About Lainie Liberti
Lainie Liberti is a recovering branding expert, who’s career once focused on creating campaigns for green - eco business, non-profits and conscious business. Dazzling clients with her high-energy designs for over 18 years, Lainie lent her artistic talents to businesses that matter. But that was then.
In 2008, after the economy took a turn, Lainie decided to be the change (instead of a victim) and began the process of “lifestyle redesign,” a joint decision between both her and her 11-year-old son, Miro. They sold or gave away all of of their possessions in 2009 and began a life of travel, service, and exploration. Lainie and her son Miro began their open-ended adventure backpacking through Central and South America. They are slow traveling around the globe allowing inspiration to be their compass. The pair is most interested in exploring different cultures, contributing by serving, and connecting with humanity as ‘global citizens.’
Today Lainie considers herself a digital nomad who is living a location independent life. She and her son write and podcast their experiences from the road at Raising Miro on the Road of Life.
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Translated as the Star Snow Festival, Qoyllur Rit’i is a spiritual and religious event, held annually in June, in the Sinakara Valley in the Cusco Region of Peru. Every year, more than 10,000 participants attend the festival strengthening their ties to their ancestors, ancient traditions and cultural connections.
Attending the festival is not for the faint of heart. There are no roads or vehicles to transport you to the festival site. Along with thousands of other committed pilgrims, I walked for six hours, in the high Andes altitude. We kept a steady pace, traversing up and down the sides of mountains and walking through the valley passes.
It wasn’t easy. Passing me on the narrow paths were entire families, children, old men and young mothers carrying babies tied in bundles on their backs. Dozens and dozens of horses, laden with contents to construct temporary villages made the trek as well. Dance troupes in full costumes playing instruments and singing effortlessly breezed up the mountain side, elated in spirit.
The festival site is at 4,600 meters or just over 15 thousand feet, & the glacier above, where many of the ceremonies take place, measures almost a full 500 meters higher.
The majestic glacier becomes the crossroads between the earth and the stars, the water and the spirit.
The valley below, stages all other festivities, bustling dance performances, processions, effigies, alters and numerous other ceremonies.
The Qoyllur Rit’i festival has ancient and Colonial roots combined, equally honored in today’s modern festival.
The ancient roots stem from a time before the Incas, where the sacred mountain, Apu Ausungate, was revered as containing the spirit of Viracocha. Legend tells the tale of a white-skinned boy with blond hair resembling the god Viracocha who would frequently appear to the surrounding villagers. Additionally, early pan-Andean traditions focus on the Pleiades constellation, which is also directly related to the wanderings of the mythical god Viracocha.
Later, the Incas who also honored the Pleiades constellation (or the Seven Sisters) noticed the constellation disappears sometime in April or May and reappears in June. The Inca associated the disappearance and the reappearance of this constellation to agricultural abundance, thus the Qoyllur Rit’i festival happens in June, signaling the time of the coming harvest.
Catholic Church Origins
The Colonial version appears to be an adaptation of ancient lore. According to the Church, sometime in 1780, a young indigenous shepherd named Mariano Mayta had a chance meeting with a fair-haired boy called Manuel in the snow-covered Sinakara Valley. The fair-haired boy, dressed in white and shined as a brilliant light.
Mariano Mayta, who looked after his father’s herd on the slopes of Qullqipunku was mistreated by his brother at home, so he often wandered off the snow fields to meet his friend Mario. Manuel would often give Mariano food so he could spend more time with him on the snowy slopes. One day, Mariano’s father was worried about his son and went out to look for the boy. He had found that his heard had increased. As a reward, he gave Mariano some money to buy some new clothes.
Mariano felt guilty his best friend Manuel always wore the same clothes, so he asked his father if he could buy some new clothes for him as well. Mariano’s father approved since he was grateful for the increased number of his heard.
Pleased for himself and his friend, Mariano set out to Cusco to buy a new set of clothes in Cusco. Before leaving, Mariano took a sample of the material from the white garment Manuel always wore with him to Cusco so he could have his new garment sewn with the same fabric
In Cusco, Mariano searched for the matching cloth. To Mariano’s surprise, the fabric that matched his friends garment was a unique cloth and at this time, only used by the Bishop. Mariano approached the Bishop with hopes he could buy more of the material. The surprised Bishop ordered an inquiry on this strange boy in the mountains to find out how he could have possibly acquired the holy material. Manuel became investigation under the direction of the priest of Ocongate.
On June 12, 1783, together the Bishop and his commission went to find Manuel in the mountains. Along with Mariano and his father, the Bishop’s people found Manual in he mountains dressed in his battered white clothes. Only this time, the boy was shining with a bright light. More and more people gathered to so this brilliant light that had become Manual.
