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18 posts categorized "Eliza Sease"

12/11/2012

Expect the Unexpected

For the last trip of the semester, my friends and I decided to head into Southern Peru to the city of Arequipa, known as the “White City” for its arquitecture, as well as being known for sitting right outside the Colca Canyon and for its incredibly delicious food. I was ready to get out of Lima after exams and enjoy the nicer weather, outdoors and spending quality time with some of my friends in the program before we all head our separate ways. Our trip to Arequipa was not the dream vacation I had previously seen in my mind, and it seemed everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. But when you’re spending time with such great friends in such an amazing place, it is hard to look back and not think a trip was fantastic. Its also the times when things go the most wrong that you learn how you deal with certain situations and how in the end, a trip is what you make it to be. I definitely learned that when things go wrong, I need to trust that everything will work out. I learned that the best thing to do is not to dwell on what the trip COULD have been, but instead enjoy and be thankful for the experience I DID get to have and the experiences I will hopefully continue to have.

As half of our travel group headed to Puno and Lake Titicaca for a day first, my friend Kelly and I went ahead to Arequipa (since I’d seen Lake Titicaca when i went to Bolivia a couple years ago). We arrived after descending and landing in some pretty heavy turbulence to a rainy day in Arequipa and thus began the long list of “unexpecteds” that would happen in our 4 day stay. We took a taxi to our hostel with a very friendly man who yodeled the words to a song from Heidi to us before breaking into a couple other songs we didn’t know and telling us his views on relationships in the US vs in Peru. It was quite the interesting ride and it is times like these that make me fall more in love with the people of Peru who are so amiable and genuinely live up every minute of life. The biggest challenge to the independence and confidence in my international traveling that I felt I had earned while here occurred when we went to check into our hostel (however along with it also came a moment of clarification and gratefulness). When I went to check us into the hostel that I had booked a week earlier, the women at the front desk looked at each other and said, “You’re Eliza? You missed your check-in time so we have given two of your four beds away and unfortunately we are totally full for tonight”.

I immediately went into panic mode and an “I’m a failure” mental state. I argued with the woman, telling her I had set our time for 3:00 and that it was only 2:45, upon which she politely informed me that Peru still abides by military time and that 3:00 is AM while 15:00 is PM and that there was nothing they could do except help us to find a hostel for the other two members of our group for the night. I was devastated. I had booked hostels before, I had arrived on time and picked the right hours before, shouldn’t I be able to do this by now? And then there was a peace about the whole moment. I called another hostel and booked it, rebooked us for the following nights at our original hostel, and figured out all the finances. By myself. And all in spanish. It shed light on part of the reason I came to Peru. To learn to deal with situations like this. Where I am not in total control, where things go wrong and there are unexpected barriers but where I have the capacity and the knowledge to figure things out independently and not always have to rely on others. At the beginning of the semester I would have broken down and given up, or called our director to help us figure out the problem. But I have lived and learned how to be more independent here; I have learned how to speak Spanish well enough that it wasn’t a problem to have all those conversations with the hostel people. I have learned that I am a stronger person than I thought I was before and that I can do so many things I would have never imagined being possible.

But enough self-reflection..we then visited a neat church and bought some delicious cookies before I made the biggest mistake of the entire trip which was the meal I ate for dinner our first night. Kelly and I decided to go cheap and split a meal for 5 soles (the equivalent of $2). Anyone in their right mind woud know that any meal, especially one that includes meat and is big enough for two people to split, should probably NOT be consumed. And yet we did it and so my sickness began. I felt bad that night but assumed it would go away and so the next day when i woke up feeling bad I knew it was going to be rough. I immediately took some Pepto (or Butismol–Peruvian Pepto) and we set out for the days activities. We went to a huge monastery where we expected to pay 15 soles to get in–cost 35 soles which we were not happy about but it ended up being really cool and it was fun running around taking artsy pictures and enjoying a huge mid-monastery piece of chocolate/caramel cake. Not a good decision on my part but I wasn’t really thinking about it. All i was worried about was taking pictures and staying hydrated. Therefore I wasn’t thinking when I ate a spicy Rocoto Relleno (the Arequipenan specialty) for lunch. This meat and cheese stuffed pepper is to die for–normally. But it also did not set well with my stomach and it became basically the last thing i ate for 2 days and one of the reasons I missed out on Arequipa’s delicious cuisine. But such is life in a foreign country where you eat things you shouldn’t and think your stomach is more accustomed than it really is.

We had planned to do a tour of the Colca Canyon the next day so I took more meds and went to sleep early hoping again that I felt better when I woke up. Our tour left the hostel at 3am and would return at 5pm and we would drive all through the Colca Valley and then the canyon. After arriving in Chivay, half of the way into the valley, we paid our 70soles entrance (before learning we could have shown a special student id we have that would have discounted us to only have to pay 5soles–we’re still bitter!) and then headed to breakfast. At this point I was feeling pretty weak and sick but I figured I could sleep in between stops, take pictures at overlooks and then on the way back sleep the whole way. We made a couple stops in some beautiful small towns where we saw local dances/cultures displayed in the Plaza de Armas and the views along the drive were undescribable. The land was very green and there were tons of agricultural terraces, over 25,000 in the valley!! It was breathtaking and totally took my mind off of not feeling well.

We then stopped at the Cruz del Condor where we hoped to see some of the huge birds of prey. Our guide had told us there wasn’t a big chance of us seeing any because it was a cloudy day. All I wanted was to see one so I was kind of bummed. We had an hour at the stop to wait and hope. After about 30 minutes there and waves of discouragement the sun came out and less than 10 minutes later a condor appeared. And then another. And another. And even another. At least 6 or 7 different condors came out flying. It was so cool to watch them fly over our heads and through the valley. We were so excited and there were bunches of people there taking pictures. It was such a cool moment. When the sun came out, and the condors, and my friends and I just sat and took tons of pictures and talked and joked and laughed. I am so grateful for the friends I have made here, who can make me feel better when I’m sick and can make any situation a lot of fun! I don’t remember much of the ride back because I fell asleep but I gave my camera to Kelly who took lots of wonderful pictures for me (some below).

I did, however, wake up for our stop at the highest point in the entire valley, at over 15,000ft! Although it was cloudy we could see multiple volcanos on the horizon which was really neat. On the way back I also remember being awake when we passed a couple big herds of alpacas, llamas and vicunas (which have the softest and most expensive coat of any–just one kilo of “fur” costs $500). It was amazing that they could live at such a high altitude where it was pretty cloudy all the time and very very cold/windy. All in all the tour was really great (what I was able to stay awake for) but we were all exhausted. I went to sleep when we got back as the rest of the group went to get dinner and then the next day when I got up, our last day, was feeling slightly better.

