One Of The Best Sights I’ve Ever Seen

(A Post by Matthew)

Last weekend, while we were filming at the Q’eswachaca festival, a car slid of the road and plunged down into a blue tent full of people. People screamed and crowds surrounded the accident.

My friend and I watched it happen. This was not one of the best sights I’ve ever seen.

Prior to the accident, I was looking for my kids. Elisa and I had been filming the bridge festival for several days while my parents took care of the kids back in Cusco. On the last day of the fest, my parents brought the kids out to the village to see us and join in on the festivities.

Amidst the crowds, Elisa spotted them as they arrived. So I was searching for them. Then the accident happened. My friend left me to check out the scene, wondering already what I was just beginning to wonder as I stood there alone. My family’s van was parked in the vicinity of the accident. Elisa briefly saw them in that vicinity…

The crowds around the accident were huge, and I refused to look for my kids there anyway. So I started searching around, more frantically… for 45 min…

While searching, I imagine everything. My dad likes shade. It was the closest tent to their van. I imagine my parents toting our 3 darling babies into that blue tent. The babies excited with hope to see their parents, especially their mother who they hadn’t seen alot of lately. Expectant with their hats to shade the sun, and their little bags of necessities and goodies. Trusting that they have been brought into a safe place. So trusting, always trusting…

I imagined that trust being violated. As they are sitting in that blue tent, playing, chatting, rosali’s new words, mateo’s cuddling, graciela’s performing. I imagined them all in their safe place, and then I saw the car plunging down upon them. What would be their thoughts in that split second? Would they understand that they were about to die? Would they feel betrayed that they weren’t protected? Over and over again I imagined my innocent babes being trampled. Trusting and trampled. Trusting and trampled. Innocent yet trampled.

As time went on, I was beginning to panic. I didn’t think they were there, but I didn’t know. I couldn’t understand why I still was unable to find them. In that moment, I realized that if they were gonna have to go through something that brutal, I have to do it with them. They have to know that their father loves them and did everything he could do to protect them. If my kids have to go down, I wanna go down with them. I realized that I don’t want them to feel any pain that I haven’t experienced. I will take my babies pain, and if I can’t, I at least want to be there with them.

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I searched and I searched. I went down to the bridge, I looked down by the river, I scoured through crowds, people, every tent. it didn’t make any sense. At least not at this moment… my imagination was growing darker and darker and darker…

And then…

And then I saw one of the best sights I’ve ever seen…

Graciela was looking at a vendor’s Andean hats. She was wearing a white shirt with hearts, tan pants that were too short. Her running shoes, sunscreen that wasn’t all the way rubbed in. And her school hat to shade her from the sun. “Oh hi daddy!, do you think I could get one of these hats?”

I picked her up and held her tightly…. Because thats what we do. In the face of the disease that surrounds us, we hold each other tightly, realizing together what a gift life is. Your head against mine, your arms wrapped around me, and mine around yours. We hold each other, expectantly. We expect the future together. We have to…

As nonchalantly as I could I responded, “Hi, Gracie. I love you. How are you?”

“Can I get that hat?”

“We’ll see my love, we’ll see…”

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Machu Picchu and Paragliding

What an incredible gift we have to live in such an amazing place!  I love living in Cusco, and I recently found out that as Peruvian citizens and Cusco residents, the kids and I have free entry to Machu Picchu on Sundays. So, when our friend, Jed, came for a visit, we all joined him on a weekend in the Sacred Valley. We explored Machu Picchu and the next day we went paragliding off a mountain in the valley. We spent hours waiting for the right kind of wind, and the kids managed to find a forest and build themselves a lean-to.  The wind finally shaped up enough for Jed and Matthew to paraglide over a phenomenal view. (There wasn’t time for another run, so I missed out. Next time I guess.)

Repost: Filming With The Family

From The Last Bridge Master. I really thought I posted this on here, but apparently I only did on the “official film” site.

farm courtyardI’ve been out many times now on my own to film in the village. It’s become something familiar to me, something that, in spite of all the discomforts, I am comfortable with.

A couple of weeks ago, we decided to take the whole family. Our children are 6, 5 and almost 2. Not exactly at the “free film crew/unpaid intern” age level. I was very nervous. Every time Matthew had suggested we all go out I’d hemmed and hawed and postponed. And for good reason (see How to Get to the Q’eswachaka). But I knew it was something I wanted them to experience, in spite of everything.

