Monthly Archives: February 2009

PICTURE POST: A morning walk around downtown Cusco

What you see walking down the streets where I live.

What you see walking down the streets where I live.

Shoe Shining is Big in Cusco

Shoe Shining is Big in Cusco

San Pedro, the big open air market, where most things cost only a few cents.

San Pedro, the big open air market, where most things cost only a few cents.

 

The man drag inside San Pedro

The man drag inside San Pedro

A sack of fresh squeezed orange-carrot juice.  To-go in Peru means in a bag, no matter what.

A sack of fresh squeezed orange-carrot juice. To-go in Peru means in a bag, no matter what.

Some sort of rat-dog living a happy life in the San Pedro market.

Some sort of rat-dog living a happy life in the San Pedro market.

Avenida Del Sol, the busiest street in downtown Cusco.

Avenida Del Sol, the busiest street in downtown Cusco.

Plaza De Armas, the center of downtown Cusco

Plaza De Armas, the center of downtown Cusco

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas

One of the ornate cathedrals in Plaza de Armas

One of the ornate cathedrals in Plaza de Armas

A college of science.

A college of science.

One of the many old walls of the city.

One of the many old walls of the city.

Yo tambien.

Yo tambien.

Back home for a warm cup of Mate de Coca.

Back home for a warm cup of Mate de Coca.

Nervioso Nuevo

To be honest, the flight to Cusco from Lima, though gorgeous, was not as pleasurable for me as it might have been.  Worn down from lack of sleep, massive amounts of travel in miniscule amounts of time, and the inherent second guessing that comes with spending a lot of time alone and quiet, I was nervous as we landed at the airport.  I began to wonder why I was doing what I was doing with my life, and suspecting that I had made a horrible mistake.

Much of my concern was centered around this problematic thought:  “I will not be able to make friends here.” My own mind took me down lonely alleyways, where the only living creatures I would be able to associate with would be the dogs that run in packs all over this city.  I would like to say that this feeling vanished once I hit the ground and ventured out into the narrow streets of the place where I had been trying to return for so many yeras.  However, it persisted.  

When I got off the plane I was picked up by the secretary of the volunteer organization, a kind woman who always is wearing a coat named Rocio.  Rocio took me directly to the house where I would be staying. 

Aldea Yanapay, the organization, runs a hostel where most of the volunteers stay.  However, on their webiste they present the option of  living in the home with the mother of Yuri, the man who runs the organzation.  The site touts this as a more authentic option, because the volunteers would live with a Peruvian family and also have the opportunity to eat three typical Peruvian meals a day.  Of course this option interested me, as one of my goals coming down here was to better understand and submerge myself in Cusqueñan culture. 

 

The blue door on the left is the entrance to the house.

The blue door on the left is the entrance to the house.

The door opens into a courtyard where these three silly dogs live.

The door opens into a courtyard where these three silly dogs live.

más perritos

más perritos

The courtyard leads into this garden, all of the flowers planted by Señora Aldé

The courtyard leads into this garden, all of the flowers planted by Señora Aldé

The same view at night, with the moutain lit up.

The same view at night, with the moutain lit up.

When I arrived at the house, bedraggled, starving and sleep deprived, I was greeted warmly by Aldé, the mother of Yuri and the matron of the house.  She was a short, kindly woman who didn´t speak a lick of English.  I also was introduced to Lydia, the housekeeper, who cooked all the meals and cleaned the house, while pregnant.  And I met her daughter, Maria, who is one of the students at the school where I volunteer.  I ate a meal with Rocio and Aldé, (Lydia and Maria ate in the kitchen), the whole time my over-tired brain working double time to recall Spanish words I hadn´t thought of since 8th grade.   

Though I could have begun volunteering that day, Señora Aldé, having found out that I slept in the Lima airport, demanded that I take a long nap.  I didn´t argue.  I slept that day until 1pm, and then returned downstairs for another meal. 

My bed is the messy one.

My bed is the messy one.

The view out my bedroom window.  All mountains are bigger than they appear.

The view out my bedroom window. All mountains are bigger than they appear.

Choclo, the big kerneled corn that is typical to Peru, as served by Señora Aldé

Choclo, the big kerneled corn that is typical to Peru, as served by Señora Aldé

After my meal, Senora Aldé showed me to the showers upstairs, where I was introduced to the puzzlework that is Peruvian shower systems.  I also discovered this:

The last ingredient is Placenta Extract!

The last ingredient is Placenta Extract!

I was still depressed tired in the evening, so I only ventured out into the city to call my parents and let them know I was safe, and then returned home to sleep some more.

Over supper, I was surprised to find out that there were no other volunteers in the house.  My first night in Cusco, laying in my bed, I was overcome with despair.  Señora Aldé was a lovely woman, and the food that Lydia cooked me was delicious.  But how would I surive socially alongside a middle aged woman who didn´t speak English and an otherwise empty house?  As I´ve said, this was problematic thinking that often overtakes me when I´m in a new situation.  It is ludicrous to panic before the wheels start turning, and yet that´s what I did.

