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Monday, May 18, 2009

Me and Mario

I spent most of the day today with a lovely man named Mario. The concrete pour site we were working on belonged to one of his friends. Exterior walls had been constructed out of bricks and this house was the only one of its kind on the dusty road we found ourselves on. The others houses, sparcely scattered in the area, having been built with the more common alternative, bamboo. We were pouring footings for the interior walls.

Mario told me that though bamboo is far less expensive, money was borrowed from the bank to construct this more permanent structure. I hesitate to use the word ´permanent´however as there is nothing temporary about the bamboo homes here. These are not homes waiting to be upgraded, these are homes.

Today, together, Mario and I supplied water to the construction site from two 1.5m deep wells. He would draw the water from the well and fill my bucket and I would carry it to the site. Upon my return to the well, we would chat and I would try to understand the stories he was telling me. He didn´t speak a word of english and though my spanish has improved, his lack of teeth and the speed at which he spoke meant that I missed more than a few bits. A smile and a nod though, encouraged him to keep sharing more with me each time I returned. In addition to the more important things I understood, I also learned that he loves to salsa dance and enjoys Gloria Estefan and Micheal Jackson, though Micheal Jackson is a bit crazy in the head...

Mario´s home was destroyed by the earthquake along with everything in it. The piles and piles of rubble that fill the fields lining the roadsides are evidence of many buildings that crumbled that day. Pisco is still Mario´s favorite place and he wouldn´t want to live anywhere else.

From the two-room bamboo home that a volunteer group helped Mario rebuild, he travels the globe, he told me, through his books. Though he has never seen outside of Peru, he would be particularly interested in visiting USA, Canada, or Alaska if given the chance. Or maybe Cuba too. His eyes lit up when he fantasized of taking a cruise one day. Mario held particular interest in the story of the Titanic and when he first read of it, he thought it was a make-believe story. He shared this with me, almost asking me to confirm that, in fact, it had actually happened.

Mario kept me entertained today and though I tried to understand stories that I´m pretty sure included things about Europe, the fishing industry, the way things used to be in Pisco and I couldn´t tell you what else I missed, my language skills failed me. I did however catch the parts where Mario kept reminding me how strong I was and wanted to make sure that I was returning the following day. He told me that drawing the bucket from the well was really hurting his back but when I asked him if he wanted to switch jobs for a while, he told me there was no time to worry, there was work to be done. Just a sweet old man.

Today, Mario and I spent part of the day learning about each other, part of the day in silence, and the whole day united by a common goal, helping a friend build a home :).


  1. Wow, Nic, sounds like you are almost trilingual! Mario sounds like a wonderful man, how awesome that you get to touch each other's lives!

  2. Hi Troy and Nicole: Sounds like you 2 are definately helping people achieve positive changes in their lives. I hope you have some time for fun too. You'll be in awesome shape when you get home! Take good care of each other.
    Love from the McCracken Family.