So, that’s how we ended up huddled on the steps of a shop in Yanaoca, surrounded by a crowd of fascinated Andean peasants who just could not get over our fair-haired children, trying to find a ride to Huinchiri. Of course there were no buses. And of course we didn’t have enough money for an “expreso” taxi. And of course we couldn’t attempt the walk with our babies, who the concerned Quechua folk were certain would catch their deaths before we made it a mile out of town. We finally found a mototaxi who agreed to take us for 40 soles, an amazing price. Unfortunately he didn’t know how far Huinchiri was. He didn’t have enough gas to make it and ended up dropping us just after the bridge, a whole mountain hike away from Victoriano’s hut. Then it started to rain.farm by bridge

We straggled into the closest building we could find where the farmer’s kind daughter welcomed us and offered us a room for the night. They ended up giving us two rooms, in a charming little farm, neat and snug and lovely. The sun came out a bit before dark, and I managed to head down to the river for some great shots of the rainy season. The kids played on the mountain side, splashing through streams and collecting stones. That night we looked at stars and snuggled up under warm alpaca blankets, listening to the rain thundering on the roof.outside bedrooms

The next day we hitchhiked up the mountain, visited with Ruth Laurita and Victoriano, got some great footage and picnicked under a tree. It was almost noon, we needed to head home and we hadn’t seen any cars go by so we began walking back down the mountain. Five hours, several vicious dogs, and a rainfall later, we had still not seen a single car. The kids played for hours by a stream next to the road, we discovered some caves, finished the last of our snacks and water and I was remembering all the reasons I usually come alone. matty and victoriano

Just when we thought we’d be crashing at the farm another night, we managed to talk and plead our way into a construction truck who took us as far as Yanaoca.

The kids will remember playing on the mountain, discovering stones and caves, visiting the guinea pigs at the farm and riding on a mototaxi. I hope they don’t remember Mama stressing about where we would stay or what we would eat or if they were warm enough. It was a wonderful family vacation, the kind you can’t perfectly plan or expect to run smoothly. The kind with lots of memories. petting guinea pig

guinea pig farm

climbing mt   Rosali on mt teo on mt

Taking pictures for her blog

Taking pictures for her blog

 

Coming Clean

The kids selling rocks they decorated.

The kids selling rocks they decorated.

So, I’m not really much of a blogger. You may have caught onto that, since I kind of… don’t post. I really thought I’d post a lot more. Back when I was at Bub and Lala I posted quite a lot. Regularly. But, it has gotten harder and harder for me to will myself to post. So, I’m admitting it. I’m not one of those post-a-day types who actually somehow manage to get followers and make some money. Not gonna happen.

Posting has been hard for me. And I feel I should come clean as to why. Our life since moving to Peru has been tough. Really tough. I’ve loved living here, still do. I love seeing my kids here. I love that we took a chance and committed ourselves to something we love in spite of the risk.

But living without an income is tough. I’ve posted some on my old blog about the stress of living in poverty. But that was different somehow. Partially because we lived in the States, so we were on food stamps and we didn’t actually have to worry about feeding our children (though the end of each month, right before it renewed, was always somewhat scary).

But now, well, we chose this. We knew that getting the necessary financing for our film was iffy. But we took this step anyway. We knew that Matthew couldn’t legally work in Peru, and that if we didn’t get the grants we applied for, I’d have to find some kind of work. So, this situation was a choice. And that makes is suck even more.

See, you can’t point fingers when this happens. It’s not the system that did this to us. It’s not the big corporations. The government. Society. They didn’t tell us to move to Peru and film a documentary.

We have applied for a handful of production grants. One in particular would have solved all our personal and filmmaking financial issues for the rest of the time here. We thought we had a really good chance. Our project was compelling and spot on with what they were looking for. We did all our homework, prepared a killer application and sample video. They sent us word we made it to the final round last month. We’ve been holding our breath ever since.

Then, two nights ago, we got the word. No.

And now, we are struggling. Struggling to keep our heads above water as we plan our next move. Until we have a rough cut, there are not many grants we can apply for now. We are on our own.

So, that is why it is hard for me to post. So often I feel like all my energy is pouring into my family’s survival. My constant awareness is caught up in lifting Matthew above that deep darkness that is pulling at him, every moment of the day. My peripheral vision is full of these bright and beautiful children who should have a full and protected life, savoring this place and exploring this world and not being hungry. And my own focus has to be on finding jobs, a translation here, a class there. Maybe even an occasional video. Anything that will keep us going.

I just don’t have the breath to sit and type my heart out onto this blog. I will try, but I’m just so tired.

And I should add that I know exactly how fortunate I am to have this healthy, lovely family, who usually has enough and appropriate clothes to wear and almost always has something to eat, even if it’s not what they want. There are many, many, all around us, who don’t.

Days in Cusco

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Every day is a party in Cusco. The combination of ancient Quechua traditions and Roman Catholic holidays pretty much guarantees that you will run into some kind of festival several times a week. Dancing in the streets is a real, daily part of life here. And we love it. The richness of this place is all around us.

