Wednesday, November 30, 2011

And it continues

Last night, due to ongoing pressure and final acceptance from the bosses in Chiclayo, ICPNA decided to close its doors for the safety of students and teachers alike, some of whom had to walk for an hour or more through unsafe streets to arrive there. My walk was half an hour which isn´t bad and we weren´t threatened at any time, luckily I don´t live in one of the dangerous parts of the city. I even went to the main square yesterday and everything was calm, loads of people lying around, the anthem of Cajamarca playing and not much else. Obviously I went to work in jeans, on Monday one of my collegues asked why so many of us weren´t wearing suits and I reminded him that the strikers don´t want anyone working, and walking through the streets with a suit and a laptop case like he was is a bit obvious. Yesterday, he came to work in street clothes, haha. So now, I have no idea what to do, I mean I could study and prepare classes etc for Saturday but really I want to work and go to my classes, how frustrating. So far today, only one group of protesters has passed our house. They were shouting that the president is gay. I think that should give you an idea of the kind of ignorance we are talking about. And they want Humala (the president) to come here. As if he would come, they´d probably kill him!
Somebody called César with a job, so he has gone to work. I told him to be careful.
Meat has become scarce, and if you find it the price is ridiculous!
César went exploring yesterday to see what was happening while I was working. He found that at one of the exits to the city, some of the protesters had offered to let people leave for a small fee. Some of the other protesters found out and came and forced everybody out of their cars. He says there is a line of about 20 cars with smashed windsreens and punctured tires. This is not on the news. The news claims that the protest is passive, except for the fire in Celendin yesterday and the few people who were rushed to hospital as a result of a confrontation at one of the lakes.
The army has arrived in Cajamarca.
The mine was using ambulances to deliver food to its workers. Now, the protesters have found out and are stopping all ambulances to check inside.
The mine has temporarily suspended the Conga Project, much to the dismay of many of my geologist friends who work there, one of whom just bought a new car and owes $15,000 on it. Whoops.
The protesters say temporarily is not enough, they want it cancelled for ever.
And so, the strike continues. There is no work. Food is running out, and tempers flare.
The issue is very delicate. While nobody denies that water is important, there are ways to go about expressing your voice. I might add, that one of the leaders of the protest is an ex-convicted terrorist. Stealing from the shopping mall, which is now closed and forcing working people to join the strike, and acts of violence are not some of them.
Meanwhile, the usually exquisite main square is being trampled on by thousands of feet.
If the mine goes, thousands of people will be without work. And massive job loss causes poverty, which in turn causes crime. Like it or not, Cajamarca is MINE DEPENDENT. Yes, we need to protect the water. Yes, we need to find ways to treat it, make artificial lakes and yes, the mine must invert hugely in the community. But do these people really understand what would happen to Cajamarca if the mine should disappear? Of that, I am not sure.
Meanwhile, every day the province of Cajamarca loses millions of dollars. Children miss their classes, and adults can´t work.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Well, the strike continues and grows in size and intensity. 5,000 more people are arriving very soon from surrounding areas, the problem being I am told they will do WHATEVER is necessary to be heard. In Celendin (a town about 3 hours away), they set the mine offices on fire, although the people are putting it out as we speak. There are plans to burn the offices in Cajamarca which is worrying because they are only located about 3 blocks from where I live. They have a live man tied to a cross as you can see in the photo, obviously I wasn´t that close, I took the photo off of the internet. Yesterday the worse I heard was smashing windscreens and puncturing tires to prevent people from working. Even still, I taught my classes with a significantly reduced number of students. Plus I had to walk to work, obviously César accompanied me, and it was fine. The protest was passive when we passed it. The all President still refuses to call it an emergency situation, for this reason he has not come, nor has he sent any representatives, which is really making everything worse. More roads are blocked today, and we are worried out the new arrivals. Gas is running out, food is running out, and they are threatening to cut the water and electricity, or essentially put us in a situation of total chaos. We have collected water in every possible recipient and César is showering as we speak. We hope they don´t cut the water. It will obviously affect them too, we are all in the sitaution together. The mine has offered to go, but has demanded that the government repay all its inversions in the state which total hundreds of millions of dollars, and the state doesn´t want to do that.
So here we are, waiting to see what happens next, eating cereal with yogurt (milk is very scarce now that all the people who produce it are protesting, and all the trucks have been stopped) and drinking orange juice. Prices are getting higher every hour. But here in our apartment, all is normal. Today, no protesters have passed our house. As to whether I work today, I will play it by ear. If 5,000 people really arrive and this thing turns violent, I am staying in my bedroom with my padlocked door!
On a more positive note I put a photo of me with some children from the workshop.
On facebook there are a couple of pictures of two protests which passed our house yesterday, they were passive except that they forced all the workers who were constructing the building across the street to join their protest.
Take care!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The strike continues

