Wednesday, March 25, 2009

hill villages

Some indiginous kids out playing at school - the gringos are the photographers that I went up with. I used to think they just got dressed up in their costumes to show off for tourists, I was glad to see that they actually wear them all the time.

They really are just like postcards.


This is one of the women we are working on the spinning wheel program with. They cart wool and spin by hand. Then weave on little backpack looms. Then when we see these beautiful weavings for 50 soles and think ¨that´s too much!¨ I am a little ashamed cause $18 just is nowhere enough, you know? But I´m still a schmuck and haven´t bought any.

Some of the folks with the spinning wheels. There is this really interesting thing that happens where they are willing to be freaks in a sideshow and let people take their pictures as though they were objects so that they can get stuff. You can tell they hate it but they haven´t figured out another way to get the help. It is very strange indeed. I didn´t take very many photos, just piggybacked a little on the photographer but it still feels kind of weird. I did meet a school director today that I really liked though and am excited to get to talk to him more. He wasn´t willing to pull kids out of class just to be photographed for example because so many tourists come wanting to just take pictures of these novelties and he says they need to be in class, not being distracted all the time. And the tactic that many people use is to give candy to the kids to pose and he thinks they shouldn´t be taught that their time and essence can be bought for a couple of pieces of candy. They are doing intensive studies of the native Andian culture also at the school so that as they are ¨westernized¨ their culture isn´t lost in the meantime. Classes are taught in Spanish and Quechuan and it´s run by Peruvians which is nice. He and I got along really well and he asked me to come back and visit with him some more and maybe there are some things I can help with there. This felt nice as one definitely understands that he is not of the ¨yay! gringos to buy us stuff!¨ part of the culture but more of the ¨unless you are actually useful to me I´d rather not have you making distractions¨ as opposed to the other school we went to where the kids were encouraged to come fight for candy in order to pose for photos and classes be damned.
Also I was excited because some of the Quechuan I´m learning came in handy. ¨How are you?¨ ¨What´s your name?¨ Stuff like that. Some of the close ups with the kids that I have came not through candy but through trying to speak their language and having them teach me and laugh at my pronounciation which was very gratifying. Also they really do love to see their photos on the camera after taking them.
All in all a very interesting day and I am really grateful I got to go up and look forward to more of this type of exploring.
love to you all!

Monday, March 23, 2009

some pic updates

Laura and Jules up in the ruins

same ruins from a little further away - you can just make out Laura standing in the lower right corner

When I head out to sit by the creek, this is one of my spots.

I´m pretty sure there are mules for this. I have seen them.

oooops! forgot this one. Some friends in a ruin in Urubamba. Left to Right - Ilipio, Nico, Daniel and some boy in the street that decided to join us. Daniel is a guide so it was great to have his insight. Ilipio and Nico and another cousin Ronnie are becoming fun parts of my daily life and we might have shared a bottle of rum last night playing cards in my house but it can´t be proven.

oh yeah, speaking of my house. terrible news! the landlord told me today that he rented the whole house to someone and I have to leave by April 15. But I figure if I found that place in one day I shouldn´t (knock on wood) have too much trouble finding somewhere else I love in a month.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


All right, so what´s going on in my world?

I live here. I am meeting people and have lots of people to say hello to as I walk through town which I am finding so fun. I know which stall in the market I like best, have a regular juice lady, a favorite set menu lunch place, a few best taxi drivers, how to unlock the door for the old indian lady who can never figure out how to get into her house and just sits in front waiting for someone to come along and help, my favorite bartender, who makes the best tomatoe soup. The small things that make a life, you know?

