Sunday, June 28, 2009


Yesterday/Last night/This morning I (in order):

Went to a fair! A real fair! With livestock and ferris wheels and soy chiccharones.

This old slightly shady dude, Alberto, was there with his brother and cousin, and he paid for my ticket, bought me a jungle seed necklace, had a polaroid taken as a souveneir for me, and told me all about the dangers of cholesterol. His helpful hints included, when you eat pollo a broaster, you need to take the skin off, and, oooof pizza? Terrible for you. Cheese, meat, flour, TRIGLYCERIDES!!!!

Met a Quillabambino at the fair named John who spoke in unbelievably high tones when he switched to English. He told me my eyes looked sad, and that I was looking for something. He was right. He told me one time he looked at his parents at the dinner table and they didn´t look like his parents. He told me a lot of things, with eyes that wouldn´t stop digging into me. He was a truth-teller, if a little bit preachy. We talked about all of the usual ¨Wow you´re not going to flip out if I talk to you about energy?´ stuff, like feeling scared to be alone in nature even though you are a child of everything that exists in nature, and listening for the calls, and trusting. He exclaimed, ¨Wow!¨and ¨Fuck!¨a lot. ¨Fuck¨sounded tame in his mouth. He lent me his jacket, and told his acquaintences I had diharrea so they wouldn´t hassle me about drinking. Disculpame, he told me, laughing, all teeth. His friend touched the bottle over to my hand, and I said, no, like he said, I have diharrea. We were all teeth.

Before Percy arrived at the fair, I received a text message from him that was as follows:

A las 8 estoy alla? Full dance gringuita.

Whoever taught him ¨full dance¨ definitely wins points.

Met biologists. Entimologists specifically. The line-up included a 50 year old pirate with a curly, hairy chest and a big beer belly, a quiet guy in a green preppy vest, and Williams. Williams was short with rectangle black framed glasses and spoke cliched and proper English. He told me that most jungle spiders are cute and surprisingly harmless. He told me that he needed time to ¨explore himself and find out about who he is and really grow inside¨ before he gets into another relationship. He asked me, ¨Shall we dance?¨ and shared his theory about why ´jungle girls´ have a bigger sexual appetite. It had to do with the jungle diet, but I feel like I added significantly to his theory, as I am thinking it is due to a) heating, and b) boredom. Must be cold and boring at night in the jungle. There are no discos.

Ate a delicious street sandwich with Percy from my favorite mamita, Rosa.

Danced salsa, cumbia, and white-girl grind with said biologists and other friends at a disco thick with heat and smoke. Sweat gathered in all kinds of places but I persevered.

Karaoked with Fiona, Travis, Percy, and Percy´s cousin.

Went to bed with the morning sun.

This morning Percy, Travis and I ate mamita soup at the Wanchaq market. Why hadn´t I done this before? So delicious, and a hangover cure, I´m sure of it.

Tomorrow I might take little Alejandro to the fair. It seems like the thing to do. He is travieso, but he brings me joy. And the fair will bring him joy. If you could see the squinchy grin he has, you would understand.

Also, throughout the evening I learned some new words in Quechua. Mostly body parts, but my vocabulary is improving. Although I can´t spell them, I know eyes, nose, mouth, feet, hands, and breasts. My recent favorite and most-used words in Spanish are: claro, echate, oyé, cholito/ita, and huevon.

