Monthly Archives: September 2007

A few Firsts

1) My first sidewalk crapper. Urination, I´ve seen. Defecation in public is a whole other level. It sort of fit in the surroundings though.

2) On Av. Del Sol I was offered a variety of items for purchase. This is not unusual in itself however, the fact that someone decided to corner the market on small hand saws (and only small hand saws) on the sidewalk intruigues me a bit (how many are they going to sell?). Already taken items: batteries, squeegee brushes, hand saws, finger puppets, toothpaste….I wonder if I could make a killing with salt and pepper shakers. One can actually buy toilet paper through a car window while stopped at a light.

3) A first, of likely many, bootlegged items. The new Harry Potter today, in spanish, $3. I think it will help to read something I´ve already read in English. It looks pretty kosher wrapped in its plastic but its an obvious photocopy once opened. Here I come roadside movie stands!

4) Chewed hoja de coca (yeah, cocaine plant is legal here) with my spanish teacher during class. It really isn´t all that bada·· but it sounds like it. Nothing happened; surprise, they tasted like leaves, all dry…and crunchy…mmm.


Poorer in Plata, richer in knowledge

This past weekend has been a good one for finally exploring a bit more. Let me break it down for ya´ll.
Friday: After class myself and two fellow students caught a taxi to Tipon (a town about a half hour outside cusco) for a little Peruvian delicacy. Remember Polka Dot Door? Remember their pet G.P.? Well, I ate him! We walk into this dive (in isn´t really the right word because its more out than in) and the transaction goes like this
¨How many plates?¨
¨Three, please¨
¨Small, med, or large?¨
¨All small¨
¨With heads or without?¨
¨One with, two without¨
It was that easy. You got it, I ate a guinea pig. Mine was a headless one but it still looked like the animal (quartered) with its claws intact and the little ribbies inside. A good anatomy lesson. Too bad they have very little meat and quite a bit of fat. I didn´t eat much of it but I tried it and you didn´t.

Saturday: Justine and I took a bus up to some ruins called TamboMachay and walked back down, hitting four other sites on the way. The first set weren´t much to see so I spent more time falling the calls of some sheep but the rest, while not very large, were quite impressive. The stone architecture of the Incas is really unmatched by other civilizations. The last site and the largest (SacsayHuaman) consisted of a triple terraced defence wall that zigzigs and a large mound with rockslides on one slide (called ¨The Sliding Place¨in Quechua). The slides were popular in Inca times and still pretty darn fun. I bet little Inca kids would say things like ¨Mom, can I go hang out at the slides¨? ¨Not until you finish husking your corn, Wayruta¨Or something like that.

Today-Sunday: Bussed to Pisac with four others (4.40 soles round trip = $1.35 for two hours on the bus) to see some ruins and a market. The market was massive and fairly amazing (although a bit repetitive after a while) and I didn´t even see the ruins. I turned around when I found out I needed a very expensive ticket that would run out before I could use it again. I´ll see them but plan it a bit better.

Something finally hit me yesterday: I can´t get Pepsi anywhere in the country! No Pepsi? Ok, not the end of the world but sometimes you just have a craving. On top of that, if it has to be Coke couldn´t it be cold? Is that too much to ask? Obviously it is, sigh. One cannot locate ice cold (or even mildly cold) gaseosa ´round these parts. But seeing the way people live here it is a pretty incomparable hardship. I live in a very well-off neighbourhood but there aren´t words to describe the dilapidation in this city, of the colour of brown that seeps into everything. The pollution is incredible. The people are industrious. Even with 54% of people below the poverty line there are very few beggars. Not that you aren´t implored at every corner but it is for shoeshines, confections, phone calls, wherever there is the smallest need (often that of a tourist) someone has found a way to fill it. Just as I sat down to write this blog the earth trembled. Just slightly, just enough to cause notice, a small shake. My very first earthquake.

