Category Archives: Travel Tracker

Read about where I’m traveling.

Picture Post: The Hostel, Part II

Let´s continue the tour of the strange place in which I live.  Now we go on to the courtyard, the central hang out for residents during the day.

My twofavorite hammocks slumbering in the background.

My two favorite hammocks slumbering in the background.

The Courtyard from above.

The Courtyard from above.

Four rarely empty chairs.

Four rarely empty chairs.

The kitchen sink is outside!  Sometimes the rain does the dishes.

The kitchen sink is outside! Sometimes the rain does the dishes.

A popular game in Peru called Sapo.  Throw the gold coins into the frog´s mouth.

A popular game in Peru called Sapo. Throw the gold coins into the frog´s mouth.

If I call you, it´s from this box.  The top half of the door is shut, so you have to almost crawl into it.

If I call you, it´s from this box. The top half of the door is shut, so you have to almost crawl into it.

The bathroom off the courtyard that I hardly use.

The bathroom off the courtyard that I hardly use.

The patron clown that watches over all of us in the courtyard.

The patron clown that watches over all of us in the courtyard.

Now we go into the communal kitchen.  Lots of cooking happens here after volunteering, and most of it involves combined efforts, combined foods, and combining meals.

Part of the reason communal cooking is so popular is because this is the only cooking device.  The flames can go up to a foot high, and 3 people have singed their hair.

Part of the reason communal cooking is so popular is because this is the only cooking device. The flames can go up to a foot high, and 3 people have singed their hair.

The dining area.

The dining area.

The stickers don´t lie.

The stickers don´t lie.

For the end of the second part of this picture dump, a little surprise when I first came into the computer room.

Ah!

Ah!

 

That´s all for now.  The last installment coming up very soon.

Picture Post: The Hostel, Part I

The day after my first lonely night in Cusco, I walked up to the hostel and met some of the other volunteers.  Immediately I decided that I needed to move there, due to the extreme, and this is a bit hippie-ish to say, but I´m a little bit hippie-ish, good vibrations I felt there.

Moving out of Señora Aldé´s home was easy as pie.  She made no fuss about it, and I got the feeling this kind of thing happens a lot.  In fact, the girl that moved into my room after I moved out already lives in the Hostel.

The Hostal is a very strange and wonderful place, which are my only two requirements for living situations.  Rather than try to explain it with words, I thought I´d do a little photo essay on why I love it here.  Enjoy.

Bienvenido

Bienvenido

Looking back at the entrance from the courtyard.

Looking back at the entrance from the courtyard.

My New Bed

My New Bed

These next few pictures are chosen to give you a feel to what it´s like to live in my room, one of the only singles in the hostel.  Each room at this place has a weird theme, such as Tienda De Magica (Magic Store) or Escuela (School).  My room is Pintor (Painter), the theme of which is reflected in the strange and unsettling art on the walls.

Jub the Cat

Jub the Cat

That´s actually 4 questions.

That´s actually 4 questions.

This is right about my bed.

This is right above my bed.

Es verdad.

Es verdad.

When I sit up in bed we make eye contact.

When I sit up in bed we make eye contact.

Me washing my clothes in my room.

Me washing my clothes in my room.

My room is the one all the way down with the brown sign.

My room is the one all the way down with the brown sign.

Now let´s go to the bathroom.

There are 2.5 bathrooms in the hostal.  A total of 4 toilets and 4 showers.  This is the one closest to my room.

There are 2.5 bathrooms in the hostal. A total of 4 toilets and 4 showers. This is the one closest to my room.

Come shower with me...

Come shower with me...

All three knobs and the red lever at the top are used in a mind boggling combination that takes an average of 5 minutes to complete, if there is hot water.

All three knobs and the red lever at the top are used in a mind boggling combination that takes an average of 5 minutes to complete, if there is hot water.

Please poop here.  No toilet paper can be flushed.

Please poop here. No toilet paper can be flushed.

 

Coming later:  the courtyard, the kitchen, the dog.

Dia De San Valentin

Much to my disappointment, St. Valentine´s day is celebrated with gusto down here.  I was hoping that by being off the grid I would be outside the tentacles of the depressing day, but that´s not true.

However, Diana, the daughter of the woman that works at the hostal, has decided to put her arm around me while I write.  She typed her own name.  She doesn´t read English, she just wants to watch.  So my day isn´t empty of love, of course.

Even with the friends I have here, today is going to drag by with the unique class of lonliness that I always feel, derived from the combination of being both single and gay, and this year intensified by being one of the only solo travelers at the hostel. 

Last night a few of the ladies of the hostel and I tried to go out to the only gay bar in Cusco, only to find out that the bar was both not gay and closed.  I did find out that there was another bar, but this one has no sign, no name, and is only known through word of mouth.

Perhaps it was the rum, but I was suddenly overcome with a tidal wave of sadness for my gay brothers and sisters here in Cusco.  Certainly Cusco has no less of a gay population than any other city of its size.  But those unfortunate enough to be born gay in this city have to traipse around in the dark, nameless, whispering. 

What really struck me was that Cusco is only one of many cities around the world where gay people have to stay in the shadows.

I began to wonder what it would be like if gay people had a different color skin; if the genes that made us like the same sex also turned our skin purple.  Would we be chugging along so slowly and haltingly in our movement?

