Written by: Rinda Payne (guest author)
Ana sat on the couch, her hands relaxed in her lap, a soft smile playing over her lips. Her eyes sparkled. She leaned forward.
“Love is the most important thing in my life. Without love for my family, for my friends, for you, my life would be nothing. I pray every night for you. I embrace you Mona and greet you with love. My love streams out toward God, the Holy Virgin, Jesus and the saints. And their love returns to me. I know I am a blessed woman because love is the only thing that matters. All else is false.”
Mona, an American who had moved into Ana’s neighborhood outside of Cusco several years ago, sat opposite her. She was astonished by Ana’s outburst. Did Ana really love her as Ana said? If only love mattered to Ana, then why had she lied to her, not once but several times?
Her thoughts traveled back in time to May 2010 when Ana had begged her to buy books for the poor children at the village where Ana hosted an annual chocolatada1. “They have no books,” Ana said, her eyes tearing, her voice quavering. “If only you could provide them with some books.”
Mona remembered how eager she had been to visit the bookstores in Cusco and carefully select the books, a book a month. She had even queried Ana about the age groups of the children who would be reading them.
Her thoughts centered on the day, only four days before the chocolatada scheduled for 2011, when Ana had presented her with a list of the donors to the January 2010 chocolatada. Glancing through the list, she saw a donation, unexpected because of Ana’s claim that the children had no books: a woman had given 100 books to the children’s library.”
She handed Ana the books she had bought for the 2011 chocolatada. Ana looked at them and tossed them aside without commenting. She did the same with the paints and the paint brushes and the clothes that Mona had carefully folded so as not to wrinkle.
“I’d like to go to the chocolatada again, and I’ll help you sort the clothes like I did last year,” Mona offered. A long silence ensued.
Ana frowned. “We’re going to have the chocolatada this year in April. My husband cannot drive us to the community in January. Some of my friends are away. We do not have enough donations. Would you like to go on another bus trip? It will be this coming Sunday. The group will be visiting a town some 15 kilometers from the village where we hold the chocolatada. I’ve called my friends. One is being treated for cancer; another will be with her son in Lima; yet another broke her foot; Elaine, whom you know, has the flu. Perhaps you’d like to replace one of my friends. Why not join us? I’ll call you with the time and place to meet.”
Mona agreed that she would go on the bus trip.
Privately she thought: “A chocolatada in April?” Every year Ana chose the first Saturday after New Year’s Day for her chocolatada. This year had been no different. Several weeks ago Ana had confirmed the date with her. Mona doubted the change in plans. A bus trip the day after? Two long trips in one weekend? She sensed that something was very wrong.
She received no call from Mona about the bus trip.
A month after being told that the chocolatada would be in April, she discovered the truth from Ana’s husband who was unaware of his wife’s duplicity. Ana, her family and friends had held the chocolatada on the date originally planned, the first Saturday after New Year’s. Ana’s husband had replied to Mona’s cautious question about the bus trip, “What bus trip?”
Mona suddenly recalled the warning that she had been given by a woman from Lima. The woman had been her seatmate on the flight from Lima to Cusco that had brought Mona to her new home. “Beware. My friends from Lima who live and work in Cusco tell me that the people in Cusco stab one in the back.”
1) Chocolatada: a group-sponsored event for underprivileged children at Christmas time, featuring hot chocolate, bread, sweets and toys.
Peru Writers' Group welcomes Rinda to our blog and we hope that she will submit more pieces for us to post. The following is a short "Bio" that Rinda submtted to let the readers know a little bit about her.
"In 2003 I received a strong calling to live in Cusco while I was taking a workshop in Vermont with Juan Nunez del Prado from Cusco. (Juan's father, Oscar Nunez del Prado, led the first expedition to the Q'ero in 1955. They are the descendents of the Incas and hold the spiritual traditions of the Incas.)
I traveled to Cusco in 2005 to take the Mosoq Karpay (New Life Initiation) from Don Nazario (now deceased), one of Peru's most famous healers, and Don Agustin Pauqar, a Q'ero.
In 2009, I closed down my life in Brookline, Ma., applied for and received my carne de extranjeria and moved to Santa Monica, Wanchaq at the end of May 2009.
I am a Reiki Master/Teacher and a sound healer. My career focus was administrative work in hospitals in Boston, MA. and the Boston area. During my last position, I also gave Reiki to employees and patients, as well as participated in the elective complimentary medicine program for residents in General Medicine. For several years, I had a private office where I taught Reiki and gave Reiki sessions. Since my arrival in Santa Monica, I have been writing a monthly newsletter about life in Cusco, which I e-mail to friends around the world. In addition, www.livinginperu.com published three travel articles and one feature article by me."