Posted on May 13, 2015 by Lewis White
This month I was lucky enough to travel to Playa Blanca for the third time to take part in the installation of WindAid’s tenth turbine. This coincided with the 45th “Earth Day”, which is marked all over the world by acts of “green” aiming to promote respect for the planet. It was my first celebration of the event and it was a great feeling to take part!
I’d like to thank the whole team for making the goal of lighting up Eleanora’s home with a wind turbine on the 22nd a reality. Working with Ben, Jack, Sn Abel, Yordi, Gean and Perry was an absolute pleasure and the past month is something I will never ever forget.
Getting up early to avoid the heat of the midday sun, we headed down to the beach armed with water and sun cream. This was our last day in Playa Blanca and while the trip had already offered much excitement, we had one last activity in store. The activity involved a very old rowing boat and a heavily pregnant woman. Who’d say no to fishing in the pacific?
She had gotten up even earlier than us and we all looked on as she expertly steered the rickety boat through the surf and onto our beach. We were off; 5 of us squeezed precariously into the tiny boat which felt like a strong sneeze could take it down. As the shore got further away it finally occurred to us to offer to row, we were not pregnant after all (and we’re men..), but she was having none of it – this is what she did every day, powering this boat out into the sea was as normal as making breakfast.
My fears about capsizing proved unfounded and we soon had the anchor in place, ready to fish. We used simple hand lines with some sort of sea louse (about an inch long with wriggly feet) as bate. Off we went, casting and waiting for about 2 hours moving the position of the boat every so often in attempt to find a shoal. Conditions weren’t perfect; apparently the sea was rougher than usual which meant a lesser chance of a big haul. Ben brought home two specimens however and Eleanora managed to get three. After she sensed we were getting tired she dropped us back at the shore and headed back out to continue her days work.
Amidst all the joking around, the better luck next time kind of thing, it occurred to me just how hard a life this must be. In Playa Blanca, stuck in the middle of Peru’s vast coastal desert, the sea is all there is to live on – a couple of bad days in the boat must be incredibly stressful as a large proportion of the food supply and along with monetary income immediately runs dry. The vast majority of the people living in Playa Blanca face this fear, but if you think that would lead to a community on edge then you’d be wrong. I’ve seen more stressed faces during an hour of a tough university exam on “Industrial Management” than I ever would if I lived for the rest of my life in Playa Blanca. People get happy, get sad but it feels like people just don’t have time to be stressed.
We had installed the turbine at Eleanora’s house the day before. This involved getting the help of half the village in lifting the tower where after we moved inside to tackle the more fiddly wiring. We noticed one corner of the building adorned with fresh flowers (a rare sight out in the desert) and a drawing of a girl. The girl, we were told, was Eleanora’s daughter who had died last year. She had passed away in hospital after complications with an infection and was only 20 years old.
This is me with the final product. Here’s to more projects with WindAid and above all more turbines!