July 27, 2009

Peru, Week 5: Finally!

mp1This morning we woke up at 6.25 and left at 7 for the Machu Picchu bus. The sky was clear, and it was evident that we didn’t need our jackets. We got to the top at 7.30 and wandered around for a bit before our tour started. 8.30 was the tour, with an enthusiastic guide who only strayed from straight facts twice.Towards the end (actually, about five minutes from the end) we lost the group and kept exploring. It’s really amazing – completely intact except the roofs;  everything is so well-built (there are the walls you can’t fit a credit card in and then some others that would have been plastered over – don’t worry, I took pictures);  and the entire thing is huge. There’s a terraced agricultural part and an urban part, with houses, temples, schools, and plazas. The Incas really loved trapezoids – all the windows are trapezoidal, as are the doors, and even the walls slope at 87· to make trapezoidal houses. I think the grassy plazas are kept in check by the roaming llamas, which we got to pet. (One even rested his foot on mine!)



After a short snack and bathroom break outside the walls, we decided to try to climb Waynapicchu, the ceremonial (and super steep) mountain with the Temp0le of the Moon on top. Unfortunately, they only allow 400 people to climb it per day (for environmental protection) and we didn’t get there in time. So we went to pet the llamas, then began to climb Machu Picchu. (The city is called MP, but the real MP is the peak behind it.) It was stone steps all the way up, sometimes through the jungle and sometimes in the open air. Alice hiked considerably slower than I did, so I got to the top in 1 hour 40 and she took two hours. It was only then that I informed her we had just climbed nearly 3000 feet in altitude, up to 10000. (That was why I took the map away from her to begin with – oh, there was planned trickery.) The view from the top was amazing – you could see how Machu Picchu was condor-shaped (the Incas like to do intense urban planning – Cusco used to be puma-shaped). There was a rainbow flag, which I’ve been seeing all over and wondering why there’s so much gay pride in this region; eventually I figured out it’s also the UNESCO flag. It took us an hour to hike down, and we were back in the hotel by 4:30. We went to an internet cafe and rewarded ourselves with cake, then went straight to dinner at a cheap and sketchy place across the plaza, where we met Leila and Veena fresh in from their trek.  Apparently the trek was fun, except that all Sunday they had to hike in the rain and then overnight it froze. They didn’t eat there because we’d already finished, so we took them to the pizza place from Sunday night, where Alice and I split a pizza for dessert. We then went to bed and slept for 11 hours without waking even once. A nice reward after a hard day.mp4

This morning we wandered through the Traditional Peruvian Market to get to our 9:30 train. Nene’s call must have made some impact at the travel agency, because we were greeted by a man holding a sign (albeit with Alice’s last name horribly mangled) who took us back to Cusco in a private car. Although it was one of the more nauseating rides I’ve ever taken (the road is very curvy and brakes were used infrequently), it was better than having to sit with our luggage on our laps on the bus. We went straight to 2Nations, the lunch place from Sunday, for lunch, then went to see Qorikancha, the Inca’s golden palace turned into a monastery and cathedral. (The gold was stripped off to barter for the return of the Inca Atahualpa after he was captured by the conquistadors; the palace was engulfed by Spanish colonial buildings, but they still used the old rooms.) Then Alice went to take a nap while I went to the Museo del Arte Precolombiano, which featured artifacts in an art museum context. (“Look at the delicate work on this pot – imagine what it represented to the primitive peoples, etc etc.”) I also did some shopping and may have bought some antiquities – the woman assured me they were Colonial, but they look pretty Formative to me. I almost bought a llama car seat cover, but it was too expensive. Tomorrow morning (at 5.15) we leave for Lima and the last two days!




July 26, 2009

Peru, Week 5: “Is there any efficient way to get there?”

