Saturday, November 27, 2010

We're back!

Greetings family and friends,
We're now back in Cuzco until tomorrow morning, after 4 wonderful/interesting days at Lake Titicaca. The 24th, we left Cuzco by way of a private van, 13 smiling, healthy (note: healthy is a crucial word here) gringos and one native driver off to see the highest navigable lake in el mundo. As the hours in the van turned into extreme hunger, our driver, who led us to believe he was our friend, suggested a stop for some delicious roadside baby sheep n' taters. Unfortunately, for one member of the group, (Jim doesn't want to name names, for some reason [because it was him]), a tainted potatoe found its way into his plastic bag of baby sheep n' taters. The ambush on Jim's health was well under way by the time he suspected foul play. The drive to Lake Titicaca was otherwise uneventful, and we arrived at this gorgeous lake in the late afternoon. The group lay down to rest that seemingly fine evening, when all hell broke loose. When the group congregated for breakfast on the fine Day of Thanks (AKA Thanksgiving), three soldiers were found wounded. The sickness had struck. In any case, the group still managed a fantastic day of exploring near Llachon, our homestay community, including nearby island Taquile. Although soldiers were falling by the minute, the group came together to cook a dank Thanksgiving dinner of salad, guacamole, fruit salad, chicken with pear sauce (thanks mom), sweet potato with marshmallow, mashed potatoes, and apple pie crumble. Although it was strange for a lot of people to be away from home on Thanksgiving, we had a great time sharing our appreciations and delicious foods.

The next day, Friday, we travelled by boat and kayak to a floating island, Uros Titino Manco Capac. It was an amazing cultural experience, to see several families living on a floating island somewhere in the vicinity of 30 by 30 feet. After learning about the island and their culture and perusing handmade crafts, we departed for Llachon once more. Back at the community, we tried on local clothing and shared many wonderful memories. After another night, we said our goodbyes, met our "friend", the driver, and made way for Cuzco. After a solid 8 hours, we made it back here. This blog would have been way better if we weren't exhausted...lo siento mucho, amigos. Pictures tomorrow maybe?

Hasta luego,
The Mainahs

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Everybody Loves Photos! (More cowbell!!!)

FairPlay Spanish School in Cusco, Peru

Payaya TIME! In the Jungle at Robin´s Farm!!!

Jungle Walk around Camino Verde protected forest.

Your friendly neighborhood white caiman.

Salt Lick by ¨The Gator¨

Hiking out of the jungle was mighty hard work! Pina break!

Riding around in Puerto Maldonado...

Lake Sandoval

Ma and Pa Kettle

The ¨80 meter¨Black Caiman!!

Lobos del Rio!!!

Playing Dress up at llanchon, Lago Titicaca

Monday, November 22, 2010

Maine Boys Check-In

Hello folks,

We are currently in Puerto Maldonado awaiting our departure flight back to Cuzco in the morning. We have spent the last ten (mas o menos) days in the heart (mas o menos) of the Amazon. We were in a small community called Baltimore, off the Tambopata River, helping reforest with a righteous broski named Robin (who has a ton of land, knowledge, and rusties [ask your child if you want to know more]). We stayed in an eco-tourism lodge named El Gato (which we understood to mean "The Gator"). Our parents (you may think of them as leaders), Jessicandy, stayed with Uncle Rob at his farm across the river. Needless to say, it got WILD (no supervision and "The Gator" sold us cookies ALL night long!). Don't tell the office, please. The mornings that we weren't entirely taxed from the sugar highs, we awoke before 6 for breakfast and the early morning boatride to the meet the family at Uncle Rob's pad (which was off the hook and purchased for 10,000 soles in 2005, please check the conversion on that steal!) We worked early to try to beat the unforgiving jungle sun (there was no way to beat the bastard jungle mosquitoes, they were relentless in their ambushes). No thermometer, but Austin and I clearly agree that the minimum temperature was (mas o menos) 160 degrees farenheit (this is real life). All said and done, it was a remarkable experience.

