Try as I might, the motivation to blog my life seems to disappear the moment I sit down to the computer, well namely, the moment I sit down to Facebook. But, alas, I must stay true to my promise:
I will blog. I will blog. I will blog.
That being said, I have put off sharing my adventures in Peru long enough and if this post is particularly long I apologize in advance.
I arrived in Cusco almost 10 weeks ago, after 17 hours of travel. It was my first time changing flights, going through TSA (getting pulled aside into a creepy room) and oh, did I mention flying.
Being a flight virgin, is it okay if we take a break from Peru to talk about clouds? I think people who fly a lot take them for granted. Clouds are obviously cool from the ground, but from the sky, they are incredible. There is something so tranquil about flying by and through clouds, as well as watching a lightning show. It’s better than television.
Anyway, the first several weeks in Peru were difficult. The language barrier, which is a very descriptive cliche, definitely rears it’s ugly head as a serious issue, especially when I’m tired. Although I am clearly better at Spanish now than when I first arrived, my capacity for comprehension is still proportionate to the amount of hours I’ve slept as well as the mood I am in.
Spanish is not my first language, it is not even a language I speak well. It takes every ounce of concentration I possess to try to decipher the conversations we have at that dinner table, let alone serious discussions or important questions.
That being said, here are a few things I have learned from failed attempts at conversations.
1) My Spanish doesn’t translate well in Spanish.
2) There are so many words I don’t know in Spanish. I didn’t know how to say angry for the first two weeks.
3) Conjugation in a language that is not your native tongue, save languages like Chinese which have no conjugation, is hard, really hard.
4) Filling in the blanks in Spanish is difficult. I don’t know what the author of the torturous homework assignments wants the characters in his imaginary scene to to say!
5) Novio in Peru does not mean boyfriend like it does in New Mexico, it means fiancé. Remember that.
And most importantly…
5) In your own language and culture, it can be easy to be passively involved in conversations, mentally disengaging but apparently active. Here it is impossible. Every moment, every word might have added connotations and every response subtle implications that I can only understand through careful analysis. It’s exhausting trying to figure out the greater context, but it also forces me to actively engage in the life I am living.
Another struggle, which many of you may laugh at, is meal times. The food is wonderful. There are lots of potatoes (seen as they originated from Peru), soups, great bread, fresh fruit and avocados as well as amazing fruit juice. But basically, they only eat two meals: Breakfast and lunch. Dinner may consist of a piece of bread and some coffee or tea.
For those of you who know me, I love food, which is why the tiny dinners have been especially shocking to me. I’m constantly hungry as it is and this new meal arrangement is definitely a process. At least lunch is huge!
Also, the New Mexican in me is dying for green and red chile. This may be the lamest thing I say in this blog, but I miss New Mexican food tremendously. The food here is incredible, but it’s not spicy.
The other main adjustment for me, and this may reveal a lot about my personal issues, is the the touchiness and intimacy of the culture. The mothers here seem to know more about their children then my mom knows about me to this day, and I count her among my best friends. There is more hugging and of course the cultural kiss on the cheek.
Though this is not a big deal, it is different for me because there is a list of about eight people I kiss on the cheek in America. All of them are immediate family member or people I consider grandparents.
The challenges, however, have been dramatically outshone by Cusco’s awesomeness.
Cusco is set in a valley surrounded by tall mountains that are gorgeous. Sometimes I go running in the mornings and the view of the city, the sunrise, my terribly heavy breath and sweaty exterior are almost picturesque. Almost.
I love how friendly the people are in Cusco. I thought New Mexicans were nice, but here it’s tenfold. If you smile or say hello to someone, chances are they’ll reciprocate. You can strike up a conversation randomly and besides the fact that I’m an extranjera (foreigner) and in their eyes rubia (blonde, yes I’m blonde here…go figure), they don’t look at you strangely or ignore you.
Invariably intertwined with the people, is the culture, of which Cusco is overflowing. I spent four weeks learning about indigenous cultures in the Andes and can see it’s clear impact on all of society here.
There is the obvious influence of the Spanish, but it is so interesting to learn about the things the Incas* did to quietly rebel against the Spanish and Catholicism. It is also interesting to see how the Catholics took Inca celebrations and change them into religious festivals to try to integrate the Incas into Catholic culture.
The stories of creation, of the gods and of Pachamama (their word for Mother Earth), who the respect greatly, remind me of a mix between Native American cultures and even some hints of Christianity.
Seen as I could go on about the stories and culture for hours, I should probably move on to one of my favorite topics in Cusco: the pastelerias.
I really shouldn’t be this excited about pastries, but I am. America needs the bakeries that Cusco has. The desserts are phenomenal and really cheap. It’ll be a miracle if I return with less than 40 pounds gained from all the pastries. Okay, that was a bit dramatic, but I do have a problem.
There are many more things I have to mention, but this post is extensive as it is so I shall end with pastries. I hope to post more, but as we can clearly see, consistent blogging is a struggle for me.
Stay tuned next time for segments on the funny/strange things that have happened to me since I’ve been here, a picture adventure of all the cool places I’ve been, how if feels to live with a host family and hopefully a bit about the modern and indigenous cultures.
*I learned in class recently that Inca is actually only used to describe the king of the Andean people know as the quechua. The Spanish met the Inca of the people and that is how the Incas got their name. The language now is called quechua, but that is also a name the Spanish gave the language. It was originally called Runa Simi which translates as mouth or tongue of man.
**While most of the pictures are mine, I would like to give credit to http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/3936 for the picture of the red and green chiles and http://freelanceflaneur.blogspot.com/2011/01/formosa.html for the language barrier picture.