Sunday, May 24, 2009

whew, it´s been a while.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Day of San Isidro - patron saint of agriculture

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

a couple photos

One of the walls of the Puma Marka ruins. The Inca were a big fan of these kind of window things that don´t go all the way through the wall. More of cubby holes I guess.

Some terraces. The whole valley is full full full of terraces like this for planting. Some have been renovated and are being used again for growing crops but for some reason the national cultural administration or whatever the name of the people in charge is has decided that this should not be allowed. Which is silly because it´s a great way to grow crops and when they´ve been rennovated, they will last that much longer. As it is, they are just falling down and pretty soon will not even look like terraces.

Some of the puppet show. I just particularly love this man walking in front. He looks kind of like a puppet to me.

This is Mauricio - the five year old I live with. He was taking me to some of the ruins. His dad is a guide so he loves to take me out practicing. It´s super fun and we have a great time together. I think we´re going out again this afternoon.

I took a long walk the other day to a place called Cachacata and this is one of the views along my walk. The glacier is called Veronica.

Monday, May 11, 2009

catching up

Hi guys,

sorry I´m letting the blog slip so much. You know how eventually, even when you have only time you just get busy? Well that is happening in my life these days. Saturday I went to the plaza at 9am cause I was told there were going to be dances to help dedicate the new cathedral they just finished building. Sure enough, there were people there in costume from lots of the different dance groups and I waited ALL DAY. Through all the important people talking about the project and through them giving certificates to each and every person who gave money and through giving out mother´s day presents and hours and hours and hours and hours of boring town business just waiting for those dang dancers to dance. And they never did. sigh. But by the time I figured out they weren´t going to after all one of my students bought me lunch and then invited me to a beer and there was a puppet show that was really amazing. I got some photos but they aren´t particularly good cause I was far away. Then a little girl sange two or three songs - she couldn´t have been more than five years old in her traditional costume and sang and danced and it was very cute. Then her in about ten years did some singing and dancing. I had some moments of really falling in love with this town during that afternoon. The way they are supportive. That people´s grandparents were born and died in this town. Their parents were born and expect to die here. My contemporaries were born here and expect to spend their lives here and there is no reason to think that the five year old girl who was singing wont become the 16 year old girl that was singing and the 16 year old will be sitting in the audience with her husband and babies and probably many of the mamas at some point or another sang and danced in front of this town. Then the band came and everyone danced for many hours. So I was literally in the plaza from 9am to 10pm without leaving which is a long day to sit in the dang plaza.

I´ve been thinking a lot lately about the way we in the US are groomed for independence from the time we are old enough to be taught anything and how much of a driving motivator that is for us. Teaching kids independence and making sure to find it as adults. And here, it is absolutely the opposite. You are taught that being part of your family is the most important thing and that you are taught from the earliest that you are part of a family and that relationship superscedes all. People even married with kids live at home as they are putting their money together to get their own house. And if you aren´t married there is absolutely no way you would leave living in your mother´s house. Maybe to study in Cusco, but you still have a room here and come back often. I´m not sure which of these approaches I appreciate more, but I hadn´t really thought so much about it until watching the opposites in action.

I wanted also to send along an update on the kids in jail. I was in Cusco last week (to collect packages but the stupid post office was closed) and went in to visit them and found that in great part due to volunteers talking with the police as much as possible, things there have changed really significantly. There is a whole new group of people in charge of the kids now and the policies are fantastic. Most kids are now spending an average of 3-4 days instead of 3-4 weeks. They are doing more to look for their families and get them reunited or to get them into programs set up to help. There is a person soley dedicated to figuring out what all the different programs are and how the police can work with them to get these kids placed well and quickly. So when I was there there were only a handful of kids and while they were still sad and hated being there, the dispair levels were at an all time low. I am so glad that at least for a little while things seem to have really improved there.

