Boys at Kusi performing their choreographed dance to “Escalando Peldaños”
I have spent the past few weeks at the Casa Girasoles Kusi site, which is located 9 hours by bus from Lima, near the small town of Yungay. Of the six Casa Girasoles sites around Peru, Kusi is the last one I will visit this summer. Kusi is the Quechua word (the other national language in Peru) for joy, and it is quite abundantly found here.
Like all of the other Casa Girasoles, Kusi has it’s own unique features that are only found there. Situated near the base of the tallest mountain in Peru, Huascarán (at just under 22,000ft), Kusi is not just going to be a Casa Girasoles home for abandoned boys, but rather a little town. Plans are made for the little town of Kusi to include a main square, a hotel for backpackers and people wanting to climb Huascarán, a bakery and shoe shop, a school, church and municipal building. Unlike the other sites, in a few years, Kusi will become a little city – all with things that will directly benefit the abandoned boys program.
Days are spent on the work site making hundreds of adobe bricks that are used to create the buildings. Most of the buildings in this region are simply made of adobe bricks (which consist of nothing more than some straw, clay/dirt and water mixed together). It takes thousands of bricks to make a small one room building, and only about 100 bricks are made an afternoon. Needless to say, each brick is very important and it takes a while to construct a building.
As I said earlier, joy is frequently found in Kusi. There are 27 boys living in the Casa Girasoles here and it has been a great joy to spend the past two weeks with them and the house parents, Angel and Rosa. Each night after dinner we spend some time sharing stories, singing and of course dancing – which is by far my favorite thing to do. Today is the last day for a team from Scotland, and this afternoon we will have the traditional Pachamanca (where delicious food is cooked in the ground for one hour) and the Peru vs. Scotland soccer game…
I still have another week in Kusi before returning to Lima for the next adventure.
Last Wednesday night, I and three other interns met a team from Gainesville, Georgia at the Lima airport to take them up to one of SU’s campsites in the jungle, Kimo. Our schedule was temporarily delayed due to a national strike, which meant that many of the roads in the mountains would be blocked and traffic would not be allowed to pass. Because of this, the team was re-routed to Kawai (which is about 90km south of Lima, and where I had worked a few times in the past weeks). I was happy about the change in plans because it gave me the opportunity to return to Kawai and to see the boys that live in the Casa Girasoles one more time. Many of the boys asked about my team from Dearborn, wondering if they were still in Peru. Sadly, I had to say that they had returned home to the States.
After the quick stop off in Kawai, we boarded a bus to make the long trip up to Kimo. Kimo is located near the small town of La Merced, in the Chanchamayo region. To reach Kimo, one must cross a mountain range at 12,000ft and then go all the way down to 2,000ft above sea level. Needless to say, the ride is quite precarious in some spots, but also quite beautiful.
Once we arrived in Kimo, it was time to cross the river to get to the campsite. The river crossing is not made by a driving across a bridge, but rather, by riding across in the huaro (cable car) and then a long hike up the mountain to the campsite. We arrived at night, so it was already dark and being in the middle of nowhere in the jungle, there were no streetlights or any electric lighting. The night was illuminated by hundreds of stars and a full moon, which was quite a sight to see.
Saturday was spent at the work site. Kimo has been a part of Scripture Union for over 30 years (and has quite an interesting history, including being taken over by the Shining Path at one point), but has never had it’s own Casa Girasoles for abandoned boys. This year, the team from Georgia was starting the construction for a home for boys that hopefully will be opened in January 2010. Construction in the jungle (and Peru in general) is quite a feat and interesting to watch.
Today, one of the other interns and I left the group in Kimo (in good hands with our jefe, boss) to return to Lima. Since it was just the two of us, we made the long journey by public transportation (the Peruvian equivalent to Greyhound). Despite the length of the trip (between 9-10 hours), it only cost 20 soles, which is approximately $7.
Tomorrow, I meet a team from the UK to take them down south to Cusco to work on the Casa Girasoles home there. This will be my first time in Cusco, and if everything works out right, next Saturday I will be at Machu Picchu.
On a side note, Peruvians are all about their heritage and patriotism to the country. This year, Peru will celebrate 187 years of freedom from Spain on July 28th, their independence day. Despite the fact that it isn’t for a few more weeks, many businesses and people have already began to decorate with flags and anything red & white they can find. In fact, I started to notice decorations at the airport, around Lima and street vendors selling Peruvian flags on almost every corner at the beginning of the month. It will be interesting to see what actually happens on the big day.
Sand boarding in at the Huacachina dunes nearby Ica with the team from Dearborn.
Here’s a video Randy, Jared and I made about to our trip to Mala to buy candy for the Girasoles boys at Kawai.