Stephanie Stellhorn

I am a Pediatric Physical Therapist in southern CA, and Group Fitness instructor in the evenings after work.

Mon. 11/3/14. My last Monday at Maximo

 Posted by Stephanie Stellhorn at 4:34 am  Peru  Comments Off on Mon. 11/3/14. My last Monday at Maximo
Nov 042014

Mon. 11/3/14.  My last Monday at Maximo and at Hogar

This is the beginning of my last week at the orphanage and in Spanish classes!  I can’t believe it!  It’s gone so quickly!  I’m really looking forward to Machu Picchu this Saturday, especially after my touring day yesterday.  That was so much fun getting a little taste of the ruins and other towns in Peru.
It was all socked in and cloudy this morning when we got up.  My two roommates are feeling a bit better, I think.  All my emails from yesterday came in this morning;  WiFi here has some issues.  I struggled through some more spanish idioms in my homework, probably butchered more than I deciphered, but am learning a lot in class.  I could actually be doing more spanish classes as I have a bit of time in the mornings–one girl here is taking 8 hours of spanish a day! for 8 weeks!–but my brain is already challenged with the language classes and work, so I don’t feel too bad about it.
My teacher is from Arequipa, but lived for 12 years in the States, so learned English very well too.  He probably speaks Quechua, the local native tongue, too.  These kids here usually can speak several languages.  Why don’t we do that in the States?
Disculpeme por favor, Estoy muy cansada y no quiero esribir mas ahora.  Mas mañana.  Forgive me but I am tired and do not want to write anymore.  I am going to bed early tonight, like now, and will write more tomorrow.  Chao,  suenos bonitos!

Sun. 11/2/14. El Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead

 Posted by Stephanie Stellhorn at 4:48 am  Peru  Comments Off on Sun. 11/2/14. El Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead
Nov 032014

Sun. 11/2/14  El Dia de Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead)

Unfortunately, I woke up this morning to Loretta still feeling very ill and throwing up.  She still apparently has that dreadful high altitude headache, but was also sick to her stomach.  Not sure if that is the altitude or all of the fried stuff that Pilar called our dinner last night.  That was the first time that my whole dinner was fried.  My tummy was not thrilled this morning either.

Today was my quick day-trip tour of the Sacred Valley.  What fun!  It was an all day thing, beginning at the MN office at 7:15, when I was scheduled to be picked up by a tour bus.  Funny thing about these tour busses… Again.  As this one once again made the rounds just like yesterday’s bus, to pick up additional folks.  A bigger circle, and to different locations, and the truly funny thing is that at almost all the stops the same young woman (with the super fancy painted fingernails) was there with a different set of tourists.  She must’ve really run to get from The Avenida to Quoricancha, and then to the Plaza, and then we took her to another spot, where she was dropped off and we picked up a few more of her “clients?”.  And then how she got to the last stop is completely unknown to me, as it was right on the north edge of town at a series of Hostels and Hospedajes, and she was there again, right on the street, waiting with another couple of people when we got there.  Amazing!  So we finally left the greater Cusco are at about 10 after 8:00.  I guess that’s how it’s done here:  just keep adding tourists to the list as you find them, and radio the bus to go pick them up.
We started off at a large marketplace that really wasn’t open yet this morning when we got there, but the market at Pisac was definitely open and going full blast when we got there.  With its absolute sensory overloading brilliantly colored bolsas, chompas, and bufandas, as well as all of the jewelry, paintings, wood crafts, and ceramics, the sights, sounds, and smells were somewhat overwhelming and disorienting underneath all of the white plastic umbrellas and tarps.  It was pretty crazy after we had our lesson in “Alpaca adult wool, Baby Alpaca, and Maybe Alpaca” pun definitely intended by all Peruvians.  It was interesting to learn that most of the items that are sold as Alpaca in the tiendas in Cusco and the other little towns, really truly have very little Alpaca at all (maybe 10%), and that Baby Alpaca is the softest and heaviest weave and most desireable in knits.  But is also the most expensive.  I got a goro, a small knit cap.
We went to an Alpaca farm or Zoo of sorts, where we learned the difference between the actual animals:  the two different kinds of adult Alpaca (long and short hair), and Llama, and one other that has even finer wool.  Apparently within the hour before we got there, a little black baby llama was born, and I got to see it make its first three tries at standing, then we had to get back on the bus and go.
In Pisac, we also were educated regarding silver and the fine jewelry-making process, and they had lots of pretty things at the first little “authentic” silver smith shop in their mercado.  They don’t want their tourists to go away uneducated, that is for sure!  And that way they kindof have a captive audience in their store once they have provided the education, a bit like the silk carpet making industry in Turkey.
The Pisac Ruins were neat, but Ollantaytambo was the highlight of my day.  I would’ve liked to have stayed longer, and explored more.  The town looked pretty charming, and there was another free trail zigzagging up the side of the mountain opposite the popular ruins, to the colcas, or store houses.  But after our wonderful buffet lunch, we needed to get on the road pretty quickly to make it back to Cusco in time, especially because we had so many places to go for the lunches and for leaving a few people at their hotels in the Sacred Valley area.  Our buffet lunch had such a terrific variety of vegetables, lots of different vegetables (more than I’ve seen in one place since being here), and roasted corn kernels, potatoes, bread, and fruit.  There was a bunch of meat and a pasta bar of sorts too, so I had plenty of shredded Parmesan cheese on top of all of my food.
It was raining guinea pigs and llamas, as they say here in Peru, while we were making the 2 hour drive back to Cusco, but it had only just begun sprinkling here in the city when I was dropped off in little Kuyupata Plaza.  So I pretty much scrambled up the hill to San Blas and got home before it really started to come down.  Then it only rained for a few minutes so far tonight.
I returned home to find Loretta saying that she feels a bit better, but still in bed, and a new volunteer is here from Minnesota, and she went right to bed and snores like a trumpet.  Goodness, I don’t know how she can sleep with all of the ruckus!  Good thing I have earplugs, And maybe my iPod.  I am not even sleepy yet tonight, although I really should be since I was up between 2 and 4 this morning with Loretta being so terribly ill.
I just realized that I did not reference El Dia de Los Muertos at all after my title.  Today was the day that Peru, and I think almost all other Latin American countries, celebrated their deceased friends and relatives.  There were tons of people in the cemeteries of the small towns that we went to, and the celebration also caused somewhat of a rush-hour last night on the outskirts of Cusco, when everyone who had walked long ways to get to their respective cemeteries or family homes, needed to thumb a ride home in the rain.  There were so many people on the streets trying to hitch a ride on our tour bus, And way more cars on the road than on the usual Sunday evening, per our tour guide, Eloi.  Driver was Jimmi.  they both did a great job for us, and for the economy of the small towns we visited by taking us to certain tiendas where we were given a “discount”. :-)

