Monday, September 21, 2009

Last Night in Perú

Tomorrow I fly home. I have asked myself whether I am ´ready´ to come home. As well, this is a question you may have for me. Of course, I want to return to my amazing husband, friends, family, and home. And, at the same time, part of the reason I went on this journey was to explore another part of the world and the way other people live in order to evaluate my own life. This time in Perú has given me the opportunity to reflect on Western culture.

While we are very privileged to be citizens of the United States, we often miss some of the simplest most beautiful things in life. We have become so accustomed to having everything that the meaning and value of many things have been diluted. And, we have lost some basic skills, like making do with what we have or being satisfied with less than what we are used to having.

The realization that I can live with much less is one of the most powerful insights for me on this trip. My fear of coming home is that I will get caught up in wanting things, the best of things, again. Being harsh and judgemental about my own life and culture is not a place I want to be either. A very wise man, who I admire, has provided me with some guidance for my entry back into my life at home. One of the keys to a successful homecoming will be to hold sacred the insights I have had while not letting myself get too bombarded with the meaningless chatter in our ´developed´ world.

I do look forward to coming home with a different perspective on life and seeing how I can integrate these lessons into life at home in the states. Thank you to all the beautiful people in Perú who have unknowingly touched my life and provided me with such a wonderful and unforgettable experience.

See you all soon!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The 8th Wonder of the World....

I upchucked through the whole thing. Actually, I did get to see the first two Nazca lines before vomiting pineapple juice into the pathetic barf bag the airport provided. I wasn´t alone in my misery though. The Czech guy sitting next to me joined me in the vomiting fest. He, however, recovered much faster than me. I was sick for the whole rest of the day. The alcohol soaked cotton ball that the pilot handed out just made me feel worse. What is the deal anyway? Is that supposed to suppress nausea?

The Nazca lines are one of the most visited tourist sites in Peru along with Machu Picchu. They truly are a wonder and somewhat of a mystery to archaeologists. Three theories for their existence are: astronomical maps; irrigation channels (links to aqueducts); and religious/sacred expressions. The latter being the most viable theory.

I have a bracelet as a souvenir to remind me of my unforgettable experience in Nazca. Whoooweee - what a way to 'end' my trip in Peru.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fernandina - Our Lake Titicaca Hostess

Imagine cooking in this kitchen over a wood fire. No granite countertops and vegetable sinks or refridgerators with ice-water dispensers. What would we do?!

Lago Titicaca - The highest navigable lake on earth

Lago Titicaca looks like the ocean, you can look out into the horizon without seeing land for miles. This lake is shared by both Perú and Boliva. A few of the islands have been inhabited since pre-Inca times. These islands have hundreds of agricultural terraces that date back many years where they have grown potato, barley, quinoa and the other local crops. I had a chance to stay with a family on Amantaní island. A widow and her two children were gracious hosts to me and a women I met from Malaysia the night before in a Chifa restaraunt in Cusco.

The island was so tranquil and our host home had a beautiful view of the lake for miles and miles. Fernandina cooked tradtional island food for us in her modest kitchen over a wood fire. Our beds were turned down with sweet little daisies adorning the corners of the sheets. She had flowers from her garden in vases on the table and around the entrance to the kitchen. We enjoyed a few meals and talking with her about her life on the island.

Later we took a hike to see the incredible sunset turn the sky bright colors of orange and red. Looking to both the east and west, you could see the mountain ranges of the East and West Cordillera in the central Andes. We returned to the Fernandina home in the icy cold wind to a warm bowl of quinoa soup, rice, potatoes and carrots with a hot cup of Coca tea.

Just before going to bed, we gazed at the dark sky filled with millions of bright stars. In the morning we said our goodbyes after a delicious breakfast made with love and gratitude by our hostess.

Emotions in the Amazon Rainforest

As we take our last boat ride upstream on the Madre de Dios River I gaze out at the mysterious dense jungle feeling sad. I am sad for a few reasons. My immediate sadness is that I don´t want to leave this incredible place, I am actually getting used to the nusances (bugs, humidity, heat) and appreciating the intricate ecosystem of the rain forest; second, I wish everyone could understand and experience the wonders of nature here in the Amazon (without destroying it, of course); and lastly but most importantly, the downside of modernism is devastating these ´lungs of the earth´ and is happening at a seemingly unstoppable rate.

