E-mail Update - 2006-09-27

Spanish, Infections and My Personal Guide

Hey Everyone,

Well after being in Cuzco, Peru since August 2 (not counting a weekend trip to Bolivia), I left this past Tuesday. The Point Hostel (www.thepointhostels.com/cusco.html) & Cuzco has become my second home of this trip much as Koh Phi Phi was during the last one. My next 2 weeks or so will be spent on the road in places like Abancay (where I am now), Ayacucho, Huancavelica, Huancayo, Huanuco & other towns on the way to Lima. I need to go to Lima because I am planning to change my flights to come home for the holidays!! I plan to spend as little time in Lima as possible. Other than changing my flights I am going to get flights to Ecuador & the Galapagos. After diving in the Galapagos Islands & I will come back to Peru before flying home (assuming I can get my flights changed). If I can get a job for a month in the Galapagos I will. If it doesn´t work out I will just dive for a week & then travel back down to Lima overland.

Since I have been in Cuzco so long there have been lots of things that I have done & stories that I can tell. Coming to Cuzco for several weeks was planned because I decided that this was the place where I would take non-traveling time to focus on learning basic Spanish. The way I did this originally was to write lists of related words & spent time memorizing them. This worked pretty well & was how I learned Spanish for the first 2 weeks I was here. I figured lessons were not overly useful until I knew some words.

After working on Spanish the first 2 days, on August 4, Mayra took me sight seeing. Mayra is a Peruvian woman who was Nina & I´s tour guide for our Salkantay hike. She had told me while I was in Cuzco the first time that if I came back she would show me around the local sites, even to some places tourist typically don´t see. This day was spent in the Cuzco Valley. Our first stop after a short bus ride was to the Temple of the Moon (Salapunco). The site was under excavation, but Mayra was able to get us in. There wasn´t a lot left, but we did get into this little cave looking area where she showed me stone drawings & several other aspects of this site. I was thinking to myself at this point how nice it was to have a personal tour guide :) After that we part of the Inca Trail. People call the Inca Trail a small section that is just before Machu Picchu, but in truth there are thousands of miles of South Americas west coast. While we were walking we worked on Spanish words (mainly verbs), so I also had a personal Spanish teacher. How lucky am I? Our next stop were at ruins called Incarsi (not sure on spelling though). There she explain the history of the this building & told me about tombs that had been on the other side of the hill. Those tombs had been robbed for their artifacts.

Also this site had also been exploded in part by the locals, she was not sure why. Our lunch stop was at an Inca irrigation site which had only been discovered in the past few years. Even though it did not get many tourists, being uncovered & exposed to the environment was already taking the toll on the site. Mayra guessed it would not be recognizable in 5 years. Mayra had packed us a lunch something I totally didn´t think about so we ate while sitting at this site which was my favorite of the day.

Our next stop was a lagoon on the way back towards Cuzco, it was really just a small pond, but the view of the mountain behind it made it much more beautiful. There we took a short break & practiced more Spanish, this time writing down the words I had asked her which we had seen as we had been walking like wheat (trigo) & oats (avena). Shortly after this we also saw a typical Peruvian country home, so I decided to take a picture (called peruhouse). Rumawasi was the name of the last stop, which was nice as well, it was also an old Inca site which showed architecture & tunnels. After that we descended back into town to get a bus back to the center of town.

Once back in town we stopped for desert. Mayra had the choice of places & desired ice cream. While we were looking at what they had she was worried about it was ok to get the ¨expensive¨ 3 Sol ice cream. Figuring that she had not only guided me for free all day & packed lunch for us at her cost I figured it was ok. It was nice to see someone who was just truly nice & wanted to show you around without wanting your money. While traveling in third world countries I have seen so many examples of women trying to be with men to get the financial benefits. It was good to see this was not her motivation, she is just a nice woman. In all for the day I spent less than 3 USD, quite a bargain. It was also nice because we did not see another gringo until getting back to the city. I enjoy seeing things that not everyone else has seen & having sites to myself.

