Today I departed from Macchu Pichu, and I have to admit, I was a bit sad to go.  Life was a little boring at times, and I spent quite a bit of time just sitting on a bench on the plaza, watching the dogs chase each other around, and the children chasing each other around, and the tourists chasing each other around ;) 

So far, the climate there was the best by far, I loved the lush vegetation, and the orchids peeking around the corners of Macchu Pichu, and the rain, and the people too.  Made some friends there, which is always nice, and once again, so greatful for knowing spanish, otherwise I would have been even more alone.

One morning, as I was sitting on a bench at the train station, chatting with two guys in Spanish, two men came up to me, one white, the other hispanic, and the hispanic guy asked in spanish if I spoke spanish.  Well, yes, so he needed me to translate to the white guy (who was dressed all in a boyscout uniform, and I'm guessing from his accent he was from Germany).  I really enjoyed that, too!  Chatting back and forth, switching from Spanish to English.  What it came down to, was the German guy was a bit confused about a train time, and wanted to try to get a cheap fare.  Sometimes I shake my head at how cheap tourists try to be, after all, 10 dollars isn't very much to us, but it is an entire days wages for people here, or more!

Later that evening, I chatted with two other guys (I do seem to find a lot of men to chat with...) who worked at the restaurant that I had had breakfast in the day before.  They were very excited to have me
teach them some English, and ushered me to a seat, and plied me with free tea, as I taught them how to say "Please have a seat" and "Would you like another drink?".  They were very sweet.  They took my e-mail
address and promised to write.

But boy, the people who work in the restaurants have it even worse!  They work from 8 in the morning to 11 at night, 7 days a week!  I could never.  But Jessica, another student at the language school, told me that a woman at the school for special children that she works at, who is a psychologist (with a degree and everything) makes $200 a month.  And, she wants to send her son to university, which costs $200 a month,
so she has to take another job to pay for that.  And, on top of that, there is a decree in the education department of the government, that because they are so lucky to have a job, they have to work for March for free!  Can you imagine, having to work a month for free, just because you are lucky to have a job?  Huh??!!  This is criminal, and makes me sick to my stomach.

Well, a few follow up notes.  I didn't get to be in the commercial after all, they said I looked to much like a north american.  Well, yeah, hello!  I guess originally, because of my dark hair, he thought I could pass for a local in the commercial?  Hm.  I ended up watching the proceedings from my room, as a waiter brought a tray full of corn to a table with two
children, and they got over excited.  Looked a little corny to me.

Oh!  And a follow up on the guy that stood me up in the danceclub!  I had a feeling that I wasn't missing out on much, my intuition told me he probably wasn't a very stand up guy.  And sure enough, yesterday he
passed by me, holding the hand of a Peruvian woman, who I'm assuming is his girlfriend (you don't very often see Peruvians holding hands).  Mm hm!

Anyhow, I had a pleasant train ride, and a van ride with other tourists to Cusco (who vehemently argued to only pay 5 soles instead of 7, a difference of 60 cents, do you really want to waste your time over 60
cents?).  I sat next to a guy from California, of the surfing variety, and he talked to me about how he was going to move to San Fran, and how he considered Seattle, but there isn't any surf there, and he was also disgusted about how the others argued over 2 soles.  Give it up, people. 

So, now I'm back in Cusco, where the internet is much cheaper (yay!) and I have cable TV in my room, with lots of english shows (yay yay yay), and plans to go out tomorrow.  I do miss Macchu Pichu, but am happy to be back where I have some friends.


Linda wrote me:

> Great story. Sounds like you are having fun and
> embracing the culture. What 
> do the people in the night clubs like to drink and
> how is the food there? Pat 
> asked me what you were doing there for work...and
> quite frankly I couldn't 
> remember if you were visiting only or doing
> volunteer work or just what. Wonder 
> why the one guy stood you up??!! Sounds like there
> are plenty of guys 
> nevertheless. They probably love you as you are
> pretty, smart and a ball of fun. Keep 
> the stories coming. I love to hear them. 

> xoxoxox
> Susan

My response:

Oh, no, I am here for studies.  That is how it was possible to pay for everything!  I'm doing two independent courses, one on the Incas, and the other on Liberation Theology (which is basically about reforming the Catholic church so that they focus on helping the poor, which is badly needed here).  Basically, it just means I have to haul a bunch of
books around with me to read, and when I get back, I have two huge papers to write.