That´s all for now.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Great Divide, or Dollars versus Soles

Maybe this isn´t PC, but . . . Sometimes I get so tired of hearing how I am a millionaire because I am from the states, because I am a gringo, because of the difference between soles and dollars. I know I have more than many of the local people here, I know that the sole is worth three times what the dollar is worth. I know my money goes farther, and I am priveleged and advantaged in comparison to many, but I am tired of hearing about it. Last night I ran into an old friend (more or less) at a street sandwich shop, who asked to borrow a sole so he could pay for his sandwich (which begs the question of, why would you order a sandwich you couldn´t afford?) and then proceeded to lecture me about soles versus dollars (as if I don´t know, I live here...) and told me I was a millionaire, blah blah blah. Then, we were walking his stumbling, bumbling drunk friend home, and I said I would pay for a taxi. I gave his friend the soles for the taxi, but we all ended up getting in together. When we got to his house and got out of the taxi, Drunk Friend proceeded to stumble off without paying. Where are the three soles I gave you? I asked him. No importa. Don´t worry about it, he says. Um, hello. That wasn´t a gift. That was taxi money. And he pocketed it. And I know this is petty in comparison with the poverty here, but it´s the principle. I didn´t have to give him the soles for the taxi. He could have walked his own drunk ass home. At this point, Old Friend paid for the taxi. Which begs the question of, why did you need my sole at the sandwich shop? Was he just seeing if he could get it? Drunk Friend stumbles into his house, and Old Friend touches me, says, I´m sorry, he is my friend, my best friend, I can´t cambio el, he tells me. Do you intiendes? Yes, I intiendo, I´m just over it. I am also thinking maybe you should find a new best friend. Don´t worry baby, he says in exaggerated English, five distinct syllables, a smooth tv-show line. I try not to laugh at him. I´m not very successful. His English, incidentally, has improved since the last time I saw him. We are walking now, on cold and quiet Cusco streets, and I tell him, me aburre (I am bored) with being called a millionaire, with all of the assumptions and judgements about my wallet and my lifestyle. I am heated, because apparently most situations involving drunken Peruvian men make me heated, and he apologizes again for his friend. Asks me if I understand. I do, I get it, his friend is stumble-drunk and poor and envious of gringo priveleges and finances. Poverty is overwhelming here, I know this, but I don´t always feel overwhelmed by it. Is this bad? What does this make me? Does this mean I am closing my eyes, choosing ignorance and bliss? I feel accustomed to the poverty here, but does this make me cold or apathetic? Poverty and quality of life are not always related. Cusco has shown me that. Of course, getting your basic needs met is important to survival and comfort, and of course we all want more money than we have. I am not trying to downplay the poverty that exists here. I feel like this cold priveleged gring (as Jenna calls us,) but I am tired of people only seeing my wallet or whatever pre-conceived notions they have about what they think is in there. I am from the states, the dollar is worth more than the sole, I have more priveleges than you do. If you are my friend, and you are Peruvian and eat at 3 sole menus, there is no way I am going to ask you out to eat at Jack´s (relatively swanky tourist place) without offering to pay. I am not going to intentionally flaunt what I have and, therefore, what you don´t. All I am asking is, until I am insensitive about money issues, don´t treat me like some rich bitch from the states who isn´t sensitive to the financial divide.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Some pictures from the trip (formatting is messy)

To the left: Pelicans in Iquique, Chile

Below: Psyched for breakfast in Uyuni, Bolivia after the longest, coldest, bumpiest overnight bus-ride of my life.

Jessica just remember that you are where you need to be. It's your dream to be there and there's a reason for that. Even if you don't know what it is now or even in three years, there's something there for you to learn or understand. Just listen for it and you're going to find it.
-TIM (thanks, Tim!)
Left: Train Cemetery in Uyuni, Bolivia

Above: I met this little guy in Uyuni, Bolivia, and he

commanded me to pick him up. I so adore and

admire the way this kid is eating this orange.

He is so voracious and zesty!

