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zest&bare Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine. Ralph Waldo Emerson

final adventures in Cusco

PERU | Friday, 2 October 2009 | Views [2603] | Comments [3]

Henry the guinea pig (cuy)!!

Henry the guinea pig (cuy)!!

It´s only been three weeks since my last babble but since then... I have been involved with a new volunteer project, watched another Cienciano game, drank more home-made Pisco Sours, danced my ass off more than once to cheesy music, saw a sunrise, ate Guinea pig, ate a few burgers... then a few more, attempted to learn tenses in Spanish, saw a few too many Incan sites, experienced a ‘Maximo’ party, got paid in empanadas and cheesecake to teach English, watched the AFL Grand Final around a laptop with less-than-ideal streaming, had my camera stolen resulting in a police car ride and hour long interrogation process, went to a flower show, bought too many souvenirs to fit in my bag, had a nutter of a woman stay in my room for one strange night, and bussed my way here to La Paz, Bolivia…I can understand that might be enough to read! For the rest of you (who really love me!), read on…

My volunteer project was at Madre Teresa de Calcuta, a kindergarten especially for kids with nutritional issues. ‘My’ class was with two to four year olds. Some poor little ones had rotting teeth and could barely count to three. As the teacher was clearly an angry woman in the wrong career I took it upon myself to implement some actual structure and learning objectives. They actually enjoyed learning numbers, animals, fruits and vegetables and making pasta necklaces for fun and motor development. For a challenge I even tried to implement manners – in a country where spitting, public urinating and picking your nose, and a lack of please and thank you is the norm, this was possibly a ridiculous goal. Some kids were starting to get it however there is no way their teacher, if she’s ever in the class with them, will continue any of it.

Unfortunately the other aspect to deal with was being viewed as a cash cow. The director asked me to buy books and pay for an excursion for all the kids and staff. How do you say no? So I paid but it annoyed me as I have paid to be here (with my funds supposedly going to needy projects), I’m not working, and was bringing in resources as gifts on my own accord. The final straw came when on my last day she showed me a cupboard full of gifts sent by previous volunteers. When the kids are playing with one-eyed, no-armed, matted-hair dolls that frighteningly resemble Chucky and there are no resources including colouring-in or story books, why are these things in her cupboard? Despite that, I did enjoy the placement and wish there was time to do more.

Most days after my project I met with a local girl who was trying to get her tour guide license. Let’s be honest – this girl was annoying, continually questioning me how could I not know the history of the Incas or be more interested, or use a guide at sites, or want to see more Inca rocks and structures – but she paid me with amazing empanadas and cheesecake so I took the abuse. And the answer to her questions was that really how many of these sites can you see and truly be interested? Perhaps as I started with Machu Picchu, the only way was down after that. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my weekend at the Sacred Valley, particularly the tranquility of Chinchero and the tranquility of being on my own. I also enjoyed the best meal I’ve had in months in Ollaytantambo, but I really didn’t get Pisac and couldn’t wait to leave. But leaving Pisac was a drama too, seriously battling it out with the locals using elbows and knees to get onto a bus, ending up standing all the way near a person who was excreting a smell like he needed immediate hospitalization.

I also spent my last weeks doing private Spanish lessons. I feel like I learnt so much my brain couldn’t process anymore and it’s shut down. Hopefully it starts to work again soon. It probably doesn’t help that there were a few late nights in my last week. I hadn’t been out too much in my two months so made sure to make up for it at my ‘leaving’ drinks on Thursday night and then at the Maximo end-of-month party on Saturday. Both nights ended with dancing and burgers…felt like home, except of course the music was a little 2001 and generally on a loop of maybe 20 songs! On Friday night we attempted to watch the AFL Grand Final live (local time 11.30pm). The signal was abysmal so at half time we made our way to a volunteer house that none of us live in and watched the remainder there. The ‘house mother’ i.e. a guard to make sure people like us don’t turn up at 1am and drink beer, was not impressed but luckily we were able to watch the second half with better streaming. The signal was still bad and I must say Rob, the instigator of this viewing-event and a Saints fan, handled the situation very well. If it was my team and I couldn’t quite see the game properly I’d have had kittens.