Ah, food and drink!  Well, the cool thing about the drinks, is just about everywhere you get a free pisco sour, in order to lure you in to the resteraunt or the clubs.  Other drinks include Cuba Libre, which is either Coke and Pisco, or Coke and Rum, I can't remember, and there is also a local beer here, Cusquena, which the blond version tastes kinda like Budweiser, and the dark version tastes like Worcestshire sauce.  I like the Pisco sours, and try to stick to them.

The food is okay, although often weird.  One time I ordered a chicken burger, and it was two pieces of the local bread, the chicken, and french fries and cucumbers.  The french fries and cucumbers where a
part of the hamburger. I've never quite experienced french fries IN the burger.  Hm.  Frequently when I order something, I'm never quite sure what I'll end up with.  They could probably use a bit more oil and fat
in the food, but apparently to deal with the altitude, low fat diets are better.  Well, when I go to the jungle, THAT will certainly be an experience, because they eat fish, rice, and plaintain for breakfast,
lunch, and dinner.  Apparently, it is pretty easy to lose a shitload of weight (and I am looking forward to that, if not the food) ;)

I am ready to come home, though.  I miss my chocolate and coffee!!!  And everything else, for that matter.  I have never appreciated the US so much in my life!!!

Well, it was nice talking to you today!!!  I do miss home a lot, and it is always nice to go back there, in a way, at least for a few minutes.  It is like that when I check my e-mail, too.  A little sad after, but, life goes on! 

After I talked with you, I went up to the restaraunt that I usually eat at, with the woman who is 23 with a daughter (and the father took off just after the baby was born).  It is nice to have a friend that I can sit and visit with, even if I don't understand most of what she says!  I got her address, and thought I'd send some little gifts for the daughter, since I
noticed that she was playing with broken dolls.  I imagine for a single mother here it is impossible to buy everything you would like for your daughter.  But Edith (the woman's name) is determined to work hard (7 days a week, from 9 in the morning until 11 at night) for her daughter, and if I understood correctly, it is for 10 soles a day = $3.  Apparently, when her daughter (Jasmine) was a baby, an American woman offered her $5000 for her baby, quite a bit of money here!  But Edith turned her down, because, it was her daughter, after all.

Anyway, every day I am amazed at the tenacity of the people here, and hope one day the damn government will get its act together, and actually help the people.  There is no such thing as welfare, or free school, or anything like that.  I have actually had conversations debating who is worse, Bush or Toledo (the president here, who said he was going to help the poor, and then actually made things worse for them).  People are pretty split on that issue!  Well, get Bush in for another term, and who knows what will happen.

Well, I guess I should get to my other e-mail.

Love you!

After 3 hours at Macchu Pichu, I made my way out, andopened up my bag lunch which I had bought from my hotel.  There was a large area with plastic tables and tons of tourists.  I peeked my head down a stone
staircase nearby, and saw, tucked away, a little stone enclosure buried a little bit in the forest, with a thatch roof, and sat down to my meal.  (which included and egg sandwich- not what you think.  A fried egg in
between two pieces of bread).

After that, I was too tired to make my way back into the ruins to explore around again, and new it wouldn't be the same as that morning, anyway.  I thought it would be nice to take the hike back down the mountain, which was only supposed to be about 25 minutes, and downhill, so not so bad. 

Uh huh.

Imagine climbing down 5 miles of stairs.  That's right, all stairs.  And by this time the sun was in all her glory, though there was also plenty of forest. I couldn't believe it.  My legs were quivering, and once I finally reached the bottom (after over an hour of climbing down stairs, which, by the way, the locals RUN down), I was sooo relieved, and thought the town would be right there.  Nope, wrong again.  After another 15 minutes of walking, I finally made my way back to my room, ready for a shower to clean off the amount of sweat that I was soaked through with.

Yeah, that would mean I would need water, right?  Yep, once again, no water.  Only hot, and I mean hot hot hot, and I tried, but knew I would burn myself.  So, down to the desk.  As it turned out, my room was the
only room without hot water.  One of the guys who wasworking on the construction of more rooms, came to help.  I told him it was my luck, and he asked, like in love and business too?  With all the smiles and was
that he had been giving me, I thought maybe it was better that I leave the "love" part alone, and just answered, more or less.

