As the mini-bus (taxi) commenced its journey through the Sacred Valley the spirits of the mountains were wrapping their reassuring arms around me. I was going home to my little story book town of Ollantaytambo. I belonged there.
I looked forward to seeing those smiling faces that greeted me all those days of the last seven weeks or so. I was glad to be leaving the city of Cuzco. I had battled there, lost, just like the Incas to the Spanish, torn apart, quartered and reassembled in a more simplified version of myself. But I had a ticket to Machu Picchu, something real to look forward to. And friends were eager to see me.
As soon as I set foot inside the door of my lodgings I was introduced to a newcomer to the town. A Peruvian gentleman who had recently moved to the area and had already become acquainted with my pals. He was on his way to Casa De Anna. I was encouraged to go along. It was only two minutes walk away.
When we arrived at Casa De Anna a science experiment was already underway. The Peruvian gentleman, an educated fellow by University degrees, explained to me what was happening here. Anna, the lady of the house provided science classes for some primary school children after school. Travelling visitors to the area were welcome to volunteer their knowledge to engage the children in fun and challenging ways to encourage creative scientific thinking. I recognised some of the visitors as they were not only skilled in other fields of education but also talented musicians who sometimes provided concerts at Misha Wasi.
I quickly got an idea and ran back to my hotel room to get my laptop. A few years previous I had been a presenter for Astronomy Ireland. I had developed a programme for introducing young children to the planets of our Solar System, the history of Astronomy and life on the International Space Station.
Apart from English language I had only ever attempted to present the course in my own native Irish language on a few occasions and never expected to have the opportunity to present it in Spanish.
Using my laptop presentation, I did my best to explain to the musician guys in Spanish, as this was their first language, being from various other parts of South America. They seemed to grasp my meaning and I realised that I was in fact teaching them some things they were also learning for the first time.
My mind was so distracted by this activity it was the perfect remedy for me. I also recalled an experiment which had been imparted to me by a N.A.S.A. engineer who I had met in the Coffee Tree Cafe. It was designed to explain to children, the basis for verifying the shape and existence of quarks (sub-atomic particles). It involved the use of ball-bearings, a board and some cut out blocks of various shapes such as circle, square and triangle. The board sits above the shape so as to hide which one is underneath. By rolling the ball bearings under the board and observing the angle of their rebound it could eventually be determined which shaped block was underneath the board. This was a simplified version of a more sophisticated experiment used by nuclear scientists, so I was told by the man from NASA.
Soon the lessons were over and the children were leaving for their homes. Anna produced a bottle of red wine and everyone was invited to stay a while. I was conscious however of the smoky atmosphere as cigarettes were lighting up. I had cultivated a respect for an art of mine that required a clean instrument so I declined the offer in favour of an early night.
I had discovered what lay behind yet another door in this magical town. There was so much more to be discovered but I was running out of time. Now I needed to make the most of it. Absolutely!
©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)