It seems funny to have such powerful emotions of attachment to place that just the day before I wanted to leave so badly because of my extreme discomfort. True, I am ready to leave now because I know I can´t stay but I am leaving with a new appreciation for the part of the world that is so important to our existence and to the people who have inhabited for many many years.

Currently, Hunt Oil, a Texas based oil company, and Peru are proceeding with plans to expand oil exploration in the Amazon Rain Forest of Perú. You can read more about this potential devastating decision at

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Temple of Three Windows

Hiram Bingham named this structure ´The Temple of Three Windows´´ which once contained five windows.

!Què increible es Machu Picchu!

Today I woke up in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) at 3:30 a.m. to the sound of pouring down rain. I snoozed for a bit, hoping the rain would stop, and then rallied to get in line with all the other travelers who want to climb Wanay Picchu. There is a limit of 400 people per day allowed on the mountain. It is a very strenuous climb up steep stairs built by the Incas but the vista is amazing from the top. You can see all of the Machu Picchu site and a 360 degree view of the surrounding majestic mountians.

I have seen many Inka ruins in Peru that are quite impressive. But the setting for Machu Picchu is most incredible.

Oh, and by the way, the mountain in the picture above is Wanay Picchu.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Favortie Moments in Peru

Yesterday I went to a small pueblo called Chinchero where there is a festival this week. It started raining and hailing so everyone hid undercover. I ended up on the porch of an old beautiful church with many locals. I was the only gringa because most of the tourist buses had not arrived yet. The young men were all dressed in traditional festival clothing with hand-beaded hats, pants, and shirts. They play music and dance, kind of like a marching band. During the festival they carry around crates of beer. The mood was very festive in spite of the weather.

The locals got a kick out of me because I speak a bit more Spanish than the average tourist and try to speak a few words in Quechua, the indigenous language.

One of the older men suggested a photo of me and the two men I was sitting next too. Next thing you know, they were pouring me beer, asking me if I was married, and laughing at every word I said. It was a rare opportunity to chat with them and to get a photo with the whole band. We were all laughing and getting a kick out of each other. After a while, and the rain subsided and they continued on marching on through town and over the hill to celebrate with more dancing, music,
drinking, and eating.

These are my favorite moments of my travels. I feel blessed. After all, I came to Perù with hopes to have moments like these.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Back from the Jungle

I arrived in Cusco yesterday by plane from the Manu Biosphere in the Amazon Rainforest. Today I went with a group from the hostel to Pisac market and ruins. We hiked for miles up a curvy road and then up the mountain side to the top of the ruins. I have so much to share about the jungle and other experiences, I can´t write fast enough. Hopefully, you can see some of the photos posted on Facebook.

Tomorrow, I will make arrangements to go to Machu Picchu. I have been in this country for a month and not yet to Machu Picchu. After that, I will start making my way home via Lake Titicaca, Arequipa, Ica, and then fly out of Lima. I have 15 more days in this amazing country. I am looking forward to coming home but will miss it here.

Tonight I am too tired to write much but will catch up soon.

Cusco Central Market

The central market in Cusco has everything you can imagine, from sheep brains to toilet paper, herbal concoctions, maize, hot food, freshly squeezed juices, live frogs, dried llama embryos, and tailors in case you need your hem fixed or a skirt made. Many of the local people do their shopping in this market. They can get everything they need and even have a hot lunch; not quite like Costco but it is certainly one version of one-stop shopping. There are whole baby cows, skinned or coat still intact, sheep heads, or if you prefer intestines, hooves, tongue, or bladder, you can buy those too.

The vendors are children, young and old ladies alike. They cut and weigh animal parts, fruit, or make an herbal remedy for anything from a common cold to cancer. One of my favorite things to watch is when the vendors nod off into a siesta sitting on a bag of potatoes or laying their head down on a sack of meat.

There is something about seeing the grittiness of who we really are, without the illusion that our supermarkets perpetuate: that life is clean, comfortable, and neat.