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I suppose this will be my last post for awhile…at least until i take up world traveling as a profession. For now i’ve taken up post in Bellingham Washington with a different, better paying profession. 

The last days of the trip were relaxing and luxurious, in a Peruvian luxurious type of way. We ran around on the sand dunes, checked out some museums, and laid by the pool. we also ate more chicken sandwiches than i care to admit to….a LOT of chicken sandwiches. 

The flight home was not so bad. I slept so deeply that the flight attendant literally had to wake me up and shove me off the plane. Jiggs was there to catch me at the baggage claim, and Asa, Dave, and my mom had a great dinner that night. We hiked up to twin falls on Mother’s Day and I ended up in Bellingham on Sunday night!

So far I have hardly had the chance to think about Peru. i’ve been busy being working, catching up with family and friends, and getting blood tests and…other tests done. I’m nearing 2 months of giardia at this point- pretty ready to let this little friend go! I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten myself a really cute apartment (just waiting on the paperwork) which will be a relief! 

At any rate, thank you for reading! I’ve been touched with how many of you followed along on my happy trails- this really has been a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to get in touch with all of you sometime soon! 

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i´m practically an inca now. i´ve made my pilgrimage to Macchu Picchu and it was grand.

the Inca Trail was absolutely amazing. 4 days and 3 nights- if the internet was working better i would post pictures and spare you all the rambling. what is there to say? we walked a long way every day. it was very steep, very hot, sometimes it rained. We camped in the heavens, saw amazing ruins, and arrived eat Macchu Picchu in style (not really. i rocked my ¨northwest flow¨ outfit, shorts over spandex, and came to regret it after examining the photos.) Everyone else figured out how to bring nothing but tiny little day packs. Joey and I rocked 30 pound legit backpacks. They made fun of us until we supplied playing cards and even a bottle of rum on the last night. 

It was an amazing opportunity to check out Peruvian culture, antique clearly, but also modern. Porters carry obscene loads on their backs, hike in sandals made from tires, and make very very little money.  They leave their families and ways of life in rural communities to hike the Inca Trail at least 1, sometimes 2 a week, cook, clean, set up tents, etc. There is a union for porters but it is very corrupt and fails to protect the people. The state also has laws but they don´t seem to do their job. The youngest porter was under 17, the oldest was almost 60. and Its not an easy trail. to put it mildly…

If anyone who reads this DOES plan on hiking the Inca Trail, go with LlamaPath. The porters are well clothed and fed. They work only 4 months out of the year to minimize the impact of taking men out of rural communities to work on the trail. They have real backpacks instead of Peruvian sacks that tie in the front around the neck. I was happy to support their efforts and did not feel that my money was supporting oppression. Our porters (and yes, we felt very proud and possessive of them) were laughing, joking, and always clapping and even singing. They were a team, always walked together, and took turns doing everything. I felt GREAT about the organization. Excuse the shameless advertising plug, but I hope this can be my little part in promoting a good cause. LlamaPath. check em out.

The porters and the guide thought i was a real hoot. partially because i had visited their communities on health campaigns (or at least HEARD of their communities), secondly because i tried to speak Quetua. Third, because i lent one of them my ipod for the trip. 4th, because when I introduced myself I accidentally said that I lived in black lingerie instead of in the town of Yanahuara. hahaha….throw me a bone. Quetua is a  REALLY frustrating language to learn.

After making it home to Urubamba, saying farewell to my lovely host family, and getting haphazardly to Cuzco, Joey and I took a 16 hour bus ride to Haunachina, Perú. The Andes mountains have been replaced by equal sized sand dunes. Its very hot. and very…different. I miss Urubamba already, but i suppose a pool side bar-b-que will have to suffice. We went on a wine tour yesterday. Peruvian wine is really Pisco that hasn´t fully fermented yet. The process is unique…and kind of gross. BUT, the gentlemen of the bodegas were very proud and happily showed us around, filling up our little sample cups many times over.

