Thursday, January 29, 2009


Here is the church in the main plaza in Cusco. If you look to the right you can see writing on the mountain that says something about Peru, I haven´t quite gotten the whole thing yet.

These are the people I spend most of my free time with. Dave from Australia and Laura from Michigan. I did her the great disservice in a past post of saying she is from Minnesota. She is from the UP in Michigan. I have loved almost every Michigander I have ever known and she is no exception. Also Dave is great and I feel like I am learning yet another foreign language.

Here we are in outside games class. They are playing a form of dodgeball, and of course, being "profe" and not quite knowing the rules, I was one of the first ones "out".

Here I am with Adear, not that you can see him because I was tickling him, but he is my most challenging and delightful kid at the school. I actually kicked him not only out of class yesterday, but out of school. We are doing English classes and our group has been given "family members" to learn and do a presentation on on Friday. All the kids have been drawing representations of people - grandma, mother, sister, etc. but Aldear just wanted to draw a fire truck. So we compromised and decided that grandpa could be a fireman and there could be a fire truck on the page. Well, he wouldn´t draw grandpa, only the fire truck. So the next day (yesterday) we finally had a fight about him drawing grandpa. If he would draw grandpa larger than an inch tall, he could keep working on his fire truck. This went on for a while, at least five different conversations and I finally told him that he could either draw grandpa or leave class, that if he colored on his fire truck one more time before working on grandpa, that he would have to leave class. He looked me straight in the eyes and colored on his fire truck. So I picked him up and took him out of class and we talked about it again. "you have two choice, either to go inside and work on grandpa, or go home." Well, much to my surprise he decided to go home. Then I felt aweful. But it really seemed like the only thing left. Remember that he is just a shit every chance he gets. So I was pleased to see him back in school today and made a point of telling him I was glad he was there and that I wasn´t mad at him.
He behaved much better today. I went over to him at one point and he was working on the firetruck and not grandpa so I took off my watch and told him that he had seven minutes - until the big hand was on the 10 to work on the firetruck, then he needed to draw grandpa, and he immediately drew grandpa, colors and all and came over and showed me and asked if he could work on the fire truck now. I was really proud of us both. So there is a story of me and Aldear.

Here is Aldear and the fire truck and grandpa. I think it turned out rather well, all things considered.

I wish I could feel comfortable taking the camera to the jail. As it turns out, I am really enjoying the jail. I think it has to do with loving an underdog. Loving someone who doesn´t know how to be trusted and loved. Until going to the jail, I would have thought it was the kids at the school. But that is not the case. At first, I hated it. I just wanted out. All I could see was the yelling and hitting and kicking and biting and pushing and all the violence and horrible things. But over the course of the week, you learn to see the backdrop to it. The kids that have just been abandoned or are orphans and are there because there is no where else to go. There is a kid who has been there three weeks and he is young and shy and sweet but he is just there because of being abandoned and his family is in a small rural town and they don´t know where he is so they can´t come get him from the jail and they wont release him until his family comes to get him. We are trying to work this out for him, but the police are just being kind of buttheads about it. It is so sad to see him there, knowing he should be out. Then there are kids, especially girls, who don´t want out, that things are so bad for them at home, they would rather be in the relative safety of the jail. And that safety is relative, let me tell you. But I guess at least they aren´t being raped in jail. Mostly. That´s hard to wrap your head around, cause jail sucks. That it would be better than home is amazing to me.

The other kinds of things I am seeing is that the kids really actually take care of each other. Even though they punch each other in the process. For example with breakfast, there is a big fight about the cast off bread they get every morning, establishing alpha dog status. But once that is established, the older kids made sure that the younger kids get enough to eat and such. It´s just a big show at first.

Also today a little kid was dropped off, no older than three. He exhibited all the classic signs of autism and couldn´t speak and mostly didn´t engage with anyone. But if you took the trouble to even clap hands with him and say "hola" over and over, he would just giggle and giggle. But he would also climb up onto the top bunks and over to the windows and places dangerous for him. The other kids, while not engaging him or being sweet in any way, would always go get him and keep him out of harm´s way and make sure he had food. So even in the middle of this really shitty situation they find themselves in, they are so human and so good that I am falling in love. More and more each day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

cause people are asking...

here is the address to where I am staying.

