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Experiences In Cerro De Pasco

by Guest Author Sylvia Walter

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In September 1956 we arrived at our new house in Bellavista Camp at Cerro de Pasco after having spent the previous night in the guest house in La Oroya, as recommended by the company doctors. We had made the trip by train (photo La Oroya Station) from Lima and I remember not feeling very well: (soroche, or altitude sickness) headaches, tummy trouble and just feeling faint. There was my father, Ernest Mac Ardle, a mining engineer, my mother Alice, my brother Richard, and myself. The following day we proceeded our trip to Cerro.

Our first house was on the main road from La Oroya to the city of Cerro de Pasco. It was unpaved and therefore terribly dusty as trucks, buses, cars went by, although I don't remember it being too busy. Our house had a lounge-dining room, two bedrooms, one bathroom and a kitchen - all in the same level. The back part was open to some wild grass and a wall with stairs going up to a higher level of houses. We had a wooden shed which we didn't use because it was all electrical when we arrived but it had been built some time ago to store logs for the fireplace and cooker. The telephones, though, were those that you had to turn the handle, and you told the operator the number of the house you wished to speak to.

Further up the main road, in the direction of the city, was La Esperanza Guest House. It was made of concrete and had a patio in the middle, with a huge Galapagos tortoise at that time. Mostly, the bachelors lived there, but there was also a dining room for anybody who wanted to use it, and further inside a small long and narrow room that was the "cinema". I used to love it because there were rocking chairs and it was a small group that watched the films while we had drinks and a snack. Every time the reel came to an end, there was a break, while they installed the next one and it gave us a chance to socialize.

Richard and I went to the American school which was a little red brick house consisting of two rooms and two bathrooms (one for the girls and another one for the boys). The playground was a little further away, with a see-saw, a merry-go-round and a monkey bar. There was also a small concrete area for roller skating. We mostly just walked on soil or tundra-like ground. There was a small valley next to the school where horses and pigs used to roam and there was a time when we used to hunt for some very hairy caterpillars which were great to play with Dinky toys! We all followed the Calvert course and there was one teacher, mostly Mrs. Oxley, who taught the eight grades, all in one room; she was extraordinarily well organized and I loved to go to school.

We weren't many children so we all sort of played together. We loved playing cowboys and Indians and the smaller ones used to go to school all dressed up as cowboys with guns and all. We used to play hopscotch quite a lot. I remember in the first grade there was a boy called Craig Randall and he was so full of beans….he was always getting into trouble. Once, during recess, he went into the valley and played with the horses running under their legs, etc., and nothing happened to him!

Later on we moved to another house, a bit further from the main road. It was slightly bigger. They also built, at the time, a new building containing a modern cinema, bowling alley, library, dining room, bar (there was no alcohol restriction), large dancing floor, etc. Our parents just loved putting us all in the cinema in the afternoons while they enjoyed themselves upstairs in the bar. It was pandemonium….a huge cinema for a small crowd, and they used to mostly show us, guess what? - cowboy movies. Sometimes there were no adults to supervise us and the small kids used to run up in front of the screen firing their guns while the movie was being shown, while the older ones sat eating raw sugar cane.

For Christmases we used to go around singing carols; for Halloween, went to all the houses with pillowcases and in disguise; for the Carnaval, we were ready to soak anybody with water either by squirting water guns at them or throwing buckloads of water as is the custom in Peru. For Easter all the families went to the Golf Club - that was always a big gathering with all the ladies bringing pies, sweets or meals, and then all the kids went Easter egg hunting in the golf course. That was so much fun!

Sometimes we got together and went walking into complete wilderness, over mountains, into lakes or caves……you saw not a soul around you. I remember once we all went to this lake with lots of balloons because we thought that once we built our raft, the balloons would help it to float…..of course, we got all drenched when we tried to sail! Another time, we went "mountain climbing", walking all the way to the mountain tied up to a long rope….we must have been a sight!

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