Saturday, July 2, 2011

Kasey and Kí meet Rio and Peru!

Many moons have passed since the last time my fingers have massaged this keyboard. My last note out to the world was sent from an island mass where days were spent laying in the sand and nights were spent dancing with the locals. Since then I have spent 2 weeks at a yoga farm wwoofing just outside of Rio in the sweet silent mountains of Nova Friburgo. Then I greeted a soul sister from California at the international airport in Rio and we began our week of exploration in the city. Now I sit in an old 18th century mansion that currently resides as a hostel in the heart of Cuzco.

It has been a journey of many forms. Just having celebrated my 5th month abroad, I reflect on this time and see a wide variety of explorations all wrapped up nicely into one south american trip.
Venturing furthur into nature, cities, people and myself the joys have been treasured and the lessons welcomed. As time continues it´s bottomless flow the memories will become rippened images in my mind as the wisdom gained will reveal more of it´s light and clarity.

June 1st-13th

Welcome Home.

Many homes I´ve been blessed with in my life and Pindorama was yet another place on Earth where my heart smiled to reside. A two hour bus ride away from downtown Rio de Janiero, plus a 40 minute car ride- where the last 20 minutes are on wild dirt roads that my little old Jeep would fall in love with as well. The last 50 yards are a near verticle spiral climb until... you arrive. A cozy just-right-size two story home sits atop a little hill that settles in a large valley which settles in the Atlantic Forest. One word: GREEN. Trees, vines, plants and shrubbery covering the rich foundation of soil that gives birth to fruit, veggies, and flowers of all kind.
La Familia

Read the description and tell me how divine it sounds...
 "We are located in a rural area of 480.000m 2 of green, surrounded by the Atlantic. We seek to offer an opportunity for those people who are prepared for simple living and high thinking, selfless work and silence at night, maintaining an environment with lots of harmony that provides a spiritual growth, self-awareness and mental clarity to acquire new habits and knowledge of non-conventional technology."

Natural Dryer

Not only was it all of that, it was an eclectic group of hard working, nature loving, yoga practicing, health seeking, people that in no time became a family. The vast majority of time Portuguese was the language of choice, thus I took a step back and played more of the "listener/ throw in a sly line of spanish from time to time" role.  A typical day consisted of morning meditation at 6am, followed by yoga (which I led a few times ALL in spanish!), then a light breakfast of fresh fruits. After the smooth entrance to the new day we went to "work." Bamboo making, water planting/watering, food cooking, home cleaning, music playing... the days were generously long and ended with the setting sun.

Mama Mario taught me well.

It was all self led self inspired and once I welcomed Pindorama as my new home I began treating it as such and did all I could from organizing the entire kitchen to making home-made raw chocolate (SO FUN straight from the cocoa bean) to help spread the love and light. Thanks Forest for teaching me the art!

A truly special handful of people that more than filled the void of city life, unloved food and internet. A simple life. I would wake up before sunrise and as my eyelids rose from meditation they would be greeted with the sol´s rays shining over the deep verde valleys and mountaintops of this sacred space.

For the first time in my life I lived completely resorted. A "resort" of it´s own type one could say, where the silence allowed the inner noise to come forward and mix itself into a song of the spirit. Rising at 3am to take a taxi to a bus to a taxi to the plane to surprise Kasey at the airport, I knew this time of blissful peace had come to a pause as I prepared to CELEBRATE, EXPLORE AND GO GO GO with a soul sister from the original home of california.

Rio De Janiero

I welcomed Kasey´s deep blue toes to
the deep blue Atlantic.
June 14th
Having a hand scratched sign that read "Kasey Kokenda!" I stood at the International Arrival terminal and excitedly awaited her smile. While I have landed in a country with the fortune of having family and friends awaiting my arrival, I have never done the same for others. The people watcher within me was eating it all up like peanut butter (which is as rare as Tarzan to find in south america). The vast majority of people looked completely lost and unblanced as they shuffled their way down the tunnel of people patiently awaiting their loved ones or buisness affiliates.

