Mar 26 2014

Introducing Our New Project

Wait! What happened to your project in Pucutuni? I thought that you were visiting Peru to finalize your design for a water system in Pucutuni.

You’re correct. We’re putting the finishing touches on the design and logistics for a water system in Pucutuni. We’re also looking ahead to our next project. By selecting our next project now, students can spend the 2014-2015 academic year designing the project. So, without further ado, our next project will be to design and build a water system in Pampa Chiri.

Pampa Chiri is a small Quechua community of 18 families (75-80 people) scattered along a seasonal creek. The community is located at 14,500 ft, and their planned water source is a spring at 14,900 ft. A short walk to the top of the valley (at 15,300 ft) provides a panoramic view of the Andes Mountains including the famous Ausengate. We first learned about this community on Monday afternoon when we asked the municipal engineer for recommendations for a next project. He answered without hesitation: Pampa Chiri. His recommendation was based on several factors. First, the community had an urgent need for a water system. Currently, they pull microbe-contaminated water from a seasonal stream. Second, the project was similar in scope and size to our existing project in Pucutuni. The engineer offered the guide services of a colleague, and we promised to meet in the morning for the trek to visit the community.

Warning: this paragraph is not for the faint of heart. Did I say trek?!? Tuesday morning was indeed a trek.
Step #1: A 15 minute ride from the ADRA center to Pitumarca to pick up the muni representative
Step #2: A 1 hour drive by SUV on a narrow winding road, ascending a deep canyou. (The views were spectacular.) Fortuitously, the president happened to be at the trail head when we arrived.
Step #3: A 1.25 hour hike to the picturesque community of Pampa Chiri, followed by a 45 minute hike to the proposed water source.

The community had all the right ingredients for a great project (except, perhaps, the long hike). First, it had a compelling need for clean, reliable water. Second, it had a year-round water source in the form of a spring at the top of the community. (In fact, two separate springs are available for use.) We channeled the water, then measured a flow rate of approximately 1 L/sec. Even after accounting for seasonal effects, we estimated that it would be sufficient to meet the needs of the community. Third, the community showed great initiative in trying to address their need. They had purchased pipe and dug a reservoir and trench. Unfortunately, they lacked the expertise to successfully complete the project. This gave us confidence that they were committed to the project. Fourth, we developed a good rapport with the community president who promised the support of the community in building and maintaining the water system.

Last night, Diego and I stayed up late to write a contract for the new project. This afternoon we joined the community president (who had walked all afternoon to meet us) at the municipality headquarters to sign our contract. The mayor has promised to sign the contract tomorrow morning, and we hope to collect Plinio’s signature (on behalf of ADRA) on Friday afternoon. Now for the part that you’ve all been awaiting: pictures!


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Mar 24 2014

A Long Day’s Work

Today was a big day. It began with a visit to the municipality (i.e., county government). We had the good fortune of meeting the mayor as he arrived at work. He graciously ushered us into his office where we spent the next 15 minutes explaining our project. He was quite cordial and seemed happy to support our project. We left a copy of our design plans with the engineer, who asked us to drop by later in the day for further discussion.

Following a promising visit with the municipality, we drove up the bumpy road toward Pucutuni (elevation 14,000 ft). When the road ended, we still had an hour of vigorous walking to reach the community. Due to a misunderstanding, we missed the community president. However, the new leader of the water committee met us and served as our host throughout the day. Our primary goal today was to reconnect with the community and to walk the route of our proposed water distribution system, explaining our design plans to community leaders. We started at the top, measuring the flow rate of the water source (a spring).

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Much to our surprise, the community had already dug the 3000 foot long trench for the water system. In fact, they had already laid pipe along most of the route. This caused us consternation for two reasons: first, they hadn’t followed our surveying markers (though they weren’t too far off), and second, it looked like the project was already completed. They assured us that the current system was designed exclusively for irrigation and that they indeed still needed a potable water system. The muni had donated pipe and a water tank (before we adopted the project), but threatened to reclaim it if it wasn’t used. So, the community put it to work in an irrigation system. We paused for lunch and, when rain arrived, we ducked inside the home of a community member.

