17 October 2009

Buses, taxis and lots of walking

Okay, so not surprisingly for those of you who do or have lived outside of the Western work-a-day world, not too terribly much has been accomplished in the past few weeks. At least not much vis-a-vis interviews, though I have been able to get up to my site several times and re-connected with folks. However, between the first week of panic to finish my 'narrated powerpoint' for the November conference (suddenly it was due in early October!) and the many days of celebration in Huaraz for war heros, and independence in the villages, it has been difficult to get up the mountain.

Now that I live in Huaraz instead of Copa itself, I am dependent on the various cars and buses that go up and down the mountain. When I first arrived, the unpaved road up and down to Copa was in terrible shape with huge swaths washed out entirely or deep potholes. Fortunately, last January, the district decided to spend the money to fix the road, and now it is a fairly decent ride (though my parent's might disagree...its all relative). As such, there is much more traffic up and down because taxistas and others no longer fear for the life of their vehicles on the journey. There is even now a bus up and down for the professors of the primary school during the week, which is usually what I catch to go up (at 7am). But, if there is a school holiday, and when the rainy season break comes up (December to March) I have to find other ways. There are taxis that go up and down the mountain, but they charge quite a bit of money for a sole passenger, which is not in the budget. On market days (Wednesday and Sunday) these taxis take carloads of people up and back for just a few soles. Otherwise, I try to connect with the medical folks who go up and down the mountain, even throughout the rainy season, so as to keep the taxi costs down as much as we can. Although it is in their best interest to have me go up and back with them (it lowers the overall cost to have more people) they are less than reliable when/if their schedules changes.

Anyway, this week will not be much different as Copa is holding the annual 'fiestas patrias' to celebrate their independence from the patrons in 1978. It is a full week of celebration (aka drinking) starting tomorrow with a Mass (following by dancing and drinking) then the week is generally a time of less work, more play (and a semi-permanent state of drunkeness), and then Thursday and Friday are the main days of celebration in which there are three story firework wheels, four or five bands which play all day and night, who knows how much beer, all-night dancing in circles around the fireworks structures, and bull running! I was quite surprised about the bull running event, but was assured by several women who have adopted me as their own that I would not be running with the bulls. No kidding ladies. I get nervous just walking near the damn things when they are tethered to the earth. I hope to avoid the majority of the debauchery and participate only in the structured drinking events where fireworks are involved...

During my final week for this round of work, a reporter from LA that visited me last year around this time is coming again to follow-up and do a story on the 'life of a researcher'. We are visiting some other sites in the valley that are working on responses to water scarcity and climate change issues (unlike my fieldsite...), including one that is 're-introducing' ancient techniques of water management in an attempt at adaptation. Should be an interesting few weeks all around!

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