An early start to get to Aco (a village about an hour away) and to pay my contact there for making me a dozen combustion chambers, moulded and fired and ready to withstand very high temperatures at the heart of the stoves I’m making. I also became the proud owner of about 0.5 tonnes of white clay, which will be the finishing material applied to the outside of the stoves, since it will help keep the heat inside.

This afternoon, I’m off to buy 6 tonnes of sand, 20 bags of cement and 1,600 bricks. Then the fun starts tomorrow….

So, I’ve just returned from my gardening project and I’ve very disappointed. Not only was no-one there, but I also got to see the havoc that chickens are causing, seeing as the families involved STILL haven’t put up the fence that they promised about 2 months ago. Knowing that money is very tight, I have not placed any economic burden on them through this project (quite the contrary), but I think it much better to work with people rather than them becoming dependent on your hand-outs, so while I was bankrolling the project, the deal was that they would put their effort in to care for the garden (of which the fence was just one part of their responsibilities). No effort from them means that I’ve decided to withdraw until such time as they show their interest by putting up a fence at least. Otherwise, all the gardening project is achieving is feeding slugs and chickens….

Another early start (6am) to get to the village of Aco (1 hours away over bumpy and dusty tracks) and meet the chap who is probably going to be producing the combustion chambers for the stoves project. He’d forgotten to bring the prototype with him, so after hanging around for 1.5 hours, I got to borrow someone’s beetle and drive up to his village (another 30 minutes away on very bumpy tracks). The prototype needs a bit of altering, but it’s looking good and won’t be too long before the project can actually be up and running. I have to go back in 2 weeks to pick up the first batch (of 10) – I just hope he remembers to bring them this time!!

Up a little after 4:30am this morning to visit the tiny village of Quicha (key-cha) about 90 minutes bumpy driving away from Huancayo where the quality of their local clay is sufficient to make the combustion chamber that will be the heart of my stove project. I’ve got to go back next week in order to see a prototype, but thankfully an hour later!!

Been a bit quiet from me for the last couple of weeks since I’ve had my head down. While this has involved a few job applications, I’ve also managed to get 3 new business-related courses written for the Training Centre, so it’s off to the printers today and then picking up the teaching and text books on Wednesday, just in time to start teaching again on Thursday. I had some of my students last week tell me that they’re loving the way the course is put together (low on theory and high on practise), although that hasn’t stopped 4 of my morning class failing the course. Still, I don’t think the course (or the teacher!) can be blamed for that one – they are, coincidently, the 4 students who never/barely ever turn up to class!

I’m also now half planned for the forthcoming smokeless stoves project too. Should be going shopping this afternoon to look at prices and allow me to draw up a budget and then I’m getting up nice and early on Friday morning to head out to a distant village where a local producer could well be able to make the combustion chambers, the heart of the stoves, for me. Should hopefully have more of an idea by the end of the week about what the scope for this project is going to be and how it’s going to run.

It’s been noticeable since being back in the country that food prices have gone up and I’ve seen the odd article recently which says that this is not a phenomenon that is unique to Peru, but that around the world many more people are plunging into poverty. The families with whom I work are certainly noticing the increases, so we are all hoping that they do not continue to rise whilst work continues with them to try and find longer-term solutions to their economic problems.

The problem with deciding that you’re going to leave somewhere is that all the work you had stretched before you over the next few months gets compressed into much less time. The start of the next module at the Training Centre is mid-May, by which time I need to have written 2 new business courses from scratch, both teachers’ books and textbooks. That’s going to be a tall order in itself, but add to that the need to get the toilet project and the home-gardening project with the families finished and a new smokeless stoves project started before June, then it’s going to be a very, very busy few weeks ahead!

Being a teacher brings with it the inevitable marking. Well, in theory, at least. I’d spent last week teaching most of my students about how to design questionnaires and set them the homework of doing market research questionnaires for the products they are going to launch. From one of my classes, I only picked up one piece of coursework today (and not a very good piece at that), so I guess I won’t be spending quite so long marking as I thought.

With some time of my hands, I went out to see the Vegetable Garden I started with some families in one of the villages. I’ve been told that the families keep talking about it and are very proud of what they’ve been able to do (showing that it’s not just about improving diet, but self-esteem too). It was a bit of a surprise, therefore, to see that there were stinging nettles everywhere; it hadn’t been fenced in while I was away as promised and that something has been eating the cabbages. I’ll have to organise a workshop with the families to address some of these issues…

The home gardening workshop went well. Arthur, who came with me, was very encouraging and said it was obvious how good a rapport I had with the families and that they had really responded to what I was sharing with them. We made a raised bed (a new concept for them) and then planted it with 5 different seeds. What was most encouraging for me is that, in a culture where working together is often absent, the families themselves have decided to get together and do a communal garden – a very exciting development as far as I am concerned.

Afterwards, we took the car down to Lima and only nearly died once – overtaking on a blind bend is not quite what I had in mind when I asked our driver to get us there safely!! It was good to get there and relax!

My busy week and a half translating in various conference sessions and workshops for Arthur and Pete has reached an end. They’ve gone really well, but it is quite tiring to be constantly thinking in 2 languages and trying to remember who needs to hear what.

Off to Lima tomorrow (after giving a workshop on home gardening) to take Arthur and Pete to the airport before flying off ourselves on the 2nd to Brazil and Paraguay. Feeling exhausted, so hoping that a break will be just what the doctor ordered.

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