Thursday, November 3, 1988

Thinking Laterally with James Burke 11/88

CONNECTIONS/22 THINKING LATERALLY WITH JAMES BURKE

By Maureen Hurley (The PAPER, Nov. 1988, +photo)




Sonoma State University Lecture Series broke an all-time attendance record Oct. 28; over 2,000 people paid ten bucks a head to hear British author and commentatorJames Burke expound on unforseen connections between such unlikely things such as underwear and the printer’s press. Burke, better known to PBS viewers as the host of the acclaimed award-winning BBC television series and best-selling companion books, Connections, and The Day the Universe Changed, wittily untangled the threads of interconnecting events, accidents of time, circumstance, and place which gave rise to ideas: inventions and coincidences which led to technological achievements (or, as he so glibly put it—messes) of today. Burke also offered advice and models for survival in the future.

As BBC’s chief reporter on the Apollo missions to the moon, Burke developed ideas that led to the two popular series for which he received a Royal Television Society silver medal in 1973, and a gold in 1974. For the past year, he has been working on a new series, funded by PBS. “So far, I don’t know what it’s about yet,” he said. The tall, dapper 52-year-old Londoner began his lecture with examples of how science and technology have changed the deep structure of our lives by “altering our society’s perceptions.” He animatedly claimed our concepts of knowledge were “an awful lot of manure.” This irreverent train of thought developed into a lively tale of how horsedung led to the discovery of saltpetre, nitric acid and gunpowder, which led to world models and how they differ.

Burke said, “the model you use controls the universe you believe in.” In other words, “in an Omlet model, you look for the yolk. Black holes don’t fit the model, and are disregarded.” Science has a tendency to “shoehorn the universe into theories to fit the current model,” Burke said, citing the hoax of the Piltdown Man. He asked, “Why does change happen at all? Today, we live according to the latest version of how the universe functions.” He examined these moments of change and how it pertains to modern life—the implications of this approach to knowledge and what it means to our future.

For examples of changing models, he spun wild and witty tales of how the popularity of underwear in the twelfth century led to the invention of the printing press, the Reformation, and the computer. And how studies of “bad smell maps” (aka mal-aria—Italian for “bad air” because people were dying off like flies), led to the invention of air-conditioning, refrigeration, beermaking, guns, rocket fuel and landing on the moon. And the fellow who was trying to invent synthetic quinine from coal tar to combat that pesky malaria problem goofed and got analine dyes instead (which led to the invention of aspirin, and eventually, the cure for malaria ). Incidentally, those dyes took the Paris fashion world by storm, but that’s a whole other story.

Burke stated the mechanism for change is not always smooth. Models are shifted when unexpected change occurs. Take the canal builder of England who discovered fossils of extinct species (and we know what theory evolved from that discovery). no fossil people were discovered. Suddenly, Man was a pile of chemicals and not God-made. Burke said it’s a “trick of putting things together in new combinations” that leads to new ideas. Quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity are models of a universe that’s not absolute. Our brain works with associative pathways always making new relationships between facts and data. This associative process handles complex changes rather than the single model system. Burke ticked off examples of “single rigid models gone seriously awry—institutions, ie., the IRS and modern government,” to a wildly cheering audience.

Burke asked, “should we move to a more flexible model? Suppose we could recognize there is no pattern to the universe? How should we prepare for change?” He envisions a more contextual model.”We need to make sure tomorrow’s world is better than today’s. We ordinary human beings have power. We need a pluralist model rather than a single model because we need an infrastructure that is more flexible.” He added, “in children’s education we should teach them to think for themselves, not memorize facts.” He envisions a world politically pluralist to the extreme; pragmatic, socialistic, culturally varied—what he calls “a balanced anarchy.” Science and technology should enrich our intellectual lives, not just our material lives. The key task for the future is not more new things. The problem is second-guessing the social effects of change. In the ‘50’s, who’d have thought deodorant would make holes in the ozone layer? “Nothing compares with our brain,” said Burke. A generalist straddles disciplines. We need new information systems, to enfranchise the public to allow us to tap the innovative pool, teach people to think laterally, to daydream, to free people from the drudgery. Our brains are waiting to do this.”



The Paper was first launched in 1979 by Elizabeth Poole and Nick Valentine, in Guernewood Park, and Monte Rio. I began working for The Paper around 1980 as a photographer, darkroom technician, and then a writer.  Somewhere along the way, it became the West Sonoma County Paper. Nick Valentine or John Boland may have changed the name again. John moved it from Monte RIo to Forestville to Freestone and to Santa Rosa. When it was purchased in 1994 by Silicon Valley-based Metro Newspapers Group (a chain of 10 weeklies: AAN members Metro Silicon Valley and Metro Santa Cruz), it became the Sonoma County Independent. The Sonoma County Independent morphed into the Northern California Bohemian in 2000. I use the same name throughout, though I worked for at least three iterations of the paper.


Tuesday, November 1, 1988

Journal entry


11/1/1988 

My ability to write in my journal has lessened this past year. My journal begins in Guatemala and ends a year later with my return from South America. I've hardly written about anything at all in this year's timeframe. 

I've been in a dream fugue state. it's taking a long time for me to heal. Parts of me will never heal. That's why I didn't write about it. Everything is all jumbled about. 

Meanwhile, I started another journal that overlaps this one by four months. I don't think I'll ever be able to unravel it.

This journal I took to South America. Between the two journals, a record of sorts can be construed. I only hope there's something worth salvaging between the two journals. 

Some news stories, a prose piece, a poem about Creamery Creek. What is considered the right amount of poetry? Who knows?

Monday, October 31, 1988

Journal order, on the writing process


10/1988

The order of entries in my journal is more haphazard than usual. Too many major life traumas in September and October threw me off. Meanwhile halfway through the year, I started writing in another journal but I am unwilling to abandon this one with all its virgin paper patiently waiting for me to scribe it with knower's ink.

Sunday, October 16, 1988

NAMES FOR TIME


Names for time, insufferable on human terms
100,000 years. How does a stone
measure time and distance?
I've always wanted to see Lascaux and Altamira
(look up!). The first Greek goddess,
the great mother, was not Greek, but a meteorite
that struck the earth with sudden impact.

10/1988
10/16?

Saturday, October 15, 1988

BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE




Reina, a blind, dowager cat of 15,
who has learned to tell lies for more food
and has a paunch to prove her success,
ignores the catnip-stuffed mouse I bring her.
We can't tell her facts:
why it always rains outside each door
in the house at the same time, the dilemma
of eating tuna and the diminishing dolphin population,
or the effects of mercury poisoning.
Has it begun to manifest
its mad-hatterly ways in this idiot savant
well into second childhood?
Mornings, we find her upside down and drooling;
rubbing her whiskers and head ecstatically inside our shoes.
We make jokes about the narcotic effect of ripe shoes and laundry.
But when my new shoes are also
singled out for euphoric distinction,
I realize, slowly, how our conclusions are hampered
by our own anthropomorphic limitations.
It becomes clear, her need for scenting—
In cat terms, as we walk our daily rounds,
our shoes mark the outer boundaries of her territory.
Who'd have credited this blind old cat
with enough foresight to keep tabs on her realm—
She, who had us barking up the wrong tree all along?



10/15/1988  first draft june?
Berkeley

1995 CQ #22 California Quarterly
1991Poet Magazine, Fall issue
1990 Poetry USA
         Sparrow Grass
1989 Green Fuse
         A Night Full of Doves
         Outerbridge

Friday, October 7, 1988

PHOTO ALBUM


1. By the same white car
where my grandparents stood
sternly facing the camera,
was that me in my mother's arms
or someone else, milk eyes squinting
as she drools, her fat starfish hands
clutching a red and green tropical sea.
My mother's skirt, an island in paradise
and later, the jungle print will become
a pillow for my grandmother's couch
where I will wait years for my mother
to reclaim that skirt, and me.
All this fuss for a photograph.
who'd have thought those faded photos
marked the end of an era?

