Monday, May 9, 2011

The beginning of the end: Eco Truly

So now that Heather and I are finished with Cuzco, we`re going traveling until we can`t anymore!!! aka when we have our flight home.  I am going to write this entry by dates so some will be short, some will be long, and some days will be none existent because there wasn`t really anything particularly interesting in them.  Ahora...

April 12th, Tuesday
Ok, so somehow I just got the print I`m typing in in bold and can`t fix it so this whole entry will be in bold haha.  On that morning Heather and I woke up and nervously got ready to go to our spanish class.  The day before we had taken our final exam to see what grade we`d get.  I swore I failed miserably.  The lecture they gave us in spanish was super hard and both Heather and I didn`t even understand some of the questions that we were supposed to write at least a paragraph on.  We warned our spanish teacher, Luis, that we probably got really bad grades.  He went to go check the exams and brought them back to class.  It turned out that I got an A- and Heather got an A!!! We were so surprised and happy.

Because we didn`t have to retake the exam, our spanish teacher aided us in getting bus tickets for Lima.  Our last spanish teacher (we`ve had three different ones), Luis, was a history teacher for kids and super animated.  Heather and I would laugh all the time because he has such goofy manerisms.  We found it funny that out of all three teachers... the one that worked best for us was actually an elementary school teacher.  Our first teacher was Magda.  She was a very sweet elderly lady who had a very young spirit.  I also loved this teacher, but I got more practice speaking in spanish with Luis.  Our other teacher was Marianes.  She was nice, but moved way to quickly for Heather and me.  All three had different sections that they specialized in.  I would recommend the spanish school of Excel to anyone that wanted to take spanish lessons in Cuzco.

In order to celebrate and have a little fun before we got on the 22 hour bus ride to Lima (well, and the fact that Heather and I love chocolate) Heather and I headed to the chocolate museum in Cuzco.  It`s called the Choco Museum.  And wow... the chocolate they have there is amazing.  It`s a small little museum that gave us tons of information about chocolate and it`s history.  We could have made our own chocolate if we wanted!  They have cacao and everything there.  They also gave us some cacao tea for free.  It was amazing!  It was a mix between tea and hot chocolate and undescribably delicious.  And even thuogh the chocolates were more expensive Heather and I splurged and got some.  I got a maracuya con ahi chocolate, a pisco sour chocolate, and a sort of mint chocolate.  All I can say is WOW.

13th, Wednesday
Woohoo, the bold magically turned off lol.  The whole bus ride took 22 hours to get from Cuzco to Lima.  We went through the bus company called Tepsa.  They haven`t had a crash since they started 10 years ago.  If Heather`s or my parents are reading this aren`t you glad we care about safety? :) We watched 5 or 6 movies and got to get off the bus once for a breakfast that was included in the price.  It happened to be chicken.  I must admit I`ve never had chicken for breakfast haha.  When we got to Lima we decided to stay at the hostal called Friend`s House for the first night to not overstay our welcome at Chelan`s host parents house.

We were able to meet up with Chelan later that night :)
14th, Thursday
That morning we met up with Chelan again and walked along the cliffs of Lima.  I forget what they are called so for now they will just be called the cliffs of insanity.  We went with Chelan to her marinera class at her university.  The university was beautiful (almost new) and we met a lot of the other exchange students from the states.  Heather and I also got to learn a bit of marinera, which was quite fun:)  If you see it, it looks like a really simple dance, but there is actually a lot of specific foot work involved. 

That night, as a thank you to Julio and Puchi (Chelan`s host parents) for letting us stay there, Chelan, Heather and I made suspiro and no bake cookies.  Since we didn`t have peanut butter we replaced the peanut butter with marshmellows.  They weren`t the best, but it was still delicious!

15th, Friday
For those of you reading this you probably know that I love basketball.  Julio loves basketball too and goes all out when he plays.  That morning we played Heather and I vs. Chelan and Julio.  It was a lot of fun and competitive (no worries I controled my over competitiveness:)  Julio was really good and had never really played on a set team.  He just played pick up games.  He gave me an awesome compliment and said I play with a lot of heart.  It meant a lot to me.  It always surprises me how playing sports with someone can instantly make a connection stronger, but I love it:)

We went to the supermarket that day and to my surprise I found the greatest treat ever... MANGOS FOR 1 SOLE PER KILO!!!!! Of course I bought tons and the next day went back for more, too haha.
Later, Chelan needed to go to class so Heather and I kicked around a volleyball as a soccer ball.  I played goalie and Heather shot against me.  There was a little boy that came and was shooting on the other side and we invited him to come shoot and kick with us.  He was shy, but I think he enjoyed playing with us.

That night we went to a Peruvian band concert.  The band was called La Mente and we saw it at Sargento Pimienta.  I had never heard of the band before, but I will definitely hit it up on itunes when I get home:) I liked the concert a lot, except the creepy clown that kept flashing up on the screen in the background haha.

16th, Saturday
Heather and I went to the mall with Chelan.  It was a huge mall and Heather and I felt pretty overwhelmed.  Our favorite part was the food court haha not actually, but we spent a lot of time there looking at all the delicious food.  Outside the food court there was an arcade, a petting zoo, and a roller coaster!  It was so random.  At the petting zoo you could feed the goats, cows, guinea pigs, or pigs.  They also had ducks there.  In the guinea pig cage we saw the fattest guinea pig we have ever seen.  It was so big that it had to be pregnant or something.  It could barely walk.

When we went to the marinera class earlier that week, Chelan´s teacher invited us to a marinera show on Saturday night.  We arrived and didn´t really know what to expect.  It was great though with free drinks (for us because her teacher was one of the head guys leading the show) and beautiful marinera dancing.  It´s a romantic dance with men and women gazing into each others eyes and right as you think they are about to kiss... they twirl away from each other.  After the marinera show there was a band that played all types of music.  It was great to see the guests dance (even Chelan and I got up a few times).  I feel like in the states there would be so much fear to dance in front of a whole bunch of people if you weren´t that good.  There was no fear here.  Everyone enjoyed dancing, even the guys!

17th, Sunday
Sunday morning Chelan, Heather, and I caught a bus to Eco Truly Village (Yes!!! we were so lucky that Chelan could come with us:)  It took about an hour and a half to get to our stop.  Luckily, we were actually dropped off at a station.  Some of the other volunteers were dropped off on the side of the highway and had to walk down the huge sand dune to get to Eco Truly haha.  Eco Truly Village is a place where they worship Krishna, which is kind of confusing because they practice Vaishnavism.  They are vegetarian and accept volunteers to help on their farm (if you´re a volunteer, you get a cheaper price to stay there than someone who just stays at the hostel).  That first day we arrived just in time for lunch and after chores so we didn´t have to work hehe.  We went on the beach with two of the many dogs that wander around Eco Truly.  They were my favorites; Krispeta (which means popcorn in Columbia) and Lisa (an old police dog that broke her back, but is really a sweetheart).  Everyday, they have some sort of activity for the volunteers in the afternoon.  That day it was philosophy of Vaishnavism.  I´ll write the notes next.  It´s actually quite interesting and would recommend reading them.  The 17th will continue after the notes. 