My friends Laura and Jules from Cusco came and spent the last couple of days with me and we had such a great time. I had been feeling really lonely on Tuesday so I was really glad to have them show up. We did a bunch of great walks exploring where I live. Impossible to say which was best, they were all amazing. We climbed up the hill behind town to a little village and had a beer in the garden of a kind of store and chicha bar and visited with the old local men and laughed about how bad my Quechuan is. We walked down the street of a hundred windows but we kept getting distracted and I still don´t know how many windows there are. We walked along the Incan terraces down to the river and sat by it for a while which was really nice. Yesterday we went up into some of the ruins which was great. They are never quite as cool when you´re in them cause you can´t see them really, but I´ve been meaning to head up to explore them for a while so it was great to do it. Then we went out of town the other way and ended up walking down to the river and along the railroad tracks for a few kilometers then hiked up to the village of San Isidro and walked back along the road. Every single place had me marveling that I get to live here. Also Laura and Jules saying the same. Dang! you live here!

We bought some rum and coke and drank at my house with my neighbor Carlos who is a paramedic here in town and my friend Nico and his friend Ilipio. Then we headed out to the disco and stayed out until about 4:30 in the morning. Today was breakfast and getting Laura and Jules out of here and cleaning house and book reading. Nico had a soccer game tonight at 7 that I was hoping to get to but I didn´t hear from him so I will try to go to their game tomorrow.

I have an appointment with the municipilidad on Monday at 9am to talk about teaching English and then on Wednesday with a guy who started a program to get some of the native women in a small village up above somewhere a few hours away spinning wheels so they don´t have to spin the yarn by hand and can produce more. I guess that they are going up on Wednesday with a photographer from the US and he asked me to come along both to see it and help translate. I am really looking forward to getting up a little into the Indian villages. Also, I totally know how to help produce a photo shoot.

Love you all, I will try to figure out the phone stuff soon so I can make some calls, I know some of you are waiting for them. It might not be until Tuesday when I am back in Cusco though.

off to find some food.

Monday, March 16, 2009

pics of my house.

my house

my house

my balcony

street of a hundred windows. built by the inca and the street i live on. i haven´t counted them personally but one day i will see if there are really one hundred windows.

more of my room.

i have to run but will write a proper post soon. love you!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

dando vueltas

Gathering things to move into a place has been really fun.

Yesterday I went mattress shopping, this morning I went to the furniture street. Kind of an alley next to the train tracks in a whole different part of town I've never been to where people are selling furniture. It's about a half mile long and I had to buy one piece and then ask the lady if I could leave it there and bring more pieces as I bought them so they would be safe then back and forth buying things. "I like these stools but I don't know if they fit with my table, can I take one of them to find out?" Leave a deposit, walk to the other end of the row with a stool to sit at a table I'm thinking of buying, yes, it fits. I'll take the table. Wait, I can't carry both. I will come back for the table, don't sell it. Take the stool back to the stool lady, carry two of them to the holding place, go get the table since it's closer, carry it to the holding place, go get the other stools. Wait a minute, I like that night stand. How much? Make me a good price. Okay, I'll take it but I have to come back for it, don't sell it. No, you must take it now or I will sell it. Okay, can I leave the stools here while I carry the table? Great, I'll be right back.

and on and on and on.

Then find a cab that can carry all the pieces. Hire a boy to watch the pieces on the street as I carry them from the holding place to the street to get a cab. Only a station wagon will work and he knows it and charges me more than double but there is nothing to be done but pay it. Unload the furniture at the hostel.

Then to buy blankets and pay for the mattress and pillows and sheets.

I am now getting the last of my stuff ready and staged at the door to be ready for the truck that will take me to Ollantaytambo.

But first I have to go to some special place to rent it. They will want to charge me a hundred soles but I shouldn't pay more than seventy. This is easier said than done, especially since he has to come to the hostel to pick up all my stuff and furniture then to the bed store to get the mattresses.

I was meant to have help with all of this stuff but it fell through so I've been doing it alone and while it would be easier with help, it is gratifying to be able to navigate it all.

We'll see if I say the same when I finally get to Ollantaytambo and hopefully my amigo will be there to help me unload and up three flights of stairs. We'll see!

I will finally be living in South America. Not staying with friends or staying in hostels. I am very excited about this. And unpacking into a new space is one of my favorite things in the world. So.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

some photos for you - I managed to buy a cable today in the crazy market.

