Saturday, February 25, 2012

The End of an Era

February 25, 2012

I am almost out of time. This fact is really weighing on me and I will address it later. But the biggest problem I had was what to do with the motorcycle. Since the moment I decided to not drive home I knew this would be a problem.

I wrote earlier about how I had a few legal options. I could deal with massive paperwork and money in order to leave it in customs or nationalize it. This would involve another trip to Chile and days of paperwork.

Other options included lying about repairs, bribing border officials, signing the title to Alex and just getting a new one at home, or simply driving full speed through the border and hoping for the best. None of these really appealed to me. It was a huge headache that I didn’t know how to solve.

Well, Friday night I was at a party for Laura’s birthday. Her roommate is a man from Urubamba who lived in the States for a year. He loves motorcycles and had a lot of money saved up. He offered to buy the motorcycle.

I told him I would think about it and call the next day.

Wow, I had not even thought about selling but that would not only solve all my problems but then I would get one final week in Ollantaytambo. It actually would be the best decision ever except for my stupid, irrational, emotional connection to an inanimate object.

So in the end, that was it. I met with him yesterday, and by 6:00 pm I had the money in my account and no motorcycle.

The last photo of my bike while it was mine. I think it is appropriate it is in front of the restaurant.

Enjoy the bike Salvatore

It is a 30 minute combie ride back to Ollantaytambo. Talk about a chance to reflect. One thing about this trip, as much as people have defined the past eight months, the motorcycles rides were my time of solitude. There is nothing to compare to hours and hours of driving alone through unknown, beautiful territory. When I get home, I will have dozens of people with which to share this experience. I have made friends for life. The girls and I will always be happy to see each other. People have defined my time in Peru, and have made it the event that it was.

But my only companion for those long, lonely hours on the road was my motorcycle. It never let me down. Close calls, twisting roads, canyons, valleys, 16,000 foot passes through the snow, the utter desolation to Arequipa, sleet, rain, heart-stopping views, no one was there with me but that bike. I suppose it does make a little sense to become attached to something that your life depended on for so much.

And when I looked at that bike, it represented so much more. It also reminded me of my friendship with Jeff. We bought it together, he taught me how to work on it, rode trails together, and went out on that first day way back in June. He once reworded a famous quote from Pirates and it made so much sense on that 30-minute ride home with a helmet and no bike. Not only did I lose a traveling companion, but I lost something else…

"Not just Michigan. The entire continent. The entire world. Wherever we want to go, we'll go. That's what a motorcycle is, you know. It's not just a frame and an engine and a seat and tires, that's what a motorcycle needs but what a motorcycle is... what the DR650 really is... is freedom." -Jeff Verwey

I lost my freedom. Before yesterday, I could go anywhere I wanted at any time. The world was my playground. Now I am a slave to taxis, buses, and flights. It is a weird feeling.

But, I can always build another. I will.

Since that morning back in June: 9074 miles, 4 countries, 8 states, and unbelievable memories.

Sitting by the market after getting dropped off from the combie ride home. Two helmets, no bike.

Gaby, the Girls, and the Return of the Plague

February 20, 2012

Gabriela is our new program director for Sacred Valley Project. She is from Rosario, Argentina, hometown of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Lionel Messi. Our final feana (workday with all the parents) was Friday and we had a few concerns about some of the girls returning. We had heard rumors that a few weren’t coming back and we wanted to invite Jessica to return as well. So we spent the week traveling around on my motorcycle and visiting all the girls so Gaby could meet them and we could talk to the families.

Gaby and I headed off to Pallata

We started with Jessica and Dina from Pallata. Gaby did a great job of meeting the girls and Jessica really seemed to want to come back. But her parents weren’t home so we drove up to Pumamarka and talked to her sister instead. She also really wanted Jessica to return so things were looking good. We also went to Dina’s house and chatted with her family for a bit.

After Dina's I took her to the fish farm in Pallata. We stayed there with a Rustic group two summers ago and I have a lot of memories there. Plus it is cool to see thousands of trout swimming around in the tiny pools.

Entrance to Pallata

Snack at Dina's: Mote

Dina, her mom, and Gaby holding one of her mom's weavings

Next we went up to Soccma to visit Maria Elena, Nohemi, and check on a new girl who might want to join. It was great to see Maria Elena and she and her brother promised to hike the extra two hours up to Marcuray to tell the new girl’s family to come down on Friday to help. The trail is too small for a motorcycle.

Katy was next. Gaby jumped right into her spiel about why Katy should return. One thing I wish I would have explained was the process of how to have a serious conversation with families in the Sacred Valley. You are supposed to small talk for at least a half hour, wait for tea, then eat a huge bowl of soup, and finally get to the serious stuff over several glasses of chicha. It was awkward at first while her mom was serving us our tea and food, but it ended up being fine when her dad showed up around chicha time. Unfortunately, I understand how important it is to share chicha with the family and had two glasses. Arg. I hate how it is shoved down your throat even though you insist you don’t want any. The drinking culture is so frustrating to me. Also, the talk didn’t go so well. Her parents really wanted her to stay home. At least I got to go outside and help the younger brother split wood. It is one of my favorite activities back home and it felt good to get a little workout. Gaby wanted to take some pictures so the whole family washed up, put on nice clothes, and wanted to look good for the pictures.

Gaby with Katy's cousins

Splitting wood

Gaby, Katy's mom, Me, and her little brother

Katy's parents and her brother

The next day, Friday, was the faena. I got there early in the morning and immediately went to Alicia’s house and lay in a curled up ball of pain. Of course chicha is just a cup of bacteria and it destroyed me. The next three days were basically me in bed with hourly trips to the bathroom and feeling like someone was stabbing me in the stomach. Awesome. I finally broke down decided to take antibiotics. I was here almost 8 months and my stomach never adjusted. Arg.

After enduring the sickness, I was more than disappointed to know that Katy never came on Friday. Neither did Jessica or Anita. But the new girl did come, so it wasn’t a total catastrophe.

So Monday I was feeling better and we headed off to Jessica’s and Anita’s to see what was up. Jessica’s house was a disaster. We got there at 10 am and there had already been a lot of chicha consumed. One of her dad’s arguments against her returning was that we don’t have sugar for tea. What? Um, I’m pretty sure the girls get great meals and there is plenty of sugar. I would know this because I was there every day for four months! I was upset but Gaby did a great job of staying composed. So it looks like she is not coming back.

Anita wasn’t home but at least we were able to coordinate the mobile health clinic in Soccma for the following week. Keri has a group of 20 volunteers from Wayne State in Michigan for a few weeks and they have a lot of volunteering lined up.