Well, it was my luck, but good luck as it turned out, because I had to move to a different room.  And this room, right next door, was the one that the two Irish/Swedes had stayed in (oh, yeah, and interesting note, the next day, only the queen bed had been slept in, and not the twin bed, did the mother and son sleep in the same bed, even though they had another?? odd).  And this one has two walls of windows, which look out over the plaza, with greenery hanging down, absolutely beautiful.  I awoke this morning, with the rain beating down, looking out over the lush mountainside.  mmmm.

Okay, so after my shower and a bit of a nap, I made my way back to my restaurant with Edita.  I kind of wanted to eat at a restaurant with other people, and the night before, I was the only one there.  But, I
felt for Edita, and liked her company.  Well, I didn't have anything to worry about, the restaurant was packed!!  There was a band playing traditional music, and I had met one of the musicians the day before at
the restaurant.  He was so handsome, when I was talking to him in Spanish, I couldn't put my words together.  The music was nice, and Edita was kept busy running around.  She even had to run to another
restaurant for the pizzas, because they were out of bread. 

Once the band was finished, the restaurant emptied out a bit more, and the cute guy in the band, Amaru, came and sat down next to me to chat.  After asking if I had any babies, he asked if I wanted to go out dancing that night.  si!  He gave me two kisses on the cheek, and promised he'd meet me at the dance club at 12.

I was exhausted, and tried to rest a bit before going to the club.  I really wanted to sleep, but I wanted to have a good time too.  I went into the club, being the only gringa in there, and looked around, and stood
and waited.  And waited, and waited.  Another guy began to chat with me, asking if I wanted to dance, and if I wanted to go out the next night, and that my friend wasn't coming, so why don't we leave.  Ai ai
ai!  Well, after 25 minutes, I gave up, and took off, to crash in my room.  I was a bit disappointed, but then, also relieved the be able to go to sleep.

Well, I certainly wasn't popular with the guys in Cusco, but don't seem to have problems here!  One of the construction guys working on the gazebo in the plaza de armas shouted out "I love you" in English, maybe he was just practicing his English.  I could only respond with, that's nice.

And now, I'm off.  While I was typing, a guy came up to me, and asked if I spoke Spanish, and asked me to be in a commercial in the Plaza de Armas at 12 for tourism.  He said I had a nice smile.  ;)

Okidoki!  Y'all be good!

I awoke at 5 am, made my way down to breakfast, and then out to catch the first bus to Machu Picchu, getting me there at 6:30.  I chatted with the guy sitting next to me (Pascual), a bit in Spanish, a bit in English, who was a tour guide, and was getting there early, before he had to start his tour.  He offered to meet up with me a bit later if I wanted (I ended up getting too wrapped up in Macchu Pichu, and missed him).

I made my way through the ticket gate, and then up a zig-zag stone path, climbing up through dense tropical greenery, with beautiful flowers staring back at me, listening to the birds early morning songs.  I made my way into the ruins, standing amongst maybe 10 other early morning tourists, as a thick blanket of fog hung over the ruins.  I stood, waiting for the first light of the sun, which was just now hitting Machu Pichu,
to warm up the air, and lift the clouds.  And I didn't have to wait long.

I don't even think I can describe it.  Even now, my memory can't even hold the amount of awe I had.  Seeing the ruins laid out before my feet, fresh in the early morning air, so silent, except for the birds, and the other tourists who were gasping, and trying to capture the perfect photograph.  Of all the photos that I have seen, none can do justice to the experience of standing there, as the sun touches upon the ancient stones, with the rest of the Andes surrounding you, showing you their secrets, and the rivers flowing down at the bottom of the mountain, constantly talking with you.

I wandered through the site, taking time to sit and marvel.  I climbed up, and down, said hello to the orchids, and butterflys, and lizards.  There is absolutely no place like this on earth.  I was jealous of the people who got to spend every day here.

Yet, as the sun rose higher, and the tourists poured in, I began to understand how Jessica, another student, said, it was nice, but just another set of ruins.  It was almost two different worlds.  I was so glad I had awoken early, and made my way up.  Everything that I had gone through before on the trip was so worth it, just for the moments that I was able to spend up there.

