The town of Pisac (Pisaq) is one of my favorite places in the Sacred Valley. I fell in love with Pisac the first time I came five years ago, and have fallen more in love with it ever since. It’s about 45 minutes from Cusco city and about 15 minutes from Casa De Milagros. Pisac is known for its amazing ruins, and for its popular artisan market. The entire town is lined with ancient Inca agricultural terraces that are still in use today, and the ruins provide an impressive backdrop to the town below. I’ve visited the ruins about 3 times, and there is still so much more for me to see and learn…
Impressive ruins and all, what I really love about Pisac is the market…and the people. Pisac has always been an artisan town with a rich and beautiful tradition of local artisans and vendors that produce everything from handmade silver to pottery and textiles.
Since arriving back in Peru, I’ve been to Pisac several times – mostly for Casa business such as grocery shopping and buying supplies we just can’t get in our little town of Lamay. But it’s also become my day-off destination…where I come to just feel peaceful and happy, and to enjoy a lovely afternoon…
I’ve found my favorite little spots to have lunch or dinner, such as Ulrike’s Cafe, the Blue Llama and the Pisac Inn. My favorite activity in Pisac is to sit out on the street in front of the Pisac Inn – right in the main corner/hub of the market – with a delicious Pisco Sour, and just people watch. There is a fabulous energy to Pisac, and it just seems to draw the coolest people…both tourists and vendors are some of the happiest folk you’ll meet in Peru. Of course I have my go-to vendors for a variety of beautiful handmade goods, and when I can I love to support them.
I just spent a couple of days shopping for gifts for my upcoming visit to the states, and was reminded how much I love this town! ;-) So I thought I’d share a few of my pictures of Pisac over the past few years…Enjoy!
Being out of my element, dealing with the transition and stress of the task at hand, and weathering the intensity of Cusco winter season has taken its toll on me physically and emotionally. I knew I needed to do something to care for myself…of course yoga is always the best medicine to tune in and love myself.
Oh how my body misses yoga…
Saturdays tend to be a mixed bag around Casa – usually tons of housecleaning, studying, and some sort of group activity. I have been so busy with the business side of things around Casa this past week, and I really haven’t had as much time as I’d like to hang out with the kids. So I thought I’d invite them to come and do some yoga with me. I ended up getting a larger than expected turn out, and was surprised at what a great yoga teacher I proved to be…;-)
Here’s a shot of the kids learning “Downward Facing Dog”…Yoga made even sweeter with great company :-)
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This past week I had the pleasure of meeting the most amazing couple who founded and run a medical clinic here in the Sacred Valley in our neighboring town of Coya (Qoya). Their clinic is called Kausay Wasi, and they offer general medicine, dentistry, gynecology, obstetrics, operating facilities, and currently offer the only fully functioning x-ray lab in the entire Sacred Valley. In addition to their general care services that are offered 7 days a week, Kausay Wasi hosts between 12-15 visiting Volunteer U.S. Medical teams a year. Volunteer doctors have worked with Association Pro Salud Calca since 2003 and have operated on children with hearing difficulties, restored sight to elderly people blinded by cataracts, conducted orthopedic, cleft lip, palate, and reconstructive facial surgeries for burn and accident victims.
The founders, Guido and Sandy Del Prado, graciously invited the children and I to come and take part in the Optometry Campaign they were hosting this week in partnership with a wonderful group of expert optical care physicians from the United States. This group came as part of the non-profit, VOSH International, a non-profit dedicated to facilitating the provision and the sustainability of vision care worldwide for people who can neither afford nor obtain such care.
Casa De Milagros has always provided the best medical care possible to our children, however, funds and access to quality care are a constant challenge here in Peru. This was an incredible opportunity for the children, and for 10 soles ($3.50) each, they each received an expert eye exam, eye glass prescription, and free eyeglasses for those that needed them. I knew some of our children needed them, but was shocked that 9 of our kids left with brand new, much needed prescription eyeglasses.