Last night we went out to an Italian restaurant that had an Inca wall as part of it. Apparently this is a big thing in Cusco, and Jenny’s group did an Inca wall pub crawl this week. Afterwards we went to a bar that advertised a Rolling Stones cover band, but I had an altitude headache and they weren’t very good (nor did they play Rolling Stones songs) so we went to bed at 11, which was still much too late as we had to wake up at 6. I couldn’t sleep all night because I was worrying whether the travel agency woman would actually be meeting us with our tickets; she did, 15 minutes late, and gave us only the briefest explanation before putting us on a bus. Turns out there are two ways to get here: take us to Ollantaytambo, a tiny town two hours away, then get on the train; or take the train straight from Cusco. I have no idea why the travel agent chose the first option, as it was inconvenient and confusing. There was a Quechua singer on the bus who demanded to be tipped. Also, it started to rain when we were on the platform waiting for the train, which was late. Apparently train is the only way to get here (besides walking, which Veena and Leila are doing – in the rain, while Alice and I napped in a cozy hotel facing the river) because the river valley is so steep and narrow. There are buses to get to Machu Picchu from this tiny town (Aguas Calientes, named such for its hot springs – swim suit rentals upon request), and they had to be carried in by train too. The mountains are amazing though – they’re like the erupting rocks from “The Rite of Spring” sequence in Fantasia, but covered with multigreen lichens, shrubs, and small trees, steep-sided, craggy, folded in mist so you can’t even see barely three hundred feet up, let alone all the way to the top (and I know they´re ridiculously tall – I saw a break in the clouds.) A mountain on the way here (seen from the bus) had fog clouds wrapped around its shoulders like a scarf made of sheep.

Besides looking at the scenery, though, there’s nothing to do but eat, sleep, and remain frustrated at the travel agent. A guide to Machu Picchu was supposed to call to arrange things, but they haven’t yet and we’ll probably just have to take ourselves. (Which may be better, as Jenny said she saw a tour guide telling a group to rub a “sacred Inca rubbing stone”. We´ve decided that if they try to tell us anything remotely untrue-sounding we’ll pool our archaeological knowledge and cross-examine them.)

July 25, 2009

Peru, Week 4: Cacafuego

To start with last weekend: everybody left for Colca Canyon except me, the boys,  and Sylvia and Itze. This turned out to be a good thing, as it was a four hour bus ride with an annoying tour guide and the hotel was far away from everything. They did, however, get to see condors. I spent Saturday morning at the market, drinking fresh orange juice and eating potato dumplings. I also got my pocket knife sharpened for 50 centimos – the guy looked at me quizzically at first as the knives he sharpens seem to be of the “kitchen” and “butcher” variety, but he did it anyway. On the way to El Super (the local supermarket chain), we wandered into a cloister of shops and were given a free tour. We continued on our way, did some grocery and light tourist shopping, and then I split off to go to the Santa Catalina convent. It was so beautiful, and definitely worth the 30 soles to get in. It was built in what I call the “ramblyshambles” style – sort of like Alhambra meets the Greek island towns; the walls were painted reddish-orange and blue, the brightest, most vivid blue you’ve ever seen, the kind of blue I want wrapped around me like a blanket. I took some amazing photos, to say the least. The nuns’ cells each had a little courtyard and kitchen, and it took me over an hour and a half to walk through (and you know I walk at a clip). Afterwards I went to the Santa Catalina Market (not incorporated with the convent) and bought some nice jewelry, a chainmail bracelet and a silver necklace for $25.  Saturday night I went out with the boys for crepes and once again had my alpaca au poivre crepe.

Sunday I finally managed to sleep in til 9, then sat around reading for a few hours before going out to the Museo Santury, which houses Juanita the Ice Princess, an Inca sacrificed ice-mummy. The whole thing was set up like a shrine, the room with Juanita kept dark and cold probably for more than just conservation reasons. They offered tours in English, French, Spanish, German, and Polish; the tour, although inclusive, offered a more Western bias than I thought was proper considering how they had the exhibit set up. Afterwards I took myself out for a nice lunch at Nina Yaku, a restaurant I found in Lonely Planet described as “modern Peruvian”. I had a steak in a sort of peppery sauce, then decided I was still hungry and ordered a fettucini with rocoto sauce. Both were delicious; I sat in the courtyard for two hours, slowly eating and reading on the Kindle. (Rocoto is a type of pepper that looks akin to a plum tomato. It’s sort of a mouthy spice with less burn and more flavor than a chili pepper. Every night Agusto makes rocoto sauce in a pico-de-gallo fashion, and I got him to show me how to make it. Perfect with meat, potatoes, vegetables, and pretty much everything.)