Adios Ollantaytambo, Hola Macchu Pichu!

So once again, I awoke way too early in the morning to make my way down to the train station to purchase my ticket to Macchu Pichu.  After standing in line behind another American (from Califoria) who was WAY too obnoxious for my taste, I finally had my ticket, with enough time to grab some breakfast (chocolate pancake, but no syrup or jam ??).  The train ride was, of course, beautiful.  It is amazing how many different
environments there are in the Andes.  Apparently, the Incans new this, and had different crops grown in different regions, and then circulated them.

Once the plants started getting lusher, and more tropical rain forest like, I knew I was close.  I was amazed at how much more this part of the Andes reminded me of Oregon, and immediately felt so much more comfortable.  We also passed by several sites where the mudslides had wiped out the tracks, and remembered that several people had died here just a few weeks before.

I had the luck to be sitting next to the obnoxious American guy, who kept telling me that you could see Macchu Picchu just around the corner.  And then, 20 minutes later, yes, it is coming up just around the
corner.  And then 20 minutes later, yes, it is coming up just around the corner.  Hm.  I never did see the ruins from the train, ah well.  This is also coming from the guy who spoke with authority that 7 kilometers is equal to a mile (I believe that it is 1.6 kilometers to the mile). 

In any case, I stepped of the train in the little town of Agua Calientes, aka Macchu Pichu Pueblo.  And it is delightful.  It is also  nice, for the first time to not feel like a freak!  There are quite a few tourists here, and since the town was created for tourism, and everyone who lives here moved here to work in tourism, there is a very welcome feeling towards tourists.

The town is quite small, just a few streets that are jam packed with restaurants, most of them empty at this point of the week.  Apparently, there is supposed to be a lot more people on Sunday, when the groups
come in from hiking the Inca trail.

I checked into my hotel, Gringo Bills, and was quite delighted.  My room is at the very top, and I have to climb up a variety of outdoor staircases (but within the hotel, hard to describe, the hotel rooms all face inward, and the hotel is on a hillside), all lined with lush greenery.  I found myself in a nice room with a queen sized bed and my own bathroom.
Hallelujah!  Pretty good deal for $20 a night.  The hotel that is up right next to the ruins is over $400 a night, can you believe that!!! 

The only traffic here is foot traffic, and the train that comes in and leaves every few hours (one is arriving right now, as I type, in front of me).  Which also means there isn't any pollution, such a relief to breathe fresh air again for a change.

I wandered around the city, up the steep street that had people beckoning me to eat at their restaurants.  One guy, who told me his name was "Numero Uno" started chatting with me, and a woman who was there piped in as well.  We chatted for a bit, and I continued on my
walk upwards.  The young woman, Edita, came along with her 3 year old daughter, and walked with me to the hot bathes, which was one big pool with lots of people in it, and didn't look too appetizing to me.  Edita told me that she also worked in a restaurant, same owner, different location, and that they had free drinks there, so I should stop by for dinner.  Well, you know free drinks sold me!  I said goodbye to Edita, and made my way back to my room.
Once I had settled into my room, it was time to take a shower.  And yet, for some reason, the water in my sink didn't want to work.  And same with the cold water in the shower.  Hm.  I heard some people being
escorted to the room next to mine, and peeked my head out, and mentioned to the woman who worked here that "No hay agua en mi habitacion".  Ai ai ai.  So she ran off to fix it, and I ended up chatting with the two people that were moving into the room next to mine.  It was a woman with a son (who was my age).  I asked where they were from, after hearing a slight Irish accent, and sure enough, they lived in Ireland, but were originally from Sweden.  The mother retired to
the room, while the young man (Taurjus) and I chatted for awhile.  Finally, the water was working, and we returned to our rooms to clean up.

I made my way out, to find Edita's restaurant, where I had a decent dinner for only 10 soles ($3.50).  I really felt for Edita, because she is only 23 years old, and is struggling to make a living for just her
and her daughter, since the father is god knows where.  I know that is hard enough in the US, but in Peru it must be impossible.  I admire her determination.  She told me, that one day, in maybe 10 years, she would have her own restaurant.  I wonder how different her life would have been if she was born in the US, or mine, if I was born here.  I guess it is the young women here that I especially relate too, because we are so alike, and yet, have such different lives.  There was another young woman, who also had her son there in the restaurant, trying to make a living.  After all, it isn't like they can afford day care.  They are just hoping to be able to afford sending their children to school, so that they might have a better chance.

