Friday, July 31, 2009


On Sunday I went to Cajamarca with Rosita, Emily, and Pierre. Cajamarca is a gorgeous town in the sierras, and we stayed with Berta, Telmo, and family. We went to two birthday parties, a get-together for a zany family friend, two movies (the Knowing and Loca Por las Compras), Baños del las Incas (hot springs piped into separate bathing rooms), and a Grupo 5 concert. I didn't see any ruins. I was far too busy passing cusqueños around at family events and feeling awkward.

The bread in Cajamarca is really delicious. I can't quite explain why; you'll just have to trust me. I put cream cheese and strawberry jam on it in the mornings. Do you know how long it has been since I have had cream cheese? Months! And it was glorious.

I am learning how to dance the cumbia! Pierre is a super dancer, like, I mean, a really super dancer, so at the Grupo 5 concert I stole him away from Emily when I could and we got our cumbia on. It's on my list, learning salsa and cumbia, so it's nice to work (on) it when I can.

Sometimes I feel like I am really bad at "plugging in" with families, or being a host kid, or smiling and being polite, appropriate, interested but not too interested, not too cheesy, and myself.

There are over 25 people (including kids) at the Guadalupe house, and I feel kind of guilty for not connecting with them right now, but my batteries need a recharge. It's 12:24 and I don't think anyone is sleeping. Maybe I'm having trouble connecting because I don't think I will be here for very long. Maybe I am over-thinking things. Probably. I don't need to worry because I am this genuine whole person who is kind of funny and nice and people can like me, or not, and we can connect, or not, and the world will go on spinning.

I have noticed I have a bit of an oral fixation lately. I am always chewing gum, which feels nice when I am anxious. Last night I had a sucker, which was a great experience. It's a good thing to keep the body busy when the monkey mind is overactive. Maybe I should stretch. Yoga > suckers.

Still setting intentions. Writing them, saying them, praying them. I believe in intentions, although it's sometimes hard to release them, and only when you release the attachment will they manifest. I also believe in releasing, which is also sometimes difficult, if you would like to know.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I'm in Guadalupe, staying with Raul's (my professor) family. The town is somewhere between 8 and 20 thousand, or so they tell me. No one knows exactly. His family is fun, welcoming, and warm. Rosita and Juanita do most of the cooking, which is amazing. I am spoiled. There is another Evergreen student here, Emily. She is also doing travel writing and volunteering, and this is her second time in Guadalupe. We're going to Cajamarca tomorrow for a big festival. In Peru, there is always a big festival. Emily, Pierre (her boyfriend and also part of the Raul family), Rosita, and myself are going. I'm not sure if I can afford to stay here in Guadalupe, but I am looking into it because so far the town and the people seem really lovely. It's small, and calm, and meets my standard for markets (fruit and otherwise).

What else? Stressing about money, not having enough of it, not being able to afford the homestay, or lots of traveling, not finding a job. Feeling poorly because I am not supporting myself right now, because I can't support myself right now. When will I be able to? I am blessed because I have a super-supportive family, financially and otherwise, and I know hoping for a money tree is pushing it, but maybe a small shrub?

I have a little bit over a year left until I have enough credits for my BA. For some reason I thought I had less time. Guess not.

I keep getting calls from boys I know in Cusco, asking when I'm coming back, asking me to come back, saying, "Jessiquita, quiero que tu vuelvas!" I want you to come back. Jessiquita. Over the top? Not for Peruvian men.

My new favorite song is "Pasame la Botella" by Macha & Daddy.

And it's time for a hair-cut.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Trujillo is balmy palm trees and white-gray skies. I sip 7-up from a glass bottle with a straw and take a sweaty nap in my hostel with my hiking boots on.

Too many men are cat-calling, telling me hallo in heavily accented English, buenas dias chica linda. The tour guide who tells me all about my options kisses me too close to my mouth.

If I have to see another Plaza de Armas (main square) I might puke. If I have to eat in another menu I might puke. And the next dude to whistle at me is getting punched in the nose.

The End.