[Warning: this paragraph might disturb some readers with sensitive stomachs.] This week in archaeology was mostly uneventful. I continued to sift, as I now have a system for sifting and labeling the bags that nobody else bothered to learn. In the evenings I went down to the lab and relabeled and reorganized everything. Leila and Max closed their unit and came to join ours, so we had more help. On Tuesday we made the discovery: slowly, there began to be more large pieces of organic matter (generally camelid feces, feathers, and clumps of unidentifiable material). We thought it might be dog feces. Suddenly, in the afternoon, Leila dug in her trowel and accidentally but forcefully flung a piece of definiteively human poo towards Sylvia. (And let me tell you, you needn’t be an expert in coprolites to tell this was human. Just think about it.) We kept finding more and more. Nearby was another obsidian core and some maize, identifying it as a possible trash pit/latrine. We were very proud of our discovery, and photographed it from various angles, with and without shadow, on different color backgrounds, with the north arrow showing its location and size. We then carefully wrapped it up and put it in a Tupperware. I’m sure the workers thought we were insane. (For those unenlightened, coprolites are very informative for archaeology, as they can give us a good idea of paleodiet and health if there are no other human remains.) It is also becoming apparent that part of the site is from the Formative period, so this is 1500-year-old poo. Also, Nene asked if, since we hadn’t found any remains, I might write my BA on molle, known in the US as pink peppercorns. It was used in the Andes to make beer, but also seems to have been used in mortar and is in our trash pit. Apparently no one has done a comprehensive study of molle before, and I can communicate with Agusto and Ryan Williams of the Field Museum, who wrote about molle use in Moquegua (one valley south if Vitor).

Wednesday morning we awoke to the Mummy Poo’s Revenge: the sky was thickly fogged and it was absolutely freezing. It was not pleasant digging weather, so we decided to hike up the Red Mountain where Agusto’s team was doing their pottery survey. That was also believed to be a cemetery, but no luck; the stone-lined cists were storage chambers. Alice and I decided to keep hiking up to the Black Mountain, which is really more of a mesa that extends further up the valley. (We call them thus based on the color of their rocks.) From the top we could really see the extent of the desert – the valleys are a couple of kilometers across, nice lush green farmland, but the desert spreads hundreds of kilometers between each valley. We were also able to see the fog drifting downriver towards the ocean.We hiked down through the quebrada (Spanish for wadi), had lunch, and then continued to dig up poo.itze

Thursday was the same; dense fog kept us from digging, so we walked about two kilometers to see a Formative cemetery we’d been told about. On the way we stopped at a colonial bodega that is now a farmhouse. It was once big and fancy enough to have its own church (now inhabited by the farmer), a chumba-firing facility, and a large winery. These remind me of the paintings of 1830s Greece or medieval England, when people lived in ancient ruins, sort of admiring their historic value but really just valuing them as a good place to raise pigs. We also saw this man’s latrine, which was in a corner of one of the old buildings with no roof – just piles and piles of feces with no dirt to cover them. It was really very unsanitary, and exactly like what we found in our trench. (Yay ethnoarchaeology!) In the afternoon we closed the trench, and while shoveling I scraped my finger on rock, just clearing the way to my title of Most Injured.


Friday we packed up the lab and the artifacts and headed back to Arequipa. We had a farewell dinner at a really nice restaurant, also “modern Peruvian” and very good. The main dish was a stuffed pepper, and the appetizers included Andean yellow potatoes, lomo saltado, and Andean sushi (which I didn’t eat but looked like it could be delicious for devourers of raw fish). We all said goodbye and then went to (fitful) sleep, as Alice, Leila, Veena, and I had to leave at 4.45 for our 6.30 flight. The flight was actually nice; I was expecting a tiny prop plane, but instead it was a brand new Airbus and I was in 1A. The flight made a stop in Juliaca, so we got to see Lake Titicaca; I fell asleep between Juliaca and Cusco, but I woke up just as I feared we were about to run into a mountain in the Cusco Valley descent. (Descent being relative – the altitude is really high and I have a headache.) We slept, had a fight with the travel agency, then met Jenny for lunch. I had a delicious alpaca burger. Afterwards we went to two cathedrals and I bought a fuzzy hat. The architecture and environment here is so different from Arequipa – if the latter is like Barcelona, this is like Cordoba. The streets are narrow and windy, and the cathedrals are baroque and not neoclassical. Tired from our outings, we came back here and, after an hour of not being able to reach the travel agency, they finally told us to be ready at 6.30 tomorrow to be picked up for the train to Machu Picchu. It’s been a hassle, and we’re all tired and grumpy, but at least we have it sorted out, and I hear Machu Picchu is really worth it. Hoipefully there will be internet there to describe.

