Saturday, July 24, 2010

5 Reasons I Love Cusco

1. The Energy!

Whether you are in the city, or in the Sacred Valley - the energy of this land is palpable.  It is called the Sacred Valley for a reason.  There is something about being high above in the Andes, 11,000 feet above sea level, nestled amidst these huge, magical's a power... and a closeness to God that I've never felt before. Or maybe it's just the oxygen deprivation...;-/

2. The Beauty
One of the Breathtaking views of the Valley

Everywhere I look it is a Kodak moment (hence the 500 photos I have taken on this trip thus far).  The drive between Cusco and the Casa through the Sacred Valley can start to wear on one's body after awhile - particularly when you do it too many times in a week.  But when I start to feel worn down - I remind myself where I am, and take a moment to stop along the roadway to soak in the glorious scenery...and I suddenly feel so much better ;-)

Just strolling along
2. Seeing Cows, Donkeys, Sheep, Goats and Llamas every single day

Not just in a field, or on a mountainside - oh no - they are everywhere!  On the street, in the roadway, on the sidewalk walking in downtown Cusco.  The other day I woke up at Casa, opened the door to head to the bathroom, and there were two fat, happy donkeys grazing right outside my door...just chillin.  I love it!

4. Meeting People from All Around the World

Cusco draws some of the most fascinating, diverse people from almost every corner of the world.  I have met so many fabulous friends, and met people doing magnificent things out here.  Most are only here for a brief time, but some just never want to leave - I love to hear their stories...I have been here during one of the most "touristy" times of the year - June and July, which definitely has its drawbacks if you are actually living here and trying to get stuff done.  But I have also been lucky enough to be here during a WORLD CUP - which has just been electric.  Every game is televised at the plethora of bars and pubs in town, and draws at least a few fans from each of the competing teams.  The last week was insane - so many Dutch fans in bright orange T-shirts, and rowdy Spaniards in their blue, yellow and red.  Cusco definitely has a global appeal...

5. Mercado San Pedro
Scoring some medicinal herbs @ Mercado San Pedro

If there was one thing I wish I could stuff in my suitcase and bring back with me to the States it would be Mercado San Pedro.  Obviously this cannot be done, but one can dream...You see, Mercado San Pedro is much more than a locals market - it contains anything you could possibly need to survive, and at ridiculously cheap prices. There are different sections for fresh juice, cooked food, produce, dry goods, meats, artisan goods, and any service you can imagine. The other day I got my backpack stitched up there for the equivalent of $1. Granted, there are certain corners of the market that one with a weak stomach just should not go...but thankfully I am not one of those people, and I get a kick out of just how many parts of a cow can and are used in some parts of the world...The tradition of a trip to San Pedro is of course, JUGO (juice). There are several rows of juice ladies - all smiling down at you from their elevated platforms, flirting and grinning sweetly in an attempt to seduce you to their booth. Each one has their own special blend of fresh fruits, vegetables, sacred herbs, and magic ingredients.  My favorite gal was #56: Rina. Rina was the cutest little woman ever, and she always made way too much juice for any one person to consume in one sitting, so I would usually share one with a friend - usually Aiden or Lulue.  Oh how I will miss "popping in for a jugo at Sen Pedro"...

I could go on and on...and on and on...and I could share a few things I'm not so crazy about too - but I'll save that for another post ;-)  In the meantime,  Check out the rest of my Pics of Cusco from this trip!

From Paddy's Pub - the "Highest Irish Pub in the World",


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

National Geographic Student Volunteer Rafting Trip

Marcito and Seth
Fourth of July weekend proved to be quite eventful at Casa de Milagros!

We were graced with a group of seventeen high-schoolers with a National Geographic Student volunteer group.  They arrived on Saturday and we spent most of the day putting them to work!  They helped garden, level out the back field, and taught the kids some photography skills.  My good friend Aiden came by on Saturday as well to put on an english class for the kids and some of the staff.  In the afternoon, Jorge and his dance group, the newly-dubbed "SkyWalkers" put on a performance for our guests that blew everyone away!  That evening after dinner, we had a party in celebration of our guests, and a few of our kids' birthdays.  It was my first official Casa birthday party - and it was a blast!  I even got our shy little Illari to come out and blow out her candles ;-)

That night, Marie, Allen and their family welcomed their newest member - Asher Allen Patton into the world!  Born on the Fourth of July like a true Gringo! ;-)  Marie's amazing mid-wife, Leonie, and her fabulous assistant, Kata, were sleeping in the volunteer quarters with me, so I had a clue what was going on as they raced out of the room at 3:00 AM and came back buzzing with excitement an hour and a half later.  Asher sure took his time, but he finally came and he is perfect. Best of all, Marie can take a break from being pregnant and soak in being a new baby's mommy! ;-)

Me and the Kiddos geared up and ready to GO!
It was hard to leave Casa with a new-born in the midst, but the Nat Geo group had planned an incredible excursion for the kids on Sunday.  So we all boarded a bus early Sunday morning and headed out to Ollantaytambo for our very first rafting trip!  We got to take most of the kids, a few of the mamis and papis, and all of the Nat Geo volunteers.  I was slightly nervous, but mostly so excited to finally go river rafting - and down the Urubamba River with Inca ruins lining our path...incredible.  The kids had a blast, as did I, and we are so very thankful to our new friends for their hard work and generosity.  Best Fourth of July ever - topped off with some Peruvian fireworks courtesy of Allen ;-)

Click Here to see the Pics!