One of our older boys, Belisario, was found to have an eye infection that the doctors said he might have had for quite some time, and was diagnosed as having an extreme light sensitivity. He was given some medication to clear up the infection, as well as 2 pairs of extra dark sunglasses to protect his sensitive eyes from the intense Andean sun. Each of the kids left with a brand new pair of sunglasses, and were very grateful for the amazing care and generosity from both Kausay Wasi staff and all of the wonderful VOSH volunteers.
On behalf of all of us at Casa De Milagros, MUCHAS GRACIAS!!! :-)
About Clinica Kausay Wasi:
Asociacion Civil Promotora de Salud Social Pro Salud Calca is a registered Peruvian non-governmental non-profit organization founded by Guido and Sandy Del Prado to provide basic health and dental care to thousands of Peru’s poorest people. Guido is a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer and former Peace Corps Director. Sandy is a former Peace Corps Volunteer and USAID Health Project Officer.
Kausai Wasi provides General Medicine that is available at the Clinic seven days a week. They also offer Gynecological exams, Dental, Physical therapy Prosthetics General medicine are also available on a daily basis and pharmaceuticals are available at very low cost or provided free of charge to those who cannot afford to purchase them.
Over 100,000 low income patients have been provided with quality care over the past five years. Their General Practitioners see approximately 500 patients a week.
For more information, please visit their website at www.kausaywasi.org
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Officially landed here at Casa on Wednesday after a couple of weeks in Lima and on my Qoyllurit’i adventure…
Was welcomed with warm and loving arms – the kids and staff have been so wonderful. The first day I arrived, Mama Yeni and Michael gathered a group to come and clean my house…I joined in and we spent a few hours wiping off cobwebs, dust, and unpacking my suitcases…at one point I looked up and noticed a beautiful painting, and smiled as I realized it was of Mama Kia and her dear friend and “sister”, Nikki. It was as if they were extending their arms and welcoming me home…;-)
In a lot of ways, it feels like I never left. Then I realize how much has changed since last time I lived here – two years ago exactly. So much life I’ve lived since then, so many wonderful people that have come into my life and so much growth…and then I look around here and see so much loss…
I have a huge list of to-do’s and a lot of work to do. Trying not to feel overwhelmed and let myself enjoy the experience – not let it feel so “heavy”…when I do start to feel the anxiety build I try to remind myself to just look up – take in the beauty and power of the “Apus” (Mountains) around me, the magic of the Sacred Valley skies, and the immense energy all around…not to mention the kids’ love…soak it in, let it fill me and give me strength.
Welcoming me “home”…
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Last November, I went back to Peru for my grandmother’s 80th birthday. It was my first time back in over a year, and it was a full two weeks of mostly family, but also a short but sweet visit back to Casa and the kids.
As usual, leaving Peru was very hard, but that time it felt even harder. I really felt like I was leaving behind where I was supposed to be…when I got back I had a very clear message that I needed to go back – not just to visit, but to begin building a life there. Ever since I can remember, I have dreamed of having a life in both worlds; a lifestyle that allowed me to divide my time between Peru and the states. My trip to Peru 3 years ago planted a very big seed, and I came back from that trip being very clear about the 3 things I needed in order to make my dream happen: acquire my citizenship, finish my college degree, and build a virtual business that I could run from anywhere in the world…Check, check, and pretty much check ;-)
Obviously it is not easy to think about leaving my life here in the states…I have a beautiful life, wonderful friends and family, and lots of things I would be leaving behind.
Was I being irresponsible?
Was I just trying to see the grass as greener?
Was I making a mistake?