July 18, 2009

Peru, Week 4: “You did that? I can’t believe you did that! I didn’t, and look, I got a disease!”

I haven’t written about the more banal aspects of our day, so here is our schedule:

6.45- wake up (for people like Peggy, who runs in the morning, this is much earlier)

7- breakfast (can be pancakes, fruit, oatmeal, and always Andean triangle bread)

7.30-leave for site (arrive at 8, get our gear from Sr. Alpaca’s house, go to our units)

10.30- snack break

12ish-lunch (sandwiches of varying types, an apple and an orange)

2.30- pack up (leave at about 3)

6ish- dinner (varying foods, often late)

Afterwards we watch movies or have bonfires or sometimes just go to sleep.

Each week we have a visiting professor or guest – first was Frank, the zooarchaeologist; then Chris, the conservator; this week was Rodolfo, an agricultural engineer and surveyor.

This week I was back at Nene’s area, which we have realized is very clearly NOT a cemetery. There may have been one or two residential burials, explaining the bones nearby, but that’s it for the remains. We think it’s some sort of residential complex, as we’ve found walls both in the unit and around it (only visible after the workers cleared loose stones from the area). The question now is what the looters were looking for, and what they found, as the Wari tended to have very rich burials. Oh yes! The pottery sherds say Wari, although Agusto found a lone sherd of Tiwanaku origin, which is exactly what we were hoping to find (our main question asks what the relationship between Wari and Tiwanaku was in this area). Starting Tuesday, I put myself on sifting duty, as there were too many people in the pit and we don’t really trust the workers to sift properly (while sorting artifacts on Thursday night, I found about 10 rocks in the bag they collected). Also, I have all that experience from Shannon’s lab picking out tiny things from piles of dirt. We found four basic categories: charcoal, animal bones (in one room, camelid, and in the other room, shrimp), organic materials (ancient llama poop), and botanics (sticks, leaves, seeds). There are two clearly defined rooms and an outdoor space. Until Thursday, we were wondering whether this building was early colonial or pre-colonial; it was impossible to tell based on the poop as llama, deer, and sheep poop all look the same (sheep would have been the tell-tale sign of a colonial farm building). [And yes, it is important as archaeologists to look very closely at ancient and modern poop.]  However, at about 11 on Thursday, I was sifting through Alice’s buckets and getting the usual poop, charcoal, more poop, when I spotted something shiny. I looked closer. “We have a lithic!” I exclaimed, and held it up for all to see. In short order I found another. They’re clear obsidian points with serrated edges, less than two inches long. First, this shows that our area is pre-colonial; second, it shows that there were some trade connections with areas south of Misti, where the obsidian possibly comes from (although mass spectroscopic analysis will tell us exactly where). Also, I got to carry them around in my pocket for the day. For safekeeping, you know.


How cool is that???

We also do fun things outside of digging (or sifting, in my case, as I’ve sort of proclaimed myself the Official Sifter and thus the dirtiest person on the dig, as sifting releases all the particles into the air, where it attaches itself to my face, arms, orifices, and clothing). Wednesday was Itze’s birthday, so we had tres leches cake and a pseudo-party (one of the cooks sat and watched us to make sure there was no drinking, so we moved down to the fire pit where the wine flowed). Thursday we had a soccer game, girls vs boys, where they decidely beat us despite our having the greater numbers. (I played goalie because my toe hurt.) I did a couple of nice slides and body-checks, and then realized I was having some sort of allergy to the grass, so I went inside and wiped down with a baby wipe. After about five seconds this started to burn, so I ran into the shower and washed my legs. Then I slipped and bruised my arm.

