Friday, June 10, 2011

Ruins and Rats (always the rats)

6/10/11 Friday

First things first. Peggy came back! And as with the prodigal son or the found denarius in the parable, there was much rejoicing.

Today I pull out the bike again and head out. This time sans dogs. I’m heading toward the Cieneguilla ruins. Walter gave me some directions. Something like, “Go straight. Cross the bridge. Then keep on going straight until you reach them.” Before I leave I ask Geraldine and Jose if I’ll be going the correct way. They have a rather long discussion about how to get there. In the end it basically boils down to what Walter told me, except there’s a left turn at the end instead of a go straight. Geraldine says, “You can ask people along the way.”

I pack some apples, a nutritional bar, a hat, a fleece jacket, my camera, and a notebook; throw my leg over the bike and go. Cieneguilla is a place of contrast. Rich and poor, dry and flourishing, stark and elaborately garnished.

When I cross the bridge I hear a motor-taxi slow and start to pass. I turn to look and make a gesture to stop him and he stops. I ask him if I’m going the right way to the ruins. He tells me yes. The people I pass are conservative, in that they don’t meet your gaze or initiate a hello. But if you ask them a question they’re more than willing to help out.

The ruins are ruins. I marvel at this other contrast. How the residue of the past stays pressed up against the living. Abutting the ruins are a farm and an orphanage. La Cima (The Peak), the orphanage is called. While I’m eating my apples and my Prana Bar I hear the orphanage band playing a song I recognize. It takes me a minute to catch on even though I know the tune. Past the flute and the staged drum rolls it registers. It’s The Beatles “Yesterday.” How funny, I think, to hear this song at this place. Yesterday, in these ruins, there was life. Yesterday, all these people’s troubles were far away. The places they had to hide away in are now crumbling mortar and dust.

I wish I could read in the walls and in the dust what happened, what these people felt, how they lived. I ask the air and get no response.

Full of questions that I have to make up answers to, I take my bike and head back down. While I’m out and about I decide to see more of Cieneguilla.

Down a main street I see some of the restaurants that I’d heard some of the Casa Del Gringo clients talking about. A street over and up the long hill I go to the market and get some more fruits and vegetables. One of the ladies already knows me. I always (I’ve been three times so far and I’m talking in absolutes) get carrots from her because they look the best. I pause in front of her stall and she says, “Carrots?” Yeah, please, I’m predictable. Thanks.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Just kidding, but I do go back home and settle in to do some writing.

Later, while we make our respective dinners Geraldine and I discuss all manner of things. At one point we’re talking about rats. I’m not sure exactly how we got to this topic but she compares the rats that live in the trees (and roofs) of Casa Del Gringo to the ones in Lima. She says the rats she’s seen in Lima were ill-kempt, dirty, with balding patches of mottled skin. The rats of Casa Del Gringo on the other hand have shiny pelts and fair faces (I’m suddenly reminded of Reepicheep in the Chronicles of Narnia). She says the CDG rats are healthy ones. They eat avocados, pecans and mango. They look after their wellbeing. She says they’re environmental rats. These rats have Gone Green.  

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