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January 16th 2010
Published: January 17th 2010
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Young Girl with Lamb and PuppyYoung Girl with Lamb and PuppyYoung Girl with Lamb and Puppy

Sheltering from the rain outside San Cristobel Church
Nine days in Cusco and one week of Spanish lessons under our belts...7 more weeks of lessons to go... we can already occasionally make ourselves understandable to some Cusquenans(ie.Cusco residents, and coincidently the name of the popular local beer😊) with what has been unearthed within!

After 3 days of acclimatizing to the altitude of Cusco, by last Monday we were both feeling well and ready to take on the learning process before us. Sunday saw a new flood of students arrive (probably 30), many with just hours to spare before classes began; starting classes with altitude sickness could not have been a pleasant experience! It was nice for us to see a few older faces, but alas, it appears that we continue to hold down the top spot for age.

After the welcoming address from a young German lady with an authentic and charming New Zealand accent, we were hustled into small classrooms for the initial written screening test, en espanol no less- they stressed that it was merely an assessment, NOT a test, in order to slot us into appropriate groups for teaching at a similar level. It kinda FELT like a test with all the eager young
Cusco's Safeway/LoblawCusco's Safeway/LoblawCusco's Safeway/Loblaw

A city of 300,000 and this is the largest supermarket in town...4 or 5 relatively short aisles
faces around and nothing but a piece of paper and a pen in front of us, but we continued on, hale and hearty. After completing the 25 multiple-choice questions (don’t guess at answers they said, so Maureen didn’t ..3/25), one by one we were taken to a different room where a short oral quiz (say what?) was given by one of the 6 or 7 very friendly teachers. It felt a bit like army enrollment and we weren’t sure if we might not have our heads shaved and uniforms issued!

Then we waited...and waited...until 30 minutes later the lady brought out the list of class assignments. During the wait there was a lot of linguistic posturing... “I don’t know a word of Spanish”, somewhat like the Ironman “I only trained a week” chit chat ... uh huh. Despite our both asking for the same class assignment, Maureen heard her name called for the first group (beginningest beginners) and she was whisked away with 5 other students to a classroom with a charming (40 something’ish) instructor named Rudolfo. Two groups later, Larry and his 5 new buddies trundled down the 3 flights of stone stairs to street level and
Hey Bring those Donuts BackHey Bring those Donuts BackHey Bring those Donuts Back

No Tim Hortons to get the morning caffeine and sugar fix, so why not follow this lady...
outside to a classroom 10 or 15 metres down the road with the very handsome Ronald (ron ALD). The saga begins...

Without going into endless detail, the days for us are split into 2- 1.75 hour classes. First class begins at 8:30 am with one instructor, and then, following a half hour rest break, another 1.75 hr class begins with a different teacher. The rest break allows all the 20-somethings to check their packed travel agendas and to plan their next breakneck adventure, be they of the tourist type or the social variety. By 12:30 pm, the instruction ends for us, but on each day so far, we’ve been sent off with a fair bit of homework...or what has become the most vile word in Spanish, “tarea”.

Our heads swim with all of the new words and grammar, but the classes are made to be mostly fun (Larry has one instructor Giovanna, that lacks just a wee bit of humour...or perhaps more accurately, just doesn’t get Larry’s weird attempts at Peruvian humour!). And in spite of the age differences, our classmates seem to accept us older guys and we enjoy them a whole lot too! Maureen has 1
Larry Caught Her and Now The RewardLarry Caught Her and Now The RewardLarry Caught Her and Now The Reward

OH the joys of a warm donut in downtown Cusco
American, 2 Dutch, 1 Filipino, and 1 Malaysian for classmates (2 male, 3 female); Larry has 1 American, 2 German, 1 Australian, and 1 Swiss for classmates (2 male, 3 female).

