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With a stomach full of mate

Yerba mate (MAH-tay): the bitter herb of southern Chile and Argentina is packed into a dried gourd, leather pouch, or tin cup, steeped in hot water, and drunk out of a metal straw. It’s the drink of the gauchos (Patagonian cowboys), shared around the fire or across the kitchen table. It’s a tradition and symbol […]

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 […]

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 […]

Filipino BBQ

While in Canada last month, Jeni and I were invited to a barbeque at her roommate Mia’s parents’ house. “We have to go, Susan. This isn’t any old backyard barbeque. This is a Filipino barbeque!”

It was cold and rainy outside, but warmth and festivity bloomed through the front door as we entered. I took […]

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 […]

una aventura mas: days 1-13

The taxi hurtled downhill toward the abuelita and her flock. Sheep scatter and pigs struggle to waddle out of the way. Too late, the driver applies the brakes, and ka-thud-du-kahdada – one of the sows disappears under our wheels. Oh dear god. I’m horrified, expecting a scene, expecting the abuelita to fly at us in […]

Welcome to Perú: April 19 – 30

Cusco, the city of the Incas, the cultural capital of Perú. At 3400 meters above sea level (11,300ft) it sits, spread across a shallow valley: a sea of terracotta roofs at the center; on the outskirts adobe huts lap at the edges of low, green-brown mountains; the steeples and towers of the city’s countless churches […]