Dead Week

Now, you would think it being dead week would mean another week locked up in my room working on homework.  However, it was mostly the papers that had me so busy last week and with those all turned in I do have some time to take advantage of my last little bit of time in Lima before I head back to the lange of the English speakers.

Monday night I got back home and there were a whole bunch of people sitting on lawn chairs in a tent on the perbola listening to a guy giving a sermon and staring at a figure of the Virgin Mary.  I have to admit, I wanted to know what in heaven’s name the Virgin Mary was doing in the backyard, and I could see Mari and Carla sitting over there.  However this looked very, very Catholic, perhaps not something I should intrude in, so I went to the house.  Maybe 1 minute later Mari bounces in to let me know it is fine if I want to come down and to change out of her work clothes before they start praying the rosary.  Of course I say yes :)  It was very interesting, I had never heard anyone pray the rosary before.  Then afterwards the guy gave a little talk on his organization.  Apparently if you subscribe to his organization you can pay for people to pray for your soul.  And receive a magazine on how to live the Catholic faith. Anyway, there were a whole bunch of goodies afterwards, everybody in the complex had brought something. It was yummy :)  Like usual I jumped on the alfahores because I love those little cookies, they are my favorites :)  Then it was homework time.

Did I mention I had 2 tests during dead week?  One was a final, so that was ok since I won’t have to take it during finals week, but the other test was just a test.  So Not Fair!  We also got our topic for our Final for Conversation class sprung on us at the last minute.  Literally the last minute of the class.  I get to write a speech on the environment for my final, fun huh?

Friday morning Allie, Marta, and I decided to visit the Peace Corp office.  Marta had been wanting to because the person in charge of the office here served with her when she was in the Peace Corp in Guatamala.  We got there, and it just looked like any other house, except for the strange looking window security used to observe people.  We handed over our identification, clipped on our visitor’s badges, and headed on in.  It was nice inside, and the head of the Peace Corp office there was really nice.  The more she and the volunteers told us about Peace Corp, the more I wanted to join.  They have groups that work on health care, sanitation, education, environmental improvement, and small business enrichment.  Dang, I wish I could be a part of something like that.  Anyway, we grabbed some juice and headed back to the UPC because today was our last day to head over to the highschool and help with the english classes.  They threw a big food party with a whole bunch of traditional peruvian foods and presentations on traditional peruvian dances.  It was cool.

The next day was my little Peruvian brother’s birthday party.  The whole extended family came over to eat finger sandwiches, sit around and talk for hours, and sing happy birthday. Sunday, his actual birthday, the celebration continued with a trip to the movies.  I have never seen a movie theater that full.  Nana couldn’t get in until halfway after the movie.  It was a good movie, and a good weekend :)  Finals time.



Almost there

This week was murder.  I don’t have a lot to say.  I spent most of the week locked up in my room trying to do homework, write papers and study.  We are almost to the end here, and like always that means I am drowning in schoolwork.  Two minor happenings.  Friday night when I had FINALLY gotten in the mood to do more homework (and by that I don’t just mean I’d started it, I mean I was actually in the mood, Spanish words were flowing from my pen faster than I could think of them) THE ELECTRICITY GOES OUT!  I open my shades, but after like 10 minutes, it’s too dark.  I go outside and try to continue, 5 minutes later it is too dark even there.  I try to go to the UPC and there are no lights there either and they’ve cancelled the rest of the classes for the evening causing a flood of people to come flowing out the gates.  Fun.  I give up and head back to the house and find the kids heading to the house.  I go dig out my four jungle flashlights and find out that it is a very good thing I had more than one because Luciano and Flavia are both scared and sad and WANT A FLASHLIGHT!  They didn’t have any in the house.  About the time I start proposing a game of cards, the lights come back on and I can do my homework.  But I’m not as nearly on fire by then :(

The other minor happening was our trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art.  The art was cool.  But not quite my thing.  We whipped through the museum as fast as our guide could talk giving us absolutely no time to understand the pieces for ourselves.  Then we spent an hour rolling around/spinning around in long pieces of fabric.  Honestly, this whole experience was just weird.  There is no other description for it.


Mucho Paseo

My Peruvian family throwing rocks at La Punta

So we got back from Cuzco pretty late Sunday night and then I played cards if you remember from my last post.  Cuzco was the third in a row of three of the craziest weeks of my life.  Thankfully, once again we were not going to have a full week of school because it was Holy Week and most people don’t work or have school in Peru on Thursday or Friday of Holy Week.  I heartily approve of this tradition.  However, before we could play, we had some work to do.

This week we started our visits to the high school to help with English conversation classes.  It didn’t get off to the best start.  We had some major miscommunication with the highschool and stood waiting at the wrong gate of the UPC for like 30 minutes before we got ahold of the coordinator of the visit and discovered the error.  We did eventually arrive at the school, but we missed most of the first conversation class :(  However, I really did enjoy talking with the girls in the highschool.  Their questions about us were so interesting.  Some of them were interested in what we knew about Peru’s politics and culture.  Others wanted to know what we were enjoying about Peru.   All of the girls were interested in some aspect of our personal lives whether it was our romantic relationships, political views, or religion.  I cannot wait to get to know these girls better.  Their English was fantastic, I wish I had learned to speak such fluent Spanish in highschool.  I don’t know how the school has acheived this result, but whatever they’ve done, the U.S. should copy it.

This week, I came to the realization that I am almost done with class.  We only have two more weeks of lessons, and I cannot believe the program is almost over.  I have had so much fun here in Peru.  But mentally, I am exhausted.  And emotionally, I am ready to go home.  Being here over Easter was so hard.  I ALWAYS spend Easter with my family.  Not being with them just hurt.  As you are going to hear, I was busy, busy, busy the whole weekend with my Peruvian family, but I just could not stop missing my real family.

The thing about Holy Week is that it is different everywhere.  Marta kept telling us how everything was going to close down for Holy Week because that was her experience with it in Guatamala.  I was expecting parades and things because that was what I had read about in my tour book.  Honestly, in Lima, Holy Week = Mucho Iglesia (lots of church) and Mucho Paseo (Lots of going out).

Thursday the family went to Aspitia, this little town on the outskirts of the district of Lima.  It was green and beautiful.  Lots of mountains and a pretty little river.  We had lunch at this cute little place that had a pool.  I have never seen a restaurant with a pool and a playground, but this wasn’t the only one out in Aspitia.  It was cool  :)  While we were waiting for our food Mari, Alesia, Carla, and I took a little walk to see if we could get down to the river.  The answer was: no.  But we had a lot of fun, and this cute little beagle dog followed us all the way.  We were just walking on some logs over the ditch when Aida called Mari to let her know our food had arrived and wanting to know where we were.  We tried to return quickly, but most everybody else was done eating when we got back.  By the way, if somebody tells you that a food is dry, they aren’t kidding.  My ironed chicken was very dry.  But it was yummy anyway :)  Then we took off in the car to this place where Alesia and Luciano rode four-wheelers.  We had to wait forever for the fourwheelers to be ready and while we were waiting we all played soccer.  Honestly, I do not understand the businesses in Aspitia, why the wine place had a soccer field is beyond me.  I’m glad it did though :)  We had a lot of fun playing soccer, trying to teach Luciano to play with his feet and not his hands.  Watching Alesia adn Luciano get fitted out in their safety equipment to take three laps around the driveway was a hoot: they had helmets, elbow pads, and kneepads.  I don’t even wear a helmet when I ride a fourwheeler on my aunt’s farm.  And the terrain is much more dangerous and I drive much faster, but I suppose it is about making the ride seem more exciting.  Anyway, after Luciano and Alesia finished their ride we rode around Aspitia in the car some more and then headed towards home.  However, one of the cousin’s had a serious car problem, there was a hole in his coolant thing I believe.  So he had to stop every like ten minutes to add water to keep his engine from exploding.  Which meant Aida and the kids and I followed their car for 30 minutes until he gave up and decided he needed a tow.  Smart decision.  Then we smashed his wife, mother, and two kids into the car with us so he could wait for the tow truck without worrying about them.  Fun, yes?  I was the lucky one, I got the front seat and only had to share with Luciano who fell asleep on my lap almost immediately.  Midway home, Aida calls Nana to see what time church is, and it turns out it is in like a half hour, so she really hits the gas (it’s normal to drive like 100 in Peru on the highway).  We get to the drive way and Nana is waiting for me in the car with Mari and Carla to go to mass, Flavi hops out and starts banging and the door and shouting my name.  I’m waiting for Aida to come get Luciano.  Patti takes off to get the door open and Aida takes Luciano leaving me free to hurry over to Nana’s car so we won’t miss mass!!!  We get there 15 minutes early and have to sit outside the church because there is no room inside.  But the service was so beautiful.  Lots of pretty, sleepy music and talk about the last supper.  They had 12 men sit in the front row so they could wash their feet.  I didn’t really understand that part, but it was cool.  They also did this really beautiful communion.  It was a great day :)

