Category Archives: history

Rome

Rome is bustling with old, vibrant with new. My friend and former student invited me to visit him in this astounding city where he is studying to be an aerospace engineer. “Of course,” was the only answer.

I’ve lost all track of time. Maybe it’s been 8 days-maybe more-or less. Surrounded with spirits and artifacts that go back to Etruscan times, 700+/- BC one loses track. Put into perspective, Christianity is a new religion.

The inhabitants produced the most incredible beauty. Walking around I felt as if I was in some enchanted forest of towering walls, surrounded by statues that are too sensual to be made of rock, hubris that defies reason. Here are a few photos.

Puno: The Living and the Dead

Founded in 1668  near a now defunct silver mine, and on the shore of Lake Titicaca, Puno sits at 12,500 feet. My faulty heart beat hard in my chest climbing up the hills to see the Chullpa Tombs of Sillustani-hell, it protested going up the stairs of the hostel.

The chullpas, huge stone towers cut into square, cylinder, and rectangular shapes that all fit snugly together, is where the Colla tribe buried their dead over 500 years ago.They have been plundered by grave robbers, tumbled by earthquakes, and defaced by tourists. However, they continue to stand as testament to their respect of the dead.  I get it. I take great pride in my family cemetery plot where the remains of  my beloved family lies in Foxburg, PA. although in comparison, our tomb stones are a bit understated.

Would you be interested in setting up house on a foundation of tortora reeds that rot continually, forcing you to move every 25 years or so? I didn’t think so. The small island, part of the Uros Floating Islands that  we visited was one of about 48 on Lake Titicaca. Three or four families, a  total of 26 people live there. I bought a hand-embroidered pillow case of Pachamama (mother earth), made by Maria, the matriarch of the clan. When I was paying her, the coin fell into the reeds causing us to dig among them to find it. Walking on the reeds, ones feet sink in am inch or two. I watched a toddler lurch and stumble, but he got to his destination without help.

The island was very small, less than a whole block in the US; the houses not much more than thatched roof huts. The tribe used to use reed boats exclusively , but out back, behind the houses were several motor boats that the kids were playing on when I was there. A puppy, that dared to poop in front of us tourists was isolated in one of them, looking longingly at the kids. Apparently most of the families only go the islands to meet the tourists, and live on solid land these days. Nevertheless, it’s fascinating history and gives one a clue to ‘back in the day.”

Taquile Island is a non-floating island, with an intricate pattern of terraced farming, fenced off by large rocks dug up on the land. It reminded me of Ireland and England.

The Aymara and Uros tribes have intermarried, causing the Uros language to fade out. We were given a demo of the hats the men wear. Similar to Christmas stockings complete with tassels, depending on if he is married or single, or needs a visor for the sun, it’s turned around on his head. Boy, it takes out the guessing for the girls, who wear long scarves around their hair but don’t cover their faces. They wear tons of petticoats under their skirts and intricately, handknit sweaters.

The guide books say Puno pales in comparison to the colonial beauty of Ariquipa and Cusco. Maybe so, but it beats them hands down for sheer friendliness. Saturday, I happened upon a festival in the plaza. It was not for tourists. The colors of the costumes dazzled under the bright blue sky and hot sun. Walking around taking photos, I was asked to danced, given a cup of beer, and asked questions about my country. Even the women who are usually shy and don’t want their photos taken, allowed me to take a few.

Hilda, the woman who owns Inka’s Rest Hostel could not have been friendlier or more accommodating. Within a day I felt a kinship with her. She suggested I move there, and teach English to her, he

Uros canoes

Uros canoes

image image image image image

Taquile Island

Taquile Island

Huts: Uros Island

Huts: Uros Island

male heron

male heron

Uros Island

Uros Island

image imager 4 year old daughter, and the staff. It’s tempting. Having ceviche in a tiny restaurant, the owner came out to sit with me, to share lives.  That to me, is the point of travel.

