Wednesday, March 11, 2009


After a fitful night of not-sleeping and head-aching, today has been great.

I've started Spanish classes at Máximo Nivel. I'm in classes two hours each day with three other students, and our teacher is fabulous! She teaches grammar and I understand, and her teaching methods are fun, interactive, and personalized. I aspire to be a teacher like Magda.

Máximo Nivel has a tandem learning program where a student studying Spanish signs up to meet with a student studying English and become "buddies." I signed up for that and met with Susanmi (sue-sah-mee) yesterday. She has a humble spirit and knows so much about plants and medicine. She's from the jungle in Peru and now lives in Cusco, working for Casa Ecologica, a non-profit that works with local indigenous communities, and she works at their store where you can buy natural medicine, local handicrafts, and also, order ahead for organic produce(!!!). She showed me around Cusco, and we went to a market in the Plaza de Armas, where she pointed out numerous different plants and vegetables, and I ate market-food for the first time, and to great success. We met again today at Máximo and first I helped her with her English homework, and then we had a conversation, mostly in English (which is great with me-- I am immersed in Spanish (and don't need it to move up in the job market to support my family), while she needs all the English exposure she can get.)

Long story short, Melissa (the other woman who lives with the host family), Susanmi, and Veronica (a friend of Susanmi and Melissa's new tandem partner) and I are going to see the Sacred Valley this weekend. Susanmi and Veronica both studied to be tour guides so we're totally set. This is wonderful becaaaauuse just last night Melissa and I were talking about visiting the Sacred Valley this weekend and finding people to go with, and voila (what's "voila" in Spanish, I wonder...?), here they are. Susanmi also offered to collect and observe local plants with me, and she suggested that I go to local indigenous communities to learn more there. Do I sense an Evergreen Independent Learning Contract coming up? Maybe. It's so funny that the intentions of my ILC I wrote for this (winter) quarter and never ended up doing are all presenting themselves here. All paths lead.

On the family stay: We have to fight Americo, our host papá, in order to wash our own dishes, much less clear them. I am collecting traditional recipes and ingredients, of which there are many. His wife, Dahlia, and his son, Brian, arrived from Lima last night. They're super amable, which is no surprise. I got landed with a wonderful family, and for this I am grateful.

Speaking of landed, I think I am finally landing.

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