Friday was a little more relaxed.  We stayed home and worked on homework til noon and then we started gathering family members to head to the point.  I don’t think Nana was counting on everything being so full, everywhere we stopped to eat there were no tables for an hour.  Eventually we ended up stopping at a take out shop so the kids could eat something.  Just as the kids were finishing up Cokie found a place for us to eat :)  After lunch, we walked over to the beach, tanned, waded and watched the little boys throw rocks at the ocean.  It was fun :)  Then we headed home and watched some movies in spanish while painting nails.  Originally we picked a movie with a mouse, which I think is why all the little girls shoved off to do something else.  Once they left, we switched movies because we had chosen a kid movie for their benefit.  Ironic, huh?  We watched City of Ember before supper and after supper we watched Star Dust.  In Spanish of course.  That is one of my favorite things about Netflix, the feature that allows you to watch most movies and shows in either English or Spanish.

The next morning was a morning for more homework, but we were out of the house for lunch at 1 sharp.  We headed to jockey plaza to eat at chili’s.  They all ordered hamburgers, and Nana was convinced that Chili’s was real Mexican food, but Mari and I set her straight while I was enjoying my fajitas.  Yummy :)  We did some grocery shopping at Plaza Vea, and I decided I wanted to pick up some things to make pancakes since Kim had had so much success with that with her family.  I mentioned it to my family and they wanted to know if I was making them for desert for lunch.  Turns out Peruvians have pancakes too, they are just more like crepes and they fill them with white chocolate.  However as soon as we were all on the same page (not crepes, breakfast food), they were excited to have pancakes still.  I had a little trouble at the checkout counter when there was no sticker on my apples and the cashier started asking me how much they cost.  Having context helps when I’m trying to understand Spanish, and I wasn’t expecting that question.  But we got it all sorted out and rushed out of the store cause Aida was waiting with the car.  Once we got home we had a little time to relax before we headed off for church.  We headed there an hour early, I thought we were trying to get a seat in the front, but no.  We were trying to get a standing spot in the front.  They weren’t going to even open the church doors til exactly 8 when church starts.  What happens is they light a little bonfire in a brazier and a priest says some words about the year long Jesus Easter candle (honestly I’m not sure what the name of the candle is, other than being fairly certain that isn’t it, but it is a fairly good description of it’s purpose so we’re gonna roll with it).  Then the priests parade in with their candles while the entire congregation breaks into a dead sprint for the seats.  Cause there are more people than pews.  Honestly, I do NOT understand the logic in this, but the bonfire thing was cool.  Once everyone is seated the priests begin passing the flame from their candles to the candles of the congregation, which the members of the congregation purchased for a donation and will be keeping.  The whole service was very beautiful, full of lots of old testiment readings, lots of “singing” and also lots of actual singing.   There was a very overdressed priest presiding over the mass and the way he kept taking off and putting on his large hat to cover and reveal his little pink hat was distracting.  The whole service was centered around drawing close to God through flame, as the father emphasized in his sermon.  Afterwards, we were walking out and there was a loud noise behind me, I looked up and there were fireworks!  Such a thing would never happen in the US because it’s prohibitted, but they were a very beautiful celebration of Christ’s rising.  Unfortunately, once we got in the car, it would not start.  Nana tried and tried to turn the key in different ways (there is a trick to it with Pito’s car), and it just wouldn’t start.  We waited for like 20 minutes before she gave up and called Pito who got it to turn on the first try, without even actually getting in the car. We got home, devoured some toast, and went to bed because it was 11 o’clock, definitely bed time.

The next morning I got up around 7:30 and started attempting to make pancakes.  And by attempting, I mean attempting.  The electricity for the stove wasn’t connected, so when I tried to turn it on it just smelled like gas.  So I gathered up my ingredients, got my apples chopped and ready to simmer, and then waited for an adult to walk into the kitchen so I could ask how to turn on the stove.  I got a little antsy waiting, cause patience isn’t my strong suit, but eventually Aida walked in and turned it on for me.  Then it was pancake time :)  Unfortunately, the kids did not want to try the pancakes.  It was just top weird for them.  We usually eat ham sandwiches and hardboiled eggs for breakfast, so I definitely understand where they are coming from.  But the adults really liked them, and tried all of the different toppings I put on the table (peanut butter, syrup, compoted apples, and sliced bananas).  I think they might still be convinced it is a desert though.

I made some progress in the second twilight book, still in Spanish if anybody is wondering, before we headed out to eat lunch with Tia Gladys and some other relatives at a restauraunt.  I had this cute little pastas with pesto sauce and an apple desert, it was yummy.  I was also able to follow most of the conversation, until it went from 3 people talking at once to 4 people talking over each other and then I gave up :)  But it was a very lively luncheon, and we had a nice stroll through the mall afterwards before heading to Joshua’s house to give him his Easter egg.  That’s another thing.  I don’t think I had ever seen a chocolate egg.  But that is the kind of eggs they hide here, chocolate ones.  The idea of plastic eggs was unusual to them.  Anyway, we take Joshua for a spin around Miraflores, drop Mari at a friends house and decide to head home because as Nana said “Mucho Paseo”.  Gosh, I don’t think I have ever spent so much time out of the house, I was exhausted.  I came home, attempted to blog about it, obviously failed, and went to bed very early.

Mandatory has never been so much fun :)

Macchu Picchu!

I just realized I never explained to you how we ended up going to Macchu Picchu.  I just kind of threw one sentence about it into the last blog and expected you all to guess.  Sorry :)  So, anyway, we got back from our trip to Ica, about two or three weeks ago, and our professors start saying mysterious things about moving class outings, and don’t buy soccer tickets for that weekend, and maybe we’ll get to see Macchu Picchu after all.  Marta, our teacher, spent practically all day tuesday closeted up with the international studies office here. We knew SOMETHING was going on.  However, they left us in suspense until they got everything nailed down.  That meant we found out Thursday during Conversation class, about 12 hours before we left for Iquitos.  I was so excited!!!!  I had been so disappointed when it was cancelled, and now we were finally going!!!  However, in all the excitement of the jungle, my other news got buried.  But now you have it, I went to Macchu Picchu :)

We left Thursday in the wee hours of the morning, or as they say here madrugada.  Like, 3 am in the morning we are getting on the bus to take us to the airport.  It’s starting to be a habit, being at the airport at 3 am, after 3 weeks in a row.  It’s so busy there, even at 3 am in the morning. Unfortunately, our flight got delayed :(  We got on the plane on time, but they made us get off because the plane need some repairs that apparently could be affected in an hour.  We did eventually get back on that plane but my ears were cracking like crazy. Eventually we made it to Cuzco safely, go our bags, located our tour guide, and headed off to the hotel.  We were supposed to have like 4 hours to acclimate to the higher altitude, but with the delay in the flight we had more like two hours before we were supposed to be ready for our tour of Cuzco city.  Time for a quick snack and some internet before taking off on this new adventure.