Back at the hostel I continued studying Spanish until I was talked into going out for one of the workers last nights. The place we went was Bar 7 & it had a seen that I had never partaken in until. When you get there it seems like a normal bar. But once it gets a little later the this guy (I think the owner) comes around to the table. With him is a large amount of cocaine. He just puts it on the table & almost everyone does lines. That night I am pretty sure I was the only one of our group of around 12 who did not join in for the free cocaine. I had only seen people do it a few times, but to see a whole table doing it was quite a site. Even though I didn´t have a problem with it, I was still rather uncomfortable by all this & left soon after everything went down. I continued on to the other bars, before eventually catching up with the group later in the night at Uptown the bar they usually went to at the end of the night. I had fun seeing the night sites in Cuzco, it was quite an experience.

This had also been a big day back home. My brother Thad & his wife Kristy officially became home owners for the first time!

The next day was spent mostly working on Spanish. There is an interesting story from the night. Mayra & I went out to get pizza at this good pizza place she knew (yep I had a restaurant guide as well). It was good & once we were done I went to pay the bill. We I paid I got the change back in part but she didn´t have any small change. In this kind of situation you have to be innovative. The waitress was handed me a small bottle of water. Why did she do this I wondered, then I realized this was the rest of my change whether I wanted it or not. I was actually thirsty & didn´t want to wait around for a long time so I accepted it. It was the first time I had ever been paid in water.

After getting supper we went out to a few local clubs, but Mayra had to be home by 11, so she left. I decided to go & test out a theory I had read in the Lonely Planet which was that bars would give you free drinks to go to their bar. While walking across the plaza towards the bar I was trying to figure out what I had to say. When I got close to the clubs I realized choice of words was nothing I had to worry about. I had about 4 people rush me one trying to be louder than the next saying, ¨free drink to go to...¨ Well I decided since it was this easy that I was doing a tour. My tour took in 4 clubs that night & I had 4 drinks. If you are thinking I am a freeloader,...well I prefer to call it opportunist, but yeah basically ;) After that I went back to the hostel to go out with the group, where we got our first drink free at Uptown. It was nice because I only bought 2 drinks the rest of the night, although I did end up a little more drunk than I had hoped!

Sometimes people talk about how cheap it is in South America. Well here is the confirmation of that. My friend Danny, from Australia who I had originally met in Lima, & I went out for lunch. We ended up at this place that for 2.50 soles gave us salad, rice, french fries (chips for all you
UKers) & an 1/8 chicken. By the way 1 USD is 3.25 Soles!! There were also 4 different kinds of sauces, although I am not sure why. They were so watered down that it could have just been one bottle of water in front of us. The food was good though, so I can´t really complain & my change came in the form of money this time.

On Monday (August 7) I had planned to get back to the sightseeing, but Mayra had to go to Machu Picchu last minute, so instead I kept working on my Spanish. The day before I had caught some luck as a Dutch girl took pity on me & gave an impromptu lesson about verbs. She showed me the regular verb system & explained some of the reason for saying things a certain way. It was really helpful & something that made everything easier, well at least a little easier anyway.

I spent the next 2 days mostly working on Spanish as well. During these 2 days I started to feel comfortable in 2 aspects. The first was in Spanish. I realized when I was at the supermarket & when I was at a restaurant that I knew by the words what most of the things were! I also was starting to finally pronounced things losing some of my US accent.
For instance, I was starting to say i as ee, which is how it should be in Spanish. The other area of comfort came in relations to the hostel. The people from the hostel had been nice from the start to me & welcoming.
However, I had still felt a little like an outsider & had considered moving hostels to a cheaper place. But by the time I had been a week it was really starting to feel like home. I had lots of friends & knew the staff really well. It was becoming very comfortable...perhaps a little too comfortable ;)

I started my second week much the same was I had the first spending all day with Spanish. That night Mayra went out for supper & then we walked to a lookout point above the city. It was at this church & showed how beautiful the city was at night with all its lights showing from mountain side to mountain side.