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After lunch, we explored the remainder of our proposed water system with the water committee leader. A careful review of the landslide area left us wondering whether we really needed a suspension system to protect the pipe. (The irrigation system pipe was simply buried in the ground.)

We returned to the mayor’s office late in the afternoon to discuss our design plans. I expected a real grilling. Instead, our discussion focused primarily on the MOU (i.e., the contract that we signed in September) and on project timing (celebratory launch set for Sept. 2). Our negotiations went smoothly, and the engineer was quite happy with our design. In fact, he had only two requests: (1) use a plastic water storage tank (already planned), and (2) use PVC fittings for connections to the tank (usually supplied with the tank).

We wrapped up the evening with a long, rewarding conversation with Pulsiano – our host and director of the ADRA training center.


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Mar 24 2014

Saturday in Cusco

Willy, our project partner and the director of ADRA-Cusco, invited us to attend church. Diego really enjoyed it. The rest of us just listened for words we recognized. After church, we had the pleasure of meeting Willy’s family.

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Afterward, we had the surprise of meeting three SMs on vacation from Ecuador. Two were friends from WWU. We spent the afternoon with them touring Cusco under the guidance of Maria, a church member and professional tour guide.

– Brian

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Mar 22 2014

Culinary Adventures in Cusco

Yesterday morning started very early . . . . 4:30 am early. Now even for morning people (what I affectionately call those crazy people that enjoy getting up before 9:00 am . . . .or 10:00 am . . .) that is quite early! Surprisingly enough I woke up on my own. While I was pondering whether or not to actually look at the time and see if I really needed to get out of bed, I heard a soft tap on the door; though at the time I couldn’t tell if it was coming from the door or the wall. It was so quiet I convinced myself it wasn’t real. Once it repeated a few minutes later, I realized that someone was indeed knocking on my door in the hopes of waking me up. After I rolled out of bed I proceeded to make sure everything was all packed and ready to go. Then to my great dismay I realized I’d forgotten to pack my tooth brush! What a rookie travel mistake, I even remember carefully setting it aside while I packed in Walla Walla but for some reason it never made it into my bag. Oh well, at least I had toothpaste. So far, besides the whole no tooth brush situation, my first 24 hours in Peru were still going great! After staying in the home of our gracious host, Tio Will, by 5 am we were off to catch our flight from Lima to Cusco. We made it with plenty of time to spare and I’m not proud to admit that I had breakfast at the McDonald’s in the airport. I know, I know, how could I eat at McDonald’s when I’m in Peru! Well the answer is simple, it was an airport and the pickings were slim (at least if you wanted breakfast food, which I did). I don’t remember much of the flight from Lima to Peru cause I managed to sleep on the plane. Now this is a big deal to me, I’ve gone on 10+ hour flights and barely slept 30 minutes. We got off the plane and were picked up by our ADRA contact Willy, who drove us to our hotel. Below is a picture of the inside of our hotel:

Hostal Suecia I (Lupo)

After we got settled into our rooms our hosts were kind enough to make us some tea that’s traditionally used in Peru and other South American countries to help with altitude sickness. Due to its legal standing in the United States it will not be named in this blog, but it rhymes with mocha and starts with a C.

Coca Leaf Tea (Lupo)

We then talked business with Willy (our ADRA contact) and had a very pleasant time catching up with him. Now it was food time! We asked our hotel if they had any recommendations that had vegetarian options and they suggested a great restaurant, but unfortunately for us it was a long ways away. After we managed to walk the ten or so feet across the street to the restaurant we arrived! Though the journey was long and the roads road was treacherous, it was all worth it in the end. We ordered a couple of dishes like quinoa cream soup, a quinoa omelet and the tradition Peruvian dish Papa a la huancaína (sliced boiled potatoes covered in a spicy cheese sauce). Though this dish pictured below is usually served cold since we had it cold the night before we decided to live life on the edge and order it warm! I quickly discovered that I preferred it warm.