Around 1 we bounded back onto the bus to head off to this really complicated sounding church.  It was really something.   It was this church that was originally built as an Incan religious place.  Majorly cool.  Our guide kept pointing out the differences between the Incan architecture and the Spanish architecture.  The Incan style is much, much sturdier and less likely to be hurt by earthquakes or natural disasters.  Unfortunately, like most things, it is not impervious to human attacks.  The Spanish saw all Incan religious sites as a threat and had everyone they saw destroyed.  That is what makes Macchu Picchu so special.  It is the one Incan ruin that the Spanish didn’t find and take apart (well, make the Incans take apart) stone by stone.  The original structure is 80% there.   Other Incan ruins are more like 30% intact.  Anyway, then we headed off to the Cathedral.  It had a LOT of art in it.  I we couldn’t take any pictures :(  I was sad cause the art was REALLY cool, but I do understand why people would want to steal it.  Apparently people used the pics to make copies and replace the real things with their copies.  When we went to the basement, our guide informed us that the ashes of the head of Inca Garcilaso were buried there and I realized something.  You see, Inca Garcilaso is the author of one of the short stories that I read in my Latin American Lit class last semester.  Those of you who were unlucky enough to be anywhere near me last semester got more than an earful about how much I HATED that class.  It was really hard, I struggled with the words, struggled with the material, the sheer quantity of pages I had to read in Spanish, struggled to understand what the teacher wanted to teach us about Latin America.  Suddenly, there in the catacombs of this church in Cuzco, this class made sense.  It hadn’t been pointless.  Everything I had learned about was real.  This author, the most important author of Peru, I had read his works.  His words about the Incan beliefs about the Sun God and his two children establishing the city of Cuzco, this I had read as well.  As the weekend unfolded, these were not the only parts of that class that came to the front of my mind and made me marvel at how much I had depreciated this class which was now allowing me to get so much more out of Cuzco.  Sometimes, God works in mysterious ways.

After the church we got on the bus to head out to this set of ruins that sounded like Sexy Woman, and the guide pronounced it that way to make sure we would remember the title of the ruins.  It was cool.  Lots of old ruins.  Apparently some prince got confused when he was in a war with his enemies and started yelling at the stones to fight with him, thinking they were warriors.  The legend says the stones were so suprised they came to life and helped him win the war.  I loved the headsets we had for this tour.  Our guide spoke into his microphone, and we had headphones and could walk around and take photos while he was lecturing us on the history.  It was great.  After lots of picture taking, he took us down through this cave where they did human sacrifices.  It was dark, short, and scary.  We were all really freaking out the whole time.  Eventually we all made it out though, and got back on the bus to head to the next ruins.  These ruins were a set of waterfalls where priests of today go to bathe in the mornings because it is a holy place to bathe.  It was cool.  There were women with llamas and traditional clothes everywhere trying to sell pictures or other things, talking to us in Quechua, Spanish and broken English.  I can’t imagine trying to make money that way.  Our guide tried to teach us how to say “I’m broke” in Quechua, but I honestly can’t remember how to say it.  We learned sooooooooooooo much in those four days I’m suprised I remember anything :)  Then we headed to this other place whose name means Labyrinth in Quechua.  we saw another site where they sacrificed things and took pictures of where a BABY had been buried alive as a sacrifice to the Pacha Mama.  Yikes :(  Right outside the Labyrinth was a gorgeous view of the entire city of Cuzco.  I took a ton of pics.

Then we headed to this store that sold alpaca stuff.  I liked that they tried to show us the difference between real and fake alpaca, but their stuff was SOOOO expensive.  80 soles for a hat?  No way.  Not when I can get a fake one for 5.  I didn’t buy anything, but apparently not everyone shares my opinion because not everyone walked out empty handed.

We got back to the hotel and got ready to head out for dinner.  We found this funky little cafe called Jack’s cafe that had this very European/American menu, not Peruvian at all.  I had Pea and Ham soup.  It was fabulous, thick and delicious.  I mean, it wasn’t Peruvian, but it certainly wasn’t something I would ever eat in the U.S. either.  So, well worth the experience :)  We headed back and went to bed, because the next morning we were headed to Macchu Picchu, early.

When the hotel wakeup call went off at five am, I was not ready to get up.  Too early :(  But we had a nice long bus ride, followed by a two hour train ride, followed by a half hour bus ride before we actually got to Macchu Picchu at like 12, so it was ok.  The train was awesome.  I had never ridden in a train before, and the train seats were reversible.  The scenery was gorgeous, I kind of felt like I was driving through Wyoming.  That is a strange thing to say I know, but it was green and mountainous and I haven’t really traveled that much.  We got to Macchu Picchu town and were met by our guide and had to wait some more even though we were already running late.  Eventually we made it up to Macchu Picchu and the wait was well worth it.  My first thought “this is a holy place, God is here”.  Honestly, I understand why the Incans chose it to build their holy temple.  It is a place to take a holy pilgrimage.  I wish I could stay up there for weeks, have a worship session their with acoustic guitars and thousands of voices raised in praise of the Father in this place.  It was very peaceful and I felt very close to Him, more so than in that ostentatious place we saw the day before that was supposed to be the second most beautiful church in the world.  For me, that cathedral yesterday was not a church, it was a museum.  Similarly, this historical site, Macchu Picchu, was not a piece of history but a place of worship.  I wish we had all day to just be their and soak in the beauty and peace of this place, but we were running late and only had 2 and a half hours to take in all the history adn wonder of one of the 7 wonders of the world.  So off we went, taking pictures, learning the history, “doing the mandatory” because you cannot come to Peru and not go to Macchu Picchu.  It is just not allowed.  But I wouldn’t want to miss it anyway.  Because it was amazing.  What the Incans had done, how long it had stayed up, the intricacies of their religion and lives.  I loved it.  It all ended too soon and we were back on the bus, eating lunch at a buffet, back on the train, back on the other bus and at 9pm, back at our hotel and the Macchu Picchu day was over.  I would have loved to have even just a couple more hours, but I was so glad to have the chance to see Macchu Picchu, it was unforgettable :)

The next morning we didn’t have to get up til 7 am, and after waking up at 2 am and at 5 am, this felt like sleeping in.  At eight we got on the bus, again, to head out on our tour of the Sacred Valley.  We saw this really, really great zooish place.  Great animals, Allie petted a deer.  But the best part was the condors.  The guy got them to fly down right over our heads so we could get a good look at them in flight.  One of them about took my head off it flew so close!!!  Then we saw how the natives make their homemade cloth: spinning, dying, and weaving.  It was cool.  Then we headed off to Pisac, another set of ruins.  It was pretty, but the best part of this one was the terraces.  They were so green and so pretty.  We climbed all the way to the top and it was a great view from there.  Then we headed to the markets in Pisac town.  We got a little lesson on how to make silver and how to tell it was real and then they set us loose.  We went crazy.  All of us are starting to realize we are almost out of time to buy souveneirs.

