Estoy en Cusco, y está muy bonito. I'm staying with a host family: Americo and Dahlia are my host parents, and another woman, Melissa, is staying here as well. I can see a tumble of green hills and houses from my window. The clouds hang close; bursts of light shine through them and illuminate this beautiful city. To see what I'm seeing, visit my flickr account (http://www.flickr.com/quetzalista). More pictures to come . . .
We're close to the statue Pachacuteq. He's a super-important king. In Quechua, Pachakutiq means "he who remakes the world." According to Wikipedia (a reputable source, I know, I know..) "He began an era of conquest that, within three generations, expanded the Inca dominion from the valley of Cuzco to nearly the whole of civilized South America."
Another bit from Wikipedia: Pachacuti's given name was Cusi Yupanqui and he was not supposed to succeed his father Inca Viracocha who had appointed his brother Urco as crown prince. However in the midst of an invasion of Cuzco by the Chankas, the Incas' traditional tribal archenemies, Pachacuti had a real opportunity to demonstrate his talent. While his father and brother fled the scene Pachacuti rallied the army and prepared for a desperate defense of his homeland. In the resulting battle the Chankas were defeated so severely that legend tells even the stones rose up to fight on Pachacuti's side. Thus "The Earth Shaker" won the support of his people and the recognition of his father as crown prince and joint ruler.
I've been spending a lot of time resting, letting my body and its contents adjust to my new surroundings. Letting candy de coca and toffee linger in my mouth is helpful, and tastes good as well. Melissa and I went on a massive walk to Plaza de las Armas ayer (yesterday), visiting the mercados and taking it all in. "No, gracias" were the words of the day.
Today we woke up to a leisurely breakfast tipico de peru: a hot cereal (de quinoa, flour, oats, and some other grain I can't remember) y pan con mermelada de fraises. We set off for Molino, a huge market with industrial items (versus the handmade market we visited yesterday) where it's not uncommon to see babies swaddled and sleeping in booths and children running through the aisles. We went for lunch at a small restaurante nearby and when we asked for a menu, and instead of receiving a list of food options, we were served the menu (the special of the day), a delicous sopa with rice, vegetables, and meat of some kind. Que rico. The waiter's brother, Carlos, teaches the salsa classes at Maximo Nivel (our school for language and TESOL classes.) How perfect!
I can't wait to have more stories to tell. Orientation starts tomorrow, which is followed by two weeks of Spanish class. It's wonderful to use Spanish so often! I have much more to learn.