03.10.2007 35 °C
Oh where to start? The past 2 days have been incredible and mind boggling.
A mix of sadness experienced walking amidst the leftovers of the earthquake around ICA and pure pleasure, walking, sliding and driving in the sand desert of HUACACHINA.
Monday, October 1st
We left Lima at 1:30 pm for a 4 and a half hour bus ride to ICA. What we saw on the road was such a change from Ecuador. Sand dunes of every shape and size on one side and the ocean on the other. And then little houses that looked like cardboard boxes (no joke) hardly any bigger and certainly not any stronger than boxes but I found out that they are people's homes ...
and then we started to see ruins....walls which had fallen down, piles of broken bricks, a lot of dust...organized piles of adobe bricks (to reuse?) and now entire houses fallen to the ground, and then entire streets without any houses but only piles of rubble.
This is where the famous earthquake passed through a little over a month ago ... and what a disaster it has left! Families that have lost everything, people now left to survive in tents set up where their house once stood, surrounded by sand and the strong winds... Kids and elderly that have died because they were so cold .... I had tears running down my face on the bus ride. More than one month after the disaster and no one has come to help these people??? Because they are out of the city, because there is so much corruption, because the authorities pocket the money sent out for help, because the Peruvian minister of tourism has announced publicly, all over the television, not to come out here!!!!! And so people stay away and like to believe that everything is under control, reconstruction is under way and people have everything they need. It's so NOT TRUE. They have no money to rebuild, no food to eat, no medication and nobody helping them mentally, psychologically to deal with what they have gone through.
We made it to our hostal (in Huacachina, 10 minutes from the city of Ica, hardly hit by the earthquake). We travelled with a really nice Canadian girl from Toronto (Rachel) and met up with another one from Quebec (Elaine). We were quickly introduced to a trio. A fat happy go lucky guy from Lima, a sweet little doctor from England and a journalist from NY. The journalist (Lee) had raised money from his friends in NY to donate food to the earthquake victims. They were to spend the next day continuing their distribution in the little towns around Ica, the places worst hit, and we were invited to join them. Off to bed early as we were going to have a tough day...
Got up early and made it to the worst hit villages in search of the OLLA COMUNES (organized communal kitchens in the streets where families joined together to eat).
We had a van packed with boxes of flour, spaghetti, sugar, tuna .... to distribute. I don't think I could find the right words at the moment to express what it all felt like. At first, incredible sadness, disbelief and shock in seeing these people's living conditions. Just unimaginable!!!!! The inside of their houses (for those who have anything left) is now outside without any walls. For those lucky ones who have gotten a little help, they have 3 walls built from straw (like in the little piggy story) in which they live with children and elderly often stuck to a chair (or stump) because they have pain in their legs and cannot get any medical attention.
And then the rubble everywhere that has become the landscape. Everywhere broken things, missing things, pieces of things ....And even their church disappeared completely. How can that happen? But they were able to save their Virgin, their patron saint. And they were so excited to show her to us. She now means the world to them. She was carefully taken out of a woman's "house" and proudly introduced to us..... and in a few days they will bring her out and parade through the "streets" in her honour...
And then we were invited to visit a little primary school which started up again 2 weeks ago in order to distract the kids from what happened, get them back into something "normal". They lost everything and had just started up new notebooks (donated by the teacher's daughter who lived in Lima and raised money to get them a few supplies, a notebook each and a few pencils for the entire class).... Oh sad, sad, sad .... According to the teacher 3 of the kids (out of 10 maybe) were extremely nervous and anxious. They were crying all the time and would jump at the slighest noise. How can they deal with what happened? And when they go "home", what runs through their heads? And then, they opened their "lunchbox" and I almost fainted. When I saw a cute little girl (I nicknamed Mafalda) take out a pack of Halls for lunch. And her neighbour take out 1 little hard boiled egg all wrapped up in a woman's purse (her lunchbox).... Shit, our kids are so lucky. My Brel....................
Brel wasn't there. He was still in the van hiding out, trying to make sense of everything we were seeing, I think. I didn't want to push him. I know him. I know how he deals with difficult things. He needs time out. He needs to take his time, he needs to think and come out when he's ready. (He had baught a set of magic tricks from a street magician in Lima and it was suggested by the fat guy that he could take his magic to the streets here and make the kids smile... A BIG RESPONSIBILITY FOR A 10 YR OLD). While we were in the school, I went out to the van and could feel that he was ready. I don't know what went through his head but the initial anger and shyness passed and now he wanted to try his magic. He walked in to the class and the fat guy presented him to the kids and I could see he was scared. A whole group staring at him....He started his tricks and even if the kids were a little young (3-5), it was magic. The way they looked at him!!!!!! I couldn't believe it. I was so PROUD of him. And he did it all in spanish. And he was so good. So kind...
And he continued from stop to stop, like UN MAGICIEN AMBULANT. Each time the van would stop, he would come out and make his little matchbox move on his hand and the kids were in awe.
He gave them a little bit of entertainment, a reason to smile, a minute to forget the rubble, a little hope. I am starting to sound cheesy but it really was so touching, so incredible. I wish you guys had seen him there. I wish his class had been there.....By the time we reached the last group, he knew what he was doing (deep down , I mean, I think).
And the importance of a soccer ball. At each stop, a mother would come to ask for a "pelota, por favor", for the kids. It was worth GOLD.
And then we went to buy more food and Brel was so involved. He wanted to give it all he had. And decisions had to be made along the way. Should we buy a pre-fabricated house ($650 plus delivery) for a communal kitchen or should we give them money or food and what exactly and to who???? As they all came running to the van asking for something... "por favor ayudanos"!!! What an experience... A WAKE UP CALL we will never forget.
And then back to our luxurious hostel for a dip in the pool and an encounter with some fabulous parrots. What a contrast. SO UNFAIR.
And at sunset we climbed our sand mountain. So steep, so difficult. Then the TOP!!!! No words, no pictures....just WOW, WOW, WOW!!!!!! A desert of sand in Peru. Who would have thought. One of the most incredible landscapes I have ever seen!!!!
So much more to write about but never enough time. Will try to do a posting about our adventure in the sand desert tomorrow.
Thinking of you all.
Sand kisses from Patsy and Brel