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Friday, June 19, 2009

Free Pass

When you decide to live in a foreign country, you get a free pass. People upon people assume that because you are living in Brazil, in Peru, in Africa, that you are up to all kinds of good, living an inspired and inspirint life, helping people and experiencing leaps and bounds of self-growth, when maybe you are really getting wasted and grinding at clubs, or getting accustomed to a daily grind not so different than the one you tried to escape from in the first place. Myabe you are eating too many oreos and reading shitty beach books, even though you are nowhere near the beach. These are just examples. Can´t say I´ve experienced any one of these things. But what I can say is that just because I am living in Cusco doesn´t mean I am automatically living a richer, deeper, or more exciting life. Sorry to all of you who thought you were set, living vicariously through my so-called adventures. But this is the very reason I am moving on. I know Cusco; it has become friendly and familiar, if a bit boring. I am still wowed by the mountains and the clouds, both magestic, and the people, so kind it could break your heart, or at least put a stop to a bad day. But I am ready for a new place, and new experiences. I need, I need I need I need, to start doing what I came here to do, which is to live beyond myself, and at the same time, get deeper inside of myself. Soothe the insides of my head, which are anxious and screaming and foggy, like wires upon wires surrounded by clouds. I need to live simply and experience new culture, I need to meet new people, I need a change. Because Cusco has become comfortable, and I am not ready to commit to it. I am not ready to buy blankets and a blender and rent an apartment. I am not ready, or willing, to take the free pass. I am ready, however, to re-commit to a new place, to existing presently in whatever place I´m in, and to getting involved more deeply in others´ lives. Hopefully this will help me jump outside of my own muffled head, which sometimes sounds like my brain is screaming into a blanket. I don´t know where this will take me, but I am sure it will be beautiful; beautiful and perfect. You can take the free pass if you want to, but I´m over it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


1. I just want to curl up and read books all day. I just read ¨Kindred¨and now I am reading ¨The Memory Keeper´s Daughter.¨ I love book exchanges.

2. I am still looking for a place to live. I mean, I found one but I am not sure how I feel about signing a long contract (actually, I am sure how I feel about it, which is unsure,) because . . .

3. I feel lost and lack direction, lately. I am sure there is a seed inside of me that knows, I just haven´t found it yet. I am not sure how long I will feel called to stay in Cusco, or even in Peru. I am definitely eager to finish school, and love that I can do that here in Cusco (through an independent contract through Evergreen learning languages and travel writing), and I can definitely find work in Cusco, but there is still the volunteer teaching possibility in Trujillo, or something else entirely. I can see myself teaching English to small children in an Asian country in the future, but the language barrier scares me. I have been consumed with realities, and hiding from them simultaneously, reading books and thinking between chapters (or paragraphs, depending on the day) about how I can ¨make it¨ in my life, economically, and about how I could be happy, stimulated, fulfilled with and within my life. I think about what I am doing and what is missing, about curriculum design and teaching jobs overseas, relationships and settling down, adventures and brave choices. I make lists in the vain hope of ¨figuring it out,¨whatever the it of the moment happens to be. Then I remind myself to breathe. To sit and listen. I tell myself that is okay to feel lost. Do you get tired of me talking about the same things? About apartments and financial woes and taxi drivers? About feeling lost and not hearing the guidance? I get tired of it too, this cassete tape that plays inside of my head. Some days I have trouble moving, even one baby inch, and I tell myself when I get a place and a job and a schedule it will be better, but we will see.

4. The hardest lesson in life might be listening, and then I think trusting is the runner-up.

5. That doesn´t mean all of the other lessons are easy.

6. This is part of my favorite song right now (I like Giants by Kimya Dawson), because it is full of so many truths:

When I go for a drive I look to pull of to the side
of the road, turn out the lights, go out and look up at the sky
and I do this to remind me that I´m really really tiny,
In the grand scheme of things and sometimes this terrifies me

It´s only really scary cause it makes me feel serene
In a way I´d never thought I´d be because I´d never been
So grounded, and so humbled, and so one with everything
I am grounded, I am humbled, I am one with everything.