Notes of the lecture (they aren´t really totally formed ideas of explanations... just notes) :
Vaishnavism is very similar to Hinduism, but different in that Vaishnavism recognizes Krishna as the supreme god.  They believe in reincarnation.  For example, every 7 years every cell in the body is renewed, but you are not your material body.  They focus on returning the identity to yourself (the soul) and not the material body. 

There is the gross body which is made of 5 elements- space (ether), earth, water, fire, and air.  The material world is made of these five elements.  Superior to these five elements are the subtle elements.  The subtle body, or celestial body, is made of mind, intelligence, and false ego.  These are layers that cover our real selves (our real self is our soul).  The false ego is the thought that you are your body.  We cannot see the soul, but we can know that the soul exists because of consciousness.  When we dream we use the subtle body and when we imagine, too.  Both the gross body and subtle body are considered material because both have an end.  If we die and we are attached to material things, including our bodies, objects, or other people, the soul is trapped in the subtle body because the soul has a necessity of a gross body and remains close to their things/house.  These souls are basically ghosts.  The tradition is to have a fire ceremony usually with the past away person´s things so the soul can recognize it´s situation as a soul and move on.  The ceremony would be in the house with decorations and offerings (of fruit for example). 

Some people can communicate with the souls by having the soul enter their body and communicate through it.  Others have no desire to communicate with the souls because it is not beneficial for spiritual advancement.

The subtle body is a period of suffering, and a soul can get stuck there.  For example, a soul wants to eat, but it cannot eat.  These souls usually are looking for bodies.  They take the bodies of pepole that are unconscious, drunk, or are on drugs.  A soul can only take a person`s body for that period of time that the person is under the influence of something. 

People that died because of suicide become a subtle body and remain there for however long they were supposed to live.  For example, if I killed myself when I was 28, but I was supposed to live until 48, I would be a subtle body for 20 years. 

Every person has a number of years they are supposed to live based on their karma of the previous life and current life. 

There is a science of light (knowledge) called jotesi (i´m not sure if that is how it is spelled, but that is what it sounds like).  It´s where a person charts out life based off the planets.  Druva (the guy teaching the lesson) knew a guy that knew he was going to die in an accident from his chart and so prepared his family for his passing.  Within the month he died in a river accident.

When you die there are 27 planets that your soul goes between for different punishments.  There is a lord that determines your punishments by reading about your life (it all has been written down).  For example, if you acted as a pig in your current life and you died, you would go into a room with a pendulum in it and poop on the ground.  Hanging from the pendulum would be a giant blade.  The blade would start swinging and slowly you would have to be getting lower and lower into the pooh until your mouth was in the pooh.  Then the pendulum would stop and you would feel relief.  So in the next life you would be ready to be a pig. 

When a baby is in the womb it remembers 100 lives before and their is lots of turmoil and suffering.  The new body is very delicate too so there is more suffering, but when a baby is born it forgets everything. 

Spiritual  knowledge is never lost from past lives.  For example, if I got 1 percent of spirtual knowledge toward Krishna in the next life I would start at 1 percent when I was born. 

There are 8,400,000 species of life a soul has to go through in order to be a human.  That includes everything in the sea, plants, and animals.  The last animal before a human is a cow. 

If I were a human and died, but choose to help other souls and become a channel for Krishna my soul could get another human body to help others. 

Animals don´t create karma because they are not conscious of their actions.  They just have pure instincts, which is Krishna because Krishna is in the heart of everything. 

Killing animals and things will have repercussions unless you are helping that animal to move on (example, a horse with a broken leg), but it is still better just to comfort that animal. 

We should have mercy for those experiencing karma, just don´t say they deserve it because it is their karma. 

We will always harm souls.  Even just by walking we are killing things, but it´s not our intention.  We can kill a tree to build a house and kill to protect our family, but the key is to not exploit others a lot. 

Animals suffer a lot when they get killed, but they suffer less when they die naturally because they prepare themselves (they stop eating). 

We shouldn´t eat meat because when an animal is killed it is out of hate.  Then when we eat that meat we are eating that hate.  Cows need special protection because they are sacred. 

Material happiness and material suffering are equal on this planet.  Only when  we realize that we are not our bodies and our materials don´t matter will we be happy. 

17th, a continuation
We worshiped at the temple after the lecture.  We started by dancing and singing.  It was such a freeing feeling to be dancing and singing under the stars in a Krishna temple.  Everyone had a smile on their face.  One thing that is different though is that the boys and girls can´t really dance with each other.  It is because they are not allowed to have illicit sex and dancing with each other is a distraction of the opposite sex.  I didn´t care though it was fun dancing with all the girls.  After the dancing their was a lecture on loving and not being attached to material things.  A person should love another person´s soul, not their body.  The guy that was giving the lecture mentioned that it was easier for woman to love, but with that love comes attachment and envy (which you are not supposed to have) and so it is still difficult for us.  Men have a harder time loving because they have so much going on in their heads and think more with their mind than their heart. 

18th, Monday
There are a few moments in my life that I wish I could always recall perfectly, as if I were filmed, and that morning was one of them.  A short hike over a large sand dune, across a small beach, around some rocks where you have to time the tide right to get around, and across another beach lead a group of us to a cave.  We also had to time the tide right in the cave or we would have gotten soaked and potentially swept away by the vicious current.  Painted in the cave is a large painting of a demigod with the head of a lion.  He is an extention of Krishna.  It took a past worker 3 months to paint.  We had brought flowers as an offering to the demigod.  We circled his body 7 times with the flower, then is middle 3 times, and then his body again 7 times.  We were led to the cave by a guy named Daniel, who looked very similar to Weston.  I think it was because he looked like Weston (my older brother for those who don´t know) that I really liked hanging out with Daniel and talking to him. 

After we went to the cave we hiked a sand dune to a temple for all religions.  It was a truly (a type of building) built by Eco Truly.  They petitioned to the government to build a temple for all religions on government land and the government accepted.  Inside the truly are names of many different gods from different religions.  I thought it was very cool that they acknowledged other religions.  I feel like other religions don´t do that. 

Krispeta loves to go out with us on our hikes and chase birds.  Lisa loves to come along, too.  When we got back from the cave though the tide was too high for Krispeta to cross because she is a medium sized dog.  Therefore, Daniel and I had to carry her the last part of the way because she was terrified of the water.  I almost tripped when I was carrying her, but when it was all over she was really grateful to Daniel and me. 

Everyday, after breakfast there is a volunteer meeting to see who gets what chores.  I had the lucky time of doing the bathrooms my first day haha.  The bathrooms at Eco Truly are different than normal bathrooms.  The toilets are plastic garbage cans with a toilet lid on it.  After someone uses the toilet, they put sawdust in the inside of it to cover up the smell.  The sawdust also helps the pooh decompose.  We dispose of the pooh into a cement block at the back of Eco Truly.  The pooh must stay there for 3 months and then will be transferred to a different spot with worms for 3 months.  After this, it can be used for fertilizer.  The soil and fertilizer smell nothing like pooh and is very healthy for the plants. 