Saturday, can it really be the 1st of November already?!!!

And time to return to standard time in the states.  I was going to remember to turn my clocks back before I left and I’m pretty sure that I did not.  Oh well….
Woke up this morning to having a new roommate at about quarter to 7.  Fortunately I was up and journalling at the time.  Her name is Loretta, from Australia, and she had to take 4 different planes to get here!  Her first flight was from one side of Australia to the other and then she flew from LAX to Lima to Cusco.  Ugh!  I thought I was tired when I got here!  She is napping right now.  I will be exploring, and then back to Pilar’s to bring Loretta down the hill and to the Maximo Nivel office to get somewhat situated.  She doesn’t think that this is her permanent placement house yet, but that she needed a place to stay for the night tonight, and then she has orientation at MN on Monday morning.  So don’t know if she will be my roommate for a while or not.  Pilar had said two new volunteers on Sunday. She didn’t say anything about this morning until the phone rang this morning.
Gonna go see a couple more cathedrals and explore a bit more today, maybe some more ruins here in town, and a bit of shopping the little tiendas.  I haven’t done much of that yet.  Loretta wants to go to the little supermercado too, so will save that for later.  Almost out of my little jar of peanut butter that I brought with me, so needing some more for the week.  It is super expensive here and not something that the folks here buy regularly, like s/.20 (20 soles) which is about $7.50 for a little jar, but you all know that for this, I will splurge.  :-)
It is a high-cloudy sort of day here, a bit of a cool breeze, but warm enough for short sleeves in the sun.  Maybe no rain for three days in a row now???  Not gonna hold my breath as the clouds and weather are so variable!
The Halloween celebrations lasted into the early morning hours (like 3ish), and there are more celebrations for the Day of the Living today, and for the Day of the Dead tomorrow.  Fiestas, fiestas!  Cuscanians love their fiestas!
It was a great morning with a bit of a walking tour and some shopping. Many things are not open today because, in addition to El Dia de Vivo (day of the Living), apparently it is also All Saints Day, or Todas Las Santas.  So cathedrals didn’t open until 2:00 pm.  As I walked back from the Inca Palacio, I found an artisan Master Bread Baker just west of the Plaza, in a small niche outside of a cafe, but under the entryway. I tasted and then purchased some wonderful sourdough bread!  We talked for a bit and he studied for baking in Spain for 6 years prior to returning to Peru.  His breads are delicious!  With many different spices, different smells than I am used to.  I brought some home to Pilar for dinner or breakfast or whatever.  Since I am getting up early tomorrow morning, I may have some for a quick snack.  I took photos like a fiend at all the amazing Colonial and Inca fusion of architecture on this beautiful blue-skied day, and I actually went into some of the many tiendas that I pass daily on the bus or on my walk down to the Plaza.

I purchased a couple of Peru books, one on Cusco, and one on Machu Picchu just inside of the smaller of the two cathedrals located on the Plaza.  I had already made up my mind to take one of the bus tours around the city, and so I let the first guy that approached me to hawk a bus tour talk me into it (at about noon).  Funny thing about it is, he said that the bus leaves in about 20 minutes, and that it lasts about one hour and a quarter.  Ok, so I went upstairs on the bus to enjoy the view, and continued to take photos of some of the same things that I have many photos of already, but that was another day, and another sky.  Today is exceptional with wonderful sunshine and blue skies, white puffy clouds and a bit of a breeze.
And we slowly made our way around the Plaza, picking up additional customers as we went.  And then we slowly made our way around the Plaza again, and picked up a few more customers.  And then once again, we made the rounds, and picked up some additional tourist type folks.  And THEN, we drove one block straight out of the Plaza to another smaller plaza, and then stopped to pick up some more folks!  They really know what they’re doing, because you don’t get bored as long as the bus is moving, (even just a little bit to pick up the next few), because even though the buildings are the same, the people and the photoscape do change with the dramatically changing sky, and you can take so many angles.  I probably have 30 pictures of the same cathedral!
So we finally got underway at 1:00, and then yes, the tour did last for about 1.5 hours.  So I definitely got my s/.20 worth once again.  And to top it off, the vertically challenged bilingual tourguide’s name was Elvis (accent on the last syllable like this:  el-VEES), and he was a riot, without really trying to be.  The intonation in his voice when he spoke his broken English (actually better than my broken spanish) was wonderful, like he was reading from an exciting transcript.  And maybe he was. I couldn’t actually see him since I was on the upper level of the double decker bus, and he was down below with the driver, named Gabriel.

