Monday, May 24, 2010

Final Report

No matter how good you are at internet flight booking it takes some considerable time in airports and on airplanes to get from Cuzco, Peru to Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. I tried to put the time to good use by writing The Report For Es Salud and Health Volunteers Overseas That No One Is Ever Going To Read.

Thank you for following my blog. I have learned a lot. I am preliminarily concluding that life is strange and interesting no matter where you go and that my life in Estados Unidos, Minnesota is so strange that it deserves something more permanent than a blog to describe it.

Cuidate (take care)!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Machu Picchu

In order to reach the Machu Picchu Portal of the Sun at dawn from the Inca Trail you have to line up before dawn with the hundred or so other Inca Trail hikers at the Machu Picchu Trail Checkpoint to have your documents checked. Well, maybe not all one hundred of them. I suppose that the Eurotrash and Creepy Norte Americano "Young Adults" who spent the night getting drunk on Cusquena beer at the bar by the camping area and proceeding to piss and puke all over everything expecting the rest of the world to clean up after them (oh yes, you know exactly the type of "young adults" that I'm talking about) didn't wake up until later. I was up and waiting in line, quietly reading my most recent issue of The New Yorker that I had lugged along with my personal gear over Dead Woman's Pass. Once you get through the check point you are hiking up those steep steps again through the dawn's early light under arches of exotic orchids to the Portal of the Sun. Once you are at the Portal, spread out below you lies Machu Picchu. And it is everything that it has ever been cracked up to be. From the Portal it is all down hill past the llamas to an ancient city filled with wonders like elaborate rooms and buildings carved from stone and laid out in perfect alignment with the compass. I will now stop wasting my words trying to describe it. Just believe that it is there and hope that you will see it some day.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Camino Inca

Where have I been? On the Camino Inca walking to Macchu Picchu, of course.

The Camino Inca (Inca Trail), like life, has a lot of ups and downs. The Inca Trail ups and downs, though, are steep and were constructed approximately 500 years ago out of hand carved stone blocks. Many people including me, myself and I, did not believe that I could endure 45 kilometers with a climb over a 14,000 foot pass. However, with the help of the unbelieeevable guide and porters from SAS Travel Peru it was, as they say here, papayitas (little papayas; like a piece of cake).

Some cool things about the Incas (according to the very knowledgeable guide, Aldo, from SAS Travel): Between about 1450 AD and 1530 AD much of South America flourished under the Inca Empire. In 1532 AD the Spaniards, led by Francisco Pizarro, arrived and trashed the place.
The Incas built a vast network of roads from their ruling city in the Cusco Valley to their sacred sites (like Machu Pichu) and to other towns and cities in their empire (stretching to what is now Ecuador, Chile and Argentina).
The Inca spiritual tradition emphasized the positive values of hard work, generosity and honesty (as opposed to the negative Spanish Christian precepts of "Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not lie, Thou shalt not be lazy).
When the Spaniards showed up in Cuzco they knocked down all the important Inca buildings and used the stones to build their own stuff (like lots of Catholic churches). These all fell down in the next earth quake and the Spaniards had to ask the locals how to build to earth quake standards.
When the Spaniards started to trash Cuzco, the Inca priests cleaned the sacred objects out of Macchu Picchu, transported them to other sites and destroyed portions of the Inca Roads, hiding Macchu Picchu until it was "re-discovered" in the early 1900's.
More cool than anything else: The Incas farmed on terraces not just to maximize growing space in the steep mountains but to practice plant breeding for altitude by successively moving hardy plants up to higher and higher terraces.

If you're going to hike the Inca Trail you must have:
1. A good attitude and a small, light weight but comprehensive first aid kit.
2. Probably should have a good, licensed guide service (I recommend SAS).
3. Good foot wear
4. Good sun protection
5. Good rain protection
6. Good camera
7. Your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A couple more things about Cusco

I can't sign off before saying a couple more things about Cusco. Lovely town but, after all, it is a tourist town. You gotta love a place that has a parade around the town square exhorting young people to be nice to old people, however, you can't stand still or even look anyone in the eye in the town square here without getting hit up by a panhandler, a scam artist, or someone insistently trying to sell you something. The tourists themselves don't all represent their home countries well either and it pains me to hear a young man with a Chicago accent trying to buy cocaine from a Peruvian in the town square (while wearing a t-shirt that says, "I'm into drugs," no less). So if all my blog viewers wish to rush on down here to see the beauty of Cusco let them come forewarned and prepared.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sexy woman?

