Wednesday 5:13 am, February 23, 2005

It is very cold in my concrete room here in Cusco, Peru, not unbearable by no means, but cold enough that hate to leave the bed. The room is too huge or I would think about buying a hotplate to warm it, but I will be in Arequipa soon and in a smaller room, plus I believe Arequipa is warmer.

“3,360 m (11,024 ft) above sea level”
From Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia

I could not find the altitude of Machu Picchu or Arequipa, but I am positive Machu Picchu is lower and that Arequipa is probably lower.

There is a worry daily from my group of friends, they have read the guidebook too much and are making themselves a little sick, hard to know if they would even complain if they did not know it was possible to have altitude sickness. Maybe I will go back to the encyclopedia and get a clear report on this.

“The common symptoms of altitude sickness are headache, shortness of breath, sleep disturbances, and sometimes nausea. These symptoms, collectively called acute mountain sickness (AMS), appear in nearly 20 percent of people who ascend higher than about 2400 m (about 8000 ft) above sea level in less than one day.”
Microsoft Encyclopedia Encarta
We definitely did this, we came from the level of Boston at more or less sea level to the to the 3600 meters of Cuzco. However, they did not complain about this until they did a lot of climbing in one day on the Cusco City Tour. I have been getting tired, but normally I just consider myself getting older and this is normal that walking up step is more difficult when you spend more time typing on a computer than walking up steps.

Just do not push me and I am happy, I do suppose that could be part of the problem. I was following Joe, Suzanne, and Elizabeth down to the Pizza Restaurant last night and Joe was walking at an American pace, it was twice as fast as my saunter so I was uncomfortable. I am always the little boy walk and try to not hard move at all, go very slow and look at everything. I will mention the need to go slower to them, and Joe already said that he got tired so he knew he should stop, so he is responsible and not Macho about this, at least no one here is too Macho.

I did give Michael the 10-year-old son of Gary a Macho Push saying that if he goes with me,
“Mike we are the men, we cannot complain.”
He is humorous and I am trying to say, we go kill the bear, he shakes his head and sort of hides behind his dad, that step into manhood could be a push from me… I have not tried to keep anyone from doing anything and for the most part just let them roam as they wish. I have said taught them.

Bano - Toilet
Cuantes Cuesta - How much does it cost?
Cerveza - Beer for Joe

We are in the cultural parts of Backpacker Cuzco and not on the main Tourist path of Hotels a little away from the dingalings Pizza eaters. Nevertheless, of course, everyone here is eating Pizza as they have found the place with no real help from me.

I have done my duty with five of them and took them yesterday to see the older half-touristy market. Sort of the older city market for food, they would not get close to the food so that was a hoot, Joe did get up close and personal to a Cow mouth. He took a real good photo of the cow’s mouth, I will see what he thinks, and I will put it put to see soon.

I have hit the adults on a regular basis with the fact that Peru is a bump and grab country for robbery and a carry you own toilet paper country.

I think they have been lucky so far on the toilet paper thing, because I know not all of them are packing, most of the time they walk back to the room. This is not good when you leave an expensive restaurant in Cuzco because you need to use the toilet, the toilet is acceptable.

Suzanne experienced the bump and grab yesterday; she was taking a photo, and then placed her hand and camera inside the pouch of her sweatshirt. I guess someone spit or threw water on her and then she took her hand to her face to wipe it off and shortly after discovered the camera is gone.

I have been actively having everyone put their foot through their backpacks when they sit and trying to say, when using your camera you are a target. No money had been stolen yet, but this group is great target, too safe feeling and too much American, plus they walk in packs. A group comes for us the minute we walk toward the Plaza de Armas or the city square.

It looks like we are adjusting as well as you can to a rapid tour of Cusco, Peru, no major problems the two girls 14 and 12 have not ran off with the local boys, and for that fact have not even got chatted up. I told them the girl have been chatting me up and I am ugly, trying to insinuate if boys were not talking with them maybe, they had a beauty problem. This went over their heads.

Joe is the protector of his daughter Suzanne, and Elizabeth seem not interested yet in boys, so they are safe. Are biggest problem is the over sugar powered Kyla who is 6 year old that will jump, run, and hop around without thinking. I wished I knew the affects of sugar better, these kids are overfed sugar. Jane their mother brought what may be a five pound or two kilo bag of gummy bears. She brought a lot of trail mix too, but not the bland tasteless type but the sugar type good tasting.

I have to remind myself that I need to push them to clean some normal food and stop eating the Pizza. I took them to the market and the purchase nothing. I am bewildered like the group is a complete snob with food. I am a terrible person with food, I will hardly eat any new foods, but I make this group look like I will eat anything in comparison. My mother will laugh, me being the one that tries food more than other people do.

The hotel had a kitchen and I believe they should buy some fruits and vegetables, meats if they wish either boil some water and clean them or cook the food. We are going to leave the Pizza tomorrow and go to Machu Picchu, aagh; there is probably Pizza now at Aguas Calientes the village below Machu Picchu. I now know I am going to fail, I am not going to get this group to try the local foods or experience the local food culture.

They did go to the market; they have not engaged any of the local Quchua or India type population in any conversations. I am trying to maneuver them into situations where they must talk. They have not seem to be interested in the people only in what the people are selling, so I suppose they are helping the economy, but there is no cultural exchange.

I am lost, do I somehow take them away from the tourist area or do I just allow them to go to the main tourist areas and look at junk? I am not sure what is best, they will remember the trip, but to take them away from Pizza central is to make them feel uncomfortable on the other hand I feel uncomfortable in Pizza Central. I am saying Pizza Central as I describe the Plaza de Armas area and the wide four-lane road leading kind of down from the Plaza de Armas. We have to walk up the hill from the plaza de armas past the naked lady statue and take a left, we see very few tourist where we are living.

I am not sure what value I have for this group, but maybe the only real value is I speak Spanish and have no fear, this makes them feel safe. Too safe in my opinion, and they need to access the situation themselves, evaluate the dangers and keep their eyes and ears open. We have had one camera stolen; there is no physical danger of being killed, just bumped and grab bags. No one here is a drinker or a drunk so no druggies, so we are not having the normal backpacker problems of getting drunk and getting robbed. Therefore, we are very safe; Cusco is safe and most travelers and tourist to not go out advertising how they were robbed, as for the most part they feel stupid. What is stupid is to hide the fact you were robbed, so that other people believe they are safe.

My mission is to show them the real Peruvian Culture, show them normal homes, normal people, and to hopefully get them invited into the home of some locals. I believe I only have a 10 percent chance of this as the Pizza and some French Bakery is taking us away from Peruvian people. The Lonely Planet, which I recommended very much to keep them safe, had now again becomes the problem as they are reading it cover to cover to find the Pizza and bread shops. I wish that section did not exist, finding food is a cultural experience, finding Pizza is a trip back home, and why do you come to Peru. The time is too short to eat pizza for a short trip American traveler.

However, there is no guide to life, and if it make you happy than there is nothing wrong with enjoying what you enjoy. I just want to give them the memories they will never forget.


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