At the age of two,
that isn't me looking in.
I'm looking out of the photo
at a woman, older than my mother
who is still holding me in the picture.
She says she knows me but I know better.
I am cross without my nap
so I squint and sing and coo
to the sun in a blue sky.

Now she makes some other writing marks
but I swing my arm across the paper
and the table and the wall
filling the world with rainbow color
putting an end to all this writing.

2. That can't be me at 13
about to start high school.
That's someone else who looks like me,
who feels very grown up and eager to begin.
I'm looking out at myself, looking in.
She looks different, she isn't smiling, like me.
Are we related?

Her eyes glow red from the flash of the camera
making her look like an albino rabbit
while my eyes are brown.
My mother's skirt, a pillow on the couch
is now threadbare.

My red dress is embroidered with small mirrors
reflects a cloudy sky, like a pond,
a mirror full of algae.
I awake at night full of fear
I can't hear what she's saying.
a namelessness in the dark, like a sudden flash
that bleached the color form her hair, from her eyes
turning them from brown to red
like the rabbit who said yes.
All the times she turned them down,
every single one of my children.

10/7/1988

4th revision from some notes on Jorge Lujan's poetry workshop, Alexander Valley School? on 4/12/88. I need to type the first drafts.

Thursday, October 6, 1988

10 6/88 journal


This morning the phone wakes me, Fotomat saying the small albums I had ordered are in. Then she calls me back, says it's the wrong size. I didn't order either size album and I don't like 7 AM phone calls telling me to buy something. If anyone calls me at 7 AM it'd better be for a good reason.

I can barely remember my dreams except that John looked a little like Bob as if bits and pieces of Bob had rubbed off and attached themselves to John's face. Most notable was the patches of beard and hair – as if John were a prisoner behind the mask of Bob's face—someone whom I haven't seen in over 10 years. Perhaps all that talk about abortion brought Bob back into the picture.

Not so much the first one, God. But I remember the day it happened so well. I just come off the pill, tired of being continually nauseous. One afternoon, we weren't careful. I knew then it was too late, the moment frozen in my mind.

It reminds me of the story of the fifth-grader, when asked when he was born, he said, My mom and dad went on a picnic, and she got pregnant. It was in Germany. The teacher and I manage to keep a straight face but, as she said, the times they are changing. Quoting Dylan and our own lost youth.

10 6/88

Wednesday, October 5, 1988

Phone calls to the dead


Today I was asked by the San Francisco Bay Guardian to be a screener, a first reader for the Northern California poetry contest. My penance for having won it in the past. The woman who called, Jane Sullivan, was not related to the Jane Sullivans in my family. She said I've never received any calls from another Jane Sullivan. I said our Jane was long dead, so it would be hard for you to receive her calls. I always thought it would be an ingenious invention if someone would developed a telephone to call the dead. AT&T would make a killing. Only one dollar a minute, evenings and weekends free. Call home.

Saturday, October 1, 1988

I Won $50 for Horseflesh at National Poetry Week


National Poetry Week, II
I won $50, second place for my poem, Horseflesh, poems on everyday experience.
Horseflesh was a dream fragment. John and I were in Mulegé, Baja. I was going out to the bathroom and I met someone outside in the moonlight. It was unnerving. Another guest at Nachito's.

I'm not sure if I was awake or asleep when the Horseflesh poem came to me. Whether it was dreamed before I woke up to go to the bathroom, and I added this skull image, or whether I was still in the dream state, as I stumbled off to the bathroom.

And I don't remember if it was happening and I wrote it down when I returned, or if I wrote it afterwards. What I do remember was the brilliant stars above. The broken bed, the sandy sheets, the abject poverty, all contributed to the imagery. And there were many more fragments which I wasn't able to retrieve.

10/1988
DATE?

HORSEFLESH

Friday, September 30, 1988

Chicuchas Wasi, the Children's Home of Cusco (notes for an article)




FIRST DRAFT NOTES  Most of my Chicuchas Wasi files won't even open, and the ones that do open are in far worse shape than this one. And this one's in bad shape. Will I ever be able to resurrect this? Alas, the dot matrix hard copy version I finally found is basically what you see here, not a finished article.



Peru’s capital city, Lima, founded in 1537, was once considered the Paris of the New World. But even the new Paris foundered quickly. Patron of Peru, born in 586AD, Santa Rosa de Lima, the new world’s first and only saint, housed, fed and nursed the poor, teaching them to read and write. 

By 1823, when the Gran Liberator Simón Bolívar arrived, he was appalled by the filth and poverty. Cuzco has always been the naval of the world, the capital of the Inca empire. 

In the center of the world, carrying on the tradition of Santa Rosa de Lima, is a modern 20th century healer, nurse Rae Pieraccini. When Pieraccini, a Sonoma County resident and Kaiser nurse at Santa Rosa (named after Rosa de Lima, incidentally), went to Peru with a Sierra Club expedition in 1985, little did she know she’d move to Cuzco and found a home for poverty-stricken children of the street, Chicuchas Wasi, which in Quechua, the Inca language, means Children’s Home.  

NOTES Pieraccini said when she arrived in Cuzco, she had a sensation of being here before and vowed to come back to live. Se didn’t even know Spanish. She was put to work as a nurse soon after when the tourist train to Machu Picchu was bombed in 1986. After the bombing, tourism dropped off because of war and terrorism but the children are insistent. Pieraccini came to Cuzco with a nurse friend whose brother was an archaeologist at Stanford. Pieraccini had the feeling of deja vu, of having been here before. 

Rae Pieraccini has 3 grown sons in Santa Rosa, 21, 23, 26. In 86 it was rough. Her youngest son was in Cusco when the train was bombed. She was the only bilingual nurse. She said that she tried not to work in medicine…but Rae at Kaiser was into alternative healing practice. Psychic healing, stress reduction (Kaiser administrator Michael Peterson was supportive of her efforts.)

Rae: I don’t know anything about US policies. This is a project of the heart..so we can get to know eachother as people. When you finally have all the things you need, then what? You come here where they have nothing. The only luxury we have is  a black and white TV. I have a VCR wish out. I’m writing a lot, mostly out of need. Perhaps for a nursing journal.

Rae works in the countryside with a Peruvian nurse, Enriquetta, and house manager, Phil Voysey, an Aussie.. Phil & I are on max burn-out level 24, hours a day. (

see PD article july 19, and TV interview on Chamnnel 6?  

Rae returns home to Sonoma County every 6 months to keep the flow (cash) going)

How people can help. Send money, says Rae. Chicuchas Wasi needs to become self-sufficient. to buy land in the country and to raise vegetables, there's always a shortage of greens in the Andes. She wants to take the kids back to the country.  But there's no electricity, she talks about the dangers of using a kerosine stove. No hot water, etc.

This is an outreach perogram, She has to contend with officials. credibility Ifactor.. story of sold kids... She has the way paved with the ministry of Health. She has an administarative role, something she doesn’t like to do…but it needs to be done. Chicuchas Wasi is in her name. She married a Peruvian.. Americans can’t own land (doesn’t want this mentioned…  )

Chicuchas Wasi's legal foundation is in Santa Rosa, because the money is in California. She says Chicuchas Wasi isn’t my house. it’s the kid’s house. She sees herself in the role of country nurse who's duties include birth to autopsy to dentistry (not in that order). She’s tryiing to incorporate both local healing, herbal and modern medicine practices.

We hiked three hours and 1,0000 meters up to vaccine kids and teach birth control. Cuzco at 11,100 ft. is base camp.

KINTERPLAST—group of surgeons plastic, at Stanford. She’s liasion. She says there are lots of burns, cleft palates, and told a story about a baby in the campo with a cleft palate. The parents wanted to leave it out, exposed to the elements, to die. Many superstitions.

But things are improving, there are several groups working together to serve the community better.