Yesterday I went on a hike that I´ve been wanting to take for a while to some ruins behind Ollantaytambo called Puma Marka. We left at 10am and didn´t get home until about 6pm. About three hours walk there - lots and lots of pretty hard uphill but I´m getting better at that every time. Then a long walk through the valley from high on a hill which was a great view of everything with stops to eat fruit and drink water and visit. My guide was the same student that I spent time with on Saturday and who is wooing me. We´ll see how that goes but he is awefully nice. Anyway, we finally got to these ruins and from far away it looks just like maybe two houses and a sort of a wall and I was a little disappointed that we had bothered with this killer hike for this but then when you get there they unfold to be all sorts of really great buildings and graineries and a huge wall around them all. They have not been excavated or renovated at all - they just keep the weeds down a little so that was really great. It´s super neat to see how it really has actually held up over the last 700 years. Because it´s hard to get to and people don´t really know about it, there are no entrance points or people working or signs or rules. No idea what it used to be or anything and we were the only people there all day so we just got to walk around and make up stories and pre-suppose what any of it might have been. I´ve never had quite that experience in ruins before, it was really magical. Then we took a much short cut/goat trail down the mountain that was hard but fun as we were slipping and sliding along - we did this because it was threatening to get dark before we got home so we decided that if it was dark we would be better off on the main road down in the valley than the hiking trail along the mountain. Then we just mellowly walked home along the road and practiced Quechua which I still find so so hard. All in all a really wonderful day and I´m glad I finally made it back there. You can also go by car, so Mel and Matt - this is one to look forward to.

Oh probably there are a million more things to say but I will leave it for now. I was going to post photos but this computer wont read my camera so I will do that soon.

Love you,

Thursday, May 7, 2009


These are some of the boys at the school in Tanccac doing one of the native dances. So so so fun, man. It makes me really excited to see the dances at the festival at the end of the month.

Some kids at school during my birthday celebration - that´s what the confetti is all about. Look at those eyes. He was upset and crying so I asked if he wanted to see a picture of himself to distract him but his eyes still look so so sad.

My birthday with Guillermo. We drank in the bar then brought beers back to my place and drank and went on midnight adventures to find more beer a few times until the sun was up and the stores were open and then it was no longer entertaining to try to find beer. We do this about once a week. We´re getting good at knowing where the hidden spots are to get beer and cigaretts at four a.m.

One of the people I live with is a five year old named Mauricio and his preschool class had a parade last week and this is a picture of them.

Sunday sunday sunday soccer. There are soccer games at the stadium all day on Sundays so we often wander down at some point and watch for a while.

I´ll post more photos soon. love you all!

Friday, May 1, 2009

technology! "%!ª¿%&

For the last four or five days I haven´t been able to sign in to post a blog - sorry. I had some photos ready but just realized that I inadvertantly overwrote them last night so will have to post tomorrow. I am trying to sign into skype so I can make phone calls but it just keeps telling me something is wrong so I will have to try with my credit card instead of my debit card tomorrow. shouldn´t this be easier?

Life is grand. I had a lovely birthday evening then the school in Tanccac had a little party for me on Tuesday which was grand. Every single of 74 kids came and put confetti in my hair and gave me a hug and a kiss. It´s amazing how affectionate kids are here. They don´t have enough TVs or money to get into the one-up game that kids at home are beginning earlier and earlier. Their lives are still hard, domestic violence and alchoholism are a huge problem here so their first instinct when they get mad is to hit each other but somehow it doesn´t make them angry kids. Just sweet kids whose only solution when frustrated is to punch someone. It´s strange. But I enjoy the loving and affectionate nature of them.

I was hoping to make it to the jungle this weekend for a big dance festival but wasn´t able to after all. Some friends of mine are dancing so we tried to work it out that I could go with them but there weren´t enough seats in the car. Also it is a very non-touristy event and the villages are trying to mostly keep it that way. So when I asked if I could just go there on my own and meet up with them I was told that ummmmm I don´t think there are hotels and ummm not really any way to get there and ummmm well, i´ll get back to you. That´s cool, I respect that they need some things that are their own without strangers gawking but I really wanted to see sunrise to sunset dancing with all locals in the jungle. Some other trip maybe.

The big four day festival in Ollantaytambo is in only a few weeks now. Everyone is very excited about it and preparations are beginning. Also many many dance troups and everyone is sewing costumes and practicing all the time. I´ve been hearing about this since I first came in February so I am really excited to see it all. It means I will have to eat Cuy again - yuck - but maybe I can inadvertantly feed one of the million dogs. Mel will be coming the day after the festival ends, but I´ve been assured that it will still go a little and on the 8th there is a local bull fight and such so we will still get some Ollantay festivaling in.

I will try to get skype worked out tomorrow and call those of you that are expecting calls - well overdue for calls.

Love you,