Not sure what program is right for you? Click Here
CIEE

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Study Abroad in

Back to Program Back to Blog Home

4 posts categorized "Morgan Michna"

10/11/2013

The Trip of a Lifetime

One weekend, 13 people, seven destinations, zero sleep, and countless memories. That was the Cusco and Machu Picchu trip in a nutshell.

Mission accomplished

 I'm late, I'm late, I'm late for a very important (blogging) date! My apologies for not writing on here for so long. I suppose I'm beginning to adjust to the "Peruvian time" here. Between school, a social life, and sleep, it has become increasingly difficult to share my stories. But, alas! Don't fear! I will continue writing to everyone (just somewhat more infrequently). Also, please note htat you are able to click any of the photos in order to see a larger version. Now, back to what you came here to read. Several weeks ago marked my group's big viaje (trip) to Cusco and Machu Picchu. It all began at 4 am on a Thursday morning.  To most, 4 am on a weekday entails sleeping to ensure one's sanity and well-being. Well, not for us! Dawn meant it was time to lug our bags across Lima's airport in preparation for our Cusco bound flight. With excitement in our eyes and passports in hand we made our way to the gate. After a brief, hour-long flight over a panorama of glacier-crested peaks and marbled desert landscape, we touched down in Cusco. We had been thrown from nearly sea level altitude to a whopping 11,200 feet which, as you would imagine, was quite disorienting. Fighting off illness, exhaustion, and our anticipation for the next few days ahead, we checked into our hotel that was only two blocks away from the historic centre of Cusco known as the Plaza de Armas.

Flying above the Andes

Glimpse of Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas

That day we were advised to take it easy and act as though we were 80 year olds to stave off the dreaded soroche (altitude sickness). Only a few of us faced adverse effects from the drastic elevation change and thankfully I escaped its wrath unscathed. That being said, I definitely felt "off" and had a headache throughout the day due to the pressure change. Yet, it was nothing a nice warm cup of coca tea couldn't fix. Other than that, nothing got in the way of exploring what Cusco had to offer that day (other than the pushy street vendors, but that's to be expected). At first glance, it felt as though I had been transplanted into the heart of Tuscany. The European influence was evident in the passing architecture with colonial balconies and elaborate churches scattered about. The Plaza de Armas set in the heart of the city and was a hub for both social and cultural points of interest as well as a hub for all of our exploration in the city. For the majority of the day, we relaxed and enjoyed a break from the foggy skies of Lima's winter with some much needed vitamin D from some good ol' Andean sunshine.

Architecture example

Woman dressed in traditional attire in the main plaza

Exploring CuscoWe mustered up to energy to visit a market where I nabbed a multicolored scarf and which also featured a fun, little exchange. While shopping, a lady asked me if I was from Brazil and then, after revealing that I was estadounidense (American), complimented me on my castellano speaking. She may have just wanted me to buy the scarf I was holding, but I will pretend that it was an honest compliment so that I can continue feeling good about myself. Moving on, other highlights of the day included a visit to a little panaderia for some fresh-baked chocolate croissants, my first bite of alpaca meat (a bit too gamey for my liking), and hours of traipsing through the narrow, cobblestone streets of the historic capital of the Incan Empire.

 More architecture! Alpaca saltado

Alpaca saltado

The lobby of our hotel in Cusco

The lobby of our Cusco hotel

Enjoying some chocolate croissants in a quaint cafe

Enjoying some chocolate croissants in a quaint cafe

Part of the group sporting our Peruvian sweaters

Part of the group sporting our Peruvian sweaters

Plaza de Armas at night

Plaza de Armas at night

The next morning, rise and shine, my alarm clock wasn't set to 4 am, but it was still quite an early day. After scarfing down some delicious mini-plátano pancakes and a customized omelette (yum), we were on the bus and off to our next destination: Saqsaywaman. This next stop was only 20 minutes outside of Cusco's city center and yes, when you say its name out loud it does sound like "sexy woman."  These Incan ruins were settled on a knoll set high above the metropolis. You could look over the hill to see the entire cityscape settled in a valley met by the mountains and bordered by the turquoise sky. Saqsaywaman

