Sunday, September 30, 2007

A day in the life...

Yesterday was as interesting and educational day and definitely a memorable one. I needed to get up a bit earlier than I wanted to for a Saturday morning, but I was meeting one of the teachers at the Spanish school I attend because was just going to be hanging out with them for the morning. One of the guys was playing in a mini soccer tournament so we tagged along, but a few of us soon decided that we were going in search of food. I was then taken to a market on a plaza where as far I could see there wasn’t another tourist in sight - that was a nice change to the centre of Cuzco where in places it feels as though the tourist outnumber the locals. I was then taken to an outdoor food market which was an experience on its own. For one thing a number of the stalls had roasted cuy (that‘s guinea pig, yes the furry little rodents some of you keep as pets) lying there waiting to be served. Fortunately I wasn’t thrown in the deep end and just had a plate of whatever else was on offer. I am at times reluctant to eat in certain places, even back in South Africa, but I decided it would be an experience (as they say, when in Rome)… Well, about 24 hours I still seem to be okay…

The day didn’t end there though, because the evening was a bit of a contrast to the morning. I decided to attend a poker evening being hosted by South American Explorers, a travellers club belong to - the group included a Spaniard, an Australian, some Brits, some Americans and at least one Canadian… I went because their events are usually a good way to meet people and even though there was a small fee of s./10 (that’s about £1.60 or R22 in South African terms) I figured it’d be worth it. In any case I figured the fee was for the venue, a Cuban restaurant in town, but little did I know that it was a buy-in and that by the end of the evening I’d win and walk away with a bit of prize money… I’ve been planning on buying a local cell or mobile phone and it seems this prize money covers most of that. Now before your minds run away with you I don’t have my sights set on a World Series of Poker bracelet, it was just a great evening meeting and getting to know some new people and hang out at a local club afterwards.

So it was a day of contrasts, seeing two sides of this town that I hope will be home for the next few months… I‘ve been focusing on my Spanish lessons for the past few weeks, but this week I hope to find out a bit more about the job possibilities since I have not heard from any of the schools yet. So watch this space and I hope to have some news soon…

Monday, September 24, 2007

It‘s all about the money…

Written on 23 September 2007...

One of the lecturers at my previous once said (and this is a paraphrase) that economics and politics are two sides of the same coin, they cannot be separated. The reason I bring this up is that we live in a time where the political climate is hot and unstable (even though things may appear to be progressing etc at times). And, while that is all happening on a very global scale far away from where I am I see some of the economic effects where I am.

One of the stark contrasts I see here in Peru from day to day (and I know that this is not only true here) is the locals doing their best to get by and others coming from the “developed world” who may take weeks, months or even years out of their lives to travel and experience something different without the need to earn while doing that. And, yes I know that at least for now I fit into that second category. It’s as if a few hundred years ago this continent was a newfound piggybank for the new arrivals (they came, they saw, they stole, the killed) and now centuries later this same place is the playground for their descendents. I clearly don’t have solutions, but it just reminds me of something I said a while back. That is, that we live in a world where might is right and money buys that might… I know this may seem a bit of a leap, but the way I figure it terms like “colonialism” and “conquistadors” should not be relegated to the history books. Those terms are as relevant today as they were centuries ago; it has just taken a few different forms…

Machu Picchu... A birthday to remember…

Written on 23 September 2007...

So this past Friday was my birthday. And I have now been fortunate enough to spend a birthday in/on 3 continents/regions (and hopefully there may be more to come)… As a friend said in an email a few days ago birthdays are often a time for reflection on the past (the good, the bad and the ugly - LOL), thinking about the present and perhaps contemplating the future. Something else he said that I agree with is that fortunately I don’t need to have any definite answers about the future just yet.

When I first decided that I would be coming to Peru and that I would be here in September I figured it would be great to spend my birthday at Machu Picchu (a pre-Columbian city set high on a mountain top somewhere where the jungle meets the Andes). And yes I was able to do just that. In addition to all the reflection that usually goes on birthdays, well at least around my birthdays, this experience added a real surreal feeling to my birthday. It felt as though I had stepped into another world for a few hours. Although there was a small town just a few kilometres down the road there was no sign of civilisation from where I stood in the citadel. I thought about where and with whom I spent my last few birthdays, as that is at least an indication of what was going on at the time and I honestly could not have predicted that I would be where I am today.

