Cusco

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flash cards

At the Yanapay school there is a deaf girl, Clara.  She´s a little older than most of the kids, and no one seems too sure of her situation.  Does she go to school still?  How much can she hear and understand?  How much can she read and write?  I´ve been very concerned about her and her future even since I knew her from last year, and so I told Yuri I would like to work with her one on one, maybe start to teach her sign language.  He was very enthusiastic about the idea, but since I was needed to lead various rooms (art, reading, etc.) and English classes, I didn´t have the opportunity to start.

I wasn´t sure if he remembered or not, but this week Yuri came into the reading room and and said, “You wanted to work with Clara, right?  Here are some books, get started!”  He handed me a couple archaic, baby ABC books and a new spiral notebook, and he gestured to Clara indicating that I´d be  working with her.  She was very pleased with her own new notebook, and we opened it up and got started.  I had to think fast to start a lesson and keep her attention, as she has the habit of running off to get another pen, or an eraser, or a scissors if she is idle for a moment.  What to do?  What to do?  Let´s see, what would Anne Sullivan do?  I saw the movie once…there was a doll, a water spigot, a bad dinner scene…

I wrote the alphabet down the inside margin of the first page, then made lines for her to copy each letter five times.  After we made it through the alphabet, I pointed to drawings from the book and tried to have her write down the words.  It became immediately obvious that she didn´t want to use and be seen using the baby books.  In fact, she was very self-concious of the other kids seeing what she was doing, and covered up the page whenever other kids came near.  So I started doing my own drawings.  I began to see that she sort of knew the alphabet, but mostly seemed to be copying the letters and words.  If I made an accidental dot or line near the letter, she meticulously copied that too.

For the second lesson, I had to be prepared so that there weren´t any lulls.  Since I had no books to use, I spent the afternoon making my own flash cards, with the letters on one side and a picture and word on the other.  We went through the cards, copying the letters and the words.  She recognized and acted out all of my drawings, even the poor ones that I thought I would have to explain.  Then I had her look through magazines to find similar pictures, and cut them out and paste them and write the word again.  That was so successful that we went over our time without her noticing.  What I´m going to do next week, though, I´m not sure!

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!

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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

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The ticket for the correct route back to Cusco

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

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.

The Lunches of Pampa del Castillo street.

“Menu” on the signs means the economical, set lunch menu – typically with soup, a second, and a drink.

lunch sign board black board chalk board

More can be seen here.

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

Here´s a pic from my group´s first big presentation last week.  We were singing a “greetings song” in rounds, and it actually worked!

(Photos can be found in this Flickr set: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dojoklo/albums/72157604214855229)

Photos can be found on Flickr here

Street dogs of Cusco, Peru


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.

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