I talked about it with many of my closest friends and family, and in the process, came to realize that my calling to Peru is indeed a very grounded one. While there are always risks involved with any big change or move – there are undeniable opportunities for me in Peru, on every level. I started seeing how much has been lining up for me there over the past few years. I then decided that I would make it happen within the year, and not stress about when and how, but just to set the intention and let it go…
The past few months have been an amazing time of self reflection and inspiration. Beautiful people and resources have shown up for me in big and small ways…the signs are everywhere :-) I began working with a dear friend and colleague, Anne Martin, who is a Marcia Weider certified Dream Coach, “Reinvention Specialist”, and was finishing her certification in a performance coaching program. She offered me 3 months of complimentary coaching, which I enthusiastically accepted. What an amazing gift! Anne was such a wonderful mentor and guide through a process of rediscovering my dreams, and the vision that I have for my life. She walked me through a process of revisiting what I had dreamed of as a little girl, all of the little blocks and negative experiences along my journey that had made my vision a bit blurry over the years, and to tune into what I was feeling NOW. She helped me to create a vision for the life I wanted to manifest as of today, one that incorporates all of the pieces of me and who I want to become. I created an essence statement: “I AM EMPOWERMENT”. That one little exercise shifted how I began to see myself in my life and business, and how I wanted to show up from here on out. I saw how that related to all of the roles in my life that were the most meaningful to me – coaching little girls in basketball, working with the kids at Casa De Milagros, and teaching my clients how to be more successful. I love helping people see their true potential!!!
This time has also been incredibly fruitful professionally, as the process of creativity and reinvention began to show up in my business as well. My other friend and colleague, Tammi Spruill of Fruition Branding has been an invaluable source of inspiration and support as I set out to redefine my business from the inside out, and bring more of “me” into it. She holds such a wonderful, safe space for creativity and helping you develop the foundations of your business from a creative perspective. The work I did with Tammi helped me figure out how I wanted my business to look and feel to people, and what I wanted it to represent. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Tammi. ;-)
Little by little I felt myself moving closer and closer to Peru…I knew it was about to happen, but until now, I also knew I couldn’t make any firm decisions quite yet. I just kept meditating, journaling, talking to friends & family, focusing on being present, surrendering, trusting, and allowing the universe to guide me where I was supposed to be…
About a month ago, mi amigo Carsten officially offered me the role of Executive Director of Beyond Volunteering, and I accepted! In a nutshell, Beyond Volunteering helps source volunteers from all over the world, place them where they will be most suited to their interests and skills, do all of the coordination in Peru, and takes care of them when they arrive so that they have a safe, rewarding and mutually fulfilling experience. My job is to help raise awareness of BV, grow their online presence to reach more people, and generally make the whole project more successful by helping both the non profits in Peru find more quality volunteers, and by assuring that the volunteers going to Peru have more positive, meaningful experiences. I couldn’t ask for a more rewarding project, and I am thrilled to be on board. :-)
Pretty much that same week, I started getting back in touch with the directors of Casa De Milagros. Without going into too many details, the situation over the past month has become very dire as the Casa has lost not only their interim directors and leadership team, but also their primary source of funding. They have approximately 3 months worth of funds left and no certainty as to what will happen after that. I have been asked to come down and do what I can to help rebuild Casa, raise funds, develop a work/volunteer program, and create a sustainable organization once and for all. I have my work cut out for me…but I am ready…;-)
This was the final “sign” that I need to be in Peru right now…I am following my heart, and trying to stay as grounded as possible while being open to the path that is unfolding. This is a major practice in TRUST! ;-) I am allowing for the evolution of my life and business, and even though it might feel like a bit of a shift in priorities, I realize that this is exactly what I have envisioned my entire life! I always pictured myself doing meaningful work in Peru, and empowering those in need. I feel so blessed to have that opportunity present itself now…and I say YES!
For now, I will continue to work with a few of my existing clients so that I can supplement my time there and support myself, without placing a burden on the Casa. However, I know that the task at hand is going to require a lot of my time and energy and realistically may not leave me enough time to take on much client work over the next few months.
So I have put together a fundraising effort to help with my travel and living expenses, and also to purchase some much needed technology equipment for Casa. If you feel compelled to help by donating or helping spread the word – please CLICK HERE.
Also – once again I am looking for a home for my beautiful, adorable, and extremely loveable baby Bonita…so if you know any loving cat people who could use a fluffy pillow for a few months, let me know! ;-)
Love and blessings to you my friends and family – I love you all and can’t wait to share my experiences and developments with Casa & Beyond Volunteering with you very soon…stay tuned! xoxo
One whole year.
The project took on a “full circle” feel in more than one way. Not only did I go through stuff that had been tucked away over the past year – I went through boxes of documents and random stuff from when I first came to the Bay Area as an innocent, naive 18 year old; my time at Menlo College; and the many chapters ever since…
It was surreal to think of all of the years that have passed – how some moments feel like a faint memory, and some feel like they were just yesterday. Memories came flooding back, and I was in awe at how much can fit into 13 years. It can be a bit jarring, and definitely stirred up some emotions. Mostly it made me just take a moment to take stock, and to appreciate the journey I have been on; one that has in many ways come full circle this past year.
Almost thirteen years ago I came to the Bay Area with no money, no support, and no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I was going to see the world outside of my small town, and get a college degree. I had no idea my academic journey would (like most journeys in life) not be a linear one.A year and a half ago, after several detours, I returned to San Francisco State University; resolute in my purpose and determined to finish what I started. I thought I was in it for a piece of paper – but had no idea it would come to mean so much more. I could go on and on about how much more meaningful the learning was this time around, and how pleasantly surprised I was to meet such wonderful friends along the way…even if most of them were too young to remember M.C. Hammer ;-p The point is, I did it. I finally did it, and you know what? It feels even better than it would have when I was 22. I will be walking in my graduation ceremony on May 21, 2011; and that feels just perfect…
I remember struggling with the choice to come back and finish my last semester, or stay at Casa de Milagrosto help out during the difficult months of organizational transition. A huge part of me wanted to stay, as there was a huge need for my support, and love. I figured, “I’ve waited this long, what’s one more semester??” But in my heart, I knew that I needed to come back and finish. I could not let another 6 months, year, or decade go by, as I have learned how easily that can happen in life…It was a very difficult choice, and I struggled with a lot of guilt and sadness. But I did return, and threw myself into school taking 5 classes this past Fall. I don’t know how, but I made it through; with straight A’s no less…
A year of challenges, hard work, uncertainty, inspiration, soul searching, value defining, and faith walking…Today I feel energized by yesterday’s “purge” – I feel lighter, and more open to the possibilities and new beginnings; of the season, and of my life…
One year ago I bought an orchid. I got her at the Farmer’s Market – I found the perfect one with gorgeous, white, blooming flowers! And then, as orchids do, she sloughed away her beautiful flowers, and she was left to nothing more than stems. I have never maintained an orchid, and have a notorious “black thumb” when it comes to plants. Part of me wanted to throw her away and just buy a new one next year; I thought it was such waste of time for something so ugly, taking up space, and besides, I didn’t even know if the investment of energy would pay off. What if she didn’t bloom? What if it was all for nothing?? I was sure that my attempts at keeping her alive were futile, but I kept watering her anyway – once a week, every week (well, most weeks…) And I waited.
Last week she sprouted buds. At first, I didn’t realize that’s what they were – not only because I was convinced I was incapable of keeping a precious orchid alive, but also because I couldn’t believe it had been one year.
This weekend she bloomed ;-) Two beautiful, white, perfect flowers; to be followed by at least ten others by the look of it…Orchids have always been my favorite flower, because they are so precious, so rare, and so worth the wait… ;-)
So much can happen in one year, and all of it is part of the beautiful journey that is our lifetime.
There will be “good” years, and there will seem to be “bad” ones…but it’s all important, and it’s all necessary. The challenges, the uncertainty, the walks of faith, and the times of heads-down hard work – it’s all “worth it!”
At the end of every Winter comes Spring; and with every Spring comes the bloom…May your Spring be beautiful and full of new life, new energy, and a fruitful “bloom”.
