A first month`s experience  (February 2016)

Posted by Beth Brown on June 17th, 2016

Settling In

My trip to Peru had been planned for months, so it was extremely exciting to land for the first time in South America.  I spent a few days in Lima acclimatizing then got the most luxurious bus I´ve ever taken for the 10 hour journey to Trujillo – reclining wide leather seat, three action movies and a hot lunch, all for under 15 pounds sterling!  The views out the windows were fascinating – varied districts of Lima, huge sand dunes in the desert, the fishing communities living next to the waves crashing onto the coastline, and the sunset over the ocean.

Two of the WindAid team met me from the bus in the famous Beast, and the welcome presentation told me all about WindAid with plenty of opportunity to ask questions.  The four storey volunteer house is in a nice neighbourhood with all amenities – shops, banks, laundry: I quickly felt at home.

Starting Work

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During my first month there was another volunteer like me and the WindAid team – a mix of Peruvian and international staff.  As it was a smaller group, we didn’t do a full installation project, instead we visited several sites to do maintenance.  In between, we were in the workshop making a 500W turbine blade from scratch.

I got to do so many things I´ve never done before!  Safely wrapped up in gloves, mask, goggles and very elegant heavy denim overalls, I mixed chemicals, cut fiberglass, prepared moulds, done sealing, gluing, drilling and sanding, even soldering.  All under the watchful eye of Señor Abel and the team.  It’s safe to say I’m more comfortable with a tool kit than ever before!

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Although most of the team speaks English, having some Spanish is helpful and there are plenty of opportunities to learn the vocabulary of the workshop and the basics of day to day life.  

Out and About

I´ve done some exploring of the local area including the bustling city markets selling EVERYTHING, the surfing beaches of Huanchaco and Pacasmayo and the archaeological sites of theHuacas del Sol y de la Luna and Chan Chan.  It’s also easy to venture further afield for long weekends; there is so much to see within a few hours.  

  • Cajamarca is a pretty cheese-making hill town with some archaelogical sites nearby.
  • The northern beaches around Màncora have rolling waves perfect for learning or perfecting your surfing.
  • The Cordillera Blanca mountain range has many hiking routes through stunning scenery.

The two maintenance trips were to Huamachuco and Huaraz:

Huamachuco 

The Democratic School of Huamachuco is following an unusual concept, where the children decide what and how to learn.  There are assistants rather than teachers, who facilitate exploratory play in carpentry, art, reading (on every subject from The Little Prince to Gabriel García Márquez to the Koran) and textiles.  Maths is learnt on table football!  There is a great vibe, all the kids were active, doing something, being creative.

The main school building is now connected to the grid, but they want the turbine ready again to power a new building.  So we removed the turbine to repair and test back in Trujillo.

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Huaraz

Our installation is at the Pastoruri glacier, a popular tourist attraction near Huaraz city in the Cordillera Blanca mountains.  We hold a Guinness World Record for the highest turbine in the world at almost 5000m! (to put it in perspective, Mont Blanc in the French Alps is lower at 4810m). Since 2013, the WindAid turbine has been powering a group of wood and tarpaulin huts selling visitors drinks, food and souvenirs.  The huts have now been replaced by proper buildings which don’t yet have the wiring to connect to the turbine.

We retrieved the data logger and electronics, which took a while for a seemingly simple task, and everyone was wet and cold by the end.  Luckily a friendly Señora was on hand with steaming cups of matè tea (from cocoa leaves to help with the altitude).  After, we walked up to the glacier, a stunning sight, plunging down into a black lake dotted with icebergs.  However it has receded significantly in the last few decades – climate change right in front of our eyes…

We saw more evidence of climate change inthe Trujillo suburb ofBuenos Aire.  Just a few years ago it was a popular beach, lined with restaurants.  Due to climate change and a nearby large commercial shipping port, the currents have changed and the beach is totally eroded, replaced by a high stone wall that prevents the few remaining open restaurants and occupied houses being washed away.

Daily Life in Trujillo

A medium sized city, it’s easy to get to know the main routes and neighbourhoods, which are generally safe and well looked after with lots of green spaces.  I have travelled locally by taxi and public buses – both plentiful and cheap.  For longer distances there are many bus services to suit every budget (though you get what you pay for in terms of comfort and leg room).

Although Peru isn’t a “first world” country, it´s not a backwater either.  There are big houses, shiney cars, supermarkets and clothes shops stocking branded goods you’d recognise.  Everyone has a smart phone and wifi is easy to find.

It´s a lively country with noise everywhere – barking dogs, beeping taxis, crowing roosters, latin and folk music blaring, children playing in the streets and parks.  Life is lived on a relaxed “Peru Time”, except when driving, when everyone goes at top speed!

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People really appreciate you trying to communicate in Spanish and I´ve found everyone friendly and helpful.

It has been an amazing experience.

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