Fridays are supposed to be lab days, but since we don’t really have anything to do in the lab, we took a field trip to see two looted cemeteries. The first had loads of textiles and bones, and we even found an in situ articulated lower arm with the fingers bound with red thread. The second site was mostly ash, and we wished they had warned us not to wear flip flops. (I also had – have – a bug bite making my left ankle into a cankle). There were more bones there, and suddenly we heard that the property owners were going to open a grave for us. We all ran over as fast as our flip-flop-clad, ash-sinking feet would allow, and the man in charge took out a shovel and uncovered a mummy bundle. It (he?) was wrapped in a yellow textile with a multicolored embroidered edge. It still had hair, but no skin, lying flexed on its back. Next to it, the men had buried a pot with coca leaves in it – their own mesa, thanking Pachamama for providing them with all this wonderful loot. (Yes – these were in fact the looters, showing off their mummies.) As we were heading back to the komvi (which actually broke and had to be towed for a bit by a pick-up truck and pushed Little Miss Sunshine style), someone spotted another about fifty meters away – this one was sitting up, out of the ground, sort of in a “Thinker” pose but with no head and no hand. It did, however, have skin; one could (and did) creepily look inside the empty chest cavity. That one also had the “mummy smell” – sort of like beef jerky gone off, if that’s possible. Afterwards we went for drinks and snacks in the town square and then back to Arequipa.


Agusto brushes the mummy

July 11, 2009

Peru, Week 3: “Yes, we shared a cadaver”

[SH note: some team members had to leave because of sexual harrassment. The part I wrote then has been removed from this 7-years-post-facto entry.]

Wednesday we woke up at the new usual time (6.45 for breakfast at 7) only to find out that the professors were all gone because they had to take him back to Arequipa, so we had the morning off. When they got back, they said we all needed a break and there wasn´t time to go to the field anyway, so we took a field trip (haha) to a winery and a pisco distillery. The winery had been there since the 1600s, and the owner was a descendant of the original vintners. The big chumbas, the 1200-liter pottery jars for storage, were all from the early 1800s. Unfortunately there were lots of wasps nesting in the roof and the professors, after a few glasses of wine, stopped translating for us and just started having a conversation with the owner, so I went outside to the non-wasp area. I did have some pisco at the next place though (although apparently they weren’t expecting us and we just kind of showed up and asked for a tour). We all had lots of pisco (except the komvi driver) and some of us (Iris, Agusto, and me) climbed inside one of the chumbas. We were back in time for dinner, had a bonfire, and everybody was happy. jar

Except that on Tuesday I had sprained my toe climbing out of bed, was made to lie in bed all day and not go to the field, it really hurt (and still really hurts) and I was worried about whether they’d let me go out on Thursday. It started off just being really swollen, but now the whole outer half of my foot is bruised greenish with little purple streaks around the toe itself. I can really only wear flip-flops; sneakers are a stretch and I still can’t put on my hiking boots.

However, the job  was doing this week didn’t require much walking – I had to climb up a small hill and stand there pushing buttons. This involved the use of an adorable and very expensive machine called a total station (more info and picture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_station) which basically shoots a laser beam at a reflector on a stick to calculate distance and angle. This information then s plugged into a computer where it makes a virtual map of the site with X and Y coordinates; it contains the information for the Z coordinate (altitude) but first it needs to go through Autocad. Hans, another UCLA professor and apparently a “dorky gadget genius” and the most wonderful person, was supposed to be here doing all this, but he was unable to leave the country. So instead there’s Ben, who had about two days of training with Hans and a list of instructions that begins with “Set up the instrument in a convenient place” and concludes with “Put the  instrument back in its box and store in a safe place” – again, it’s very expensive. I learned a lot about total station mapping, but mostly I just stood there and listened to my iPod. The day I wasn’t there, the visiting professor (Chris the conservator) did the mapping, and then on Thursday we did a three-person effort with Ben writing points on his preliminary map, Chris holding the stick, and me shooting points. We also got to use walkie talkies. (Also, when the instrument tries to find the reflector it makes a cute noise like Wall-E.) Friday we spent the morning in the field and left in the afternoon. A couple of people climbed the big mountain behind the site and verified – with pictures – that we’re sort of digging in the wrong place and that al the cool stuff is up there. Ben is now convinced that it’s a Wari site based on the awesome face-neck jar Agusto found and the domestic architecture.