Saqsaywaman

Llamas walking off into the distance

Cusco from above

Cusco from above

I won't bore you with too many historical details of the site, but, in short, it was remarkable. It was fascinating to see, up-close, the unrivaled Incan architectural craftsmanship. All the boulders were stationed perfectly between, on top of, or beneath other boulders. Imagine a life-sized tetris with several ton stones and you've got a picture of Incan construction. It is no wonder how these buildings have withstood centuries and centuries of earthquakes and wear and tear to remain standing for our enjoyment today.

Exploring Saqsaywaman

Exploring Saqsaywaman

The CIEE group

The CIEE group

I even made a new friend!

I even made a new friend!

En route to our next destination, we found ourselves weaving through the mountains of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Everything from snow-capped Andean peaks to verdant valleys below whizzed past my bus window. I think my friends were scared for my well-being when we first arrived to the llama farm, though. I am going to deem it the "llama farm" because I don't remember learning the real name's place and referring to it as the llama/alpaca/vicuña farm would be a little obnoxious. So, llama farm it is. Upon arrival, my hyperventilating could have been attributed to either A) the change in oxygen levels due to altitude, B) my asthma, or C) too much excitement in anticipation of petting some camelids! The latter is more likely. Driving through Valle Sagrado

Driving through Valle Sagrado

Feeding the llamas

Feeding the llamas

Essentially, the next hour was filled with feeding and stroking the backs of various four-legged critters. No fingers or eyes were lost in the making of this experience; however, a group member was spat on by a feisty llama while another friend of mine strayed in the path of an alpaca's sneeze. Hilarious to watch, but, as you could imagine, not too pleasant to experience firsthand. At this site, we also learned about the yarn making, dying, and weaving process of these camelid's coats as well as the different species within the species' family. It was the perfect mix between informative and fun. In fact, I'll refer to it has "infunormative"!

This alpaca was enjoying my company

This alpaca was enjoying my company

Happy llama

Happy llama

Yarn on yarn 

Forging on, we then found our way to Pisaq. This site was situated deeper into the Valle Sagrado (castellano term for the Sacred Valley of the Incas) and happened to be an incredible Incan ruins site situated on rocky mountain thousands of feet above a river valley. We hiked by terraces and even past a mountain filled with hundreds of holes (which we soon learned were actually tombs) all while chewing on some coca leaves to keep the soroche at bay. Then the real adventure began.  Terraces at Pisaq

Terraces at Pisaq

The tomb-filled mountain

The tomb-filled mountain

The picante crew began hiking along small trails that hugged cliffs, through a tunnel carved into the mountain's rocky ledge, and up and down stone staircases. I felt like I had been transplanted into the middle of an Indiana Jones flick and I absolutely loved it! We eventually found our way to the main ruins site which was absolutely breathtaking. I'll let the photos speak for themselves here. On the way back, to my dismay, I found that most of our trip was up-hill meaning that my lungs had to work in overdrive which was especially trying given that the oxygen in the air was already low due to the high altitude. Thankfully, forgetting my albuterol inhaler in my backpack that morning was not a fatal mistake. I survived and was definitely happy to climb back in my cozy bus. 

The ruins

The ruins

Another view of the ruins

The group

The group

Afterwards, we caught lunch in the modern city of Pisaq in the valley below. I got my first glimpse of cuy, the Peruvian delicacy of guinea pig. Unfortunately, the risk of soroche kept me from trying the fried little fellow at the time. Perhaps some time in the near future? Instead, I enjoyed a freshly-baked espinaca (spinach) empanada. Delicious it was and it made me happy as can be after enduring quite the hike in the ruins. Then, we were off!  

