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A failed plan can be a blessing. When Phil is unable to travel through South America because of visa restrictions he settles in Cusco, Peru. He realises It is the best chance he will ever have to learn Spanish and local culture, beginning a relationship with the fabled Inca city that will transform him.
Cusco - a journey from the head to the heart, is a memoir in three parts spanning the period 1985 till the present day. Part one explores Phil's relationship with a local family and his struggle to learn Spanish. Who is he if he can't communicate, if he can't tell a joke? And what does it mean to love: a family whose language he can hardly speak, a Quechua friend with a drinking problem and an anger born of a violent history of conquest, Andrina a woman from California with a powerful sense of her destiny in Cusco, a girlfriend who greets him each day with love songs. In the background is his love for a woman he met in Canada before coming to Peru. But she has her own struggle with sexuality and God. At the end of part one Phil finds himself stranded on a border between Ecuador and Peru. It is not just a physical border, it is a border of the mind and heart. Where is he meant to be? Which direction is home, which way is love?
In part two Phil returns to Cusco to help American friend Andrina establish Chicuchas Wasi, a home for orphan and street kids. They return to an atmosphere of fear and suspicion. Peru has two active terrorist groups; the country is descending into political violence and economic chaos. Some locals suspect them of being child traffickers. Phil finds himself playing Dad to kids with tuberculosis and tragic stories of abandonment and neglect. The challenge is learning how to love these children and how to give without burning out. He doesn't always succeed in rising to the best version of himself. One failure contributes to the death of a young baby.
In the last part of the memoir Phil returns to Cusco with his Dad. He reconnects with the Chicuchas Wasi kids after 17 years. They stay with the family in Cusco bringing two families together and giving Phil and his Dad a chance to see each other through different eyes. But a tragic death in the family reminds Phil of the harsh reality of Andean life where la tristeza (melancholy) is ever present and life is a constant dance and celebration of love, joy and sadness.