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:

Friday, July 22, 2011

...doting and nothing and nonsense

Today, was yet another wonderful day in this foreign land.
As I mentioned in last night's blog, after our first day working with the children
(without a translator) we realized that our approach to this project was entirely wrong.
Our initial plan had been to bring to bilingual children's books and use one to create
a piece with the older students, and the other to create a piece with the younger students.
It was our ambition to have them learn lines. 
But, after viewing past performances we nixed this idea altogether.
We decided that we would take one of the books we brought La Lagartija y el Sol (or, The Lizard in the Sun)
which is a children's book based on an ancient Peruvian folktale.
We then decided to use this one book for all 19 children, and take a more musical/interpretive approach to the show.
And, what a splendid idea this turned out to be.

We arrived at the orphanage this morning at precisely 9 o'clock with a list of warm-ups, games, and exercises as well as a thoroughly outlined plan of action.
Meaning, last night Ryan and I sat in the living room for hours dissecting this children's book. The thought of walking into that classroom once again without a plan we could work with --with or without translators--made both of us very anxious. And so, we did what I always like to do when I'm anxious: over-prepare.
We broke the book into scenes. Decided on characters. And then cast the show accordingly so that each scene would consist of either all older children or all younger children. 
(I know that most people reading this would rather skip these details, but please, bare with me. I'm going to need these notes later.)
We were able to create 7 main parts (for the younger children) and 11 smaller (but still very exciting) parts for the younger kids.

When we first walked into the room this morning the boys were very excited to see us.  (This is the older group of 7 10-12 year olds, mind you)
And, of course, we were excited to see them.
What we were not excited about, however, was the glaring absence of our translator.
But, both of us unwilling to give into the panic that immediately came knocking, we dove right in.
After our warm-ups we asked (in broken Spanish) one of the teachers to read our book to the children so that we could begin casting parts and rehearsing scenes.
Six of the boys seated themselves on the floor to listen to the story while one boy
had to remain at his desk to finish his work before he could join the group.
As the teacher was reading I watched the boys to gauge their reaction to the story. 
Some of them, initially, appeared a bit less than impressed. 
However, the boy who was supposed to be working was enthralled.
I watched him put down his pencil and turn his full attention to the story of the Lizard in the Sun.
When it came time to casting I told Ryan I wanted the boy in the corner to be the Lizard.
Ryan was a little uncertain, since we hadn't gotten to watch how well he acted or gauged his willingness to participated. But, thankfully, he just went with me on that one.
When we called out names for who would play each role the boy in the corner leaped (lept?) out of his chair with excitement. 
It was one of those warm-fuzzy-in-my-tummy type of moments.
It was about this time that our wonderful translator arrived.
Just in time to help us block out the scenes with the boys.
After blocking--which went ideally--we played a few more games, tied a human knot, and then played a little soccer ---which always seems to be the order of the day here in Peru.

We took a couple of hours to have lunch and then returned to the orphanage for round 2 (with the younger children).
Once again, we beat the translator to the orphanage.
So, I just pulled out my camera.
Immediately, I was swarmed.
They all wanted their pictures taken.
They all wanted to take pictures.

I would love to rant about this for a couple of hours but Ryan and I are supposed to be meeting someone in about 20 minutes. So, today, I'll cut my rant short and just give you some visuals.
You know what they say about pictures...


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Buzz, the monkeys aren't working...

Just moments after my last post Ryan and I gathered all of our bags and headed out the door to wait for our taxi to pick us up and take us to the bus station.

Unfortunately, despite the fact we had confirmed that our taxi would pick us up at 9:20 on three separate occasions, it still was a no show.  But, not to worry, one of the very friendly American neighbors saw us waiting in the street and offered to call us another taxi which arrived around 9:42pm. We then sped off to the bus station just in time to make it on to our 10:00 o'clock bus. We had just gotten settled and comfortable in our seats when, to our dismay, the bus operator came to tell us that the seats we were sitting in were already taken and that we would have to get off the bus. (The reason for this being that we had booked a bus for the day earlier but, since we had to push our trip back a day due to my altitude sickness, we had had to change our tickets to the next evening. And, we had been told that just such a switch had been approved.) Long story short, we were able to get back on the bus but not without shelling out another 50 soles for seats that were already completely paid for. But, I digress. It was a mere speed bump (one of many), but we were finally on the road to Puno. (Yay!)