Cuy

Cuy

As the sun hung low over the horizon, we arrived in the town of Ollantaytambo. Once again, we hiked up ruins, but these ones happened to be constructed into the face of a mountain. As we ascended, we could look down upon the small town's rooftops and multicolored structures from high above. Dusk hung over us and as we reached a temple near the top and I could see the sun setting over an impressive, mountainous skyline. Here's a little history: Ollantaytambo was an important Incan site because, due to its conquest by the Spaniards, it essentially "saved" Machu Picchu. Yes, Ollanytaytambo served as a distraction from the lost city of the Incas. On our descent, it began to rain, but thankfully this didn't bring down our spirits at all. My group tends to make the best of everything which is wonderful when venturing through a foreign country.

Hiking in the ruins

Hiking in the ruins

The city of Ollantaytambo

The city of Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo ruins

Sunset

The small town of Ollantaytambo also held the train station to Aguas Calientes, the town closest to Machu Picchu. So, with luggage in hand, we rolled toward the train station later that evening. The whole setting made me feel as though I was in Disneyland. Perhaps on the Jungle Cruise, waiting in line for some grand attraction. Anticipation, once again, made me giddy with excitement and, soon enough, we were on the train riding through the darkness. We made it to Aguas Calientes later that night and grabbed some chifa before hitting the hay early in preparation for the big day ahead of us.

When I woke up the next morning, I was able to catch a glimpse of the city I had barely been able to see the evening before due to the night's darkness. What I saw was quite the surprise. We were surrounded by monolithic stone mountains flecked with trees that were hugged by misty clouds in the middle of the Peruvian jungle. On top of that, there was a waterfall and river that cut straight through the town filling the air with the calming sound of rushing water at all times. Was this a dream? Before that morning, I never knew that places such as this existed outside of human imagination and I was happy to learn that they indeed do. So, after a quick breakfast in the rooftop terrace with glass walls to ensure maximum viewing pleasure of the scenery, we were on a bus to our next and arguably most exciting destination: Machu Picchu. Good morning, Aguas Calientes!

Good morning, Aguas Calientes!

The bus' route consisted of constant switchbacks as we swerved up the steep face of a mountain. I feel strange to admit this, but I was almost moved to tears during this short trip while overlooking a surreal jungle valley where the sunlight's ray peered through clouds and birds glided between the dagger-like, verdure peaks. A dream of mine was in the process of coming true and I suppose I was a little overwhelmed. Soon enough, the recognizable Huayna Picchu (the large mountain one sees behind the typical Machu Picchu shot) came into view. Then ruins hung over the side of a slope as if they were slowly falling off the mountain's side. We were there.  

En route to Machu Picchu

En route to Machu Picchu

First, there was a small hike that's path was shrouded by the native vegetation. We made our way up the path along with tourists from all reaches of the globe. Then, as we emerged from the brush, Machu Picchu was there. Surreal would be one way to describe it. Then again, no words can really encompass all aspects of the experience. The ruins, mountains, and nearly every last detail mirrored every image I had in my mind beforehand. Yet, it was still somehow incredibly more impressive in person. So, I stood there in awe as my mind mentally wrote a "check" next to my bucket list's top entry as I stood above a place that some people only dream of traveling to see. I don't think I had never felt so fortunate than in that moment.

We made it!

Greetings from the Lost City of the Incas!

Greetings from the Lost City of the Incas!

After an obligatory group photo shoot, we were informed of the interesting history of this site by our wonderful guide. I was surprised to learn of the many misconceptions of the site, such as the fact that Hiram Bingham was technically made its scientific discovery but had not truly rediscovered the site. People had been living there for years, even centuries, before he happened upon the city in 1911. So, I suppose the lost city was never quite as "lost" as we had thought. We learned about and witnessed firsthand the unrivaled architectural feats of the Incas as we walked through various stone temples, residences, and more. Machu Picchu felt like an oasis in a jungle which is a strange analogy, but accurate in my mind nonetheless. I felt like any vestige of the world I knew seemed far, far away.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

The girls of the group (minus one)

The girls of the group (minus one)

Walking through the ruins 

It was no wonder why this place is deemed one of the modern wonders of the world. While leaving, I received my official "Machu Picchu" passport stamp and happily skipped away with both the proof on paper and my smile of the life-changing experience. In a daze, we hopped back onto the bus down to Aguas Calientes and spent the rest of the day in the jungle town shopping, relaxing, and enjoying our time.

