To Build a Home

10 Feb

Here’s to tell you more about Helping Hands Cusco and the work I have been doing the last two weeks. Before you read on, please check out the following link which explains exactly what Helping Hands Cusco is all about:

where we work: Jardin de Ninos San Gabriel

Most if it happened by word of mouth: Kwinten had met someone who had worked at Helping Hands Cusco while he was on the road in Ecuador, and had recommended it to him dearly. In Cusco, we contacted the organisation to ask if they had need for two voluntary workers and they immediately said YES. The only thing that was of absolute importance to me was that I have sufficient time to work on Munay. When I told Rosita and Mario this, they smiled and said: “It’s summer holidays for our students so we don’t have any regular classes. We need help in the jardin to build a house, and if you want, you can offer summer classes. But since it’s the summer holidays, we are quite flexible so you can determine your work schedule yourself.”

Incredible! I was delighted. What more could anyone hope for? These conditions were more perfect that I could have hoped for. So we packed our things and moved to the district Los Nogales, some 20 minutes outside of touristy central Cusco.

Apu Pikol over Los Nogales

My work began in the garden, and with such a passion for plants, I shook my head in surprise and thought to myself: you can’t make stuff like this up. It was too good to be true. I dug my fingers into the rich Cusquenan soil, worked with potatoes and cut the lawn old-school: with large shears. It was fantastic. The whole time with a breathtaking view over Cusco, watching the planes arriving from Lima and landing at the airport just outside Los Nogales.

can you see the plane?

After a few days, I joined the men in building a new house. Mario explained they needed a second house with two storeys, because they want the main house to be used only as a classroom. So they need an extra place for the childrens’ play den and for the tools.

The bottom half of the new building already existed when we arrived. Two neighborhood boys, Braulio and Armando, came every morning eager to help, to hammer, to battle the soft nails that simply refused to be driven into the wood straight.

like our ladder?

We’re all doing this for the first time and we learnt a lot together. It was trial and error: planks of wood that stood crooked instead of straight, measurements we messed up, nails that were driven into soft air. But we learnt, and we learnt quickly. Mario is a fantastic guide because he is relaxed and motivating at once. The perfectionism I know from Germany doesn’t exist here; instead it is a genuine love for building and an intense ingenuity whenever confronted with a new problem. What I really like is where some people might not even begin because they don’t know how to do something, Peruvians will laugh and say: “Let’s give it a try! Let’s be professional!” And when it goes wrong, they laugh again and say: “Ahhh… doesn’t matter. Leave it like that, it’ll be fine.”

the greatest pleasure is to work under such a beautiful sky!

Work cannot be done without fun!

all work and no play makes us all dull boys!

the delight of flight

And as the storms over Cusco pass, I turn to the Andes to suddenly see a new moon quietly rising in the late afternoon . . .

the rising moon

And after a long day of hard work, of learning to saw wood and hammer nails through tin plates, of learning that we’re all actually better at this than we ever would have thought . . . OUR FIRST ROOF IS DONE.

Ritti and Mario feeling the greatest pride

Kwinten and I then took a break from building and turned our attention to teaching! Mario printed and hung out signs notifying the neighborhood that the new volunteers of Helping Hands Cusco would be giving English classes in the mornings, followed by football (Kwinten) and acrobatics (Ritti) classes in the afternoon.

We were told to not expect too many students on the first day, but that by word of mouth, we’d soon have more students than we could handle! And it’s true: every day, 3-5 new children walk in at all hours of the day and say: tambien quiero aprender ingles!

Kwinten teaching English

close up of some of our students

Peruvian are all crazy about football . . .

. . . but I am sure we can make them crazy about acrobatics too!

acrobatics with Karol

Annabel, Karol and Rosillo build a pyramide

After a hard day’s work, we walk home along the Macchu Picchu railway tracks in the district of Los Nogales, looking out over the Andes and at Cusco not so far away. Los Nogales is quite safe, even in the heart of the night. The only problem are the dogs, which are literally taking over the neighborhood and do not hesitate to bite. I was cornered by a dog the other day but saved by a friendly lady who came running at it with a stick. Optimistically I said: “Thank you so much! But I’m sure he wouldn’t have bitten me!” She looked at me in surprise: “Ofcourse he would have. He bites a lot.” Damn, I keep hearing too many horror stories of dog bites, it’s giving me the Fear.

Here are some impressions around Los Nogales:

at the ruins of Wayna Tauqaray, currently being uncovered and restored, but mostly abandoned

a rather wet day outside our window

a door of perception

And in the evenings: Munay. Not every evening, you’ll understand, but when she lets me, when I understand something new. I’m finding a great richness in writing in Cusco because aspects that I had not considered beforehand are now playing a greater role, such as water or food. I had a few ideas as to the role food plays for the flying people – but with the difficult and sometimes feisty role food plays here, I’ve been given a few new ideas. Same with water: especially since the water in our apartment is turned off every night at 9pm and doesn’t come back on until 7 in the morning. So we have to save water religiously in buckets (which I love) and this has seeped its way into Munay

Munay is coming along well.

Peru is the well of my inspiration.


One Response to “To Build a Home”


  1. Celebrating the Sun « Rit'i Sonq'o: The Life of a Writer - July 2, 2012

    […] This is my second time in Cusco this year. I lived here for a month in January 2012, working at the NGO Helping Hands Cusco. Here is what happened in Jan: To Build a Home […]

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