Aldea Yanapay
attn: Maryjane Hoadley
534 Calle Fierro
Cusco, Peru

If anyone wants to send stuff either for me or the kids. Any kinds of office supplies are useful, paper, tape, pens, pencils, etc. Tempura paint, markers, coloring books, things to play outside games, small balls, jump ropes, costume stuff, balloons. All sorts of things. Stuff is hard to buy down here even if there were plenty of money, which there also isn´t.

As to me, I would LOVE a pair of long underwear. It is already uncomfortably cold here, especially at night, and it is summer. I think that winter just might be miserable. (There is no inside heat here so as cold as it is outside is as cold as it is inside.) I bought a hot water bottle yesterday to put at my feet at night. Also books in English are always in great demand. Or, if no care package, then a postcard or note just to say hi is always super appreciated.

Don´t send anything of much value as there is no guarantee that anything will get through.
Also don´t feel like you need to send anything, people have just been asking for the address so I thought he would be the easiest place to post it.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

troublemakers and angels and those that are both

I am very happy to report that today went much easier at the jail. Some for not being in such shock, and some for already knowing some faces and names. There is one kid who is about nine and his name is Frank and he is just there because he has been abandoned, not because he comitted any crime. He should really be at the school, he is so smart and sweet. If he has to stay in that room for another nine years, there is going to be no saving him. He is the first of I am sure many that I just want to take home. His life is so unfair that it breaks my heart.

The oldest boy, named Tony, reminds me of Flip like you wouldn´t believe. Brought tears to my eyes today. The mischeivious twinkle in his eye, his sense of humor, his incredible pride. He is a shit, but I can´t help but love him and I hope I can get him to come around a little with me. He has already started today to make some small overtures - asking me for help with something he was clearly capable of doing himself, for example. But their pride is so sensitive, any wrong move and you start back over at the beginning with them. So there is this line to walk about being good to them and holding your own power so that they respect you.

The jail is also hard because you never know how much time you will have with a kid, they can be gone at any moment. Just when you really look forward to seeing them tomorrow, they may just never be there again. Like I am looking forward to seeing Tony tomorrow to see if we can get any further with trust, but then he might just not be there and it will be some other kid who yells at you not to touch him and you have to start all over.

The balance of doing what they want and holding your power for respect is true at the school as well. There is one kid Andear that is such a trouble maker but he really wants to be good and wants you to love him and when you get mad at him about something, that is when he melts down. Today I watched him take a little break for a minute and pull himself together before continuing his work. I told him I was proud of him and I don´t think that anyone has ever noticed that before in him, they just think he´s weird cause he´ll suddenly zone out for a minute for no apparent reason. He is my trouble maker. We fight more than anyone else, but he always makes sure to ask if I will be there tomorrow and manipulates the system to spend time with me, even if it´s reading, which he hates, just to be next to me, even though we spend a lot of time fighting about stuff. But we also spend a lot of time tickling and giggling and he is getting better.

The kids remember my name because I am Spiderman´s girlfriend and they ask where he is and when he is coming. I haven´t been able to quite come up with a good response to this yet. Sometimes it´s "soon", but that is a bad answer, because then they keep asking and want to know when. Today I had a visit with a little kid named Josua about the fact that there is no Spiderman, he is made up, but he didn´t believe me for a single second. He is attached to me all all times and I´m pretty sure it´s because he doesn´t want to miss Spiderman´s visit. I am curious about what better answer I will find.

It´s amazing that I´ve been here only such a short time and already find myself creating such relationships with these kids. I can´t imagine how it will feel to leave after six months. Luckily I have six months to revel in it before finding out.

Love to you all,

Monday, January 26, 2009

acutely aware of the abundance in my life.

