Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for September, 2009

IMG_1636

Yesterday my boss and I went to a new restaurant in Cusco, called Sara. My friend was a marketing director for a short time there, so he did everything but give us his first born to have us go try it out, and hopefully recommend it to the volunteers, or have some events there. (He didn’t seem to get the fact that our NGO has a very tight budget being that it’s NOT FOR PROFIT and we spend most of our money on community projects, but that’s beside the point.) I got a free lunch out of it.

Sara is very pretty from the outside. It’s very clean and polished, with it’s white building front, glass doors, and sleek black writing that says Sara, Organic Food Café. The inside décor is surprisingly cozy, with earth- toned walls and carpeting, couches, and funky glass tables and chairs. It’s also rather big. My boss and I walked to the back of the restaurant and chose a table with 2 couch chairs. As I sat down, my mouth watered for a glass of wine as this place exudes a relax-and-have-a-wine-or-coffee ambiance.  The only thing it was missing was a fireplace.

The menu, though sparse, seemed promising. It had sandwiches like a traditional Peruvian “bistek” sandwich that comes with steak, fried egg, and fried plantains. There was also a grilled veggie sandwich that sounded delicious- I pictured veggies grilled to perfection with a nice dressing and crusty ciabatta bread. The trout salad sounded interesting, too. That’s what I ordered. My boss got the grilled veggie sandwich, and we each got a limonada to top it off.

After a few minutes (service was very prompt- though there were only 2 other tables occupied) we got our limonadas. They were surprisingly cold (yay!) and flavorful. They didn’t skimp on the lime and it had just enough sugar to make sure the lime wasn’t too sour.  Unfotunately, the perfection ended there. My salad arrived. A big bowl with lettuce, some onion and tomato, a few slices of apple, and a couple of small chunks of trout. No dressing. Not even a little twist of lime. By the time I was done, I was still hungry and felt like I was on some sort of bland diet. My boss’s sandwich was hardly more promising. It came on white bread with the crusts cut off. Are we in pre-school here? There was a small side salad and some potato chips. The veggies on the bread were tasty, definitely more flavorful than my salad, but it was closer to a jazzed-up Lunchable than an upscale café lunch (both the salad and sandwich were about 15 soles, which is a lot considering you can get a delightful vegetarian meal* (salad bar, soup, and main course) for 6 soles right next door at a place called El Encuentro). The businesses administrator sat down with us before hand and explained a bit about the restaurant and some specials (a sandwich and drink for 9 soles) but everything he said sounded like it was based on air. Like he was attempting to convince us that a rusty, metal statue was made of gold.

I fear Sara is a sign of things to come. Too many over-priced, dull restaurants geared at tourists have been popping up near the main square. Not only are they superficial and unimaginative, but they take away from the culture of Cusco. Some day, the Plaza de Armas in Cusco may become as plastic and superficial as Times Square!! Cusco needs more places like El Encuentro, where the food’s cheap, clean, and delicious and where Peruvians, and foreigners with a tight budget like me, can actually afford to eat!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

9indeeppie1

I’ve been thinking lately about sustainability and Peru. Peru is one of the countries that are most affected by global warming, mostly because there are many areas on Peru that get their source of water from the ice-capped mountains, which have been melting faster and faster, thanks to global warming. Despite the fact that there seems to be no gas emissions laws regarding cars, or at least they’re not enforced, Peru’s greenhouse gas emissions are significantly lower than that of the United States. I believe that poverty has a lot to do with it. People here live with less, and the more time I spend here, the more sustainable I find myself becoming.

