Monday, May 30, 2011

Herd of rolling cases

I mentioned this herd in my last post and thought you might like to see them.

This was at Markham College, where I was again today. They had a special digital sign for me at the entrance of the school.

The schools have all been very welcoming. I'll be back at Markham tomorrow.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Views outside the schools in Lima

Here are a few views from outside some of the schools I've been to so far.

At Cambridge College, each morning we arrived early to beat rush hour in the taxi. We sat here to wait. Are these plants giant cyclamens, I wonder?

Cambridge College is by the ocean. There was often a sea breeze in those palms above the buildings. The one on the right is the primary school library, which was airy and open, with a friendly librarian. We talked about the fact that she doesn't want computers for the kids to use in the library. There are computers in the classrooms and in the computer lab, and most of these students have them at home. Here, it's about the books. Nice.
This playground equipment is at Markham. Very fancy--looked like fun to climb. Later that day, as we were leaving the school, I saw a herd of small rolling suitcases that the kids use for their books next to this equipment. I almost stopped to get a picture but lunch was calling me. The kids were on the playing field nearby.

This was over on the early primary side at recess.

The weather here is a steady 73 degrees fahrenheit most days (about 23 centigrade), at least now in the autumn, so there are lots of plants blooming. This is outside the building where I performed at Trener School.

Trener has a great view of the hills outside Lima.

Catch-up: school performances in Lima

I've had two weeks of storytelling in Peru now, so far at five schools, thirty-two sessions in all. It has been intense, exhausting, and very fun.

I began at Colegio Maria Reina Marianistas. For those from the US, "college" doesn't mean "university" here. It means school, so at Maria Reina, I began with the first graders and had classes up to the fifth graders, over the course of three days.

Even when the kids didn't understand all the English, they did understand puppet. You can see that they're joining in on "Nighty-nighty, baby" using their fingers.

At this school, some of the kids came up to me on the playground to try out their English. One third or fourth grader told me her grandmother lives in Houston. She translated for the other kids. They were very curious about who I was and what I was doing on their playground (having a quiet break, until it was time for recess). We had quite a discussion of family pets.
The next school was Hiram Bingham College, where the students had just had a French day. Here I am showing the map. At all the schools, I begin by showing where Kansas is. Then I tell them that I was born in Rhode Island, and I point there. Then I say that my mother lives in Maine. I start naming the states where my six siblings live. All of this is a way for the students to get used to my voice and how I speak, before I start the stories.

This was at Cambridge College. This school has a brand-new state-of-the-art auditorium. The auditorium manager, Eduardo, was great. Because he was actually involved with the construction of the building, he knows everything about it and about the equipment. He set up the backstage for the primary school performances, making it an intimate space (he also gave me a couple of granadillas, a fruit I'd never tasted). The secondary kids sat in the auditorium seats.

You can see the beautiful wood floors and the edge of the wood risers some of the students sat on.
I spent just one day at Markham College, beginning with the kindergarteners and then telling to some of the upper primary kids. I'm going back this week for two more days.

Yes, another map picture. This was at Trener School, with the fourth or fifth graders. The students here were well prepared--they'd come to my website and had read some of the blog (are you reading it now, Trener students? You can leave comments, if you want). They had thought in advance about questions to ask. Some were about storytelling, some were about my favorite kinds of pie, some were about what I'd seen (and eaten) in Peru. I'm going back to Trener for another day soon.

I'll post pictures of the outside of some of these schools next.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cat parks

I really am going to write about the school performances. First, though, I want to show this curious phenomenon.

Not far from my house, there are a couple of parks where cats live. They curl up in the grass inside the fence or lie on the sidewalk outside. I was surprised to see this in such a public place. This evening I saw a woman carrying a kitten around in one of the parks.
People feed them, though I did see a sign that said only authorized people were allowed to do so.
They seem to be of all ages. As I was watching them, a woman next to me said quietly, "Oh, pobrecitos." Yes, poor little ones. The park smells terrible, so contrary to what most cats prefer.

There seems to be no fighting among them and they weren't bothered by a dog I saw nearby.

This one looked familiar, though I know Mr. Bacon is home in Kansas, in good hands.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The beginning of the Lima tour

I'm getting behind in writing about this tour already.

When I flew back to Lima, I was greeted at the airport by SeƱor Luis, the taxi driver who has taken us to the schools, and his wife, Maria. They've been wonderful chauffeurs. They drove me to the apartment, where we met Gustavo, the Peru tour manager. Gustavo has been great at taking care of all the details, getting me to the gigs, dealing with the schedule and the schools, making sure I'm fed and watered. He's also good company, so that makes it very easy.

Here's the inside of the apartment. I meant to take pictures of the outside, but haven't yet.

It's quite comfortable. On the past two tours in Latin America, I stayed in hotels. This is a real treat.

Gustavo took me to lunch to welcome me officially. We went to an amazing buffet so I could taste different kinds of Peruvian foods. Have I mentioned how much I like ceviche? I didn't think I would. Raw fish in lime juice with onion and hot pepper? Nah, I don't think I'll be eating much of that, I thought. I was wrong. Believe me, it's fabulous. The lime juice cooks the fish. I must have had four or five kinds of ceviche at the buffet. My favorite was where I chose what seafood would go in it. I chose salmon and octopus. I could have added several other sea creatures, but decided to keep it simple. We washed the food down with chicha morada, a drink made from purple corn with cinnamon and clove (it's not the fermented kind of chicha). Yum.

