Unpleasant things in your face
29.09.2008 - 30.09.2008
So we woke up the 29th and went to explore the city of Cusco. We at breakfast at Jack´s cafe, on San Blas, the art district of Cusco, which was great! I got a strawberry smoothie, and a heaping plate of scrambled eggs with roasted tomatoes and basil, on toast. It hit the spot. So on this day in Cusco we intended to see the sites, but we were quite tired of all the ruins and such, and decided instead to just explore the city and take pictures. We saw the 12-angled stone, listened to part of a Japanese tour about it, and that was about it.
We did do a tour of the Catedral, which was interesting and frusterating all at once. It was kind of funny to see that they had a saint to pray to for women who want a certain man to become their husband, and also one for the men to pray to in order to free themselves from those prayers. How silly. I´m sorry, but I insist on being the one wooed, not pining over some guy. If I´m not worth his time, he´s sure as heck not worth mine. One of the things I was very interested to see here at the Cathedral was the way that the Spanish and Peruvian cultures combined, to see that contrast. If you don´t know much about Peru, the Incas basically came through and conquered most of the other cultures, but then they had a civil war of sorts, after which they could have recovered, but the Spanish came through right at that moment and took over. So its quite sad to see how the Inca culture got lost, but interesting to think about the fact that they themselves were a conquering culture, that thus got conquered. When the Spanish came through, they brought with them the church, and the Catedral was a perfect example of how they integrated Peruvian elements to help convert the locals. It was quite infuriating to see for me. Most of you probably know my views on organized religions, and this contrast was so striking. It´s pretty apparent here the difference between the Spanish people and the native Peruvians, even today. And its definitely mostly an economic contrast. It reminds me an awful lot of things that happened in the states with the Native Americans. It´s a very similar seeming situation. I can´t help but wonder why this has to happen. Is it just unavoidable human nature to try and conquer others? Is that uniquely human? Or is that our animal instincts? It just drives me crazy to see people doing things that they think are in the name of something important, but its so destructive. And also to see people who think that another person´s faith is so archaic... when, well, lets be honest here. They all derive from a similar place. At least as far as my understanding goes. If you are interested in this, check out the first part of the zeitgeist movie. Just google it, and you should be able to watch it online for free. Not to get too offensive to the faithful of my readers, but this topic drives me up the wall all the time. I just hate the thought of justifying destructive actions, or any actions based on something you believe but can´t prove... maybe I´m too much of a scientist for the world of faith. Okay, I need to stop. I could babble about this for a long time, but I´m probably upsetting some people right now. This is why I generally keep my mouth shut about this topic. Anyway, moving along...
Okay so this is actually sort of along the same vein I suppose. Sorry, can´t help it. Outside the cathedral there was this ADORABLE little girl running around, and we took some pictures of her, and went across the street to sit and relax and look at the Plaza. But this little girls mom, pretty obviously a native, brought her across the street to see us again.
So, we took some more pictures of her and played with her a little bit. And then her mother asked us for some money for taking pictures. I... don´t quite know how to explain myself here. While I understand the circumstances that put this woman in such a place, it really REALLY irks me for a parent to use their child like that. And she wasn´t the only one. This happens everywhere in many of the towns in Peru. Later in the day a woman sent her little boy over to try and play with me. There is a lot of sadness and poverty in these towns. They have become so dependent on tourism... You go to school here for tourism and languages. While tourism is good in that it is helping the country to gain some footing, what happens in the future? Who is going to school to become a politician? Or a doctor? How are they going to start making the steps towards this? What if the government decides to stop letting tourists in? It feels like everything is hanging in such a delicate balance here right now, and it worries me for the people here. There is a LOT of deep poverty, and there´s no attempt made to hide it here. And no one seems to be trying to do much about it. We saw a mural in town that is being restored, of the history of Cusco. And it had so much...sadness in it. I don´t really know what to do with myself right now...
I don´t know what else to say about it. I have to keep writing, because time is money for the internet here right now, but if anyone wants to talk about this when I get home, please please please let us do that. SO much is unresolved in my mind right now. I need to hear some wisdomosity.
