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Showing posts from September, 2013

Of loneliness and sillar stone

I sit in an alleyway of sillar stone. The white walls collect the heat and shine it back at me. I have just ordered a pizza a la leña from a tourist trap restaurant behind the cathedral. When it comes a man walking by comments, "Asu, que rico! Provecho!" Only he's not looking at my pizza when he says that. I have forgotten that to wear a tank top here often invites a full body glance up and down, a lingering stare at the blondish streaks in my hair, or some incarnation of a whistle.

I have tentative plans for today including eating tres leches cake at least once, drinking a cappuccino with some friends, and perhaps drinking a cusqueña negra in the airport. I have to catch up on my caloric intake after the colossal effort that my metabolism made in the high altitudes. And my Peruvian mom's voice echoes in my head, "Amandita! Porque tan flaquita, mi reina?" I love the sound of my name here, Amandita.

Teresa managed to fuss over me all morning, even while she …

The high places

The high places break me every time.

My hands crack open and bleed from the dry air and from the wind. My breath comes in gasps. When we sing hymns in the morning it comes in an unsteady line of rich notes, full yet breathless. The meaning is full. Eyes around the circle of faces are full. There is a pressure in my chest and I don't know if it is from the thin air or the emotion. Somehow the severity of the landscape breaks off my hardness.

Is it the people walking out of the empty painted hills, the way they call me Tia or doctorita, or is it the way that Venus actually shines like the star of Bethlehem illustrations from years of Christmas cards? Is it the intensity on Cathy's face as she stands in the main square in Choco reading the Bible to people who cannot read themselves? Or maybe it is the baby girl, born two months premature at home, because the hospital is 2 days away, who is now cooing at me from within the brightly colored blanket that wraps her to her mothers bac…


What is it like to arrive somewhere after walking kilometers through the dust, dirt and thin air?

Maybe the altitude is sucking your breath away, maybe you have blisters or an ingrown toenail, maybe you are feeling good, or terrible, and maybe you are thinking What did I get myself into? as you realize that the only way out is more of the same mule trails stretching on in a seemingly perpetual pattern of ascents and descents.

Here is a brief description of each of our arrivals:


We saw Llanca first from across the canyon. We were going down a slippery gravel road in the back of the cattle truck and looking up at the crisscross of the line that was to be the next 4 hours of a nice little hike/climb. It's always discouraging to go down before you have to go back up.

After climbing up in the dust and wind for a few hours, we started to pass the fields and a few of the towns people came running down the path to do the afternoon chores and shouted encouragements to us along the w…