Another early morning as we prepare to go along and help out at the childrens puppet show, a few of the girls off the Condor trek have agreed to come too – Sarah, Marianne and Franciose, oh and Elena might come along later too.
When we get up this morning however, Huw is feeling pretty grim – and it’s not just a hangover! Not sure what it is as we all ate exactly the same food on the trek, just in different quantities – then again maybe a big plate off meat after 3 days of just veggies did it? We head out anyway to grab some salteñas (like pasties but quite small, you definitely need at least two, and they have quite a bit of liquid in them so can be very messy … but really nice 🙂 ) and bread for brekkie and we meet up with Marianne and Francoise, wondering if some fresh air might just sort him out but after about 20 minutes Huw is feeling really ropey so he goes back to the hostel where he spends most of the day in bed recovering. A day with a large group of kids at the best of times will be a challenge for us let alone when one of us is feeling poorly.
It´s just as well that Huw packed himself off to bed, the day turned into complete chaos! Not intentionally, it´s just the way of Bolivia we are guessing. We arrive at Philly´s house, which is to die for, and after a quick tour she sets us to work making sandwiches for lunch. She´s on and off the phone for the next hour or so to various people trying to track down the bus she has booked for the children. It was supposed to arrive at 0900 too.
We have 20-30 kids turning up and no bus. Hhmm …When Philly finally gets hold of the driver – there is no company to contact as all the buses are freelance and owned by the drivers – he knows nothing about it. Good start. She has two permanent co-workers – Rosemary and Rossío (not sure of spelling); Rosemary who Philly thought had confirmed the bus, (we realise when she arrives – she is waiting down at the Plaza meeting the children initially) had thought Philly was confirming the bus whereas Philly thought that was the one task Rosemary had taken on to sort out. Ouch!
Philly tries to contact another driver but no one can´t get here for another hour. Meanwhile the children are arriving and running around the courtyard, playing with the fish, fighting over her hammock and generally getting louder and louder…
The decision is taken to walk the kids down to the road where the usual (we would say scheduled, but they aren´t, the only thing regular is the route they take, we think) buses head to the village of Yotola and see if we can all pile on one or more of these.
Now any of you who can cast your mind back to your hazy memories of school trips will probably remember lining up in twos, walking hand in hand or similar along busy roads, teacher/adult at the front, middle and back keeping you in check and making sure you don´t get run over… Yeh well it was exactly like that walking through the narrow often pavement-less streets of Sucre to the corner we hoped to get a bus – NOT!
Remember these are street kids, they don´t often have any authority figures around them or know how to listen to one even if it does appear. They´re just as excited if not more so than your average group of children – they very very rarely have an opportunity like this presented to them, being able to go on an outing like this – and well they just run up and down the street, mostly in the road, chasing each other and dodging the traffic, but luckily in the general direction we are trying to go. The only saving grace is that only 11 or 12 turn up. (It’s not an exact number as they never stand still long enough to count them). They have no incentive to, there is no cost to them and although a lot more expressed an interest, you can guarantee they had to work or some similar grown-up kind of event got in the way stopping them having a childhood day out like they deserved! We have an age range between 4 and 13.
While kind of standing on the street corner attempting to get a bus to take us, us girls decide to go off in search for a strong black coffee oh and some oranges to play some games with later. Philly asked if we knew any games as we´ll have an hour or so to amuse the children while we wait at the puppeteers’ house. When we get back, the original bus they thought was booked actually turns up and we all leave as planned just nearly 2.5hours later than expected.
On the bus it is just as challenging to get the children to sit and behave but a few distractions such as cameras – they like to see their picture once you have taken it, and try and take pictures too if you´re brave enough to lend them your camera – and phones do the trick. Bernice´s iphone proves to be a big hit, when she starts using the translator on it (the other girls are pretty fluent in Spanish) to talk to the children, it becomes a bit of a game – looking up words in Spanish to find the English word and vice versa.