I promised Edita I would return the next day, and returned to my room, which, a few moments later, I had a knock on my door from Taurjus, and we sat and chatted a while.  Both of us had to get up early (him for the train, me for Macchu Picchu) so we said good night, and he gave me a quick little kiss ;)

My goodness, and that was just one day!

Most interesting food to date:  Yesterday I ordered a chicken hamburger.  It was served to me with chicken, bread, cucumber slices, and french fries.  And when I say cucumber slices and french fries, they were ON the burger, not sides!!  I suppose putting the french fries on the burger is more efficient.  Hm.  Oddly, it tasted pretty good.

So this morning I got up early, and made my way to the ruins at 7 am, before all the tourists.  Nobody was at the gate, so I just went in without paying, thinking how lucky I was.  Other than the people who were
cleaning up refuse, I was the only person there.  How amazing it is to be on these ancient stairs all alone. Whoah.  Still having problems with altitude, so every so often I had to take a break, and catch my breath. 

At one of my breath breaks, one of the guys picking up trash asked me if I had my ticket (in Spanish, of course).  Well, there went my free entrance!  He then proceeded to chat with me, and asked me where I was from.  When I told him the United States, he said that he really liked people from the US, as they were always so friendly.  I don't know if I didn't get something in our communication (frequently happens in
Spanish), but he started sharing with me the info about the site.  I realized, as I seemed to be expected to follow him around, that he was giving me a tour.  I didn't know if he was just being nice, or was doing it for a tip.  By the time I realized it was for a tip, it was too late to say no.  All I really wanted was to sit and explore the ruins on my own, I didn't need a tour, I already had one!!!  None the less, he showed me other parts that I hadn't seen before, so that was alright I guess.

At one point, a group of 3 other Spanish speaking people was following us around, trying to hear the tour info, without being expected to pay.  At one point, we were chatting about how cold it was, and I said I was fine, because of where I was from.  The guide guy said it was because I was gordita "a little fat".  Um.  Thanks?  No, I had to realize, that in
this culture, especially the more rural you get, it isn't an insult.  In fact, the real rural people think fat on a woman is a good thing.  So, I just let that pass.

At one point, he had me climb up this cliff, that had a few hints of steps.  Um.  I did get a photo, though! I was proud that I was able to do it, and not be too freaked out.  Afterwards, he commented that I did pretty well, especially for being gordita.  UM, thanks.  I told him I was pretty strong, so there you are.  I did think about warning him not to tell other
american women they were little fatties, but then figured he probably meant it as a compliment.

So, at one point, when I figured the tour was well enough over, I reached in my pocket, and gave him 5 soles, not knowing how much was expected to tip.  I could tell from his expression, that this was not so great.  And then, he turned to me, and told me that 5 soles wasn't very much.  I apologized, and handed over another 5, and explained what I was a student and didn't have much money. 

The thing is, as poor as I am, not being able to afford health insurance, having to take the bus everywhere, only buy clothing once every 3 years, and really having to pinch my pennies, I still do have a lot of money compared.  After all, last year, I only made $4000 (plus financial aid), but that is more than most people here make.  I am just tired of everyone looking at me as American, and thinking I have tons of
money, and can make this huge difference in my life.  I don't know, I feel really caught, because while I do have money, I don't have money.  You know?

Anyway, I finally had my alone time, and climbed up to this one building that was far from the usual area of tourists.  The building had recently had a roof added to it, straw and wood, typical of the day.  I sat in the doorway, with the valley at my feet, and had some alone time.  It is easier to be alone when there is nobody around, but to be alone around a bunch of people is a bit harder.  It was nice and peaceful.

I made my way down, and once again ran into the tour guy, Eugene.  He smelled like he may have dipped into the Chincha brew since I had last saw him, and gave me an enthusiastic kiss on the cheek.  He wanted my address in the US, and told me that on Monday he was
his day off, and he would be in Cusco (like me), and where was I staying?  I told him I didn't remember the address, and hope that is the last of that!!  A few of the other guides gave him some "you sly dog you" looks, and I just wanted to throw my arms up and run!  Ai ai ai!  Sigh.

