Thursday, May 29, 2014

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Pyramids, Part II

Our next destination was Pachacamac, a site with sixteen pyramids that was about forty minutes away. Monica drove us through several towns on the outskirts of Lima. This part of Peru is perpetually overcast, but we were blessed with sunshine for most of our trip despite an unfortunate weather forecast that promised rain everyday. Rain in Lima is just a brief sprinkling and then it goes back to being gray and arid. A truck in front of us sprayed water on the grass along the highway.

The stretches of sand all of a sudden turned into multitudes of rainbow shacks built one on top of the other, shantytowns comparable to the favelas in Brazil. I took a lot of pictures of them, but it's hard to convey the magnitude of these metropolises and how suddenly they would crop up.

When we arrived at Pachacamac, there was a little lawn where llamas and alpacas grazed. I imagine they were employed there as nature's cuddliest lawnmowers. I stepped over the barriers and attempted to approach the alpaca, but I was stopped by the woman in the ticket booth. I had a wish to embrace an alpaca while I was in Peru and my wish was not fulfilled.

Snow white angel.
There was a market outside of the museum with vendors selling baskets, jewelry, and handbags. One man was whittling a gourd with a pocketknife. He sold intricately carved gourds that were hollowed out into boxes. Some of them were birds with beads rattling inside them, little maracas. We considered buying some gourd boxes, but worried that they would be damaged in our suitcases. The artist was quick to interject. He picked up one of his creations, smashed it on the pavement, and then presented it to us unharmed, demonstrating the indestructible nature of his folk art product. We bought three of his indestructible gourds. (One gourd is in my apartment next to a Wandering Jew, filled with white chocolate Lindt truffles. The second is Upstate on a bookshelf with dozens of polished mineral eggs and a Lord of the Rings elven sword. There is also an owl-shaped maraca gourd on a sailboat somewhere off the coast of California.)

We walked through the collection of artifacts in the museum. The ceramic figures on display had cartoonish facial expressions. The Incas made jewelry and other decorations out of bright pink shells that were more valuable to them than gold.
Pre-Columbian statement necklace.
Knotted ropes that seemed to be necklaces were mounted on the walls, but Monica pointed out that they were actually writing. For a moment, this blew my mind. What messages were being communicated through the particular arrangement of knots on a rope? Upon closer inspection of the nearby description of the artifacts, it was a sort of bill for products and services.

When our guide was ready, we drove to the first of the ruins. Our guide, a Peruvian woman with very angular features, wore a beige outfit and a beige adventuring hat. She coordinated perfectly with the sand. We drove from one ruin to the next. In the car, Dave and I ravenously devoured a package of salty corn kernels and juicy peaches. Lunch is the main-event-meal in Peru and we had not had ours yet.

The first ruin was a pre-Incan palace where a community of beautiful women made crafts for the earth god Pachacamac. The most beautiful of the beautiful women - they could not have any moles - were happily sacrificed to the earth god.

There were a total of sixteen pyramids at this site, created by different cultures because the region kept changing hands and changing religions. The largest was The Temple of the Sun, an enormous beige fortress built by the Incas that was once painted with bright murals. We ascended the path to the temple, which is still being excavated.

Walking around the temple, you could see the shantytowns in the desert, an oasis of grass, and two islands standing in the ocean. Those islands have a myth: The big island is a beautiful princess who was too proud to marry anyone. The little island is her baby. A mischievous god impregnated her with a piece of fruit filled with his seed and then humiliated her in front of the other gods. She flung herself and her baby into the ocean.

Click here for even more pyramids.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Pyramids, Part I

Our first adventure in Lima was a quest for Incan ruins. Dave and I set out early in the morning with our friends Monica and Moniquita and drove to a pyramid called Huallamarca, nestled in the middle of the historical, old-money houses of the San Isidro district. The dusty archaeological site rose up in the middle of the city, right across from a bank and a small parking lot.

There weren't any guides at this archaeological site, so a security guard escorted us through the museum and pyramid in exchange for a small tip. There was an entire room devoted to the importance of gourds, with gourd bowls, urns, and masks.

So excited.
In the next room, we found an Incan mummy excavated from the pyramid. She was hunched over, like she was cowering in fear of the icy breath of death.
The glamorous afterlife.
That is just how the Incas buried their dead, curled up in a fetal position inside of giant gourds rather than lying down with crossed arms, like Egyptian pharaohs. Then the bodies were hidden like Easter eggs in pyramids for posterity, with all of their pots and bowls. This particular mummy had signs of a fractured arm that had been healed with advanced Incan medicine. She had been treated for rheumatoid arthritis. I was surprised to see a full head of natural hair crowning her skull.

Incan mummies like Russian nesting dolls full of bones.
Then we all climbed the pyramid to see small excavations on the surface. Tents covered more pear-shaped mummies with startled expressions on their gourd masks. Some of them had shaggy wigs like rag dolls.

From the top, we had a panoramic view of Lima and all of its continuous rumbling construction. Sometimes it seemed like Lima's population was entirely made up of jackhammers. Walking up and down the pyramid, my sneakers went from black to a dusty graphite gray.

I noticed that every archaeological site was guarded by an elderly, skeletal canine with a sweater and a laughable haircut. We saw one at each site, but this guy is my favorite.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Some Thoughts for 2014

In 2012, I wrote about making babies laugh and becoming more yourself/attractive. In 2013, I wrote about surviving the Mayan apocalypse and feeling pleasantly uncomfortable. Moving on to 2014...

This year, I hope you will wake up every day without hesitation and without any further intervention from your hungry cat. I hope you stop brooding about the future, brooding about the past, and brooding about things that you aren't actually going to do, like become a Chinese acrobat. I hope you accept uncertainty and court just a little bit of danger, because you could be hit by an asteroid at any moment. This year, I hope you don't get hit by an asteroid. Not yet, at least. I hope you pause all of your tumultuous becoming and recognize what an excellent fictional character you would make now, with all of your excellent flaws. I hope a stranger with an accordion serenades you in the subway and that you only have large bills in your pocket when it happens. I hope you are distracted from fledgling friendships long enough to recognize all the splendid people who love you already, and that you have the good sense to bake cookies for these fine people on a semi-regular basis. I hope you always have someone to share your chocolate with and a cat to sleep on your chest.