Saturday, February 20, 2010

Peru Day 15: Machu Picchu is out, Choquekiro is in

I received an email from my trekking company explaining that Machu Picchu is now closed for the next 6 weeks and there is no possibility of getting up there until the end of March. This sucks for Cusco, as their economy is primarily based on tourism. I took it as a sign that I will just have to return to Cusco sooner rather than later. No problem there.

They offered us a couple of other trekking options, one of them being a 4 day/3 night trek to Choquekiro. Both Jorgan and Laura said this is a must-see (and underrated only because of Machu Picchu). So I emailed back my company and we're all set to trek Choquekiro starting Monday.

I spent about half of my last day at the clinic in the kitchen helping prep lunch. They were serving fried fish (not frozen from a bag), rice (of course) and soup. The cook's assistants were back and since I was initially the only volunteer in the kitchen I became the topic of conversation. My country of origin, whether I had children (and why didn't I???) and how long I'm staying in Cusco is pretty much the general range of questions I get asked. They seemed satisfied enough with my answers (except for the lack of children) and we got on with our work. The cook brought out a can of local cheese and some boiled corn and we snacked on "choclo con queso" while we worked. Man, I love that shit.

Friday was full of visitors at the clinic, so my services weren't needed at feeding time. That worked out well, as I helped prep a little more for dinner and then met up with Yesemnia (the student teacher) and we took a taxi to Molino.

But before we left, I ran up to the bathroom (not the most conveniently located bano for the clinic) and I happened to read the sign on the back of the door. It read: "Por favor, no orinar en el piso. Gracias." Really?? You actually need a sign in one of the cleanest places in Cusco telling people not to pee on the floor?? Hmmm. Maybe that's why the clinic's so clean...

Going to Molino with a local is soooo much better than on your own. I've been with Jorgan twice and now this time with Yesemnia. We shopped around, checking the prices of all the blenders, how well they worked and their guarantees. Yesmenia wasn't messing around and we got a good deal on a good machine (about 133 soles, which is about $45) and a few other kitchen items, particularly vegetable peelers. I spent about $60 total and supplied the kitchen with some good stuff. The cook was extremely appreciative, as am I for all that she does for the clinic.

I had my last lunch at Laura's (minestrone soup and a chicken and potato dish) and packed my things and headed to my hotel. Goodbyes with Laura were bittersweet. I was ready to move on, but I really enjoyed living with her. I hope to see her again the next time I visit Cusco.

I was eager to unload my stuff at the hotel before heading to class and was glad I did. The rain had been heavy on and off most of the morning and the afternoon was no different. I caught a window in the bad weather and dumped everything in my new room and headed to class. I'm glad I told Mike to pack lightly -- I'm going to need room in his bag.

Our last class was sad. I new it was the end this time and it depressed me a little more than I expected. Since by now you know that I really don't like learning in a classroom (even though I teach in one!), we headed to a cafe I like off the main square and stayed there for about 3 hours. I have to admit, this was probably one of the first times in the past week where the English conversation outweighed the Spanish. Jorgan and I talked like old friends, discussing when I'm going to visit again (since I have to come back for Machu Picchu) and how to stay in touch (e-mail, for obvious and cheap reasons).

We headed over to Karem's house for a goodbye dinner she invited me to earlier in the week and served us something stuffed with meat, rolled up and fried. She never explained what it was, but it was good. I couldn't finish it (fried food doesn't appeal to me that much) but still liked what I ate of it. I guess that's my fault: She asked me earlier in the week what I would like her to make and I said I'd be happy with anything. I really need to emphasize the "no fried food" thing, but eating fried foods in Cusco is as popular as Inka Cola or white rice. The group at her house had never been formally introduced to me, but Jorgan told me who they were the last time he dropped me at Karem's house, so while it was nice to know who I was eating with, they all spoke in rapid-fire Spanish that was not always easy to follow. But, I have to admit, I understood more than I think they realize. Interesting...

Jorgan left early, and I stayed for about another 1/2 hour. I introduced them to "The Evolution of Dance" on YouTube and we compared our tastes in music. Let's just say they don't match.

Cabbed back to the hotel and crashed. Talked to Mike, who is ready to jump on that plane and get the hell out of snowy DC. Can't wait to see him on Sunday.

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