We woke up early, rode to the airport and got on a plane where the sign said “Lima, Peru.” We hoped the airline agents wouldn’t notice the weight of our bags heavy with scissors, thread, pins, fabric.
We arrived in the middle of the night, spit out from the protection of the customs area to a tight circle of strange faces and color. Our grainy eyes searched the crowd. We recognized no one. But soon enough, a phone call later, we were collected.
The parking ticket was lost. How can we get a new one? “It costs $7,” we were told. So buy it already! But no, there was more waiting, in the dark, in the strange car, in the parking lot.
We drove and drove. I was so tired. We offended, we slept. We caught a cab before it was light again. Back to the airport, present my ticket, pay my tax. Let’s go!
“There are earplugs; there’s a snack. Thank you for your preference.” Close the door and we’re off.
I tried to keep my eyes open for dawn over the Andes, but they were so, so heavy.
I slept, the light grew. Rubber impacting gravel-strewn blacktop jerked me from sleep.
The dry hills welcomed us.
As did old friend bearing gifts.
Quickly, to breakfast. Soggy eggs, puffed and toasty bread, instant coffee in milk.
We were piled in a van, our suitcases tossed inside. The van took us from the city, up up up an old way, passing the spot where his brother had died, where he should have died.
We arrived. Hundreds were already there. They were singing, the minor tones of their voices rising across the plaza. Behind them the hills of the land, their livelihood, their heart, watched.
The sun unforgiving to my skin; less atmosphere to insulate me. I should have worn my hat gift. But I was too vain. So instead, with no shelter for 5 hours, my face turned as bright as the vivid ponchos.
Lunch. A chance to sit. Relief from that sun. They gave us the best; they always do.
She shared some, too.
A place to sleep. Old, wide wooden banisters, polished with years of oil and many hands. Paneled floors were slick on my feet. Coca tea in a thermos in the lobby. Wireless, but I didn’t find it until too late.
A quick look around the city.
Heroes in the park. The liberator of South America.
Stones worn by millions of footsteps. The peanut sellers entreated us to buy. The money changers advertised with electric blue vests.
Another lunch here, in an old, old room in the former government building. Now it’s Peruvian fast food: soup, entree and a drink.
Renovated historic sidewalk and an ancient gallows at the end, in front of Santo Domingo church. Not a proud moment.
Then the work began.
Sewing lessons for Quechua women. Downstairs in the shade we watched 30 years of expert sewing experience. Upstairs in the hard sun again, the men studied the Sermon on the Mount.
Lunch was cola fit for an Inca, and that delectable bread.
They were rapt in their attention, learning quickly how to thread, to press, to fold, to stitch. An apron, a bag, a skirt.
My friend went home shyly but proudly clutching her new bag. As the rain began to drizzle down late afternoon, all went home to rest, their felt hats collecting water droplets on the brim as they moved out onto the road.
For us, another dinner and rest. The next day was the culmination of all our work.
An antique brick oven in a small alley: breakfast.
Hundreds of “biscochos” lay cooling, the boys hurrying back and forth.
19 faces waited for us on the hill outside the locked door. After kissing the cheeks, we went in.
A little more instruction, and then:
Joy! and massive unpacking of boxes, tape, paper and Styrofoam forms.
19 ladies, 19 machines, 19 communities touched. The Dorcas Sisters were formed.
The men came and helped pack up boxes. They were hoisted on shoulders, held under arms and even tied on bony backs.
Many hugs, many tears, more smiles before they left, trickling off home with bright white boxes.
Another lunch, at a home for an Andean prince.
Red, brown and yellow: Congress’ meeting place:
Midnight in the airport.
Then wings carried me across the Andes again.