I´ve talked Peruvian politics and culture with all sorts, potato farmers from Chupani, Ministers of Education from Urubamba, professors from Cuzco, tour guides and porters on the inca trail, and now vinard guides from Ica. they all say the same thing…who would we be if we were not a conqured people? What has oppression done to my people? Before i came i wondered why the Peruvians hung so dearly to their Incan heritage, but now it is clear. They still ARE the Incas. it is not history to them, it is their relatives. There was not a new culture after the conquistadors, only Incas who lived in fear. 500 years later this is what you get. Along the way they have suffered massive terrorism and governmental oppression as well. 

home is on Friday. I start my new job and Monday. What a whirwind. i am a different person, i know, but i don´t know to what extent. stay tuned, i´ll let you know when i figure it out.  

paz y amor. alegría

ps. sorry about flaking on the promised postcards. its almost 3 US dollars to send mail from here. not gonna flow on this ï like to work for free¨ budget of mine. But, i do love you. promise.

We have returned from the land of the eternal summer, and it was hot. It may have been a little crazy, spending 16 hours on the bus for less than a day in Quillabamba, but hey. i´m not sure if it was ¨Worth it¨(the bus ride was very very long after all) but it was definetly fun and different. and hot. i saw no monkeys, but i don´t think i got malaria either. i figure we came out about even.

There are more pictures posted on the snapfish website including snapshots of market day in Urubamba, meat markets and manequins in Quillabamba, and a photodocumentary of the extrodinarily georgous bus ride between the highlands and the jungle lowlands. Also a few pictures of my host family and my class at Divino Maestro.

we´re off on the Inca Trail tomorrow!

  

This week went FAST. Highlights included finishing off a 2 month losing streak with a win at the wednesday night trivia game, market shopping and cooking up some fierce tostadas (including homemade salsa and guacamole) a la Perú on Tuesday night with friends, taking my host family out for pizza on Thursday as a farewell y gracias fiesta, and watching the movie Frieda (which is really great and you should watch it too). Joey joined me in Urubamba this week and stayed with my host family for a few days. i felt like a proud urubambanian, showing off the sites and all of my favorite little secrets.

I finished off my internship today in Urubamba. THATS weird to say. Definetly had a hard time saying goodby to some wonderful new friends- Urubambanians are really unique in their…awesomeness. If you find yourself in Perú I advise ignoring the debbydowner advice of the LonleyPlanet book and checking out the bamba. especially on a wednesday.

so…now what?

 Joey and I are headed to Quillabamba, Quetua for ¨Land of Eternal Summer¨ for the weekend. Its on the edge of the Amazon Jungle…deep enough to get some sun and see some monkeys but not deep enough for snakes or malaria. THATS my kinda jungle!

Tuesday we are embarking on the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu. i´ve heard it grueling, long, tiring, really cold, and utterly amazing. i´m a wee bit nervous but very excited. 11 hours of hiking each day and some super freaky-high elevation, but hey…i´m a Bergdahl! (also a Sayner, all due respect to the other half, equally strong and wonderful part of my family…!) 

We haven´t set the rest of our plans in stone but we are planning on returning to Arequipa to hike the Colca Canyon and see some condors. Other highlights on our travel itinerary include hitting up Pisco for some world famous Pisco Sours, checking out the poor man´s galapagos islands off the shores of Nazca, sandboarding on the sand dunes of Ica on the south coast, and then making it to Lima in time to jet set across the hemisphere!

These next couple of weeks will definetly come with a change of pace and a new set of joys and concerns. Keep me in that ¨healthy, happy, and not getting mugged¨section of your positive thoughts if you don´t mind!

se hecho de menos a todos!

   feliz día de la tierra!