Lunch was a buffet, again, in a place about 50 minutes away from Pisac.  It was good.  I liked the chicken and the lamb, but mostly we all loved the desserts :)  They were fabulous.  Then, we were off to Ollantaytambo, the ruins of 200 stairs.  More history here.  Finally was informed about why the Southern cross was so important, because it is like the North star of the Southern Hemisphere.  Also, we found out about the face of the Incan King.  It is certainly interesting that they would go to all the trouble of carving it into their mountains.  And they drug the hugest rocks I have ever seen up those mountains!  Honestly, it was really cool.  Then we climbed, and climbed, and climbed some more.  Being a little scared of heights, climbing down was terrifying.  However, totally worth it to have gone all the way up.  Then it was back on the bus, back to Cusco where it was raining buckets.  Allie and I tried out her new chess set in the hotel lobby while we waited out the rain.  I won, well she gave up, but I was going to win anyway :)

Around 8:30 it stopped raining and we decided to head to Cusco Central and get some supper.  The restauraunt we were looking for, one with cultural dancers, turned out to not exist.  BUT we got to see something cooler.  One day a year the entire world turns out the lights for an hour and we got to see the protest in Cusco and all of the lights go out and eat dinner on the square during this hour.  It was pretty awesome.  Marta decided to order cuy, which is guinea pig, a Peruvian specialty.  We all tried it and honestly it was interesting, I didn’t really like it.  But I’m glad I tried it :)  However, I really like the alpaca I ordered, it kind of tasted like venison and it was yummy :)  We even got free lemonade :)  Good night, despite the lack of dancers. We headed back to the hotel, and I made it an early night.

The next morning, some of us were up at 6 so we could go to a Palm Sunday Service in the Catedral in the center of Cuzco at 7:30.  It is a once in a lifetime experience, and I wasn’t missing it.  I loved the service, it was in Spanish rather than Quechua so I mostly understood it.  The palm leaves in Peru are much different than in the states, they are like a flower boquet, or something that is put on a grave make out of different pieces of palm leaves.  Very different.  They are sold EVERYWHERE on Palm Sunday.  Anyway, it was a fast service, so we were back at the hotel by 8:30 and getting checked out by 9:30 so we could finish up our souveneir shopping, get some starbucks (first time I have ever been to a real starbucks and it was in Peru, weird huh?), and hop on the bus to wait for our late plane.  Planes here seem to have a tendency to be running late, but that meant that I finished Crespusculo (Twilight) and could send it back to Carla with Allie.  Also I got to spend plenty of time studying for my grammar test.  Eventually we got on the plane and got back and my family picked me up from the airport :)

When I got back to the house, the party for Carla, my ecuadorian cousin, was just getting over.  Carla, Allesia, Mari, and I played cards, discussed semana santa and basically just had a good time for hours.  Eventually I did go to bed, exhausted.  What a great weekend :)

Jane of the Jungle

Getting ready to swing on a vine :)

So, to forestall any comments, I did not pose for that picture.  Allie had my camera and was snapping while I was trying to get situated to swing on the vine and that just happened to get snapped.

So, after three days of intense classes, homework, and packing it was time to head to the jungle!!!  The journey began in the middle of the night, like all the best journeys.  3:30 in the morning I’m dragging my tired butt and heavy suitcase out to the car so we can head to the airport to catch the 6 am flight.  We got to the airport around 4:20 with our bags and things and wow, the airport was full of white people!!! I hadn’t seen that many white people since I got to Peru!   Everywhere I looked, white people!!!  Aparently we have entered the tourism season :)  Anywho, we checked into our flight and sat around waiting for the boarding call.  This happened to be one of the flights where they bus you out to the plane.  I am still fairly amused by that, because it feels like you’re in a movie when you actually get to walk up the uncovered stairs into the plane.  :)  Spent the two hour flight reading Crespusculo (Twilight in Spanish, Allie’s peruvian sister Carla lent it to me) fun Fun FUN!!!  Then, we were in Iquitos.  Even the airport seemed like a jungle place, we got off the plane and just walked into the baggage claim, no bus necessary.  Our tour guides were there two meet us, home made signs and all.  We got our bags and they swept us off to the van in a Spanish blur.  Our primary guide met us at the van, and he spoke English.  I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or sad.  English is easier if my primary purpose is to learn all of the cool facts about the rainforest and it’s animals, but I love practicing my Spanish.  He rattled off a whole bunch of cool facts about the Amazon in the van on our way to the boats.  Right before the boat took off, we realized we needed flashlights, like it was not an option to not have them.  Of course none of us had them.  So our guide took ten soles from each of us and came back with 13 of the coolest flashlights I have ever seen in my life.  Old-fashioned and funky.  Just my style.  Then we settled in for the ride down the Nanay river to the camp.  Iquitos is an island bounded by 3 rivers: The Amazon, the Nanay, and some other river whose name escapes me at the moment.  The camp happened to be down the Nanay river.

About a half hour down the river we stopped at a animal refuge where we saw all sorts of cool stuff.  First we watched our guide feed the piranhas.  He would throw out a handful of piranha food and we would all just watch them swarm and splash :)  Then we went over to see the alligators.  There were so many of them, and we got to watch him feed them too.  I didn’t know that alligators turned their heads when they ate, I wonder why.  I suppose it is hard to get your mouth open big enough to catch the food from the top and easier to just turn it.   Who knows.  Then, my favorite part, the paiche.  They are these ginormous fish with these huge mouths.  They are soooooooo cute!!  And they are pink!  I swear just about everything that lives in the amazon has a pink tinge, including the dolphins.  Wonder what is up with the minerals there?  Also, there at the refuge there were several parrots and they were all very, very tame and would sit on your fingers.  Unfortunately I wasn’t fast enough to get them before they got tired, but I did get to watch one of them drink 7up.  That can’t be good for it, teh ideas of animal care in peru must be very different from in the United States.  Then it was back to the boat.

About a half hour later we arrived at our camp, another muddy dock.  Once again somebody had to move their boat so there was room for us.  I don’t know why, but the entire weekend their were always more boats than parking spots.  And yes, I’m calling them parking spots because honestly a boat is the car of the Amazon.  The lodge was very rustic.  I liked it alot.  Alot alot.  It was awesome.  Words cannot describe it’s awesomeness.  There were hammocks and we were smack dab in the middle of the rainforest.  A rustic heaven on earth.  We had a little bit to get settled in to our rooms, a lunch of catfish with rice, and then we were off on our first adventure in the jungle.  We took a hike into the woods to meet some of the wild life.  Our first new friend was this cute little frog that was hiding among the leaves and even sitting in our guide’s hands I had trouble convincing myself it really was a frog it’s disguise was so good.   After much trying our guide finally teased a tarantula out of it’s hole.  Our group was so loud that he had to try three different holes before he got one that didn’t run away faster than he could catch it.  When he finally caught it, it was definitely worth the wait.  Huge, furry, and scary as heck.  I really didn’t want to touch it, but I did :)  and took pictures with it on my arm :)  We saw several other cool animals and learned about the parasite killing benefits of ficus sap, but those were the highlights of our hike.

Then we headed back to the lodge to clean up, rest up, and eat supper (chicken and rice) before our night hike.  We saw some more toads, and some really cool spiders and spider webs and then, to top it off, our guide located a snake.  He went and broke off a pole and wound the snake around the pole so he could bring it over where we could take pictures of it.  Majorly cool.  It kept trying to get off and he kept rewinding it on his spiked stick.  Once we got back it was bed time.  I tell you, showering in a single drop of water by flashlight is difficult but getting clean is definitely worth it.

