Sitting in the Plaza de Armas and people watching is my favorite pastime in Arequipa. Soon after I arrived, a guy walked by selling something, passed me, paused, walked a few steps back and said hello.

Luis Fernando Aspajo Pozo is a poet — part of a dying breed of soulful artist.
He had made chapbooks of his poetry, each with elaborate, cool drawings by his friend.

I can’t read Spanish well enough, but I wanted to support him. I bought one for me and one for Yacarely, who can read a Ruben Dario poem like no one’s business.

Luis says there’s not a lot of support in Peru on the national level for art; he’s self-promoting. He has participated in readings in Cusco. When he travels around Peru, Chile and other areas he sells his poetry, old-schools street style.

“No one wants to collaborate with me tonight,” he told me.

Why do you write?

“Born. Born in me to write,” he told me. “I must write what I feel.”

There’s a lot of things going on in the world, and Luis wants to share his perspective and make us think. Social norms, living your life, the things that give you profound inspiration. Family. How you relate to people. How you don’t. Our fear of death. Death.

“I write these views, these ideas. Maybe people read them. See them too.”



On this journey around the world promoting the idea of do-it-yourself change, and highlighting others who are making a difference, I come across some interesting characters.

People who are on their own pilgrimages … to celebrate anniversaries, to finally see a dream, to escape, to do things I never even considered … for a week, a month, a year.

So on this blog we’re adopting a feature in which we meet some of them, and try to get to the guts of something, to give us food for thought.

People of the World. POW!


I round the corner at Machu Picchu by the sacred stone and there’s Kevin and DG. He was here 45 years ago, and he’s showing her now.

He had just finished college and left to go walk around South America for nine months.

He lived in the ruins of Machu Picchu for 2 weeks with hippie types. Back then, there weren’t a lot of tourists, and “no one cared.”

“That really expensive hotel at the entrance? It uses water from the Sun Gate. It cost $20 a night then and $950 now. We would sneak in through the windows of the hotel and steal towels. We’d always return them and put them in the ‘soiled’ bin.”

He met a lot of people who had just dropped out. He got a career that he enjoyed, he retired and now he’s traveling again. He wanted to see Machu Picchu again, with DG, and visited where he lived in the ruins.

What is the most important lesson you learn on your trip?

“That it was a trip. It wasn’t a life.”



I shared a travel photo from winter solstice, June 21, at Machu Picchu on CNN’s Travel Photo of the Day on the website.
Click here to see it on CNN and hey, register it a view. You can favorite it and share from there too !


When I bought my one-way ticket to Limerick, the train cashier in Dublin was baffled that I would go live in “Stab City.”

It’s not the most exciting city in Ireland but I liked it quite much and it still has a bad rep. Warring families stabbing each other in neighborhoods and all.

The guy and girl at the end of the breakfast table in the hostel had a good time reminsicing … they are from Dublin.

Anton, on the left, is living in León, it turns out, an hour and a half away from El Sauce. Can’t believe I haven’t bumped into him in the street all the times I was in León (anyone recognize him?)

And Kelly, on the right, turns out is from Penfield, NY … like 15 miles from my house in Rochester.

I know this because she also is studying in the same city as the people you cant’ see, to my right.

Small-world table right here. Love it when that happens.

LIFe at night


Went to the 35th anniversary show of the ballet folklorico in Arequipa, a nice showcase of traditional dance that depicted history and relationships with Mexico and various regions across Peru.

Two days going to concerts/performances in Arequipa at the muncipal theater, I have learned something: the start time means you can filter in and it will start anytime a half hour later or more.

After the show, I wandered Mercedes street – a pedestrian-only street with clothing shops, a Starbucks and chains and a casino, as well as someone who has my number with a ton of cake and ice-cream shops, and people selling little plastic inflatable frogs on sticks and other animals.

I like how walking around at night is an event in Latin and South America. Families and couples and friends stroll the Plaza de Armas, or Mercedes and because it’s an outing, there’s guys selling inflatable frogs on sticks – and people buy them. Like a fair.

