Last Day in Cusco

10 02 2010

The day i thought would never come, is here… Im excited to leave, and start my life in Vienna. But i have a funny feeling that as soon as I land back home, im going to feel like im thousands of kilometers away from home. I guess thats natural.

I hope you are all well and cannot wait to reunite with you.

Much love,



2 weeks left!

29 01 2010

I remember writing after my first two weeks here,  and now its only 2 until im home again… scares me how time flies.

I want to thank you and aplogize for not posting more throughout this experience. I have no good excuse for why I failed to update more, but my best guess is that I didnt want the richness of my life here to become a journalistic endeavour. I wanted it to be what it was, and i realized at some point that by posting my experiences publically, i wasnt allowing myself to fully live and feel them.

Anyway, enough of that. Now there are two weeks left. I had hoped to leave things all tied up with no loose ends, but that seems like its going to be impossible. The director of the Casa Don Bosco is being changed yet again and with im come many more changes. It is planned that more than half of the boys get kicked out of the Casita by the beginning of the coming school year. I have been, and will continue to fight against it, but its becoming increasingly difficult. My NGO will not be sending a new volunteer to replace us, so our voice has lost alot of leverage. As long as the NGO is not involved in the project, I have very little to say. But I will say what needs to be said, while trying to get some closure and not go home with any left over anger…

Thanks again for being interested. I love you all and hope that I can paint a more complete picture of this truly amazing experience when i have the headspace to do so. Until then, take care.


Visa renewed – Energies with it

25 06 2009

Hey all! So my visa is all set. I have religious status, so if i choose to, i could stay in Peru until 2014 before having to renew it again. Pretty cool!



If you look closely at the top, right side, you should be able to make out the word “Religioso”. Pretty funny.

So Lima was nice, and we were planning on heading south afterwards. But when in Lima, we went down to the ocean and started talking to this surf teacher. Nice guy, who told us that he was heading North, where it was warm and sunny, to go chill on the beach. So Marion and I just looked at eachother, and said, “why arent we doing that?” So we got back to the Inspectoria (headquarters of the Salesians in Peru) and started looking for the cheapest way to get up there. We were able to get a friend at the Inspectoria to get us a 40% discount on a bus-ride up to Tumbes and back. Tumbes is the farthest north you can go on the Peruvian coast. Its right on the border of Guayaquil, Ecuador. So we hopped on the bus, drove for 20 hours, and that was that! Tumbes turned out to be warm, but cloudy. We went to Porto Pizarro, which is the fishing port, where you can take a nice little tour to go see a crocodile breeding ground. That was cool. So we stayed a night with our friends aunt, and then headed back down 2 hours to Mancora, which we had driven by and seen how nice and sunny it was. We got to Mancora on Saturday morning, and had until Sunday afternoon. We used the time well, chilling on the beach, in the sun, swimming. I even took a surf class, which was cool. The only problem was, after 1 hour with the teacher, and 1 hour alone out on the water, you are done. Cant move in the water anymore. Its so exhausting! But lots of fun, and i caught a wave and surfed it all the way to the beach. The surfing isnt so hard, i have the balance, its actually catching the wave thats tough. All this buff little surfer dudes are out there surfing for hours, and im close to drowning after 2. so intense, but lots of fun! And the food was AWESOME. Burrito con langostinos! So good! only ate sea-food the entire time. Had to enjoy it up there, all fresh. So after a fun saturday night on the beach, we headed back for the 20 hour bus-ride, to Lima. From Lima we flew the same day back to Cusco, only to find out that the boys had vacation and werent coming home until Wednesday! We could have spent 2 more days on the beach! However, in retrospect, it was nice to come home and have 2 days and 2 nights off just to relax before getting back to work. On Wednesday was also Inti Raymi, the Sun God festival. It was pretty cool and soooo many people. Check it all out on the New Pictures page! Thanks for dropping by! Much love!