Friday, August 11 was to be a big day of sightseeing. I started off with a really cold shower (there was a problem, normally the showers at the point are glorious) & buying the Cuzco tourist ticket which gives you access to about 15 sites. There were 3 today that we planned to go to.
The first was an old Inca ruins called Chinchero. It was now the site of a church as the Spanish had build over the ruins. So it was a 2 for 1 site with ruins & a church. On the way to this site we practiced Spanish & English words & I even caught a little nap. Usually I try not to sleep on buses because I am too paranoid that something will get stolen, but when you are traveling with someone it is ok. Chinchero is set beautifully in the mountains. The pictures around the area are as impressive as the site itself. Myra gave a nice history of the site & the current church. There are no pictures allowed in churches in Peru (at least none that I have seen). In this case it was a shame because I really liked the painted ceiling, someone had put a LOT of work into the murals that were there. There are also markets at Chinchero, but having no real interest in things that are llama (and would obviously not work with my allergies) we skipped it & went to the bus area.

While Mayra negotiated a taxi for us which cost under $2 for the long ride to the next city about 45 minutes away, we saw a guy who was having obvious trouble getting a bus or taxi. We went to help him & eventually he rode with us. He ended up being from Chicago which is like 5 hours away from where I live. He was pretty interesting to talk to. He had a one day at a time approach to traveling & refused to talk about the next week or even few days.

After another bus, plus a delay we got to Ollantaytambo where we got some lunch in this small cafe. The menu was really cool there, it was in both Spanish in English (and even had the right spelling in English). I looked through it & was happy to find that I could read 90% of the Spanish side without cheating. I used the time we were waiting for our food to write down all the words I didn´t know & even had Mayra clarify a few of the words. At the end of the meal I saw Thomas from the hostel. They had a group that had rented motorcycles & were going cross country seeing the area, it was the first time I had seen from hostel out traveling.

Ollantaytambo (picture called ollantaytambo) is also an ancient Inca site. When you come to the front of realize that there are going to be a lot of steps for this site. We got in, me with my ticket & Mayra for free since she is a tour guide, & hit the steps. There are also terraces up the whole main part. To both sides there are different points that you can explore. While we did this Mayra gave me the history of the site & information about what buildings were. Eventually we worked our way down to the part that was at the bottom of the hill near the stream. Around this time we realized that we were not going to have time to get to Pisac the third site, so we took our time exploring this site. After finishing the tour we caught a minibus & then a big bus back to Cuzco.

Back in Cuzco we tried to go to the Quechuan dance part of the ticket but were too late. Instead we caught supper at this nice restaurant overlooking Av Sol, the main street in Cuzco. After saying good night to Mayra I got ready to go out & did the free drink run again. The great thing about drinking in Cuzco is that you don´t have to spend much at all. I really enjoyed one of the clubs Mythology & actually bought drinks there! I eventually finished the circuit & went back to the hostel to go with the group.

For both Saturday & Sunday I didn´t do much other than practice Spanish, watch movies at a friend´s girlfriends apartment. While I was there I saw no less than 10 Peruvians in this 2 bedroom apartment!! From what my friends said that was actually fairly low, it can be a LOT more....wow. I also worked on the last group update that I sent out...yep it has indeed been a while since that :) On Sunday I said goodbye to Mayra. She was going on a long hike with people & had a lot of work over the next several weeks. At that point I thought I would be leaving Cuzco in about a week.
I really didn´t feel very good so I stuck close to home, going to bed early. I got this stuff to start taking for my throat which in comparison makes Nyquil taste like ice cream. It didn´t seem to help much though.