Sociology syndrome. There are kids living  in the street everywhere. The poverty is appaling. It’s time to take another look at how the children of the world are suffering. We’re chasing the wrong rainbow.. The time is now.  

CHILDHOPE in Guatemala City gave Rae a foundation grant.

She tells a story about one of her first charges, Ronald, now 15, twho ook everything we had. He’s now on his own working in a bakery painting faces on tarts. He earns 1,500 intis a month ($7.50 us) 500 intis go for a room. ($7 buys a good meal for 2 in Cuzco—barely). He lives on this a whole month?

He was their first street kid. She said, old habits die hard. Stealing and lying are a big problem. He still lives on the outside. His brother Lucho, we’re having better luck with him.

We’re trying to get little girls off the streets and into the home. The problem is 99% have parents so we legally can’t do much for them. For the first few months I was out there every night pounding the pavement. They won’t talk to Phil bevcause he’s a man. There’s a lot of abuse…mothers won’t let them come here because they won’t be earning money.

Foreigners have come here in the past to “adopt” kids and have turned around and sold them.

The story of Eva, the 8 year old selling her body to tourists on the streets of Cuzco. pix

People here are blind. It takes a foreigner here to see what the needs are, and what can be done for these kids. The question is, there’s so much to do, where do you start?  

Her mail’s being lifted? She said that she can’t trust officials.  >she describes herself as a woman in transition. Trial by fire.  

See article in the Christian Science Moniter on street kids. june 30, 87.

Phil Voysey’s been in Peru since January. He received a phone call at 4 am from Rae asking for help. Phil worked in Zimbabwe for two years teaching English & African history. He's had a lot of experience with the 3rd world. He first came to Peru in 1985. He said that he wanted to work in Latin America. And he  intended to go to Chile, but never mde it.

Though Rae doesn’t want to talk about the political structure, she said that Peru is one hell of a political hot spot for a middle class single gringa with 3 kids.  

She takes a more holistic approach—medicine. quote on wall— in spanish— your children are not your children. They are *sons and daughters of life—-Kalil Gibran  

Her own children having fled the nest, she’s now raising Quechua chiildren.  

I can’t figure out the politics. Like Pol Potismos, Viet Kong terrorists—nobody seems to be for the Sendero Luminoso. Carlos, our Limeño friend, a member of the miiddle class, feels a Sendero takeover is inevitible. He hopes they’ll have learned something and mellowed in the process. 

Chichua means pregnant. Chicuchas means children. Wasi means house.

Ronald who’s 15 looks about 10, from malnutrition, she said that he grew 4” in 4 months after she took him in.. .

Rae now has his brother Luis who came to Chicuchas Wasi —because I was walking the street looking for Ronald & they told me he was living with a gringa. Need translation of story...

Gillermo’s story, In the hospital, my mother died, my papa died .

Santusa’s story. She says they suffered a lot in the country taking care of the sheep in the rain? and she likes it better in the city. She likes it in Chicuchas Wasi because she wouldn’t have anywhere else to go if she left. She’d like to be an empleada (a domestic) when she grows up and work in somebody’s house. She’d like to work & put Rosita her little sister through high school.

John, who was translating their stories said, One thing that strikes me is that these kids have limited aspirations. Carpenter, maid. All my chicano kids in Oakland want to be doctors, lawyers, models. Or is it that a carpenter or maid is as high or unreachable or semi-realistic a goal as these :professional glamor positions are for most of my students?

Chicuchas Wasi was founded for puroses offering practical assistance, a future with hope to the abandoned street children of Cuzco. We were striving to create a home environment, where together we can become strong in body, mind, and spirit. Daily existence here is a struggle—even for the educated.

An economic crisis exists in Peru—so the children are forgotten. The government has no financial ability to help them. They simply exist by whatever means they can find, they are alone, afraid, hungry, sick, and without hope for more; or they die.

We are trying through love, affection, imnproved diet, health and education *to give them hope and a productive future.

Goals: to establish several permanent homes.
Self care education. Kids in local schools, apprenticeship with artisans. I’m looking for a mechanic apprentice to work 1 to 1 with the kids. We need community volunteers as well as US health care providers.

I’m here alone with the kids for days at a time. Kids have humble goals, but not too humble. A carpenter, a maid, I teach them basic living skills, washing and cooking. It’s a lonely profession. You have no one to share the hard times with—especially street kids—Ronald, I had to send him back to the streets because he exausted me.

Rae would like to see the home staffed with members from the local community. Creating a sense of extended family where children can reestablish their capacity to trust, and reenter their culture with a future that will include  a job, self-respect and dignity.

Rae lives in a modest 3 storey complex of adobe with a tiny courtyard the size of a hallway where the laundry chores are shared by all the children. The bright red plastic tubs are nearly as big as the kids. The kerosine stove is also outside.

Kerosine stoves account for nearly all the burns that Interplast tries reconstructive surgery on. Rae says we theoretically could expand Chicuchas Wasi.

Chicuchas Wasi currently has 6 kids; 4 brothers & sisters). We can put 4 more boys (8 total) at 2 to a bed, and 4 more girls. We have the space but not the resources. This includes care providers and money.

There’s also the problem of neighbors complaining about the noise the kids make while playing.

What Rae really wants to do is to relocate in the country and build a large hacienda where kids can raise their own vegetables to sell.—to become self supporting. She needs large cash outlay of several thousand dollars. $12,000 to buy a truck, $7,000 for land and another $3,000 for building supplies for starters.

We're outgrowing our house. Rae would like to see graduates from the home return to participate in its continued existance. As a registered nurse, and help in the community…. outreach

The kids always say, “are you going to hit me? There’s so much alcoholism here. They are always speaking Quechua when they don’t want me to understand. They tell us, you and Phil speak English when you don’t want us to understand. I need to learn Quechua. No one speaks Spanish in the campo.

I was in the park, when I first arrived here—- I lifted my hand from my backpack for a moment and it was stolen right out from under my hand. I didn’t have a place to live, I didn’t have a job and everything I owned was stolen. I had enough change to get a cup of coffee and a friend saved me. He took me up to th English Language school and got me a job.

Rae is care provider for six kids; 4 boys and 2 girls. All are without family. One child has Spina Biida or Spinal TB, they’ve had parasites, worms, typhoid—many street kids come to lunch to eat their main midday meal—usually their only meal.

Rae needs more space & help. She says we have a policy not to take in kids on a permanent basis under the age of five years. The economy here is crazy. The price of food has more than doubled in six weeks. The majority of the street kids are boys.

All I want to do right now is administartive stuff— I’d like to start a cottage industry. Make cookies to sell to the gringos. All the kids are way behind ifor their age— physically, emotionally & educationally. I must be crazy to do this (to raise kids) for a second time. I look at all those kids soaking it up In Cuzco, there are similar projects.

The orphanage run by nuns and Jhurch-related orphanages tend to take in babies but they don’t deal with Iindependent street kids. There’s a woman from France who also takes in street kids but she doesn’t offer them the kind of support Rae offers her charglings. Giving them a place to sleep and food isn’t enough—like Oliver Twist in the poorhouse in England—-

Rae said, I went home to get rested and I worked like hell to raise money. We had two interviews. The crowd she wants to reach are the west county folks. She says the 8 to 5’ers don’t respond. It’s the alternative lifestyle people who will help this project. Who knows what’s going to happen here politically? The Peruvians don’t understand our motives. Gringos robbed them of their children years ago and sold them into slavery and prostitution.

Her nurse companion Enriquetta Ccapatinta has been instrumental in helping Rae get through the legal work. ON her bookshelf, City of Joy, 501 Spanish verbs. Pediatrics, Carlos Casteneda, candles, crystals, shells and herbs. A poster on the wall. Love is the power that heals. A calendar of street people of the world. Stuffed bears and rabbits. Large butcherpaper notes of Quechua suffixes and tenses plaster the walls. Mi casa wasi y, tu casa wasiki, casa wasi.

