Routine and not so routine

Posted July 3, 2011 @ 11:19pm | by Comunidad

Dear Ones:

Since last writing, things have been so routine and quiet, just endless sorting of books and supplies, very routine.  That is.....up until Friday.  John and I took a long hike this morning looking at some of the famous and old churches.  The oldest one is from 1540 and we were both struck by the idea that Columbus invades the Dominican Republic in 1492 and by 1540 there is a Catholic church in Ayacucho.  It is as mystifying to me as the idea that the main frame computer I used to work with was the size of 1/4 block of Minneapolis.  Maybe that analogy is awkward, but so is the idea of conquest.  Anyway, we were wandering back, occasionally using my Spanglish skills to interact with people.  In fact, one young man has worked with Wilber Quispe and his brother Mario so we chatted about Wilber's talents as a weaver.  We were near where we originally met Wilber in 199some-year.  After this we were worming our way through an intensely dense crowd behind the market.  We decided to split up and meet back at the hotel.  John being tall, worked his way to a block ahead in no time. I watched his head float above the energized, increasingly crushing crowd as I pushed through more at the crowd level.

That's the last I saw of him for a while.  I stopped at a pharmacy, and continued pushing through the animated crowd and to the corner going down to our hotel.  There were piles of paper burning in the middle of the street in front of the hotel and college students yelling slogans and running.  The air was more painful to breathe than the usual leaded-gas fumes, high altitude air we breathed on our way out earlier.  As I entered the hotel, the police shot another tear gas grenade in my general direction, because that's where the protesting students had run towards.  I was caught.

I found out John was washing his eyes out in his room while I stood on tiptoe and watched out the barred doors lobby windows at the students lob rocks at the police, often using a slingshot.  Why did the police start it all with the tear gas?  Or did they?  The student anger seemed righteous to me at a gut level, and I momentarily wanted to help them hurl rocks at the m.f. fuzz, damn my peace fulfilling desires.  But wait!  What am I so pissed about?  Turns out wanting a new precept at the university is the gripe.  That's not enough to get me going.  I would need a full state government shutdown to muster up the requisite rage.  Hours later the crowd was dispersed, while pepper spray echos hung in the air. 

In the evening we went in our tennis shoes and blue jeans to a formal dinner for the changing of presidents in the Ayacucho Rotary Club.  The new president is Braulio, none other than our retired ag prof that is meeting us in Culluhuanca on Tuesday morning to assess initially new tractor feasibility.  The formal invitation said happy hour was at 6:00.  We were not going to be fooled; we purposefully arrived at 6:30, so as not to be the nerdy punctual gringos.  Guess what?  We were still the first by half an hour!  Until 8:00 the formally clad guests arrived and we stood out like turds in a punch bowl.  Nevertheless, a few pisco sours enhanced my translating skills and comedic abilities enough to wrangle us a lunch invitation for Saturday at Carlos and Ally's house.  A good time was had by all.

Now a weekend ahead where Jose will join us in John Kremer's room to accompany us as interpreter and expert in his own right around mountain agriculture; and Mey will join my room as a representative of Comunidad (she is wife of Humberto and a teacher herself).  We will set out Monday morning for the villages and the best part of this all.  I have the usual Ayacucho head cold now settled deep in my chest where grief lives.  I know the village is where the cure for grief and grippe resides.  Will update upon our return!


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