Last night we went out to a place called Zig Zag, owned by the crepe people; they called their menu “Alpandina” – a mixture of the best foods of the Alps and the Andes. I had a potato-quinoa gnocchi with pesto and some delicious fries. Itze had smoked ostrich slices. It was really good. We also realized that we were an incredibly multicultural group and that I was the only white person (Veena is Indian, Itze and Iris are Mexican, and Sylvia is Chinese). I don’t think that has ever happened to me before. We also heard there were plans to go to a concert/party with Diego from the country club, but after rushing back from Zig Zag and waiting around, we realized we either had been left behind or forgotten entirely (Ben’s fault, of course), so we hung around here. I also had a massage with  woman who hd the warmest hands ever – 1 hour for $10, so I’ll definitely have another next week. Today we’re going back to the fruit market.


In terms of reading, I got a good start on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” on Tuesday. I found out that the original Swedish title is “Men Who Hate Women”, and now I’m quite confused as there is only one minor character who could be considered a misogynist. I think the English title is catchier. Additionally, our hotel has been invaded by the Germans. We think this is because they have six weeks paid leave per year and like to take “adventure vacations”. I overheard some Scandinavians at breakfast, but they were involved in a conversation and I didn’t want to interrupt to ask where they were from or if they had any insights into my book.

July 5, 2009

Peru, Week 2: “They’re like Pokemon – gotta catch ’em all!”

So, everyone is getting stomach illnesses, mostly just from the strange minerals in the water, but Ben actually got a parasite, making this his third in South America. He is on a strict regimen of two antibiotics, Tylenol, Gatorade, and no alcohol, much to his dismay. Then, Saturday morning, we went to the market where there were no other tourists (only real Peruvians) and did exactly what we were told not to do and ate the fruit. There were piles and piles of fruits I couldn’t name. After Itze and Sylvia drank a protein shake made from a very recently deceased frog (it was plucked from a tank in front of us, beaten to death, boiled, and blended with some juice and protein powders), we walked up a fruit aisle and tried three new fruits: a chirimoya (like a sweet white melon), a pepino (apparently from the cucumber family, but more like a bitter cantaloupe), and a lucuma (a powdery fruit I didn’t eat). They all had peels, though, so I assume they’re safe. I also had a fried zucchini-cheese pancake, not as good as kolokithokeftedes, but with a delicious peanut sauce, and a freshfreshfresh orange juice with no water added. Then we went shopping for Traditional Peruvian knit items, and I ended up with a brown alpaca cardigan with a sun god/llama design, an orange purse, and a pair of mittens.


Frog juice.

Saturday evening Alice, Peggy, and I headed out to Saga Falabella, the big department store here, to watch Transformers 2 and celebrate the 4th of July. The mall was so crowded it was hard to move, the food lines were long, Alice’s cheeseburger wasn’t “American enough”, we couldn’t find a table, and we didn’t know whether we were in the right line for the movie. It was, however, awesome, and made up for all the unpleasantries of the hours before. Afterwards a bunch of us went to the karaoke bar (called “Texans Bar”, with an America theme) down the street. Turns out we were the only people there and they had to open the bar especially for us, but we still had a good time singing. By ourselves. With the bartender, who slowly and meaningfully wiped the bar with a towel. (Shame, he probably had a nice evening of tv-watching planned.)

This morning we performed our Sunday ritual of going to the grocery store to stock up for the week and then for lunch. Now it’s back to the field, where hopefully we’ll find things…

July 4, 2009

Peru, Week 2

SO we are back in Arequipa after a week in the field. We left Sunday and it was quite an interesting drive. We had to go over the mountains, which people use as signboards for political slogans, statements of love, advertisements for soda. Some of these are painted on rocks and some are written in huge letters by rearranging rocks, Nasca-style, on the side of the mountain. Also, 81% of the area is below the poverty line. This means that on the side of the road we saw huts every so often, made of woven reed mats balanced against sticks. Some of them were farming cactus, presumably for the cochineal. When we got closer to town, some of the huts were covered in layers of mud baked by the sun, making them less likely to fall down. Some of the nicer houses are made of cinder blocks and have the side facing the road painted.

