Archive for June, 2010

Peru, Days 4-5: Nasca

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

I’m so glad we made the trip to Nasca. My parents didn’t make it there when they visited Peru in the mid-Seventies, and I always wondered why. Well, it turns out Nasca is a bit out of the way. It is now, so I’m sure it was more of-the-way 30+ years ago.

By out of the way, I mean that you can’t fly from Lima to Nasca. Not currently at any rate. When I first begin researching our Peru trip, you could pay through the nose to fly from Lima to Nasca and back in one day. By the time we booked, that was no longer an option. We found two tours to choose from. One that would have us taking a bus or other ground transport and staying overnight partway to Nasca. The other had us taking the bus from Lima all on one day. After exploring both tours, we decided on the Drive in One Day option—because that tour included a trip to a pre-Inca cemetery, which intrigued me, being the warped sort that I am.

If I had to do it again, I’d take a bit more time and get off the bus in a town called Ica. Huge sand dunes proliferated like mountains around Ica, and apparently you can go dune buggy riding or even sandboarding down them. I spoke to an English girl who did it, and she said it was a blast.

See that white mountain behind the purply mountain? It's not a mountain, it's a sand dune! Took this on the return trip from Nasca, which actually occurred on Day 6. Hey, it's my blog. I can post the pictures in any order I want.

Can you imagine sandboarding down a huge dune like that? I’ll fall on my keister, but other folks are more talented than moi.

You can also visit sand dunes near Nasca, but the drive to the dunes takes longer and you miss the benefit of staying overnight on the way (how can you tell that not getting enough sleep was a recurring theme of our trip?)

The bus trip took 7 hours. When we booked this tour, the copy said it was a luxury bus. I thought, oh, sure. But it was nicer than any bus I’ve taken in North America. Granted, I haven’t traveled by bus in years… The seats reclined like La-Z-Boys, they fed us and played us videos. By the time we arrived in Nasca, it was pitch black. We were happy to hit the sack and pass out.

The next morning, in our hotel across the street from the bus station, a crowing rooster woke us. Our first week in Peru, no one wanted us to sleep! First, in Lima, the construction workers woke us with their hammering, then in Nasca the rooster. A few days later, in Huancayo in the mountains, a cat meowed outside our hotel window from as early as 3 a.m. on. It’s no wonder I could barely keep my eyes open. Go to sleep, Peruvians! Animals and humans!

When we met our guide, Oscar, on the morning of Day 5, the sky was overcast. This caused me no end of pain. We were supposed to fly over the Nasca Lines! It was May! I wanted bright blue sky and sunshine, damn it!

Oscar assured us that the clouds were unusual for this time of year and would most likely burn off by noon. So he took us to Chauchilla Cemetery first, and I introduced myself to dozens of Peruvian mummies. Note: these pictures may not be for the squeamish (on the other hand, grow a stronger stomach!)

Ewww!! Cindy!!! It's a mummified baby hand!

Yes, it is a baby hand. What’s your issue? You think only adults deserve to be mummified? Babies aren’t worthy? What’s wrong with you? If I were pre-Inca and my baby died, I’d want it to be mummified, too.

That baby hand was attached to an entire baby in a display case inside the tiniest museum I’ve ever encountered (it had two display cases in it). But if you can’t handle a hand, you think I’m going to show you the entire baby? (I would, but even I’m not that warped).

Chauchilla Cemetery looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere. It felt like Oscar drove forever to get us there. In fact, at one point, I felt sure “I’m taking you to the cemetery first” was Peruvian guide speak for “You’re never flying over the Nasca lines because I’m going to chop you into 700 pieces and bury you in the desert.” And I had reason to be worried. You see, I’d booked My Liege and I on something called an “Independent tour.” I had no idea what that meant until Oscar picked us up at our hotel the next day. It meant that My Liege and I were the only people he was touring around that day, so, yeah, if he’d wanted to chop us up, I don’t see why he couldn’t have. Aside from the fact that he might have lost his job. And, oh, yeah, he was such a nice guy! As we arrived at the cemetery and I noticed two other cars parked there, I came to the conclusion that I’ve watched too many Sopranos episodes. And then Oscar joked about leaving us at the cemetery in a condition resembling the mummies. Thanks a lot, Oscar!

Anyway, the cemetery is a series of tombs buried below ground, but over the years some have been opened to tourists. Grave-robbing was occurring, you see, and turning the cemetery into a museum was a way to keep it from deteriorating any further.

