Nachos and Tamales

Matthew Osche
June 7, 2017

“You must not judge people by their country. In South America, it is always wise to judge people by their altitude.” – Paul Theroux

My glasses began to fog up as I sipped the steaming mate. Through the condensation on my glasses, I looked out the long glass window before me and watched as the sun painted the city of Cusco in a fresh morning blaze.

“Globalization is something that has stemmed from Peru for centuries now,” our Airbnb host continued his statement about the current state of Peru’s development. “We simply affect the world in different ways than some more developed locations. Look at the potato for instance. A product of Peru discovered by the Spaniards that has since spread all over the entire world.”

Nacho poured himself another cup of mate and stood up from his chair.

“I’ll leave you guys be for now, though,” he began. “Keep drinking the mate. It’ll help with the altitude.”

We thanked our host for his hospitality and he departed the room.

Nacho, a nickname for the Spanish name Ignacio, was the more than gracious Airbnb host to my friends and me during our brief trip to Peru last week. He was an elderly man with a short stature, but a sharp and clearly cultured mind. My two friends who had come with me to Peru (Dane and Kyle; two IES Abroad friends) and I had gesticulated that he most likely had been a professor during his earlier days. When we had arrived at his Airbnb that overlooked Cusco, Peru, at 6:00 AM that morning, he had welcomed us with warm mate (a kind of rich, caffeinated tea local to South America) with cocoa leaves. He poured us each a glass and led us to the highest room in the building that had one wall entirely made of glass revealing a truly breathtaking view of the city and the surrounding mountains.

We had come to Peru to visit one of the world’s new seven wonders, Machu Picchu, in addition to exploring whatever else we could of the country during our visit. In total, our trip lasted four days. The first day and final day were spent adventuring in Cusco, while the second and third were spent at Peru’s Rainbow Mountain and Machu Picchu respectively. In this blog I will talk about our time in Cusco.

Cusco, Peru, the hub of Spanish activity in the Andes during the European colonial period is a city rich with history as well as diverse culture that resulted as a combination of Incan and European customs. Comprised of about 500,000 inhabitants, the downtown area of Cusco possesses a coalition of modern apartment complexes and business buildings alongside classic Spanish colonial architecture. High in the Andes, the city rests at a whopping 11,150 feet.

After arriving in Cusco and taking a quick nap at our Airbnb, Kyle, Dane, and I worked our way down to the city’s plaza de armas (a Spanish term for a city’s main square). As we ventured down into the city, the three of us ogled at the tight cobblestone streets amongst the low leveled buildings with their clay Spanish style roofing. Based off what I have seen in photos, I imagine that a great portion of Cusco’s architecture quite similarly resembles common Spanish architecture.

Hungry after our long flight and nap, our main goal upon entering the city was to find lunch, but of course once we reached the plaza de armas, we were sidetracked by the epic fountain and opulent 16th century churches of the plaza. After meandering about for a while and taking in the dramatic architecture, we found a restaurant and grabbed a quick bite to eat. Following our lunch, we headed back to the plaza de armas and decided to take explore one of the churches.

We entered La Iglesia de la Compañia (Church of the Company). Aside from the sheer size of the church, which was absolutely massive, the inside of the building was one of the most impressive interiors to any church that I have ever seen. The sidewalls of the great temple seemed to stretch up into the heavens and were adorned with ostentatious golden altars that housed niches for the statues of various saints. The altar as well was backed by ornate golden structures that held statues of Jesus and other figures of the Catholic Church. La Iglesia de la Compañia is undeniably the most beautiful church I have seen here in South America.

Following our visit to the church, we spent the rest of the afternoon perusing one of the city’s many artisanal markets as well as the many stores that sell objects ranging from ponchos made from alpaca wool (I ended up buying one of these) to intricate maps of Peru and Latin America. For dinner, we went to a small restaurant located on a quiet street that branched off the plaza de armas. In an effort to avoid the food poisoning that Cusco is unfortunately known for (and that Kyle would get before we left Peru) I ordered a safe meal of Alfredo pasta, but because none of us had tried them before, we decided to try an order of the classic Latin American dish, tamales. The tamales did not disappoint, but as we were paying the check, Dane noticed that we had been charged for not one, but two orders of tamales. The waitress had brought us two plates of tamales when she brought them out, but we had simply figured that because only Dane had asked for an order of tamales that the order was simply comprised of two plates. Although, after looking at the number of orders on the receipt, we realized that we were the ones who had misunderstood the scenario.

“Two orders of tamales…” Dane sighed in his typical half-joking half-serious serious voice as we walked out of the restaurant, his remark making Kyle and I chuckle. “Two orders of tamales…” For the rest of the evening Dane would not stop reminding us how jaded he was at the restaurant’s cheap move.

At the end of our first day in Cusco, I remember turning out the lights to our room and we all shuffled under the covers of our beds. As we were lying bed, starting to fall asleep, I heard Dane softly mumble four words: “Two orders of tamales…”

Kyle and I burst out laughing.

While our other day in Cusco wasn’t quite as eventful as the first because Kyle had gotten food poisoning the night before at a pizza place in Aguas Calientes, Peru, and had spent most of the day between his bedroom and the bathroom, Dane and I had a satisfying day simply walking around the city. For lunch, we were able to try a Peruvian dish that was the one bit of food I had very much so wanted to eat before returning to Chile, guinea pig. I should say, it was honestly very tasty. The taste was quite unique, although as cliché as it sounds, it did slightly resemble the taste of chicken in my book.

It was a quick two days in Cusco; a quick two days that I will remember as some of the best of my life spent experiencing one of the richest and most charming cultures that I have yet encountered.

Matthew Osche

<p>Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Matt Osche and my two greatest passions are my writing and my travels! I&rsquo;m just your average 20-year old college student trying to &ldquo;carpe diem&rdquo; while balancing my studies and my passions. Having grown up in Penn Trafford, PA, a small suburb of Pittsburgh, I&rsquo;ve come a long way from my humble beginnings as my semester in Santiago, Chile, is my second adventure after my junior year of high school spent in a small town outside of Oslo, Norway as a foreign exchange student. Take a look at my blog and read about my adventures here in South America!</p>

Destination:
Term:
2017 Spring
Home university:
Penn State University
Major:
International Relations
Journalism
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