In Cusco

Days 2 and 3 in Cusco, Peru: Breaking Everything, Practicing Spanish, Holy Week

Plaza de Armas in Cusco at night

Monday night I fell asleep to the sounds of Cusco’s many packs of stray dogs barking and howling at the full moon, and impatient drivers honking their horns incessantly.

Tuesday morning I awoke to the sounds of my mother and Manuel talking outside my door.

“I’m so sorry about the wall!” my mom was telling Manuel. “I don’t know how it happened.”

I do. Late Monday night I was walking to my room, and when I opened the door, a huge chunk of the wall near the doorframe came crashing down, scattering into several white pieces on the tiled balcony. Everyone was asleep, so I tiptoed to bed and decided to beg for Manuel’s forgiveness in the morning.

No need for that; Manuel was understanding. “Oh, it’s fine!” I heard him say. “The wind and the rain weakened the door frame.” Phew.

What Manuel didn’t know was in addition to breaking his wall, I accidentally walked into one of his guest’s rooms. All the doors look the same, and I got confused! The next morning I ate breakfast in the kitchen with Manuel, my mom, and another guest named Cody. It turns out it was Cody’s room that I walked into. I debated whether I should I apologize to him for the intrusion, but decided not to bring it up in case he hadn’t even noticed.

Winning Over Fabio

Manuel's son Fabio

I’ve made much progress with Manuel’s little boy, Fabio. Before, he would scowl at me and turn away. On Wednesday, he brought me a flower and now he runs up to me and hugs my legs. Last night he came up to me and yelled something I didn’t understand. When I asked what he said, Manuel burst into laughter. “He wants milk.” Fabio is still breastfeeding. I laughed, and told him, “No tengo.”

I read somewhere that we don’t remember anything that happened to us before we turned 2 years old. Fabio is one and a half. For all my attempts at winning him over, if I never return, Fabio will not remember me.

Watching Manuel interact with his son is beautiful. The quiet, mundane moments are the best–when Manuel is just reading something on the computer, or drinking a glass of water, and then he suddenly stops what he’s doing and looks at Fabio as though his whole world revolves around him, and then he kisses the top of Fabio’s head and smiles. That does something weird to my heart.

Other Travelers I’ve Met at Manuel’s House

Marco from Estonia (I like calling him that) often tells me about his adventures around the world: his time working on a tomato farm in Australia, a watermelon farm in New Zealand, his jaunt through Thailand. I’ll write more about him later.

It turns out Cody has quite the story too, though he doesn’t offer it up so readily. I heard through the grapevine he’s actually a champion biker, and he’s riding in a mountain bike competition in Cusco this weekend. I often see him on his motorcycle, and he sometimes gives Manuel a lift, so I’m eagerly awaiting the day I get a ride too…

Learning Spanish: A Comedy of Errors

Outside of San Pedro Market, Cusco

My Spanish is getting better, though not nearly at as fast of a rate as I would like. Sometimes I get so smug with myself for learning a new phrase, and then I go and try it out on my host family, and I sit there feeling quite accomplished until Marco from Estonia strides in and starts a conversation with Manuel in flawless Spanish. Any feeling of pride disappears, and I am left seething with envy over his language skills. Here he is having a real conversation with his host, and all I said was “Quisiera comprar gafas de sol.” (“I’d like to buy sunglasses.”) Speaking of sunglasses, I broke mine by accidentally sitting on them. That’s about the tenth thing I’ve broken on this trip.

Main square in Cusco with Church

Walking to la Plaza de Armas

Practicing Spanish with strangers is even more hilarious, a comedy of errors, truly. I open my Spanish phrasebook and rehearse my lines over and over and over before we get into a taxi or walk into a restaurant (“Una mesa para dos, por favor.” And “Puedo ver el menu?”) I think I’m ready to go, but then I walk in to find that this is real life and not a play, so something ALWAYS deviates from the script. Like yesterday at lunch, when I asked for a table for two, and the waiter said something in Spanish that I didn’t expect nor understand. I think he said they were closing the kitchen, but since I couldn’t understand him and continued to stand there, I think he took pity on me and finally took my mom and me to a table.

San Pedro Market in Cusco

San Pedro Market in Cusco

There are small victories too. During a taxi ride, the driver told me I speak Spanish very well! Clearly he was lying to me, but still, it made my day.

Marco from Estonia says he finds it “pleasant” when people attempt, even very badly, to speak Estonian to him. “Don’t worry,” he told me. “People appreciate that you’re trying to speak Spanish.”

There is a little boy who lives across the street from me. He always hangs out in his doorway or plays on the side of the road, and every time he sees me he yells an enthusiastic, “Hola!” And when I say “hola” back, his chubby cheeks turn bright red.

On Wednesday he was standing in the street holding a puppy, and he waved to me. I motioned him over and he ran to me. I found out his name is Manuel (he was named after my host!), and he is ten years old. He doesn’t speak English. Today, I will ask him to teach me Spanish. I’ve decided to call him “Manuelito,” since he is the little Manuel around here.

Holy Week in Cusco

Church in Plaza de Armas, Cusco

Church in la Plaza de Armas

Easter is this Sunday, the 20th! Holy Week in Cusco is a huge deal. They have grand celebrations all throughout the town, and most people have the week off of work. Tonight my mother and I will go to the Plaza de Armas to attend Good Friday service at a the Merced Church and partake in any processions. I’ll try to keep you updated with more posts, but between learning Spanish, doing work for my writing clients, and playing with stray dogs, I’m a bit limited on time. Here are the posts I owe you so far:

  1. Breakdown of how much this trip costs
  2. Review of the bag I chose for my “one bag travel”
  3. San Pedro Market in Cusco
  4. Plaza de Armas in Cusco
  5. Eating Cuy (Guinea Pig) in Cusco
  6. Marco from Estonia
  7. Holy Thursday in Cusco
  8. Good Friday in Cusco

What would you like me to write more about? Comment below! 

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  • Margaret
    April 19, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Write about anything and everything. I am loving it.

  • Emma
    May 2, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Amy! It’s Emma. We met on a train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo – You may remember the impromptu carnival turned fashion show? I was so glad to meet you and learn about your blog. I love your witty writing.

    I’m wishing you well on your adventures to Buenos Aires. All great things come with a leap of faith.

    Continue the great work; I’ll be following your written adventures. Cheers, Emma

    • Amy
      May 9, 2014 at 6:40 pm

      Emma! Of course I remember you AND the bizarre fashion show. It was such a pleasure meeting you and Zach! I’ll be following your photography adventures as well on your blog.

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