Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Lord knows when the cold wind blows it will turn your head around"

Puno - Moho - Conima 
Day 1 

I traveled back to Puno this week. It was kind of an unplanned thing for me, but a really cool visit.  I was assisting the Heifer office in hosting a group called Ripple Effect.   They visited Peru to document for us some stories of specific women and livelihoods of Heifer partners - to tell the stories in pictures and from the mouths of the women.  They do cool work.  With their group were three people: Annie, Renee, and Rick.  Groovy people who weren't afraid to get dirty, work hard, lose sleep and just kind of "rough it"  for the sake of Heifer, it's work and their art.  They kept saying, "Let's go make some art" and I liked that.
(I'll share more about the women and the photos and everything once Ripple has developed it all) 
Rick, Annie and Renee
Quick caveat to this post:  I forgot my gal-dang camera and had to use the trusty iphone.  So the pics aren't the greatest of quality.  But you'll get the picture. Ha.

I left Lima on Monday evening for Juliaca with another Heifer employee, Katia and our translator for the whole trip, Rosaluz.  Rough flight.  I always forget that I hate flying until right before the wheels leave the ground and my sense of control is lost.  But we arrived and I'm alive. The city of Juliaca was having some party so it took about an hour to find our hotel through the closed roads and traffic - we met up with Ripple and our chauffeurs and meticulously planned our week over pizza and beers in the restaurant hotel. 
Katia y yo
We got up at the butt crack of dawn and headed out from Juliaca to Conima right on the shores of Lake Titicaca.  Departure at 6:00 am.  Lake Titicaca is so beautiful from every angle.  My eyes just soaked it up.  It reminded me of Lake Tahoe.   In Conima, we visited a Heifer partner named Sophia.  She was awesome, still is.  She was so excited for us to visit her home and to show us how Heifer has helped her and how happy she is now.  (More on Sophia later via Heifer)

These are in the plaza in Conima looking out on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
While the film crew was interviewing and photographing Sophia -  Katia and I took all the camping equipment, food and other supplies across the lake to the Soto Island - in preparation for the next night's stay.  Soto Island.  Talk about amazing and intense.  Not so much the island itself, but all the things it stirred in me.  I will forever remember it and be grateful for what it opened in my mind and heart.   Soto Island is in the middle of Lake Titicaca.  It took a little over an hour from port to the rocky beaches of the Island.  We were in a wooden boat that most of the locals use to get to and fro. It had an engine, but we passed several other boats rowing their way along.  If you row from the port to Soto then it takes 4 hours.  Can you imagine that commute?

You can also see the shores of Bolivia from where we crossed.  The pictures don't do the experience justice and neither does my description, but let me tell you - it was good for my soul.  The movement of the water, the sun shining on my face, an occasional splash of frigid water on my skin, a cold wind, the hum of the motor engine and the steady rocking boat invigorated my senses.   It's the first time I've felt that way since being in Peru.   And not because it reminded me of home (which it did) but just because I let it feel good right at that moment.

Wilbert, the hired boat driver and Percy on the ride across the lake.

Crap.  This is the crap we packed, loaded into the trucks, unloaded into the boats, hauled across a lake and unloaded at the island.  We used every bit of it and I'm glad we did it, but crap!

This is what I love about my job.  Alpacas and old boats and beautiful shores and sky.
We arrived at the island and unloaded everything.  Let me just tell you, I worked my ass off for a hot minute unloading enough food to feed 30 people three times, tents, toiletries, a small gas stove, giant bottles of water, a generator, everything...  And at this altitude - I thought I might just die and was practicing the use of my favorite four-letter words under my breath.  Of course, UNTIL the universe smacked me with perspective again when I passed a woman on the same path wearing no shoes and carrying two heavy pails of water from a well near the beach all the way up to her house.  Touché.