We are staying in one of the cinder-block ones, built as a retreat and training center for interdenominational missionaries. According to Eric, the missionary from Jacksonville who runs the place, they come in, learn some things, and then do tons of community service, because bringing God into people’s lives makes them better. (As he explained, how can people who do not respect God know not to beat their children or steal? At this point we all looked at our shoes awkwardly.) (Nobody had the heart to bring up the conquistadores). They teach them farming skills, home management, give local children breakfast and schooling, and run summer camps for Arequipeño street children. They have a really great facility, including a farm – practice what you preach – with horses, sheep, and three crops, a little childrens’ village, lots of play areas, including a caged area for human foosball (to teach teamwork) and a whole gravity-operated water system that filters it with chlorine and runs it downhill to all the buildings. The pipes snake around the rooves so there’s even lukewarm to moderately warm water during the afternoons. (I make sure to be the first one there to take advantage of it.) The food has been edible, if not excellent; they put little cubes of ham in the first three meals, so I had to request vegetarian ones. Which were generally tomato-onion omelettes. Every day. Lunch was sandwiches that they brought out to the field, and if I couldn’t manage to pull the bread off cleanly, I’d trade them for someone else’s apple. I even ate a slice of orange one day, but was unsatisfied. For lunch I always brought my own additional meal of a granola bar, an apple, and a little packet of Oreos. (I guess I’m back to the OA style of eating three or four apples a day…)

Monday morning we had the shaman ceremony. Shamans here are either called yatiris or pacos depending on whether they speak Quechua or Aymara; for some reason everyone called this one a yatiri even though he introduced himself as a paco. (His actual name was Casimiro.) He is apparently the head paco of Cuzco and just has a side interest in archaeology. Augusto, the professor from Universidad Catolica (who is hilarious but only speaks Spanish), invited him here to give a ceremony that will hopefully aid the dig. That morning Nene appointed me official photographer, so I had to run ahead taking pictures of him in his red poncho  and his assistant with a Christmas-paper-wrapped box and the march to the site, feeling altogether like a National Geographic photographer with the fancy digital Nikon (I took 300 pictures that day). To get to the site, we have to drive for 30 minutes along a rocky dirt road (we take taxis – no idea how they agreed to do it or where they are from), walk through some cane fields (led by Nene with a machete about half as big as her), cross a shaky log bridge over a river, and crash through some more cane. And remember, the first day we had to do this with all our equipment. And I walked backwards taking photos.


While everyone set up and organized their gear, I chased after the paco while he attempted to find a ceremonial site. He picked one conveniently next to the ceremonial center of the ancient site with a view of the three volcanic mountains. He had two mesas, or arranged collections of items to dedicate; one was dried and contained dried llama fetus, candy and cigarettes (Pachamama wanted sweetness); the other was fresh, prepared at 4 am, with another piece of llama and lots of coca leaves (the mountains wanted bitterness). The dried one he buried. Then we all chewed coca leaves (which tasted sort of like eating tea leaves, rather unpleasant) and drank wine and chicha and poured some on the ground for Pachamama. We each had to line up and sniff the bundle, which he then burned while we finished the wine. If we need any help finding things, we must go up the hill and give some wine to Pachamama. Afterwards, while we waited for lunch, he told our fortunes individually (with the help of Itze to translate). After lunch we toured the entire site, which included sliding down a rather steep hill on nour bums, and then leving early.

Tuesday we lay out squares, which took a remarkably long time. Our unit is the biggest, 10 by 4m divided into two 5 by 4m squares. The other units are just 2 by 2m. Then we mapped rocks. (Oh, I{m in the cemetery part. However, at this point we are unsure whether it is, in fact, a cemetery.)

Wednesday we actually started digging. We removed probably 100 pounds of rocks and a good 10  centimeters of dirt, only to find more rocks. Thursday we dug down to the ash layer from the volcanic eruption of 1400 then mapped more rocks, although I could see no discernible pattern. Unfortunately, the things we want to find are below the ash layer, and the ash layer is about 20cm thick. Thursday afternoon we played with some human bones we found scattered around the nearby looters’ pits. There’s a femur, tibia, fibula, 1st metacarpal, and a phalanx. I also found a mandible with one tooth out in the middle of the desert and sketched it. (So far we have less than one body.)

Friday we learned how to sketch pottery and then left. Friday night we went back to the crepe place and I had an alpaca crepe au poivre. Today we have plans to go to the tourist things market and then to the department store/movie theatre later.

