Cuzco, Peru

From the large-scale professional festival of Abrapalabra, from living and sharing with numerous performers from around the world I embark on ‘the other side’ of touring. My arrival in Cuzco heralds a shift in my travels. Firstly it is cold. Very cold. I have to put on most of the clothes that have with me. Cuzco is high altitude and I was unsuspecting of all that entails. Thankfully my bag did arrive!

On my arrival in Cuzco I am met personally by the director of this festival, Wayqui. The festival is in its 3rd year and growing. It is a touring festival and a creation from his heart. Overall we are a team of 5 or 6 and we will become like family.

Wayqui, Cuzco

Wayqui, Cuzco

Miguel, Cuzco

Miguel, Cuzco

Nino Mirones, Storyteller, Mime artist Cuzco

Nino Mirones, Storyteller, Mime artist Cuzco

I have a day for acclimatisation, so we take the chance to walk, look, share and eat. Peruvians LOVE their food and with good reason.

Cuzco touches you with colour, smiles, indigenous faces, history, destruction, survival and pride. Walking through the streets of Cuzco I was struck by the dignity of the cultures here. Peru has managed to maintain historic and cultural identities with strength. Not everyone speaks Spanish and the Indigenous freely speak their own language with pride: in the market place, in the streets, amongst each other.

I feel buoyed by the sound of their language floating above and around me. I feel comfort in not understanding rather than stress that can occur in other countries/situations. The beggars, the sellers, they do not accost. They smile. They draw you into their world with a smile and warmth and then introduce you to what they have to sell – a photo with them, a doll, or information about the rocks you are standing on. The market stall holders were gorgeous. I have a video of one explaining the significance of symbols, stones, giving me gifts.

My welcome to Cuzco is heartfelt, with warmth and openness by the local population. I feel the weight of history around me and a multiple examples of how it can be negotiated. Overall I feel the strength of culture. I am very happy to be in Cuzco.

Serpent rocks, Cuzco

Serpent rocks, Cuzco

Mercardo, Cuzco

Mercardo, Cuzco

Mercardo Centro de San Pedro, Cuzco

Mercardo Centro de San Pedro, Cuzco

Opportunities

Ok lets be honest, my first day/night here I was a bit of a sook. I felt inferior as the only real non-Spanish speaker and I doubted my ability to pull this off.  A good night sleep and contact with my family helped me to return to a much healthier perspective (thank goodness).

Events of the past two days that make my heart beat deeper, slower and feel fulfilled.

Breakfast

Someone else cooks me breakfast everyday. For a mother of three this is, in its own right, a holiday. Not only that its eggs and arepa (tortilla). I am one happy girl.

Family audiences

I have now done two families shows in the park. The kids, parents and grandparents are ridiculously warm, accepting and gracious. I am telling in Spanish (no translator) and they help with words when they can. They get involved in the songs, they accompany me in the story repetition. The sharing and connection is simply amazing.

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My language

I am telling in Spanish – well Spanglish and LOVING it. I am enjoying it as a challenge that both scares and excites me, prior to each event. The sense of satisfaction when I have finished a show is deep.

The festival community

There is easy and immediate warmth between the storytellers and the organisers/workers here at the festival. From day one I have felt friendships begin and grow. There is a lot of music, laughter and warmth. One of my roommates has lent me a dress to wear as it’s too hot for jeans. Another plays guitar or mandolin for us all while we eat or chat. We walk together, travel together and support each other. The organisers and the people who transport us, make sure the tent is set up, the sound, bring water, take us for coffee, etc, etc. They are tired, working very hard and always incredibly kind, smiling and personable. It’s this community they have created nurtures and inspires me personally and in my creative ventures.

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Rediscovering my nature

And finally the most important. This is hard to explain but I am a touchy feely person by nature. It is something that I have to suppress, as most Australians are not comfortable with it. Here all people are touchy feely, men, women, children. It is great. I can feel myself loosening up and responding from my heart as every minute passes. I had not realised how much I hold back.

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Bucaramanga, Colombia

Whilst travel offers many moments of magic it also creates challenges that test your perception of self. This has been my ‘arrival’ experience.

My flight from Buenos Aires to Bogota went very well. I had four seats to stretch out on and I slept soundly. Bogota was my entry into the country of stay so the place where I face customs. Well, the place I would have faced customs, if I received any bags. Yep, the lost bag scenario.

Speaking in Spanish is a challenge for me. One that I love. Filling out official forms and dealing with organisations is also a challenge. One that I do not love. Put them together on top of 27 hours of transit … Well lets call it a lesson in the art of acceptance.

On to Bucaramanga. with no bag. That’s no clothes to change into, no shampoo, no musical instruments and worst of all, no puppets and I have to get on stage in three hours. By this time I have had 36 hours in transit in total and only a few moments of sleep. 

Needless to say I go to the hotel, meet my room mates and have myself a ‘princess moment’. I mean, really, right now I would like a room of my own to have a personal breakdown in. I want to Skype my family who I am missing and I want to shower and have clothes to change into and id like to lay down on a big bed and have a siesta.

Instead I am given a festival shirt, change and to the shops with me. Now truth be known, I hate shopping malls. Give me a market any day, things that are hand made, crafted, where you meet and buy from those that care. Shopping mall hell armed with a coffee ensues as I buy underwear, toiletries and look for something to wear that night on stage. I am taller than most Colombians and flatter than ALL Colombianas. There were no clothes. A new shirt and same old jeans and to the theatre with me.

I am fourth on the list and have not done a sound check but there is no time for that. I have not eaten but there is no time for that. The theatre is packed. Absolutely packed with lovely warm, welcoming people. I take my spot when the time comes and my interpreter doesn’t. I present my first story in Colombia to a totally Spanish speaking audience in my Spanglish. And the main thing I can think is “Why didn’t I study harder before I came?!”

So here’s to all the bilingual, trilingual and amazing linguists of the world. I salute you. When I get home I promise to study harder.

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