I befriended a young teenaged hitchhiker boy that our bus driver picked up at the top of the hill, where the boy’s older sister was working in one of the Alpaca shops, in traditional Cuscanian garb.  I’m sure the brightly colored geometric patterns of her hat and sweater mean something, but I have not learned about the traditional clothing yet.  Maybe tomorrow when I tour the towns of the Sacred Valley.  Anyways, the boy, who lives in Urubamba, wanted a ride down to the Plaza, to see his buddies I am sure, and then to come back up again in a couple of hours, when his sister is done this evening in the Alpaca tienda.  And I asked to be dropped off up top so that I could just walk down to the casa in the San Blas district, to save time, as I knew that I would be walking around with Loretta to show her the way to the office and little supermercado too.  It was no problem;  he just opened the door and let me out on their way down the hill.
Loretta was awake when I got back, so I took her down to the office and then to the supermarket, where I found more peanut butter and fried plantain chips.  I’m really liking that combination too:  PB and fried plantain chips!   :-)   When in Cusco….  I know, probably not.
1.  I just figured out today that the streets that are open to car traffic have a different suffix at the end than the streets that are closed to car traffic.  The little roads for foot traffic only, end with “-pata”, like Tandapata, Colcampata, and Quiscapata.  The other Calles have a variety of names and endings to the words.  Throughout Cusco, many street names only last for one block, and then the name of the street changes, so you may be on three or four different street names without ever deviating from the one street.  In the San Blas district, there are at least two names for each street, and many times at each block or “cuadro”, depending on which sign you look at, as they have recently put up the Quechua names for some of the streets, in addition to the current Spanish names (that do change in different blocks).
2.  All street signs are up on the sides of buildings near the corners.  The newer signs are painted tile over the top of an arrow indicating which way the road goes, as there are frequently one-way streets.  But as I stated before, that is just a suggestion, and many times, the loud back-up beeps of the taxis are heard as they back the correct way down the one-way streets that they have driven up the wrong way.
3.  There are no hot water faucets in Cusco.  Except for the occasional warm shower faucet, due to the heating pump that is retrofitted into the system.
4.  Do not get your hands too close to the shower head with retrofitted heating pump, as you will get a bit of a zap with all of the wild external wiring that is visible above said shower head.
5.  There are somewhat standard handicap curb cutouts in the stone walkways, with the universal handicap sign of a wheelchair, but just because there are cutouts on one end of the block does not mean that the other end of the same block is guaranteed to be accessible.  And it, in fact, may be a full set of completely inaccessible stone steps in that part of the sidewalk, even on the same block.
6.  Houses here are built right up on the streets, with the front wall of the house being right on the sidewalk.  Due to the limited work space in the streets here and in the lots, construction materials must often be dumped into the street and then be carted or shoveled through the gate and into the actual lot behind the large front wall.  Or, as the other day I saw the entire foyer of a construction project that was full of large mud bricks, to the ceiling.  Where else could they put them pending the actual placement into the walls?
7.  There is much construction of larger masonry buildings in the newer downtown areas, including office space and apartment buildings, that is unfinished with rebar sticking up several feet from the top of the last completed floor.  I have heard a couple of explanations for this, including running out of funding, but also, the superstition that you never actually want to finish building your building in Cusco, with the thought that leaving things unfinished will prolong your time here on the Earth, as long as you still have something to do.
8.  I saw a car-painting place on the way to work one day. The car was outside, to the side of the gas station.  It had newspaper masking-taped over the tires and windows, and looked like it was being spray-painted bright fire-engine red.  I have not seen any bright red fire-engines though. Actually I have not seen any fire engines at all, just the small van for the volunteer Bomberos, or firemen. Don’t know if there are state or federally funded firefighters or not.
9.  Time for bed, I think.  Goodnight.

