This week has been filled with as much adventure as it has frustration. Born from a culture that revolves around time and timeliness, it is frustrating to not only join, but to work in a culture where the same appreciation for time is not shared. Coordination meetings have been late to start, or, in some cases, expected attendees fail to show altogether. However, more and more, I am able to laugh my frustrations away. And, I suppose the bright side of recently failed and/or deferred meetings is that I found myself with a weekend free to explore the surroundings of Cuzco: Tipón, Piquillacta and Pisac.
Tipón, Piquillacta and Pisac
On Saturday, I hopped a combi to Tipón, a small town on the outskirts of Cuzco. The town is known to tourists for its ruins, but is known only to locals for “cuy” (guinea pig). Together with two of my housemates, I negotiated a taxi to drive us up the steep mountain to the base of the Tipón ruins. Not keen to pay the high entrance fee to the ruins (I take after my father), I spent the afternoon descending the mountain on foot, stopping every now and then for a photo and the opportunity to interact with passing locals. I waited 30 minutes at the base of the mountain to re-join my housemates, and then we set off for the ruins of Piquillacta, only 10 minutes by taxi. Late afternoon, we made our way back to Tipón, stopping off at a local restaurant (read: open grill on the side of the road) to indulge in a local delicacy: “cuy” (guinea pig). Though, I quite enjoyed guinea pig, I admit that the meat was far too rich for my liking.
I spent much of Sunday wondering about the Pisac markets and exchanging pleasantries with locals. The streets of Pisac were filled with festivities – traditional music and dance, colourful/extravagant costumes, and a sea of empty Inka Kola/Cusqueña beer bottles! I was really taken with the expression of culture in Pisac, and because words cannot do it justice, I am attaching a few photos below.
Kie and I arrived in Ollantaytambo yesterday afternoon and settled into our family’s home. The family is pleasant and the children, for the most part, are keen to interact with us. Nelson (3 years old), however, did not warm to us immediately. Nelson greeted us wielding a broomstick and made several attempts to counteract (verbally and physically) the flame we had burning for hot water. After a few swings with the broom, I turned to Nelson and said with a firm voice, “es malo!” (in English, “that is bad!”) and he took off crying in the corner. I am semi-confident that he learned his lesson, because he had only hugs and niceties to offer in the evening.
My first impressions of Ollantaytambo are encouraging. Although Ollantaytambo is much smaller than Cuzco, I much prefer the tranquility of Ollantaytambo. The streets of Ollantaytambo are narrow and constructed of cobblestone as they are in Cuzco, however, the streets of Ollantaytambo are guarded by large stone walls (similar to a fortress!) reminiscent of Inca civilization.
As my work begins here in Peru, I find myself excited, yet at the same time anxious. My Spanish is manageable, but by no means perfect…
Leaving Peru, my goal is that I am able to contribute to something both tangible and sustainable and leave with good faith that I have in some way made an impact, however small.