Oh, we almost forgot, the family that ran "The Gator" was very nearly as badass as Robin (keywords: very nearly). The son, Dani, one day walked up to our father (Andy, for those that have yet to comprehend the family bonds) and asked if he wanted to see a caiman. Of course, Andy retorted with "Why yes, young fellow, I would thoroughly enjoy laying my eyes on a beast of that nature." Entonces ("So" for those virgin to the ancient language of the Amazon), Dani reacted to this polite and charming response by lifting a caiman of large proportion (my fellow blogger Austin and I estimate its length to be in the ballpark of 75 and 80 meters, we are currently looking at the photographs, given our rudimentary length measuring device thingys, it is only, and we REALLY mean only, a rough estimate). It was wicked awesome (and a tad bit frightening).

Then we saw a cool lake named Lake Sandoval with cool river otters and cool black caimans and cool trees and cool birds and cool mariposas (flying butters in the Amazonian tongue) and cool people and cool other wicked cool stuff.

Pictures coming soon to a computer near you (in fact, the computer you will be using to check the blog)!

We are running out of time to blog, but stay posted because we are here to blog all week long ;)

Roger roger, over and out-the Mainahs (Austin and Jim)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Aldea Yanapay School

Dearest parientes y amigos,

This week we started volunteering with an awesome and inspiring organization called Aldea Yanapay. The organization was started by a man named Yuri and has been successfully surviving for at least half a decade. Its purpose is to act as a social project for the children without opportunities of Cuzco. It was created for the kids and as Yuri says, the kids are always and forever the most important part.

We love Yuri.

Yuri´s dream is so unbelieveably altruistic that we immediately threw our all into helping the kids our very first day, Monday. Monday was chaotic as we adjusted to the kids and being ¨professors,¨ or as the kids called us - ¨¡Profe!¨ We loved the term of endearment; it gave us fuel to continue even when class was going rough and multiple kids were misbehaving or even bleeding.

We were figures to look up to and we took our responsibility very seriously. We did art projects with the kids (including but not limited to making a tree made out of paper mache and creating juggling balls out of balloons), read with them, helped them with their homework, played both educational and recreational games with them, and tutored them. This went from three until five, when the Circle of Expression time comenced. This was a time when all the kids (ages 5 - 13) came together to discuss issues of cultural importance or simply Pokemon - it depends on the day. After circle time, we split into our families (groups of kids of similar ages) to learn about Incan legends (for this week anyway).

These groups were often chaotic to say the least, but we´ll miss their adorable faces. They progressed well on their projects and we wish we could be there tomorrow to see them perform or explain their drawings. We would have been willing to spend more time at the school; there is so much we could do. Sure we passed out flyers to get people to eat at the restaurant (Aldea Yanapay Restaurant) but we still want to do more. Thus we post links and encourage everybody to spread the word about the really cool Aldea Yanapay School. Anything you can do will help them out in their time of need. They are currently looking for a new building and every little bit helps! So if you are ever in Cuzco, look them up. You could anything from volunteering in the school to eating at the restaurant to staying at the associated hostel (Aldea Yanapay Hostel).

We wish we had more time to hang out with the people we´ve met at Yanapay. All the volunteers are cool people from all over the world that it´s a shame to not know better. Actually, there are hard goodbyes all around this week as we leave Cuzco. We had our last classes this morning with our fabulous professors from FairPlay. We´ve learned a lot and there is still so much more to learn - not just about Spanish, but Cuzco as well. Cuzco is rich in history. We could live here for months! Unfortunately, it is time to say goodbye again - it always comes too soon...

So, love to all at Yanapay, FairPlay, and home as we move into the Amazon rainforest. We aren´t expecting to have internet connection in the village of Infierno (literal translation: Hell), but we are expecting to have a lot of fun! So sorry if there are no updates for awhile, Hell doesn´t have good internet connection.


Catherine and Emma

P.S. Camera difficulties again... Shoot!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lasting Relations

As Carpe Diem is an ongoing program, it is very important to us to maintain the friendships we make along the way. While we may be done with our volunteer work at the end of our stay, every one of the volunteer groups we help labors on in their efforts to make this world a better place. For this reason we would like to revisit a couple of these wonderful foundations.

