11–20 of 20 entries from the month of: September 2006

Te Quiero Mucho, Machu

September 19th

Machu Picchu is one of my most favorite places in the world. Its architectural brilliance alone leaves one in wonder. The weather provides amazing, changing views. The llamas keep the grass trim.

Looking down on MP
used to be homes
MP terraces
MP, great
Lone tree

Kelli, Machu Picchu


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Peru — where the soda is called Inca Cola

September 18th

Welcome to Peru

Let’s cross the border into Peru already, shall we?

Alma and Kelli on the Bolivian Peruvian border

Alma and I were fresh off the bus from La Paz in this photo, standing on the border and wondering if we were crazy to have just agreed to drive all the way to Cusco that day. The bus ticket was only $15, but the ride was 14 hours long, with few to no stops and no restroom on the bus. We were entertained, however, with vendors who would board every now and then selling their wares. Most were selling warm food, including grilled llama and guinea pig. We held our bladders and our hunger until we arrived at our destination.

Lake Titicaca with Andes in the background

Lake Titicaca is beautiful. And huge. And apparently very cold. While we didn’t visit the floating islands, we were able to see some incredible views from the bus.

Peruvian women, before and After

One of my favorite photos from the trip. A view of old and new Peru, via the women and their dress.

Licorice for the first time

I feel like this little boy should have had a sign that read, “Kelli was here.” I gave him a piece of red licorice and he was ohsopleased. He and his mother rode next to me for several hours on one of the bus trips.

Weaving his bag

I met this man on a different Peruvian bus. He was weaving a bag he planned to sell in the market.

A man weaves a bag while riding on the bus
Mural in Ollantaybamba municipal building4

Colorful mural in the Ollantaytambo Municipal Office.

Incan warrior, Aguas Calientes

Statue in Aguas Calientes, Peru. I teased Alma this was her Incan warrior boyfriend. It was funny the first time, but apparently not the 100th.


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Bolivia: The Polaroid Project

September 15th

New mama, with her new baby
New mother, with her still developing photo on the pillow. She is 26 and this is her fourth baby. The knitted cap came from a knitting guild in Phoenix.

The Polaroid Project started after my first trip to Nicaragua in 2002 when I visited a maternity ward that left much to be desired. I returned two years later with a suitcase full of onesies for the new moms and a camera loaded with film. They may be returning to poverty postpartum, but I was determined they would be doing it with more than just a hungry baby. A photo of their family’s new addition went over very well. Each trip since, I’ve been sure to carry my Polaroid camera and hand out photos often and generously.

Dork takes Polaroid photos
Smile! Don’t touch that spot. And no, don’t shake it like a Polaroid pickcha’.

When I put out the request for film in July, I immediately received more than a dozen email asking where it should be sent, how much could I take, etc? It was a fantastic response. I was able to take more than 100 photos on this trip — some of new mothers, some of children, all well appreciated — and came home with film for my next trip to Africa.
The Polaorid Project
She watched with a smile as her photo with her American surgeon developed.

Bolivians think I can work some sort of crazy photo magic. Needless to say, they had never seen a Polaroid camera before and would squeal with delight as they watched their photos develop. At first, they didn’t want me to take their photos. The indigenous Quechuan groups believe that a photo takes away a bit of the spirit. When I explained they would be given the photo, they couldn’t line up quickly enough. They were laughing, pointing, passing the photos around. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a group of people as happy.
Children show their polaroid photos
Everyone wanted one. Alas, I had group them together to conserve.

So thank you. Again to everyone who contributed and to everyone who wished me well. Next week — Peru and Ecuador and then I promise we’ll return to the previously scheduled crafting and political blogging.

Bolivian woman shows off her Bolivian bolsita
The Bolivian Bolsita project was also a bit hit.

Cactus Knitting Guild
As were the 100 knitted items I hauled down and distributed from my knitting guild. Such a fun trip!