Manual’s friend was bewildered too. In the witness of his family and the Bishop, Mariano approached Manuel. Mariano touched his friend and suddenly Manuel was transformed into a tayanka bush with an apparition of Christ.
According to the legend, the event was too much to bear for Mariano, who was feeling anguish that his friend was harmed. Mariano, dropped dead on the spot from grief. The villagers a buried Mariano under rock near the bush where Mariano was last seen.
Word got out about this great transformation. The rock attracted a great deal of devotees who started to light candles before it in honor of Mariano, the shepherd boy. The Church then ordered the image of the crucified Christ to be painted on the rock and this has become known as the Lord of the Qoyllur Rit’i.
This trend has continued through the efforts of the church-sanctioned Roman Catholic brotherhood who, as the shrine’s custodians, dominate the cult, chapel, and processions of sacred images, and who strive to impart an ever stronger Christian appearance to all the proceedings. This ancient and multi-cultural use of the sacred site of Qoyllur Rit’i is a clear example of a pattern found throughout Latin America (and indeed the world): the usurpation of one culture’s sacred spaces by a conquering culture.
Today the festival is participated by “nations”, defined by their geographical regions.Each nation has its own unique ritual costume and dance routine. Also each nation appoints their most honored men to be “Ukukus”, mythical half-man, half-bear creatures. Dressed in black masks and black costumes covered in fringes, they carry whips and act as intermediaries between the people and the gods.
At 3 a.m. before the principal day of the festival, the Ukukus scale the peak of the mountain in the light of the full moon, dancing on glaciers, hoping to bring blessings to their villages for the coming year. Then early the next day marks the main event, where the Ukukus, climb up the glaciers carrying crosses and bringing back blocks of ice that are said to have medicinal properties. This is followed by a Catholic mass in the valley with processions and sermons.
I have been touched by the spirit of Qoyllur Rit’i, its deep ties to this place of power, ancient traditions and meaningful customs.
I am forever changed.
Our last excursion in the US was to see our new geodesic dome house in the desert, located just outside the little town of Joshua Tree. Along with Romeo, the lovable Bull Terrier, Miro and I piled into Heather’s car and headed east of Los Angeles, towards the desert. Growing up in California, I spent the majority of my time in Los Angeles. Surprisingly, I had never visited California’s Mojave Desert, not even once.
Joshua Tree National Park
After a peaceful night at the dome we woke early the head into the national park for some exploring. The Joshua Tree National Park, located in the Mojave features over 800,000 acres of beautiful wilderness, natural reserves, and as the name suggests, gorgeous groves of Joshua Trees, reminiscent of Dr. Suess characters and Star Trek landscapes. The unique scenery challenged my senses, offering multi-colored irregular peaks, lined with granite hills and enormous boulders which invited the thrill seeker in the three of us to climb some rocks and explore.
Two Ecosystems – One Park
I learned that two, very large desert ecosystems converge inside this remarkable park. The eastern part of Joshua Tree National Park is encompassed by the Colorado Desert and sits at three thousand feet below sea level. This portion of the park showcases many different types of cacti, a wonderful assortment of palm trees, and multiple species of wild flowers.
The western end of the park features the Mojave Desert. Much closer to sea level than the Colorado Desert, the Mojave Desert portion of the park is where the world-famous and ancient Joshua Trees live.
The Extraordinary Joshua Tree
As the name suggests, the park is full of Joshua Trees. The best way to describe a Joshua Tree is to think of a tree in a Dr. Seuss illustration. These trees are spiky and twisted and blooming with personality. With a dagger-like spine, a hiker who gets to close can find themselves painfully pricked by these diverse trees. I never get tired of looking at them, as each one is so unique in nature and shape.
In the past, Native Americans in Southern California, heralded these trees for the useful properties. For example, these trees were used to create baskets and sandals, while the tree’s flower buds proved to be a healthy addition to their diets.
Miro, Heather and I spent the day hiking through the National Park, exploring the natural structures, climbing rocks and being silly. The scenery was breathtaking and there was never a moment of boredom for any of us. If you are in the Southern California area, then you should definitely take some time to visit the Joshua Tree National Park. It is a great natural resource, and it is a great way to slow down and escape the buzz of city life.
When most people think of vacation destinations, they immediately jump to places that are considered the most fun or relaxing. This is why Disney World is internationally known, Las Vegas attracts millions of visitors every year, and Italian islands are considered paradise! But if you’re traveling with your children, you can take your destination research a step further: try to focus on places that can teach your children something about the world while also showing them a good time! The world has much to offer, and exposing your children to it is one of the healthiest things you can possibly do for them. So here are a few destinations to consider.
