Monday, May 26, 2008

And I ran.

I got some kind of disappointing news today- of which I won't bore my readers with the details. Suffice to say that it's not about my health, or finances, or job... but a matter of a boy.
I came home from an uncomfortable, awkward confrontation... ate half a pint of ice cream and felt terribly sorry for myself. (ok - to be honest I dont' even know what a "pint" is- but it's the size the women in all of those chick lit books seem to devour after a bad experience... and so I ate ice cream and if it wasn't a full pint- that was the sentiment).
I then laid in bed staring at my ceiling for an hour trying to figure out how I was so stupid as to read a situation so wrong? I tried to meditate and find calm in nothingness.

After which I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and go for a run.
The reason I'd tried the whole "meditation" thing is that I just read that stupid (sorry Gary) book "eat pray love" and have begun thinking about the merits of meditation. I've been thinking perhaps I should try it in order to find some sort of enlightenment. Achieve some type of balance. Maybe it's something I needed to explore, to give my life more meaning beyond a great pair of shoes (even though I bought a KILLER pair this weekend). If I did something like meditate maybe I could be better prepared to deal with life's crush(ing) rejections. After all, in the "cosmos" of life- surely one little crush doesn't mean anything does it?? Everyone who meditates seems so peaceful...
But instead of sitting down and zoning out, I ran.
I put on my seen better days running shoes, my old old shorts (I wasn't sure if they would still fit) and set my nano to the song "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis. And I ran.

As I pounded the pavement I could feel my muscles bunching, hear my laboured breathing and slowly feel the anxiety & tension leave my body. And I kept running.
It was dark, but that spurned me on to go faster, and the cooler temperatures made me feel more alive. I realized that my running was my meditation.
From what I've read, meditation is paying attention to your breathing and focusing your thoughts (usually on a mantra).
When I run I practice rhythm breathing (tip from CHS) so I don't stitch up. My mind doesn't wander, as I focus on positive visual thinking- and I usually have my own mantras, depending on what I'm focusing on.
I felt so powerful as I ran, strong and fast. It was a great feeling to experience on the heels of a let down. A feeling that I was in control of, and one that I was the genesis of.
I listened, unapologetically, to that song about unrequited love, and remembered that my situation really is one of a million in which there have been countless songs and stories. And I will likely go on to create more stories in a similar vein. And I will continue to run.
I must remember that the next time I want to meditate.

(this picture has nothing to do with running... but it's a fun memory from Peru- when we went on an "Indiana Jones hike" - to a waterfall that was cold, refreshing and wonderful. And the flowers are from a botanical garden we visited that same day)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Machu Piccu *yawn* Peru parte finalemente

I know I know- a 7th wonder of the world. Amazing lost civilization. Stunningly preserved remains of a lost city we know nothing about. Was it a city for just women? A lost Inca royal palace? A small village where they cultivated coca leaves and crops? I don't know!!! why are you asking me these things?!!

My dear friend EC said "What?! You didn't like Machu Picchu?! That's like not liking Jennifer Aniston!!! Oh wait. You don't like Jennifer Aniston either. ok" And that about sums it up. Machu Piccu was like Jennifer Aniston- it was nice. Good shape and form, pleasant enough to behold- but nothing that inspired me or lifted me up. It's no Cate Blanchett. : )

I will say that the Andes surrounding Machu Picchu are stunning as my pictures will hopefully show.

And to be fair, I was actually quite sick when I did this part of the trip, so my fever and delirium could have been contributing to my lack of excitement. (truth be told, after the obligatory 2 hour tour at the beginning and my two bites of lunch, I actually found a grassy knoll in the middle of a 'garden' or 'front yard' or 'we-don't-know-what-this-is-and-isn't-it-still-oh-so-amazing-patch-of-land" and ... fell asleep. Yes I did. People all about me were swarming taking pictures of this historic site, touching the rocks irrelevantly, and hiking their little hearts out... and I took a nap.)