Wandering around the city that day, snacking on fresh acai and strolling the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, we began to fill eachother in on all the juicy details of the previous 5 months. Catching up as girlfriends do.

June 15th
A magical day indeed, as they all seem to be in their own special way.

Originally intending to hike to Jesus the clouds rolled in so we journeyed into the botanical forest instead...
Come play with me!

Beautiful woman dancing naked.

 After getting our fill of greens for the day we took a bus to the bohemian artsy neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Kasey´s powerful intuition said "stop the bus" so we did and not knowing exactly where we were we hopped off and before we could cross the street I spotted a friend from the hostel in Florianópolis! Such a small world. He then led us to the Lapa steps where we delighted in the array of colors and broken tiles that together formed this legendary staircase.
Welcome Creativity

My favorite.

Once reaching the top a man with 3 huge backpacks and a limited supply of air stopped before us to catch his breath (and make a couple new friends). An interesting fellow to say the least. Chef-traveler-shaman-artist-musician 50 something year old whom had spent much time in the sun and the jungles of Brasil. His leather skin told stories f adventures outside while his deep blue eyes told stories from within. He pointed out the local howler monkeys that were running along the electricity lines overhead and gave us some tips on the city. More than that he shined his light on us and helped Rio to feel all the more like home.
Monkeys on the telephone!

Kasey and I journeyed on and delighted in some amazing bruschetta that a local woman selling necklaces from the amazon led us to. Having enjoyed the town of Santa Teresa, we decide it was time to head back. We walked down a road that would eventually led us to the metro when this sweet little old man (in his 80s) whisteled out to us and said there was a shortcut. He pointed down a staircase.

(Now I know this sounds like it could be bad news but… he was so genuine and shining with the light Kasey and I trusted our strong intuitions and went with him.) Before embarking on the downstairs journey (one that required much focus and energy for him) he pointed out the favelas spread across the opposite hillside.

He then, excited to have the focus of 2 young traveling girls, spoke to us about his life a bit. He used to be an English teacher and knows Spanish, French, Latin, Italian and many more. He told us of some of his teaching ideologies- He used to put in his tests questions about national holidays and when students would get it wrong they would argue “Why would you put history questions on an English test?!” Perhaps, they have a point, but from our new friends perspective these dates were important to know and this was his way of encouraging students to learn about their country. “Students just don´t care.” He said with disappointment.

The time the three of us spent together was more like Kasey and I listening with joy to his monologue- offering supporting lines every now and again to assist the flow of fun facts and wisdom. He then continued to share with us some of his passions. He told us of how excited he was when reading about the Louisianna Purchase the night before (Pause: Imagine: An 80 something year old, retired, single man, from Brazil who spent his Tuesday night reading about American history! I wouldn´t be surprised if he knows more about my country than I do.) I think it is this passionate curiosity for learning that serves as the best fertilizer to help the mind stay healthy, alert and alive.
Meet my self declared grandfather.
(Catfood freshly purchased for his three best buds)

He asked what we studied. I told him sociology and education, and that I have studied the favelas in some of my classes. He swung his half filled well worn black backpack around and shuffled through until he found a little piece of paper on which he wrote the name of a book for me. “The History of South Ameirca” he then wrote the name of the author, publishing house, year of publishment…. Nearly everything besides the ISB number. I then noticed on the back of the paper was enscribed his name and address. A handmade business card on standard thin printer paper- then cut to fit comfortably in his wallet.

He is also a lover of cinema. Alfred Hitchcock in particular. Kasey and I know close to nothing about the art of cinema nor about the movies that were popular during his time. Regardless, he shared with us his joy and once again dug into his Mary Poppins like bag to pull out a brochure that was carefully wrapped in the protection of a used plastic bag.

June 16th

 Ready or not... Jesus here we come!

You can take the tram or...

