Saturday, April 25, 2009


Let´s see, I tried to write a post yesterday and felt like I had lots to say but I couldn´t get the internet to work properly and today when it is working I can´t think of anything to write about.

A couple of people have asked me why coming home and why not stay indefinitely. Mostly because the places I can find to work means that I would have to live in a city. boooo. I don´t want to do that. I prefer being in Ollantaytambo and there is no place here that has money to pay me to teach. I´m sure I could pick up a job at a hotel or bartending, but the reality is that the people who live here have such a hard time finding work that I would hate to take a job that they could have. Maybe when high season comes on Noemi and Roger´s bar will need an extra person to help and I would do that since I live with them and all. So I am living on savings and since I have a plane ticket home already paid for in October which is just about when my money will run out, it seems like it makes sense to take it. Then I will head home and try to find a job and save up some money again and head down to Central America. Of course these are all speculations and anything could change at any moment. Just thought I´d give the rational.

Tomorrow is my birthday and today some of my students came by my house and brought me a homemade cake. Cake is very hard to make as there are no ovens as we think of them and only big clay ovens where you make a fire - very hard to regulate cake baking. So everyone always just buys a cake if there is need for one so I was very touched that they went through the effort of homemaking one for me. I am going to head to the Quechua Blues Bar tomorrow evening after a long walk (the bar noemi and roger own) to meet with some friends and have some beers. I think the disco is open on Sundays these days so we might head there as well. I´m sure a fun birthday will ensue whatever happens.

Also special love to Todd who shares tomorrow with me, I couldn´t ask for a better birthday buddy in all the world.

Happy spring! Love you,

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

ah, the teacher learns as much if not more than the students.

I had my first day of teaching at the school yesterday and it was so fun! Part of what I enjoy about it is that it requires you to be 100% present at all times. Maybe especially since teaching is new to me I never know how it´s going to go so I have to b willing and ready to abandon all plans in a moment´s notice and think of something new to do. It is so good for me to do this. Read the class and notic when something isn´t working before it gets too bad. One of my classes yesterday I finally sent out to run around the yard a few laps because they were so antsy and wouldn´t listen and I found myself starting to yell at them. As easy as it is to yell, it doesn´t go very far toward getting you what you want so I just sent them out to run. I wasn´t sure how that was going to go over with the director of the school who was also their teacher but when I asked him about it he said that they always fall apart at exactly that time and he thought that sending them out to run was a great idea and he would try it as well. whew!

I have also taken on a couple of hours three days a week at the community center with the kids there before my adult class. That is fun cause you never know who will be there and there are close to thirty kids at any time of all ages so I don´t even have to pretend to have some sort of plan about how to teach them over the long term, I just invent games and we play them and we don´t have to be building on yesterday´s lesson or anything like that. Just playing games and whatever they happen to pick up on the way is bonus. I do a lot of running around games with them but today I think we´re going to play animal bingo.

I am enjoying being busier in lots of ways. I have been neglecting going on as many walks as I´d like so I will have to figure out a way to put that back in my life.

So Sunday is my birthday and I am going to head to my favorite bar and have a meal and some drinks and hang out. They are going to have a party at the school on Tuesday for my birthday and a welcome to a new teacher so that should be fun. Usually at this time of year right around my birthday I start feeling really meloncholy and sad about stuff and frustrated with my life but it doesn´t seem to be showing up too much right now which is nice. There are still a few days to go but I am feeling optimistic about this year looking like it´s going to break that cycle.

I haven´t actually changed my plane ticket yet but it is looking like I will be in Portland close to the end of October and I find myself looking forward to it lots. Of course the people are the biggest reason, but there are so many small things that I hadn´t thought about like washers and dryers and chicken fried steak with gravy and coffee with cream and books on purpose.

Happy spring - coming into fall here but because the cold season is the dry season it isn´t too bad yet. I may be cold but at least it´s sunny and beautiful. Much easier than being cold in the rain. Although I think I´ve decided to leave here in time to spend a week on the beach in Ecuador before heading home to another winter in a row.

Love you all!

Friday, April 17, 2009

the Alcalde speaks

The most interesting thing is happening today. Starting at 9am this morning, the mayor of Ollantaytambo started speaking in the town square. It is now nearly 1pm and he is still talking - and some other people from the town government. They are talking about the works that have been done and how much they cost and the works they plan to do and how much they cost and other sorts of general town business and the whole town has been out all day watching and listening. It is amazing to me. I can´t quite imagine this happening at home. I know there are town meetings, but have you ever actually been to one? And it was never in the main square with schools and businesses shut down to go and listen. I listened for a while but can´t understand very well - this is still true of speeches and things though my one on one spanish is getting very good.