This was all over a week ago, and now I am happier than I ever have been in my life.  I´ll talk about the changes I made to get this way soon, but for now, I´m going to go watch the thunderstorm pass over the mountains from my balcony.  Chao!

Liam as a Ted Kazcynski Look-Alike in Lima

DISCLAIMER:  If you are a member of the FBI, CIA, any other like minded organization, or Dick Chaney, I am not in any way a terrorist, and the title of this entry is a joke.  You all could use a laugh.

Krystyna, my love, dropped me off at LAX around 10pm.  The line for check in at Taca, the Peruvian airline I flew with all the way, was out the door.  I felt like shit waiting there in line, probably because I hadn´t slept in a real bed for a few days, and simply had not been taking care of my body. 

I had about an hour to kill after I made it through security.  They pulled my bag aside when they saw my flask, but the ornery little TSA man gave up trying to pull it out from underneath all of my tightly packed things and let me go through.  Good thing I´m not a terrorist.  I fell asleep quickly at my gate, and even quicker once I was on the plane.  I woke up only for food, a nasty mess of alfredo pasta and a roll so hard you could bounce marbels off it.  When I woke up the next time we were landing in El Salvador.

I had 5 hours in the tiny airport, and wasn´t confident enough to leave.  The El Salvador airport is situated in the middle of a wide field ringed with short-stumped, long-branched trees that resembles, oddly, pictures I have seen of the Sahara.  There wasn´t much to do besides sleep and read, so thats what I did.  Here´s a picture of the place.

The El Salvador Airport

The El Salvador Airport

I reboarded my flight, and was surprised to find that Taca airlines serves unlimited free alcohol, even to the pleebs sitting in coach. 

TRAVEL NOTE:  When flying to Peru, book your tickets through Taca.  It is an excellent airline, the staff is friendly, and the prices are cheaper through their website than on expedia, travelocity, etc.

It was a managable 7 hour flight, nothing particularly special to comment on.  The real fun began when I arrived at Lima at 7:10pm. 

The Lima airport is a bustling, hyper-modern airport.  It is a hub in South America, and therefore very crowded and chaotic.  Unfortunately, flights to Cusco during the rainy season only take place in the early morning hours because that is when it is clear enough to fly a plane through the valleys of the Andes.  I was booked for Taca´s first flight, but that was still a good 10 hours away from when I landed.

Fortunately, you can sleep in the Lima airport.  However, it is a terrible experience.  First, a picture of my lodging that night.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Note the brightness of the place.  That never ceases.  Most airports and train stations have a personalized jingle that plays before an announcement is made over the loud speaker.  The jingles in France are particularly frightening.  The jingle in Lima is only three notes, the first three notes of the song “Happy” by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins.  Not too bad, except that those three notes, and subsequent ear-shattering announcements made first in Spanish and then in English, occur at a frequency of about 1 every three hundred miliseconds ALL NIGHT. 

Lastly, Lima is a very warm, very humid city.  It makes sleeping akin to lying in a shallow puddle.  And yet, somehow, the airport in the middle of the night was very cold.  So I had to keep my sweatshirt on.

And this is how I came to resemble the sketched image of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, while sleeping on a row of chairs at the Lima Airport.  Sunglasses on to protect myself from the lights, headphones in and playing Sovay by Andrew Bird on repeat to drown out (unsuccessfully) the announcements, and hood up to protect my sweaty head from the cold. 

Three times during the night a man riding a miniature zamboni around the airport would wake me up and tell me to stand up.  Then he would drag the row of chairs, surprisingly unbolted from the floor, to a random location in the airport, so that he could Zamboni where they once were.  I felt like a stray dog.

Finally 3:15am arrived and I was able to join the long line to get my boarding pass.  Sleeping by the gate to my flight was a similar experience, so I resolved to stay awake since I was anxious about flying anyway.  When I did get on the plane, the pilot announced that there was a delay because the clouds had settled.  It only lasted a few minutes, and I got into a pleasant conversation with the older Canadian woman seated next to me. 

The flight from Lima to Cusco only lasts about 1 hour and 15 minutes, but it is one of the most breathtaking flights I´ve ever been on.  Outside the windows, the peaks of

Snowcapped mountains reach up through the clouds.  As you approach Cusco, little villages with red roofed houses come into view, growing in size until the low, bowl-like city of Cusco comes into view.

Examples below.

The Mountains Through The Clouds

The Mountains Through The Clouds

 

My New Home

My New Home

 

Coming up next, my first exhausting and strange few days in Cusco.  Should be up the next few days.

Picture Post: Taos and LA

My blog is quickly becoming the place where I am going to save all of the pictures of my trip.  Here are 4 of Taos that got left out, followed by 3 of the train trip from Albuquerque to Taos on the South West Chief.  My guess would be that they are also of New Mexico, but it could be Arizona.  More posts later today that will actually be about PERU.

Taosity-taos

Taosity-taos

Tacos

 

imgp0222

 

imgp0225

 

wires-2

Scenes from the South West Chief

Table Top

Table Top

wires

MUST HAVE THE LA EXPERIENCE

Hola todos!  I´m going to apologize in advance for any blog I post from South America.  The keyboards here are screwy and spellcheck doesn´t work.  So forgive.

