Machu Picchu means “old peak” in Quechua (kay-CHWAH). It’s pronounced “MAH-choo PEEK-choo” but most people miss the k-sound in the second word.
Machu Picchu* sits at roughly 8,000 feet in elevation in a valley surrounded by four peaks in a mountain ridge near the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It was built in the 15th Century and remained standing after the Incas fled and the Spanish conquistadors arrived, which is remarkable because the Spanish destroyed or damaged most of the Inca sites throughout Peru. They didn’t know about Machu Picchu, though, and neither did much of the world for most of the next four centuries.
Peru offered many experiences that differ from my usual activities in the United States. In addition to dusting off my Spanish, I tried local culinary delights that aren’t available–or aren’t acceptable–in the U.S. At the same location where we stopped for the weaving demonstration, we feasted on a lunch prepared by the family who hosted us for the afternoon. They made delicious bean and quinoa dishes, cooked corn with kernels the size of a nickel, and, of course, the local crop: potatoes. There were dishes upon dishes, brought out steaming fresh that we feasted upon. The main course consisted of chicken and a small slice of guinea pig. Yes, you read that right: guinea pig.
I’m a mild meat-eater, favoring vegetarian dishes at home because of the ease and expense, and because it’s easy to make a vegetarian meal for one person; most of my meat-heavy recipes are better suited for two or more, and, although I love leftovers, it’s a lot of work cooking, and there’s no one there to appreciate your effort. While I don’t consciously avoid meat for any reason, I do try to be a responsible meat-eater whenever possible. But, when in Rome, as they say…
This is Part 2 of my series on Peru. For Part 1, click here. Enjoy! – Sarah
As we made our way into Lima, where we spent the first two nights in Peru, Sara pointed out to me that there were several cats loitering in a park we passed.
“We have to find that park,” she said, in true cat lover fashion. I’m a dog person, so I understand loving animals. But I like cats the way cats like people: very discriminately. And I’m wary of strays of any kind, especially in large groups. Sara and I were nearly mauled by a pack of wild dogs in Costa Rica three years ago, so I think I’ve earned that wariness. But this is all fodder for different posts. Since it was dark and we drove for a while to get to our hotel after passing the park, I didn’t think we’d come anywhere near the cats.
The next day, we had a morning tour of the city: saw a cathedral with catacombs*, went to the square near the president’s house (Lima is the capitol of Peru), and visited a few other historical sites, including ruins that only recently have been excavated. They left most of what they uncovered as they found it, but restored part so visitors can see what the ruins looked like in their heyday. We had the afternoon free before we met for a pre-dinner de-briefing and meet-and-greet.
I have a face for radio and a voice for silent films. Just kidding.
But I’ve had a lot of video/radio experiences recently. And I got new iPod headphones yesterday. So exciting!
Hello! I’m sorry my posting has been so sporadic lately, but the book is still taking priority. I have a new deadline and even more reason to finish, so things will probably still be light here for a few more weeks. BUT, in keeping with the title, I thought I’d post links to some videos. I posted one of them here but I realized I didn’t post the other three so here they are:
That’s the subject line on an email chain a group of friends of mine and I have going. I don’t remember who started it, but it feels applicable to all of us, and it feels applicable for me this week especially. I am still alive, even though my posting here has been fewer and farther between lately. My writing is still alive, even though most of it has been diverted elsewhere (though I do have 16 drafts on here in various stages of completion that someday I hope to finish). And, most importantly, my father is still alive this week, even though he had a health scare on Monday and has been in the hospital. I don’t want to go into it, except to say that he is doing well–really well–he should be going home today, and we are all very thankful that he is, indeed, still alive.
This week has just been one of those weeks, however.
It has rained so much on-and-off recently that I’d be curious to see the precipitation numbers for the country this year so far. I haven’t minded the rain; it’s easier to stay inside writing when it’s not appealing to go outside, but I, too, enjoy relaxing in the sun. I’m nearly nose-deep in the manuscript and am trying my darnedest to meet my [self-imposed] deadline on Monday, but all I want to do is anything else. All I wanted to do the past three days is be home with my dad.