P.S. The cutest seven year old in the world (dark lashes, black plastic wrist watch, cowlick, sober expression) is playing Grand Theft Auto in the internet cabin next to mine and it is slowly, but surely, breaking my heart.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Today as I was walking in Huaraz, a lady was working in her garden and as I passed I got a big whiff of soil. Upon smelling it, I missed Yachats, which always smells of ocean, pine trees, dirt, and earth. Dirt smells like sustenance, nourishment, vitamin and mineral, potential, and growth. Sometimes I wonder how much longer I'll really keep traveling, if I'll make it to December, or if I'll feel pulled to come home sooner. For now, there are only small tugs, and I feel that I still have work to do here, in the present, where I am. Which is South America.

Taking off for Trujillo tonight. I've been looking into free volunteer opportunities, so we'll see what comes of it. I would love to work with kids, even though lately even the sight of a cute kid is enough to make me weepy. What's this all about?

Filling out a Peace Corp application.

That's all.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Here I am in a mountain town in the Andes. Snow-capped peaks skirt the dusty town center, which is humble, and grew on me pretty fast. The effects of the altitude, though not as high as Cusco, are definitely noticeable. I am staying in a 15 sole a night hostel, which doesn´t include breakfast, but does include a private room. It´s been great to recharge. Tonight I´m going out to a bar called 13 buhos (13 owls) which should be a good time. It´s been awhile since I´ve gone out dancing, and the last time I went out I went alone, and ended up finding amazing people. People keep telling me how freeing it is to travel by yourself, and sometimes I can´t help but feel more lonely than free, but I am reminding myself of how blessed I am. People also tell me about wearing my money belt, and being careful as not to get harrassed, robbed, ripped off, taken in or taken out. I am definitely practicing, living, and learning discernment and good judgment, but I am also practicing some other things. Like trust, and having faith in humanity. It´s worked out for me so far, to be a safe, smart, trusting traveler. I listen to my body, which is pretty smart, although incidentally in high-altitude towns if you tell me to ¨trust my gut¨ I will burst out in laughter and then I might burst out in something else entirely. :)

I get more comments and whistles on the streets here than I did in Cusco. Maybe this is because in Cusco there were more grings to choose from, and my ratio was better, or maybe this is a sign of what´s to come further north. I´m not sure, but we´ll see. So far the dudes have been using a combination of blanca, flaca, and chica. The first couple of times I just breathe and walk on by, but by the fifth old creepy dude, I am silent and scowling. Overall the people here in Huaraz have been super nice and helpful. It´s so funny to me that now I am always classifying people and their behavior, attitude, etc. with where they are from, much more-so than I would do in the states. From an anthropological standpoint, how much does where we are from shape us? What about the culture of where we are from? The lifestyles and the customs.

Stayed in a lovely hostel in Miraflores, Lima. It was super-comfortable, the owners and staff were fun and friendly, and they had a clean equipped kitchen, two computers with internet, two tvs with cable, hot-ish water, couches, and breakfast that included a fruit of your choice! I keep toying with the idea of opening a hostel. It would be fun, and challenging, and you would get to meet people from all over and be a part of their journey. I keep thinking my mother hen self would thrive in this situation, where I could give people advice and answer their questions about their travels. I am also becoming a hostel expert. I would have lots of hooks in the bathrooms (so your clothes don´t get soaked) and a bountiful book exchange. I would have a patio and a guitar and a breakfast with a little somethin´more than bread and jam. It could, one day, be sweet.

We´ll see. I´m off to take pictures of the mountain sunset and find dinner. I hope this finds you enjoying your summer, wherever you are!


Friday, July 10, 2009


The other night I made a list of things I want to do in my life/in Peru/in my travels. It included things like, go to a soccer game, pick fruit off a tree, and cook a traditional meal. Last night John came over and we made a delicious vegetable quinoa soup and the best mashed potatoes I have eaten in my life (okay, in Peru.) Apparently we´re making rocoto relleno on Saturday. Talk about a send-off.

