A visit with a new friend
Sunday was rather relaxed compared to Saturday when I was running around the city all day. Carrie, who I have mentioned before, a new friend from Colorado who is also down here volunteering (and we are working together at the same project), also likes to do yoga and found a yoga studio. So she and I and another volunteer, Genevieve, from Australia, went to yoga class. The instructor is actually from England so the class was in English and there were about eight of us present. It was very relaxing and a wonderful, badly needed stretching exercise. Afterwards we wondered back to the house where I had about 10 minutes to grab lunch because Carrie had invited me along to go visit a family in Cusco that she has connections with through a non-profit agency in Denver where she lives. She first met the family earlier in the week and when they invited her to come visit on Sunday she asked if she could bring a friend (me), so off I went with her after a hasty lunch. She is staying with this family for her last two weeks in Cusco, helping with the project that the non-profit, Peruvian Hearts, is working on.
Some of her friends in Denver founded the Peruvian Hearts organization to raise money to care for orphans in Cusco and provide them with a means to get an education and learn English, an important skill in a town that counts tourism as its top economic driver. She is a teacher in Denver and has worked with teaching English as a second language there so she has some experience.
We took the bus, a first for me, although Carrie had done that the previous time so she knew the system. The city buses are much like the mini-van transports in Moscow -small and cheap and usually packed. In Moscow you pay when you get on, here you pay at different times along the route. There is a driver and usually another person on the bus who is in charge of announcing stops and collecting fares. I am not sure I understand how it works but we made it to our destination.
The house we were going to was across town halfway up the hills opposite where we are staying. (Carrie is currently staying in the house right next to where I am living.) The distance seemed far mainly because we could not travel in a straight line but had to wind up and around the hillside. We were welcomed warmly and introductions were made. Daniel, the patriarch of the family, is a tour guide, amongst other things, and speaks English. One of his sons also speaks English very well. Carrie and I were trying to practice our Spanish so the conversation shifted between the two languages. They were gracious enough to include us in their mid-day meal and not wanting to appear rude I found myself eating a second lunch. It was very good and included a beet salad, rice with some wonderfully flavored beans and a piece of beef. They also had a homemade picante sauce that was very hot and very good. I was soon stuffed! We spent some more time talking and Carrie spent some time tutoring English to one of the young men present, who is currently taking classes in English at Maximo Nivel. I attempted to tutor math to one of the young women but in the end I could not help because the system she was learning to factor polynominals was very different than the system I grew up with. I could show her my method, but that was not helping. I felt very bad I could not help her further.
Their house was set on the hill and had a spectacular view of Cusco. The area reminds me a bit of California with houses and structures perched precariously on the hillsides, easy victims for the next earthquake or landslide to claim. Unfortunately, however, in Cusco there is nowhere to build but up. The house was multi-story and the top floor, which was a combination living room and formal dining room, had a patio with the beautiful view I already have referred to. Interestingly enough, to get from one floor of the house to another you had to go outside. What we might consider hallways were all outside and not under the same roof as the rooms. One level had bedrooms and one level had the kitchen and the family’s dining room (which is where we ate). It is an interesting construction and very different from what I am used to.
I am not sure if it is a common construction here in Cusco but the house where Carrie is currently staying, next to where I am living, has a similar layout, even though it is a one story. You enter the front door and come into a kind of courtyard in which is located a patio with tables and chairs similar to a living room. This area was once open air but the owner has had it glassed over and so it is enclosed now, even though the sky is easily visible through the glass ceiling. The rooms all lead off this courtyard and seem isolated compared to how houses are arranged in the US. Interestingly the house I am staying in has a more normal (for me) layout, with all the rooms contained under one roof. None of the homes in Cusco have heat or air conditioning, only the hotels. Carrie tells me her room gets quite cold at night. Our place gets cool but is still comfortable. I am not sure what it is like in the winter.
When it was time to leave we decided to walk home despite the threatening rain in order to explore some more of the city. Even though on the bus via the road it took quite some time to arrive at Daniel’s house it was possible to walk back along a more direct route. There were steps (the inevitable steps) leading down to a street below that connected with the Avenue del Sol, the main street on which Maximo is located. From Maximo the walk home is only about 15 minutes. About halfway home the sky opened up and we ducked into a craft market and spent the time looking at the variety of wares for sale. We weren’t in a buying mood but checked prices for future reference. After it stopped raining we headed home and called it a day.