The final weeks of Priya's Peruvian project

Priya’s now reaching the end of her engineering placement and is sharing the results of her work through a number of presentations and documents. She’s enjoying the last few weeks with her host family before going travelling.

I write to you from the touristic city of Cusco once more, where I have returned for the final weeks of my project. The city is far more crowded and busy than my tranquil home in Urubamba, and the marching that I had witnessed on my first few days here continues on an almost weekly basis.  Marching is performed whenever a school, company or city has an anniversary, and there are also often military marches.

Here I started attending the gym with my host aunt, where I tried to perform aerobics faster than I have ever done in the UK! This helped prepare me for a three-hour hike to the nearby Two Towers, during which I felt suspiciously like I was in a scene from Lord of the Rings as I witnessed my first ever Condor flying over us.

Thanksgiving celebrations

Cultural walls between Peruvians and Americans finally broke down as ProWorld decided to hold a celebration for Thanksgiving. Everyone currently involved in the organisation was invited, from Peruvian host families to Spanish teachers.

A series of events and shows took place in front of a large feast of turkey, as well as some more traditional Peruvian food. Volunteers performed their take on Yo Soy, a Peruvian version of Pop Idol, while host mums danced in traditional costumes. A pair of my colleagues also hit the dance floor with a highly-skilled, fast paced Peruvian dance that got everyone cheering.

Work is coming to an end

As Christmas approaches, work is slowing down, even more than usual. December involves constant meetings to determine activities for the following year.

It is now unlikely that the new kiln will ever be built. However, as mentioned in my last post, it could not increase rate of production in itself, and therefore I think it is the right decision, at least until other conditions are significantly improved.

This week I have been contributing to a series of presentations, explaining the results of my investigations and trying to encourage the organisation to spend any money that they had raised to build the kiln on improving conditions at the filter production site in Urubamba instead. Here, many losses can be prevented by simple, cheap investments such as enclosing the factory and preventing impurities from entering via wind or animals.

However, there are further complications, as ProWorld has a short lease on the land, and is therefore not willing to invest in the current site in Urubamba. Therefore, I have also planned and explained conditions necessary for an ideal production site, on the hope that they will move to one.  

There are just a few weeks to go until Christmas and the end of my placement, so I’ll spend the few next days preparing a handover document with the results of all my investigations, recommendations for increasing production, and my concerns about the design of the kiln, in case they decide to consider it again.  

I’m looking forward to seeing what traditional festive celebrations are like with my family, before I leave to go on my travels around the continent.

Lessons from my colleagues

There are many things that my colleagues in Urubamba have taught me, and I’ll miss working on the filters there; the filters’ director refused to become disheartened when the results were not as we hoped, explaining “for everything there is a solution, other than death”.

In Cusco too, I have been learning much from my colleagues. We began a recent staff meeting by marking out a square on the floor, and dancing around it until the music was stopped, at which point we all had to enter the square as quickly as possible – if anyone was left outside, we would all lose. As the music continued, the square was made smaller and smaller, until eventually we had to lean on one another in order to get one foot inside it and the other flaying in the air as we supported one another with our bodies – the lesson? We need to work as a team and support one another in order to succeed.

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