We all become important when we realize our goal
Should be to figure out our role within the context of the whole
And yeah, rock and roll is fun, but if you ever hear someone
Say you are huge, look at the moon, look at the stars, look at the sun
look at the oceans and the dessert and the mountains and the sky
say I am just a speck of dust inside a giant´s eye
I am just a speck of dust inside a giant´s eye.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

little things

Taxi drivers overcharge me and then ask me out on dates.  The older ones, 50 or so, ask me to ceviche or cuy, con respecto con respecto.  Sure, claro, si.  I don't say yes, I don't say no.  I smile, ask about the best place to get cuy, then move on to a question about how long the cold will last.  Inside, my stomach is gritting its teeth.

I am staying with my friend Melanie, who has a lovely house and a lovely boyfriend (Coco) and a lovely dog (Killa, moon in Quechua) while I look for my own place.  We watch bad movies in Spanish and cook together and go for walks.  Melanie and Coco and going to Qolloriti tonight, a festival that includes walking up mountains in the snow and dancing.  I am caring for the house and their dog when they are gone.

Two of my friends and I watch half-naked boys (two of which belong to my friends) with tattoos and board shorts play a pick-up game of soccer while reggae pumps from speakers.  Some of them dance in the middle of the field, strutting and bouncing to Marley.  They splash fountain water on their faces and tip red powerade into their smiling mouths.

We eat ceviche and jalea, and Nilton cracks crab shells with his teeth.  We drink jarras of chicha morada and lemonade and share fried yuca root, then go for ice cream in the Tupac Amaru plaza.  We come home to Melanie's house to watch soccer and take naps.

I wake up grumpy from my afternoon nap and head over to a birthday party for an artisan I know vaguely.  They are passing around a bottle of rum while Grupo 5 plays and drunken singing ensues.  I try to resist the rum, I can't drink because I didn't have cena, I say, they insist and insist, pouring more amber into the plastic dentist cup, tomalo tomalo, tomalo!  I am left alone with Alex, who is into me and talks with me about los ochentas, New Order and Ocean Blue, bands from the 70s and the 80s slurring thick out of his mouth like fudge.  I wait for them to come back, I sit close but not too close I talk about 70s and 80s bands.  At this point, I have toma-d more than I wanted to on a post-nap pre-dinner stomach which is never a good idea.  They come back and I am angry and I am upset and I have to go but the couch has been placed in front of the door.  I am commanded to sit, to stay, to drink, and then when I don't want to drink, I can either take the shot or kiss some dude (Alex).  At this point I am rude, I am a bitch, I say no outright, I must look disgusted, I am disgusted, I hate my choices.  Puta madre!  I don't want to be here, I need to go, I feel disrespected and forced and not listened to.  I make my escape to walk back to Melanie's house and Alex follows me.  He asks me ridiculous drunken questions and touches my hip (no tocame!).  Mid-way through the walk to Melanie's house he informs me he "doesn't want to walk anymore."  And he thought I would kiss him?  Que caballero, oh my god!  Thanks for walking me almost to my house, Alex, how chivalrous.  I cry in Melanie and Coco's kitchen.  Coco holds me and tells me it will pass, it is passing, it has passed.  I am upset and nothing horrible happened I just feel disrespected.  Melanie had chifa (a blend of Peruvian and Chinese food) waiting for me and my kitchen scene scored me a snickers bar, which she donated from trek snack stash.  So they leave and I hang out with Killa and eat my chifa and watch bad TV and skype my family and rant about taxi drivers and assholes.  

It is the small things that get to me, like taxi drivers trying to rip me off and take me out, or women whining at me to llevalo, it's hecho a mano, mi trabajo, puro alpaca lady.  Small things get to me in other ways, too.  Pictures of Sawyer growing up and smiling through every stage, picking up a guitar and playing it at the hostal, hearing a Spanish cover of a Damien Rice song during a breakfast out in Chile, the way Coco's tongue pokes through his smiling teeth, toilet paper in a bathroom, water.   