One of the mountains from Ollantaytambo - it's called the something singers - this can be seen from my new bedroom window. wahoos!

Taken from the bus on the way to Ollantaytambo going through the sacred valley.

Adam came running into the hostal the other day yelling "come on! come one! let's be in a parade!" so we ran out and joined the parade. I don't know who the saint is, but they set off fireworks at each intersection and the marching band played and drank Chicha and a great time was had by all. There are 3 or 4 parades a week though so it wasn't too uncommon, but still fun.

Another amazing sky over the mountains in Peru.

When I was in Calca I stopped at the river to eat lunch and this is the photo from that spot. See why I would move to the Sacred Valley???

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

SI! (or if you're learning Quechuan, Ari!)

I GOT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I leave Cusco on Saturday with a truck load of furniture! I am so excited. I can't wait to make a home - it's been since the end of July since I've had a home. A place to escape to and make mine and beautiful.

I have lost my camera cord so am going to try to buy one tomorrow to post pictures.

It is the most spiritual place I have ever been. There is definitely a reason they call it The Sacred Valley and I can't wait to live there.

Have I said I can't wait to live there yet? I was in the middle of the street doing happy dances much to the chagrin of my new friend who has to live there and now he's the guy who knows the crazy American. I just couldn't help it. My cheeks still hurt from smiling. And I'm smiling all the time.

I think I am going to set up a program to help the women who work the Artisan market outside of the ruins learn English a few hours a week. Maybe if someone wants more classes or their kids want classes or something we can work out a trade for some of the amazing crafts that they make that I really want but can't afford to buy.

Also my friend Nicolas is going to take me up to some of the villages you can only get to through a couple of days of walking and I can bring them supplies that you've sent since they never see any of the help that comes to Cusco. He speaks Quechuan and is going to help me out with that and help translate with them.

Have I said yet that I am excited?

I love my life.

and I love you.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I got on the bus yesterday mid-day heading out to look at more towns. I decided to start in Ollantaytambo as I remembered really liking it on the way to Machu Picchu. I was right. I am falling in serious love with this town. It is so beautiful and the weather is great. It´s full moon tomorrow and it is so bright and amazing. And when the moon isn´t out, the stars are AMAZING with no light pollution and being so high up. Ollantaytambo is still pretty high at nearly 3,000 meters, but I think somehow that it wont be as cold. This may be wishful hoping.

I met some guys in the plaza yesterday and one of them offered to walk around with me this morning looking for places so we met up and walked all over town this morning. After the disappointment of a house I had my eye on having been rented two days ago! we found lots of places that were okay, but nothing I fell in love with until the last chance ditch effort. Then we saw a place that is a room in a sort of hotel house on the third floor with the most amazing views from the window and the balcony! and it´s big and the roof slants and I can make a little kitchen in it and there is a bathroom with hot showers in the hall and I love it and I hope I get to live there. We will go back this afternoon to talk to him about price and such. Man, I hope I hope I hope.

The people who run the hostel I am staying at are really nice. I stopped and had a beer last night at the bar and visited with the owner for quite some time and he is really nice. I now have this new friend who helped me today and is going to go shopping with me in Cusco for the things I need and is a guide here and we´ve already talked about so many treks we´re going to take. He is going to teach me Quechua and I am going to help with his English. This is the life I wanted. In 24 hours I know more people in Ollantaytambo that I met in Cusco in nearly two months - tourists aside.

After we went apartment hunting, we went walking out to some ruins they just found and are excavating. I am excited to have a friend that is a guide! We have many plans. I love this town.

I hope I get this place. I love it. and when you love something, especially a potential home, there is no real explaining it. I saw three other places that would be just as good theorhetically, but I didn´t love them. Probably I am too attached. But in the next hour I should know the answer. yayayayayay!

And I want to do trade with the locals who make the weavings and such. If they have kids that want English lessons I can give them in trade for some craftwork. I would love to get that working out because then I could have some of this beautiful work that I can´t afford to buy.

