Tuesday, November 10, 2009

more photos

I put a couple more albums of photos up on Picassa but for some reason they wont let me link them here but if you click on the photo album then you can get to them through Picassa. They are called thru aug 13 and thru aug 15.

Being home is great for the most part. I am loving reconnecting with people and enjoying fall in Oregon. It is so beautiful here that I don't feel any lack of amazing scenery. It is fun to see it all with different eyes and a different heart.

There are some great possibilities for work out there and I am in a lucky position of waiting for good stuff to come as long as I am careful with the money I do have.

I am living at my friend Matt's house which is great. I am enjoying being in his house and getting to know him better as you do when you live with someone. We've been playing video games which I haven't really done before and I am loving it. I don't go too much for the first person shooters, though I like to watch him play them. They are so intricate that it is a lot like watching a movie as plots unfold and such. I have been playing more puzzle-type games and they are fun and frustrating and time consuming which is good for incentive to stay home for the purposes of conserving cash.

I got to spend Saturday and Sunday with some of my dearest oldest lady friends which heals my heart everytime. What a treat.

I will get to see my family this week finally and am really pleased about that.

Like I've said, if this had been the trip of a lifetime and I didn't have any plans to head back out into the world, I think homecoming would be more bittersweet, but for now, it is just mostly sweet.

I don't expect that I will write much til I'm getting ready to go again, but I have enjoyed sharing this journey with you all. I've had great experiences with people asking about stuff from the blog that I had forgotten all about and would lead to great stories. It was precisely for this reason that I was writing and I'm glad that it has been succesful.

hasta pronto,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

made it to LA

but holding a squirmy baby - how do mom's get anything done? I will write in the morning, just wanted to say I made it safe and sound.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

adios sur america

I feel like I should have these big feelings surrounding leaving south america. Right now it feels just kind of normal. I think I have so much practice leaving places lately that this just feels like another one of those. Also because I am flying into LA and not sure what I´m up to until being in Ashland on the 24th-25th before heading to Portland. Maybe if I were just flying to Portland the trip would feel more over than it does. I´m also sure that when I get home and have time to sit and hang out and wait to see what kind of stuff rises to the top of the simmer of my brain and emotions.

Being back in Quito shows me how much things have changed for me though. I am not scared like i was. Terrified to be on the trolley and such. Just feels normal. And I remember how much I was homesick for a while and didn´t want to continue my trip and just wanted to go home. I am so glad that I continued on. Thanks to lots of support and advice from most of you, so thanks for that.

I am mostly excited to see people´s eyeballs again. Hugs that aren´t virtual. Time to just sit and visit. Meet those babys.

I am so grateful that Holly is going to pick me up at LAX and I get to spend a couple of days with her family. And if the stars all line up I may get to find a visit with my friend Matt in there that I haven´t seen in years. Depending on cost, I may try to rent a car to meander up the coast with. Or I might take the bus. Or the train. Oh, who knows. Man, do I miss driving. So much. There is a freedom there that we know about but until it is really taken away from you, you don´t appreciate as much. Even when you don´t have your own car at home, you are with friends in their cars and you can still go where you want. When you can only go on the route that is the route and that is all there is to it, you notice the lack of freedom.

It is fantastic to see Phil and Ruby again, I´m so glad I´ve gotten a couple of days with them.
see you soon!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

sand is everywhere

swim in the ocean, have some food, have a cocktail, swim in the ocean, eat some food, drink a beer. all day. every day. Canoa is a delightful vacation.

I´ll head out of here tomorrow night for a couple of days in Quito and fly to LA on Thursday. This is hard to believe. Already.

But I chose the keyboard with frustrating sticky keys so I am not going to write much, not that the last week isn´t covered by the first line.

Trying to stay curious. Trying not to be nervous. Sometimes I am more successful than other times.

Love you,

Saturday, October 3, 2009

aaaah. made it.

Made it to Canoa! Pretty easily actually. I only had to wait an hour and a half in Trujillo for a bus to Piura. I was thinking of staying in Piura for a night but as the bus pulled into town we watched a lady get mugged in bright daylight with people around and nobody helped her so I thought maybe I wouldn´t stay there after all. Luckily, the bus station that I was catching the next bus from was across the street from where we landed and I only had to wait two hours for the bus to Guayaquil. Border crossing was totally uneventful and while the bus got stopped and luggage searched a couple of times by Ecuadorian police, they didn´t bother my bags and everything was fine. Got to Guayaquil at six AM and I definitely thought I would stay a night there but when I went to buy a ticket for a bus out the next morning it turned out that a bus was going all the way direct to San Vicente, leaving in six minutes so I just went and got on it. Got to San Vicente just in time to catch the bus to Canoa that was driving by. So I arrived in Canoa in record time. Tired of bus rides, but nothing that a swim in the ocean and an ice cold beer didn´t fix really quickly.

It is great to see Elizabeth and Mauricio again and find the pace of this sleepy little beach town. I have been swimming in the ocean and reading lots and drinking some beers and a piña colada or two. Just as it should be. I think I will go and do a sea kayaking cave tour tomorrow or monday. Maybe a paragliding trip. It´s money I don´t really have, but being toward the end of this trip I feel more like ¨fuck it, when will i have another chance? It´s only money, and that can be earned¨ than I did before. We´ll see. I might just lay on the beach for a week as well.

So here I am safe and sound.
love you,

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

lots of bus rides to paradise with ice cold beer

Oi. Im still in Huaraz - probably my favorite Peruvian city so far. It's really great here and I would definitely like to come back and spend some time.

Im headed out tonight for Trujillo then to Piura. From Piura the bus will cross the border and arrive in Guyaquil, Ecuador. From there I will take a bus to the coast somewhere then head up the coast to Bahia, cross the bay to Manta and take the bus to Canoa. I am going to try to do this as quickly as possibe and am not sure I will be on the internet again until I get there and I expect that to be around the 4th of october.

Canoa has warm ocean, white sands, lovely friends and ice cold beer. aaaaah.

I can't believe how quickly I will be headed home. How quickly and slowly time has gone. It really is funny like that, isn't it? I'm trying to use the word curious instead of nervous about being back. I am looking forward to seeing what job I end up with and what it all will look like. Because I plan to be back home to save up money to head back out I think it feels easier than some folks who are kind of freaked out that the trip of their lifetime is over and they are going to go back home forever and get trapped into a life. Whether I choose to stay in Oregon or head to other parts unknown, it at least doesn't feel like a trap. I love having embraced the idea of no set plan and being able to head in the direction that seems like it makes the best sense at the time instead of being trapped in any shoulds.

Hopes for home - I would like to get a job with a philanthropic organization to learn about the grant process from the inside. I figure if I work for the people giving away the money, when the time comes to ask for money then I will have a better chance at it.

I want to take some community college courses in useful things. Small engine mechanics, electricity, plumbing, gardening. I don't have to be an expert at any of these things, but a basic understanding will be helpful on the ranch.

I want to find a studio that does Aikedo. Or find someone who practices that would like to teach me. And at least find some books and do some research. The little that I learned with Matt a year and a half ago has stayed with me and helped form a lot of the way I am trying to walk through the world so I would like to dig deeper into that study.

I want to take advantage of living in one of the most beautiful places in the world by doing lots of hiking and all the cool things. Approach Portland as I've approached these other places and reap as much of it as I can.

Welcome some new souls to the world and hug lots and lots of the ones that have been here a while.

There are my intentions for the next year or so at home.

See some of you in a few weeks, some of you in a month.

Monday, September 28, 2009

and they said it couldn't be done.

I made it to Huaraz!!!!! I had to go to a little town called La Union and spend the night then take a combi to Huallanca then a bus to Huaraz, but I did it. Poo to the people who said you couldn't get here from there. Liars, the bunch of them.

This bus ride was probably the most spectacular I've been on yet. Astonishing. I am at a great hostal here that is very comfortable and lovely. There is a terrace on the roof that I have only seen the views of the city in the dark from, but I expect that the mountains are spectacular. I had the greatest of luck by being completely randomly put in a room with a girl that I met in Pisco. I love the universe a little extra sometimes. Tomorrow we are going on a walk to a lake. About three hours each way and meant to be really beautiful. I've been on so many busses for so many days that I am really really looking forward to a nice long day of walking. My back has started hurting from always having the bad luck of being sitting on top of the back wheels so the bumps are extra special for me. I think moving around will be great for it.

I expect to leave here on Wednesday and have to seriously bust ass to get up to Canoa and spend some time on the beach. I may as well come home tanned and relaxed, yeah?

Love you, I will keep touching in about where I am heading next just in case.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

best laid plans

whew. this bit of traveling has been decidedly unpredicted!!!