I remember when I returned to the states for 4 months for my spring semester in college. I took a course on sustainability and a lot of the things we talked about, especially regarding waste, seemed to not be a problem in Peru. Americans waste a lot of water every year whether leaving the water running while brushing their teeth, or taking 20-minute showers, or washing their cars. In Peru, there are many water problems, especially in the dry season when the majority of their water supply comes from those melting snow capped mountains mentioned before. In Cusco, the water is shut off from around 2 to 5 in the morning, when hardly anyone’s using water, anyway. At Atreyhus’s family’s house in Callao their water gets shut off at 10pm! This really helps conservation.  And people just accept it as a way of life, either brushing their teeth early or setting some water aside for the night. I try to think about this happening in the states, and it seems impossible. People would throw a fit if they couldn’t take a shower at 3 in the morning, even though they probably never would. What would the 24-hour Diners do? I know in places like hospitals, it would be a safety risk not having water, but surely residential areas could handle having their water turned off.

Even the napkins are sustainable in Peru! In the states we have 4-ply napkins- Bounty’s even come out with a version that’s as thick as a paper towel! In Peru, the napkins are 1- ply. I have yet to see a Peruvian using a paper plate (I mean, does it really take that long to wash a dish??) and when Peruvians wash dishes, they turn the water off while scrubbing!! Most people bring re-usable bags with them to the markets (everywhere there are little Andean women scurrying about with their durable, plastic striped bags) and disposable bags are re-used. I’ve seen Styrofoam used in restaurants on occasion, but you can bet that it doesn’t get thrown away. At least that’s been my experience with Atreyhus. He recycles everything. He even insists on me saving the pie tins left over from the graham cracker crusts my mother sometimes sends (I used it to bring brownies to his aunt and uncle’s place in Sicuani once and his aunt complimented me on it. I love Peru!) Peruvians even use less toilet paper. The host families we place our volunteers with always comment on how much toilet paper gringos use!

 I remember when I was younger, my grandmother used to always save everything. My mom would always complain, saying she did it because she lived through The Great Depression.  I think people in the states could use a little bit of that mentality. Just because the U.S. is developed and has money, doesn’t mean people there shouldn’t save things.  But the US is a throw away culture. Just thinking about how much garbage is generated every morning  from disposable coffee cups is an enormous amount. Big Venti Starbucks cups have even become a fashion statement, thanks to Mary Kate Olsen! For as long as I’ve been in Peru, one thing that’s always stricken me as a big difference between here and the states is that Peru is not an eat-and-run culture, like the U.S. is. In Manhattan, there are a million fast lunch places like Prete- a- Mange or PAX or The Bread Café where people can grab lunch in 15 minutes and it’s totally acceptable to be eating alone. Think of all the cardboard sandwich boxes and drink cups! In Peru, 2 hour lunch breaks are the norm and everyone goes home or to a restaurant that uses real dishes. I’m not saying that lengthening America’s lunch hour is the answer to saving the environment, but the way we in the states is definitely linked to the amount of waste we produce.

There are so many people in the U.S. who have never stepped outside of their bubble to think about the impact of their actions- families eating their TV dinners, people throwing away clothes they only wear once, people who clean their entire houses with paper towels and Lysol disinfectant wipes. No wonder so many other countries think of the U.S. as a gluttonous, wasteful country. It is! That isn’t to say that the U.S. is completely bad. It really has come a long way in the past few years as far as raising people’s awareness about the environment. Many stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s sell re-usable bags to put your groceries in, and even give you a discount when you use them. There are campaigns encouraging people to use energy- efficient light bulbs, hybrid cars are becoming more and more popular. But Americans could really be cutting back a lot more on their waste if they just made a conscious effort to do so.  To think more like a Peruvian.

Peru has its problems as well. As I mentioned before, their car emissions are awful (when I first came here my lungs burned from the car exhaust, and I was just in Cusco- Lima’s worse), many of Peru’s rivers are polluted, and in many rural areas people just dump their garbage off the side of the mountain. A lot of this is due to the government’s inability to maintain a garbage collection system outside of the major cities, and their inability to make laws regarding car emissions.  Hopefully this will be changed someday in the future. But a fear I have is that the more modernized and developed Peru becomes, the more they’ll begin to be a throw- away culture, too. Just like the U.S. Then we’ll really have a problem.

