May 3, 2013 by jiejie768
On Mom’s last full day in Ayacucho, Friday, April 5, GeGe planned a special trip to show her the countryside around Ayacucho. Twice a year GeGe makes trips into the campo to make deliveries to various small villages up in the mountains. One of these trips happens each December as the school staff purchases and brings hundreds of gifts and Christmas treats to the village children. The second trip comes around the start of each school year (school starts in March in Peru) to deliver school supplies to the small towns who often don’t have the means, financial or otherwise, to provide their students with basic scholastic necessities.
The Christmas trips (which consist of two days) provided both many highlights and some spectacular lowlights to our holiday season. On this trip, we returned to Rosas Pampas, the scene of this infamous river-crossing incident.
This time, however, our driver, GeGe’s friend Ingrid, was told in no uncertain terms to use any and all bridges in lieu of fording the river.
We arrived at GeGe’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at about 7 a.m. Her hope was to get out to the campo, visit three towns — Rosas Pampas, Santa Fe and Tunsuya — and make it back to Ayacucho in time for most, if not all, of the school day which started at 2:15 that afternoon.
The supplies had been brought to the school the day before, so we simply had to figure out how to get about 35 boxes of notebooks, pencils, erasers and other such materials into a five-passenger mini-SUV along with, well, five passengers. It was a tight squeeze, but we managed alright. The good news was the load would lighten at each stop freeing up more (any) foot room.
We hit the road by about 8 a.m., maybe earlier, and after a quick stop to get gas, we were off. Ingrid is a Scottish woman who came to Ayacucho as a missionary, married a Peruvian man and now lives in Ayacucho permanently. Other than a brief handshake, this was the first time Meg and I had met her. She was very nice, and exceedingly courageous to brave driving a car, regularly, in the insanity that is Ayacucho traffic (well, not traffic, so much, as vehicular lawlessness).
The route to Rosas Pampas follows the highway that eventually takes one down out of the mountains and meets the Pan American Highway along the Peruvian Coast. First, however, it climbs several thousand feet into the Andes Mountains. Rosas Pampas is along this climb, and sits at around 14,000-feet above sea level. It takes about two hours to get there from Ayacucho and the scenery is pretty impressive. Meg and I had seen the sights many times before, having taken several buses to and from Lima, but Mom enjoyed the vistas featuring rising peaks and sweeping valleys. On the way home that afternoon, she snapped several dozen photos from the car, and eventually took Ingrid up on her offer to stop at a viewpoint.
We arrived at Rosas Pampas (having safely used the bridges on the way into town) at around 9:30 a.m. and were greeted by a couple dozen eager students. We parked on the concrete soccer field outside the school and begin to arrange our boxes of supplies.
At Christmas time, I remember being a bit put out by the greed and grabbiness, not so much from the children, but from the parents as we were handing out gifts. This time, there was none of that.
Perhaps because there weren’t any toys at stake, or perhaps because most of the parents had gone to a village down the road for market day. The teachers that were there were extremely grateful and helpful. It was amazing how excited the children were about receiving a few notebooks and some pencils (In fact, each child received three notebooks (two big notebooks and a small one), two pencils, two pens, a ruler set, an eraser, scissors, a pencil sharpener and a set of colored pencils).
We stayed in Rosas for about an hour, taking a “tour” of the classroom after we had handed out our goodies. The classroom was pretty barren, but the kids were excited to show us the various materials they had and used.
They also really enjoyed “teaching” us a few math facts and how to use rubberband boards to count by twos and threes. Adding to our enjoyment was the fact that it was a gorgeous day outside. When we’d come at Christmas it had been rainy and miserable. On this day, it was about 60-65 degrees and very sunny. We could have spent all day talking to the kids in Rosas Pampas, but we had appointments elsewhere, so we reluctantly said goodbye to the kids and headed to our next destination.
Stop two on the day’s agenda was Santa Fe. This was the village that we were going to stop at after Rosas Pampas during our Christmas excursion. Alas, Meg and I got distracted by playing in the river and never quite made it that far, though GeGe did return on New Year’s Day to make sure the children got their gifts. So it was that this was the first time that we would see the town.
We were excited, because GeGe had told us that often there were tables of woven goods set up within spitting distance of the llamas and alpacas that had provided the wool for the weaving. This turned out not to be the case as the town’s merchants had headed down the mountain for market day, but it was still fun to see a new part of the countryside.
Rosas Pampas is home only to a primary (grades 1-6) school so they send their middle and high-school aged children to Santa Fe to attend secondary school (grades 7-11). Santa Fe also has its own primary school, so the crowd at this stop was bit larger and featured a wider range of students.
