We are not alone. For the first time since saying goodbye to Giovanna waaaaay back on the South Island of New Zealand, we find our family unit once more broken open. It's not just because Letizia's mother Livia is with us. Our cast of characters has expanded much further. Before I begin to introduce you to them, let me explain a little further.
Cusco has become a home from home for Livia over the last 10 years. Back then, she was introduced to Padre Nicanor, the mercurial parish priest of Belen in Cusco. In a ramshackle building, this man had managed to put together by sheer force of will and strength of personality, a medical center for his flock. The Peruvian economy is rapidly improving now, but back then the state was woefully absent when it came to public health. Livia is a doctor, with a strength of personality all of her own. The combined personalities of Padre Nicanor and Livia Rosetti have driven forward a project right here in Cusco that has improved the quality of life for many hundreds of Cusceños. The Medical Centre of the Parish of Belen is like no other institution in Cusco. Spread across three floors, it boasts a pharmacy, dental health suites, psychological services, gynacological services, alternative herbal medicine and much more. For those who can pay there is a small fee. For everyone else it is free. And it would never have happened had my mother-in-law not dedicated so much of her time and energy, collaborating with German colleagues, cajoling money from many different charitable fonts, and simply being there herself.
I've heard about this place for quite some time, obviously. I have to admit that while I admired what Livia had achieved, it was all so very abstract. Even when Livia collaborated with my mother's circle of friends back home in Carrigaline to raise money for the centre, it remained a distant and vague concept to me. I really had no idea of the importance of what had been achieved until I got here. When we stepped down from the train in Cusco, Livia was already there to meet us. She was accompanied by Señora Paulina, one of the administrative staff of the medical centre, who covered all four of us in confetti. Minutes after our arrival into our hotel/hostal in the San Blas district, another car load of new faces arrived, armed with even more confetti, as well as flowers and flags for the girls. By the time the fuss died down, and we were left to settle into our room, the lobby was strewn with petals, confetti, and emptied cups of coca tea. We were left to contemplate this whirlwind of welcome.
I have done nothing, not a damn thing, to help towards the creation of the Medical Centre here. The only reason I was afforded such a welcome was because I am Livia Rosetti's son-in-law. The intensity of this reflected glory gives an idea of the esteem in which Livia herself is held by the Belen Parish community. Since that first evening, I have seen much more with my own eyes. As well as the very intense tourist activities we've been submerged in (my lame excuse for such a poor rate of blogging this past week) we've visited the Medical Centre and gone in-country with some of the doctors as they visited remote villages around Cusco. The sight-seeing, and the first-hand view of the Medical Centre and its work, have replaced the abstraction that was Cusco with a flesh-and-blood reality that I will take back home with me and never lose.
I'll blog on both of these aspects of our Cusco experience in the coming days, but for now, I'd like you to see some of the faces that appear regularly in our day-to-day lives. I wish I could somehow make these photographs appear more than a collection of faces. I wish you could somehow be here and get to know La Hermana Mathilde, or José and Concepción and their wonderful daughters. I'd like you to know what it feels like to be in a room with the explosive Padre Nicanor, or wander through the floors of the Medical Centre of the Parish of Belen and feel the pulse of activity that pervades like an Andean drumbeat. Maybe, if I do my job right, over the next few blog entries you will get to know these people a little better, and get a sense of this place. In the meantime, here are some of the faces that populate my waking hours during this very special time in Cusco.