And just as I thought how great I was to avoid being robbed and / or run over in my two months in Cusco, drinks on Thursday ended with some bastard stealing my camera as I waited for a cab. I felt the guy do it too and quickly checked my bag, to find my cards, money and phone were safe. A minute later in the cab I realised my camera had gone – thankfully I only had about 20 not-so-exciting photos on there (actually most were of tropical flower arrangements – I only took them for my house mother whose camera had broken). For insurance I needed a police report so on Saturday I asked a policeman in the street where the Tourist Police was. He told me to get a cab but I stood there stubbornly until he called his mates who came around in a police car and took me there. I’m sorry to have made them actually do anything, but all I wanted was a report however no, they insisted on giving me a full interrogation that went something like this:

Police: “Why did you have your camera with you?”

Victim (Me): “Because I’m a tourist.”

Police: “What did he look like?”

Victim: “Brown hair, dark skin, brown eyes, about 5ft7in…pretty much how you lovely gentlemen look.”

After an hour or more of this, and after they asked me to pay a small fee to which I point blank told them wasn’t happening, I got my report. Shame it’s in Spanish and useless for me to use.

Another night involved eating the local dish of ‘cuy’ AKA Guinea pig. ‘Henry’ - I liked to call him - was actually pretty useless as a meal. He was boney, fatty and tricky to eat. Mind you, Benita impressed me as she happily tucked in like it was our national dish. If you’re wondering about the taste, he was so pickled with seasoning it was hard to tell but it had darkish meat like duck or the darker part of chicken. But it was an experience and I survived to tell the tale. I bought a Peruvian cookbook which has the recipe for anyone interested in getting one from the local pet store and cooking one up…

My final night in Cusco involved my house family making an awesome dinner and making Pisco Sour. We didn’t have dancing like the previous going away parties so I included in the photo gallery footage of a previous ‘fiesta’ featuring me, Alex (blonde girl), Eduardo (house dad) and Michael, by far the star of the show! Nothing better than people dancing their hearts out having no idea that I have set-up a camera! (** I have since worked out I need to publish the video on YouTube before I can attach it here...If I get around to it, I'll let you know..) I gave my ‘parents’ a book on Australia, some flowers and made some CDs for Eduardo. It was awesome to be able to write in the book and in their visitor book in Spanish (admittedly I had my teacher check it first). They gave me a wall hanging, card and some other little owl things. When I asked them if I could stay the extra night (more than a week before I was leaving) they told me not to tell Maximo (the volunteer company) and that their house is my house. So I was more than surprised when literally as my taxi was waiting Maria-Luisa asked for $20 for the extra night! I had no problem with paying it and think I should have paid, but it was a little awkward as I was running out the door and she hadn’t asked in the week or so leading up to that moment! Good thing I had some US dollars as it would have been really awkward if I didn’t have the money! So it was a weird good-bye but compared to my first Cusco journal entry, things definitely turned around and I had such an amazing time in Cusco. I believe my experience was all the richer for ending up in a homestay and for the people (nutters included) that came through my life by living with them, volunteering with them or just meeting them through the little Cusco community.

I’m now in Bolivia for my next challenge and I wanted to thank you for your encouragement, comments and wishes so far. I hope you keep enjoying my journal and join me on my next adventures…

Here’s to life!




Hi Danielle - Love your latest installment ... what an adventure you're having.
I can't believe you actually ate poor "Henry" ... yuk!! I think Emma & Julie will "throw up" just looking at the photo, let alone knowing you ate "guinea pig!" To think you were once a Vegetarian!! (Thanks, but you can keep your recipe.)
Good Luck with your next challenge ... and a "real challenge" it is - Teaching Spanish & Bolivian Sign Language to Deaf Children - Wow!!
Love, Hugs & Kisses - Mum xxx

  Cheryl Ryan Oct 6, 2009 5:06 AM


Ok, Henry is now scratched off our baby names list - just kidding! Well done for gobbling him up - something I certainly couldn't do and I too wont be seeking you out for the recipe. Thinking of you always xx

  Amy Baker Oct 6, 2009 11:06 AM


Guinea pig that just makes my stomach twist in so many ways even little "baby" didn't react to kindly to the picture....
Good luck with the next adventure steer clear of any other strange animal delicacies.
love you XXXX

  Julie Oct 9, 2009 4:25 AM

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