We had a lot of time to kill until our flight and we had seen most of what Arequipa had to offer so we sat in a coffee house and played cards for hours before going to eat at a nice restaurant for a late lunch/early dinner. Still sick, I watched as my friends ate yet another delicious looking plate. Oh how I wish I’d been able to eat everything! I did eat my cup of Queso Helado (“frozen cheese”–or the best ice cream in the world) before i left. I knew the dairy would mess with my stomach and today i question whether it was worth it but in the moment it was to die for. Queso helado has nothing to do with cheese. It is this super creamy/icy/vanilla-y ice cream that they sprinkle cinnamon on top of before they serve it. I could eat it forever. After that we headed to the airport where one of the girls in our group realized she didn’t have her passport. The story that follows is too long and stressful to tell her but included her going back to the hostel where it was decided her passport was gone forever, her seat was given away on the plane, the flight was closed as she arrived back at the airport, she thought she’d have to stay a night alone and come back to Lima a day later, there ended up being one extra seat on the plane so the attendants had to choose between her and another man, she cried, and !!!! they gave her the seat!!! So all ended up fine. She got her emergency passport this morning and will be able to go back home. (Although she claims her losing her passport so close to when we leave is a sign she is supposed to stay here forever. Lots of denial that the program is over is floating around right now).

I’m still getting over my sickness and had my first real meal in 4 days for lunch. slowly but surely improving. But Arequipa was awesome! And I would go back in a second. Colca canyon was unlike anything I have ever seen before or will ever see (its twice as deep as the Grand Canyon!). I learned a lot about myself this trip which was good. This whole experience has taught me so much and I have loved soaking up every bit of it. Stay tuned for a very sappy next post that will come soon and will include my final reflections on this semester abroad. Can’t believe it’s almost over..

Herd of llamas

Herd of llamas

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Condors

Condors

Rocoto Relleno

Rocoto Relleno

Sunset in Arequipa

Sunset in Arequipa

Arequipa 231 Arequipa 233

Volcano El Misti

Volcano El Misti

Monastery in Arequipa

Monastery in Arequipa

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Arma

Cathedral in Plaza de Armas

Cathedral in Plaza de Armas

 

11/24/2012

Sea Lions, Thanksgiving, and Procrastination

The time to procrastinate for assignments has come again (hence this blog post!). I also have a couple events to catch you all up on–mainly my trip to the Palomino Islands where I swam with humongous smelly sea lions and the Peruvian Thanksgiving I celebrated with my host family and my friends from my study abroad program.

When told at the beginning of the program that we were going to swim with sea lions at some point I was really excited. I pictured cute cuddly little seals that we would get to pet and that would happily splash all around us. We would take a yacht of sorts to the island, sunbathing the whole way, and the water would be warm (because by november it’ll be summer here right?). I could not have been more wrong. Here is how it really went down:

We got to the dock and got on a boat, not terrible, but no yacht and put on these neon orange life vests which didn’t fit and thus was basically choking me the entire ride. At this point the sun was not out and it was very chilly, so much so that we had to bundle up in big blankets and all huddle together to keep warm. Then our guide came around and offered us these pills which I took without asking any questions but later found out were for sea sickness. I assumed if the captain of the boat offered us pills we should probably take them. A couple girls in my group, however, decided they didn’t want to take random pills (in hindsight a good idea) but withink 15 minutes two of them were throwing up over the side of the boat with really really bad nausea. So that kind of put a damper on the trip there.

It didn’t get any better when we came within a few hundred yards of the island with all the sea lions. All six thousand of them. The smell was horrendous. It was so bad that the guides offered us cotton balls soaked in alcohol to kill our smell buds or something so it wasn’t so bad. The good thing was that my nose adjusted very quickly to the smell, perhaps due to my extensive time in smelly horse barns as a child, and I soon forgot about the stench. On a brighter note, as we got closer to the island, some of the sea lions began swimming next to our boat and they looked so cute diving through the water and calling out to each other. They sounded like a mix between a dog barking and someone moaning (sort of a strange mix, i’m aware). Our next step was to put on our wetsuits to prepare to swim. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to wear a wetsuit!!

After we all put our wetsuits on and the boat was anchored into place, they gave us different life vests and told us not to touch the sea lions, that if they wanted to, they would touch us (assuming we were being calm). I was terrified. Not only of the HUGE sea lions, but also of the open water, which turned out to feel like it should have been frozen. As soon as i jumped in the water my body froze it was so unbelievably cold. The only reason I was grateful for the cold water was because that is the reason there are no sharks or killer whales (so the guides told us). As a group we all swam out towards the island and all the sea lions. They told us the best way to experience it was to get about 10 feet away from the island where all the animals were getting in and out of the water and sit back and let our life vests hold us afloat while our feet floated out of the water. That way, if we were calm, a sea lion would surface and touch our feet with its nose before going back under water. The sea lions were very used to people.

It was a really neat experience although i was on edge the whole time because sometimes when the sea lions surfaced it was out of the blue and it scared me. They are also known for messing around with people and swimming right underneath you so it scares you and I was terrifed of that happening. They never touched my feet although some of the other students got to feel it. We just sat and floated along with the tide and watched all the animals. They were so much bigger than i expected and not quite as cute–their teeth are visible when you’re that close! After we finished swimming we saw some Peruvian penguins and the sun came out so we actually got to sunbathe a little on the boat ride back. It is neat getting to say i have swum with sea lions but I don’t know that I would do it again, too stressful for me!

The last week has been hard with Thanksgiving and seeing everyone back in the states getting to go home to spend break with their families and eat delicious food. So, the other students and I decided we would do our own Thanksgiving potluck and each person would bring a traditional-ish dish and we would celebrate with our own “family”. For lunch, before the dinner, my host family also made a special set of dishes that despite not being Thanksgiving-y, were so good. I came downstairs for lunch and they had put a nice tablecloth on the table, were serving off of the “fancy” dishes, had bought a special cola (that we never drink) and had put dried fruit out on the table. We ate grilled porkchops, pasta salad with ham, rice and for dessert had flan (which I have grown to absolutely love). It was all so good and I was even more excited for the potluck for dinner.

For our group dinner, people brought chickens, bread, wine, sweet potato casserole, salad, cheese, a stew and a chowder, mashed potatoes; the works. It was too delicious for words. My friend Pam and I actually ate our way through almost two whole rotisserie chickens which I am very proud of, although I could have rolled home I was so full. After we ate we sat and talked for hours and enjoyed each other’s company and it made spending the holiday away from my family easier. For dessert we had brownies, oreo truffles, fruitcake, regular cake, and pumpkin pie. It was basically the perfect night. The only thing that could have made it better was being with my family but I am so thankful for my peruvian family who continues to love me and make me feel at home. I am also very grateful for this experience and for my friends and everyone else in the states who continues to make me feel less far away from them!! Finally, the countdown has officially begun : T-23 days until I am back on US soil!

All bundled up on the ride over

So many sea lions

Special Thanksgiving lunch with my host family

The whole fam (including our dog Sacha)

Peruvian-style Thanksgiving with my friends

Delicious!

 

11/16/2012

In the Land of Adventure Sports: Lunahuana

Last weekend, for one of my study abroad program’s organized trip, we escaped from the smoggy streets of Lima to the small town of Lunahuana, located 3 hours from the busy city. If you know me, then you know they had me at small town. They also had me at horsebackriding, mountains, rafting, 4-wheeling, and sun. Needless to say I was super pumped for the weekend getaway.

