These are my best friends from high school, Emily and Lauren:
Three weeks ago, they stumbled off of a terrible American Airlines flight and into the waiting arms of Rachel, for I was still in transit, somewhere between Portland and Dallas and Miami and Lima. I got home around 5 AM, climbed into my bed, and woke up four hours later to find the ladies standing in my courtyard, trying to decide whether it was a good idea or a bad idea to go exploring on their own.
And explore we did. In 10 days, we wandered around Pueblo Libre, Barranco, and El Centro; we saw Yuyachkani's new show and attended a video performance/party at elgalpon; we traveled to Nasca, Cuzco, and Machu Picchu by bus, train, plane, and several combis; and we ate cuy, camote chips, and cebiche (plus the occasional Esnickers). We also missed out on a lot of REM cycles. Lauren and I stayed up all night and spent a few hours waiting at a gas station, drinking chocolate milk, to catch our 4 AM bus to Nasca:
Then two days later we stumbled out of bed around 3:30 AM to hop a plane to Cuzco, where we stayed at the incredible Hospedaje Caith, part of Centro Yanapanakusun, a non-profit that works to support domestic workers' rights. Here's a non-profit that's doing something right: all proceeds from the hostal support their programs, which include a home for young women doing domestic work in Cuzco; a radical radio program run by the young women; outreach in and around Cuzco; workshops with domestic workers and employers; and other really cool organizing. If any of you, dear readers, find yourself planning a trip to Machu Picchu in the next few years, I highly recommend staying there.
Anyway, we spent two days exploring Cuzco, then we slept in until about 6 before taking the bus/train to Aguas Calientes, the somewhat sad tourist city at the base of Machu Picchu. It was overwhelming: Europeans and North Americans everywhere, Yale "study abroad" counselors trying to befriend us (trying to steal our artifacts, more like it), restaurant hosts and hostesses fighting for our patronage. Yeesh. But it turns out that Machu Picchu was worth it. I suppose this is why it's a wonder of the world:
The next day Rach and I got up at 3 AM to climb Machu Picchu in darkness and to get entrance stamps so we could go up Wayna Picchu. Clemente, a security guard at Machu Picchu who does this hike every morning (the bus costs $7 each way, which is a lot of money for a twenty-minute ride), offered to walk us up. It's a good thing he did: we were hiking by moonlight up hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of steps, and I'm not sure I could have done it if I hadn't been worried about making him late for work. He also regaled us with stories of weeping tourists who had lost their entrance passes, a story that we saw reenacted around 5:15 AM by a rather unfortunate British girl. Finally, a bit after 7 AM, we watched the sun rise over Machu Picchu. This was spectacular, even though we were sitting right in front of an Italian tour group whose guide was going on and on about the heroics of Hiram Bingham.
Also on this day, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was passed in the NY State Senate!!!
Finally, all those nights of sleeplessness plus a bad sunburn and a pussing toe took their toll: Emily and Lauren ended up sick in bed for our last day in Cuzco. Whoops. Sorry, guys!
Pobrecitas. Plus, they missed out on Corpus Cristi in Cuzco, in which they parade 15 saints around the central square, each saint accompanied by his or her own brass band and dancers:
On Corpus Cristi, it's also traditional to eat Chiri Uchu, or a cold plate of chicken, cuy, cornbread, seaweed, fish eggs, and corn. Yummm. Emily didn't seem to regret missing out on this one, though, and we brought Lauren a plate to eat in bed.
Then it was back to Lima via a long-delayed one-hour flight, made tolerable only by Lauren's sister's pub quizzes, and then the ladies flew back to the States. Now I'm in week two of Normal Life after a whole month of travelling. This is an interesting adjustment, but luckily the World Cup is around to keep me from being too productive. My roommates are divided: one for Argentina, one for Germany, a few indifferent. Personally, I'm going for the vuvuzelas.
So that was the trip. Lauren and Em, thanks for coming! Love you, ladies!