We were told we could leave Pisco in the morning for Huacavelica so we got up at the butt crack and went to the station but it was a lie and the bus didn´t leave until 7:30pm so we went to Chaco on the coast to spend the day. We ended up meeting an Alaskan named Joe and day drinking all day. Walked down to the Hilton and drank overpriced beers but it was fun. Finally got onto the bus and it was so super uncomfortable and I started having spectacular back issues for the first time since Ecuador and Rebecca was sick and vomiting and making the bus stop so she could have diarreah. Such a bad ride. Finally got to Huancavelica at about 5am and it was raining and we went everywhere to find a room and finally collapse but they are having a festival and there were no rooms so we walked to the train station - taking the train out was the reason we were there in the first place - but the train is not running right now for maintenance. So we ended up catching a cab back to the bus station and waiting a few hours for a bus to Huancayo. Arrived at Huancayo and decided to go to the hostal that had a sauna cause we both really needed that and we got lost and finally got there and the sauna was busted. of course. Spent the night in Huancayo but too pooped to explore. Watched bad TV on the cable instead. (so so good) Got up and I got a 2pm bus to Huanuco and Rebecca waited for the 9pm to Ayacucho. I got here and got my room and planned on leaving in the morning for Huaraz but even though there is a road from here to there on the map, no bus seems to drive it. Not sure yet what I will do next. I think this is a classic case of being attached to a plan. Should have abandoned it days ago!

But I am pleased to find out that I am not upset or unhappy about any of it. It may not be the exploration I had in mind, but it is still exploring and the Andes are still beautiful and people are still nice. I will write again soon - from where, who knows????

Saturday, September 19, 2009

PSF and beyond - finally some photos

Safety third.

Our sweet truck that just keeps being willing to get fixed and keep rolling. Some days there is a full load of stuff and fifteen volunteers in the back and it´s pulling the cement mixer. There is a reason they make you sign the form that says you wont sue them if you die.

Mummies are still cool.

Getting ready to fly over the Nazca lines in a four seater plane maintained in Peru - land of saftey 17th suddenly seemed like a terrible idea. But I´m still alive which made it a great experience! My pictures of lines themselves are terrible so not worth posting.

A shot from the monestary in Aerequipa. Walls and sky colors matching up.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

still in pisco getting dirty --

So I will write for a while with the frustrating keyboard. I am working at a great place in Pisco. There was a huge earthquake a couple of years ago and te whole town was flattened and is trying to rebuild. Disaster relief is hard enough to come by in an easier country to navigate, but when much of the population is illiterate and most of the politicians are corrupt, you have a whole new game on your hands. First an org called First Hands On Disaster Relief (I think) was here and they handed off to a Burning Man offshoot called Burners Without Borders which handed off to an org they created called Pisco Sin Fronteras. Some of the BWB folks are still working with them. So the profile for aide is if people have their materials, we use our tools and manpower to dig trenches, pour concrete, build walls, roofs, whatever is useful. We also have a thing called the miracle fund where we can help out folks not even able to get some concrete together or some thatch for a wall or a roof. I have never seen a group of people work so hard. Leveling mountains to build, hand mixing concrete, unbelievable. There is even a guy here making a machine to make biodiesel for our trucks which I have been working on the last few days. With so little drama and so much hard work, it is a pleasure to be here. And how appreciative the people here are - as opposed to Cusco area where they are so over run with volunteers it has become more problem than help.

I dont have much time to write but wanted to at least check in. I am changing my travel plans and will stay at least through the middle of next week instead of leaving here the middle of this week like I thought. That means missing the middle mountains, but feels so worth it.

The website is www.piscosinfronteras.org and there is a button to donate through paypal to help out and I really encourage you to go and give them ten bucks. If you were sitting next to them in the bar you would buy any of them a beer. I will check in again soon. Love you! Just another month!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

keyboards can suck

This one has some broken keys so I will write a little but it will come out like an irish accent.

I am in Pisco doin some volunteer work wit an oranization called Pisco Sin Fronteras wic used to be a Burners witout borders project. Tere was a ue eartquake ere a couple of years ao and tese uys are providin labor and tools to elp folks rebuild. Okay, I can see tat tis isnt workin wit te broken keys so I am oin to stop ere and try to make it to te internet cafe tomorrow. But everytin is reat and Im avin an excellent time and stayin safe.

Monday, September 7, 2009

nasca lines and mummies and mercury

I sure wish I could find a computer with a USB port so I could upload some photos, I´m seeing some cool stuff down here!

This morning I went flying over the Nasca lines, which are pretty amazing. I will admit that it was a little like going to a good movie you´ve been hearing about forever and then you finally make it and you so so wish you could have gone by accident on opening day and therefore had no preconceptions or prior knowledge at all. But I still recommend seeing them if you are ever in the area - yet another set of questions Peru has given me with no answer.

This afternoon I went on a tour of a mummy cemetary. I know. Crazy. So cool. There is an area 2 kilometers by 500 meters that 5 different native cultures - the Inca being the last that used this part of the desert to mummify and bury their dead. Because it only rains 10-15 hours a year ( I thought it was interesting that they measure in hours rather than cm. but, hey, it´s Peru, it doesn´t have to make sense) and the underground water is 40m deep, it is a great place to perserve mummied bodys. Unfortunately, it wasn´t safe from grave robbers so many of the mummies are not complete, but still amazing. At this point most of them are just bones and wrappings though there is one in the museum that they just found in ´85 that isn´t bleached out and the skin is still really well preserved. Until five years ago, the tombs were completely open to the sun so the bones are bleached out and the hair is bleached to a light brown. Now there are shade covers over the tombs and in November they are putting a UV protective glass over them - glad they are doing it but glad to have seen them before this step. To date only 15% of the area has been explored so it will be interesting to see what kind of stuff they find as they go digging further. I am a little surprised at how fascinated I am finding myself with dead people, but I can´t get enough. My pictures will testify.

After the cemetary we went to a pottery making showcase (an excuse to hopefully get you to buy some pottery) which was actually pretty cool. To see the different rocks that are crushed to make paint. There were some gorgeous pieces there, but only a fool buys pottery to pack into their backpack - they should really come up with a less breakable souvenier.

Then we went to the gold processing place. Lots of different minerals that were interesting, but probably the most interesting part is that they use mercury to extract the gold. In a glass soda bottle with a plastic lid, in my hand was enough mercury to poisen the water supply of all of Nazca and that was just a small sample of what they use. They crush the rocks and then put them into an open container with the mercury and wash it all around for a while and the gold sticks to the mercury like a magnet then they run it through a wet cloth to get the liquid mercury out (don´t worry, they wear rubber gloves!) and let the water evaporate off so they can pour it back into a bottle. Then they do some kind of extraction to get the rest of the mercury and gold separated. And it´s all open air and so not controlled and at the actual working part in the back where they didn´t take us, there were little kids working with this stuff. Some things about the third world are so very cringe-y.

Tomorrow I head to Pisco. I will be working with an organization (Pisco sin fronteras - started with Burners without Borders and this is the org. they set up so they could leave) that I heard about from my Australian friend Dave that I worked with in Cusco. He is in Chile right now but should be back by the weekend so it will be fun to see him. They are destroying and rebuilding - mostly lending whatever labor necessary to help out the folks who were wiped out in the earthquake a few years ago. Tied into it being the anniversary of Katrina, it made me wonder if we´ve got some organizations helping out in a similar fashion there.

Hope all is great and I hope that I am able to get photos dealt with in Pisco. I am behind since Titicaca!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Juanita the ice princess

So, back in Aereuipa.

I really enjoyed Cabanaconde. On Tuesday I went to see the Condors fly at Cruz del Condor which is an overlook above the cliff where a family of condors live. I took a couple pics but realized that with my little point and shoot I wasn´t going to get anything good and would just waste my time trying to get a photograph instead of enjoying the birds. That´s a fine line always - record or experience. But they really were stunning and they are so so big and majestic. Ugly, but impressive none the less. I think my favorite was the sound the wind made in their wings as they went screaming past on a particularly good current.

I worked the hostel and restaurant and bar for the week which I also really enjoyed. It was good for my pocketbook to live and eat for free for a week and I hope to find more gigs like that one in other towns. I was worried about not wanting to work when I get home, but I found that I really enjoyed having something to do. There were a few days that the owner when out of town and left me in charge and I just got to run it the way I think it should be done without his ideas. The real owner and his Belgian wife are on vacation and have left the hostel in charge of the younger brother and he doesn´t like it and is doing it out of obligation rather than love so he just makes everything harder. I encouraged him to go away for the day many times. He also has a 16 year old wife who is still in High School (he is 29) and the dynamics there are just too strange to even work out. She yells, he cowers, he scolds, she stomps, not a great atmosphere. But also you could see the potential for the place and I found that I am a great waitress and bartender - it´s been so long that I had forgotten. Makes me want to run a hostel someday.

Today I went to the museum where Juanita the ice princess lives. She is a frozen body that they found on the top of one of the mountains here and brought down for investigation. Since 1995 when they found Juanita, they have found a total of 16 sacrificed children on various volcanoes throughout the Inca empire. All of them children, some boys, some girls. Evidence that they were drugged and then their skulls were smashed with a cudgel. There is some evidence that Juanita was chosen at childbirth for this honor. Interesting to imagine what growing up knowing that you were slated to be a gift to the gods would be like. She was between 12-14 when she died. Because she was left on top of the mountain at -20 degrees celcius, her body is perfectly preserved, including her organs and everything. Not a mummy, just a frozen girl. Pretty crazy. Also it made me wonder about removing these kids. The internal struggle about loving to be able to see it and have the information in a museum but also thinking that she willingly hiked to the top of a huge mountain in grass sandels and let them kill her so that she could join the gods and be her people´s spokesperson to the gods of the mountains. There is something that feels to me like it would have been more respectful of that type of courage to let her lie where she chose to die. Like the mummies I saw in Ollantay that the local people there keep hidden from archeologists because they believe that there is a strong tie between the body and the dead spirit and bodies weren´t buried so that the spirits would know where to find them and by putting them in museums, you cut that tie and the spirits then are lost. Yet another thing that I feel strongly both ways about and don´t find an easy answer to.