The Ruins of Sexy Woman

My theory: the only thing keeping the cab drivers and the passengers alive here are the massive dashboard shrines, because it certainly isn´t the nonexistant seatbelts. Every driver (or Chofer) has pictures and charms of Jesus and their favourite saints adorning the cloth and fringe-covered dashboard. This month was the festival of Señor de Huanca so they all have a banner above the windshield (in velvet and gold letters no less) welcoming him or something like that.
As for sight seeing I have to admit to not doing any yet (save for climbing up a ridiculous amount of stairs to a pretty poor area and catching a magnificent view of the whole city). However, this weekend calls for a visit to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman (pronounced similar to ‘Sexy Woman’ with a spanish accent). Apparently it is a half hour walk uphill from the school…woot.
Let’s talk tourism though. It is hard to separate the evils and good of tourism in Cusco. It appears that the most common ways to make money here are: drive a taxi, sell your paintings to tourists or hawk postcards at restaurants (substitute carvings, finger puppets, jewelry, etc. for postcards). These jobs wouldn{t exist without tourists, would they be needed? Likely they would. From the history of Perú it seems that the government got the country into a bit of a financial bind well before tourists overran the place. Would the culture be on sale at every turn? Probably not. It is sad to see women dressed in their traditional clothing and carrying a lamb around to make tips by posing with tourists but one can’t really blame them. If you needed money for food and tourists would pay you for something you had, you would sell it…even if it was your image. Oh, and talk about pollution with all of the taxi’s- I don’t need to take up smoking just a brisk walk to the grocery store.}

Can no longer claim my title

Me duele la cabeza por el primero tiempo de mi vida. I have a headache for the first time in my life. Nothing brutal so I can{t complain at all but I will no longer be able to use it when playing ¨I have never. The altitude will get you but I took it easy last night and today I paid for school and will getting acquainted with the town.
THe answer to everything here is ¨coca¨which I suppose makes Cusco similar to Vancouver. Not chocolate (cacao) but the leaf which cocaine is derived from. They give me glass after glass of the tea and it tastes good! The Spanish is coming back quickly. HOwever, concepts like ¨I feel¨or ¨I would, I could, ¨are difficult right now so I mostly stay in the concrete of life. It actually means I keep my mouth shut and listen quite a bit more; a new skill for me.
As for my homestay, it couldn´t be better. There is another student, a girl from Montreal, staying at the home. The house is home to an older couple and their married daughter and adorable grandson who is about 1 year old. There is also a domestic helper and her daughter Veronica who are always there (I don{t think they live there though) and a young indigenous boy who also works in the house ¨´villi¨. The home is hidden behind a wall and has a courtyard in the middle where their TWO DOGS stay (blondy, a golden retreiver pup, and puski, a mutt). Our rooms open onto an outdoor balcony that looks out over homes and a mountain (did I mention I was spoiled?) The other student and I share a bathroom with two sinks and two showers and HOT WATER!
I am doing my best to be open to the food and luckily they have been kind so far. For dinner was a beef product though, which I ate, I think it has actually been years since I have eaten something like a steak. For breakfast Aleja (Ah LAY ha) made papya smoothie things but something different is they don{t drink cold drinks so it was warm….but drinkable once it cooled off lol.
For three months my name will be ´Kah-tee´. I like it, its different. And hey, I get the T pronounced now. Pictures to come sometime this week I hope. There is so much to say but I´ll save it for another time.
oh yeah, Taxi´s are SO cheap here. I feel really bad. To go for about a 10 minute ride it is two soles. That is about 60 cents. What? The meter starts at way over that in Canada, but here there are no meters. ALso, I had to cash my travelers cheques to pay for school. So we’re standing in the open doorway of a little shop counting out $2000 in cash. They gave me free chiclets for changing with them. Neato.
The flight here was also the nicest I htink I have ever been on. Comfy leather-ish seats, a good snack, oh and the view of THE ANDES. At one point while still climbing in altitude the clouds made the mountains appear like a mirage. And, guess what played on the flight?? Just for Laughs Gags, straight out of montreal. I guess its funny no matter what language you speak!

