The streets of Peru, like any street ever contracted by a municipality, recontracted to a entrepreneur, paved by a group of men working for a few Soles an hour, and loitered on by bored teenagers, is where things fall apart. The ashes of a cigarette flicked off casually by a mother of three, the spit of a hobbling old man, the bits of civilization broken down by wind, tires, and soles. Dirt from other cities around the world, fresh off the shoe of a businessman returning home to his wife. Degraded paper, plastic, metals, all brought together in swirling micro-tornadoes that blow particles underneath glasses and plastic bags onto windshields. A team of fresh out of college scientists could spend years identifying the contents of one vial of street dust. The street is where things fall apart, and are brought together from such a variety of places in combinations unique to each sidewalk tile, never before possible in all of nature’s history, made possible by wind.
Wind binds particles that would never meet normally into temporary matrimony, a cross-section of Lima and New York, Trujillo and Glasgow, brought together only by the commonality of once traveling underfoot. The particles part when the wind dies down, but the matrimony has meaning. For after backpacking around the world on particles, bacteria are excited to meet fellow travelers from all around the world in their windy street hostels. A few meet up and travel together for a while, others might join into unions creating entirely new strains of bacteria.
In a sense, the accessibility of travel available to people today leads to just as many marriages impossible in the past, like my host in Trujillo, Michael from Indiana, and his Peruvian wife Carina. Wind buoyed the wings of the plane that brought Michael to Peru just as it brings bacteria together, but Carina and Mike use it in a different way: to power schools and communities in the mountains of Peru.
Mimicking street bacteria once again, I and my six new friends and our group leader Megan, have met to help Mike and Carina from regions as diverse as New Jersey and Texas with the same hopes: to learn something about wind. Over the next three weeks, we’ll spend our days in a workshop, assembling and painting a Wind Turbine to generate enough power to give a school in La Florida, Peru enough electricity to power the lights, and a small computer lab.
WindAid, Mike’s organization, has partnered with Creating Ties to bring us to Trujillo, Peru’s third largest city located on the country’s northern coast. He has given us shelter in his home, food cooked by women that can only be considered deities of the kitchen, and Wi-Fi internet so that I can bring it back to you. In return, we will build a wind generator. This will be easier for my friends than it will for me. Meg and Ruba are mechanical engineering majors at Duke, Todd is a soon to be married high school teacher from New Jersey with a lab that would floor the above-mentioned scientists, Christian is a likely mech. Eng. major at Cornell, Ty is a civil engineer at NJIT, and Charlie is a Environmental Business major finishing his last college course.
After spending two nights in a hostel—my first time—in the capital city of Lima, an overnight bus to the coastal city of Trujillo, and two nights in Mike’s home we are ready to begin work tomorrow. I’ll highlight some of what we’ve done these past few days in pictures, and set some goals for myself for the next month of my life.
1. Learn to build a Wind Turbine.
Most of my time will be spent building the wind turbine, so I hope to be able to know how by the time I leave! It will be a skill set I can take somewhere, or may never use again, hard to know.
2. Build a tortora reed boat from scratch, and catch a fish from it.
I saw these little boats in the fishing town of Huanchaco. Since before the Incans, fisherman have use these little reed rafts to get food.
3. Get to know the locals.
Make friends with a Peruvian, or many.
4. Pitch and place an article about the program or living in Peru or something similar.
5. Finish my college summers series with USA Today with a pair of Peru articles.
6. Catch up on my reading.
I fell behind a bit on reading. A lot actually. I won’t get to them all, but here’s my list for Peru:
Shop Class As Soulcraft-Matthew Crawford
Of Love and Shadows- Isabel Allende
100 Days of Solitude-G. G. Marquez
The Sound and the Fury-Faulkner
Civilization and its Discontents-Freud
Doctor Faustus-Thomas Mann
The Screwtape Letters- CS Lewis
7. Brush up on my Spanish so that I don’t have to take a class in it ever again.
8. Surf and Salsa.
I’ve already taken a surfing lesson (30 soles=10 bucks), caught a couple waves, and signed up for Salsa lessons for a month (50 soles=20 bucks). I’d like to get pretty good at both.
9. Explore Peruvian Culture, past and present.
Peruvian independence day, the inauguration of a new President, and remnants of civilizations Moche, Incan, Colonial, Spanish, and modern Peru merit attention.
10. Spend some time thinking about the benefits gained from traveling abroad separate from traveling at home. Consider the reasons people travel, or move out of the USA altogether.
Goals like this, in my mind, are things to keep in the back of your head for a moment of boredom or a day off. They should not be pursued as drop everything and achieve, simply something to keep track of your progress as time goes on, Especially this one, which I have no way of checking off, as I am fond of doing.
Lastly, I’ll mention something I have noticed. I like to plan things. Plan plan plan. Ever since I started traveling without any plans, I no longer really care about planning. I am content to wander wherever someone else, or my own feet/wheels/boat if I am alone, takes me. I think this is a useful skill.
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