So I spent the morning with the kids in the jail. What a thing to wrap your head around. They are the exact opposite of the kids in the school. Distrusting and ornery and heartbreaking. Breakfast was liquidy oatmeal and scraps of bread. They are dirty and have only the clothes they were wearing when they were picked up. Their immediate response to each other is to hit and kick and swear. I saw more hitting in 3 1/2 hours this morning than I have seen in years. They lie, they steal, they cheat. But they also want to be loved on. Eventually, if they come to you. Then they will suddenly get up and walk away and stand by the window or something. Like it´s almost harder to have somebody treat you nicely because you let down your guard and it´s easier to just keep it up.

The goal of the program there is just to give them something to do during the day. If you can figure out a way to teach them something as well, all the better on you, but mostly you are there so that they aren´t just sitting and doing nothing all day.

I am glad that I will be at the school this afternoon just to lift my spirits back up. I have jail and then school all week and I can already tell that it is going to be a very long week.

The truth is that I hated being there. I wished that I didn´t speak Spanish because only people who speak spanish can go to the jail. I wished I could just say "I quit" and leave and I know that I can. But it feels like one of those things in life that is so hard that you really want to walk away from it, but you know that if you do, you will lose so much respect for yourself that you can´t.

I am also curious to see how I feel after some time with it. I just feel kind of shocked this afternoon.

I have been living in my head for a while and was starting to get really tired of it in there and was doing some reading and it said that if you want out of your head, get busy saving the world, that aught to take enough time and effort to last you for a while. Well, this morning did in fact pull me right out of my head. I am grateful for that.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

finally some photos. more to come soon.

Coming into Cusco on the bus. It really is stunning here.

Some friends from Canoa. James and Alia, they were a treat and super fun.

Puppies enjoying the beach in Canoa.

Rubys grandson, Leo, we were playing monsters.

Me being a monster, Leo taking photos.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I am still enjoying Cusco, as I expect to. There is a weekly meeting on Friday nights for all volunteers with the director of the program, and that was interesting. Things are as disorganized as you would kind of expect them to be and my producer brain is working overtime. There were so many things that I was seeing in only two days that I have ideas about how to make better. But I will wait another week at least and try to set a coffee date with the director. Its no good to just walk in and say how to make it better.

I have made a couple of friends here that I am really enjoying. A girl from Minnesota is my new room mate and we get along really well. Also she plays guitar and sings and writes songs, so I am thrilled to have that as part of my daily life again. Also a guy named Dave from Australia. We all went to the market yesterday and have been cooking together and really get along well, its nice to have friends again. This evening we are going looking for a pool table.

I havent figured out the phone card thing yet, though to be fair, I haven´t spent much time trying, but when I do, I will start making some calls home. I will also find my camera cord soon and get some photos up. It just feels so good to be settling in to a life here that I haven´t felt like doing proper internet time.

It is really cold here. And its summer. I am thinking of going to buy another blanket for my bed. The heating system is a ceramic holder thing with a tin can inside that you put gas into and light. It makes me feel aweful and after the first day, we haven´t used it. So, more blankets. I cant imagine how it will be in the winter if this is summer. brrrrrrr.

Love to you all,

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"profe, where is spiderman?"

Here I am in Cusco. I said that already, didn´t I?

The bus trip out of Lima was very uneventful, which is great. The part that balances caution with fear starts to get a little overactive on those night busses so I was glad to pass with nothing interesting.

Left Lima at 2pm after the adventure of finding a taxi. Not that there aren´t plenty, but there is no organized cab collective there so you never know if the cab you´re getting into is safe or not. I asked the guy at the hostal to hail me a safe cab and he said that he had no better way of knowing than I did. You just have to take a look at the guy and see what you think of him and if you don´t like him then send him on his way and hail another one. Hard for a first world mind to wrap around. But I made it to the bus station with no problems.

