Well guys, here I am in Cusco. I can’t believe I actually made it. Finally my six years of hard work has paid off and, like a intricately designed path, led me to this incredible place. As I walk through the city streets between thousands of busy locals and tourists, I can’t help but to take it all in. It would be expected to go with the flow of this bustling town and let the excitement and chaos buzz right past you. But as for myself, I notice and absorb everything. It is such a different way of life here than I am used to. Some might take this as culture shock and want to catch the next plane home, back to safe Ohio. But I thrive on the energy and excitement of this new fantastic place. Yes, it will take some adjusting and plenty of language learning, but I am ready for the challenge.
I’ve been here for a little over a week now. Excited to have went out on my own to shop, eat, and just walk the streets to gain familiarity. For my first few days I was in the company of Leo, with him helping me find my way around. He recently had to leave for a 10 day trip to the Amazon while I stayed behind to get adjusted to this new life on my own. The day Leo left I became very sick with an upper respiratory tract infection due to the weather and temperature change between Ohio and Cusco. Thankfully, I had Leo’s mother and brother to care for me and get antibiotics and proper medicine. Our apartment is located in the heart of Cusco, very convenient for someone like myself getting a grip on things. I stay connected with my friends and family through internet connection. Leaving them was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my 24 years, so thank God for Skype and FaceTime! I don’t know how I would get though all of this without their love and support. They have always been behind every decision I’ve made, no matter how crazy or impractical.
As far as the lifestyle here, no I’m not living in the middle of the rainforest as some of you thought. Cusco is a civilized city with laws and regulations, though they may be more lax. There are ways of life here that are different than in the states, such as the market where fresh vegetables and raw meat are laid out on the streets to be shopped. There you can find any fresh herb, seasoning, or ingredient you would ever need, straight out of the rainforest. At first glance, some might view this as unsanitary and unorganized, but it works. Cusco is such a tourism driven town, that I don’t stick out like a sore thumb….at least in the center city. The weather here is generally dry and temperate with only two seasons: wet and dry. Rain and hail are somewhat common but snow is pretty much unheard of (yay!). Traffic here is ridiculous…and taxi rides, talk about an anxiety attack! But really, once you’re used to the constant horn honking and no regard to lanes, it’s not so bad.
We spend much of our time in a small town called Larapa, just east of Cusco. This is where Leo’s family lives, as well as where we will live once construction is complete. Larapa is a quite suburban town with much less traffic and chaos. We spent one glorious Sunday mountainside to cookout and practice huatia. What is huatia you ask? Huatia is a traditional Peruvian earth oven. Made out of chunks of dry dirt strategically held together by gravity, the oven is heated inside with fire until the surrounding dirt is hot enough to bake and the fire is removed. We baked potatoes by tossing them into the oven and then collapsing it by adding more dirt. We then allowed them to bake and soak up the flavors of the earth. The potatoes were then dug up, and voila! dinner was served. I suspect this was just one of many Peruvian specialties I will encounter and learn to love.
In regard to my next adventure, when Leo returns we are planning a trip to the Amazon for just us two. It will be nice to experience the jungle once again with him, this time not as a student but as a biologist, along side my personal and professional guide. We have many plans as far as our educations and careers, including taking over the family hotel to manage it and begin a tourism business of our own. This is still in the planning stages, so no concrete information yet, but stay tuned! As for right now, I’m enjoying some time to relax with no deadlines, studying, or places to be and I cannot think of a better place to do so.