Passport stamp - check!

Passport stamp - check!

For lunch, I had palta rellena (stuffed avocado) followed by lomo saltado which is a popular beef stir-fry dish in the country. The food here still hasn't become old for me, surprisingly enough. Then, later that afternoon, we were back on the train en route to Cusco.  

Palta rellena

Palta rellena

Lomo saltado

Lomo saltado

Venturing through Aguas Calientes

Over the mountain and through the jungle to Cusco we went! This trip was a bit longer at 4 hours, but this time around we were able to see the scenery outside of our train's windows.  The train tracks ran parallel to the Urumbamba River for nearly the entire trip which was delightful (I sound like a grandmother when I use that word). It was better than any movie I could've watched during the journey. Soon enough, we were back in Cusco utterly exhausted, but, as always, ready to explore!

With Cusco being the popular tourist destination it is, there happens to be nightlife galore, so we decided to go out and about the city. First stop was an Irish bar where I found America's Cup playing on television. For those who don't know, the Cup is a huge sailing competition which is held in my birthplace of San Francisco, California. It was strange to see my home on television in a place that seemed worlds away from there, but it was nice to watch as we enjoyed our refreshments and reflected on the amazing adventure we had just experienced. Then, naturally, it was discoteca time. We found a popular place and then proceeded dance the night away among Peruvians and tourists alike. 

Nighttime Cusco exploration

The following morning, we were on our Lima bound flight and back to the swing of things. I had enough adventure to last me a lifetime in a weekend's time, but, for some strange reason, adventure only leaves you craving more adventure. I wish you all would have been there on this trip of mine, so I decided to give you the next best thing: a little video that offers a glimpse into my trip of a lifetime! Please excuse the shaky footage and choppiness of it all. I was (obviously) a bit distracted during the filming portion, but tried my very best to allow you to virtually come along with me as I explored the beautiful country of Peru. Please enjoy! 

 

Until next time.

—MLM

09/18/2013

Life and Times Of An Extranjera In Lima

Ten days, roughly 33 Peruvian meals, and countless hours of combi commuting later, I am back on here to report on all of my new Peruvian adventures! Due to classes and a generally busy schedule to boot, writing on this blog has become increasingly difficult to do, but that doesn't mean you won't be hearing from me! Now, enough rambling and onto the good stuff: What in the world has Morgan been up to for the past week and a half? In a nutshell, my life has revolved around university classes, gym, food, Spanish readings, commuting, and getting "cultured." From day-to-day you will find me taking the claustrophobic micro to school in the morning, sitting through hours of Spanish classes, eating more food than I thought was humanly possible, and experiencing all that Lima has to offer through various little adventures with my friends. Said adventures span from sight-seeing to nightlife outings to food (the majority of them are the latter). Before I dive into the detalles of my recent whereabouts and doings, though, please note that I am writing here which means I am alive and well (hi mom) and by some sort of miracle have not become lost in this city of 10 million inhabitants... yet. Even better news is that my Spanish language skills are improving! I recently held a conversation about World War II and Germany with my host brother and a more lighthearted conversation with my host sister about Peruvian music, pop culture, etc. This above all is so exciting! Any progress is good progress and I am inching closer to my ultimate goal of fluency (note: I dream big). All official & stuff

 As you know, most of my time spent here (and anywhere for the past two years) is as an über-sleepy college student. Now I can add  the word 'Peruvian' between 'sleepy' and 'college' (those two words strangely define my life quite well). I finally received my official identification card for PUCP earlier this week. As far as classes go, my schedule is now solidified. I am enrolled in a Latin American cinema course, Understanding Peru (an anthropology/history course on all things Peruvian), a fascinating lingüística course, and a Spanish writing class. All of my courses are interesting with great professors as well which never hurts. Listening to two to three hour-long lectures in only Spanish has become somewhat easier, but that's not to say it's effortless. Sometimes I feel as though even a IV of cappuccino couldn't help me maintain such strong concentration for so long!  Additionally, tomorrow marks the first day of my violin course! Yes, you heard me correctly. I am enrolled in a class where I get to learn how to play the violin at my university! Thanks to one of my professors, I even have a snazzy violin to borrow. Now, the next hurdle is just figuring out if I even have a musical bone in my body. I suppose that only picking up the bow plus a little time will tell.

