A wonderful weekend
Lots of things have happened since we last spoke to each other. I mean, I had the best veggie burger of my life, visited a place called "Sexywoman" (well, at least that's how the tourists say it), and had a pretty fantastic weekend with plans to go to Puno sometime in the coming weeks.
Last weekend was a blast! The temple of the moon was actually pretty cool, especially since you could see some Spanish ruins, and the animal carvings the guide pointed out to us (including a llama) we could actually identify and see. The main problem with many of these Inca ruins is that people point to them and say things like "there's a puma" and "this is condor rock".... but, there is no visible evidence (to our untrained eyes?) of whatever the people are pointing out. The point is the temple of the moon was actually a lot cooler than I thought it would be.
After exploring the ruins and being subsequently told that the entrance was off- limits, we went for a hike and found a cave (and a shaman washing his clothes in a small pool).
After all of those wonderful discoveries, we were caught in what we wrongfully assumed was a rainstorm, but rightfully assumed would last less than an hour. We were wrong because it very quickly turned into a hailstorm. This meant that a group of around thirty people were squished together inside a rather small store as we waited for the storm to pass. Inside with us was a little girl with her parents, who appeared to be counting out a rather large stack of 1000 US dollar bills. It took my companions and I longer than it should have to realize that it was play money.
On our way down from where the temple of the moon was located, we passed yet another prominent and impressively sized rock formation that meant something spiritual to the Inkas. Are you sensing a theme yet? Italy, who had been, pretended to point things out to our Finnish friend and I (such as 'Look, there's a puma"). I understand that this whole thing might come across as making fun of the culture of others, but things can be amazing even when you cannot even begin to understand them, which is truly the case with most of these ruins and more natural formations.
After that, we snuck into Saxyhuaman (Sexywoman, if you will). We could not get very close, but what we did see of the fortress of Rooks was pretty breathtaking... even if we went the cheap, regular people route instead of the expensive tourists' route. It was honestly really beautiful, and because we had been cheap, we were able to take an even pretty back way through a beautiful little path in the woods down to the town. I say 'path' but it was really more of a road.
We got down to the town/ village and spotted some visa signs on the shops. This was a red flag. Be wary of this, because it typically means that the prices are going to be a lot higher, since most of the people who live in these areas have no use for a credit card. We explored a little, I added some things to my wish list (it is a wish list because I am waiting to decide if I need them until my parents come to visit and can assist me with my life decisions), saw lots of things we can get for cheaper in Cuzco, and then each ate an entire trout for lunch at a nice place with a trout pond of its very own, filled with people who obviously lived in Peru. It was delicious.
Then, we walked off our lunch by walking all the way down the mountain/ hillside. We stopped to look at one of the churches Italy was dying to see, but could not go inside because we did not have the right type of ticket to do so. Then, we meandered down until we reached the Plaza del Armas, the middle of the tourist-y portion of Cuzco. I can assure you that had I been alone there is no way that this trip would have worked out so neatly.
Then, we walked around, looking for a place to get a coffee or something, noticing a larger amount of more professional looking police officers as we did so. It turned out that we just happened to be in the plaza on the same day that a bunch of political marches and protests were happening, because one of the candidates (the daughter of an awful part of Peruvian history) was slated to visit, and is incredibly unpopular in the more mountainous regions. We saw roof of this with a large group of barefoot young women presented their peaceful protest, walking in front of traffic with tubs of water speaking out about peace in a cadence before stopping together as though part of one organism and placing their feet in the buckets of water that they carried, before repeating the process over again.
Yet another amazing day full of new and different sights and experiences in Peru.
Being Pooped on
This week was relatively eventful. I mean, what else can be expected from a week that begins in a reenactment of Jesus' crucifixion and ends with another one? They were actually really interesting. I'm not sure why, but I thought that they would be more somber events. This was not so-- as evidenced by the confetti being thrown by the group on Monday and the small brass band accompanying the one on Thursday night.
Then, of course, I was pooped on this past Wednesday. The two year old in the casita I volunteer in within the aldea (orphanage) pooped through his diaper and pants. I had no idea, so I plucked him up out of his high chair and sat down on the couch with him in my lap. It took approximately fifteen seconds for me to spot the refried beans- like substance coating half my right arm and spread over both thighs of my black leggings... I cleaned up quickly in the bathroom.
