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)