 

This beffuddled entry was written at a hostel in Cuzco.  I came here unprepared, so there will be updates soon.  I´ve been in Peru for 3 days now, but I realize there is more to my trip across America that I need to write about, so here goes.

It was sad to leave my Rita, but we had some good times, of course.  Rita took me to see her old hometown of Taos (only one letter away from TACOS), which is a beautiful, quiet mountain town.  Pics will be coming.  It was only the beginning of the massive amounts of massive mountains that I have encountered.

I took the train from Albuquerque to Los Angeles.  It was a 16 hour trip, and out of all of the treks I have made by train I have to say it was the worst.  The people on the train weren´t very friendly (probably because most of them lived in either Albuquerque or Los Angeles.  I wouldn´t be happy either).  I slept for most of it, but the desert of Arizona and the mountains of New Mexico that I did see was magical. 

I was surprised to find that Union Station in LA was the most beautiful out of all of the many train stations I visited on my trip.  It had incredibly high ceilings, and winding courtyards throughout.  But maybe I´m being biased because when I arrived it was already 75 degrees and it was only 8:15am. 

Brandi Baho was my knight in a white rental car. He picked me up so early in the morning and drove me around LA with some techno music bumping and the windows down.  A pic is coming of him too.

Brandon and I rested a bit, cooked a very manly carb-loaded breakfast, and then took a tender hike up the hill behind the complex (property of Emerson College, kind of) where he lives.  Last year a fire raged across that hill and almost consumed Emerson, and it was neat to see all of the burned trees and bushes as we climbed.  When we got to the top you could see all of LA, and it was un poquito disgusting.  The smog was visible from up there, even though it was winter.  But nonetheless the view was enjoyable, as was conversation and beers with Brandon. 

Brandon also took my to a very strange store that I wish I had taken pictures of to buy a sketchy new ¨ipod¨ for 25 bucks.  It´s a piece of crap, and probably wasn´t worth the money, but at least it plays music.  It came in handy in the Lima Airport, which I will explain later.  PS Check out my entry on the homeless in Chicago for an update on my old ipod. 

Eventually I met up with my true love Krystyna, who whisked me away to her Paris Hilton Is My New BFF-esque mansion.  We had a simple, lovely night of partying with her roommates and friends, and it actually turned out to be one of the wilder parties of my life.  If you want details,  you´ll have to find a way to talk to me about it directly.  Or call Krystyna. 

I woke up slightly dazed on an air mattress in Krystyna´s hallway.  It wasn´t long before we got up, went to a delicious and expensive (LA) breakfast place just down the street from her, and then quickly made our way to DISNEYLAND.  I kid you not.  I actually went to one of the centers of American Capitalism on the day before the night I flew to South America. 

Krystyna plays Sleeping Beauty used to work for a disney affiliate, so she had a silver pass that allows her to enter the parks with up to three friends.  Score.  What followed was a bizarre day of animatronics, homosexual safari boat drivers who looked like an ugly version of Matt Starring, and the biggest moment of all, Turkey Legs.  Pictures below.

Main Street!

Main Street!

Waited for 45 minutes behind this gem.  The front has a pic of Malificent.

Waited for 45 minutes behind this gem. The front has a pic of Malificent.

MATT STARRING´S UGLY LITTLE BROTHER

MATT STARRING´S UGLY LITTLE BROTHER

This makes me consider heterosexuality.

This makes me consider heterosexuality.

turkey-2

 

And there you have it.  After Disney we blasted home through a moving parking lot of traffic, regrouped for a moment, and then I packed my things and Krystyna took me to the airport. 

Overall, I don´t think I´ll ever be living in LA.  I like the weather and the people there, but that´s about it.  Upcoming posts tomorrow or the day after on my flights and arrival in Cuzco!  Hasta luego!

Llegando Al Cuzco

I´m here!

6 states, 3 trains, 4 flights and 3 apartments later I have finally arived in my destination city of Cuzco, Peru.

Yesterday my plane landed high in the mountains where Cuzco is situated at around 8am.  I had spent the previsous night in the bright and loud Lima airport, the night before that on an airplane and the night before that on an air mattress in the hallway at Krystyna´s.  And the night before that?  On a train.

Needless to say I was exhausted and befuddled.  I spent the rest of the morning and afternoon sleeping and trying to catch my breath and bearings in this new place.  I am feeling very anxious, and in need of some social contact.  Today I was introduced to the hostel,  and read about the kinds of things I will be doing as a volunteer.  Today around 3pm I will be coming back here to participate in my first day of volunteering.  I hope to meet some more people my own age, since the past 48 hours have been pretty lonley.  Everyone I´ve met so far only speaks Spanish, so that has been making me feel pretty isolated, not to mention my lack of vocabulary and atrocious gramatical structure make it very hard to express myself.

Anyway, this is just a brief post to let you all know I´m here.  Look for more soon, with pictures!