El Señor Tigre


Bored with making friendship bracelets, one of my art class students grabbed a paper mache mask from the shelf and put it over his face. With the skill of a true comedian, he patiently sat and waited for a reaction. I turned around, saw him in the painted tiger face, and exclaimed, “Hola, Señor Tigre!” The room erupted in laughter and that´s how Davis became Sr. Tigre.

Angeline sponsored April 16 for art projects with the kids, and so her blog entry is long overdue. As head of the art room at Yanapay a few weeks ago, I was able to do my feathers project and then make friendship bracelets. On Flickr you can view the photos that I brought along for inspiration, from an exhibit at the Met of Featherwork in Ancient Peru. I prepared a presentation of the history and significance of these objects, and managed to keep their attention long enough to ask them a few questions. Doing art projects, its difficult to get them to think and work creatively, as they are so used to just copying, copying, copying in school. None the less, the class went pretty well, and we made some nice feather mosaic pictures.

However, they loved making the friendship bracelets, and wanted to do that for days. The girls, for the most part, knew how to do it or else picked it up very quickly. The boys, as a whole, were hopeless, and succeeded in making a series of irregular knots.

In general the boys are rowdy and disruptive for the entire three hours at Yanapay, and make a smooth, organized class impossible. So when Sr. Tigre came into the reading room this week, I wasn´t expecting to get him to concentrate and read. But surprises never cease, and when I wasn´t working with Clara, I had an amazing week reading with Davis. He gasped in awe as he read about killer whales (ballenas asesinos-murderer or assassin whales!) and traced his finger over the beautiful pictures in the book. Since he enjoyed that so much, we drew pictured of killer whales. Then we learned about all the animals besides hens which lay eggs, about polar animals, and about all the different types of trucks. He was quite impressed that I have seen, with my own eyes, el camion de salchicha (the Weiner Mobile!)




Buy Small and Save!

I was finally able to buy some butter at the Mega Supermercado yesterday.  All last week, lots of margarine on the shelves, but no butter.  I was trying to decide between a large one or a small one, attempting to recall how quickly I go through butter, when I realized that it made no economic sense to buy the large.  100 grams for 1.50s/ or 200 grams for 3.50s/.  The large cost more per gram!  I think I´ve noticed this with other products too.  I would have a look around the Mega and do a thorough survey to confirm my hunch, but, well, it really isn´t worth my time.  I guess this goes hand in hand with my previous observation that people here buy just enough for what they need for one day – no mas!  Sin embargo, (my favorite Spanish phrase: “none-the-less”) I see a business opportunity here:  Sam´s Club Peru – buy tiny and save!


This Bus Doesn´t Go to Cusco? Why Are You All Laughing at Us?

My hiking plans for the day fell fell through, so I jumped on a bus to Pisac to see the Big Market Day.  I was a little hesitant to go, after reading and hearing how it is swamped with tourists as well as little girls with cute lambs begging you to pay them to take their picture.  But I was on a mission:  my throat desperately needed a scarf to protect itself from the cold Cusco nights, and I wanted to get pictures of, and maybe buy, a Chancay doll.  These are reproductions of burial dolls from the Nasca area desert.  The modern versions are reportedly made from ancient fabrics that are found in desert burials.  Apparently, you can just kick around in the sand and unearth as much burial cloth material as you desire.

So the market actually wasn´t too busy, and I wandered about and successfully got a scarf and a doll from the same lady, for what turned out to be good prices and easy bargaining (perhaps I should have started lower…)  I then discovered that with taking photos, the most challenging part is to crop out all the other tourists taking photos.  That way you get more “authentic” photos of the market… ;) The other key is to sneak them quickly so that everyone in the picture doesn´t ask you for a propina, a tip.  I eventually resorted to replying, “¿a propina para la fruta?” – “what, a tip for the fruit?  I was taking a picture of the fruit!”  (As always, pictures can be seen on Flickr)

I then enjoyed a choclo con queso – giant corn on the cob with cheese, and a little later, a giant bread fresh from the oven.  Just as I was about ready to leave, I ran into some other volunteers, Katelyn and Heather, and we went for an incredible meal at a restaurant overlooking the market square.  When it was time to head back, we walked back to the bridge, and hopped on the bus with the giant CUSCO letters on the front.  It took off, and after several minutes I thought, “hmmm, did any of us ask if this is going to Cusco?”  It didn´t seem to be heading back up the mountain from where we came…  When the ticket guy came by we discovered, no, it is continuing on to Calca.  So…we had a half hour ride to Calca, and then headed back.  But as fate would have it , it turned out to be good because we had seats, and by the time the bus got to Pisac, it was standing room only all the way back to Cusco.

edit – Sept. 2009: A photo of mine from this trip to the market is a finalist in the Conde Nast $25,000 Dream Trip Contest!

My choclo con queso with the seller in the background

Chancay Dolls

The ticket for the correct route back to Cusco

Not For Vegeterianos

Here are some photos from trips to various markets.  Beware, some photos are not intended to be viewed by the faint of heart or vegeterians.  More market photos on Flickr after the Tipon photos.