You can use the body God gave you!
Up bright and early on a clear sunny day, Kasey and I opted out of the “bus to the top option” and opted in for the “do it yourself through the jungle” route. What an exciting route it was. After 2 hours of climbing over fallen trees, through vines and up steep hillsides we reached Him. No offense to Jesus, but the journey to the top was far greater than just seeing the statue itself. A great reminder to “enjoy the ride as much as the destination.” Once we climbed the 2,326 feet our eyes rested upon El Cristo Redentor. Having really deserved to be standing where our legs had brought us, we caught our breath as we gazed upon one of the most remarkable views of the city. Then we celebrated life with some fresh fruit juice and empanadas! The classic Brazilian snack.

We Made It!

Story Time...


After a long day we returned to our hostel. Upon arrival the storm clouds began to roll in… to our room. Kasey and I shared the room with an interesting woman. A great social study, if nothing else. Upon our first day together she seemed a little “out there” (as the entire hostel agreed including the manager) but Kasey and I had no issue with her. Beyond lighting her incense in the room she didn´t affect us much.

From what I could tell during our brief 2 minute conversation…
She is a single woman in her 50s. Her name is Victoria.  She is from Argentina but says “I am never going back to my country.” She spends most of her time traveling and during her travels (at least from what I saw in Rio) spends most of her time smoking or drinking at the nearby bar. A pretty woman at first glance, but then after looking deeper, some obvious issues become apparent and unfortunately take away from her physical attraction.

On this third day I had just returned from my shower and Kasey left to rinse the day away herself. Victoria was laid across her bed in an almost defeated like way. Then she asked me “Viste mi marijuana?” Did I see her marijuana?
“No” I said
“No sabia que vos tuviste Marijuana.”
No I didn´t know that you had MJ
We had this whole little conversation in spanish but for sake of all you English speakers I will just write it in English.

New experiences (and challenges) offer new perspectives.
 Then she got up out of her bed, walked towards me and called me a liar. I stayed as calm, cool and collected as possible as this woman began yelling at me telling me about how she went into the favels, bought her Marijuana, left it in her little bag and then… I came in and stole it.
In my towel and dripping hair I tried to explain to her that No. I did not steal her Mariajuana, nor did I know she even had any and on top of that- I don´t even smoke Marijuana.

After she yelled at me some more saying “I am Victoria. I have the truth! You are a liar!” She left the room.

Wow. Interesting experience.
Knowing well in my heart that this woman has some serious lack of love and support and perhaps some mental/emotional disorders, I decided the best thing to do was to move Kasey and I away from her and that negative environment.

Everything Happens for a Reason
We packed our bags up, explained the situation to the manager, and moved to another floor to set up camp again. As we did, all I could hear was shouting between the manager and Victoria below. Threats were made to call the police and to kick her out, both good ideas I thought but neither of which were executed.

An experience I have grown to be thankful for. Difficult at first, having so much negative energy poured directly on me and in addition being called a liar and a thief, over an issue of an herb that I know little about. While Victoria continued to be everything less than sweet to me during our minor interactions throughout the remainder of my stay there, I watched myself grow from being upset, to annoyed, to amused, to feeling sorry and compassionate towards her.
All in all a learning opportunity- and we made it out alive celebrating with delicious home roasted veggies! A natural high I suppose J

 June 17th

Trip to Buzios

We took a few hour bus ride out of the city to a charming town know as Buzios. A relaxing boat ride spent sipping Caipirinhas. A brazilian drink made with cachca (sugar cane rum), sugar and lime- like an adult lemonade!  Buzios was begging to be photgraphed. We answered the plee.

June 18th

New Goal:
Pick up trash... all over the globe.
Starting the day off right we went for a barefoot run along Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. Upon returning to our hostel Kasey and I talked of love and I collected trash from the sand´s shore (both activities we regularly partake in).
After much internal debate, we decided to join a tour of the Favelas. We found an honorable company that has founded a children´s day care center with part of the proceeds from the tours and genuinely has the vibe of a local grassroots organization.