Fri. 10/31/14

Happy Friday!  AND its Halloween, in Cusco, Peru!
And it looks strangely similar to Halloween in the States, on a bit smaller scale.  But there were so many little tiny Spidermen, Ninja Turtles, Vampires, Witches, and blond princesses (yes, blonde, with ringlet curl wigs) in the central downtown areas going door to door to the merchants, including businesses and phone stores, not just the tourist souvenir merchants.  There were tons of people downtown as I walked back up this evening, and lots more in the Plaza, and even visiting the merchants up the smaller side-streets that I take to go back to Pilar’s.  I hurried because I was supposed to pick up clean laundry, and had forgotten that they are open til 8 (so I was rushing at 6:25).  Oh well, I needed some cardio before dinner anyways.
There were lots of extra street venders tonight, selling snacks and cotton candy, just in case the kids and their young parents weren’t sugared up enough.  And I guess the person who controls the water around here must’ve had a kid out and about or something tonight, because the water was already off at 7:00 tonight.  Was really looking forward to my shower too. :-(    Oh well, tomorrow is Saturday!  Yay!
Not sure what I am going to do tomorrow besides rest.  Will work it out in the morning, probably depending on the weather too.  Oh wow, Mario just told me that the water is back on.  I’m gonna shower.  Woooo-hoooo!  You really learn to appreciate the little things!  :-)
So, I was so excited about getting to take a shower that I got more than halfway through before I realized that I still had my handy-dandy water resistant watch on.  We’ll get to see how it performs, I guess.  It’s still going right now, and the leather band looks all the same color now (wet), and not all scratched up anymore.
I’m tired.  Was I this tired last Friday night?  I don’t remember being this pooped out last week.  But I guess my brain is still going through the struggle to remember even the English language right now.  Sure hope this blows over soon.  I got a full 8 hours of sleep last night, which did help this morning with Spanish idioms and the Festival of Musica Criolla.  I am so much better in the morning for doing my homework, my brain doesn’t hurt quite so much.
The kids were still kindof at a fever pitch again today in Hogar de las Estrellas.  They didn’t have school, and were anticipating the holiday celebrations of the next couple of days, but Dani and Yenni are still not doing too well.  And the rest of them were just at a bit higher level of excitement due to the festivals, I guess.  I just have to hope that I am being helpful sometimes.  And the busses have been extra crammed for the last couple of days too.  Don’t know what’s going on.
So, I got home and told Pilar and Tio Mario (uncle) about my Spanish class with Nadher, my instructor, talking about Musica Criolla (or Cusco’s version of a Creole musical fusion phenomen–I guess the word “Creole” must just mean “a fusion or mix of…” Because we use it to describe our deep southwest populations of mixed French, African, and Caribbean, as well as to describe their languages and customs too.  So anyways, Peru’s version of Creole, or Criollo, is the fusion of music, costumes and styling from Vienna, Italy, Spain, and Poland–Wow, there’s a combo for you!  And it’s in South America! And the costumes and dances are very specific to the music! very upbeat, with 3 specific musical instruments, and vocals too.  So, Tio Mario and Pilar break out the Criolla on the boom box, and we are all dancing before supper tonight!  What fun!
Over dinner, we discussed that Pilar received a serious, and apparently very generous, offer on her house this morning, from a business person.  Her house is in pretty good condition, and is definitely in one of the most desireable neighborhoods in Cusco, San Blas.  It is one of the oldest neighborhoods and has the reputation of being artsy and Bohemian, with lots of artisan tiendas, pretty much the only vegetarian restaurants in town, and lots of pubs and nightlife, lots of tourists!  And this individual came to her home this morning with a realtor and proposed his offer and told of his plans to make it into a nice bed and breakfast type of place–kindof like it is now, But maybe nicer, I think, but I didn’t catch all of the descriptives in spanish at the dinner table, where I was also focused on my rice and cebolla squash. (Oh brother, my auto-correct just corrected “cebolla” to “Ebola” of all things!). So she is giving serious consideration to this and may be moving to a more modern area of Cusco, about a 15 minute bus or taxi ride away, where she has lots of family.
I am the only volunteer left in this casita for tonight, but there are supposed to be more coming tomorrow and Sunday, for a full house by next week.  It was nice to get a couple of really good solid nights of sleep, and to be able to go to bed early, but it’s nice to meet the new people and hear their stories and where they’re from also.  It’s a pretty noisy night tonight, downstairs and in the streets, still at 10:00, but I am going to try to fall asleep to Air1 streaming here on my iPad.