View of the valley around Lunahuana

We met early on Saturday morning where I started off my day with a toffee nut latte (I am turning into my mother!) from Starbucks because I have been craving real coffee here–still drinking fake instant nescafe unfortunately. After all of us crammed, literally, onto a bus we started the three hour drive to Lunahuana. We passed through lots of the city that I hadn’t seen and then along the coast for a good while. With Taylor Swift’s new album playing, my chacos on my feet, and mountains on the horizon, I was a happy girl. We arrived a little late after being stopped and inspected by the national police at the Lima city limits (still not sure why) and immediately got ready to go whitewater rafting. I was so excited! We got into groups of 6, learned the commands in spanish, and started off. It was great. So refreshing to be in the river with fresh water splashing all around and the sun beating down on us. “Beating down on you”, you say, “that doesn’t sound nice”. But when you have hardly seen the sun in 3 and a half months, you don’t care how burned you’re getting. The guides stopped our rafts and let us swim around in the water for a good while and it was the most relaxing thing. I wanted to stay there all day.

Rafting!

After rafting, we went to lunch where I had a seafood bisque that was really good and featured the local specialty of crawdads. It was really good but a lot of work peeling all the little crawdads and I longed for more meat. We then went with a tour guide to a site called Incahuasi which was, yep, you guessed it–MORE ruins! We learned about how they used to execute the prisoners in a public square and that there are Incan burial sites all around Lunahuana.

Incahuasi ruins

We then headed over to a beekeeping place where they specialize in honey and pollen which is really good for your health! They let us try all kinds of honey, from different regions and flavored with different flavors, such as Eucalyptus and Avocado. I just happened to like the good old fashioned kind. It also worked out perfectly that my host family had just run out of honey so I bought them a new jar and they were very appreciative. Plus now I can have honey on my fruit again!! Right across the street was our next stop, a winery and pisco making bodega. There we tried pure pisco and the house wine and then had the opportunity to buy some. While we were there there was a short rain shower and after it ended and the sun began to set there was a double rainbow!!! It was so beautiful and reminded me so much of being home in the mountains after a spring or summer rain shower. We then watched a beautiful sunset before heading off to our next activities.

One of the rainbows (the second one was too faint and didn’t show up on my camera unfortunately)

Beautiful sunset

We left the bodega and headed towards a suspended bridge that moved when we jumped on it and a haunted house which I did not enter. Not trying to be haunted by any ancient Incas. After enjoying a great dinner, we returned to the hotel and went to sleep. Our morning started off with a hike through the valley and we got to cross over this river on a contraption thing seen below. It took a good 30 minutes to get everyone across but the view over the river was beautiful. The rest of the hike was rather uneventful, a casual mummy and lots of human bones was about it. Ha! The area is full of cemeteries of the Incas like I said.

My friend Marg on the pulley contraption crossing the river

Breakfast was waiting for us when we returned to the hotel and we ate and then prepared to go horsebackriding. I felt bad on the little horses because they were pretty skinny (I guess not a lot of hay or grains grow in the area?) but somehow they made it up and down the hill we rode to. For most of the group it was their first or second time on a horse so it was pretty comical as they attempted to get used to being on a horse and not necessarily being in full control. But the ride went down without a hitch and we got to see another view of the luscious valley surrounding the river we rafted down.

My friends Becky and Mary and I on our little horses

Immediately after horsebackriding we went to lunch where I had grilled trout that was to die for and then left to go four-wheeling. It was my first time ever on a four wheeler and I was really excited even though they told us we wouldn’t be going very fast. We rode around on some back streets (my friend Vidya “crashed” twice due to a dud wheel) and I now want a 4 wheeler for Christmas. Just kidding mommy and daddy!!! But kind of not kidding. It was an adrenaline rush and the revving of the motor made it all the more exciting. Already looking forward to my next cruise!

Me on my four wheeler like an adventurous rebel

Four wheeling was our last activity in the wonderful town of Lunahuana and I was genuinely sad to be done with the weekend so quickly. It was the perfect getaway from the busy city streets and even though we did a lot in such a short amount of time just being in the outdoors with fresh air was refreshing and rejuvenating. In other good news, I didn’t fail my two tests last week, the sun has been coming out more in Lima, and (in bittersweet news) I come home a month from tomorrow. It seems so unreal!! Love and miss you all!

Lunahuana

 

Ruins Ruins Ruins

Back from my hiatus! I am finally done with my latest round of tests and assignments and ready to catch up on my blogging. So much has happened and I am so far behind. Two weekends ago I went to Trujillo, Chiclayo, Lambayeque and Huanchaco (all in 3 days total). It was a ruins-filled trip but we saw lots of neat things. I travelled with two girls from France, three other girls from the US and a girl from Poland. Quite the international group and it was awesome! It forced us to really immerse ourselves and speak only spanish the whole weekend (something we’ve not been very strict about, especially when its all of us english speakers together). We started off with two days in Trujillo, known for its beautiful Plaza de Armas and local ruins– Huaca del Sol, Huaca de la Luna, Huaca del Arcoiris (rainbow) and Chan Chan. We took an overnight bus to Trujillo and arrived very early in the morning. Immediately we began looking for somewhere to eat, which proved more difficult than expected because it was only a little after 6am. But after drinking huge glasses of freshly blended fruit juice we were ready to go. We consulted our guide books (the best way to see a city on a time crunch) and began walking. There were so many beautiful houses and churches all throughout the small city so we made a point to visit each one of them. What I liked most about Trujillo were all the different colors of the houses/buildings. Red, blue, teal, yellow, green–you name it, and there were houses that color. It made all the pictures even prettier. We were approached by a man trying to sell tours (usually you’re told to ignore these types of people). But he offered us such a good price for a two day tour of all the local ruins that we couldn’t pass it up. Thank goodness he turned out to not be sketchy and our tours were great. We had an afternoon tour of Chan Chan and the Huaca del Arcoiris and a visit to Huanchaco all for 10 soles or the equivalent of 4 dollars!! It was quite the steal. After eating lunch in a restaurant with a folkloric dance show we headed to the ruins. At this point in my time in Peru, ruins are ruins. They’re all starting to look the same and i’ve begun mixing up what cultures lived where in what ruins and during what time period. I have listed to countless guided tours of different ancient cities and civilizations and while they’re interesting, I think i’m done with ruins. It also doesn’t help that Machu Picchu was the first major set of ruins I saw–you can’t really beat it. so after spending a few hours walking around pre-columbian ruins, we headed to Huanchaco, a coastal town known for its surfing and torotas (or small boats made out of reeds). We watched the sunset, stuck our feet in the water and I ate a papa rellena (potato filled with meat and onions) and all was well with the world. I also bought a chocolate off a styrofoam plate from a South African girl without thinking twice about it. And it was totally worth it. Not until later did it seem a little strange, but hey–I survived! That night we went to a volleyball tournament where one of my friend’s Peruvian boyfriend was playing on his University team. Their team lost but it was a neat experience because Peruvians sure do love their volleyball and so everyone was really into it, cowbells/foghorns and all. The next day we went to see more ruins which were cool as well but frankly looked almost the same as the ones we had seen before. We caught our bus to Chiclayo (after eating some delicious dessert, or two or three) and arrived in the beachy city of Chiclayo at around 11pm that night. A very nice man helped us get to our hostel after telling us he was amazed we had not been robbed and we settled in for a good night’s rest. The next morning we woke up and ate breakfast, perused around the plaza de armas and finally made our way to a local market called El Mercado de las Brujas (witch market). It was really neat while also super creepy and I definitely watched a man buy dead goat legs to take home to his family? I don’t know. It was strange. They were selling all kinds of “magical herbs” and “good luck potions” along with witchy alcohols and candles. Needless to say we didn’t stay long. We caught a bus to a small town called Lambayeque which is famous for its Museum of the Man from Sipan (yet another old civilization). But this museum was really interesting because when they found the mummy of the man, he had layers upon layers of necklaces of coral, gold, silver, copper and turquoise. There were big earrings, armor, nose plates and clay jars. So we saw all the artifacts they recovered from his grave and there was a recreation of the site which showed the sacrificed women, dogs, and llamas that died along with him. What made it even better was that it was supposed to cost us 15 soles but we just happened to be there on the first Sunday of the month in which all students get in free!! It was great! After we ate at a restaurant that had delicious food and I got a huge meal for 5 soles, or 2 dollars. Let me live in Peru forever (you can’t beat the prices here!). Lambayeque is known for a dessert called King Kong (not sure why) so we obviously had to try that out and it was amazing. Two cookies sandwiched around manjar blanco and honey. I could have eated 10 of them. We then headed to the beach to walk around before heading back to the bus station to catch our bus back to Lima. It was a quick but fun filled trip, although I would say I have reached my limit on Peruvian ruins haha. Not sure how many more I can see. I was excited for the upcoming weekend because my CIEE group was going to Lunahuana, an adventure sports village 3 hours outside Lima (this trip will be recounted in my next post!) But for now, pictures of Trujillo, Chiclayo, Huanchaco and Lambayeque!!