Fun to see it out the window as I am looking for games to play with my English class this afternoon. Learning how to be a teacher is an interesting process and sometimes I have excellent classes that I am so excited about and sometimes I blow it and we end up just kind of looking at each other. Luckily, when that happens I just laugh and say ´okay, what do you want to learn?´ and they ask me all sorts of questions we would probably never get to in normal lessons. Today we are going to go over the alphabet again and again. I am finding that though many people have spent years studying English, their pronounciation is so so so bad that they are impossible to understand. This is frustrating for them and for me so I am trying to spend a lot of time with that and mke the English they have learned more useful to them. Sometimes they get frustrated that they feel like they aren´t learning more new words but I just keep explainging to them that it doesn´t matter how many words they know if no one can understand them. We´re getting there though.

I start teaching kids next week in an elementary school so that will be a whole different level of learning to teach and preparing classes. Of course I will teach different things to four year olds than I will teach to first, third and fifth graders. I suspect my prep time is about to go through the roof. But it is fun anyway and I think it will be more fun to play games and such with kids. The adults learn more with games than lectures but it takes a while to get them to be willing to play and be silly. But, I firmly believe that you are learning more if-as you are laughing. When they are paying more attention to the game, they aren´t being so nervous about the words and if you can get them to be shouting and laughing as they are saying words and phrases in English then they will be less likely to be shy about them later.

I am headed to Cusco tomorrow to pick up a package from Geoff and Whackadoos and then staying for The Village People. Hopefully they will actually play this time and not disappoint us again. Although last time there were going to be a dozen or so of us going together but by now everybody but me and Donnie have split town so it will just be us. Not quite the same experience, but I´m sure we´ll have a great time anyway.

Love you all!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

photos of days in the life

Mountain with a cross on it.

View from a mountain with a cross on it.

These trucks are people movers which always creeps me out. That whole truck is full of villagers - it was raining is why there is a tarp on it. It alwasy feels like a scene out of a movie with refugees fleeing somewhere when I see people getting in or out. When I was living on the third floor I would watch them go by from the balconey and just be astounded at it.

Guys painting the three story building where I lived. With paintbrushes on sticks and ladders made out of sticks and bailing wire. That is not an exageration. (I wish I could remember how to spell.) At one point they were standing on an awning after climbing out my window painting and talking about how dangerous it was but not not doing it, just talking about it.

Up on the mountain with a cross. The woman next to me is Noemi´s mom whom I live with now. I am going to have to figure out her name at some point though it feels a little late to ask. That happens to me a lot and I hate it. Guys in the municipal building where I teach english that I talk to every day. Don´t know their names. No way to ask now. sigh.
My head happens to be blocking the floggings. dang.

Monday, April 13, 2009

flogging strikes

heyo so there is a new slide show with comments and everything.

things are going well here. I move tomorrow into a new place. It isn´t as nice but it´s in the house of the family of a friend and i have my own door to the street so that will be really helpful.

last week was holy week so there were processions every night for various reasons and I walked a few of them. I also climbed up one of the mountains at 4:30 in the morning Friday as part of a procession. I was surprised to find when I got up there that part of the whole reason for the walk was that the priest was flogging people on the cross. Apparently the logic is that since Jesus bothered to die on the cross for our sins, the least we can do is share some of his pain. Like helping him, if you get flogged it´s less for him. Anyway, I did not get in that line. But it was lovely to climb the mountain during dawn. I suspected that I would never bother to climb all they way up there on my own so I was glad to go with the rest of town.

I finally made it to a futbol match yesterday which was pretty fun. I was with futbol players so they were really loud and exciting and it was great.

This morning I went to get a cup of coffee and was a little confused because every business was closed including the municipal building where I was supposed to give classes and the market where I was going to get some food. Ghost town, nobody around, not even the dogs which was eerie and creepy then a friend pulled me into his restaurant and shut the door again. There was a strike on today and in a few more minutes there came the parading crowd yelling and such. Nothing happened but he said that sometimes they will get mob-like and if anywhere is open they might go in and wreck it. I spent a couple of hours with them just to be sure but there didn´t end up being any bad stuff happening so eventually I went out the back door and headed home for the day. I guess there is another one tomorrow but at least now I know what´s going on and can stay out of the way. It´s kind of hard to tell what it´s about, some people said that the farmers don´t want to pay for water, and then something about the railroads and that in some places they destroyed some rail lines. I tried to find some news about it but don´t know yet. Strikes are pretty common in Peru so it wasn´t too big of a deal, just interesting to walk into the plaze expecting lots of activity and finding none.

hasta soon,

Saturday, April 11, 2009

stupid technology

I just spent about two hours updating my photo album to give you a new slideshow but it wont show up yet. I will try to link to it tomorrow.
Gotta go or I will have to pay more for the internet, I will write properly tomorrow.
Love you all,

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

friends. leaving and coming.

Adam, Julia and Donnie on the way to Machu Picchu. They spent a day with me before heading out and we had a great time. This was the last time seeing Adam, Julia I will see again in June and Donney doesn´t leave until the end of April, so I´m sure I will see him again. It is definitely strange to get close to people knowing that a day will come when you just wont see them again.

Sunset up the valley from the river. We went down and had a picnic next to the Urubamba which is one of my all time favorite things to do.