One of the side notes that I thought was interesting was that when children were born, the mothers saved their umbilical cords and dried them, then when kids got sick they cut a piece off and ground it with water and fed it to their children whom often then survived. Some speculation now about it of course being the stem cells that were curative.

I will be heading out of Aerequipa in the wee hours of the morning for a 12 hour bus ride up to Nazca where the Nazca lines are and a group of skeletons found out in the desert, similar to the pictures I posted earlier of our walk and the mummy caves. They call them mummies here, but I don´t think that is an accurate description in English, as they aren´t mummified per se, but they certainly are more preserved than their 500 year old selves would seem to be without any type of process. Hoping to learn more on that in Nazca.

See you next month!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Hey guys - just a quick note to say that I´m in a little town called Cabanaconde for the next week or so. They don´t have internet so I came into the next town (2 1/2 hours on bus) to pull some money and buy a couple of things and put a note here to not expect me for the next week or so. I´m working at a hostal restaurant and bar in exchange for free room and board and exploring the area around Colca Canyon. I will write and post pictures when I get to Aerequipa and the internet can handle uploading photos. I have to run because if I miss this bus outta here I will have to wait five hours and probaby stand the entire way. Love you!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

titikaka. titikaka. titikaka. stars. lake. stars.

wow. So here I am in Aerequipa after leaving Puno this morning. Lake Titikaka (how it{s actually spelled, who knew?) was really just amazing. I ended up taking an organized tour which turned out great. First we went to the man made floating islands which have been happening for the last 500 years or so. It is very touristy, but also very cool. I have become one with being a tourist. I struggled with it before spending so long in Ollantaytambo. Nobody wants to be a tourist, you know? So you think you should be looking for some other way to do the same thing everyone is doing and everyone is looking for some other way to do. Silly! Sometimes just being a plain old tourist is just fine. So I looked at their islands and asked the same questions everyone must ask and had a grand ol time with it. Part of the thing about responsible tourism is the reality that they are a sideshow and you are there to look at them and that is is reasonable to make it worth it to them. So you pay the 10 soles to ride the reed boat from one island to another even if you don{t really care about it because it{s a way to put money into their pockets. I don{t have room in my pack for souveniers so I had to do other things like ride the boat.

After Urus (the floating islands) we spent about three hours on the boat and arrived at a small island called Amanati where there are no restaurants and no hostels or hotels so you stay with a local family and eat what they feed you. I ended up with a girl from Australia who was super nice and we had a great time together. We got really lucky with our family and from talking to the others in the group ours was hands down the best. I got to practice my handful of Quechua phrases which they loved and it was good to be able to speak Spanish - I think it helped with having a better experience. I took a couple kilos of tangerines for the family from the mainland and had toys to give to the kids which was great. I was glad I had read this tip as they don{t get any fruit on the island and it was certainly viewed as a treat. After lunch we climbed up to the temples Pacha Tata (father earth) and Pacha Mama (mother earth). Big good long hike at tremendous altitude. Sure am glad I{ve been walking in the Andes or I never would have made it. I spent the sunset at the Pacha Mama temple and it was incredible. I had one of those moments of feeling surreal because I was actually there. Not reading about it on the internet or a guide book, actually there. The lake itself is huge - I had no idea it was so big - and very blue and just beautiful. They say that there is a line of energy that runs from the island of the sun on the Bolivia side to Lake Shasta. Sure. But either way, beautiful. Probably the most amazing part was to be on an island in the middle of a huge lake with no electricity and so no light pollution and to be that high up to see the starts. No moon in the sky was a lucky coincidence. There was also an electrical storm which creates lightening with no thunder and no storm which is very common here - happened lots in Ollantay - so we got to see that and a pile of shooting stars and the milky way and that was on top of the normal stars that were spectacular themselves.

The next day we left at 7am and went to an island called Taquiles which is also very pretty and the island that tourists go to when they just take a day trip out onto the lake. It wasn{t anything super special, but beautiful, cause it can{t help but be in that setting.

Back to Puno in the afternoon and I was thrilled to stay in a hotel with my own room and my own bathroom with hot water and water pressure. Wow. I almost cried I was so happy about how that felt. Of course the hot water ran out in the middle of washing my hair but I didn{t even mind cause the beginning was sooooo good. Also cable TV. Laying in bed watching bad TV. I have to say that I loved loved loved it. yay for that.

Up early this morning to catch a bus for Aerequipa and I happened to get the seat on the second floor right in the front which is pretty entertaining. On the one hand, you get the best view, on the other hand you know exactly what your driver is doing when he is passing a truck full of gas going uphill on a blind corner. oh jeez. Beautiful drive and now I{m checked into a hostel where I am back to sharing a dorm room and shared bathrooms which is fine. Just nice to have a treat once in a while. I think I will spend tomorrow exploring Aerequipa and then head out on some tours - of Colca Canyon and Torre Muerto and whatever else looks good.

Hope you all are well,

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lake Titicaca!!!

I caught the bus out of Cusco this morning for Puno which is the port town next to Lake Titicaca. And they weren´t kidding, it is COLD here! The summit of mt hood is 10,200 some feet and Titicaca is at 12,600 some feet. freek. cold! I am heading out tomorrow to do a tour of the man made reed islands and some of the natural islands in the lake. This includes an overnight with a family on one of the islands and I can only hope hope hope I luck out and they have good blankets!
I can´t wait to see it all and write up the stories and post some photos.
love you,

Sunday, August 16, 2009

trekking is great!

On Friday Guillermo, Amy and some more friends, Diego and Sarah and I went on a walk. Or a hike. Or a only crazy people climb the Andes adventure. We climbed and climbed and climbed and it was amazing. Spectacular views more than anything. We climbed to a place called the Canteras which is the quarry where the Inca found the huge stones that they worked with to make the ruins in Ollantaytambo. We passed the Mirador where we went camping on the solstice early in the morning and at that point we were about a third of the way to the Canteras. Big walk up hill. This is Guillermo carrying the heaviest backpack I could make just to keep him slowed down a little so the rest of us had a prayer of keeping up. We didn´t anyway. He was born up in those hills and used to walk way further than we did Friday every single day just to go to school, there is no slowing him down.

Diego´s knee in the Andes while we were resting and having some fruit for a snack.

warning - next photo is of a mummy skeleton.

See? There are still some tombs out in the rocks that the local folks know about but haven´t been discovered by the people who make museums and Guillermo was good enough to take us up to one of them. I would still never be able to figure out where it was again. It was amazing to see this ¨in the wild¨ as it were - I´ve seen them in museums but this was just something else. You can see where someone has put up some chicken wire to keep animals from wandering in.

This is the glacier behind Ollantaytamba called Veronica. We were so close to her . Well, what felt a whole lot closer than the valley floor. Of course I have a gaggle of scenery shots and will try to get updated on my photos tomorrow in Cusco.

And here is a typical scene from the bar. Yes, tio Julio is probably checking out my boobs. He´s like that. But he´s also a great guy. This is from last night (Saturday) which was probably my last night in the bars here. I have a date with Andres tonight and I leave tomorrow. It´s hard to believe that so much time has gone by and that my time here in Ollantay has come to an end. I am excited to get on my way and I will dearly miss some folks here. Bittersweet.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

hanging out with amy

yep, the andes are still beautiful. we took a bus ride to Quillabamba, which is in the high jungle and this was a pic from one of the hundred of amazing passes we crossed.

And while we were on the bus some lady took the all time smelliest shit on earth and left the door open and the whole bus was covering their mouths and noses and yelling to stop so we could get off and they should clean the toilet. poor lady. poorer us.

This was a really beautiful waterfall into lots of pools in a rock about forty minutes outside of Quillabamba. We hitched a ride in the back of a truck heading there. It went super fast over the gravel roads and our buts came out a little bruised, but super worth it.

you could climb a ladder up the rock to the top of the falls and some spectacular views. if you notice the orientation of the trees, this part wasn´t steep. But that´s only cause I couldn´t get a picture of the part that was steep and scary so this is a reenactment for TV.

I have probably posted a bunch of these by now, but i continue to be amazed by the Incan stonework. They apparently would pour hot bronze into the cracks and as it cooled it would pull the rocks together. or something. none of it makes any sense, but however it was done, it is incredible.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

more new photos

I found photos on my camera from when Mel was here and have posted them. Now I pick up Amy today and I´m sure we´ll take lots more pics. Love you all,

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

hard work isn´t as romantic as it may seem.

Have you ever mowed a field of grass using a sickle? I did this morning and while bent over, cutting grass I had some thoughts. One is that no wonder someone invented a machine to do that. That is very hard work, damn. Luckily we only had a small field to cut and Andres and his brother are much faster at it than I am. I was a token help if that.

