Thursday, January 28, 2010

about bugs and the WEATHER

We’ve been off in a big way, the doctor and I… don’t know what we ate or where or what was in it (better not to know), but it floored us something terrible. When Lucho had around 40º fever I did what I normally don’t do, I got stroppy and we moseyed off on a journey into (Saturday!) night to find a taxi to take us to the Emergency Unit of the nearest clinic. 

As I have told you before: the only acceptable form of transport is the taxi and they come in all shapes and sizes – mostly small and falling apart. There once was a fashion adopted by the less scrupulous elements of “taxistas” to spray you with something whose name I forgot, the name sounds highly unlikely and more like something that grows under the roots of trees in Africa. Anyway, that spray made people woozy and manageable. They then proceeded to take the person in question to the nearest cash point. I think in less needy countries it’s been used to make the girls more willing than they would have been. That shows you the level of affluence – if you can waste the stuff on sex rather than money. Where was I? Oh, yes, the clinic. 

We did get there, we were attended immediately, I had forgotten to take something to read, and we waited for the results of the blood and urine samples. The local Dr. House checked Lucho for appendicitis, salmonella and related and known evils… nothing. But he did have nearly 40º fever and terrible abdominal pains. Why I am telling this story I’m not quite sure, I think it’s to show that we are not living on the dark side of the moon. There are actually good doctors, big and clean clinics, in which your tests are, in fact, sent immediately (well, as immediately as humanly possible) to the computer of the medic, or his assistant, which means one doesn’t have to hang around (without a book to read) for too long. We paid, got medicines from the pharmacy (it was 1.30 in the morning by then) and found a taxi home.

And from here to the weather: I never thought we’d have THE WEATHER as a topic of conversation in Peru, but everybody is talking about it. You probably saw it on the telly. The fact that Cusco and Machu Picchu are swimming in it, leaving people homeless and tourists stranded (two people died in mudslides on the Inca trail) is tragic enough, but it also puts the historical site(s) in danger. The ruins of Machu Picchu were already said to be slowly sliding down the mountain, and I fear that after this the time comes ever closer where tourists just won’t be able to walk between those walls any longer. It is quite breathtaking to see it from above, from some of the positions where most of the shots for the brochures are taken, but to actually walk between the ruins is something else. Maybe I am just very susceptible, but I definitely felt a strong energy and almost heard voices whispering from the past. I am so glad I had the privilege of touring Peru five years ago. It’s a magical country with many riches, much poverty, much ugliness and immense beauty. My heart is going out to those who have lost everything.

On Wednesday almost 600 tourists were airlifted to safety and more should follow today;  the beautiful railway from Cusco to Machu Picchu Village (or Aguas Calientes as it’s better known) has been swept away as though it was made from matchsticks (the pictures I add of the railway sliding into the magical Urubamba river were published by the most important Peruvian newspaper EL COMERCIO, the other pictures of the destruction wreaked by the flooding of the Urubamba valley are taken by Carlos José Rey; and to give you an idea of the situation, Telefónica has actually allowed free access to their telephone booths in Cusco. And before Telefónica gives something away for free… 

Even in Lima it rained. It’s difficult for us aliens to understand that Lima is the only world capital where it never rains (well, it drizzles a bit sometimes and they call that rain) and the people don’t have umbrellas. The roofs are flat and there are no gutters (on the roofs or in the roads). A few nights ago (and there was considerable rain on a night a few weeks ago) it actually rained so much that people had to “pump out” their roofs, terraces, there were lakes (not exactly deep, but unheard of) on certain crossings and the river Rímac had swollen to never before seen proportions – well, we don’t know about the times of the dinosaurs, but recently certainly never experienced.

I want to leave you with on an up-beat: have a look at one of the most beautiful sights in Peru: the famous Peruvian “caballo de paso”, a horse which can even dance the famous folk dance from the coast, “la marinera”. They are such beautiful animals and until you’ve actually seen them in action you can’t imagine their grace (and fun!)

