Big thanks to the folks of North Platte, Nebraska for inviting me to speak at their Town Hall Lecture Series. Past speakers have included some very big names including my inspiration, the lovely Jeannette Walls, author of THE GLASS CASTLE.
My sister-in-law drove all the way from Missouri to meet up and brought my nieces along for the trip. It was great learning how to loom rubber band bracelets, teaching them how to make things with Bucky Balls, touring Buffalo Bill’s ranch and, generally, just seeing their pretty faces. The girls were mostly happy about my hotel pool and seeing their cousins while I’m pretty stoked about my bull horn turned beer bong necklace.
BUT…the reason I was in town was to give a speech about my life turned memoir and what BURN DOWN THE GROUND means in the literal and figurative sense. There were about 400 people in the lovely Neville Center, including students from the special high school for “troubled” kids. I had no idea they were going to be there but was overjoyed when I found out they were. I hope my story and message about choices and reinvention resonated with at least ONE of them.
Huge thanks to Keppler Speakers and the amazing ladies of North Platte. Who knows if our paths will ever cross again but I will carry the experience with me forever and always.
The ladies who checked me in & gave me my boarding pass were also gate security and baggage handlers!
My new necklace.
Marcia, my lovely hostess.
About 200 luncheon attendees after the big speech.
My stage at the Neville Center
Setting up tech. About 400 people packed this lovely theater.
Lights, camera, action! Being interviewed for the NBC affiliate
I seriously don’t understand why people hate LaGuardia Airport so much. I had another amazing travel day with them. One of, gosh, a hundred or so over the last few years. Got there in 10 minutes, got through security and was sitting at my gate 5 minutes later. Along the way, I heard “good morning” a few people and an offer for assistance by two others. Sure, the place could use an update for outlets and added bathrooms, but really, how long are you there? My flights are almost always on time or early, too. Haters gonna hate.
I made it to Green Bay, WI and was greeted by a lovely lady with the Fox Cities Book Festival. Good grief Midwesterners are seriously the nicest people on earth. Well, maybe second to the Irish, but it’s a tight race. If you’re in the Appleton, WI area, I’ll be giving a presentation tomorrow and some entertainment at Friday evening’s Mix & Mingle.
While on a layover at O’Hare, I lost a new tube of lip gloss, but I found Captain Kangaroo. He wears glasses now and enjoys a pint of beer at 11:30 AM. Good for him!
Continuing from my post / idea to remind myself of the positive plans I have in a nutshell, here is my post for what’s in store for March:
* Stay at our cabin at least once, probably twice.
* Submit my solo show to All For One.
* Travel to Rochester, NY and give presentations at RIT/NTID, the largest deaf school in the country. !!!
* Promote Christian’s dates at Gotham Comedy Club, his new hour special THE FUN PART debuting on Netflix & his solo show at The PIT.
* Tutor my protege twice a week to prepare her for the state’s standardized tests.
* Go ice skating with my protege.
* Work on a new solo show idea for myself and a full-length play I’ve been tossing around in my head for a while now.
While January 2014’s plans went as expected, February, yeah, not so much. The TV pilot moved shoot dates to a day when I was in DC, so I couldn’t be an extra. DC was great, though. I enjoyed the Newseum and the Ford’s Theater and Lincoln Museum plus a gorgeous walk through the National Mall which I had practically all to myself because of a snowstorm that shut the city down* I also enjoyed a decadent, incredible lunch at Jaleo (pics below) with the lovely Jennifer Tress, author of You’re Not Pretty Enough. She makes me happy.
But then I got sick AGAIN for another full week of being laid up with a fever. Very upsetting and turned all my plans upside down. This winter has left me feeling negligent to my needs personally & professionally, but looking at what I *have* done I can say the last two months weren’t wasted.
Hopefully March will be illness free and include some fun surprises. Mostly, I’m excited to go to Rochester to share my story and meet tons of hearing, deaf, HoH, & CODA staff and students.
*Totally unnecessary. Roads & sidewalks were completely clear. Why am I not surprised to learn that DC is filled with slackers and wussies?
Either middle-aged, middle-management white males of Grand Rapids aren’t getting laid enough or I’ve found a new target demo. I am HOT in GR! Like “grown men walking into poles” hot.
I checked into my room at the Amway Grand Plaza (yes, the Amway. I haven’t heard of them in years but they’re inescapable in GR.) which is grand, like the name implies and like everything else in the city, and sprawling. They really need to install a map kiosk like in a shopping mall. Even after two nights there, I got lost trying to find my room.