Stores started closing around 9:30 and I saw a group of people huddled around a corner. A guy was doing the NYC trick of spray painting an incredibly vibrant (and day-glo, faces in a champagne glass cheese) piece of art in a hot minute … playing the most rocking song Michael Jackson ever did.

While I was watching, a police guard came up to remind him he was only supposed to do street vending after 10. They had some words; what sticks out to me is that the guard was in a wheelchair.

I’ve seen several civil guards and police in wheelchairs in Arequipa. I dig that. I have never seen that in another city – right on Peru.

I wandered more and there were young guys selling alumnimum bent into spiders and dinos and other creatures; Andean alpaca cheapie gloves, all kinds of stuff.

{<2>}![guy spray paiting in Mercedes Street](/content/images/2014/Jun/plaza2-1.jpg)

In the plaza de armas, I sat down with a giant piece of Salva Negra cake and got my sugar/chocolate fix with chocolate and whipped cream and fresh strawberries, watching three teenagers break out some old-school breakdance moves, sans tunes, by the fountain.

I am getting good at predicting what hanger-outers will do; I saw the kid’s sleeveless vest and said, this guy will break! Voila.

I parked myself there and enjoyed the night LIFE: the break dancers teaching each other moves. I looked at who was around me at that instant. A couple on a date, the guy nuzzling behind her as she walked delicately in her heels. The guy smoking a cigarette after getting off his $1,000 racing bicycle. The woman selling candy and cigarettes too close to people, desperate to make a sale.

Yesterday after work, the Plaza was filled with families and kids feeding the pigeons and running between their flying wings smiling.


We are missing that in the states: a central area for people to just GO and BE. People just show up and that’s the night. Looking at something beautiful and prideful for the city. In this case, the cathedral and the Spanish colonial buildings surrounding the square and the fountain. The center of the city for hundreds of years.

Guys in safari vests and cheap cameras take photos of families for some pesos and print them out instantly; keepsakes for this unique moment of an activity that probably plays out every week or several times a month.

I’m on an austerity budget here at Arequipa, working on my writing in the day and finding free things to do at night.

I never tire of winding up in the plaza and watching life… it’s so different on the outside in foreign places, and yet the same for all of us, everywhere we go.

I wish we woud not have created a culture in the states in which we seal ourselves off and need to go “do” something: What town or city would not be suited to a square, where strolls and sitting on a bench watching the world go by, and living in it – breakdancing maybe – are everyday?

See you tomorrow Plaza de Armas. What will you bring me?

PS I wonder if someone from Arequipa looks out across the fountain and thinks, hey, there’s a tourist, enjoying our plaza. I wonder where she is from)

— in Arequipa, Peru

Everyday People - Making our own good news

Nicholas Martinez Pitchardo

A 20-year coffee farmer, Nicholas is the founder of the Manuel Lopez Cafe Cooperativa more than 8 years ago.
“I knew we would be better to sell in an organized way. you can get a better price by working together,” he says.
For cooperative members, this means sharing knowledge, experience, profits and resources to strengthen crops and product and the community of Ocotal.
At the beginning, Nicholas completed an exchange in another region, Matagalpa, with members of a coffee cooperative to gain insight into how to best run their own new cooperative.
He is proud of the programs the cooperative have implemented, their progress and the recent customer base in the United States who choose their high-quality, organic beans.
Last year, Nicholas grew 3000 pounds of coffee. Getting it ready for export is a long process – 12 hours of work alone from picking a ripe bean to ready it for roasting. His family and helpers from the community work some days 4 a.m. to 6p.m. in harvest season, as everything is hand-tended.
He sees the difference the coffee, tourism and basket-making cooperatives makes for families, including spurring completion of an elementary and a preschool and road improvements.
“It makes me proud of the community,” says Nicholas. “I am old now but my chilrdren and my grand children will enjoy the benefits of living here. What we’re doing here will help future generations.”

Everday people make a difference, out here and way off the beaten path. We Just don’t hear about them. So we are finding them on this round-the-world journey and making our own good news.



I am exploring the Andes of Peru with two friends who helped form Enlace Project, the grassroots organization that has been the vein for the Friends Project in El SAuce … they did all the organization of the school building.

