Monday, 5 January 2015

Weekend Update: Conquering Fears


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 winter!

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 bus...


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 potential customers.
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 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 looks like chaos, but I have yet to witness an accident or road rage. There is honking a-plenty, though! They honk for 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 EVERYWHERE!
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!


netablogs said...

Wow, Jill, I'm so proud of you!!! You will be one seasoned traveller when you head home again. Glad you found a cheap phone and a warm sweater! Looking forward to more pics! Love, hugs, and prayers from your mama!

Kriss said...

Look at you mastering all these new skills! Nice work. Glad to hear that the sickness, whatever it was, didn't plague you for long.

Karen Epp said...

I've enjoyed reading these posts Jill. They make me feel as though I'm there. Thinking of you as you prepare for your "little" hike!

Kelsi said...

Reading about your adventures fill me with joy Jill! So happy that your having such a wonderful time and conquering so many fears (AND a mountain!) You go girl! Can't wait to hear more!

Julie Fair said...

Jill! This sounds so cool! I'll admit, I would also share your bus fear, haha. But look at you being all bold and adventurous!

Can't wait for more updates! Maybe some pics too?