Is it Earth Day back home too? i think it just might be…! what a wonderful holiday.

there was a massive processional in the Plaza de Armas today- grade school children marching and chanting ¨a mule could take better care of this planet than you¨. (un poquito negativo, pero es probable que sí…)

Here are a few highlights from my newest publication ¨Sí no Conoces Urubamba¨(If you don´t know Urubamba), written and illustrated by the 3rd and 4th graders of Primary school at Divino Maestro. Compiled by your truly:

Si no concoes Urubamba, no has visto… (you have never seen) the dances of Señor de Toreychaoc, a train, my mom, the most beautiful valley in the world

Si no conoces Urubamba, no has oído…(you have not heard) the parrots, the sound of cold water from the glacier, how we talk, the sound of the roosters for whom we need to protect the environment for.

Si no conoces Urubamba, no has tocado… (you have not touched) gasoline, air, the humid earth that cultivates potatoes and corn, worms, the fútbol stadium, my dad (haha)

Si no conoces Urubamba, no has probado…(you have not tasted) roasted guinnea pig, water from the creek that runs through town (ironically, this is the water i am activly trying to convince people NOT to taste, but whatever), ceviche, several types of food that i am unfamiliar with (go figure)

Si no conoces Urubamba, no has olido… (you have not smelled) grilled guinnea pig, guinnea pig (living i assume) the most perfumed roses in the world, the food of Perú, the smell of the fresh air in the Andes of Yucay.

More pictures are posted online at http://www1.snapfish.com/share/p=446181205901005323/l=357072423/g=16043125/cobrandOid=1000131/otsc=SYE/otsi=SALB

and include such adventures as ¨kabob of cow heart eating, hiking with anden local up a very steep mountain,  and fútbol maddness (among others).

             

 

Back to the ´bamba tonight after a weekend excursion to a community a few hours to the south of Cuzco. We hiked a mountain, i got some laughs out of trying my Quetua, and we spent some quality time learning about ceramics in Raqchi. Joey even had Seinfield and No Country for Old Men, so we passed the night with DVDs and chocolate sandwhich cookies (which had a warning on them ¨do not expose to direct sunglight)

A wonderful Peruvian peasant (with an impossibly difficult name to remember) came with us on our tour. She taught me about the local plants and their medicianal values all the way to the top. This lady was out of control- carrying a good 40 pounds on her tiny back, in ancient sandles, literally running like a mountain goat up hills that took me an hour to summit.

 she also taught me some rural Peruvian health ¨secrets¨ which i am happy to share with you. Keep in mind the genunine sincerity and seriousness of the situation:

1) At high altitude, if you have headache, lung ache, back ache, are tired, are dizzy, are hungry…anything at all…simply smoke a cigarrette. They are simply a miracle drug. Do not, whatever you do, drink water. (i nearly died when she offered me, huffing and puffing, a smoke)  

2) If you do not have a cigarrette and feel dizzy, smell the sweat of your armpit (or the armpit of a companion if its easier)

3) If you feel like you might be dying rub your palm on your gential area and smell. (this was graciously accompanied by a demonstration)

4) Dont talk on your cell phone in the rain. last month her niece and 30 sheep were struck by lightening and killed because of this simple error.

The community is also apprently up in arms at the moment because the Peruvian government has banned childbirth in the home. it is now mandatory to give birth in a hospital. They community members are unhappy because clearly, this infringes on their shamanistic rituals and the ¨way its always been¨. I can see both sides, and its important to consider that child and maternal mortality in Perú was EXTREMELY high and required drastic measures. nothing is ever black and white… especially in Perú.

so my advice, dear western friends, grab a cig, smell your sweat (be it axillary or otherwise) and cuidate mucho. i have only a few weeks left on this side of the equator, hard to believe. stay in touch, hope this finds you healthy and happy. paz y amor, allegra

i´m feeling worlds better, and Perú is doing just fine as well. Should you find yourself with a beer and nothing to toast, try these on for size:

The United Nations has declared 2008 to be the International Year of the Potato, which is nothing but good news for this potato-lovin-land. As the price of other food commodities (rice, wheat) soar, the humble potato remains an affordable staple of diets worldwide. United Nations believes that the potato may be part of an ecological solution to hunger, poverty, and threats to the environment.

i for one wouldn´t care if i ever saw another potato again in my life. but i´m still quite happy for Perú.

