Monday, 28 December 2009

Chocolatadas, chocolatadas, chocolatadas ...

Here I am back in Peru and I wanted to quickly let you all know that I am fine, but so exhausted - I will briefly explain. So many of you in Spain helped raise an amazing amount of money for the Universal Heart restaurant's chocolatadas for the children and older people and your efforts have funded the whole thing!

Mission in progress ...
The chocolatadas are going ... are going ... 4 or 5 a day ... but we are going to the most incredible places, to the remotest of villages in the highest of places ... driving up mud roads in mist and sunshine ... pickniking beside rushing rivers. We've had some hair-raising adventures getting our minibus up mountains and down valleys. It is all dirt track roads, single file and crossing bridges that you wouldn't believe you'd get a car over! Our days start at about 5am and we're in bed about 8.30pm! I am absolutely knackered!!

So more when I can, but love to you all and thanks for what you have done for all these people.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Cocacabana Car Blessings

Lake Titicaca
After the whirlwind of meeting Ivan and his theatre troupe and the chaos of the streets of La Paz, I was heading for the tranquility of Lake Titicaca for a couple of days. Oooohh! what bliss to leave the crowds and be beside this totally amazing sacred lake.

My guide turned out to be a Bolivian archeologist who spoke 5 languages, including Japanese. Gael, this guide, took me to visit the sacred Isla del Sol, on Lake Titicaca, where 4 virgins were sacrificed each year by the Incas on the summer solstice in the sun temple. So much happened during these 24 hours at the lake, including being drawn into the ancient ceremony of car blessing outside Cocacabana cathedral!

Bless!
Lines of vehicles wait outside the cathedral every day, and the priest blesses each one and their owners. Familes drive here from all over Bolivia and make altars in front of their cars outside the catherdal. They believe the Black Virgin Mary of the town will work miracles. After the priest has blessed each car, bus or truck inside and out, they splash beer or champagne over the vehicles. Then the oldest woman in the family goes right around it with a dish of incense. Next they let off bangers in front of the said vehicle, then they hand out plastic mugs of beer.

That's when I got dragged into the melange to be photographed in front of the vehicle as another sign of good luck for the life of the family car-bus-4x4 etc. Could have got very drunk, because all the families wanted to include me, one family even tried very hard to pair me up with their only unmarried uncle! The priest wore a grubby a baseball cap throughout the proceedings!

Return to La Paz
The very next day, after all that excitement, I was to meet Ivan back in La Paz at 7.30 am to go to the bank and withdraw the money I'd promised him from the sale of the painting. Another big adventure, which led to spending the day in his world.

Ooooohh again! I cant begin to describe the genuis of this humble man and the love, compassion, joy, wisdom and kindness he oozes from every cell of his being. His theatre arts centre is beyond descripton. Seven floors of pure creativity, all made by himself and his street kids, who are actually not kids any more but young people. Many joined him when they were kids, but are now teaching circus skills, music etc. to the next generation. Ivan has made three arts centres in La Paz, and many others around the country. He has just returned from three months in Germany, touring with a group of these young people.

There is so much more to share about this project, but that's for another time. In the taxi leaving chaotic La Paz that morning, and arriving back in Cusco, a tune on the taxi radio opened the floodgates of my tears. I cried buckets and wondered how I was going to deal with the airport sharks with bleary eyes and heavy heart. I was so touched I couldn't contain the emotion. It was a very well known sort of national anthem-like tune, and it pierced my inner being for some reason. I just was torn into pieces to leave this crazy place. I haven't worked out exactly why yet. Just thinking about the connection with Ivan makes me very emotional. I really think I've met a sort of male Mother Theresa. His spirit has touched me so deeply I feel a kind of terrible homesickness for what he is doing. It makes me think that my life will now include Boliva, in some very profound way.

So here I am, back in Peru. Off to meet 'Mama' Sharon of the Universal Heart restaurant and Path of the Heart charity, for which many of you have donated, or helped to raise, funds. I feel very disorientated. My heart is still in Bolivia.

The book is born!!
Oh, but some exciting news is that my book is now available from Amazon.com !! At last! I have waited so long for it to become a reality - and now it can make its way into the world. And at the same time help raise more money for these projects I'm here to work with and visit. Please have a look at Drawn by a Star on amazon.com - buy it if you can! - and spread the word that it is now available. Thank you so much. And don't forget the one with photographs and images from blurb.com which is a companion volume to Drawn by a Star ! On both sites you can search for the books under Meg Robinson - and both books will raise money from sales for the projects.