Huaca de la Luna

Chan Chan

Huanchaco beach town

 

Trujillo Plaza de Armas

Trujillo Plaza de Armas Cathedral

Peruvian volleyball game

Torotas boats

Witch market goods

Museum in Lambayeque

Some of the girls I traveled with!

 

11/05/2012

Lima Fun

Last week deserves a blog post of its own, so I will rewind back in time for this post, and come back to the present for the next. Last weekend consisted of FINALLY visiting the center of the city (Centro de Lima) where all the beautiful colonial buildings are; somewhere I’ve wanted to go since I got here. Then, on Sunday, my CIEE program held a Peruvian Cooking workshop for which I was the first to click “attend” on Facebook because my world essentially revolves around food. Wednesday was Halloween–enough said for now. And Thursday was Día de los Muertos (or All Saints Day). There were lots of celebrations and a class field trip to a cemetery. Yes, a cemetery.

Before coming to study abroad here, all I really knew about  Peru, and Lima in particular was that in winter it is completely covered by fog, Machu Picchu is here, and that the Lima Centro is a huge plaza with buildings from colonial times that is incredibly beautiful. This pre-existing knowledge all came from my innumerable “google” searches of the city I would be headed to for a semester. You could potentially argue that Google Images is part of the reason I’m here in the first place, because the amazing views I saw in the photos (sometimes photo shopped/enhanced I now know after living here) convinced me that I couldn’t go anywhere else. So the fact that after almost 3 months of living here I hadn’t been to the Plaza de Armas was absurd. After venturing to the Cathedral with my host mom (found here) I wanted to see more and decided it was time for me to see the rest even if it meant going by myself (an idea i’m sure my mom loves). Thankfully another girl wanted to go so we made our way to the center and it was so great!

There are so many huge buildings, the Government Palace, Plaza Cathedral, Archbishop’s Palace of Lima, Municipal Palace, and the Palace of the Union. All were designed and built in the 16th and 17th centuries and the Plaza Mayor is where San Martin declared independence in 1821. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the palaces they were all so intricate and gigantic. The Government Palace takes up just over a city block on its own, has three guards standing at the front in their dress uniforms with swords and can only be accessed with special passes (which my host mom is trying to obtain for later!!!). After wondering around the plaza adn taking pictures of all the buildings, I stopped by a local bakery to buy bread for my family before heading back to my house. That night I went out and got dinner and frozen yogurt with a couple of the girls to round out a fantastic day. Little did i know, the next day would be even better.

With Sunday came the Taller de Cocina Peruana (Peruvian Cooking Workshop) which quickly became one of my favorite activities of the whole semester! We met at one of the cooking institutes here and we worked in a room with lots of different stations so we could all be preparing something different for each meal. Our instructor had bought all the groceries (so so many bags of FRESH food–no preservatives in Peruvian cooking!) and he delegated jobs to each of us. First we would prep the food and then assemble the different meals. We would be preparing the 5 most typical/delicious Peruvian foods and Chicha Morada which is the famous drink. The five plates were Causa (a potato base filled with a chicken/avocado/tomato/mayonnaise mixture), Tiradito de Pulpo (Octopus in an olive sauce), Ceviche (raw fish cooked in lime sauce), Aji de Gallina (chicken in a pecanish sauce) and Lomo Saltado (beef, pisco, peppers, tomatoes, onions and french fries). Just reliving it makes my mouth water!!

First I diced pineapple for the Chicha drink, then cut some tomatoes for Lomo Saltado and finally took control of the Aji de Gallina (which is tied for my favorite Peruvian dish with Lomo Saltado). I stirred the sauce and added all the necessary ingredients with a few other students. It was also necessary to keep testing the dish to make sure it was up to par. For some reason, i kept having to check, over and over and over again–how strange. As our instructor was showing us how to prepare and plate ceviche I kept running over to “make sure” the Aji de Gallina was still edible. Due to this, I had basically eaten a plate full before we even made our actual plates. Needless to say, after eating portions of all the other foods I was basically rolling around and walking was three times harder. Such a good and successful day.

Wednesday was Halloween, which is no where near the event it is in the US, especially in a college town. In fact, I almost wouldn’t have even known it was Halloween except for the couple of creepy men walking around as grim reapers and creepy people riding bikes with painted death faces. My friends and I opted out of the “Sexy Halloween” parties for many many obvious reasons and decided to go get desserts and bubble tea and hang out with some Peruvian friends. I ate a coconut brownie sandwiched around manjar blanco (basically caramelly sweetened condensed milk sugary goodness) and a Passionfruit bubble tea which was delicious and my first experience with tapioca. After staying out entirely too late, we were ready for our field trip to the cemetery.

The cemetery is on the very outskirts of Lima, about an hour’s ride from Miraflores, and is located in a poorer section of the city. The land is essentially unlivable and thus it has been turned into an enormous cemetery–we were told the second largest in South America. There are thousands upon thousands of graves of all different types, based on the money the family puts into decorating it. Some are just piles of rocks and others are ornate concrete “houses” with flowers and all sorts of decorations. The Day of the Dead is a celebration for the people; they come with food, beer, flowers and tools to fix up the graves and they spend the day playing music and reminiscing/celebrating the lives of their loved ones. It was a neat experience walking around and looking at all the markers, but also a little uncomfortable to be in a cemetery that big and at times feeling intrusive as a group of 15 Americans walked in and around all the grave sites. I’m definitely glad I got to be a part of it though; it was eye opening to be in a poorer section of the city, since we spend the majority of our time around a wealthy university and touristy Miraflores area.

I continue to experience many different things here in Peru, all of which are shaping the way I view the world and giving me an even greater love for the region. I’m excited for what is to come and possibly more South America in my future!! Also excited to know my absentee ballot was accepted and that I have officially voted for the first time! So exciting!!

Government Palace

I got to play with the octopus!