Thurs. 10/30/14

OMG!  Mi cabeza me duele mucho!  It was not good in spanish class this morning.  I had done my homework but the last two sentences that I was supposed to make to turn verbs into adjectives just didn’t work.  I could not find examples and I could not figure out how to do the sentences.  As it turns out, I just went ahead and wrote one that I knew didn’t make sense, at least not in English. Thought maybe it would pass in espanol….. Nope.  So then we worked on that abstract concept for a while before I even realized it was an abstract concept, (cuz everything I do here is in espanol, and I just don’t always get it), and then he finally said that it is a part of speech that is not used in Spanish or English!  Well, gracias! Thank you very much for finally telling me in English!  Whew!  I just wasn’t getting it, and I didn’t know why!
So then we used the last half hour of my time in class–at least I used the last half hour struggling through a fill-in-the-blanks story of Sinbad and the Cyclopes–with more abstract concepts, and words that I didn’t know the meaning of, and I cannot use a dictionary in there.  Ugh!  And my figuring-out skills seem to be absent for these last couple of days.  Oh my head is full!  Maybe that is a good sign that we are using higher level abstract concept kinds of things, to challenge me, but it is way more difficult due to the cultural differences and things that are missing from my North American life-programming!  I am truly challenged!
Whew!  Glad to be out of class this morning.  I think I will take the long way to the bus stop today, do some walking in the sunshine.
Good thing I did.  It was kinda rough today at the orphanage too:  several kids were very agitated, Yenni sprained her ankle badly last weekend and the swelling just gets worse cuz she won’t stay off of it, and the bruising looks terrible.  Dani was in a violent temper against himself:  he kept banging his head on the stone floor and the stone walls, hard!  Edwin and Mayde became pretty agitated a couple times, and the women who run the place had there heads together discussing serious stuff a lot today.  It was just an atmosphere of agitation and I think sadness, like they may be discussing that one of the kids may not be appropriate for this setting.  Because he is violent to himself and others and he is getting too big to detain for these little tiny Peruvian women.  I can’t do anything either as he drops himself tot the floor and hits and kicks.  I am sure the kids were picking up on the women’s concern too.
It would be extra difficult for the women to move this child to another facility because his mother works at the orphanage, and I don’t know what other facilities close by there are.  Today they told me that most of the kids don’t even exist on paper, because they were abandoned in the streets, and there is no medical record prior to their being taken in.  Because they theoretically are not recognized without any birth or medical records, they are not eligible for health care.  Many of the children are on medications for things like seizures and cardiac or mental conditions, but when the medication runs out, if they don’t have the money, that child just all of a sudden doesn’t get that med for a while until they are able to afford it again.  Ugh!  It would be bad enough to have seizures, but then to have to experience withdrawl from your meds periodically, on top of whatever pathology is going on in the brain, just cannot be good.
So anyways, I did not go to the market and pick up a ton of beautiful fruit today, because I was exhausted and just didn’t feel like hauling it on the bus and up the hill from the office.  Guess I could’ve gotten a cab…. Didn’t think that far.  I’m pooped.  Veggie lasagna was even better the second night!  Muchas gracias to Sra. Pilar!
Ok, iPad has 2 languages, but it still keeps doing English autocorrect for all of my Spanish words!  Ugh!  Done for tonight, I think.
Hey all who are reading this, I cannot access my Verizon email account so I don’t have any of your actual email addresses, unless you have commented at my blogsite, so cannot email you.  Please send me your email addresses if you want an email before I return in November, plus, I just want to hear from you at:  [email protected].  Thanks to all of you readers!  It’s so much fun to get your comments! (Hint, hint!) 😉

LATE ENTRY FOR:   Tu. 10/28/14. Tipon, Andahuaylillia, & Piquillacta

Today after spanish in the morning, Andre, Edwina, Kristi (all volunteers here at Pilar’s homestay), Ricardo (Andre’s spanish teacher), and Daniella, a woman who is a missionary here in Peru, all took a tour van to some not-so-touristed places, including having almuerzo (lunch) in Tipon before checking out the Inca agricultural reservoir site up the hill.  The men and Daniella ate the Peruvian delicacy, Cuy, that is grilled whole guinea pig served on the platter with all of its little charred parts still (somewhat) intact.  I didn’t watch, but you’re supposed to just pick it up in both hands on either end, and go to it.  Gross!
Tipon has a very impressive site of carefully engineered terraced Inca walls and canals that are spring fed from subterranean pools.  Inca, because of the way they cut the granite, using other harder stone tools, to fit puzzle-like together, using some of the concepts of mortis and tenon construction too.  All constructed up the side of a hill, there was plenty of room and ruined walls for Ricardo’s little Isabella and me to play hide and seek around, and to skip from rock to rock.  She is the sweet young super chulita (super cute!) 3 year old daughter of our guide.  She and I had a lot of fun making up games, and making funny shadow shapes with our bodies against the rock walls.
From there, we went to the beautifully decorated Iglesia de San Pedro in Andahuaylillas, a tiny little town about an hour and a half southeast of Cusco.  The fancy Baroque decoration of the inside of the church can easily stand up against any that we saw in Italy 4 years ago.  Cuscanians call it their Little Sistine Chapel, and they are right.  It is beautiful!  The frescoes and gold leaf painting, as well as the delicate and grand carvings of all wood and beams in the ceiling, are truly amazing!  Maravillosa!
We visited the East Inca Gate to Cusco.  Initially built by the pre-Inca, Huari tribe, there are apparently gates at all entrances to the Cusco (Qosc’o in the native Quechua) valley:  north, south, east, and west, that were originally built by the Huari, which inhabited the valley approximately 1100 AD, per our guide, before Inca time.  From there to Piquillacta (land of the fleas), the remains of part of the Huari settlements in this area.  The site was already closed for the day, as it was nearing 6:00, but our driver and tour-guide were able to persuade the guarda to let us in for a half hour, until the sky filled up and became so black with rain clouds, that we figured we needed to leave and head back to town for dinner anyway.  Isabella immediately fell asleep in the van;  after all, walking and climbing and jumping off of ruins is hard work for those little tiny legs of hers.  The ruined walls were rudely constructed of irregular native stones and mud, in stark contrast to the precise engineering of the Inca walls, but they covered the walls and floors with a native gypsum mix, creating a white plaster effect that they could then decorate with colored dyes derived from native plants and insects.
Isabella and I had such a good time together!  It was fun to have her lightheartedness during our tours of learning facts about the area, and Ricardo said that he appreciated that we played because it kept her busy and interested during the potentially boring-to-a-small-child lecture times.  She is super bright and cute and we played tag and hide and seek in the ruins, and ran, and jumped, and stood on one foot.  So much fun!  And after about 5 hours, she was so out cold in the van.  What a cutie pie!
We all ate dinner in a local restaurant off of the Plaza before heading back up to our casita. No more Cuy at our table, but there were grilled corn kernels served as snack, with bread, and then the food, while upbeat traditional live music was played on the traditional Peruvian instruments, including panpipes.  After dinner, Andre and Kristi stayed down in the Plaza for a while, so that Andre could jam with the local kids on his guitar.  And apparently, they ended up the night at Paddy’s Pub, considered to be the highest Irish pub in the world at 11,152 ft above sea level. 😉

