My dear Beard,
Since I’ve arrived to Cusco few weeks ago, people keep asking me the same questions:
“How long do you stay here?”
“What do you do here for 1 month?”
“I do nothing”
Eat, pray, love – the book I really liked that said Italian are experts of doing nothing and even have a phrase for it: “Il bel far niente” – “the beauty of doing nothing”. Don’t get me wrong, “doing nothing” doesn’t mean laziness: laying in bed and keep liking or commenting on Facebook for hours, sitting on the couch in front of the TV for the whole day, eating cold leftover food in the fridge, etc. Doing nothing, instead, means taking a break from everything to just sit and breathe, relax, watch and allow every single moment of the day guide us to the fullest.
I love that phrase but never had any chance to practice it in the past 10 years since I was too busy of doing something, to be a successful woman in my career, to be a good daughter and sister in my family, to be a sweet lover in those relationships…
But in Cusco, nothing from those years that relate to me, at least for the time I’m here. I’m no longer a journalist here. I’m taking a break from all the responsibilities. And no boyfriend in Cusco. It’s time to do nothing. Yay!
Here are 10 things which mean “doing nothing” that I’m doing in Cusco these days:
- Walking around the city.
I chose Cusco to stay for a month because I just simply fall in love with the charming of this town. I spend most of the days to wander around narrow streets, up and down the corridors, where prestigious shops with locally made goods are displayed. I sit on the bench at Plaza de Armas and watch the blue sky and low clouds over the mountains. I walk through many old houses and found some of my favorite fountains. I walk up to hills to have a beer at the bar which offers the best view of the city. I join countless feasts and festivals that take place every weekends to celebrate whatever local people are celebrating and believe. My friend Adrian loves all the blue doors in Cusco.
- Surrounding myself with history
Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire before the Spaniards conquered it in the 1500s. And when in Cusco, I can’t help to learn more and more about the layers of rich and mystical history from the lost culture. The original Inca walls resting under European style architecture, the battles, a mixture indigenous roots and Spanish influence. You can’t change the history, but you can learn from it.
- Eating at Green Point
I love this restaurant. It offers a super creative vegetarian menu with healthy ingredients, mouth-watering smell, pretty decorations and heaven taste. I have to say thanks to Dario who recommended me this place, because I found myself sitting there 3 or 4 times a week, waiting for my next dish with a super excited face. One night, after finishing a main dish (raw sushi) and dessert (quinoa sweet soup), I felt like to eat more, so I ordered another main dish (vegetable tar tar).
- Enjoying chocolate
I have a sweet tooth but not really a chocolate person. I don’t know why I didn’t like chocolate before, but the Chocolate Museum in Cusco has changed me. It was the first time I’ve known there’s something called a Chocolate museum, which collects a series of interactive exhibitions through the history of cocoa production from Mayan times to today, the cacao tree and its cultivation, the cacao harvest and chocolate production, and the health benefits of cacao. Sean – a friend I met in Machu Picchu told me he attended a chocolate workshop and prepared himself some handmade chocolate to take away. I didn’t do that workshop but I drink so much hot chocolate, eat a bunch of chocolate truffles and chocolate cakes in Cusco.
- Drink coca tea every day
Yes, the tea is made from coca leaves and boiled water. Yes, coca leaves are the raw material for cocaine, but chewing the leaves or drinking coca tea everyday when in Cusco (altitude 3,400 meters) helps me to avoid some symptoms: shortness of breath, headache, dizziness and nausea. And yes, it’s legal here and it’s the way locals have done for 5000 years.
- Chilling at cute coffee shops
Like chocolate, I’m not a coffee person as well. My heart will race for sure if I drink up a full cup of coffee. But I like the smell of coffee and the best way to enjoy it is chilling at a coffee shop. Cusco is home to many cool and cute coffee shops that serve delicious coffees, sandwiches, desserts, and many more. My favorite one is Café Loco in San Blas – a little place which is tucked away from the busy streets and has a spectacular view to city. I usually went there with a book or my laptop, asked for a…lemon juice or fruit yaourt, then stayed there for hours until the waiter got sick of me.
- Visiting the local market
No doubt to say that San Pedro market is my top spot in Cusco. I visit the market almost everyday, in the early morning or the late afternoon. I like to see the street vendors and ladies in traditional dress with long braids selling nuts, popcorn and other small bags of dried foods. I like the smell of raw meats and spices that invade my nostrils. I like the colors of various types of corns, avocados, tomatoes. I like the sound local women fighting for my attention to buy their juices! I like the taste of the market cooked food and it’s the good way to test the strength of my stomach. Whenever I enter to market, I think: “Yes, this is Cusco. This is the real Cusco that I want to see”
- Enjoying memorable meal at CHICHA
CHICHA restaurant in Cusco is one of the Peruvian wonder-chef Gaston Acurio’s restaurant. On Lara’s last night in Cusco, she suggested me to try it at least once, though many people we met have warned us it would be very pricey to eat there. But once in your life, why not? We arrived at the restaurant without making reservation before, so we had to wait for about 20 minutes to get the table with luck. The menu is organized according to the provenance of the food – from the water, the land, the country, the world or Cusco. I chose ceviche from the valley with trout, artichoke flowers, mushrooms and corns, while Lara had her plate of guinea pig, quinoa and veggie. It was amazing!
- Meeting llamas everyday
I love them. I want one to bring back home!
- Doing things slowly
Local people are laidback here. Don’t expect anything to get done quickly. Cusquena seem like the masters of doing things so slowww. The waiter doesn’t stop by your table unless you call attention to yourself, and you will never be brought the check unless you ask for it. And they even don’t really care about money. It’s been 4 different times I got the changed which was more than I expected because of their mistakes. There’s nobody who is is stressed out in Cusco. Instead, they tend to go with the flow, let things slide more easily, and just enjoy life.
And after doing nothing almost everyday in Cusco, I sit down with my laptop and write about…nothing. That’s such a strange feeling since I’ve been always writing for my work, my newspaper, my clients, etc. I always write for money. But right here right now, I take time and just write for myself. This is absolutely a “doing nothing”, literally.
In conclusion, doing nothing is something like “be more with less”. I used to measure the success of my day by what I have accomplished and always felt a lot of pressures. When in Cusco, I just try to change my measure system, to count my day by the number of times I smiled about nothing. I let go of the guilt for not planning, producing and consuming.
Doing nothing is hard work, indeed. It took me days to get used to it. But since the Cusquena people have taught me how to enjoy life just by sitting at the plaza and eat their popular chicharon, I realized how little I actually need to be happy.
So, if you ask me what I’ve done in Cusco, I don’t know how to answer, but I could tell you what was the happiest part of my time here, or what made me smile here.