Anna Taft and the Tandana foundation have already breached the post-depature silence by sending us all emails. Included in these emails were links we wish to share to you. So if you´re interested in keeping up to date with what Tandana is doing, or if you just want to see another album of our lovely faces in the clinic, check out these links:

Tanadana Foundation Facebook Page

Tandana Photo Album

Jampinkapa Shamuni Song

Our Farewell Rap

(lyrics for our rap below)

The Aqualongo Despedida Rap

(Joe) Jim wussup doc. Oh nah? That´s cool.
Just hand me the prescription lemme see what I can do.
Run it out to Beau yeah he fills it real quick,
then tosses me the bag, we shake hands, then I split.
GOTTA get these pills to Jim.
GOTTA GOTTA get ém there,
GOTTA get these pills to Jim, Joaquin get back in your chair!

Now I´m sitting down in mine remove my bookmark,
The door swings open shining light into the dark.
The smile upon her face brings warmth into my heart
Another patient helped, yup, that´s a check onto the chart.
Yo Tandana Anna you´re a modern Joan of Arc
This foundation´s now aflame and to think you were the spark.

Just had to show some love to this land that really grew me
Eatin´chewy rico cuy got these rhymes rawer than sushi.
Now I´m feelin kinda fooly
Thanks for bumping to this boogie.
Agualongo. I will never forget thee.


(Everybody) Tandana´s a foundation
Helping people of this nation
Learning one thing, it´s all about communication
We knew that coming here wouldn´t be no vacation
But no one really knew it would be so life changin´

(Austin) Providing health care to help the welfare,
´cause life´s cards aren´t always dealt fair
Helpin´ out rural areas, they don´t have malaria,
And Anna´s here, no need for hysteria
A foundation so strong it could never be impeded,
Tandana is found wherever help is needed,
We came here without a clue what a person could do,
Before the age of 32.
I know I´ll come back, I hope it´s not much longer,
And when I do I´m sure I´ll find that bonds are even stronger
And I gotta throw love out to you volunteers, you could be anywhere else, you´re all here.
I know in my heart that what you´re doing is right
Ali tutta to all and to all a good night.


(Jim) Damn Anna, how´d you do it?
How´d you start Tandana?
Porque, Usted es solo una persona
But you do it all
You´re completely spherical
It´s a miracle
With just two vehicles, supplies, and some friends
You provide help that never ends
And when someone needs advice
I swear you have an extreme device
To save lives all across the globe
Ecuador to Africa swapping time zones
Real quick, but before I split
I got a legit question
What´s it like to come from immaculate conception?


(Andy) A nuestra Querida Puebla de Agualongo
Agradecemos mucho con todo
Corazon, amistad y sentimiento
Por todo lo que han compartid??
Sus casas, comida, y cariño

Tugamos Niños y Padres de familia
Comiendo rica riquisima comida
Aprendemos la cultura y la Kichwa

Ali chishi, shu Iskay, Kçkinsa
Nukanchi charinchi Alco astawa Altalpa
Mushu Ayllu y Nueva familia
Dios le page Mama, Taita y los wawas

Pasamos dos increíbles semanas
Compartiendo esta bella Pachamama
No le olvidamos nunca jamas

No qieremos salir, pero ya nos foca ir
Seguiendo la honda le nos llama

Pues, Que pasea todo bien, hasta vernos otra vez,
Mil gracias y Hasta Kashkama


Palabra Arriba

Special thanks goes out to Jim, Joe, Austin boy, and Andy for writing their lyrics.

We would also like to give another shout out to Peter and the other inspiring people in Intag. Before we left we were able to hear a woman from the local newspaper speak about it. She brought it to our attention how important Periodico INTAG was to the local community. When asked how we could help, she told us to spread the word via So please, check out the following link: Periodico INTAG

This is one last thank you to ALL the awe-inspiring people we have worked with on this trip, and we wish you support in all your volunteering endeavors.


Your Bloggers - Catherine and Emma

Weekend in the Sacred Valley

Hey friends and family!

This weekend we got the awesome opportunity to visit the ancient Sacred Valley. The place is brimming with visual history in the form of ruins.