Despite the fact that anyone within 300 yards could tell that I didn't sleep a wink last night (altitude plus sinuses -- first stop when I return to Estados Unidos? Dr. Karin Tansek's office!!), the guys decided that this was the day for our "test hike" to see who was ready for the Inca Trail (Camino Inca). As we trudged up the cobblestone streets of Cusco to the site of the ancient Inca ruins, David meandered then breathlessly rushed to catch up to the rest of us to announce that some young local had offered to take him to see a sexy woman that night. We didn't have the heart to tell him that we were on our way at that very moment (a hora el punto) to see the "sexy woman." Saqsaywaman is the Quecha name for the largest of the Inca sites near Cusco and it is pronounced, "sexy woman." The local who approached David was a tour guide offering to take him that evening to see the laser light show that the park rangers (parque seguros) put on. I was pretty proud of myself for keeping up with the guys but a little bit embarrassed as I saw people twice my age toddling around the ancient stone structures and teenage girls (without proper sun protection!) tripping around in flip-flops. I didn't photo the tourists in their shorts and flip-flops but I did catch the fun, fun Peruana chatting on her cell. Yes, that is my nephew Nick in the photo: Having made an offering to the Inca gods he then chewed his three coca leaves -- strictly for medicinal purposes.

Today's Spanish lesson? Tu blog: comparte tu opiniĆ³n, fotos y todo lo que quieras con tus amigos y con el resto del mundo.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Yo estoy in Cusco

Cusco is worth the price of the trip. It is very beautiful and spectacular (see photo's). Nicky and Caleb needed to outdo themselves after Lima so we had to make a bee-line straight to the nearest cuy (remember? guinea pig?). More later.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Last Night in Lima

Well I just have to tell you that my last night in Lima would not be complete without a visit to the Parque de la Reserva (the big park filled with fountains lit by lasers). There was even a Dia de las Madres concert with a local band playing hits from the USA in the 1970's. I NEVER would have come here at night by myself but with my family I felt just like every other Peruana Mama there.

Adios Lima!

It's kind of funny how different Lima seems now that I am not officially working and now that Caleb, mi esposo David and mi sobrino Nicky are all here with me. It was nice to have David and Caleb here for the lovely dinner at the Chinese restaurant (everyone calls them "Chifa" here) that the Anatomic Pathology staff arranged for us. I will miss Dr. Yabar, the Chief (el Jefe) of Anatomic Pathology and I will always feel sad that I never learned to pronounce his name correctly.

I would hate to ever visit someplace with a big tour group -- you wouldn't be able to do whatever it is that you might want to do -- but I definitely like having a few guys to tourist around with so that I can travel further outside of my comfort zone. It always surprises me what Caleb and David want to see (Walk around Lima's residential neighborhoods to see what kind of systems Peruvians have to kill or maim anyone who might try to rob or vandalize their home? Visit a Peruvian Engineering School??) and what they are willing to eat (A Peruvian college burger joint? Good Wi Fi, though!). With Nicky here, all zones are perfectly comfortable and surfing at the beach and para-sailing through the skies above Lima are all in a good day of sightseeing.

Words for today? Dia de Madre. It is Mother's Day here in Peru and Dia de Madre is as big as Navidad (Christmas) or Pascua (Easter). We went out to lunch and the restaurant had presents for all of the moms who were having almeurzo with their families. People here ask me about Mother's Day in the USA and I tell them that we have it but that, "En Peru, Madre es sagrado (sacred). En Estado Unidos (the USA) madre es solamente madre (mom is just mom)."

Next stop?? Cuzco!!!