South American Adventure Part 2

This is the second half of journal entries by Carol Devorkin, a Bibliographer for the Antiquarian, Rare, and Collectible books at BWB. You can read part one hereJuly 2nd

It’s Machu Picchu Day!

It is raining and cool. Grasses, cacti and succulents lay claim to their space. Some farms at first. Cattle are tethered to rocks. Bright white Calla lilies are farmed for market.

As we travel farther, more varieties of flora join in, adding some pink and white trumpet shaped flowers on bushes and trees. Some of the reeds gently brush against the trains windows. Deeper in the cloud forest we see orchids and bromeliads.The cloud cover comes and goes. The mountains are all business. Huge, sheer rock, with patches of flora. The forest sits at the bottom of the ruins. The touring paths have become muddy, and have been covered with plastic sheets. The steps are damp and uneven. At the first rest stop, Janet and I opt to remain. The group will come for us on the way back. These ruins are so important, because the entire city is intact. As the Spaniards came, the Incans fled to the forest.

 When the group returns, their eyes are dancing with excitement. There is no such thing as a bad view here. The ruins and the surrounding mountains are awesome.

The mountain road zig-zags, and is only slightly larger than a lane and a half. Very close to the cliff. The road is slick from the rain. It is barely wider than a lane and a half. Only a few guard rails. Not a trip for the faint of heart. When two buses meet, one stays at the eyebrow while the other passes. Sometimes one of the buses has to back up.

July 3rd

Everything is “presented” here. At the schools, when we were given small trinkets, they were presented on silver platters.

I have only seen one beggar here. Peruvians are hard workers. All are friendly, and so far, all have been honest. All have been polite, catering to tourists an though we are royalty.

No one is in a hurry here. At a restaurant it takes about one half hour after you order before your meal comes. A good time to acclimate yourself to the surroundings.

On the train, Kreece entertains us with his double-jointed thumb, and Erin impresses us by twisting her arm half way around. Just when we think it can’t get any better, a man pops out from behind the curtain. He wears a painted mask and a brightly decorated satin outfit. He does a dance, celebrating the blending of Incan and Christian cultures. He wakens Chelsea and taps Kreece on the head with his cane. After his dance, the staff puts on a fashion show, featuring Peruvian made items, most in Alpaca.

July 4thWe are waiting for our bus to the airport. Our flight is short. We arrive back in Lima about noon, and have a 3:30 meeting with John Youle at his home. Mr. Youle is a retired American diplomat. His home is beautiful, and he is quite gracious. We have many questions. Some about politics, education, and commerce. He says there is no efficient measure for teacher ability and that education suffers for it. Education is important to Peruvians, and they are willing to pay for it. Even the poor. Unfortunately the government is not concerned and the issue is not on any campaign or fix-it list. When it comes to political questions, he is quite diplomatic. On U.S. politics, Mr. Youle said that he served all the Presidents from Kennedy to Bush. He was disappointed that he could not serve under Clinton.

July 5th

We leave the hotel for our flight to Santiago.

Upon arrival at Santiago, we are met by our guide. Our guide, “Terry” explains currency exchange and travel logistics, along with tips on how not to stand out as a tourist.

The group takes a walking tour of down town, around the Presidential Palace. They witness a student protest.

The buildings in Santiago are more substantial than those in Peru. The colors are toned down. Unfortunately many are covered in graffiti.

There is an unbelievable throng of people, rivaling Chicago, even New York. A very large area of Santiago is heavily populated.

Before leaving the city we go to Hidalgo Park, on a hill, overlooking Santiago. It is lovely. You can see the Andes. At first glance they look like clouds.

July 6th

We will meet at nine this morning for a three school tour.

The first two schools we visit today are in poor areas. All of the schools so far have been gated. The first school is Mano Amiga San Juan Diego. It is for younger children. It is almost time for winter vacation. There have been parties in several of the classrooms, with sweets donated by the parents. Games have been set up in the outside play area, and the children are having a lot of fun. The principal has already explained to us that the families are very poor. Some of the parents are in prison.

There is an assembly in the courtyard, and chairs have been brought from the classrooms. Awards are being presented for the best art work. All five prizes go to girls. We are showered with gifts of art from the children. When the principal is asked to explain the difference between teaching boys versus girls, she says to look at the chairs. Where the girls sat, all are neatly in rows facing the stage. The boys chairs are strewn about.

These children are their countries future, with a current government that could greatly improve the situation by instituting performance standards for the students and teachers, setting positive goals.We leave this school and go on to Mano Amiga Fernandez León, which is situated next to the highway, There is a guard at the gate. This is a school for teenagers. They are all good students. The surrounding area is a little dangerous. There is a bad influence in the area. One of the students tells us that his life has been turned around by the school. He had been involved in some criminal activity, and is now thankful that he has the opportunity to improve his life.Reid joins the boys playing basketball. Kreece also joins in. Janet brought along some Frisbees, and has been giving them to the schools as we go along. The students enjoy playing with them.