Wed. 10/29/14

So today as we ducked our heads and stepped out of Sra. Pilar’s front door, 2 relatively large-for-the-space construction trucks were backing up on Carmen Alto, very close to the door space, so that we immediately plastered ourselves up against the wall to wait and see what would occur.  As you always assume that where there are vehicles backing up, most likely there will be someone in front of them coming toward them, too close and too fast, we decided to go a different route rather than risk being squished in the confusion.  But we did watch for a bit with smiles on our faces as four vehicles jockeyed for position at this little tiny intersection and pushed one of the trucks backward down the entire length of the city block.  And then another truck dumped a load of gravel to the side of the same little tiny cobbled street, causing all vehicles behind it to have to wait for the guys to shovel most of the gravel to the construction in the lot behind it before they could pass.  Crazy.  And the cars and busses all have horns that drivers are not afraid to use.  I don’t think that 15 seconds go by without at least one horn.  If you’re not rolling when the light changes, you get honked at.  So there.
I have stopped watching the road as I take the bus back to city center each evening from the orphanage.  It’s about a 35 minute bus ride, definitely with more excitement than I am comfortable with, and I learned to drive in Los Angeles!
My spanish homework went better today, and I am starting to get a hang of the different past tenses, but just today, I think I am beginning to experience what usually occurs by the end of the first week that I am immersed in a spanish-speaking country, and that is a temporary reaching of max capacity on the inflow of information.  I’m there right now.  My brain hurts.  This poor instructor asks me questions and it takes me so long to answer him, or I just can’t remember the vocabulary sometimes.  Period.  Hope it doesn’t last too long.  I guess I am grateful that it didn’t happen til today. :-)
So I am all signed up and ready for a three day trek to Machu Picchu in the last week that I am here, and then a trip to Lake Titicaca that returns on the Friday before I leave on Saturday evening. The trek is a lower elevation one, one that doesn’t have me trying to camp out at 14,000 ft, cuz we all know that I would not make it.  I would be a popsicle, and it just wouldn’t be fun.  I’m already wearing multiple layers for sleeping in, and I am covered with three heavy wool blankets, so heavy that when I turn over, my jammies get stuck and stay there, kinda twisted around me.  So I am trekking for two days and sleeping in a Peruvian home one night in a small remote village, and then a hotel the next night.  Yay!  Hopefully consistent hot running water with some pressure behind it! :-).
Today at the orphanage, 7 kiddos and three of us adults walked to the big market in San Jeronimo to order PanWawa and PanCaballo for 30.  They are for a Quechua celebration/holiday on Saturday that the kids are going to participate in.  Kristi purchased the bread, and I purchased fruit for their next week, I hope.  Carrying all the fruit on the way back for 5 blocks uphill was a bit of a challenge while still trying to hold two childrens’ hands, but we made it and they were all very pleased.  I will be picking up the bread on Friday.
Kristi, my roommate will be leaving on Friday afternoon, and Edwina and Andre are leaving tomorrow, but there are supposed to be new volunteers coming in to the home on Sunday, so will get to meet some more new people! :-)
I will probably have to go back and journal yesterday a bit later.  We went to Tipon to see Inca ruins, and Andawayllia for the amazing cathedral, on the inside;  the outside is not much to talk about, but the inside is really amazing, like something in Italy-amazing!  Lots of gold-leaf painting and the huge canvases up on the walls, frescoes on the ceilings and walls, and ornately painted timbers.  Really incredible!

Mon. 10/27/14. Finally, some cardio! :-)

 Posted by Stephanie Stellhorn at 3:17 am  Peru  Comments Off on Mon. 10/27/14. Finally, some cardio! :-)
Oct 292014

Mon. 10/27/14  That’s it!  I’ve got it!

