby).

Local Market

Lori and I work in conditions, that while not primitive, are just a few steps up the ladder. Lori is working in child care at an orphanage, assiting the director of the agency.

The Orphanage (post weeding)

Aside from the struggle to communicate in a language that she possesses only the basics of, she is further hampered by a lack of the most basic materials and supplies. She has scrounged around for any elements to assist her. Items as commonplace as scotch tape, crayons and drawing paper are non-existent. Through her impetus, hard work and ability to scrounge, she has been able to obtain enough materials to amuse, entertain and teach the children. Oh, and did I mention, the children and most of the staff speak no English at all.

Imagine a pair of scissors, some crepe paper and muffin time liners keeping a dozen kids amused and occupied. No need for Game Boy, which is a good thing since electricity is in short supply.

Electricity is in no supply on my construction site. We are building a two level building that will serve as a combination nursery and pre-school for the local children.


The site is being erected without the benefit of power. All work is undertaken by manpower and sans machinery. To date, I have been hammering, sawing, mixing cement, pouring columns in a style reminiscent of a similar project we undertook on another continent. Add about 14,000 feet of altitude but reduce the temperature from 35 to 20C so its a fair trade.


There are five volunteers working on the project – Grayson – a large hulking guy from Nantucket who does construction half the year back home and who is our go-to guy for problems. A wonderfull person with the sole defect of being a Bruins fan – worst part – given how the Habs are playing I have to keep my mouth shut. Arthur, whose real name is Xin Shuan is an honors student in economics. Born in China but raised in Australia, his English is close to perfect with as much Aussie coming through his accent as Chinese. He has not ever been involved in physical labour – I believe that he comes from the Chinese priveledged class that we see on TV all the time, and is coping very well given his total unfamiliarity with perspiration. Ilana is another Aussie heading into med school. There is always a female volunteer who signs up for construction and does more for advancing the cause of feminists than all the Greers and Steinhams put together.

Jonathan is also from the land down under.


He and Arthur are schoolmates and posseses mathematical skilss that are exceptional. He goes back to OZ after this trip and starts a job working in banking at a level that includes advising the Governor of Australia on Monetary Policy. Not a bad opening gig. He is also the only other Jew on the team so our humour complements one another’s to a painful extent for other listeners. Yesterday, Marco, our foreman, had Jonathan and I chosen (who else?) to head down the road to the supply depot, wheelbarrows in hand. Our task was to carry 150 kg of plaster in our wheelbarrows half a kilometer, mostly up an inclined slope. Fortunately the ache in the muscles was overshadowed by the searing pain in our lungs as we gasped for oxygen at an elevation 4,000 feet higher than Macchu Picchu. We made it and are no worse for the wear. Our ancestors did this daily in Egypt. How dare we complain?

Work takes up most of the morning. We come back to the group home for lunch and afternoons are free. Lori and I have signed up for Spanish lesson so, by two o’clock, we are sitting in our seats learning vocab, conjugation and trying to pick up the basic skills to communicate with the locals for the next few weeks. Very enjoyable and the five of us in the class enjoy each other’s company immensely.

Evenings are spent either back at the guest house or heading into town for dinner, drinking, site-seeing or any combination of the above. Last night eight of us went to the Inca Grill which serves the best guinea pig in town. If you’re not much into rodents, the alpaca is also lovely. I decided to be the guinea pig and ordered first. Roasted with rosemary and seasoned delightfully, my meal tasted like a combination of rabbit and lamb.

Quite delicious.

Lori opted for the alpaca which was a lean tasty treat somewhat akin to ostrich.

The other night I went out with a few of the volunteers and hung out at a bar called the Cross Keys. It had the trappings of an old British pub, down to the leather seats and brass railings. Lori had to beg off due to her sensitivity to smoke since where there’s alcohol there’s smoke, as the old saying goes.We played a drinking game suggested by Tia – a young Vancouverite with a definite flair. 

She has just come out of working in the jungle and managed to survive without having her pierced nose getting entangled with a vine. She has also shaved the left side of her head about 1/3 of the way up and has long tresses garlanded with the occasional braided strip on the long side. She actually suits the look and is petit and quite pretty. Swears like a drunken sailor though, but again she carries it off with a certain aplomb. Anway, her game was called ‘Never have I ever’. The rules are simple: in turn each person states ‘Never have I ever.. and concludes the sentence with something heretofor never done by that individual. Anybody in the group who has done that particular activity is required to take a sip of their drink. The actions rode the gamut from visiting Australia to men wearing high heels to consumption of hallucinogenics, to bungee jumping to piercings and tattoos. We carried on for about three hours and somehow, given the quantity of sips I was required to imbibe, I managed to walk home under my own steam.

Our time is quite occupied here and aside from trying to keep up with work and socalize and get a bit of reading done, the most compelling time is spent with the other volunteers. Anybody who is here and desirous to do this type of work possesses other special and interesting qualities. They are great to talk with, share experiences and views of the world. Global volunteerism is very much Lori’s and my choice as to how to meld doing good and enjoying the experience of seeing new places and meeting fascinating people. There are a few downsides, as does have everything else in life. For instance, the reason that I’ve had the time to get this blog out is that my stomach decided that it wold not be a great day to be at work due to an absence of toilets anywhere near by. So I sit in our bedroom


next to our bathroom

pounding away on the keys. We are off to Macchu Picchu tomorrow for the weekend and we look forward to sharing our experiences in posting #3.

  • Andrew
    Posted at 20:45h, 24 December Reply

    Never have I ever.. Climbed to the top of Machu Pichu.. drink drink drink

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