Gotta go see a man about a house. I will let you know how it goes.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pisaq and Calca

So today my new roommate Julia from Germany and I got up at 7:30 and headed out to the valley.

We stopped at the favorite juice lady in the market and grabbed some bread and cheese and fruit for lunch then got on the bus.

First we stopped in Pisaq which I wasn't in love with. They have a super huge tourist market on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday so we were passing tour buses like crazy on the way. Every lookout place where the buses stop were a load of traditionally dressed natives selling stuff and photos with their children and llamas. Unfortunately I forgot to grab my camera today but I'm sure I will have plenty of opportunities to take photos of this. For free, from the local bus window.

Pisaq didn't seem to have much personality other than waiting for market day and I think that if I chose to live there I would run into the same "always a tourist" problem I am running into here so we moved on down the line to Calca, passing Coya and Lamay on the way.

Calca is cool, we spent a few hours walking around and we ate lunch and such. I looked at a couple of rooms for rent that were okay - ridiculously cheap - one for 50 soles a month, the other for 70 soles a month (3.27 soles per dollar) and unfurnished with shared bathrooms with cold water. Not really what I'm looking for, but it gives me hope that I can find something amazing for 300 soles. My strategy is going to be to take next week and spend the week in the valley, stay in hostels and look for apartments every day and see what I can come up with. Unless I fall particularly in love with any of these towns, I may just see where I find the best spot to live and move there.

Also in Calca is a three wheeled motorcycle with a hard shell for sale. I am having dreams of buying it and toodling all around the Sacred Valley in it. I am having to force myself to not call and ask him how much it is but I might do it anyway. Also dreams of being the lady gringa taxi driver in the rad ass taxi. There is no way to explain this, I will just have to get the photo from Julia and post it. It is amazing and I want to drive it to the tip of South America. If I knew how to work on motorcycles I would be much more likely to really persue it.

I have been having a great time on these adventures lately and look forward to more of them coming up. I promise to remember my camera next time. I was going to head to Coya and Lamay tomorrow, but I got a notice that I have a package so I get to go to the post office instead. How exciting!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

movin' on down

I am going to move out of Cusco!

This week has come up with something good, which is a decision at least. I have decided to move to a small town near Cusco and live there. Which one? I don't know yet. I get to go visiting them to find out, which will be super fun. I had been looking for organizations in small towns to hook up with, but I think that if I move somewhere I can just go looking around on my own for ways to help and I don't need to be part of something already existing.

Cusco is just a tourist town. No matter how long I lived here, I would never stop being a tourist and I would much rather have the chance to experience a more authentic Peru, especially since I have so much time here. It is a great jumping off point to all sorts of amazing stuff so I want to be close. I think I will probably end up in the Sacred Valley, which is so so so amazing and a little warmer. Last night I was wearing long johns, socks, a hat and under four wool blankets and a comforter and couldn't sleep cause it was sooo cold. It's not even winter yet. Nuts to that. It will be winter in the sacred valley and I will be wearing long johns anyway, but it wont be unbearable. I think.

So tomorrow I head out for more adventures of getting to know small towns. This is so fun. Yesterday I went to a place called Lamay and walked around for a few hours and it was quiet and peaceful and beautiful and, well, the sacred valley. Views of the Andes all around, river running through, paradise for sure. I didn't walk around the town part though so I get to go back. sweet!

I did visit with a couple this week that was interested in having me be their volunteer coordinator which sounded really interesting in a lot of ways. I feel like it would have taught me so much about what I want to do that I was tempted. But, they wanted me to sign a one year contract the next day and weren't clear on a lot of things and weren't interested in offering anything back, like room and board at least. But I was struggling, because it would be like free school also. But at the end of the day I decided not to do it because they charge their volunteers. You can't sell what you wont buy, and I am so opposed to charging or paying for volunteer work that I just couldn't do it. Hopefully another opportunity to learn that kind of stuff will come up in a manner that is better suited. Also the wife was kind of aweful and we would have fought for a year straight. No thanks.