Crater Lake National Park – Oregon, USA
The U.S. has many gorgeous national parks that make for excellent vacation destinations, but few are as pure and natural in appearance as Crater Lake National Park. If you’re looking for a nature getaway with your children, this is a perfect destination, not just because it’s picturesque and enjoyable, but because it can give your children an appreciation for the preservation of nature. Environmental issues will be some of the heaviest burdens on our children’s generation, and an early appreciation in this regard is valuable.
Much of the South Pacific region has been transformed into a thoroughly populated, “touristy” area for travel. The Solomon Islands, however, are hailed as a remnant of a more natural, genuine South Pacific, and can offer a valuable experience for children. The beach lifestyle is as appealing as anywhere you’ll find, and you’ll get the chance to show your kids what remote beach culture looks like without all the focus on tourism.
Many see Montenegro as a luxurious and somewhat exclusive destination. However, a lot more goes on in this beautiful country than casino playing, fine dining, and Betfair gambling. Montenegro is actually an ideal location for a vacation that focuses on the outdoors. Here, you can show your children that even in a glamorous European hotspot with renowned architecture and luxury, nature is the most spectacular feature.
Crete – Greece
Crete is a wonderful destination if you’d like to give your children a taste of world history during vacation. Once the crater of early European civilization, Crete is still home to ruins and remnants of the earliest Greeks (and Minoans), and seeing this area can be both humbling and educational. Not to mention the beaches – at least on the south side of the island – are breathtaking!
Parts of northern Uganda remain largely unsafe for visitors due to conflict on the border. However, in the south, and in the capital city of Kampala, travel is generally safe, and the culture is worth the experience. You and your family can enjoy a beautiful African vacation, including a safari and a drive to Lake Victoria, but you can also gain an understanding of how continual conflict has impacted the region and its people. This is a healthy and meaningful experience for your kids.
If you happen to be in Cusco in Peru, and you happen upon Inti Raymi, The Peruvian Festival Of The Sun, it will in all probability be among the most defining and memorable moments of your journey through Peru. Inti Raymi is celebrated to some extent by indigenous communities in many parts of what was once the Inca Empire but it is around Cusco, the ancient Incan capital, where the tradition has best survived and indeed thrived.
This year I was priveleged to see Inti Raymi in person, up close, here in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas. I was taken by the colors, energy, traditions and sounds. I hope you get lost in the images:
Our time in New York City was short and sweet, but here are some of our experiences including the ultimate: The New York Deli.
If you are planning on visiting the historical sites around the Cusco Region in Peru, one thing is for sure — if you let yourself, you can lost in the mystery. Qenqo tempts you with the undefined, seducing you through the mysterious formations and architecture that abound in the vast ruins of past civilization.s
Some will tell you Qenqo was built by the Incas others will tell you they built upon a much earlier site. Either way, the natural formations, carved structures and caves will tempt your imagination.
Just 15 minutes outside of Cusco lies one of the largest holy places in the region — the Qenqo Temple. Though not its original name, Qenqo, in Quechua, means labyrinth or zigzag, named by European conquerors who based it on the canal that runs through the main structure, which is that of a gigantic monolith.
The entire site can be found stretched across a hillside of what is known today as Socorro hill and its area covers an entire 3,500 square meters.
As with most of the ruins in the Inca Empire, the purpose of the Qenqo temple is unknown but one common theory stands — it is believed to a be a holy place where death rituals took place. It is also clear that the canals were used to carry liquid that could have been corn beer, holy water, or even human or animal blood. The liquid may have been used for sacrifices or as a process in death rituals or as a way for religious leaders to determine whether the dead lived a good life by the direction the liquid flowed. The canal then leads to an underground chamber, that is aptly called the Chamber of Sacrifices. The underground space is believed to be a place where noblemen were embalmed and mummified in preparation for the afterlife..
Another chamber, which is thought to be an amphitheater is formed in a semicircular shape that is 55 meters long, containing 19 niches along the wall. It is believed to be a seating area for ceremonies and rituals but recent theories suggest that it was once part of a base of a large wall where statues were placed for worshiping. But again, this only a hypothesis.
Another structure, which is located before the open area, stands a ruined standing statue of some sort. A block of stone that stands 6 feet tall rests on a rectangular pedestal and could’ve been destroyed by conquerors who wanted to eradicate idol worship in the region.
There are many strange formations around the site, some natural, others made by ancient architects.
Most of the magnificent structures and history of the Inca Empire were lost when the Spaniards came and destroyed much of the ancient city during the colonial period of the 16th century. The Qenqo Temple is one of those sites whose purpose we will probably never know for sure. But one thing that many historians agree on is that the Qenqo Temple is a place that is heavily hinged with the ancient civilization’s respect and honor for rituals, even with death.