Papas (Lupo)

While eating we met with a representative from Maranatha so she and Trei, the ASWWU representative for Project Mosacc Wasi, could talk logistics. After lunch we decided to do touristy things like shop for souvenirs. Though I hate haggling prices it was a fun experience and I ended up getting a few things though I won’t mention them in this blog because I know my sister is reading and that would spoil everything! We ended the day with dinner at a restaurant that, to my great delight, had a fantastic vegetarian burger. We made our way back to the hotel with the hopes of catching up on some lost sleep and much needed rest from our almost nonstop traveling. Happy Sabbath from Peru!

–Caity Lupo

Mar 20 2014

Day One Adventures

Hello and welcome to our EWB travel blog. We’ve just embarked on a busy 10 days in Peru. Our goal: prepare the way for our September implementation trip. Today, we landed in Lima and spent the afternoon visiting with Plinio, the director of ADRA-Peru, our NGO partner. Tomorrow, we fly to Cusco, one step closer to our final destination of Pucutuni, Peru. Morning is just 4 1/2 hours away (thanks to an early morning flight), so we’ll close for now with our first picture from the trip – the team with Tio Will (our host in Lima).

–Brian    (photo: Diego)20140320_185421

Sep 14 2013

One Last Twist

Given the twists and turns of the past ten days, we approached today (our last day) with a mix of anticipation and apprehension. What might go wrong? What surprises were in store for us? We didn’t have to wait long for our first surprise. Pulsiano knocked on Bryce’s door at 5am, informing him that we needed to depart immediately. The plan had been to meet the mayor at 9am to negotiate and sign a convenio (project agreement). Then, we’d spend the rest of the day in Pucutuni surveying a route for the water pipeline and conducting a health survey. Pulsiano had an unexpected appointment at 2pm, so we’d now visit Pucutuni first, followed by a late-morning visit with the mayor.

After a hasty breakfast, we hopped in Pulsiano’s truck and headed for Pucutuni. We arrived at 9am, with 1 km (3000 ft) of surveying to complete in the next two hours. Braden, Jim, and Brian started surveying while Bryce and Pulsiano went looking for the president. The community was empty! Everyone was out tending their flocks of alpaca. After an hour and a half of searching, we managed to rouse the vice president and his wife. We conducted a brief health survey while Braden and Jim completed their surveying work. Then, at 12:25pm, we dashed back down the mountain in hopes of catching the mayor.

We arrived at the municipality just past 1pm. As Palsiano greeted the security guard, a truck flew past. There went the mayor! Pulsiano ran down the street waving his arms, but to no avail. The mayor was gone for the weekend and, with him, our last chance to negotiate and sign a convenio (project agreement).

Undeterred, Palsiano walked the halls of the muni, searching for our engineering contact. Ten minutes later, we were ushered into a room with the engineer and the budget manager. We explained that we would like to sign a convenio. They stated that they normally signed an agreement after the budget was complete. (We obviously weren’t prepared to share a detailed budget since we had just completed surveying moments before and hadn’t begun our design work yet.) What’s more, the mayor wouldn’t be available to sign anything until the end of September. Nonetheless, they agreed to review our proposed convenio. After a few clarifications, they happily agreed to sign our convenio. Once we had completed our design work and developed a budget, we’d return to sign a budget agreement. A quick phone call to the mayor confirmed that he could sign the convenio tomorrow morning. The convenio would then be sent to us (in Cusco) by currier. We now had everything in place to begin our design work.


Wrapping up:
Tomorrow (Saturday) Jim flies home, while the rest of the group recuperates in Cusco. We’ll all be home by Monday evening, with a week and a half to recover before school begins. It’s been one crazy trip with lots of twists and turns. It ends well, though, as we’ve secured a new project and collected the data needed for design. Peru is an amazing place with amazing people. I can’t wait to introduce the rest of our team to Peru and to our project partners.


Final picture in honor of Curt:


Sep 12 2013

Good Friends and Perfect Moments

Tonight I digress from engineering surveys and calculations….

His name is Pulsiano.  He starts each day with us in prayer, as we pile into the jeep, the prayer in Spanish accented with a senor here and a Jesus there.  Most of the prayer I only understand by the inflection. Later, as we make our way slowly up into the mountains over a one lane dirt road of switchback after switchback, looking down into the abyss of the canyon and river below, I am reminded of, and thankful for, Pulsiano’s morning prayer and quietly say another. I am also reassured with the knowledge of my recently completed will and the increased life insurance squeezed in prior to leaving for Peru.

