So the past few weeks since I´ve actually written a blog have flown by, but I´ll do my best to cover everything that´s happened since then.
Samaipata, which I now realize I didn´t really describe in the last blog, is a beautiful mountain town about 3 hours outside of Santa Cruz which I visited with Cayley, Ivon, and a new volunteer who´d just arrived that week named Chloe Shum. The town itself was amazingly diverse given it´s size and location (it was probably only 3 to 4 football fields long), but what it lacked in size it made up for in charm and natural beauty. El Fuerte, which is one of the oldest archeological sites on the continent, was nestled in a breathe-taking mountain pass. Although it was incredible secluded, I somehow felt more connected to humanity and civilizations past there as I did when I was in Italy a few years ago. The awe-inspiring scenery seemed to open up endless doors for imagination, and brought joy that I didn´t even realize I was missing. On the second day we went to a place called Las Cuevas where we played in pools and water falls for a few hours. I didn´t realize it then, but being in that water and watching rainbows fly out of the mist was one of the most life-giving and happiest things I´ve ever done.
The next week flew by since Cayley and I were getting ready to go to La Paz. I began helping with some theory and basic music classes that are given as a part of the youth orchestra program, and teaching there was surprisingly rejuvenating since all the students actually love what they´re doing and want to be there. Teaching music at the school is difficult because for the most part students see music as just another class that they don´want to pay attention in.
La Paz was an experience I´m not sure that I was physically or mentally prepared for before leaving, but the journey was nevertheless life-changing. The first day was wonderful as the altitude didn´t affect us as much and it wasn´t terribly cold. Our first stop was at a musical instrument museum which Cayley had to drag me out of, and the rest of the day was spent exploring markets and plazas. Fun side note, my first real hosteling experience at a place called Pirwa was awesome, but unfortunately set the bar high for the other accomodations we stayed in which were less than spectacular at the very best.
Monday we spent the morning walking through La Paz again before catching a bus in the afternoon to Copacabana which is on the shore of Lake Titicaca and is a major stopping point between La Paz and Puno, Peru. It was much more touristy than I´d expected, but regardless, the views were spectacular and the thrill of being in another new was exhilirating. That night we met Nate and Jessie, a couple from the US who had just celebrated 500 days of traveling around the world together. We happened to have dinner together and discovered we were staying at the same hostel. Unfortunately I got altitude sickness that night and almost passed out at the dinner table, but luckily Cayley was there to save me, and Nate and Jessie were very understanding. Their journey is both inspiring and incredible daunting to me at the same time. Part of the traveler in me would love to just pick and leave for two years and see the entire world, but it´s also hard to imagine leaving everything behind for that long and not staying in any one place for more than a month or so. It definitely challenges my mission ¨to learn how to be at home in the world,¨but at the same time the fact that they´re 10 years older than me makes a journey like theirs more feasible.
Meeting Nate and Jessie was probably the best thing that happend in our week of traveling, because we all four ended up traveling together for the next 3 days, and their Cayley and I benefitted greatly from their help. On Tuesday we all went to Isla del sol, which is about an hour and a half away by boat from Copacabana and is supposedly the birthplace of the Inca people.Despite being a nightmare at times, it was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. The physical demands of hiking in the cold would have been enough, but add to that hunger, fatigue, and being about 12,000ft. and things start to get messy. About every 5 steps I took I wanted nothing more than to turn around and go sleep in our hostel, but something finally delivered us safely to the top of the island to see a sunset which was too beautiful for words. The look out where we finally stopped was freezing and windy, but observing the world from that point was serene and calming. The immense quiet which pressed upon us from all sides was broken only by the small sounds of the town down below and travelers sharing stories and dreaming. There was (and is still) enough uncertainty in my life at that moment that everything seemed vibrant and exciting, but there was also enough purpose to make me know I was exactly where I needed to be - amidst the ruins of an ancient beginning, and the yearning of dreamers whose lives were unfolding in cascades before them.
Returning to La Paz on Wednesday was difficult, but Thursday we were able to revist several markets and favorite places before returning to Santa Cruz that evening. Since I was awake for more of that flota ride it became extremely surreal to watch one landscape melt into another ina place so completely foreign. Thinking back now, the most striking aspect of La Paz was feeling like a complete outsider. Even though it´s the same country, I felt much more singled out as a foreigner there than I do in Santa Cruz. (I´m frequently asked if I´m Cruceña, which makes me quite happy.) It´s obvious that the cultures are very different between the two regions here, and it´s something I´ll have to continue to be aware and careful of.
As I mentioned in my last blog, Friday´s rehearsal was a disaster, but luckily I recovered enough on Satruday to have a good performance on Sunday. They Selmer Mark II also ended up being in poor condition, and I only got it 15 minutes before the concert, but after finishing my solo and seeing the smiles on peoples´faces, that didn´t matter at all. The saddest part about Sunday was that Cayley left to go home. I CANNOT imagine what this trip would have been like without her, and it´s been strange not having her here this week. It´s amazing how close people can become in 4 weeks, but I guess when you´re traveling you´re able to see people for who they really are. I know we´ll see each other again eventually, but we were both crying when she left for the airport. That and hearing of my Tio Jorge´s death in El Salvador made for a difficult weekend, but luckily Chloe and I have been getting closer, and there are now 3 new volunteers working with the orchestra who I am now late to meet for coffee. Hopefully meeting them will open up some new opportunities to volunteeer during my last few weeks in Santa Cruz, but for now I can only wait and wish and wonder….
Until next time!