Monday was spent out going to the city sites on my tourist ticket. The first stop was Museo de Historia Regional, which was not very good, I was done in under 30 minutes, I had seen most of the same stuff already at other museums I had been too. The next was the Museo de Arte Popular which was really lame & took less than five minutes. While I was at the Arte Museo, they told me about a free exhibit at the bank. So I did that next, the first part was lame like the Popular Arte Museo, but the second part were these really big pictures of random Peruvian people. The photographer was really good & there were small stories at some of them which were interesting (at least what I could read since it was only in Spanish). It ended up being my favorite part of the day. The last stop was the Museo de Arte y Monesterio de Santa Catalina. It was all religious paintings in the art part, the thing I found most interesting was the church part.

While I had been walking around I knew that I was really sick. I was so tired that I was stopping every 2 blocks to rest, that is not right. I had lunch at Nina & I´s old restaurant in Cuzco in part because I was hungry, but mainly because I felt like I was going to pass out if I didn´t sit down. Sometimes you have to give up, admit defeat & go to the doctor. I decided that I would be doing this the next day. Back at the hostel, I finished & sent the group email & went to bed really early.

Monday morning I woke up feeling sick. After consulting with people at the hostel & I headed for the clinic. Once there I got in right away to see the doctor. She did not know English, but her nurse knew some & I had wrote down some key things in Spanish. We talked for a while, but as soon as she had me open my throat she stopped the examination. A few days before I had been eating some with cheese which got lodged in my throat for a few seconds choking me, which I though was weird. As it turns out my throat was VERY swollen. When I got back I looked I would say the opening was only slight bigger than a straw, explaining my trouble eating. The doctor told me that I had a severe throat infection. She gave me 3 meds, the one for the antibiotic was only for 3 days, there was one for possible fever prevention & the last one was to protect my stomach from the first 2. I was able to get the first 2 medicines at the clinic, but they didn´t have the third so I went to another pharmacy. While I was waiting there I decided to weight on this machine they had that checked other things as well. Much to my surprise I found out that I weighed 10 kilograms or 22 pounds less. That is what I lost since leaving home 7 weeks before! That was almost exactly the weight I had added in the 7 months I was home, so I was basically back to traveling weight. I guess the lack of sugar & soft drinks makes a big difference. It is no wonder why Americans are the largest people in the world, I mean if this doesn´t show it what does. Either way I felt good that at least my day had some good news :) Back at the hostel I checked my email. A few days before I had sent out an email to people that I hadn´t heard from in a while asking if they wanted me to stop sending group emails to them. Most people said they wanted to stay on. Also a few of them told me about what was going on in there life. It was really cool because I had not heard from some of these people in over a year! I love hearing from other people to let me know what is going on. It is always nice to open your in-box having a note from a friend!

The next 2 days were spent mostly trying to recover, which meant lots of time on the couch or in bed. But I decided I wanted to get something out of it, so I scheduled my first 2 Spanish lessons. My teacher was named Leo, he was half Dutch & half Peruvian, even though he looked all Peruvian. He knows 5 languages & his English is really good. We spent most of the first 2 days working on conjugating verbs (which means putting together the pronoun & verb, you say the verb different in every situation). It is probably the hardest part of learning Spanish. I also did the lessons because I felt like I now knew tons of words but still wasn´t good at putting them into sentences. While I learned Leo would give me the verbs in sentences, which was great to help me start to think more in sentences instead of words. The first 2 days were very valuable in that respect. They were also very draining adding mental wear to my weak physical state. I think to outside people I probably looked like one of those horses you see who was just born trying to stand up!

Well that pretty much covers the first 2 weeks in Cuzco. Next time on the soap opera....
- Will Brock ever recover from his near death throat infection??
- Will he survive the motocross adventure in the perilous mountains?? - When will he become an uncle??
- And which friend from Trip 1 will make a guest appearance??

Ok maybe its not like a to be continued from ER where they leave you on the edge, but hey I tried! I even decided to wet your appetite with a picture from Moray (called Moray), an Ince site that I visited twice & which will be talked about next time!!

Love & Peace