On the island.  This is the view from where we set everything up for the next night's stay.  And this is also the hill that I climbed a dozen times loaded down with crap.  
I wasn't the only one tired.  This man helped too - we all needed water and a breather after that load.

Gotta go to the bathroom?  Have fun!!
So we set everything up, took a breather and a few photos and headed back via boat to meet the Ripple crew back in Conima.  The water was really smooth and I was exhausted so I climbed onto a pile of nets and tarps and slept most of the way.  I've learned to sleep anywhere.  (And now I have a sexy little sunburn on one side of my face.)

We arrived back in Conima in the town square and had some lunch.  While we were waiting on the crew to finish, the Universe gave me another awesome gift: a thunderstorm.  Thank you sweet baby Jesus.  In a previous post I mentioned how I missed rain and storms in Lima.  Well I got one.  Lightning, thunder, hail, wind - I was one happy girl - and only got a few odd looks from the locals and my travel companions for being so damn happy because of rain.  In the big, open sky at this altitude you can see a storm come and go (kinda like in Wyoming - Go Pokes!)  It started raining pretty hard so we all climbed into the truck, shared a Coca-Cola, I had my first granadilla fruit and then we all sort of dozed off to the sound of the rain on the truck roof and windows.  I was in heaven.
This is a granadilla fruit.  Interesting.  It had an okay flavor, but you're supposed to put your mouth over the hole and suck out the seeds and stuff.  The flavor was decent but the texture was just more than I could handle.  I think that will be my last granadilla fruit.

Here it comes....
Sweet, yummy, smell good rain.
Time to close my eyes and sleep.
Eventually, the rain passed and we all headed back to the town of Moho to our hotel about 30 minutes from Conima. Shotty accommodations but whatever.  I'm not complaining, (just providing context.)  (And by shotty I mean this: stained bedspreads, no electricity during the day, no shower curtain, no towels, no toilet paper and no hot water.  I'm not even sure how they legitimately call themselves a hotel.)  I got to take a cold shower!   With no towel to dry off with!  So I used yesterday's clothes!  In case I wasn't sure before, I was reminded that the only time I like taking cold showers is never.  
THEN, to make the hotel experience even better, I went to use the bathroom - I was one of the lucky ones because I had a toilet seat - I closed the door behind me, did my business, washed my hands, went to open the door and wouldn't you know? I was locked in.  No door handle.  Just a hole where it should've been.  But, oddly enough, it did have a lock.  Go figure.  So I was locked in to the bathroom with a door with a lock but no handle.  ???  Thank god the girls were also in the room to hear my pleas for assistance but they couldn't get me out.  We tried everything short of knocking down the door.  Rick, the guy with Ripple, was summoned to help and come to find out, when he opened the door to HIS hotel room, the door handle just fell out in his hand.  ???  Rosaluz went to get someone who worked at the hotel but was told, "he is at dinner."  ???   God help us all.  We tried everything.  More four letter words.  I felt, and probably looked, like a jackass.  Finally, the dude with the hotel finished eating and came with a screw driver and popped me out in three seconds.  (A fun picture of me exists in someone's camera somewhere from this trip of my eye peeking through the hole in the door - I'll submit as evidence eventually.)

Good times.  Not my finest hour, peeping through a hole in the door from a bathroom.  Frustrated as hell.  At least I had somewhere to sit.  

That night we all gathered again for dinner, had some cerveza and just chilled out replaying the day.  Good stuff.  

So, that is day one.  It was long, exhausting and awesome.  James Taylor was this trip's background music and I can't get Fire and Rain out of my head.  "Been walking my mind to an easy time, my back turned towards the sun."  Lord knows, when that cold wind blew on my face across Lake Titicaca, I turned my head around.  And this time, it felt good.   And for whatever reason, I let it.  I saw a sunny day that I thought would never end.  And then it did.  It brought me a thunderstorm.  And that was even better.  

Me.  On Soto Island in the middle of Lake Titicaca between Peru and Bolivia. 

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