The other thoughts were about machismo and feminism. First I thought ¨no wonder the ladies stay in the kitchen!¨ Jeez. Do guys know it really only takes one person to make a pot of soup and not as many ladies as don´t want to be out in the field? It´s a racket I tell you. I get tired of being stuck in the kitchen with nothing to do so today I insisted in helping in the field. Huh. That´ll teach me. I actually enjoyed learning how and after a few hours I felt like I was getting the hang of it but I was glad it didn´t take any longer than that.

So I was thinking about women´s rights and how I always want to do what I want and don´t want some stupid macho guy to tell me how or what I ought to be up to. But I also don´t want to cut grass in the fields. I think that it is easy to want to be spoiled with all the good stuff but not want to take on the harder stuff. ¨That´s boy´s work¨ is a pretty good rule when the work is back breaking and hard but I certainly wouldn´t agree to taking on all laundry and cooking chores.

All in all, I think it´s good to live in the first world where the lines aren´t so harsh. Even if the man is the bread winner and the woman is the homemaker, those jobs just aren´t as hard. I didn´t say not as stressful, because I think we have a lot more stress in the US than they have here, but the work itself isn´t as physically demanding. Handcutting hay with sickles, plowing fields with oxen, hand washing laundry, cooking over open wood fires. It is a hard life here and people don´t usually get too old. There are some ancients running around but mostly people die younger than we expect to. Also the animals. You never see old animals. I saw a dog this morning that was probably seven and I stopped and thought ¨damn, that dog is old.¨ which led me to remember that in another world, that is not old for a dog.

I am really interested to see how many other things are fundamentally different that I haven´t even thought about. I was also thinking about the treatment of animals this morning. They kick dogs all the time here and this morning Andres was walking by a cat in his kitchen and smacked it on the head for seeming no reason. When I scolded him yet again for mistreating animals (they think I am crazy) and asked him why he hit it he said that he likes its ears. I told him that is a reason to scratch them, not hit it and he just laughed and said ¨oh, this woman¨. And he treats animals better than most. It´s an odd thing to try to get used to.

And kids. This morning a boy who was probably nine went walking by the fields with an axe and some rope and we said good morning and I asked him if he was going cutting firewood and he said yep and went on his way. I didn´t think much of it until I thought of the nine year olds I know in the US and the thought of them heading into the woods with an axe by themselves made me pause.

My friend Guillermo got stabbed in the throat with a knife on Saturday night. I haven´t seen him yet but all accounts are that he should be fine. What kind of world does that just happen in? I used to go to the disco with them all the time and figured I was safe walking home with them - usually three or four guys. But they were all together when it happened and still he managed to get stabbed. Now I don´t go to the disco with them anymore at Andres´ request but he thinks it´s perfectly fine for me to go to the disco with him until all hours of the morning and walk home just the two of us. I guess he thinks he can and will keep me safe where they wont. But what is the difference? It´s a very odd place here and the truth is that I am glad that my time here is nearly done. I have enjoyed and loved it for lots that it is but sometimes when you scratch a little deeper somewhere that on the surface seems so great, there are lots of strange secrets and sometimes this town feels made by Stephen King. I wont even tell the more disturbing stories but they have to do with sacrifices to the gods of the valley and mountains.

But I am looking forward to having Amy visit and it will be a fantastic visit as anything of the time and nature of a visit here is great. I don´t know anyone who hasn´t loved it. And I will continue to love it but I don´t want to live here any longer term. And as before, I am looking forward to getting back on the traveling road. And on the road home. Where it is still crazy but at least it is a crazy that I understand a little better.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

got some time to waste???

new photos! but there are a mountain of them this time - many of the festival (senor de choquekilka) and others. I have linked to a folder called thru june 4 but if you go to the picasa site there is another folder called more thru june 4 and there is the rest of them. maybe someday i will get around to labeling them. but it takes a long time and is frustrating on such slow connections.

All is well, Amy comes August 6 and I can´t wait to see her. We will play for a while and then I will take off to travel and she will begin school. I´m trying to get in all the things I´ve been meaning to do in Ollantay but thought I would have more than enough time for. Time is so tricky, isn´t it?

Yesterday I went to a fish hatchery but mostly it was a walk into the mountains up above Urubamba and we wandered around Urubamba and just had a nice day exploring another town. I often go to the market there but not much else so it was fun to wander around. I think that tonight I will go have some beers with Guillermo as it has been a very long time. I miss having someone to go day drinking with. Wandering around with a couple of beers and seeing where the day takes us. Mariko! Mel! come back! Amy! hurry and get here!

Hope you´re having great days.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

gravel in my boots

I am starting to get antsy to get on the road again. I think that I will up my plans to leaving the middle of August and spending a couple of months traveling before getting on the plane. Now that I have a leaving plan I am finding myself feeling more and more like hanging out in Ollantaytambo is just waiting to leave. I will need to get my things in order and decide what to send home and what to put in a backpack for traveling. At first I was dreaming of taking only my small pack with me and I will still try, but because I will be going to some vastly different weather climates, I may need more room than the small pack would give me. Also things like the charger for my Steri-Pen takes up lots of room. I am looking forward to this packing adventure though as the other ones seemed so hard and now I feel like I have a much better idea about what I actually need as opposed to what I might need. I think this is a good life lesson. I bought a new camera after dropping the old one but it turns out that I don´t have the right charging cable so until I go to Cusco to buy one I will be without a camera. As much as I don´t enjoy going to Cusco, I recognize that I better do this sooner than later or I will end up with no pictures of the end of my stay in Ollantay.

My friend Amy is flying in on August 6 so I will spend some time with her here in Ollantay when she gets here and maybe do a little traveling before she starts language school in Cusco and I head out on the road around the 17th. I think I will start in Puno (Titicaca) and head to Aerequipa for Colca Canyon and keep heading north along the coast to visit my friend Dave who is in Pisco doing earthquake relief and then see how my time takes me. I want to spend at least another week in Canoa in Ecuador lounging on the warm beach before hitting Oregon in late October. When I was coming into Peru I was really scared about traveling especially by myself but now that my language skills and cultural skills are so much better, I am looking foward to it. The only sticks in the plan will be how the strikes are affecting transportation, but with so much time I think I wont worry about that.

Hope everybody is well,

Friday, July 10, 2009

solstice story

There are lots of really strong stories about the spirits (Apus) of this valley. I think I have written before about when Mauricio and I go to the ruins his grandmother gives me a lecture about making sure I hold his hand because if you fall in the ruins, especially if you get a scrape, it gives the Apus a chance to get into your body. They will cause deformities or sometimes create an illness where you will get skinnier and skinnier and all your joints will cease up and you will become unable to walk. The only cure for this is a curandero who knows what to do for it and has tremendous ceremonies and such. There are stories you have heard from Mel about spirits that die and are unaccepted by heaven so they are sent back to earth to re-enter their bodies and then go up to the glaciers to live out their time and do their penance. If you are ever up in the ice flows you have to be extra careful not to run into them. Lots of stories about this valley. Even though the residents are primarily Catholic, it does not seem to conflict with the absolute certainty of these traditions of the Inca and of the Gods before them. Part of the way you avoid the curses is to make sure that you give offerings when you go to any sacred place including ruins. This includes taking three whole coca leaves and burying them in the ground or under a rock pointing in the direction of the rising sun. Also if you are going to have something to drink, you offer the first drink to the Pacha Mama, who is like the Mother Earth of Peru but not exactly. Not as benign, more needy and demanding and more giving. Whenever somebody takes me out to a ruin or other place, they always do this ritual or they offer the earth the first drink of water or beer or chicha and sometimes they say the special words to the cardinal points or say the names of the mountains surrounding Ollantay, thanking them and offering this small gift. Each time I have been taken somewhere with a guide they perform this small ceremony and certainly if you are outside and have a drink it is customary to pour out the first bit to the Pacha Mama.

Guillermo offered to take Mel and I and another friend Mariko camping for the summer solstice to a place called the Mirador or lookout. On the sunrise of the 21st and 22nd the sun comes up between two mountains and creates just a beam of light that illuminates only the first door of the pyramid and was considered the Incan New Year. Obviously the pyramids were built in just such a way to accent this phenomena. Also the pyramid is flat – like someone took an Egyptian pyramid and cut one side so that it would lay flat – you will be able to see this in pictures when I get them posted. So we walked up in the afternoon of the 20th and collected the cow dung – stinks less than carrying wood – for our fire for the night. Guillermo did the coca leaf burying ceremony on behalf of us all. Thanking the Apus for letting us be there and asking for a good new year for us all – the Incas considered the solstice their new year. I didn't do it with him but I loaned him a spoon to dig a hole and sat next to him. Then we started our fire and drank pre-mixed rum and cokes so we didn't have to carry the glass bottles up with us. Cause it was a heck of a hike carrying all camping gear as it was. Thank goodness we've been in such good hiking training. As it was, Guillermo carried a pack that was incredibly heavy so we didn't have to carry to much ourselves, cause he's good like that. I teased him it was to keep him from flying while we were merely walking. He was raised over one of the mountains – what he calls a three hour hike but what would take me all day. They are amazing these Andean people, they can walk such amazing distances carrying so much weight straight up mountains for days and days.