All the boys hard at work

Some of the finished dishes

Cooking with Pisco

Cemetery on Day of the Dead

Thousands of graves covering the mountains

 


10/24/2012

[Insert Creative Title Here]

Its been quite a while since my last blog post but so much has happened! However, because I haven’t been keeping track of it, I’m sure I will leave lots out.

First of all, the change in seasons here, coupled with a run in the cold and the ever present smog has made me sick. I have had some sort of respiratory infection or cold for the past week despite taking medicine and drinking enough anti-gripal (anti-cold) tea to fill the Atlantic Ocean. I signed up for the Avon Breast Cancer 5k and then decided that if I was going to survive, I absolutely HAD to start running. This thought occurred one week before the race and if you know anything about health and working out you know that me starting to “train” for the race one week before was going to make no difference no matter what. So  one Sunday afternoon I convinced myself that I could go for a 35 minute run and I’d be fine.

No no no no no. I picked the worst day possible, when the fog was so bad I didn’t even need water, it was cold, and the wind was pretty strong. I went in shorts and just a long sleeve shirt and I quickly realized I’m way more out of shape than previously thought. I woke up the next morning feeling terrible and thus decided to venture to the health center on campus to try and get some meds. This visit will not go down on my “favorite memories” list because the nurse was rude and the doctor hardly even checked my symptoms before giving me ibuprofen and a medicine for allergies. I’ve took the medicine for a week before deciding that it wasn’t curing me and now I’m hoping my immune system kicks it into high gear. The good news is i’m feeling better. The bad news is I was sick for the 5k and I’m still in terrible shape.

I ran the race with my friend Becky and we were really excited that it supported breast cancer because that meant we got to wear lots of pink! We got to the park where we’d be running and everything was pink; balloons, hats, shirts, booths, musicians, it was all decked in pretty pink. We walked around oohing and ahhing at everything before making our way to the starting gate. We were basically in the back of the pack (apparently Peruvian perpetual lateness/disregard for time does not apply to organized races?) A man on a balcony of sorts led us in some stretches before the countdown started. And we were off!….kind of. Due to our “lateness” it took us around 45 seconds (which we watched slowly tick down, making us feel very slow) to even reach the starting line. Obviously we noted this so we could later subtract it from our overall time. The race went by without any real problems, except my inability to correctly pop this water baggie thing they gave us to hydrate and cool down our bodies. Instead of popping it flawlessly like EVERY single other runner, I managed to explode it all over my feet while I was running. And instead of pouring the rest over my head like a running supermodel, prepared to shake it off in an obviously attractive way, it dribbled all the way down my arm and made me cold. But 29 minutes later I finished the race! (stuffy nose/headache and all). Not my best showing, but not too shabby for not having worked out in almost 3 months and for being sick.

The month of October in Lima (and perhaps throughout all of Peru) is devoted to el Senor de los Milagros (Man of miracles) or to the best of my understanding–Jesus! So there is this church in Lima called La Iglesia de las Nazarenas and here a gigantic painted picture of Jesus on the cross, mounted on a huge silver/gold platform is kept throughout the entire year…until October. Then they hold processions on different days of the month where people carry the picture and they “process” through the city streets. Thousands of people follow the Jesus picture singing/chanting/praying/etc. I’m still not sure I understand the full meaning behind the holiday but it is a very serious event for Limenos–namely the Catholic ones. So this past Monday my host mom took me to a mass service at the church so I could see how a service in Peru is and so I could see the beautiful church and the Jesus “float”, for lack of a better word. The church was awe-inspiring, especially all the intricate work done on the inside. The pictures below simply won’t do it justice. The Jesus thing was pretty cool too and it was interesting to see the deep meaning it had to the people. Many had lined up hours prior to the mass service to get the chance to touch something to it, for it is believed to bless whatever touches it. Some brought pictures, bibles, babies, rosaries, you name it and it was rubbed on the statue. I even saw a few blind people and one severely disabled boy. It was such a neat experience and my host mom is officially the sweetest woman in Peru!!

Afterwards she took me to a place she knew to get what’s called a Turrón. Turrones are the official (but probably unofficially) dessert of Senor de los Milagros. In this case, of the holiday, not necessarily the official/unofficial dessert of Jesus. But i’m sure he would LOVE them! Its an interesting mixture of cookies, anis, honey, and any colorful candy the baker wants to throw on top. I’ve seen all different kinds of candies but the most common and plain are like the one in the picture below! Its so good but unfortunately it weighs a ton which makes me think of how terrible it must be for you to eat. Hasn’t stopped me yet though.

Halloween is coming up, as well as Day of the Dead on November 1st and I’m going out of town from the 2nd-5th so its shaping up to be a busy couple of weeks! I am done with all my midterms, and I did well on all of them so that is a huge relief. It has also just hit me that I am now over halfway done with my program and that in less than 8 weeks I will be back on US soil. I am panicked and excited all at the same time. I feel like I have so much left to do here in Lima, so much more to see/eat/experience. My friends and I are in the process of making a bucket list of things we have to do before we leave and I could not be more excited for the next 7 1/2 weeks. I know I’m leaving out things from the past 10 days or so but I can’t remember them at this moment. Until next time…

La Iglesia de las Nazarenas

Jesus “thing” that is processed through the city for Senor de los Milagros

A parade I saw (one of the things I forgot to write about!)

Becky and I at the 5k

The infamous Turrón. Mmmm…

 

10/14/2012

Instead of Studying

Instead of studying for my upcoming midterms, I’ve decided writing a blog post is time better spent. This weekend, for the first time in a while, I spent my weekend actually in Lima, not running crazily around the rest of the country. This was intended to be a weekend full of studying for my tests, however instead, I watched an entire season of Revenge on Netflix, went to the movies, ran around trying to sign up for a 5k, and spent a morning learning how to play the cajón. Success if you ask me. (Although these my be my famous last words).

Thursday I decided to run with my friend Becky in a 5k to support Breast Cancer research next Sunday (I’m going to die i’m so out of shape) so we had to go sign up on Friday to get our hats/bibs/shirts for the race. We are going to be looking fly if I must say so myself, and also very very pink. I am also super excited because my host mom just told me she wants to do the race with me to support me as I run. I don’t think she’ll run but instead will cheer me on from the sidelines, she is so sweet!!! We’ve been spending more and more time talking about anything and everything and I am learning so much from her; about Peruvian culture, improving my spanish, and about life in general. She has been such a blessing to me during my time here. Anyways, back to the race. We finally made our way to the office and signed up before heading to a movie with the CIEE group.

The purpose of the gathering was to hang out, obviously, but also to get the chance to watch a Peruvian made movie. It was called Coliseo and was about a group of rural kids who take up modern Peruvian dance to save a family run entertainment business. I’m not sure how best to describe the actual movie. Since the main theme of the movie was dance, only a few of the characters were actual actors and the rest were hired dancers with no acting backgrounds. Thus, there were times where the acting was painfully awkward and we couldn’t help but laugh (sort of when you watch US movies like Bring It On and the cheerleaders are not actors and its very obvious). It gives you an appreciation for high budget films, but it is also incredible to imagine the budgets of some of the movies in the states with all the things they can do in movies now. It was a good experience to see a Peruvian movie but I must say we are very lucky to have the type of movies made in Hollywood.