The younger students were equally as adorable as their Rosas Pampas counterparts, and the high school girls were dressed in traditional Andean garb featuring brightly colored layers and bowler hats. Mom, even after a week in Ayacucho, couldn’t get over how prevalent this style of dress was. She had thought, prior to arriving, that such attire was more ceremonial and was surprised to learn that no, in fact it was simply what the women in this region wore every single day.
The visit to Santa Fe went just as smoothly as the stop in Rosas Pampas. The children were well-mannered and grateful to receive the supplies, and the teachers were effusive with their thanks.
By the time we packed up the car and bid farewell for a second time, we were ahead of schedule and had plenty of foot room. There was a brief nervous moment, when Ingrid’s car failed to make it up the hill from the school to the road back to the highway, but a quick shift into four-wheel drive ensured the second attempt was a success. This was turning into the antithesis of our previous trip to this part of the campo.
Our last stop of the day was Tunsuya. Unlike Santa Fe and Rosas Pampas, which are off the highway and tucked up under the mountains down a few miles of dirt roads, Tunsuya sits right along the national highway and made for an easy final stop. It had been the first place we visited on our trip in December, so Meg and I had been there before, but it was nice to stop in when we weren’t getting drenched by rain.
Like Santa Fe, Tunsuya had both a primary and secondary school, and featured, I believe, our biggest crowd of the day; each stop had had fewer students than we’d been told since many of the kids take Friday off from school to help their parents at the market further down the mountain.
At this last stop, I turned my camera over to Meg and took over the notebook station in our supply line.
I really like taking pictures, but it was a lot of fun to finally be interacting directly with the kids as well. Much like the trips in December, the day starts with puffy eyes and some grumbling about the early hours, but I always end up energized once I see how excited the kids are to see us and get their stuff, even school supplies. Honestly, I think each kid was about as happy receiving their school stuff as they were getting a doll or a toy car at Christmas.
Tunsuya featured a couple of pretty amusing groups of kids. The first were two elementary schoolers who were wearing matching Spiderman hoodies. I don’t know if this type of sweatshirt is popular in the U.S., but you see them here a lot. They are basically a regular, zip-up hoodie with one exception: Instead of stopping at the neck, the zipper goes all the way to the top of the hood, which features two eye-holes, and makes a mask. The result is a Spiderman costume that doubles as a sweatshirt (or vice versa).
The second group of kids that made us laugh, were three or four high school boys who were extremely impressed by Ingrid’s car. It’s a late model Suzuki mini-SUV in pretty nice shape, but wouldn’t turn any heads in the U.S. These boys, however, were smitten and insisted that Meg take several photos of them posing with the car. It made us laugh, though I think Ingrid may have been a bit uncomfortable with it.
After we had given each kid their supplies, and made up a box of supplies for the teachers to give to the students who had not been there that day, we were about to leave when GeGe noticed a girl she had met on previous visits to the village. This particular girl, maybe eight years old, was a singer in training. I actually missed the performance while seeking out a restroom, but Meg assures me that she has a future singing traditional Peruvian music in one of Carmen Alto’s ubiquitous recreos (the Peruvian equivalent of a jazz lounge … or something). Meg also assures me that such a talent is much more adorable when coming from an 8-year-old than when it’s being blasted at you from all directions on an otherwise tranquil Sunday afternoon.
Following the show, GeGe reminded each of the kids that they needed to listen to the teachers and do their homework, or we wouldn’t be back next year, and we loaded up the car and headed back to Ayacucho. The drive back was uneventful, and spacious, and we made it to school about 20 minutes before the kids are let in at 2:15 p.m. It had been a pretty fun day in the campo, but I was beat. Fortunately it was movie day, so our duties at school consisted of moving benches and sitting for the next three hours.
Mom’s time in Ayacucho was winding down, and I think she really enjoyed it. The next day we had a 6:50 a.m. flight to Lima, followed by a 1:30 p.m. flight to Cusco.
That evening the four of us went out to a farewell pizza dinner. GeGe, who had originally planned to come with us on the second half of the trip was forced to stay home to take care of a mounting pile of administrative work for the program. We were sad that GeGe wasn’t going to be able to come, but still excited by the chance to return to Machu Picchu and spend some time in Cusco; we’d been to Cusco on two separate trips — with Mikey and Meg’s family — but had not had much time in the city to explore. With Mom, we had about three full days that we could spend wandering around Cusco. But that’s a story for another time.
Catch up on all our adventures with Mom: