The town of Pisac (Pisaq) is one of my favorite places in the Sacred Valley. I fell in love with Pisac the first time I came five years ago, and have fallen more in love with it ever since. It’s about 45 minutes from Cusco city and about 15 minutes from Casa De Milagros. Pisac is known for its amazing ruins, and for its popular artisan market. The entire town is lined with ancient Inca agricultural terraces that are still in use today, and the ruins provide an impressive backdrop to the town below. I’ve visited the ruins about 3 times, and there is still so much more for me to see and learn…
Two and a half years ago, Cusco and the Sacred Valley were hit with some of the most intense and heavy rains in decades. As a result, much of the region was flooded, and there were disastrous landslides throughout Cusco, Much of the road through the Sacred Valley was taken out in several areas, as were some key bridges such as Pisac Bridge.
One of the most severely hit was the small town of Huacarpay, about 45 minutes outside of Cusco….
Two years ago, when I was living in Cusco from end of May to end of August, I was lucky enough to experience the full force of Cusco’s most festive months. June and July are filled with celebrations of Andean and Spanish origin; most of which are a unique and fascinating hybrid of both. I was in the throes of Corpus Cristi festivities when a local musician friend told me he was heading to Qoyllurit’i that next morning, and asked if I wanted to join him. I had never heard of it, and as he began to tell me more about this spiritual pilgrimage, I grew more and more curious.
Last November, I went back to Peru for my grandmother’s 80th birthday. It was my first time back in over a year, and it was a full two weeks of mostly family, but also a short but sweet visit back to Casa and the kids.
As usual, leaving Peru was very hard, but that time it felt even harder. I really felt like I was leaving behind where I was supposed to be…when I got back I had a very clear message that I needed to go back – not just to visit, but to begin building a life there. Ever since I can remember, I have dreamed of having a life in both worlds; a lifestyle that allowed me to divide my time between Peru and the states. My trip to Peru 3 years ago planted a very big seed, and I came back from that trip being very clear about the 3 things I needed in order to make my dream happen: acquire my citizenship, finish my college degree, and build a virtual business that I could run from anywhere in the world…Check, check, and pretty much check ;-)Read More
I miss Peru. And today it hit me like a ton of bricks how much I miss the kids and the entire family at Casa…;-(
While my time in Peru was not without challenging moments – at the end of the day, it was one of the most special experiences of my life. The kids of Casa de Milagros are incredible…I feel blessed to be considered part of the family, and to have been received with so much love.
In addition to working at the Casa, I was also able to spend some time in my country, and soak in my culture in ways I had never been able to before…spent some quality time with family and loved ones in Lima, traveled to regions of Peru I had not been to before, and experience two of Cusco’s most amazing festivals: Corpus Christi and Inti Raymi.
In addition to settling back into life back in the states, since being back – I have mostly been consumed with school. I was able to enroll in all five classes that I need and will finally be graduating in December! It’s been a 12 year journey – so graduation day will be super sweet ;-) What this means in a practical sense for me is that with five classes I will have a very full plate and have already begun the process of “clearing the decks” so I can focus on school and get the most out of my final semester. As you all know – I like to juggle many projects and interests – so this is no easy task ;-) I am super excited about my classes! My Political Communication professor, Joe Tuman is running for mayor of Oakland, so our class gets to live an actual campaign with him. Also, I am taking a California Food, Wine, and Culture class, which totally sucks since you guys know how much I hate food, wine and culture…;-)
One of the major decisions I have made recently is to step down from my responsibilities as a Board member of Casa de Milagros. I will continue to be involved in the kids’ lives, and will be returning in December and January to visit, volunteer, and help with some big projects that are in the works. However, due to my school and client responsibilities, I do not have the space to commit to the Board at this time. Once I graduate in December, the Board and I will reassess where things are on both ends and how I can continue to stay involved, what role I will play, and what projects I will be involved in. I will keep you guys posted! In the meantime, if you guys want information on how you can help Casa or any other volunteer opportunities in Peru – contact me and I will send you information.
By the way, the pic above was taken my last night in Cusco – Aiden and I went into a cute little jazz bar on the corner of Choquechaca and Cuesta San Blas and got to meet and listen to the phenomenal sounds of Amber Field and her array of instruments from all over the world. Only in Cusco can you have a didgeridoo in your ear and it’s not weird at all…
I’ve posted the rest of my pics and you can see them all HERE…enjoy! xo
Argh!!! I don’t want to leave!!! ;-( I know I have to – and I am actually looking forward to being home for many reasons…but the reality of leaving here and not seeing the people here whom I have grown to love so much is going to be really hard.
