November 3, 2009

Travelblog Number 11.2.2K9.1

Filed under: Lisa´s recon mission codename ¨Finding Presli¨, PDC News — Administrator @ 9:18 am

Today´s tasks are  to find an allen wrench for Merardo´s bike, change hostels and get some groceries and cash.

The first order of business was to change hostels.  I remembered seeing one online that fronts the Parque Tupac Amaru, but nobody, including the police guard at the bank, could tell me where one was.  I walked all the way around the wrong way, to find it at the corner where the taxi had dropped me off.  For 20 soles ($7.10) per day, I will have a more well-apportioned room, complete with a full-length mirrow, a hanging rack, a dresser, a little desk and an actual HOT shower in a small bathroom with a reasonalble amount of openness.  No kitchen priveleges, so I´ll have to eat out or get some non-perishables for the room.  No problem.

I rushed back to the Casa de la Abuela to get out of my 50 sol ($17.73) per night cold room so that I could get back on task.  I paid the full nine nights ahead at the new place, ¨Hospedaje San Cristobal¨, and got on the road to find a hex key.  I walked for about 2 hours up and down the crowded, filthy, poor marketplace, looking for a tool stand or hardware store.  One man stopped me when he saw me take a picture and asked if I was a ¨periodista¨ (newsperson).  I told him that I am  not with a newspaper, but that I am documenting my travels in Peru.  He told me that he needed help to find his 14 year old daughter.  She had gone to Lima to live with family friends, but he has not had contact with them for over 4 months.  I told him that I have no way to help him and that I was myself in Peru to find two people.  I wished him luck and told him that I cannot imagine the pain of looking for one´s own child.  I had to walk away from him.  His face was breaking my heart.

I have a problem here because everyone has a sad story to tell and they are real and true.  I wish that I had some kind of power to help find all the missing children, or to help bury those who have died (like the 9 year old killed by a car in La Oroya the same day and time my bus passed through there), or to take all the Presli´s of the world and give them a warm bed, clean clothes, medical care, education, etc.  There are just not enough PDC´s on this planet to help all the Presli´s and Merardo´s.  It is just too sad, but this is also only one country.  There are countries all over the world whose names I don´t even know where the life is even harder than here.

Anyway, the food costs here are embarassing.  For example, today I had a nice ham sandwich and fresh papaya juice for less than $1.50, two beef sticks with potatos on the ends for a sol (35 cents), a bag of giant roasted corn for another sol and dinner was a quarter of a chicken, a salad and a half a plate of large-cut fries and a huge cup of hot anise tea for 5.50 soles ($1.77).  I´ll be back to this restraunt for sure!  Total food costs for today: $2.30.  Shameful!

I had an ATM ¨incident¨.  I mistakenly asked for dollars the first time, so now I have $100 of US dollars, but what I needed was soles.  So, two transactions at $7.50 of fees per time to get 200 soles in my pocket.  I´ll be able to change the dollars, but now I have to make sure that my checking account does not go negative, especially with the added $!5 in fees.  Stupid ATM!

After being sent all over the place, I finally found the hex key.  A woman sitting against the wall had a blanket-display full of tools: scissors, vice grips, hammers, awls, and two sets of hex keys.  I got the most appropriate set and could finally concetrate on my main task for they day – to buy groceries. 

I went to the brand new shiny Real Plaza on Giraldez and got some bread, cheese, ham, ketchup, mayo, olives, etc. as well as a packet of diapers and booties for the new baby Condor.  After depositing my groceries at the hostel, I headed back out to the internet where I eventually met up with Jonee and Dani about how to approach Presli´s paperwork.  They both gave me some good ideas.  I have an appointment with Hilda tomorrow, since it´s her only day off, to take her and Presli to get his passport arranged.    Apparently it only takes two to three days to have it in hand, so that´s my next move .

After a day of walking around for 10 hours (the altitude still gets to me a bit), I am exhausted.  I did not get a lot of actual PDC business done today, but I now have house food, Nilton will be able to fix Merardo´s bike and I have a good plan for what to do tomorrow with Hilda and Presli.  Jonee and Dani gave me directions on where to go for what, so I should be all set to go.

Hot shower me, yo!

November 2, 2009

Travelblog Number 11.1.2K9.1

Filed under: Lisa´s recon mission codename ¨Finding Presli¨, PDC News — Administrator @ 9:01 am

I got up at about 10 AM, still on Hawaii time and travel-weary.  I got some food in the street and grabbed a combi to Chupaca.  Armed with my iPod photos, an old address for Ely and the memory of a photo she had sent me of Presli´s mom´s house, I set out to look for him.  Using the information that the girl in Lima had given me, I got off in front of the Comisaria of Chupaca (from what I can gather, it´s like the Sherriff´s office).  Anyway, Presli´s photo was not posted there as she had described, nor did the two officers there know what I was talking about.  One of them went with me into the street to ask around.  I showed his photo to several people who told me that they had seen him ¨down that way, but mostly in the evenings¨.  Undaunted, I proceeded to walk down the dog, merchant and drunkard-filled road until I came to someone who swore that he visits the clinic at the end of the block.  So to the clinic I went.  The clerk did not know his name or his address, but she said she thinks he lives in Pincha and to ask the taxi guys at the corner.

