Friday, February 27, 2009


I have started to receive packages! Thanks Timber team and Codi and Brian&Eric! They are so rad! I've tried to call but the phone works only sometimes and haven't been able to get through, I will keep trying.

I took new outdoor stuff to jail today but then we couldn't go outside for some stupid reason. I am excited to take new stuff tomorrow, they will be sooooo happy. I can't take it all at once like I wanted to and let the kids open the package because the police will just steal it and sell it on the black market. This happens with a tremendous amount of the goods sent to organizations, so I am glad to be able to ensure that the stuff you are sending is making it directly to the kids. I will admit that there are lots of things at the Black Market I would like to buy and it is all SO cheap, but ethically I just can't bring myself to do it. Anyway, I end up having a room full of cool stuff that I will dole out a little at a time. Really fun though. This ensures that everyone gets some good stuff and good stuff is going into the police station all the time, not just one day of Christmas morning.

I am taking next week off from volunteering to find a life. I am done with the hostel and want to have a job and an apartment so that is what I am going to go find. As it turns out, job and apartment hunting aren't any more fun in a foreign country. That's not true, it's actually pretty rad, but still would be easier to have it done.

The kids at the police station have been really enjoyable this week. The dynamics are always so shifting that you never know how it's going to go. There is one boy that is mentally challenged or whatever the PC way to say that is these days. He alternates between being super super hard and really sweet. Today was particularly hard and there were moments of tears in my eyes feeling so incompetent. I have not been trained in this, I don't know how to deal with this kid's fits. Hitting kicking punching scratching screaming obscenities. Just keep loving him, put him in another room, try to calm him down, let the fit wear off. It did eventually and then he was fine again, but it sure was hard. They make it harder by telling him his mom is there when they want him to cooperate, but in the long term, it is making it so much worse. Then he will eventually calm down and come over and want some love. It's an amazing process but it isn't his fault and he doesn't know how to do it any other way, I just love him so. And the rest of the kids are just delights. Sad and frustrated, but sweet and loving and helpful, I just love the group right now. I suspect that I will find time to spend there next week even though I wont officially be working.

I am going to check out some of the smaller towns around Cusco as well to see what types of volunteer stuff they have happening as I think it might be nice to get out of the city for a while. I am a country girl at heart and have been living in the city for far too long. I think it would be nice to be further away from other travelers and more immersed in Peruvian culture. So far the few Peruvians I've had the chance to spend time with I have really really enjoyed. There is also a chance of spending some time living in the super super mountain country with some shamans that I am interested in and a little intimidated by. We will see. I will have more to say next week. I will continue to spend time at the police station wherever I end up, even if it is coming into Cusco on the weekends or working with the stations in my local town so the goods will continue to make it to these kids and programs that need them so much.

Love to you all, I hope your days are happy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

some things really make me miss home

Jason and Michelle are in labor today, on her birthday. Hearing his voice as he embarks on this biggest journey of his life. Imagining that hers sounds the same, but maybe with more intensity.

Sullivan Westley Rocksmore, I greet you.

I can´t wait to whisper sweet nothings into your ears and kiss the top of your head and be your aunty emjay.

Congratulations family, I miss you so much, and love you even more.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Machu Picchu 1

Well, and so, this is the first of five blogs put up at a time because I can only upload five photos per blog and there are too many to choose from. I know that it is boring to look at someone else´s trip photos, but too bad, here you are.

This is from the bus going from Cusco to Urubamba on the way to Machu Picchu. I went with our roommate Raquel from Spain and we hopscotched with Fernando who is Peruvian though getting ready to move to Italy next week. Peruvian nationals ride different trains with much much lower rates so we weren´t all able to travel together but met up in all sorts of places along the way.

Raquel and I had amazing luck the whole time, starting with getting the last two seats on the bus for Urubamba leaving in three minutes after a leisurely walk to the station, stopping for some juice and bread in the market.

This is one of the ruins of Ollantaytambo where we stopped for most of the day before heading to Machu Picchu. We didn´t go into the ruins because they were too expensive and you could see them all from outside. We loved this town and I would love to go back there for a few days just to hang out. It is in the sacred valley and there are such amazing mountain views 180 degrees.

A market in front of the entrance to the Ollantaytambo ruins. I really do love how brightly colored everything is here.