After the movie we obviously had to be typical college students and go get frozen yogurt (which I have missed so much) at Tutti Frutti! I thoroughly enjoyed the Peruvian fruit flavored fro-yos like maracuya (passion fruit), Lucuma, and Lychee which made it an experience in itself. I’ve enjoyed eating foods I typically consider very American but here are completely different or have been Peruvian-ized. Just like the time we went to a Peruvian fast food restaurant called Bembos and my plate was rice, a hamburger patty and beans. On the way to the frozen yogurt place we passed a Halloween themed set-up outside a casino and so obviously we had to take some pictures. Sticking with the food theme and with Halloween I am forever indebted to my friend Pam’s older sister who brought me 4, yes FOUR, bags of candy corns with her this past week (her family is visiting). I am embarrassed to say i’ve already eaten two of the bags but anytime I miss fall back in the US i treat myself to some candy corns and I immediately feel better (it could just be the sugar, i’m not sure haha).

Saturday morning we had the CIEE Taller de Cajon. For those of you who don’t know what a cajon is, it is a percussion instrument of African Origin made popular in Peru over 200 years ago when slaves were brought over to work in haciendas and sugar plantations. It is also known as a box drum and is played by sitting on top of it and hitting it with your hands. We each were given a drum and our teacher proceeded to show us the wide variety of sounds you could make just by using different parts of your hands on different parts of the drum. It was super cool. He taught us some basic rhythms which we put together to makethis video (I know its very rudimentary but it took lots of concentration for a non muscial person like me to keep up). At first my ability to keep with the rhythm was a little off but with practice it got easier and easier. We learned about the culture of the Cajon and how the rhythms of the beats all had meanings to the slaves, some were sad “Panalivio” and others  upbeat and happy “Festeje” and all were used in unique circumstances.

Tomorrow, instead of studying, my host mom and I are going to the Centro de Lima where the Plaza de Armas is located. I can’t believe I haven’t made it to this section of the city yet since it is where the majority of the history lies. It is also building up to Día del Senor de los Milagros on Friday when there will be a huge procession of thousands of people following a picture of Jesus through the city. I’m excited to ask my host mom more about this holiday and to learn from her all about the history of the Plaza de Armas and the cathedrals and palaces there. I will post my pictures sometime later this week after midterms are over! Until then, pictures of this weekend:

At the movies!

Mmmmm fro-yo, how i’ve missed you

Happy Halloween from Peru!

Cajón lesson

Little visitor

10/07/2012

Girl's Weekend

Back from another trip! This weekend, four of my girl friends and I decided to take a girl’s weekend and travel just a few hours away to the cities of Ica, Paracas and Nazca to relax and enjoy time in a part of the country we hadn’t seen yet–the desert. Each city is famous for something in Peru so we decided to kick ourselves into high gear and make it to each place and see what it had to offer, all in a span of 36 hours. While we were exhausted upon arriving back into Lima last night around 11pm, we felt extremely accomplished and had such an amazing time in our short trip.

We left on a 3:45am bus friday morning for Nazca, famous in Peru, and the rest of South America for something called the Nazca lines, made by the Nazca people over 1500 years ago. Located in the middle of the desert which is made up of volcanic rock and sand, these 2-3cm deep lines are famous because they are insanely accurate geometric shapes in a time where one wouldn’t have been able to see the finished product. They are also incredible because they have never been erased, even after 1500 years of sand storms, occasional rains, and tons of people traveling through the area. The best way to see all the lines, there are 25 of them, is to pay for a private flight which circles around the shapes so you can see each one. However, these flights cost over $400, are dangerous (crashes occur frequently), and as I heard from a Canadian traveller earlier this semester, lead to terrible motion sickness. For these reasons, my friends and I opted for a Mirador (or lookout) where we would be able to see 3 or 4 of the lines from about 15meters in the air. And it cost us only a couple dollars. While it was slightly less climactic than we had anticipated, the lines we saw, “frog” and “tree” and kind of “lizard”, were really cool and it was crazy to think the time and precision that went into creating these geometric figures.

We went from the overlook to a museum dedicated to the life and studies of Maria Reiche, a german anthropologist/researcher who spent over 40 years of her life living alone in Nazca and walking over 30km a day to the lines to conduct research and delve deeper into the story of the lines. The museum is at her old house and contains many of her drawings, research, and pictures of her that people who met her took of her daily life and time spent at the lines. It was neat to hear her story and see all the research she conducted throughout her lifetime.

After the lines we headed back to the city to eat some lunch and visit the Plaza de Armas before our bus to Ica left later that afternoon (like I said, we were squeezing in as much as possible in our two days of traveling). Peruvian lunches work on a system called Menú which basically means for a super cheap price, usually 7soles or $3, one can get a soup, main dish, dessert and pitcher of fruit juice. Almost all of these places are slightly sketchy where you just have to suck up any germaphobia and embrace eating in another culture where health standards for restaurants don’t exist. Since i can eat anything from anywhere, these places have not previously frightened me. However, I proceeded to find a small worm in my entrada (first course, not soup at this restaurant) and was thus a little grossed out the rest of the meal. But I did eat almost everything else for the rest of the meal, hopefully no other worms were included in this haha.

After lunch we explored the Plaza de Armas before catching our bus to Ica, where we would then go to Huacachina to spend the night in the desert oasis. We found out that we were the only passengers on the bus to Ica (the bus holds 50 and is a super nice overnight bus) so we made friends with the attendent, watched a cool movie that I still don’t know the name of and took great naps all spread out throughout the bus. Come to think of it, I’m not sure why we didn’t take over the elusive first floor, first class section, that would have been even nicer! We arrived in Ica and wanted to look for a nice place to eat dinner and drink famous Ican wine, however, apparently these places don’t exist so we ended up eating at a Roky’s haha the equivalent to a Chili’s or Applebee’s in the states. We took advantage of our less fancy meal to buy two huge boxes of meat. Enough food for over 5 people and so so so delicious. We ate chorizo, rabbit, porkchops, steak, anticuchos (cow hearts), and chicken with a basket of fries and a small salad. It was incredible. We also ordered sangria which none of us like and thus we broke all stereotypes of a girl’s weekend meal by eating almost all the meat and potatos and leaving most of the wine.

We found our hostel and enjoyed a great night’s rest before waking up to go on a Sand buggy and Sandboarding excursion. The dunes in Huacachina are the size of small mountains, obviously bigger than anything I had ever seen before. We met our guide and proceeded to strap ourselves in securely to this huge sand dune buggy that would take us on a thrilling ride through the dunes. There were definitely times where I thought we were going to die and times when my friend Becky and I screamed and held hands like little girls. Our guide took us to a small dune where we practiced using the tablets and where we were allowed to go down snowboard style before taking us to an incredibly steep dune where we were only allowed to go down on our stomachs for safety reasons. It was amazing!! I was terrified at first because I knew I’d be the one to break some bone or scratch up my entire body as I was flung from the tablet but all went well and we flew down the mountain. The next time we videoed eachother going down the dunes which was great to see the way everyone reacted. We then enjoyed a big laugh as our friend Julia was stopped mid-dune and couldn’t get any speed built back up and had to walk down to meet us. It had us all rolling in laughter. After another fifteen minutes or so we headed back to shower and eat lunch at the hostal, buy Chocotejas (delicious chocolate truffle things famous in the area) before heading out to our Wine and Pisco tasting in Ica.