After I helped clean the bathrooms I made lamps with bamboo, sawdust, glue, and chalk.  We connected the bamboo sections with a mixture of sawdust, glue, and chalk.  As I was headed to the bathroom after making some lamps I looked out towards the main entrance and saw Heather´s and my friend from Cuzco!  Her name is Julia, but we call her Jiles:)  I couldn´t believe it and ran over asap to give her a bear hug.  It was her last day in Peru and she came to visit us for a few hours before she left.  Jiles had been our roommate for awhile before she left Cuzco.  The time with Jiles flew by, but it was so good seeing her and such a nice gesture of her to come visit us. 

In our afternoon break, Heath, Chelan, and I went to the ocean for a bit.  It was freezing, but refreshing.  It was hard to go back to a cold shower though after haha. 

Our activity for that afternoon was yoga with one of the guys there named Gocula.  It was difficult (I´m probably the least flexible person ever), but good and relaxing.  I love the positions that I feel actually work my muscles a lot.  I thoroughly dislike stretching haha. 

19th, Tuesday
Every morning starting from this day we had yoga with Vivi at 7 in the morning.  It seemed early to us, but nothing compared to what the devotees did.  They had temple every morning at 4:30 in the morning!  That is dedication.  Although, yoga was early it was good to get a bit of exercise to wake us up before chores. 

My chores for that day were training Chelan and Heather how to do toilets.  After that we painted bathrooms... which were not very ventilated so we got a little loopy haha.  Chelan taught us spanish songs (one about arroz con leche! yummy) and I somehow managed to only get a little paint on me (miracle!). 

After lunch all the volunteers (which at the time were girls) took a run to a gas station about 15 minutes away.  It was good exercise and I actually felt less out of breath then I usually am when I`m out of shape (thank you Cuzco lungs).

Our afternoon activity that day was a woman`s circle.  Woman`s circles have been happening for 100`s of years.  It`s a way of woman empowerment and a way of supporting each other.  We started by making a sort of alter in the middle of our circle.  Then we closed our eyes and Vivi cleared the air around us by a feather (it`s usually with sage, but we didn`t have any).  When this was done we invited the spirits of the four directions (North, South, etc.) and said whatever came to our minds in no particular order around the circle.  After each direction was invited we welcomed them.  Once the introduction was done the feather was passed around the circle and whoever wanted to talk could.  It was pretty neat. 

Once the woman`s circle was done some of us headed to temple.  It was much quiter than the first temple we went to.  People were still playing instruments and singing, but it wasn`t all hyper and dancing around.  We were sitting and more like chanting.  I like the dancing praising better.  It`s a good way to get all my energy out so I can actually listen without wanting to fall asleep.  The lecture for that night was about fear.  Chelan and I noticed that for some reason conversations we had throughout the day would be eerily connected to the lecture.  We don`t think they planned it or anything because some of the things we talked about were right before going to temple and there would be no way they could plan the lecture on the walk to temple.  It was weird and kind of cool haha. 

I had the closest thing to fresh tortillas that night!  For dinner we had this sort of burrito thing with some sort of fried vegetable in the middle with cheese.  We also had some chocolate cake!  By the way, Eco Truly makes amazing desserts!!!!! I was looking forward to eating healthy there, but the meals and desserts were so good I usually ate too much haha. 

20th, Wednesday
Wednesday was Chelan`s last full day so we decided to go to the early morning temple at 4:30am!  I actually liked it better than the afternoon one because the whole thing was just singing and reading phrases out of a book.  At the end they had to say a certain amount of the Hare Krishna mantra and taught us a special way to count.  They have beads around their necks to keep track of how many times they say the mantra.  They are supposed to say the mantra 16 rounds a day... but each round they say the mantra 108 times.  4 rounds takes about 25 minutes. 

After temple we went to yoga and I couldn`t believe how sore I was.  Every movement was killer.  I wasn`t sore because of working the strength of my muscles, but more because I was stretching them so much. 

Our morning chore was to pick beans.  Eco Truly has a small organic farm where they sell or use the food for the volunteers and devotees.  One of the reasons Eco Truly is so special is that it was able to grow many different fruits and vegetables in the middle of a desert.  It`s right on a beach and is surrounded by sand dunes.  Online they kind of make it sound like they are completely selfsufficient, which isn`t the case.  They buy a lot of their products, which aren`t necessarily organic.  We definitely used the beans we picked though.  And anyone that knows me knows that I LOVE BEANS!  Sadly, Heather is the one that had to deal with the after effects of me eating them:) hehe

Because some volunteers were leaving the next day, we all climbed a sand dune and watched the sunset together.  We were in the perfect spot overlooking the Eco Truly temple with the sun setting right behind it, tucking down into the ocean. 

After the sun had set some of us started the task of making a maracuya tart.   Maracuya is passion fruit.  Oh. My. Gosh.  It is one of the most delicious things ever.  Luckily, Heather and I got the recipe:) But sadly, I have never seen a maracuya being sold in Wenatchee, but we can replace it with some other delicious fruit.

Okay, so I am not done completely with Eco Truly yet, but I`ll post this so people can read it.  I`ll continue my blog even when I get home so I can write about everything!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

6 ibuprofen, 6 bottles of water, and 66 kilometers later (for us United States folk, that is 41 miles!)

Once again, my writing is going to be all bejumbled.  I`m going to start with the most recent events and go backwards in time... sort of.  I`ll start what with the title of this entry refers to, Choquequirao.

On March 31st, Heather and I started a trek to the ruins (they are not sure if they are Incan or pre-Incan) of Choquequirao, also known as the upcoming Machu Picchu.  Heather and I had wanted to do these ruins for awhile and the day we were going to go to agencies and compare prices our teacher at our spanish school, Excel, informed us that a group of teachers from the school was headed to Choq (Choquequirao is too long to write so from now on it will be Choq.) and that we were welcome to come.  At first, Heather and I weren`t sure about going with them because they weren`t going to have a guide and we were going to buy and cook all our own food.  But when we looked at the numbers of it all, it was going to save us about $80 U.S. (about 230 soles) to go with them.  Of course, we couldn`t pass up the chance.  So within a 4 hour class span we had changed our whole plan for our last 2 weeks in Cuzco.  I must say now, it couldn`t have worked out better.  The teachers from Excel; Margo, Youjia, Marianes, and Ester (the director of Excel) had already done the math as to what food and how much everyone should bring.  So they were buying the food and all Heather and I had to do was pay and pack some of it.  We were also paying for transport to and from Cachora (where we started trekking), the donkeys to carry our stuff (high class trekking if you ask me), and the guy to lead the donkeys (our sort of guide whose name was Andres). 