Then there is the jazz scene - it's thriving. They are still doing ye goode ole rhythm 'n blues. Wonderful. Oh yes, I do feel my age from time to time. A friend was singing the other night in the "Cocodrilo Verde" (the green croc) and it was definitely good enough to write home about it. 

Whatever it brings, life is beautiful; enjoy every moment.  
Till next time.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

in the 'musings' catgegory

Today – for no reason I can recall – I was pondering what the archaeologists find, the conclusions they draw from their finds, and how every discipline relies on the other lot to provide them with the stuff they don’t ‘dig up’ (literally and figuratively) a s it were.

What we have been told is that the Incas organised and ran their Imperium with an iron fist and an exemplary bureaucracy, how they got rid of what they couldn’t subdue, like a huge big steamroller flattening the little pre-Inca tribes who had absolutely no way of standing up to this kind of onslaught, that they were baddies because they made human sacrifices and so on. They certainly were no choirboys and had absolutely no pity and whatever stood in their way was either absorbed or ‘disappeared’. (There really is nothing new under the son, is there?)

And so we just did more of the same. “The way of the world, survival of the fittest, that’s how things are...”

And then I found this:

“We found these kingdoms in such good order, and the said Incas governed them in such wise [manner] that throughout them there was not a thief, nor a vicious man, nor an adulteress, nor was a bad woman admitted among them, nor were there immoral people. The men had honest and useful occupations. The lands, forests, mines, pastures, houses and all kinds of products were regulated and distributed in such sort that each one knew his property without any other person seizing it or occupying it, nor were there law suits respecting it… the motive which obliges me to make this statement is the discharge of my conscience, as I find myself guilty. For we have destroyed by our evil example, the people who had such a government as was enjoyed by these natives. They were so free from the committal of crimes or excesses, as well men as women, that the Indian who had 100,000 pesos worth of gold or silver in his house, left it open merely placing a small stick against the door, as a sign that its master was out. With that, according to their custom, no one could enter or take anything that was there. When they saw that we put locks and keys on our doors, they supposed that it was from fear of them, that they might not kill us, but not because they believed that anyone would steal the property of another. So that when they found that we had thieves among us, and men who sought to make their daughters commit sin, they despised us.”

Written in Cuzco in 1589 by Don Mancio Serra de Leguisamo, the last survivor of the original conquerors of Peru, in the preamble of his will.

Perhaps that isn’t the whole truth either, but doesn’t it make you want to weep?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Goodbye old, come in new...

Done and dusted. Fireworks right next door. Another year gone and “they” say what’s coming is going to be exciting. Ok, we do indeed live in interesting times, and I am enjoying the trip. I hope you’ll all be able to leave behind what you don’t want to take on board for the next one – it’s easy once you start! – “be water, my friends.”

When I was told that old ladies don’t up sticks and live in third-world countries without proper medical care, without good drinking water, without much at all, I shrugged my shoulders, and now I am actually laughing. “Being water” is getting easier and easier and is the only way to live and have fun.

The other one has also happened. Been and gone. Christmas. Walked on the beach, talked with the seagulls and some of their cousins who look so different from those that populate the Cornwall beaches or even the ones you find at the various Costas. It was all rather exotic, relaxed, and each one of Lucho’s family a gem. A tree and a nativity scene had been provied and presents were duly exchanged. Even turkey had been laid on. All was as it should be and more... just wasn’t cold, was it? No scarf to put on, nobody shouted: “don’t go out into that without your boots and gloves!” It’s all about expectation, innit.

Apart from the snow issue, things were just hunky. Heard that Europe actually did have a merry cold old time of it and people couldn’t get to airports, the trains stopped (no leaves on the rails methinks), couldn’t get around to get each other’s backs up at the must-have Christmas party. Who said life was fair?

Apropos “fair”: we finally got our stuff out of customs after more than three months. I had already become used to living with the bare essentials. We all should try it some time, it’s liberating! Now that everything is here I feel almost crowded. Still trying to get someone to come and make more shelves to accommodate everything. Since the sea-facing part of the flat (almost all of it) is windows from top to bottom I am missing walls but wouldn’t change it for anything. The views are spectacular.