The opened tombs, protected from rain, on the lunar-like landscape.

Bits of bone and rocks are scattered around the sand, and the bones are not to be picked up. You wouldn’t want a curse to befell you, would you? Besides, it’s rude, and I’m Canadian. I’m only rude when people aren’t looking (or listening).

And, look at that sky! Oscar wasn’t lying, the clouds were clearing! I’d get my plane ride above the Nasca Lines (though God knows why I was looking forward to it, as I get motion sickness and only had 8 tablets of Gravol to last me through the day).

First, we had to finish looking at mummies:

Note how he's sitting up? They buried their dead that way to simulate the fetal position. They also buried them ALL facing east.

That stuff on his head is really his hair. Those skulls behind him are real skulls. These tombs were big, with space for a few people. We saw plenty of babies in with the people. We also saw a parrot mummy. The more hair a mummy has, the more important he was when he was alive. If you could grow your hair long, it meant you had idle time on your hands and weren’t always whipping it out of your face while you toiled the fields.

That thing that looks like an M on the wall is this mummy's hair, a ponytail type thing. It's no longer attached TO his head, but was placed on the wall to signify his importance.

Some skulls were elongated. See those skulls sitting beside him? A couple of those were conehead skulls, purposefully shaped from birth because it was already known that you were going to be somebody important as an adult and for some reason they wanted them to have coneheads. I’m sure the presence of the coneheads has nothing to do with the rumors of aliens that swirl around the existence of the Nasca Lines to this day. CHARIOTS OF THE GODS, anyone?

We’ll check it out…tomorrow.

Confessions of a Contest Judge–WTF Was She Thinking When She Judged My Entry?

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

By Susan Gable

In trying to come up with a topic for this blog that might appeal to a variety of folks, I stumbled onto the idea that maybe writers out there who enter contests might wonder what sometimes goes through a judge’s mind as they’re reading.  (I know more than once I said, “WTF?  What the HELL were you thinking?” when I got back MY contest entries and score sheets.  LOL.  I don’t know if I can actually answer those types of questions relating to contest judges, but maybe I can provide some insight into what I’m sometimes thinking.)

When it comes right down to it, it’s all about the characters and the stories for me.  It’s really easy to judge the still-wet-behind-the-ears entries, the ones that head-hop, or tell and never show, or don’t know what a paragraph is. (No kidding, I once read an entry that was a 25 page paragraph.  No paragraph breaks at all.  That was painful to read.)  Grammar and punctuation are our friends.

Once the craft basics are mastered, we get into the areas that are harder to define.  (“It just didn’t work for me” is an excuse an editor/agent can use, but someone judging a contest has to be a lot more helpful than that.)

You do have to grab me in the first page or two.  Show me an interesting set up.  Show me conflict, or clue me in to the POTENTIAL for conflict.  Let me know there’s a secret here. My new book, THE FAMILY PLAN, opens with my heroine showing up on the hero(whom she’s never met)’s doorstep on a secret mission of some sort.  And right on the first page of the story, you find out she doesn’t think men are reliable.  Conflict alert!  On the next page, you see she wants to get what she came for (which turns out to be his sperm <G>) and get the hell out of dodge.  Interesting character, situation that makes me ask questions – what’s she up to? What does she want? And the possibility of conflict with the hero. ‘ Cause of course you know he’s not going to want to give her what she wants.

Another thing I run into a lot in contest entries is characters behaving badly.  And by that I mean, not logically, not consistent with what we know about “real” people.  If you motivate it right, I’ll follow you and your characters anywhere.  But if you don’t…you’re going to lose me when you have your characters behaving stupidly.  You know, in the horror movies the woman goes into the creepy, dark basement wearing just her underwear and carrying a teddy bear for protection?   Don’t do that!  Make her put on her clothes, grab a weapon of some sort, and MOTIVATE her actions – if she’s going down there just because she heard a noise, she’s TSTL and deserves to get chopped up by Freddy.  If she’s going down there because her sister/mother/father/best friend went down there, and she’s worried about said friend…now I’m with you.

But that applies to minor things, too.  Common sense applies.  Don’t have someone put a candy in an unconscious person’s mouth.  Don’t make your hero run on a broken leg. (Unless you SHOW me something compelling to make it believable – as in, splint it or something — and he’s got good motivation.  Trying to stay alive is usually good motivation. <G>)  Don’t have your characters be ignorant of something they should reasonably know about. 

