July to Aug 2014.
I was asked a number of times, before leaving, if I was excited to be going back to Peru and I didn’t have a reply at that point. I think it was because there were so many unknowns for me; the 4 flights and all my luggage, where I’d stay, getting used to a new place and no friends there etc. I can now safely say all is well and I am beginning to feel much calmer and settled. This feels like where I should be for the foreseeable future. We shall see how it all goes.
Don’t get me wrong Peru is full of challenges but it still feels right for me.
One thing is for sure I will be fit working here. The climb to the school is quite something and you have NO option but to hike up to it. They are just inside Pisac Archeological Park and at the foot of the terraces to the Pisac Ruins. Even some of the locals (with the exception of the kids) puff and pant on their way up, stopping to rest on occasions. Carrying my laptop, notebooks, various layering (as the rooms are very cold when you are out of the sun), and drinking water for the day doesn’t help the situation! It is also great for your figure as you walk miles in a day!
On one such occasion, while climbing up to the school, I found a little girl whimpering at the bottom of the steps. Everyone else was in school and when I asked her where she was going and what was wrong I discovered she was scared of the grazing sheep on the steps. She was in kindergarten and seemingly her mother just sends her off on her own. I took her hand we we passed easily, dropping her into class and explaining the problem. She was a lovely little thing called Marisol. It always feels nice to give a little one a helping hand.
I thought you might like to hear about some special moments for me:
While staying at the hostel a beautiful thing happened. I was showering in one of the shared bathrooms and as I dried myself a butterfly flew onto my arm. It stayed there for what seemed like quite a time as I continued to moisturize. It was quite incredible and very special. It then flew to the door and I opened it to let it out. Beautiful!!
During a walk into the mountains a beautiful dog came to me at the bottom of the mountain and then proceeded to stay with me during our one hour’s walk. It had the most beautiful nature and stayed behind me most of the time, gently touching my hand or leg on occasions. When I reached a point high in the mountains I rested for quite some time soaking up the sensations there and he/ she sat with me until I was ready to return. It followed me back to the house and I fed it. I wasn’t sure if he/she would stay but it sat outside the door curled up, not wanting to come into the house. In the morning it was gone. I have seen it a couple of times since (including at the entrance to the school when I was with Marisol, the little girl) and it always greets me. It tried to follow me one evening but was chased off by an Alsatian that stays at the foot of mountain I live on. I was sorry about that but feel it could be difficult as this Alsatian doesn’t like other dogs and there was no way to keep the dog safe.
Before school finished for their winter break (remember I am now in the opposite seasons to Europe) I had the most heart-warming conversation with one of the teachers about his own relationship and wife and how truly beautiful and harmonious it was; about the TRUE meaning of love and finding the right partner, truly understanding about sexual energy and when you find that perfect woman for you, working at the relationship, taking a long time to learn about each other, respecting each other and loving each other before moving forward to fully consummate the relationship; learning your own flaws and dealing with them first. He talked about some of his experiences growing up in a truly traditional remote Andean community amidst elders and healers very much in touch with Mother Earth and about creating music in tune with the Universe. He explained how he and his wife (the music teachers and who are in classes every day) offer to be an ear for the children, especially the adolescents, to listen and help them if they wish. They are a younger couple so the children will naturally gravitate to them.
I can’t explain how truly beautiful this conversation was other than to say the tears just started to flow freely and we cuddled at the end, greeting each other as brother and sister. I truly feel blessed to be living and working alongside these amazing people!
...and just the other day, while sitting outside 2 hummingbirds, usually very shy creatures circled above my head in what appeared to be a mating ritual. To be honest this one gave me quite a fright as they were so close to me!
..Just beautiful all the same!