Lots and lots of light and love,
I miss Peru. And today it hit me like a ton of bricks how much I miss the kids and the entire family at Casa…;-(
While my time in Peru was not without challenging moments – at the end of the day, it was one of the most special experiences of my life. The kids of Casa de Milagros are incredible…I feel blessed to be considered part of the family, and to have been received with so much love.
In addition to working at the Casa, I was also able to spend some time in my country, and soak in my culture in ways I had never been able to before…spent some quality time with family and loved ones in Lima, traveled to regions of Peru I had not been to before, and experience two of Cusco’s most amazing festivals: Corpus Christi and Inti Raymi.
In addition to settling back into life back in the states, since being back – I have mostly been consumed with school. I was able to enroll in all five classes that I need and will finally be graduating in December! It’s been a 12 year journey – so graduation day will be super sweet ;-) What this means in a practical sense for me is that with five classes I will have a very full plate and have already begun the process of “clearing the decks” so I can focus on school and get the most out of my final semester. As you all know – I like to juggle many projects and interests – so this is no easy task ;-) I am super excited about my classes! My Political Communication professor, Joe Tuman is running for mayor of Oakland, so our class gets to live an actual campaign with him. Also, I am taking a California Food, Wine, and Culture class, which totally sucks since you guys know how much I hate food, wine and culture…;-)
One of the major decisions I have made recently is to step down from my responsibilities as a Board member of Casa de Milagros. I will continue to be involved in the kids’ lives, and will be returning in December and January to visit, volunteer, and help with some big projects that are in the works. However, due to my school and client responsibilities, I do not have the space to commit to the Board at this time. Once I graduate in December, the Board and I will reassess where things are on both ends and how I can continue to stay involved, what role I will play, and what projects I will be involved in. I will keep you guys posted! In the meantime, if you guys want information on how you can help Casa or any other volunteer opportunities in Peru – contact me and I will send you information.
By the way, the pic above was taken my last night in Cusco – Aiden and I went into a cute little jazz bar on the corner of Choquechaca and Cuesta San Blas and got to meet and listen to the phenomenal sounds of Amber Field and her array of instruments from all over the world. Only in Cusco can you have a didgeridoo in your ear and it’s not weird at all…
I’ve posted the rest of my pics and you can see them all HERE…enjoy! xo
Argh!!! I don’t want to leave!!! ;-( I know I have to – and I am actually looking forward to being home for many reasons…but the reality of leaving here and not seeing the people here whom I have grown to love so much is going to be really hard.
There were moments when I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it all three months – mostly when my immune system tanked, and I was freezing the night away in a Cusco hostel…or when my wallet was stolen, or when my vest was stolen…
But enough about all that – I am going to focus on the positive – and share about my beautiful last day at Casa!
The last day was quite busy as I was running around getting three months worth of projects, conversations, and to-do’s wrapped up. I was so busy in fact that I didn’t notice the party being orchestrated in the midsts…Apparently the kids wanted to do something special for my last night, so they put together an incredible Fiesta! Soraida, Melina, Maria Flor and Senobia choreographed and performed two dance routines, and then sang me a love song ;-) It was precious. Then Jorge, Leo performed some SkyWalker moves with Marcito as a guest star who rocked the house!!
I was blown away by how much effort they had put into the making my last night special, and at their love for me. And their TALENT, which just never ceases to inspire me! Papa Wesly and Mama Paty got up and said some words, and at that point I was just speechless…which didn’t help when they made me get up and say some words…I don’t really remember what came out of my mouth – I think I just repeated I love you a bunch of times…
Despite my inability to articulate, we had an incredible party complete with music, popcorn, cake, many laughs, and even more PICTURES! I didn’t want the night to end…
In the morning, I woke up early so I could see the kids off to school. I stood there as they piled into the Combi van, and gave them all hugs and kisses and told them I would be back soon. I started crying, but thankfully they were driving off at that point.
Then I turned around to face the Casa, and got this awesome shot of Charlie and Rover:
Bye for now Casa de Milagros – I will be back very soon…