After a cancelled flight and a long journey through El Salvador, Lima, and Cusco, the EWB group finally arrived in Camp Chuquicahuana Sunday night, March 19th. Monday morning, the group set out for an important meeting with the municipality. We met with the secretary general of Pitumarca to discuss the delivery of materials, such as cement, sand, and gravel, which had not all arrived in Japura. The secretary general apologized for the delay and said that all the materials would be delivered at latest by the following day. The municipality’s architect, someone very important to keep updated on our project, was travelling at the time, but we were promised he would come to work mañana – tomorrow – and that we could meet with him at 8am sharp. In Peru, mañana can mean anything from tomorrow to next week, so we’re crossing our fingers that the architect will show up before we leave the country. On the bright side, almost as soon as we arrived in Japura (about an hour drive from Pitumarca) a truckload of sand and gravel arrived. Just seeing our faces seems to be motivation enough for the municipality to get stuff done!
In Japura, we spent most of the day in meetings with the community, exchanging greetings (this took up probably half of our time!), organizing the construction process, and catching them up to speed on the project timeline. The community was extremely excited to see us and are eagerly awaiting electricity. To celebrate, they shared Inka Cola – a yellow, bubble-gum flavored pop – with us and gave us a free meal of potato-ram soup at one of the local restaurants. At least half the group is vegetarian, so the vegetarians sipped at the soup while carefully avoiding the ram. The two omnivores present were slipped extra portions, and Simon, one of the leaders of the group, was forced to chew until his jaw could chew no more. “It was very tough to swallow. It was built ram tough,” he said.
After surviving the ram soup (while watching another ram tied outside the restaurant – Simon remarked we were probably eating his brother), we met with the electrical committee, which is comprised of elected members of the community selected to help build and maintain the electrical systems. Some of us were feeling the altitude and sat out on the sidelines, others learned Quechua – the local language – from the children, and rest were actively involved in a three-way translation between English, Spanish, and Quechua. The meeting was highly productive and it ended with leaders from each side of Japura – Japura Suyo and Japura Qqelca – delivering their cash contribution to the project. For a long time, our team was worried that the communities would not be able to provide five percent of the project cost (a basic requirement of EWB), so finally having the cash in hand was a major accomplishment.
By this point, the sun had nearly set, so the team loaded back in the bus and headed back to Camp Chuiquicahuana for supper and some rest. Tomorrow we will need to get up early for our meeting with the muni!