Day 4 of the strike in Cajamarca, and today the university is closed so I am writing here instead! It is kind of awesome because today was supposed to be my final speech for one of my classes.
Yesterday we went to visit our friend Maykler, and trying to arrive our taxi was stopped and turned around. So we had to get out and walk a bit until we found a mototaxi that took us to his house. In the picture you can see me at his door, it is such a big door, I love it!
On Thursday I tried to get a picture of the protest, but it took me so long to find my camera that I only caught the end of it in this picture.
Sorry, César phoned to tell me that the protesters are going to stop the water flow, so I went to fill up all the buckets and recipients of water that I could find, and we bought bottled water to drink and eggs. I don´t know how we are going to survive on eggs, but that was what they had!
Let´s hope for a speedy resolution!
Cajamarca is now monitered by several police helicopters which is unnerving for the adults and exciting for the children.
There is no exit from Cajamarca, and no entry, other than by plane. I fear they may take over the airport, and then we shall all be stuck here, unless we walk.
I promised César I wouldn´t exaggerate the situation, so where I live, all is peaceful right now, except that I want to shower and I can´t :(
And there is not much to do.
At least we have internet though!
The other photo is with 2 of my classmates who participated in the workshops, at public school CEGECOM.
Well, I shall keep you updated dears! Chau for now!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Announcing the birth of Adrian Gonzalo

Auntie Mary sent me an e-mail reminding me that I forgot to announce the birth of Adrian! He was born on November 5th perfectly healthy. The mother opted for a normal birth (they recommended a C-section) and the head was too big so they had to cut her open somewhat to get it out... now she is in hospital because the stiches broke open and for some reason they say they can´t put them back in and she has to wait for it to heal naturally. I don´t understand why but I all I can say is owwww! We have yet to meet Adrian as they are in Trujillo but in two weeks we are going since I have a congress of biodance, a branch of psychology there. I have attached a photo, look he is using the blanket we got them! 2 hours after birth.
The strike in Cajamarca yesterday was very passive, everybody was impressed at the non-violance which is excellent. However, all the roads leaving Cajamarca are blocked, meaning that nobody can leave and nobody can enter. They have made barricades of rocks and garbage and people and refuse to move. Essentially, this the reason that nobody can get to the mine. We had classes as normal at ICPNA, but César accompanied me. We had less then half of the students show up. However, students who live in Baños del Inca, about 2 miles from Cajamarca, weren´t able to come because the busses and combis refused to bring people here. Baños is the rich village which was once quite separate from Cajamarca, but now Cajamarca is creeping closer and closer in its growth. It is where the white people live in large quantities, almost all of whom are connected to the mine. As of yet I am not sure if there are classes in the university, I guess I will see soon!
I still haven´t met with the psychologist yet. As part of our course, all of us have to have a 1.5 hour sessions with our teacher, who is also a phychologist to see if we are mentally able to be psychologists. It should be interesting but she has already cancelled a lot of appointments and as of yet I don´t have another date so I don´t know if it will happen or not.
Today my students are writing their final exams and on monday the new cycle begins. There is no break because we want to finish on Dec. 21st instead of Dec. 23rd. I am so excited for my end of year trip to ecuador!! :D
César is cleaning the flat, sometimes he gets these urges to clean and becomes a kind of soldier, totally fixiated at the task at hand. I am supposed to be cleaning the bedroom but clearly I am not.
Well, I shall try to keep you updated more frequently my faithful blog readers!
Much love, Gemma

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Where has November gone!