Read Full Post »

IMG_0075_2

Our new group of volunteers seems to be settling in quite nicely. They’re getting used to their classes and already have a feel for the nightlife.  A few of them have already gotten sick, vomiting and diarrhea, but they’re recovering. Getting sick is sort of like an initiation to living in Cusco. You haven’t really gotten the full experience until you’ve run to the bathroom so many times, you might as well just stay there. 

Last Friday was our first work project. The vol’s learned how to make cleaner burning stoves1. Mud and ceramic bricks. I worked with my boss, and a the vols’ Art History professor, whom we’ll call “La Senorita”. He got this name from the old, Andean woman, Rosa, we built a stove for.

I’m not sure I’ve ever met a woman quite like Rosa. Normally, the elderly people in the communities surrounding Cusco mainly speak Quechua, and little to no Spanish. But Rosa speaks Spanish like it’s her first language.  I wouldn’t quite call her grumpy, but she did refer to her granddaughter as “the plague” and wasn’t too happy with out project director, whom she accused of “paseando” or strolling around, rather than building her stove! (in reality he was supervising the volunteers as they made stoves for the 1st time.)

I would call her a bit stubborn. She gets what she wants. She has brown skin thin as tissue paper and stringy white hair. She’s probably about 5 feet tall, but her hunched over back takes her down a few inches. She came and demanded La Senorita and I make her a stove! , and grabbing the two of us by the arms (whether for support or from conviction, I couldn’t quite tell) she led us to her house. Looking back, my boss assured me she’d be by later to help once the rest of the volunteers were settled in.

She led us through a door, cut into the thin, aluminum wall surrounding her yard. It was painted green. I almost stumbled over the 2 large dogs sleeping by the entrance. Her house was made of adobe bricks and looked like 3 small huts that were strung together. Her yard was a bit messy, with Spackle buckets and wooden boards lying about. We followed her to the room where we were to make the stove. It seems she’d removed her previous stove, which had left her walls and ceilings encrusted in black soot. It seemed that Rosa lived alone, so she really needed the stove. I wondered why others in the community didn’t help her by bringing her food. My boss later told me that Rosa was mean to the others in the community and would pinch them. Oh, Rosa!

I think it was his long hair that did it. La Senorita thinks it was his voice. But either way Rosa got it in her head that he was a she. Ok, mama. Si, senorita. My boss and I were cracking up the whole time! La Senorita was a good sport about it. After about 10 minutes of arguing with Rosa; Necesitamos arena, no harina! Pero esto es arena!!!!  No, senora Rosa, es h-a-r-i-n-a!  La Senorita declared that there was a definite lack of communication between them. (After the harina, arena mix up, La Senorita was then dubbed “esa senortia wanki”. Wanki is a quechuan word that describes a woman who doesn’t know how to cook or clean, or basically do anything domestic). 

Later, la Senorita had to climb up on Rosa’s roof to make a hole for the chimney to come out of, and boy was Rosa horrified! Has visto la senorita!!?? She asked me, a look of worry knotting up her face. And when La Senorita finally came down, Rosa scolded her, saying Como puedes actuar asi??? Pareces un hombre!!! We all almost died laughing. But it was all in good fun. When we finished, we gave Rosa a hug and were truly glad we could do something to help this eccentric, old woman. Can’t wait to go back next week to make sure her stove is functioning properly!

 

1Our NGO, ProPeru, builds cleaner burning stoves, or cocinas mejoradas, in the rural areas surrounding Cusco. Many communities use stoves without chimneys, so the smoke stays in the house and women and children breathe it in. This is very bad for their health. Our cleaner burning stoves funnel the smoke out of the houses, and also use less fuel so they’re environmentally friendly and sustainable.  The stoves are made from ceramic bricks that are made in Cusco.