Happy weekend everyone,

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Bolivian Barbie, The Collector’s Edition

September 13th

One of the coolest cultural experiences I’ve ever had came two weeks ago when I was visiting a women’s cooperative in the high plains of rural Bolivia. We’d driven for hours on a dirt road to finally reach a tiny town, surrounded by dry, rolling hills covered with dusty sheep. Once our vehicle pulled up to the stucco building, children and women appeared from nowhere, surrounding the vehicle and busying themselves to prepare for our visit. They knew I was coming; I had no idea what a big deal my visit was to them.
The women participating in this project are learning how to spin, dye and weave wool, as their grandmothers did years ago. Their handicrafts are being sold in high-end shops in the larger cities and they are, of course, looking for an energetic American girl to take their ideas and products to the US to be sold in an even more lucrative market. Enter that energetic — and rather blind to the situation — American girl.

Kelli's Pictures 023
Me: Oooh, pretty yarn! I love yarn! Did y’all know I knit?
Them: My God this is going to be easy. We haven’t even said anything yet and she loves us.

Kelli's Pictures 036
Me: Wow! Look at you weaving! That is so cool. I’d love to learn how to do that.
Her: Weaving? I’m not just weaving. Did you see the kid on my back. This isn’t a hobby, girlfriend. This is a career.

Kelli's Pictures 051
Me: What is that great smell? Man, I love Bolivia. You guys even smell good!
Them: Um, crazy white girl, it isn’t us. It’s that giant pot over there. You know, the one boiling eucalyptus for our plant dyes.

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Me: Get out! You guys know how to dye your own yarn too? Do you know that people in the US would seriously pay top dollar for this kind of work?
Them: Why no. We. Had. No. Idea. (wink, nudge.)

Kelli's Pictures 043
Them: Hey! You know what we should do? Dress you up in the local wear. You should put some of these clothes we’ve woven on, and then we’ll take your photo.
Me: Um, well. That’s okay. I can see them from here. Really, it isn’t necessary.

Kelli's Pictures 067
Me: Oh, well then. Okay. Just be careful not to, Ouch. Oh. Man, these clothes weigh a ton.
Them: (Not so stifled laughter.)

Kelli's Pictures 054
Them: Good grief she is huge. Round up the kids. They are going to want to see this.

Kelli's Pictures 061
Kids: We heard something about a white giant dressed up in local gear?

Kelli's Pictures 078
Me: I’m not so sure why they are laughing, but this is pretty cool after all. Note to self: send photos to women’s group. Find market for their awesome goods.

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South America: Food

September 12th

This week I’m just posting photos from the trip. I gained 11 pounds in three weeks — mostly from lack of exercise, drinking soda instead of questionable water, and enjoying way too much bread. Oh, the bakeries in South America, how my hips love thee.

*UPDATED* — Photo captions added. Sorry for the previous confusion. Yes, those are chicken feet!

The open air market of Tarija

The typical open-air market of Bolivia. This one is in Tarija.

Pretty and colorful corn.

Lemon pastries, Ecuador
Yummy lemon pastries.

chicken feet
Chicken feet. I’m not sure what they are used for, but I’d guess to season soup.

a thousand kinds of pasta
A thousand kinds of pasta, made right there in Bolivia. They love their carbs just like anyone else.

Paprika. One of the many bright spices sold by the kilo in the markets.

cookies and grains
Cookies and grains. I didn’t buy any of these because they were right next to the meat stand, which was swarming with flies.

chiles and spices
Chiles and spices. No, JT, this is not pot. I’m pretty sure it is oregano.

chicken in the market
Chicken d’jour, with the entrails hanging out for the fun of it.


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Bolivia: Women & Children

September 11th

A few of the beautiful faces I saw in Bolivia:

Bolivian Women and Children

Bolivian Women and Children

Bolivian Women and Children

Bolivian Women and Children

Bolivian Women and Children

Bolivian Women and Children

Bolivian Women and Children

Bolivian Women and Children

Bolivian Women and Children

Bolivian Women and Children


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September 9th

I’m home! And the first thing I did when I got to Miami, other than run like mad for my next flight, was enjoy a large cup of soft serve yogurt (without worrying about the dairy source) and three fluff magazines (Us Weekly, Oprah, Real Simple. No more Us Weekly for me. I don‚Äôt care that Jessica Simpson got dumped by John Mayer. What a waste of my money.) Then I sat myself in front of Wolf Blitzer for a few moments of the CNN scroll before being herded on to the next air bus. Ms. USA, I know I bash you from time to time, but the truth is, I love you. Your customer service; your kindness toward providing me clean drinking water, from the tap, for free; your racial diversity; your religious diversity; your sexual equality that allows me to wear shorts without being a deviant. How I’ve missed thee, land that I love.

Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador are three countries smashed together geographically, like children in the back of a station wagon on family vacation who simply cannot wait to get out and tell you exactly how they are different from each other. When you study their faces, you see they are more alike than they’d like to admit. However, their interests and talents vary.
My favorite: Bolivia. Granted, I spent the most time in this country and I made true friendships with my coworkers, but I think any budget traveler just passing through would appreciate the country’s friendliness, cleanliness and ease of travel. I started my adventures with a volunteer surgical team from the US that was providing free surgeries to those in outlying regions. I got to sit in and help. The first stop was Entre Rios, a rural farming community four hours from Tarija, Bolivia, in the southern portion of the country. People in this area grow potatoes (said to be natively from Bolivia. They have more than 200 varieties in most major markets), corn, beans, peanuts and of course, the popular coca leaf.

boy, yellow shirt, Entre Rios drive

It is always the children I fall in love with. They are curious, friendly and sweet. This little boy lived in a small thatch roof home off a dirt road between Tarija and Entre Rios, Bolivia. His father is a rock carver. While the people I was traveling with stopped to admire the father’s artistry, I passed out candy to his children.

Woman, Entre Rios, waiting for surgery

Isn’t she beautiful? Her hat and wool shawl are typical clothing for indigenous women in Bolivia. She was at the hospital waiting to see if we could provide her with a hernia repair. We did. I have all my stories mixed up at this point, but most of the patients walked for more than 12 hours, in pain I cannot imagine, to seek out care.

trying to play doctorita, entre rios

The doctors at the hospital kept calling me “Doctorcita” and I didn’t correct them. It sounds nice and trying to explain “public health practitioner” in my native language is difficult enough. Here I am doing an initial interview with a couple seeking care. The woman had several hernias she needed repaired, including one from a c-section more than 20 years prior.

woman selling veggies -- love of Bolivia, Entre Rios

I enjoy finding and photographing the food markets when I travel. While the fruits and vegetables are typically the same regardless of where I visit — I chalk this up to proximity to the equator, ease of growth and globalization — the people are not. How great is this woman, with her long gray braids?

me and the peeps in front of the hospital

Several of the volunteer medical team, hanging out in front of the hospital. Do you see that little boy wedged between me and Patrick? He was filthy and kept coughing on me, but wouldn’t let me go. I wanted to give him a bath and put some vapo-rub on his chest. Alas, a peppermint was all I had to offer.

Thanks again for all of your support of my travels. I have had a wonderful month and am so happy to be home. I’ll be posting photos in bits for the next few weeks, including many happy shots of Polaroid Project and the Bolivian Bolsita project recipients. Off to catch up on all your blogs now!


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So the weird thing about Ecuador

September 6th

Is that it is so similar to the United States, but everyone speaks Spanish. For being just one country north of Peru, Ecuador couldn’t be more different. To start, they use the American dollar as their currency. The people are racially diverse and there are tons of foreigners here. The food is all Americanized, with KFC and McDonalds no less.
And to this point, the people, not so friendly. I’m not loving Quito.
Tomorrow, we escape this giant city and head to the “middle of the world,” and a tour of the Amazon. Sounds like a perfect way to end this South American adventure. Friday, I’m on the first flight back to the US, and in all sincerity, it cannot come soon enough. I am homesick, bagelsick, gymsick and more than anything, friendsick. I can’t wait to gab with my mom and my girlfriends and get back to my routine.

Machu Picchu? Cannot wait to return. It was incredible in every sense. It is one of the most spiritual places I’ve ever visited and is a bit like seeing the ocean or the Grand Canyon for the first time. You just can’t believe what is before your eyes.
I was the first person on top of the mountain Monday morning and had about 2 minutes before the ruins beneath me were climbing with tourists. I cherished every second, taking photos, praying and feeling more in tune with the earth than I have in a long time. I was huffing and puffing by the time I reached the top, but with a cool mist rolling in (that turned into a miserable storm) and a light breeze on my back, my time with Ms. Machu was pretty much perfect.
Next time, I’ll hike the Inca Trail and skip Aguas Calientes.