Our guide took us first to the Catador where we toured the vineyard grounds, the distillery, and the rest of the process which all sounds very fancy to me and then we got to the tasting part where some of the locals had good laughs at us trying the pure Pisco which rings in at 42% alcohol. So gross. Our faces I’m sure were priceless. We also tried some of the vineyard wine which was delicious and a creamy Bailey’s type Pisco which was way less strong and that we actually enjoyed. We also tried chocolates and marmelades all made at the Vineyard. We then went to another vineyard where we tried all types of wines and piscos from these huge clay pot things and laughed among ourselves as we got sick of the alcohol and one of our girls dumped hers in a puddle on the ground when the guide wasn’t looking. After finishing up at that Bodega (coincidentally the oldest winery in all of South America) we headed off to Paracas for the final leg of our journey.

Upon arriving in Paracas we hired a private car to take us to the Paracas National Reserve, a seemingly empty desert wasteland which held lots of surprises for us and was the complete opposite of the jungle park full of animals we all expected. Instead, we saw all different colored sand dunes, prehistoric sea shell fossils, fed pelicans, ran on the beach, and enjoyed multiple overlooks of the ocean/desert paradox which were so beautiful. I would definitely say I’m generally a lover of green landscapes with trees and animals, but the views in the reserve were incredible and the ocean smelled so good. We spent two and a half hours driving all through the reserve (of course my camera died so i have no pictures of it) and then headed back to eat some seafood at a local restaurant. I had an avocado filled with seafood and a seafood bisque that surpassed lightyears beyond any I had had before and I believe will be the best I ever have. It was so fresh and had peas, rice, eggs, potatoes, shrimp and lobster in it. I think I will have dreams about it. After eating we caught our bus back to Lima. I have finally become a pro at bus riding and more importantly, being able to sleep on buses which is a must if you want to be able to stay awake the next day.

This weekend was the perfect girl’s vacation away from Lima where we conquered three cities in a very short amount of time and got to eat great food, drink great wine, sand board, and explore Paracas and the Nazca Lines. Midterms are coming up in the next two weeks so for now the fun is over, but I am so thankful for the time I’ve had recently to see more of Peru and look forward to my next adventure. Now, pictures!! (sorry there are none from Paracas! I will try to steal some from one of the other girls to show next post) 

Nazca Lines, the “tree”

Delicious dinner

Just hanging out in our sand buggy

Trying to use my knowledge of snowboarding…and later failing..

Desert Oasis town of Huacachina

Pisco and Wine tasting in Ica

Chocotejas, the famous chocolates of Ica

Ica, Peru

 

 

10/04/2012

Piece by Piece...

…I have been leaving parts of my heart scattered around Peru every time I travel. While Lima is a neat city and there is always something to do, the experiences I’ve had while visiting different parts of the country are why I love Peru so much. While it is usually foggy and chilly in Lima, the rest of the country is the complete opposite. I have loved the heat and sunsets in Iquitos, the crisp mountain air in Cusco, and the sunshine and thunderstorm paradox in Huaraz. I see cultures and communities in my travels that I want to be a part of, and it gets harder and harder to leave these places each time. I love spending time in places where people take time to enjoy the simple things in life, like family, the outdoors, and rest. This weekend, in Huaraz, I was able to relax and slip into the life lived by these people for a few days, as I spent time in a local community, hiked and horseback rode, and enjoyed delicious coffee in a cozy cafe.

After making a last minute decision to travel, I was excited to escape the city and explore the town of Huaraz, Peru, known for its amazing views and adventures in the Cordillera Negra and the Cordillera Blanca. If these two mountain ranges don’t take your breath away due to the altitude, they most certainly will take it away in beauty. I had been drooling over the pictures in my guidebook and was anxious to get there before the semester had gone by much more, because the rainy season is on its way and rain can throw kinks in plans made in an area known for its outdoor activities. After purchasing the last available ticket on the bus, I was ready to go. We took an overnight bus–my first of the semester–and I must confess that sleep seemed to be running away from me the entire night. Thus, when we arrived at 6:30am in the morning, my friends and I were walking zombies. We had trouble finding our hostel but after seemingly walking around in circles and asking almost every person we saw for directions (which i guess wasn’t many since it was so early) we made it, got our room, and passed out for a couple hours to restore energy for the day.

After eating breakfast and showering I was ready to explore the city. We walked around the main streets, looking through stores, cooing over cute stray dogs, and walking through the Plaza de Armas. What I enjoyed most about the city at this point, was the lack of touristy overload that came with Cuzco. Huaraz had a more authentic feel that I really liked. We had read about a great cafe, called Cafe Andino, in a guidebook that was highly recommended and so we decided to check it out for lunch. We had lots of trouble finding it but as soon as we finally entered through the doors, we fell in café love. The atmosphere was so cool, with art all over the walls, an in-house library, window walls perfect for staring at the landscapes, and as we would soon learn, delicious food. I had nachos with cheese and guacamole, a chicken pesto sandwich and fresh blended fruit juice. We ate and hung out at the cafe resting for a pretty good while before heading out to walk around some more, nap at the hostel, and head back out again for, of course, more food. Brooke picked a Chifa (Peruvian-Chinese food) that was incredible and which I had enough leftovers to eat some more of it at midnight and still more for the next day’s lunch. What more could I ask for??? We decided to go horsebackriding the next day, settled in by watching a movie, and fell asleep (overnight buses without much sleep are rough on a girl).

We woke up and ate breakfast before our horsebackriding guide picked us up for the day. If you know me, then you might know that I used to ride horses and that I am slightly obsessed with them even though I don’t ever get to ride anymore. Therefore, I was unbelievably giddy and I may or may not have made some overexcited faces with spurts of sqeals and jumped around in anticipation. Besides acting like a 5 year old, I feel like I remained pretty calm, but the other girls might tell you otherwise. I was given a beautiful brown horse named Canon, who had somewhat of a free spirit and was a bit difficult to manage at times, but provided excitement (along with some brief scares). Our ride would take us up through the Cordillera Negra which faces the Cordillera Blanca and thus we would get awesome views of both mountain ranges. It was beautiful from the valley and I could only imagine what it would look like from the top. I was feeling at home on the horse until we reached a small trench full of pig poop and standing muddy water and it became very clear that he did not want anything to do with it. I struggled with him a little bit, trying to coax him to hop over it until our guide finally told me it was a better and safer idea to dismount and lead him across.

I’m not even sure how to describe the following sequence but I will do my best. I went to dismount and halfway over, as my first foot sought the ground, my horse took a step away from the trench, causing me to lose my footing. My immediate thought was “it’s fine, i’ll catch myself before I fall, no big deal” but as my foot touched the ground, i stepped in the uneven lip of the trench and of course, fell into the muddy/poopy water. The entire right side of my body was basically splattered–if not covered–in the stinky gross mess. My foot had gone completely down into the mush, about a foot deep, and my arm was covered in the stuff up to my elbow. In addition to that, my bookbag was splattered as well as my pants and shirt. At that point, all I could do was laugh at the fact that I was going to smell the rest of the day and enjoy the coolness of a soaking wet tennis shoe as our guide rinsed it in some water until I could truly wash everything. I then proceeded to drag my horse across the ditch and all was well again.