I also successfully convinced about 30 people to poop in cups this week. Horrified? actually its pretty great.

ProPerú is working with the municipality of Cuzco and the ministery of health in Urubamba to improve the water quality of Chichumbabma (the rural area outside of the city in which i live). This is fantastic seeing as i regularly see people going to the bathroom, washing clothes, bathing, and yes, sadly, drinking water from the same little creek that drizzles off the glacier high above Urubamba. The creekruns through the middle of town and is nothing short of wildly abused.

My small contribution to the project was going house to house asking people about their daily water habits (where they go to the bathroom, where they get their drinking water, how they wash their hands…). I also asked them to please participate in our campaign to test the population of Chichumbamba for parasites (thus the reason they needed to poo in cups). For various reasons, including the horror of feces samples and the omnipresent language barrier, i didn´t expect that i would be all that effective in convincing people to participate in our study. Apparently 30 people from one street participated. Success!!

Tomorrow i´m teaching a class on the 5 senses. We are going to write a book entitled Ïf you are not from Urubamba you wouldn´t know…¨ Each kid will fill in the blanks and decorate their page to describe things you wouldn´t have tasted, smelled, seen, heard, or touched if you didn´t live in Urubamba, Perú. I plan on convincing the kids to let me use the book (and the 5 senses) to teach my dear friends and families back home about the life of adolecent Urubambanians.

si no conoces urubamba, no has probado intestinos fritos, no has visto el glacier Chicon en el sol de la manaña, no has oido las mujeres veniendo choclo con queso en los autobuses… más y más. stay tuned. i´m really exctied.

off to my spanish class. besos a todos. stay in touch! alegría

This was a long week with some high highs and low lows. The lows mostly involve bodily functions that only other ProPerú volunteers care to discuss, so i´ll leave you and your imagination to filling in those negative blanks. And now for the highlights of semana numero…i´ve lost count:

Wednesday took the ProPerú volunteers and their Spanish teachers to the Brazil v Perú fútbol game in the Cuzco stadium. Here is where i am at a sheer loss of words. the crowd was HUGE and VERY EXCITED. (do the caplocks help? i hope so) there were fireworks and chanting and the wave. there were vendors selling fried pig skins, house sized flags of che, and an entire police corps decked out in battle gear. Perú lost 3 to 0, but i do believe this tragedy may have spared my life seeing as we sat in the front row. (these are not particularly desirable seats because of the risk of death by crushing should a goal be scored) it was phenomenal.

Wednesday also brought the ProPerú volunteers face to face with anticucho (kabobs) de various animal parts. (typical Peruvian food) Me and my little friend giardia thought that it was best to be conservative, given that I had not eaten in several days. I knew I didn´t want kabob of cow heart, so i went with option 2, the option that i could not translate but assumed wasnt as knarly as cow heart. and i was wrong. it was kabob of cow intestine. suffice it to say i was the butt of many a joke that evening. (it tastes like fat and looks exactly like you would imagine cow intestines would look if you care to know). End Wednesday.

I past the next couple of days in relative ease, watching fútbol games in the cow pastures behind Urubamba, trading english for Quetua words (which is futile. i´ve accepted that my vocabulary will never surpass 20 words,  but i like to watch the kids and the grandmas laugh at me.) and teaching art classes to the next generation of Urubambanians. 

Favorite conversation of the week

       Peruvian friend: So, you´re saying that if you took a test on English you would pass?  You would get most of it right?

         Me: umm…yes…i can speak English language fluently…just not spanish

          Peruvian friend: huh.