Read Full Post »

La Teta Asustada

Well, this is more of an analysis than a review, but it’s what came out of me after seeing the movie last weekend.

 

 “La teta asustada” is a sickness that gets passed down from a mother who’s been raped to her daughter, through her breast milk. The sickness has got a hold on Fausta’s soul, the main character in Claudia Llosa’s third film, La Teta Asustada (literally The Scared Tit). La Teta Asustada is beautifully done, filled with breathtaking images of the Peruvian Andes as well as the poverty that comes along with it.

The movie begins with Fausta’s mother singing a song in Quechua, the indigenous language in Peru. “A esta mujer que les canta, esa noche le agarraron, le violaron, no les dio pena de mi hija no nacida, no les dio vergüenza”1 She was raped while pregnant.  Fausta’s mother is sick.  Fausta sings to her in a very soothing tone, “You haven’t eaten”.  She continues singing while she makes her mother’s bed, then calls to her: “Ma.”  “Ma?”. Fausta’s face goes blank as the rolling mountains stretch out behind her, ramshackle houses strewn over them. Ma has died.

And so begins La Teta Asustada. Her mother’s died, and now she must raise enough money to be able to return her to her hometown and bury her. This burden unexpectedly forces Fausta to confront a secret she’s been living with.  With a bird’s eye view, Fausta, her aunt, and her female cousins wrap up her mother in layers of blankets after embalming her in oil.  There she will stay, waiting for Fausta to put her to rest.

Fausta takes up work as a maid in the house of a rich older pianist, named Senora Aida. When we first meet Fausta, she’s attractive, with long, black, silky hair and blunt bangs. She’s tall and lanky, almost graceful, very different from the chubby, square women in her community. She has smooth, caramel skin. Fausta rarely speaks, even with her family. She maintains a somber look on her face and walks like a small, frightened animal. 

She’s afraid of men. Every time the bell for the front door rings, Fausta peeks through the little hole and makes the men show them her hand before she lets them pass. She won’t walk in the street by herself. She won’t so much as pass a man on the stairs alone. 

She doesn’t even talk to Senora Aida. She quietly takes orders, her head bowed down, that somber look ever- present on her face. One day Senora Aida hears Fausta singing to herself and asks her to sing for her. Fausta is too shy. But Senora Aida doesn’t let it go. She brings it up again, saying that if she sings for her, she’ll give her a pearl. Despite the fact that Fausta desperately needs the money, she still refuses.

But after a while, Fausta begins to let her guard down. She walks through the house more freely and quickly, no longer tip-toeing as if something were about to jump out from around the corner. She even makes friends with the old gardener, a man, who walks her home from work sometimes. Her biggest transformation happens with Senora Aida.

One day, Fausta is sitting in her room at Senora Aida’s house, thinking about something.  She gets up and walks down the hall, singing a tune in her head about a mermaid.  She looks as if she were hypnotized, looking straight ahead, tears filling her eyes. Her lips tremble. The tune in her head continues. When she reaches the room Senora Aida’s in she stops walking and starts singing out loud, belting it out as is it were a confession she was dying to get off her chest; hitting high notes that sound like chimes blowing furiously in the wind. When she’s done, she breathes, as if asking herself what had just happened, where it had come from. Senora Aida’s back is to her. She turns her head slightly to look at Fausta, then turns it back. The pearls are beside her, on a scale. She transfers a pearl from one side to the other. By the end of the week, Fausta’s side of the scale is filled with pearls.

            Fausta’s growing, but “la teta asustada” still has it claws in her. Her illness flares up every now and then, making her faint, sometimes landing her in the clinic.  The doctor gives a more serious diagnosis, she has “a papa” in her vagina and it must be removed. But Fausta doesn’t want to listen. She keeps on avoiding treatment. Keeps on burying her secret.

