April 21, 2010 Urubamba-Sacred Valley of the Incas

Today, I visited the two Safe Haven’s teachers and sisters, Adriana and Dina. Adriana’s busy schedule hasn’t permitted an earlier meeting. She is studying for her master’s degree, in addition to carrying the full financial load of the family, for her mother, brother, and sister. Dina, her younger sister, just gave birth (via emergency C-Section) to her first child and is unable to work yet. Read more



Sunday, April 18 Early this morning I traveled from Yucay to Qotohuicho in the Sacred Valley, to meet Pelayo, an old friend whose character I respect, and also as a ceramic artisan and karate instructor. The agenda had been pre-set Friday eve. We were going to design a plan for ceramic workshops for the children of the Safe Haven.

While I was waiting outside in the yard for him, I looked around at my surroundings:  a couple of adobe structures, dirt floors, bee hives full of activity, a laundry line full of clothes drying with the radiant and powerful sun. As I pulled out my laptop, I realized what finally brought me to this particular place. I had the assurance that what will transpire today has the potential to change many lives. At that very moment I felt connected to the hand that wrote all, in silent prayer without words or pleas.

Within a couple of hours we had laid out an ambitious but simple plan, which will start before my departure on May 12. The plan, not only will explore the children’s artistic abilities, but will provide them with life skills they could tap into in the future.

Pelayo is raising his three children alone. His needs seem beyond my comprehension. Giving him just money would be an insult to his character, but offering him an opportunity to work together in a larger purpose, will give him life.

As I was leaving this humble but nurturing environment, I looked at the distant mountain, the Nevado Chicón. It reminded me of the encounter in the spring of 2003 when I became lost during a hiking adventure that changed me forever and turned a visiting observer into a man on a mission to bring positive change into lives of people in the sacred valley.



 While traveling solo in Cusco, Peru, in the fall of 2008, I experienced a period of loneliness like never before. I felt that a companion was missing to share the joy, excitement, compassion, and adrenaline rush of the adventure. A traveling partner who could feel, taste, and experience the profound significance of my heart for the journey. My heart ached, was weak, and confused. I was longing for intimacy.  In a frightening moment of loneliness and desperation I started to read ‘Never Alone’ by Joseph F. Girzone. I had tossed the book in the bag at the last minute while packing at home in Oregon before the long trip began; the title had intrigued me.  The content of the book’s dedication provided a deep relief to my heart’s loneliness:

“I dedicate this book to my Friend who is always by my side and in my heart, who is never far when I am lonely and confused, who always gives peace to my soul when I am troubled and frightened, and fearful of the future. I share with Him my deepest secrets, my joys, my sorrow, my accomplishments, my shame. He always understands. He never accuses or criticizes, but often suggests a different way of doing things. When He does, He inevitable prepares the way so it is not as impossible as I thought it might be. Over the years I have learned to trust Him. It was not easy. I thought that in following Him I would have to give up all the fun in my life, but I found that He was all the Source of all joy and adventure, and, indeed, He turned my life into a great adventure at a time when I thought it was about to come to an end. I would like to suggest that He could become your friend, too, if you would like Him to be. Do not be afraid; He will respect your freedom and independence more than anyone you have ever met, because He created you to be free. He just wants more than anything that you will accept Him as your friend. If you do, I can promise you, you will never be alone.”

 Although I may be surrounded by people who genuinely appreciate, respect, and love me; there are periods of time when I am, and will, be alone, and sometimes filled with thoughts of confusion. I have carried this book with me on my trips since then as a constant reminder of its significance and lesson learned. The profound intimacy that I share with Him is not humanly possible or experienced; no matter how much I deeply treasure and love people.

                                                 Alone I came into the world,

                                                 Alone with my thoughts I live,

                                                 Alone with my thoughts I grow,

                                                 Alone with my thoughts I die,

                                                 But I will never be alone.

                                                                          Composed by José in an ‘alone’ moment.

 José, live from the Sacred Valley



 I woke up more rested this morning and a bit anxious as I lay in bed for a while. I couldn’t understand the feelings of emptiness I was experiencing.

I finished reading ‘The Alchemist’, by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho; the story of a Spanish shepherd boy who had a dream of finding a treasure at the pyramids of Egypt. A gypsy woman and a king advised him to pursue it in order “to realize one’s destiny’s only obligation”.

 What resonated for me in the final chapter:  “The boy turned to the hand that wrote all. As he did so, he sensed that the universe had fallen silent, and he decided not to speak.  A current of love rushed from his heart, and the boy began to pray. It was a prayer that he had never said before, because it was a prayer without words or pleas.”

 As I walked around Betty’s Pashnawasy’s yard, I stopped in silent prayer. I became absorbed with the activity that surrounded me:  chickens and ducks pecking for bugs, apples lying on the ground from the trees above, guinea pigs full of activity. Once I stopped to appreciate the beauty around me, my heart became more serene and peaceful.

 This morning I realized I did not have to react to my heart’s anxiousness in a confused manner, but to be aware that the feeling of emptiness was because I was starting the day with a blank canvas that waits to be painted. I first needed to be connected to the hand that wrote all, in silent prayer without words or pleas. My heart’s brush strokes to life my canvas from the day’s activities.