We climbed higher and higher up the mountain until we reached the overlook. It was breathtaking. Our view overlooked the Cordillera Blanca, full of snow capped peaks that tower over 20,000ft and the Cordillera Negra, spotted with plots of different crops and small villages. I was in awe. God was really on his game when he made this region of the world! On our way down we stopped to eat lunch with a small community to celebrate the birthday of one of the women in the community and enjoyed live music with some fiddles and a girl singing and people dancing. They then served us soup for lunch and we rested, enjoying the wonderful weather and the interactions with the people of the community. After we reached the end of our ride, we headed back to the city where I spent some quality me time in the cafe while Brooke and Kelly napped back at the hostel. I watched as a thunderstorm came over the mountains as it got dark and could hardly concentrate on the book I had picked as the lightning over the mountains was too cool for words. I also enjoyed three cups of REAL BLACK COFFEE. After 2 months without real coffee, I was in heaven.

The next day we enjoyed time in the city, eating at the Cafe yet again, and exploring more of the streets. I also treated myself to Tuna ice cream from a street vendor. “Ick! Yuck! Ewy!” you think, but Tuna is actually the fruit of a cactus in South America. It was delicious! Bright purple with edible black seeds, and costing the equivalent of 40 cents, I had to restrain myself from buying out the entire container it was so good. We then planned our Monday activity, a hike to a place called Laguna 69 nestled in the Cordillera Blanca. Not knowing exactly what we had gotten ourselves into, we prepared for a leisurely hike through the mountains before leaving Monday night. Boy were we in for a surprise.

The day began bright and early as we met our driver and the rest of our group at 6am. After a 3 hour drive with a brief stop for breakfast, two crystal blue lakes, and an extremely rocky/bumpy road, we reached the beginning of our hike. Told the hike up to the lake should take approximately three hours and at the top we would eat lunch, we were excited to get going (food is obviously always at the forefront of my life). The first part was flat and I was thinking “easy peasy lemon squeezy this is going to be a great day of relaxation and beautiful scenery, I might not even break a sweat!” Wowowowow was I wrong. The ensuing 3 hours (yes it took us over 4 hours to get to the lake) was almost continuously straight up and coupled with my being in terrible shape and the altitude (which made it feel like I was breathing through a straw) I was basically trying to plead my body not to pass out. The pain my legs felt was almost unlike anything I had ever felt before. The views were spectacular but the constant throbbing of my heart in my head and my legs pushed us on each time, as we were anxious to reach the lake for lunch and a short break.

I will skip ahead to when we actually reached the lake, because you do not want to read about the hours in between where we considered turning around, and actually witnessed a French man do just that. Knowing we were near the lake, I got really excited (or maybe my heart was just freaking out from all the exertion) and coming over the lip, I was dumbstruck by the blueness and beauty of Lake 69. It was indescribable. I could have sat for hours and taken pictures the entire time so i’ll never forget the memory. Nestled in the mountain range, the lake is about 3/4 of the way up the highest peak in Peru, Mount Huascaran (20,000ft). There are multiple waterfalls from the snowcapped peak into the water which is extremely blue and extremely cold. It was a sight to be seen. One of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life.

The rest of the trip consisted of hiking back to the car, driving back to Huaraz and catching another overnight bus back to Lima where I was, of course, met with gloomy weather. However, I was on a good weather/great experience high and spent all day yesterday in disbelief of the beauty that is Huaraz, Peru. If you ever get the chance to visit Peru, and hopefully you do, make sure Huaraz is on your list of places to see. It was full of indescribable nature sights, comfy cafes, and an overall atmosphere that you couldn’t help but love. I could literally stay there forever. While missing fall in the US, weekends like this make it even more worth it to be thousands of miles away in Peru. Now some pictures for your viewing pleasure :)

View of the Cordillera Blanca

French press coffee, thunderstorms, and a good book equals quality time in a cozy cafe

Plaza de Armas

Lago Llanganuco

Finally! Laguna 69

Mt. Huascaran, highest peak in Peru

09/21/2012

Relaxation

Finally, a relaxing week! I’ve loved the go go go of Lima life for the most part, but after two weekends of travel I was in desperate need of a few days to catch up on sleep and relax. The weekend consisted of sushi, a food festival, and a lot of relaxation. Then, this week, I went to an awesome soccer game at the Estadio Nacional in Lima!

Last weekend to initiate the relaxation some of the girls from my group and I went to Mistura, a huge food festival/heaven on earth. It was incredible!! I have never been to a food festival which now seems insane since food is one of my favorite things on the planet. I had been warned not to eat anything before going which was the best advice/warning ever. We arrived at 11am and didn’t leave until 10pm and I can safely say I didn’t go longer than 20 minutes without eating something (even if it was just a sample!). I knew the festival was the real deal when we walked in and immediately were handed two packets of alkaseltzer powder from the event staff! I was bummed when my camera died as soon as I got there so I only have mental pictures of all the delicious foods I tried but pictures wouldn’t have done it justice I suppose. I’ll just give a quick run through of all the things I ate…

Chocolate covered strawberries, camu camu, yogurt, marmelades, breads, brownie, truffles, chocolate cake, alfajores, queso helado (my personal favorite of the day–and not actually queso/cheese), hot chocolate, aji de gallina, rice with shrimp, lomo saltado over pasta, sausage, ham, picarones, honey, the list goes on and on. In addition to this, I ate enough chocolate and cheese for a small army but it was SO delicious!!! I also tried various types of Pisco but my favorite was chocolate pisco–unreal. Full and content, I left a very happy girl.

Yesterday I went to a soccer game in the National Soccer Stadium in Lima to see a game between Universitario (no–contrary to popular belief, not from any college team), and Cristal, both club teams from Lima. I have never been to anything like this before! It was quite the experience. For starters, Peruvians get really really into their fútbol, and sometimes it turns violent. So much so that there is security surrounding the entire stadium for at least a 2 block radius. Not just everyday policemen, either. They had horses complete with riot masks, policemen with riot shields, others with machine guns and helmets, the whole deal. And we went through 3 different security checks where they took everything that could be used as a weapon, including lighters, hair clips and even belts (thus we had lots of students with saggy pants haha).

Once we made it into the stadium and found our seats we really got to take the whole thing it. The energy was incredible; so much jumping, chanting, scarf waving, insulting refs and players and whistling. We were told that whenever our fan section went crazy we had to go crazy too, so as not to be mistaken as fans from the opposite team (this apparently can result in violence). At half time the score was 0-0 but that didn’t last long. Our team was scored on shortly into the second half and this was not good news. But it was cool to watch the other side light flares in the stands. We stayed behind for the rest of the half until, with less than two minutes left there was a foul in the penalty box and we got a penalty kick–which our player scored. The whole side went CRAZY and all of us were jumping and screaming. It was quite the experience. After we witnessed a little bit of fan tension as a small “fight” broke out. All we saw were glass bottles smashed and guys whipping the air with recovered belts. A little frightening but we escaped unscathed.

Looking forward to a couple more days of rest and then a few weeks where holidays cut the school weeks smaller (the best!). Hopefully I’ll be traveling a little bit and taking advantage of the holidays! Also–to those of you posting about Pumpkin Spice lattes and fall–I envy you a lot, they don’t have either here in Peru!

If you look really closely across the stadium you can see the red flare

Peruvian sushi with Plantains in it!