The next morning we got to sleep in, we didn’t have to be up til breakfast at 8.  Then, it rained.  So we got to hang out on the hammocks and nap for a couple hours waiting for the rain to let up before we headed out to monkey Island.  Honestly, this was one of my favorite parts of my jungle experience.  We got to the island and there were wet monkeys everywhere.  About 4 of us walked to look at one of them, and Sam started wondering, jokingly if maybe it would climb up on his shoulder.  He held out his hand and asked it if it wanted up and up it scrambled!  That was just the beginning.  It sat on all of our shoulders for pictures before we realized there was a shelter ahead full of more monkeys.  Inside the shelter we met a bunch of monkeys.   I held a turtle and an anaconda and I could have a held a baby crocodile if I wanted to.  I got some pictures with a parrot too :)  Then, when I was tired of monkey chasing I sat down to rest and a monkey came to me.  It came right over and laid it’s head down in my lap.  Then another came over to join it.  We were resting happily together when this aggressive little bugger ran up and picked a fight with one of the monkeys in my lap.  They were screaming and biting at each other and being me I panicked.  I screamed and the monkeys fled, end of nap time.  About 20 minutes later, we were back in the boat to return to the lodge for lunch.  After lunch, it was dolphin swimming time :)  We returned to the boat to drive to the Amazon river to search for the pink Amazon dolphins and go swimming in the Amazon.  We succeeded in seeing the dolphins, but just barely, from far away.  But it was definitley cool and they were definitely pink.  :)  Then we went swimming in the Amazon and I have pictures to prove that I wasn’t to chicken/smart to get in.  But I got out quickly cause there was too much of a current for me to want to stay in too long.  But it was fun.  I also liked the bird spotting in the boat ride :)  The birds of the Amazon are pretty :)  We got back to camp, cleaned up and had supper.  We could have had a night walk after that, but those of us who wanted to hike preferred the early morning when there was a chance the mud might have dried.

So, 6 am the next morning we are out trekking the trails.  He points out some more cool bugs and then we see them, the MONKEYS.  In the jungle, not in any refuge or zoo.  Just in their natural habitat.  Then, we found a vine and we got to swing like the monkeys, or at least Kim and I did.  Nobody else wanted to try.  I wasn’t good enough not to slip off the vine, I only actually swung for about half a second, but boy was it fun :)     Then we saw how they make charcoal and headed back to the lodge for breakfast.  Then ( I didn’t find this out til later) the boat was broken so we waited around until they could make arrangements to take us piranha fishing.  Nobody caught a piranha, Haley caught a catfish, but we saw this huge snake stand practically straight up and take a beating from this really stupid bird.  It was highly amusing.  And then I DIDN”T SEE a lizard in a tree, because being more than a bit oblivious at times, I just could not find it no matter how many times people tried to point it out to me.

We headed back to the lodge so we could walk to the native village and meet some indigenous people.  Majorly cool.  They told us about how they had been cheated by the boss during the tobacco boom and were trying to make money by sharing their culture with tourists.  They did a demonstration of how to shoot with a dartgun and even let all of us try after they painted us all with native face paint.  Then, we did some dances with them.  It was fun, and I got chosen first both times.  Definitely a new experience for me to be the first girl chosen to dance with by a guy, even if they were just trying to make me happy so I’d spend my money.  They had some really cool handicrafts, even some maracas made from gourds that they used to play the music in for their dances and some miniature blow guns.  After that, it was time to head back to the lodge for lunch, to pack up and to take a long boat ride against the current back to Iquitos.  It was long.  I made quite a bit of progress in Crespusculo.  Before we docked we got a brief tour and explanation of the floating houses where people with very little money live in rickety shacks in the River bordering Iquitos.  More on that later

At the top of a long flight of stairs we were met by the owner of our tour company to arrange our transportations to the airport and hotel respectively.  We got our bags moved into the mototaxis and took off for the hotel.  It was a NICE hotel.  We got there and I found out the other taxi driver did tours in Spanglish as a side job.  He could take us all over Iquitos to most of the places we wanted to see the next day.  We were excited and made arrangements to meet up with him the next day at 7 to go to the Belen Market.  That night all we wanted was to shower, eat, and maybe take a swim in the pool.  We were tired from all our jungling.  We got a restaurant recomended by this really friendly guy working at the front desk of the hotel, but when we got there the restaurant was olosed for a family celebration.  So, we hailed a taxi and asked where was good to eat and ended up at this really interesting looking restauraunt drinking this delicious juice and eating (well at least I was) skewered crocodile, fish, and chicken.  Honestly, crocodile (In Iquitos) tastes better than chicken.  I LOVE crocodile.  Then it was back to the hotel to recount the fiasco to the hotel clerk and enjoy some wifi access before a shower and bed.

At 4:30 the next morning one of those poor, destined to be dinner soon roosters started crowing, in the every five minutes kind of way.  That meant I was done sleeping, well not done trying, but done succeeding.  I finally gave up around 5:20 and got up and got dress and packed.  Allie and I were down for breakfast not much after 6 and packed and in the lobby to check in our things at a little before seven, but well, running late is normal and everybody else was.  Our guide, Marta, Mariah, so it was 7:30 before we were to the Belen Market.  Now, I don’t know what you are thinking when I say Belen Market, but the Belen Market is not a souveneir market.  It has a medicine market and a food market and a clothes market and who knows what else.  Our guide was very knowlegable about the different uses of the different herbs and mixtures.  It was cool.  He took us around and showed us the useful and interesting concoctions and told us all the stories and background info we could like.  My favorite part was after Marta bought some bug repellent one of the booth owners decided we might like to buy some love potions and started spaying us all with these really nice smelling (think roses) perfumes.  I almost wanted to buy some, but really I have enough love in my life ;)

Then we headed off on our tour of the food section of the market and our guide, Raul, was very knowlegable about this too.  Lots of info about what is safe and what isn’t, what kind of meat was what, that sort of thing.  Then, we almost didn’t take the tour of the floating houses because, we’d already seen them, yesterday.  I am so glad we didn’t let that stop us.  Raul took us on a very detailed tour of the houses.  I felt like we were seeing the real Peru.  The poverty, the need, the part that was not prettied up and cleaned up.  Peru is very modern and technologically advanced, but there are still people that not only pee in the amazon, but also drink that water.  It’s a difficult concept to wrap your mind around.  One thing I would like to learn more about is the group, Ninos al Rescate, who had flags on many of the houses in the area.  Raul said they were a group who provided children with safe water and immunizaitons and that sort of thing.  I truly would like to know more about them.  When our boat docked and we got off, Raul asked if we wanted to buy bottled water, that it would be cheaper here than at the zoo.  We said yes and he turned toward the woman in the house and ordered 4 bottled waters.  When she returned with the water, he introduced her to us as his wife.  Then it hit us.  Our guide lived here.  In the trash and dirty water.  Where his home was mostly flooded half the year.  Wow.  I mean, we’d seen it, we’d seen faces, but we didn’t know them.  We knew Raul.  It is hard not to know Raul, that man is so friendly and personable.  And he is hardworking.  He drives a taxi, has a tour guide business, owns a store, and who knows what else.  In a way, he reminds me of my father who is the most hardworking honest man I know.  So, I felt very safe with him.  We even got to meet his one year old son who was such a cutie and a Daddy’s boy.

Then, we took off for the Quistacocha zoo.  I won’t bore you with the details.  Mostly we wanted to get a good look at all the things we didn’t see quite enough of in the jungle like the pink amazon river dolphin which gave Allie a kiss as part of its show or the Anacondas, or the 6 million different kinds of monkeys.  It was fun, and Quistacocha is beautiful.  They even had a beach.  If I had a longer vacation, I would have planned a whole day for Quistacocha.  After that we returned to town and took a took at the big old houses, some of which were quite pretty.  Then, we hit the SOUVENEIR markets.  You cannot leave a town without souveneirs I always say.  Halfway through souveneir shopping we took a break to eat lunch at the Yellow Texas Rose.  It is owned by some guy who lives in Texas and the waitresses wear Texas Longhorn Uniforms and half of the menu is in English.  But my crocodile nuggets with yuca fries definitley tasted Peruvian :)  Then we finished up our souveneir shopping and headed to the hotel to gather our things to head to the airport where we were very early.  We got there at 4:30 and our flight was late and didn’t actually leave til 9:30.  Long wait = more progress in Crespusculo.  I am aiming to finish it by the end of the Macchu Picchu trip.  We’ll see.  We got back to Lima at 11 and Marta’s new Peruvian father picked us up at the airport.  It was a long ride back in his little white Bug.  But, finally at 12:30 I got back, and the door was locked due to language malfunctions with my family.  But after plenty of window knocking i was let in and i got to go to bed and now I am literally itching to go to Macchu Picchu.





