Our mission today? To take 21 kids shopping in downtown Cuzco for warm jackets, sweaters, underwear, socks, pants, and shoes. Divide and Conquer was the only viable plan. We took off in groups of five women and five or six kids with one Spanish speaker (that would be me, which doesn’t say much) leading each pack. The girls paired with me were fourteen-year old Mariaflore and twelve-year-old Ada and we took off in our pack of seven to do damage to the Cuzco market.

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Shopping with teens and pre-teens at home often involves them starting off with a very clear idea of what they want and going from store to store to find it. But the experience with these girls was anything but. They would choose the store to walk into themselves, and once inside they would find something they liked. If their first choice didn’t exist in their size, they would adjust in real time and choose something else. We breezed through the outdoor stalls and an indoor market in about two and a half hours to get everything they needed, a trip made possible by all the friends and families who donated to our fundraising efforts. As Angela said afterward at lunch, you don’t need to know any language to know how to shop, but nonetheless I spoke almost entirely in Spanish all morning and more and more comes back to me each day. The only glitch came when two of the girls wanted busos, and we didn’t know what those were. Finally we figured out, with the help off Mariaflore, that they were “pantalones para correr” — running pants — and we were miraculously able to find them, a true needle in a haystack of a task. It’s unbelievable how crowded this part of Cuzco is in the middle of the day. Cars may or may not slow down for pedestrians, and pedestrians may or may not pay attention to the cars. It’s a barely manageable chaos. I love it.

Before dinner but back at the hotel one of our tour guides for the trek, which starts tomorrow at with a bus out of Cuzco at 6:30 a.m., came to review the itinerary with us and advise us about packing. We’ll trek for four days, camping out for three nights, before taking a train to Aguas Calientes for a night and then on to Machu Picchu. We only get to take 12 pounds of gear, excluding our sleeping bags and whatever we carry in our day packs. Here’s what my bed looked like as i tried to figure out what to put where.
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Unfortunately, I bought the world’s smallest day pack, a lime green Osprey with a Camelback water pouch built in. My thinking at the time was that I don’t have the strongest back, so maybe I shouldn’t carry much by day, just what I absolutely need. But it turns out that 12 pounds is not very much at all, and to fit everything  I need I’ve had to fill up my day pack so that it’s like hauling a small child between my shoulders. I did not think that one through very well — so we’ll see how that goes.

On the way back from dinner with Allison I confessed that I didn’t feel entirely ready for the rigor of the next four days, but that since this whole thing was our idea I kind of have to show up. Some of you know my motto that life is all about showing up with a good attitude, so starting at 6:30 tomorrow I’ll get to put that into practice. I’ll be off the grid till Friday because my iPad makes both my duffle bag too heavy for the trekking company and my day pack too heavy for me. So I’ll post next then.

Till Friday,
Hope