Thursday, July 30, 1998

Miss K on the Verge of Coming Home (or a nervous breakdown)


Well, I think it is official: I have a cold, proof that I'm not pregnant and some digestive irregularities... I'm ready to come home. (I apologize if that was too much information for most of you but I swear, travelers talk about these types of things more often than the weather).

Just now I was sitting in the Plaza de Armas soaking in the sun and trying toH just chill out when this truck advertising the circus came by. It has cages with live tigers, lions and bears in the back and plays the most irritating prerecorded advertisement. I tried to ignore it but it kept circling the Plaza and I was forced to come in here to send an email. The only redeeming thing about this circus is that they claim they will have a chupacabra!

Monday, Marina (one of the Habitat people - she's only 16!) and I went rafting on the Urubamba river. You know what? It sucked. It took a long time to get there. When we did, we were part of a caravan of rafts and since ours had the rescue equipment we had to wait for everyone else. The river was kind of low so there were only a few exciting points. Plus, there were two women from Texas in the front, then Marina and I, then three big old Peruvian gordos that would hardly row. I am sure I am a much stronger person for hauling these guys down the river.

We though that Tuesday we would hang around town and watch the celebrations for Independence day but guess what? They had all the festivities on Monday when we were on our river trip. Heck.

Yesterday, we went on a hike to see some of the ruins right around Cusco. It was pretty fun, although (Chandrika, you will be happy to know) we couldn't figure out where we were supposed to be going and got a little lost.

Marina left this morning so I am left in the hostal with a woman named Sue who is also from SF. The hostal name is Amaru (as in Tupac Amaru, the last Inca ruler). Every time I exchange traveler's checks and they ask me where I'm staying I say Hotal Amparu (as in Amparu El-Sibai - that's for the work crowd). It's making me really confused. It's an okay place for the five whole dollars I pay per night but I'm looking forward to only having to share my bathroom with two people and to having a toilet with a seat. (I think that when you go to purchase a toilet in Peru, seats are sold separately - it can be the only explanation for the proliferation of toilets without seats in hostals, restaurants, etc.)

I think I'm going to try and take the local bus to the ruins at Ollantaytambo tomorrow but it all depends on how I feel. Saturday I fly back to Lima (I was disappeared off my first flight but they found me another) and Monday I come back to SF. I have to confirm that flight - it is part of my Central American tour package which takes me 12 hours to reach SF. I think I get in around 11pm.

I'll try to check this one more time tomorrow night before I go. Otherwise, I'll most of you in less than a week. Yeah!

"California here I come, right back where I started from..."


PS - Mom, I'll get my flight information confirmed and then send you a message from Magali's house in Lima. Unless I'm coming in earlier than I think, I'll call you Tuesday morning.

Sunday, July 26, 1998

Miss K in Cusco


Well, I am here in Cusco on the last leg of this trip.

I don't know what the delay was with the Habitat trip. I met the group at the airport and we went to Ilo as planned. We had a hotel with cable tv right on the ocean. It was a far cry from Momostenango. The project was 70 families building a whole village worth of houses. So, although it was a different situation, the work was very similar. I shovelled gravel and helped build walls, carried blocks, stuff like that.

There were some really cool people in Ilo and we had a good time. We even went disco dancing on Saturday. We ended up coming back to Arequipa and working for two days there. I was the queen of shovelling gravel into a cement mixer. I was given the title of Diva of Dirt or Sister Sucio. I don't know how everyone else stayed so clean.

In Arequipa, we went to see Juanita, the Ampato maiden. She is this creepily well preserved Incan mummy found on top of a mountain two years ago. She still has skin, teeth and hair. I was kind of freaky but interesting.

Cusco is beautiful but touristy as hell. I ran into the two women I had met from Ireland - the Marys - and hung out with them again. They are funny. I have met a lot of groovy people traveling around.

That past two days I have been in Machu Picchu! We went the first day with the whole Habitat gang. Then a few of us stayed over in this dumpy little town and caught the 6:30 bus to the top so we could watch the sun rise over the Andes. It was pretty amazing.

I'm traveling with a couple of women from Habitat and will have a few days on my own at the end of the trip. Tomorrow I'm going river rafting on the Urubamba river and Tuesday is Indepedence day here in Peru. Today I'm just trying to take it easy and chill out.