Photos can now be found here.

Chicken feet like brilliant stars in the sky…

First time I asked to take someone´s pic – I couldn´t pass it up, and then her little girl poked out just at the right moment!

Meat and fish alley

Sheep heads and hearts, and strong, determined woman

I was taking a pic of the tail-up chicken in the cone when the legs moved!  I had thought it was dead…I soon realized what was coming, and I fled.

Meat section of an indoor market

“A hoof in the scale”…sound like the start of a good adage…

A few of the 5,000 varieties of Peruvian potatoes

And dried potatoes

Now don´t say i didn´t warn you…

One of a table full

Morning Combi Ride

Peru combi schoolgirl cusco cuzco
Schoolgirl waiting for combi – Cusco, Peru

There’s always that kid on the school bus who throws up one morning.  The problem is that here, the school bus is also my bus.  And the bus is actually a combi – a tiny, third-hand Toyota van with seats to hold about 18, but with standing room holds up to 25.

On a side note, one morning I was one of the standing passengers on my morning ride on the Arco Iris (Rainbow).  (Other combi routes include the Expreso el Zorro or Fox Express, Servicio Expresso or Express Service, El Señor de Cabildo or Lord of Cabildo, and the Batman, or…Batman, complete with bat logo).  This particular combi was not one with the extended height roof, so as I was pretzeled in there, my head was in the back row, and I believe my tail was in the face of the front row.  And of course I emerged with my jacket zippers mysteriously unzipped.

Nevertheless, one morning, a boy proceeded to lose his breakfast.  I could use my almost-award-winning-descriptive-writing-skills to tell you about the contents and spray pattern of this, but I’ll spare you the worst.  Maybe I won´t.  From all appearances, it seemed his mother force fed him an ENTIRE jar of grape jelly, then sent him running to the bus stop, then he enjoyed a bumpy, exhaust filled ride for a few minutes.  Unfortunately he was face to face with the backwards facing kids, and one got the worst of it on his backpack.  The next two to the right were hit a bit, and luckily I, standing further to the right, was spared.  I reluctantly donated my USA made, 2-ply, extra soft, lint free Contonelle toilet paper to the cause, which I will probably quietly regret for the next 7 months.  The girl I handed it to made a few quick wipes of her mochila, then tossed it on the floor.  In shock at witnessing such a senseless act, I picked up the precious wad, made a nice ball, and placed it next to the mess on the seat, indicated to the girl sitting there that she could continue with the dirty work, which she thankfully did.  Seconds later a woman came in a sat in the very seat, completely unaware of the morning´s excitement.

Hiking in Ollantaytambo

Mi amiga Joetta told me we were going to “look at” some Inca terraces near Ollantaytambo (Oy-yan-tie-tom-bo), about an hour and a half outside of Cusco.  After a few hours of hiking in the sun, crossing a rushing stream, and climbing up the steep stone steps of the terraces, I realized I had not brought enough food and water for this terrace “viewing” adventure.  But there we were, hours from town, and half way up the mountainside.  We ran across a local woman, herding her sheep and collecting wood.  After we scared her sheep up the terraces, then snuck some photos of her, Joee ingratiated ourselves to her by saying hello and a few other words in Quechua.  The woman told us about some Inca ruins further on, so we dragged ourselves forward until we were able to see them, but did not have enough energy to continue on to them.  Luckily, on the way back, the woman – Sra. Ochoa – saved us from starvation with some freshly cooked choclo con queso (giant corn on the cob with goat cheese), which we ate as her angry ducks tried to protect their territory from the kittens and puppies running around our feet attempting to get the stray kernals.  After we regained some strength, the woman kindly led us to a path that took us gently back down to town (where we had to negotiate a ride back to Cusco, but that´s another story…)  (more photos on Flickr)

Starting out on the hike, heading out of Ollantaytambo

Steps going up the Inca terraces

Scaring the sheep up the terraces

A burro

Joee negotiates with another burro

The Pumamarca ruins in the distance, along the top of the hill running across the middle of the picture

Sra. Ochoa offers us choclo con queso at her home

Sra. Ochoa guides us back to a trail leading to town

Heading back to Ollantaytambo

Ruins of what appeared to be an ancient Inca drive-in theater

Peru Calling

The Yanapay kids – Jenni, Clara, and Maria de Fatima across the top

One of the amusing modes of communication here is the human pay phone.  Women stand on the corners calling out “LAMADAS, LLAMADAS!” (CALLS, CALLS!)  One approaches them and uses their cell phone, paying a half sol per minute, about 20 cents – cheaper than the pay phones on the street.  So this week I was initiated into how to actually use them.  You must first tell them which service you want, Movistar or Claro, as calling from one provider to the other is extremely expensive.  Then they choose the appropriate phone, dial the number, hand you the phone, and time your call on a stopwatch.  So if you have your own cel phone here, and you need to call someone on the other network, it is actually cheaper, and not uncommon, to use the llamadas chicas instead of your own phone!