We had a great time camping. The fire was warm and in fact didn't stink at all and we drank rum and made music and visited til the wee hours. Of course late at night I had to go to the bathroom and tripped over a bush and fell, scraping up both knees and my right hand but didn't think much of it. We slept for a bit and got up at around 5am. Had some tea and sat at the edge of the cliff, waiting for the sun to come up. Before it came up over the mountain, it illuminated one of the glaciers to the North called Veronica which was spectacular. It finally came up at about 7am, illuminating only the first door of the pyramid at first. We all had a little bit of prayer and special time as the sun came up. Guillermo was sad that he was on that mountain with a bunch of tourists and not very many local folks there to see what the Incas considered their new year. He talked a little about how native culture is being lost and instead of celebrating the fact that they speak two languages, parents are now not teaching their children Quechua and kids are making fun of kids in school that speak Quechua. It really is a shame to watch tourism and TV take its toll on this culture and these customs. After the sun came up we all packed up our stuff and headed down the mountain and went to breakfast.

After breakfast, we all went to sleep a little for the afternoon. I had one of the most vivid dreams I have ever had in this nap. In it, Guillermo and Mel and I had been out adventuring and then gone to eat, like we did. Upon leaving the door of where we were eating, there was a man on my left that asked me for five dollars. I asked him what he wanted five dollars for and he told me for protection of his house. I laughed and he cast off crutches that I hadn't noticed he had and we walked and he looked at me a little mischievously like he had been fooling people with these crutches and then we walked and then he was ahead of me and I even was swiping at his healthy legs with my walking stick and laughing and then he stopped in front of a church-y thing and I looked back at him and he looked deep into my eyes and I noticed that he legs were wooden – tree trunks as opposed to carved wood. He looked deep into my eyes with reproach as if to say “I actually needed help and you didn't help” or something of this nature. I woke up then with it so strong on me and finally told Mel the dream though it made me a little embarrassed to say that thought I had been visited by a spirit in my dream. I didn't think he was precisely mad at me, more disappointed and I was confused by it.

Andres came by and I asked him if he knew of any Apus – the Quechua word for spirit – that have wooden legs and he said no but asked me to explain to him why I was asking so I told him about my dream and he said it sounded like the Pacha Mama had come to visit me and asked me if I had made an offering while we were camping and I told him that Guillermo had on behalf of all of us but I had not. He said that he thought the Pacha Mama was asking me to make my own offering and that I needed to do that in the same place I had been which meant another climb up to the lookout which was really far up into the hills but I decided that he was right and I realized that I hadn't even taken a moment to say thank you as I left this experience. Later on that day I showed Andres the scrapes on my knees and he just looked at me like he couldn't believe how dumb I was. I KNOW this. I know that if you fall in the ruins that special care needs to be taken. Also when I told him that I had loaned Guillermo the spoon to dig the hole for the coco leaves he asked me if I ate off of it later and sure enough I had. I don't know specifically what the significance of that is, but it seemed important to him. I have never felt so, I don't know, naive I guess. There was a lot of head shaking and the feeling that I had been very dumb.

I was just going to climb up by myself in the morning and take some coco leaves and some Pisco (Peruvian alcohol) and ask for forgiveness for having overlooked this and give thanks for the time spent there. Andres said that the Pacha Mama doesn't accept hard alcohol and that will just be more insulting but really likes champagne (or beer or chicha) so we went and bought champagne and fresh coco leaves. He said it also likes sweets so I put some candy in the pile to take. He also offered to go with me and guide me through the ceremony and make the offerings in Quechua so that it was done properly. Not much later, Guillermo came by and I told him my dream (without saying anything of what Andres thought) and he immediately said it was Pacha Mama in the dream and that I have been here long enough now to be doing my own offering ceremonies and he should have thought of that when he was doing ours. The difference between a guest and someone who lives in your house kind of. That a number of times lately I have taken other people to ruins and sacred sites that I used to have guides take me to and I should have been doing the offerings that they have been doing.

The offerings are just that the earth is always hungry and thirsty. If you are going to eat or drink, it is polite to offer some. Tip some water or beer or soda or chicha and take three whole coco leaves and put them into the ground or under a rock pointed toward where the sun rises and say thanks. There are proper words in Quechua and to the four cardinal points but if you don't know them, the offer and the thanks are enough.

Andres and I went up to the lookout this morning and I dug a hole with a stick and rock while he prepared the coco leaves by looking through them for the most beautiful and whole leaves. While I dug I told the earth and Apus that I was sorry that I had neglected this most basic of things, of being grateful. That while I recognize that I need to learn this simple ceremony and use it when I go on outings, that I hadn't given even a simple thank you and that was not okay. I vocalized the things I was grateful for. The opportunity to spend time here, to have friends like Guillermo and Andres, grateful that I had been visited in a dream so that I could have the chance to make it right. Grateful that I had recognized the dream for what it was and followed through on it. Grateful to have Andres with me and to please accept his words on my behalf. As Andres started the ceremony with the coco leaves I found myself in meditation position and crying and empty minded. He called to each of the mountains and asked them to receive this offering on my behalf. He also said Maryjane which he never does – he always calls me Mary – and that felt important. After he got done calling to each of the mountains around Ollantaytambo speaking to them in both Spanish and Quechua, he made a general prayer to them all while they were listening asking them to forgive this transgression and to understand that this traveler is learning and thanking them for sending the spirit guide in the dream to show me that I had made a mistake and give me the opportunity to correct it. And as he talked, I cried for every time I have forgotten to be grateful, for every time I have not been humble. It had to do with much more than not burying some coco leaves one time I went camping. It was a really strong ceremony.
As we poured the champagne into the hole and sat and watched it disappear into the earth, clouds started to roll down all the valleys to the middle where we were, bringing rain with each of them. This is the dry season and it hasn't rained in months and also usually rain comes from one direction. I have never seen anything quite like it and Andres said the same. I will mention here that Andres doesn't do these types of ceremonies as a rule. He feels like it gets cheapened by people making stuff up to pretend at spirituality. When people are telling the traditional stories of crazy spirits and different things, he never takes part in them. When I asked him why he said that he feels like to tell people about these things invites them – especially if they are bad spirits. If you have never heard of them, you will not recognize them and they can't hurt you. So even when we go trekking, I hardly ever see him do the rituals that other people are very open about. That he was willing to come with me and do this ceremony with me was not normal and made it that much more strong. He said that even though he doesn't like to mess with that stuff, that to have the Pacha Mama come in a dream that clearly and ask me to give offering was really important and it needed to be done properly and he would help me. After the clouds started rolling all towards us, we just sat and watched them come in from all sides even though it meant it was raining on us and on the long walk home. It felt like a good thing.

I'm not sure what any of it means, but I know that it was strong and important. Like many religious practices, there is some confusion in me about whether to believe things or whether the belief itself is strong enough to make things real. Who am I to say that these spirits aren't real and don't roam the country side? Who am I to say that some crazy illness wouldn't have infected me if we hadn't gone and done the ceremony? It is such an interesting thing to be in the middle of energy this strong and belief systems surrounding it that are this strong.

On a side note, the next day I was cleaning out the bags of stuff and found a rock that is significant. I found a really beautiful rock that had all the different types of rock and minerals that they find magical in one fist shaped rock. I brought it back with me to the fireplace and put it near just as a little talisman thing. In the morning I thought to take it with me as it wasn't a piece of ruin or anything but had a strong feeling not to so I just impulsively kissed it and put it back onto the ground. Guillermo picked it up and said he was taking it as a memento of our trip and carried it with him in his hand most of the way down the mountain. He must have put it in my bag at some point and I laughed and thought this must be what the Uncle wanted $5 for. His birthday was a couple of days later and I gave it to him and told him it was well paid for and he laughed and said surely that had a lot to do with being visited. Again, I don't know all the rules of this valley, but it felt like a strong piece of belonging to have had this experience, with these people as well as the spirits of the valley, whatever the “reality” of it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

In other news, strikes continue in Peru.

Strikes continue today. Today it is teachers and transportation. I have classes this afternoon but am thinking of canceling as I will not likely ever get the chance to strike as a teacher again. Or I might just be being lazy. I will have to decide that in the next couple of hours. I have been taking walks with Andres but other than that, not doing a whole lot. The billiards bar across the street was in full swing all night last night so I didn´t sleep very well. I got up late and have been wandering around town but there isn´t much going on because of the strike. This week the government approved military and police force against striking workers which makes me once again glad to be living in this small town where the focus of the strikes isn´t. Geoff just informed me that it is 12:34:56 on 07/08/09 so I´m going to have to celebrate that with a beer. Also I am not really enjoying teaching those classes anymore. The class of kids are snotty and not grateful and I find myself wanting to kick them in the shins and with the adults, I only ever have 4-6 students and they are always different so I can´t really get anywhere with them anyway. I have been really thinking a lot about whether to just cancel my classes. I can always give private lessons when I want to, but for now it just doesn´t feel worth it. Maybe if I cancel my community center classes I can teach at another school or two during the week and have it seem more useful. Just brain dumping here.
Other than that it is another beautiful day in the Andes and I think I will go climb Pinkuylluna.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Ollantay Raymi might be nonsense.