We left in a private bus around 9 in the morning on Saturday. Our first Incan destination was Moray. Moray consists of circular terrace ruins with a mystery surrounding their purpose. Some suppose that it was used as a lab to test out terrace-growing techniques because while they resemble the agricultural terraces found across the Incan empire, they are much more concentrated. Each terrace is its own climate and has its own set of crops - hence the thought that it might have been a lab. Who knows?

We plunged down the tall Incan-style floating stairs to the bottom - no easy task. However, some still had energy to ponder other possible uses for the circles. The most popular explanation, backed by ¨empirical¨ evidence, was that it was a Roman style amphitheater used for gladiator battles with an Incan twist. Since the suggestion received a lot of support, the believers decided to create a reenactment. From there, support dwindled and we made our made up the floating stairs (and we thought going down was hard).

After reaching the top, we piled back in the bus and set off for Ollataytambo. The small city consists of many of the same streets from back in the time of the Incas. We started our afternoon out (after lunch at Heart´s Cafe, really good cause and equally good food, check it out: with a tour of the town. This is the best place to see Incan city planning in all of Peru. We got to see a square that has been preserved in its original form from Incan times. There is only one entrance into the block and many houses around the perimeter. The house that we toured had skulls of ancestors in them as reminders of morality and a crap ton of cuyes.

Our tour of the city didn´t take long, so before too long we went to the ruins proper of Ollataytambo. The ruins were of a hilltop fortress where an important Incan victory took place in 1536. Masters of irrigation, the Incas defeated their foes by intentionally flooding the plain below. The rocks of which the fortress was constructed were also products of irrigation techniques as they were retrieved from the other side of the nearby river, Urubamba. The rocks were too heavy to be taken across (they were HUGE, the size of a large cow) so the Incas diverted the river around the rocks. Insane!

Even today you can see working canals in the city of Ollataytambo. Part of the group cleaned trash out of one of these canals. Others were too fascinated by the aesthetics of the narrow streets to help. These cobbled streets also date back to the Incan empire so it is understandable.

After a night in a nice hostel, we set off early for Pisac and its famous market. The market was very large and overwhelming. We thought it went on forever... until we popped out the end. We couldn´t see it coming, or maybe we were too busy ogling the brightly colored stalls filled with everything from panpipes to hand-painted plates to ancient money. Before we knew it, it was time to return to Cuzco.

Cuzco, beloved base of operations for both us and the Incas long ago.

Hasta luego,

Emma y Catherine

Friday, November 5, 2010

The City of the Incas

Hey Friends and Family,

Unfortunately, we´ve been having trouble putting up pictures of our recent endeavors, which truly pains us because we´ve wanted to share our trek with you. As an alternative, we asked everyone to tell us their most beautiful moment on the trek to try and paint as clear of a picture for ya´ll as we can. After we got everyone´s responses, we figured out the blog. Enjoy!

From Andy, this novel that he was kind enough to type himself:

A last week I found myself trekking in the Cordillera Blanca outside of Huaráz, Anchash, Perú. In the midst of one of the most beautiful ranges I have had the pleasure to traverse. surrounded by jagged snow-capped peaks. glaciated cliffs. majestic waterfalls. mirror lakes. surreal clouds. massive boulder fields. subtle flowers and crystalline rivers. Yet, despite the natural beauty and the high altitude, I was feeling down. disconnected from my spiritual self. my goals. my practice. tired. drained. discouraged. and so, before closing my eyes for sleep on the last night of our trek. I determined that I would arise early in the morn and plug into the flow. follow what feels right in an effort to tune-up. tap-in. turn-on :) So I arise with the sun. go for a walk and meditate on top of a rock. situated between the sunrise and Taulliraju I sit for some minutes before returning for breakfast. When I arrive I find a little five year old boy in our camp peeking out from behind some boulders. while we eat he comes closer and we laugh as he freestyle walks all around our camp. jumping off rocks doing 360-heel grabs. so full of smiley playful energy just bouncing all over the place. I suppose I should not be surprised when during our morning handstand/cartwheel time he jumps right in and plays along. In fact, he jumps right into our circle and starts break-dancing! somersaults. headstands. handstands! (5 years old!) crazy-rolls and butt-drops in one of the most creative displays of movement and body control I have seen...let alone in a five year old! I am urged to battle him by the Carpe Crew, so I jump in and do some breaking of my own and like this we take turns stepping it up until we are both so out of breath (13,000ft) that we flop on the ground together. Feeling really kindred with this boy...I lean over and say...¨oye, bailas super bien. ¿como te llamas amiguito?¨... to which he replies...¨Andy.¨...and my heart melts. Tocayo I say, and he jumps up and leads me on a follow-the-leader freestyle tour of our camp. again exhausted, we flop to the floor. and I invite him to fly. with full trust and joy he lets me fly him all over the place. on my feet. head. shoulders. hands...we have a blast! When the time comes to head on I say tossing him up in the sky...and spend the rest of the day...synchronicity abounding...blissfully high.