More very soon.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Bolivia - chaos and clowns

18th December 2009
Bolivia – chaos and clowns

Oooooohhhhh! BOLIVIA! Oh my god!!!!!! I have never ever been so challenged or so stretched in my life! So many things have stretched me in the last 7 days; I don’t know where to begin to share this adventure with you.

When I arrived in Bolivia in La Paz the stories of the terrible scams in the streets left me terrified to go out of my hotel for the first two days. Then I met a lovely Australian woman (who'd just walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain) who said she'd felt the same when she arrived, but now she loved La Paz. So I took heart. I bought a huge, beautiful bunch of blue flowers for my hotel room for 10 English pence. My hotel bedroom became my sanctuary. The hotel was complete luxury at 40$ a night. The food was the most delicious I've ever tasted in my life. The chefs made me special dishes every night. Supper would cost about 5 euros for 3 courses, all cordon blue, each dish a work of art. The contrast to what was outside made me feel I was living in a dream. Little by little I found my feet though my heart – but my physical heart wanted to come home right away.

Pure chaos!
The city was quite simply PURE CHAOS. I don't do chaos. I can’t function in chaos! I don’t like chaos. And all the time the altitude makes your heart pump and your legs refuse to proceed faster than at a snails pace. And altitude sickness was kicking in even stronger than it had done in Cusco. OH MY GOD. I have never seen anything like this city anywhere. Taxis in La Paz have the strange prerogative of saying no to you when you flag them down if they don’t want to take you somewhere, so the thing is you might get to where you want to go, but not be able to get back!! I had a few heart-pounding moments when I was completely lost and no taxi would take me back to my hotel. And to make matters worse, I kept forgetting the name of the road the hotel was in.

The streets were just indescribable! There would be 3 or 4 lines of traffic all trying to wriggle in and out of each other, belching fumes, taxis jam-packed like bumper cars, 'collective taxis' I mean JAM PACKED with folk, people sitting on the pavements or in the gutters selling everything you can possibly imagine. How there aren't millions of footless folk in La Paz I don't know. I never saw an accident but, but they must happen.

Meeting Ivan
By a piece of divine timing, I had managed to make contact with Ivan – having tried for 2 years to track down this amazing-sounding man who teaches circus and theatre skills to children. His is quite a story …. but for another time …. The day before I left Spain I had sold a painting, and decided I wanted to give the money to Ivan for his arts centre work so getting the chance to meet with him was an astonishing moment of synchronicity.

The hotel liaised with Ivan for our first meeting, and what a miracle that was! In amongst all the thousands of people in the area on the street, we met easily. In El Alto, where he is, it is the most unbelievably raw, rough city of shanty dwellings and millions of people on the street, animals, filthy kids, the whole place pulsing with car fumes. We arranged to meet again the following day as his theatre troupe was performing in La Paz.

Again, despite the thousands of people on the street the taxi dropped me just feet away from him.A few moments later his troupe performed, and I was so in my element surrounded by about 30 young clowns, I might have cried if I hadn't been worrying about getting sun stroke. The sun was so fierce.

I'm too tired to paint a beautiful picture of what happened next but just to say Ivan quietly introduced me to all his young people, aged between 16 and 30, and as clowns, in clown-like ways, they hugged and kissed me and danced and drummed and laughed. One female clown had a massive nosebleed beside a tree in the square, and Ivan photographed her close up, laughing, then kissed her so sweetly, then a few other clowns tried to find the screw in her head to turn the blood off!!

We then had lunch in a Bolivian Chinese cafe, seething with people, somebody had their visa card stolen, Ivan’s beautiful 8 year old son Claudio had eaten too many sweets so stretched out over two chairs and tried to sleep .......

Then after that whirlwind experience, we parted company for the moment as I was heading off for a trip to Lake Titicaca.

Of which, more in my next blog entry.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Heading for Bolivia


Photo by Washi Gibaja, a friend for life..
A friend asked me two days ago how I first landed in Peru. It's a long story, and this isn't it!  But the question promted  a search  to see if I'd blogged about it.  

I hadn't, but discovered this,  my very first ever blog post, written soon after arriving in the country that would steal my heart. 
That was 9 years ago, pre Facebbok ( for me), pre cancer, pre Brexit, pre Trump.

I've added some photos, sadly lots of the originals have got lost, so I've added a few from Pinterest to 'paint' the bigger picture..
 

 Happy Easter dear friends. 
Love coming over the mountains to you all wherever you are, and hugs to those having challening times. 
Os quiero mucho.


Having been buffeted by altitude sickness for the past week, last night everything changed ! It coincided with a huge storm and torrential downpour over the fascianting city of Cusco where I've been staying for the past few days. I'm trying to aclimatise before my trip to Bolivia tomorow.