Pulsiano is our main contact with ADRA here in Peru and he has graciously spent a lot of his waking hours this week with us. He spends his time interpreting for us in our simple Spanish then switching to Quechua the next moment, explaining our words to our Peruvian friends. Pulsiano is one of those rare, genuine individuals who walk this earth greeting those he meets with a smile and a buenos dias,  judging no one, rich or poor, American or Quechua.  As I walk with him up the mountain paths I ask him, “Como esta usted?”  He always answers back “Muy Tranquillo”.  Yes, very tranquil and then we laugh.  There is something special  in the way he greets each Quechua villager we meet and asks them with honest compassion how they are doing and what projects we could help them with. Getting to know Pulsiano has become a highlight of this trip for me.

We met the president of Pucutuni, Mr. Ruben Condorapa Choqque, after lunch yesterday. Pucutuni is a village with 15 homes, located at 14,000 feet in the Pitumarca district.  We shake hands, sit down on a rug and ask him what his village needs the most.  His reply is simply “Agua”.


He explains to us that his village has requested that the government assist them with moving their village from their current area to an area across the large landslide west of them.  They show us a letter explaining that this area is geologically unstable and prone to landslides.  We look around us and start to realize just how many active landslides surround us, especially the one just above us and threatening the entire village. Ruben explains that during the rainy summer season the land becomes unstable and unsafe. They can’t move the village until a new water system is constructed in the new village site.  He also explains that four families have already moved due to the landslide situation.


The village had a water system built for them ten years ago but it has broken pipes and cracks in the concrete due to the unstable ground movement.  Thankfully it appears that the spring box is secure below a large rock band and may be salvageable.  We tested the water flow rate and sampled for contaminants at the spring box.  We then laid out a preliminary survey of the new water line, reservoir and tap stands.  The route extends across a smaller landslide that would need to be crossed above ground, then runs diagonally over steep, rough soil to the new area reserved for the village.  The length of the new water line is approximately 3,000 feet.


As we reached the end of our survey and stood in the new town site, one of the men of the village ran down to us and placed a scarf full of steaming hot Andean potatoes at our feet.  Ruben the president invited us to enjoy some local potatoes as we talk over the plans for the project.  Suddenly, Ruben points to the sky and exclaims, “Condor!”  We look back at the water line route to see two condors riding the thermals above the project.  Moments like these; a long day of work completed, miles hiked, thousands of feet climbed, enjoying steaming hot potatoes with new found friends, watching condors soaring high as the sun sets over the Andes.  These moments our team will remember the rest of our lives.

–Jim (essay) and Brian (photos)


Sep 12 2013

Wednesday Morning

Today (Wednesday) was another busy day. On Tuesday evening, the muni had given us four suggested communities to visit. We reviewed the list and prioritized them based on accessibility (distance from the nearest road) and scope (number of families benefited). On Wednesday morning we set off for Pampachili, an annex of Labraco located a 55 minute drive from Pitumarca. The community of 14 families was spread more than 1 km across a hillside in clusters of 4-5 houses.


Some homes received water from a spring, but the pipe was too small, causing a blockage called “air locking.” Other homes obtained water from an open channel that was prone to contamination. Surprisingly, the community didn’t suffer from any water-borne illnesses. We huffed and puffed up the hill to the spring box (water source) located near the top of Mt Rainier (at 14,250 ft). It’s pretty amazing that every community that we visit is near the same elevation as the highest point in the U.S. (excluding Alaska).



Jim tinkered with the blocked pipe, locating a high point and poking a hole in the pipe to allow air to escape. Water began flowing again! The “fix” is temporary since the pipe’s small size makes it prone to block again. We chatted with community members (including the president) from three separate clusters of homes. The first lady was too busy sorting potatoes to take any interest in the newly-restored water source.


