Thursday, October 23, 2008

Karen's Homecoming to Santa Cruz, California, after two months in South America

Hello, California
I am back in Santa Cruz!

The weather here is warm and sunny, a welcome change from the cold, wind and rain in Lima and Cusco the past few weeks.

Farewell, Peru
I left Lima Tuesday night after an emotional farewell to new friends in my Miraflores neighborhood. (Next blog post about those folks!)

There were topnotch fireworks on the way to the airport. I liked to think they were for my send-off from South America. But my taxi driver told me the "fuegos artificiales" (artificial fire) were for the opening of a huge, new Chilean-owned supermarket in downtown Lima. Not Whole Foods!

Next time, Fly First Class!
My miserable overnight American Airlines flight from Lima to Miami provided ample time for me to ponder how I might:
* Develop ears that could switch into noise cancellation headsets
* Pay extra for a night flight where they did not serve dinner and drinks starting at 12:30.
* Construct a shield for my seat so that the woman next to me did not keep jolting me awake with her bony elbow.

Miami Marathon
Upon arrival in Miami at 6 a.m. Wed. morning, I had more urgent considerations - like making my next airplane!

For most of the next 90 minutes, I was running full speed thru Miami airport, still wearing my colorful Peruvian ear-flap hat (not the choice of fashion in Miami) over my slick hair. The shoelaces on my dirty hiking shoes were untied, my pants were slipping down to lowrider level, and my Apple laptop was tucked under one arm since there was no time to stuff it into my filthy, overstuffed backpack. It was not a pretty site!

My sprinting paid off: I was the last one to board that flight! I was so grateful to be on that plane!

Gracias a Damien

A huge thanks to Santa Cruz friend Damien Pierce for picking me up at San Francisco and giving me one of the best Welcome Home Tours ever! (More on that later).

Now What?
It is Thursday morning and I feel a bit dazed and confused at my guest house in downtown Santa Cruz.

I am not going to have my typical South American breakfast - one scrambled egg and a white bread roll with jelly and butter; nor do I need to speak Spanish. But plenty of other things to do - like figure out how to gather my cell phone, car and bike from various points around town.

Instead, sorting thru my luggage and knowing all pieces will fall into place, eventually. I would like to write a travel story about The End of The Trip: The Transition Back Home.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New friend from Pakistan provides information on Lima festival

I am in Cusco airport Sunday afternoon, awaiting my two-hour flight to Lima.

Before I left for South American (way back on Saturday, August 31), I received an email from Waheed Anjum, who lives in Islamabad. Pakistan. He had found my website through a Google search and wanted to strike up an email correspondence with a fellow journalist. He has been a journalist for 22 years and is currently a news editor at a newspaper in Islamabad.

We have exchanged several emails while I have been traveling in Brazil and Peru. I was particularly touched that he took the time to send me some information about a large festival in Peru, El Senor de los Milagros. I am going to try to find this procession when I fly to Lima today.

Here is the note and info that Waheed sent me:

Respected Karen,
Are you are still in Peru? I am sending you some information so that your visit become more informative and enjoyable.
Waheed Anjum
Islamabad. Pakistan

The Lord of the Miracles

This procession, which gathers together the largest number of believers in South America, dates back to colonial times, when a slave, brought over from Angola, drew the image of a black Christ on the walls of a wretched hut in the plantation of Pachacamilla, near Lima. The image stayed on the wall despite several attempts to erase it.

This was to spark widespread devotion for the image, which survived intact on the wall despite an earthquake in 1746 which leveled all surrounding buildings. As a result of this event, worship of the image rose to new heights, until it became what is today the most widely venerated image in the city of Lima. The heart of the celebration is one of the largest processions to take place every year in the Americas, where tens of thousands of the faithful dress in purple tunics, singing hymns and praying as they accompany the image. The litter which bears the painting weighs two tons and is borne on the shoulders of believers who set out on the traditional 24-hour procession from the church of Las Nazarenas, crossing downtown Lima until it reaches the church of La Merced in Barrios Altos. Around this time of year, the streets fill with vendors of a wide variety of typical dishes and sweets, such as the famous Turrón de Doña Pepa. In October to commemorate the Lord of Miracles (Señor de los Milagros), Lima hosts the well-known bullfight season which carries the same name and is held in the centuries-old Plaza de Acho bullring. The season features some major bullfighters (toreros) from Spain and Latin America.