Tired and constipated in Lima

My first experience of an internet cafe and I had to ask how to use the @ sign. It is a pretty significant amount of work for such a common symbol, having to press ALT and then hit 64 consecutively. I would not have figured that out on my own. Here I am, in badly need of a toothbrushing and a change of clothes but feeling fairly awake and excited to get started. The flight was so horribly uneventful I have nothing really to report except that my connecting flight from Miami to Lima was late so I missed my last leg to Cusco by, oh, three minutes!! But being unable to do anything about it until about an hour later when the American Airlines reps got in I considered crying about it and then decided to laugh and get some reading done. An observation: I would not have fit in in Miami. That´s ok with me. So far I haven¨t really had to use my Spanish too much except for an occasional gracias, which is probably good because my skills have seriously degraded. I did whip out ¨tres meses, por favor¨when bartering with the immigrations agent who insisted on giving be only 60 days entry into the country and not the 90 I needed. But he caved. After I was given a ticket onto a later flight (1pm in an hour and a half) it struck me that I was hungry (midnight lasagna on the plane didn¨t hold me past 630am so I went in search of some local cuisine. I was a bit disappointed to find that I recognized almost every food distributor except ¨Manos Morenas¨or ¨dark hands¨as it translates… Determined not to make my first meal in South America a trip to McDonald´s I settled for a donut and water at Dunkin´Donuts (I had no idea they cornered the Peru market). Even the donuts are different. The icings are almost neon and have flavours like pistaschio. I went for a halloween-y ¨durazno y chocolate¨or peach and chocolate (you figured out the chocolate all by yourself, didn´t you?) and it really tasted like peaches. Anywho, after losing three soles (the currency) to a pay phone in order to inform the school that I would be late arriving at the airport I was reassured by the fact that it seems as if they pretty much forgot that I was to arrive at 715 so it wasn´t a problem to come at 2. Oh, random event: so a band starts playing and film crews are squishing this stylish latina woman while she walks through the airport. The crowd then stops, parts and the band plays some traditional latin music while many of the excited followers begin dancing with her around the circle and waving some papers. I wish I knew what was going on but I decided to test out my Spanish right then and there and asked in my best accent who the woman was. Well of course I had to smile and nod when the reply was in Spanish. I think….that maybe….she was some sort of Spanish figurehead and was allowing some sort of immigration papers for some native peoples. Or nothing like that.

ps. I copy and pasted this. I apologize that it has no paragraph breaks but it did and now I don´t care enough to put them back

It was Jose’s beanstalk and he lived in Leamington

Contrary to what some might believe I am not yet in Peru but still on Canadian grass. Which will only be true for approximately two more hours. Mark and I came down to Essex on Monday where I could be spoiled by his family for a few days and then fly out at 6pm tonight. Yesterday we decided to visit Colasanti’s, a local petting zoo/tropical garden (although I was a little uneasy at supporting a place that would import lion cubs…sigh). We got a bit turned around and ended up driving through Leamington instead of finding the zoo and I was so excited by the little town that he suggested we skip the zoo thing and walk around downtown Leamington. I’m no longer allowed to use the phrase “this is one of my favourite places in the world!” so liberally since I apparently throw it about too often (but maybe they really are ALL my favourite places!) so I won’t go that far but it was pretty nifty.

Leamington: the little mexican haven in southern Ontario. A mexican consular office, restaurants, grocery stores. The migrant workers have really added their own flavour to the town and it is so welcoming. On top of all that this little community has its very own Fair Trade store. Everything in it is traded fairly (meaning people who made the goods, often women and children, were given a fair price to allow them to support themselves) and the staff is all by volunteer. I found a fantastic leather ring and some chocolate grown in Ghana (very tasty!). Mark got himself a little basket to use as a candy dish that came all the way from Bangladesh and some more chocolate. This place is a hidden jewel.

The time is ticking by so I should end this and not spend my last hours on a computer. I am going to miss the local amenities and warm showers and vast English literature but it is all worth it. Here’s to a safe trip!


mmmmm. fresh carrots picked in the rain. just a hint of dirt taste.

All about the Benjamins (translation: Queen’s heads for canadians)

With about 6.7 billion people in the world I guess I can’t complain about being the 837,849,304th richest person in the world. I could look at it and fret that over EIGHT HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE are richer than I am, however there isn’t a whole lot I’m about to do about it and this puts me in the top %13 of the world in terms of wealth.

Oh wait, did I forget to mention that the ranking above is MINE. Not my entire household income from living with my parents (their income puts them somewhere around the 51 millionth richest people in the world or top 0.85%) but MY income, after taxed, having worked for only 4 months of the year, for the summer, at $12 an hour. An amount that couldn’t come close to supporting a Canadian family (or a single for that matter). Living in the top %15 of the world, had i had to pay my own living expenses I would have little to show for it. An ipod? Not likely. The luxury of three months to expand my horizons and ‘find myelf’? Wouldn’t happen. It is pretty incredible to look at how underprivileged I feel when I can’t drop wads of cash for that really cute new dress in the store.