This entire week is Carnival in Pisac and the surrounding areas of Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Basically that means that all the local people close down their shops, drink alot of beer, the market is closed and/or relocated up the street and the plaza is emptied. Everybody has been getting ready for this festival for several months. It’s summer/rainy season now and this is sort of like the culmination of the summer vacation.
There are endless groups of traditional dancers all competing for the prize of dancing at the top of the ruins in Pisac. The groups range from little kids, teenagers all the way to older people. The kids who aren’t dancing run around the village with buckets of water balloons.
These epic water balloon fights have been going on all summer. The boys are tagging the girls they like. The girls retaliate. Gangs of children and teenagers have roamed the streets for the last two months and the fury of the battles has been escalating daily. Now some adults are even in on it. Every shop in town has been stocking squirt guns, confetti, extra shaving cream and this foamy stuff that´s kind of like silly string. People who can´t afford accoutrement for their battles use creative solutions like dirt, powered chalk or anything else they can find.
Last night, after dinner at Momma Chicken´s, we went up to the square in town to watch the dancing. We found a ragtag group of kids who were having some fun tagging one another. In general, the kids don´t search out tourists for targets in their war of mischeif, but we´ve lived here all summer long and we´ve decided we want to be part of the town, so we invited some action. There was another group of tourists hanging out and playing with the kids, so we joined them and soon . . . it was on.
One girl in the group had a little lamb tied up by a string. She dragged that poor lamb all over the plaza while she bombed other kids with cream and dirt. It could barely keep up with her, it´s little back feet skidding all over the rocks in a scramble as it tried in vain to keep up. Her companions, other than the lamb, were about five little boys. Between the lot of them, they had one can of shaving cream. Every one of them had at least two pockets full of specially prepared fine grit dirt.
Soon I was running around the plaza, trying to escape from the gang of kids. They finally got me – and got me good. I took several handfuls of dirt on my face and hat and I must have been laughing, because a good bit of it landed in my mouth. I didn´t have anything to throw at them . . . . except my bag of leftover chicken from dinner at Momma Chicken´s. That´s when I got an idea . . .
I love chicken skin so much that it´s become a tradition that everyone else gives me theirs at dinner, but I just couldn´t eat all of it, so there was a big, greasy, savory mess of it along with chicken bones in a plastic bag that I planned on taking home to the dogs. The kids saw the bag. They didn´t know what was in it, but they knew it must be nasty. I pulled out the bag and they all scattered.
I stood calmly in the middle of the square, spitting dirt and smiling, and I reached in an pulled out a big slimy piece of chicken skin. I zeroed in on my child target, letting out a whoop and ran. He was a fast lil´ booger, but I finally caught him and grabbed the cuff of his shirt. I tried to stuff the chicken skin down his front, but he was smart and held the front of his shirt tight.
He was about to get away, so in a last ditch effort to retaliate, I just went for it in any way I could. Two of his friend had caught up with us by that time and were starting in throwing dirt on my face again and trying to pull me away. I slapped that piece of roasted chicken skin right on the back of that kid´s head and smeared it in for a good ten seconds before his friends finally helped free him.
Good. Clean. Fun.