From Anna:

There were so many beautiful moments of the trek so it´s difficult to decide. One of the most magical moments for me was finally reaching the highest altitude. I reached the top of a difficult climb, couldn´t breathe and then caught sight of the most amazing glacier. Trekking was an incredible experience. Also, I really like all my pictures - that look fake...

From Austin L:

Hi guys, I´m Austin Maine.

Looking back at the gorgeous valley that we´d just hiked up from the top of Punta Union was one of the most amazing things I´ve ever seen. It felt incredible to see what we´d just done, and there were amazing views in every direction. The pictures that I took can´t capture how beautiful it was - that image is gonna stick with me. Holla.

From Austin N:

My most beautiful moment of the trek was when we were all dying from altitude after climbing for four hours and we came to the archway at the summit. Coming through the arch, we could see the entire valley in front of us and the snowy glaciers behind us. Nothing was more satisfying than standing on top of the 15,500 ft peak and all screaming together at the top of our lungs.

From Catherine:

Mom, Dad, you know that color I´ve been always wanting to paint my room? That bright cyan blue? From the highest peak on our trek there was the most breathtaking lake that was that color. I believe I could spend my entire life in rooms of that hue.

From Claire:

My most memorable moment during the hike was one day when we ate an amazing lunch of chicken and sweet potatoes while to the left of us were amazing snow-capped peaks and to the right was a massive lake with water so clear you could see the bottom from 50 feet away.

From Emma:

My moment was on the fourth day when I´d been walking for four days. It was a really great feeling to just be walking and loving it! I haven´t walked just to walk in awhile and I found out that I miss it. Plus the views that day were of amazing waterfalls and wild horses. It all inspired great, deep thought.

From Jessica:

My best and most memorable moment on the hike were the incredible views!!! And made all the more enjoyable by good health and minimal affects from the altitude!!! (Have you seen the pictures?!? Doesn´t do it justice... and I feel special to have had the opportunity to observe and absorb its immensity and beauty!)

From Jim:

The most beautiful part about the trek was (obviously) Terrance. But the second most beautiful part was the sincerity of our guides: Epi, Javier, Miguel, Walter and Emerson.

From Joe:

Good day everyone,
I am the tall lanky skinny white guy with glasses in all the pictures! The one without the sweet ginger beard. I´m so glad that our group was able to come together as one and decide on doing this super amazing trek of the Cordillera Blanca. Every little aspect of the trip collectively made it an incredible experience. We walked amongst giant snow-capped peaks that towered over us in every direction. We walked through open valleys full of wild horses and the occasional crystal blue glacial lake. From a 360 degree panorama at the top of the ridge on Punta Union (4,750 meters) my eyes witnessed the most spectacular scene. On that clear day you could see just about every mountain throughout the range. My second biggest highlight of the trip was when I would sit down to tea with Terrance in the evenings. Terrance was the strongest and bravest of the mules on our trek and I will miss him dearly. Hi mom and dad!

From Megan:

My most memorable moment during our trek was the moment we sat at our very highest peak at 4,800 meters looking out at all the massive peaks surrounding us. Being able to have a 360 degree view of the Cordillera Blanca pulled the soul from my chest. I felt on top of the world and very much at peace. Although we were all out of breath and had to take each step at a time, I felt more alive than I have this entire trip.