I was opposed at first to going on “a tour” of the favelas as if they were some tourist attraction, but upon thinking more about it I saw the benefit in seeing them up close. I have studied the history of these communities in some of my sociology classes and I knew that having the opportunity to experience one first hand would provide all the more truth to the facts I´ve learned. I knew that I would also be able to use the knowledge gained to further my own studies as well as share this experience with those around me.

Jean, a 13 year old artist, sells his artwork along with
6 other painters in a collective in Rocinha.
Kasey and I happy with our new beautiful paintings. 
No contractors, no plans, no papers.
Just homes built on top of homes, built on top of homes.

The best drum music I ever heard composed from pieces of trash.

June 19th

This being our final day in Rio also happened to be a Sunday. What do the Brasileños do on Sundays??? ¡Vamos a la playa! We did as the locals do and laid out on the beach all day. Mmm... delightful.

There was an ever playing sound track of the wandering beach merchants. Men walked by with ice chests full of beer, sodas, waters and juices. Others danced around with sandwiches and saltados. Even more cruised along with bathing suits hanging from umbrellas, sarangs hanging from their necks and sunglasses hanging from home-made display cases. A parade of crafts and comidas. Nearly everything you could ever need brought right to your towels side.
A newly humbled and inspired attitude after visiting south america´s largest favela- "Rocinha" in Rio. Within one square kilometer the 2010 census claimed 69,000 are squessed within it´s borders, calling it home- although other sources say closer to 150,000 residents live there. Where the mafia rules the land and the drug trade makes up 85% of the economy there, hope for a better life is growing. With the eyes of the world watching via the Military Games, World Cups and Olympics just around the corner- the government is begining to take some steps toward action.

Some even sold love.

Everyone can pull off a speedo. It´s in the attitude.
When in Rome Rio!

A perfect way to close our time in Brasil. No rushing around, no touring anything, just simply observing the locals enjoy their beach- as we did the exact same. Being the middle of winter here in South America, means hardly anything as the entire beach was covered with people soaking up the UVs. The beauty is the Brasilians love for their beaches! Everyone from babies to grandparents are in their bikinis and many take long walks along the coast admiring the land they call home as they work in some exercise. A joy to see all people, young and old, thin and not so thin out in the sun having fun.

Wishing us Bon Voyage, we snapped a picture with Mr. Edward Scissorhands.
Sweet, but slighty creepy and not the best hair stylist.


June 20th
Up bright and early at 4am we head to the airport to continue our journey. After 2 flights we landed in Cusco. The cultural heart of the country. The streets are laden with fresh fruits and veggies as well as many colorful handicrafts. Being the second most popular city in Peru I assumed it would be quite modern… wrong. With 80 percent of the population still living in adobe built homes, this city home to 312,140 thousand people is far from developed.

The center of town has a beautiful huge market where one can find everything from beans to light bulbs. The Incan heart still beats to rhythm as a vast majority of people still wear traditional clothing that is as colorful as the rainbow itself. Kasey and I fell in love.

Let the pictures set the stage...

6 years old going on 30.

This sweet little girl came up to Kasey and I and initiated a conversation with such sauve style, as though she talks with strangers regularly. No family in sight, and 4 brothers and sisters at home. Her dad lives with another woman. A strong spirit and vibrant personality, she told me I have light in my eyes. Where does a 6 year old learn to say something like that?
She loves mathematics and enjoys studying in school. I bought some lollipops for her and her brothers on the condition that she would continue to work hard in her classes. She kissed us goodbye and waved her wrist back and forth in such velocity and excitment all that was in front of her wseet face was a blurr of goodbyes.
Kasey and I tears in our eyes, both wished to adopt her.
Just then she ran back for one more round of kisses and goodbyes and ran off, turning around again 10 yards away to wave goodbye once more.
An angel indeed.