June 27, 2009

Peru, Week 1

Sorry… I{ve either been to tired or too busy to post. Also, I apologize for punctuation and occasional spelling mistakes as I adjust to the Spanish keyboard.

SO I arrived in Lima last Saturday at around 10, then stood in the longest customs line, then waited another hour for the bags to come off the plane. Fortunately my next flight was only at 3.45 am, but that also meant I had nearly five hours to wait around. I didn{t want to check in hella early and all the restaurants and stores were closed, so I parked myself and my luggage under an arrivals-departures board and did some more of the reading for the week. (The flight to Lima was only 6 hours, by the way. And I{m on central time.) Anyway, by the time I got to the gate I was so tired I fell asleep. And then I fell asleep again on the plane (and woke up and the flight attendant had apparently lowered the tray table on top of me and put a snack on it – “Tiempo para un snack” it said). When we arrived in Arequipa, it was FREEZING. This has been the weather pattern for the week – 80s during the day and 40s at night. We were picked up by the hotel, checked in, and promptly went to sleep.

Sunday was relaxing; everyone was arriving and I spent the day outside, reading and dozing in a hammock. That night they took us out for Turkish-with-a-Peruvian-twist. Apparently that{s the thing to do here: lunch is a big meal with traditional Arequipeña cuisine, and dinner is something foreign. Except that it{s not entirely foreign – everything is Foreign “with a Peruvian twist”. We have had Turkish, Italian, French, pizza, and Chinese all with a Peruvian twist. (Turkish was the best, Chinese the worst, and Italian might have given me food poisoning Tuesday night.)

Monday we drove to the university – by drove I mean they put us in taxis, making sure there is at least one Spanish speaker per taxi and at night, at least one Spanish speaker and one male –  to have classes. At about 1 we left, again in taxis, for a restaurant with a pre-set menu so we could have quick lunch, then back to the university. It{s actually a really beautiful campus, four-story buildings painted beige and light orange with big outdoor quads and rosebushes between them. The whole thing is a compound and you need IDs to enter, so it{s safer than the surrounding streets.

Short bits: Tuesday and Thursday afternoons we took field trips to three sites and the antiwuities department, respectively. The latter, like many things around here, is housed in an awesome colonial building.

Arequipa is called “the White City” because all the original colonial buildings are made of white volcanic stone. Everything else, though, is painted in bright colors – orange, yellow, periwinkle, bright blue.

Things are super cheap here. You can get laundry done for about $3.50 and a meal for the same. Last night I splurged and had lomo saltado and sangria and the whole meal cost $10.

Last night we also went to a club after dinner – it played good dance music, mostly reggaeton and techno. I had my seond pisco sour of the week, then found out they make pisco sours with raw egg whites, and decided never to have a pisco sour again. (Even though they taste really good.) Today we had a barbecue at Nene{s country club. We got to ride her horse and meet her sister and some of her family friends – this guy Diego, who was about our age, showed us around the stable and I got to see all the other horses. I rode around the paddock a couple of times before I realized that if I didn{t stop soon all the empanadas would be gone, and most of the rest of the barbecue was pigs on spits (and potatoes. We are in the home of the potato, after all). There were also guinea pigs (cuyes, after the sound they make). I tried a tiny piece and, like the pisco sour, decided never to eat it again. It was kind of like dark meat chicken, but stringy and oily, although that was possibly because they were fried. It was also mostly fat and bone, which thrilled Max-the-zooarchaeologist, who spent about an hour defleshing it to study the bones.


cuy cuy cuy cuy

Tomorrow we leave for the field at about 2, and then no internet until Friday. I just hope the field house has hot water, otherwise I{m just not showering until then either.

“Does excitado mean excited? Because I just realized that might also mean horny, and I{ve been using that word about going out to the field.” -Ben (our TA)

June 20, 2009

Off Again!

After barely being home a week, I’m leaving again for Peru. I will probably have internet for the next week, but after that it’ll only be on the weekends. I won’t be bringing my laptop either, so I’ll either be borrowing a computer or going to a cafe – which is ok, I hear internet down there goes for 60 cents an hour. If you want more frequent (or just different) updates, check out http://mistiproject.blogspot.com – it’s the official blog, mostly written by the directors, but it’s supposed to be in lay terms. Probably mostly for the parents and all. See you there!