Wow. The time flies by! Sorry it´s been so long. I forgot to bring my solstice story so I will have to wait on that.

My favorite thing that happened recently was that on Monday there was a festival called Ollantay Raymi which is about the namesake of the town and the history of the founding of the town. The guys at the tourist office asked me to take a look at the translation that they had and to translate a couple of words. Well, they had thrown it into Babelfish - about 12 pages of it and of course it came back complete nonsense. I spent about 8 hours translating it again. Originally the story is told in Quechua and then translated into Spanish, but the translation even into Spanish was terrible and many parts didn´t make any sense and there were lots of words that don´t even exist in Spanish. So when I would get to one of these parts, I would have to go find someone who speaks Quechua - luckily not hard to do in this town and ask them to translate into Spanish for me so that I could translate into English. Anyway, a long and hard task that took many hours. Then the night before the festival, they decided that instead of having the whole play translated, we should just make a simple summary of each scene so I then went and did that. Then the morning of the play (maybe drama is a better word - over 450 people involved) they suddenly wanted me translating all of the welcoming speeches from the mayor and such on the fly in front of thousands of people. Translating speeches on the fly is one of the hardest things to do. Especially if it´s people you´ve never met before so because it is harder to understand. And they are speaking in a way that is more formal and not the normal sort of words or tenses that I am used to. Also they were speaking half in Quechua which is just a language that I don´t speak. Some phrases here and there, but not like that, not translating. It´s a good thing I don´t get too nervous in front of crowds normally because I was shaking and couldn´t believe what I had suddenly gotten into. But I just kind of made it up, figuring that if I couldn´t understand it, certainly no one else could either. Thanks to all my thinking on my feet training with film and video and meetings and events. To have an intimate understanding that no one knows there is a problem unless you tell them. So there I was, involved in a ceremony that has been going on in Ollantaytambo on June 29th, every year since 1780. It was harrowing, but it was fun and I was glad, after it was all over, to get to be there. Also it makes me giggle that there is a whole patch of tourists in the world that were given complete nonsense as translation.

So that was my most entertaining part of the week. Other than that, life is good. I can´t believe how rapidly approaches my time to leave here. It gives me some panic sometimes that I haven´t done enough or something, but then I get glad that I will get to see the people I miss again. And to remember that I didn´t have any plans coming in, so there is nothing that didn´t get done. I will laugh at myself if after all I spend 8 months in Peru and spend all of it between Cusco and Machu Picchu which may very well happen. But it is a life that I enjoy and people I enjoy and a place in the world that is unlike anywhere I´ve ever been before. No matter how shitty you start feeling or out of sorts with the world, you can just so sit anywhere and look at the mountains and put your feelers down into the ground and wham! there you are, all connected again and feeling at peace. I am profoundly grateful to have found this place.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

meat on a stick is great.

I have been working on a piece of writing surrounding my experiences with the summer solstice and some crazy stuff about the spirits of the valley but left it in Ollantaytambo and am now in Cusco for a few days so I will just catch up here and post that one later from there.

Mel leaves tomorrow and I am sad to see her go. I am looking forward to going back to teaching and such though, so there is that. I can´t believe that I have only a couple more months in Ollantaytambo - having Mel leave is giving me a taste of what it will look like to go myself and I don´t like it!

We have been having lots of grand adventures and I am realizing that I better get on it to do some of the other adventures in Peru that I want to have before leaving here or I will have spent 8 months in the Sacred Valley and never left. Of course it is a pretty darn good place to be stuck in. I feel like I´ve learned so much in the process of leaving home and being here that at least another year would only serve me well, but I just don´t think I can quite pull it off. Home to work hard and save money and choose the next adventure. Whether it is back here or to somewhere else all together will be interesting to see.

I have been really enjoying watching my body get so strong and taking hikes that I would never have been able to or would have been a whole day ordeal and now have me back before lunch. I hope to not lose this when I get home so I will be looking for folks who want to go do lots of walking and take advantage of the great mt. hood hikes and gorge hikes that I just wasn´t in good enough shape before to tackle. Especially after doing these hikes at this kind of altitude, I will be superwoman when I come home - gonna need a super suit.

Mel leaves tomorrow which is also Inti Raimi here in Cusco - the biggest tourist draw of the year and this city is so crowded it is incredible. Seems like a shame to miss this but the same event will take place in Ollantaytambo on Monday, just a little smaller and easier to deal with. I am growing less and less fond of huge crowds. I will be headed back to Ollantay on Thursday and will try to get my solstice experience posted then as I am headed out of town with the boy for a few days on Friday to reward him for being great with Mel here and because I miss him.

hasta soon,

Friday, June 19, 2009

on cow patty fires - they don´t stink as much as carrying wood.

It has been great having Mel here, getting lots more adventures in. It really is amazing to have a new perspective on stuff and hers is always fantastic. It´s nice to have someone to talk with about the differences in stuff and where my brain is at that understands what it is like at home and can see what it is like here. We go on lots of walks that I have been meaning to take but aren´t as interesting by myself. We went to Machu Picchu yesterday and had a great time. We ended up getting an amazing deal on a guide just for the two of us and he was fantastic. Last time I was there - as you may remember - I didn´t take a tour of the ruins after being too exhausted after climbing Waina Picchu.

I am starting to feel really shocked about how quickly time is going by. I feel like I am starting to really hit a groove here and wish I were just independently wealthy and didn´t have to make decisions like where in the world to live based on whether there is any money in my account. I am also really looking forward to seeing everyone at home though too, so maby more than independently wealthy, I wish I could be in more than one place at a time. I realized today that I haven´t had a job in over a year and it is hard to imagine how I will ever be able to go back to work and have to be on someone else´s time, you know? Maybe I will sell tupperware.

We were going to go to Puno (Lake Titicaca) and Aerequipa (Colca Canyon - twice as deep as grand canyon with condors flying) last week but due to country wide strikes we didn´t make it. The governement passed legislation opening up the Amazon in the norther part of Peru to mining and drilling and such a while ago and the indigenous folks there have been protesting since then. I have asked people about it here but because the media is government controlled, nobody knew anything about it. Then about two weeks ago, there was a huge clash in a small town where at least 34 people died according to government (25 police and 9 indigenous) although the cops were using semi-automatic weapons and the local population was using spears. According to the families, over 250 people are missing. Anyway, the whole country went into protests and strikes so we weren´t able to take our vacation. Just as well cause it was getting sketchy down there. Ollantaytambo is safe and the strike isn´t in the state of Cusco so while we didn´t get to the cool places, we are feeling safe here. I will definitely keep an eye on all of it and get out if I need to. For now congress has suspended the legislation for three months to continue talks about it and give the country time to calm down.

I am going to copy Mel´s posts thru today as well cause she´s got lots of good fun details that I just forget to relate.
love you!

June 11: traveling
we finally left Ollantaytambo for more than a day trip last night... we were planning to leave this morning, but we heard there was a strike planned--this means the roads are closed right now. we were lucky that our hostel had open beds for us a night early... we heard about the strike and then left so quickly after that we didn´t have time to call them. after getting checked in we went for a walk... the architecture here is astonishing. we stopped at a touristy bar for drinks--I had my first Pisco sour, which is one of Peru´s national beverages.

Today we checked ut the plaza a little... today is Corpus Christie, so there are religious processions and ceremonies in the center of town all day. there were literally thousands of people crammed into the area... we snapped a few photos and then went in search of less crowded places. ate more touristy food... I had a real english breakfast (sausage, bacon, baked beans, cheese, toast, eggs, and coffee) for about $5. I wanted to eat more traditional foods while I was here, and that is MJ´s usual custom (especially having a Peruvian boyfriend), but I worry about a relapse of my stomach troubles... and besides, I think MJ likes an excuse to eat more familiar foods. (the peruvians tend to eat soup followed by meat and potatoes for every meal.)
I think more than anything the interactions with MJ have been a real bonus. She is a good friend, but we haven´t always been exactly close... now we have been together for a week solid, and two weeks yet on the horizon means we are talking about all kinds of things. I´m so grateful that she is my traveling companion and willing guide... even though she hasn´t been to the parts of Peru we are visiting this week, she speaks pretty good spanish and has an extremely easy manner... it makes a huge difference to have someone like that on your team the first time you go on a serious out of country journey. Hell, I´d take her with me anywhere!

Tomorrow we are hoping the strike has lifted so we can get on a bus bound for Puno... we´re planning to spend one night out on Lake Titicaca, then travel on to the Arequipa area (to visit some petroglyphs, see some mummies, and check out one of the deepest canyons in the world!)

June 12: street food and strikes

for a country that grows so much corn, it´s incomprehensible to me that corn dogs would not be wrapped in cornbread. Instead it was some sort of egg batter, and the whole thing was cooked in a sort of waffle iron instead of deep fried. Interesting.

MJ and I are still in Cusco. The strike came on as scheduled, and though these things are sometimes resolved and shut down quickly, this one has continued for the full 48 hours. Apparently things in Puno got rather violent, and the roads to that area are still shut down until tomorrow. We went to the bus station this morning to find out when we could go... one company was sending a bus anyway, saying they were going to "go around" the strike, probably on extra-sketchy gravel back roads--NO THANK YOU, especially because they wanted almost double the going rate for that trip. Instead we bought tickets for an early bus tomorrow and spent the day puttering around Cusco once more.