Perhaps when I return to the US it will be time for me to become a noise maker.  Cast away my pride, stop separating myself from the gay movement, and work with organizations to facilitate not just gay rights in the US, but globally.  Fix places like Cusco for my people.

It sounds strange, feels funny in my mouth to refer to homosexuals as “my people”, but when it comes down to it, that´s what we are.  A race and a group that is unified by our ability to love differently, and our inability to go through life without love, like so many close minded people around the world would prefer.

Feliz dia de amor.

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!

Hey Santa Fe

Santa Fe Food

Santa Fe Food

That’s what’s currently wending its way through my digestive track as I write this.  It was delicious.  Scrambled eggs with green chili, organic thick cut bacon and cheese on a garlic bagel.  I ate it all very quickly.

Green chilies, as it turns out, is a major part of the Santa Fe flare, and I’m loving it.  Everywhere I go, even when Rita’s fantastic roommate is cooking for me at her home, green chills are in my food.  Green chili burritos, eggs, quinoa, calzones.  For the rest of my life, whenever I get that cold heat in my nose from slicing open a green chili, I will think of this city.

Santa Fe feels like practice for Peru.  It’s high up in the mountains, and I can feel the altitude when I’m walking around.  Due to some strict building codes and a reputation, all buildings in Santa Fe are built adobe style.  Everything, from liquor stores to consignment shops are red clay and stucco.  Every morning, as I walk to the cafe where I’m writing this, one or two hawks fly right over my head.  Little black ones, dad, but definitely hawks.  It makes it feel like someone reshuffled the American/Mexican border.  Lovely.

Of course, the most lovely part of this whole place is the person that lives here, the one and only Rita “Yee-Haw” O’Connell.

Here’s where she lives, and where I am staying:

The Rita Casita

The Rita Casita

It’s a little bungalow, old and low to the ground, with excellent shag carpets and strange but beautiful paintings by one of her roommates’ grandmother.

Rita works every day from 8:30 to 2pm, so most of my days are spent relaxing in her house.  She taught me to play chess the other day in a laundry mat, and since then I have spent my mornings practicing the game with her roommate, Jack, the one that cooks.  In fact, we usually are eating eggs, green chili and crispy hash browns while we play.  I can say usually, because it’s happened twice and I’ve only been here for 3 mornings.

After a nice quiet, relaxing morning in her house (I deserve it; a bed and a shower were very missed and will be missed again), I usually set out to walking around Santa Fe.  It has been in the 40s and windy, so today I have succumbed to just hanging out in this awesome coffee shop only a few blocks from Rita’s house and drinking too much coffee.  But here are some things I saw while walking around:

Two Cathedrals

Two Cathedrals

Los Montanas

Los Montanas

The Mighty Santa Fe River, Once The Most Endagered River in the US

The Mighty Santa Fe River, Once The Most Endagered River in the US

Sorry…still don’t know how to flip…

A Woman Restores Some Flowers At St. Guadlupe's Feet

A Woman Restores Some Flowers At St. Guadlupe's Feet

Rita Came to Pick Me Up at the Train Station

Rita Came to Pick Me Up at the Train Station

Soon Rita will be out of work and we’ll head a few towns over to Taos, where Rita used to live.  Can’t wait!  Then…LA here I come.  Rumors of Disneyland as my final act in America.

*Note:  Last night I saw the movie Dr. Strangelove.  I strangeloved it.

A List of People I Met and Things I Saw/Did While Taking a Train From Chicago to Lamy, NM

Most of this happened in the observation car of the Southwest Chief, or in the car directly behind it.

  • A gold miner from Colorado.  He was on the way back from his grandmother’s funeral.  He runs heavy machinery and works only 14 days a year.  He said I was wise to do what I was doing, and not get married and have a daughter and divorce, like he did when he was my age.  So, I guess points for me.  Apparently, there actually is gold in them thar hills.
  • Lost my iPod.
  • Searched for my iPod with the help of a surly Amtrak steward.
  • Never found my iPod.
  • The sunrise over Colorado planes.  It went from pink to tangerine to blue seamlessly.
  • A female correction’s officer from a maximum security prison in Kansas.  She worked there because she lost her job at General Motors.
  • Her autistic 10 year old son who taught himself how to play the piano and has perfect pitch.
  • Little red towns with names like Las Vegas and Raton.
  • Mountains!  Mountains!
  • Icy edged rivers, no more than a trickle.
  • Tumbleweed, twice.
  • Kaleb, a hillbilly from West Virginia.  He sold everything he owned except for a sweatshirt, hat, gloves, brown overalls and a jacket.  He is trying to go all the way around the world.  He has never been out of the US except for one trip to Niagara Falls.  He has no money left, and just that morning had eaten his first meal out of a dumpster (the left behind half of a Hardee’s potato hash and egg scramble).  His favorite bible story is the one where King David pretends to lose his mind.  He believes that the flood of Noah formed the Grand Canyon.
  • A little old woman on a platform selling playing cards, mittens, earrings, toothbrushes and the like in the vicious cold of the Colorado morning.  She made no sales on our train.
  • Many Amish people, two of whom I talked with for a few hours.  They were on their way to a picture framing convention in Las Vegas.  Still, days later, I’m pondering what that would be like.
  • A bagel that, when I asked for its variety, was described as “a brown one” and when I asked for it toasted it was microwaved.  It cost $3.50.
  • Rita, sweet sweet Rita.