I was a sweaty mess in my jogging clothes after having gone for a run and had a confused look on my face. A man who worked at the hotel (I assume as he was wearing maintenance type clothes but no name tag) cut his conversation short on the house phone and offered to help direct me. But he wouldn’t just tell me exactly where the main lobby was. He gave short vague answers like, “You’re headed the right way,” and kept asking where I was going. “The main lobby, just tell me where the main lobby is.”
At one point he asked for my room number. Now, I’m sure to him he knows the hotel like the back of his hand and having my exact room number would tell him which tower (yeah, they had towers, like we’re all Rapunzel or something. Crazy big!) I needed to be in and which elevator bank within that tower would take me to my room. But, dude, here’s the thing: No matter how nice you are, how helpful you think you are being and how innocent you know you are, if you have a penis don’t ask a woman who is a stranger to you for her room number. I said I’d trace my steps and start over and thanks anyway and left him standing there. I’m 99% sure he was not a rapist but that 1% is what keeps us ladies always on guard. I can hear his argument at the imaginary rape trial now, “I thought we had a date. She gave me her room number…”
Eh, you know how the victim-blaming story goes. So, anyway, back to Grand Rapids! The hotel gym had a full size pool, hot tub, tanning beds, tennis courts and, my lordy, I wanted to move in! My room had a balcony with an incredible view of the river (What river? Why the Grand River, of course.) and the gorgeous fall colors. I was so happy to be traveling all over the midwest & northeast during peak leaf changing season. This picture just doesn’t do it justice. I could also see native golden boy Gerald R. Ford’s Presidential Museum which I decided I needed to visit simply because of how close it was to my hotel.
My first day there was to give a speech at Grand Rapids Community College as part of the Diversity Lecture Series. I had a quick breakfast and returned to find that housekeeping had left me a note and a voice mail. I had the “do not disturb” sign on my door but apparently they couldn’t believe that I didn’t want service because they called again! I’d been here one night! What could possibly need to be cleaned?! So I said sure, I needed service and had the housekeeping lady zip up my dress instead. Now THAT’s useful!
Sidebar: don’t kill anyone in a fancy hotel. They do wellness checks and just won’t leave your room alone, “do not disturb” sign be damned. I’d recommend the Best Western on Highway 105 in Montgomery, Texas. I stayed there five nights and not once did they call. There were no security cameras, lights, nothing. That is SIX days of getting to Mexico time, people!
Dress zipped, I met my host from the college for an early dinner and to go over the itinerary of events. The speech itself was held at the gorgeous Fountain Street Church. I’m not a religious person –I think most organized religion is a little too cult-like and abhor anyone who selectively uses Bible passages to justify vilifying and/or discriminating– but I could see myself attending this church. It’s non-denominational and reading their mission made me want to hug an evangelical and say, “It gets better.” That’s me pictured on the left sitting in the preacher’s (? preacher, minister, I dunno what you call them) chair and a big rainbow stick. Not sure what that’s for but it made me happy the way rainbows should.
My host said I was joining a distinguished list of speakers of the series and warned me not to get intimated when I saw the church’s green room. I thought she was pulling my leg until I laid eyes on the photos of Helen Keller, Amelia Earhart, Susan B. Anthony, Robert F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Gerald Ford (duh) and so many more. I was almost embarrassed to add my name to the list. Almost.
The church was filled to the rafters and the speech was an A- (a technical glitch where the laptop with my PowerPoint suddenly died prevents me from giving it an A+ but it was pretty fun). I met some truly remarkable people, especially those working with the college and the diversity series. They love their jobs and make a difference and dammit to hell I’m getting choked up again!
I’m so glad I elected to spend an extra night there because it allowed me to take in some sights and sounds of this lovely riverfront city. I visited the lecture series’ corporate sponsor Steelcase (WOW! I want to go to design school just so I can work there. The building and people were amazing!) and gave a short presentation and Q&A. Afterward, I had the day to play tourist.
I ate a quick burger at Flanagan’s Irish Pub. I’m sorry to say I didn’t try out more local-centric restaurants in GR like I did in Madison, but I wanted a greasy fat burger and pubs are good for those. They didn’t disappoint. Happily stuffed, I walked to my first stop, the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM).
The GRAM had a special exhibit called Real/Surreal which compared works of realism vs. surrealism with most of the paintings on loan from NYC’s Whitney. DOH! Along the way, I caught a glimpse of this building reflected in another. I don’t know if they planned it this way but it looked like a life-sized, glued together puzzle picture. I couldn’t get over how perfect and real it looked. Talk about Real/Surreal!