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The central market is a bit of a walk from our home, but it is such a fun place to grocery shop. It floods me with memories of growing up in Ica and accompanying my mom on her shopping rounds. My siblings and I had the run of that place. Ica was still fairly isolated and our blond hair made us instant favorites with all the shop keepers. I see the reactions here to my kids and it is so familiar. And brings such complex emotions and thoughts… But that’s another post. The rows of juice stands at the market provide lovely fresh smoothies at minimal prices.  I had a carrot orange juice and the kids had watermelon.

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It’s a rocky climb every time we head out the door. The kids are slowly becoming used to the physical effort it takes us to get anywhere. And I have to say, I truly do not miss jumping into the car for every errand. Our leg muscles are going to be rock solid by the end of our time here. And the expectations of our kids will be so drastically changed. They used to complain when we would walk three blocks to our library in Columbus. If they had only known what they were in for! But they are troupers and even made it all the way up the mountain on our family hike!

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Speaking of changed expectations, I don’t really think of myself as spoiled. I’ve carted loads of dirty clothes to the laundromat blocks away, with a toddler in tow and a baby on the way. I’ve operated without a dryer in a tiny house during the “2 kids in cloth diapers” stage. But doing laundry by hand, with only cold water and a clothesline takes it’s toll.  At least I have an amazing view!

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This is where we live. Our fabulous, Andean mountain home. We are loving it.

Our Jouney So Far

We arrived in Peru early June. After a quick trip to the Q’eshwachaka Festival, we landed back in Lima at my parents’ house. For 2 months we crashed in their lovely home on the side of the mountain, in our own little section of the house. Our kids played with their grandparents, ate lots of new Peruvian food, got to know their cousins, explored Lima, and spent most days covered in a layer of dust from climbing outside.

I loved seeing my family regularly and had the immense joy of being there for my little sister’s first baby. Ignacio (“Nachito”) was born on Peruvian Independence Day, July 28th and he is absolutely precious!

We also got to see and film Vidal in his Lima home.

I was still waiting to pick up my Peruvian paperwork in Lima, so Matthew made the brave decision to head off to Cusco, and take Graciela with him.  They moved into our apartment, signed up for Spanish classes and started getting to know the town.

Moving to an Andean town without knowing the language or culture may be picturesque, but it’s not easy.  They had a few tough days, but together they were figuring things out. Then, after my paperwork came through sooner then expected I made a quick decision, packed up our overwhelming amount of stuff and headed out for Cusco the next day. We showed up at the door, after maneuvering one of Cusco’s famously steep and rocky alleys and knocking on several doors, to the shocked faces of Graciela and Matthew. It was wonderful to surprise them, and then to get the tour of our place, including our  roof.

We’ve been here for almost a week, and it’s been lovely. We are still setting up here, taking care of a few things before we dive into film work. But every day is another adventure for us all, whether we’re purifying water, trying not to fry the electric shower head or desperately attempting to get internet connection.  Today, I’d like to find a desk. 🙂

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All in all, we love Cusco.

Things I Love About Living in Peru

Trusting my kids:kidsonmt

My parents’ house is built on the side of a mountain, cliffs and steep rock slopes everywhere. And my kids are loving it! Every day they spend at least an hour climbing, building, inventing, pretending and sliding down rocks and dirt. The house has windows all around and I can watch them while they play. I was raised on these mountains, and in spite of what the modern/western “norm” tells me about safety and children and how concerned I ought to be, I can’t help believing they are okay.  Because I know my kids. I know how carefully Mateo will approach a new situation. How he will observe quietly, watching and soaking it all in, before he attempts something. I know he won’t try it if he doesn’t believe he can do it. And I know Graciela’s ability. I know how well she climbs, how quickly she can assess what is around her, and how accurate her physical senses are. Let them climb. Let them slide. Let them live!

Feeling the love:sweetestboy

Both Graciela and Mateo were wearing their baby dolls around yesterday in makeshift baby carriers. Every time I see them in this kind of role-playing it just warms my soul. And lately they have both been especially parental with their baby sister. I have never seen either of them show any kind of antagonism toward her. There are so many things we really wonder about as parents, how we’re doing, if this is right. But it’s moments like this that I think we’re gonna be okay.

World Citizen Kids:kidsonbus

I love having our kids here in Peru so much. Most of it is personal. I want them to experience everything I had growing up, which I realize is unrealistic and somewhat selfish. But I also firmly believe in the richness of growing up as a world citizen. My kids are all American/Peruvian and two of them are also Canadian. Having three cultures as part of their identity is an amazing privilege and I want them to drink up every bit of it. And they are. 🙂