A quiet place, you can hear the birds singing and the wind blowing through the leaves of the trees. 20 volunteers laying in the green grass, covering their faces against the sun and chatting, painting or just taking a nap. Vacation vibes are in the air, but no, we’re all just having a break from our seminar at the Casa Atinchik in Pachacámac, a small village close to Lima. It means „Juntos podemos“ – „Together we can“ in quechua and serves as the main spirit of the house. The host family was incredibly cute, always worried about our well being. We all benefited from their ambition of a healthy and ecological lifestyle as they served only selfmade organic (and especially delicious) food and offered Qi Gong lessons and even a sauna. The perfect place to leave the daily business behind everyone of us has established over the past two months and take some time for profound reflection: Do I feel comfortable in my country? Does my work meet my expectations? What could be better and how can I take responsibility and change something?
It was immensely interesting to exchange experiences with the other volunteers that sometimes were completely different but mostly quite the same. I was honestly relieved to hear about similar struggles and inconveniences that allowed me to open up without feeling like I was only complaining for no reason.
Throughout the seminar, we focused on different topics such as our working place conditions, conflict management and projects we discussed in small groups first and then brought together. It was enriching to hear all the different perspectives in a way that we were able to also share problem solving strategies.
One day we left our little paradise for an excursion to an urban garden project in Virgen María del Triunfo, a rather poor part of Lima. We were shocked by the contrasts: on the one hand the green gardens with their plants and even fresh air and on the other hand the dirty streets, burning trash piles in the middle of it and over-populated areas. It made us sad at first but learning more about urban agriculture, we got more and more impressed. It all started small and even hopeless: The ground was sandy, there was neither water nor money. But with the support of a local electricity company and the strong belief of the people in the project, now there are 90 families on 2ha cultivating their own crops for their private consumption and the local markets. They keep it simple but effective at the same time, using guinea pig’s excrements as a natural fertilizer and trickle irrigation to water their plants.
After this unique experience, we ended the day on the beach of Lima, a bitter deception for us volunteers from Trujillo but something special for the Bolivians as they don’t have access to the sea themselves.
All in all, it was good to have the seminar, breaking our routine for one week although I was missing a little bit of input throughout the five days. While I struggled with the information overload during the preparation seminar in Berlin, now I sometimes felt like I was left alone for too long with my thoughts. I liked the idea of primarily calm self reflection and time spent apart from the group after well set impulses, but sometimes I would have wished for more of a guiding hand. Anyhow, I really enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere (amplified by the presence of two incredibly sweet babies) and one more free day afterwards in Lima I entirely spent in the beautiful quarters of Miraflores and Barranco.