One of my many travel notes if you are planning on visiting South America — bring lots and lots of dollars. Each country likes to hit up the international travelers when they move on to the next spot. Both Peru and Ecuador charge $35 just to leave the airports and I’m pretty sure Bolivia does too, but since we crossed the border via bus, we missed it.
To put that $35 in perspective, most meals at restaurants cost $2 and my most expensive hostal/hotel room has been $15 per night. Their international travel fees are bogus and I’m sure do nothing more than feed the corruption that runs rampant in these governments.

Enough with the negativity. Manana — rainforest! Friday — home!!
Life es bueno,

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When bravery runs out, count on faith

September 3rd

Traveling to La Paz and meeting Alma at our hostel sounded great in theory. Taking a taxi in the dark from the airport for 30 minutes into a gaint, dirty city of 3 million people to find a hotel the size of a postage stamp left me in the back seat of the tiny old car praying my guts out. I have no idea how many “Our Fathers¬¥¬¥ it took, but thankfully the taxista was honest and I arrived safely. Alma was waiting. The hostel was clean. All was great.
We left yesterday morning first thing for Peru. We traveled 14 hours by bus and arrived in Cusco late last night, exhausted and cursing the size of South American bus seats. Again, I am not Amazonian in size. My height is very much American and I have bruises on my shins from the seat in front of me for proof. But the drive was incredible, with amazing views of the teal Lake Titicaca, snowcapped Andean mountains, hearders tending to their animals on the mountainsides, etc. Once the stars came out, it was like our bus was being guided into the city of Cusco, where we were greeted by cobblestone streets, giant looming Cathedrals on every corner and warm, friendly people. I am so cautious when I travel that I am just not used to having people tell me the truth and not take advantage of the fact that I usually have no idea of where I am or where I am going. This has not been the case on this trip. So far, Bolivians and Peruvians are some of the sweetest, most hospitable people I´ve ever met. To the point that I tried to pay dollars for our first hostel when the bill was in Bolivianos. The clerk handed me back more than $80. Love that.
Thank God for honesty and the golden rule.
I have a train ticket in hand for Machu Picchu. We are leaving this morning and will return tomorrow night. The idea is to see the sunrise from the Sacred Valley tomorrow. I feel like I¬¥m living a current day “Motorcycle Diaries¬¥¬¥ of sorts, minus the communism.

I can´t wait to return one day to Cusco, by plane, and spend weeks here. Considering I arrived less than 10 hours ago, that tells you something about the charm of this Incan capital.


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I feel like a WB Sitcom

September 1st

I am just so happy, I can´t stop smiling. I love traveling. I love being in a foreign country. I love not wearing a lick of makeup and pulling my wet hair into a pony tail each morning without a second thought. I love giving nearly everything I´ve brought away to people who could really use it and stuffing all my possessions into one small backpack. I love buying breakfast on the street for a few cents and living such a simple way of life.

I love that I will be in my own bed one week from today.

Life in Bolivia is good. The food, a bit too good. I¬¥ve eaten myself silly in the last two weeks. They make great bread in this country and when everything else has made my stomach go a bit haywire, bread has come to the rescue — a good five pounds of rescue, I am guessing by the snuggness of my jeans. The wine is great. Last night, after a bit of this and that from four different bottles from a local winery, I stumbled out of my chair at a Cuban restaurant and remembered that I¬¥m at a much higher altitude and the drunk, stumbling gringa isn¬¥t as cute in person as she thinks she is after yet another “vaso de pinot, por favor.¬¥¬¥ Speaking of the Cuban restaurant, have you ever had ropa vieja? Wow. Hands down my new favorite food of all time. It is pulled beef that is marinated with magical spices — a bit like machaca without the bite. It is so, so good. And I loved the giant portion of rice and beans. Bolivians aren¬¥t terribly keen on beans, so it was a nice change the bread routine. Me likey Cuban food in Bolivia.
Today, a day of wandering the markets and checking email and avoiding work because I´m on vacay baby! I´m off to La Paz tonight and Peru tomorrow. I am counting my lucky stars to have this opportunity. I am just so goofy happy, I feel like I should have a soundtrack playing behind me as I wander the streets of South America with arms outstretched. I really am in seventh heaven.


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