That Thursday, the 31st Heather and I woke up at 4:30am to start our adventure.  As we were leaving, we happened to run into our roommates returning from a night out haha it was great.  To get to Cachora took a little over 3 hours so we didn`t actually start trekking until around 11 because of a lot of waiting around for stuff.  The first day of our trek was pretty easy.  The start is flat for about 11 km and then downward until we reached our camp site by the river Apurimac, which means voices of the gods (or something like that I don`t remember exactly).  Because this river is supposed to be a connection with the gods it is a tradition to bring a sacrifice for it.  Marianes and Ester brought flowers to give to the river. 
We were really camping in luxury that first night.  We made chicken, rice, and mazamorrada (sp?).  We were also sleeping in our tent in a stone building to protect us from the rain. 
The second day was hard for me.  It was steep switchbacks up a whole mountain.  Heather and I were both thankful we rented some walking sticks.  I always thought that walking sticks were for the weak and that they were pointless, but I actually turned out liking them a lot haha.  That night we slept on some terraces of the ruins.
The third day we woke up at 5 in the morning to catch the sunrise at the ruins.  We hiked probably 30 minutes more from our campsite and as soon as we stepped onto the first terrace, the sun peaked over the mountians.  Perfect timing, eh?  I was immediately filled with tons of energy, and even though my legs were sore I was running around the ruins trying to see all I could.  We were literally the only people at the ruins.  It was magical. 
Now, people aren`t sure if the ruins are Incan or pre-Incan because of the structure of the stones.  Some people believe that the ruins are pre-Incan because the types of stones used are different from other ruins and the ruins are not built in the same usual Incan manner.  Others believe this is because other Incan cities were being attacked by the Spanish and so the Incans built Choq. as quickly as possible instead of taking their time.  They also were in a hurry so they used the rocks that were near, rather than the rocks they usually used.  Regardless, it was beautiful and intriguing.  Only one third of the ruins have been uncovered and the place was huge.  It was interesting to see parts of terraces under forest.  Some things that Choq is famous for are the patterns and llamas built into the walls of the terraces.  They built the walls of the terraces, but included llamas and a zig zagged pattern with white rocks. 
So after 3 hours of getting the feel for Choq. it was time to descend the mountain and take back all the work we had accomplished the day before.  Downhill is always harder for me.  I think because of my knees.  We also had more ground to cover (we had to go slightly more uphill on the other mountain across the river).  We started out, but then the others wanted a break so I went on by myself.  We were to meet up for lunch by a waterfall.  So I went off by myself and it was great.  I had been needing some alone time and it was the perfect way to do it.  By the time I got to the waterfall, Margo, Youjia, and Heather were only a little bit behind and met up with me almost immediatly.  Margo and Youjia were super hikers and kicked Heather`s and my butt the whole hike.  The rest of the day we continued downhill and the little bit of uphill until we got to our campsite.  Needless to say, my legs were exhausted. 

The last day, or the beginning of the last day was one of the toughest parts.  We started uphill to get over the mountain, but as we got near to the top the switchbacks got extremely muddy and seemed to go on forever.  I wanted to take a break through the whole thing, but knew I couldn`t stop or my muscles would get stiff.  It felt amazing when we got over the mountain and all we had to do was the last flat part... although, we did make it a tad more difficult for ourselves because we missed the turnoff for a shortcut to get to the town so went the long way around. 

The scenary through the whole thing was gorgeous and breathtaking.  I almost cried twice it was so pretty.  I took way too many pictures of it all in an attempt to never forget the beauty I had witnessed. 
I had tons of blisters by the end of the trip.  One of which is still healing and is one third the amount of my big toe.  I'm actually kind of proud of it haha. 
All the meals we had were great.  Heather and I actually ate better than we do at our home in Cuzco. 

Machu Picchu
After a day of rest from Choquequirao, Heather and I headed to Machu Picchu by train.  We originally wanted to trek to Machu Picchu, but decided to save money by taking the train.  We took Expedition, which was the cheapest train that was running.  The train was nicer than we expected.  We even got snacks! And anyone that knows Heather and me knows that snacks are very important to us :)

We got to Aguas Calientes and found a hostal for 25 soles a nice for the both of us.  We decided to go to the hotsprings and hang out for a bit.  The hot springs were more like luke warm (there was one hot pool that was full of people) and were a tad bit murky from all the hikers that hadn`t showered in 4 days haha.  It was still nice though and it was hard to get out of them because of the cold rain that was pouring down.  Due to the rain not stopping, Heather and I decided to eat in the restaurant attached to our hostal.  Pizza was our fix for that night. 

The next day we woke up at 4:30am to get to the bus station.  We wanted to be some of the first 400 people who are allowed on Wayna Picchu.  The day before, a very kind lady gave us round trip bus tickets for free.  She simply said she didn`t need them anymore.  It saved us $15, which doesn`t seem like that much, but it is to us travelers :)  When we got to Machu Picchu it was still raining, the rain didn`t actually stop until probably one or two o`clock in the afternoon.  Even in the rain, Machu Picchu is amazing.  First, Heather and I hiked to the Incan bridge.  It`s about a 30 minute hike from the main ruins.  The bridge is actually a path the Incans built into the mountain.  They carved this path one meter into the mountain with nothing, but ordinary tools.  The bridge is this short section where tree stumps are set.  Tourists can no longer walk over it because of a death that occured some years earlier.  If the Incans were getting attacked from that side of the mountain, they would throw off the tree sumps so their enemies couldn`t pass the gap easily.  They had a rock by the bridge that they would hide behind and attack their enemies.  This is where Heather and I had a lovely breakfast hehe but don`t tell the officials of Machu Picchu because there isn`t any food allowed at Machu Picchu. 

After the bridge, we headed up to Wayna Picchu, but sadly couldn`t see Machu Picchu from it do to the clouds and mist.  Wayna Picchu was still really cool (you had to go through a tunnel made of rock, well more like squeeze through it) and definitely worth getting up early for.  Once we were done with Wayna Picchu we headed to the Temple of the Moon and the Gran Cavern.  You also need a Wayna Picchu stamp to see these ruins.  The walk down to the temple and cavern took a lot longer than expected, but it was really cool once we got down there.  In the temple, tourists from different times had left a pile of letters to the Incas admiring their work and such.  The temple is also in a cave and so Heather and I were able to eat lunch in here and take shelter from the rain.  It was definitely worth the walk to get there.

Once we got back to Machu Picchu, Heather and I wandered the ruins and got most of our information by listening to other group's guides in spanish and english.  We had heard from some people that Choq was better than Machu Picchu, but I would have to disagree.  If you had to choose between the two, definitely choose Machu Picchu.  It was nice to be the only ones on Choq though.  There isn`t a picture I have of Machu Picchu that doesn`t have tourists (or as Heather called them, fruitloops because they were all wearing different colored ponchos) in it.

Heather and I stayed at Machu Picchu until it closed (5pm).  In our last few minutes there we watched the sunset over the ancient ruins.  I wish I could travel back in time and see what the city was like in it's prime.  I wish I could ask the people questions about there lives.  What an amazing adventure that would be! 
As we were leaving M.P. Heather and I got to interact with some llamas.  I was petting them as they walked by (one terrified me because it's leg fell through the second level of a ancient house where it's food was so it almost tripped right into me).  I must say the baby llamas fur (is that the right term?) was amazingly soft. 

We spent that night in Aguas Calientes, too.  We left the next morning by train and enjoyed a brunch at Heart's Cafe in Ollantaytambo.  Heart's Cafe is a restaurant that supports various programs that the director runs.  The idea is similiar to Aldea Yanapay, but Heart's only accepts profesionals who speak spanish.  The programs they ran looked amazing and the food was spectacular.  The man that was in charge of the cafe (his name has sadly slipped my mind) was extremely personable and even helped Heather and I get transportation back to Cuzco.  I'd recommend Heart's Cafe to anyone who has a good appetite and wants good food!

