Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Sunday, August 11, 2019


My son and I arrived to Cusco at different times. He came from Puno via bus, I traveled from Arequipa by plane. I had no desire to visit Puno and wanted to stay in Arequipa as long as possible. After a month there, the city felt familiar and, as one does after awhile in one place, I had a routine that felt comfortable.

Still, I looked forward to Cusco. I had booked an apartment as a pleasant change from hotel rooms. And then there was Machu Picchu! Cusco is the major hub to get there as well as to many other Inca ruins in the area.

My first look at the apartment was disappointing. Yes, it was spacious with two bedrooms but the kitchen could hardly be called a kitchen, not even a kitchenette. There was no refrigerator, no pots and pans for cooking, and although the website had said "oven" it was just a two burner propane unit on a table next to the tiny sink.

Forrest, who had arrived earlier in the day, reported the shower was just lukewarm, the WiFi wasn't great, and "Look, Mom, how dirty the floors are--" the bottoms of his bare feet were black. Also, within a few hours, there was no water at all!

The water eventually came back on. Apparently this is Cusco's dry season and water has to be rationed. I understood that since we experienced the same thing in Guatemala when we lived in Panajachel. I kept water stored in jugs for these times. But I had just arrived here and it was all too much!

I went to bed feeling very frustrated. I kept checking on for something else. Finally, I decided not to be rash or impulsive and to give it 24 hours.

The next morning, Forrest left on his 5-day trekking journey along the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. As for me, nothing looked better in the morning light. As so often happens during these kinds of situations, I sat there crying and thinking if only Bruce were here, he'd make everything better. We'd see it as an adventure and would immediately set to work tackling the problems together, rather than me sitting here alone wondering what went wrong.

I imagined how Bruce would handle things, what he would do first. From my vantage point in bed under three heavy blankets, I saw a clock on the wall in the not-really-a-kitchenette. It wasn't keeping time (one more lame thing about this crappy place.) I knew that right off Bruce would get one of the AA batteries I brought for my camera and put it in the clock. So I dragged myself out from under the covers to get the battery and put it in the clock and set it on the right time.

The dear little clock started ticking, a comforting sound that made me feel immediately better. What else would my capable husband go after?

"What should I do next, my love?" I asked him, and then wrote out a list of simple tasks we'd undertake if he were in this situation with me.

One of them was to talk to my contact person for the apartment. I put that one way down on the list, because when you're feeling discouraged and sorry for yourself, you don't want to talk to anyone.

Finally, after I completed everything else, I messaged the person, saying I had some questions about the apartment and could they come by. At 11:30 a.m., there's a knock on the door, and it's these two smiling women, one with a baby in a backpack. Turns out they're mother and daughter, and I'd been messaging the daughter as my contact person.

I ask about turning on the heater, about turning on the hot water, about cleaning the floor, and what about no pans to cook with, not even a little one to fry an egg. The mother said, "I'll clean the floor right now!" I told her I wouldn't mind doing it, but I had no supplies. During all this, I saw a man in the hall carrying a mini-fridge down the stairs from another apartment.

I said, "I wish I had one of those here," and they said, "We will bring you one, and pots and pans later today."

While the mom mopped, she asked why I was in Cusco. I showed her a picture of my husband, saying he died last year and I just needed to get away from everything familiar. She understood, said "Ah, tu eres soltera," told me her mother was also a widow and very independent, just like me. We had a nice conversation, although with the stress of the past couple days, my Spanish wasn't very good.

When they left, everything looked so much better after having all the rooms mopped. It felt clean and, with the sun now shining brightly through the apartment, more like home.

Around six pm, they come by again with a man who's probably the husband. He is carrying a mini-fridge, still wrapped in plastic from the store. The women have a big box with new pans, cooking utensils, a cutting board and a knife. Also, a brand new broom and dustpan. The mom calls me Karencita which is so sweet. And they dropped the rent by $50.

This day that had started off so badly with my dark thoughts, ended with joyful gratitude, a day I would never forget. I felt hopeful, blessed, and just happy to know people like this would be my landlords for one month in Cusco.