The strikes... I feel like I should say something about their cause, but frankly I don´t know much. Apparently the president recently opened the Amazon in northern Peru up for mining, and the indigenous people are being forcibly removed & slaughtered in many cases. It´s a gross show of power and a brutal attack not just on the rainforest but on human rights for all Peruvians (not that they have many to begin with.) MJ says the president´s decision has to do with free trade requirements, but I really don´t understand how it works & I won´t pretend that I do. All I know is the pictures I saw posted in the square today were gruesome, and many Peruvians are incredibly angry--one poster called prez Alan "Satan´s abortion"... the weight of such a thing and my own powerlessness against it made me emotional as we walked along the line of protest banners.

On a lighter note, we finally made it into one of the many many many museums in Cusco. Most of the more well-known ones are ridiculously expensive, and we weren´t particularly attached to any of them. MJ found a Cusco-specific guidebook at the hostel, and it recommended the Admiral´s Palace... a Spanish admiral had this mansion built during colonial times, and it has since been turned into an Inca museum. For 10 soles (about $3) we saw a plethora of pottery remnants, some examples of Incan burial (I believe these were real skulls and remains--kinda gristly, actually... most of them had been arranged in fetal positions and occasionally bundled in a basket or large urn before burial.) There was also a collection of european-style paintings of Spanish-sponsored Incan king-surrogates and an entire room dedicated to the use and history of coca plants.

We went to the bank to withdraw & exchange some money... ATMs only give large bills, and street peddlers and restaurants alike often have a hard time making change... but the banks will break your large bills down for you, free of charge. We took a number, DMV-style, and watched blooper clips while we waited our turn. After lunch we caught the tail end of a procession of children´s costumed dance troops parading out of the main square and walked to the market to get some snacks for our 8-hour non-stop to Puno tomorrow morning. On the way to the market a young man tried to get us to check out his clothing store... MJ talked to him for a moment to find out about a tattoo artist she´d heard of in the area, and he pointed her to a neighboring shop. As we prepared to walk away, he introduced himself... "Call me Angel Dust--I have everything you want. Everything." Real subtle, guy. Peru haz a flavor.

June 14: no one needs more than three cookies

so, the rainforest in northern Peru was recently opened up for mining, and there has been a lot of violence reported there... the government claimed yesterday that 2 dozen cops are dead while only 9 natives have been killed, but since it´s guns against spears I´m somewhat skeptical--unofficial reports say that as many as 250 indigenous people have gone missing & are believed to have been brutally murdered. I want you to know that this is a long long long way from where I am, but it has impacted my trip. MJ and I were planning to visit Lake Titicaca and canyon country further south of Cusco, but a countrywide strike against the activities in the rainforest (as well as some previous anger about water rights being sold to a Chilean company that wants to privatize) turned pretty nasty down there and has now lasted more than a day longer than planned. Buses weren´t going down there without taking sketchy backroads, and there is a rumor that the strikes will have an illegal resurgance next week. Also there was an earthquake yesterday in one of the towns we planned to visit... in short, we decided against the side trip altogether and have come back to nice sleepy little Ollantaytambo. MJ has many friends here, and if things turn serious nationwide we´ll have the most options and resources. I´m honestly pretty disappointed, but I´d rather not get caught up in a political struggle or trapped in an unfamiliar region by a strike that has gotten out of hand... besides, I´m still in Peru, and there are plenty of things in this region that we haven´t done or seen yet (including Machu Picchu.) Just wanted you all to know what´s up, in case you heard anything scary. I´m safe and staying put, and everything is fine.

June 17: HaKooCheece MaCha: Why not Tuesday?

I obliterated the spelling on that, but Quechua isn´t a written language anyway... It says "let´s go get drunk." Most useful thing I´ve ever known.

So, since my last posting I´ve been doing a TON of hiking and drinking. We took a 7-hour round trip to the ruins at PumaMarca, which are pre-Incan and actually pretty impressive... mostly it was about climbing almost straight up and then following the terraces around mountains for a couple of hours, followed by a picnic and a long walk back down. I was totally wiped out afterward!

The night before we´d gone to the blues bar, which is owned by MJ´s landlords... many of Roger´s family members were about, including a few young cousins and a much older uncle who apparently lives in Brazil... he kept telling MJ, our american friend Marico (who is 20) and myself that he wanted to take us to Brazil. The men here are like that... a little pushy. It took forever to get him to leave us alone!

Today we went to the nearest larger town and hit the market... MJ is cooking the whole family spagetti tonight, and there´s only one place to buy ground beef in this area. The markets here are incredible--the meat sections are particularly eye-opening. But the variety of produce is terrific--I´ve tried several new fruits and drinks. Plus I just like calling the little women mommy--it´s polite. And everywhere there are dogs and kids more or less running loose, what an experience.

this will crack you up. The other night at the bar the boys started telling us ghost stories... apparently if you die and the spirits won´t let you into heaven, you come back as a zombie and climb to the glaciers in order to pay your penance. Also there was a man who was killed when a train hit him, and now he´s made a deal with demons that he´ll ride at night blowing a magic dust in your face and then stealing your butt after you fall asleep. You heard me right--he sucks the blood and fat out of your ass (because it´s powerful medicine, apparently) and then you die a few weeks later. Joking aside, some of the things they told us were downright scary--this place certainly has enough history and magic to scare the bravest Andean Superman.
We wanted to take a trip to some of the little town´s south of Cusco (since the trip to Puno etc was thwarted) but apparently the strikes are still keeping things tenuous enough that even this simple journey is too filled with uncertainty to take... looks like Ollantaytambo will eat my vacation, and that´s honestly not so bad.

Tomorrow I go to Machu Picchu, which is a 1 hour train ride followed by a shuttle followed by lots of hiking. It´s probably the most expensive thing I will do this entire trip.

June 19: Machu Picchu

you know, going to see one of the wonders of the world is a mixed blessing. For a simple daytrip from here, we ended up spending well over $100 each. 200 soles for the train tickets, 42 soles for the shuttle, 124 soles for entry... throw on another 30 soles for our guide and 10 soles for lunch = 406 soles EACH, and the exchange rate is roughly 3 soles to the dollar. Also it was crowded with tourists (surprise surprise) and the nearby town felt artificial to me...

still, there´s a reason it´s so crowded and expensive. The ancient city is MASSIVE and filled with oddities like reflecting pools, sun dials, and the king´s private toilet. plus the surrounding hillside is breathtaking... as it turns out, the Andes are big. Plus that region is in the high jungle--it´s mountains are covered with lush vegetation, which is particularly shocking compared to the dry barrenness of the sacred valley.
in short, it was fucking incredible.

Today we´ve done some laundry and cleaned our room (mostly MJ, actually... I´ve been writing postcards.) Tonight we go to the disco, and tomorrow we go camping to a lookout where we´ll apparently see something amazing for the solstice sunrise.

Wish you were here!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

KEYS!!! grr.

I just locked myself out of the house so I have to go and wait to be let in and then am cooking dinner. Tomorrow we go to Machu Picchu so I wont have time to write either. But I am having a great time and it is wonderful to have Mel here - doing lots of adventuring every day.
love you all,

Friday, June 12, 2009

guest blogger Mel

sunburn and children and a whole lotta bull!

there is soooooo much to say, I hope I can do it all in the short time I have allowed myself!first of all, I feel much better. I am eating lots of soup and drinking plenty of water and feeling almost entirely like myself again. I seem to have some lingering hints of la turista, but I started taking the proper meds to clear that up and I expect I will be 100% again within a day or two. Thanks for all your concern!

more importantly, I´m having fun. Saturday we explored some ruins that are under reconstruction (the bath of the virgin, they call it) and walked through the older part of town (where the Incan foundations are still visibile as part of many buildings--the stone work is amazing!) Then we stumbled into a procession of dancers escorting the valley´s holy cross back and forth between the two churches in town... while they went to mass we grabbed dinner. Afterward we managed to meet right back up with them on the return trip... after depositing the cross safely back in the church they commenced their formal dances... they wore masks and long dresses or coats, and they kept hitting each other with whips--awesome. after a while I felt very tired, so MJ and her Peruvian boyfriend Andres escorted me home before going out for beer. I slept like a rock.

Next morning MJ and I got up early to catch buses to the HUGE market in Pisac. the trip took about 1.5 hours each way, but we bought tamales from a street vender for breakfast. The market wasn´t quite set up yet when we arrived, so we wandered around and made some purchases (it´s good luck to be the first sale of the day!) without being hassled too much by hawkers. We saw children in full Andean dress trotting through the market with baby animals, asking to have their pictures taken (for a price) and about the time the people started yelling at us to buy stuff we were ready to leave. I had the fantastic adventure of paying 50 centiamos to use the bathroom ($.15ish) and we bought papa rellenos on the way home.