But they also had on display some of the winners of this year’s ArtPrize. Man, did I luck out on seeing these. Without these pieces, I think I would’ve felt the museum trip to be a bit of a bust. Instead, I was bowled over by “Elephants” by Adonna Khare, a giant penciled mural overwhelming with it’s detail and humanity and, my lord, how does one person possess so much talent?! Please, please check her and her prizewinning piece out. You won’t be sorry.
Excited to learn about ArtPrize and in love with “Elephants”, I asked the security guard where I could find more winners. He directed me to “Origami” by Kumi Yamashita. This gem tricked me at first. I was directed to find it and walked passed thinking it was just a bunch of square papers on a wall. Oh, how wrong I was. It’s so clever in its simplicity and very thought provoking. I thanked the guard and laughed with him how I thought it was stupid at first.
Then he asked, “Did you see me?” Wait. WHAT? He’s one of the origami pieces? GENIUS. Click on this link, and you’ll understand what I mean. So cool.
Thank you to GRAM and ArtPrize for introducing me to these talented women artists. Never in my life have I left an art museum so excited to share my experience with anyone. If you have a chance to go before December 31st when the ArtPrize pieces will no longer be exhibited, I highly recommend it.
Finally, my last stop on the grand tour was of the aforementioned Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. It takes only a few hours in Grand Rapids to realize that they looooooove Jerry. He is the pride and joy of this town. His name is plastered on everything. I’m surprised there’s not a Ford Fun Park or a burger named after him. After learning about our 38th president and getting a free ruler with my gift shop purchase, I, too, loved Jerry. He seemed like a really nice guy. I guess it is his museum and burial site so what are they gonna say? I couldn’t tell you since I’ve not been to Nixon’s. I started openly weeping at the section covering his death and funeral.
Sidebar: Is crying a lot a sign of perimenopause? Because if you haven’t noticed, I’m crying or getting choked up at everything?! That said, I found myself transported to my early youth. I remembered vividly watching news reports of Nixon’s impeachment and Ford’s ascent to the highest office. I love our country, and the process, while flawed, does work.
I left the museum feeling immense pride and even more grateful that our country wasn’t created and founding fathers didn’t live in the late 60s/early 70s or else we’d forever be barraged with its clothing. Egads.
Holy mother of god, you guys. I need to buy a pair of stretchy XXL pants and move to Madison, Wisconsin already. Every meal is a gastronomical orgasm! I even ate a pickled turkey gizzard, y’all! It look like the wrinkly vagina from a cadaver, but I’ve eaten tripe so figured this couldn’t taste much worse. It wasn’t. It tasted like dark meat. Who knew?
[Picture at right: Beefeaters and company. Not a euphemism.]
My first day in town began with breakfast (cheese & sausage quiche & Wisconsin Amber from Capital Brewery) at Marigold Kitchen. Afterward I took my shuttle driver’s advice to use the Wisconsin State Capitol as a shortcut to get to my destination, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. I breezed in and wandered the halls. “Huh,” I thought. “Haven’t they heard of terrorism and mass murderers? Where’s my full body cavity search? I demand to be delayed and felt up by a stranger! Someone touch me in the name of security!”
As I meandered aimlessly, I heard a voice echoing but couldn’t make out the words in the cacophonous stone and marble building. It sounded like someone giving a speech, so I followed the disembodied voice’s direction until I found the source. A man in full marine dress blues was speaking in the rotunda to an audience filled with others in military dress uniforms. I did what anyone should do: I acted like I was invited, grabbed a program and took a seat. As it happens, it was a ceremony in honor of Veterans Day and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was the keynote speaker.
It’s not often one finds themselves inches away from a state leader, and stranger still that never once did I go through any security checkpoint. Given how hated the Governor of Wisconsin is in Madison (and the whole state?), I found this doubly surprising. I guess with all the soldiers around us, he was purportedly safe.
The governor gave a thoughtful speech in honor of the Wisconsin veterans that have served this country. “163,” he noted. “The number of Wisconsin men and women who paid the ultimate price in service of their country since 9/11/01.” We had a moment of silence, which made me start crying. If you’re not choking back a lump in your throat during any moment of silence I have to wonder how silent are you being, really? Shut out everything and think –truly think– about what the men and women before us have done to give us the liberty and justice we have come to expect. Like I said: Lump in throat.