 

Monasterio de Santa Catalina

So the story goes, the monastery was founded in 1580 by a wealthy Spanish widow who chose her novices from the richest Spanish families. In those days you either got married or became a nun. These nuns apparently, after joining the monastery kept up their lavish life styles, until, the guide books say, ‘hedonistic goings on continued for three centuries,’ when a spoil-sport, strict Dominican nun arrived on the boat from Spain to whip them into shape. But, three centuries of fun is not bad.

The imposing citadel takes up an entire block and is a warren of rooms: some for cloistering, some quite lavish with English and French china and silver service.  There is even a nursery, and a school room for those widow-nuns who had money and children.

Twisting streets and thick walls, hidden staircases to the roof and maybe elsewhere. The laundry tubs were made from huge pottery wine casks, cut in half, and placed on an incline with trough connecting them as the Incas had done. A sunken tub above them held water for washing the clothes and taking the requisite monthly bath. Being a somewhat hedonistic woman myself, I hope they drank the wine.

There were servants quarters, because remember, they were rich nuns, and a well appointed kitchen complete with a well made of volcanic rock which acts as a natural purifier. No one had go anywhere to fetch water.

It was only in 1970 that the place was open to the public. Today there are 140 nuns I think the guide said, living there. Also according to her, about 400 nuns were living harmoniously until the Vatican -or some controling bishop- insisted they follow strict guidelines set out by the Vatican. The numbers gradually dropped. Women just don’t like to be told what to do.

 

Itanuas

Itaunas, Espirto Santo Ruby on the beach. Itaunis I’ve spent 7 days here.Unfortunately Google won’t post my photos. It’s too bad because the place is gorgeous. I leave today for Porto Seguro, about half way between here and Salvador. The owners of That Hostel in Itaunas, Grant and Paula have been gracious and generous.

Grant, Paula, with Peanut, Butter, & Jelly at That Hostel

Grant, Paula, with Peanut, Butter, & Jelly at That Hostel

He is an American-she a Brazilian, both travelers with an understanding of the frustrations and immense rewards. I could get lost here on the East Coast of Brazil on the southern border of the state of Bahia, in this dusty, rural town with no paved roads and exceptionally friendly folks. Thick vegetation begins at the deck and stretches to the horizon, broken only by the lovely Rio Itaunas that snakes through it. A short walk away are the dunes: shifting and changing minute by minute, fringed by the Atlantic Ocean.

Ruby on the beach.

Ruby on the beach.

Last night, led by our gracious hosts, Grant and Paula, we trooped to the dunes to lie under the stars. I wished my friend, Dave Boulden, had been there to guide us through the brightly lit, wondrous ceiling of the Southern Hemisphere. The dunes now cover the entire original town because the founders removed the trees and diverted the river.

A dip in the river.

A dip in the river.

It took a few decades, but still, if you have a 30 year mortgage and the house disappears before it is paid for you would, with good reason, be pissed. If that isn’t a lesson in what will happen when you mess with Mother Nature I can’t imagine what else might wake us up. On my first walk on the beach I found a perfect small, fragile sand dollar, not bigger than a quarter.It didn’t last long in my pocket, but I had the sense to take its picture. image I noted the absence of gulls, tankers, off-shore platforms along the coast. Noone I asked seems to know why there aren’t any. The water here is warm, as are the hearts of the Brazilians I’ve met. Sebastian, from Argentina and Isabella from Austria, my roommates in the 4 bed dorm, told me yesterday that the night before I woke them with an apparent bad dream. I was struggling with someone. “ Who are you!?. What do you want?! Help me!! Isabella said she was alarmed and thought maybe I needed help just then, but decided it was a struggle with my dream weavers.

Travelers at That Hostel.

Travelers at That Hostel.

They’ve gone. Last night there was not sign of them. Good riddance I say. Itaunas has so many birds. Flocks of parrots have flown past, canaries are plentiful as are colorful finches, and the beautiful red and black Corrupiao with some white on its wings.image Vultures rest in the trees as do a smaller, green parrot. Troops of marmosets apparently visit when the red goiaba tree that hangs over the deck has fruit.