The journey is manageable and arriving at the puppeteers’ house we are amazed. Philly said he had a castle but it still wouldn´t have prepared you for this wacky house. It has turrets, gargoyles, and probably even a drawbridge. There are funny sculptures outside that make for amusing photos with the children. Inside is just as bizarre, with more turrets, a theatre, a well, and dungeons… a great playground. Bearing in mind we are quite late the puppeteer still isn´t going to be here for another hour or more. So some lunch and then some games, everyone has a cheese or ham roll and juice in the theatre before we move to the garden for fun and games, only to be alerted 10 or so minutes later that one of the dogs has helped itself to most of what was left of the food – the children are not impressed, food is high on their list of priorities, with it often being in short supply, and to think they´d lost out to a dog just wouldn´t compute – one lad got really upset and started taking it out on the dog, only the wrong one. Ouch!
When things calmed down again and we finally get them all distracted with games they have quite a lot of fun, for a while anyway till the puppeteer is noticeably late. Then impatience starts creeping in and chaos begins to rear its ugly head again. Philly and the others are great at trying to keep them occupied but in the end it is decided that a walk into the village is the best way to keep them occupied while we wait. As we are leaving Elena arrives and joins us for the stroll. A 10 min walk turns into a 40 min death run, as the children again run up and down (mostly up) the middle of the road frightening the life out of the adults and passing drivers alike, with some adults trying to keep up with them. The only girl in the group, Isabel, and another little boy stay back and get the rest of us to reach various hanging fruits off of the roadside trees that they proceed to munch on.
In the village there isn´t a lot to do, and no sooner have we all re-grouped than our bus appears. It is here to take us back to Sucre, but we haven´t yet seen the puppet show… A lot of fast talking and some negotiating secures the driver to take us back to the castle and wait a half hour or so, so the children can see the puppets.
Thankfully when we get back the puppeteer is there greeting us all at the door and ready to get started. This is the 1st time all day that the children are quiet and they sit there in the theatre glued to the stage laughing and giggling at the antics of the puppets. He is pretty good and even gets a few volunteers from the audience up to have a go at making the puppets dance and this goes down a storm.
Tired but very happy we all pile back onto the bus which is amazingly still sat outside waiting when we emerge from the theatre. Apart from randomly stopping to pick up an old lady at the side of the road and shuffling seats to make room for her, the trip back is uneventful. The children had a great day out, albeit the most chaotic they have ever been on – their feedback to Philly.
On the bus Bernice quizzes Philly about possibly getting some photos developed for the children to keep and about getting a CD made of the rest for her. With some directions and an idea of cost a plan is hatched to try and get photos to the children tomorrow when they´ll be back in the Plaza selling “Inti”. Back in town the children mostly scatter the minute the bus opened its doors, after they have been nudged into thanking the volunteers (us) for coming along. A final task of sitting with Rosemary, ensuring names and ages were known for all the children, we all say our farewells for the day and leave Philly´s house to regain its composure and tranquillity.
When Bernice gets back to Wasi Masi around 5ish she finds Huw in bed. Her immediate task, after checking Huw is ok obviously, is to sort through the photos of the children so she can get them to the printers tonight (it´s Saturday today and checking on the way past the shop is open till 8pm and then closed till Tuesday!!) that way she´ll have one of each of them to hand out in the morning in the Plaza. As is always the way the job takes longer than anticipated but after a couple of minor problems matching names to faces and vice versa (siblings mostly) she finally has the memory stick ready and with only minutes to spare it is a rush to get to the shop in time for them to be printed. How odd does it feel to be holding and looking through actual physical photos!?!
Last night we´d made a plan to meet all the troops from the trek in the Plaza after our dinner but because of the rush on the photos we are running late and only have time to get the photos printed and to wait for everyone, no time for food.
We wait and say hello – goodbye as everyone is off to the Dutch bars for Naranja Fiesta, but as Huw is still feeling shaky we opt out. We do manage to go for dinner in the market (steak, egg, chips and rice for 12 Bs) with Sarah and her new roomy Elaine (Swiss), and Huw even manages some soup before we leave the girls to meet up with the others and we go back to the hostel for an early night.