There are no stipends she can offer house manager Phil Voysey. Phil’s had to pay for everything out of his own pocket. When Rae came to CA to raise money, someone donated $100 so he could take a vacation. When we get the oven working, we’ll sell cookies and wear our twe shirts that say Chicuchas Wasi and sell them to the gringos on the plaza.

Her dream is to open a *tienda, a store and export Peruvian goods. Rae was raised in Sausalito, the daughter of a fisherman, I was his crew & deck hand. We were berthed down where Spinnaker's is now. Her father went into boat tours and they moved the business over to SF’s Pier 43.

I was the oldest of two daughters. I did all the PR and contacted the hotels. For ten years. II passed out literature, sold tickets, etc… this survival skill was to later help her with Chicuchas Wasi.

She was married at 18 to someone who lived around the corner, had three sons by the time she was 24. She moved to Hawaii, sold real estate in Oahu and Kauaii.

She returned to San Rafael, had the ticky tacky house, station wagon and dog—the whole middle class scene. And I woke up one day when I caught my children out in the back yard taking the temperature of the pool with a thermometer to see who had the warmest pool in the neighborhood. I said, something’s wrong here.

We took a ride up to Sonoma (74) and bought six acres south of the town on Watmaugh And built a home for ourselves. We went back to the land. We were very domestic. We had a farm, joined 4H, raised pigs. I had a truck, with pigs in back, kids in front—pigs have a tendency to escape. I wound up chasing pigs with a tennis racquet.

We had goats, made cheese, home canned, etc. The kids were involved. Like with coming here, I lived by that inner force that's always led me. IMy dream as a kid was to be a nun and to work on the hospital ship, Hope.

Rae did become a nurse. Took courses at Napa Community college for 5 years.. She worked at Queen of the Valley hospital, Yontville Veteran’s Home, Sonoma Valley Hospital, before coming to Kaiser Permanente for six years.

She officially quit last year. She did ICU intensive care nursing at San Rafael for two years—before she burned out. Working at Santa Rosa Kaiser, in general medicine, five days a week from 8 to 5, was great. She taught stress reduction classes, and worked in OB/GYN.

She said, I wish I had more pediatrics training. What I like most is country nursing. I was involved in psychic healing long before I became a nurse. When I worked as a student nurse, I’d use psychbic healing and the moniters would go down. ‘I use touch, channeling energy fields.       

See PD ARTICLE Fall 85 Rae visited Cuzco, the magnetic center of the earth. where she found the place & its indigenous Quechua people so compelliing that she knew :she had to go back whether or not she could make a living.  

10 year resident of Sonoma co. critical care nurse at Kaiser Pernanente. her 3 sons live in sonoma, their father is in Stockton. (Sausalito story…3 mos. later, she took leave of absence from her job to spend a year in Cuzco and be a volunteer nurse, to learn Spanish, to make connections with the Quechua culture.

During her year in Cuzco she became acquainted with the street kids. seven year olds with families so impoverished, they live solely on potatoes. She blames the problem on declining economy and high birth rate. This forces the kids on the street to work, beg, steal at an early age. Soon, they’ve moved onto the streets.

After months of fundraising, Rae bought the apt 3 blocks from the town’s main plaza and invited the street children in. Her project has attracted the attention of foreign Peruvians in Cuzco.  

Contingents of interested Sonoma County  people are fundraising on the home front. Rae says Peruvian participation is crucial if this projets is going to survive. Rae wants project to be acceptable to the Quechuas and then she’ll turn it over to them when it’s established.  

In June, Rae drummed up donations of time, clothing, and medical supplies. Cuzco is an Inca museum filled with peasants. Those coming from primitive mountain villages find the adobe houses, electricity, and cobbled streets, very urban. Lack of high rises, poorly equipped hospitals and a severe absence of services for the poor…   

get back to PD article 

Chicuchas Wasi Rae Pieraccini, President, 
Casilla 636, Correo Central, Cuzco, Peru, 
SA tel 22772 Domicillo: Alabado 525 
FAX 51-84-236140 
Sra. Rae Pieraccini tele. 22-77-20 c/o La Positiva, Cuzco Peru 

Capp Street Foundation flow thru— went belly up. Chicuchas Wasi needs another flow thru. List of foundations sent to Steve Burdick to FAX to Rae.  or PO box 2031 Sonoma CA 95476 CA Prez. Steve Burdick, 1860 Sobre Vista Ct., Sonoma w. 765-9125, h. 938-0267 Kaiser ortho Dr.Jon Lopez H. 579-9065 W. 571-4123 9 Carol Stewart 539-4563, 538-2468 leaving for Peru in Oct? Leann Geiger 578-2606, 19, wants to work with Rae. Read about Chicuchas Wasi in PD. See also, Betty Woods—back from Nicaragua. Still at Kaiser? She may come down to help Rae later….



Thursday, September 1, 1988

Are the French Really Rude? On the Gringo Trail


ARE THE FRENCH REALLY RUDE?

Just back from spending the summer in South America, for me, one of the first indulgences of coming home (besides marveling at flush toilets, potable tap water and raw fruits and vegetables), is to read the Sunday paper.

One title in This World section caught my eye. “Are the French Really Rude?” Foreign LA Times correspondent Stanley Meisler writes, “after five years in France, and American still has a puzzling time figuring out the French. Are they really rude?

I read that article with particular interest because I was going through the same dilemma after spending two months on the Gringo Trail with them. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, all those places we budget travelers have been beating a path to, made popular in the “60’s, is the Gringo Trail. Tropical beaches and ancient ruins are de riguer. Club Med is out.

One meets people from all over the world vagabonding on the Gringo Trail but these days the bulk of travelers are comprised of young Europeans. The trouble with the Gringo Trail is that the travelers tend to bring to bring a portmanteau of their country’s obnoxious habits with them. Friction develops.

Fellow tourists from other countries tend to get annoyed with each other. Being forced to ride 14 hours in the Pullman car or a first class bus with a group tour of rude Frenchmen is worse than water torture for some travelers. I suppose a tour of North Americans or Germans would be equally obnoxious— but one sees fewer North Americans on the road.

These reports are not isolated instances of psychopathic travelers who have it in for the French. For example, the journalist from Boston’s very first sentence to us was to commiserate how rude the French were.

It seems one Frenchman didn’t like the way she moved his suitcase in the overhead luggage rack above her seat to make room for hers. He jumped up frothing and shoved her suitcase back screaming if he wanted his suitcase moved, he would have done it himself.

Days later she’s still pissed off. The problem with the Gringo Trail, is that you keep running into each other in various ruins and cafes all over South America. Vendettas and quickie marriages are common.

There are times when I prefer a second class carriage with its chickens, pigs and robbers to traveling with the French. When the train stopped to wait for an oncoming train to pass, pity the poor traveler, unable to face a second class pissior, who jumped off the parked train to take a quick pee and lost his eyeglasses to a light-fingered Peruvian admirer in the process. He was pissed off. P.O’d. is a more polite abbreviated term.

Any tree in a public park is well guttered with piss. A seal rookery smells better than the local plaza. One rarely sees a Frenchman traveling second class. I didn’t always have this racist attitude toward an entire segment of fellow travelers. Being on the road with them too long did it.

When I first came face to face with blatantly rude French travelers was in Guatemala. It’s true they won’t give you the time of day. In Latin America, every one graciously and politely greets each other. A greeting is met with coldness by the French. Being in a restaurant with them can be embarrassing for fellow Gringos. If they wanted to eat at Maxim’s why on earth did they come here?

I though my normally liberal traveling companion’s bristling tirade against the very sight of the French was a bit of an overreaction— he’s logged many more miles than I have, with ten more years on the Gringo Trail than I— I figured that they just pushed his buttons and the incident was merely one of travelers crossing each other’s paths wrong.