By way of explanation, MP was a trip on the heels of an overnight bus ride where I first took sick and nearly threw up for 7 hours as we careened down this mountain at 220km/hour, then landed in Cusco where I stumbled about taking more photos and drinking fresh orange juice, and getting up at 5am to catch an ice cold temperatures below freezing train ride to get to Machu Picchu in the first place. I just wasn't in the mood.

Heading back to Cusco, I got on the train thinking I had four hours to go until our arrival... when 2 hours in, the train stops and everyone gets off. I get off as well and wander into the darkness of the parking lots, dimly lit, while scrutinizing my ticket- look at the train ticket saying it would return me to Cusco. I put my poor Spanish to use with a security guard who doesn't know anymore than I why the train has chosen to stop halfway... when a guy comes up to our group (there was 4 of us) with a sign saying "Sara Kostek"

Well close enough- let's go. (I wasn't entirely stupid- there were six other people/tourists already waiting in his traveling bus type van). I made it home and the next day asked my tour operator about it and he said "oh yes that's what they do. They get off half way and take buses, it's faster." I asked why this is something that they wouldn't have communicated to me so I wasn't taken by surprise. He shrugged like 'what's the big deal? you made it home" And indeed I was almost there... home that is. Only one more night of sleeping on a moving vehicle (this time courtesy of Air Canada) before I made it home- and I swear to you- I was the FIRST person I know of- that was actually LOOKING FORWARD to going back to work.
(Although I did enjoy my last day in Cusco as my buddies Stephanie and Elaine from Huancayo met up with me and we had lunch- which was awesome). Here is a picture taken wandering around the town.

Overall it was an interesting trip. I enjoyed many parts of it, and met some really great people that I hope to stay in touch with.

I feel blessed to have had the experience of working with the kids in the orphanage and Ladirella, and know that they gave me so much more than I was able to give them.

I brushed up on my Spanish, so I can whisper sweet Spanish nothings to my boyfriend (such as "pass me the potatoes" and "is there hot water?"). It was not relaxing, but nor was it an experience I would trade. Who knows- I might darken the doors of Huancayo yet again.
: )

Adios Peru.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Peru parte penultimate

I'm home. I can't believe I was in Cusco yesterday morning and working this afternoon (solving all of the world's problems in advertising). I have uploaded my photos- and since my previous posts have been so wordy... I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Here is the whole gang on my second to last night.

This is Liz going up the slide with one of my favourite guys Pedro (not the Pedro of the earlier post- a different favourite Pedro).

Here is the original love of my life Pedrito (called so because he's younger and littler):

This is me and my new bff Stephanie- on the hike to the waterfall.

This is Miguel who had a special place in the heart of my friend Kerri who had volunteered last Christmas. She told me how amazing he was and so I was understandably excited when I finally met him. I went up to him and said "Oh so you're Miguel! It's so nice to meet you. My name is Sarah" (all in Spanish of course) and he said "Your name is caca" and he spit on me. Wow buddy, if only you'd known how you'd been talked up!!! But we ended up getting along.

There was a party to celebrate the adoption of Nelly, where all the kids gathered for cake.

However it was very sad the next day when Nelly was gone and Jimmy (who'd been, for all intent and purposes, her brother) was paying careful attention to a doll he'd never paid attention to before- telling us he was taking her to Lima and then asking us to wrap her up in a traditional sling for him. It was sweet but heart-breaking, especially as he was the tough guy of the group.

More to come tomorrow.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Listen. Peru parte leaving Huancayo

Shhhh... listen.. can you hear that noise? It´s very faint. Listen.

It´s the sound of my heart breaking. I don´t want to leave Huancayo, Cota Cota or the family I´ve joined here.

