Things I Have Learned In Peru

“A man of knowledge chooses a path with a heart and follows it. He looks and rejoices and laughs and then he sees and knows. “  Carlos Casteneda  (born in Peru)

Things  I Have Learned In Peru

Don’t drop your camera.

According to a Stanford University study, seventy-five per cent of taxi drivers in Lima are psychotic.(view of Lima)

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Beaches in Lima are not just for swimming but a good place to play soccer and park your car.

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Millions of guinea pigs are eaten  in Peru every year. No special occasion is complete without them. They are served whole with the head and feet intact. The word in Spanish is Cuya if you do or don’t want to eat it by mistake.

If you are with a Peruvian, you will get a better exchange rate for your money from the man standing on the corner outside the bank.  Don’t try this alone.

Plaza de Armas or Plaza Mayor (“Main Square” in Spanish) is the place where Lima city was born in 1535, founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. It is also the spot from where Jose San Martin announced Peru’s independence from Spain in 1821.

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As in other countries if you want real silver or real alpaca, buy from a store with a door. Otherwise you will not be sure if you bought baby alpaca or maybe alpaca.

Taxis in Peru do not have meters and you must negotiate a rate before you get in. Anyone can put up a taxi sign in their car and often do to supplement their income. There are no regulations. Many people do it on their way to their regular jobs – if they are late for work, watch out.

If you happen to be in Lima on Palm Sunday, you can see the Archbishop.

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Need stamps? Or anything else?  Palm Sunday at the Post Office.

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There are two seasons in Peru. There is summer when it rains and winter when it is foggy.  The temperature is about the same but sometimes your pictures come out clearer.

We are a bit late with quinoa (the new it food in LA) . It predates the Incas and has been a staple in the Peruvian diet for years. They have many other grains that are high in protein  since quinoa is getting so expensive for them. Check Whole Foods for kikucha.

Soccer is the first second and third sport in Peru. They are very enthusiastic and very bad at it.

Due to the bad state of the economy and the massive inflation in the 1980s , the government got rid of the inti and brought the new Peru currency “nuevo sol” as the country’s new money. The Peruvian nuevo sol is a stable and reliable currency, it is also the least affected by the weak dollar global tendency.

 Peru’s geography yields diverse ingredients: abundant seafood from the coast, tropical fruits from the jungle, and unusual varieties of grains and potatoes from the Andes. Peruvian cuisine is recognized around the world as one of the best in South America. It was surprisingly delicious. The immigrant population throughout the years has strongly influenced the cuisine.  African, Italian, Japanese , Chinese , Spanish, Inca,  Quechua as well as surrounding South American has created the original fusion cuisine.

Peru was the last colony in South America.

Coca tea is helpful in preventing altitude sickness among other things.

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The Andes is the world’s longest mountain chain. (the Himalayas are the highest  -you know I had to look that up)

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Llamas are pronounced yamas, unlike yams, sweet potatoes, yellow potatoes, white potatoes purple potatoes, large corn, small corn and plaintains which are often found at the same meal.  No meal is complete without potato. There are 3000 varieties grown in the Andes. They will eat a different kind of potato for breakfast lunch and dinner. (potatoes at the food market, Cusco)

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I only eat cooked vegetables and fruits and bottled water when I travel to third world countries but had no problem eating raw fish (ceviche) at every meal.

It was just another day in the Sacred Valley with quick stop for lunch.

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For centuries Peruvians have turned to natural remedies to cure their ailments. Medicinal and hallucinogenic plants have been used since pre-Inca times for healing. A variety of healers (referred to as shamans in North America) exist throughout the country with a wide range of techniques. While healers from Northern Peru use San Pedro cactus in their ceremonies, healers from the Amazon work with ayahuasca, which in Quechua translates to ‘vine of the dead’. Ayahuasca is a hallucinogen that induces visions and helps to diagnose illness. Healing ceremonies take place late at night, when the energies are at their highest, especially during a full moon. Westerners have come to Peru specifically to visit with these healers about a variety of issues including cancer and depression. There are mystical Andes tours that include ayahuasca sessions. It is best to do these things in Peru with a real shaman and not in your living room with friends.