So, last weekend was our big adventure to Ica!  It was certainly an adventure.  Liz, Mariah, Maria, and I met outside of the UPC to catch a cab together to the bus station at 6:30 in the morning.  We were the first people from our group to arrive at the bus station and I at least was a little worried that we were in the right place since we had managed to beat Marta there.  However, we were just really early, everybody else showed up about 10-20 minutes later.  You wouldn’t believe my seat on the bus though.  We were on a double decker bus and I had the front front seat with an awesome window view, it was almost like I was driving the bus.  The movies we watched on the bus weren’t fabulous, but it was ok cause I pretty much napped through them anyway.  After about two hours we made it to Ica and when we got off at our hotel I couldn’t believe my eyes.  The hotel was gorgeous!  It looked like a resort!  The huge pool and gorgeous rooms were out of this world!  I have never stayed somewhere like that before in my life, it was definitely a new experience.  We got checked in and went into town to find somewhere to eat before making arrangements to go SANDBOARDING out in by Lake Huacachina.  We took dune buggies out into the sand dunes and honestly, I could have ridden in the dune buggy all day.  It was like a roller coaster, except in a vehicle in the middle of the desert.  I highly recommend it to you.  Then we got out the sand boards.  I was too much of a chicken to try it standing up, even on the hills that were easy enough to try it on, but I had a lot of fun going down on my stomach and butt.  Then, we got to ride the dune buggies back to town :)

Afterwards, Liz, Mariah, Maria, and I headed back to the hotel to clean off and try out the pool :)  It was very refreshing.

The next morning was our trip to the Islas Ballestas where we saw all sorts of different sea lions (sea wolves in Spanish), penguins, jellyfish, and birds.  It was awesome :)

Then we spent the afternoon touring the chocolate factory and chilling in the pool.  In the evening some of us went to the planetarium show, it wasn’t very high tech, but it was fun :)  Then we had supper at the hotel.  I had this REALLY fancy causa.  Causa is my favorite food here in Peru, a type of potato salad kind of.

The next day Liz, Maria and I went to the Stone Forest for a couple hours and took some pictures with the turtle and climbed around on the rocks.  It was fun :)  Then it was time to take the bus back to Lima.  All in all a fun trip :)

Leaving Lima!!!

This was finals week for the summer session here in Peru.  For us, that means no more helping with English classes, and MIDTERM TESTS!  We had tests in both Grammar and Literature and I was totally fried by Wednesday night.  When my Peruvian friend, Joseline, invited us to join her in her trip to her home in Canete I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go.  I had a lot of homework to do.  We are working on these program plans for the end our class with Marta, and being me, I am planning this trip that is killer difficult.  Three different locations and associated transportation, venue changes, etc.  But, that’s me.  I am very excited to TAKE this trip at the end of the year with my mother if everything turns out the way I am hoping :) Anyway, so I worked and worked and worked on these ridiculous travel plans, and miraculously, I was going to be able to get them done by Thursday night!  So I gave Joseline the all clear and the plans were in full gear :)

We all met up at the UPC at 8 am on Friday, Joseline, Allie, Carla (Allie’s awesome host sister), Mariah, and I.  Then we got on the first bus.  Just a short, little, intercity bus trip to the bus we actually needed to take: a 2 and 1/2 hour bus ride to Canote.  Suprisingly, the bus ride didn’t seem all that long and I was just so happy to be leaving the city.  I had been in Lima for 2 months and the only time I had left the city was when we went to Matucana as a class.  I was SOOOOOOOOOO excited :)

We got to Canote and followed Joseline through the town, I at least was completely lost by the time we caught a taxi.  Canote is beautiful, that is about all I noticed.  We took a taxi out to the very outskirts of town where Joseline’s family has a hospedaje, vineyard, and winery.  She gave us a tour of the winery, I had never been in one before.  It was very cool.  And then she let us do some wine tasting.  I don’t drink, alcohol is fermented and would give me a migraine, so I didn’t try it.  But I wish I could have, cause it was her family’s wine.  Oh well.  Then we went over to the hotel, and stashed our stuff before heading out to the vineyard to pick some mandarine oranges off the trees!  I felt like I was right in the middle of the Parent Trap, that is what it looked like.  All these short little trees in rows with dirt paths, it was so cool!

Then, we headed back and had lunch.  I tried this thing called Sopa Seca, and no, it is not soup.  It is like spaghetti, except it is not a tomato sauce, it is something else and it doesn’t have hamburger.  Mine had a chicken breast on top.  It was yummy :)  Then, finally, it was time to go to the BEACH!!!  We got ready and caught a taxi, which took like 20 minutes to get us to the beach from where we were.  But once we got there, it was worth it.  It was the prettiest beach I had seen in Peru.  The water was blue, the sand was white, the dock was gorgeous, in short:  I LOVED THE BEACH!  We had a lot of fun, jumped some waves, caught some rays and then we dried off and did some souveneir shopping!  I swear that is a never ending hobby of ours, but everything here is just so darn pretty and cool :)  Then we walked along the pier and did some fishing with muy muy.  Now, these are some of the most disgusting bugs either.  You should have heard us all screeching about trying to put them on the hook.  NONE of us was really happy about killing the poor things and everybody except Carla thought they were nasty.  So you can imagine how successful the fishing was, lol :)  But the picture taking, that was slightly more successful cause as the sun set, it got even prettier on the beach if you can imagine it.  Finally, it got so dark we could barely see so we caught a taxi back to the hotel to shower and change before striking out for dinner.  We went to this fabulous little juice store, and if you ever make your own juice let me suggest pineapple strawberry.  YUMMY!!  The sandwiches were good, but not nearly as sensational as the juice.  I want more!  Once our tummies were satisfied, we were ready for a good game of cards.  We headed back to the hotel and pushed some beds together so the five of us could play liar liar together.  You can bet it was a heated game.  And we were NOT going to bed until somebody won.  Not happening.  Never.  Not even if it was midnight. Happily, somebody won and we all went to bed.

