This super-nice married couple are best friends of my cousins, the Goldsteins — in fact, they're so incredibly super-nice, that they're letting my dad and myself stay in their house for two weeks, while we're here in Boston! Tara and Ashki haven't got any kids yet — but no doubt they'll be getting round to it, before too long. The couple are both studying (post-grad) at university this year, but they'll be getting back into the workforce come next year. Tara does a bit of work as a Hebrew teacher, and she helped Adam to prepare for his upcoming barmitzvah. Really friendly people, and full of warm heimische spirit.
The popular thing to do on the island of Amantaní, in Lake Titicaca, is to spend a night eating and sleeping with one of the local families on the island, in order to really experience life like they do. So that's what myself, Chris, and the rest of the crew from the morning's boat ride did. Myself and Chris got introduced to one of the Amantaní families, and taken to their farmhouse by the lake. We got well taken care of, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time living the simple life.
It wasn't short. It wasn't cheap. And it was a big chunk eaten out of my travelling and exploration time in South America. But it was definitely worth it. In my four weeks at Amigos, and with the Polar Covarrubias family, I learned a lot of Spanish, I made some great friends, and I got a lot of love (and plenty of food, too!). Plus, during the whole thing I was in Cusco, where I could party at night, explore the area on weekends, get by pretty cheap, and stay fairly safe. All up, a great experience, and one that will surely benefit me in the rest of my travels.
After four very quick and very memorable weeks with them, today I finally said goodbye to the Polar Covarrubias family, and "moved out of home". Lunch today was my last meal with the family, and it was a bit sad to have to say farewell to them; but it was also a relief to be ending my routine and getting-a-bit-too-comfortable life with them, and preparing to get back on the road again. They've been the best host family I could have asked for: after my time with them, I feel like I've gained a second family, for life. I know I'll always be welcome at their house in the future.
Buenas noticias (lit: "good news"), people: as of lunchtime today, Mario's back! Él Papá returned home at about 2:30pm this afternoon, in time for the all-important middle-of-the-day meal. He's still going to need at least another week of serious R&R at home; but he's looking happy and healthy, just like his old self. We welcomed him home with flowers, kisses, hugs, and plenty of good food (a welcome change from those hospital meals). He should be back at work within a week or so.
I spent this afternoon at Cusco's (only) private hospital with my family, paying a visit to my unwell host father, Mario. The rest of the family has been there every day, since he was admitted on Thursday — my host mother, Flora, has been virtually living there — but today was my first opportunity to go and spend some time there. Mario's in fairly good condition, and he's being well taken care of — both by the nurses, and by his family — but he's still going to need more time, before he's ready to return home.
Over the past week, I've put my usual travel life of uncertainty, adventure, and mobility on hold for a bit, and I'm back in a routine daily grind. It's essential that I do this, in order to spend some time studying and learning; but I sure am glad that I don't have to do it all year, like I've done every year for the past 16 years of my life! It's a good reminder of how much cooler backpacking is than working or studying.
I got home from my cooking class this evening, to learn that the father in my host family, Mario, is sick with pneumonia, and has been taken to hospital. He was admitted at about 3pm this afternoon, and Flora has been there with him the whole time. He's not in the best condition at the moment, so I can only pray for him, and hope that his health improves soon. Obviously, this is going to change the operation of the family for at least the next few days.
Straight after finishing my first classes at Amigos today, I got picked up by Flora and Mario Polar Covarrubias, the mother and father of the family that I'm staying with, for the duration of my four weeks of study. It seems that, as with the school, I've hit the jackpot with a great host family. They're very warm people; they live in a nice, safe area in Cusco; they only speak Spanish; and judging by today, I'd say they're going to be feeding me very well indeed.