The one on the end is not me.

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The first day of hiking at 9000 feet is hard. The first day of shopping at 12,000 feet is no problem.

Pisaq Market  sells handicrafts, jewelry, minerals, herbs, spices and local foods and is the biggest market in Cusco. it’s a good way to learn about the local way of life, get a taste of how herbal medicine works, see how paints and dyes are made using natural minerals and sample the various local foods.

The Quechuas are the descendents of the Incas. You see them all over Cusco and the Sacred Valley in their native dress.  I find the women’s outfits most unflattering. But what is beauty and  who defines it?

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In Cusco, never say maybe later to someone selling you something in the street, somehow they will always find you later. ( Cusco view)

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Pisco ( pure grape brandy) is the national drink of Peru. There are Pisco Sours , Piscopolitans and Piscotinis.

Walking a short distance, from where the bus drops you in Ollytambo, to the train to Cuzco ( due to construction and flooding) is still shorter than changing gates at any major airport.

The potato, tomato, lima bean and avocado come from Peru. (Get it – lima-Lima?)

The Peruvian national Anthem ”El Condor Pasa” sounds a lot like Paul Simon’s “Id Rather Be A Hammer Than a Nail. “  At first I thought, these Peruvians must  love Paul Simon. Hopefully, he gave them some money. Guess what song he is playing?

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Peru is the world’s second-largest producer of cocaine. (yes, Columbia has retained its number one status)

Peruvian corn has the biggest kernels in the world.

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Llamas have the right of way at Machu Picchu, should you be on a narrow road and meet one.  From far away, it is hard to tell the difference between an alpaca, a vicuna and a llama.  It is easier to tell by the feel of the sweaters.

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The Peruvian root Magra is what they make Viagra from.

Like their grandmothers, the Quechua women of Chinchero weave textiles. They have formed the Chinchero Textile Center. Dressed in their native clothes, they spin, thread, weave and dye with natural dyes.  They are prepared using wild plants, to color the wool. The red is from cochineal and the green  is chilca or ragwort, with drops of lemon for a more intense color.

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The Cuzco School Of Art is a series of religious paintings.  The Spaniards taught the Inca artists how to paint their icons in the style of Flemish and Gothic masters.   There are no names on the paintings and though the subject  is Christianity, the Indians have managed to put in many hidden symbols from their own culture. They moved from the traditional style and added their own interpretation.  The best pieces are in the Cuzco  Cathedral.

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The magic of the Andes is that every time you turn around, the colors are different. (yes its the picture at the top of my page)

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If you want to learn about the  Incas, it is another blog.

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/things-i-have-learned-from-the-incas-in-peru/

Things i have Learned from the Incas In Peru

Viajen con cuidado,

JAZ

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Things I Have Learned From The Incas In Peru

“Before our white brothers came to civilize us we had no jails. Therefore we had no criminals. You can’t have criminals without a jail. We had no locks or keys, and so we had no thieves. If an Indian  was so poor that he had no horse, tipi or blanket, someone gave him these things. We were too uncivilized to set much value on personal belongings. We wanted to have things only in order to give them away. We had no money, and therefore a man’s worth couldn’t be measured by it. We had no written law, no attorneys or politicians, therefore we couldn’t cheat. We really were in a bad way before the white men came, and I don’t know how we managed to get along without these basic things which, we are told, are absolutely necessary to make a civilized society.”

― John Lame DeerLame Deer, Seeker of Visions

Things I Have Learned from the Incas In Peru

The Inca culture is part myth part Peruvian history. There are no written historical records of  people that lived for three hundred years and ruled  the West Coast of South America for one hundred years.

