Thursday, August 18, 2016

An Unusual Morning in Surupampa

We had been navigating the dirt mountain road from Motupe to Surupampa for nearly two hours, stopping only once when an old man hailed us to ask if we’d seen his black burro. We had seen many burros…and cows, pigs and goats but not a black burro. There is little to no traffic on this road and frequently it’s necessary to get out of the vehicle to shoo the sleeping animals out of the way. Burros and goats seem to understand that they need to move but cows and pigs just stand there as if waiting to see what happens next. They move only when the slowly moving vehicle is close to making contact. I guess I don’t blame them, their only option to get off the road is a steep ascent or decent.

This sow and her piglets took a lot of urging before they moved. The apparatus around the sow’s neck is there to prevent the pig from entering and eating in the corn fields.

There were five of us; the driver, Maribel and me, and two PEMU coordinators. I’ve mentioned before that the new road to Surupampa is rutted and boulder strewn and the ride is violent. Three people in the back seat in those conditions is not tolerable so when one of the coordinators announced that we were within a half-mile of the village a cheer rang out. The driver blew the horn several times to alert the villagers that we were coming, giving them time to assemble for the usual welcome.

When we pulled into the village there was no one in sight. I thought that maybe they had planned some sort of surprise and would rush out to greet us at a given signal, but no. After five minutes of horn blowing two men appeared from out of the brush. One of them had a key to the pronoei which he opened and then stood back while the driver and I unloaded the truck and placed the donated items in the classroom.

A few minutes later two kids appeared. They had no idea what was happening and didn’t even show interest in the toys and candy. We took a few photos (the women are Maribel and the PEMU coordinators); explained to the men how to assemble the storage shelves and hang the whiteboard, and that was it.
We were told that everyone including the kids were working in the fields. The coordinator said she had alerted the village two days ago that we were coming today in the morning and had no explanation for their absence. One of the village men told us that both the teacher and his wife were sick. It was disappointing not to see the looks of appreciation on the faces of the villagers, or to see the excitement of the kids about their new furniture, candy and toys, but our mission was to deliver needed items to the school, and that we accomplished.

During the ride back we met the man looking for his burro. He had not found it and said he would start watching the sky for circling vultures.

The cost for this project was:  
4 wood tables --- $144.29 --- 23.86%
16 metal chairs --- $262.84 --- 43.47%
1 whiteboard --- $51.17 --- 8.46%
Markers & erasers --- $8.96 --- 1.48%
2 storage shelves --- $47.96 --- 7.93%
Teaching aids --- $66.66 --- 11.02%
Candy & toys --- $15.28 --- 2.53%
Transport --- $7.49 --- 1.24%
Total - $604.65

Notice the transport cost, which consists of having the storage shelves and whiteboard delivered to our home. If we had had to pay for a private carrier to transport all of the items to Surupampa from Chiclayo it would easily have cost $150. As uncomfortable as it was, the PEMU truck saved us a lot of money.

Chris Raupe and the Alice Cool Foundation made this project possible. We thank you, and we know the people of Surupampa appreciate what you have done for their school.

As an aside for anyone interested in such things, this is the location of Surupampa according to my GPS unit. I was surprised at the altitude…I thought we were much higher.


  1. Are the remote villages connected to the world by telephone or is there a radio link? I would doubt that cellphone towers are near enough for use.

  2. Hi Clif...Maribel's cellphone worked to about 2000 feet, but higher than that the mountain tops close in and block signals. As far as I know all communication is face-to-face. The Pronoei coordinator meets every other Friday in Motupe with the village teachers to exchange information. Maribel says there is a system for passing on messages between villages and the city of Motupe but she doesn't know the particulars.