You need to know and understand your characters well enough to know what “normal” behavior is for them.  Cops are suspicious by nature, as are the fathers of teenage girls.  Hair-stylists are going to notice everyone’s hair.  A character who is a chef (like the hero in my upcoming book) is going to get really annoyed with you if you order food delivered to his restaurant/home from another restaurant.  Migraines don’t vanish like magic.  Characters holding the leashes of dogs copulating in the bushes will know something is going on with their animals.  A medical person on the verge of escaping from her kidnappers probably wouldn’t stop on her way out the door to blow up the whole house and kill all the drug dealers passed out in the place.  If your heroine shot the hero, chances are he’s going to hold a grudge for a really long time.

Everything has to make sense.  As I said, if you motivate it properly, I will stick with you.  But if it feels like you’re having certain things happen just because it suits your story, or it’s cute, and you haven’t really thought about it… THINK about it!  If you find yourself trying to explain character behavior in the paragraph, that’s often a sign they’re doing something that deep down, you know they shouldn’t be.  And you’re taking the easy way out.

Judges, like editors and agents, also have their own personal “ick” factors, or things that just rub them the wrong way.  We’re all human. Readers are human, too.  Sometimes you get irate fan mail because you touched a nerve in a reader.  When I’m judging an entry, I try really hard not to let my own personal ick factors get in the way of my judging.  Not all judges do that, though.  Some of them will knock you down on the score because you dared to have a heroine drop an f-bomb. (Or whatever taboo you broke.)  Often I will point it out, especially if I think it’s a marketing issue.  (Dear writer, you’ve entered this ms as an Inspirational book, and your heroine is dropping f-bombs all over the place.  Though it does seem to suit her character, you might want to rethink it — the inspirational publishers/lines aren’t going to be happy with it.)

Remember that characters should grow and change over the course of a book.  They should learn something.  So they certainly don’t have to be perfect at the beginning.  (Or ever!)  Perfect characters are boring!  Plus…nobody’s perfect.

In the end, try to remember that judging a contest, like all reading experiences, is subjective!  What annoys the snot out of one person is perfectly fine with another.  This gets you ready for reader reactions.  Judges are only human.  We invest a lot of time in judging contest entries.  (Most of us do, anyway.)  It’s okay to be mad, sad, etc. when you read the comments.  But come back to the comments later, after the sting has worn off, and take another look.  Is there anything the judge said that might make the story better?  Believe me, when I got some of my contest results back, I cried.  And when I got my first set of line edits, I cried.  LOL.  So, it’s all part of the process.  Making anything, including a story, stronger, is never an easy process.

Do you have any contest questions?  Stories of judging horror? (I try never to be mean when I judge, but I do tend to be somewhat blunt, and that probably puts off some people.)  Any other writing questions that maybe I can answer?

What’s your favorite writing contest and why?


Leave a comment or question for Susan to enter to win THE FAMILY PLAN. If you’re reading this post through a feed on Facebook, Goodreads, or another social network, please visit the comment trail at to be eligible for the draw.

To read Susan’s bio and the story blurb for THE FAMILY PLAN, see yesterday’s post. To learn more about Susan and her books, please visit

Susan Gable Guest Blogs Tomorrow!

Monday, June 28th, 2010

I’ll return to posting about my Peru trip on Wednesday. Today and tomorrow are devoted to RITA-nominated Harlequin Superromance author Susan Gable. It’s been awhile since I hosted a guest blogger, so please drop by and make Susan feel welcome. Susan’s blogging about contest judging, providing a judge’s perspective on those comments that might leave a writer shaking her head in confusion. Susan’s also giving away a copy of her July Superromance, THE FAMILY PLAN. THE FAMILY PLAN is available now on eHarlequin and in bookstores July 13th.

Anyone who posts to the Comment trail tomorrow, Tuesday, June 29th, will enter to win the drawing for Susan’s book. Please note if you’re reading this on Facebook or another social network, only comments entered at are eligible for the draw.


Dr. Amelia Young has meticulously organized her family plan. Wonderful daughter? Done. Man? Unnecessary. All Amelia has ever needed is carefully selected DNA. So what if the donor turns out to be a ridiculously hot chef with a distracting butt and wicked smile? That only proves she had good taste in genes.

Anonymously donating his DNA at a clinic when he was a student is one thing. A strange woman at his door requesting a second deposit is quite another. But when Finn Hawkins realizes Amelia needs another child to save her first—his first—he relents. And when that first kid turns up on his doorstep a few months later, he’s in this family deep!

