El Divino Maestro, once Ollantaytambo’s only private school, now stands abandoned. Along the river, its empty classrooms look out onto magnificent fort where the Incas once held back the Spanish invasion. Two buildings surround a walled in courtyard that is still half covered in grass. Cartoon characters are painted on the walls, faded from time. The roofs have holes in them and there is garbage strewn about. Someone’s chickens roam the grounds. The static energy of this abandoned school leaves it begging to be filled with laughing kids. And it will be. It’s the future home of the Sacred Valley Project.
This is definitely an upgrade. Our present building, though spacious, can get claustrophobic with no outdoor space. When the sun is out it’s always a good ten degrees colder inside than it is out. Our contract for the new space, like the old one, came out of our close relationship with the Comunidad Campesina de Ollantaytambo, who owns both of the buildings and many more properties in the area. Our rent will double, but that only means it will be 200 soles (about US$70). We get the school cheap, because they like what we’re doing. It needs a lot of work, but when it’s ready it will be big enough to house the dorm for the foreseeable future. Next year, with an incoming class of six, twelve students will have space to spare. In the years to come, it will fill with each new class until there are thirty, four years from now.
This year, our first, is almost over. School ends in mid December. The final stretch has arrived. The time for year’s end reflection is almost here, but not yet, for there is still work to be done. Maura, our housemother, has begun cooking, an arrangement that works much better than getting our food from an outside source. Alex is back in The States, leading our ever-expanding web of members on a drive to raise the funds needed to fix up the school. This October, he is hosting a fund raising event in Montclair that I’ll be sore to miss. Bianca has been working feverishly on our website and still manages to spend much of her time at the dorm, where her guidance and math skills are still very much needed. I’ve been teaching a computation course on two computers that an American high school student generously donated. The girls like it because, well, typing games are fun. I like it because it’s a tangible skill that I think will increase options for them later on in life.
At times, the year has felt like a journey, an odyssey perhaps. But, to impact the life of a child takes more than one year. Now we’ll have a place to live.