The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 27-28 - Christmas Miracles

The following takes place from Friday, December 24 to Saturday, December 25, 2010

My first Christmas away from home. There’s no snow on the ground. I have a headache from the altitude . . . . and the internet at the hostel is not working. This was not turning out to be a good Christmas at all.

But it is Christmas after all. A time for miracles.

I arrived in Cuzco at 6:30 in the morning after a wonderfully relaxing bus ride from Arequipa. From the dry desert surrounding El Misti, to the cold dampness that is the Andes Mountains, it was a definite change of surroundings. I quickly hopped in a taxi and was on my way through the winding, and inclined roads of the Capital City of the Incas.

Getting to the hostel was easy. Checking in was another. Somehow they did not get my reservation from and had no idea I was coming. After a little stress on whether I even had a place to stay in the city they found a bed for me that was open all the way until the first of January. I went into the dorm room and promptly fell asleep.

I didn’t wake up until 2 that afternoon. I had a slight headache which I attributed to a IMG_0719combination of exhaustion and altitude. I decided to head down to the Plaza de Armas here in town to check out the Christmas Eve celebrations. They had turned the entire city square into a sort of farmer’s market. There were people everywhere, shops and touts, food, fireworks. It was insane. And walking through the hordes of last minute shoppers(I assume at least), I experienced my first Backpackers Deja Vu.

I ran into Ben, a guy I had met weeks ago in the hostel in Lima.

As we both were in need of a haircut, we decided to set out together to find a barber shop. When we did, it was just a matter of playing a game of charades to explain to the barber what we each wanted. Mine was easy. Buzz it off, no guard. Cheap, fast, and easy. That’s me.

Shush Dan. Not a word!

By the time Ben was done with his, the skies had opened up and it was pouring rain. You have to hand it to the touts on the street. They seem to be prepared for everything. Not two minutes later, while we waited in the doorway of the barber shop for a break in the weather, a tout showed up selling umbrellas. I was fine, I had my rain-proof jacket. Ben quickly bought one and we were off in search of a pool hall.

We found one, and over a couple bottles of coke, played a round or two. I sucked. Like, literally. I still had five balls on the table when Ben won. Oh well. We had fun anyways. We bid each other goodbye and went our separate ways.

I made it back down to the Plaza once more that evening but I was still feeling thePlaza fountain effects of the altitude so ended up going to bed super early. I only woke up briefly at midnight when the entire city blew up. I guess it’s a tradition that at Midnight Christmas, everyone fires off their fireworks at the same time. Kinda like being in Iraq during Desert Storm just without the oil and political motivations.

Christmas Day, 2010.

I woke up early to once again find that the internet was still not working. I told myself that if it wasn’t up and running by 5 that I would take my netbook to an internet cafe and call my family from there.

It was a pretty quiet morning. Met Olivia, a university student from IMG_0726Vermont. While we were having tea and bread, a man invited us out into the hostel courtyard as he and his family were about to shoot off some firecrackers. So we did. I mean, what else are we going to do?

The family(David and Corine, with kids Sean, Brayden, and Layla) were from New Zealand. After having a blast(no pun intended) shooting off the many different firecrackers, we all decided to head down to the Plaza to check out the festivities there.

The festivities were quite interesting. It was an amalgamation of different cultures and Christmas parade, Cuzcoreligions. Groups of people came out of the church dressed in traditional Andean clothing, dancing traditional Quechua and Andean dances. Originally, these were dances and ceremonies done to worship the gods of the land, but when the Spaniards came and forced the communities to convert(much like in Canada), the ceremonies were kept, just with Jesus added to them. One older man whom Olivia talked to, felt that Quechua performerstheir culture deserved the fate they were given as he believed that they were losing touch with their roots and it was inevitable that they would be amalgamated.

Since Olivia’s studies in University involved indigenous cultures and how they are amalgamated, she opted to go off with a bunch of the performers to do some research, leaving myself and the Carnegie family to go for lunch.

Now, I know one can haggle for items being sold on the street, but this was the first time I saw haggling to get cheaper meals. We ended up having two restaurants fighting over our service. The first offered us a three course meal(appetizer, main course, desert) for S/.30. Then came the second restaurant.

“Come! Come! I give you three course for only S/.25”

We hummed and hahed.

First restaurant: “Ok, ok. I give you meal for S/.20”

Second restaurant: “So will I. Come, my restaurant is right here.”

David: “ How about you throw in some free drinks? Pisco sour for the adults, and lemonade for the kids.”

First restaurant: “OK! Come with me. Free pisco sours.”

The first restaurant won.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing, just like I would be at home. Supper was much the same as lunch, with us haggling until we got free booze with our meal. After another delicious meal, I went off on my own to hook my computer up in an internet cafe and spent two hours chatting with the various members of my family.

The day ended up way better than it began. Merry Christmas indeed.



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