Paulys !
At the end of March, Heather and I had the honor of welcoming Wenatcheeites to Cuzco and showing them around a bit.  The Pauly family came to visit Cuzco.  Chelan Pauly is currently on an exchange in Lima and so the rest of the family had come to visit her and travel in Peru.  It was great having a little piece of home with us.  They showed us immense generosity by including Heather and me in their meals and plans to see Incan ruins. 

There first day in Cuzco, we took the Paulys up to San Blas, which is a very artsy area.  It has an amazing view of Cuzco so after lunch, Chelan, Skye, Heather, and I walked up San Blas and explored.  It's a beautiful spot with a lot of live music places and places where the famous artsy families of Cuzco show off their art. 

On St. Patricks day we took Chelan and Skye to our favorite hang out spot, The Wild Rover, an Irish Pub and hostal.  I've never seen people be so green (pun haha).  We had a fun night dancing and meeting new people.

The day after, Heather and I were in for a treat by getting to go to Sacsaywuman (that totally isn't spelled right, sorry), Pisac, and Ollantaytambo with the Paulys.  It was an extremely different experience than the first time Heather and I went to all these ruins.  The ruins were covered in tourists when we first went, but when we were with the Paulys we had the ruins all to ourselves.  The Paulys had rented a van and hired a guide to explain anything we wanted to know.  He spoke to us in english and spanish as we all want to learn spanish more, but everyone is at a different level of learning.  It was great.  Heather and I got to know the ruins a lot better this time, because we were rushed for time with our agency when we first took a tour of the ruins.  We even got to see a whole other part of Pisac.  When we got to Ollantaytambo we had a fantastic dinner "family style," which is where we all order something different and then put it in the middle and share.  It was a great way to try all the typical Peruvian foods.  After dinner it was time to say goodbye to the Paulys until a few days later until they returned from Machu Picchu.  After Machu Picchu, when they returned to Cuzco, we hung out all day until they had to catch their bus.  It was sad saying goodbye.  Having the Paulys with us was like having family here.  I'm so glad they came and forever grateful to them for including Heather and me and making us feel like part of the family. 

Random Dream
It has always been one of my dreams to run into someone I knew in a different country without planning it.  When the Pauly`s were here it happened!  We ran into a girl that I graduated with, Courtney Bratrud (not sure about the spelling of the last name, sorry), in the Plaza de Armas of Cuzco!  It was crazy and none of us could believe it.  Now, my random dream has been fulfilled. Thanks Courtney :)

The Weekend After
The weekend after the Paulys left, we were able to take 2 of our roommates, Bonnie and Camille, to Tipon because the Paulys gave us their Boletos Touristicos.   Tipon has beautiful Incan ruins that have water running through the canals that once spread water to the different terraces for agriculture.  It also has a beautiful view of the valley below.  Tipon is also famous for cuy... aka guinea pig.  Everyone has said that if we want good cuy, go to Tipon.  So after the Incan ruins, we headed to one of the many restaurants selling cuy... this one was recommended by our taxi driver.  We ordered two cuy to share between the four of us.  We waited in anticipation and I tried to mentally prepare myself for the look of what I was about to didn't help haha.  The cuy came out stuffed with herbs and was pretty much the way it looks alive, but without hair.  The waitress grinned at us cringing as she chopped off the head and split up the rest of the body for us.  The meat honeslty wasn't my favorite.  It could have been the herbs it was cooked with, but it had a weird texture and flavor.  It was definitely not like chicken as people have said haha.  We discovered that the best part of the cuy was the ear and the meat in the neck.  The whole meal, it was just hard to look at the's teeth sticking out of it's wide open mouth and all.  I would have to say it was definitely worth the experience though.  I ate all my half of the meat and I'm glad I tried it....even though I probably wouldn't do it again hehe.

Getting home from Tipon was an adventure.  I was pitch black outside and we had to stand on the side of the highway and wave down a bus as it went by.  Just as we got to the unmarked pick up spot, two buses came by yelling "Cuzco, Cuzco, Cuzco!!" It only cost one sole to get back to Cuzco.  There were luckily seats for us, because these buses usually cram as much poeple in them as possible.  People even have to stand up in the aisles.  The ride was definitely a little too bumpy for our stomachs that had never tried cuy before.  When we got back to Cuzco we immediately had to get the taste out of our mouths and got some ice cream haha.

Tio Juans
The day after the cuy experience Heather and I had the opportunity to join our friends Janek, Lucy, Janek's brother (his name is Rue, but I know that isn't how it's spelled), and Raquel to Tio Juans, an amazing barbeque restaurant outside of Saylla.  I got a ton of food and different meat and had some chicha to wash it all down.  It was amazing!  It was good catching up with our friends, too.  We hadn't had much contact with them since we had gotten kicked out of the project.  After our HUGE meals, we played some volleyball.  No one was very good and even the athletic people couldn't move properly because we were so full hahaha.  It was quite hilarious actually. 

The Fallen Angel (aka one of Francisco Pizarro's old houses in Cuzco)
Oh! I forgot to mention one of the craziest restaurants I have ever been in, The Fallen Angel.  The night before we left to Choq all the girls in our house (Bonnie, Roisin, Grace, Camille, and us) got dressed up crazy to go to Fallen Angel.  We were celebrating our last time together because one of our roommates was leaving.  I can't even describe what Fallen Angel really looks like with words. The best way to describe it I guess is trippy haha. The tables are bathtubs that have fish in them.  I sat on a heart shaped bed with heart shaped pillows all over it.  The room we were in had fake flames for the ceiling and flying pigs everywhere.  For the bathroom you had two options to go into, heaven or hell.  It's a pretty magnificent place.  We were even able to check out the 4 rooms you can stay in named strength, passion, power, and freedom.  The rooms were beautiful, artsy, and modern, but also cost $270 U.S. a night.  It definitely wasn't the cheapest place to eat at, but it was worth it.  I drank a virgin daquiri and margarita (both delicious) as we waited for our angelic ravioli and chocoletier meat (Heather and I were sharing plates).  The food was to die for, maybe that is why it's called The Fallen Angle? haha. The ravioli had this white wine, garlic, and andean cheese sauce that I could have eaten just plain and it would have made my night.  The steak we ordered was covered in chocolate sauce with yellow peppers in it.  It was good, but it wasn't my favorite.  Heather loved it though.  Overall, if you want to splurge on a good meal (it's no more expensive than a Red Robin) and don't mind some modern decorations, I'd recommend The Fallen Angel in a heartbeat. 

Qoppa Zeta Omega (we ususally just say Qoppa Zeta O)
Qoppa Zeta O is what we have named our house aka soroirity.  Hey you can't blame 6 girls for being creative hehe.  Heather and I were looking at Greek letters trying to spell something like Cuzco and then decided to combine the modern way of spelling to the Quechua spelling of Qosqo.  Therefore, our soroirity name came to be Qoppa Zeta O.

Elections for Peru's next persident is actually today, April 10th.  Peru has very different rules for elections than the U.S. does.  Every Peruvian must vote in their town where they were born (or living in if they get a new I.D.) and if they do not vote there than they will get fined.  The amount of the fine depends on what social class they are in and how much money they make.  Peruvians also can't drink the weekend before elections.  So since Friday the bars and discotecas have been closed and the selling of alcohol has been prohibited.  Foreigners can still drink though if they bought alcohol before they stopped selling it. 

