Thursday, August 30, 2012

Journey of a Lifetime ( Part 11 ) - Cusco behind the scene

With two more days in Peru, Lulu and I signed up for a couple of optional tours which were being offered to us. Here are some of the tours Lulu and I joined which I thought were the best optional tours in our trip. 

Spiritual Healing with a Shaman:

I was so intrigued with the description of the tour which said " .. you will have the opportunity to meet with an Andean shaman and witness a real offering  to mother earth and the sacred protectors to thank them for this trip." Jesus told those who will join this tour will get a " shaman blessing ". It did not take a lot of convincing for me to join this tour.. Lulu and I immediately signed up.

What is a shaman?? A shaman ( or a healer ) is a person who interacts with both the normal world and the world of spirits, usually acting as a sort of intermediary between the two. Shamans are common in many tribal cultures, although shamanism may also exist in other types of culture. The shaman is often responsible for both the physical and spiritual health of people, and may also be called upon to invoke spirits for aid, or to predict the future and interpret omens.

We were ushered into a room and quietly took our seats around the shaman who was sitting on the floor. What a sight!!! a true to life Shaman sitting on the floor right in front of me!! I felt so lucky to be able to take a lot of photos of this ritual to show what I have  experienced.

He started his ritual while I watched in awe and listened to Jesus' explanation of what he was doing. The symbolism of each of the herbs, flowers, stones which he was taking out one by one and placing it in front of him.

Then he went to where we were sitting and gave us 3 coca leaves, told us to make a wish on these leaves and return them back to him which he included in his ritual.

The Shaman wrapped the offering, slowly stood up. Holding the offering in his hands, he went into a light trance and started to chant. His chanting took around 10 minutes. The whole group were mesmerized. Not understanding what he was chanting, we watched intently to what he was doing.

After his chanting, we were called one by one to the center of the circle in order to get our ritual  blessing. We had to tell him our name, then he would repeat our name and start chanting once more. It seemed like forever when he started chanting!! He asked me to bow my head, close my eyes, make a wish while he went around me smudging the offering all over me.

Our next stop was a visit to the Almuden Cementery:

In the Almudena cemetery, which is a really elegant place where important and famous personalities from Cusco are buried, drinking and eating are not allowed inside its walls. According to Mauricio, our tour guide, in Cusco, when a person dies they are buried in a casket for ten years, before being dug up and cremated, and the ashes are placed in a niche in a wall of the cemetery. 

For the wealthy, the ashes are placed in little stand-alone marble houses that are large enough to accommodate the entire family. 

The wall niches at Almudena are interesting little dioramas of the deceased persons' lives. Inside framed glass enclosures are symbols of the lives that the people led: dinner tables with large feasts, large beer and pisco bottles, automobiles, flowers, dolls, photos, religious statuettes, and so forth, with each two-foot by one-and-a-half-foot space representing a life.

In Peru, November 1st is celebrated nationally, but in Cusco it is known as Dia de Todos los Santos Vivos ( Day of the Living Saints ) and celebrated with food such as roasted guinea pig, sugar cane and chicha. November 2nd is considered the Dia de los Santos Difuntos ( Day of the Deceased Saints ) and is honoured with visits to cemeteries. On this day they paint and clean the graves and drink, eat and sing with the help of several bands playing upbeat music, which for ten soles play three songs in honour of a relative. While the mausoleums and graves are cleaned, it encourages family members to remember the deceased as they were while they were still alive. 

Cooking lesson:

You will learn from our chefs how to prepare the classic Peruvian dishes, which are popular in Peruvian homes and restaurants around the world.  From selecting the ingredients to actually preparing the dishes,

We were given a cooking demonstration of a traditional Peruvian dish called Causa Limena ( a cold, layered, potato dish ) by one of the chefs at  El Meson de Don Tomas. It was very interesting for all of us... we learned a lot --from selecting the ingredients to actually preparing the dishes, the chef taught  us step by step how to make the dish. Jesus gave us a little background history about the dish we were going to learn that day. He explained to us that way back in the 1880's when Peru was at war with Chile, the Lima people created this dish which they sold to raise money to support their army and feed their soldiers in the front line. This typical dish is a mashed yellow potato pancake stuffed with fish, chicken or vegetables. It is best enjoyed in the warmer months on an outdoor terrace with a glass of cool, white wine. While we were watching the demonstration, a waiter went around serving us a complimentary glass of pisco sour.

After the cooking demonstration, they gave us the recipe which I will post it on another blog.

Here is the finish product.... and it tasted as good as it looked.

Tommorow the group will be flying back to Lima, Peru. We are going to have a free day to explore Lima for the last time before we go back to the States.

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