And now, just one week since I arrived, I have found that I am able to run stairs and get some actual cardio exercise AND get warm in the mornings.  It’s been a bit tough for this cardio junkie, but honestly, until Saturday, I really didn’t feel like cardio.  Moreover, at times last week, I actually thought my lungs would burst (and quads would give it up) with my efforts to get air while ascending just one flight of stairs.  Kindof a weird feeling for me.  I’ve had plenty of energy, just not quite enough oxygen for the fuel to combust properly.  Now I think I feel almost normal, well as normal as I get.  😉
Had substitute maestro for Spanish class today, who helped me put some things together, and really brought me a bit more understanding about the language.  Her name is Tawnja, but she is not going to be my regular instructor, cuz my actual instructor just ran into “some difficulty with getting toward today”.  Kindof an interesting way to put it, I guess.
Today at the orphanage is the first day without the other volunteers from England, so right now I am the only volunteer here.  So, the routine when I get there at about 1:00 is to see if any of the four kids who are there need anything.  It’s pretty quiet and I’ve been just doing massage and stretching for Yesica’s feet and legs, and then talking to or singing with the other kiddos:  Betsy, Danny, and Tanira.  Then about 1:30, the other kids come home from school in their uniforms, and they need to change clothes.  I help the girls in the downstairs bedroom change into regular clothes and get their home shoes on (I found out that they each have 2 pairs of shoes instead of just one because they have tie-on shoes for school).  But I really need a lot of guidance from one of the caregivers here for which clothes go to whom, because the girls are frequently not accurate with this information, and then we have little cat fights about who gets to wear what.  Sort of the blind leading the blind until I get to know them better.  Although I don’t think I will be here long enough to know all the clothing rules.
After changing clothes, it’s time to “line up” for hand washing outside in the patio area, but the line-up is actually a bit of loosely controlled chaos with 21 kids of various abilities walking, falling, helping, still dressing, all under and in between the rows of clean laundry that hang into the work-space.  For this tall person, finding my way through the hanging damp laundry is not too bad when it is just short little shirts and pantalones, but when it’s the big twin size wool blankets that go on the kids’ beds, it’s quite a challenge to navigate the small space to the pila while hauling two children and one that is hanging onto my person.  They are so affectionate and touchy, mostly lovey, sometimes combative, so have to be on my guard with a couple of them.
Then on to lunch, that is an amazing structured design of organization as each child eventually finds his and her place at one of three long heavy wooden tables, and sits fairly quietly while Cezar dishes out portions, frequently specific to a certain child, who he knows will want more of one thing or another, or who needs a bowl versus a plate in order to be able to scoop the food properly.  He is so in tune with the kids, probably because he once was one of them, and he is funny and tender with them.  They all get a big metal cup of some sort of warm colored and flavored water and then some have cleanup duties, and it’s on to the teeth brushing “line-up”, once again back through the labyrinth of hanging chones, at the pila, hopefully with his or her own toothbrush, and a little dab of toothpaste.  But don’t let any one child have the whole tube, especially Tiki, because she will suck the paste right out of the tube!
Today, since there was very little homework to be done after lunch–just Joel and Yolanda had tarea–everybody got to do activities at the cleared off and cleaned off lunch tables.  Now in different seats, and changing frequently, there are at least three different activity “stations” for the children to keep them occupied and learning or socializing.  So my table was peeling the large kernels of corn that were soaking in a large bowl overnight, and putting them into another bowl of water to soak further and soon become soup.  I was told to “quita el hueso, y piel el maiz”, and the woman showed me how.  So we dug our thumbnails into the top of the darkened root area, pulled it out and peeled any skin that remained on each kernel. After a few minutes of this activity, Paloma was reprimanding another of the girls with, “No come!” Or don’t eat it! over and over, and apparently Carmen Luz, young innovator that she is, had found an easier way to take the tip off of the corn kernels with her teeth, and of course was placing them into the bowl for soup.  Thankfully they do boil everything to death here at the orphanage before they eat it. :-)
Thankfully the ride home on the bus was uneventful with Kristi, my new roommate from Minnesota, and our newest volunteer at the orphanage.

Tu. 10/21/14

Wow! So can we revisit the Frogger concept of automobile and pedestrian traffic?!!!  I have only one word for it here: LOCO!  Seriously, someone is gonna get hurt. I got a ride in a Cusco taxi today, 2 times, in the pouring rain the second time. Who knew that Yugos (or whatever this Cusco equivalent is) were so agile in the rain?!!!  The larger intersection lights count down the seconds both directions so that each way knows when the other direction will be going, theoretically. But I don’t know what you do when everyone goes together at the same time, and the gridlock is tremendous at peak times. So, when I say larger intersections, there are frequently still only two lanes (one each way) but there is actually space for a third, and sometimes a fourth car to get squeezed in next to eachother, or at least kitty corner to eachother, and straddling the hint of lines that remain.  And where there is no traffic control, that’s exactly what you get. No control: taxis backing up, making 9-point turns in the narrow little intersections between close stone buildings, unhurried native pedestrians and hurried Americans and Europeans walking all around the car while it tries to negotiate.  And there are usually no less then 12 little Yugos-like cars backed up behind said taxi, between which more pedestrians are squeezing, quickly, before the levee of cars breaks and let’s them all through in a long line that this American will not dare to try crossing, but many others brave on a regular basis. LOCO!
There is a police presence, but I think this just may be comic relief in their day for all of the attention traffic is given.
So, the orphanage is 45 minutes from the center of town, even in the taxi in the pouring rain with severely fogging up windows, so it’s not just the bus that’s the culprit. And the routine that I began to learn today goes something like this:  we got there at about 1:30, just in time for lunch, which is cooked by a young deaf man named Cezar, who once was an orphan living in that same orphanage.  First it’s time to wash all hands in the Pila, so corralling the kiddos is the first order of business.  All of the children sit down at three long tables with benches, and they are served food on the same metal plates and cups that are used for all of their meals. Cesar dishes out the food, and we distribute the full plates to the children, but they are not allowed to touch it until one of the verbal children repeats the blessing after an adult, always including the volunteers in their prayers.  After lunch is time to brush teeth. So the kids are lined up again, rather more loosely, as some have cleanup duties and today it began to rain, so then everyone runs around grabbing all of the laundry off the lines, and rails, and roofs, and rain gutters, to pile it under a cover.  I can’t imagine the challenge of doing all of the laundry for each of 24 children that are living there today.  (Apparently a few of them went to live in the Big City, Lima, for better medical care).
After lunch, the two children who are able to go to school do their homework, and the others work on some hygiene skills, or have someone work the hygiene on them, while others get to participate in a somewhat controlled chaos of activities, that us volunteers are leading and guiding. There were four of us there today, but the other three are done this Friday, so I am not sure who will be there next week.  There is a fairly steady stream of volunteers from Maximo Nivel who are stationed there weekly.  One of the regular workers is the mother of three of these children with profound special needs.  So today I learned about 15 of their names, and some of their quirks, and for most, the workers have just guessed the ages because the children were found abandoned, without identification.
Back at the office today, I didn’t get quite as much homework tonight, probably because I did so much extra last night.  And the walk home was quite interesting in the rain, with an umbrella (that I usually don’t have to raise up to pass a Cuscanian due to their small stature) on the narrow sidewalks that become slippery when wet. But then I couldn’t get the umbrella to fold back down when I reached the homestay, and they are a superstitious people, so I just couldn’t walk into the front door with the umbrella up. So I spent several more minutes in the rain struggling with my umbrella, that I am sooooo grateful that I brought!  And now I am in my usual 2+ layers of Jammie’s, and an extra hoodie tonight, since it is a bit colder. And I will say goodnight.  Chao!  :-)