That was until one Frenchman decided my bus window needed closing with my hand still in it. I wasn’t upset that he knowingly slammed it on my hand. He didn’t have the courtesy to ask to close it. As it turned out, I was carsick— about to lose my cookies as they say— because he smoked a cigar and I needed air. A minor brawl erupted. What thoughts go through their heads that they prefer to do violence to fellow travelers than to speak anything abut French?

Or the time one Frenchman took to shouting and laughing into the wee hours in the open air bathroom adjacent to our room in a minus three star hotel in the Galapagos. Minus star hotels generally don’t have glass in the windows or curtains for starters. I asked him to be quiet in the lengua de pais, Spanish, which he ignored. I tried both the formal usted and the familiar tu forms. I even tried French. No luck.

It’s amazing how much English they do understand when it’s delivered at top lung and peppered with stout anglo-saxon phrases. “Fuck” a guaranteed attention grabber will usually trick them into speaking English with you. Then they really hate you.

Next morning, he claimed innocence saying he didn’t understand Spanish because he was French— as if that in itself was an excuse— and proceeded to deliver insults like a schoolyard bully.

Lack of sleep does wonders for my Irish temper. He erred in his judgment as to how much abuse I would take. Spineless, I’m not. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. When he flicked his hand like a glove at my face like a man about to challenge another to a duel, he got one.

I avoid physical conflict, being on the short side of small. There was a time when I despaired that I would never reach five feet. That was like breaking the sound barrier. When I was in 8th grade, the school bully, a well developed “girl” named Tayde who outweighed me by100 pounds, and was a foot taller, had me cornered and tormented me one time too many.

I went in swinging expecting to be killed on the spot but I didn’t care any more. About the only place I could make contact was with her boobs. We always speculated they were fake balloons. Well, they weren’t and they didn’t pop. To my surprise, she laughed, and later became my friend.

I went for the Frenchman’s throat. I didn’t care that I was creating an international scandal. I was out for blood. My companion separated us and everyone thought he had pushed the Frenchman and jumped on him! Male chauvinism. He didn’t become my friend.

I am reminded of the curious fact that the French installed in their public buildings the placard, “no spitting and no Bretons allowed here.” They have little love for the Celt yet they call themselves Gallic— which is a Celt of course! The French, or the Franks of Charlemagne as they were called, took what is now called France from the Celts in the first place.

It took the Bretons, last of the European Celts to rescind the law concerning spitting and Celts. Llamas and Latin American men spit like crazy. A disgusting habit. At least llama spit is mostly hay.

The natives get jaded fast from all this hobnobbing with world travelers and demand money for everything from posing for photos to tourists loitering in public squares and churches. Gone are the National Geographic salad days of photographing the natives going about their business in quaint settings with llamas gamboling about.

Kids are the worst. Dame plata, dame sucre. Gimme money, gimme candy. And if you don’t give willingly to the cause, there are other methods. They’ll come up and hug you, their tiny starfish hands thoroughly frisking each pocket and wrist before you can say como te llamas.

They grow up to be razor artists who slash your daypacks and pants pockets so everything falls out. There’s a funny story of a razor artist so skilled that one unfortunate traveler’s pants fell off as he was walking down the street. Some are that skilled. It gives new meaning to the word embarrassed.

In South America, one has to register name, age, nationality and passport number at every tourist site and public transport. Each ticket taker demands this information and woe to the traveler who resists. I assume this precaution is in case there’s a coup so they’ll be able to identify the bodies after. This does not make me feel any more secure.

Half the time, we weren’t about to list our passport numbers namely because our passports were safely stashed inside a secret pocket in my traveling companion’s pants which meant exposing himself in public just to get the number and so we made up new ones on the spot.

Getting arrested for publicly unzipping and rummaging in one’s pants in a foreign country didn’t appeal to us when there were so many other more interesting things we could get arrested for— like false passport numbers. Ticket takers are almost as irrational as the French when crossed.

My traveling companion, at 46, took a perverse delight in noting he was usually the oldest person on the road. About the only time he was upstaged was at Lake Titicaca by a 60-year-old New Zealand grandmother who decided it was time to travel the world. So she left husband and kids to fend for themselves for a year. At 12,600 feet, she did better than we did in the thin air.

He said, admiringly, “I hope I’m in that good of shape at 60.” My traveling companion and I were an anomaly. North Americans, Californians— over twenty-three traveling with backpacks. Not many from our neck of the woods travel in strife-torn Central and South America these days. The declining dollar, the unofficial coin of the realm is keeping us home, but not the Europeans who are able to travel at bargain prices. The median age of all the world’s people is twenty-three.

The cliché that the French are rude as you’ve heard seems to be true in Latin America. It’s become one of the topics of conversation in coffee houses along the Gringo Trail. Latin Americans are complaining. Even other Europeans. I’m not about to write off the entire French population. I love French cooking. My aunt spent two years in Paris getting her Grand Diplome at the Cordon Bleu School of Cooking. I can’t imagine the world without the visions of Renoir, Cezanne or Debussy.

I also remember reading how the impressionist artists were barred from the Salon of Painting because they did something different than what was accepted as culture. According to my aunt the French come from a stiff, unbending world, blamed in part on their rigorous school system which focuses on rote learning rather than creativity.

“Shhhh! You Americans and French always at each other's throats! France is a middling power, arrogant and with an inferiority complex,” said a Limeño friend. It’s a pity so many take the national prejudices with them.

I’m sure I will meet many lovely French people traveling. I prefer the individual travelers to groups who may as well never have left their native soil to begin with. Nationalism belongs at home.

I read that the French president Mitterand is one of the few foreign leaders who stands up to the US and refuses to bow to its power and influence. They have banned “American” words like hamburger and computer from the French language, fearing the corruption of their language. Our language is enriched by the addition of French. I can’t see North Americans boycotting words like envelope, romance and intellectual because they’re French words.

I can imagine all the hate mail I’ll receive in French envelopes on this one. (Oops, French envelopes means something else again. Rubbers, galoshes).

One Peruvian said France is too unyielding. It’s unable to bend. That is why it is no longer a superpower. As Americans— let me digress. Calling ourselves Americans is considered an imperialist attitude. And rightly so. It was pointed out to me that North America also contained two other countries, Canada and Mexico. We are all North Americans. English, Spanish and French.

Central and South Americans don’t call themselves Latin Americans. They call themselves Americans! And they are also Americans. I’m sure Kennedy addressing the people, “my fellow Americans…” had no idea he was addressing two continents. Simón Bolívar’s dream was to unite South America and call it the United States of South America. How different things might have been if he’d succeeded.

As US citizens, we are often called on the carpet for our embarrassing policies on Central America. We travel as ambassadors of the American people who don’t necessarily support or agree with the political policies of our nation.

Reagan is a very dirty word. Reagan may shoot down passenger planes mistaking them for military planes in the Iranian Gulf but at least he doesn’t go around blowing up Greenpeace ships protesting nuclear testing in the South Pacific like the French did in Tahiti. That’s a very small consolation prize.

I take it back. The man’s senile and crazy. Referring to the destruction of Polynesia, Jacques Cousteau said, “small material things mask the vital problems in the destruction of a culture. He was referring to his own countrymen. Nationalist attitudes should stay at home with all the extra baggage you don’t need (like the outboard motor) while traveling in a foreign country.

Stanley Meiser cites a stifling school system and foolish posturing on the world stage as an excuse for their behavior. He writes, “all studies show that outsiders look on the French as the coldest and least welcoming people of Europe. They have no tolerance or time for spontaneity or weakness.”

One begins to wonder why a group of people who steadfastly refuse to learn the barest minimum of a foreign language would even want to travel. Simple words like excuse me, con permisso, or thank you, gracias would make all the difference in the world—well, not world but in the Americas at least. ”When in Rome, do as the Romans do” obviously hasn’t yet been translated into French.

The sad part is, aside from pissing everyone off, they miss so much of the culture. Americans both the Latin and Northern of the species— are gregarious and open. A Bolivian writer said, “Nowhere else in the world do people treat you like the French if you do not speak their language.”








