After a week long vacation with friends and with only a week and a half before Cesca and my parents visit (!), I decided that I needed to work my ass off when I was in site in April. I’ve been holding lots of classes, trying to visit everyone I can around town, running, and visiting with my host family as much as I can. I’ve been really good.
So last night when I was told there would be a ‘faena’ at the school today I thought it would be a great moment to get some face time with my community and the parents. A ‘faena’ is a community clean-up, in this case, all the parents of the students at our school were mandated to come and do general labor to clean up the school and get it ready for the school anniversary.
My host dad has been hard at work on completing an amazing bathroom (inside the house!) and he is almost done. I think that is why my host mom was going to go to the ‘faena’ as the house representative. But seriously, she’s going to pop out this kid any second now, and it was ridiculous for her to have to go.
So… I offered to go as her replacement.
Right after I said I’d do it, I regretted it. Sure, I’ve worked a variety of manual labor jobs before, and I know how to work my ass off. But Peruvians are EPIC at manual labor. Especially the women. They can actually move mountains then go home, cook lunch for their families, hand wash loads of laundry, clean the house, and still have the afternoon free. Epic.
I woke up early this morning reluctant but knowing that I would earn major points from my town if I worked hard. I got to the school, put my host mom’s name down on the attendance list and after a few minutes of discussion (I got to tell all the men how to build the ‘pozo’ for the trash!), I went off with the women to find a group that I thought I might be able to work with.
I found myself with a group of about 10 women and we were told to clean up the entrance of the school. We moved hundreds of rocks, tree-length logs, huge tree stumps, and, using their picks, we pulled up a lot of grass and weeds. I was literally covered in poop for most of it – it wasn’t the cleanest area. Once I picked up a rock that had ‘sorpresa’ on it (surprise) and I didn’t realize for a while that it was definitely poo and not just dirt. It was all over me. Pretty gross.
It was great practice for my Quechua though, most of the ladies didn’t speak Spanish (even though they all understand). And of course, anything I said in Quechua cracked them up. I’m glad I chose a group of women I didn’t know as well, I feel like I made a few new allies today. At one point I even applied sunscreen to a group of new lady friends (I think some of them thought it was going to turn them pale… erm, no, sorry bout that guys). I also promised to them that I would try liquefied frog in the near future and let them know how it goes. Something to look forward to.
When we had to pull up this hundreds-of-years-old tree stump and push it across the entrance I just looked at them with disbelief. There was NO way they were moving this tree stump. Imagine 7 older women in skirts and sandals trying to move a 6 foot wide tree stump. I dunno. In my mind there was no way this was going to happen. I told them so, too. As soon as I said “Guys, there’s no way,” all of them, with big smiles on their faces, started chanting “Si se puede! Si se puede!” and that tree stump started moving. We were all laughing and chanting by the time we got the tree stump to its destination.
After 5 more stumps, 20-plus hauls of weeds and trash, and hundreds of rocks cleared out, we were finally done.
So yeah, I think I earned some major points today.