While trying to price out trips to Lagunas de Los Condores in Leymabamba I came across what looked like a group of 15 British teen tourists. I figured they’d know about tour companies but it turned out to be a British group called Global Challenge, volunteers who come to Peru to help out Peru. This seems good because Peru has plenty of problems. They were filled with youthful optimism but they weren’t quite sure where to start. Having looked around the town they found that the most pressing job they could do was to paint the market and when I encountered them they were looking for paint.
Yesterday I came across the same group, this time in Tarapoto. They were eating at the best restaurant in town. I asked them how the painting went. “Not good” they said. The first problem was there was no paint in the town. Only a couple buckets so they had to leave the job half finished. The second problem was that the paint was ugly: red and green. “Christmas colors?” I asked. But the guy said no. The third problem was that the local Leymabambans kept telling them that they were painting incorrectly and wasting paint. This was infuriating to them and they sort of had the attitude of “hey! we’re doing this out of the KINDNESS OF OUR HEARTS! We’ve just payed about $3000, maybe as much as you make in a year, to come on a trip to HELP you guys by painting your market. You could be more appreciative!” What was most interesting to me was that while there was confusion, no one had really grappled with the main questions: Why was there no paint to be had? And why hadn’t the Peruvians taken care enough to paint their own market?
The cost of transporting this British labor was tremendous, if it was about getting the market painted they could have sent a cheque for about $30 but what it was really about was feeling charitable and teaching Britain’s youth to be good global citizens. Happily they told me that now that the market painting was over the group was off to spear pirhanas. I told them I thought that that sounded difficult. “What do you use?” I asked. They didn’t know but they were sure it was going to be easier than painting that market.