My second day of Spanish lessons. I'm adding more words to my
vocabulary every day, but still struggling to understand people when
they talk...comprehension is coming little by little.
I ventured out
of my comfort zone today (this is now a daily occurrence...between the
stress, mate de coca, and all the exploring on foot, my heart is getting
pretty fit) when I ate lunch at a restaurant by myself after my lesson.
Granted, not much speaking was required, but I didn't use any English
at all, so that was an accomplishment!
Afterward I conquered
another fear: bartering! I'm now a proud owner of a chompa de alpaca
(alpaca sweater) which apparently I got a fair deal on. This is probably
due to the compassion of the lovely woman who sold it to me, rather
than my pathetically timid bartering skills. I probably looked like a
drowned rat as I shivered and explained "soy muy frio!" ("I am very
cold!"). Today was very rainy and cool, and there is no indoor heating
anywhere! Now with my new purchase I am cozy and "muy caliente"! I wish I
had more room in my pack to load up on these for my next Canadian
My final task of the day was to get a phone. I rented a
basic phone from the school for S/.10 a month (approximately $3-4) and
bought the recommended amount of credit from a hole-in-the-wall pharmacy
for an additional S/.5. Though I miss my trusty smartphone from home,
I'm glad I didn't bring it. My roommate said his was stolen within his
first week in Cusco.
I still haven't ridden the bus...this speaks to
the amount of terror it strikes into my heart. I have been overcharged
nearly every time I've taken the taxi, so I've begun walking everywhere
which can take a very long time and usually results in me huddled in a
doorway during a downpour. Maybe this weekend I'll finally take the
Friday night had my stomach producing some interesting sounds, and after
a sleepless night tossing and turning, I arose in the morning with a
seriously upset stomach, feeling shaky and aching for sleep. The thought
of food was not appealing, but I managed some breakfast and then
postponed my planned putting and went straight back to bed. For the rest
of the day.
I have no idea what it was...maybe a bug or delayed
"soroche" (altitude sickness). Overall, I can't complain as it was
relatively mild and I was feeling back to normal the next morning.
After breakfast and a cold shower (still not used to it), I decided
enough was enough and I needed to tackle my (perhaps disproportionate)
phobia of the city bus.
The buses here are independently owned
companies, with names that can be quite funny (ie: "batman"). Their
destinations are printed on the side, but since I only know
approximately 3 streets and have only a very basic understanding of the
city layout, this is not very helpful.
The buses honk as they
approach the curb, and when the front door opens the driver's assistant
hops out and shouts out the bus's destinations in hopes of attracting
I approached the "pereno" (bus stop) hesitantly
and even more timidly approached a stranger to inquire which bus I
should take. My Spanish must have been muy malo indeed, because he
simply brushed me off and I scurried back to my corner. My next tactic
was to run up to the next business and ask the assistant "plaza de
armas?". She shrugged with an indifferent "Si", and waved me aboard. I
clambered into the first available seat, which happened to be at the
front, and observed the proceedings with interest.
The main street
by my guesthouse is one of the busiest in the city...basically that
equivalent of a highway. Driving in Cusco is...an experience. Apart from
a few stoplights, it mostly seems like a free-for-all! There are 3
lanes on this particular road, but they are more like guidelines. Cars
drift between them at will, dodging built up traffick, pedestrians, and
taxis creeping up from crossroads, or simply drive over the lines to
keep their options open. I have never seen such aggressive yet skillful
weaving through traffic...it looks like chaos, but I have yet to witness
an accident or road rage. There is honking a-plenty, though! They honk
for everything...to let pedestrians know they are approaching, to inform
another car there isn't a chance in the world that they can cut in, to
greet one another, or in the case of a bus making a stop: to say get out
of my way, or I will crush you! I am even more impressed by the drivers
here because there is basically no such thing as automatic
transmission. Another fun fact: there are seriously old VW bugs and vans
Back to my bussing experience.
People seemed to pay
upon their departure, and the standard fare is 70 cientes...the
equivalent of about $.23, which is a vast improvement over arguing with
taxi drivers insisting on S/.5.
The downside, of course, is that I'm
in charge of knowing where to hop off. I have yet to master this. Both
times I rode the bus today resulted in a long walk to my actual
destination (though not as long as it would have been without the bus)!
Good thing I have nothing but time on my hands! Tomorrow I try again,
with a different destination. We'll see how it goes!