Saying Goodbye to Cuzco
As the end of staying in Cuzco, well and for that matter Peru, approaches, I am realizing how much I am actually going to miss this place.  I`ll miss the constant Spanish, the kiss on the cheek greeting, the nightlife, the cobblestone streets of Cuzco, and the getting to walk everywhere instead of drive.  So lately when I have been walking through the city, I have been looking at the buildings, the plazas, the markets, the colors, and about everything else wondering if I will ever return here.  And if I do return, how much of it will have changed?  Cuzco is beautiful in it`s own way.  A lot of not so good things (bad seemed too harsh of a word) have happened to us here, but I will miss Cuzco.  I did a lot of growing here.

This is Goodbye for Now
Starting Tuesday, I am going to be traveling so communication will be scarce.  I will try and write in my journal so when I get home I can write one last blog entry about Peru.  I love you all and think about you a lot.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Getting toward the end of our adventure

For the people that still check this, I`m sorry for not writing as frequently as I used to.  But now I am here to redeem myself!  :)

Ok, well since I have not been writing in my journal (bad Vicki!) I will now write in even more of a hodgepodge than I usually do. 

Heather and I have had our fair share of trying times in the past month.  We have been robbed twice, Heather has been in and out of the hospital, and we got kicked out of the school by a drunk, over aggresive director.  We`ll start with the last thing I said...  yes, Heather and I have been kicked out of the school.  Heather was talking with Yuri and was expressing how some volunteers feel offended by what Yuri says sometimes and he was drunk and over emotional (he ususally is over emotional) and told her that she and I were not welcome back into the program.  I had a talk with him the next day and he did not take back him kicking us out of the program.  Throughout our stay here he has been over emotional, dramatic, and said hurtful things to us.  Aldea Yanapay, his program, is amazing and he is great with the kids, but I am not sure I would recommend this program to someone else that is looking for a drama free environment.  On the other hand, I do have to say that Yuri´s assistant directors are amazing.  They won´t be here forever, but while they are here they do make the project better.  They have the biggest hearts and are good friends.  It will be hard to say goodbye. 

And yes, Heather and I have been robbed twice.  I was pickpocketed at a festival in Puno (I realized within 30 seconds that someone had done it) and lost all my pictures of my time in Cuzco.  A couple weeks later, Heather and I got robbed out of our room by one of the people that was working for Señora Haydee.  Our room was locked and the girl, Feo, broke in and took money and Heather`s memory card.  So, now we sadly have no pictures of our stay in Cuzco.  We have to start from scratch. 

We have also experienced our fair amount of racism here.  I went to a store and was going to buy a little snack when the woman gave me a higher price than was on the package.  I told her that the package said something different and she replied ¨That price is for Cusqueñans.¨   I was furious.  In the United States we would get in so much trouble if we charged a certain race more.  Plus, most people know it`s just wrong to treat people differently because of what they look like. 

Okay, enough of the depressing crap. 
Every Tuesday there is Bingo at the Aldea Yanapay restaurant.  It`s jolly good fun.  I was able to win a bottle of wine!  It was very much worth the 4 rounds of Bingo (for 4 soles).  Bingo night also includes quiz questions and little competitions (for example, who can bring them a sock first) for prizes. 

In the jungle, playing ninja tag was a common after dinner game.  Finally, Heather and I spread the wonderful game to our friends here.  There we were, on the corner of Plaza de Armas, playing an intense game of ninja tag.  We had a little crowd watching us like we were crazy by the time we were done.  It was great.  We decided to use our ninja skills as we passed the clubs, too.  Outside of the clubs there are tons of people that will come to you and try to convince you (rather annoyingly) to go into their club even if you had no intention of going clubbing.  So as we passed the clubs and they tried to advertise their clubs, we just started ninja chopping and they immediately back off.  Good strategy, eh? :) Except one guy, from Inka Team, actually joined in the ninja chopping and since then Inka Team has been even more of my favorite place.

Houses in Cuzco don`t have heating like in the states, so to stay warm they have this pot with an empty tin can in it.  You pour rubbing alcohol in the can and light it so it heats up the room.  One of my first times using this I saw this little thing in the pot that I thought was a stick, so I decided to light the stick to throw in the alcohol so it would light.  The stick was apparently a firecracker (why on earth was it in the heater?) and went off in my hand.  Heather was almost asleep so I gave her a heart attack, but now that I look back it was really funny:)

They don`t have public parks here, well at least not ones with grass.  We have started a tradition of playing sports every Sunday at a park near us.  We have to pay a sole to get in, but it is well worth it.  They have 2 soccer courts (they are cement courts), a basketball court (well, basketball hoops attached to the tops of the soccer goals), and room for little kids toys and a volleyball court.  It`s nowhere near to anything that would every be allowed to be public in the states, but it`s still fun to go and get some exercise.

 I have continued to take spanish lessons and I am glad to say I can finally see improvement.  I`m still awful, but I`m getting better :)

For Valentine`s Day, Heather, our roommates: Jiles (Julia) and Camille, and I decided to make cookies for our friends.  Sugar cookies and oatmeal, chocolate chip were on the menu.  So the day before Valentine`s Day we went shopping for supplies.  I saw a bag that said ¨Azucar de Caña¨, so of course I assumed that this was sugar from sugar cane.  When we got home and started making the cookie dough, Heather luckily tried the dough.  It tasted like pure salt.  The Azucar de Caña is apparently MSG.  Nice right?  So by that time it was too late to go back to the store and buy other sugar so we waited until the morning of V-Day.  We bought the right sugar and started to make the cookie dough again, but the cookies were just not tasting right.  We ended up adding tons more sugar and vanilla than the recipe called for, but we hoped that they would turn out okay.  When we were finally satisfied with the taste of the dough, we headed to the public oven... yes, that is right... a public oven.  Many Peruvians do not have an oven of their own and so take their things to the public oven to be cooked.  So, it is raining outside of course, and Heather, Jiles, and I are wondering the streets for a public oven because no one seems to be quite sure where this thing actually is.  After about 10 minutes of looking and protecting our dough from the rain we finally stumble upon the public oven.  First, we walked into this kind of sketchy courtyard, but were told to continue farther back.  So then we enter an even more sketchy courtyard, but see a bunch of people going into this dark door.  The invited us in and we enter this small room with a giant brick oven.  They had pans we could use so we asked for some.  The woman, who was very nice, gave us these long 1` by 4` pans.  We started to role our cookies into balls and put them on the dark, and kind of scary looking, pans.  We first put our oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in.  When the woman opened the little door to the oven to put our pan in we saw tons of other things being cooked in the oven, too.  And to our surprise, she put them right next to all the meat that was being cooked, including a cuy (guinea pig).  So we watched as our cookies started baking next to the meat.  We continued to roll our sugar cookies as we waited for our others ones to cook.  Apparently, the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies were too wet to cook in the public oven because they all mushed together into one giant cookie.   We already felt like failures and were afraid our sugar cookies wouldn`t turn out either, but we had no choice but to put them in the oven.  It`s actually pretty cool because the lady had this huge spatula that was twice my height to get the food in and out of the oven.  It took awhile to cook all our cookies, so we hung out in the public oven, which we decided would be a good name for a bar.  We stayed in the dark, dank area while it continued to rain outside.  There was a bird in the corner and old shoes on a string above us.  It was quite the awesome experience.  After, when we tried our cookies, they had a different smokey and sometimes meaty flavor too them.  But our friends said they liked them (I think they didn´t realize that they were supposed to be sweet).  One of our British friends, Janek, commented that it was a proper biscuit :)

I am now going to publish this even though it is nowhere near being complete, but I think I should get´r´done! 