I watched as First Sergeant Timothy LaSage was honored and Larry Stanczyk was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during the Vietnam War on July 11, 1969. Then as the crowd dispersed, I took photos, shook the Governor’s hand (his real hand! What if I were a spy?! Don’t spies go to Wisconsin? How about UNION spies?!) and left for my original destination: the Veteran’s Museum. How apropos.
After the museum, I enjoyed a pint of Hopalicious by Ale Asylum at The Coopers Tavern where I flirted with my bartender, a Jeffrey Dahmer doppelgänger. I always thought Dahmer was kinda cute, but I guess no guy would take it as a compliment so I kept that part to myself. After settling the tab, I visited the Wisconsin Historical Museum. It was okay. I was a little tired at this point and museums start to be a bit of a drag when you’re by yourself. Sharing a learning experience is part of the fun. I was surprised at just how many inventions and pop culture things got their start in Wisconsin. That’s all I took away from that. Oh, and there’s a huge section on Native American stuff which is in every museum ever so I kind of skimmed that and now I have more White Guilt than before.
After that, I shopped along State Street where I stocked up on postcards and nerdy writing/journaling stuff (!) at Anthology (bummed I was missing their free workshop the next day where they planned to make these fun travel/adventure folder thingies. Yes, that’s exactly what they called them.) & dark chocolate covered cherries & salted caramel (!!) at Kilwins. I finished my jam-packed day with an organic burger (!!!) at Graze where I met Christian Finnegan‘s buddy from his NYU days. More amazing farm-to-table culinary delights, friendly people, affordable prices and lovely experience had me trying to figure out how to move to Madison without ruining Christian’s career.
Then, as I waited for my hotel shuttle, I saw this sidewalk sign (see left) for a jeweler and thought, “Gross, Madison. You almost had me but this is really gross.” I wish I’d had my Sharpie with me, dagnabbit.
The next day was not as packed since I had to perform that night as part of the Wisconsin Book Festival. It started out with breakfast at The Old Fashioned. I’d heard they were good for fried cheese curds and more than one person said they’d de-friend me if I didn’t try them while in Madison. I ordered ham and eggs with a side of fried curds and a bloody mary to start. There was so much food in my drink, I wasn’t sure I’d have room to eat much else.
But then my plate arrived, and I vowed to get fat in the name of GOD and AMERICA. Wow, wow, wow! I was only three bites into my meal when I decided that I would eat here again before I left for NYC which meant within the next 18 hours or forever hold my peace.
Cheese curd needs to work on its PR/marketing image. Curd sounds repulsive. I eat cottage cheese but “curd” makes me think of discharge from an infection. In reality, fried cheese curd is like miniature mozzarella sticks only made with better, different kinds of cheese. They’re pictured on the lower portion of my plate in the photo at right.
Around this time is when I befriended an ex-Marine (’73-’76) named Peter who was celebrating the Marine’s 237th birthday by drinking a gallon of Beefeaters. He was recovering from prostate cancer, on his way to visit his daughter, bought me a bloody mary and introduced me to turkey gizzard (again, not a euphemism).
After we parted, I wrote a bunch of postcards and wandered the largest farmer’s market in America where I loaded up on fresh, homemade jerky which was the only thing I could expect to stuff in my suitcase that wouldn’t reek, rot or take up too much room.
I got to the hotel and posted the above photo of my eggs & ham touching off an Internet storm (okay, a slight breeze) of people warning me that being fat is not good and to change my dieting habits. Ummm… SCUH-ROO YOU! A little tipsy from my two bloody marys I made a video about how you should not be fat because that, apparently, is the worst thing you can be EVER. Here it is:
I napped, sobered up, showered & dressed for my main event: a 45 minute presentation at the Rotunda Room of the Overture Center. If I may bitch a little (more), I was pretty annoyed at the onset. I got to the venue to meet with tech early per instructions since I was going to have a slideshow. The Overture Center’s cafe was closed even though there were three shows going on, my books weren’t available for sale at the “book store” and they didn’t even have it on the list. ($@#%^*& !!!!!!!!!!???????)
I was also directed to the wrong floor, so was annoyed, hot and winded after running up and down three flights of stairs when I finally found the Rotunda Room where the tech person wasn’t there. So I said F this and went outside to literally and figuratively cool off. I spotted a bar across the street and downed a glass of Pinot Grigio and headed back to muscle through what I was now expecting to be a huge waste of time.