Kasey and I unexpectedly but fortunately so, arrived in Cusco during the week celebration of Inti Raymi.
A celebration of the sun god as well as the anniversay of Cusco.
These Peruvians know how to party. All day parades, all night concerts and...

Kasey and I will be hiking the Inca Trail on the fourth of July,
so we got our fill of loud fire cracking excitment tonight.

June 21st
After exploring more of the city we decided to make Cusco our home-base. Having a solid gameplan of what we wanted to accomplish during our time in Peru we were set on using this warm town as our launching pad for the excursions to come.
The celebration continues!
Such a powerful way to both keep the culture alive and bring the community together.
Everyone is involved, either directly participating or supporting by watching.

Two different
ways of living
belief systems
and yet not that different at all.

You can find nearly everything you need, being sold on the side of the street.
I have realized how different the economy is here. A large portion of the population serves as their own employer. Independent and they work when they want, how they want, where they want.
Undoubtedly it is not as glorious as it sounds and there are a slew of challenges that come along with that opportuniny. I have much respect for those who do what they can to provide for thier families. Even if that means selling gum or saftey pins on the sidewalk.

After 5 long months, I have been reunited with a favorite love of mine.
Hello Sweetie

This town also has something in common with us. A LOVE FOR CAKES. We cake hopped this afternoon… to five different shops! Mmm….

June 22nd
A tour of the Sacred Valley. Little did I know there are many more ruins besides Machu Picchu. We explored the Sacred Valley today and stopped in four other historical ruins. By the last stop it hit me… Wow. These structures remain standing after more than 900 years have passed. Not to mention, how did the Incans move these stones (some up to 32 tons!) with no modern technology? Their construction skills astounded me as I gazed up the vast walls that are formed together with rocks that fir like perfect puzzle pieces held together with nothing but the support from the neighboring stone. Many mysteries remain as to how these people were able to do what they did. While our guide aimed to explain the ruins to us, most of it was theories and hypothesis.
Massive stones, fit together like perfect puzzel pieces, atop a huge mountain.
How did they first cut the stones, carry them to the top of the mountain, then fit them together, and keep them together with nothing but stone on stone action ?!?!
Meet the King and Queen.

The Incans had three main laws. Don´t lie. Don´t be a thief. And don´t be lazy. Possibly some of the most hardest working people who have walked the Earth, their character has inspired me to use my energies all the more effectively- and with power!

June 23-26th

In the jungle the mighty jungle...
Today we started our trip to the Manu National Rainforest. Welcome to the Amazon Jungle! After an 11 hour bus ride and many stops in villages along the way- we arrived. The first night we spent in the cloud forest and the 2nd and 3rd night we spent sleeping alongside the river bed. Many jungle walks had observing the natural flora and fauna. Feeling as though I had won bingo, I shouted “Monkeys!” and spotted the first mammals of our trip. We went river rafting and night walking. We also made some beautiful friends from around the world and indulged in our time away from civilization.

The cutest boys. All they said was "Hola! Hola! Hola!...." continually like a broken record until we started to leave,
then they said "Chau! Chau! Chau!...." The best part was the little guy on the right had a blue plastic bag stuck on his head that popped up and down as he ran around the market. A memory that makes me laugh everytime a little blue bag crosses my path. We returned to this market on our way back to cusco and, sure enough, they greeted us with just as much enthusiasm as the last time (unfortunately, without the hat this time.)

A stroll...

The Little White Engine That Could
Willi Wonka Wand

A village in the middle of the jungle´s floor...


Meet the toilet.

River Rafting Time...

Welcome Home...
Jungle hike again...
A tree that walks... really. Every few years or so a new root grows in the direction of sunlight.
Don´t ask me how it works but over time, the tree "walks" in search of the sun on the thick jungle´s floor.

Jungle Love.

It comes in all shapes and sizes.

Lake cruise, like an Italian gondala in the pursuit of birds.

More hiking...

Nature´s tye dye.

