A large chunk of the world has a problem that most North Americans and Europeans don’t consider when they turn on the tap: clean water (or rather the absence thereof). Here’s a guide to clean water (or lack thereof) around the world, and how you can avoid problems when you’re traveling and living in places where clean water isn’t a given.
My Experience with Clean Water (or Not)
I remember being in Nepal and telling somebody that I brushed my teeth with the tap water; “it’s not a problem, is it?” I asked when I saw the look of horror on their face. They told me about the numerous outbreaks of cholera in our neighbourhood that week. The cause of the cholera outbreak? The tap water.
Although you’d think I learned something there, I had to re-learn it – the hard way – in Peru earlier this year…a few times over. I’m not sure how I contracted the first parasite (it could have been callously brushing my teeth with tap water, washing my vegetables in it and not drying them properly, or eating an otherwise contaminated food), but suffice it to say, it was a gastronomically unpleasant experience. (There are many types of parasites, but the parasite de rigueur in this part of Peru is giardia).
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At 4,842 metres, mount Pachatusan is far from the highest mountain in the Peruvian Andes, but on this day it is a formidable mountain; too formidable for we three hikers to pass.
The Pachatusan Trek (aka “The Plan”)
With gear and provisions for a two-day trek, we take a taxi from Cusco to the next town called Huasao (pronounced Wah-sah-oh) to begin our hike. From there, we (plan to) head up, up, and up some more to a campsite just shy of the summit of Pachatusan. On day two we (plan to) skirt around the summit and down into the next valley (the Sacred Valley), and grab a short ride back to our home in Pisac.
My companions for this informal trek are my friends Silvia, and Miguel (with whom I’ve hiked to Machu Picchu, Lares Hot Springs, and Kinsa Cocha).
The Significance of Pachatusan
The name Pachatusan means “one that sustains the Earth” in the Quechua language. This commanding mountain is one of many that is spiritually revered by the local people. When I first came to Peru last March, my room looked out on this mesmerizing mountain that I hoped to grace the higher ridges of at some point.
However in the mountains, anything can happen, and on this day it appears that Pachatusan has something else in store for us.
With sunshine and warm weather, we hit the trail with high spirits and energy. The views over the Cusco valley are beautiful and we are (almost) on top of the world.
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I suck at languages (at least so I thought). After 12 years of learning French in school, you’d think I could stretch more than a few words together. (I can’t). Despite this handicap, I’m determined to become fluent in Spanish – and I’m almost there! Here’s how:
My unwavering determination unto itself is a big part of my ability to become fluent, according to Benny Lewis (known in some circles as “Benny the Irish Polyglot”), who teaches people to become Fluent in 3 Months. He literally lands in a country and is speaking like a local in three months (and speaking with locals in less than three days). One of his secrets? You have to want it. Learning a language is work, and it takes determination to put in the hard yards required.
Practice (Even if it’s Easier to Speak English)
When I was first in Peru, I was staying in an area heavy with expats and visitors from all over the world. Thus the common language was often not Spanish – but English. It was almost too easy to not speak Spanish; a sure-fire way to never become fluent. I was staying next to a fellow from Spain (but whose English was impeccable); for myself and others, it took discipline to speak Spanish with him, since it was quicker and easier to just do it in English. Without practice though, you’ll never become fluent. You have to throw yourself into it and speak as much as you possibly can, even if the person you’re speaking with also speaks English.
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