It was an interesting insight into how people may be regarding my level of intellect here. i´ve decided to let it go. (and yes, sadly the Peruvian friend is 26, not a small child). Another Peruvian friend the other day, during a discussion about tuberculosis, exclaimed, ÿou´re smart!¨, as if it were some delightful surprise. How funny. here i am conversing in a second language for months on end, feeling so intellectual and accomplished, and i am apparently being perceived as mildly retarded. somethings about life here are SO unrewarding.

but i digress…

Saturday began with a really misearble mini project, leveling ground at a school to build a kitchen. Me and my giardia (my giardia and i) were not happy to be in the sun with a shovel and a mountain to flatten before lunch time. here is where i insert the low of the week, and the bodily functions that will remain unspoken of. I was not a happy camper.

HOWEVER, saturday afternoon and sunday were most fabulous. we took the bus to Cuzco, watched our health coordinators traditional dance troupe perform, and then danced the night away at the raucus clubs in cuzco. it was a blast. 

Highlight of the week- reuniting with Mr. Joey Timmons, fantastic friend, world traveler, and soon to be traveling companion for the rest of my time here in Perú. Finding Joey in the Plaza de Armas is probably one of the most fabulous reunions I´ll ever have in my life. cheers!!

Joey and the ProPerú gang spent our Sunday market hopping, eating yougert at my favorite café in the whole wide world (literally), and chowing in our favorite pollaria (rotessery chicken is a pretty big deal here). we took the bus home (another low, but i´ll leave that one alone).

2 more weeks at ProPerú, then Joey and I are going to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and check out Ica, Nazca, and Pisco on our way to Lima. 

Health update- doing well, más o menos. i´m slightly allergic to the medications i´ve been taking- adding a lovely dose of hives to the other symptoms. i headed back to the doctor and he assured me not to worry, they just itch. i should be finishing up the treatments tomorrow and then they and my giardia will have gone away. celebrate with me! 

i love you all. allegra.  

I have giardia. i HAD giardia. now i have flagil (antiparasitic medicine). I also have a sampling of other bacterial infections which are all 100% curable. such luck i have!

Today was a great day, a relief from the last week that…dare i admit…i was wrapped up in culture shock. But today I almost felt that Perú was laughing right along with me. Giving me little gifts, as if to apoligize for its OTHER little gifts that currently reside in my intestines. For example, when I got on the combi this morning the abuelita sitting next to me had a cat in her backpack. All zipped up…out of sight out of mind (but clearly not out of earshot). Everyone looked around, wondering who would take a cat on the bus. She looked around too, as if it wasn´t perfectly obvious that it was HER jumping, meowing bag that held the cat captive. Asa, I just KNOW you would have been laughing hysterically. it WAS pretty damn funny.

Another example of today´s little surprises. A woman in the clinic was complaining of backpain. She, as pretty much every peasant woman in Perú typically does, carried a brightly covered sack on her back which she did not remove. Its a mystery to me what the women carry around in the bags (generally i assume its like a really big purse with food from the market, maybe a radio, usually something that smells like death…you know. nothing too special.) When the Eloy, the practicante, asked her to get on the scale she handed her bag to me to hold. Eloy winked. and then the bag cried. i kid you not. there was a 2 month BABY in the bag. the phrase ¨you have GOT to be kidding me¨slipped from my lips. Luckily, in English.

Anyway.  i also watched a kid get some knarly stiches today. not gonna lie, it was really disgusting. Sometimes i think that i might want to be a doctor. sometimes i really think otherwise. good God.

Today was one of those days when I considered canceling my ticket home. I love South America, love the people, love the language, love the landscape. I really really love Perú. If anyone wants a traveling partner in the future i will most certainly be coming back!

For my more cynical audience, who may be slightly skeptical of my positivity, or in case you were wondering, here are some things that one can not find in Urubamba that I have come to miss- mexican and thai food, salad dressing, cheese that is not really super gross, refrigerated beverages, packaged meat products (as opposed to unpackaged, still bleeding, covered with flies on the ground meat products…). Food i guess in general. and showers. just the basics, no más.

last night we watched the basketball championships at the Muse, tonight is the volunteer dinner, and tomorrow some friends and I are going to Cuzco to watch a soccer game. Excuse me, fútbol, game. Hope this finds you healthy and happy. Siempre yours, allegra