Fausta’s trust in Senora Aida proves to be a mistake when she turns Fausta’s song into a concert piece. At first, Fausta is pleased, but after the concert she says to Senora Aida “They liked it, didn’t they?” and Aida fires her and kicks her out of the car, forcing her to walk home alone. In the dark.

Does this break Fausta? Does she give up hope and bury her mother in her back yard, like her uncle had originally suggested? No. Fausta feels like a failure and even asks for her uncle’s forgiveness, but she doesn’t stop. Something’s already been let loose in her.

The turning point comes at Fausta’s cousin’s wedding. Fausta is beautiful in a blue, silk dress, face made up, and hair in soft spiral curls. But her sadness still leaks onto her face. She sits alone. Later, she’s sleeping in some spare room with some of her cousins. The wedding’s dying down Fausta’s still fully clothed. A man’s blurry figure moves closer to the sleeping Fausta. He puts his hand around her mouth and holds her head. She struggles.  

We soon discover it’s her uncle, as the camera reveals his face and he lets go, yelling “See how she struggles to survive! Yes, she still wants to live!” But Fausta isn’t relieved. She goes running out the door as an obviously drunk uncle weeps “Fausta, Don’t leave!”  “No te vayas!”.

Fausta runs through the streets, images blurring by her as dawn sets in. She stops at Senora Aida’s house. She’s come to claim what’s hers.  She reaches Senora Aida’s room. All we see is her hand hanging over the edge of the bed. And a trail of pearls.  Slowly, one by one, Fausta’s hand picks up the pearls. This is Fausta’s most daring moment, when she does something truly independent. Pretty different from the frightened girl she was at the beginning of the film. Victory!

But no, “la teta asustada” still won’t let her go. Morning finds her passed out in the busy street. Luckily, a familiar face comes to her aid, the gardener. He lifts her head up as she breaks down crying. “Let them take it out. Let them take it out from inside”. He hoists her onto his back like a sack of potatoes and carries her to the clinic. Fausta wakes up to find they’ve removed her “papa” (which is not a cute way of referring to a cyst, she actually had a potato inside her). The gardener says she didn’t open her hand the entire time. She opens it up to reveal the pearls.

Fausta’s traveling to her mother’s hometown in a red pick-up. There’s a sense of calm in the air as the camera shows the countryside. Her uncle’s driving and her cousins are with her. Her mother’s body is beside her, comically wrapped in the blankets, wearing a hat and a pair of sunglasses. The camera zooms close to Fausta’s face. She’s looking thoughtfully ahead, wind blowing her hair, sun shining down.  A slight smile crosses Fausta’s face as she sees the ocean. She yells to her uncle to stop and carries her mother’s body on her back, to the sea.  She’s about to complete what she’s set out to done, laying her mother to rest and with it her insecurity, her “papa”, and “la teta asustada”. Look at the sea, ma, she says, look at the sea. 

1 This woman that I sing of, that night they grabbed her, they raped her, they didn’t care about my unborn child, they weren’t ashamed

Read Full Post »

1736_Cusco_Plaza_de_Armas_at_night

Last weekend, Atreyhus and I went out with some of my friends to celebrate my boss’s birthday. We went to the Plaza de Armas (Cusco’s main square), which has about 10 bars on every street. At night the plaza lights up; there are people on every cobblestoned corner. A lot of them are handing out flyers or free drink tickets, trying to lure you to their club. I’d had a few drinks. Just enough to make things a little hazy.  But what happened after we left the club still burns in my mind.

We had just stepped out of Kamikaze, into the crisp night air, walking arm in arm. That’s when I heard it. At the time, it sounded like a million bottles breaking. What happened? I wondered. Did someone knock something over? Was it a street vendor? We walked closer to the source of the sound. That’s when I saw the body.  I saw him. His light brown hair. Blue sweater. Black jeans. Studded punk belt. My mind went into over drive, grasping at thoughts as if objects in the dark. Did he knock into something? But then why is there so much glass?  Then Atreyhus pointed up. He fell from the bar window above.  There were worried faces looking down.  The police were yelling ”Nadie lo toque! Nadie lo toque!” And no one went near him. Not even the police. They just stood there, keeping the onlookers at bay. Didn’t even bother to check the man’s pulse.