I accidentally bought a first class ticket which really only means that you´ve spent more money to be on the ground floor instead of upstairs and the view isn´t as good. That isn´t a mistake I´m likely to make again, but it was comfortable. I ended up sitting next to a guy from DC who has been living in Colombia for a few years and it was interesting to visit with him.

The scenery was really interesting, I tried to catch some photos of it, but I´m not sure they turned out very well. On the right side was the beach and the ocean and on the left side was what looked like high desert mountains and sand dunes. From one side of the bus to the other looked like completely different countries, it was hard to reconcile. No matter how many times I would look from one side to the other I would be surprised.

By the time we turned inland and started over the Andes it was dark so you could only feel the bus going back and forth around hairpin turns and up up up and down down down over and over. You got the feeling that the views would have been spectacular if it weren´t pitch black. Leaving Cusco, I will probably try to split up the journey and catch the piece in the daylight.

Cusco is at a little over 11,000 feet and really pretty. Ringed with mountains, I look forward to exploring it some more soon. The architecture is really interesting as many of the buildings are Spanish architecture but they left many of the original Inca walls so it´s a weird mixture.

The hostal is really great, it is mostly for folks volunteering at the schools so there is an immediate bond and everyone is really nice. I am meant to start at the school on Monday, but this afternoon one of the girls came and asked if I would like to go to the art class with them because their third person left today and she was the only one who spoke Spanish so I got to go hang out with the kids already this afternoon. They are so super cute. They are obviously used to having lots of "profes" go through but instead of letting it create a scenario where they are jaded and don´t want to get close to people, it has made them very open to every new face, with trust that this new person will be good to them as well. I had a great time with them. After our art project was winding down but it wasn´t time for the next class yet, we just sat and chatted. They wanted to know my favorite color and my favorite food and where I was from and I am back to being Spiderman´s girlfriend which is cute. One little boy who was a little shy finally came up and pulled on my sleeve and whispered into my ear, wanting to know where spiderman was. I told him he was busy saving the world but would try to come by. There is a meeting every Friday evening for the entire staff to figure out where everyone will be the next week so I will know tomorrow night what I will be up to next week.

Tomorrow I will go do some grocery shopping and get my stuff put away and try to get settled in which will be fun. I am not suffering too much from altitude sickness, I´m sure having much to do with spending so much time in Quito, though I didn´t ever have too much trouble there either. That is lucky, cause some people are down for days and days absolutely miserable. I am tired from so much bus travel, but having a hard time getting sleepy. I will watch a movie with some folks and then go lay in bed and hope my eyes will close soon.

safe in Cusco

another 22 hours on the bus and I am safe in Cusco at the hostal for the volunteers for the school. I have to go out and get a phone card in order to call those of you that I should to tell you I´m safe but it is lower on my priority list than taking a shower and a nap, so you may not get phone calls until tomorrow. I will try to find my camera cord and write more about the journey later.

In short, I really love Peru and I am very very glad to be here.

love you,

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Lima is a great city, as far as cities go. At least the part that I am in, which is, I{m sure, the best part of town. Very clean and safe feeling. There is no part of Quito that feels this way. Or maybe I just haven{t heard the stories and so feel safer. Hard to say.

It was fun to watch Barak{s swearing in with folks from all over the world. Really interesting to watch from outside of the country. I{m glad that his platform is that everyone can work hard and turn it around, not waiting for someone else to do it for you.

I have purchased a bus ticket to Cusco, leaving tomorrow and arriving Thursday morning. I am really excited to get there and meet the folks I{ll be working with and check it all out. There are so many amazing things around that area that I didn{t even know about, I am super glad to get to spend an extended amount of time there. Macchu Pichu is of course, the close and famous attraction, but there are also lots of other ruins close by, one they are excavating right now is meant to be even bigger and grander than Macchu Pichu. Within a day{s bus trip, there is also the sacred valley, where the Incas did so much of their really heavy spiritual stuff. There is the valley of the volcanoes, where you can see down the line of the Andes for miles and miles, there are two canyons that are over twice the size of the Grand Canyon in the US, there is a train to Lake Titicaca which is the highest lake at least in South America, maybe more and has man made floating islands that people have been upkeeping since the time of the Incas. Granted, those indians now make their living from tourism and there isn{t much "authentic" experience there, but still will be fun to check out. Everyone I have talked with that has been through Cusco has loved it and can{t believe I get to spend so much time there. It is very cold with no indoor heating though, so that will be a challenge. Good thing I grew up in Oregon.