Their recording system (mathematical) system was colored strings with knots to keep records of everything that could possibly be counted (livestock and business transactions), and some things that couldn’t – like instructions, people’s names etc.   They were  required to remember to understand what the strings or quipu meant .  Most people couldn’t do it.  They had a  class of royal quipu specialists who knew how to make and read them. (the first accountants and business managers)

Archaeologists believe now that the Incas  were possibly inventing written language just as the Europeans were destroying their civilization.

.No other civilization has managed to assemble so many colossal stone blocks so seamlessly cut with stones or bronze.  The edges of the stone were rubbed smooth until they merged together perfectly like a puzzle. There is no mortar holding them together and they are earthquake proof constructions. ( Sacsayhuaman fortress)

How they  transported all that granite up there  to Machu Picchu remains a mystery.  It is believed that they quarried  it on site. 

The Incas knew how important water was and treated it with great respect but we did not. (Ollaytantambo)

but we

When the descendants of the Incas are planting to this day, they put flowers in their hair to dress the earth. They live with shortages but they have the mountains and the sky and that gives them peace. They are always chewing coca leaves.

Inca dances are traditional and also a way to pray.

The Inca manhood initiation rite lasted a full month, during which the boys who were training to be warriors were flogged repeatedly, had huge holes cut in their ear lobes, ran dangerous races, and danced till they dropped.

There was a lot of building going on in the Inca civilization ( third largest after Egypt and Mesapotamia)  They built palaces, aqueducts, storehouses, terraces, temples, houses, gateways etc. Looking at Machu Picchu you could see their “tax dollars at work”.

 We know very little about Inca women because the only written records are by the Spaniards. Spain was a patriarchal society and they were not interested in recording information about women.

The Inca emperor married his sister seemingly because this helped to resolve the problems they had with succession when an Inca died.  ( a good way to prevent inheritance problems but not birth defects). Her name was Coya and she was powerful in her own right.

 Pizzaro and his men were not heroic explorers but an extremely desperate group of foreign invaders who brutally murdered the Inca civilization  ( where have we heard this before?)

The Incas were skilled craftsmen and artists. Most of  their gold and silver art was melted down by the Spaniards.

There were no homeless people in the Inca civilization. If criminals were not killed, they had to beg for food everyday and tell their stories so other people would not commit the same crime. (sounds a lot better than twenty years without parole) 

The spirit of Ayni  (rhymes with Hi-ni)   exists in the Quechua  culture today. We don’t talk  about Incas as a surviving culture anymore.  It is “I help you so you must help me later.”

Also today we have Inka Kola, Inka rail and a ton of Inka traffic going to all the historic sites.

Machu Picchu was the royal estate of Inca  King Pachacuti.

Th Incas were good at organizing labor. When Pachacuti’s grandson Huayna Capac built his royal estate  (in Urubumba) he had 150,000 workers on site. The corn-growing Cochabamba valley of Bolivia was short of local labor, so they had 28,000 workers migrate there from Lake Titicaca and back (a distance of about three hundred miles) twice a year, once to plant and once to harvest.  On foot, of course.

They had nice roads to travel on. The Incas built a network of stone-paved highways all over the empire. Archaeologists have so far logged about 50,000 miles of remaining highways in modern Peru alone, not counting the other nations that once formed part of the Inca empire.

Machu Picchu has brilliant engineering, drainage and foundations. They filled the terraces with layers, starting with topsoil for the crops and then river sand, stone chippings from the quarries, and big rocks. Underneath that are subterranean drainage channels which still carry water down the mountain   No matter how hard it rains, no standing water ever remains for long on the surface.( Estimate: 60% of construction at Machu Picchu is invisible, underground.) i believe we could learn something here because it rains a lot in Macchu Picchu.
The Incas worshipped the earth goddess Pachamama . Before our trip to Machu Picchu we met with a shaman to make an offering to Pachamama for safe journey.

The purpose of Macchu Picchu will always remain a mystery. It is probably a religious and spiritual site.  It is the work of man echoing the work of nature. The Inca trail leading up to Machu Picchu ( it takes four days  of camping out in the Andes if you want to do it) was built to always face the snow capped mountains because that is what they worshipped. The architectural style is sacred geography.  For me, if God isn’t at Machu Picchu, he isn’t anywhere.