Time for the Incan market

 Rewinding to last weekend, each day was chock-full of fun as per usual. A few friends and I enjoyed some KBBQ (short for 'Korean BBQ') in the San Isidro district and it was expectedly muy rico (as my host mother says in reference to good food). Who knew that Lima could have such tasty Korean fare? We then took a trip out to the Incan markets again to shop till we dropped. I ended up purchasing a llama sweater (which normal Peruvians do in fact wear, mind you) and these precious stone earrings. In our usual fashion, we found another discoteca in Miraflores where we danced and had a really, really, really, good time (yes, that was a shameless Macklemore reference). It isn't a night in Miraflores, though, without stopping by our favorite pizzeria. The employees there recognized us and we even made a few amigos nuevos back in the kitchen. This city is slowly beginning to feel more like a home to me (albeit a very enormous one).

Korean food  feast

Some fresh KBBQ

Interesting street art in Miraflores

A popular street at night in Miraflores

En route to Villa el Salvador

 Now, fast-forward to this Thursday. Not many of you may know this but there is an optional component in my study abroad program that allows me to volunteer and work with a local NGO. Well, I'm excited to announce that I will be volunteering every week at a school in Villa el Salvador (an urban district in the southern outskirts of Lima with shantytown origins). Last Thursday morning, I had the chance to tour the facilities and see where I will soon be aiding teachers in a classroom full of adorable, school-age children. How could I not be thrilled? One other girl in the program and I went and had the opportunity to speak with one of the directors of the NGO. We even got to see another connected NGO that is known as Deporte y Vida. Aside from volunteering, I also have the privilege of helping out the NGO in their marketing and public relations (that's right, mom, I'm putting my college education to use). They are currently without a website and need marketing/public relations efforts in order for their NGO to thrive and keep giving back to the community, so I'm teaming up with another girl in the group to do just that for their amazing program! Que emocionante. It's also worth mentioning that on the day of the visit, there were no kids at the school due to a holiday. What we did find, though, were a dozens of community members coming out to support the school by throwing a type of fundraiser that entailed cooking delicious food to give to donors who had bought pre-sold tickets. Inspiring would be one way to describe the experience.

Looking down a street in Villa el Salvador

Example of a classroom that I would be volunteering in

Adorable classroom wall

Little dogs on the rooftops of Villa el Salvador

Exploring Barranco

 Given that I don't have class on Thursday or Fridays, the moment I arrived back from my Villa el Salvador commute (which will range from an hour and a half to two hours one way) marked the official start of my weekend! These past few days have been wonderful; I have been able to spend more time with some of the group members, see more of Lima, and eat as much Peruvian food as my heart desired. On Friday, we went out to Barranco which is officially one of my favorite (if not most favorite) districts in all of Lima. Note that there are 43 of them here, so I definitely have some more intracity traveling to do!

Walking along the coast

The burrito bar of Barranco

 Most of my time has been spent with friends talking, watching quality films, and exploring here and there. In Barranco on Friday, we went to a little hole-in-the-wall burrito bar. I never knew how life-changing an experience one burrito could be, but I must tell you that the burrito I ate was probably the best I have ever had! We then found ourselves at the house of one of the students in the program's host family in the district. To say the house was a piece of art would be an understatement! For example, art hung from all its walls, there was a room devoted to little birds, the rooftop views were spectacular overlooking the illuminated Pacific Ocean, and there was even a legitimate art studio inside. It is one of the most beautiful properties I had ever seen.  

