Where to begin? I have been back in Llama for about a month since my vacation to the US, and things have been interesting.
My first big task once I got back was to figure out how to get the chimneys and iron plates for the improved cooking stoves to Llama from Huaraz (an eight to 14-hour drive, depending on the roads). On a whim I asked one of my neighbors who has a large truck that he uses to transport produce from Huaraz to Llama and surrounding towns on a weekly basis. Soon thereafter I found myself in the front of his truck on my way to Huaraz squeezed between his wife, his brother, and his five-year old son. Thankfully the journey to Huaraz was not too unpleasant. We arrived in eight hours and agreed to meet the following day to load up the stoves and head back to Llama.
The journey home was a little less fun because my neighbor bought a baby bull. Who knew that baby bulls grow to full size in less than two years? This “baby bull” was one of the largest and heaviest bulls I have ever seen and made the car quite heavy, thus making the trip back take us over 12 hours.
Next hurdle: Where to keep 41 stoves and 123 chimneys (the chimneys come in 3 parts)? I dreaded the thought of living in a room crammed with iron stove plates and chimneys for the next few months. However, my neighbor once again saved the day and offered a room to store the stoves for free.
Stoves in Llama, check! Now onto constructing the stoves. Did I mention that I am the only one who knows, well sort of knows, how to build the stoves? In other words ,according to the moms here I am the head engineer for the stoves. And while I have been trained in and built several stoves, I was never trained in the exact model we are using. Yes, I’m winging this and hoping all goes well.
Constructing improved cooking stoves is a strange, drawn out process. It begins with building the table that supports the iron plate and chimney. This table must dry for about 15 days. Around the same time that you make your table, you begin to soak cactus in a bucket of water for 15 days. The cactus will eventually be used as a sort of glue, as it turns gelatinous after 15 days in the water. (picture on right shows gelatinous cactus water)
Next, on to the mud making. We prepare a special mud concoction that is used on the inside of the stove. This covering helps the stove to heat quickly. Sugar, salt, broken glass, donkey poo, and straw are some of the mystery ingredients. Breaking glass bottles into fine pieces has proved quite difficult for most Llamanians. Using two large rocks and grinding the glass as you would with a mortar and pestle seems to be the best way to crush the glass into tiny pieces.
Now we are finally ready to install the iron plate and chimney! Here are some photos of the first stoves we have installed.