Note Bene: I transcribed these journal entries in 1988 - 1990, hence the variable dates. (I'm moving them all to 1988, journal entry date, not transcription/revision date). We were in South America during the summer of 1988. I was trying to publish these stories, or at least find a home for them. I've a vague recollection of the Machu Picchu piece being published in The Paper. 

I was readying several of these Peru pieces pieces for an anthology, House on Via Gombito: Writing by North American Women Abroad. I also wrote Bill Truesdale, the editor for New RIvers Press, St. Paul, MN, a rather zany letter about my travels across the USSR. He took the letter, and not the stories. 

After an incredible journey through South America, John Oliver Simon broke up with me, left me for a young blonde former student of his, and it took me nearly a decade to recover from the horror of it all. Going to the USSR in 1989 was my salvation—and still John was trying to reel me back in. Or maybe he was doing the AA thing, in his case, the SA 12-step thing, atoning for his wrongdoings. By that point, I wouldn't even give him the time of day. Ironically, we managed to heal the gap nearly 35 years later. So it's fitting that these pieces finally get to see daylight, after languishing in darkness for so long.   —Maureen Hurley 2/26/2014

I've very few photos transcribed over to the electronic medium, another project. Here are three small albums.

Machu Picchu
Peru
Galapagos

Tuesday, August 30, 1988

Lima


LIMA


“When you no longer see any trees you will be in Peru.”
—Simón Bolîvar's boat pilot, 1823


From the air, the outskirts of Lima, even the multitudes of red and white Peruvian flags fluttering over the pueblos jovenes, the shanty settlements don’t hide the smoldering heaps of garbage lining the dry banks of the Rímac River. In Quechua, the Inca tongue, Rímac means talking, or singing river.

If the river could speak, it would not have much to commend during the 400 turbulent years of European settlement. Twelve degrees south of the equator, Lima, the capital of Peru, is situated on the great coastal desert, the driest in the world, where precious rain is measured in millimeters a year.

South America’s Gran Liberator, Simón Bolîvar described it in letters as “the land was almost impossible to believe. Along the coast it was not only dead— for dead implied having once lived— it was unlacing, desolate, without trees, grass, or even cactus. The air was chilled; a cold ocean current prevented the fall of rain, and transformed a thousand miles of coastline into an utter wasteland.”


Though the explorer Pizarro is credited with the founding of Lima in 1535, there are huacas, adobe pyramids that predate our current calendar (Año Domini) by 1000 years.

For 400 years Spain generously suckled riches from Peru’s golden breasts until there was nothing left. I imagine most of that melted gold still slumbers in the tombs of numbered Swiss vaults.

Some Peruvians claim the Incas, with subtle revenge in mind, suggested the site to Pizarro, because, unlike the rest of the coast, it was so gloomy and cold five months of the year. Perhaps the Inca’s best revenge is that Pizarro's mummified body is on permanent public display.

Because of the Arctic Humboldt current, Lima is blanketed with heavy fog, the garua, which lets in little sun from June to October. In 1823, Liberator of Colombia, Simón Bolîvar described Lima— once considered the Paris of South America, “Lima had a down at the heel look. The avenues were filled with filth and the water which ran down the gutters in the centers of the streets was dammed with a concentration of litter.”

Bolîvar wrote “inside the city walls Lima had the air of a sensuous Seville; Moorish balconies carved in arabesques overhang the cobblestone streets, giving it much of the atmosphere of cities of southern Spain.”

Colonial buildings with centuries of grime, narrow streets choked with perpetual traffic jams—this is the birthplace of the New World’s first and only female saint, Rosa de Lima. Rosa de Lima lent her name to our city of Santa Rosa— in fact, all the Santa Rosas of the New World.

In an urn on one of the altars of Santo Domingo rest the remains of the Flor de Lima, Rosa (1586-1617). Beside her on the altar, the other new world and only Black saint San Martín de los Porres. August 30th, her feast day is the day our own Santa Rosa was founded, so the story goes.

During my travels to Latin America, I have visited many Santa Rosas. On and island on Lake Titicaca, in the tiny village school of Santa Rosa de Amamtani, we told students of our Santa Rosa de Sonoma, California. Somehow we’ve lost the other half of our city’s name. Surprisingly enough, many people have heard of our Santa Rosa.

Born of the aristocracy, blonde-haired Rosa was expected to marry brilliantly, not become a healer and champion of the poverty stricken masses. If Rosa could see Lima now, she’d notice not much has changed. “Everything in Peru was chaotic. An issue of paper money had depressed the currency, and prices were astronomical.”

Regardless of the century, it seems some things remain the same. Bolîvar was describing Peru in the middle of civil war. It still holds true today. Instead of Royalists and liberators, we now have the Maoist guerrilla movement Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), the middle class APRAistas and ultra righting military police embroiled in civil war.

As always the campesinos are the ones who pay with their lives. Our friend in Cuzco, Santa Rosa Kaiser nurse, Rae Pieraccini, writes to tell us inflation has gone up 1500% in six weeks and there’s no food to be had on the streets. “We have daily riots and looting with lots of tear gas and the military waiting in the wings.

The President, Alan García made a statement that he is now aligned with the military. Grim. The next few months will be much worse and anything can happen, and it will, soon, I fear.”

Peruvian Independence Day, July 28. Soldiers and tanks marching through the Plaza de Armas. I take a photo of the presidential palace and am barred by an uzi toting soldier.

While sightseeing along the gray garua coast at Chorillos with Peruvian poet Carlos Orellana, we are among the first to come across a crumpled body in front of the tunnel facing the sea cliff.

The night before, prominent left-wing lawyer, Manuel Febres Flores, who successfully defended and acquitted Osman Morote Barrionero, the number two comandante in the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path— the revolutionary Maoist guerrilla army with its base in the highlands near Ayacucho), went out to get a newspaper and never returned. No less than three right-wing death squads claimed responsibility.

Executed by a tunnel, his legs akimbo on the curb, torso and blood pointing out to sea, his only crime was that he was a good lawyer working within the boundaries of a democratic system—the same newspaper he bought, now covering his face.

Our friend, with a sure urban instinct, mutters, “don’t look. It’s got to be a car accident,” and we sped off through the tunnel like Alice in Wonderland to the safety of the Miraflores suburbs. This is our introduction to Peru.

Later we will sip Pisco brandy by candlelight and talk of poetry and politics. Terrorists have bombed the power stations. At the restaurant we dine by candlelight. Red and white Peruvian flags fly from every window. Firecrackers and gunshots punctuate the foggy night.

This civil war has claimed over 15,000 lives in the past eight years. Almost daily, the youngest Latin American to be elected President, the handsome 35-year-old Alan García, once viewed as the Kennedy of Peru, is asked to resign. Carlos who went to school with García, thinks García won’t make it to 1990 elections.

On the TV, the President made an address to the chamber of Deputies, asking for harsher anti-terrorist measures. A new paramilitary group, the Commando Rodrigo Franco claimed responsibility for the lawyer’s assassination.

Franco was a local official of President Garcia’s own social-democratic APRA party, who was tortured to death slowly, in front of his family by Serndero guerrillas. There was clear implication that responsibility for the murder of Febres Flores led somewhere high up in the government party.

In the month we were there no arrests were made. To make matters worse, involvement with the coca industry is igniting flames in the jungle region near the important provincial town of Tingo Maria.

As we prepared to leave, the Sendero Luminoso was enforcing an effective general strike in Tingo Maria, and had overrun the Civil Guard garrison at Pucallpa, a jungle town where we’d planned to go on a river expedition to see rare pink dolphins. We had to abort plans to visit the highland villages of Ayachuco and Huancayo, the Sendero’s peasant base, when we learned that mass graves of campesinos were being uncovered, killed by the army in anti-terror terrorism.