Last thing. The absolute nastiest thing I have eaten so far is cuy. That would be deep fried guinea pig!! When it comes to you the whole thing is splayed out on your plate and sliced up the back so you can dig in. The guinea pig has its mouth open in a silent scream and its little claws point in all directions on your plate. Once you get over the disturbing spectacle and try to eat it, it is the greasiest meat you have ever tried. Plus there is hardly any meat for all the work you have to do to scrape it from the bones, all the while trying to avoid the internal organs and the head. I didn't have my camera with me but someone else took a picture and said she would send me the copy. Foul.

I'll write again before I hit Lima. Oh yes, someone in my group called home and his mom said there were riots in Lima but we were in Machu Picchu and everything is fine with us. I'll have to try and watch the news.

Hope all is well.


PS - you can write back if you want, I'll be here in Cusco until the morning of August 1st. Pre Happy Birthday Ramon. One thing I am curious about, did Bowankus take the lofts down yet??

Wednesday, July 8, 1998

Miss K in Arequipa

Hola Amigos!

Well, I arrived in Arequipa at 7am this morning - you can imagine how I was enjoying my taxi ride at 345am.

But first, let me tell you about Lima (it's a dreary town). Thank God Magali Urbina was there to pick me up at the airport and drag me around for a week. It had good and bad points. It was kind of like visiting a family member (apologies to the family)... okay, we're almost ready, oh, have to get the dog, oh, have to get the niece and nephew, oh, now I'm tired, let's watch a novela on tv.

On the other hand, I got a personal tour of Lima. For those of you who know Luis, I have so much scoop about his entire life but I'll save it for my return. I did visit his house and met his three boys, plus his two daughters. The only kid I haven't met is the son in the US. One day we went to the ritzy area of town where Magali's aunt lives. It was like being in an Isabel Allende novel, the type of house you imagine when she talks about the rich S.A. families.

The most interesting thing I did in Lima was eat. I've tried ceviche (raw fish, which somehow, through the power of soaking in lemon juice becomes cooked), anticuchos de corazon (yeah, grilled cow hearts - I was too busy freaking out to enjoy it) granadilla (a harmless looking orange fruit, which, when opened contains a slimy green ball filled with seeds that you are just supposed to suck on down - it is the closest thing to phlegm I have ever eaten) chirimoya (and indescribable but tasty fruit), the list goes on.

I've only been here for the day but I like it. The place I'm staying (La Casa de mi Abuela) is a palace! While not the budget deal of the $5 hostel in Quito, this is $20, it is amazing. I have my own room with a private bath with HOT WATER (that's worth $15), there are gardens with tables to eat your meals and a swimming pool! I think I need to treat myself before I head to Ilo and work hard and eat bean sandwiches.

Some thoughts on traffic in S.A.:

Riding on the bus gives you an appreciation for MUNI. These buses don't have stops, you can jump on/off at any point. In Ecuador, buses only "stop" for women, if you're a man you just have to jump when it slows down. Riding in a car is like stepping into one of those video games where you are the race car driver. The lines dividing the lanes seem to be only suggested guidelines - roads that are two lanes wide often fit three cars across. To cross the street is to take your life in your hands - you are the frog and frogger has begun. You have to take streets one half at a time, the cars and buses will NOT slow down for you, you have to jump out of the way. All that said, I'm getting really good at crossing the street.

Alas, people who are reading this at work have surely gotten in trouble by now for taking too long of a break, but you know I tend to go off on tangents.

Here's the thing. I have this Yahoo account set up in Arequipa and a place I can go to check messages. I'll be here until Monday morning the 13th. If you want to reply, please reply by Sunday.


P.S. Happy belated birthdays Mom and John

Ramon - there is a sign in town for a lecture tomorrow... "Conozco a la Maestra Iluminada Suma Ching Hai" - I'm not going.

And you know what else? I'm learning crude Peruvian slang! La cagada (literally, the shit) is something you say when you mean that something is very good. Que cagada (what shit), when something is really bad. Me cago de hambre (well, I'm very hungry). You know I'm loving that. Sad, but true.