For me, travel has always been the true test of adaptability. Travel brings many challenges – both mental and physical – testing your ability to absorb the unanticipated and to rebound from the negative. This week has brought for me a test of resilience and endurance.
On Wednesday evening (August 6), I found myself at Casa Mosqoy conducting interviews with the Peru Leaders. Half-way through the first interview, my head began to feel heavy. Minutes passed, and the heaviness turned to dizziness. My eyesight began to blur and I could feel the room spinning. I backed slowly against the wall, knowing that I would fall faint to the floor without support. I crouched on the floor, trying to regain control, wobbling the camera as I attempted to continue filming.
As we walked back from Casa Mosqoy, I could feel my stomach turning. I sat down at the table, and ate dinner – a decision I would later regret. The upset in my stomach was worsening. “I feel horrible – I don’t know why, but I feel horrible,” I muttered to Kie, looking for some sort of explanation. Of course, I knew, she could not elucidate the situation and knew, from past experience, finding the cause of upset would be near impossible. I turned in for the night, hoping that I would wake the next day feeling better, particularly since I was set to leave for a five-day hiking trip into the remote weaving communities of Parobamba, Bombón, and Pitukiska.
I woke the next morning at 9:00am, exhausted from a long night of coughing. “How do you feel?” Kie asked. “Not good,” I groaned, “not good at all.” “I can’t make the trip out to Parobamba, Bombón and Pitukiska,” I muttered as my head dropped back to my pillow. I woke again at 5:00pm and wandered downstairs. I was greeted by Tula (my Peruvian mother). “You don’t look very good…I want you to go to the clinic,” she said in a concerning voice. I shook my head to communicate that I would not be going to the clinic. “You were up all night coughing,” she said, putting her hand to my forehead, “you really need to go to the clinic.” Tears came streaming down my face. “I will be fine,” I choked, not really even believing my own words. And, for the first time in two months, I found myself homesick. “Weak in body, weak in mind,” I reminded myself and crawled back into bed.
I awoke the next morning feeling as horrible as the day before. I sunk my head back into my pillow and declared another bed day. It was not until Saturday that I felt well enough to leave the house. I laced my running shoes and convinced myself to leave the house, even if just for a few minutes. Not knowing where else to go, I walked to the nearest internet café. Almost immediately, I felt faint and short of breath under the penetrating rays of sunshine.
Sunday I awoke with strength and determination to leave my bed. I set off for Urcos, a small town an hour outside of Cuzco. I didn’t know much of anything about Urcos, only that I had seen the town featured on a postcard in Cuzco once. Though, I was not bothered, as my only objective for the day was to leave the house. I took a seat beside an older gentleman on the combi. “Where are you from?” he asked politely. “Canada,” I said, smiling. We struck up a conversation that lasted until we reached the perimeter of Urcos. “Welcome to Urcos” he said to me as we passed by a big blue lagoon. “It’s lovely here,” I said, wondering how I would spend my day.
Captivated by the deep shades of blue in the lagoon, I decided that the lagoon would be my first stop. I spent a good couple of hours walking the perimeter of the lake, stopping to take in the sights of wild pigs, sheep and children playing by the lagoon-front. I was greeted by many locals from Urcos, who were also spending a leisurely Sunday by the lagoon.
I followed the road back into the town centre, where I would join hundreds of locals shopping for a bargain in the traditional Sunday markets. I was taken by the sheer breadth of the markets – dozens of vendors set-up shop, selling everything from fruits and vegetables to undergarments and chickens. I spent the afternoon examining the offerings of each vendor, before settling on purchasing 4 mandarin oranges and a small package of laundry detergent for 1 sol. The vendor looked at my once-white runners and my pants which have been covered in thick film of dust since June, and handed me another package. I laughed, assuring the vendor that one would be enough.
I hopped on a combi in the direction of Cuzco, stopping briefly in two small towns on the outskirts of Urcos – Huaro and Andahuaylillas. I also passed through Oropesa, a town that is known to locals for its giant rounds of bread.
On Monday morning, Kie and I left the house in search of a birthday cake for Elvira (one of the Peru Leaders) who had celebrated her 22nd birthday on Sunday. We walked from shop to shop, struggling to decide on a flavour, size or price. After some time, we stumbled across a small bakery and found a cake that was to both of our liking. We returned to the house and in the afternoon, Kie and I met Ebhert (another Peru Leader) and set off for central Cuzco to purchase some well-needed items for Casa Mosqoy. After much deliberation, we settled on buying a stainless steel kettle, a large 2-litre thermos and a whiteboard for the house. I was content with our purchases, feeling confident that the students of Casa Mosqoy would put these items to good use. In the evening, Kie and I attended an English class taught by a new Mosqoy volunteer (Lisa), who became interested in the organization when she was on tour with the travel company that one of the Peru Leaders works for. She taught basic vocabulary and phrases to the students, but made a few crucial spelling errors which made the students burst out into laughter. I joked to Lisa that I would be holding an English class the next evening if she were interested in attending.
As 7:00pm rolled around, we gathered in the common area of Casa Mosqoy and I signalled for Ebhert to retrieve Elvira so that we could get her surprise birthday party underway. We waited in the dark for what seemed like ten minutes, before Elvira and Ebhert walked through the door. “Surprise!” we yelled, breaking out into song. For the remainder of the evening, we talked, listed to music and danced. Just before 8:30pm, we called it a night and headed back to our homestay, a mere 15 minute walk from Casa Mosqoy.
As quickly as I began to feel better, I became ill again. On Tuesday night (August 10), I developed symptoms classic of an ingested bacteria and/or parasite. Feeling much worse than I had the week prior, I have been confined to my bed for the entirety of the week. “Beat, but not beaten...” I grumbled to myself, wondering what else was in store for my vulnerable immune system.
It is my hope that I mend fast and am able to enjoy the remainder of what little time I have left in Peru. I am eager to rejoin the weaving communities and complete all outstanding activities, particularly since this week (August 9) marks the United Nations' International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, a day that highlights the need for preservation and revitalization of indigenous cultures, including indigenous arts, crafts and intellectual property.
Note: Because I have little to document in the way of photos this week, I am attaching several photos from a Cuzco festival attended back in July, as well as photos from Urcos.