I took quite a few pictures at Machu Picchu, but as I said to someone I was chatting to up there trying to capture it all with a camera is like trying to recreate the Mona Lisa with a pencil. So what came of all my reflection? As far as the future goes not much really, I don’t have any definite answers or ideas other than seeing where this current adventure takes me. I do have a sense of gratitude though, not only because I had the opportunity to have such a great birthday but just thinking about the people whose paths have crossed mine over the years and the challenges faced that I no longer face… Anyway, I’m going to stop my waffling. But if you’d like to see the pictures I have of Machu Picchu the link below should take you to an album I have on my Facebook profile (even if you’re not a member of Facebook)…

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=22148&l=c521f&id=513421322

¡Hasta luego!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Estoy aprendiendo a hablar Español...

The title means "I am learning Spanish to speak Spanish" (forgive me if there's a mistake there)... And, that has been the highlight of this past week. I have been taking 3 hours of lessons per day and will be taking a few more this week and possibly the week after that - it depends on the cash flow etc. It's he first time I have really committed to learning a new language and I'm loving it. I have noticed that I understand more of what's going on around me and the fact that I can take part (albeit in a limited fashion) in conversations in Spanish has been great...

Other than that the only other news is that I will be dropping a few copies of my CV off this week with some potential employers. So I hope to have more info on the job prospects in the not-too-distant future... Also, it's my birthday at the end of the week so I'm hoping to spend at least part of it up at Machu Picchu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machu_Picchu), because that has been an idea since I first thought about coming to Peru. It's going to be a bit pricey, but I think it's going to worthwhile...

Anyway, that's all from my side for now.

¡Hasta luego!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Getting on with things...

So there has not been much to report over the past few days. I have just been taking it easy here in Cuzco and trying to figure out which Spanish school to attend, where to live and where the job opportunities may be...

Well, I am starting some more Spanish lessons in about 90 minutes' time and may be moving into a room in an apartment type place this week. So it seems I may be getting a bit more settled. Also, I have been chatting to a few people who have given me the heads up on the TEFL seen here in Cuzco, so I hope to get my CV out this week. Let's hope things start happening sooner rather than later...

Anyway, that's about all I have to say for now. Just taking life easy at the moment, like I like it I guess...

¡Hasta luego!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

What am I doing here?

Occasionally someone asks me why I came to Peru and how long I plan on being here? Well, there is a simple answer to that question I had reached the working limits of my visa in the UK and that I didn’t want to go back to South Africa yet. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, and some of you (like some I met in London or online since leaving Cape Town) don’t know the background story. So for those who want to know the ins and outs feel free to read further…

The reason I came to Peru is somewhat linked to the reason I left Cape Town for London at the beginning of 2006. By the end of 2005, my final year at college, I had become fed up with a number of things about life in Cape Town and to a large extent I felt like a pineapple on an apple tree. Also, there are some things I was going through spiritually that needed to move forward and I wanted that to happen. In the book of Jeremiah (in the Bible) God shows that prophet that He is sometimes like a potter who shapes the lives of people - in that context it was the nation of Israel and sometimes it is individuals. In my case I believe that he wanted to shape some stuff and change other things in my life at that point in my life and that he was going to take me out of Cape Town for a while to do just that. That’s how I ended up in London… And I can confirm that what I expected to happen did happen, but by the time I needed to leave London the process was not complete so that’s why I was not ready to head back to Cape Town yet.

As a result I prayed simple prayer at the end of March this year and simply asked Him what I was supposed to do now that my time in London had just about run out. And, it was in response that He gave me the idea to come to Peru to teach English. Now it’s just about impossible to explain in a few sentences exactly how that happened, but I know that it did. After all that’s why I’m here…
So I‘m here because this is where I believe God wants me to be at this time. There was no lightning in the sky; it was not a command that I dare not disobey. Rather it was a friend telling me that he wants to take me on this adventure, a continuation of the one that had already begun. Even though He gave me the idea to teach English I don’t know for sure if that’s going to be the focus of my time here or if it is simply going to be a necessary part of the process - in the same way that my working in London, as good as it was, was never the focus of my time there. I can’t explain the process or exactly where things are going, but I guess I can simply say that I’m doing my best living in the moment, one moment at a time. This is a simplified version of the story, but I think it contains the essential elements.


Anyway, that’s all from me for now. I know there could be things in what I have written that could seem strange, weird or even insane in what I had written, then again maybe not. Either way, feel free to drop me note a note, even if you think I’m chasing a myth… I’m out of here for now…

¡Hasta luego!

A rare specimen…

I have been in Peru for just over 2 weeks now and I have met people from just about every corner of the world. I have met, spoken to or chilled with people from: Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Holland, Germany, Belgium, France, Israel, South Korea, Scotland, England and the USA to name a few… But I am yet to meet a fellow South African. the way I figure that is to be expected for a number of reasons, but it has led to some interesting reactions when people find out where I’m from. I guess it is cool… in a way… but I guess it would be tight to bump into a fellow "Saffa" over here…

Anyway… ¡Hasta luego!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Arrived safely in Cuzco...