Rooftop views

Friends & me at the burrito bar Friends & me at the burrito bar (that's me sporting my new llama sweater)

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas

The following day we found ourselves traveling out to the Lima district of Lima (yes, that is a thing). So, we were essentially exploring the historic centre of Lima and its calles decorated with balcony-crested walls and colonial buildings. Traveling to the center of Lima helped me grasp just how enormous this city truly is in both terms of population and geography. We visited the Plaza de Armas, a famous square in the city, that hosts the government palace, the cathedral of Lima,  and several other elaborate palaces. After a long commute, we were ravenous, so we made our way over to the Barrio chino otherwise known as Lima's Chinatown. Naturally, we had chifa (Chinese-Peruvian fare) for lunch and it was easily one of the best meals I have ever enjoyed. The chaufa, Peru's version of fried rice, was incredible and I was quite the happy (and full) camper.

Cathedral of Lima Cathedral of Lima

Colonial architecture

Government Palace Government Palace

Entrance to Lima's Chinatown

Entrance to Lima's Chinatown

A cherimoya stand on the street

Strolling through Lima's streets

Balconies on balconies

The crew with our Todo Dulce desserts

The crew with our Todo Dulce desserts

We then made our way back to the Pueblo Libre district (where I live) to stop at our favorite local bakery, Todo Dulce. I tried the tres leches cake there and was not disappointed. The rest of the night consisted of returning to one of the student's homes to hang out and watch the film The Descendants (it has my stamp of approval). Following that, a few of us found our way back out to the Barranco district where we went to a venue called Trepiche. We danced, as per usual, and enjoyed the nightlife Limeño. As I mentioned before, I am in love with the district of Barranco. Along every street you will find colorful wall murals, intricate architecture, and quirky little decor that gives this district its "bohemian" vibe.

Typical street art of the district

More art

...and even more!

A popular plaza in Barranco at night

 Given that it's a Sunday night, I'm looking forward to beginning another week of classes at PUCP. What's even more exciting, though, is the fact that in four short days I will be flying to Cusco! This weekend marks my program's trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu. Words cannot even begin to describe how thrilled I am for this! Soon enough I'll be able to check off one huge thing on my bucket list and I cannot wait for the adventure that lies ahead. It still doesn't feel real to me. This whole experience actually feels somewhat surreal, but I am enjoying every minute of it. Yes, even those moments of pure terror when I've missed the correct paradero (bus stop) or freeze mid-speech because I don't know how to convey my thoughts in castellano (Spanish). This entire experience is everything I wanted it to be and more so far and to think it has already been one month! One month full of learning, living, and loving every moment of it in Lima— I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate.

As Russell from the film Up exclaims: Adventure is out there! Stepping through my doorstep each morning marks a new day and a new adventure of the Peruvian variety for me. It's strange to think that I still have four more months of it, too. As of now, I can say that coming to Peru has been one of the greatest decisions of my life so far and I don't see why this trend will not endure. To everyone back in the states: I wish you were here. Although I do miss home, I am having such a rewarding experience abroad. It just makes me so happy that I will always carry these wonderful memories with me and I am even more glad that I can share them with all of you via my writing here on this handy dandy, little blog. I will report back sooner next time, but until then I must say chau and buenas noches.

—MLM

Keeping It Picante in Peru

Pi·can·te [pi-kahn-tey; Spanish pee-kahn-te]: Prepared so as to be very hot and spicy, especially with a hot and spicy sauce.

Keeping it picante is the name of the game here in Peru! As you have probably already figured out, I am still well and alive in llama land. Despite being nearly hit by two different taxis, banging my head countless times upon entering and exiting the claustrophobic micros, and eating enough alfajores to last a lifetime, I have survived not only another week in Peru, but my first week of classes at the university! (Miraculous, I know.) Much has happened in the past several days, but due to being busy as a bee (i.e. spending close to 13 hours on-campus a few days ago to give you an idea) writing on here hasn't been the easiest. But, alas! I have returned and oh do I have much to tell all of you (i.e. mom).

