Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pacha Mama Machu Picchu

I had a wonderful time in Buenos Aires vicariously participating in my daughter Talia’s farewells after three and a half years living in Argentina. Discovered a few more parks in-between our errands, had some great meals, went to hear Afro-jazz at a club called Thelonious, enjoyed all of her many friends and more. I admire the life she created for herself immersed in another culture, but after such a long time away, I'm so happy she’s coming home to San Francisco. But not right away. First she'll travel for two more months in South America, including our upcoming trip to Machu Picchu. Ah, to be 28 again!

As much as I enjoyed Buenos Aires (my third time there), my old travel self started to really perk up as I boarded the plane to Lima, Peru. The people on the plane looked noticably different and they were. Argentina had effectively wiped out all native peoples and those of African descent, but here the indigenous population is alive and well and my blood began to stir just seeing them on the plane. And much more so when I finally arrived in Cuzco and saw the streets filled with folks dressed in their distinctive hats and woven clothes. It brought me back to the first trip I took to a notably different place—Guatemala in 1975. Much was similar here in 2012— women sitting on the street weaving on backstrap looms, narrow cobblestoned streets, bearded young Western travelers wearing loose multi-colored Peruvian pants and the sensation of a perpetual market of goods, from the clothing to the crafts to the fresh food and street vendors. Churches, plazas, brass bands in the street, a cornucopia of colorful Carnavalian festivity and energy.

How I love it! Finally I’m not the guy being driven to the Orff workshop site, planning my classes and arranging my notes, checking my e-mail, sneaking into Starbucks. I’m back in a world of difference, a world with less English and more gesture, with as much Quechua as Spanish, a world with prices to be bargained. If I’m not careful, I could get seduced into feeling that it is charming, when in fact it is often a difficult world of survival for those who are living it. It’s a world poised between two centuries, the tourists eager to buy locally made handcrafts from wood, animal fur, cloth, while the locals are buying up all the imported plastic products.

After catching up on a night of little sleep on airplanes and airports, I met my wife newly arrived from San Francisco (Talia and friend arrive tomorrow) and we walked the streets just taking it all in and adjusting to the 12,000 ft. elevation. Found a charming restaurant with the rare treat of Andean music playing instead of the omnipresent crappy American pop (which EVERY cab driver to and from the various airports played) and the even rarer treat of two brothers coming in and playing live with charango, panpipes and bombo while we sipped Pisco sours and ate quinoa soup (no guinea pig or alpaca for this traveler!). The musicians talked about Pacha Mama, a Quechuan/Aymaran goddess similar to Mother Earth and then sang a song about Machu Picchu.

That’s when my Orff teacher self kicked in again and I started writing down the chant I’ll develop with the kids when I resume teaching. Here’s the first draft. Say it out loud—fast.

 “Pacha Mama Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu Pacha Mama
  Pacha Mama Picchu Machu Machu Picchu Mama Pacha.
  Pacha Picchu Machu Mama, Picchu Pacha Mama Machu
  Pacha Mama Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu Pacha Mama!”

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