Anyway, we went to the local artisans market as well, but weren´t really in the mood to purchase anything. We also stopped to see the big fountain waterfall outside of the market, which was pretty neat. Again, I´ll try to put up some pictures. At the end of our first day in Cusco we went up to the Gatos market, called the hotel to come get us, and sat down to think and rest. Oh, and then a guy from a local club hit on Laura and we´re pretty sure offered her some drugs. Wouldn´t be a full day without that. Luckily I was wearing my fake wedding ring... the men here can be a little aggressive, so I´ve been wearing a fake wedding ring around to keep them away... so don´t be alarmed if you see it in any of the pictures. And please don´t start congratulating Scott. Haha.
For our second day in Cusco, our hotel arranged for us a driver to take us to Chinchero, lunch in Urubamba, and a visit to Moray. These are all small towns around the Cusco area. Our driver was Havier, and he was really nice and friendly... and patient with our crappy spanish skills! It was really cute, too, because his wife called him about fifteen times during the day. And I know enough spanish to know that he had to tell her allllll about us, where we were going, where we were from, what we looked like, etc.
Right on the way out of town Havier showed us the track going down an embankment where a car had gone off the road and crashed. How´s that for confidence boosting?
We went to Chinchero, and old town with some inca ruins, and wandered around. It was pretty, but there was so much sadness there you couldn´t ignore it. There were some puppies wandering around with ribs showing (going to be the topic of a whole blog after this, I have to talk about this one), and many sad people trying to sell cheap wares. It was just... triste. And there was one church in this town, and inside it was so elegant and covered in the fanciest of things. Which boils my blood... yet again. How can you have a church full of the finest of things when your people are starving?!?! GAH!
Anyway, lets move along. We went to lunch in Urubamba, and bought Havier lunch. Which is good that we invited him, because otherwise we would NOT have been able to order. Hehe. But it was quite nice to have him along. He was such a nice guy. He got some fried trout and let us try it (realllllllllllllly good), and Laura and I shared some chicken, potatos, cheese, fried banana, and what appeared to be ginormous corn kernels. It was really good food, but WAY too much for us to eat. I hate wasting food, darnit. We would have eaten even less if we had gotten the cuy though. That would be guinea pig, a local delicacy. Um, yeah. I´ve tried a decent amount of stuff here in Peru, but guinea pig will not be on my menu.
OH YAH I forgot! We also brought a bunch of school supplies with us to Peru, and on this day we stopped any time we saw some kids and gave them away. It was so fun! One little boy got a package of markers, and his eyes got real big and he said "MUCHOS gracias!!" It was great.
We also went to Moray, some more ruins. This is a series of terraces that they think were a sort of experimental area for crop growing that the Incas built and used to find the best conditions for growing all different sorts of crops, which is part of what helped the civilization to be so large and successful. It was pretty neat. Again... pictures later.
Then we turned around and headed back to Cusco. For a little while we wondered if we were going to have some car trouble, because there was this scraping noise, but it went away once we reached the paved road again. So yay.
We got back to the hotel, and got ready for the folk dance show in town. It was great! I took some fun video of it. Then when we got back to the hotel, we shared some huckleberry taffy with the staff (who were all sooo amazing to us, and are now our friends). It was quite a hit. We sat around and chatted with the owner and some of the staff, and found out that the owner´s grandfather was a biologist of sorts. He collected and catalogued many of the species in the Manu Biosphere Reserve, which is part of what helped lead to its assignment as a reserve and subsequent protection. I don´t think she realizes quite how amazing that is!! She had a book that talked all about him, how he was polish, and had been in prison. He got out by promising to give the best gift ever, which was a polar bear that he shot himself. And then he went to Peru. Random! I´m sort of doing the cliffnotes version of that story and not really doing it justice, but it was quite amazing! He even had a species of rodent named after him, so therefore so does she! I would give up a whole lot of things to have a species named after me. Wow.
Anyway, then we went to bed to get ready for our trip the next day to Puno. We didn´t want to leave Torre Dorada, though. They were so wonderful to us. If you ever go to Cusco, you MUST go there. I think this Christmas Laura and I will send them a box full of huckleberry candies for the staff, and school supplies and-or clothes for them to give to the schools.
Quote o´the blog:
(after a long few days of telling people "no gracias" and making them leave us alone, when a man came up to us to ask for money)
Dude: Do you speak English?
Laura: A little.
[I´m just surprised she didn´t say no!]