About Susan:

Susan Gable has sold seven books to Harlequin’s Superromance line. Her books have been Rita and Golden Heart Finalists, she’s been a Waldenbooks Bestseller, been three times nominated for Romantic Time’s Best Superromance of the Year, and she’s won numerous other awards, including the National Readers’ Choice Award. Her new book, THE FAMILY PLAN, got 4.5 Stars from RT. It hits shelves on July 13th, and is a savior sibling story – the story of a mom who will do just about to save her child’s life. In the process she learns that depending on others makes you stronger, not weaker. To read the first chapter, visit Susan’s website:

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Friday, June 25th, 2010

We interrupt Peru 2010 to bring you some news! I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve contracted audio book rights to both HEAD OVER HEELS and BORROWING ALEX to AudioLark! The audio versions of the books go into production in the fall. No word on release dates yet, but you can bet I’ll keep you informed.

Peru, Day 3: Lima

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

You want pictures? Today, you get pictures.

We woke far too early at Casa Bella B&B. We tried sleeping in, but construction was occurring nearby, and 8:30 a.m. isn’t early for construction workers. By the time we showered and organized ourselves, breakfast had already been served. No problem. We were directed to a Starbucks a couple of blocks away. We mistakenly assumed we would find the chain all over Peru. The Starbucks near the Casa Bella B&B was the only one we encountered. Which was great until we started craving North American coffee…

At the Starbucks, My Liege whipped out his stolen English-Spanish phrasebook. From that point on, he did a most excellent job of diving into conversations with anyone and everyone.  Not one ounce of trepidation, which I thought pretty cool for a middle-aged guy who didn’t take ANY languages beyond grade ten French. And he was a jock, so likely he wasn’t paying attention.

M.L. and I learned that he was better at initiating conversations while I, for some strange reason that eludes us, could decipher entire Spanish sentences spoken our direction. We believe I relied on body language and snippets of words-similar-to-what-they-are-in French and ESP and genius IQ and “Making Things Up.” Whatever, it worked. We made a great Spanish-learning team.

In the afternoon, we took a city tour organized by the B&B at our request. A guide named Gladys picked us up with a driver and a handy-dandy mini-bus that could hold, I guess, up to 20 passengers. We were 5, not counting Gladys and the driver (whose name now eludes me). The other couple were from Belgium, and then we were joined by a young woman named Nikki from Scotland who had quit her job to volunteer at a Cusco school for 10 weeks (by that I mean she paid a handsome sum of money to work at the school for 10 weeks). By a funny twist of fate, we wound up meeting her again in Cusco. We recognized her by her accent and her fear of attacking pigeons.

As you look at some of the pictures, you’ll notice Lima is cloudy. They’re not really clouds. It’s more like a haze that never burns off. Gladys the Guide told us Lima is like this 90% of the time, which begs the question why the Spaniards who conquered the Inca moved the capital of Peru from Cusco to Lima. Cusco is sunny. I guess they had other things on their minds.

Finally, piccies! First, above, we have a nifty mosaic wall at El Parque del Amour (Park of Love) overlooking the ocean. If the sky were blue, I could have snapped some excellent photos.

"The Kiss" by Peruvian artist Victor Delphin, in the Park of Love. Another typical white sky in Lima. I'm including this photo because it's related to the B&B we stayed in upon our return to Lima a few days later. (Yes, you WILL be tested).

Balconies were plentiful around the Plaza de Armas (city square) in Lima. The colonial architecture was beautiful. I took this shot through the mini-bus window, and it still turned out great.

More balconies!

Our mini-bus was stuck in traffic in a narrow street, when this man walking by opened a small door in the wall and started talking to someone inside. Small doors in walls always lead somewhere interesting in Peru. In Cusco, I glanced inside such a doorway (okay, a little wider) and 20 cars were inside a huge courtyard waiting to be washed. Never underestimate what's behind a doorway in Peru! The composition of this shot intrigued me. Again, I took it through the bus window, but because I was shooting directly out the window you can see some glare off the glass. Thus began my obsession with photographing Peruvian doorways.

The doorway of the church connected to the Convent of Saint Francis. I love how it looks as if the woman is knocking but can't get in.

We enjoyed Lima much more than we expected. I’d heard it was a place to use as a base for one’s travels, but we could have used another day enjoying the architecture (and resting). We found excellent Italian food in Lima each of the three times we stayed there. During the city tour, we stopped at some ruins inside the city that housed a big museum, but couldn’t find the time for a more extensive visit (maybe if our flight hadn’t been delayed five hours!).

