Roses, Rodents and French Toilets- A lesson in 'roughing it.'

I apologize for my last, cryptic post: An explanation- For the weekend we embarked on a 10-hour bus ride that promised scenic views, vacunas and Incan ruins. Just as we were settling in for the relaxing trip- Boom! A brutal attack of food poisoning at less-than-perfect timing. For the next nine hours, I occupied every plastic bag and porcelin throne from central Peru to the Bolivian border. It was horrible, especially given the bumpy, winding road and that oven of a bus.
Thankfully, my angel of a husband kept feeding me naseau pills (that wouldn't stay down) and a beautiful Swiss lady named Barbara kept putting a cool rag on my head. They kept me from throwing myself off the bus. But,
C'est la vie. I'm over it now and it's PB&J from here til we're back stateside. While pondering my mortality in between vomitous episodes, I had some time to consider what I'll miss most about life in Curahuasi. Thus, I made a list: (in no particular order).

1. Fresh eggs: so tasty. (The fact that I can even think about food after the aforementioned episode is a good sign my appetite is returning). From the henhouse to the table, the eggs here are free-range and sans hormones. Just float and wash off the chicken poop first. I would love to get a few chickens for my backyard, but I'm not sure if Nashville city codes would permit...
2. Sun-dried laundry: Smells so nice

3. Peaceful, quiet mornings with mountain views: no phone ringing, no e-mail, no fighting traffic. So much easier to focus with fewer distractions.
4. Stars. AMAZING at night. So clear and bright. A few days ago I saw the Morning Star for the first time in my life. And the milky way looks like it's a stone's throw away.

5. People: Curahuasi is very different from other parts of Peru that we’ve visited because it’s one of few the places where tourism is not the primary industry. Curahuasi is a farming community. People here aren’t trying to sell us silver from the mines, textiles woven in the ancient Incan way, plastic trinkets of the Pachamama (Mother Earth), or baby alpaca sweaters. Here, people work in the fields, cultivating anis, potatoes and corn. They simply subsist on what can be sold or swapped in the Sunday market.

Crumbling houses made from red adobe clay dot the countryside. Roofs, unfurled in the colder months, are blue plastic tarps. Sometimes the more permanent option-- tin roofs--are held on by heavy stones from the mountains. Most houses don’t have windows (too cold, or too wet, depending on the season). The floors are dirt, and most here co-exist with livestock wandering in and out of the living quarters. Kitchens often house a stove or fire pit (and an average of 20 cuys--guinea pigs reserved for roasting on special occasions-- scurrying around). There is often no ventilation, due to the inclement weather, so respiratory problems abound.

Based on American standards of living, simply put, these folks are dirt poor. So, after stating the obvious, let me tell you a story about their rich character: When Laura had her baby, I wanted to buy her flowers. Michael and I checked with several tiendas around the village about where to pick some up. No luck. Out of options, we went by the market to buy some fruit for dinner, and we asked the vendor if she knew of a place. Another negative, but she said, in broken Spanish and Quetchua, that she would help.

She consulted with a few women in the market and then motioned for us to follow. Leaving her stand unattended, she guided us across the village, where we finally arrived at a rickety gate and a slim, stinky dog standing guard.

She hollered in Quetchua. A few minutes later emerged a weathered old woman. With at least 100 years to her credit, she hobbled to the gate. A few words were exchanged, and then we waited. We watched the old woman retrieve a rusty scythe. We peaked through the slats in the gate and saw her head toward the back of the shack where nature bowed some of her most gorgeous foliage. Slowly and precisly, she cut 12 of the most beautiful blooms we'd ever seen from her trees.

Brimming with flowers, she came to the gate and laid them in my arms.

WOULD THIS EVER HAPPEN IN THE STATES? Michael and I were shocked by her kindness. (Isn't this sad that we were shocked??)We've become so cynical about our fellow man given the Bernie Madoffs of the world, the increasing crime in our neighborhood, the school shootings, etc. that when someone went out of their way to help us (and then refused to take any money for it), we were surprised by their grace. But this has happened over and over again to us in Curahuasi. The people here have such generous spirits.
So, I also composed a short list of things I won't miss when we leave here: Starting with
1. Poop: horses, cows, goats, sheep, dogs... always peppering the walking path, thus always in my hiking boots.
2. Fleas: remember the earlier post about all the stray dogs? Hence, the proliferation in Curahuasi. My legs are covered in a constellation of critter bites. I found the Southern Cross tatooed across my left ankle.

3. Kil-Ol for fruits and veggies: When I'm hungry, I just want to eat, not disinfect.
4. Meat (this is Michael's contribution to the list): Man. Need. Steak. Preferrably refridgerated and free of flies. That package of beef jerkey packed in his suitcase didn't last long in Curahuasi.

5. Cold showers. Having a hot or even tepid shower is such a luxury that we won't ever take for granted again!
There are a million other things that I can't post here, so let's have coffee when we return Stateside and we'll fill you in on all the really good stuff...

photo captions: cuy (guinea pig) for dinner. an ancient incan tradition on special occasions. this little guy was prepared for us by the sweetest peruvian family on the night before we left cusco. the floating reed islands of uros on lake titicaca. the lost city of the incas- machu piccu. random shed- a lawn mower, some trash, a skull. yikes!

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