I´m learning new words and local slang all of the time. Lechuga, for instance, means both lettuce and frigid. Amargo, which means bitter, is used for both flavor and people. I´m entertaining the idea of learning another language, but my hands are pretty full. Some hip French people were at the hostel for awhile, and listening to their French was entrancing. Or maybe it was my flu medication. On another note, more annoying travelers have arrived at my hostel. One American talked about Africa as being, ¨As real as it gets.¨ I don´t know what that means; do you? Do you think he does? The real-as-it-gets dude has scruffy facial hair and one eye that droops closed. Over breakfast, he harrasses the Frenches about their travel plans (¨journeys¨), and gives sage advice that only a wise, experienced, and enlightened traveler could. The French seem amused, but I suspect otherwise and would love to make some kind of snide remark, like, wasn´t that dude from this morning pretentious? but I keep my mouth shut. You never can tell who is on your side...

Another Frenchie arrived last night. I offered him soup, which he drank from a coffee mug. He is an incredibly cocky bastard, with big ears, scruffy hair, and eyebrows that don´t stop dancing. He back-seat operates the remote control, and chats non-stop. John whispers to me that his slang, mannerisms, and attitude are all very ¨Argentina.¨ Maybe I´ll take it off my destination list after all.

I am really, truly, leaving on Monday for the North (ocean!!!!!). The plan is to travel, and if I find somewhere I love with opportunities, I´ll stay for awhile. It´s in my intentions to gain some teaching experience, volunteer with kids, and meet amazing people. I need to improve my meeting-people skills. I find it difficult at hostels, as I am not sure what language people speak and the shyness sets in, but by clamming up I am missing lots of opportunities, so I´m working on it. I´ll most likely hop up to Ecuador for visa reasons. I´m sure the whole deal will be grand. I´ve been getting excited thinking about Mexico... tequila, reggaeton, burritos, the beach... visiting Carol, Al, and Alejandro... I´m ready!

I could spend all day listening to people speak English as a second language. The words people know, as opposed to the ones they don´t, never cease to amaze me. I am fashion, so fashion, is my newest favorite.

Out. Peace.

Monday, July 6, 2009


So I went to a chicken fight? With my new friend John. Who does not seem like the chicken-fighting type, but let me assure you, he is all about it. He met me at San Pedro market decked out in pointy shoes, a jean jacket with sheepy inner lining, and a cowboy hat. It was a little much, but it was his birthday so I forgave him. He kept checking in with me during the fights, making sure I wasn´t going to cry, I think. I didn´t cry. I did bet, but I lost. It was quite the experience. I have precious pictures of us in cowboy hats, which I can´t wait to upload. I also have some not-quite-so-precious pictures of the chicken fights. Testosterone and feathers filled the air as men chugged their Cristal (beer) and yelled for their fave fighter (¨Derecha!¨or ¨Izquierda!¨) We bet on Papa Micki, which was a mistake as he was not the winning rooster, but it was all part of the experience. And a name like Papa Micki inspires confidence, don´t you think?

Also, I am sick. I have been soooo horrifically shivery-sweaty sick with a sore throat and a cough, headachey and snotty, muscle and bone soreness, holed up in my hostal. I left once yesterday to buy lime and soup. I have left today only to hop on the computer at a nearby internet cafe. I asked John to bring me a shaman, but I think it was a little short notice. Being sick in a foreign country sucks, but what can you do? I am chugging tea with limon and honey, chupa-ing my throat lozenges, and taking my medicine. I am also sleeping loads and reading a mediocre John Grisham novel. I cracked open ´Pedagogy of the Opressed´this morning, which was a huge joke. It turned into table decor.

John (and every other Peruvian I know) tells me I am sick because I don´t abrigate-- dress warmly. It also might be because I caught a virus, but this is a bit hard for the Peruvians to swallow. Jenna, my English-teaching friend, has her students work in pairs to complete an assignment where they give advice to people who are sick. They are supposed to write things like, don´t eat junk food, and, get enough sleep, but instead it goes like this:

A: I have a cold.
B: I have a jacket!


A: I have a cold.
B: Did you drink a hot drink and a cold drink at the same time?