Back on the bus, we are headed for the most dangerous place in Santiago. The school, Mano Amiga Santa María de Guadalupe, is located in a neighborhood known for crime and drug activities. The neighborhood streets are quite narrow and unsafe, controlled by gangs.The principal gives a presentation, then a tour. Some of the rooms with equipment, and the labs, have barred windows. There were 32 robberies here last year. Some of the children, 10-12 years old, perform a series of dances, beginning with one devoted to their national flag. A group of teenagers also dance for us. We watch the children leave on this last day of school. They are all given fresh apples.July 7th

We are going to El Instituto Agrícola Pascual Baburizza [Los Andes]. It is one and a half hours away. The mountains surround us. They are majestic, and appear to be never ending. Traffic is heavy for a while, thinning out the further we go. A lone pig stands guard at a small market. A curious chicken stands by the side of the road, choosing wisely not to cross it. As we turn off the highway, a man on a horse has stopped to talk with a farmer. There are vineyards along the way. Leaves on the vines and on the trees have turned brown, some have fallen. It is cool, beginning this morning at about 40 degrees, warming to the 60’s.

We arrive at the school. This school is not a part of the Worldfund Program yet, but is under consideration. It is an impressive establishment, looking much like a Spanish manor. Lavender sprays line the walls. We drive past an olive grove. There are some groupings of roses. The main building is lovely. Deep red tile floors. Open wood work on the exterior doors. French type interior doors. We have a presentation in the conference. Here there is a massive antique cabinet. It houses Coates Herd books and a series of books on sheep.This is a beautiful place. The land was donated by Don Pascual Baburizza Soletic in his will, for the purpose of being an agricultural school. Its $1 million dollar budget is partially subsidized by the government. Non-profit, and surplus income goes to maintaining and improving the school. They export olive oil and wine, and produce roses for commercial use. Much of its food is grown here. There are peacocks and guinea fowl. Black swans and some ducks inhabit the lagoon. The white swans with black necks are native only to this area. There are some birds on the lawns, about the size of pigeons, but with long legs. Terry explains that they are used as watch dogs. They are very territorial and make a lot of noise. There are horse stables. Only one horse is out at the time. Avocado trees and hibiscus line the walkways. The acreage is dotted with palm trees and four-foot high antique clay pots.We tour the house, which is protected by the National Historical Registry. A good size chapel is attached.

Terry shows us the dining room, where President Lyndon B. Johnson once ate. There are some animal pelts serving as rugs on the floors. Lunch is served back in the conference room. Wine from the vineyards, with a lesson in vintages. We also enjoyed a lesson in British Etiquette code. All about knives, forks and spoons, elbows on the  table, and salt. During lunch we learn that 75% of the students are male, largely due to the physical requirements.

When we were in Peru, I had asked the students if they were interested in farming. None were. Terry explains that in Peru, farming is one of the lowliest professions. In Chile, because of the exports, it can be big business, and quite profitable.Our journey back to the hotel is picture postcard perfect, as all of our outings have been. Several vineyards, occasional horses, majestic mountains and a few tunnels. One tunnel is quite long, going through a mountain. Perfect weather for us Northerners. The buildings aren’t heated though, so often the outside temperature is warmer than the inside.Santiago is a huge city. It rivals many other metropolitan ares. Shiny sky scrapers, with more being built. A lot of sculpture. An occasional street entertainer, usually a juggler. A lot of money is being spent on improving the ocean front, attracting tourists, skateboarders and para-gliders.

We have reflected on our trip, all that we’ve seen and learned, and what effect it has on us. This has been a good group. Everyone has respected the others, and we all have shared a great time. Kreece and Reid have kept tabs on us all along, making us all feel safe and comfortable.

July 8thAs fun and as awesome as this trip has been, we are all beginning to miss home. If only we could pack pieces of Chile and Peru in our suitcases! We are all so grateful that Better World has made this trip possible, a once in a lifetime opportunity!This trip was made possible by the hard work of the employees and management of Better World Books. It gave us an opportunity to experience first hand what our efforts are capable of in improving other peoples lives. There is still a lot to be done, and Better World will continue their efforts. Thank all of you for giving me this terrific opportunity.

Carol De Vorkin.


  1. rick baldwin says:

    It is my intention to travel to Peru later this year & I try to learn all I can before I go.

  2. Pingback: International Trip 2011: South American Adventure With Worldfund! » BWB on Campus - Better World Books on Campus

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