Back to Peru folks. We left off finishing in the Sacred Valley. At the end of the day, we headed back to Cuzco, a city I came to really love, where said goodbye to our guide Miguel. He let us know that someone else would be driving us to the airport and we all said our goodbyes. Nice guy, good guide, but he was not Edgard, no? We arrived late friday, in time for Principessa to head over to the Chabad house of Cuzco, for Shabbat, while the rest of us headed out to find dinner. We walked around the Plaza de Armas where we got to see two very traditional and fun Peruvian weddings. Trumpets blowing, dancing, and singing crowds: it was a community thing. We were all excited for the wedding we’d waited all week for, our guide and friend, Edgard’s on Saturday night.
The next day (Saturday), Smart Guy, Middle Man, Little Man and I went off to explore the city solo, biding our time until the wedding. We started at the Museo de Machu Picchu at Casa Conche, which was an amazing follow-up to our trek to Machu Picchu. I would argue that it’s best seen before visiting the archeological site, but it was amazing anyway. The Museum of Textiles proved surprisingly interesting as well. The best selection of hand woven textiles, with local women working on looms to demonstrate the art form, and a small but very complete and interesting museum, showing the various clothing of Quechua culture (over time) and the use of various weaving styles. (Cuzco: narrow streets, religion, Inca statues, 600 yr old balconies, and Quechua textiles)
We decided to go to a market we’d read about in The Lonely Planet guide book (our travel bible) and began to walk across town. When we were in the market area everything changed. Loud speakers called out deals and items for sale. The crowds thickened. We were the only non-local people there, and we definitely drew attention. We stood out. The sites and sounds had my head jerking left-right-up-back-left again as I tried to take it all in. Dead chickens hung from hooks over a stall where the woman selling them ate her bowl of soup. Cow stomachs and other innards were dried and hung out for sale, next to booths with eggs, fresh fruits, grains and a myriad of colorful food items. A man called “Sangre, sangre, sangre!” (blood, blood, blood!) in front of a wide bowl of bright red blood. My head swung around, and then another surge of people and a new site. It was a sensory tsunami surging and washing over us over and over. Llevos (eggs), grains, meat (note the woman eating her soup. Nothing like slabs of cow to make you hungry!) and lots of fresh fruit. This is a market!
We wandered through an indoor market that sold thousands of items. I believe there was absolutely nothing that you couldn’t find in there! Tampons, next to batteries in every shape and size (the batteries). Baby products, children’s toys, wigs, cooking tools, tires, shoes, music, hair care, costumes, Disney things, it was truly stunning. Aisle after narrow aisle of stuff, and like all malls, a food court. Yep, a tiny strip of soup counters and food vendors where people congregated on small chairs and crowded in to eat freshly made lunches, mostly soups. We all wandered through with our heads continuing to jerk to see all of the items on display. Then, back out into the crazy streets again to more shouts and animal parts.
We ate in a polloria (chickenria) where whole chickens were cooked on rotisseries in
wood fed ovens. It was delicious! We watched soccer on a large tv and tried not to pay attention to all the other diners watching us eat. Again, the only non-locals in site. Middle Man, a vegetarian since age 8, grabbed a bowl of some kind of fish stew in a much more local restaurant, when we’d finished our chicken. A tiny place that listed 3 items (all in Spanish) on a chalk board and then brought you whatever was available, regardless of whatever you ordered. More staring, tighter seating and my head was imploding with all the stimulation. After lunch, we walked back in the late afternoon and Smart Guy and I went to collect our laundry, which we’d brought to a local lavandaria: all of our clothes totally covered in dirt and and desperately in need of cleaning. The boys went back to the hotel to check out the computers and hang out, and we got some amazing coffee and waited for the laundry, knowing we’d be sprinting back to get dressed for the wedding.