There are skirmishes between the government, The Senderos and drug enforcement officials. “Almost every day bodies are found here,” said one news broadcaster. When the talk turned to politics, Carlos was asked what he thought was going to happen. “I think the Sendero's going to win,” he said simply. “Nobody else has any energy. Oh, they probably won’t like me much. but maybe they’ll mellow a little in the process of achieving power, quien sabe, who knows?” Life goes on, in spite of it all.





Note Bene: I transcribed these journal entries in 1988 - 1990, hence the variable dates. (I'm moving them all to 1988, journal entry date, not transcription/revision date). We were in South America during the summer of 1988. I was trying to publish these stories, or at least find a home for them. I've a vague recollection of the Machu Picchu piece being published in The Paper.

I was readying several of these Peru pieces pieces for an anthology, House on Via Gombito: Writing by North American Women Abroad. I also wrote Bill Truesdale, the editor for New RIvers Press, St. Paul, MN, a rather zany letter about my travels across the USSR. He took the letter, and not the stories.

After an incredible journey through South America, John Oliver Simon broke up with me, left me for a young blonde former student of his, and it took me nearly a decade to recover from the horror of it all. Going to the USSR in 1989 was my salvation—and still John was trying to reel me back in. Or maybe he was doing the AA thing, in his case, the SA 12-step thing, atoning for his wrongdoings. By that point, I wouldn't even give him the time of day. Ironically, we managed to heal the gap nearly 35 years later. So it's fitting that these pieces finally get to see daylight, after languishing in darkness for so long.   —Maureen Hurley 2/26/2014

I've very few photos transcribed over to the electronic medium, another project. Here are three small albums.

Machu Picchu
Peru
Galapagos

Sunday, August 21, 1988

Letter to Luis Kong, from the Necropolis, Paracas, poem


LETTER TO LUIS KONG FROM THE NECROPOLIS, PARACAS 8/21/88
(RETURNING FROM PARACAS)

In Paracas where it has never rained in living memory, literally nothing grows. You told me there was nothing here in this place of your birth. I didn't understand what you meant. This place I've waited a lifetime to visit.

The garua, or coastal fog, rolls back each morning to reveal distant purple mountains, the Andean foothills, contrasting with the eroded bright ochre and red coastline of sedimentary rock turning back into dust once again.

Dust with its airiness is the wrong word to use. I want to say mud or earth to imply something of the weight and adhesion of this "dust." What is left is heavier than dust.

From countless jailed lips, the word Paracas has escaped—an eager storm of Inca doves bursting into sky, or slender serpentine syllables seeking shelter, and like pigeons, the sound returns home to its toothy origin only to find the speaker gone; a skeletal utterance, the word itself meaning dust storm.

Heavy with silica, the drifting sand dunes march in crescent-hooved formation over hills and plateaus, swallowing cities of the living and the dead. Above the buried necropolis, fossilized shells raised above the surface of the matrix, escape from stone prisons.

Sun, wind and time erodes this place. Fragments of quartz, venial intrusion once separated two layers of mudrock; thick milk glass shards strewn across the surface; the parent rock long since scattered by the four winds.

I crumble silica crystals between my fingers as if it were made of sugar or fake windows of a Hollywood stage set. Lit by morning sun, translucent alabaster "fish" swim in the sky.

Strange, unbroken ridges fall at the angle of declination to the coastal plateau. Rusted metamorphic pebbles erratically eroded by alluvial action, not water, glaze the slopes like chocolate "fleas" on a cake.

I wander between large shell mounds, each separated by species, clams, purple scallops and snails; worn pawns in a gigantic game of chess. The Paracas Indians were the first to fall to the Incas, who in turn, fell to the Spaniards. And so on. From flamingo carcasses, crazy pink feathers tumble across the desert.

Velvet crunching of brittle powdered rock, rich ochre earth clings, powdered pigment—rare fuller's earth on my boot. On the guano-capped rocks, only the diminutive tropical penguins turn their backs on the frigid sea.

The centuries-old "candlelabra" tree etched into the dune, visible only from the sea or space, is scarred by the twin tracks of tires. As are the geoglyphs and geometric lines on the Pampa Colorada de Nazca, the altiplano undisturbed for eons, only to be mutilated by cars. The Lizard, cut into two by the Pan American highway, no longer dreams of constellations.

I gather small rocks to bring home a piece of childhood for you. You said we can ignore obstacles caused by distance. Paracas is a piece of fallen moon. I gather stars, red dwarfs and blue giants, remembering to keep the right angle of the Southern Cross over my left shoulder as I face west. Mars flares bright and comes closer for a better look.

The sea floor is made of basalt, the same substance as the moon. On the shining path of the sea, it is hard to ignore the moon under dim stars, and cryptic fossils rising up from the rocks still feel its influence. Here, it is harder to remember this country is torn apart by civil war.

One expects to see camels at the palm tree oases. And you can literally smell the sudden moisture in the fertile river beds sprouting corn, cotton and oranges. The odor hits you like a wall. Precious water is carried in subterranean canals for miles from the highlands, where herds of alpacas and llamas browse on ichu grass.

The Spaniards thought alpacas were long-necked sheep, not camelids. The Indians thought the Spaniards on their horses were six-legged gods, and the invincible Inca empire fell.

The horse and the camel, both new-world creatures, became extinct here when man crossed the Bering land bridge. Not much has changed. Entire species succumb every day to our voracious appetites.

The elements never cease their relentless sculpting. Andean condors resume their endless circling on the hot updrafts. Who will pick their bones clean when they face that final extinction?

I tried to describe to the taxi driver who has never experienced rain, the violence of the Russian River leaping its summer banks by 50 feet. Whole orchards underwater. Houses became arcs floating out to sea.

I cited facts from newspapers: 800 square miles of sweet water pouring into the sea at 100,000 cubic feet per second. Statistics in feet and inches mean nothing to him. He compares it to the tsunami waves that strike this coast.

I told the taxi driver: Now, three years later, there's a drought back home. He said, "Ah, but there is something much worse, the child of rain, El Niño. When he comes, the fish die, the pejerrey no longer fill our nets and there is nothing but sand for our bellies.

A remolino, or dust devil funnels dust up the spout of the sky. Sky the color of sand.

"Torrents of rain fell near here once," said the taxi driver. In Ica, to the south, a city swallowed by sand, there was once cloudburst and it caused utter devastation. No one had ever seen rain before and they were unprepared for the huge rivers of mud that overran the town on a race to the sea.

After four centuries of neglect, the huacas, the enormous mud brick pyramids are eroding into furrowed mountains. Detritus of of a lost civilization collects at their bases.

When I return from this driest desert of the world to the summer inferno of northern California, I will be amazed by how eons of water have shaped our mountains and valleys. Golden coastal hills with dark myriad crotches, where water pools before it begins its journey to the sea, will seem so flattened after seeing the soaring eroded heights of the Andes.

How could it be, the steep hillsides of my dreams where I ride my horses are not of home, but another continent? Stuttering ghosts repeat to themselves an idea in a language they don't understand, déjà vu. I cannot send the postcard to my dead grandmother so she visits me at night, she who wanted to come here.

I've forgotten the rich, loamy odor of damp soil—watering the garden on a summer evening. Sudden pungency of mint and hint of a darker mystery. I learned the meaning of bone-dry walking the dunes. Bleached bones scattered everywhere. A seal skull. A small carnivore--perhaps an otter. Lobos del mar y nutrias.

The fragment of jaw in my hand, disturbingly familiar. Healthy unblemished molars. A spinal column. A bit of cloth. Human hair. I drop my jaw, I'm standing in a looted grave. 7,000 years of Paracas culture escaped the gold-hunger disease of six-legged gods only to be exposed to 20th century collectors when the veil of sand was pulled back by the wind.

A femur with desiccated muscle still attached, I am reminded the Spanish borrowed the Quechua word for dried meat, charqui or jerkey. Irreverently, I find myself singing "Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones got to walk around. Now hear the sound of the Lord."