We waddled out of the buffet. Gustavo took me back to Miraflores, my new neighborhood, and oriented me. We went to Larcomar, the fancypants mall overlooking the ocean a few blocks from my house. He took me past the lavanderia where they do laundry for around a dollar per kilogram (cheap!). He walked me to the grocery store and past the drugstores. We also passed a few casinos, but didn't stop in (and we're unlikely to). Gustavo left me to my own devices, with some food in the kitchen, a cell phone, and instructions on when we'd meet on Tuesday to go to the first school.

The next day was the only week day of the next five weeks with no school performances, so I took time to settle in, pick up my bag from the South American Explorers clubhouse, wander around the neighborhood, get more staples at the grocery store, check e-mail, and generally get myself prepared for the performances.

More on those soon.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

One more picture from Cusco

I don't know that this deserves its own post, but I couldn't resist taking this picture outside the hostel where I stayed in Cusco:

Miscellany from Aguas Calientes

The small town of Aguas Calientes is the place to catch the bus up to Machu Picchu. When I came down from the site, I spent a few hours there before catching the train back to Cusco.
This is the Plaza in the center of town.

In the morning, there was a procession of the statue of Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle, carried by the schoolchildren and accompanied by a brass band.

Later in the day, the statue of the Virgin Mary went on parade, accompanied by musicians and dancers.

After watching this, I treated myself to a meal on the balcony of a restaurant on the Plaza. The picante de quinoa was delicious and beautifully presented.

The return trip was not on an ordinary train, like the one I'd ridden in on. This was the Vistadome, which has windows in the roof, a fancy meal and even a fashion show by the car attendants (all the clothes were for sale, of course).

The "light snack on board," served in a bento box, on top of woven placemats, was described this way:
Andean Trilogy
Grilled chicken roulette with homemade chimichurri filled with sauteed vegetables, served with sauteed native potatoes scented with rosemary, grilled vegetable mini brochette and an Andean cheese mini brochette

Quinoa creme caramel
This little boy was on the bank above the train, looking down into the Vistadome as we passed. I wonder what he would make of the bento box snack and fashion show.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

More Machu Picchu pictures

I can't stand the thought that I only posted a few Machu Picchu pictures. Here are more, in no particular order.

The site is vast--I can't even really describe it.
Maybe you can get an idea of the scope from the size of the people in this one:
This is a carving of a condor with its wings spread, best seen from the perspective of about two feet off the ground:
Here I am again, with the mountains in the background.

The mountains are impossibly steep.
Can you see the river below?

I think this is Wayna Picchu, or "Young Mountain" in the background. I considered climbing it, but laziness overcame me. Later I heard from some other tourists (not avid hikers) that it wasn't an easy hike.
This is a kind of sundial that tells when the solstices and equinoxes will be:
There is no mortar in these walls. Amazing stonework!

Now I feel better. At least you can see a little more of the grandeur of this site. It was clear to me why it was named one of the new Wonders of the World.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cusco and Machu Picchu

Let's see, how will I cram the whole of last week, including a visit to one of the Wonders of the World, into today's post?

The trip to Cusco from Lima went smoothly. I arrived and was met immediately by my new storytelling friend Maria, who kindly took me to the hostel and instructed me to rest for a couple of hours to adjust to the elevation (10912 ft/3326 m). I felt much better after doing that. I wandered around Cusco getting my bearings and arranging my trip to Machu Picchu starting the next day.

This alleyway led to the door of my hostel, where I had an absolutely spotless private room and bath. Hot water, too!
One wall of the alleyway was part of the Qorikancha museum, a colonial building on top of Incan ruins. This wall had clearly had some work done on it, as the blocks were numbered for proper placement.

This is a view down steps in the San Blas neighborhood, behind the Plaza de las Armas. One of the best museums I've been to in ages is in this neighborhood, further down the hill, the Pre-Columbian Art Museum. It's not an anthropological museum, but really an art museum, emphasizing that the anonymous artists were as creative as artists in the modern world. Here is the Plaza de las Armas, or the Plaza Mayor. I took a long tour of the cathedral.

Here's a wide view of Cusco and the hills beyond:
At the Museum of Qorichanka, I looked down on this bit of landscape art featuring a jaguar, a condor and a snake, three of the power animals of the Inca:

On to Machu Picchu. Thursday morning, I took a shared taxi from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, about an hour and a half. I rode with a couple of Americans, Janice and Doug, who have been traveling around the world for a few years. In the way of fellow-travelers, we got along famously.

We ended up having lunch and a wide-ranging conversation after arriving in Ollantaytambo. Then I climbed up the Incan ruins,while they settled in to their hotel in town. Here's a view of Ollantaytambo from partway up the steps of the ruins:

The Incans moved massive stones to create these structures. I think the perspective is funny in this one:
After hanging around a bit more with Janice and Doug, I found my way to the train station. It was dark by then, so I was glad not to be on the fancy train with the windows in the roof. A couple of hours later, the train arrived in Aguas Calientes, where I found a private room and bath for about $10. I fell into bed immediately, so I could get up to get my ticket to Machu Picchu when the office opened at 5 a.m. Or at least that was the plan. The office opened at about 5:20 and then there was a wait, so I got to the bus stop to get the next ticket later than I had hoped. I'd read that it's wonderful to see the sun rise on Machu Picchu. What I learned later was that the site is foggy about 95% of the mornings, so only a few lucky ones see the sunrise. By the time the bus arrived, after a scary switchbacky ride where we came close to hitting the buses coming down, the sun was up anyway. After getting through the scrum at the entrance, I still couldn't see the ruins. Until I did:

The other tourists and I weren't the only creatures up there:

I spent about three hours at the ruins. I can't exactly describe it, even though I've now had days to digest the experience. Awesome, in the old sense of the word. Amazing. Breathtaking. Stunning. All I can come up with is cliches. One more: I wouldn't have missed it for the world.