Monday, October 22

Thank you Health Insurance

Having completed five weeks in this developing country without being sick it was time that my pride was kept in check. It came on after lunch yesterday and by the evening I was burning with fever and muscle aches. The doctor did a house call today since I stayed home from school and had nothing better to do; the verdict is that I have the flu. The actual flu, upper respiratory infection, muscle aches and fever, the one only old people get in the winter. For some reason lying down has to be one of the most uncomfortable things I could do right now so the chances of catching up on all the sleep I missed last night is small.

The funny thing is, other than this small set back, everything else seems to be rapidly getting even more fun. After a lull in enrollment of people under the age of 65 this week brought 5 others in their early 20s from Toronto, Texas, Wisconsin and Norway. Together we cabbed it outside the city to Las Salinas (spectacular salt flats I have already visited once) and climbed down the entire structure in order to follow the salt river canyon back to camp. It was one of the most amazing places I have ever been made all the better that nature didn´t just call but concripted me while in the canyon. Thank goodness for Puma-free caves.

Yesterday I became part of the history of Peru in their 2007 census. While I was expecting questions related to my stay in Peru I didn´t realize I would be writing down where I was born, how many children I have and my level of english literacy. For one day nearly the entire country was essentially on house arrest on order not to leave during census hours (6am to 6pm) so the family celebrated with a chill day and raw fish, the famous Peruvian ceviche (raw seafood 'cooked' in lime juice). The craziest part was IT WAS REALLY GOOD. Well, at least good. I would probably eat it again. That is so unlike me.

Monday, October 15

Be Agressive, be be Agressive

At first glance Cusco would appear to be a very 'gay friendly' city. Actually I think it is, just like many large Canadian cities but most don´t seem to advertise it as much as Cusco. That is what I thought until I discovered that the city flag happens to be a rainbow but purple in some other spot. I guess that explains why a main round-about near the city square flies a skittles coloured flag with its monuments.

My cheerleading title actually refers to the fact that being taken out of my comfort zone has revealed that I am a big wimp. My assertiveness level is comparable to my sporting ability. Atleast weekly, often biweekly, the adults in the orphanage I volunteer in blatantly ask me to purchase things. This isn´t exactly the centre of poverty either. I understand that they have little but never lack anything important. As soon as the pushing starts though my Spanish ability lessens, I shuffle the feet, anything to avoid the situation. It would be better for all involved if I could manage an outright NO. Today it was markers and supplies for a celebration. Project grow a spine is officially in progress.

Lastly, I had promised to share a bit more history, that of Wiracocha. I like to think of this story as one of the biggest You-Have-Got-to-Be-Kidding-Me´s ever. The word is that an Incan emperor was somewhat of an imperialist and also had some brains. He desired a unified (ie. easy to manage) kingdom and devised that the best way to accomplish this was to unify the pantheistic culture under one religion or God. He reached back into pre-inca culture and pulled up Wiracocha. Here is the kicker: Wiracocha was a God in man form, white, with the force of a beast and the awaited saviour of sorts. All was fine and dandy until, you guessed it, white dudes on horses (force of beasts) showed up demanding their share aka. all of the riches of the land. The great kingdom was mostly felled in just years thanks to a story. I can just picture the king making it up too: ¨Perfect. Like that´s ever going to happen¨.

Monday, October 8

With Hal Johnson and Joanne MacLeod

This entry is a bit on the tardy side. All weekend I was finally feeling inspired but unluckily it rained on Friday night so the phone and internet in house have been out for days. Its kind of nice because it gives me the illusion that I'm roughing it a bit (poor me with running hot water, ample food and cable TV). Some little things are missing or different that I would have thought.

Mantequilla de Mani (good old peanut butter) is sneered at here and very expensive. Luckily when I mentioned my craving my house mom produced a jar of real american Skippy that had been left behind by a previous student. I wonder what I could get for that on the street!

Milk doesn't come in the cold, bagged form. Warm boxed or condensed and canned. That I can't say I miss too much although it means cereal is a bit unrealistic and toasters are as rare as clean taxis (cab drivers) ie. I haven't seen either.

More than missing things here there is so much that just can{t be purchased or brought back to Canada. Where will I get my cocaine in Canada? On nearly the same level a very popular icecream here Locuma. It is hard to believe that soemthing so wonderful and sweet can come from the pulp of a nasty looking squash-like flora. I will not miss the warm papaya pulp for breakfast.

Now for a culture break. The Peruvian culture consists of Spanish colonialism and, as appears at first glance, indigenous Incan subjugation. However, if one looks a bit deeper it is something else entirely. The strict Catholic church has been infiltrated by the culture and beliefs of the incas, often at the time without its knowledge. Por ejemplo, it is common in paintings in the grand cathedral for there to be subtle changes to reproductions of European works like human forms in the shape of mountains. Interestingly, when the incas were put to carving the priest's chambers they put voluptuous naked women just under the arm rests of the chairs to stabilize what they believed was an imbalance in gender. One has to give them props for sneakiness. Even now Catholicism is often a front for their true beliefs. Tucked behind a door of the grand cathedral is an energy stone taken from a local mountain. Many indigenous people visit the church to tip the stone and feel its vibrations believing that it is a form of cleansing. As with Christian tradition many festivals here were first 'pagan' but converted by the Spaniards. For example, Corpus Christi. The locals used to take out their mummies and parade them around town each year in a great festival. Seeing this heathenism the Spaniards converted the day into one carrying representations of Christ's body. THe locals said thanks and stuck the images alongside their mummies and continued on their way. Another example of ingenuity: they had a sacred mountain which they completed pilgramages to which were subsequently forbidden after the arrival of the westerners. Not to be outdone they began claiming to have seen the form of Christ at the mountain and lo and behold the pilgramages resumed, Christian style. THe interesting thing is that today many Catholics still prostrate on that mountain unaware of the history of the 'sighting'. Next time you accept a tradition just because maybe take a minute to find out where it came from. For next time: the big oops of Wiracocha.