Doctor Lucho’s praxis is up and running, and he has taken up his professional life again. It’s heartwarming when people call – you can hear the smile in their voice – telling you that they have walked again unaided for the first time, or that they slept well again for the first time, or they can simply walk straight again.

Would you believe the cows are in Lima? The cow parade has hit us, and they are the most attractive bovines I’ve seen so far. I forgot what they’re meant to publicise – feminism, AIDS, fresh milk, beer, the good life or just creativity – but they’re fun and brighten up the place.

Tomorrow we’ll have our first visitor. Still wondering where to go. The jungle isn’t quite it right now, it’s the rainy season and we’d probably get stuck in the mud. Nazca (remember the lines?) seems like a good idea as long as she’s not scared of flying in planes my dad would have flown (in the dark ages). It’s the only way to see the lines: from the air.

The Peruvians are reflecting on the ups and downs in Peru’s Economy in 2009. I quote: “When 2009 began, we seemed to be entering a worldwide financial meltdown. Well, it's 2010 and we survived. And how about Peru? Its economy was one of the few in Latin America to experience growth this year.”

Lima is not exactly famous for its architecture – I suppose it was once (or should have been) when they still had all those old colonial buildings which you find all over Latin America – because now it has discovered the value of the land and many of those beautiful old things have made way for apartment blocks of mostly rather ordinary appearance. But Lima has allowed herself quite a few parks and is caring for them in an exemplary way. One of the biggest and best (several parks running into each other along the sea front) starts more or less outside our house.

In the centre of town there is - one of many more - Kennedy Park, where you not only can sit down to an old-fashioned coffee and cake in one of the cafés on the edges (and you’ll find some of those old buildings which I so love on one side of it), but on weekends you can bargain with the stallholders over paintings, toys, trinkets and local-made silver jewellery.

Then, only about two years ago, they created the Circuito Mágico del Agua (the Magic Water Circle), also close to the centre, which just happens to be the largest fountain complex in the world. At night lights add another dimension to the fountains and towards the end of the evening there is music and a laser light show. It’s well worth seeing and quite spectacular.

Can you believe that – as though the cows were not enough – Disney is coming to Peru? Cross my heart. It’s the beginning of the end, some would say. It’s an outfit called Adventures By Disney and includes a trip to Cusco. Thing is, you should all consider coming soon because they are seriously thinking of closing Machu Picchu for the walking tourist. There are just too many and the place is suffering. I even heard the whole thing is slowly sliding down the mountain.

We even have our very own interior design exhibition every year in a part of Lima called Barranco, in one of those old colonial villas, all lovingly restored. As with all these things, there is a fashion and the designers, the bright young things, follow it. Logical and boring. But there were some interesting new (even younger) voices which were quite exciting. So few really new ideas around. It’s entropy time.

What else? I’ll have to leave stuff for a next blog, but there is one more thing that’s just too good: I can see them from my flat – the islands just outside Callao (where our ship came in and our stuff stayed put – I am not exactly in love with them right now). One is San Lorenzo and I forgot the name of the other one which used to be a prison like Alcatraz or Robben Island. Now you can take a sailboat cruise and get up close and personal with some of Callao's more famous citizens: the sea lions. You can even swim with them. Haven’t done it yet but very much want to. Shall wait for the right visitor and we’ll do it together.

Just now another “birdman” (a paraglider) came past the windows. I’ll see whether I can fish out a photo. At the beginning they fascinated me so much that I took pix whenever one came by. It’s what happens. A photographer friend once told me that he took thousands of pictures of his first son. The next one only had a hundred or so and the third can hardly find a decent photo of himself that’s taken by his dad. One gets jaded, I suppose. Now they pass the terrace (the paragliders, not my friend’s kids) and I can hardly be bothered look up.

I wish you all the best for an exciting time to be had. Stay flexible, travel light, don’t get too attached to what are only “things”, see the beauty of being a grand old soul with a grand old destiny and not just that powerless human whose cheese gets moved regularly.

Life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Make it happen for you, not against you.
Until next time.