Yesterday morning I woke* to the sounds of my neighbor (below, I think, though it sounded like it could have been from anywhere) pounding an entire gallery’s worth of nails into
my skull the wall. I realize I’m not a morning person, but I think we can all agree that 7 AM is too early for home repairs and redecorating, especially if you share walls with strangers.**
I’ve been testing out a new commute: the Green Line light rail replaced my express bus, so it’s taking me longer to get into work, and I haven’t yet figured out the best bus-to-train situation. Sometimes the 7:40 bus gets me to the train as it’s pulling up, sometimes I miss it by that much, and sometimes I end up waiting for 15 minutes, which means I could have taken the next bus and still gotten to work at the same time (but slept for an extra 10 minutes), which is what happened on Monday.
Yesterday morning, I managed to catch the 7:40 bus (which used to come at 7:44 but now comes closer to 7:41), and I was all set to get to work early, make a cup of tea, and get going on the day when about a mile into the trip, a motorcycle turned left in front of the bus and clipped the front right part of the fender. The bus driver pulled over, hopped off to see if the cyclist–who was not knocked over and who did not stop–was okay. I ended up filling out a witness card and wishing I had taken the later bus, especially since the later bus pulled up to the stop where I transfer to the light rail at the same time as my bus.
But, the anthology in which an essay of mine was published came in the mail last week and it is thrilling to see my name in print.
In a fit of belated spring cleaning, I organized my closet, and it looks so much nicer.
My coworker gave me pesto she made with basil from her garden, and it made a delicious addition to my pasta this week, which is good because I haven’t bought groceries in a while.
And I’ve spoken to my parents every day this week, which doesn’t always happen, but it’s nice when it does. Today I get to do some role-playing at work, which should be fun, and I’ve got more improv shows on the horizon.
I’m still alive. And if you’re reading this, so are you. And sometimes, that’s all that matters.
*Technically, I had been “up” for about a half-hour, but I don’t really wake up until 10 AM. Perhaps he was retaliating for my late-night movie-watching of late.
**Walls With Strangers is the sequel to Strangers With Candy, which was the prequel to Perfect Strangers. Which is strange, because they have nothing to do with one another.
This week I’ve got something a little different for you. My friend Andy aka Mandrew asked me to participate in a blog hop about writing process (#MyWritingProcess). Since Andy looks like Jimbo Jones swallowed Hulk Hogan, saying no wasn’t a consideration. Really, though, Andy and I have been friends for five years and he’s one of the writers I respect the most, so being asked by a writer whose work you admire to talk about your writing process is kind of a big deal. It was also nice to have a prompt to use, since sometimes I have a hard time thinking of where to go in my posts.
You can find Andy at MANDREW’s Blissenblog, where he writes about everything from the fine art of spitting to letting his wife drop him off in the middle of nowhere (aka Northeast Minneapolis) before finding his way back to his house in South Minneapolis and everything in between. Although he scoffs at thesauruses (thesauri?), Andy has the largest vocabulary of anyone I know, and he uses his word knowledge to craft heady, humorous, and at times heart-wrenching prose. He’s worth a look and not just because I said so. http://blissenblog.com/
The premise for this blog-hop/chain letter for writers is simple: answer four questions and tag three other writer-bloggers. But, the reality is in doing it, I thought more about what I’m writing and how it fits into the larger literary world, which is sometimes difficult to articulate.
“The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” -Speak, Memory
That’s the title of Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir, which I read two years ago for a class I took called Literary Memoir. The title is fitting, I think, for memoirists, but it also works for writers regardless of genre. Writers tend to work from what they know (I certainly do) and the best writing comes from a place of truth, even if it’s labeled as fiction. We want to believe what you’re telling us could happen, even if the world in which it happens lives only in imagination.
I’ve been thinking about this as I write a memoir of sorts, but also as this past weekend was Memorial Day, a time to honor those who live only in memory, particularly those who sacrificed their future for ours. I can’t imagine the selflessness and courage their actions require; we are fortunate that we don’t have to think about their sacifices for much of the year. It would be so wonderful to conjure them up with nothing more than that simple two word command: Speak, memory. Tell me the stories you have stored. At least, that’s what I imagine Nabokov meant in punctuating it that way: to address memory––his memory––and incite it to talk to him. The saddest thing I think about with respect to death is the loss of all the dead person’s memories and thoughts, shared and not shared. Thank God for other people’s memories; may we all live in within them.
I thought about Speak, Memory yesterday when I heard about Maya Angelou’s death. I feel lucky to have lived to hear her speak live, even if it was on TV and I wasn’t even in the same time zone. I appreciate her generosity and interest in humanity, as well as the vast collection of her writing. My favorite quotes: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” and “Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud,” and “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
I think that’s one of the things that was so great about Maya Angelou; I could believe that if I ever met her, we would become friends. And not just in that fawning, fan-idol way, or on some planet that only exists in my imagination, but in a way where she’d have a glass of iced tea with me and sit in a rocking chair on one of our porches.
