Thursday, July 28, 2011


It's Independence day, here in Peru.
But, surprisingly, it has been much more mild than either Ryan or myself had expected.

After sleeping in for the first time in days, Ryan and I woke to go meet some friends for brunch. However, just before we were about to leave Victor said that if we wanted to go to Machu Picchu then one of us needed to go with him to the train station to figure all of the details out. So, Ryan went with Victor and I went off to meet up with our friends.

However, when I arrived at our agreed upon meeting place I was surprised to find the building all locked up. So, having no way to contact anyone, I decided I would just go out for a leisurely stroll through the shops to try and find some gifts for my wonderful family. I had a few successes :)

I then returned back to Victor's to find that Ryan was out searching for me (or, more specifically, my passport number) so we could book our visit to Machu Picchu. So, I waited for Ryan to return and then we attempted to book our reservation with little success. Unfortunately, since Machu Picchu has a restriction on the number of visitors it allows each day (2,500) and since it is Peruvian Independence week it is nearly impossible to get tickets.

Until yesterday we were able to get train tickets up to Machu Picchu for $142 however this did not include the entrance fee which we were told was impossible to book online. However, after Ryan's meeting today we found that we could book tickets online. So, finally, after much ado, we booked our tickets into Machu Picchu. Then, for the easy part--- or so we had thought-- booking the train.

For, it would seem that, since yesterday, all affordable train tickets have been sold leaving only the $390 train tickets on the luxury train.

Despairing at this steep price we searched for any other possible solution and came up with one: we could take the train there, and then on the return trip only take the train halfway back and then take a taxi back into the city. This plan would shave $150 off the price. So, we decided to go for it. Only to have our booking rejected 3 different times.

So, our current situation is that we have tickets into Machu Picchu but no way to get there. It we are able to get tickets we will be leaving Puno tomorrow night. If not...I'm not really sure. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


 It is not without a heavy heart that I report that our project has come to an end.
And, simultaneously, I am also rejoicing in the aftermath of a nearly perfect show.

But , like so many endeavors Ryan and I have undertaken on this expedition, 
this show was not without its special quirks.

For instance, this week we have met with the folks at the Municipalidad at least 6 times and every time we have been assured that we would be able to get into our performance venue an hour before our final performance. Today, we arrived at 3 o'clock exactly only to find the doorman had gone marching (in one of the holiday parades) and had to be tracked down. It wasn't until around 3:45 we got into the space ---for the children this was the very first time. Immediately Ryan and I began rushing about setting props, checking costumes, hanging up our background, moving furniture backstage etc.etc.etc. (Mind you our show was set to begin at 4).

During this time there was a man trailing both Ryan and me like a frightened puppy as we raced around the stage to get everything set up. He said he worked at the Municipalidad (though he gave us no description of his job). He told us his event had been canceled earlier today due to the fact that the doorman was also missing during his presentation slot. I legitimately felt bad for him...until he started asking for "favors". He wanted all of our pictures immediately following the show. He wanted our personal information. He wanted to give his presentation after our play. He wanted our announcer to inform the audience of his plight.  All of these things I would have happily agreed to if it hadn't already been nearly 10 minutes past the starting time of our show.

It was about this time that Ryan and I were approached by a group of technicians and told that the sound system was not working. This automatically became a MAJOR problem considering that our show is primarily music and movement based. So, I dropped what I was doing (leaving Ryan to handle the "favor"-guy) to go backstage and try and figure out what we were going to do about this dilemma. This show could not happen without music. When I got backstage I began to frantically search out an explanation for why sound system (which was working like a dream mere hours beforehand) was now suddenly a deathtrap. After a few minutes I realized that someone (?) had plugged my computer into the same outlet as the sound system. I also observed that my battery light wasn't glowing so-- kind of like rocket science-- I figured out that the outlet was simply shot. So, I plugged the sound system into another outlet. Crisis averted.

By 4:25 we were finally ready to start! And then... the fish needed to go to the bathroom. So,5 more minutes. 

By 4:30 all of the animals were in places, the music was ready, and the 'favor' guy had finally taken his seat. It was go time.