People frantically dialed 116 (Peru’s 911). My eyes were glued to the body. Where’s the blood? And then I saw it. Trickling from his head like a slowly moving river.  Shit. My mind fought against the woozy affect of the alcohol. What the hell is going on here!? Is no one going to do anything!!!?????? Anger welled up inside me, and tears lingered on the edge of my eyelids, threatening to spill over. I whined at Atreyhus, as if he’d be able to do something. Then I started yelling to the police, “Porque no hacen nada, imbeciles!? Porque solo lo miren!?” Then some other onlookers started yelling, “llame un ambulancia….todavia esta vivo….llame un ambulancia!”. He’s still alive. But his body hadn’t so much as twitched the entire time I was watching. Atreyhus went over and joined the throng surrounding the body.  A pick-up truck rolled up. It said Policia. Three cops lifted the body and placed it face down, the way it had landed, in the bed of the truck. Like a bale of hay.

People stayed at the scene a while. Not sure what to do with themselves. Some police had stayed behind. The blood remained amongst the sea of broken glass, and twisted metal rods, changing its shape as gravity pulled it this way and that. So this is what death looks like. Some were saying he’d committed suicide. He’d done it on purpose….ran through the glass. Others said he was narcoleptic and fell asleep, breaking through the glass. That’s Peru for you. Never a straight story. Always a strange rumor. I wondered what the paper would report, if anything. The crime scene hadn’t been taped off.  People started walking through it, stepping in the blood as if it were dog piss.  I pulled Atreyhus towards a cab. I wanted to get out of there. We rode home in near silence. I was still drowning in the disbelief that the police hadn’t done anything, they’d just let him lie there, maybe dying right in front of their eyes.

 

Two days later was Monday and I was telling Carmen, a girl I work with, what had happened. She’d heard. She’d been in the hospital on Sunday visiting her aunt when the man was pronounced dead. His friends were there, and she thought his girlfriend, too. They were Australian. Apparently he was high on heroine and his friend, also high, had accidentally pushed him. I told Carmen that the police didn’t even touch him to see if he was alive, didn’t even take his pulse. She just shrugged her shoulders and said that he was a foreigner. I didn’t ask Carmen what she meant by that, but as I walked up the stairs to my office I started wondering if the police were afraid they’d be investigated for touching him, maybe blamed for his death. The anger rose inside me again as I thought of the stupidity of it all, and then I felt fear as I realized that perhaps the police would act the same if it were me bleeding out on the ground.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday I went with Atreyhus to get his hair cut. We went to a place near the San Pedro Market, probably the biggest market in Cusco. In that area, all the streets are made of cobblestone and the sidewalks come up about a foot from the street, and are about a foot and a half wide. Walking is no easy task. Especially when you factor in the people busily scurrying about with their wheelbarrows full of strawberries, or sitting on a sliver of sidewalk with stacks of that fresh, salty Andean cheese I love so much. You rarely see a tourist in this part of town. I should know. I used to live in this neighborhood. We walk into a small barbershop, which hovers about 3 feet above the street.

Atreyhus sees his haircut lady and makes a scissor-like motion with his fingers; his way of asking if she’s free to cut his hair. Of course she is, and he sits down. I make my way to the small, plastic- covered chairs, designed for people waiting. They’re comfy enough, but a little too close to one of the barber chairs. Because of this, I get sprayed every few minutes with the spray bottle the barber is using to wet his client’s hair.

Almost every chair is occupied with Peruanos. I watch as the barbers expertly maneuver their electric razors. There are tufts of hair all over floor, all exactly the same color. They look like little, sleeping, black cuys (Cuy is the word for guinea pig in Peru, which they raise to eat. It’s considered a delicacy). From where I’m sitting I can see Atreyhus’s face in the mirror. Occasionally our eyes meet and he makes funny faces at me. I look at him and pat my head. A little more off the top.