Visa Renewal

15 06 2009

So tomorrow I will be heading off to Lima to renew my Visa. Hope that goes well. I will be flying there, and returning by bus. Im excited about the time off, wont be coming back until Sunday. This weekend was tough. I was so tired the whole time. The weekends with the boys are always hard cause they are home all day. Its funny though, as i was yawning yesterday, i got this little mini-revelation. There is a turning point when Im working really hard with the boys. At around 1 in the afternoon, i dont think I will make it through the rest of the day and all tired and out of it, i push on. Then at around 4 it all flips on me, and I get this urge to spend every second of the day with the boys. Its the wierdest thing, going from contemplating ways to get away and relax for 10 minutes, to showering as quickly as possible after playing soccer for 2 hours, and trying to get back to the boys as fast as you can. I like the feeling! I wanted to add a little something to this post. I dont want to sound preachy. Remembering the days back in Vienna when I gave interested people the blurb on what I would be doing for a year in Peru, I often found it strange how they replied: “I wish I could do that.” “I never had a chance to do that.” “I really want to do that.” I wasnt angry about the excuses, more confused. “Why cant you do it?” “Cant you still do it?” “If you wanna do it, do it!” Of course there are those people who had no interest or intention in doing any volunteer work, but just wanted to keep the conversation going. Thats fine too. But for those of you, who really want to do something, stop setting up road-blocks. Get online, type  “volunteer work in (insert your city)” into Google, and go for it. If you dont find anything you want to do, let it go, and search again next week. What im saying is, there is no reason that helpful, motivated people shouldnt have the opportunity to share their time, love, energy, and creativity with people (or plants and animals) in need around them. You can only put in an hour a month, a year, a decade? Put in that hour. It will make a difference to you, and to those you around you.

Same Old Song

8 06 2009

Every morning I wake up to one of two songs. Which is always followed by one of two songs. Depending on the song that comes on first, my beginning-of-the-day ritual varies.

Sean Kingston – Beautiful Girls: Me singing and clapping as a pull the sheets of the boys. Sometimes they kick their legs and blindly grab for their sheets to the beat! “You´re way too beautiful girl, that´s why it´ll never work. You have me suicidal, suicidal, when you say it´s over!” Catchy tune…

Flo Rida (ft T pain) – Low: This song has such a phat beat. Now I´m dancing like a whiteboy on BET and loving it. Some of the boys are smiling, others are confused. This usually gets them up without the whole sheet business. 194 cm, 88 kg, of bad hiphop dancing can have that effect.
“Shawty had them Apple Bottom Jeans
Boots with the fur
The whole club was lookin’ at her
She hit the floor
Next thing you know
Shawty got low low low low low low low low”
I´m bouncing around in my seat right now.

I´m waiting for the next song the Cusqueñans will play every morning at 6:00 a.m. That´s it for now! Keep it real on “95.5 ´Z´Rock&Pop”.
Peace, I´m out!

z rock

Fire Corn

1 06 2009

Here’s an afterthought. Ill try to do this more often.

It was lying there in a crowd of corn. Far off, on the other side of the terrace, inaccessible through the sea of maize. The evening sun was ready to rest its head. I asked Nikolas (aka Facunda, aka Kuy) if he would grab it for me. “Cual quieres?” “Alla, al fondo. Este negrito, con rojo y amarillo dentro.” He jumps over the edge of the terrace railing and starts walking alongside it. Cuidado, I tell him. He just smiles. He’s done this a million times. Finally, reaching the far end of the ocean, he snatches my treasure. Gracias Facu.




Just Another Day

30 05 2009

First off, hello to all you Benny Lavers… The time since the last post has gone by so fast. Its funny, sometimes I feel like im sprinting through time, and every now and then i come up for air. This weekend, the boys are home, so im relaxing.