I know that there is a chance that I wont like it and decide to leave after a short amount of time, and I leave that option open to myself, but I{m going to be excited about it anyway.

Hope you all are having a great day, I{m off to explore this city.

Monday, January 19, 2009

no kidnappings, no robberies crossing the border!

I forgot and packed my camera cord! I hope. I am sure. I think. Anyway, no pictures until Cusco I think.

I made it to Lima and the trip was really mellow. Luckily, there was another woman crossing the border with the same company and she is Ecuadorian and has done it before, so I felt much more comfortable - there were definitely moments that I would have been confused and feeling sketchy if I were alone. The border guard gave me the six month visa I asked for which is a relief. It is only up to the border guard to say how many days you can have on your visa and there is no way to change it from inside the country, so if he had chosen to give me two weeks, that would have been some big plan changing!

Peru is stunning. I love it so much. We hugged the coast all the way down to Lima. Sometimes on the beach, which was beautiful, though typical coast scenery. When we would get a little further from the water, it would turn very different in that between the Andes and the coast in Peru is all desert. There are scientific, weather related reasons for this that I can{t quite remember. I woke up this morning in that blue light before dawn and we were in the middle of stunning sand dunes as far as the eye could see in that blue light. It was so very pretty. It was the closest I{ve ever seen to what I imagine the great deserts of Africa must look like. Just about the time the sun came up, we entered more normal coastal area and I was very glad to have woken up early.

I found the bus ride not too bad, especially with the help of a 1/2 sleeping pill at night to help get some sleep. Not a whole one, cause you never know when the police are going to pull over the bus and search it. Then you have to get off and show your ID and your bag so I didn{t want to be too far out of it. I think I am going to stay in Lima until Wednesday and take the long bus to Cusco then. I enjoy getting to see the country side traveling by land and I think that most of what I want to see from Cusco is to the south, so I may as well take the bus from here to there to see what{s in between.

If I run across my camera cord I will post some pictures. None of them are super great since they are taken from behind the glass of a moving bus, but some are okay.

Off to find a hostal and somewhere to change money and a phone booth.

Love you!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

PURCHASED: one ticket to lima, peru

exit Saturday at 6:45pm, arrive mid-moring on Monday. Spend a couple of days, then catch a flight to Cusco. I´m very excited.

Here are some photos of Canoa.

I´ve been waiting for photos to load for almost an hour. I´m bored of the internet. I´ll wait a little longer, but may just try again later.

I give up. I´ll try later. I´m off to run errands and finish chores and pack my bag and all of those things. Hopefully bag packing will be easier as I´ve been getting rid of things, but I still have too much stuff and it´s still too hard to decide. I´m going to try to live with the one thing I absolutely know is that it sucks to travel with too much stuff so try to really make myself not pack my bags until they are stuffed. I´m skeptical, but optimistic.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


i finally made it out of canoa! that was a close one. that town is like a venus fly trap.

i was going to head out last night, but then my kryptonite came walking down the road. a tall, good looking texan with a cowboy hat and a guitar. uh oh.

he was going to play a show last night at one of the bars but there didn´t end up being amplification so i teased and cajoled him into playing out front and some local kids joined in playing percussion and a guy from columbia showed up with another guitar. It was so great. They played for hours and hours and hours. two more songs. the music itself wasn´t spectacular, but i have been missing live music sooo much. especially some honky tonk and it just put such a smile on my face. i wouldn´t leave my spot. at all. it was great.

i should never have to go three months without live music again.