Sun. 10/26/14

I got up this morning and walked lots of stairs in the neighborhoods to get warm before everybody woke up, and then met up with some other volunteers at 9 to tour a couple of cathedrals and check out some of the shops.  Suzanne and Julie, the other MN volunteers that I have hung around with for these two days, went into a cafe for WiFi, and I stayed outside and spoke with a little 10 year old street vender named Ruth.  She really wanted me to buy a little llama keychain, pen, or bracelet, but instead I was zipping on my pant legs to go into the cathedrals and she asked me where I am from and how much my shoes cost. We struck up a conversation and I told her that my shoes probably cost about $60 or $70 U.S.  The years ago when I bought them.  And I made a really gross calculation in my head to 200. soles (Peru currency).  She got a funny frown on her face, shook her head no rapidly, and then used one of her souvenir Peru pens to write the correct calculations on the back of her hand for me to see.  Boy was I wrong!  She showed me that $20 US = s/56 so that $60 US would be s/168, and so on.  Her smile was very proud.  Priceless.  Super chulita, super cutie pie!
Think I got a bit of a sunburn on my scalp this morning, maybe combo from yesterday morning too.  Will cover more appropriately in this intense sun.  At noon to 1:00 pm, on days when we can see the sun, it is directly above us, not so much to the south as it is at home, so very intense.  I have remembered well to sunscreen no matter what every morning, but the hat, not so much.  I have large wide fabric headbands that I wear to cover the back of my neck too tho, so will use those.
There was a big celebration late this morning in the main Plaza de Armas, that was lined with childrens’ artwork under the arched walkways.  It is called Concurso de Dibujos (which are drawings/paintings), and is sort of a competition of art for school children, out in the main plaza.  Apparently it is a pretty regular thing. Only pretty regular, because some Sundays it does not happen, but no one knows which Sundays those are, and which ones it does.  Four of the older, more physically capable girls from the orphanage (where I am working) were there with one of the girls’ mother who works at the orphanage, and they were all in some type of uniform.  It was so neat to get to see them this morning and they were excited to see me too!  And they participated in the parade and festivities that went on.  I lost track of them, but then saw them one more time from across the Plaza as they were leaving.  Unfortunately way to far for me to run across two streets and a park and risk my life in a foreign country, so didn’t get to say good-bye, but I will see them tomorrow and have something more in common now, something more to talk about with them.  I don’t know if they had any drawings in the competition or not.  Something to ask tomorrow…
So we hit a couple of cathedrals this morning too, actually while the Concurso was underway, and we could look down the hill from the tower of the Catedral de San Cristobal and see the parade, and hear some of the children’s band music with wind and drum instruments.  The outsides of the little cathedrals really don’t look like much, but the insides are amazing!  Tons of gold-leaf painting and frescos, and carved wood in the barroque style–super fancy!  And, just like yesterday, when we went to Sacsawaman, we were able to purchase the 10 day pass good for several of the archeological sites, this morning we were able to purchase a pass for 4 cathedrals, also good for 10 days.  So we did 2 of them, and one had audio, so do the next two that I may try for next Sat.
Back down on the Plaza late this morning, there many well lined-up groups of “la Policia”, “Bomberos Voluntarios”, and a group dressed in fatigues, so some sort of military line-up for all of the hullabaloo and celebrations In the square.  The celebration really was a big deal!  And I guess it is each time.
Oh, my goodness, I have just taken some time to really check out my blogsite, and I just realized that you are all responding and commenting, and I am so excited to hear from you!  How cool is this! that we can do this over the miles!  Thank you sooooo much for your responses and please forward this blogsite to as many people as you want.  I put it on my facebook page a couple times already (yes, I do have a facebook page), and will do so again when I know what to put for a fundraising website for the kiddos at Hogar de Las Estrellas, the orphanage that I am working at.  There is so much need all over the world and in our own country, but here will be a chance for some of you to make a huge difference in the lives of these particular 21 kids.  AND ALL THE MONEY GOES TO THEM.  Nothing is skimmed off the top.
Wow!  I am so tickled to hear from home!  And touched that you are following.  All of you, thank you so much!  Muchisimas gracias!  I don’t even know what to say. This is great!  And yes, I am trying to get a couple Zumba classes going at Maximo Nivel some evening, or maybe just a Zumba flash mob in the Plaza!  What do you think?  😉

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