Friday, February 12, 2010

Peru Day 7: Lessons learned

When I woke up this morning I found electrical tape wrapped around the shower faucet and my curtains hemmed so that the burn marks weren't visible. This was a little bothersome, as the only place I mentioned these things were in the blog. They were not complaints, merely observations. But to know that my words are being read by someone and then action is taken regarding what I've said is disconcerting. Laura doesn't speak or read English fluently so I decided to talk to her about it as best I could. She was told to make those changes, and I was afraid it might make our living situation awkward. It didn't though and we hugged it out. Laura is awesome.

Now when it comes to telling it like it is in this blog... yeah, ok. I'll still do that.

Here are a few observations I've made here in Cusco that I pass along to any future visitors:

1. Just because the tourist stalls sell those colorful pants that look like pajamas doesn't mean you have to buy them. And wear them in public.

2. It rains here in Cusco this time of year. You knew that when you planned your trip, so why didn't you pack a rain jacket? You look a little silly in those overpriced, every-color-of-the-rainbow garbage bags they sell every time there's a crash of thunder.

3. Many of the restaurants and cafes right off the main square are really good. Locals use the Plaza de Armas, too, and they also need to eat.

4. If you look like a tourist you will be harassed by every hawker within 3 blocks of the main square. If you don't look like a tourist, you will still be harassed. And many of them don't take "no" for an answer (at least not the first time).

5. Inca ruins abound in Cusco. Get yourself a good guidebook or, better yet, a good guide (ask me for one).

6. The sun is friggin hot here and you WILL get burned. Sure I'm pasty white, so burning is what I do, but everyone I've met has forgotten to protect some part of their body at least once while here and they have the peeling skin or blisters to prove it. Even some of the locals carry sunblock.

7. Most of the taxis are gypsy cabs but there are a good number of legit cabs, too. If you want to play it safe, take a taxi that has the phone number on the top of roof. If you want to be a little more adventurous, take one of the others. For what it's worth, my amorous taxi driver was in a legit cab, so you never know what you're gonna get. 

Oh, and never pay more than 2.5 soles for a ride during the day anywhere in Cusco. It might go up to 3 or 3.5 soles after 9 or 10 pm, but that's still damn cheap.

8. The national flag of Cusco is the gay pride flag only in reverse. Just an FYI.

I'm also beginning to understand why the people here wear jackets and long-sleeve shirts even when it's 75 degrees out. That's because in a few hours the cold and rain roll in and we tourists are left shivering in our flip flops and tank tops.

Maybe a bright red garbage bag poncho isn't such a bad idea...

At the clinic today I offered my services in the kitchen for clean up after lunch. I dumped leftover food from the trays into the garbage, dried a few cups and bowls and was then asked to help prep for dinner. It was so nice working in a kitchen again even if all I did was peel cucumbers. I miss cooking!

For Spanish class, Jorgan took me to Molino -- the one-stop shopping for everything you could possibly need (or not). Pirating is big here -- you can buy movies that were released just last week for 2 soles (about 75 cents), the entire Windows operating system for about $4, or a nice outfit for church. And then you can finish it all off with a lovely meal of meat on a stick (with a potato at the end) -- it's awesome. It's next to the Huatanay River, one of the dirtiest rivers in Peru (according to Jorgan). I've smelled some dirty rivers around the world (you can smell a river in India a mile away).

I didn't buy anything, but may have to return next week. This is my only week of Spanish class (I've decided that 2 weeks is a bit much for "school") so I'll part ways with Jorgan tomorrow (but might make him show me more of Cusco one day next week).

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