One week ago exactly, Luis (the youngest brother of Jose David, Carlos, and Ruben) came to the casita to stay with us for a while. Their mother was in the hospital, so noone was home to take care of him. He is a good boy. Two days ago (Thursday), Jose David (the oldest brother, 14) asked me if I would come with him to visit his mother at Antonio Lorena Hospital. Of course I went. It was evening and pretty chilly. We entered the quiet hospital and made our way to the “Womens” section. As I entered the building, things just looked disorganized. I had been to the Clinica Paredes with Marion when she had her apendix (appendix?) taken out, but that was a private clinic. This was a public hospital. We walked into the room, and like I had only ever seen in movies, there was Sna. Calsin lying in one of what must have been 20 beds that lined the walls. No privacy, not being able to sleep at night, due to the painful moans of the other patients. Just one of the many poor, sick women given a bed for a week before getting kicked out on the street, whether she is better or not. I approach her bed and, barely having the energy to speak, she begins trying to lift her hand to greet me and seeing her struggle, i tell her to let it go. She explains to me, whispering and with her eyes barely open, that they are taking too much blood from her. Jose David, concerned, tells me that sometimes, the nurses take blood from the patients and sell it. This is why he decided to spend the night at the hospital, in the bed next to his mother. Luckily it was vacant. I ask her what the doctor told her, but she doesnt know. How can she? Drifting in and out of sleep, malnourished, extreme blood loss. I ask her when the doctor will return, and she tells me the next day, at 9. In mid-conversation, i notice that she is falling asleep, and i tell her its okay, and that she should go right ahead. she whispers thank you, and sorry, and sleeps. Sitting there with her son, only 14, watching his mother sleeping with lines of pain on her forehead, almost broke me. I though of my own mother. If it was her lying there. So weak and hardly being able to move or speak. Not knowing what she has. Rumors of unspeakable acts done by the nurses. No doctor in sight to consult. A large, cold hall filled with other cases. But it would never be my mother. My mother would be lying in a private room. With flowers on the table next to her bed. A friendly doctor telling her and her family what she has, and how it will be fixed. I would kiss her on the forhead, give her a smile and tell her, knowing it was true, that everything was going to be alright. My mother isnt poor. And that simple fact, makes her life worth more.  I stroke her head, and with as much conviction as I can muster, tell her everything will be alright. But who knows?

9:00 a.m – Friday. I briskly enter the room to find the Doctor standing at bed three, tending to a woman. Sna. Calsin is awake. I approach her bed and instantly have a small, stalky nurse in my face, telling me that I must leave now, and can see her when the doctor finishes. The gag is, the Doctor already checked her, and now i had to wait for him to check the other 19 women. I plead for 1 minute, and am denied. I tell Sna. Calsin I will wait. As i leave the hall, i hear the doctor tell the nurse to lock the door behind me. I go outside and lie down on the sun-drenched bench. Other people are waiting to see their mothers, sisters, wives, grandmothers. The mood is somber. I can feel the doubt. Time goes by, and all of a sudden i see Sna. Calsin walking out of the door. Very slow, very thin, very weak. I jump up to assist her. We sit down on the bench. “I have to go home. They tell me I have to be out of here by 11.” “But what did the doctor say? What do you have?” “He said I can go home.” “But what do you have?” “He said i can go home”… She explains to me how she ended up in the hospital in the first place. She sells things on the street. But for the past few weeks, the police have been kicking her out of her spot, telling her she cant sell there. The little money she has been able to make, she spends on the rent for her 2×4 meter room where she lives with her oldest and youngest child. (the three boys live with us, with Luis, four. The daughter is 16, old enough to take care of herself…right?) 6 people in a room with two beds, a dresser, and a small camping stove. She tells me that she hasnt been eating. And what she can get her hands on, isnt merely enough to sustain her. She was at the market the week before, when she suddenly fainted and his her head on the ground. The next thing she knew, she was in the hospital. On top of her malnourishment, she is anemic. A weak body, but a strong heart. Husband dead, taking care of her 6 children as best as she can. Doing everything for them. If the Casa Don Bosco didnt exist, life would be impossible. She says she tried to call her daughter, to come pick her up, but she wont answer the phone. Even the poorest of the poor carry cell-phones. She asks me if I would go to Fe y Alegria (the school Jose David attends) and get her boy to come pick her up. I go. I have no problem getting past the door-woman. She knows me by now. The Gringo from the Casa Don Bosco. I enter, explain, and 5 minutes later Jose David and I are walking back to the hospital. I give him some change to take his mother in a taxi. I shake his hand and tell him to take care of her. 14 years old, dead father, sick mother, 5 siblings. At 14 I was dancing with girls at activities night.