The highlight of the city tour was the Convent of Saint Francis. The library of ancient books was breathtaking, and we were able to visit the catacombs. Photographs were outlawed in both places, so I bought postcards. At one point, as we surveyed the interior of the church from a balcony of sorts, I noticed birds flying around inside. Loved it!

We headed back to our B&B for a good night’s sleep. And we needed it, because we were heading to Nasca (of the famous Nasca Lines) the following day, and the only way to get there was by bus. A big bus and a long bus ride. Or car or other transport, if you’re crazy enough to want to try driving yourself out of Lima. The traffic was insane. It was like there were invisible four way stops everywhere, and the drivers somehow communicated to each other (through visual cues or aggressive vehicle maneuvers) when it was their turn to go. Peruvians have traffic down to an art form, but by North American standards it was crrrrrrrrazy. My hat is off to anyone who tries driving in Lima.

Peru, Days 1-2: Travel and Sleep (Or Lack Thereof)

Monday, June 21st, 2010

As promised, pictures and anecdotes about my trip to Peru! It’s our 25th anniversary in August. The Peru trip was our early celebration.

Why Peru, you ask? Primarily, it was on the dh’s bucket list. He’s always wanted to see Machu Picchu, and I figured if we were flying all that way, we might as well spend a solid length of time (3 weeks) and explore more than the ancient Inca sanctuary. Sounds like a plan, no?

Second, my parents did a ton—and I mean a TON—of traveling when I, my brother and sisters were in our teens. My father’s job prevented him from working every spring. The ground is too soft for logging machinery. That time of year is called “break up.” So when we were teenagers, every year they’d fly off somewhere without us—for 4-8 weeks! My paternal grandparents lived next door and were assigned with the task of taking care of us. They were wonderful grandparents! (This was the same grandfather who lived to 106). But they grew up on farms and they raised their children on farms, and farm kids know how to take care of themselves (if you can milk a cow and shoot a gopher and crawl eighteen miles in five-foot-deep snow uphill both ways to school at 5 a.m, you’ve got it made). So it only makes sense that children raised by kids raised on farms should know how to take care of themselves, too, right? My grandparents were there “if we needed them.” And we needed them every Saturday, to drive us to the store to bulk up on groceries. Otherwise, we took care of ourselves.

Grocery Tip: If you buy too much fruit for the week, DON’T put the bananas in the deep freeze thinking you can take them out in five days and they’ll be fresh. They’ll turn black within the hour.

See what all my parents’ traveling taught me?

Viewing pictures of their travels also exposed me to what the world had to offer. My parents went to Peru in the mid-Seventies. There were a handful of tourists at Machu Picchu the day they were there. Now it and other specific areas are what I call “Peruvian Disneyland.” Especially when the huge tour bus groups arrive. More on that as my tales progress.

Note: We flew to Peru on airmiles. You know what happens when you fly somewhere on airmiles, right? Especially when you’re starting from small town, Canada and you only book the flight 6 months in advance. Altogether now: “You get crappy flights.”

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate that it only took me 6 years to save up enough travel miles to fly My Liege and myself from small town B.C. to Lima and back again. Wait, as it turned out, I didn’t have enough travel miles to fly from B.C. to Lima and back. I was short by a few hundred. I did, however, have enough travel miles to fly from Alberta to Lima and back. So my mother, bless her heart (and I don’t mean that in the Southern way), donated enough travel miles to get us from small town B.C. to Calgary, Alberta. Then our travel miles took us from Calgary to Lima. I was so proud.

We left on a Saturday afternoon and had to overnight in Calgary, so we chose the Calgary Delta Airport hotel. It’s right in the airport, and we had to get up at 4 a.m. on Sunday to catch our flight to Houston and then Lima. I would totally recommend doing this, and I would do it again. I didn’t want to worry about even catching a shuttle to the airport. I wanted to just be there.

Cue an early rising Sunday morning on Eldest Son’s 22nd birthday. Sorry, E.S., hope it was a good one! At the airline counter, we decided to do the self check-in. Rather, an official-looking man was standing nearby and encouraged us to use the self check-in. The previous night, My Liege said, “If we get an opportunity to upgrade to First Class for less than $100 each, we’re doing it.” He’s traveled a lot for work and knows what he’s talking about. Plus, he hates getting squished by rude people in coach. Well, I guess he didn’t get much sleep, because as we stood there wading through the computer self check-in, at one point the program asked, “Would you like to upgrade to First Class for $79 each?” My dh looked at me, and I said, “Kinda defeats the point of using airmiles, doesn’t it?”