Our bus pulled into the station here in Puno at exactly 4:45 this morning. Ryan and I retrieved our bags, at which point I discovered that somehow between the Cusco and Puno bus terminals one of the wheels on my roller suitcase had completely broken off of my bag. After determining the best way to roll on three wheels, we entered the bus station where the wonderful Victor Pauca was waiting for us with a board that read 'SARAH' in all caps.

I was so happy and relieved to see this man (that I had never met but have been trying to reach for the past 5 days) that I immediately embraced him. We then caught a taxi to Victor's apartment and crawled into our new beds.

A few hours later we woke up, had some warm milk and bread (again :)) and then headed out to meet with the director of the orphanage. While at the orphanage we had the opportunity to meet the older group of boys we would be working with. One by one they came up and introduced themselves to me, some even kissing me on the cheek. (Want. To Take. Them Home.) We then left the orphanage to go to lunch at vegetarian restaurant where I, unintentionally, poured myself a glass of beet juice. (Which is not my new favorite thing in the world.)

Then we headed back to the orphanage to have our first class with eleven 8-10 year old boys. We learned names.We played basketball. We passed the clap. We followed the leader. We read 'Salto!' and then...we ran out of Spanish vocabulary.

Now, I know most of you are thinking "why did you go to Peru if you can't speak Spanish?" This is a question I frequently ask myself. However, the plan was never for us to go into the orphanage without a translator. Unfortunately, due to our series of setbacks we weren't able to get a translator today. But, not to worry, tomorrow we will have two :)

After this class went to talk with some of the agents at All Ways Travel who showed us a video of a performance that was put on last year. Given our experience today, and after seeing this footage we are now formulating another plan.

But, more on that tomorrow.



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Here's to opening and upward

Today, I am perfectly renewed.
I slept for nine hours last night. 
(In two pairs of pants, 3 shirts, a pair of socks, a pair of slippers, and a pair of gloves)
Then I woke up and opened my curtains
and watched the sun rise up from behind the mountains
spilling its light on the all the grey, red-orange, and yellow hillside huts.
 I was fed fresh baked sweet bread (see picture above) with avocados and warm milk for breakfast.
Then I had a lovely conversation in Spanglish with Maria as we washed
our dishes from our meal.
(I like their dish washing soap.)
Then, I took a hot shower, put on my fur boots,
and we went walking through the city of Cusco.
I saw more stray dogs than I have ever seen.
(I would take each of them home if I could.)
Ryan and Maria, both ever so patient and good-natured,
kept pausing to wait for me to take pictures 
of obscure doorways, wild cacti, textured walls, stray dogs and small chubby-cheeked children.
(see example below)

Once again my belief in the fact our world is small
has been reaffirmed by the fact that we literally bumped into our friends from the airport yesterday
as we rounded a street corner this afternoon.
(They really are so very lovely.)
I bought a slice of fresh pineapple on the street for 60 Peruvian cents.
It lacked the sour tanginess of most pineapples I have ever eaten
but made up for it in sweet, juicy goodness.
Then, for another 60 cents, we caught a bus back across town.
Of course, when I say bus, what I really mean is more of a small van
that entirely too many people cram into
which is, of course, what makes it such a delightful experience.
(All the children stared at my hair.)
So I smiled back at them.
(Truly the universal language.)
 For dinner Maria prepared pollo, pasta, and fresh papaya juice.
Which put me into a semi-comatose like state
which I didn't fight. 
When I finally woke, the sun had already set
so I opened my eyes to the majestic sight of the hillside glowing with lighted windows.
So, naturally, I took some more pictures.
I walked down the hall to find
 cup of tea waiting for me on the dining room table.
Which I soon after chased with a cup of warm milk.
(My new favorite thing in the world.)
And now, after a perfectly blissful day,
I am preparing to depart for Puno.
7 hours away. Approximately 2,500 feet up.
Time to up and away!


 (inspiration for the title of today's post: a poem by e.e. cummings)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oh, the places you'll go!

I always thought that particular book failed to reflect the creative genius of Dr. Seuss. What with all of its vague predictions about success and failure I simply found it to be both sentimental and cliche. And yet, after the past 3 days, I can't help but think that truer words have never been spoken or, er, written. But, before I say anymore on that, I suppose I should start at the beginning. 

It just so happens that one fateful Tuesday morning last January during an AAP meeting a certain lovely professor of mine stood up and made an announcement that she had been contacted by a professor from the computer science department who was interested in sending a group of Wake Forest theatre students to Peru. The details were vague, but my interest was immediately sparked. I approached said wonderful professor and we, along with a few other students, set up a time to meet and discuss just exactly what this project would entail.