Some ruins as you come into Ollantaytambo. One of my favorite things about living here is that there isn´t just one set of ruins that you pay to enter, they are everywhere. The walk to the river is along some terraces and then there is clearly something that must have been a building as the stones are more on purpose and cut into squares. But just everywhere you go, there are more ruins and it´s neat cause you know that they lived everywhere in this valley, not just in one little archeological park or something.

It was Adam´s birthday last weekend and we had a great party in Cusco. The Village People show was rescheduled for April 18 so we ended up going to the Aldea Yanapay restaurant and all sorts of people sang and played guitar and made up songs and a great time was had by all. I have missed this sort of thing so much that it was really soul gratifying. On the left is Julian who came to visit a couple of weeks ago, in the middle is Donnie and then Adam. They make up songs all the time and Donnie made up a beautiful song about me this night and I was flattered and wish I had a recording of it.

This is my old lady. I don´t know what her name is as she has at least a speech impediment and very probably some mental illness. She is the one who can´t figure out how to unlock her door and so just sits in front of her house until someone comes along to let her in. When I see her in the market I buy her some bread and some fruit or something. She is always complaining - non verbally - about her joints hurting and it always makes me think of my grandpa who would tell me ¨Maryjane, don´t get old, you wont like it.¨

I am going to look at a room this afternoon that I might move into. Not as great as the one I have in that it is on the ground floor so no view, but it is in the house of the people I like best in all of Ollantaytambo and so would have a great social aspect. We will see. I am also talking to the people who are taking over where I live to make a hostel about the possibility of working for them in exchange for my rent as it could only help to have someone who speaks english helping them for a while. We´ll see about that as well.

So my friends Matt and Mel both have paid plane tickets to visit me and Geoff is talking about it. I am so excited that I get to share this place with folks from home. It is just so amazing and by then I should really know some great places. My friend Guillermo and I are going to start taking day trips once a week on his day off starting next week - we made a whole list of places last night. And he is talking about some 3-4 day trips as well as a 7 day trip that sound amazing and require horses and stuff. I am hoping to get to some of those when people come visit.

English classes are going better, next week I am going to start with giving two classes on Monday Wednesday and Friday as some people work in the day and some at night so this way I can hopefully get more people in. And I am still talking with people about getting up into the hills to teach but transportation continues to be the problem as hiring a private car to take me up and wait for me and bring me back three times a week is a pretty expensive proposition. Trying to see if I can piggyback someone who goes up anyway. Hopefully I can get some more stuff going.

Oh yeah, and I have had a cough that wouldn´t go away and my neighbor who is a paramedic at the travel clinic stopped me on the street the other day and said he thinks I have bronchitis cause he could here me coughing at night and asked me to come into the clinic. I finally made it in yesterday and he examined me and said I have an infection in my throat that has hit my lungs and if we didn´t take care of it it would likely become pneumonia and nobody wants that headed into cold cold winter at this altitude especially. So he gave me a hard core antibiotic shot and an immune booster shot and put on some pills for three days and a liquid that will break up the mucus. Hopefully that will take care of it and I will feel much better in a few days. I´m glad it worked out like that because I probably would have let it go on much longer thinking that it would just go away. He also didn´t charge me for the visit, just the meds because we are friends. Have I said how much I love living in a small town?

Love you all and see some of you soon,

Thursday, April 2, 2009

That´s right, Village People

Well, I am settling nicely into Ollantay. But it means I don´t feel like I have very new or exciting stories to tell here.

I started teaching English classes this week which is a fun new adventure. 20 people signed up to take classes but on Monday only five showed up and on Wednesday only five showed up, but they were an entirely different five and I have no idea if any of them are on the original list so that´s pretty entertaining. I will be hard to teach very much if I don´t have consistent students.
Monday´s class was pretty awful. They already knew what I had prepared to teach them and there weren´t as many people as I thought so mostly we didn´t have much to do and I didn´t have any idea what to do. I was a little discouraged and left feeling pretty dumb thinking that I can figure out how to teach without any teaching training.

On Monday evening my friend Julia came to visit for a few days and she is a teacher and has taught English in Germany before so she helped me make a lesson plan for Wednesday and came to class with me and even though I ran everything, it was really nice to have her there. Class on Wednesday was fantastic and we had a great time and they learned what I wanted them to and we played games and laughed and everyone really enjoyed it. I am hoping that as I go along I will have more days like that and less days like Monday.

I am also talking with someone who has a group of kids up in one of the villages that really want to learn English so if we can work the transportation out, I may get to go up three times a week and teach which would be great. Any inroads I can make into the indiginous villages that has me there for a reason other than being a tourist is really nice. Their lifestyle and dress really is fascinating but I try to figure out a way to observe that without treating them like sideshow freaks.

Julia left today and I will put together a teaching plan for tomorrow and spend a mellow day. On Saturday I will go to Cusco to see a concert.

The Village People are playing in Cusco Peru. Can you imagine such a thing? Well, we´re going, hopefully it will be as fun and ridiculous as it seems like it must be.

Also I have now TWO people with really solid plans to come here from the states. I just can´t wait to get to share what I´m living here with folks and I´m very very excited.

Love you all,