Can you smell the fear?
June 27th

Back to homebase we journeyed through the southern loop of Cusco. While we have taken a fair amount of “tours” thus far, we realized we could do it on our own but… it is simply easier to hop on a bus. Now I know that doesn´t sound very adventurous but with limited time and so many beautifully historical places to see, we were ok with being a tourist.

I am realizing more and more that there are so many different ways to travel. Some seek out relationships, some desire to see the main attractions, and others want to taste their way around. Others simply want to live and just be, but in a different location on the map. All are good and all are enjoyable. I have tried many types of traveling within the past 5 months and while it was hard for me at first to board the bus with a handful of other hat wearing, fanny pack holding, camera snapping foreigners… sometimes you´ve just got to do what you´ve got to do. And we want to see so many of the wonders that Peru has to offer. So onward Captain! All aboard!

Quite possibly the largest bread I have ever seen in my entire life.


Impressive irrigation system that still works.

June 28th- 29th
Arequipa and Colca Canyon
We boarded an overnight bus to head south to the town of Arequipa where we then headed off to Colca Canyon. The first day we stopped in a few towns and bathed in natural hot springs. Day two we arrived at Colca Canyon and got to view huge flying condors up close and personal. After a long ride back to the city we enjoyed good conversation at the hostel´s bar over a cup of fresh tea. Two tired ladies, who still know how to have a good time J

Volcanos in the distance.

And to think I was afraid of a parrot...


Whose laughing at who?

Deep in the canyon.

The group. Check out gramma and grandpa on far right.
Passionate bird lovers, they never stop watching.

Condors, can get up to 23 feet long!

Moove out of the road
 Downtown central square...
Children play the same all over the globe.

One of the most stunning street dogs. It is uncommon to see a dog on a leash.

June 30th

Today was spent walking and talking. We weaved in and out of the cities roads. Arequipa has a plethora of casinos and at times feels life walking down old roads in Italy. It has a rich circulation of money (much more than Cusco perhaps due to the many local casinos…) and the people here walk with attitude.

Hello Capitalism.

It is much more developed than any other city we have been to in Peru and upon arrival Kasey and I honestly felt a bit out of place. Just like Dorothy, we knew we were not in Cusco anymore.

We spent a couple of hours in the local plaza, watching children feeding pigeons and tour operators rounding up visitors with the presion of a cowboy herding his horses. I spotted gold and found an open spot on a bench next to a sweet older Arequipan woman. Traditionally dressed, in sandals with long socks, leggings, a knee-lengthed skirt topped off with a long sleeved pink flower embroidered sweater, she started a dialogue with me stating “Hace Frio.” Nearly 70° I sat next to her in my tank top and flip flops and replied with a smile “No. no hace calor.”

We continued to talk for a while. I shared stories of my travels with her and asked if she had been to the neighboring countries of Chile or Bolivia. “No, no” she replied with a bashful grin “Only Arequipa and Cusco.” A true moment of gratitude for me. To think that at the age of 20 I have explored more of her country in the past 2 weeks than she has been able to do in the past 60 something years. I have once again been reminded how incredibly privileged I am.  

Familiar comforts.
Amidst our conversation were pauses of silence where we both turned to listen to the laughs of the nearby school children, running and playing in the flight of the birds.
After our journey around town we found a place to call home for a few hours. A little café where we took refuge upstairs- in a couch nuzzled in the corner where I- after much due time- began to write.

I greatly enjoy keeping this blog… and that is exactly what it is, “keeping” it. It takes time and dedication and while many of the sweet little stories that make up the true beauty of the day remain in my personal old school journal (paper and pen) or tucked away in my heart, I take delight in sharing some of them with you via this resource. But should you really want to know the notes that make the song of my travels, let´s set up a date for tea and exchange stories of our adventures had and wisdoms gained.

The day ends bringing closure and will once again begin with the gift of opportunity.

*A special note of love to my fourth of July family! I love you all and while a part of me is sad not to be celebrating life with you... I will be in Machu Picchu! Enjoy :)

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