 

Viajen con cuidado,

JAZ

PS.  I had help on this one . It is advantageous  when you are writing about the Incas to have made a friend in Peru who happens to be one of the leading authorities on the Inca civilization .  Peter Frost is an explorer, author, photographer and National Geographic expert on Peru and the  Incas.  He has made one of the most important discoveries of Inca civilization since Machu Picchu. Check out his website  (www.peterfrost.org).  If you are traveling to  Peru you will find his books very beautiful,  helpful and informative.

Everything Touches Everything

‘ Everything touches everything.”           Jose Luis Borge

After 9/11, the world reacted in very kind and  humane ways. The best story that I heard was the one from the Masai tribe in Kenya.  One of the Masai was living in New York and studying to be a doctor at the time. He returned to Kenya and reported the story to the tribe. Telling stories to the Masai was the way of passing on the news.  They hadn’t watched it on television. They didn’t comprehend the logistics. They didn’t know who the bad guys were.  They understood  that  3000 people had perished in an attack on the United States. They wanted to help. The cow is life to a Masai. They use every part of the cow and treat it as a sacred animal.  Fourteen families gave up their only  cows as a gift to America. It was a big sacrifice for them.  It was a bigger lesson for me.  No one is so important that they do not need kindness and you can  always do something  to help the human condition.

Over the last few years, I have started to travel to third world countries. I always   do something. I heard about the first school being built in the mountains in Peru and I cashed in  my travelers checks (no easy feat by the way) to help them. I gave pens and pencils  to the Embera tribe in the rainforest in Panama. I also taught English for a day. In Cuba we handed out everything  we brought in the first few days.  After that, I gave away my own things and all my cash. My suitcase to Burma was filled with things for the orphanages including 12 dozen children’s toothbrushes. (I read that it was one toothbrush for a 100 children)    I happened to mention to someone I had just met  that I  was going to buy toothbrushes for the orphanages . The next day i received a text to come pick them up at her office. She always does something.

There are different theories on this. There was an article in Cambodia that the orphanages were not using the things that were donated because if they looked poor they would get more stuff.  It is said that America ties its foreign aid to its allies and interests. I have read that if you give money to children begging in the street, their families won’t send them to school.

The best thing to do is to research a country you are passionate about.  Find a cause that you support. The most basic causes are food and water. I am passionate about education and I always try to do something with a school. There are many choices- ecotourism, humanitarian,  medical, teaching, cultural,  conservation, farming and research.  You can do it for a day , or a week or a year. There are many international organizations who do good work that accept donations – just research where the money is going before you give. International Red Cross and Unicef are two well known ones.  Donate items, money or time. Perhaps do all three.  Food, clothing, clean water,  medical , household and school supplies are always appreciated. You may not feel that you are doing enough to change the world but you  are  doing enough to change someone’s day for the better.

In Peru, I gave my boxed lunch to a Quechua woman on the plane.  I went to the bathroom when we landed. When I came out,  the Quechua woman was standing there. I asked her in Spanish if everything was ok. She  nodded.  We walked through the terminal and into the luggage area together in silence . We walked over to where my group was and then she left. I thought about it for a long time. I was a stranger from another country. In her culture, people exist by helping each other. It didn’t matter who I was. I gave her my lunch. She made sure I got to where I needed to go. There was no speaking. It is just something you do.

Fly safe,

JAZ

My Top Ten Sunrises

“ Living on Earth may be expensive but it includes an annual free trip around the Sun.”

My Top Ten Sunrises

Sunsets are easy.   You are usually awake and can make a  plan.  “Lets  have a drink and watch  the sun set over the Ocean, the River,  the Volcano, the Old City,  the Rainforest  etc.”  They are usually social.  Sunrises in my life  are fewer,   accidental and  sometimes seen alone. My goodbye to a city  is often at sunrise.  I  take a lot of early morning flights .