Sometimes its hard to get past the cultural differences and see and be seen as a whole person, not as gringo or Peruvian or poor or rich or cultured or not.  I am frustrated, as well, by gender differences here.  I am a woman so I will never be taught any swear words in Spanish and the boys will laugh at my expense and the boys will continue to make homophobic comments because this is the culture, the culture is asi.  Not that nothing can change, not that people aren't progressing, and of course I am generalizing.  What I do best.  I am the privileged gringo so I must love bricheros and be rolling in it and blow 9 soles on milkshakes, and I am a woman so I can't swear or do things for myself and without your consent, not to mention poop.  Girls don't poop, or at least not very much, and when they do it's dried violets and pearls that come out.  For your fucking pleasure.

Here I go again, wanting to break boundaries and borders and pre-conceived notions.  Wish me well.  Wish me luck. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

WTF, Universe?!

I am feeling extremely flip-floppy. There was a couple of days when I was considering moving to Chile and teaching English there, but none of the cities called out my name, and it´s spendy in comparison to Peru, so I got over it. Decided to move back to Cusco. Decided I needed to get a teaching job (or at least do private English tutoring and translating) in order to support myself. Decided the best way to make this possible was to leave my plant medicine and feminism Independent Learning Contract (ILC) for another time, and instead pursue writing, and write about my travels and experiences living in this new culture. This way I would have more time to work. I was pursuing the apartment next door to Jenna. I was stressing out about money and making frenzied calculations of predicted spendings and budgets on long bus rides. After much procrastination and guilt (because throughout this whole process, I have been very back and forth-y, or at least it feels this way), I e-mailed my professor willing to sponsor me for the plant medicine ILC to tell her I couldn´t do the ILC this summer. Then, this morning I get this email from Jenna´s sister that goes like this: I am not sure what is going on with the apt but I saw this add in South American Explorer's Club Newletter and thought of you... "Room and board in beautiful house in return for looking after the house. Would especially suit someone interested in learning about shamanism and holistic healing. Contact xxx.¨

Maybe the universe wants me to study plant medicine after all? Free housing? Learning opportunities about shaminism and holistic healing? I sent an email, of course. We will see what comes of it. At this point, I give up on trying to control my life. It makes me feel nutty. Unpredictable, flighty, waffly, indecisive. I am just trying, I really am trying, to go with the flow. I just wish the flow would stop changing. Or maybe I need to stop fighting. I would like to take this opportunity to say, Universe, if you want me to live in this beautiful house and study plant medicine and maybe tutor some English this summer, do your thing. I am trying to be cooperative and not hold onto the reins too tightly, but instead trust that the horse knows where he wants to go. So even if this makes me feel nutty, I will do it, because I am kind of nutty. I pray in the shower. I set intentions over bowls of pasta. I trust. It seems like the bravest and stupidest thing you can do these days is trust. I think I need to sit down and have a cup of something with Nick, an old housemate from Americo´s who one day assured me that we (the world) hadn´t fucked too many things up, really, when you thought about it, and that there was hope for the future. Also, one time we were talking about water, and he said (the British accent is important here, as well as the water hand motions for the italicized word, so imagine it,) ¨To have water, hot water, coming down upon you is just brilliant!¨ I need to remember things like this. Things like, wait a minute even if I am freaking out about money and missing and craving home and feeling psychotic and flip-floppy, things are brilliant. The universe is brilliant. The universe is also probably smarter than me, so I really should just shut up and feel grateful to have this guidance

I also have many stories about Chile, and I miss home. I miss home. I have Drift Inn dreams and miss Yachats and the Roby/ins and my family and the ocean. It didn´t happen until I moved out of Americo´s, but it´s been pretty constant until then.

I´m in Arequipa, Peru, right now. The white city. I´ll post pictures and tell stories when I get back to Cusco in a day or two. For now, I am going to pack my bags and find a healthy lunch and try not to beat myself up for being flip-floppy or unsure. You don´t know until you know. Stay tuned.