so now i am in the port town of bahia, waiting for my 10pm bus to Quito. as i was riding the small boat across the bay this afternoon i realized that i am really getting more comfortable and used to traveling. there are still moments of "what have i done?" or moments when you feel a bit worried but realize that the time to have been smarter was about five minutes ago when you made your decision and now you´re going to have to roll with it one way or the other. it´s nice to be feeling that way. especially a few days before heading down to peru by myself.

no, i haven´t forgotten how to capitalize letters, this keyboard is just either all caps or all small letters and i chose small letters. it occurs to me that there might be a word for letters that aren´t capitals (capitols? shit, i can´t spell anymore either. i´m in trouble), but i can´t remember it right now.

so that´s the news for today. a few days in quito and onto a bus saturday night. once you´ve decided to do something and made a plan, the waiting is hard.

love to you all,

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fucking Canoa, got me again.

I was going to head back to Quito on tonight´s bus, but was up until 10am this morning and now don´t feel like going. We are passing around the blame for the late night like a hot potato, no one wanting to own it.

I blame it on the "uña de bestia" (claw of the beast) which is a drink that has marijuana, cocaine, scorpian venom, caña(ecuadorian liquor that is super strong) and juice. There is a bar here that makes it and you take your own bottle and go buy it from the guy. I was told about it when I was here last time but managed to steer clear of it. This time though, some guys who are staying at the hostal from Australia that work on the Survivor series bought some and we all shared. I had about 1/2 shot and was up all night. Even the locals don´t ever have more than two shots or they wont be able to walk. Not something that I would make a habit of, or have any intention of drinking again, but sometimes just for the bragging rights you do things. Now I have had this ridiculous concoction. Scorpian venom. Seriously.

I stayed up drinking all night with Mao, who is the Mexican that owns the hostal I am staying at. We had a super great time. I think that we have a nice connection because I lived in Mexico and somehow he makes more sense to me than the people from Ecuador, and I think he thinks the same about me, that I understand him in a way that most people here don´t. Also, he started calling me MJ the other day which I thought was interesting because people here only call me Maryjane but last night he told me that he has a daughter in Mexico that he never gets to see and he loves her and misses her so so so much and her name is Maria Jesús and he calls her MJ. He said that even though he really likes me that it makes him kind of sad when I´m around because everytime he says my name he misses her. Very un-latin of him to share so sweetly. Must have been the uña de bestia.

Swimming in the ocean is the best thing for hangovers. I can´t even remember how awful it must be to have one and not be able to swim it out.

So anyway, that´s the news from Canoa. Good thing I have to leave this place. It´s fun to take a vacation but staying here would be death. Too much drinking, too many ways to get into trouble. Too many cute boys talking so sweetly. Too much scorpian venom. Too many reasons to stay. Gotta go...................................................................................tomorrow.

love you,

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

the beach the beach the warm beach

I am at the beach! In Canoa. Not walking alone along it.

I have decided to head out of Ecuador to Peru on January 17. It´s a 38 hour bus ride to Lima and then a flight to Cusco. Cusco is high elevation and rainy and cold so I´m at the warm beach for a few days before going there.

Cusco is called "el cielo del mundo" which means the ceiling of the world, or the heaven of the world, depending on your interpretation. One of the highest cities in the world. I´ve told Geoff that when I get home (back to sea level) after a year of spending time in these altitudes, I will be a super hero and will need a costume. It is next to the sacred valley and in the middle of many important Inca ruins, including Machu Picchu. By all accounts, it is a place full of lots of crazy ancient energy and they still have Incan celebrations very often. It is a mid-sized city full of tourists which I am both excited about and not excited about. Not, because it´s always nice to not have to be a tourist every time you walk down the street and people want to sell you things or take you on a tour. Yes because it is easier to find things that this Western girl is accustomed to. Like pharmacies and restaurants. But it isn´t anywhere near as big as Quito, so I´m looking forward to a smaller place.