Last Friday evening, the motley crew (or rather, the picante crew— yes, I just dubbed us as that) took on the district of Barranco for the first time! Barranco is the neighbor district to Miraflores and is known for its lively nightlife and bohemian vibe. We found ourselves swaying to the sounds of Laguna Pai, a well-known Peruvian reggae band, that happened to have a concert at a popular discoteca called El Dragon. After the band's jams stopped, the night gave way to both American and Latin American hits that resulted in us happily dancing on the dance floor until 3 am (note: "Peruvian time"). All in all it was a successful night of dancing, music, and not getting lost in the middle of nowhere!

The following day, the picante crew took on Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia Del Perú. Try saying that fast ten times! Going here opened my eyes to the diverse and fascinating history of Peru. I had never seen so many ceramics in my life, but I was thrilled to learn more about my current home. I'll just let the photos speak for themselves here.

The picante crew posing in a traditional Lima balcony

The group at the museum on a traditional balcony

The happiest of pots

A very happy pot

Some fancy Peruvian art

Ceramics on ceramics

Amazonian artifacts

Plaza Bolivar directly outside of the museum

Plaza Bolivar


The "red bull" of Parque Kennedy in Miraflores

After our museum visit, the crew went to a pizzeria. Yes, that's right, I did eat Italian food in Peru. That must be some sort of sacrilege, but please understand that I have 5 months here! One little slice of (delicious, mind you) pizza isn't going to make my experience unauthentic. Later on, the crew once again found ourselves in Miraflores doing what we do best in Peru: staying up until an ungodly hour and having a grand time! As you can imagine, this past Sunday for me included sleep, more sleep, food, and sleep. There seems to be some sort of theme or trend going on here.

Then, came Monday. Oh, Monday. This wasn't any ordinary Monday for me, though. It was my first day of school at PUCP! I felt like a five year-old again. Partially because I was thrilled to start classes but mostly due in part that I felt like I had the intellectual capability of a toddler given I had no idea what I was doing. All went well, though! As of now, I am taking a Spanish writing course, a Latin American film class, a Peruvian history class, and linguistics course. My schedule isn't set in stone just yet, but I'm looking forward to the semester ahead! Listening to my professors dole out lectures in all-Spanish is mentally exhausting, but it's quite the thrill to be able to understand what they are saying (for the most part). The next step is writing papers and giving oral presentations in castellano. Other exciting news! I found street called San Ramon in Lima over the weekend. For all of those who have no idea of the significance of this, San Ramon is the name of my hometown. Here's photographic proof of this momentous event.

Shout-out to all of my San Ramonians!

 More exciting news! I had my first llama/alpaca/picuna sighting last Saturday. Okay, so maybe it wasn't a legitimate sighting, but it was still pretty nice to find these little guys in the museum. 

We are one with the camelids

The first week of school has come to a close!  As you know, I'm fed quite well here which is why I thought it would be in my best interest to get a gym membership. Who says I have to sacrifice eating all this wonderful food in order to not have to buy a whole new wardrobe? Anyways, I'm sure I'll have many new stories to share on here once this weekend comes to an official close. So, until then, ¡chau!

—MLM

What a Colorful World

¡Hola a todos! My name is Morgan Michna and I'm currently a student in the CIEE - Lima, Peru Fall 2013 group. I was born and raised in and around San Francisco, California and I currently attend school at the University of Oregon (call me a Duck) where I'm studying Journalism - Public Relations and Spanish. My co-blogger, Kailey, and I will be sharing all of our Peruvian adventures and experiences here throughout our semester abroad. If you would like to check out my personal blog, The College Student's New Groove, you can find it here (http://studentsnewgroove.wordpress.com/). Enjoy!

