My hope had been to fully strategically plan the future of PCT here in Peru in our recent retreat, but time got the better of us. I facilitated what I had hoped would be the final stage today, but actually the decision was to form working parties and examine our goals and how to achieve them and meet again in August. It’s proving to be a long-term activity this long-term planning!

So, yesterday, Rachel sat down to study and then got up again and searched the house for one of her nutrition textbooks (Transition to Vegetarianism for anyone curious) and it was not to be found. We phoned our favourite thief who confirmed that he had it as well as some of Rachel’s English teaching materials and some mints that her parents sent us from Texas (and which he must have taken by going through her handbag). A short while later we were in possession of all items once again.

He came round in the evening to speak to us, but was fairly incoherent and no real apology was forthcoming. He seemed much more interested in how he felt about stealing from us and what his ex-girlfriend would do if she found out than feeling any real remorse and realisation of how we might be feeling as a result of his actions.

Well, I’m glad to say that the iPod is back. It took a fair bit of patience and being fairly assertive, but he eventually went to his work where he had left it to retrieve it for me. Not the most sensible crime, seeing as (as opposed to what he stole from us before) we use it often and were sure to notice that it was missing. He also told us where he lives!!

How do we respond from here? I’ve told him he’s no longer welcome at the house, at least until he can show that he is wholly to be trusted (which I don’t expect to happen before we leave Peru). God must have a pretty tough job when it comes to metering out both mercy and justice…

So, we have had the challenge, since living here, of how to respond to someone who always takes advantage of us, how to keep accepting them, loving them and offering to help in what ways we can: food, money management, advice…

He used to turn up at lunchtime expecting food, which we obliged him with for a while then gently told him that he was taking advantage of us (eating at ours in order to not spend his own money, helping himself to any food lying around etc) and could he please not take advantage of us and maybe he could phone before he came round, especially if he was hoping for food…

We had a few good weeks! He didn’t come round unexpectedly or expect food, he has just come round to visit as a ‘friend’ and learn from Paul how to manage his money.

Then yesterday he arrived, helped me with the washing up, got some help with a few things… then stole our iPod. We realised today.

We are so disappointed. We thought we were getting somewhere. Maybe it was our own fault for not watching him closely enough. it isn’t the first time he has stolen from us and we usually move things out of the way when he rings the doorbell, but hadn’t thought about the iPod as we are often listening to it!  Paul has now gone a-searchin’ to see if he can get it back.

Ollanta doesn’t even come to power until the end of July, but he’s already indirectly responsible for one death in Huancayo. I heard yesterday that an old lady, who was drunk (not uncommon here), when she heard that Ollanta had won announced to everyone that that was the end of her, since he would not support the elderly, and went off to drink poison. Not the best of endorsements for his coming presidency.

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….

Peruvians returned to the polls yesterday to choose between the two presidential candidates, Ollanta and Fujimori, who one famous commentator here described as like choosing between AIDS and terminal cancer. The votes are nearly all counted and it’s been one of the closest elections in Peruvian history (which when you consider that democracy has never survived more than 12 years here perhaps isn’t saying all that much!), but it seems that Ollanta is to emerge triumphant.

What next for Peru? Ollanta, from the left, is heavily linked with Hugo Chavez’s regime in Venezuela (it is widely accepted that his campaign was funded from Caracas). He seeks more state involvement in the economy and has promised to make sure that Peruvians benefit from their country’s wealth, rather than big multinationals. How he does this without driving away much needed foreign investment remains to be seen.

So too, in Ollanta, the Peruvian people now have a president who has far from a squeaky clean image. His brother is in prison for and has implicated the new president in human rights atrocities committed during the years of terrorism in the 1980s and 1990s whilst serving in the Peruvian army. He himself led a short-lived rebellion against the elected government in 2000. Whether he is the right man to pull together a deeply divided nation will only be known in time.

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!!

Had an exhausting 3 days on retreat – with roommates’ heavy snoring and insistence on watching TV until 1am and then starting again at 5am being the main reasons behind my tiredness. Running the event went well, but we ran out of time to do everything (not helped by everyone turning up 1.5 hours late, having stopped for ice-cream on the way!!) so we’ll finish off next week. I know that not everyone shared my opinion, but I was generally encouraged by what we were able to achieve. The trick will now be able to turn what is on paper into action…

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