Machu Piccu better be freakin´amazing. (understatement I´m sure).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Laughter and tears: Peru parte quatro

I don´t think I´ve laughed so much in the last couple of months as I have in the last couple of days. Our houseMom- Aurora- is soooo funny. And there is another volunteer, Stephanie, who is hilarious. We all take turns telling stories at lunch or dinner time and are laughing until we´re crying. It´s awesome. I think there are lots of lost in translation moments... but as long as we´re all having a good time I have no complaints!
In other worlds, we had a mixed afternoon at el orfanato today. It was fun and games until my little niño Miguel became the victim of ARCHAIC treatments by the ¨nurse¨. Miguel fell and ripped a scab off, exposing skin and fresh blood. (this is a different Miguel than a previous post. There are about 4 Miguels here) It was a case of looks much worse than it is and required a wash with water and band-aid. However, as protocal required, I took him into the nurse, where she poured some sort of antiseptic (circa 1959) on it, basically cauterizing the ´wound´. Poor Miquel was crying so hard his whole body was shaking and I could only just rub his back and try to reassure him that it would soon be over. (Which it evntually was, after she scrubbed it raw and put on another bubbling ointment... SO BRUTAL!)
In good news - one of the orphans is being adopted. Nelly is just over 18 months with huge eyes and a beautiful smile. She goes to her new home on Friday. I didn´t think that happened here and it´s nice to see.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Its so cold: Peru parte ¿wtf?!

I looked up the temperature on the internet before coming to Peru. It said highs of 14 and lows of 0. For this reason I packed a few warmer garments than I might consider taking to SOUTH AMERICA IN MAY.

At any rate, it was quite hot here for the first week, until we ventured north to the jungle and drove to higher altitudes. There we encountered hot blazing suns along an ¨Indiana Jones¨walk (scaling mountains more like) that was refreshed by a waterfall, beautiful tropic rainforests, and wild (read: cute) animals. This was followed by frigid freezing sleet, rain and eventually snow. The cold wouldnt´have been so bad had we not been travelling down the highway in the back of the cab of a truck. While it first rained, then sleeted (is that even a word?), then snowed.

By the time the snow came I gave up being brave and acting like a 19 year old and crammed my ass into the back seat of the truck where 3 of my weary comrades were already sitting. Four of us in the back was still more comfortable (at least for me) than four of us in the back of the cab with the snow.

But it´s all an experience right?
Here we are during our walk to the waterfall- scaling a mountain.

This is the entrance to a cave we visited- apparently the largest cave in Peru (maybe South America). It was pretty cool and very deep.

rorar! Apparently this little guy will grow up to be the size of my brother´s dog Wilbut, if not bigger. and he will eat you.

Here we are in our cozy little cab on the way. There are no pictures on the way down because it was too wet and cold (I might have mentioned).

This is my (was) my roommate Ally.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Kids and poo: Peru parte trés

I think my friends who have babies can attest to this, but there is an inordinate amount of poo that generally surrounds little niños. I´m finding that out quite quickly through my journey in Huancayo.
The first day I mentioned that Jose likes to just pull down his pants and pee whenever and where ever (the pants is another thing... there was a kid today, Alfredo, who was totally adorable, but spent the better part of the afternoon running around with his pants down around his knees or ankles. Eventually we all just gave up and let him run around half naked...if he didn´t mind how it hindered his speed, who were we to stop him?)
Today we went further than merely peeing... I was playing with Pedro this morning (of the previous post) and while we were going up the ladder he looked at me and said ¨caca¨, and then turned back around and proceeded to go up. Despite the language barrier I got what this meant and rushed him to the baño. Too late. There was poo EVERYWHERE! As in we had to strip this kid down and put him under the sink for a full body shower!! HOW it got up on his chest I don´t know. I don´t want to know.
Then this afternoon I had to collect Jose who was intently studying something in the corner of the yard. Upon closer inspection it was revealed to be a giant pile of poo covered in dung beetles. (I never said this was for the weak of stomach) so of course he was studying it. I whisked him away, thinking I´d at least prevented another kid from being covered... when I soon realized it was on my pants, on my jeans. How it got there when we didn´t actually touch the shit (literally), again mystifies me.
And this is particularly awesome because, despite the fact that I went to the lavatoria and scrubbed the spots (and felt a tiny bit cleaner), there is no laundry at my homestay until tomorrow. Why? Becuase we don´t have running water from 5pm onwards at my house. This hasn´t been too problematic in the past as I have ponds wet face towels to wash my face, hand sanitizer for my hands, and bottled water to brush my teeth (its amazing how clean one can get without actually turning on a tap). But in this case - I just want to stand under a hot stream of water for an hour to feel clean...
oh hot water? That´s only for about 2 minutes in the morning... and its not strong. But let´s be honest: I didn´t come to Peru for the showers... I came here for the poo.