I did and one of them, William Quinones, said that he knows pretty much where Presli lives.  I jumped in and he took me further and further into the farming village, asking people along the way.  We were led up a hill, past a little church to this very narrow lane.  He asked some kids on bikes and they told us to go to the house just near the top of the hill.  We went to where they showed us and as I looked out the window, I immediately recognized the photo of the mom´s house that Ely had sent.  Excited, I jumped out of the taxi and asked the kids if they´d go knock to see if anyone is home.  She´s not home, they said, ´but here she comes on the road´.  Sure enough, I looked to the road below that we had just been on and there was a lady and a young girl making their way up the hill.

When she got to to the top of the hill, I asked if she was Presli´s mom and she said YES! and gave me a hug without even asking who I was.  Turns out, she assumed that I was from the orphange.  I explained to her who I am, about my mom and I forming PDC for Presli´s cause and why I was here.  She was filled with emotion, but I could tell that she had a lot of pain and guilt in her heart.  We talked for a few minutes and then set out to look for Presli.  We went to a neighbor´s house where he sometimes hangs out, but he was not there.  Eventually, he turned up, having returned from watching the neighbor´s bulls (he works for tips keeping the bulls in line – how exactly a kid of 110 pounds manages that, I can´t figure). 

He was timid and didn´t recognize me.  I showed him a picture of mom and I that I had on the iPod and he had some spark of recognition.  The three of us talked for another 2 hours or so and I got more details of his life.  I told Presli about what we are intending to do for him.  I made it very clear to him that his whole life will change, not only because of the surgery and emotional therapy that will be provided for him, but also that during the process, he will be in pain, away from his family and friends, not able to go out and do whatever, and that he will be in a strange place where he will not be well-understood.  I told him to think about it very hard.  I reminded him that it´s not going to happen soon, because we lack the funding and the paperwork at this point to give him a date, but that it is in the works and that we have not forgotten about him. 

By the end of the two hours, I had gained his confidence enough for him to let me take his picture, including photos of the keloids that his 2007 surgery in La Oroya had left on his neck.  I am concerned that if he tends to develop keloids, that he might have a scarring problem when they do his face as well.  I am going to forward the photos to his surgeons so that they can make provisions to avoid this side-effect of getting him fixed up.

Having exchanged phone numbers and ideas, I then set out to find Ely.  The taxista had been with me for 2 and a half hours, so I paid him the standard 10 soles per hour.  Just under $9 is a very fair price, I think, to have helped me find Presli on the first day I am here, no?

Back in the main square of Chupaca, I hired a minitaxi to take me to Ely´s last known address.  He took me there, but the address did not exist.  Figuring that I´ll be able to find someone who knows Ely or her program, PLE, I got out and again set out asking everyone.  There was an older lady outside at the time who didn´t know Ely, but a young woman playing with friends at the corner not only knew Ely, but her uncle had rented them the house across the street.  She said that Ely and Nilton now live ¨in that house down there with the orange roof and the yellow trim¨.  I held myself back from running, when she added, that she hadn´t seen Ely in a few days. ¨Perhaps she is still in the hospital for giving brith¨.  WHAT!?! They´re having a baby?!  No wonder we haven´t heard from her! 

Not sure if they will even be home today at all, I went and knocked on the door.  Nothing.  I waited for a few minutes and knocked again.  Still nothing.  Well, I haven´t eaten for a few hours, I thought, I´ll just walk down that way to see what I find.  I walked down a few blocks and saw the smoke and heard the sounds of a festival of sorts, so I headed down the hill next to the river.  Down at the bottom of the hill is a cemetary, and being All Saint´s Day, there was indeed a small festival going on.  I thought that I might find Ely and Nilton here, but then I realized that their families are not from Chupaca, and that if they are indeed celebrating, that they would be in HYO instead.  Still with time to kill, I had a plate of cuy (photos to follow) and relaxed in the shade a while.

I walked back up the hill to their house, hoping to find someone.  Nothing.  I went back to the store and the girl assured me that it was their house.  Her father, Felix, showed up just then and confirmed that it´s their house, as it is he who takes Andre to school every morning and takes Nilton to the Village Schools every afternoon.  I asked for an internet place and spent another hour waiting there.

At about 6 ´clock it was getting dark.  If they were not home, I needed to head back because I didn´t want to be on the combi alone in the dark to HYO.  I went to the house and found the lights on.  One knock at the door and Nilton opened it tentatively.  He immediately recognized me and gave me the BIGGEST hug!  He took me to the room in the back of the courtyard, where Ely and just returned from a 10 day stay in the hospital.  Little Josue was laying there perfectly perfect on the bed.  The look on Ely´s face was unforgettable! 