I woke up early the next morning.  I have been waking up around 6:30 here in Peru and you wouldn’t believe how pretty it is in the countryside of Canote at 6:30 in the morning :)  I spent some time staring at the sunrise, got ready, spent some more time staring at the beautiful countryside, took some pictures, and eventually everybody else woke up :P   The plan was to get breakfast at 9 somewhere and be on our way out of town by 10.  We headed out for breakfast a little late because we all panicked when Joseline went to get her little sister, and also something happened in the taxi on our way to breakfast.  Our taxi driver was a representative for the radio.  He was talking to Allie about how we were from the U.S. and were here in Peru studying spanish, then he asks if we have ever been on the radio.  We say no, he gets out his phone, calls in and all of the sudden, his voice is coming through the radio.  Allie and Mariah talk on air!  Me, I had no idea what to say so I didn’t. Then we had breakfast.  And there were scrambled eggs!  Oh how I have missed scrambled eggs, these were yummy :)

Then, it was off to find the bus to Lunahuana.  We had to wait for another bus because there were not enough empty seats for the six of us.  Finally, the six of us were in a combi together for the hour long journey to Lunahuana :)  We got there and our guide Joseline had contracted wanted to start immediately.  We all wanted to visit the bathroom first. We won :)  After that we started our tour of the church and the town.  We got a history of how Lunahuana became a town that included Attahualpa and some guy being tied to a stake and a town of beautiful women. It was history, I mean seriously, how much history do you think a group of college age girls want to know?  Finally he decided he’d told us enough and we took off walking to tour the winery there.  He told us all about how they made the wine and we got some pretty cool pictures.  Then we did some honey tasting, it was yummy, but there were bees everywhere and they wanted the honey.  The ladies running the tasting kept telling us that the bees would not sting us, but we were all still pretty freaked out.  I almost bought some honey just so I could try it again when I was less hurried, but I didn’t.  Then we headed off to go horse back riding.  The horses were very little, and stubborn like your typical trail horse.  Trail horses don’t respond to commands well because guides train them to ignore the bad signals given by unexperienced riders.  Unfortunately, for those of us who can actually ride horses, that means you have absolutely no control.  I wanted to wait for Esperanza, Joseline’s 9 year old sister who had never ridden before., and my horse would not follow her horse, wait, or turn around.  Lovely, huh?  But it was a lot of fun.  The view up where we went was really, really gorgeous :)  Then we got back and walked across the windiest bridge ever.  After we took a tour of a “encantada” (enchanted in a haunted kind of way) house, we headed to town to sign up for river rafting!!!  Rafting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We took another van out to the river where we all realized we were wearing tennis shoes and they were going to get soaked.  So we put on our safety equipment and left our shoes with Joseline’s sister who was NOT getting in the boat.   So, shoeless, I stupidly climbed in the front.  I got soaked through from head to toe.  It was so much fun though, we splashed through tons of waves and rowed and had about a million pictures taken of us.  It was a great experience, I would love to do it again :)

Then, completely soaked, we rode back to town and found some sandwiches and bought the pictures before heading back to Canote to get our things in a bus.  Then we grabbed our things, bought some wine from Joseline’s family and hurried to catch a bus back to Lima.  We made it home around 10, in time for me to eat some good leftovers and play some cards with Alesia.  Good weekend :)  Now, I realize this is a little late, so I’ll fill you in on what happened the rest of the week:

I got my tests back and I got a 20 on the literature test, which is a hundred percent.  A HUNDRED PERCENT.  I had been feeling like I wasn’t learning anything, but truly this made me feel much better about my experience here in Peru.  I also got back my test from grammar, and I was happy with it too.  Also, for my online class, I was working on a report on the police of Peru and I did over half of the research for this report in Spanish even thought the class is in English.  I really feel like I am learning.  I love that feeling.  By the way, McFlurries here are not as good as sundaes :(  Next time I am getting the strawberry Sunday.  Thursday night Allie and I and her sister Carla went to McDonalds and then back to their house to watch “The Tourist in Spanish” and have a sleepover.  It was a fun night, full of spanish and girly teasing.  I can’t want to head to ICA tomorrow.  Look for the next installment soon :)

Water Rafting!!



Change of Plans

So I don’t know how many of you follow the press releases by the Peruvian embassy (mum does, but I’m guessing probably nobody else), but this week they made a decision that really made me sad :(  The embassy had sources that indicated a terrorist group had plans to kidnap American citizens in the near future in Cuzco, so until at least the end of February they advised against traveling there.  Therefore, the trip to Macchu Picchu that I had been eagerly awaiting since we got here, is postponed indefinitely until the embassy unembargoes travel to Cuzco and we figure out how to pay for the trip with most of our money gone because we had to pay for most of the trip we couldn’t take.  As you can imagine, we were all pretty bummed out.  I am hoping to still get to go before I come back to the states.

Anyway, since I didn’t go to Cuzco, I got to help with the last day of English classes for the summer semester.  It was definitely a unique experience, I got to help administer oral exams.  There would be a group of like five students come in and I would hold a conversations with them in English, directing them in certain directions so the teacher could listen to their speaking abilities and grip on grammar.  It was oober cool.  Then my teacher bought me cheesecake :)

Then, we had a sleepover!  It wasn’t really entirely intentional, sleepovers are not really part of the hispanic culture and I had every intention of returning to my house after we watched the movie, but when Mariah and Allie walked me back to my house at 3 am and the gate was closed, well, what better cure for the blues than a good old fashioned sleepover?  And Allie’s family was awesome, I mean her room is huge, she has like 4 beds, and then her fam made breakfast for us in the morning :)  It was a good time :)

Then on Saturday, some shopping in Centro de Lima with Liz and her convo partners!  Everything was so cheap down there and I LOVE Liz’s convo partners.  They are just about the nicest people in the whole wide world.  1) They really seem to like doing stuff with us 2) they don’t try to practice their English with me 3) if I need to locate/do/figure something act they are eager and willing to help me with it.  It was just an awesome day.  I got a lot of new earrings (1 sol per pair!) and some other things, very cheap and just had a lot of fun.  We got shut out of the main square cause there was a protest going on, but honestly we heard like 3 people shouting and they were police everywhere with metal gates to keep things under control.  It was surreal. Anyway, overall fabulous day.  Then I got home, and the whole family wanted to play cards!  I taught them how to play golf, and they loved it!  The night ended with me being invited to go to the beach with Mari early the next morning.  Good day :)

Beach!!!!!!!!  Turns out somebody’s aunt has a beach house and Aida, Nana, and kids are going to spend like 4 days at the beach house.  Mari and I drove down with Mari’s cousin this morning to join them for the day.  The beach was very beautiful, and the water was very tranquil.  Some relative had a surfboard that he let us goof around with and we kept trying to get all three of us: Mari, Allesia, and I on the board, but I kept falling off.  Then we played some cards on the beach :)  At like 3, we headed back to the beach house to eat some chaufa (fried rice) and hang out.  I guess going to the beach means a lot less time at the beach here in Peru than it does back home in the states.  But it was fun :)  And we spent the afternoon taking a walk, playing cards, eating raspadillas, and talking.  Fun, fun, fun :)  Got back into Lima LATE and now am CRAMMING because I have 2 tests and a lot of homework due this week.  Even in Lima life is busy. Oh well :)


This week was so busy, busy, busy.  Life here in Peru moves at a much different pace than life in the States.  I mean, you might think you have nothing to do because you have no plans, and then suddenly you are gone all day J  I love when that happens.  Between the fact that Lent started on Wednesday and Thursday was Valentine’s Day, life was busy, busy, busy.  So all day Ash Wednesday (Miercoles de las Cenizas) I was fretting about whether or not I would be able to get the ashes put on in the Catholic Church since I am in fact Methodist.  If anybody knows for sure please let me know, because everybody I asked saw that as one of those gray areas where maybe yes maybe no.  Well, seeing as going to a Methodist was out of the question (the nearest one is in Miraflores, I didn’t know what time service was, I’d have to take the bus, and I didn’t want to do any of this alone if I didn’t have to), I kind of asked the whole class (Well, I asked Allie and Allie asked everybody else) if they wanted to come to the Catholic service.  So Allie and I ended up walking down to the church after class to figure out what time service started.  We had gotten out of class a little early, so we had some time to kill until service started at 6pm.  Fruit Juice!  We walked over to the Mercado and got some fruit juice and did a little shopping (I found some nail polish for five soles, makeup down here is REALLY expensive because they have to import it all.  This was dirt cheap).  Then we headed over to the church a little bit early so we would get seats.  That is one of the things I love about church here, is how the church is always so full there are people standing in the aisles even though there are more than one service and lots of pews.  God’s house should be standing room only, ok, so maybe that’s not quite what I mean, but I like that attendance in church is that good.  The service was good, and they played “Lord you have come to the Lakeshore” which happens to be my favorite song here.