Lots of love!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

So Many Adventures, So Little Time

It is now extremely late to write about these events, but I will try my best to make them as interesting as possible while sharing what these past months have been like. 

I will continue where I left off on the night of December 15th.  That night was a very special treat because Sheyla (one of the cooks from Taricaya) was meeting us for dinner because she was on vacation in Lima.  Heather, Andy & Jan (Heather`s parents), Chelan, and I were talking in our room when we got the call that our friends were down stairs.  ¨Friends?¨ I thought.  A strange way to put that one person was there.  So we went down stairs and our friend Yannik form Taricaya was there, too!  He was flying out of Lima the next day and was staying with Sheyla for the night.  So we all went out for dinner.  It was so great seeing them and was really hard to say goodbye again.  I care for everyone I volunteered with at Taricaya so much. 

After dinner, Rodrigo (my Peruvian friend from Wenatchee) and his cousin, Alfredo, drove us around.  They drove us to Barranco and we wandered around.  There was this brilliant view point over looking the ocean and the lit up cross made from blown up phone towers.  The Shining Path terrorist group blew up a bunch of phone towers.  The cross, which is lit up at night and can be seen for miles, is a memorial to the people who died in the attacks. 

December 16th
That morning we were able to visit Chelan`s host family at their house.  They own a laundry place and had a really nice house.  They were also super kind and bought various fruits for us to try, some I had never seen before.  From there we walked along the cliffs of Lima right by the sea.  It was gorgeous.  While we were walking we came across this mall and wandered through it.  Heather was about to take my picture when she stopped and asked ¨Is that James???¨  James is a guy that owns half of Amazon Planet (a place near Taricaya) and had left a month earlier to do business in Lima.  We were looking at him from a story above.  We weren`t sure it was him, but recognized his girlfriend, too.  So we started yelling ¨James!!!¨ and he turned around and it was him!  We couldn`t believe it:)  We got so excited and happy and ran down to see him.  We introduced Heather`s parents and sat down at the bar with him to talk.  There`s 8 million peopole in Lima and we couldn`t believe that we saw James without planning it.  It was a crazy feeling. 

December 17th
That morning Heather`s parents left to start their own trip.  Therefore, Heather and I moved to a hostel called Friend`s House.  It was basic, but very nice and good for the price.  20 soles per night in a dorm room for internet, breakfast, amd a small change purse.  I`d definitely recommend it.  When we were settled in, Heather and I decided to walk around and go to Huaca Pucllana.  Huaca Pucllana was really cool and in such a random place because it`s in the middle of Lima.  They are ruins from the Lima culture.  It has survived all the earthquakes because they built the walls in a trapezoid shape.  There was even original foot prints and hand prints in the clay.  It was pretty cool.  When that was over we headed to this huge Indian market and shopped around a bit.  I bought a peruvian soccer jersey, which I`m super happy about:).

That night we hung out with Rodrigo and went to T.G.I. Friday`s for dinner.  Oh. My. God. It was SO GOOD!  I`m pretty sure it is the closest thing I`ll get to a REd Robin burger.  Heather and I shared a chicken, bacon burger and nachos.  Well,  their version of nachos haha.  It was seriously 12 chips.  It wasn`t the massive pile of goodness I am used to, but it was good.  It was the most American meal I had had in 3 months.  Once dinner was over we headed to a theater to watch Harry Potter.  The theater was really nice and the movie was in English with Spanish subtitles... which was definitely necessary haha. 

December 18th
Heather and I visited the Museo de la Nacion and Museo Larco.  Both museums were fascinating, but Heather and I quickly realized there is only so many museums we can handle a day.  Museo Larco is famous for it`s collection of erotic pots.  Señor Larco had done a lot of research about old cultures´ opinion of sex and how they represented it through art.  It was actually quite interesting. 

December 19th
That morning Heather and I traveled to Pisco and Paracas, but not without the help of Alfredo and his mother.  They were so kind in helping us and took Heather and I to the bus terminal and got us our tickets.  We are eternally greatful for their help.  Heather and I got on the bus, but then she needed to go to the bathroom so asked the bus driver if she had time.  He said yes, but as soon as she got in the building started the bus up.  I wasn`t worried until he started pulling out.  I yelled for him to wait and he said he was... even though the bus was still moving slowly toward the exit.  Finally, I saw Heather run out of the building.  She looked around for a bit slightly confused before she sprinted to the bus and ran in front of it haha.  It was a great start to the day :)

Our plan was to stay in Pisco that day, but instead we went to Paracas by recommendation of our taxi driver.  Pisco is still run down from the last earthquake that hit Peru.  Paracas is a small little beach town.  Our hostel we stayed at was a block away from the inviting ocean.  Of course, Heather and I had to get in.  I was sad to see there were no big waves though.  I`ve never serfed, but I love waves!  They are so fun to play in.  At our hostel Heather and I befriended an Italian who was SO Italian haha hand motions and all.  He was a very cool guy.  That night our hostel had a little musical entertainment.  Some French people staying there had brought a guitar and we stayed up late talking, singing, and hanging out.  It was a great night.

December 20th
That morning we headed to Ica/Huacachina.  On the bus we met this Canadian girl named Kelly.  When we got off the bus she asked if she could share a taxi with us.  We of course said yes and got to talking and we all got along really well.  So we headed to Huacachina and all stayed in a hostel recommended by the Italian guy the night before.  The hostel was awesome!  It had a pool and let us use their kitchen for 20 soles per night.  The staff was really friendly as well.  That afternoon we decided to go wine tasting in Ica.  It was my first wine tasting experience (don`t worry I`m legal here) and it was super fun.  We got a tour of the winery and even got to sample some marmalade and chocolate.  That night, for dinner we decided we should go to the supermarket and make our meals.  We ended up buying stuff for sub sandwiches and eggs in the morning.  With all of us splitting the cost it ended up being 3 soles per meal!  That is a dollar per meal for delicious food.  We were proud of our purchases, which of course included mangos, too :)

December 21st
Huacachina is an amazing town!  It is a small tourist town surrounding a lagoon and is surrounded by high sand dunes.  That morning we went on a hike up one.  It was so hard because the sand just slips from right underneath you, but so worth it.  The view is amazing on top of any of the dunes.  After the hot hike, we of course had to dip ourselves in the lagoon (which supposedly has healing properties).  In the afternoon, Heather, Kelly, a very nice Columbian couple, and I went dune bugging and sand boarding.  Holy man! It was so fun!  The dune bugging was like a roller coaster.  Sand boarding turned into sand sledding on our stomachs because it`s safer for the non experienced.  It was still intense.  We went down these huge, steep dunes that seemed to go on forever.  On the sand board even the slightest bump in the sand made us hurt.  Even footprints in our path were a nuisance.  It was a blast though and I`d definitely return to Huacachina in a heartbeat.