At our initial meeting it was explained to us that in Peru there is a great need to improve literacy amongst the natives---particularly those in more rural areas. We were told that a number of individuals can read but that comprehension skills were incredibly lacking. Thus, the idea behind this project was to go to Peru and put on a play with the some native Peruvian children. The logic being that creating a piece of theatre would, undoubtedly, teach the natives a number of skills on how to analyze and apply a text---basically, we'd do what we, as theatre students, do every day. 

After learning that this adventure would allow me to a) be working with kids, b) be spending my summer doing theatre, and c) traveling to Peru, I knew there was no way I could not sign up for this project. And so, after a lengthy application and waiting period, two research grants were finally approved. One for Ryan and one for myself.

Initially, the plan was for us to go to Amantani (and island on Lake Titicaca) and create a piece with islanders there. However, plans changed and it was finally settled that we would go to Puno, Peru and work with a group of 19 orphan boys there.

Our first six weeks of summer were set aside specifically for making preparations for our trip. Since neither Ryan or myself new a word of Spanish, we enrolled in a Spanish class at a local community college (good life decision). Additionally, we spent countless hours in the library researching Peru and searching for possible texts to analyze and perform with the boys. And then, on July 16th (nervous and excited) we packed up our bags, drove to Raleigh, checked into a hotel and prepared for our 7am departure the following morning.

And that, my dear readers, brings me to the subject of the past three days of my life.

On the morning of July 17th we rose at 4am, caught the 5:30am shuttle to the airport, and at 7am flew to JFK airport in New York and from there we flew to Atlanta where we had a 3 hour layover. And then by 5:30pm we were finally on a non-stop flight from Atlanta to Lima. And, at 11:26 pm, we landed in Peru. At this point we were supposed to meet a shuttle that would take us to our hotel in Miraflores. However, due to the fact that our flight was a running a bit behind schedule and it took as over an hour and a half to get through customs and receive our luggage, our ride was gone by the time we exited the terminal. Upon exiting we realized that our sheet of paper with the Hotel's name on it was missing so we searched out a wifi-hotspot and looked it up online. And then, we did what anyone stranded at an airport in the middle of the night would do, we got a taxi. Taxi Green, to be exact.

As we were exiting the airport with our newfound taxi driver there was a man who tripped over a mat and fell right in front of us. So, naturally, I left my bag (with my jacket and passport) standing right next to Ryan and rushed over to assist the man. A group of people swarmed around to help the man back up and then escorted him away. At this point the taxi driver grabbed my bag and led us to his taxi. I remember picking up my coat and climbing into the taxi, what happened to my passport after this is anyone's guess. For, when we arrived at our hotel (around 2:30am) and were asked to present our passport mine was nowhere to be found. Immediately, my thought went to the moment I had let go of my bag in the airport and then realized that I had probably just left it in the taxi. Point being, regardless of where it was, it most certainly wasn't with me.

The wonderful staff at the hotel were incredibly helpful and phoned the taxi company to try and catch up with our cab. However, as it was nearly 3am and we had no news and a flight the next morning, I went to sleep with a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. At one point during the night I woke up screaming (no idea what that was about...) and then around 6 am I was woke up to the sound of our hotel phone ringing. I  jolted awake immediately, hopeful that my passport had been found. However, as soon as I answered the person on the other end realized they had the wrong number and hung up. Now fully awake, waves of panic washed over me as I considered my current predicament of being in a foreign country with a flight in 5 hours and no passport. So I put on a sweater and went down to the hotel lobby to see if, perhaps, good news was waiting for me there.

When I reached the desk there was a lady named Pilan behind the counter. A woman who, in retrospect, I absolutely consider the hero of the day. Pilan called Taxi Green once again to check and see if they had heard anything. They hadn't. So, she then put me in contact with the American Embassy who told me I needed a police report (as well as $135, two passport photos, valid identification, someone who could testify who I was, and copies of my previous passport) in order to receive an Emergency Passport. Then she called the police department who told me I needed a note from the bank. Then she wrote out a note for me to give to the people at the bank, and then called the bell-boy and had him accompany told him to accompany to the bank.

Upon receiving the note from the bank we returned to the hotel where Pilan already had a taxi driver ( "a good man we could trust") waiting outside. She had arranged for him to take us everywhere we needed to go, as well as gotten us a discount and used the money that would have gone to our shuttle to the airport to pay him, herself. She then gave us her card and told her to call her as soon as we could.