Llamadas chicas.  Typically they hang out on street corners and not on yellow VW’s.  Notice the long bright phone cords (and stopwatches and 2 phones each) to identify them as llamadas chicas.

Llamadas chicas – twirling her phone strap, notice a phone in each hand – one Claro, one Movistar

Every Friday at Yanapay, the kids are going to put on theatrical performances that they create during the week, revolving around the themes and goals of Yanapay: values, principles, love, non-violence, respect.  This week’s performances included the older kids performing the story of Yuri starting Yanapay – to the surprise of Yuri himself!

A lot of new volunteers are starting next week, and most of us are sorely lacking in Spanish fluency, so it is going to be an interesting challenge.  I’m going to be working with the older kids, in a building next to the original one, with Yuri thankfully acquired as I was leaving last year, because the little kids have simply overrun the original space.  In the past year, he also opened a large hostal where he now lives with the volunteers.

I have requested to work one-on-one with Clara, the deaf girl, and Yuri was thrilled with the idea.  I´m very concerned with what will happen to her as she gets older.  Her parents, unfortunately, won’t let her attend a special school because they need her help around the house.  So I’m going to be starting with sign language, which I will be learning as well!  I’ll probably start this next week when there are more volunteers, as this week I will be running the art room.

I got the full orientation to Yanapay this time, which was very helpful.  I learned a lot more about the kids lives and the general societal problems, which are deep and overwhelming, and more about Yuri´s philosophy and approach to attempting to change the kids lives and break the cycles and attitudes, etc.

Other activities of mine this week included a Peruvian dinner with the Spanish school, a Peruvian dinner with the Explorer’s club, and running around like crazy from one side of Cusco to the other and back several times a day in order to keep up with all my meetings, volunteering, and activites.

There are some new photos posted on Flickr.  Their color looks horrible on this computer, so I´m not sure if they are truly off or not.  I’ve discovered photo management is extremely time consuming, especially with the large files from the new camera.  I’ve been at it for 2.5 hours and still don’t have them up.  So I’m not sure how I’m going to do it.

I wrote in my essay how once outside of Cusco´s center, the buildings start to shed their facades to reaveal the earthen material beneath.  It seems that some are in even more critical condition.

Volver a Cusco

Coca leaves

I have safely arrived in Cusco, and have started to settle back into life here. I endured a self-inflicted 6 hour layover at the Lima airport, and after 11 departures and arrivals to that airport, I still don´t know who its namesake, Jorge Chavez, is. The scenery on the flight to Cusco was incredible, with snow-capped mountains poking through the clouds right below us.

My first day included a visit to the Spanish school to take care of the paperwork, plus a surprise test to measure my level. Even without much sleep, I think I did as well as I could. I shopped for some groceries and necessities, and discovered they were out of my favorite Quaker chocolate porridge. Sadly, the next day, even the little tag for the chocolate variety was gone. And, as I can´t seem to buy anything without having a return, I successfully returned a faulty deodorant stick whose little wheel just spun around fruitlessly.

Later the first night, the volunteer coordinator for the Pilcopata organization, Erica, came by to see me and we had dinner at the Cafe Yanapay, where I saw Yuri, the organizer of Aldea Yanapay. She seems to be doing a great job, and has the knowledge and experience to run the program.  All in all, a pretty productive day for not having any real sleep for 20 hours.

On Tuesday I returned to Aldea Yanapay.  I was early, and as I waited outside, a woman came by to check out the place.  It was virtually the same experience I had when I first visited, with me in the ´welcoming, experienced volunteer´role this time!  Hopefully I´ll see her back there.  Sadly, I discovered that nearly all the kids are new.  I´m not sure what happened to all the kids from last year…  Only Clara, the deaf girl, was there.  She recognized me immediately, and ran to give me a big hug.  I had printed out a huge photo of her and another girl playing jumprope, so she was thrilled when I gave her that.  Yuri renovated the building next door to the school for the older kids, which seems to work out well since there are so many (adorable) little ones.  My favorite little girl and her sister seem to have moved away :(

So I´ve already met a ton of people – the new volunteers, people at the school and at their weekly dinner, and I can´t wait to get back into it all!

Finger Puppets – perro, chanchito, penguino, mono, gato

Limited Hammock Accommodations

I just reserved a hammock, for September, on the support boat for

The Great River Amazon Raft Race 2008!

There are the luxury accommodations for viewing the race on the “Dawn on the Amazon III,” the half price accommodations on the “Dawn on the Amazon I,” and then there are the cramped, uncomfortable accommodations aboard the support boat, where I reserved a spot. This should be an incredible opportunity for photos and stories…plus a really cheap Amazon cruise!

Actual hammocks on the support boat of last year’s race. Photo by Niko Kyriakou.  His wonderful story of the race and additional photos (such as “Raft number 13 before the storm tore it apart on Friday”) are HERE

HERE is a nice blog entry about the race by Bill Grimes.