There were moments when I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it all three months – mostly when my immune system tanked, and I was freezing the night away in a Cusco hostel…or when my wallet was stolen, or when my vest was stolen…Read More
I was privileged to have the opportunity to partner with Wendy Lee and Miles Ito of Inspire To Do in organizing an awesome event for the Casa kids. Wendy contacted the Board months ago with a desire to design a program/event that would inspire the Casa kids, help them connect with the community, and also incorporate her skills and experience working with special needs children. The initial idea was to hold a soccer clinic at the Casa that we could invite other children from the community to, but the logistics involved proved challenging during our timeframe. What we ended up putting together was still an incredible experience that I know the children enjoyed tremendously, and won’t soon forget.Read More
Oh Cusco how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
1. The Energy!
Whether you are in the city, or in the Sacred Valley – the energy of this land is palpable. It is called the Sacred Valley for a reason. There is something about being high above in the Andes, 13,000 feet above sea level, nestled amidst these huge, magical mountains…it’s a power… and a closeness to God that I’ve never felt before. Or maybe it’s just the oxygen deprivation…;-/
2. The Beauty
Everywhere I look it is a Kodak moment (hence the 500 photos I have taken on this trip thus far). The drive between Cusco and the Casa through the Sacred Valley can start to wear on one’s body after awhile – particularly when you do it too many times in a week. But when I start to feel worn down – I remind myself where I am, and take a moment to stop along the roadway to soak in the glorious scenery…and I suddenly feel so much better ;-)Read More
|Marcito and Seth|
Fourth of July weekend proved to be quite eventful at Casa de Milagros!
We were graced with a group of seventeen high-schoolers with a National Geographic Student volunteer group. They arrived on Saturday and we spent most of the day putting them to work! They helped garden, level out the back field, and taught the kids some photography skills. My good friend Aiden came by on Saturday as well to put on an english class for the kids and some of the staff. In the afternoon, Jorge and his dance group, the newly-dubbed “SkyWalkers” put on a performance for our guests that blew everyone away! That evening after dinner, we had a party in celebration of our guests, and a few of our kids’ birthdays. It was my first official Casa birthday party – and it was a blast! I even got our shy little Illari to come out and blow out her candles ;-)
That night, Marie, Allen and their family welcomed their newest member – Asher Allen Patton into the world! Born on the Fourth of July like a true Gringo! ;-) Marie’s amazing mid-wife, Leonie, and her fabulous assistant, Kata, were sleeping in the volunteer quarters with me, so I had a clue what was going on as they raced out of the room at 3:00 AM and came back buzzing with excitement an hour and a half later. Asher sure took his time, but he finally came and he is perfect. Best of all, Marie can take a break from being pregnant and soak in being a new baby’s mommy! ;-)
It was hard to leave Casa with a new-born in the midst, but the Nat Geo group had planned an incredible excursion for the kids on Sunday. So we all boarded a bus early Sunday morning and headed out to Ollantaytambo for our very first rafting trip! We got to take most of the kids, a few of the mamis and papis, and all of the Nat Geo volunteers. I was slightly nervous, but mostly so excited to finally go river rafting – and down the Urubamba River with Inca ruins lining our path…incredible. The kids had a blast, as did I, and we are so very thankful to our new friends for their hard work and generosity. Best Fourth of July ever – topped off with some Peruvian fireworks courtesy of Allen ;-)
My crazy Irish friend, Aiden, decided we needed to take a road trip. So we decided to head out of Cusco and to the state of Apurimac, to the town of Abancay. I knew very little about this region of Peru, but Aiden had heard about some great ruins and a natural preserve that were supposed to be pretty cool.
So off we went…The adventure started with us getting a bus ticket at the Cusco terminal – which has now been moved to very far outside of town…we finally found it, and got the last ticket for the day aboard a double decker tour bus. We braced ourselves for an always-exciting bus ride through the Peruvian Andes. Despite the constant fear for my life – I couldn’t help but be in awe at the amazing beauty of the scenery. I had never driven so far out of Cusco – the ride was four hours of winding down the Andes and one visual splendor after another…Read More