From Mia:

The trek as a whole was really beautiful, but my favorite part of it was when we all hiked up to the summit. We were like 4,700 meters or so high, and we could see all the peaks. The whole group hiked upto a vantage point for a group pic and there were just lots of shenanigans. It also marked the end of the hardest uphill hiking - which I was very glad about. I just can´t even explain the view but hopefully we can get some pics up on the blog. We were so high we all had headaches!

From Natalie:

Of the many incredible views we experienced on our trek, one of my favorites was the glacier we camped beneath on our first night. Waking up to such a sight (once the fog cleared) was unlike anything I have ever seen. The trek was awesome, and - Mom and Dad - my knee didn´t even swell up!

After our fourth day of trekking we returned back to Huaraz to pick up the rest of our stuff. We stayed one last night nearby the beautiful mountains. The next morning we hopped on a bus back to Lima. After eight hours on a bus, we arrived in the biggest city in Peru. We stayed in a true backpackers hostal filled with people from all over the globe. Twas a noisy hostal, but not noisy enough to keep us from sleep.
The morning after, we woke up at the crack of dawn to catch our Halloween flight to Cuzco, Peru. We arrived without problems, despite the uneasiness brought about by watching our pilot manuver between two collosal hills on the outskirts of the valley of Cuzco. We were picked up from the airport by our lovely Spanish teachers from FairPlay, our super cool Spanish school. We were taken to our two homestays and introduced to our host famz for the next two weeks. The thought of being separated into two groups for two whole weeks is a sad, sad thought for all. Really the only times during the week that we have been seeing each other are during passing periods in classes. We are all looking forward to this weekend that we will share together so we can reconnect once again.

After moving in that first day, we went to the school for a Halloween party that was put on by our teachers of both Spanish and salsa. We got to experience some of the local customs. Including a ceremony which involved baptising a baby made of bread, celebrating through dance and then slicing it up for consumption by all. Afterwards, our salsa teachers put on a little show for us. They were fabulous dancers and got us all excited for lessons the following week.

Going into the week, we had to get back on a standard school schedule - we haven´t missed it! The structure of our school includes two hours of grammar and two hours of practical. Grammar is taught typical classroom style. One teacher, two students, one white board. Our teachers really know their stuff and know how to make the classroom fun and interesting. Practical is sort of like taking a field trip around Cuzco for two hours everyday. We really enjoy this! So far we´ve gone to the marketplaces, Plaza de Armas (the main plaza), visited the 12 sided rock (see below), museums, el Cristo Blanco, the laundromat and places with great views of the city. Our teachers are easy to converse with and are great city guides. Both types of classes are very helpful and entertaining.

After mornings spent learning, we get a break to eat and relax at our respective households before returning to FairPlay for spicy salsa lessons. Salsa is also taught with one teacher per two students. This enables us to learn more quicklyer. Writing this now, we are not taking salsa classes anymore. It is fair to say that we are all going to miss our teachers and classes very much. This make us feel like this: :´( but we are equally stoked to begin volunteering with Aldea Yanapay ( next week.

Friday we had our orientation at a restaurant that supports the Aldea Yanapay project, where we were able to meet the founder and soul that built Aldea Yanapay from ground up when he was 17; his name is Yuri. We got invited to a party to celebrate at 8 that night, key point: BUFFET! After our final salsa class we had just enough time to get home and change before heading back to the restaurant for a tasty mexican-peruvian fusion style buffet yumyumyumyumyum. Unfortunately, we were only able to stay an hour.
From the restaurant we headed to the discotec where we were able to show off what we had learned the past week in salsa class, as well as watch our teachers blow our minds with many spectacular salsa performances. We got to learn some more moves group style and try those on for size because when in Rome... We were in the club until one in the morning (or twelve for the sleepy slumbersons).

This weekend we are planning an exciting tour of the Sacred Valley and its many Incan ruins. We are oh so very excited to walk the same paths as the Incas did many moons ago.
Mucho Amor,

Jose y Emma