First Week in Pisco

Trip Start Sep 05, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Ok, this keyboard is really crap but Ill give this a shot.

Getting used to life in a disaster zone takes some time, but we are making good progress. I (John) have spent most of my first week in Pisco and the surrounding areas doing demo work on destroyed homes. Kristina is currently away in Ica for a week doing a project which Hands On temed up with Unicef to build temporary classrooms so the thousands of roaming refugee children have some place to go during the day instead of wanding around looking for trouble and laughing at gringos.

The government is about to declare the initial stages of disaster to be over, but you wouldn´tknow from looking at the place. People wander the streets looking for anything of value to pick up out of the rubble and sell. Over 60 percent of the children in this area no longer go to school, some of them stay in refugee ´day camps´ and often get into fights. The major refugee camps in town consists of hundreds of tents put up on the city dump. The families who have been lucky enough to get something temporary have a dirty matress on the ground and their rubble covered posesions all cramed into one room, along with their families. THere is little access to a stable water supply for most, and the medical clinics have lines out the door leaving hundreds of folks unatended every day. Yesterday, one of our volunteers waited in that line for hours, only to be told taht the one doctor was not there, and that the guy who makes the appointments was on vacation.

Today was truly a humbling day. Most of the days I have spent flexing my huge bicepts and crushing the remanants of homes with a single blow. The idea is that the government has told people here that in order to be given temporary living supplies, and help to rebuild (tents) they have to demolish their destoryed home. This involved smashing down walls, tearing down roofs, taking out windows and doors, cleaning up the junk, and leaving nothign but the floor and the foundation. It is to the point that a crew of 5 of us can demolish a 4 room home, walls, roof and all, and clear it out in a day. Its hard work and makes your back hurt, but after a few days, the sorness subsides. I´ve been reaping the rewards of a renewed physical lifestyle and developing a super sexy body. Today I was at a site that had the poorest occupants that I have seen yet. Three generations lived in this former 4 room home. I spent most of the morning on the dodgy roof removing it. This room was made of bamboo crossbeams, covered in paper bags with about 1 cm of concrete poured on it. Its a balancing act getting the concrete of balancing ont he crossbeams. The backyard had small bin to wash in, and the ever present pile of burning garbage and feces. Intertestingly, they did have a toiled, although it was not connected to abny watersupply, and it was being used as storage for dry food. Hmmm.

The work ethic is interesting here, as is the edequitte in the neighborhood. Sometimes its the grandmothers who get in there with us and roll up their sleeves and move brick with us. Sometimes there are a group of able bodies men who set up plastic chairs across the road, drink beer from 8am to 5pm and laugh at us all day. Its a mixture. We can see that our help is appreciated, but it definately doesnt always feel taht way.

We run into bumps aloing the way as well. Yesterday our demo site contained lots of what has deemed to be aesbestos. The aesbestos problem has gotten a little out of hand, somewhat comedic, but not really. We have come acrossis a number of times. Of course, the locals have never heard of the stuff. Apparently, a huge nearby factory remodeled its roof a few years ago, presumably because of the hazardous substance it was constructed with. Instaed of disposing of it, they simply put it all out on the road. Of course, the locals strapped for cash, salvage absolutely everything. To them, this appeared to be massive slabs of perfectly good roofing and housing. Consequently, it turns up all over the place. In these demo jobs, we are thrwoing heavy stuff all over the place, and if there is aesbestos lying around, we will surely break it without knowing it, sending the harmful particles into the air which we then breath in...bad news. The locals have started wondering why sometimes we leave a site in the middle of a job, and word has gotten to the officials of the municipality who asses the safety of the buildings. They too have never heard of the stuff. Consequently, locals are getting freaked out when a bunch of white people turn up to help them, and the result is that they are left with a half completed job and fears that there are toxic chemicals everywhere. They think they are going to die and their kids too. A better situation is being worked out in terms of how to deal with the situation.

Anyway, thats a snapshot of the work. Otherwise, we live well, eat well and get a hell of a lot of excersise. As always, ill direct you to if you wanna make a donation.

Check out the photo, and video, should be interesting
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