Victor, our host and one of the masterminds behind this project, gave a very nice introduction and then Ryan and I took our respective positions (mine backstage with handling the music, and his out in the back of the house manning the video camera). I was a little saddened by the fact that I wasn't getting to watch the show, but in the first 10 seconds it became incredibly evident how needed I was behind the curtains.

Between sound cues I was rushing from one side of the stage to the other to either silence young tongues or push some oblivious rainforest creature onstage. And, every time I returned to my post, I found that Jefferson had turned the music down. Because he liked the colors on the sound dial. *alksjfdlaksdjflasfd*

However, aside from a few slow entrances (mainly the turtle) the show went as well as we had hoped--if not better. I still haven't watched the footage, but I already know it was a great show. The kids had fun. learned alot, and were incredibly proud of themselves. Even if the performance itself was a flop (which it wasn't) we succeeded in what we came to do.

After the show the needy "favor" guy gave a speech. Ryan and I were both a little less than thrilled at this man stealing the chilren's thunder. But, not to worry. They were all given candy and after he stopped talking we gave them the fresh fruit (that had been props) and took lots of pictures.

I couldn't stand the thought of saying goodbye to them tonight. So Ryan and I have already arranged to go see them one last time on Saturday before we head back to Cusco. 

And th-th-tha-that's all, folks.


Last Rehearsal

So, at this very moment I am blogging while covered in spray paint...

This morning we had our final ( :(  ) rehearsal at the orphanage and it was incredibly bittersweet. Bitter because it was the last day working with the kids and I am utterly in love with each of them. Sweet because, while I am so utterly in love with them, rehearsal this morning was kind of like trying to herd wild buffalo--thus, after 3 hours, I was in much need of a little break (though, obviously, I'd prefer if the break were for a mere hour, not indefinitely).

We started the morning off with a round intense warm-ups. Since this was the last warm-up we were sure to do all of their favorites which include pass the clap, a modified version of basketball, and, the ultimate, banana-prune.

Then, we passed out costumes and ran through the show in dress and with music a couple of times. But, for whatever reason, they couldn't seem to focus which resulted in entrances and exits being especially horrific. So, we basically stripped the show and did a final run-through without costumes or music and I am happy to say that it went perfectly. Feeling much better after that run, we went outside with the boys (and some spray paint) to finish some last minute scenery things.

Most of the boys stood around and watched as Ryan and I worked on the back-drop.  However, we had to halt mid process when we noticed one of the boys banging one of the empty spray cans against a rock.After finishing the mountains Ryan then went off with a bunch of them to play yet another game of soccer. I stayed to finish painting some fins for our fish character and the crown for the emperor. And, while I had my back turned for an instant, a few of the boys had made off with some of the spray cans and had started graffiti-ing a wall. Of course, I don't know enough Spanish to chastise them. So I merely gave them a very disappointed look and took the cans away. The seemed genuinely sorry. Which is why, when they did it again 10 minutes later, I was both shocked, disappointed, and a little bit ready to walk away. For about 5 seconds.  But, honestly, you just can't be mad at kids this cute.

And now, 2 hours later, we're ready to jump back in.
Our final performance is in an hour and a half and I'm expecting great, big, awesome, wonderful things.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Saints Go Marching...

Today was supposed to be our most hectic and intense days yet. Our schedule was to be as follows:

-Meeting at Municipalidad at 8:45 (to give provide video footage for tomorrow)
-Class from 9-11-- with the older boys
-Meeting at 11 with our costume lady/ then book our trip to Machu Picchu
-Rehearsal from 2-4--with the younger boys
-Meeting at 5 at Municipalidad (to pick up video footage)
-Meeting at 5:30--- to go find spray and face paints
-Rehearsal with all of the students from 7-9
-Then meeting up with our new American friends (that we met at dinner last night) to go dancing.

So, having three rehearsal scheduled for the day, you can imagine how surprised we were to arrive at the orphanage this morning to find only a few students on the premises. We were then informed (by a very apologetic counselor) that our morning and afternoon rehearsals were both canceled due to the fact that the children will be marching in another one of the Independence Day parades, today. In Peru, around the time of their Independence day their are multiple parades at all times of the day all over the city that last anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour.