So, off we went to the police station. There we were put in the charge of a very kind police woman. After giving a very rough statement in Spanglish, she gave me a blank piece of paper and told me to fill out all my information. Afterwards she then typed up our report (one finger at a time) and sent us on our way to the American Embassy.

Upon arriving at the American Embassy (one of the loveliest and most imposing buildings in Lima) we were approached by a man who said he took passport photos. Running out of options, we followed him down a side street and back into a room with a number of people sitting around a desk and talking. Immediately the set a bench in the corner, and told me to sit and then turned on a florescent light on above my head and took 3 pictures a small digital camera. Unfortunately though the printer was out of ink so it had to be refilled, and then the pictures were printed and cut to size---all of which took about 30 minutes. We then quickly paid and left.

So, finally at the Embassy, we were only permitted entrance after proving ourselves to be American citizens and allowing all of our electronic devices to be confiscated. Once inside I spent a good 2 and a half ours filling out paperwork (during which time we missed our flight to Cusco). I was then told to return by 4 o'clock to pick up my new temporary passport.

After retrieving our belongings we returned to our hotel (where Pilan patted me on the head) and told us where to go eat and then where to go to make flight alterations. Having no luck finding the restaurant Pinaln suggested we finally settled on McDonald's---which, I must say, is a much cleaner, less greasy version of its sisters in the States. And then, directly after dining, we walked 8 blocks to Taca Headquarters where we were told that to make the necessary flight changes we would need to pay yet another $123.90.  However, said arrangements could only be made after I received my new passport.

So, back to the Embassy we went. Back through security. Picked up the passport. Then back to Taca to book our flights. Then back to our hotel to pick up our suitcases to move to another hotel a few blocks away since the one we were staying in was booked up for that night.

And so, at 7 o'clock we sat down for the first time (not including our 4 taxi rides and quick stop at McDonald's). And by 7:02 I was out cold.

The new flight that we successfully booked was scheduled for 10:10 this morning. We were advised by numerous people to arrive at least two hours early to the airport. So, at 7:50 we checked out of our hotel and waited for our taxi. Thirty minutes later, he arrived. Thirty minutes after that, we arrived at the airport. That is to say, it was not a good morning for traffic. With less than an hour til boarding we raced our way through check-in and security and caught our plane just in time.

The flight itself was wonderful.  From my window-seat I was able enjoy my breakfast while viewing the snow-topped Andes mountains peaking through the clouds. And, even from above Ryan and I both could tell we were going to love Cusco.
 After landing we went to baggage claim where Ryan's suitcase came through but mine did not. We met up with our ride (and hostess) who patiently waited for nearly 2 hours while we awaited my bag to arrive on the next flight. This delay was very pleasant, however, because Ryan and I were able to make acquaintances with a lovely Korean-Canadian couple who were also waiting.

After receiving our luggage and exchanging information with our new friends, we then went and purchased our bus tickets to Puno for 10 o'clock this evening and then were taken to the apartment belonging to the Paucas. The apartment itself is lovely, and Cusco truly is just a wonder to see.

Unfortunately, since Cusco is just over 7,000ft above sea level, I suffered a fairly intense bout of altitude sickness this afternoon (nausea, headaches, etc.). I spent nearly an hour laying in the shower trying to clear my nasal passages so they would allow more oxygen flow to my brain, and then climbed in to bed where I slept the rest of it off. After a couple of hot cups of coca tea and a bowl of delicious homemade soup I am now feeling completely restored. However, since our next (and final) destination is Puno (which is nearly 12,500ft.) we decided it would be best for us to rest this evening before continuing onward in order to prevent the return or increase of altitude sickness. And so, I have spent a lovely, leisurely evening in this wonderful apartment, writing this blog for all of those who care to know everything down to the smallest detail of this rather grand adventure.

Before we left America we had this trip outlined down to the tee. Such planning was done, and such high hopes were had that all things would go according to said plans. Hardly a single things has happened as we thought it would. In fact, in many cases it has happened just precisely how we had hoped it wouldn't. And yet,  for all of its setbacks and recalculations it has been already been an experience I wouldn't trade for anything. And we haven't even gotten to the fun part yet!

Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all...
Except when the don't.
Because, sometimes, they won't...
(And my own line I would like to add)
So you just have to enjoy them, anyway.

 Smart guy, that Dr. Seuss.

Anyway, that's all for now. The plan for tomorrow is to travel to Puno. Or...who knows? :)


***Fun fact: I'm approximately 5663.460 km from my home in Ashe County, NC.***