The final cadence to all this grandeur was the sight of El Misti and her two volcanic sisters, the three mountains that watch over the ‘white city’ of Arequipa, as we came in to land this morning.
To describe Peru, and her people, is to realise that there are not enough synonyms for beautiful.
Once you’re on the ground the similarity of the infrastructure and vegetation to our former home in Tanzania is striking. If it weren’t for the people, I would believe on first glance that I was back in East Africa without question. The hastily thrown-up concrete buildings are the same, the trees and flowers, even the style of bill-board advertising and the brands they’re brandishing. But, as you'd expect, the people are very different. I love their expressive warmth, their exuberance and their public displays of affection.
I got up at 2am in the UK on Monday morning to start my journey, and got to bed at 26 hours later in Lima, with almost no sleep before, during or after. This morning I flew the final leg to Arequipa, arriving at lunch-time and then whisked from the airport straight to the church where the Neuvas Feuzas group were eagerly waiting. The cheers and shouts that erupted as I entered the room nearly knocked me over. It was so, so lovely to see everyone again. I was hugged and kissed to within an inch of my life and Richard (the aforementioned Karaoke King) even wept great theatrical tears when I said how good it was to return to my family in Peru. It was a wonderful reunion.
I spent the afternoon with Betsaida, the project leader, and Carmen, her right-hand volunteer, un-picking how things had gone since I left in April and deciding what we need to cover whilst I’m here. It was encouraging to see how beautifully they were making the products we’d taught them last time. There were a few disappointments and challenges too, but nothing insurmountable. Our meeting confirmed how important it was for me to come back, and has given us a road-map for what we need to achieve before I leave again. There’s a lot to do, but time enough if we keep our hands to the plough and don’t lose sight of the horizon.
Wednesday: Was strange to wake up to my silent flat alone. I missed my noisy family and the usual pre-school-day hubbub. The only CD I could find in the flat was 'Classic FM's Royal Wedding Selection" which thankfully turned out to be not nearly as bad as it sounded. The walk to the church cheered me with El Misti shining on the skyline above the haphazard rooftops. Have spent the day teaching Betsaida and Carmen new techniques and designing new prototype necklaces to teach the Neuvas Feuzas group tomorrow. Heading off now to the bead markets to buy materials and then off home to bead into the wee-hours finishing said samples for tomorrows teaching.