As Victor, our host, explained to us, children marching in these parades is a great source of pride for Peruvian citizens--it's so important, in fact, that it is even something the children have to study in school. If children do not march their teachers often mark them down. Because literacy rates are so low Victor holds a great concern for the children of his city and his country. His vision is to use theatre to improve literacy and change the face of Peru's youth. Thus, when we returned early today and informed him that our rehearsal had been cut short due to the children marching in the parade, he was very disappointed---it is evident that his sentiments on this subject differ vastly from that of most of his fellow countrymen.

I myself was fairly disappointed (even though these rehearsals would have made our day more full) because it was to be our last day of rehearsals and we were going to spend a great deal of time with the kids. The thought that tomorrow may be the last time I'll ever see them makes me incredibly sad. But, I am comforted by the fact that we will have at least one rehearsal with them tonight, one with them in the morning, and then we can spend as much of our free time (before our 4 o'clock performance) tomorrow as we'd like.

And, on a completely unrelated note, this morning before we headed off to the orphanage, I was bent down on the sidewalk outside putting my camera in my bag (while waiting for Ryan outside the office where he was helping Victor send out invitations) when a lovely old Peruvian woman walked by. I briefly glanced up to see her smiling fondly and catch her eye as she wished me good morning. And then, rather unexpectedly,she stopped, patted me lovingly on the head, and then went on about her merry way. It was incredibly nice. Though, I will admit I wasn't entirely sure how to react.

This may be all for today.
We're off to our costume meeting now and by the time 
we're back here again this evening our internet will most likely already be gone. 
So, wish us luck on the rest of today's endeavors!


Monday, July 25, 2011

may my heart always be open.

I knew it was going to be a good day when I got in the shower this morning and the water was hot.

On may way to the orphanage this morning I even gave a homeless dog my breakfast. (Not the particular one shown below, but one very similar. The one pictured is one I pass everyday right down the street. Want to snuggle. And take home.)

Our first class started at 9am (with the older boys). Much like yesterday, they were a little restless. But, after introducing some new exercises, much of their fidget-i-ness subsided. And, instead of spending our whole class just doing run-through after run-through we spent a vast majority of our time working with individuals, tweaking problem moments, and trying to remedy the chronic ailments of poor annunciation and fialed projection that most, if not all, the boys suffer from. It really is remarkable the kinds of improvements we made just by having the boys stand on opposite ends of the room and have conversations with each other.

Another thing I was so happy to see a change in, today, was the attitude of one of our lead actors--a boy named Ryan. On our first day at the orphanage, Ryan was introduced to us as the "leader" of the older boys. While he obviously enjoys theatre, if he thinks an exercise is "uncool" it automatically flops. However, after doing some one on one character work with him today (he plays the part of the Sun) his attitude seemed much improved, therefore improving the attitudes of the group at large.

At the end of our rehearsal we decided to give one of my personal favorite games --Musical Chairs. The kids loved it. Almost as much as they loved the American music I was playing. The only downside to this was that, at the end, they asked me if I had Hannah Montanna music.


They live mere miles from clay huts and are confined to a completely isolated institution nearly 24 hours a day and they're asking for Miley Cyrus? She's completely taking over the world. But, since they asked, I'm going to get one of her songs for them tonight. How do you say no to such a simple request?

After class we headed over to Municipalidad de Puno for a meeting with Antonio to get approval to use the building's auditorium for our final presentation on Wednesday. But, since we were a few minutes early,we decided to try out some Peruvian icecream. The chocolate was good. The condensed leche (which I had anticipated would resemble something like sweet cream) almost made me gag. And then, almost instantaneously, Ryan and I found ourselves caught up in the midst of one of the many parades that are taking place in these few days preceding Peruvian Indpendence day (the 28th).Not that I'm complaining. Being surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of cute kids dressed in costumes ranging from ancient Incan gods to European Nobility to some-other-costume-I-didn't-quite-comprehend is totally okay by me.

After our meeting, Ryan and I enjoyed a nice little break and then prepared to head back out for round two with the younger kids.

 But, shortly before 2 o'clock (the time of our next rehearsal) we were informed that one of us needed to return to the Municipalidad to take Antonio pictures and video footage of the work we have been doing with the kids for the past few days. This meant that one of us had to go into rehearsal (with eleven very energetic boys) all alone. So, we left the apartment at the same time, and then split up (him heading off to the orphanage, and me heading off to the Municipalidad), expecting we would see each other less than 15 minutes later.