Last week, we mentioned the local Cusquenan dish of Guinea Pig. It is available in different forms in many many of the Cusco restaurants and we’ve seen it displayed on the tables (with the pigs’ heads, and many other unmentionable animal parts😞) at the grande San Pedro market. Well, how can one visit any country and not sample from the local specialties? And so, as a small entry into this culinary avenue untravelled, Larry ordered a small Guinea Pig pizza😊 at a restaurant one night this week...Maureen somehow resisted the temptation (okay, one tiny mouthful, and maybe there was some guinea pig in it - done!) ! How was it you ask? A bit chewy, but not a huge flavour contribution to the pizza with its pungent Peruvian cheese masking most other flavours. Next time out, Larry bravely says it will be unadulterated guinea pig (sorry Erin, Betty, Lyndi!). Oh, incidentally, Cusco restaurants primarily cook with wood burning ovens- this means that the restaurants portray an eerie resemblance
Steps in Main SquareSteps in Main SquareSteps in Main Square

Plaza de Armas in centre of Cusco
to bars in 1960’s or ‘70’s Canada with a smoky haze hanging over the tables. On the positive side, the wood smoke at least makes you feel as if you’re sitting around a campfire with a nice pine or maple wood smoke scent!

The side streets of the ancient city are paved, no longer with gold (darn those Spaniards) , but with a wide array of stones, tiles, bricks and rocks arranged in many different patterns to form stairs. Now, Cusco literally means “navel of the earth” (or for Erin “bellybutton of the world”), but we know it really means “stairs and more stairs”. Perhaps it was an Incan war strategy to confound incoming troops, mess with their artillery, funnel them into long shooting galleries, and trip them up so to speak. There are blocks and blocks of continuous stairs, always up it seems. Our pedometers are ill-equipped to measure the real value of our 10,000 plus steps every day. Sometimes the stairs are wide enough to climb leisurely, but most often they are narrow strips on either side of the narrow stone street where taxis bomb along tooting well in advance to clear the pedestrian traffic and we cling to the adobe walls. There is very little mud in the streets, even in the rainy season, because the streets are covered wall to wall with stone etc and the rain is guided down and away ... to where we don’t care to know. True irony is watching the municipal water truck hose down the main square between bursts of rain.

The sounds of the street are many, especially in the wee hours. The bars probably close around 0300h because on a no-rain night, there is much pedestrian traffic and tipsy chatter on our street about that time. The train likes to sound its horn the internationally required number of times even at 0400h and we swear it must pass under our window when really it is across the draw. There are 9 Catholic churches close around us and they must have at least 50 bells between them that start ringing at first light to remind the faithful to stop in. They generally ring at 10 or 20 to the hour, perhaps to say “hurry up”. We’re not saying they ring all day, mind you, but at 0500h they really catch your attention. Another sleep-stopper Tuesday, Thursday, and
Peruvian Pajaro (Bird)Peruvian Pajaro (Bird)Peruvian Pajaro (Bird)

Maureen hunts down new birds for her list including this Rufous Collared Sparrow
Saturdays is the clanging of the pre-garbage- pick-up fellow. A gentleman, in Cusco’s finest blue city worker outfit, walks the street ahead of the garbage truck by 15 minutes with a large silver cow bell and a baton to strike it, calling to the citizens “bring out your garbage”. People wait out on the street to hand the garbage man their refuse. One can’t simply leave garbage out overnight because Cusco has packs of homeless, harmless, wandering dogs. Maureen got a giggle out of watching a gaggle of 7 or 8 mixed breed dogs, all tawny beige in colour, come to a complete sitting stop amongst the pedestrians at a busy downtown street corner, and then proceeding to cross with the people when the light changed, separating back into their pack and continuing on up the sidewalk on their own.

The little people (ie kids) on the streets of Cusco are noteworthy. They are able to entertain themselves on the backs of their Moms swaddled in a Peruvian shawl, standing quietly beside Mom for hours at a street “shop”, or playing with one blonde Barbie to three little Peruvian girls at the market. We saw two 3 or 4
Young Boy Waits in the Sunday MarketYoung Boy Waits in the Sunday MarketYoung Boy Waits in the Sunday Market