The second lady asked if we could maintain their water system for them. Neither impressed us as enthusiastic partners with a strong need and a commitment to maintain existing infrastructure. We had time to visit one more community. Would we find a compelling need and an earnest partner?


Sep 11 2013

Tuesday Blog

Pitumarca Municipality, Chachocomani Village

After an early morning breakfast, the team headed back to Pitumarca Municipality to meet the engineer. We were given a village to visit and two engineering students to help guide us.  The new village was named Chachocomani and was a 50 minute drive up a side canyon to a point where the road  ended at the base of the mountains at 13, 550 feet in elevation.  We started hiking up the valley past alpacas and llamas, past two small villages, each with water systems similar to what we are planning. Braden had a sore lower back so he hung behind with Brian to look at the water systems in these first two villages.

It took us about two hours of walking to reach the village of Chachocomani at 15,260 feet in elevation.  This village is comprised of 5 families who herd alpacas.  Each family lives in a stone walled hut with grass roof.  Each house has a stone wall corral for the alpacas. The village is surrounded by peaks that I estimate to be 18,000 to 19,000 feet high and partially snow covered.  It had snowed a lot two weeks ago in the village and the mountains still had remnants.


We then hiked to the first water source, where they currently dip their buckets in a shallow pool amongst the rocks.  The pool was maybe 4 ft in diameter and two feet deep. Not a very good water source but it’s the closest one to the village.  We grabbed a sample.  The villagers complain of stomach issues and diarrhea and suspect it is the water they drink.  We then proceeded to the source they wanted us to use for the new system.  It’s located in the middle of the valley but was a series of small pools with iron red colored water and high banks alongside.  Not a great option either.  We asked to see the spring up another 500 feet above the valley.

Hiking at these elevations makes the heart pound a bit and you don’t want to go too fast or one runs out of air and stands panting for a while.  We reached the spring at 15,885 feet in elevation according to the GPS.  It is a boggy,  tundra-like green area between the mountains and had several small steams running out of the grass.  A very promising spring.  Bryce sampled the spring water by filling a small sample bottle for analysis later.  We will test for E Coli when we are back at the hotel.  We also measured one small rivelet for flow rate. Lacking a shovel or pick, we may have to return to cut a trench and measure the full flow.

For some reason we felt we hadn’t hiked high enough and decided to check out the area above the spring to see if there was a lake or some water above.  We hiked to 16, 070 feet and found nothing but a flat depression above the spring.  What a view.  We could now look out over the northern pass to Ayungate Peak which is glaciated and somewhere around 6300 meters high.  Bryce then proceeded downhill along the trail leading to the village, measuring the distance along the way. It’s about one and a half kilometers from the spring to the village.

The village president, Ivan Espinoza Leon, a quechua man, met us there and we asked him a series of questions about the population and the health of the community.  He explained that one local man had died in the past few years due to stomach ailments and people here are afraid to drink the water as they get sick a lot.


We headed back down the mountain to meet Brian and Braden at the car.  It was an adventure filled day of hiking and doing the best we could to measure the feasibility of a water system for the village.  It’s a long ways off the road and high up in the Andes to reach the village and the spring.  We will visit three more villages tomorrow that are closer to the road system for comparison.

As we made our way back to town, we were greeted by Pitumarca villagers celebrating and parading around in Inca costumes and playing music, a foosball tournament and many quechua women all dressed up in their finest.




Sep 10 2013

Window Shopping

Today was window-shopping day. Our goal was to find a hardware store with the materials that we would likely need for our project. Our destination was Sicuani, a relatively large town 50 minutes from the ADRA training center where we’re based. We found lots of hardware stores with a limited selection, and one hardware store with a great selection. Now for the fun part: how to explain the specific parts that we needed. I whipped out my iPhone and, using Google Images, pulled up pictures of each part. We enjoyed the ensuing language lesson. While waiting for the business owners to write up a cost estimate, we dropped by BNC bank to open an account. (We’ll complete that process on Friday when we see Wilfredo, the head of ADRA’s Cusco region.) Tomorrow we’re heading on a tour of three communities in the municipality of Pitumarca. It will be a long day in the mountains, but we’ll hopefully be rewarded with a new project opportunity.