1. Machu Picchu, Peru   My plan was to meditate at sunrise on Machu Picchu.  By 4:30AM , the road into  Machu Picchu becomes Disneyland on a crowded Sunday. .   It wasn’t easy to find a quiet place .  Machu Picchu is in the clouds. The sunrise is cloudy and rainy most of the time.  Still, the eery light hitting Machu Picchu  in the morning  feels very spiritual.  We will never  know why  Machu Picchu was built and who lived there but we know that every morning they saw this same sunrise.

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2.  Mount Masada, Israel   When I was in college,  we climbed   Mount  Masada.  It was very hot and very dark. At the top,  there was  water and a ladle that everyone drank from (I know we didn’t have Aids then, but we did have germs!!) It is still the best water, I have ever tasted.  We sat down to watch the sunrise .  The guide told us the story of the Jews  surrounded  by the Roman army. We reflected on their choice to kill the women and children themselves before the Romans got up there.   It was a somber sunrise.

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3. Venice, Italy    My kids and I were taking a boat to the airport  in the dark as the sun quickly rose over Venice. The colors change with every light and shadow and it is truly the most beautiful city in the world .

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4. Havana, Cuba   Leaving Havana in darkness, thirteen years ago,  I was filled with a lot of emotions.  My daughter had performed at the Cuban Ballet Festival. We had no information going in and had no idea what to expect.  It turned out to be one of  the most amazing experiences of our lives.  The dark streets were filled  with humanity going to work.    They were crowding the bus stops to get on the few running buses .    People were selling snacks.   The sun rose over  the busy streets and faded colors of the buildings. It sparkled off the water hitting the  Malecon ( sea wall) and shined on the old cars from the fifties.    I took an imprint in my memory because I knew when I came back and Fidel was gone it would be different.

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5. Barcelona, Spain   was the opposite experience.  It was summer and the city was crowded with tourists. As I drove to the airport at sunrise, the streets were filled with students and young people  who had been out all night, dressed in their club clothes. They were all  on Las Ramblas, trying to keep the evening going.

6. Perissa Beach (black sand), Santorini, Greece   I also had been out all night and now we were sitting on  the beach .  A large Pelican stood next to us, waiting for the restaurant to open for breakfast, as the sun rose over the black sand beach.

7. Gamboa Rainforest, Panama   We came into the hotel at night and everything was very dark .  At sunrise,  I saw and heard the sounds of the  amazing rainforest for the first time.   The sunrise is nature’s alarm clock.  I got up every morning  to lie in my hammock and have a  coffee (best room coffee called Puro –I brought some home) and listen to the sunrise .

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8. Cervina, Italy    Sometimes a sunrise involves a decision.  I was seventeen and it was my first trip to Europe. I  had gotten up to ski from Cervina to Zermatt, Switzerland.  We had to bring our passports. (it was so WW2) As the light of day broke,   all we could see was the white of a  huge snowstorm.    I went shopping in Milan instead.  I can be flexible.

9. Bangkok Thailand   The sun rose just  as  we pulled up to Suvarnabhumi Airport.  There was no one  outside  except for two monks wearing saffron robes and sandals. They were leaning up again the modern steel and glass building of the airport. The sunrise reflected them in the glass.

10. Yufuin, Japan    It was our last morning and we wanted to use the onsen (mineral baths) . I was the only American in the ryokan (probably in the town)  I decided not to wear my kimono and just go in my pajamas and a jacket. It was outside and very cold.    To my surprise, the pre dawn bathhouse,  was filled with Japanese women in kimonos  or showering. It was 32F degrees and I just  couldn’t shower outside.  .I jumped in as the sun rose in the sky.  I made so many cultural mistakes that morning (including coffee before breakfast)   Luckily, the Japanese are  very polite.

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Brooklyn, NY    When I was growing up,   my favorite place to see the sunrise was to go to Kennedy Airport and watch the planes take off .  After the sunrise, we would have breakfast there.   I wondered when I would be a person, going to some exotic location on an early morning flight.

Fly Safe

JAZ

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