Machu Picchu 2

Fernando and Raquel and I spent most of the afternoon in the plaza drinking boxed wine out of little plastic cups and visiting about everything. It was great to have the chance to work on my Spanish with native speakers. Also, there are so many differences between Peru and Spain and Argentina, where Raquel is living and Mexico where I learned Spanish that we had a great time just talking about language. I am so so so glad that I speak enough of this language to be able to befriend people who don´t speak English. Most of the people in the hostal just end up talking with each other because they don´t have enough language to talk to other people.

Fernando had to leave to catch his train earlier than we could catch ours so we went out to eat in a great little local restaurant and found a dog with a pet monkey. Apparently the dog had been to the jungle for a few weeks with the owner´s brother and came back with a pet monkey. If you try to take the monkey off the dog, it holds on to the fur so tightly that the dog then tries to bite you to get you to stop. The owner of the restaurant made the monkey some clothes at least. Very fun.

More boxed wine! Here we are on the train to Aguas Calientes which is the town outside of Machu Picchu. It was dark but there was enough ambient light to be able to see the river for most of the ride. They say Ollantaytambo is a great place to go rafting but I would NEVER get into that river. I have never seen a river with that much power. I thought maybe it just seemed bigger because it was night, but the ride back confirmed it. I was just in awe most of the way. Even the mellow parts were moving too fast to be safe. It was amazing. The train got into Aguas Calientes about 10:30 and Fernando was waiting for us in the Plaza. We dropped our bags off at the hostal and went back to the plaza to drink more boxed wine. Shocking, I know. It was raining really hard so we were huddled on a bench under an overhang and it was really great. We went to bed around 1:00 and got up at 4:00 to catch the bus up to Machu Picchu. Fernando walked. He is crazy. It was raining really hard when we got up and we were bummed, but this was the day we were going to do it, so it didn´t really matter if it was raining, we just put on our ponchos and went. It was raining the whole 1/2 bus ride up to the entrance and just as we got out of the bus, the rain stopped which was great.

It was still really super foggy which gave the whole place such a mystical feeling, it was great. The mountains and/or ruins would just pop out of the fog once in a while and it was stunning. Here is one of our first views of the ruins.

Machu Picchu 3

There is a mountain in the ruins called Wana Picchu which they only let the first 400 people climb every day. In the high season, people are lined up at 3:30 in the morning to get let in at 6am and RUN to get in line to climb. Phooey on that. Good thing it isn´t the high season. We wandered over around 8:30 and were numbers 42 and 43. We weren´t sure we wanted to climb it, but we thought what the heck, we´ll just see and we´ll turn around if and when we want to. Once inside, you can take the short route to Huchuypicchu which is a smaller mountain, or the longer route to Wanapicchu which is the more famous. So we thought to go the short route. Perfect. Shorter does not equal easier! The photo on the left is a picture of the stairs we were climbing with the drop off to the right. Raquel has vertigo and was super super scared, but we did it and made it back down and everything. It was super foggy when we were up there and we didn´t get many photos. So when we got back to the sign, we thought we would go the long route to Wanapicchu cause there is no way it could be harder or scarier than what we had just done.

Here is a photo from the top of Huchuypicchu that I love. It was really super mystical like this all morning. Felt very Lord of the Rings.

So we started up Wanapicchu. Or more accurately, started down. It is one of those hikes where you have to hike to the bottom of one mountain in order to climb the other one. When you know it is going to kick your ass on the way back, right?

Here is Raquel starting up Wanapichhu. The stairs are killers but not too bad at this point. Still not sure if we want to climb this, but knowing we can turn around at any point. I was especially unsure, feeling out of shape and being a smoker, but I decided to give it a try. Also it was foggy and we couldn´t tell how far we had to go.

I stopped and rested a lot which gave me the chance to take lots of photos.

As you climb, the stairs become less like stairs and more like mountian climbing. And they just keep going. But eventually you reach a point where you have gone too far to turn back and the top must be close now, right? It was definitely super hard, and I stopped to rest and breathe a lot because you are also at very high altitude so in addition to breathing heavy from hiking, there isn´t as much oxygen in the air. But I did not cry or despair like I have done on hard hikes before, I just kept going. It was hard, but it wasn´t that hard, you know? But, it was fucking hard.

In Spanish, it was a Puta Madre. In English, a Mother Fucker. If you´re Dave Clarke, it was a Fuck whore.