Most visitors stay within the well defined zone of Qenqo. But just a stroll down the hill towards the eucalyptus forrest, you’ll find another set of formations. Those formations are encircled by a brick wall, obviously built in different period The larger or megalithic stones were likely the original build and the Incas or another civilization repaired the wall using local fieldstone.
The field itself has scattered stones withe steps formations and ancient puzzle pieces. The porous surface of the stones in this section all appear as they’ve endured some sort of water damage.
What do you think?
On a beautiful Cusquenian morning, I was honored to sit down with documentary filmmaker, Seti Gershberg and ask him about his latest project, life and inspiration. I met Seti here in Cusco, and have been following his project for several months. Seti has been living and studying with two of the indigenous groups of Peru for almost two years. His experiences have been preserved in his latest documentary film project called The Path of the Sun.
This project has caught my attention for more than one reason:
First, Seti has lived, studied and practiced with the leaders of Q’ero community, an Andean peoples who believe they are the direct descendants of the Inca. The Q’eros are known for their ancient knowledge and believe they are the keepers of ritual and ceremonial practices of the past.
Seti has also worked with a number of Curanderos from several areas within the Peruvian Amazon. He has explored the jungle communities in Pucallpa, Puerto Moldando and Manu. His investigation has taken him into the rituals surrounding ancient plant medicines, including ayahuasca which is believed to cure illnesses and addictions, heal mental distress and provide personal growth.
Both communities have preserved their connection to spirit, energy and drawing upon the ancient knowledge that has been passed down from generation to generation.
“What value does shamanism offer the global community in the 21st century?”
But the main reason I was so excited to sit down and talk to Seti about his project, was that he is committed to living, exploring and pursuing his inner passions driven by inspiration.
Seti left his lucrative-conventional life in Chicago to follow his path. He explores Peru’s native ancient traditions on a quest for positive growth with a focus on both personal and universal transformations. Seti’s film seeks to answer the question, “what value does shamanism offer the global community in the 21st century?” Through the documentary viewers are guided through the mysteries and rituals exposing the ancient knowledge contained within. This, Seti Gershberg believes, is indeed the path to the sun.
Seti Gershberg, an anthropologist, filmmaker, photographer and student of shamanism originally hails from New York. He moved to Chicago in 1999 and quickly became established as a featured video artist and photographer in the city’s thriving electronic music and emerging art scene. Gershberg, a former artist in residence at the The Chicago Art Department, performed with musicians at numerous festivals including Lollapalloza where he and Dj Mixmaster Mike from the Beastie Boys collaborated.
The Path to the Sun is a feature length film, now in post production. The film explores shamanism, ancient wisdom and sacred plants. The documentary seeks to answer the question “what value does shamanism have for the global community in the 21st century?” The documentary will be released to film festivals around the world beginning in the Fall of 2013.
One of the greatest of all educational museums in Boston is no other than the Boston Science Museum, which is considered to be one of the leading cultural institutions in the city.
Miro loves science and so do I. My favorite way to be engaged in learning is through a hands on and play combination. Since we were in Boston for a few days, we arranged a meet up with our friends and their kids at the famous Boston Science Museum.
How to do visiting the Boston Science Museum with kids in a fun and educational way is to just do it, as naturally, as is humanly possible. Let your imagination lead you along the way, when you and the youngsters go to personally discover a number of over 500 exhibits that are totally interactive and that are waiting to be explored. There is numerous live presentations that are available there, also throughout the day, in addition to shows at the planetarium and IMAX theater.
The Boston Science Museumin Boston is an enduring landmark and has been one for more than 180 years. This is because it is a very unique place, which is not only very interesting to all ages, but it is also a fabulous place to discover all sorts of different aspects amid the amazing world of science. The world of science is truly enthralling and this museum only stresses that fact in detail.
How to do visiting the Boston Science Museum with kids in a fun and educational way is a totally awesome experience. Because not only is the excursion about learning and fun, but it is also about bonding with the world of science to, and being able to gain a whole new appreciation for the very broad world that it does make up in general.
Going to the Boston Science Museum with kids is truly fun personified, because not only are the kids having a whole lot of fun, but parents are also having fun along with their kids too. Some of the Exhibition Halls are called Butterfly Garden, Seeing Is Deceiving, Dinosaurs, Investigate!, and Living On The Edge to name only a few.
There is also lots of historical exhibits, a computing section, and numerous other very engaging attractions. So, with all of this said, how to do visiting the Boston Science of Museum with kids in a fun and educational way is to prepare yourself to have a wonderful time of a lifetime at this one of a kind museum that has it all.