The place is plastered with old posters of men and boys, showing different hairstyles. I see JC Chasez sporting a gelled back do’, circa 1998. There’s one of Jesse from Full House. Also, a large collection of blond-haired, blue-eyed boys smiling out at me. In the middle of the floor there are two chairs, designed for younger customers. One in the shape of a red truck. The other, a horse. The floors are made of unfinished, old wood.

No one speaks much, and a special on September 11th plays on the small television, in English. No one seems to pay it much attention. I glance over at Atreyhus again and I see he’s taken the electric razor from the lady and has started shaving his own face. She busies herself with dusting off the stray hairs. I laugh. He’s always doing something silly. He pays the 3 soles and we’re out on the street again, as I pull Atreyhus towards the market to buy some cheese.

Read Full Post »

DSC00252OK, here’s my second attempt at writing my first blog entry. (The first draft got erased after I unexpectedly lost Internet connection- something I should  be used to by now!) Here goes….

I truly believe that Cusco possesses this magical power that grabs hold of people when they come to visit.  I’ve run into so many people who originally came to visit for a few weeks and ended up staying months, even years. It might be the misty mountains that surround the small tourist town of about 400,000 inhabitants.  Or maybe it’s the welcoming Cusquenos.  Either way, Cusco touches people in a very special way, and I’m no exception.

I’m Emily and this is my blog about my life here in Cusco, Peru. I first came to Cusco in August 2007 to study abroad for 3 ½ months. During that time, I met my boyfriend, “Atreyhus”, a tall, fun-loving Peruvian from Callao (a pretty dangerous province in Lima) who’d moved to Cusco to learn English. 2 years and, despite the doubts of many close friends and family members, we’re still together. I’m pretty proud of us.

That’s not to say things haven’t been tough. Twice we were separated for four months while I finished up my last year of college. And transitioning to life in the Andes wasn’t always easy after living in NYC for 4 years.  Things like electric shower heads, water being shut off in the middle of the day, and parasites were especially difficult to deal with.  

After volunteering for about 3 ½ months, I returned to the states for my spring semester, then went back to Peru in the summer of 2008 to be with Atreyhus. That was most likely my hardest adjustment period.  It was amazing being with Atreyhus, but I was no longer in a supportive program, living with a homestay or socializing with a group of American volunteers. I was on my own. Just Atreyhus and me. I was officially (well, unofficially according the Peruvian Embassy) an Ex-pat. And I taught English to pay the bills.

  After a few months, I got tired of being stared at everywhere I went. Of being charged significantly more whenever I went to the vegetable market or took a taxi.  Of having diarrhea at least once a week! If I didn’t love Atreyhus so much, I would have been happy come October when I had to return to the states once again to finish up school.

But I wasn’t. There was yet another heart-wrenching goodbye at the airport. Another tear-filled plane ride where the flight attendants must have thought I was crazy. Another 4 long months, this time commuting between NY and NJ, passing through the gray, snowy days only half-there. Talking to Atreyhus by telephone, over MSN messenger, through webcam. Hoping he wasn’t forgetting me, hoping he wasn’t cheating on me.

But January finally came and I was back in Cusco. This time indefinitely. And the transition was so much easier. My stomach finally toughened up. Now, I think I can almost say I have the stomach of a Cusquena.  And I don’t feel so isolated anymore, especially since I started my new job a few months back, working for the NGO I’d studied abroad with. Emily Button: Volunteer Affairs coordinator. A fresh batch of volunteers just arrived about a week ago. All shiny-eyed and eager. Greeeen. Can’t wait to see how they grow over the next few months!

Well, that’s my story up until now. Can’t wait to share the rest of my adventures as they come!

Read Full Post »