Salsa & Spanish

Trip Start Oct 08, 2007
Trip End Dec 16, 2008

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Flag of Peru  ,
Monday, August 4, 2008

Some times I wonder what the hell I'm doing here. Actually, I wonder every night, right about the time I'm getting ready for bed. I put on a jacket, a hat, and mittens, and spread my sleeping bag under 3 layers of blankets. Yes,I'm still in Cuzco. Why is it that I end up staying longer at the places that make me miserable?

I love it by day. The old town is gorgeous. It is clean and pretty and dotted with colorful shops and sleek tourist restaurants. It is sunny and busy. People go about their business. Students in school uniforms crisscross the streets. Tourists in shorts are snapping photos of indigenous ladies in ethnic outfits, carrying babies wrapped in colorful blankets on their backs. Occasionally I'd catch a glimpse of those same ladies shopping in the western type grocery stores. They look so out of place there, but this is how things are here – old, new, and nothing in-between. The other day I saw an alpaca grazing the bushes in front of the neighborhood internet café where little boys were comfortably sited in front of 27' monitor play stations, zealously shooting aliens, electronic blood splashing all over the flat screens. It didn't surprise me. My capacity to be amazed has been oversaturated. I only acknowledge and register now.
At night, darkness descents upon Cuzco. The tourist center remains illuminated by thousands twinkling lights. The night life picks up in the numerous bars and dance clubs, frequented by tourists and locals alike. It is truly enchanting to wonder about. But walk towards the suburbs and the streets get dustier, and the lights less bright and more sparse. Small plazas are inhabited by the shadows of smooching couples occasionally caught in the headlights of passing cars. It is cold. Very cold.
The cold seems to be everybody's favorite topic. "Buenas dias. Que friiioooo!", "Buenas noches! Que friiioooo!" Cuscuenos make no sense to me. Take for example the family I'm staying with. They have a decent 3 story house in a nice area near the center of town. It is freezing inside. The explanation is that electricity is too expensive. No other hitting alternatives seem to be considered. Trying to heat this house, by the way, would be like trying to fill in a bathtub with hot water without closing the drain. There is no such thing as insulation in here. Most of the thin windows are without frames, directly attached to the walls. Just pick your hole to feel the draft.

I am hugely unconvinced by the "no money" argument. If there is enough money for a 3 story house, surely there is some money for a heater. Or perhaps you build a 2 story house and spend the 3rd floor money on heating. Just an idea. It seems like many people in Cusco like to think of themselves as poverty stricken. Look at me - I have no money for heating and hot water. Never mind the house. Which makes me wonder again - what is poverty? I've seen people that own much less, if anything, but are not complaining. In fact, they looked content with their lives and rightfully deserved my sincere envy. Is poverty a state of matter or a state of mind?

Back on the freezing issue at hand. Just for the sake of the argument - here is the last one: "That's how it's always been". Traditions are to be kept, right? I think in societies with high regard of tradition, living standards improve slower. Haven't proven that one in a statistically significant way, so don't quote me on in your "Safe the World" thesis, but just think about it. When you spend so much energy preserving your traditional way of living, there isn't much energy left to improve it. Assuming that every tradition is worth keeping is like assuming that all the good staff has already been discovered already and there is no room for improvement . So you live on in discomfort, and keep on complaining "Que frio!".... Increible!
How do I deal with this situation? I dance. I dance salsa almost every night. I invested into two t-shirts and two pairs of elastic jeans, and a pair of gold-colored pumps that I wear with black socklets with silver stars. It is a dreadful combination, but at least I don’t smell when I swing my hips with the local guys. There are few local girls too, but noticeably more guys are into learning how to dance salsa. It is so much harder for them, because they lead. It also has practical value. I suspect that scoring a girlfriend without demonstrating good dancing skills is close to impossible. I though that dancing salsa was a birth right for every South American - something they learn to do right after learning to walk and before learning to talk. I have a lot to learn. Salsa is no native to South America. It was in fact born in New York. It is called salsa, because it is a mix, salsa of music styles. I had to come to Peru to learn that.

I expected dancing will warm me up and cheer me up, but I did not expect to discover my best look ever doing it. I am taking a private lesson today. It is just me and the teacher Jose. He is sexy as hell. Toll and fit and really good lead. Most of all, I like the way he holds me -  almost as if there is a wire going through his body, through the tips of his fingers, into the palm of my right hand, through my stomach, along the insight on my left thy, all the way down to the arch of my foot. We are totally connected.

I am learning to spin, but I’m doing something wrong.

"Look, it is easy." sais Jose in Spanish, so I am loosely translating here. “Step forward as if you will give me a kiss, then change you mind in the last moment and turn away”. He is looking directly at me, totally serious. Looking your partner in the yes and “listening” to his body language is the most important thing in when dancing salsa. I suspect in other situations too.

“A-ha, I think I can do this”, I reply and make a perfect spin, and another one and another one. My head is starting to spin, not entirely sure if it is the spins or the reoccurring intention to give Jose a kiss and than having to abort the mission in the last second. On the next spin, I catch with the corner of my eye a little girl sitting at the stares, just outside of the open doors of the studio. She is just one of the neibourghood kids that are always hanging around – her elbows resting on her skinny knees, her face, framed by the palms of her small hands, her long shiny black hair is streaming over her bent forward shoulders, her whole body is leaning forward as if not to miss anything. With moth slightly opened and stars in her big black eyes she is staring directly at me, mesmerized. Oh, if I could only choose how people see me - that would be it - the way this nine-ish year old Peruvian girl sees me right now. She looks at me as if I am a goddess, the goddess of salsa. If you are in Cuzco and in need of a salsa lesson:
As to my Spanish, I am now able to speak (somewhat) about my past and my present. I am looking forward to learning how to talk about my future next week. So, one more week of Spanish & Salsa in Cuzco for me. I know, I know, I make no sense either...
WORLD CHANGE STARTS WITH EDUCATED CHILDREN! Give a girl the life long gift of education! Support my appeal 100 GIRLS BACK TO SCHOOL! Donate at:
Hugs & Kisses, Vik

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