That afternoon there was bull fighting in the field below MJ´s part of Ollantaytambo, by which I mean bulls fighting each other. There was also a funny riding contest in which a piece of corn is pulled up and down on a string (like a pinata) and people ride horses underneath trying to grab the corn. (If you get the corn, you win a small live chicken! How awesome and strange is that!?!? Although I guess you must then bring 7 such chickens to next year´s festival :/) The bull fights were less interesting and gory than you might think--mostly they sniffed at each other, butted heads a few times, and wandered apart. The most interesting part was that they weren´t corralled in any way--people simply stood in a circle around them (we wisely stayed on the street overlooking this action.) More than once the bulls broke straight for people instead of each other, and one even came all the way up the ramp to where we were! That was pretty exciting. I saw some dumb tourist try to take a picture when the bull was heading their way... yikes.

Then yesterday MJ, Andres, and I went to see the deep terraced garden of Moray and the salt mines of Salineras. We caught two buses to the town of Maras, then got a taxi to take us to the garden and wait for us. Exploring the site took about an hour... lots of climbing of ancient stairs and oohing and ahhing over the engineering and view. Then the cab driver took us to the other side of town and dropped us on a hiking trail... we walked downhill for about an hour to reach the salt mines. There is a salty spring which flows out of the ground... they simply dig pits, fill them with the water, and let it evaporate. the crystal growths and organic nature of the whole thing was truly spectacular! we then crossed the river and waited for a cab, when Andres remembered there was more bullfighting in a tiny town nearby... I got to see a group of drunk Peruvians work on breaking a horse, then watched an argentenian matador fight a few bulls... I´d never seen anything like that before, and all I can say is the matador had the air of an againg rock star--complete with the huge ego and a potbelly in shiny pants. The fighting was pretty cool, though. I cheered for the bull. For dinner that night we went to a place that has a monkey living in its rafters.

This morning MJ and I rode further up the valley to a small school where MJ teaches english once a week... the kids were affectionate and hilarious and sooooo amazing to meet... Truly, I will never forget this. Hope you are all well!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I am being lazy and am going to steal Mel´s blog but the internet is being stupid and wont let her into her page. I will steal it soon and place it here. It is full of fun and exciting adventures.

I am too used to things. I had a moment the other day where I realized that I walked by some buys trussing goats and piling them into a moto taxi and didn´t even find it strange. I realized about a block later that once upon a time I would have taken a photo of it.

So, soon there will be a nice long post from guestwriter Mel.

Whom, by the way, I LOVE having here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

rodeo? bull fight? dancing? chickens? did i dream it?

I am in Cusco for the night waiting to pick Mel up at the airport TOMORROW! I can´t believe it´s already here. And that means that the festival is already over and all of that means that time is passing so quickly.
The festival was really fantastic. There were people out and dancing and drinking and carousing 24 hours a day for four days. It was exhausting and fun. I did realize that everyone I know if Ollantaytambo was either dancing or working for a Cargo (the ¨homes¨of the different dance troups) so I ended up by myself for most of the festival which was kind of odd.
There were 15 dance troups in all with completely different costumes and different dances and different personalities. Part of the phenomenan is that everyone wears a mask and between the masks and the costumes, you never know who anyone is. After the robbery in Ecuador, seeing people in masks has freaked me out but I think I´m over that now after the festival. On Sunday there was a ¨Corrida de Toros¨which was like a cross between a rodeo and a bull fight. Matadors working bulls but they don´t kill them anymore which makes it all much nicer. And lots of spectators jumping into the ring to take passes with the bulls which was just pissing of the matador but he was a big putz so it was funny.
In between bull fights, they would send in a herd of wild horses and then one would get roped and separated and then someone would jump down from the crowd and jump up on it and they would let it go and then they would get bucked around until they fell off. It was rad. The first guy to go jump on a horse happened to be sitting in front of me and when he got back I gave him a beer for congratulations and later on that night Guillermo was introducing me to his brothers and it happened that they were the guys sitting in front of me that I had given beer to so that was really fun. Cause then it was some more people to know during the festival and their younger brothers and sisters are in my English class which I also had no idea of that connection. I enjoy that about Ollantaytambo.
Another fun thing was called the ¨Aranko de gallos¨which is where a corn on the cob is tied to a rope that someone can move like a piñata and people ride by on horses and try to grab it and if they do then they win a baby chicken. And then at next year´s festival they have to bring seven chickens. Not sure how that is ¨winning¨exactly, but it was very fun and funny to watch.
I will get photos worked out soon. I have misplaced my charger and the camera is dead so I can´t pull photos off of it until I find the charger. And if I can´t find it I will have to do some serious research to find another one somewhere. Surely in Cusco, but who knows where?
Hope all is well, I can´t wait to see Melanie tomorrow.
Love you,

Monday, June 1, 2009


for sleeping or eating or blogging. Four day nonstop festival = soooo fun.

Only here to say I am alive so my pops wont worry.

Love you, pics soon.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

whew, it´s been a while.

Sorry guys.
Let´s see, what´s going on? Well, a pretty normal life. We´ve been watching the dance troups practice for the festival that starts next saturday. Party of the year. I can´t wait to see it all, it sounds like so much fun.

I´ve started dating a Peruvian man - Andres for those who have been following. He is really great and I enjoy him for the most part, but boy are cultural differences hard sometimes. We are taught so early and so often that independence is everything and they are taught the absolute opposite. Family is everything and when a couple gets together then they don´t need any more friends or anything else to do, they just spend all their time together until they get married and have babies. A very hard thing for this American mind to comprehend so I´m always hurting his feelings and then apologizing. No matter how many times I tell him to the contrary he is pretty sure that I will fall in love with him and stay here in Peru and have babies. I don´t think this will happen and it is hard to watch yourself breaking someone´s heart in the moment of it happening. I´m not sure how this all will go, but it sure is interesting.

Other than that, the strike last week was interesting as they always are. Still about water ownership rights. A company in Chile is trying to privatize the water and make people pay for water that for generations and generations has been their right as people who live on that land. On the one hand, I would hate to see Chile get water rights in Ecuador and the people who farm are already so poor that it doesn´t seem fair to make them pay for water. On the other hand, I have never met a bigger group of water wasters. Faucets will just be going full blast for 24 hours a day and it doesn´t occur to anyone to turn them off. Why would they? It´s free and there´s plenty of water! There is no concept of the fresh water in the world being limited. Even as they watch their glaciers disappear more and more each year and they are 1/3 of what they were 10 years ago and will probably disappear in the next 5 years, there is no connection to the idea of guarding the water they have. If they had to pay for water, they would surely conserve it more carefully. I don´t know what the answer is, but it´s interesting stuff to think about. Especially interesting to watch a country excersize it´s rights to strike.

I will take lots and lots of pics of the festival coming up to post for you all.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Day of San Isidro - patron saint of agriculture

There is a huge festival happening at the end of May and different dance groups are getting ready for it and have started dancing at various festivals. I´m drawing a blank on the name of this dance but it is one of the oldest in Peru. The are all carrying whips and dance around whipping each other´s legs. But not just kind of, but big wind up smacks. It has something to do with flagilation and taking pain for the patron saint of the festival. All in all it is completely crazy dance. Especially the part where some of them are about seven years old and giving and getting as well as any of the older boys.

Here he goes. Sometimes when they really connect well it is so loud that it hurts your ears. And they practiced on Wednesday and performed twice on Thursday and twice on Friday. I wonder what their calves look like. They wear a couple of pairs of socks, but no other type of protection as the whole point of it is to take the pain. There are some things this culture will never talk me into thinking are a good idea.

Friday was Saint Isidro´s day - he is the patron saint of agriculture. In the morning, all the people with young bulls that haven´t learned to work yet with the yolk and the plow are harnessed for the first time and brought to the plaza and they all walk around for a while. It was pretty funny when they would get confused or startled and then one team would go a little out of control and then the rest would do the same. There were about twenty teams of bulls and it made for a really interesting morning. These are the bulls of my lovely friend Andres whom I went to Puma Marka with last weekend. That´s not him walking them, he called in a friend to help as it takes a few people to control each team.

Here are some hill folks pouring chicha, which is the locally made fermented corn drink. They make huge huge batches of it and share all around all day. They drink chicha all day while they are working the fields to keep their energy up and keep them happy. At every festival there are people walking around giving out glasses of it. Even to kids which is strange to me because it is so so strong. Sometimes I like it, but sometimes it is really sour and I have a very hard time drinking it but they are waiting for you to drink and hand back the glass to go to the next person. That is the way they drink here. One big beer with one glass and everyone takes turns drinking. There is no way to keep your germs to yourself or keep other people´s germs to themselves. At some point you just kind of give up and let it go.

In the afternoon there was a bull fight. Which was not a bull fight with a matador, but where everyone brings their bulls to the same field and then two at a time they let them go and they fight. At first I thought that was really aweful but then someone explained a couple of things that made pretty good sense. One is that because these bulls are their livlihood, they aren´t going to let anything happen to them that will keep them from working the fields. The other was that they are not making them fight, they are letting them fight as it is their nature and the bulls are better behaved when they get to fight a few times a year. I don´t know about that, but I was glad to see that no one ever seemed to get hurt. Mostly their foreheads are pushing against each other trying to decide which one is stronger then eventually one of them will give up and walk away. Self regulating. And sometimes to my absolute delight, the bulls would refuse to fight. They would walk up to each other and instead of locking horns, they would touch noses and then wander off. These ¨fights¨were my favorites.