An unusally 'well made ' main road north of Cusco, heading for the village of Ccapi.

Last night my inner bonfire which seemed to have died, was set ablaze !! Yeah. Back on track. An email from Ivan from his arts center in Bolivia. We'll meet very soon.

Ivan Nogales arts centre for street kids in Bolivia.


This is the first time I've written a blog ! I set it up before coming to Peru in March, but couldn't figure out how to use it! Now with the help of ever -patient -with- me- Ken, who's now managing my webistes, here goes.

Children from the village of Ccapi.


If I were reading your blog I think I'd want to know what funny things were happening t o you on your travels , who you were meeting, what lovely surprises were coming your way, what challenges you were having, what sights and insights were attracting your attention. Most of all I'd want to know what was touching you.

9 yaers on this litle girl will be a teenager now.


So, I'll try now to share some of the above with you because while travelling , my experince is that you just do it, you live it while it's happening.   It's afterwards the words colour and process the experince, usually, except when there's a near crisis. Then the brain seems to throw up lots of expletives and possible dramatic senarios, like when I nearly lost by backpack at the bus depot the other day ! OMG!!!  More about that later... maybe!


Funny things...

Well, not too many yet because altitude sickness seems to snuff out humour very quickly. So I suppose the funiest thing so far is my neurosis for clutching my tummy in any crowded location .

The money belt containig my passport etc is the last thing I want to loose. Carlos ( Sharon's right hand man on the ground here for the charity) warned me not to go out of my hotsal after 8pm, that ladrones ( robbers) knew immediately who was carrying money, they have a special antanae he said.

The sketch of the woman wearing dark glasses was a very clever thief I met in Bolivia !!!

So the funny things that have happened have been temporarily burried by the fuzz of alitiude sickness.


Lovely People I have met so far :

First, at Madrid airport the exuberant Peruvian nurse with an Irish passport, who plonked Green Irish hats on both our heads an photographed us, causing great laughter at the departure gate. One of the laughing crowd turned out to be her childhood friend she hadn't heard from in 35 years.

Sorry no photos  for any of this section.  This was 2009, sadly pics lost.

Secondly, after the 12 hour flight, the welocme from the wonderful , kind, long -white-haired grandfather wizard Walter, at his higeltipigelty , charming, minute, hostal in Lima by the sea.

Then the hostals receptionist poet Fransico, who fell in love with my book of photos and paintings and wouldn't stop putting his head on my chest, and hugging me , asking if I'd like to draw him too, and what did I think of his eyes etc !

a lovely grand house nearby

Then the taxi driver who took me back to the airport for the flight to Cusco, who had had many mystical experinces since joining AA 14 years ago. He invited me to spend Christams with him.

this part of Lima ( Baranco) is full of street art and funky cafes...



 famous  cafe in Barnaco, Lima

Then I met Carlos in Cusco, handed over the money we'd raise for the charity, and ate lunch in a restaurant which was a decorated warehouse. He had chunky fish spoup, I had trout with its head still on. When we'd finished eating, two musicians arrrived and started to play to the 25 empty tables.


Two hours later the altitude sickness kicked in. My head felt like it was going to split, my heart was pounding, and I could hardly walk I was so exhausted. Very like Cronic Fatigue syndrome again. So I fled to a lower altitude quickly, the area called the Sacred Valley leading to Machuu Picchu, and felt slightly better.

Pinterest pic of The Sacred Valley leading to Machu Picchu.

Ollantaytanbo, so many memories...

Another wonderful photo by Washi Gibaja.


Lake Titicaca, another journey...

More children from the village of Ccapi

The next four days were packed with unforgettable moments and hours.


Meeting Wither ( a young local unoffical guide)  in Ollantaytambo,  was without doubt the highlight.  

So many wonderful stories are attached to this meeting.  The  subsequent fundraising, after a few years, sadly, very saldy  went pear shaped. 
Many lesson were learned, but the privilege of meeting his 'brothers and sisters' in the high mountains will never be deminished.

No pics for this section either.

We spent unforgettable hours together taking about his adventures taking the food aid up to the high mountain settlements. I can't discribe the love he has for his indiginous brothers and sisters as he calls them. We shared some tears of passion together. He has Inka roots himself though he grew up for his first years in the jungle with his single mum who worked at a camp for gold miners.

He told me the people up there want to meet me. He said they won't called you 'mamita' as I call you.

Pinterest pic


In their language, Quechua, words carry a special sound, and always a message. When they call you 'mother,' he said, the message will mean 'we love you'.