But, everyone thought that. No one thinks it is easy or reasonable, so I had a lot of company.

Machu Picchu 4

But, then you make it to the top. Finally. Jeez. Just about five minutes after we made it to the top and set out a blanket and were eating some food, the fog started to lift. You could watch it roll up the mountains, which was amazing itself. Then we could see Machu Picchu spread out below us. And the thing is, that is the least of the view. Being able to see all of the mountains all around was just as impressive. So here is the photo that you take when you get to the top of Wana Picchu.

And I felt really really proud of myself. That I made it up all the way and it felt good.

On the left, you can see the zig zag of the bus route up and what you walk up - there are stairs, but jeez. It´s a long way, no wonder Fernando didn´t come up Wana Picchu with us. It was also his fifth trip or so to Machu Picchu and he had done it before. I think it´s one of those hikes you do once, just so you never have to do it again.


Raquel. Not close to the edge.

Perfectly, she didn´t really have much trouble climbing up but was deathly afraid of going back down, so she proposed that she cary the backpack up the mountain if I would cary it back down. YOU GOT IT!

Here is Wana Picchu from below. It is a dang good thing that it was fogged over and we couldn´t see what we were getting into, I would never have even tried. It was a great experience of realizing that the story I have been telling myself isn´t true anymore. The person who left the US would not have been able to climb that, but I have dropped a bunch of pounds and done a lot of exercize and now I can. It makes me much more confident to try things that I was afraid to before. That was/is a really neat feeling.

Machu Picchu 5

The way down was so much easier, but still pretty hard, the steps are steep and there are no guard rails. I went first so that Raquel could see where I was putting my feet and follow me. It felt really good to be able to be helpful as well. When we got back down and were walking toward the main part of the ruin, Fernando called my name. Yay! We all found each other again. He is in the middle of this photo in the gray t-shirt. We all sat for an hour or so visiting before deciding to go explore some more of the ruins. Well, as it turned out, Raquel and I didn´t have the leg strength to go do a bunch more walking so we just ended up heading out and back to Aguas Calientes. I will definitely go again and hire a guide and walk all the ruins next time. As it is, I am really happy with the walk up Wanapicchu.

Overlooking the Andes from Machu Picchu. The fog is covering many many many mountains in the distance. It is easy to see why they would bother to build their city here.

Another photo of Wanapicchur overlooking some of the ruins.

I took a silly amount of photos of the mountains. In the next few days I will put up a folder of all the pics I took and you will laugh. But I am just so amazed every single time I see them. I can´t believe this is where I live for the moment.

And here is a photo from the train overlooking the river and the mountains. Here is where I will leave the story of our trip to Machu Picchu. It was perfect and great and I´m very glad I did it without a tour and with Raquel and Fernando.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

photo comments

I finally put comments on my photos to the left...........

Now it is a lazy day in Cusco. I am trying to get up the gumption to leave the hostal and take my clothes to be cleaned before heading out to Machu Picchu tomorrow. Better do it soon or I will have no clothing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

some photos and more

From the second floor balcony of the hostal. I´m not quite sure what the oxen are about yet, but they always make me smile. I guess that´s what they´re about.

The skies here are sooooo big. It´s just amazing all the time and the clouds are always really interesting. They make the mountains look totally different everyday for the shadows they cast. I love coming out of my room every morning to this view.

We walked up the hill behind the hostal the other day and this is a photo overlooking Cusco.

There is no doubt about who runs this town. Not one of them have been neutured or has had rabies shots. You definitely let the dogs do what they want. A girl we know got bitten recently and had to go through the rabies shots - 6 shots that cost nearly s/700 ($700 soles - around $300). That sucked and we all try to avoid it for sure.

This is the hostal from the kitchen door during a rain storm. I love how bright all the colors are. My room is on the second floor a little further to the right than you can see here.

I don´t really recommend reading the following stories. They are stories of some of the kids in the jail that I wasn´t sure about writing here, but did so for posterity for myself. They are sad stories.

So the police station has been really bothering me this week. There haven´t been many kids, so it´s not that, it´s their stories.

There is one little boy who is mentally ill can´t tell us where he lives. He was completely unresponsive for a few days and is starting to open up and be more communicative, but if you ask him about his mom, her name or where she lives, he shuts right down and wont talk again for some time. Watching him come to life is amazing and I love to play with him, I just hope that some orphanage picks him up before his mom finds him.

