So, I learnt one thing today – building the actual body of the stove takes a lot longer than I had anticipated. I’m going to have to reschedule all the stove-building so that I have a full day to be able to complete it. This first stove is still not finished (we needed to pause since it was mid-afternoon and we hadn’t had any lunch yet and because the family needed to gather together more ash, which we are using as an insulating material), but it is at least recognisable now.

So, we’ve now into July, supposedly in the middle of the dry season and we’ve had 3 days in a row of rain, which is very odd. It’s noticeably colder, with the sun unable to get through during the day, but its welcome nonetheless after various weeks without a drop.

We don’t really know why, but this time last year there was a huge drunken party in the park right outside our house continuously for about 3 days and nights. This year, fortunately, we have been spared this joy. Judging by the sound of it, it seems to have shifted location to a few blocks away, although given the volume of the party last year, it could even be the other side of the city and we’d still be hearing it!! We’re now aware of it at all times, but it is not so ear-splittingly loud that we can’t sleep.

It was a public holiday today, so we had planned to go with friends, David and Charito and Cesar and Haydee, to the waterfalls behind Ingenio, since none of us had ever been. Unfortunately, Rachel was feeling a bit under the weather, but insisted that the rest of us went anyway.

Two more stove bases built today, as shown in the photos. One of the families currently cooks under some very low corrugated iron propped up on some makeshift brick walls. It hasn’t been that temporary arrangement for the family though, as evident by the black smudges on the walls…

So, the stove project finally got on the road today and, despite some difficulties (my expert builder not turning up to show me how to do it for the first one and one of my volunteers not turning up either), we have managed to build the foundation of the stove for one family. The base for the afternoon family is unfortunately only 60% done and that we had to do in record time before the light faded since the space marked out by the family for the stove was basically in the middle of a room filled with junk and we spent 1.5 hours clearing it out and levelling the floor before we could start. Tomorrow I’ll remember to take the camera…

It’s official – we now have our flights to come back to the UK in September. When we get home there’s no clear plan as yet (much depends on jobs) but, with the work here with the Peru Children’s Trust about to enter a new phase, we nevertheless felt it was the right time to pack up and make the move.

So, the stoves project has started like a bonfire made up of wet leaves. We got as far as the place where I’m storing materials before a phone call revealed that today’s family had had a change of heart and decided that they didn’t want a wood stove (which is fair enough, since it transpires they usually cook on gas). Just glad that we hadn’t started shifting all the bricks and sand into the car…

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….

I staged my equivalent of The Apprentice yesterday, asking each of my small business teams to present their business plans to a panel of potential investors. Some were good and some weren’t, but I could never be as harsh and ruthless as Alan Sugar. Using the very small fund that we’ve created from selling my text books, we have decided to invest in 6 businesses which will be running for the next 4 weeks (and possibly longer if they proved to be money-spinners). The businesses are 2 yoghurt businesses, a taco and an oriental style empanada (pasty) businesses and, from amongst my fashion design and sewing students, 2 businesses that specialise in short, fashionable (here at least!) waistcoats. 4 weeks to the day of reckoning when we find out who had the most successful business and whether I have any money left in our “investment fund”.

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