Cindy, nooooooooooooooooo!

I thought no matter what I said M.L. would check YES, UPGRADE US TO FIRST CLASS. WE WOULD HAVE PAID $100. But he clicked, NO. Only after we’d sent our bags on their way and were ensconced in the waiting area with huge Starbucks cups did we truly realize the error. By then, it was too late. The First Class seats with all that extra room were taken. And not once during any other leg of the trip were we offered another chance to travel First Class—unless we wanted to pay $1700, I kid you not. That’ll teach us.

Travel Tip: If you and your husband agree that you WILL upgrade to First Class for a very reasonable price, if given the opportunity, try to prevent his sleep-deprived self from taking your wit seriously and clicking NO.

I don’t mind traveling coach. I always travel coach. Have only gone First Class once, an upgrade on a trip to Las Vegas. But these were looooooong flights. A 6-hour flight from Calgary to Houston, a 3-hour layover, and then another 6-hour flight from Houston to Lima. Plus, needing to get to the airport 3 hours early for whatever reason. They always want you there earlier than a liquified grasshopper.

But we went coach and had a good row partner, so all was fine.

Then we got to Houston. A 3-hour layover sounded decent. We could go through U.S. Customs, complain about the fact that Canadians are now only allowed one carry-on despite that we weren’t staying in the States, just passing through; get something to eat, and stock up on English reading material. But the 3-hour layover stretched to 8! Yes, 8. Apparently, our plane was “broken.” Yes, that’s what the man at the desk told me. Some kind of mechanical failure. And another plane wasn’t available for 8 hours.


Spending 8 hours in the Houston airport reminded me of that movie with Tom Hanks where he was forced to live in an airport for an ungodly length of time. Tom seemed to make out okay in the movie, but I wonder if the real live person he played went insane? I learned I couldn’t stand to live in an airport for two days, let alone over a year. The bookstores were nice, and the Panda Express was great, but come on!

By the time we got into Lima, it was 4 a.m. So much for arriving at 11 p.m. and getting a good night’s sleep. Gah, now that I think about it, we rose at 4 a.m. on Sunday and arrived at 4 a.m. Monday. Even now, that sounds exhausting. But! Our driver was there to pick us up. We’d booked into Casa Bella B&B in the San Isidro section of Lima (I found it on and then later realized it was also recommended in my Frommer’s.) They said they’d keep an eye on flight changes for us and would be there no matter when we arrived, and they weren’t lying. We were so glad to see our driver. Especially because, being raised in Canada when French was the only option for a second language in high school, we didn’t know a lick of Spanish. I’d bought Levels 1-3 of a popular language learning software, but M.L., ahem, lost disc 1 several months before our trip. I emailed my father in the winter in Mexico, because I knew he also had the software. Turns out he, ahem, had lost his disc 1, too! Men! I finally broke down and purchased a second copy of level 1. It arrived 2 weeks before our trip and we were both too busy to attempt it.

Travel Tip: If you buy language learning software, for Pete’s sake, take the time to LEARN language learning software. If you’re buying it for your husband, keep track of every time he uses it! Lock up disc 1 somewhere he can’t find it and require him to sign it out for periodic use. Threaten whipping if it goes missing. If you’re feeling rebellious about the remaining two weeks before your trip and only have time to learn the words for dog and horse and ball and airplane, at the very least pick up a handy-dandy English-Spanish (Latin America) phrasebook. I recommend the Lonely Planet series.

Being the brilliant sort that I am, I did the latter. M.L. stole my pocket-sized phrasebook the moment we landed in Lima and held it hostage until we left Peru three weeks later. But that was okay. I took a lot more French in high school than he did, and I helped one of our sons with his French in school, as well. If you don’t know a lick of Spanish, knowing a bit of French is the next best thing. The languages are similar, as it turns out. Similar roots, anyway. It really helped.

All right, all right, I know you want pictures! I know you’re feeling mighty ripped off at this point, but you’re only getting one picture today. I couldn’t record my Peru trip for posterity without including our 24 hours of travel (not counting the flight to Calgary the previous day).

I know my hair’s a mess. Don’t judge me! It’s 4:30 a.m.! This is M.L. and me in our room at Casa Bella B&B. Ain’t we sweet?