In any case, I returned to my room to pass out for  several hours, had a delicious lunch, and here I am, sharing my morning with y'all.

So there you go.

So, here I sit in the only internet cafe in Ollantaytambo.  What a town this is!!!  Yet, for some reason, my Spanish really is sucking!  I think it is because I am alone all the time, and thinking in english, my spanish is already rusty! 

I left on Monday, after cramming as much as I could into my backpack, and abandoning my other bags at the South American Explorers club.  My family wished me off with lots of "bueno suerte" (good luck), and take care, and good travels.  They even gave me going away gifts!  I felt like such a heel for not bringing anything, because I didn't have much space, and didn't think I was going to be with a family.  I am determined to find lots of wonderful things when I return, to send back to them.  In a way, this is better, because I know their personalities, likes and dislikes. 

So, I got in the taxi, and hopped on a bus just as it was pulling out of the station.  Once aboard, after about 30 minutes into the trip, I started wondering if I had gotten on the right bus, since it was going a different way than I had gone before to Urubamba, where I needed to change buses.  I realized I could either freak out about it, or go with the flow.  So, I just figured, well, if I end up in some other town, I'll just find a hostel, or hop another bus back.  No big deal.

Luckily, it wasn't a problem, as it took me to Urubamba, and much quicker than the other route.  I think I shaved a good hour off my trip!  I didn't have to wander around the bus station at Urubamba either,
as a man asked "Ollantay?", and I followed the way he indicated, to a combi. 

Okay, what is a combi?  Well, it sure as hell isn't a bus!!!  It is basically a van, that they cram about 20 people into.  I peeked my head in, and saw the seat he indicated, yet didn't know how I was supposed to get
through the wall of people.  And then, the sea parted, and I shoved my way into my seat, crammed my backpack in front of me, and endured the urine smell for about another 20 minutes, when the van was deemed crammed full enough to take off.

This was quite an experience, but eventually we made our way to the town of Ollantay, and the whole 2 and a half hour ride (both busses) cost me about $1.25.  One girl began cursing the bus driver that he didn't deliver us to the main square, but the town is so small, it only takes about 15 minutes to walk from one end to the other.

I wandered over to the plaza, and peeked my head into two hostels, to check out the rooms.  At one, a little boy about 7 years old, lead me to the hostal that I was looking for, and I went ahead and booked the room. about $8 a night, but I have to go downstairs to use the toilet and shower (and there is no toilet paper, or soap to wash your hands at the sink.  It's okay, I'm over it.)

My room has three beds in it, and rustic wooden floorboards.  One window looks directly out onto the amazing Incan ruins, and the other looks up at the old Incan storage facility, set high in the cliff side.
Absolutely amazing.  There is also a patio, that you can sit, with with river running under your feet, looking out at the ruins, the mountains, and the bright stars above.

I crashed for a few minutes, feeling a bit lost and alone, and then decided to buck up, and then was fine.  This little town is so lovely, and so ancient.  The streets are cobblestone, and the old Incan walls and
streets run through the town.  It is not difficult to imagine the life when the Incans lived here.  On the sides of the streets run water, aquaducts from the time of the Incans, and still running.

The restaurants here are quite quaint, if geared to the tourist, and a little more expensive than Cusco, but not much.  And the wind whips through the three valleys that the city sits in the middle of.  The
smell of smoke is in the air, and it almost feels like camping.

Tonight, at my dinner, a young man brought out his violin, and played several songs for us, in exchange for a few soles to buy his dinner.  How beautiful it was!

But, it is lonely here as well.  I see the other tourists wandering around in pairs, and wish that I had someone to share this amazing place with.  Perhaps someday I will return, and show the dog sitting up high in the second story window, and the man pushing the two bulls down the old streets, sit and listen to the wind singing through the wheat of the fields, and feel the sun beat down upon our faces, as we sit by the Urubamba river, watching the butterflies and bright blue hummingbirds touch down upon the exotic flowers.

But in the meantime, I will just realize how blessed I am to be here at all, and let everything soak in, and realize that just to be here is enough.  That I will just have to appreciate everything a little bit more
to make up for the missing person at my side.