There is a little girl who´s mom left her at the police station while she went on vacation. We were bringing the kids back from the outside yard and there was a woman very nicely dressed with high heels and a nice hair do and asked one of the other volunteers if she was with "her" meaning her daughter and she said she was. So this woman handed her a bag saying it was her pajamas and toothbrush and a dolly for her. We were confused because usually the parents are there to get their kids out but then she said, happy as can be, "She´s just sad cause it´s the first time I´ve left her here to go on vacation." We were just stunned. It´s like she thought she was taking her to summer camp or something. Not very often do I have the violent reaction of wanting to hit someone, but I sure wanted to just knock her in the side of the head. Her daughter just standing there crying. This is how people get broken.

One little girl was there two days this week, she was probably one and a half or two and her hand was burned so badly she will probably lose some fingers. There is no way this was self inflicted wound. They took her to the doctor the first day and he removed the black dead tissue but then she was just back in the most unsanitary place ever with her gaping open wound. It was so sick and sad and she just sat there, eyes dead to the world, never cried once.

Another girl of about 12 just cries all the time. Someone finally worked out today that she has been raped since arriving at the jail. No one knows if it was a prisoner or a guard but there she sits, just crying.

Three boys escaped last night from the police station (I use this interchangeably with jail as they are the same). They managed to get the bars over the window open a little and make a rope of clothing to lower themselves down with. We were all praying that they made it out of Cusco but I just heard that they were captured and are being held downstairs with the adults and their lives are going to be really really aweful for a while.

I wasn´t sure about sharing this stuff cause it´s just bad, but I had to get it out of my system and if the point of this blog is to remind me, I have to remember this stuff as well.

But I have next week off to go to Machu Picchu and some other ruins and I will be glad glad to be out in the andes and in the sacred valley.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

hi everybody!

So I have been thinking about food lately. It´s hard not to obsess with food when it is so good and so cheap.

Vegetables taste like vegetables here. I am still surprised every single time I take a bite of a potato. Every single time it is like remembering what they taste like. Being transported back in time to my mom´s garden and the potatos and carrots being so fresh and tasting like the earth. Tomatoes taste like tomatoes. It is just so good every single time. And cheap. The fruit here is super cheap - three avacados for one sole (3.27 soles to the dollar), three mangos for a sole. Three glasses of fresh juice for 2 soles. Going to the market to get food almost every day is fantastic. There are a ton of set menu places for 2 or 3 soles. You get a first course of soup and can choose from a list for your second course. Sometimes rice and chicken, one of my favorite stands has a beef and lentils and rice and salad choice. And fruit juice of the day. It works out to be more expensive to cook than to eat out, even though buying food is really cheap.

Cusco is a very international city as well and has restaurants from all over the world that are really good and for the most part, pretty cheap. We go often to an Israeli restaurant that has a 9 sole (three dollar) meal where you can choose which courses you want. I always end up getting hummus and felafel and french fries and salad and bread and strawberry juice and a fruit salad. It is way to much food to eat and it always makes me sooo happy. There are pizza joints and Indian food and cafes and such. There is a place called Jack´s Cafe where the food is very Northwestern but it´s expensive (at 15 soles a meal!) so we don´t go there very often, but it is very good.

Living at Yuri´s house didn´t work out for whatever miscommunication, but I am still happy at the hostal. I will probably move before too long as there are some really great deals available. Some friends of mine just moved into a room with four beds that is 400 soles a month, so 100 soles each - about $32 per month. I will try to take photos of it soon. It is just a simple room with bunk beds and the bathroom is shared downstairs among all the renters and the water is luke-warm so no hot showers (but you are never guaranteed a hot shower anyway, you just might get lucky sometimes). But, $32 a month, you could live for a long time. What I am paying now at the hostal is $150 a month which is 486 soles so I am sure I can find something between 100 soles and 486 soles that will be great. I feel like I am starting to get the hang of this city and find the local stuff, you know?

I think I am headed to Machu Picchu on Monday, so will look forward to telling that story when I get back. We are not going on a guided tour, just putting our own together so we´ve been asking all around about the best way to do it which is fun. As of now, I am going with a girl from Spain, Raquel who has moved into the room with Laura and I and is super great. We will see if anyone else ends up joining us. For now I will not be doing the Inca trail as it is closed in February for cleaning which is why we´re going to Machu Picchu now, there are many many many less tourists than normal. There are plenty of hikes along the Inca trail from here so I will just do some of that later.

