Two days ago I moved from the very well appointed four star hotel located right on Plaza De Armas to a family run ‘hospedaje’ lodging house. When I first arrived in Cuzco, in shock and not at all sure where I would be staying, Mery, the owner of the travel company Molly has begun working for, made it possible for me to stay in this lovely hotel for about a third the cost. Being there, I didn’t have to really engage with anything except my bed, the fabulous shower, the abundant breakfast buffet, and the daily cab rides back and forth from the hospital. But once Molly turned the corner and we settled into a routine I knew it was time to shift into a deeper engagement with Cuzco.
Our friendship with Molly’s roommate Aurelia had begun to deepen. When I arrived with skeins of yard and three sets of needles three days ago, I could see she was interested. She claimed to have never actually knit anything before. She is a strong caring personality, a career nurse with three specialties. She had just received some disturbing news about her condition that day and finally, needing a distraction, came over to ask if she could knit a few of my rows. She may never have actually knit an entire project before, but this woman knew how to knit! After she deftly and expertly made a few stitches, I wordlessly handed her the third set of needles and a skein of yarn. I don’t think she looked up for hours. The third roommate Paulina was discharged shortly after and for a short sweet while it was just Aurelia, Molly and me knitting feverishly and silently.
At some point the conversation began again. We discovered that Aurelia’s husband is also an architect, and that his family home is now a lodging house in the town center. I met her husband Edgar later that day and it was decided, with very little overlap between their Spanish and my English, that I would relocate to their hospedaje on Calle Choquechaca the next day.
I feel like I am home. One of the first phrases I asked Molly to help me with during my daily Spanish lesson yesterday was ‘me gusto el clima frio y ester afuera’ (I like cool temperatures and being outside). It is one of the first things I would like to say to my generous hosts about how much i am enjoying, after just one day, the beautiful courtyard my ground floor room opens onto,
how well I slept my first night here under three blankets, that it is just like being in my country hilltown home where it is cool all the time in the house and that I sleep under three blankets there too.
Except that I am in Peru. And here in this ancient city home, I am able to absorb a bit of time and place that is distinct, like no where else in the world. It’s a little like I have come to feel being in the hospital each day. I know all the guards who let me through each morning to go be with Molly. I have come to know my way around this big place, know where the best bathroom is to use, where to find the thermoses of hot tea to fill Molly’s mug with, am familiar with all the faces of doctors and nurses I see daily on her floor. Mostly it is the ease and comfort that I feel being there, I have become part of this culture in a strange way, I am the mama, who doesn’t speak Spanish but is here to care for her gringa daughter nonetheless.
Yesterday was another turning point. I arrived to find Molly sitting cross legged on her bed, free of all tubes. The decision had been made to try a day without oxygen since she is doing so well. Her clean hair was brushed and falling in soft waves around her animated face, ‘look Mom, at the progress I have made on my scarf!’
Discharge is imminent. Maybe Monday or Tuesday. Molly will have to be on bedrest for a bit once she is home, but she is so excited to get home. Her home here. We talked about the option of her coming back to the states with me, but no, this is home for her now and this is where she will stay with the support of so many friends and colleagues who love her so.
I arrived back at the hospedaje, located equidistant between Plaza de Armas and the San Blas neighborhood I got to know so well visiting Molly in her apartment there four years ago. It was late afternoon. Going into San Blas involves walking straight up, streets of stone steps that lead to yet another way of being, kind of like the Berkeley of Cusco, with views that say, yes, I am very high up.
Evidence of counterculture, musicians lining the steps at the top of the San Blas plaza steps, jamming, making a steady stream of animated sound that flows amongst the crafts persons selling their wares, neighborhood residents, and tourists alike. I found my way into a shop that I frequented all those years ago after getting to know the beautiful owner, a mother with two young children, and her desire to share her culture though beautifully made things. Now four years later, I found the shop much the same, clearly she had settled in, shelves and walls deeper now with beautiful unique sweaters, scarves, antique weavings, and the signature jewelry that is her husband’s trade. Four years collapsed save for the young girl, maybe eight or nine years old, who greeted me, asking in Spanish if she could help me with anything. The image of her mother. I spent languid moments looking, touching, and admiring what was there. Realizing that a shop like this is an oasis for me, in a place where every other storefront is filled with too many of the same kinds of things, creating the kind of overwhelm that typically prevents me from going into any of them.
San Blas is also full of art. I was drawn into a gallery dedicated to Peruvian tapestry artist Maximo Laura. The feeling was not dissimilar to walking into a gallery full of Van Gogh’s when I was fourteen years and didn’t know who Van Gogh was. Except I had actually met Maximo Laura years ago when he gave a talk and presentation at the Fiber Arts Center in Amherst Massachusetts. I was in awe then and in newly formed awe again now, two floors or walls covered with his vibrant and evocative pieces.
Walking back down the narrow stone street to Calle Choquechaca, it was growing dusk,
I passed the bakery run by nuns that Molly and I would go to for the most amazing pastries and rolls years ago. There it was, just the same, and I made a mental note to get there in the next few days to get some of those pastries for Molly.