Friday, August 30, 2013

Going Home Notes

Now that I have recovered my camera from the weaver (read the last blog), I have photos to share with those interested! It has not been possible for me to process photos as we were travelled. My intention is to process one set of the trip photos at a time and make them available over a period of Friday's as additional links to this blog.

Thursday: Here we are aboard a LAN aircraft headed north! Well over 40,000 ft. because the stratosphere is higher here than our latitude at home...Today Lima, tomorrow SFO! Sadly the sky is cloudy, so no good view of the Andes Mts...

I am drawn to this free life of a gypsy! When I was a young pup I first discovered this attraction while hitchhiking in Europe and the Middle East. I enjoy the challenges and satisfaction that comes from the daily encounters with uncertainty...reading maps, trying to communicate in foreign languages...making quick choices with limited information...adapting to local customs and foods. And the satisfaction that comes from dealing with these situations successfully....I enjoy the quick friendships that develop in hostels, the sharing of stories and information.. Still, once at home I am quite content to tend my garden and work with my student teachers. Like my mother used to say, "Its good to go away, but its good to come home."

Wednesday was our last day in Cusco ...As we walked up the hill by our hotel, we saw a sign on the door of a Carmelite convent, saying that the sisters there made and sold ice cream. We entered a large empty stone church hall, and in quite a dark corner we found a sign listing the foods that were available. It was not possible to see the person who was selling the food...but through a sort of revolving wooden round-e-round I spoke aloud into the void what it was that I wanted. A voice answered to me also from out of the void and the order was arranged... Money was paid and the ice cream delivered. It was almost a religious experience! The voice that I spoke with sounded like a cheerful young woman. The ice cream was delicious!

... So much yet to see and do... .there is only one solution...we must return to Peru! Judy had not yet visited the great "Mercado,de San Pedro" ..the grand Cusco community market. (It is a place that I keep returning to...). I love the little bit chaotic fluidity of the much activity many goods bought and sold... We went today, and Judy bought several nice pieces of weaving and clothing, and chocolate!.. I really like the warm wool poncho that I bought for our Northern California winters!

Judy has a friend in California who is interested in the uses of quinoa, a traditional grain food of the Inca people. It is served quite a lot here and is becoming quite well known in the US. It can be.added to a variety of dishes in creative ways. The grain is high in protein, lower in starch, and it has a pleasant flavor, the cooked grains are smaller than cooked rice. In the mercado we bought three varieties... Black, red, and white colored grains. I was also able to purchase samples of small globular gourds, and hopefully I can convince some of the seeds to grow in my garden.j

One of my greatest satisfactions of this trip has been my improved ability to converse in Spanish...I am far from a proficient speaker...and my ability to use correct grammar is enough to make a language teacher want to tear out his or her hair, but I have a fair working vocabulary and just by being here, it has been necessary for me to use my Spanish all the time, I have become more fluent. Here I "just talk" to people...and I don't worry if I make mistakes in grammar.

Conversation with a cab driver ... "The only real industry in Cusco is the tourist industry...there is only very limited manufacturing, the long dry season and lack of irrigation limit farming, but the tourists keep coming, perhaps it is the lure of the Inca history and the renown fame of Machu Picchu that bring the people!"

One final observation...the streets of Peruvian cities and towns are amazingly free of litter..! We often see home and shop owners sweeping a large clear area outside of their properties. There are an impressive number of paid street cleaners, but the pride that people take in maintaing clean streets is impressive... Peru can be called a developing nation...a second world country...but far above the economic and social disorder of third world countries.

Thursday...LAN aircraft flying north parallel to the S American coast...We expect to arrive home mid afternoon! This airline serves "real" food!

Later - we are home safe and sound... 6 weeks traveling and eating all kinds of things and neither of us was sick at all...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Unexpected surprises!

Just when we thought our adventures on this trip were coming to an end... chance events added surprise! We left our beautiful town of Ollantaytembo with its cloud draped mountains and steep cliffs, we walked down the narrow cobble stone street, until we reached the plaza. It had rained in the night and the peaks around us were covered with fresh snow. We hunted for and quickly found a 15 passenger collectivo mini van...the drivers only leave when the van is full, and we were the last two to board. Traveling through the beautiful farmland of the Inca's Sacred Valley, we reached the town of Urumbamba. Here we switched to a smaller collectivo that would take us to Chinchero, an indigenous Andean village situated at above 12,000 feet. It is located on the "Alto Plano"...a high plane in the Andes with rich farming opportunities, for plants adapted to this climate. Here we found a motorcycle with 2 passenger seats , with a sort of fabric tent to protect us from the wind...Our driver took us down a side road to the location of a large country fair...What luck!,...this fair was held only once a year ...and we happened to be here! The fair is held of, by, and for, the local indigenous community... The women were dressed in colorful (mostly red with black accent) hand woven dresses, vests, shawls, and distinctive hats. We looked around and found ourselves to be the only outsiders present...But we felt wecome and talked freely with the people. We found livestock, crops, a huge variety of potatoes, and the weavers markets. Judy's eyes lit up at the wide variety and high quality of weaving the benefit of knowing that all profits from anything we bought would go directly to the weaver. There was also guinea pig racing, and the prettiest guerra pig judging...they were all dressed up in beautiful clothing! There were also food booths where among other things you could get roasted guinea pig. The Chicha...homemade Peruvian beer booth seemed to be very popular with some of the men. I also enjoyed the cows, bulls, sheep,pigs, and goats on display and for sale.
After several hours of looking, talking, and bargaining we decided it was time to return to Cusco. We took a collectivo back to the town center of Chincherno, to locate a mini van for the trip back into Cusco. As we stood waiting I checked for my camera...and it wasn't there...What a sinking good camera and 6 weeks of stored photos! I quickly searched my day-pack with no success...I couldn't give up with at least trying to return to the fair...After a quick ride back...I started walking across the fair grounds to the grand stand with the half baked idea of asking the guy with the microphone to announce that I would offer a reward for the return of the camera. Just then I felt a hand on my shoulder...and an indigenous woman weaver with whom we had bargained earlier said."Yo tengo algo de ustedes!" (I have something of yours! )... I absolutely could not believe my ears! But I was soon rejoined with my camera. It must have dropped from my pocket when I tried on a sweater... The local culture would never permit the people to ask for a reward...but I paid the two people involved with a generous "propina" (gift).
Monday... Nice to wake up back at the Ninos Hotel in Cusco...the place is simple but comfortable. Our major task of the day was to hunt down an artist that we had seen on display three days ago.He had invited us to his studio to see more of his work. We are especially drawn to his sensitive portrayal of the faces of the people of Peru. His studio was that of a prolific and varied artist with unusual skill. He was an older man, who had painted his whole adult life, who loved painting the people, landscapes, cultures of Peru, and he was successful as an artist! His work range from an accurate realism, to some quite abstract pieces with great color and texture balance. We bought pieces of his the task will be to get them home. True to his tradition he invited us to join himself and his wife for lunch in a nice restaurant. It was a treat on well prepared Peruvian food.
I expect this will be the last of this series of travel blogs... We return home on Thursday... It has been an incredible six week "viaje", with so many experiences, faces, and good people! If you have enjoyed this blog I normally post a new blog each Friday dealing with a variety of topics throughout the year... I hope you will stay tuned in...