Mar 31 2015

March 2015 Trip = Great Success!

Home sweet home

Okay, really it’s not that big a culture shock, and going a week having to put TP in the trashcan instead of the toilet really isn’t all that bad.

The travel team is safe and sound in the states. We arrived at Walla Walla around 12:00 noon on Sunday, giving us a full afternoon for spring break! And we all made it to our classes Monday morning (at least I think so).

The end of the trip was as great a success as the beginning was. Our team traveled to Peru with the objectives of laying the groundwork for the current water project, as well as scoping out a potential new project.

With the pipeline staked, and relationships developed with the new municipality, Thursday we were left with our final objective: scope out a new project. Through experience, EWB-WWU has developed a list of the tried-and-true qualities of a successful project. We went to Peru with that list and a community application for a new project, and a mindset that we wouldn’t return home without a new project.

It just so happened that Wednesday morning we cooked up some very grand ideas for the community center we were staying at. They developed until our ideas incorporated not just the community center, but the entire community. Well, we took those ideas with us to the municipality on Thursday.

Santos, a prominent community leader, sub-cheese, as well as a mining engineer met with us Thursday morning. We were afraid our luck with the municipality might have been a fluke, but they were receptive and helpful. In fact, it turned out that our new project idea had been applied for 3 months previous to our visit! The necessary signatures were quick to find and all told we likely spent another 3 hours in the municipality.

It felt good to leave the muni on Thursday morning knowing that we had accomplished all of our tasks. We left on good terms with our project partners (perhaps better than we had hoped) and excited for the future of EWB.

Oh, and what is this new project idea that has left us so excited? Why, I’m glad you asked. However, I’m afraid that the details still need to be ironed out, and before that happens, if I told you, I’d have to kill you. I’m confident that an “official” report will come out with a full proposal soon!

-Michael Slusser

Mar 27 2015

Gettin’ Stuff Done

No EWB project can or should be completed without the support of the local government (or municipality). We had a signed contract from the previous year confirming their support in our project, but new figures had been voted in since our last visit. The importance of having their support was the difference in a successful project and a bust.

We were prepared for the worst when we met with them on Wednesday. Countless stories of corrupt or uninterested foreign governments put a shadow over us. We had a meeting scheduled with the new mayor (big-cheese), and his sub-cheese and couldn’t help feel anxious as to how the conversation would unfold.

We arrived at 9:00 am and were ushered in to the mayor’s room. An entourage of other cheese’s followed. We had a specific agenda on how to direct the conversation, and had practically written on algorithm on worst-case scenarios.

But it turned out simple, they wanted our contract that the previous government had signed (so they could resign it), and they wanted numbers (money, material volume, etc.). We gave them the contract and a particularly capable Secretary General rewrote the contract. We looked over it to assure hers matched ours, gave them the numbers, got their signatures, shared gifts, gained their trust, and departed. All told we likely spent two hours in their building.

The support of the local government as they start a new term is imperative. It was important to us that we leave not just with their signatures, but with their support and friendship. I am not an expert on Peruvian culture, but I think that when we exchanged gifts it showed our commitment to the community as people, and not just a resume bullet-point. As the project implementation approaches we look forward to working with our new friends at the municipality!

– Michael Slusser

Mar 25 2015

Work is Underway

Passing by beautiful scenery and countless alpacas, we embarked on our hike to the community. Climbing up to approximately 15,000 feet, we reached our community and met with some of the locals.
With a supportive local crowd, we were able to check out the spring source and the different locations for the tapstands. After plenty of photo and video documentation, we had a quick afternoon snack with our friendly partners. The locals brought out traditionally-prepared potatoes and herbal teas for us while Wesly shared some dried mangoes. Being their first time trying dried mangoes, the locals were amazed by the texture and taste of the snack. Concluding the snack time, we said our farewells for the day and hiked down the mountain. We were plagued by headaches from the elevation difference, so we were exhausted by the hike at the end of the day. Despite some difficulties finding the key to the community center, we were finally able to settle in our lodging location for the night after a delicious dinner prepared by our ADRA project partners.
Waking up early for our hike, we enjoyed a quick breakfast and got ready for our second and final hike up to the community. We began our hike with the objective of staking out the pipeline locations so that the community can begin digging. Personally, I had quite some difficulty hiking up to the community the first time due to elevation difference and an embarrassing lack of cardio. Surprisingly, the second hike seemed less intensive and much quicker than the first. Once we reached the community, we proceeded to taking some more video documentation and began staking out the pipeline and tapstand locations. With input from the community leaders, we were able accomplish our goal for the day relatively quickly. Lunch was shared with the community leaders and our time with the community came to a conclusion. Because we were able to finish our tasks early, we ended up exploring an ancient Spanish mine before hiking down. Our work here has been rather successful; please continue to keep us in your prayers

Mar 20 2015

On Our Way!

Ideally we would be writing this first post to describe how unanimously, positively mundane our travel to get to Cusco has been. This post is delivered about 24 hours late however, because this was not the case. But it all makes a great story!
Our flight from Seattle to LAX was about an hour delayed, but this was no sweat because we had a good three-or-so hour cushion for Lima. The problem was that in LAX, LAN Airlines announced a 24-hour delay due to poor equipment maintenance. Fortunately, our friends at LAN put us up in the Hampton with free food and free board. We got to bed around 6 am and spent the following day photographing Sea Lions and geeking out with Dr. Smith watching jet engines launch aircraft into voyage.
To save a buck or two we had arranged the connecting flights as different reservations. This means our flight from Lima to Cusco was not on the same ticket. When LAX to Lima fell through, we were technically missing our connecting flight (Which was not through LAN) and took a half-day of pleading in Lima to iron out. Overall the delay lasted about a day and a half, resulting in at least one postponed meeting, and absolutely foiled our potential for Machu Picchu.
Throughout Thursday night and Friday about 100 passengers from the LAX to Lima flight that had been delayed became familiar. We met each other in airport restaurants, shuttles, ticket counters and delayed (again) baggage claims. This posse spread across languages and cultures and were able to help each other with reserving our connecting flights. We talked and joked and kept each other sane, and in the mean time we were able to spread word of our EWB presence in Walla Walla and the work we are doing in Peru.
Sunday our adventure continues to the ADRA training center to meet with our project partners, but tomorrow we rest, enjoy the Sabbath, and adjust to altitude.
As we do good work with our friends in Peru, prayers and blessing are welcome.
-Michael Slusser