I am looking forward to having somewhere to live and something to do every day. I can´t wait to get mixed into the volunteers and working of Aldea Yanapay and the kids and the other volunteers and such. I love the idea of staying somewhere six months and really getting to know people. And Cusco is such a jumping off point of almost all that is important in Peru so I foresee great adventures available to me. So, start your vacation planning now. Cusco Peru.

I am feeling extra excited today because my back has still been bothering me and I was as yet unsure whether to continue on to Peru or head back to Portland. I´ve been feeling better, but wanted to test out a bus ride, so 9 hours on the bus last night is nowhere near the 38 to Lima, but I knew that if I couldn´t make that, there was no way I could do Peru. So, having arrived in reletively good shape, I am feeling confident about moving forward to Peru so now I am able to actually be excited for real.

Love you, mj

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Adiós 2008!

New year´s holiday here is really fun. It is a cross between new year´s eve, halloween, mardi gras, fourth of july and burning man with a lot of other crazy style tradition thrown in.

These are paper maché dolls stuffed with newspaper and sawdust called "año viejos" (old year). There are popular cartoon characters, political charicatures, generic old men, all sorts of things.

The biggest party happens in the center of town where people set up elaborate scenes full of viejos that will be burned at midnight. My favorite part is that before they are burned, you get to beat them up. Kick them, hit them, stomp on them, get out all the aggresion you have from the previous year.

During the day, but especially at night, young men dress up as women in very sexy, scantily clad, fake boobs and all. They stop cars going by and do very suggestive dances and demand money from drivers in order to pass. Some of the sexiest girls I´ve seen were these boys dressed up, some of them would rival any drag show queens that I´ve seen. I´m not sure where this tradition comes from, but it´s pretty funny. Young kids dress up and wear masks and demand money from pedestrians. Later in the night, boys in masks stop cars to demand money and do a little dance. Training for years to come, no doubt. I especially loved when the young men would start making out with their girlfriends, cause then you´ve got this crazy ´looks like lesbians but also looks like drag queens, people making out in the street´craziness. All of this in a country that is 95% catholic mind you.

At midnight, all of the blocks look a little something like a war zone when all the años viejos burn and people are drunk in the street dancing and running around. At first glance, it could easily be something other than a celebration. Lot of fireworks as well. Big fireworks. Often held in your hand - stuff as big as I´ve seen go off boats in Portland just from the street out of some drunk guy´s hand.

These are Phil and Ruby. Aren´t they cute? They totally are.

Some of the other traditions are:
wearing a green shirt - for "esperanza" which is like hope
putting money in your right shoe - for prosperity
running around the block at midnight with a suitcase to bring travel in the coming year
putting on all your jewelry at midnight
eat 12 grapes - signifies the months of the year and 12 wishes
very very important - wear yellow underwear. Nobody could tell me exactly what it was supposed to do for you, but a panic ensued if someone didn´t have yellow underwear.

So that was new year´s eve here in quito. We had a great time and it´s always fun to see some other customs. It made me laugh that some of them they don´t even know why they do it, but it´s very important.

I´m getting excited to head out to Peru and it feels like it´s coming really really fast. I´m going to head to Canoa for a couple of days and then I will need to pack (again!) and get ready to head out. My target date is around the 15th of January. I will go to the couple of international bus companies on Monday and see which one I like better, especially to cross the border. Border crossing can always be a little sketchy, so best to do it with a group. Most of the crazy, sounds like no fun, stories that I have heard have had to do with border crossings. So my preference is not at night and with a group of people. We´ll see what I can do. It´s looking right now like a 36 hour bus ride to Lima, then a flight to Cusco. A person can go by bus to Cusco from Lima but it either takes 24 hours to go around the mountains, or you can go through them on what is meant to be the absolutely scariest bus ride in all of South America. I´m actually quite intrigued by it, but I think that after 36 hours on the bus from Quito, I wont be in my best "take me on a super super scary ride for 15 hours" mode. I will take that trip another day.
Of course, I don´t actually have any idea what I will do, so we´ll just see.

Happiest of new year´s to each of you, I hope 2009 brings all the rewards of the work from 2008. Love you.