Monday, October 13, 2008

the penultimate

I haven't plagiarised this much since uni. At least this time I'm plagiarising myself. Column 15.

Meet Darwin.

Darwin is a happy, eight-year-old kid. He posed proudly for this picture when I asked him which bed was his.

There are only two beds in Darwin’s house and they sleep three boys. Not sure how, but they do. Hernan is 13 and Yuri is six. The brothers live together, alone, in a one-room house the size of a modest bedroom.

In the absence of parents, Hernan looks after his brothers. Need I remind you, he is 13.

What were you doing when you were 13? I was in Year 8 receiving a better than decent education which I, at times, went to waste while I was too busy trying to be cool. I was gossiping with girls and flirting with boys. On the home front, I lived with my mum and two sisters who I constantly fought with. No reason, maybe a bit pissed of at the whole broken family thing but, probably just a brat really.

As a volunteer with Peru’s Challenge, I hung out with the boys during my first ‘home visit’. With the assistance of a local social worker, home visits help Peru’s Challenge establish where help, financial or otherwise, is most needed.

Down the road I met Manuel, a father of five. His home, which he built with his own arthritic hands, was as simple as the rest in Pumamarca. A ‘living room’ full of potatoes, a kitchen full of smoke and, upstairs, a bedroom with two basic beds and a shrine to Jesus.

As we were leaving, with tears in his eyes, Manuel showed me his hands. They were destroyed from a laborious life. Black, torn apart, crippled. I put a sympathetic hand on his shoulder, he burst into tears and hugged me. I shed a couple myself.

But home visits aren’t always tales of woe though. Visit number three this day was to a pregnant mother with five boys and a little girl already under her wing. ‘Home visit’ wasn’t the correct term on this occasion as the boys, playing in the dirt in the front yard, didn’t let me past the gate. Instead they took my camera hostage, proceeded to pull stupid faces and crack up laughing upon review each and every time. They were gorgeous.

It has been this stark contrast of poverty and beauty which has been the most fascinating during my time in Peru. Rundown homes are set among spectacular mountains, ramshackle roofs shelter bright, colourful walls and deprived people sport broad, genuine smiles.

More juxtaposition coming my way as I fly from the dusty streets of Peru to the bright city lights of London.

No job, no home, and fast creeping towards no money – why did I think this was a good idea again?

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