Today, we were walking down the street of Arequipa, where we will visit Colca Canyon to see the giant condors.

We passed the Plaza de Armas and I thought how fitting a new evolution is: While I was in Las Minitas both Alcides and Paiyo, who helped with the school construction daily, asked for a U.S. flag to put up in the preschool.

I never intended that; it’s more than borders. But they asked and I thought about it and of course it’s right, it’s about partnering beyond borders, so a U.S. flag next to the Nicaraguan one that flies in all schools makes sense.

Our good friend and supporter Mike Hackett (Rochester, NY) immediately suggested he contribute a flag that was given to him by a service member of the U.S. military. The flag had been flown on 9/11 in Iraq and has a certificate, signature, the whole shebang.

I said yes, of course, but have been thinking of this lately and today it just settled in on me how perfect and special it is.

Whenever the guys in Las Minitas talk about the school or the scholarships, or other projects The Friends Project has completed with them or allowed them to complete with our resources, they discuss the “amistad,” or friendship between us.

This is a Spanish word that essentially means that, but to me is more than friendship. IN this case, our friendship thousands of miles apart and among residents who never met but believe in each other made this happen.

in the states, 9/11 is the single most example and symbol of Americans of all races, lifestyles and beliefs coming together in “amistad” to help each other, support each other and show unity.

thank you, Mike. Perfect.



Still glowing over what we were able accomplish with families in Las Minitas. Don’t listen to negative: change is closer than you’d think!

I’ll be in El Sauce again in a month… in the meantime… I’m discovering Peru and finding people making a difference.

The fountain show in Parque  Reserva is cooler than I thought and I survived the Russian roulette fountain dry!!


It’s my final day in El Sauce before I take off for Peru and Bolivia, and I think EVERY friend of mine from Las Minitas from the cofee and tourism cooperatives is in town.

Even the ones I never see.

Alcides and Nicholas, and then Emiliano and Juan … I saw Freddy, who was not at his house yesterday when I dropped in, when I bought water.

And as I opened my door, there was Paiyo, in a mototaxi, waving past.

We hugged and I said, “I have such good luck today. It is my final day and I can say goodbye to all you. See you soon. I will return.”

We are waiting, they said. 🙂

Mark your calendar!




so ive decided we’re throwing a little shindig in simple, rustic style (meaning no frills) at Bodywork Kneaded’s exhibition and party space in Honeoye Falls where the last photo exhibit was held,w hile I am home from July 18-27. I’ll show photos from the trip. especially Nicaragua and the school, I’ll have some coffee for sale and then we’ll rock it Nicaraguan home-style, with a pinata and the kind of dancing where everyone is jumping and dancing together with a radio … who needs a disco??!!! We’ll also raise some money in the meantime forThe Friends Project new programs!


Satire = power

Enano Cabezon, the smart mestizo

Enano Cabezon, the smart mestizo

In the 1500s Hernandez de Cordoba and other Spanish conquistadors came to Nicaragua, and well, conquered it as conquistadors do.

Nicaraguan mestizo people created a traditional play with characters that represented the Spaniards and also native people: The Spaniards who were in charge, a very tall bewejeled woman (“La Gigatona) who was the woman who came with the conquistadors and a very large-headed dwarf.

“Enano Cabezon” was small in stature but very intelligent.

In the plays, and others using traditional people and horse masks, the Nicaraguans were able to satirize the Spaniards to their faces in a time when they had no power.

Tomorrow night Enlace Project is putting on a huge concert here in El Sauce – national folk music and revolutionary hero Carlos Mejia Godoy will play as well as Geneseo Professor Glenn McClure.

Thousands will jam into the stage area behind the mayor’s office for the show, which includes some cool decorations that George is getting together, like an Enano Cabezon (this one with me in it) and La Gigatona.

It will be awesome!

blog-piggie-5.31Walking to the office i love that I saw a horse and foal in front of my door. Another horse on the corner. They will wander tonight, but Yaci assures me they know where they live and will finally go home. Like the chickens, the pigs, the cows. 🙂

And I just noticed I have the pig going wee wee wee all the way home, I guess.