3/6/14 – Block by Block

Today was our first morning waking up in our host families’ houses. I roomed with Maddie and we lived with a family of four kids: a boy who was 28 named Javier, a girl named Eliana who was 25, a 16 year old boy named Luis, and a 13 year old boy named Alex. We had a room to ourselves, and a shower with hot water, so we were very happy. The family we lived with was a little shy at first, and it was difficult for me to communicate with them because I hardly speak any Spanish, but Maddie helped me say some things, and I tried to be as polite as possible because it was very generous of them to open their home up to us and cook us three meals a day (which were very good).

Maddie and I woke up early, even without an alarm clock, because Ollantaytambo (the name of the town where we stayed) is bustling by 6:30. We got ready in our work clothes for the first day of service at the local high school, and after breakfast we walked to the school and met up with the group. I loved seeing the mountains on the walk to school. I don’t know how the kids here get any work done; I’d be too busy staring out the window!

Our service project throughout the trip was building a wall at the high school. The trench for the wall was already dug and we were to move cinder blocks and mix cement and do other preparations for the wall. Right inside the school’s gate was a pile of 1,000 cinder blocks and another 1,000 were on their way. When the new shipment was delivered, our whole group made one long assembly line and passed blocks down the line. The people at the end of the line made a new pile, closer to where the wall was actually being built. Some of us were skeptical as to why the blocks weren’t originally delivered closer to the wall trench, but it was easier to just move blocks and not ask questions, because that’s not how they were delivered and they had to be moved anyway. This task of passing cinder blocks down an assembly line seems quite simple but, block by block, the tensions grew, especially when there was a holdup of blocks because someone was struggling with one or because their grip slipped. When instances like this happened, the blocks built up and we were at a standstill. A holdup was usually followed by much yelling and talk of, ‘fixing the system.’ “Come closer!” or “Spread out!” were common cries down the line. Despite many attempts to fix the chinks, eventually there would be more yelling and frustration. I believe that this was more a product of the tediousness of the work rather than the fortitude of the group. After about two hours and 1,000 cinder blocks, however, we were all thrilled to be finished so we could act civilized again, and rest our shaking arms.

After lunch we got to relax a bit and play some team-building games. We were happy to go home that night to shower and veg because it had been a long, tiring day and we wanted to get some good sleep because the next morning we were headed off to Patacancha (a weaving community where we would learn how local weavers spin and dye their yarn, and how they create the beautiful woven things we see sold in the markets). We would even get to do some shopping!

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