We all had to rush to get dressed once our clothes were finally ready. The reality was that we didnt’ have appropriate clothes to wear to a wedding, clean or dirty. We brought trekking cloths and some neat casual items that we could wear to dinners out and the few places we’d go that were a little nicer. Nicer, but not wedding garb. I refused to wear my hikers and so I had dressier sandals to wear, on a 35 degree night. We taxied over to the Catholic church that Edgard had told us to come to. Other guests wore suits, shiny gowns with sexy shoes. We fit right in.
When we arrived at 6:30, as Edgard had asked, there were very few people there yet. His future mother in law had clearly heard about the family that would be attending her daughter’s wedding, and she graciously came over to greet us. After that however, we stood out like a sore thumb as 5 non-Latino people, sitting at a wedding, dressed for nice hiking and clearly not part of either family… not the family they knew about at least. It could have been an episode of Candid Camera to watch family members and friends arrive and each do a double take when they saw the five of us sitting there. I could hear them wondering: “Hmm, tourists who stopped in to see the church and want to see a wedding?” During our trek, I had joked with Edgard all week that I would rush into his wedding and call out “Edgard! Usted dijo que encanto mi hija!” (You said you loved my daughter!) My guess is that played into his inviting us; a bribe for silencio!
From the church, we walked with their friends over to the reception… starving. If we’d known that Peruvians party all night and have a completely different idea about timing than us, we’d have eaten before went. There would be no food for hours! As we sat at our table, everyone checked out that strange family that somehow ended up at the wedding. I’m sure that many of them spent much of the evening trying to figure out how the hell we got there. Mr. and Mrs. Condori arrived quite a while after we all did, and we got to listen to several rounds of Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You (I thought this clip was particularly appropriate), which was their entrance song… but they didn’t arrive when planned. We heard that song about 5 times. When they did arrive, looking beautiful and happy, they started with a dance, and we knew our man Edgard could dance… and dance… and dance. They danced with each other, with their daughter Tracy, with grandparents, parents, friends and most of the room. And still we didn’t eat.
Next they cut the cake and shared it with each other. They danced some more. Pisco sours were served. They tossed the garter and Egard’s silk floral boutoniere, and landed right in Middle Man’s hands (about a foot taller than anyone else out there), despite his best efforts to avoid it. More portraits, as Middle Man posed with the couple. The bouquet managed to find its way to someone other than Principessa. Champagne was served and toasts were made. We smiled as they all said meaningful and funny things, in Spanish. On each table was a full bottle of wine and a full bottle of rum (for rum and cokes) and we began to think that maybe we were drinking dinner. A reception line formed and everyone went up to give their gifts and congratulate the couple. No dinner. We hugged them all and shook hands, we did our best to say how honored we were in broken Spanish, and it got later and later. By the time dinner came out at 11:30 PM, we had figured there would be no food. Wrong! A mountain of Peruvian pork, potatoes and other yummy items. Sadly, we had a flight to Lima the next morning, so we ate quickly and had to say our goodbyes, long before those bottles were opened and the party really got underway. While I can’t confirm this, I am willing to bet that that reception went on until 3 or 4, with young children and grandparents all participating. The gringos, the Americans, we pooped out and went back to get a few hours of sleep before the airport in the morning.
Before we left we went up to say our true goodbyes to our dear friend, our familia, Edgard. At Machu Picchu we had said our goodbyes knowing that we’d see him again; however, as we hugged and said goodbye at his wedding, we knew that we would not see Edgard again anytime soon. His wife Karina, who had never met us before that night, embraced us too and told us how grateful she was that we’d come. Edgard’s parents, cousins and friends all welcomed us and waved as we departed. We felt truly blessed to have made such a special connection and to have gotten an opportunity to share in their big day. Little Tracy hugged us and enthusiastically waved, “Adios!” And off we went, into the dark streets of Cuzco to find a taxi. What a week, what a time we’d had!
Next stop The Amazon! We thought that the Andeas and Cuzco could not be trumped, but we were about to find out we were wrong! Join me for the next post and come along for the ride, starring: boas, tarantulas, piranhas, blow guns, canopies, River people and Yagua…
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