So, as is always the way here, there are challenges everywhere just to live and move around and moving all my things into the new house that I am renting for the year, was one such occasion. One of the women from the school, Edie, helped me arrange a truck to go to Urubamba and collect all my things. I had visited Urubamba earlier in the week to try and organize my things but unfortunately I could only see one friend so when we arrived at the other location, where my furniture and various things were, I discovered Elise wasn’t sure what was mine and what wasn’t. I had emailed her to ask if all was well but until the time of gathering up I don’t think it occurred to her. Likewise I hadn’t realized quite so many of my things were distributed all over the place, and what should have only been 2 months storage had turned into 7 months. Such is life and I was grateful most of my stuff was still there and intact..just a few casualties and losses along the way.
On the day of the move, and just before we got to the truck, Edie announced she wasn’t coming which kind of left me in the lurch; we then spent the next half hour with the owner of the truck finding a driver. He found an old guy who it turned out had forgotten his glasses so was fined by the police as we were stopped before reaching Urubamba. As he was a little deaf and insisted on stopping as soon as we got into Urubamba and then again in Pisac I had to keep urging him on to each destination!! Once I had settled into how the day was going it was a little amusing! Once we were loaded and back in Pisac getting it to the house was a big challenge; requiring us to unload the truck, with all my stuff sitting around the church as we ferried it as close to the house as possible in a small moto-carga (a 3 wheeler with a small trailer attached). From the end of the dirt track everything then had to be carried up a very steep hill (about 10 mins walk uphill). I was very glad to have the help of 3 boys from our farm project. All in all this took us until 5pm having started around 9am. This wasn’t because there was a huge amount of stuff, as the dresser went to the school and my washing machine went to Edie and her family, but because of all the chaos. With only one piece of furniture left and the trouble getting everything here I have promised myself I will leave this house lighter than when I arrived.
The house is fully furnished so this has made things easier. With a year’s lease and the option to extend for an extra year I could be here for some time. It is beautiful with lots of hummingbirds and stunning views surrounded by the mountains. being in a valley we can still here the bells, fireworks and music from Pisac but at least it is a little further away. We have a few challenges with the water system and building still going on but slowly but surely we are getting there.
To be fair it has taken that first month to let things settle as I had one of my close neighbours staying for 2 weeks as her small accommodation was still being built and all the hassles of very inefficient Peruvian working made those first weeks pretty tough! We still aren’t there yet, and ongoing internet issues but it’s Peru and so you have to accept that this is the way it is!
I have also found my energy has dropped through the floor so I have finally given into it. Although I have started back with the school I am finding if I work a full day I am wiped out the next day, so I will have to pull it back where I can. I can see that working with them is going to be wonderful, hopefully really bringing a lot of things together. Basically they needed someone to help and I think looking at it with fresh eyes has highlighted a number of things. We have a few deadlines but I hope to be able to spread this out a bit after this initial surge.
Everything seems to be falling into place and I know that this is where I am supposed to be. It is a funny feeling when you really feel connected with somewhere. I am not sure for how long but hopefully for some time, depending on my visa situation..at least I have nice accommodation for quite a period of time.
The house and the lovely feel of the place has already helped a couple of friends needing space and time. I have rearranged things quite a bit to make it feel really comfortable. I’m not a great one for formal settees so both were moved out into the bedrooms and one of the single mattresses off the bunk beds put sown and a comfy area made. This with lamps dotted around makes it very inviting I think. Curled up on this with a blanket makes everything feel better!
The mountains are truly beautiful here too and I am nestled in the middle of them. At night the stars and moon are truly magnificent. I have found a lovely spot to sit just above the house and when the sun is not too hot I just sit here and take in the feel of the place, watching the butterflies and all the lovely birds.
There is a fairly extensive garden area that is maintained by the Peruvian family (well it is supposed to be! ) The downside of all this lovely outside area is I am constantly covered in bites! I can’t figure out how and where they come from having tried various different approaches but so far no joy! Oh well ,I am glad I have my supply of antihistamines.