 Jose, live from the Sacred Valley


Beyond  the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Perú.

“We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.”

Pema Chödrön

I met with  local representatives of Toqra, a community that sets three hours away from the sacred valley of the Incas. We explored the opportunity to start a new children’s library. It was  approved within a short period of time. The process has started, and are in the planning stages.  This ambitious project will need


CCOTOHUINCHO – SACRED VALLEY OF THE INCAS:    As we are accustomed to say, the cherry on top has been to witness the renovation completion and opening of our school room in Ccotohuincho. Last Saturday the 21st of March 2009,  we hosted 90 plus eager, joyous, happy, enlightened children. The room had been transformed from a dirt floor and adobe loose walls, to sparkling finished walls adorned with balloons, colorful puppets hanging from the ceiling, and a new cement floor. The festive environment, our mascot puppet Al Paco Llama, our nurturing teachers and volunteers combined with music, activities, and the locally donated snacks, provided the stage for a most successful event. Adriana, our extraordinary teacher led the children through games, singing, learning, and having fun for 3 hours. Habacuc led the singing with his guitar, and Empe closed the event with a thankful prayer. 
At noon Saturday, we had started with nothing but a clean and empty room; 4 hours later, we had a child friendly and beautiful adorned room packed with children, and I mean packed, in an area of 3.40 mts by 5.60 mts. Adriana had taking care of posting the sign announcing the opening just a few days before. What was truly amazing was the almost overwhelming attendance within a short notice. The children had been waiting most impatiently for 3 weeks for their room to open, they were ready, and now we are….


Puno on the border of Peru and Bolivia: I´m in Chuquito, about 30 minutes from Puno and on the lake side. It´s a very small and old town, very little life but peaceful. I’m staying at `Posada Santa Barbara’, very nice and lots of hard scape with natural stone. Santiago and Patricia, nice people that spend half the year in Chuquito and the other half in Italy. He is from this town, and have strong Andean roots. Interesting conversation to see if we can partner and work together.
We arrived tuesday at 6am, good trip with very big and confortable reclining bed sits. Play in Puno for half a day and came to chucuito. Today we talked to a co op of women artesans that Santiago promoted and buys alpaca wool an ponchos to export. Very engaging conversation with them. Will meet them at 4pm to see their products.


Are you my brother?

The man was squatting by a wall of crumbling rock.  His toes, as if decomposing into dry gravel and harsh dirt of local roads, no longer look human.  His feet, caked in old dirt and shod in a pair of ancient sandals the color of granite, look much too worn to have carried him to the spot by the wall on the outskirts of town.  “How did he get here?” I wonder.

“A picture?” I wave my camera in a gesture universal to Western tourists traversing small dusty towns in search of cultural diversity.  Or is it cultural awareness?  It may be cultural effervescence, as it floats above heads of men slowly decaying into hopelessness of poverty.

The man turns his spent eyes in the direction of my camera knowing that I will pay a few coins for his efforts, and lifts the right corner of his mouth from the crust of disappointment his lips had formed years ago. There, a smile for me.  I take a picture, and the man’s mouth drops.

“May I talk to you?” I ask.

“Yes,” he nods without looking, since my camera is no longer looking at him.

I walk over and squat by the wall next to the man.

It may have been my curiosity that eventually turns my monologue into actual conversation.  I really wanted to know how the heck he got here, and although the man spoke some Spanish, he understood a bit more than he’d let on at first.  His native tongue is Quetcha, the language of local Indian people, but he’s been around long enough to pick up some of my dialect.

Well, he came from a place three hours away.  No, not a three-hour drive.  Three hours of walking.  His grandkids walk him here.  They tell him to put on his good vest and this cap – and he points to the cap woven in the hot colors of the region – and take him to the spot by the wall to have his picture taken by tourists for coins.  When are they coming to take him home?

The man shrugs.  He used to be a farmer, but his grandkids took the land.  I don’t command enough of his language to find out why, and it really does not matter to him any more.  This is his land now, the spot in dry gravel by the wall, and he works it for the same reasons he once used to work his land.  For his grandkids.

“Hey, you need any help?”

A taxicab driver pulled over and is now leaning out of the window in concern.

No, all is fine, I signal back, but by now he’s climbing out of his vehicle.

“Where do you live?” he asks the old man, and nods a “yes-I-know-the-place” in happy recognition.

“I come from the same town,” he says.

I tell him some of the story. The driver and the old man, animated now, talk for quite a while.

“And why are you here?” he turns to me.

What do I tell him, I wonder. That some time ago the Spirit of God stopped me in my tracks high up in the mountains and placed these people, my people, on my heart?

“I want to know how I can help him,” I say.

The driver, the old man and I then talk for a while longer until the old man feels comfortable enough to share some of his pain, and I feel comfortable to share some of the desires of my heart,  and the driver feels comfortable to listen to our stories with compassion. We agree that the driver will drive the old man to the place he used to call home, and when I come back next year, he will drive me to the old man’s home.  I will bring sacks of flour, sugar, rice and beans – and my camera.  The old man, now resting against the wall in contemplation, gives me a curious look.

“Are you my brother?” he asks.

“Yes, I am.”