Saturday, May 21, 2011

Childhood dreams DO come TRUE!

After a few weeks of travelling in Peru, we breifly stopped in the not-so interesting town of Chiclayo. Chiclayo has a nice plaza but is a little dumpy overall, and probably not the safest city ever. However, despite these downfalls, Chiclayo has officially made my childhood dreams come true.

Apparently, Chiclayo is known all over Peru for having a "Mercado de Brujos" or "Witch`s Market". We had visited some black markets in Cusco, but I have to admit, they let me down a little bit. Ever since I was young, I have had this image of black markets being out in the middle of no where, covered and only lit by candles, a thick fog of inscense clouding the air, and then absolutely filled with gypsies, witches, snakes, potions brewing, and all sorts of dark magic lurking in every corner. Unfortunately, Cusco`s market only had pirated movies, cheap clothes, and knock of Nike shoes. What a dissapointment. There wasn`t even palm readings!

But Chiclayo didn`t fail me, no sir. After wandering around the general market, we saw a hole in the wall with all sorts of plants and herbs overflowing out the door. Intriguing! We ducked in and, tourist that I am, I couldn`t hide the huge grin on my face. Victoria said I was "giddy" the entire time (and she was right).

While there were no potions actually brewing right there, there were bottles and viles filled with tonics for anything you could ask for. Strength, health, power, libido, money, love-- it was all attainable right there, out of a bottle! All of the "potions" had tasty ingredients of blood, random animal parts, and herbs I`ve never even heard of. We talked to one of the women and she was instructing us to take on of these types of potions THREE times a DAY (breakfast, lunch, AND dinner)! Um, no thank you. We politely declined and moved on to another stall.

We were completely surrounded by wonderment. There were lucky beads, love amulets, special candles, feathers, monkeys and other stuffed animals, dramatic jewlrey, snake skins, dried herbs, shells, and even voodoo dolls. Freaky! And of course, there was TONS of San Pedro and other drugs around. San Pedro is a hallucinogenic drug from a cactus and was taken by Peru`s ancient Shamans to seek answers. The drug shaped Peru`s history and even today, San Pedro remains really popular along with it`s brother drug called Ayahuasca (which comes from a vine). While I was waayyyy to intimidated to buy much of anything (don`t worry Mom, Hugs not Drugs), Victoria and I ended up buying some Cat Nail Cream (we didn`t want anything that we had to swallow or ingest). The cream is supposed to help with muscle aches, rheumatism, tendonitis, and other ailments so we thought we`d try it out on our sore spots. I`ll let you know how it goes, we may become the next Cat Nail Cream advocates!

After wandering around, wide-eyed, mouth agape, we headed back to the normal part of the market.  We stopped breifly to buy some apples for our 10 hour bus ride that evening, and that`s when another miraculous thing happened. We saw Washington Apples! All the way, on the otherside of the world, next to the Witch`s market, we found some good ol' delicious Wenatchee apples! What a happy coincidence! It really WAS a paranormal day, making my imagination race like a child`s. And whether you believe in it or not, I like to think that there still is some magic left in this world, you just gotta go and find it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


So after Cusco, our next volunteer project was at Eco-truly Park (about an hour outside of Lima, near a little beach town named Chancay). We were going there to work on the organic farm and do whatever else the park needed. When we heard about the place, we expected it to be chalked full of hippies and vegabonds. However, as it turns out, it was quite the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead, Eco-truly park centers around a community of Hare Krishnas. I had only known of the Hare Krishnas as the ones chasing people down in the airports, so it was interesting to spend 2 weeks there to learn a little more about the religion and the lifestyle they practice (I will explain more about that later).

So driving down the coast, solely surrounded by dunes on the east, we instantly recognized the Park by these strange dollop buildings called "trulys" (Hence the name). The trulys are tall, egg-shaped buildings, adorned with mandalas and paintings that remind you of India. The funny adobe buildings function because it never rains here and the shape keeps it cool on the inside and is also antisizematic. The little oasis looked like it was straight out of a fairytale. Though, in all reality, the buildings are constructed out of mud and cow dung. Yes, we slept in poo for 2 weeks. (Don`t worry, it didn`t smell).

Our days at Eco-truly started off with yoga every morning. Though my mind was super hyped to start doing daily yoga, I have to admit, my body was not. It cracked and creeked its way down to floor as I desperately reached to try to touch my toes. Thanks for those flexible Dappen genes Dad! The first few days, my body was suprisingly sore from bending in all sorts of ways that I was not used to. But.... eventually... after doing yoga every morning for 2 weeks, I saw some definite progress (though it may just have been because on our last day I was placed next to a new guy who had never done yoga and his life and, poor thing, looked like an awkward new born pony when he attempted any of the poses). Anyways, for now, I have officially mastered the downward-facing dog, the crow, the headstand, the tree pose, and multiple others whose names I can`t recall. We also would do this hilarious pose called "The Happy Baby" pose. You lay on your back and bring your knees to your chest. You grab your feet with your hands and extend your legs. Rocking back and forth you look  like a mindless baby waiting for it´s diaper to be changed. I cannot do this pose without laughing. Still.