The house is 20 minutes walk to town (with that steep climb back up). Motos are non-existent along this road and if you decide to take one back it will cost you 8-10 soles which is ridiculous here! The same distance across the river is 1 sol. I think it is because there are less of us here and it is a dirt track. Because of this you don’t just nip in for food and so I am cooking a little more. To be honest there are only a small number of eating places and most are geared up for the tourists so expensive. With all this walking, eating much more healthily with limited good sweet stuff available my weight has dropped off quite a bit. I may need to find a seamstress to take in my trousers!
I have ventured into Cusco for lunch and the local sauna which is a little rougher than you guys are all used to but it is good. I spoke about this last year. It is good to get out of the valley every other week to meet friends and it is only half an hour once the taxi leaves. I have avoided getting into the Pisac culture, one because of the distance I am from town and two because there is a very large hippy culture here dabbling in a lot of weird and wonderful stuff. I am fortunately and the opposite end of town from them.
On my last trip I was taken to the new Plaza with its multiplex cinema and top of the range shops..boy was that a shock to my system! I can’t help but feel this could be a white elephant, especially with the current shops as Cusco doesn’t have that kind of money! They have based this on Lima which does have more cash and a bigger travelling clientelle happy to shop. When tourists arrive in Cusco they are here for the cultural experience and treks,,,not the out-of-the-way expensive plaza! I hope not to be in it again for quite some time!!
So back to sleepy Pisac.....I must admit I do enjoy the walk and seeing how the chakras (large area of communal agricultural land) change. Watching them work the ground as we would (well some of us! ) , lifting stones, working it by hand, with oxen, or the odd tractor if it is a larger area and owned by a lot of people. and all the different birds here. This is a truly agricultural area. The other areas I have stayed in were much more urban for here, the city or a market town.
When I arrived there was an amazing splash of yellow across a large area of this flat land. This was the drying corn ( as in sweetcorn). They leave it dry out so that when they take it off the husk it can be stored for up to 7 years. They use this a lot, roasted and salted, so like popcorn in a way but much harder obviously. They also use it in their soups.
Just to remind you soups here are a main meal at any part of the day. Soup for breakfast is very common. This is not one of your subtly blended soups. Often the liquid is boiling with only the potatoes (large ones floating around in it and the chicken and veg, which have been previously cooked are stored under a cover(if you are lucky) separately. I should also say that the potatoes are a different variety that are often freeze dried so they again will keep for longer. They also hold their shape in the soup too. They have a black tinge to them. The chicken and veggies are added just as you ask for a plate. I visited one such stall with a young volunteer. This lady comes highly recommended and is actually the mother of one of the teachers at the school. In her case you get the vegetables on a separate plate to add as you wish because there are so many. She has a supply of poly bags so you could take some chicken or veggies away with you, as it was unbelievably filling. She keeps topping up the liquid as you need it too. I managed most of the vegetables, a few of the potatoes but took the chicken back and ate it over 2 days, it was so large.!! It was great value for money , working out at £2.50. I will definitely visit her again.
So back to the Chakras. They had obviously grown all this corn in each plot and then laid it out in an area closer to Pisac for security reasons. Then over a 3 day period this area was full of ladies and some men removing all the corn off the husks and bagging it. It was incredible to watch I can tell you! If I ever get decent internet I can share a couple of photos. I am not sure where they have taken it to be stored or sold it I imagine but all is cleared, even the husks have now been bagged and removed. The fields have now been cleared of all the dried stalks, being fed to the animals and the oxen brought in to plough each area in readiness for the next crop. Watching the children run in front of the oxen to help keep them travelling in the right direction and them pulling the large wooden poles to which the metal knife of the plough is attached is quite mesmerizing. As I have said before it is like living in post war times here. I am not sure at this stage if it will be more corn or perhaps potatoes that will be planted. We shall see.
Well my lovelies that brings you up-to-date with my Peru life.
I hope life ifs treating you all well.
Hasta luego xxx