Few tourists can say that they visited Peru and that they missed Cusco. With more tour agencies, Internet cafés, and falafel joints than anywhere else in the country — and with close proximity to the world-famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu — Cusco is the tourist Mecca of South America. I spent a few days here before my Salkantay hike, and I'm spending one month more here, to study some Spanish.
Ashley is a Canadian girl with a marketing background, who's here in Cusco for about 2 months, helping Hampy with various aspects of their publicity. I first met Ashley about 2 weeks ago, on the Chocco and Hampy tour, and from now on I'm going to be working pretty closely with her on the new Hampy web site. She has a dry but witty sense of humour, and she can sure as hell let her hair down and party, when the occasion calls for it.
This morning, I had my final three hours of class at Amigos. So, after four intense and incredibly quick weeks, my Spanish classes have come to an end. I've had an amazing time at Amigos, I've made lots of really good friends, and my Spanish has improved tremendously. During the past week, I've had one-on-one classes with Merly, and we've covered heaps of ground in the various types of past tense (in particular). My new found knowledge in this area, and in general all-round vocabulary, has really empowered me to speak a lot more confidently and a lot more fluently.
A paro is a "strike" or a "demonstration". Generally, disgruntled workers hold a paro. It usually involved the stoppage of services (such as public transport), rioting, and sometimes violence. Since I'm going to Bolivia soon, I'll no doubt be witnessing quite a few paros there (as they're basically a way of life in Bolivia). In fact, there's a big paro going on there right now — I hope it's finished by the time I arrive there. Paro can also mean "unemployed": a dole bludger could say "estoy en paro" (lit: "I'm unemployed"). Also elderly people and smokers (in particular) are sometimes known to have a "paro cardiaco" (lit: "cardiac arrest", or "heart attack").
Delicious, vegetarian dish of beans and potatoes, simmered in a spicy sauce of chili, egg, milk, and onion, and served with rice. This afternoon, for my final cooking lesson with Amigos, our amazing chef Ricardo (of tiradito de pescado and causa rellena fame) showed us how to cook up some kapchi de habas, another spicy dish local to the Cusco area. A great final addition to my Andean cooking repertoire, and another one that I'll have to make again sometime!
On Monday night, I started working on a completely new, completely better web web site for Hampy, a volunteer organisation that I kind of ran into here in Cusco. Between Monday and today, I've spent about 5 hours each night working on the site, over at Jorge's house (AKA "Hampy HQ), where I have access to his computer and Internet. And already, the new site is looking pretty good. Design basically done, rough navigation structure done, and a bit of the interactivity done.
Definitely not anyone's favourite thing (apart from the local council — which around here is Caja Municipal Cusco), a multa is a "fine", or "payment penalty". Similarly, the verb multar means "to fine". Someone can "pone una multa a tí" (lit: "give you a fine"), or they can just "te multa" (lit: "fine you"). You can "paga tus multas" (lit: "pay your fines"); or alternatively, you could "pide tus multas" (lit: "lose your fines"). One way or another, they're always a pain in the a$$.
Carlos Joel Delgado Pizarro is a young guy studying computer science at university, here in Cusco. Carlos was told about me (and vice versa) by — who else — the king of Linux and of Linux-folk here in Peru: my friend Antonio Ognio (from Lima). I met with Carlos today at my host family's house, and we had a good old chat about Linux, open-source, programming, the state of IT and of open-source in Peru, and even Drupal (a bit). Plus, I managed to talk with him in Spanish the whole time! Not bad, especially considering that I really wasn't feeling too good today (more food poisoning). Great guy, and a many with many questions.
Here's an important one for describing those ever-present, ever-inquisitive, ever-adorable Peruvian children: travieso ("cheeky"). The word travieso literally means "naughty". Other possibilities for describing those devilish little antics include fresco (also "cheeky" — literally "fresh"), and descarado (once again "cheeky" — literally "shameless"). The kids around here are generally fairly well-behaved — but they're also almost always in big groups, so this gives them the confidence to do mischievous things that they might not otherwise dare to do. So watch out!
The verb masticar simply means "to chew". It's quite similar to the English word "masticate", of the same meaning; except that unlike the English word, it generally isn't confused with another word of similar sound, but of a very different meaning :P. If you go to a parrillada (Argentinean steak house), and you get a particularly tough piece of meat, then you might think to yourself "voy a tener que masticarlo por mucho tiempo" (lit: "I'm going to have to chew this for a while"). Note that in Spanish, they have a different word for "chewing-gum": they call it chicle.
It was delayed for the past week, due to Jorge and various other people going on a hike to Choquequirao, but now the work on the new Hampy web site has finally begun. Tonight, I completed the first humble steps, on the way to getting Hampy a new, stylish, Drupal-powered (naturally) web site. Hopefully the new site will be ready to go in the next week or two.