After yoga we would have breakfast (which varied from veggie burgers to rice or to granola on a good day) and then we would be assigned our daily chores. Chores consisted of helping out in the industrial sized kitchen, helping out around the premises doing miscellaneous tasks, helping out on the farm, or everyone´s favorite: BATHROOM DUTY. Dung dung dunggggg. Since Eco-truly works toward being environmentally friendly and produce as little waste as possible, the toilets are no ordinary "thrones". The toilets are called "Dry-toilets," and consist of a seat placed on a giant plastic bucket. You do your business and then cover up the nasty with saw-dust. The sawdust dries it out and cancels out all odors (well most of the odors). The people on bathroom duty get to drag the buckets out to the giant compost pile and dump out all the waste, being careful to avoid any backsplash. You clean out all the little brown bits from the buckets and then sprint back to sanitize your entire arm with disinfectant. It´s really not that bad and you do what you gotta do. It´s also pretty cool that they are able to use something that no one else wants and after about 6 months, turn it into some valuable soil to help fertilize the dry sandy dirt they have here.

Chores would end when the lunch bell rang. Everyone would come running and you line up in front of these HUGE pots to receive your  hefty portion of food. The main utensil here is the spoon because Hare Krishnas don´t eat meat or eggs and they say that everything you should eat, you can eat with a spoon. I`ve actually really come to admire this philosophy and after that, and watching numerous, horrifying documentaries, I am seriously considering dropping meat (though I am still going to eat eggs). Well at least red meat. Victoria and I have been trying this method on the rest of our travels but finding it extremely hard in Peru where every dish centers around a meat or fish. When I get back, and have more control over my diet, I think I will try to minimize my meat intake or cut it out all together if I`m feeling strong.

After lunch, we would have free time to relax and then we would have some type of workshop. The workshops ranged from philosophy, to art, to therapies, to dance classes. That was probably my favorite part of the day because I learned so much. The philosophy was really more a religion class, but a great time to get some personal questions answered about the confusing points on their religion. For art, we got to paint our own mandalas. Victoria`s turned out great, incorporating all the elements. Mine was sad and uninspired so while Victoria took hers home as a glorious momento, I ended up ditching mine there. Maybe to inspire some brilliant meditation or to end up in the compost where the rest of the S$%& ends up.

No matter, any tensions we possibly could have had were released when we did SOUND THERAPY one day. I had never heard of this before, but I guess this technique is becoming more and more popular. All the volunteers laid in a circle, with our heads toward the center, eyes closed. In the middle, was Druva, the man conducting the therapy, with all these strange and exotic instruments. The inicio was very slow and calm. Then, the music builds and builds and builds and you don`t even know where the music is coming from or how he transitions between all these instruments. I mean out of nowhere, he started playing a didgeridoo! I felt like I was in a dream, it was a whole new kind of symphony. If you ever get a chance to do this, I would definitely not pass up the opportunity! We didn`t even really realize Druva had stopped playing the instruments. For about half an hour after it was over, we all just lay there in perfect comfort and relaxation, not wanting to move a muscle. Unfortunately, duty calls.

One of the volunteers who was with us was named Malaika. She was an amazing, vibrant lady who was Australian/Canadian but had lived in Africa for quite awhile. Andddd, if you live in Africa, you can`t help but to pick up the lively style of dance they do at all their gatherings and festivals. So we got lucky, and though we only travelled to Peru, we got to pick up a little bit of African culture when she gave a class on West African dance. My lack of black-booty was a little inhibiting but it didn`t stop me from having a blast! All the moves are based on moves from their everyday lives. So we spread the seed, cut the grass, picked the fruits and put them in our basket, fished, we even got to shun the men. Haha! I loved learning a little bit about the beauty in their simple but powerful dance moves and I appreciated it that much more when I learned how white I was! I can`t MOVE like that! I guess I`ll just have to go to Africa next to figure it out firsthand!

As far as the Hare Krishnas, that was also another world that I knew so little about. The religion Vaishnavism is similar to Hinduism but they believe that the god Krishna is the Supreme. They worship Krishna devoutly and wake up every morning at 4 am to go to temple and worship. They go to temple again in the evening. Temple is a very fun event that consists of lots of singing and dancing as well as some lecture. Furthermore, they cook for Krishna 5 times a day and say their mantras over and over (they must say it a certain amount of time) to show their devotion. They are very commited people and work on living their lives for Krishna. Though I have in no way converted, I really appreciated it because they were all very open and friendly. They never pushed their religion on me in anyway and they accept that people worship different gods and different things. They are very open-minded and realize that worshipping any God basically gets you to the same place. I really like the idea of reincarnation because they don`t condemn you to hell for not believing and they say that everyone is just on their own path, their own journey.

When it gets down to the details, there are some things I have a hard time swallowing. There is a lot of mythology type stories and mystical happenings that are hard for me to grasp. But in end, it`s hard to argue with them because they are just working for what every religion`s foundation promotes. They say, that no matter what, disreguarding any details, that if you plant love, you will receive it. Karma baby!