While I wanted to be at the orphanage for rehearsal, this split was nice for the simple fact that it was the very first time I was out walking through the city entirely alone. I always find it to be a very fulfilling experiencing-- making one's way through a foreign place on one's own. Making turns, and crossing streets, and excusing oneself after bumping into strangers --things one doesn't think twice about at home-- gives one the feeling of great sufficiency--if not invincibility--when in an unknown place.

 However, when I got to the Municipalidad the man I was supposed to meet with was out to lunch (even though he set up the meeting...) So, I waited for him for nearly 30 minutes, and then informed the ever so helpful Antonio that I couldn't leave Ryan in the lurch any longer. I hurried off to the orphanage only to find the gate keeper nowhere in sight. So, I sat outside waiting for someone to let me in for nearly 15 more minutes.

When I finally was let it, I rushed upstairs. And then the most lovely thing happened. As I walked into the room all of the children jumped up excitedly and screamed "SARAAA!"

:) :) :)

Good feeling.

(One of our translators came up to me later and told me that the kids hadn't been listening very well to Ryan, and that she could tell they were waiting for me.)

Ryan then showed me the progress he had made with the kids after making the changes we had talked about. I was happy to find our already wonderful show much improved.

We then spent the next bit working on blocking our finale (because the unorganized chaos we had envisioned simply wasn't cutting it). So, we tried doing some semi-circles. We tried forming lines. We tried circling in character. Finally we settled on the animals circling the sun while dancing and making animal sounds.Since the kids were so patient and worked so hard, Ryan promised to play soccer with the boys after rehearsal. But, before that, I insisted that we play musical chairs. I was very pleased when no request for Miley spilled out of the mouths of the younger ones.

Anyway, afterward, most of the boys ran out to the soccer court to play with Ryan while my two personal favorites (don't tell!), Juan Gabriel and Jefferson (prounounced yay-fur-sewn), stayed by my side. Both of them are quite taken with technology and remain close by me/the video camera/ my canon as much as possible. I can't tell if they love me or my stuff...either way, I'll take it.

So, long story short(er than it would be if I kept going), I spent a wonderful evening just roaming the hills and the exploring the old chicken house with two of the smallest (and most perfect) Peruvians I know.

Like I said, it was a good day.


Sunday, July 24, 2011


Ok, so...I lied.
Specifically, the bit where I claimed I was going to eat an Alpaca. Or...part of one.
All I ask is that, before you judge, you take a moment to view the photos at the bottom of this post.

But, before you do that, here's a little update, first:

This morning we had our second rehearsal with the entire group which, I'm sorry to say, didn't go quite as smoothly as yesterday. However, I attribute this to the fact that a 9am rehearsal on a Sunday morning isn't really anyone's idea of a good time. That is not to say the rehearsal was not without merit. We did 3 full run-throughs (ok, yes, there was quite a bit of stop-and-start-ing) but we managed to get through them. Between each run-through we played a number of games and at one point even had the boys break into 3 groups and tie human knots and then rewarded them with some good, old-fashioned, Werther's Originals.

After rehearsal Ryan and I went on a tour of Sillustani ( a pre-Incan burial ground about 40 minutes outside the city of Puno. On the ride over I sat next to a girl from Rio --we both tried to speak to each other in Spanish before we both realized that the other spoke English. We agreed upon the fact that we liked this language a great deal more :) She was swell. We also met a guy from Sweden who could not stop telling us that he "LOOOVED" America. His favorite parts? Wal-Mart, Marshalls, and our hypocrisy. True story.

As for Sillustani, itself, twas beautiful. However, for anyone not native to these parts their heart starts racing after just a few minutes because of the altitude. But, it was easily overlooked. I was much too preoccupied by the little village children holding lambs, herds of Alpaca, baby pot-bellied pigs walking in the streets, cattle up to their necks in the lake, as well as ancient tombs and cliffs overlooking Lake Umayo to be concerned with such a minor thing as lack of oxygen.