We may have lost all of the memories and thoughts Maya Angelou did not share, but how fortunate for everyone that her words and memories live on in print. That is one of the reasons that I write.
I want to write so many things. I’m sorry I’ve been quiet here; I’ve been writing and communing with other writers, and I’m trying frantically to get my second book done. BUT exciting things are coming. I’ll be bloghopping next week with a writer friend of mine, Andrew Blissenbach (of Mandrew’s Blissenblog; you should check it out!) and the anthology in which an essay of mine is included will be coming out in early July. If you would like a copy, please let me know (message me, email, or post in the comments). The list price is $19.99 but I can get it for you for $12 (and I’ll even sign it!). I hope that someday soon I’ll be posting about querying agents (and maybe, if I’m lucky, about getting an agent).
And if you live in the Cities, come check me out at Brave New Workshop Student Union for some improv the next three Friday nights. I have a feeling that, if we aren’t already, if you and I meet someday, we’ll definitely become friends.
Today is May Day, the first day of May, a day when we used to place goody bags on the houses near my elementary school when I was growing up. It’s a day full of maypoles and celebrating spring. There are parades and various festivities.
Mayday, the radio call, comes from the mistakenly translated “Help me,” or “M’aidez” in French. History Myths credits Guglielmo Marconi, inventor and pioneer in the field of radio, for coining the phrase, but its origin is a little fuzzy. Regardless, “mayday”* is widely recognized as a distress signal.
I feel like the latter is more appropriate for posting about, since I’ve been absent here for almost a month. I apologize for the radio silence. It’s been a busy three weeks, and I feel like I could use an assistant.
Since I last posted, I participated in the Cracked Walnut Literary Festival, which wraps up next week. For the event “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I read a choose-your-own-adventure nonfiction piece, with audience participation. It went pretty well, but it took a little while for the crowd to warm up to it, and (just as it happened the last time I read a CYOA piece) one lady had the “stop-this-ride-I-want-to-get-off” look on her face the whole time.
I auditioned, and tonight had callbacks, for a storytelling performance group. I also found out I’ll be performing improv on Friday nights this round.**
I finished two more chapters of my second book and made progress on a few more chapters.
I paid my taxes. A haiku of mine was published in the StarTribune. I made a quiche.
I went to the doctor. I went home for Easter. We flew kites and hunted for eggs. My brother-in-law and two youngest cousins took first place, but I really think we all won.
It has rained and rained and rained. I haven’t been sleeping.
I’m currently trying to write out a description of the job I’ve only had for three months, and I’m a little bit worried that I’ll miss the mark and somehow make myself irrelevant.
A piece of mine got rejected in the most loving way and another piece, that’s forthcoming,*** was given the nicest praise I’ve gotten. Ever.
Another improv video went up on YouTube. A car crashed in front of my building. The Wild won and the rain kept on and there was a blood moon lunar eclipse.
And, last night I told a story in front of a sold out crowd at Amsterdam bar for a radio series called The Moth. You basically put your name in a hat and they choose ten people one at a time to tell a true story (no notes) in five minutes or less. I was the first storyteller, and it was my first time storytelling, at least in that venue, and I was really, really nervous. I told about a time when I was lifeguarding and rescued someone for whom we then called an ambulance. My first mayday, if you will. It was a magical experience, and I would write it here but it’s better told. Just ask me about it next time you see me.
I’m sorry I haven’t posted here, that I’ll probably be posting less frequently this summer because I’m trying my darnedest to get that second book done, but know that I’m saving up ideas and jokes and things to write about for when I have the time and energy to do it. Probably every other week from now until September. Mayday. Help me. If you have an idea or something you’d like to see written about (or you’d like to guest post) please let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time, au revoir!
*It’s always said three times in a row in an actual emergency to differentiate it from mere conversations about mayday. Or May Day.
**You can see me on 5/23, 5/30, 6/13, 7/11, and 7/18 at Brave New Workshop Student Union at 8 PM for $5. It’s pretty amazing and I love love love seeing familiar faces in the crowd. I know improv isn’t for everyone, but think of it as a charitable donation and a way to make a friend feel important.
***The anthology featuring my essay, “Cold Feet,” Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland, is coming out soon. You can pre-order a copy; if you want to order through me I get a discount. And there will be related readings coming up over the summer!