The whistling breath of Paracas. From the sand, I pull strands of long black hair bleached to fire by the sun. In the breeze, scraps of death shrouds, like prayer flags, flutter and tumble to new horizons. I fall into a trench left by grave robbers slowly filling with sand again; water seeking its own level.

The dead have no writing. One can begin to make out the patterns on the burial shrouds, heavy white cotton and delicate knotted lace. Looters took the colored tapestries. The weavings and knotted quipu strings were their records. In this most barren of places, the best weavers of the world were buried along with their textile skills. The stories are lost, swallowed by the desert.

Later, I will buy "dolls" dressed in ancient cloth looted from graves, replicas of "families" buried with the dead for company; they will whisper and order me about the whole night long. I will be exhausted by morning.

Ama suwa, ama llulla, ama k'ella. Don't be a robber, don't be a thief, don't be lazy. This is how the Inca people still greet each other. Inca isn't the right word. An Inca is a ruler, a chieftain. These are the native peoples of the Andes.

The Incas turned this whole coast and the Andes into a vast empire, bigger and more sophisticated than anything in Europe. Both the sun and the first Inca was born on an island in Lake Titicaca. Far from here.

Cuzco is the navel of the world. Paracas is a more ancient story on the knotted quipu string. The sad colonizations that followed have little to do with the timelessness of this place.

In the museum I encounter rows of bleached skulls, stripped of expression and flesh, save for the maniacal grin of death. Thousands of years of frozen mirth. Most of the textiles and pots are gone. Sold by curators and robbers to the highest bidder.

In a basket, a severed mummy hand. Long, delicate fingers, tapered nails. The revered hand of an artist or of a punished robber? Fishnets made with human hair cast out under stars haul in pieces of the moon.

In Paracas, where exfoliated rock enters into a second childhood turning back into sand and earth, where the rich build their empty houses on top of cemeteries of the long dead, where nothing grows, underground rivers soothe the thirst of mummies. Jawbones, human ribs arching up, pre-architectural.

Deformed skull, trepanned, delicate surgery to relieve the pressure of water on the warrior’s brain. The sand that swallowed the city of the dead for centuries, protecting them from looters, is receding and the dead have no rest. Grave robbers desecrate the long-buried, and sand scours bones white again.

The rich endure this desolate beauty a few weeks of the year. In the empty houses, ghosts sun themselves. Hummingbirds dip and sway in benediction beneath each unnatural flower. Hibiscus, marigold, jasmine, roses—Flor de Lima, the daughter of wealth, who helped the poor and was sainted for her efforts.

Santa Rosa de Lima, how you would weep to see it now. They are smuggling in food for those who can afford it from Ecuador. The campesinos eat potatoes and rice. Rice from China, papas from Peru. The verb to eat is papaer, to "potato."

I remember you telling me when you were young, you'd sneak into the blue eye of the swimming pool at the exclusive Hotel Paracas. How alien it must have seemed. From China your family came to fish in these waters.

You say Paracas is a bowl of historical dreams brimming with landings and sufferings of Indians, Africans and Chinese who spilled their culture and lost their dignity. This is why you write in the languages of your adopted countries.

At the Pisco bus station a Black woman shuffles and sings for spare change. Poverty too is dressed in a cloak of dust.

Ochre velvet earth like ichu grass of the Andean highlands or the golden hills of California. Tied to a palmetto, the resident lawn mower, an alpaca clipping the crab grass lawn is wary of human contact. Here, they plant crab grass because it grows where nothing else will.

This place even evades my camera. The rolls of photos I take of your family and this landscape disappeared, blank unexposed film. The gods jealous of the wealth of silver bromide erased those graven images. I bring you a chuspa filled with small rocks, jasper and quartz from your desert.

The sapphire ocean whips a froth of lace onto the beach, golden skin of Pachamama, mother earth. Someone left a pile of river stones to invoke rain and snow in the distant Andes so the water would come back home to the sea. They sent runners inland with sea water to sprinkle on the tops of nearby ridges and smoke into the clouds to remind them of their duty.

Finally I begin to understand why you who fled the Paracas of your birth for the material comforts of El Norte meant when you said there was nothing here. It wasn't the poverty. Not one tree, not one blade of grass, not even lichen will grow here willingly—though the thick fog rolls in at night five months of the year.

Searching for the right word, you meant that by confronting the vast emptiness, it stirred something inside you, freeing you from yourself. I walk into the dunes until I can see no disturbing traces of man, ancient or otherwise, and I want to keep on walking to see the mystery behind the next horizon, the next set of dunes.

Distant dunes draw me farther in, where there is nothing left to confront except sand, rock and bone. The riverbed is lost, buried in sand. The shards of clay pots scattered. Pachamama keening in the wind.

Paracas, caught in the blinding net can only dream of distances. Yes, the dust is everywhere. Dust in my mouth, grit in my eyes. Relentless wind hammers me down to get on with the business of burial.

8/21/88




and what happened to the poem version? DamU ASCII!





Friday, August 19, 1988

PUNO/AREQUIPA Festival of Santa Rosa de Lima



PUNO/AREQUIPA Festival of Santa Rosa de Lima 8/23/88


The Puno train station along with the Arequipa train station is amongst the worst in Peru for thievery. Thieves especially favor the evening and early morning trains….but there aren’t many other scheduled trains to pickpocket, so it makes the thieves all the more dangerous and desperate.

As a successful thief deterrent, I’ve found the best result is to play “bopper car” with my backpack. If anyone comes too close to me, sidling up to slash my pockets, they get bashed by my swinging pack. This makes for a silly walk ambulating with a sideways drunken twisting motion—Monty Python style. The ladrinos keep clear of me—I'm an unpredictable gringa.

8/19  Today is one of the few days I actually know what day it is. I've had no sense of time. South of the equator, my internal clock and equilibrium are so thoroughly sprung by the extreme northern winter sun, I can't seem to find firm footing. At night I can't even get my bearings by the stars. Familiar constellations are canted too far to the north. The Southern Cross is my guide. Only the moon and the sun remain constant.

This is the year of Año Marina. The Year of Mary parade. Today, they bring Máría out from the church, they air her out at twilight. She's beautiful, this gilded lace Mary of Chiapi—she rides on an extraordinary throne flotilla of flowers— marigolds and roses and carnations. She's paraded clockwise around the Plaza de Armas at sunset amid much fanfare and drums. The air and light are translucent. Crepuscular. Máría arrives back from where she started at the steps of the Catedral de Arequipa. her luck and grace dispersed, her journey done.

Young boys march in battle formation hoisting banners of Santa Rosa with California written on them. It gives me a start to see Santa Rosa de Lima with California embroidered on the banners. We are so far from home from our Santa Rosa, California—Alta California norte. What is the likelihood of those two names appearing on a single flag in South America? Apparently we do not own the name.  And who in Northern California even knows that Santa Rosa is named after the first New World woman saint?

I've a sudden pang for natal ground. Homesickness. A strange coincidence. We ask, Why California? It's a district in Arequipa, the taxi man tells me. A plausible reason ordinary and mundane after all. A cardinal dressed in red stands at the front gate of the church to welcome Máría home. Dignitaries mount the steps looking grimly important. Respite during a time of war. Sendero Luminoso are on the move. The country is at unrest. But for a moment, the clocks have stopped to honor Máría, Pachamama in Catholic dress.

The last time I saw a bishop was when I was confirmed. I remember kissing the square cut pale green stone, watery as his eyes. All the medieval pageantry nonsense disappeared. There was only me and him after all. I said the name I chose was Johanna, in memory of my best friend's mother who died in the fire. The bishop confirmed me Joanne. He said Johanna wasn't a saint's name. But Johanna, martyred by McCarthy, died at the stake for speaking a mother tongue.

Pale pigeons with sunset eclipsed on their wings. The first star, Venus on the horizon, The Southern Cross blessing us in a primal benediction older than Christianity, older than Man...