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Don’t Sweep the Walls – or – Things in Peru are Different

The most social place in any house is the kitchen. In this, at least, my Peruvian homestay was like any other home in the world. Life happened while meals were being cooked. It was the specific details of that life that constantly reminded me that I was living in a different culture. I loved living […]

Photos of Peru and Colombia

While the writing still lags behind, the photos are online and ready for your viewing pleasure.

See them all here:


Volunteering in Ollantaytambo, Weeks 1-4

The Birthday Party

Tia Maria turned 47 yesterday. Tia (Aunt) Maria is Feliciana’s sister, and runs a local food-and-lodging establishment and internet café. Unlike the one-year-old birthday party for Maria’s granddaughter, Luciana, that I attended the first weekend I arrived in Ollantaytambo, this party was noticeably lacking in pink decorations and Barbie piñatas. There were no elaborately frosted […]

to be read to the tune of pink floyd’s “animals”

I’m wondering if I name my fleas, if we can come to an accord in which they stop sucking my blood. I’ve killed one, and spotted another, but it got away. They can’t be squished. They have to actually be captured, and skewered with a fingernail until the blood that they’ve extracted squirts out of […]

¡Radio Felicidad!

Feliciana likes to turn the radio on while she cooks lunch in the early afternoon. Today is Sunday, no school day, and Camila and I sat on tiny wooden stools in the doorway, flipping through her older brother’s Spanish-English dictionary and practicing the alphabet. It was good practice for me, too, to think of words […]

Susan’s next adventure – and first real writing job!

I’m planning a trip back to Peru in March and April, this time not just for fun, but with a purpose. I’m going to be working for a non-profit organization (Awamaki) based in Ollantaytambo, a small town not far from the famous Inca ruins at Machu Picchu. Ollantaytambo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited […]

Getting there is half the fun

We left the jungle before sunrise, standing up in the back of a quarter-ton pickup with seven people and their luggage, plus a bed frame, six bags of aguaje fruit, a stack of unfinished lumber, and a live chicken in a plastic bag tied to the side of the truck that clucked mournfully with every […]

drink the water II

Jesus and I left Iquitos on the Eduardo VI, a posh(er) version of the Jeisawell, more crowded, less quaint. We weren’t the only tourists this time, though we were the only two sleeping in hammocks in the economy class. The two Dutch had mattresses on the upper deck, and the Belgians slept in a private […]

drink the water

The sidewalk under my feet bears a skin of slippery green moss from the night before. Sweat slides between my shoulder blades. It’s early, but it’s already thirty-six degrees (96F). The sun is low in the sky across the Rio Napo. At the waterfront, three men are carving a wooden canoe. Two use machetes to […]

your appetizer, sirs

It’s been nearly another month without an entry. Where, oh where, have I been? What on earth have I been doing?

As usual: too much. And all of it far too delicious to spoil by rushing. Oh no. This dish has to stay in the pot til it’s good and done. But perhaps this will […]