Number of People with Nothing Better to Do

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Site's Better than Yours

I’m pretty sure I have the most beautiful post in the department of Ica. I’ve been to a number of other Volunteers’ sites in Ica. I’m not going to say they’re ugly but they’re not beautiful like mine. My site kind of reminds me of west Texas near the El Paso area. You get to my site crossing though the Pampa de Santa Cruz, a flat sandy desert. As you wind down the side of the mountain into my valley, you pass La Cara del Inca, a natural rock outcrop that looks like an Incan head looking off into the distance at Pichango, the tallest mountain in the Department of Ica. Below, a wide green river valley with a few palm trees.

Across the other side of the valley are smaller grayish-brown flat-topped hills that look like a bunch of elephants lying down side by side. The river is clean and always has water in it. When it rains in the sierra in February through March, the river rises and people go hang out, grill, swim and sometimes drink beer. My town is a sleepy burg of about 1200 people. There’s a pool hall/sports bar that never has beer but puts on all the big soccer games. I’ve been in there a time or two to shoot the shit and talk futbol. There I’ve had in-depth conversations with Don Julio and some of the older men in my town about politics, the weather, kids these days (with their hair and their shoes) - the same things that the retirees that hang out at McDonalds in the morning talk about.

The town plaza just got rebuilt and looks almost exactly like it did before. At night, people sit on the newly installed benches and shoot the shit. Children play soccer in the cobblestone street in front of the church. A couple of ladies sell hamburgers and salchipapas (french fries with sliced hot dog) from a little cart in front of the pension where I eat lunch. My district heads up the valley all the way towards the sierras of Ayacucho, the neighboring department. They grow corn, cotton, ciruelas (a prune-like fruit), mangos and pepinos (cucumbers). They also raise cattle, pigs and goats in this valley.

The valley was once home to the ancient Paracas, Nazca and Incan civilizations. Walking about 30 minutes from my house, there is a largish geoglyph of El Tumi, a sacrificial dagger, on the side of a hill. El Tumi was presumably built by the Paracas civilization. On the hills above me are giant Nazca triangles about the size of football fields.

During my afternoon runs, I run up a rocky valley up into the hills separating my town from Palpa. There you see powerful geologic forces in action. Once horizontal layers of rock jut upwards more than 45 degrees. I try to hit that area around sunset to watch the sun get gobbled up by the shark-toothed sierra to the west.

At night the sky is so big here. With no moon you can see hundreds of stars. There’s the Cruz del Sur, four stars in the shape of a cross that if you draw lines from top to bottom and side to side form a perfect cross.
The best thing about my site apart from its beauty is the people. But we’ll talk about that in another posting.

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