16:00 p.m – Friday. The boys just finished cleaning their clothes, ive handed out the bus money, and they are sitting in front of the Casita, ready to go home. Gladis (the educator) and I have finished the care package for the Calsin family. A bag of rice, sugar, beans, lentils, bottle of oil, can of tuna, big package of noodles, all wrapped up in a big sack. We are waiting in the afternoon sun. Some boys excited to go home, some reluctant. The two Pantoja boys are all packed up and ready and I hug them goodbye. Antonio grabs my hand, looks up at me, and says “My dad abandoned us. My mother told me today. She came to my school and told me he left with another woman.” I go back inside and make a small care package for the Pantojas. In the meantime, thier older brother Julio Cesar arrived to pick them up. I put the package in his backpack. I hug Antonio again, and tell him that it will be okay. I dont know what else i can do. Now that the oldest brother Marco is here, the Pantoja boys go home. A home without a father. Their father didnt work, ate their food, drank, and beat their mother. Are they better off without him? Is a bad father better than no father? My anger tells me yes… But the tears in Antonios eyes make me think twice. I wanna say thanks to my dad, for always being there and loving me. Its not a given. Now the last of the boys has gone. We get into the car with the Calsin brothers and with Nikolas and Lucio. We drop off the Calsin boys and their care package at their home, and go on to drive for 1 hour to visit the home of Nikolas and Lucio. They have a house. With four rooms. Each room the size of the Pantojas and Calsines entire home. They have two bulls, a cow, guinea pigs, chickens and ducks. This is the life in the country. Its poverty, but a different kind of poverty. A poverty one can survive. Not the city poverty, which is far more relentless. Lucio jumps out of the car and runs to their neighbors home to pick up his mother. We go on to the house and say hello to his older sister and younger brother. Lucio comes sprinting down the dirt road, pushing his mother in her wheelchair. She is laughing and so is he. Its dangerous, but who cares. His mother gets down off of her wheelchair and drags herself towards me, i kneel down and give her a big hug as she kisses me on the cheek. She is happy and smiling and thanking me for coming. I walk around as the Hermano talks to Sna. Chile, pretending to understand Quechua (the native language). I come upon a litter of puppies underneath the stairs. So cute!! In one room sleep Nikolas and Lucio, in one room their older brother, Leonidas, the third is shared by their older sister and younger brother, and in the fourth, sleep their parents. They have a terrace upstairs where one of the boys has to sleep outside at night to make sure noone steals the animals. Also, on the sunny side of the terrace, they have layed out all of the corn they recently harvested. Its all sorts of beautiful colors. Nikolas, the genorous boy he is, starts grabbing the corn and giving it to Marion, telling her its for us, and the Padres. I ask for just one, a beautiful black, red, and yellow colored one. It looks like fire. We stay around for about an hour, before saying goodbye to the whole family. It was a short visit, but I know it was hugely important for our boys. Its easier to trust someone when theyve been in your home and seen where you are from.

Well, it was a tough week, 5 of the boys didnt have school monday and, all 23 had off on wednesday. This means that on these two days, I worked from 7:30 a.m, until 9:30 p.m. I know this post was written a bit dramatically and I must add that these things occur here daily, and arent taken as seriously by the locals. A father leaving, a sick mother. This is a part of their lives. Only when I look at it through my “european” eyes, am i shocked. Ive written this post with my european perspective. I hope thats okay with you all. I love you very much and thank you all for your continued interest.

Dont miss the pictures of the visit to the home of Nikolas and Lucio!

Guess who´s back

23 09 2009

Hey everyone. Im back! cant promis regular posts, but after people asking me to post again, and me returning (for the first time in 3 months i think) to my blog and reading the nice comments, ive gathered a bit more motivation, and will try to keep posting.
Thanks to everyone who cares!

So its almost October… month 8. I can hardly believe how fast the time has gone. In August we celebrated 25 years of the Casa Don Bosco. Some old guys came, who used to be boys in the Casita themselves, and now were successful business men and engineers, and whatnot. It was a bit lame to drool over 6 guys who “made it” out of 25 years worth of men who passed through there. Where are the rest of them? Still poor? Wouldnt wanna show that, now would we. But my cynicism falls on deaf ears, thats why I love you guys. You never let me get down. Ive talked to a couple people lately, and noone has flattered my depression. Thanks for that, its what will keep me going these last couple of months.
Ive started to feel as though i wasted all my energy in my first 6 months here.
I have to reload and not give up on the final stretch!
I hope you are all well and i miss you more than ever! take care.

Max Chaveta

Mom and Dad!

19 07 2009

My mom and dad are on their way to Lima right now!!!
They will land tonight, and will be here in Cusco by tomorrow afternoon! Im so excited. 5 months since i have seen them. Its the longest I have ever been away from my family. Thanks for all your support!