Thursday, December 29, 2011

Salkantay Day 5 Machu Picchu

P1040297P1040300P1040303P1040309P1040312P1040313I promised myself I would finish this Salkantay series before the first of the year...and so here I am, Dec. 29...doing it. I'll keep this one short and sweet, I think the photos speak for themselves. Machu Picchu is....well, MACHU fricken PICCHU!!!! Truly epic in every way you could imagine. We were blessed with gorgeous weather the whole 5 days, and our last day was no less perfect...we even got sunburns because we weren't planning on that kind of sun. Mach Picchu has been a dream of mine for a very very long time, and I was able to see almost every bit of it! Xylia climb to the top of Huyana Picchu, which is the mountain tower you see in the background of the "classic" MP shot....there are even more ruins up there!

family visit


family visit, a set on Flickr.

this was my Mom and Tia's last day in Cusco with us. We started with another quick trip to Pisac for last minute gifts.....then things got a little tricky, as somehow the family had planned a surprise party for my birthday! It was great fun...and a total surprise, although I did think some things were a little fishy, but i was so happy to celebrate with my family and friends!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo

Merry Christmas! and

Happy Summer Solstice??!

Yup... that's what it's like here on the other side of the equator!

This year we are spending our holidays in Cuzco, Peru. Although we are away from our family and friends, we have found love and gratitude here in this beautiful landscape. So here is our holiday greeting!

If you've been following our blog you may know of some of our adventures, but in these most recent weeks we have news! I have completed a yoga teacher training program and am now certified! Xylia did a solo week of volunteering for a weaving collective while staying with an indigenous Quechwa family and learning their weaving techniques. Michael has been working on a local trail guide book, with trails that link Cuzco with parts of the Sacred Valley. (blog posts to come!)

So as we have settled into our little life here in the “Navel of the World” we are also looking at moving on. In early January we will fill our packs again and move South with our sights set on Ushuaia, the southernmost city on the continent! It's a bitter sweet reality, the travel life...just when you're comfortable and making friends, it's time to go! But such is life: temporal and fleeting!

So holiday cheer to you all from us down here! We love you all and miss you! And this holiday season marks our half way point!


Saturday, December 10, 2011

otra forma de vivir a Aldea Yanapay

Cusco is truly an amazing city...with ancient beautiful architecture, people, and food. I think we all fell in love when we first arrived, at least I did. And being here for a while can give you another perspective. In Incan times they didn't have hunger and poverty, but the Spaniards fixed that for them, so today you do see elders in the street holding their hats out for spare soles, along with the disabled and kids. A lot of children here don't have the option of going to school, their parents send them out to shine shoes or sell goods, and sometimes they are out into the wee hours of the morning.
For all of Cuzco's amazing heritage it is also the country's capital for illiteracy, alcoholism and domestic violence. So of course the usual victims of such problems are the women and children. A few weeks ago Xylia and I participated in a country wide celebration and a city wide march for women and their right to a life without violence.
Working at Aldea Yanapay has changed me. At first I thought I would just join along to make sure Xylia was comfortable volunteering in a new place....not that I didn't want to. Honestly I thought I would have Xylia work there so she could have some independence, but when you walk in that school, it's hard not to feel the love and want to be a part of it. 
The school is located in a rougher part of Cuzco to serve the local kids...yet some walk up to an hour to get there. All the kids when they come in wash their hands and face, get some lotion and hug and kiss every teacher or adult there. Physical affection is really important at Yanapay, the machismo and heavy catholic influence, mixed with a disenfranchised population makes for an abusive life. Even in the schools it is customary for teachers to use physical, psychological, verbal and emotional violence. So to show these kids that there are adults in their life that hug, kiss laugh and show affection for no other reason than ...just because is of great importance. Even when they break boundaries and cross lines, it's important to let them know when and how, but always hug and kiss after.
When I first arrived I was put in the "familia sol" 9-11 year old. Now this can be an age challenging at times even in your own language...but a new language....forget it!! We were both frustrated, but as time went on, we found our place, and now they sweetly remind me "profe, no hablo ingles" when I would slip or gently correct my spanish grammar.
The 2 weeks I was there the subjects I was to teach were Indian dancing and Indian rituals....(surprisingly not chosen by me!) Every week after the kids have help with homework, play games and art, we all go to our classrooms and learn about a new subject. And on Fridays we perform something for the whole school! We did an interpretive dance about the creation of Durga. Then the next week we learned all about a child's first rituals in India, and did a small skit. I taught them about the symbol OM and I taught them the Durga mantra! They were sooooo cute! We've definitely had our struggles and bad days...but I was there for 2 boy's birthdays (which I got them a little treat for....sshh!) and I found an indian restaurant and got them a each a sweet for our last day.
I had to stop volunteering for a few weeks while I'm completing a yoga teacher training, and it hasn't been easy. I didn't realize how attached to those kids I would get....but I think about them daily. I think i see them in the street sometimes, and I imagine going back to see them again. Aldea Yanapay does a lot for these kids, and I feel like I want to give all I have to them. They have to wear the same clothes everyday, and I think about what I'm paying to keep in storage....I think about the laws of karma, and how we are born.
Last night I heard about one of the boys in my class, Andres. His mother came looking for him at the school, she didn't know where he was, but he wasn't there either. Andres' story and life is a hard one, he just turned 11(I got him a special cookie for his b-day) but after school he has to work all night in the streets selling candy, competing for attention with drug dealers and dealing with an even darker side of Cusco than I'll ever see. Andres' mother came looking for him because she doesn't know where he is....I pray he finds his way home.     
all the kids and Yuri the founder in thee center
playing in the games room

watching the show, me siting with Anais, & Andres in front w/ the red headband 

Aldea Yanapay accepts if you should feel inspired to help this beautiful program, go here Aldea Yanapay 
besos y abrasos, pilar

Saturday, December 3, 2011

salkantay part 4

Salkantay part 4

This day we should maybe call the “hangover day”...well for some of us....basically the guys. If they weren't still drunk, they definitely weren't feeling up to another 6hours of walking in the heat. Still in our tent, Victor let us all sleep in a bit... I think he needed it too. Michael was afraid to get up, not knowing what might happen if he moved, luckily he made it. This was our last night in a tent and our last day of trekking. We said goodbye to our camp chefs Maria & Edgar here...these guys really were outstanding, cooking in the rain, passing us on the trails like it was nothing....and my birthday cake was awfully thoughtful. The day was hot and our trail was a road, a bit dusty. We were to trek to the hydro-plant and then along some railroad tracks to the town of Machu Picchu! The end was getting nearer with every step, and we could feel it, even through the giddy delirium we all had.
Machu Picchu they say is at the eyebrow of the amazon basin and the flora change was incredible, lush Andean mountains like towers above the Urabamba river, an incredible ecosystem. Tons of orchids and ferns line the tracks we followed, along with coffee and banana crops. It felt like a leisurely pace, oh maybe because we were allowed to send bags on in a van, so all we carried was light rain gear and water, and it was completely flat. A few hours later we were approaching the town...with the promise of a hot shower in the hostel our tour provided, there was a little burst of energy....little. Although, none of us had clean clothes left, we piled into our hostel, and relished the luxury of a well earned shower, real pillow and mattress! A few of us went out in search of the market where we gathered lunch fixins for the next day at the Machu Picchu ruins. Our last dinner together was at a restaurant overlooking the river, Victor went over the plans for our last day...another early morning, we were to meet up and ready in front of the hostel at 4:15am to hike up to the ruins. So after long, hot and dusty day along the PeruRail tracks and a good meal and a hot shower we all went to bed...early.

salkantay part 4, a set on Flickr.