Thank whatshisface I was wrong. Tech showed up (I was totally fine to go without the slides, but nice that it worked out), a few minutes before showtime a man from the book selling company showed up with books that they promised to add to the pop-up store for the remainder of the festival, and there was a huge, SRO crowd. The event itself went swimmingly though I do think my being overheated and annoyed affected me. I’d give myself a B-minus.
The best part for me was meeting Facebook-turned-in-real-life friends Stu Gilkison & his wife Jessica. They graciously treated me to a post-show drink & snacks (again, the food here is crazy good. A simple appetizer of stuffed olives had my eyes rolling in the back of my head.), and even gave me a ride back to my hotel. As we walked to their car, we passed Coopers Tavern where they are regulars. Luckily, the Dahmer doppelgänger was tending bar. They agreed: total twinsies.
Bonus: We made a pit stop to view Holiday Fantasy of Lights, a cheesy, drive-through Christmas display. Sure, I suppose it’s a “fantasy” if what you dream of includes five minutes of looking at a Lite Brite. The world needs to legalize marijuana before this can be considered entertainment. Priorities, people!
If you turn your radio dial to a pre-set AM station, there’s holiday music to accompany your “tour”. The fact that it was only November 11th and Thanksgiving was over two weeks away kind of made the whole thing surreal. Seriously America, it’s okay if you enjoy Thanksgiving first. Everybody just RELAX for a GODDAMNED MINUTE!
And though I snark, it was fun. A wee bit too much fun, in fact. The next morning I was hurting but happy dreaming of a white Christmas. As I packed, I got weepy (again) at the thought of leaving. (Why can’t I live everywhere and do everything?) I mean, I cried watching a clip from Saturday Night Live as Anne Hathaway & the SNL cast sang a parody of “One Day More”. Seriously.
I’ve had a whirlwind tour for my book Burn Down the Ground. My last out-of-state event in Cleveland for the regional conference of the National Black Deaf Advocates was amazing, but I’m happy to take all of August off to recharge. Dates booked for this fall are below and details are on my calendar. If you want me at your event or store –especially if it coordinates with dates already booked below– email me at kambricrews@Gmail.com
17 – NYC for Bare! at the PIT
19 – NYC for That’s What She Said at Public Assembly
26 – NYC for the How I Learned series at Happy Ending Lounge
13 – Portland, OR – Wordstock Book Festival
13 – Cannon Beach, OR – Cannon Beach Library
18 – Winstead, CT – North Connecticut Community College (Free & ASL interpreted)
20 – Cincinnati, OH – Books by the Bank Book Festival
23 – Lansing, MI – Schuler Books
24 & 25 – Grand Rapids, MI – Grand Rapids Community College (Free & ASL interpreted)
27 – Texas Book Festival (Free & ASL interpreted)
29 – Montgomery, TX – Montgomery Middle School
30 – Conroe, TX – Hauke Alternative School
1 – Austin, TX – Book Woman book store (Free & ASL interpreted)
7 – Washington, DC – Bare! at Black Fox Lounge
10 – Madison, WI – Wisconsin Book Festival
14 – New York, NY – Administration for Children’s Services
17 – 20 – Jefferson, TX – Girlfriend Weekend – Pulpwood Queens Book Club
For Christmas 2010, Christian & I went to Peru for a 10 day, adventure-filled vacation. I won’t bore you with a long travelogue (What? You don’t want to read about the intricacies of foreign bathrooms and whether hot water was available in each place? No? Okay, fine.) But let’s be honest, this mostly for me, so I will only bore you with it for as long as you allow.
After 24 hours of travel (flight to Miami, then to Lima, then to Puerto Maldonado where we got on a bus that took us to a boat that took us to the lodge!), days 1 – 4 were spent at Libertador Tambopata Eco Lodge and camping in the jungle. Lots of boat rides, treks into the jungle and spotting of wild animals like capybaras (the world’s largest rodent), caiman (alligators), boars, birds of every shape. We saw four different species of monkeys (capuchin, squirrel, tamarin and red howler) that were so abundant we hit the Monkey Load. Heh.
The more exciting thing involved a less glamorous animal: a wild boar. We came across a couple of hundred of them crossing a path in front of us, froze and watched in wonder. No problem. After it seemed they were all done crossing, we continued along holding our breath along the way. I have never smelled anything so bizarre and rancid. Our guide kept blowing his nose and hocking to try to get rid of the stench that lingered. Suddenly we realized there was another herd of boars still crossing. Again, we froze this time a boar caught sight of us and came TOWARD us. It stopped, raised its nose and wriggled its snout to get a good whiff of us as we stood as still as possible. I was in front of Christian & our guide trying to stay balanced as I was squatting with my camera aimed at the boar afraid to hit a button for fear that the boar would see me moving. I was having a staring contest with a wild boar while a couple of hundred of its buddies crossed our path!
