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!