Okay, in all honesty, I don´t know if the last example is true, but the first one is (I swear. It´s cute, huh?) Sometimes I hate my Peruvian friends when I am sick. They tell me to cover my ears from the cold, and not to drink a cold drink and a hot drink at the same time, and not to shower after I eat because it will disturb my digestion. When they tell me not to take a nap because I will get a fever, I want to punch them. At this point, I am sure they are trying to piss me off. I am sure they want me to be sick and miserable forever. What about the good old American cures of attention, bad cable, and chicken soup?

Also, it seems noteworthy to mention that my friend´s boyfriend honestly believes that if you eat ice cream while you are pregnant the baby will freeze.

I still can´t believe I went to a cockfight.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sharks and Thievery

Francisco, the owner of La Estrellia (the hostal where I am staying), talked to me about men last night. The ¨too many fish in the sea¨ saying came up, and he told me to beware of sharks (tiburones.) First, they will bite your cuello (neck), he tells me, and then your pecho (chest.) And then . . . yo no se. Yo tampoco, I tell him, laughing and walking away. But we both knew and know what comes after the chest-bite. No duermes con los tiburones, por favor, he advises me, as I walk into the hostal kitchen.

Alejandro (do you remember the one? he has dreads and we dated for a couple of days and he took me on the longest walk of my life in which I felt like a hot sweaty baby? and then I saw him the other night and his friend kept my three soles?) . . . anyway. The night of the 3-sole-sham, Alejandro walked me back to my hostal. He was in my room for a minute, he left, I slept. In the morning, I woke up and my favorite (and only) hoodie was gone. I called him and he didn´t answer, and then I saw him on the street and cornered him. ¨Donde esta mi polo?¨ I asked. ¨I told you it´s chevre*. I told you, Jessica, be careful.¨ He is giggling. ¨I can give you this one,¨ he offers, unpeeling his windbreaker to reveal another sweatshirt, ¨I like tu polo!¨ I punch him in the chest softly. I like it too. That´s why I own it. I call him a ladron (thief) and he says, no, I am not a thief, I told you I had it. Okay, so maybe you´re honest, I tell him, but you still stole my hoodie (which makes you a thief.) He has had enough of my truth-telling, and telling-off, so he staggers down the street, probably to get drunker. He promises me he will call. I doubt he will call, but it is my mission to retrieve what is rightfully mine before/if I take off for the north in two days. I´ll keep you posted.

Also. Remember the guy I ran into at the Huancaro fair? John? I gave him my information at the fair, hoping he would get in touch, but not thinking he actually would. Yesterday, I got an e-mail, which will soon be followed by a phone call. We´re getting together before/if I go (look how tentative I am, covering all of my bases.) I don´t know what we´ll do, but I am sure it will be a fun evening. It´s great to make connections. Keeps the world going ´round.

I am reading ¨The places that scare you¨ by Pema Chodron and it´s full of simple truths. I take it with me to restaurants and underline my favorite passages. She is talking about wishing happiness for ourselves and for others.. people we love, feel neutral about, envy, and can´t stand. This is one of her suggested intentions:¨May this really annoying person experience happiness and the root of happiness.¨ I read it and nearly spit out my soup because giggles are tumbling out of my mouth. Sometimes I am a really annoying person, and, nevertheless, I wish to experience happiness as well.

Pema also says,
For an aspiring bodhisattva, the essential practice is to cultivate maitri. In the Shambala teachings this is called ¨placing our fearful mind in the cradle of loving-kindness.¨ Another image of maitri or loving-kindness is that of a mother bird who protects and cares for her young until they are strong enough to fly away. People sometimes ask, ¨Who am I in this image the mother or the chicks?¨ The answer is we´re both: both the loving mother and those ugly little chicks. It´s easy to identify with the babies- blind, raw, and desperate for attention. We are a poignant mixture of something that isn´t all that beautiful and yet is dearly loved.

On that note, blessings to all the mamas, papas, and baby chicks. You are dearly loved.


*Chevre = cool