Then Thursday morning was Valentine’s Day.  I really didn’t expect to get anything, I’m here in Peru for heaven’s sakes, but at 5:30 am in the morning the delivery man starts banging on Nana’s door shouting “Senorita Mari, Senorita Mari”.  Like any sane person, I assumed this had something to do with my host sister Mari.  But after 5 minutes of banging and shouting he says Senorita Mari Claire (my middle name is Marie for those of you who don’t know), and I realize he’s calling for me.  I go to the door and he’s standing there talking to Nana and Tia Gladys in their bathrobes with a huge box of flowers and a tin of chocolates.  For me!  David had found a way to send me flowers all the way here in Peru!  J  As you can imagine, that was a very happy Valentine’s morning.

So, after all that excitement, as you can imagine, I had a lot of homework to do, especially for my online class.  My suggestion for future people in the program reading this blog: if there is any way to not be taking an online class in English while you are here, do not take an online class in English while you are here.  It really detracts for the time you can put into learning Spanish.   Despite that, I had really good luck on Friday because 1) my teacher emailed me the map that was missing in my online class 2) I finished my online test before the Wi-Fi at the house disappeared (for all whom it may concern, I have no Wi-Fi at the house for the rest of the week while they get a new server thing) 3) I accomplished a LOT of homework on Friday due to the fact that I was forced to concentrate even more than usual.  Therefore, I was ready for a weekend of fun in the sun!!!

Saturday we went to the zoo!  It sounds like such a childish thing to do, but oh my goodness was it FUN!!!  We got on a bus at 9 am from the UPC to head to the zoo which is a very, very long ways away.  I have no idea where it is really, other than very far.  If you want to go by bus, you have to switch buses at the tunnel on the way to Miraflores.  We got there, and we bought waters, because it was a hot day.  Hot, hot, hot!!!  The zoo was in so many ways less fakey than the Henry Doorley zoo.  Probably because the majority of the animals in the zoo actually live in some part of Peru, it’s their natural habitat.  It just felt more real and welcoming, like the kind of place you want to go with your family for the day several times throughout the summer just because it’s that fun.  And it didn’t just have animals.  It had a lake with paddle boating, lots of playground equipment, picnic areas, and a walking path surrounded by trees that reminded me of home.  I really, really liked the zoo, I think I took like a hundred pictures of the different animals J  What I should have taken a picture of was the dude who was carrying lap dog around in his camera bag inside the zoo.  That was WEIRD!  But I had soooooo much fun J  but of course it had to end at some point with a long bus ride back to the UPC where I discovered I had a sunburn on the right side of the back of my neck.  Not the left side mind you, just the right.  And this is why one should put their hair up BEFORE they do their sunscreen; let this be a lesson to us all.

The next day I was up early, early, early and I went to 7:30 church with Nana and Mari and got some juice and watched a little bit of Tadeo the explorer with Luciano and chatted with my boyfriend before Catty, Mariah, Mariah’s host sister, and I got our ducks in a row to go surfing.  We took a taxi to Miraflores around 12:40 so we could catch a 1pm less and oh my gosh was it fun.  For 60 soles we got wetsuits, booties, surf boards, a lesson, and lots and lots of personal attention the entire time we were in the water.  The instructors were right there the entire time, yelling “rema rema rema, Parate! Parate!” (Paddle, Paddle Paddle, stand up! Stand up!), usually followed by me falling off the board into the water.  I’m not very coordinated.  I never did manage to actually stand up, but I rode one wave practically all the way to the shore on my knees.  Poor technique, but lots of fun J  Then I tried to get back to the group and they were so far out I couldn’t see them without my glasses on, pretty good distance huh?  Well I paddled out as far as I could and waited for one of them to notice me since I was sure I was close, just not able to identify them.  And they did of course J  It was a lot of fun, and as long as you don’t mind falling off your board repeatedly, I highly recommend trying it.  Afterwards, we got t-shirts, free with the lesson!  Then we headed off in search of lunch, at like 4 in the afternoon.  Not as unusual in Lima as in Nebraska.   We finally decided we’d be best off heading to Larcomar where at least we knew for sure that the food was safe, although more expensive.  I had some yummy pork chops, salad, tacu tacu, and fries J  (Tacu tacu is beans and rice patted together into a cake and fried.  If you are a fan of refried beans, it is delicious)  Then we wandered around the mall a little bit before deciding to go in search of the artesian shops which were NOT as close as we thought they were.  Between the surfing and the walking I am sore all over today L  sad day.  Anyway, we eventually did find the artesian shops and Mariah got some souvenirs.  Then, we got ice-cream!  Nummy J  Then we walked to Angamos so we could take a bus back to the UPC, we were waiting so long we almost changed our minds and took a taxi!  But a bus eventually came and we got back to campus safe and sound.  What a fantastic weekend!

Arequipa! (Kind of)

So, this week was the week that our group was going to take a trip to Arequipa, only I didn’t feel like laying out the over 200 American dollars to go when the trip I am planning for after the semester ends is going to take me through Arequipa.  So Liz, Allie, and I stayed in Lima after a grueling week of classes.  We had a TON of homework done this week.  When thursday came, and with it the end of classes, I was ready to CELEBRATE!  But of course, most everybody was headed out on a plane early, early the next morning, so no partying for them.  So Allie, me, and Allie’s host sister headed out to jockey plaza to speak spanish.  And yes, that was the entire point of our expedition.  I mean, we got some nutella strawberry crepes and then went to McDonald’s for icecream, but that was secondary.  Our main point for this expedition was to practice our Spanish skills, which led to singing the Bob the Builder theme song in the middle of the mall as Carla, Allie’s host sister, tried to explain what a camion was.  We called it a night around midnight, cause I told Nana I’d be home before midnight.  I was still locked out, but luckily she was up watching tv, waiting for me I think.

Friday, I did homework and tried to coordinate my plans for Saturday, Saturday was a ton of fun.  We ended up heading to Miraflores around noon, Dr. Moorman, Allie, and I.  when we got off the bus on la Calle Arequipa, I started laughing cause here we were standing on Arequipa in Lima while the entire class was in Arequipa Arequipa.  It struck me as funny.  Anyway we headed off to the Artesian Markets to do some souveneir shopping and oh my goodness was it fun!  I love browsing around the markets, everything is so cool :)  We had some lunch (antecuchos :) ) and did some more shopping and then it was time to take off for Keneddy park to meet Renzo.  Renzo had promised to take us on a Mirabus tour of Miraflores.  A Mirabus is a double decker bus with an uncovered top and it is awesome :)  We took some great pictures of the sea by Miraflores and some of the older buildings in Miraflores.  Then afterwards we went to a Salchipaperia and got this dish called Salchipapa which is french fries with hot dog pieces covered in sauce.  I had chicken pieces cause I’m allergic to hot dogs, but it was really delicious :)  Then Allie and I caught a bus back to the UPC where we decided we weren’t quite ready to go to bed yet.  My host sister Alesia and her friend Andrea obliged us by playing several games of cards with us before Allie took off.  Then Alesia and Andrea and I finished watching the Princess Bride in Spanish.  It is not nearly as funny dubbed cause the Spanish voice overs fail in the drama department, especially the priest.  I found it necessary to give Alesia a demonstration of how it should be done, she giggled and rolled her eyes at me.

I spent Sunday with Aida and her husband and kids.  We went to church in Miraflores and then out to lunch.  I had some pollo ala braza, yummy (roasted chicken more or less).  Then we did some of the family errands, always fun when you’re running around with three little kids, Mommy, mommy I want this, this would be perfect for my room, push me, push me!  Kids are the same in English or Spanish :)  What a great weekend :)