On our way back to Puno we stopped at a homestead on the side of the road. Alpaca and llamas were grazing in front of the straw-roofed clay hut. The woman (complete in the traditional garb of long braids, colorful skirt, and alpaca fur sweater) graciously invited us into her home where we were able to eat some of her freshly made queso, warm up by her fire, and view her large collection of (soon to be slaughtered) guinea pigs.

Anyway, after some serious bonding with one of the baby Alpacas ("they're so fluffy I'm gonna diiiie!") I have now decided it would be out of the realm of possibility for me to consume one.

Okay, and now, what I'm sure you've all been waiting for:






Love is a place.

(Disclaimer: This is my blog from yesterday that I failed to complete before our internet cut off at 8:30…expect another one later today) 

Brilliant, exuberant, wonderful 11 year old Juan Gabriel.

Today, I looked into the face of this little boy, and wondered how someone, anyone, could not love him.
And yet, as puzzling as this is to me, the truth of the matter remains. After talking at great length with one of the orphanage counselors I learned that Juan Luis's mother died when he was very young and shortly thereafter his father, a successful Naturalist, took to beating him. Once considered a "problem child" he'd been sent to psychologists as far away as Lima.

18 out of the 19 boys in this particular orphanage share similar stories to that of Juan Gabriel. Someone they loved and trusted hurt them and, as a result, each of them came to find a home at Hogar de Menores.
While these boys were not shown affection before they arrived at Hogar de Menores, it is evident that since coming to this place they have been taught and shown what it means to love. 

Indeed, the teachers and principal hold their hands, and give them hugs, and seldom ever raise their voices. Nor do they confine them to their bedrooms or even the indoors. The boys are free to roam the premises as they please. Basically, the workers don't begrudge the children the affection their parents so obviously did. It is evident that they love and trust those who now look after them.

Only one out of the nineteen is eligible for adoption due to the fact that no one knows where he came from. Since the other 18 all technically have living blood relatives they will remain in public facilities until they turn 18. 

I suppose what breaks my heart about this is that once these boys reach a certain age (13, I believe) they are sent off to an institution (rumored to be similar to what we know as Juvy) outside the city limits. A place where, supposedly, all lessons in trust and love are forgotten.
It breaks my heart and infuriates me to think that, after having come so far, these children, inevitably, will be treated like delinquents. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I just wish I could take them all home with me.

But, enough about that--aside from this rather unsettling discovery, the rest of the day went swimmingly.
This morning Ryan and I (along with two employees from All Ways Travel) went into something slightly resembling a shopping center and where we were able to either locate or order costumes for each of the boys.

We had our first rehearsal with all 19 of the boys today. All I’ll say about that is that the show is really coming along and will definitely be ready for a final presentation on Wednesday.  We told the boys that they’ll be getting costumes and they were ecstatic.

We decided to stay and hang out with the boys after rehearsal today which is something we hadn’t done before. Ryan watched a football (soccer) game with the boys while I went exploring around the premises---but, not before I heard the boys screaming ecstatically when Peru scoured a goal.  
I went outside to take some pictures of the orphanage. 

And then, I met Juanita. She is one of many elder men and women who frequent the steps inside the premises---I usually see them sewing or carving or something of that nature. I was taking a photo when I noticed her approaching me with a wide, gummy smile. Her cheeks had the quality of fine leather while her eyes were framed by a number of deeply entrenched wrinkles. She embraced me and asked me some questions that I vaguely understood (but valiantly attempted to respond to). She complimented my teeth, touched my necklace (a bronze cross), and tenderly shook my hand (multiple times). She then sat contentedly by my side and remained there for quite some time while I conversed with the translator in English.
A while later I was informed that Juanita was a woman that one of the orphanage workers had found in a dumpster and brought to live on the premises. Yet another testament to how truly wonderful a place this is.
I then went on a walk with one of the workers, Juan Gabriel, and George (pronounced: hor-hay). Juan Gabriel and George made off with my camera  (I’ll be sure to post some of their brilliant photos) while my guide pointed out one of the oldest churches in Puno, and then led me to see their vast patch of quinua (just for you, mom), and then up to get a better view of Lake Titicaca. 

We then had dinner at a wonderful restaurant that we intend to return to in the near future to try some Alpaca Steak.  (Also, Brook Davis, you’ll be glad to know that while there was Guinea Pig on the menu, we did not order it.)


pictures by Juan Gabriel and George: