March 5th, 2008

Twenty-second report from Peru.

We left the Foundation Ninos del Arco Iris yesterday morning and caught a tourist bus from Urumbumba to Cusco. You pay a bit more for a tourist bus but happily to me, the bus filled up with locals who all paid half as much as we did and when the bus was full we still picked up lots more. Jim who was on the aisle and had bags, kids and people almost in his lap wasn,t quite as sure that it was a great bus ride.

I really feel very hopeful when I think about the Foundation Ninos del Arco Iris project. Their two year courses (government recognized) available only to the most needy train 100 students at a time in either hotel work, electrical, wood work, computer or textiles. At the end of two years, these graduates have all the skills they need to land and keep a job or to start their own small business. This does seem to provide a way out of severe poverty. They also have self esteme and pride in themselves and their schooling.

I was not looking forward to another night in Cusco but it turned out to be terrific. We found a great hostel just off the main square and we did some last minute shopping in the afternoon. This hostel was also on the same alley where I found the courtyard four years ago and did the full sheet, Gossiping, painting. That painting is now in Switzerland and last year I started working this image into a rug hooking just for fun.

After a supper of left over pizza, Jim was more than content to catch up on the American primaries and so I headed out along to find one last gift-- a plastic sax with a wooden reed for Kelsey. Turns out that this is very very hard to find, not being a usual tourist item. An artist was walking in the square and fell in beside me trying to sell me his paintings. No I kept saying. Finally he said ,"Well you are out here looking for something What is it that you want to buy and maybe I can help you? " "A plastic sax" says I. This was the start of a long long walk in the dark with a total stranger to find the elusive instrument. I am happy to report that I saw alot of inner Cusco and my new friend walked me and my purchase back to familiar territory before carrying on with his business. Naturally we exchanged stories about being artists and I compensated him for all his help. After all his Dad was unemployed and his mother sold potatoes and this chap,s art lessons were 100 soles a month.

Upon returning to the hostel, I showered and fell into bed, while Jim continued to follow the primaries on television! (It,s hard for me to appreciate because I never watch television, but after two months without the tube, I think Jim was suffering withdrawal.) Anyways as I lay there trying to sleep, I heard drums and wooden flutes and the music sounded live (not canned). Eventually I got up and got dressed and this time Jim jumped at the chance to come along- no doubt worried about who or what I might run into this time. We turned right towards the main square and the music dimmed, we turned left towards the courtyard and again the music dimmed. In front of out hostel in an incan wall were a set of huge huge doors and on one of the huge doors was a tiny, normal sized, door and it wasn{t locked. We peeked in. Six couples were practicing complex Peruvian dances to a wonderful live band of pulsing drums and pan flutes. Someone closed the door we were peeking in and I thought our viewing was over but Jim bravely opened the door and slipped inside the practice room with me on his tail. For the next hour we stood enthralled with the rythmns, and energy of the dances. It was spectacular and all the more so because we just happened across it.

We both had a terrible sleepless night because we were up and off to the Cusco airport at 5 a.m. From past experiences in South America we have learned never to really rely on a wake up call from a hostel. We had a beautiful flight into Lima and it saved me 28 bumpy hours in a bus!! Jim, who doesn't care for flying would have prefered the bus I'm sure but he survived the hour in the air too.

Despite an overpriced taxi into central Lima and despite the many bad things the taxi driver had to say about our choice of hostel (of course he had one that he wanted to take us to) we just love Hostel Espanol. It,s about $ 15 a night, and is in an old mansion. It is complete with lots of parrots and three huge turtles that walk about the roof terrace, and the location is amazing. We can walk to almost all of Lima,s historic sites. Today we saw the San Fransisco church built in 1650. We also hiked about 15 blocks to the national Peru Art Gallery only to find out that it is closed on Wednesdays. We will try again tomorrow. We did tour the Italian Art Gallery. Its a small collection of Italian paintings and scuptures for the early 1900s. Half of them were wonderful and the other half were quite awful.