Jail is still good. I will admit to looking forward to next week off from volunteering but suspect that I will just go anyway after we get back from MP. We´ve been doing some English classes and today we did geography and such. It has to be pretty simplified, but I am amazed at the interest that they have and the questions that they ask. It´s been so long since anyone has tried to teach them anything or thought they were worthy or capable of learning, that they are hungry to learn stuff.

Thanks to everyone who has put packages in the mail, I can´t wait to see and share whatever the contents are.

alright, love you all!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

my new hero

There were 33 kids in the policia today! That is so many. Hard to keep track of. But my favorite part about this morning was the old lady who was there. Sometimes they put the "ancianos" (ancients) that they pick up on the street in with the kids cause, well, i don´t know why, but they do. So anyway, old Kichwa lady, as old as the hills, doesn´t speak any Spanish, only Kichwan (or Quechuan depending on how you feel like spelling it. It is a phonetic language that was never written until recently so people disagree on how to spell things). So she has two different shoes on her feet and another in her hand and she is just kind of roaming around hitting people with it. Well, the big scary police captain that makes everyone nervous and sit up straight and such came in to try to find out her name. She asked him to lean closer because she couldn´t hear him and started hitting him in the head with her shoe! We were all laughing but trying not to laugh and afraid he would hit her, but he was just so surprised that she probably got in six or seven hits before he slunk off with 33 kids and 3 volunteers and one aciana laughing at him. That was the best thing I´ve seen in a very very long time.

Maybe I haven´t mentioned that the police can be really aweful and sometimes just beat on the kids and there is nothing you can say or do about it? It sure was great to see an old lady beating the police today.

I will be going this afternoon to look at the apartment of Yuri, who is the director of the program here. He is leaving to Lima for a month and asked me if I would house sit for him. Everyone who has been there says it is super fantastic, so I am looking forward to living in a house (as opposed to a hostal) again and not paying rent for a month. Also he lives only two blocks from the center of town, so that will be nice. My own shower, my own kitchen, it will be so fantastic.

It feels good to be settling into here. After today I have told them that I don´t want to do the police station on Saturdays anymore so that I can have more time for exploring. I am feeling a little silly and bad that I haven´t been out more since Cusco has such amazing stuff to offer. I am just so low on energy when I get back from the policia that I don´t feel like going out. I am hoping that as I get more accustomed to it that will change and I will start to do more stuff. I think that also living by myself will mean that I get out more since I wont be entertained at "home".

Love you!

Monday, February 2, 2009

AAAAH. Monday.

Back at the "Policia" this week but not at the school. It is just way too much to do both. I was running out of patience for the kids at the school by the end of the day. This way I get to work 9-12:30 and then have all afternoon off which is nice. Waiting around to go to school at 3:00 is kind of hard and you just feel like you´ve wasted your day.

I will now begin the job of looking for a job as well. Now that I have afternoons off and pretty guaranteed that schedule if I want it, I can start to find something. I am thinking of offering massages here at the hostal for volunteers for a good rate. Also because this is such a tourist town, there must be opportunities for someone bilingual and it is time to start searching them out.

I am feeling really good about being here. I am feeling like a lot of the stuff I wanted to change up and reconnect with in my own soul is happening. So much of the trip was trying to reconnect with a person in me that I was losing. Someone less cynical and more willing to help. More open to people and loving and sweet. I was really starting to spend so much time drinking and partying and being "cool" that I was starting to suck. So, I am feeling like a lot of that is turning around for me here. Being nice to people just because I can be and having that rewarded and reciprocated is pretty amazing. And to be doing that with kids feels really good.

There was a baby at the policia today who was 18 days old. Imagine. Abandoned and I´m sure she wont be there much more than a day til they can find her an orphanage, but it was pretty incredible. And the toughest, smartass boy there today was going through all the clothing looking for something small enough for her to wear and was being so sweet. Then he would turn around and snarl at someone for catching him being sweet. I am really growing to appreciate these kids so much.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

new slideshow

I spent hours and hours and hours today uploading the latest batch of images so you now have a new slideshow! I will try to get some comments on them soon. I hope everyone is having a great Sunday. Or Monday, or whatever day you read this.
Love you,