Oh, what a weekend it was! After a long week of intensive Spanish class, my entire group made our way over to the Parque de la Reserva - Circuito Mágico del Agua. Magical would be an understatement to describe the collection of 13 fountains that are found around the grounds of a large park in Downtown Lima. We were able to walk under and through a water tunnel, view a spectacular fountain show, and take in the many dazzling, aquatic sights of this wonderful attraction. There was even a labyrinth of fountains that left a few of my group members soaked.  In a nutshell, the night at the parque was incredible!

Most of the group in front of one of the many fountains

The group at the park

Fountains on fountains

Amazing pyramid of water

The water labyrinth

The fountain labryinth 

Parque Kennedy of the Miraflores District at night

Also, feel free to check out this little video I made of the night at the fountain park.

 

 Running on Peruvian time meant that the night was just beginning at 10:30pm. So, naturally, we made our way out to Miraflores to experience some of the nightlife that Lima has to offer! Our first stop was at the La Emolienteria, a quirky bar located in the heart of this hip district. Here, I tried the emoliente sour which was this place's spin on the traditional pisco sour of the country. Emoliente is a sort of tea that can be sipped alone or mixed with libations (such as pisco) for a twist. I had the sensation that I was sipping liquified key lime pie with meringue (no complaints here). We then found overselves exploring the area around Calle Berlin followed by other calles of Miraflores for a fun-filled night. After hopping from place to place, eating, gabbing, and desperately trying to find a discoteca to dance in, we retired around 3 am. I still am not accustomed to the "Peruvian time" here. Nothing nightlife related truly starts until 11pm and things usually run until 5am. I suppose I'll have to get with the times and adapt to 10 pm being the new 7 pm!  

Enchanting nighttime sights in Miraflores
The next evening was another amazing and eventful night! Our CIEE group found ourselves at Brisas Del Titicaca. This event is a popular Peruvian dance show paired with food, drink, live music, plus a little dancing of our own. I saw dances from the Aymara origins, Andean traditions and more. It amazed me just how rich and diverse the history of this country appears by being conveyed via the art of dance. The performer's outfits were incredibly ornate, with colors that fell upon the entire color spectrum, and the dancing (obviously) superb! I would say that the costumes and styles of dance were just as diverse and amazing as the cultural history of Peru! We even got to take to the floor to bust out some of our own moves. My Gangnam Style didn't quite match up to the suave tucks, dips, and spins of the performers, but that didn't take away from any of the fun! My favorite performance of the night would have to have been the duo dance of two incredibly talented bailarines whose style resembled some sort of Latin tango-ballroom-waltz infusion. Around 5 am, the night came to a close which sent my circadian rhythms in a tizzy. A little sleep deprivation was well worth the amazing cultural experience, though! All in all, I was so happy to get a taste of Peruvian culture through a different form of art. I just wish I could move in the way those dancers did. I guess I could start somewhere... Salsa 101, anybody?

The CIEE group after a long night of Peruvian entertainment

The Group at Brisas

Favorite performance of the night

Dancing la marinera (my favorite performance)

Another festival dance

Performance with mucho Peruvian pride
Alpaca hat swag

Alpaca hat fun

Yesterday afternoon, I went shopping in Miraflores with some amigas of mine. We visited many of the artisan markets that sold all things Peruvian! I felt like a kid in a candy shop. They even sold alpaca hats that, when worn, made me resemble an animated Q-tip! Que divertido. I sadly didn't purchase one, but did buy a lovely warm sweater that I am currently wearing. We capped off our shopping spree with a little dinner at Haiti Cafe right by the popular Parque Kennedy of the district. I ordered some tea and alfajor, a yummy dessert that is made out of sweet biscuits and dulce de leche. All in all, I would call it a successful trip. Alfajor and tea: a wonderful combo

Interesting architecture in Miraflores

After a long but amazing weekend full of so much laughter, fun, and food, it is nice to just relax back in my host family's home. Life in Lima has been grand and I don't see any reason why this trend will not continue! To everyone else back at home: wish you were here! My Peruvian adventure is all I could have hoped for and more so far. I can't wait to share more stories with all of you about my new life down here. Until then, ¡chaufa!

—MLM