Hi again...

So I have arrived in Cuzco in one piece and so far I like what I have seen in this town. I'm staying up on the side of a hill in an area called San Blas at the Hospedaje Familiar Kuntur Wasi. The owner seems like a cool person and although it's kinda cold (with no central heating) I like it. I'm probably going to have something cheaper because I'm going to be here for a while...

I have not started looking for work yet, but for the immediate future i plan on finding my feet, learning a bit more Spanish and checking out my options here...

That's all from my side for now, but I'll be back with more on what's happening up here in the mountains...

¡Hasta luego!


Floating Islands and stuff…

(Written on Monday...)

The past 2 days or so have been kind of brilliant. Firstly, the trip from Arequipa to Puno wasn’t all that comfortable, but the views were unbelievable. The lakes, mountains, hills, rivers, streams and alpacas or llamas grazing along the side of the road… At times it really felt as if I had stepped into another world or something…


So I arrived in Puno yesterday and this is definitely a record for me - 3,830m above sea level. As can be expected I felt a bit short of breath at times, but because I had spent over a week in Arequipa at about 2,350m it didn’t hit me as hard as it could have. The town of Puno sits on the shore of Lake Titicaca which is apparently the largest lake in South America and the world’s highest navigable lake with passenger services (okay, so that might seem like useless info but I thought I‘d throw it in anyway).

So one of the main reason people come here (apart from heading over to Bolivia from here) is to visit the Islas Floatantes (or floating islands) of the Uros people. And yes, they are what their name suggests man-made floating islands. Basically, the Uros people came under attack from the Incas and another group a few centuries ago and because they were more of a peaceful tribe they decided to start a whole new way of life by building these floating islands and isolating themselves. How do they do it? Well, I found it hard to believe before I went there. Basically, then men dive into the lake and cut out blocks of the lake bed with the roots of the totora reed. Once removed from the lake bed these blocks flaot, so they are tied together to form a platform on which to build their island which is anchored into the lake bed so it doesn’t float away. They then take more of those reeds and lay them on top of these floating platforms (up to 3 metres thick in places). These reeds have to be replaced continuously because they dry out on the surface and because they rot under the surface. They then also build their homes out of those reeds and boats (I went on a short trip on one of them). Anyway, this was definitely a highlight of my trip because other than a lifeless monument this tribes existence is an ongoing living monument to their ancestors.

Okay, that’s all from me for now so I’m out of here. By the way, I have loaded some of my pictures onto my Facebook profile…

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A place of contrasts…

Some time ago I was reading my Lonely Planet guide for Peru (LP is series of travel guides that many/most travellers use when visiting new countries, but in my limited experience is sometimes disputed by users and locals alike). Anyway, so I was reading a section on what Peru is all about and the books suggests that this is a "a nation on the brink" because it is "modernizing at a breakneck pace".

When I first read that I thought it is probably some hype to get people excited about seeing what there is to be found here. But the little bit that I have seen so far seems to go along with that description and this results in major contrasts.
While the new buildings I saw going up in Lima were interesting and the tourism business seems to be booming it‘s the contrast I have seen here in Arequipa that has caught my attention. There are modern shops lining old cobbled streets, restaurants in buildings that have probably seen this regions history unfold, not to mention the churches and other religious institutions some of which that have been standing for a few centuries.


And yet, it is a simple image that caught my eye on one of my first days here that stands out for me. I noticed that some of the women in this city (especially those who are a bit older) wearing what appears to be more traditional knitwear/clothing the basis of which has probably not changed for generations. This is contrasted by the suits worn by businessmen in the town centre, the likes of which I don’t think would be out of place in somewhere like Canary Wharf (a big-business area in London) not to mention the brand names that the younger Arequipeños (what the locals are called) are wearing.

Anyway, I don’t really have a point to make… I’m just sharing a few observations of what has caught my eye.

¡Hasta luego!

What has two humps and is found at the North Pole?

The answer to that question is: an extremely lost camel. Now please forgive me for starting this blog with that stupid, but I have a point. You see I was chatting to a good friend online earlier today and she said something about the plebs in Cape Town thinking that what I am doing is so adventurous. Now please understand that was her comment/thought, not mine.

The reason I am bringing it up is that I honestly feel like that lost camel, trying to figure out how exactly I ended up where I am now. I mean, the idea of me being an adventurer or something is not how I have ever seen myself, nor do I see myself that way now… Seriously, though I’m figuring this out as I go along and sometimes I look at the people I am meeting along the way and I feel even more clueless and lost than ever…

Anyway, I guess this is all (as I have said before) just part of the adventure…

¡Hasta luego!