It then made a few more steps to get CLOSER to us and was joined by another pal. Oh no! They’re on to us. But as soon as the last boar crossed, the two watch pigs departed. Coast clear, we all burst into relieved laughter. “We never discussed what we should do in this situation!” I guffawed. Our guide then gave us a rundown on what to do should we come across any other beasts like pumas.
We camped in the jungle one night at least 9 hours away from the nearest town. Our site was monitored by six vultures and two macaws that were tending to a nest. This would have been fun in a scary way but ended up being horribly terrifying because of an INTENSE, ALL NIGHT thunderstorm that was so dangerously close. Our crew of four included a boat driver who had to sleep on the boat to make sure it didn’t wash away. Our guide, cook and “errand dude” for lack of a better description all stayed in one tent while Christian & I stayed in another. I purposefully typed “stayed” instead of “slept” because sleep was nearly impossible. The lightning was so persistent it was like a lantern was blazing in our tent and the sound of breaking trees, thunder and cracks of lightning were so close that we all wondered if we’d make it through the night. It was so scary that no one said a word. Have you ever read about how in crazy plane situations witnesses will recount how passengers were strangely calm and very quiet? It was like that. There are no words. Christian & I know that no one will ever understand the fear or the surreal danger but we know. We stared at each other in the morning with an all knowing look and then got dressed for breakfast.
Days 4 – 7 were spent in Cusco & a train ride / hike up to Machu Picchu. There’s not much I can say to adequately sum up these two places other than fun and beautiful, respectively. Cusco was decked out for Christmas and people were in great spirits. They love their nativity scenes there! The views of city lights against the mountain range was awesome. We toured Le Catedral and the Museo Inka, shopped at the local market which had such nasty stuff for sale (a bowl of raw cow mouths, anyone?) that it put Chinatown to shame and ate a lot, happy to be back in civilization with electricity and a phone line. I was disheartened by the hundreds of stray dogs but after a few days it was clear the dogs weren’t like regular dogs. They had no interest in humans, were immune to touch and were doing just fine thankyouverymuch. Still, I would have liked to have seen more of them with green collars which the city puts on to indicate they’ve been fixed.
Then we took a train ride to Machu Picchu (we would have loved to do the full hike, but we really wanted to do the jungle and Lake Titicaca so time wouldn’t allow). Every other second was a picture worthy moment. Lush farms, rivers and streams, animals everywhere, women carrying bundles of harvest on their backs (one had a puppy nipping at her heels for crying out loud!), sheep frolicking, just too much beauty in one place it isn’t fair. We hiked up to the top of Machu Picchu in the rain but within 15 minutes the clouds parted and the sun came out. We really lucked out. Pictures don’t do it justice but, well, we took lots of pics anyway. Llamas were in charge of trimming the grass and I loved being near them even if they could have cared less about me.
Days 7 – 10 were in Puno & tours of the islands on Lake Titicaca which included visiting Isla de los Uros (the famous floating islands made of reeds) and staying with a family on Isla Amantani. The latter was a really unique experience that just puts in to perspective how different our lives are. Sure, you can see that people dress and speak differently, that poverty is the norm and hard work is a must. That’s a given. But we totally understand why Angelina Jolie is always scooping up kids…it’s very hard to not fall in love with them and want to give them more opportunity. But to live with them made us stop having so much white guilt and feeling like they’re living beneath their means and appreciate that they are blessed with such wonderful families, communities and togetherness that we’ll never have. They are filled with joy and love.
Lucia and her brother William entertained us while their mother and grandmother cooked for us. All six of us were in their one room kitchen/living/dining room while their lamb Ñeñe looked on from their patio. They dressed us in traditional garb and took us to a dance where we laughed and sweat and carried on like kids.
We met some really nice people from around the world, hiked a mountain (Pachatata aka “Father Earth”), ate lots of new foods like alpaca and cuy (guinea pig), and I managed to read two books and start a third on my Kindle. So I definitely got every ounce of pleasure and relaxation out of my 11 days. Getting upgraded to first class both to/from Lima/NYC sure helped. I wish I knew the magical reason we were upgraded (TWICE!) but the mystery is unsolved.