Wait! There is NO Sunday market in this very Catholic city
year old boys, tidy in shirts and trousers, kicking an empty water bottle out into the street and doubling over laughing as cars crunched over the bottle ...until some cranky man put the run on them. Three preteen fellows were throwing homemade paper airplanes across a street trying to knock over one plastic dinosaur. Two older siblings in the town square were tossing a leather ball carefully for their two year old brother to chase and pick-up, winging it back at them. Two little fellows were playing what looked like street soccer outside a shop with a small plastic ball ... as we got closer we saw that there was a third player ... they passed it to their cat and she pushed it back into play. There is a school across the valley where we can see a handful of children playing scrub soccer, or yesterday, dodgeball. We're sure children in Cusco play computer games and watch TV... we’ve seen some very North American-like teenagers ... but it is refreshing to see the enjoyment simple games can bring.

Excuse us while we misquote William who was quoting Ghandi, we believe “Live simply, so others may simply live”. Until next time we are simply trying to live simply, en Espagnol......

(see more pictures below and on 2nd page)

Additional photos below
Photos: 28, Displayed: 28


The Unknown BirdThe Unknown Bird
The Unknown Bird

A visitor to the garden across the road, yet to be identified in our Peruvian bird book.
Maureen Climbs the Road Above Our Residence Maureen Climbs the Road Above Our Residence
Maureen Climbs the Road Above Our Residence

Towards a Local Inca ruins site, Sasqawaman.
Bread DeliveryBread Delivery
Bread Delivery

Lady at Right delivers morning bread to our lovely residence helper Juanita
Coffee Break between ClassesCoffee Break between Classes
Coffee Break between Classes

Larry with Swiss Marc (left) and American Travis, sizing up the roof repairs.
Lunch Time!Lunch Time!
Lunch Time!

A few of our classmates enjoy an indoor lunch
Simple but DelectableSimple but Delectable
Simple but Delectable

Banana and chocolate sauce done with pizazz .
Michael from DownUnderMichael from DownUnder
Michael from DownUnder

Hamming it up in the market on a field trip.

17th January 2010

Yes, Stairs. I get the idea. And at that altitude. Wow!! Love hearing your adventures.
17th January 2010

Well done
Quite enjoyed reading it all, keep up the good work. Love, Myrna
17th January 2010

very stay in Peru
Very interesting and well written, Larry. My son, Brooks just arrived in Buenos Aires last week and will be taking 3 hour Spanish lessons at the university, 5 days a week for the month of March. He is very excited to do that although he has had previous classes at UVic and in Panama a few years ago. Continue to enjoy your travels and adventures! Hi from Penticton. Lyndi was the one that encouraged me to read your blogs! Sue
18th January 2010

You were very brave to try guinea pig. Let us know if there is a recipe for it that really appeals to you. I have heard that it is very high in vitamin D.... Robin
18th January 2010

Hey Sue
So nice to hear from you...Brooks is most adventurous...good for him. Does he anticipate using Spanish in future career choice? You should try to visit him, yes?? Thanks for your positive feedback...we're having fun in Cusco (when we can breathe!!)
18th January 2010

Sounds like you are having a great time!! Beautiful pictures! Miss you!
18th January 2010

Very Interesting
I could not eat guinea pig. I really enjoyed reading your blog. I talked to Anne who was also worried about you....had you found the staircase to you are safe. Thanks for all the interesting stories complete with great pics. I love the children play stories. Cherie
19th January 2010

We are planning a trip to Peru in the next few months. What is the weather like since I have read that now is the rainy season. Your description of your stay has been interesting.
20th January 2010

Thanks for writing Errol. It is definitely rainy season right least one very strong downpour each day (sometimes 2...or 3!). However, the locals swear that the rains will dwindle as the months pass and by April they should almost subside. In the meantime, the sun comes out every day for a while or more and is quite warm when it does. For the moment, raincoats or umbrellas are definitely warranted. This goes for Cusco only, can't speak for other locations...
24th January 2010

Hay guys! So great to read on your adventures. I'd forgotten about the stairs. How was 'sexywoman'? Never did get to see it. Yes I am still remiss in getting the crepe restaurant info to you. But if you are facing the cathedral in Plaza de Armas with the fountain behind you, go left down the road about 500m and it should be around there somewhere...

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