Other than that, nothing truly groundbreaking has happened. I went back to the vegan restaurant, got a new teacher for my Spanish class, and finally got my credit and debit cards in the mail. You can probably imagine my relief, but if you cannot, imagine finding out that you passed all your classes for a semester right when there was some threat of losing your 4.0 GPA.
Today I went and explored some parts of Cuzco I had not rally been to. I discovered a pretty wonderful cafe with fantastic ice cream. I plan on going back for the cake...
I love all of you guys so much! (more than the alpaca sweater I just bought)
That being said, if any of you want to come visit me, feel free :)
(Elena Giselle <3)
My Machu Picchu Visit
Hey, my darlings!
First of all, there were some interesting things happening in my part of the world. Unfortunately, I missed out on the reenactment of the crucifixion of Christ this weekend... However, last week I accompanied my fellow volunteers and a large group of orphans to one of the strangest events I have ever attended (and I did musical theater and go to Comic Cons). From what I gathered, the event was supposed to be in celebration of all the sports teams in Cusco, and involved a really lame (sadly) Olympic style torch lighting, teams of people in particular color combinations, and lots of people dressed in full character costumes (including but not limited to Peppa the Pig, a knock off Pooh Bear, a pineapple, and Olaf the Snowman). None of us volunteers understood what was going on, but we had a good time and agreed that our understanding probably would not have improved from a change in language.
Now, Machu Picchu was amazing. I learned a lot (unfortunately not from my guide). There was one guy in our group who actually seemed to know more about the Quechua people than our guide, though that may have had more to do with the fact that he lied about his ability to speak English and less about his actual knowledge. On that note, one of the things our guide actually did teach us is that the people as a whole are the Quechua (Ketch-wa), the term "Inca" was only used in reference to the king. We also learned about the significance of the Condor bird in Machu Picchu, complete with a temple, as well as many other amazing things.
I ended up spending about 7 hours at Machu Picchu with some new friends that I made. The experience was made better by the fact that these friends were all so interesting: 1) the Spanish hairdresser, dressed in running tights, 2) the French woman travelling alone because her boyfriend prefers staying in fancy hotels and she likes hostels, ready to spend her last night in Lima in a 100 dollar hotel complete with a pool with her nylon bag, hiking backpack, and leggings-- a true queen, 3) the Italian English teacher who is now retired and spending her time volunteering with a women's center in Cusco to help teach English. All of them had such interesting and inspiring outlooks on life. I hope that some day I can inspire some other young people the way that the people I keep meeting on my travels inspire me.
Back to learning about one of the wonders of the world, though. It turns out that the mountain that you see right next to Machu Picchu is not Machu Picchu mountain, though it is near a place you can see the Inca face made up of the mountains, which is actually pretty awesome. In addition, it was just a really amazing uplifting, and almost spiritual experience just to be there, surrounded by quartz rock buildings and llamas. In terms of the buildings, I took part in a rather interesting conversation pertaining to the shapes-- perhaps circular shapes were considered too holy, since the Quechua worshiped both Sun and Moon... Mostly, this theory arose within our group upon seeing the distinct lack of circular shapes within the wonder/ ruin/ amazing piece of history.
I will leave you with this vaguely disturbing tidbit, one that fits a bit too well into the universe of Indiana Jones (which I hate, by the way). The most beautiful female children were chosen to live in a particular temple on the grounds. The most beautiful when they reached adulthood were human sacrifices, the next tier down were chosen as wives of the king, and the last rung were forced to live the entirety of their lives until they died from natural causes. Typically the sacrifices took place in the Temple of the Sun (designed specifically so that no matter the season, the sun would still hit particularly spiritual angles etc). The heart was the most important part, and was used as the sacrifice to the Sun, then the body was cut into pieces and distributed by class. Obviously the poorest people got the hands and feet, while the priests got whatever the next best thing to the heart was. After all that wonderful cannibalism, the skulls of the sacrifices were placed in the center of the compound as a reminder of the wonderful afterlife the sacrifices received; rebirth.
Love you all so much, and I would love to hear any questions you come up with,
Everyday Acts of Activism