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Published: February 28th 2009
She is looking at tourist attraction. He is looking for next generous passerby
I am not sure if I will publish this blog as it will have several complaints and moans. I can leave it as a private journal entry or hit ´publish´and share the travel tips. Yesterday was a complete struggle to get flight out of Peru to Argentina. It turns out that if you are a traveler in Peru you cannot purchase a cheap flight with Air Argentina online, nor can you use the telephone to give credit card numbers. You have to go to a travel agent and pay the extra fees. This is infuriating when you spend hours online, walking to travel agents, walking to official Peru Tourism office, phoning long distance, etc. Especially when you have booked your ticket and seat online and receive an email to confirm booking BUT you have 24 hours to pay before it is canceled. Imagine discovering that it is physically impossible to pay for this cheap ticket in Peru unless you are in Lima. Oh, well, I think the travel agent took some pity on me and only charged me the fee once. Earlier in the afternoon another person in the same office tried to double the fee.
Today is a better
It gets dark around six thirty and the city comes alive with people lingering in plazas or walking to and from cafes
day. I found a Star Peru airline office (walk down Ave de Sol past the travel agents, about halfway down) and booked cheap flight out of Cusco to Lima a couple of days before I fly to Argentina. I have learned that one should build in a few buffer days before a long-distance leap, just in case anything challenging happens.
The romance of Cusco is fading. Cold rains come throughout the day and night, and you begin to see more challenges than wonders. Steet vendors are irritating, your patch of the city seems constraining. It feels the same as when you break up with a boyfriend and can´t wait to move your things out of the apartment. Being in a foreign country, you have to learn to negotiate between the moving companies and hope that you don´t get ripped off too badly. And you have to figure out where you are moving to next.
Once I got my airline tickets out of here, to Lima, then Buenos Aires, I decided to do one last tourist journey. I booked a ticket on the ultimate tourist bus tomorrow and will be taken to five sites (three have extra charge) and
This morning I set out to take positive photos of Cusco
provided lunch at the restaurant of their choice. Eventually I will arrive at Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca. As I type, I am in the midst of trying not be be overcharged once again. The hotel that I booked into advertised rooms at $27, but my confirmation email said the bill would be $40. I am at the point where I will land in Puno town and look for clean but cheaper hotel unless I get an email tonight to say, óoops, our mistake´.
I think that is the romance-killer, the small percentage of tourist trade people who will take all the money they can get. The majority of people that I have met in Peru are warm and kind. Here is an example of the alternate interactions: When I was in a market purchasing some small items I had a $20 u.s. bill. The shop lady took it, and tried to give me about 1/4 of the value of the change. When I reacted in a shocked manner, she seemed surprised that she mistakely thought the 20 was a $5 bill, and admitted that she didn´t have the change in soles. We ended the transaction and
There is that last week in August buzz in this city, as families get ready for school
I took back the twenty. About fifteen minutes later I was at the post office with that same bill. Once again it was too big for the girl to give back change. A boy about ten years old offered to take the u.s. bill across the street and change it into soles. I trusted him implicitly. He took off down the street and quickly came back with the correct amount of soles. I believe that the boy represents the majority of people in Peru.
Another ´romance killer´is the amount of sick tourists in the hotel. A family from Canada and a couple volunteering in an orphanage in the rural area, all were struck by high fever and nausea. I offered some Imodine, but they had some. They went to the chemist for antibiotics. I inquired if it was something they ate? They didn´t think so. Several people missed their tours of MachuPicchu or Ollantaytambo because they needed to recover in their hotel rooms. Some complained about poor travel agencies that organized their stay here.
I´ve been drinking lots of fresh fruit juices and chosing meals with many vegetables to keep up my stamina. I have had a few
Teachers Test Results
Every year they take exam, those with highest marks will teach in Cusco that year, those with lowest will be sent to teach in rural schools. Bad system, I think
dodgy meals (don´t try the pasta dishes in Cusco) but overall things have been fine. *knock on wood*
This morning the sun was shining and I ventured downtown with the determination to take interesting photos (positive ones). Most people on the street seemed happy with the rays of sunshine, and the police squad were quite silly. That holiday mood came back.
A young fellow with art prints for sale on the streets came up to me when I was photographing people near the Department of Education. His English was quite good and we chatted for awhile. He recognized me from the main Plaza area (another sign I have been here too long) and said he´d give me a good deal on the prints. I thanked him but said ´no´, yet he was happy to answer my questions about the crowd of teachers. Turns out that the Peru government makes teachers take a yearly exam and the marks are given out today. If a teacher scores high on the exam she/he will teach in a school in Cusco city. If a teacher scores low, then he/she will be sent to teach in a rural school. In my opinion this
Caesar was selling prints of artwork. He stopped to tell me why teachers gathered at Dept of Education building.
is a disfunctional system: a) some of the best teachers do not score well on external exams, and b) rural students should have the most inspiring teachers because they live in areas with less opportunities for academic skills.
Today I treated myself to a great coffee on a popular people-watching balcony. While I sat there, a series of street vendors approached me selling everything from cigarettes to toys to metal objects. Typically the cafe staff police the tables to restrict the hasstles. Today was a quiet morning, and I didn´t mind the offers of sales as long as my ´no´was respected. I photographed two of the children with their permission. I wonder what kind of jobs they will have when they grow up, and will they stay in school throughout the terms? I hope so.
I have been noticing more beggars on the streets, especially in the evenings. When I saw physically challenged beggars I thought of the movie ´Slumdog Millionaire´. No, the scale between poverty and richness here is not as grotesque as that video about India, but you can see evidence of organized begging. The young men selling art dress in a similar fashion and carry
The condor is a symbol of Cusco...something about Spanish leaving behind so many bodies when they won a battle. This is near the Scotia bank
the identical portfolio case. The children who approach tourists with items for sale are supervised by nearby adults. When I see blind people on the streets playing harmonicas or singing, I look around for the caregiver.
The longer I travel, the more I am reminded that ´people are people´and the dramas of life around the world are similar. Peru is evolving economically, while it is plugged into the global community in terms of television shows, commercials, Internet and cellphone culture. Juxtaposed to all of this is a thriving peasant culture.
As someone who has parachuted in to see the history and enjoy the culture, I wonder how Peru will grow in this everchanging plugged-in planet. Judging by the heart of most of its people, quite well.
Oh, a final tip for traveling in this country: the best purchase I made is a woolen poncho. The nights can get quite cold here, the hotel rooms do not have heating. I have used the poncho as a warm blanket on the bed. Its natural fibres radiate heat back better than synthetic covers. And on evenings when you are out star-gazing the poncho can cover your legs while you sit.
Many people come to Cusco for a few weeks to learn Spanish. There are programs where you can stay with local family
One of the best items that I packed was a handful of ziplock bags. I have one for my passport so I can ignore the rain on my clothes during the day. I have one for that opened small bag of laundry soap. I use another for the extra rolls at mealtimes, which either become a snack for me or a meal for a thin dog on the street. (typically the latter) Every item with a cord is in a plastic bag. Just call me the zip-lock lady of travel. ha ha
I got an email to say that I was booked into a hotel room in Puno for $27. Maybe the lesson is to be observant and vocal about monetary transactions here?
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