I sincerely regret posting an exclamatory remark at the start of my previous post, because I can not help but use another in this post. Machu Picchu is, without a doubt, the most beautiful place I have ever been! With that in mind, I have little to say, because no words could ever do this wonder of the modern world justice. Instead, I hope you enjoy a few pictures and try to keep in mind that they do little to capture such serene beauty and overwhelming workmanship intrinsic to this incredible site. You can find the pictures under the links tab on the right hand side of this blog.
Wow! I love Cusco! I feel like I have gone to the heart of Peru. In fact, the Incan empire was centered here and considered it the navel of their universe.
Cusco is celebrating Inti Raymi this week. This is the king of all Peruvian festivals and dates back to the Incas. There are parades every afternoon and everyone is dressed in traditional Peruvian garb. Fireworks go off at all times of the day and venders line the streets selling rotiseried guinea pig. Walking through the massive crowd tens of thousands strong, you run into brass bands practicing for the parade and dancers attempting a last minute run through while passing cervesa(beer) to one another.
Most impressive to me, other than the massive floats paying homage to various saints carried on the backs of wearied men, is that the festival is put on with such grandure only for the locals. It is as if this is Cuscos week to blow off steam and they choose to erupt like a volcano.
Although being an American from Tennessee poses several difficulties, namely altitude sickness and no tolerance for local cuisine, this is the place to go for real culture. By that I mean everything caters to the locals and thier unique way of life. You can still be swaddled by modern westernism if you wish, but you have to go looking for it. For the most part, the restaurants are Peruvian and the clothing is Peruvian. There are strong ties to their ancesteral roots which does not so much turn its back on westernism so much as treat is with indifference.
When you are in Peru and looking to find what it means to be a Peruvian, go to Cusco.
Exploring Lima is no easy feat. With a population near 10,000,000 people and 43 separate districts, it is impossible to give a completely thorough account of this city, so I won’t try. I will, however, give my impression on a few of the highlights Lima has to offer.
First you should know that I have only fully explored 1 district of town, Miraflores, so my impression is a narrow one. That said, I have traversed all around it and have an accurate map drawn in my head.
Our hotel, Casa de Baraybar, sits on the northern coastal area of Miraflores in Lima. One block away is a serene park providing a buffer between the city and the ocean. Traverse south along the coast for a mile and you will reach Love Park. Designed with love in mind, it features a large statue of a couple in a lover’s embrace. This is also local hot spot for couples to come to and kiss. I have personally seen upwards of a dozen couples making out here.
If you walk a quarter mile past love park, the you will come to Larcomar. Larcomar is a large underground shopping mall that must have been built with Americans in mind. It houses a TGI Fridays, a cinema with movies in english, and even a North Face shop.
But when in Lima and looking to find the heart and essence of the city, then you should visit Kennedy Park. Located one mile north of Larcomar, it is the hub of Miraflores. Perpetually crowded day and night, it feels like Times Square in New York City but with shorter building and big patches of grass in the center. Here you will find an open air market, several bars and restaurants, and few department stores.
Although somewhat westernized, Lima is a beautiful city with much to offer visitors and residents alike.
As I lay here in bed, feeling my eye lids droop on the first night in Peru, I can’t focus my thoughts. I feel completely overwhelmed by what I have already seen! Although my expectations are largely correct, they are so incomplete that little light is shed on reality. Thinking only goes so far; feeling and seeing paints a significantly more comprehensive picture on society.
By far the most important observation I have made today has to do with our group, not the country. We have begun to meld into a single cohesive unit. With only a little more mingling, everyone will know each other on a first name basis; an accomplishment by any standard for a group of 45!
As for Lima, we are one block from the Pacific ocean which is lined with a spectacular park complete with intricate gardens, paved walkways, and randomly placed work out equipment. The poverty here, while pervasive, is not nearly as extensive as the cheerful attitude that I have begun to associate Peruvians with. Their upbeat nature lends itself to a childlike playfulness that lifts my spirits every time I go out.
We also visited our first archaeological museum today. The information presented to us was a bit too much for me to completely take in, but it was fabulous! The entrance and courtyard were filled with sprawling gardens and some of the most vivid flowers I have ever seen (pictures coming soon). The museum housed some 45,000 separate artifacts covering at least 3,000 years! Hopefully my class will give me a better understanding of Peru’s history and of certain artifacts’ archaeological significance.
I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us in the future days and weeks ahead! Stay in touch and find out.
Today is Friday, and as I think of traveling to Peru in two short days, I still struggle to imagine how it will feel to be in that country. I have been lucky enough to travel a few times in my life, most notably to Italy and Greece, so it is not new to me. But every time I encounter a different country I end up being stunned by the feelings, emotions, and senses I attribute to that country, no matter how much effort I put into imagining it ahead of time.
I guess that’s the point: if all I had to do was pretend I was in Peru and my imagination was as good as the real thing, then why would I need to travel in the first place? In truth, it is the surprises that accrue from being there that turn a fun vacation into an enlightening cultural experience. Real life is much better than virtual life! And so much more unpredictable.
Now having said that, what am I expecting? I expect friendships will be formed very quickly–both in our group and with Peruvians–and they will be surprisingly close. I expect huge cities vying to be called Peru’s cultural epicenter with their local gustatory delicacies and hand woven alpaca apparel (only to be diminished somewhat by the vast poverty weaving its way throughout). I expect to see a few of the world’s greatest natural wonders and scenery that couldn’t be dreamt up by one of Carl Jung’s patients. Above all else, however, I expect a culture with an enveloping warmth that nurtures everything around it and never lets go.
I hope all of these expectations come true (except maybe for the poverty). We will see how this study abroad program turns out, but I believe it will be the surprises along with our confirmed expectations working in tandem that will make this such an incredible experience.