Well, I am a terrible blogger, because I haven´t written for almost a month! I have been very busy. I entered my University´s talent night under the category of modern dance, with a lyrical number. I arrived at the theatre at 4:00, whereupon I watched all the bands, poetry, soloists and duets until ELEVEN THIRTY IN THE NIGHT when it finally came to be my turn. Yes, that´s right, 7.5 hours of talents before the modern dance category began. I would like to end that after my category, they sticill had all the traditional dances to do, meaning the even went until 1 AM!!! It was the MOST ridiculous thing, I have no idea why they didn´t make some cuts beforehand. Also, each career had they own fans, who came with balloons and noisemakers to cheer on their respective talents. I have no idea why they allowed several acts from each facultly in every category, ideally they would have chosen one so that the night finished at a respectable time. Anyway, Administration won the whole night since they are the biggest facultly and participated the most. As the only representative of Pyschology in the whole night, I was quite impressed at the number of people who stayed to watch me perform. When I was on stage, it was weird because I couldn´t see the audience at all, it was black, and then they used smoke, so I was literally blinded and forgot everything and had to improvise. Even with that, I won 2nd place in modern dance. I was happy with that because all the other routines were groups of 7 or more with girls wearing very short skirts and bras, involving very little dance, but still some of them were good because of the sheer numbers of participants. The winner had 20 dancers and they had some cute ideas too.
Today there is a strike in the Cajamarca, if it were in a 1st world country I´m sure it would make international television but since nobody cares about Peru, nobody knows. Yanacocha is the 2nd largest gold mine in the world. Today all the surrounding villages, farmers, and their supporters in Cajamarca are gathering in the main square to protest the contamination of fresh water due to the mine. They say the strike will be indefinite. Today, all universities, schools, shopping malls and markets are closed. I´m not sure if that portrays the gravity of the situation to you. For them to close the open air market, a sprawling area of over priced plastics and really expensive fruits (that reminds me, yesteray we went to the market to buy fruit, 3 kilos of apples, 1 kilo of grapes and 2 kilos of oranges cost us 30 soles, that is like $10, ridiculously high but they say there isn´t any fruit right now). Yesterday when we arrived at the market it started to rain. I was wearing flip flops. Imagine a 2 inch deep brown river which sweeps up all the garbage floating down all the streets and in the middle part where people walk. Now imagine you have BARE FEET. Sexy right! Well, this area is totally shut down. Guess what? ICPNA STILL HAS CLASSES. I will see how the situation unfolds, because if there aren´t any taxis or it is dangerous in the center part of the town I won´t be able to arrive. I told my students to play it by ear too, if the situation turns violent I told them I love and I´d prefer them to skip class. I also said the institution is open, but if it is dangerous us teachers aren´t coming and we will contact you. But we musn´t get ahead of ourselves. Rumours abound in these situation and it is best to wait and see. Don´t worry, I live in a suburban part of the city, where the protest won´t come to because strategically it makes no sense. They say that by 5pm the drama will be over, but I am not so sure. In any case, I will play it by ear. They called on the president of Peru to come here, but I am not sure that he will. There have brought 2000 policemen up from Lima. Right now, everything is peaceful and normal where I live, and there are cars passing by on the highway just as normal. César has gone to work too, he says there will be more work today since other people aren´t working. I will keep you updated, but don´t worry about me, I am far from the center of the protest, and the protestants say it will be passive (although the 2000 policemen suggest otherwise, and may even provoke violence, as the policemen are HATED by people here, they are often the biggest thugs). I kind of want to go the central part of town to see what happens, but I promised César I would stay here, and I promised my parents I wouldn´t take unnecessary risks. So I will watch my facebook page for updates instead! Ahhh it´s so frustrating, the politics of the situation are so interesting...
I LIED. The strike, or a part of it, well I think just a part because there were probably only 800 people, just walked past my house. Totally pacific, they are playing the anthem of Cajamarca and have banners etc., but the policmen aren´t even there with them, they are all smily and waving and totally peaceful. I asked my friend and he says the police are at the mines and in the main square where the demonstatrations are taking place and this is just some people heading to the main demonstration. Waoooo I want to see the main part! But I am here, so relax! Here is a picture from the newspaper of one of the central streets, usualy bustling at this time, totally dead in preparation for the demonstration.
Well, in university I am doing well, they say I´d have first place in my class if I was taking all the courses, which I am not because I have to work.
Well, I have been part of various social projects in Cajamarca, we have been to 3 different public schools, very poor ones, and given the children workshops on self esteem, respect, teamwork etc., we have also given them pens and treats etc. It has been really interesting, because the other day I was walking and a girl selling popcorn on the street says, Hola, Gemma, how are you? I recognised her but I couldn´t remember from which school, and she was so chatty and even remembered my name and was so excited about us coming back to hang out with them. At the school my group chose, most the the kids are streetworkers, as in they are the ones who are trying to sell you things, or wanting to sing for you or shine your shoes etc. It is a privilege to be able to work with them and get to know them. The photo is of children in another school called Ingenuo, where they aren´t quite so poor because they have uniform. I should say, that all public and private schools have uniform. CEGECOM doesn´t have uniform because it is not a state school, nor private. It is 100% free and run by volunteers, for extremely poor children. The level of education is low, and they do a lot of singing, it is quite religious, however they have their classes too.
Wow, I just saw a police helicopter pass in the sky (well obviously haha).
I think it is great that people are defending the environment, but I also think that they aren´t really considering the impact of mine closure. Cajamarca SERIOUSLY depends on the mine and if it leaves, the wealthy population leaves too, the schools have less students, the shops have less consumers, basically the economy nosedives because everybody is connected in some way to the mine. Most of my students are the children of people connected to the mine, and if it closes there won´t be money for English classes. I do agree that they need to negogiate a way to protect the environment and keep the mine going too.
I made grape cake the other day. Yes, I smushed up grapes and took out the pips and cooked them, I recommend it, they were yummmyyy!
Yesterday we went around the university giving out bracelets and information about ending violence against women for Nov.25th. That was cool.
I broke a window at ICPNA. Seriously, I don´t even know how it happened, I didn´t even use that much force, I mean I don´t exactly have a lot of force!
Well, I shall keep you updated. I think I shall make perogies! Take care my dears!