With our time in Salasaca drawing to a close we began to worry about being able to complete our projects at both the escuela and biblioteca. The brackets necessary for hanging the treehouse had not arrived and Robert was pressing for a performance of the puppet show by Friday. Ed had also undertaken a project of a volunteer presentation for that Friday and we were yet to rehearse. Not only that, but Salasaca had become our world. We were very cosy in our room and the volunteers were like a family to us.
Monday morning we awoke to a blanket of fog, a whiteout which obliterated the valley making the mountains in the distance fly above it unaided. As Dotahn walked to school the fog began to shift revealing its bounty glittering in the dew, the mountains once more settling on their foundations. That day the wall was finished, a surprisingly pretty wall when complete. Made with uneven and interesting stones it was not the perfect structure which Dotahn had dreamed of, but had rustic charm. The treehouse platform in all its large and cumbersome glory was finished and the brackets to suspend it in the tree were being made. It was to be a hanging treehouse, suspended between four trees so it could swing freely. Dotahn finished drawing up the plans for the playground in the event that it would be incomplete by the time it came to leave Salasaca.
With the wall finished the time came to dig the pond and Dotahn and the other volunteers involved began by sketching shapes in the ground. A suitably organic form was chosen by Robert and the digging began. The pond quickly became a large hole in the ground with a channel dug for an outlet so we could empty and refill the pond with ease. Robert had been given a large piece of plastic and so we layed it, placed the outlet valve and filled in the edging. Thus the filling of the pond commenced. It took almost two whole days to fill and by the time it was finished we had found a suitably gigantic stone to place in the pond as a perch for the ducks. Constructing a stretcher from tree branches and grain sacks we managed to haul the rock from its bed below the school. It took five people, a lot of maneuvering and straining, but we managed to place the rock without a major mishap.
Ahhhh! A show by the end of the week! Everyone thought Robert was crazy. Not only were we rushing to get the props, backgrounds and condors finished but we still had no script. Debates began as to who and how it was to be done. But Robert was firm in his vision, as vague as it was. It was decided that the Katitawa kids would perform, but in what language? Since the story is a Kichwan folk tale it seemed appropriate to have it in Kichwa. But having no Kichwan language skills the writing the script fell to Rufino, the Kichwa teacher. Emma and I drew up a scratchy story board for them to work with, but communication was a problem as Rufino could not speak english and Robert spoke some confusing blend of spanglish we both found hard to understand. As I tried to focus on finishing the condor I was caught in a tangle of interpreted conversations and strong wills. There became a feeling of impossibility, of whether it could be put together in time. The kids had never done anything like this and it wasn’t until Thursday that they had their first rehearsal. The show was to be on Friday night.
With the help of beer and a great deal of encouragement from Ed we had practiced our volunteer presentation the night before the big show and were all ready and excited to perform the masterpiece. Ed had picked the story of ‘The Ugly Duckling’, quite fitting since the ducks were to be brought to the school that Friday. (No offense to the ducks.) Emmily and I both had the part of the ducky brethren of the patito feo himself and had a line apiece, each equally insulting our hideous kin.
The bitter-sweet morning of our final day rolled around and we let go of our angst surrounding things left unfinished and focused instead on our sense of accomplishment. We all walked together that day, telling stories, laughing and revelling in the release which finality brings. On our way to school we picked up Lucky and Lucky’s friend to transport them to their new home at Katitawa. The children flocked to the box in Ed’s arms and were afforded a brief glimpse before running up the hill to the pond. A great crowd gathered and lingered to watch the patitos playing in the water. The day was like most Fridays although even more so as a horde of volunteers would be leaving. General dissaray coincided in the presentation of “Patito Feo”, a hilarious rendition well received by the children. We ate a final lunch before playing games with the children. Whiling away the day with a tinge of melancholy and a lot of smiles.
Emma and Emmily went back to Pachamama early to make cake of yum and to set up a suprise for Robert as a thankyou and farwell. After school all the volunteers gathered in the dinning room and as Robert was lead in loud cheers and cake eating comenced. Robert then suprised those of us leaving with hand made medals as a commemoration of our work at Salasaca and invited us back in 2012 for his 80th birthday. Soon it was time for the Biblioteca gang to head down to the library and prepare for this evening puppet premiere.
The evening descended upon us quickly and a lot of the senior members of the Salasacan community as well as a horde of children crowded into the small room of the library dedicated as the theatre. Upstairs with nervous giggling and games with the kids who had snuck up, Emma and Emm painted the faces of Nicolas and Damir for their pre show of clownish antics, much to the delight of the crowd. Rufino introduced and narrated the story as the puppeteers bumbled through with playful and amusing gusto. The elderly members of the audience were espeacialy spellbound by the show. A story they all knew as children replayed in such a dynamic and colorful fashion. We were pretty sure that none of them had ever witnessed a puppet show, let alone in their own language and with their own tales. It was an immenseley satisfying experience.