We caught up for a while and exchanged phone numbers.  They explained to me that situation that they´re in due to having no volunteers and that they have had to move twice in the last three years to keep up with their bills.  Their website and email were hacked and their phone numbers have changed a few times.  They were kind of embarassed for having dropped out of touch, but they assured me that they were still working with Presli and Merardo.  She gave me some sad news about Presli that makes me even more motivated to get his treatments started.  Ely got a phone call just then and she left.  Nilton continued: As for Merardo, he had just seen him the prior Friday when Merardo went to visit Nilton to see if he could raise the handlebars on the bike that the French and Spanish classes of Castle in 2007 had bought for him.  Nilton did not have a hex key/Allen wrench, so he couldn´t adjust it.

Ely returned from her phone call and she said that she must be the most sought-out person in the world today.  I laughed and added that people come from as far away as Hawaii to find her!  After a humble dinner of undercooked rice and a fried egg with rolls and hot tea, Nilton accompanied me back to HYO on the combi.  During the ride, he shared more good news about Merardo.  His family has been given a peice of land and his father has already constructed two rooms on it.  They hope to finish it as soon as possible, since there are now 6 children.  Merardo wants to be an engineer, but he is horrible with math.  It took him three tries to pass the first level of basic math, two to pass the second level and now he is still struggling in the fourth level.  Nilton and others have tried to counsel him to change his aspirations to something more attainable.  The poor kid is very influencible by his peers and changes his mind literally day to day.  I suggested to Nilton that they have him take an aptitude test two or three times to accomodate for poor sleep, peer pressure, etc, take the most common results and go from there.  He is going to look into it.  

Nilton also shared that Presli is hanging around with older kids who give him cigarettes and alcohol, confirming what Presli´s mom, Hilda, and Ely had already told me.  I can totally understand why Presli would find a group who would accept him and do whatever they do to stay ´in´, but this is the wrong direction for him.  I need to impress on him the importance of avoiding these vices so that, with our help, he can find the best life for himself and his family.

Well, a very successful day.  Now for BED!  (No shower today, although I have Chupca dust all over me, I just can´t take the cold).

November 1, 2009

Travelblog Number 10.31.2K9.1

Filed under: Lisa´s recon mission codename ¨Finding Presli¨, PDC News — Administrator @ 8:14 am

Bus to Huancayo day.  Not much to tell.   A pretty uneventful day except for nearly missing the bus!  Traveler´s note: when trying to navigate central Lima on a Saturday, plan to leave at least an extra 20 minutes earlier to account for traffic.  Even for Lima it was pretty bad.  Anyway, the bus was held for me as I got my bags weighed.  The ticket agent said that the first 20 kilos was free and one sol per kilo over that.  But the guy at the station said it was 30 kilos free.  My two bags weighed in at 33.40 kilos and I gave him a 20 sol bill.  He walked away as the door agent was telling me to hurry up.  I asked the kid for my change and he just gave me a blank look.  I told the guy at the door and he made a note, but I never got my change.  If the free weight is actaully 20 kilos, then I should have gotten 6 soles back, just under 3 bucks, but if it´s 30, my change should have been almost $7.50.  When I got to Huancayo, the ticket agents said I need to take it up with the people in Lima.  Traveler beware!

As for the ride, we got a nice little lunch, a pillow, blanket, (reused) headset and a cup of tea.  For some reason the attendant went a little goofy when I couldn´t find the pillow as we were arriving.  She said ¨Well, please find it.¨ Sheesh!!

I got to Huancayo (hereinafter HYO) to find that my waiting ride was not waiting.  Since I could not find where I had left my printout of the phone number, I had to call mom in Hawaii to find it.  She arranged the pick up and I was at the hostel by 9:00.

I called Jonee, our affiliate´s AOP representative in HYO, who invited me to meet with her at the corner of the Plaza de Armas.  Being Halloween, she would be dressed in costume.  She was headed out to the Taj Mahal, where her fiance plays in a band.  I agreed to meet with them and ended up spending all night in various places, taking in the night life of HYO.  Very early in the morning I returned to the hostel for some horizontal time.

The hostel itself ranks very high on cool factor: self-serve beer fridge with an honor system of paying, a foosball table, a dartboard, an outside area with a perpetually heated bowl to toast your hands or your rolls, a resident eclectus parrot, cat and dog, and even two Wurlitzer record players c. 1950´s, despite the fact that they had nearly 24/7 CD music playing.  There was a group of about 10 people who were awaiting word from their sponsors about when they were to begin their Honda bike race to Paraguay.  I think this is the same even that mom read about several months ago.  It seems pretty treacherous, but they are mostly young and have nothing much else to do, I guess.  (hehe).  One of them told me that one of the teams who had already left lost their bike in a ravine, but that they had jumped out just in time.  They are doing it to raise funds for charity, so I guess it´s all good.  As long as they are safe and the charity benefits I wish them luck.

As for the accomodations, since the only single room was occupied, I got the ¨Matrimonial¨which, curiously, had two twin beds on opposite sides of the room.  The ¨hot¨water was not, and the 15 foot ceiling of the bathroom, which incidentally shared a half-height wall with the ¨outside¨bathroom (whose door was nearly always open) did not allow for the water to stay hot, nor could you build up any steam in the room.  I shivered and chattered the whole time, and I did not DARE wash my hair.  I´d be freezing all night.

I slept hard looking forward to the big day ahead of me tomorrow.  The hunt is on….  (photos to follow)

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