I think I´m in love: Peru parte dos

His name is Pedro. He has the wickedest smile and the brownest eyes. He smiles impishly at me and has the most amazing laugh.
He comes up just past my knee and is about 2 years old. He loves the slide, but usually when we go down together, because if he goes alone he usually falls at the bottom. (though to his credit he usually just jumps up and runs back to the ladder... perhaps its only my ego that thinks he prefers me to accompany him down the slide!)
We call him predrito because he is little and young. And his impish smile is usually given after he´s done something he knows is wrong. My first day here he fell asleep in my lap after I rocked him- if that doesnt make you swoon... what can I say? It doesn´t take much for me to love you.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Peru part uno

Most people know that I´m in Peru. Specifically Huancayo which is 7 hours on the bus into the mountains. Its really cool because it´s a city in the middle of nowhere. You drive through 7 hours of nothing but trees and mountains and suddenly in the middle of the mountains is a city that has a university, a stadium, movie theatres and restaurants... it´s like Winnipeg in the middle of nowhere (which is sort of like... uh Winnipeg).
¿And how´s it going? Well I´d thought I´d be doing more volunteering but I actually only spend 4 hours of the day at the orphanage. We have to take a camio to get there- which is like a mini bus where they drive by and shout at you and try to cram as many people into a tiny little space... much like the buses I´ve been on in other developing countries. Then in the afternoons I take Spanish lessons. I´d thought that the Spanish I´d learned 8 years ago (in 2 months) would be enough to carry me through. However it is not. I know NOTHING. Still I´m working my way through. A smile goes a long way.
I´m living in a homestay with a WONDERFUL couple, David and Aurora, and three other volunteers. Our ¨parents¨don´t speak English so we talk Spanish at dinner every night.
My first night here we all went to a birhtday party of a friend of the program directors. It was interesting. The crowd was mixed, but mostly older- the birthday boy being 41- but we still played drinking games. (musical chairs anyone??)
For the volunteering... it´s what you would imagine. People had asked me before I went what I was going to be doing... and I could only answer ¨I don´t know- just be there.¨ And in fact that is exactly what we´re doing. There are lots of staff who cook and clean but they don´t have time to spend with the kids. If you imagine your own children- 1-3 children have 1-2 parents taking care of them. Here there are 14 kids who have a rotating staff of about 4. And to be honest they do still have some time to play with the kids... but there is still lots of opportunity for us to just be there. Some of the kids are developmentally delayed. Jose is three and he has a habit of just pulling down his pants all the time. (of course I think that non developmentally delayed kids do that too!) Today I was playing at the park with Pedro and at the base of the slide he pulled down his pants and started to pee. When he was done he pulled his pants back up and proceeded up the ladder to the top, completely nonplussed.
I was with the babies for a bit today. Miguel is 1.5 and he doesn´t walk or stand unaided but today we were practising standing and rolling over. There is lots of heartache in this place, but with it lots of hope. The kids are still kids. They run around and play, they hit you when they are tired, they laugh, they cry and they throw their food (man do they throw their food!!) I´m looking forward to the next two weeks.
My Spanish lesson mañana takes place in the market... which should be fun. This weekend our group is taking a side trip to the jungle. I won´t have time to visit the Amazon or anything while I´m here but apparently this jungle is supposed to be beautiful. I haven´t taken many pictures yet but when I do I´ll be sure to post...
Thats enough for now´- I´ll post again soon.