December 22nd
Because we were planning on leaving Huacachina that day, Kelly, Heather, and I decided to go on a 4 in the morning hike up the biggest sand dune close to us to see the sunrise.  We got up to the top a little too early, but it was still fun talking and watching the city come alive.  A group of asains came up about an hour after us and were meditating on top of the dune... intense.  It was sadly cloudy that morning so we couldn`t see the sunrise, but it was still beautiful.  And it was insanely fun running down the huge sand dune.  We were accompanied by a stray dog that liked to run down the dune whenever we did. 

After that Kelly, Heather, and I headed to Nazca to see the Nazca lines from the mirador.  We didn`t want to pay a lot to see them from the air, plus we were warned not to because it can be dangerous.  We also saw the Maria Reiche Planetarium, which was really interesting.  There are a lot of theories why the Nazca lines are there and the planetarium explained a lot of them.  Throughout the day we ran into people we had seen before.  One was a girl we saw in Paracas and another was an Asain couple that we ran into many times throughout our trip.  That night we stayed at the Walk On Inn.  It was a great place that offered an amazing buffet breakfast that wasn`t just bread, jam, and butter, which is what most places offer. 

December 23rd
We visited a museum that morning.  The problem was it was all in spanish and we had a hand held translation so we all lost interest rather quickly.  We hung out the rest of the day and had some piscos that were delicious.  We had an overnight bus to Arequipa that night.  The bus ride ended up being a 12 hour bus ride because there was a car accident where a semi tipped over.  The semi was carrying tons of CDs and the local people were scavenging the accident.  I have never seen anything like it. 

December 24th
When we got to Arequipa it was sadly time for Kelly to continue on her trip and split away from Heather and me.  So the rest of the day Heather and I went and explored Arequipa a bit.  It`s a beautiful city.  On the way back from exploring we ran into Andy (Heather`s dad) and made plans for our Christmas Eve dinner.  We ate at the restaurant at the hostel we were staying at.  It was nice and peaceful.

December 25th
On Christmas I was blessed to talk to my family for a long time.  I missed them a lot (and still do), but it was great to have the Dappen family to spend time with through the holidays.  Some family time is always needed during the holidays, even if it`s an adopted family:)  There was a sort of parade in the plaza that day.  Andy, Heather, and I were walking and then stopped to watch it.  Next thing we knew Heather was grabbed by one of the parade dancers and she joined them in their dancing.  She tried to kind of ease her way back to us, but she was blocked until that section passed.  I got of a video of the whole thing and it`s pretty funny. 

December 26th
We decided to experience something cultural that day and attend a bull fight in the outskirts of Arequipa.  It`s different than the Spanish bull fights.  Here, it`s bull vs. bull and no bulls die.  It`s whenever a bull turns it`s back from the other and runs away that the fight is finished.  Tons of people came to the arena to drink, socialize, and watch multiple rounds of bull fights.  It was a little slow for me, as there were 15 to 30 minute breaks between each fight and sometimes the fight was over in as little as 3 minutes.  Also, sometimes the bulls were just standing there and not fighting.  In these cases I imagined the bulls saying to each other ¨We shouldn`t fight, it`s a bad thing so we`ll just stand here¨.  But eventually all the bulls would fight.  Sometimes the bulls would run close to the crowd in which people would run away and scream.  This was only when people decided to sit right on the dirt of the ring though. 

That same day we visited the Monasterio de Santa Catalina in Arequipa.  It`s a convent that is still used today, but has the old structures too so you can take a tour of it.  The convent that is still in use is seperate from the tourist part of the convent.  The way nuns used to live was INTENSE and slightly insane haha.  There was so much information I wish I had written down, but I didn`t at the time.  What I`m about to write might not be completely right as far as the time frame and numbers.  The nuns that entered the convent in colonial times were second daughters of rich families.  The first daughter was married to one of their father`s friends.  The second daughter had to become a nun.  The third daughter would take care of the parents.  And if there were more then 3 daughters the cycle would repeat... the fourth daughter would have to marry one of the father`s friends.  To be a nun, the family had to pay a huge amount... when it was converted to money today it cost $100,000.  U.S. dollars I believe.  And the daughter had no choice but to do it because if the daughter didn`t it was believed that the whole family would go to hell.  Heather and I didn`t like this because we are both the second daughters of our families... so would be forced to become nuns!  When the nuns were in the convent, they were not allowed to see their families or touch them.  So they would communicate with their families by being in a dark room (the families really couldn`t see them) and talking with them through two wood grates about a foot apart.  There was this turn table thing in the wall where the family could pass objects to give to their daughter.  Also, for the first period of being a nun, they had zero privacy.  The windows were kept open so people could check on the new nuns and make sure they were praying.  Once the period of being new was over (I think it was 4 years?) the nuns were asked if they really wanted to be nuns.  Of course they had to say yes or their family would be cast into hell.  If they did say no their families would disown them, too.  Oh, and they could only actually talk for 2 hours a day, the rest of the day they had to pray.  They did things like have barbed wire corsets they wore to get closer to god.  There was a lot of other crazy stuff.  Heather and I are very thankful that we live in this day and age and would not be forced to be a nun.  I should mention that now the convent does not practice all the same things they used to back then. 

For dinner that night we went to a place called Zig Zags.  I tried Alpaca and Ostrich.  Both were amazing!  I`m such a carnivore :)

December 27th
I decided to go on a walk about that day... and somehow I got a little lost haha The whole time I knew I was close to the Plaza de Armas, but I wasn`t sure how close and if I kept wandering I knew I`d get really lost.  So after wandering for awhile, and seeing some sketchy neighborhoods, I finally just asked someone and was only 3 blocks away from the Plaza. 

For dinner Heather and I got together with our friends the Batman (a staff member who studied bats at Taricaya and whose real name is Hugo) and the Rodent man (studied rodents at Taricaya and whose name is Ceasar).  It was great seeing them and catching up a little.  We went to this nice restaurant called Chicha.  I had some weird food haha.  I decided to be adventurous... a little too much.  I had this thing called pig leg salad that was pig but tasted like fish.  I definitely won`t repeat that meal. 

December 28th and 29th
Andy, Jan, Heather, and I decided to take a two day hike down the Colca Canyon.  It was BEAUTIFUL!  There are no words that can describe how amazing this place is.  I`ll try though... the Colca Canyon is a mix of Avatar, King Kong, and some movie in the desert.  Down one section it`d be super green and then the next it`s be like a desert and then the next would be green again.  I want to name my next animal Colca haha.  Our guide was awesome and had lived there most of his life.  Our guide let us try cactus pear on the way down.  There was also the plant they make aloe out of.  Wow, the aloe plant smells awful haha.  I couldn`t stand it.  There was this plant all along the trail that we find out was really scary, too.  If you break a branch then this white milky stuff comes out of the plant.  If you put that milky stuff on your skin, within twenty minutes you`ll have a blister.  The guides grandmother had gotten some of the milky stuff in her eye and she became blind. 
There are communties that live all within Colca Canyon.  I was having trouble getting up and down the mountain, but then these old ladies that had lived there for their whole lives would pass me carrying a load on their back.  They were so impressive. 
Once we climbed out of the Colca Canyon on the 29th we had a long road trip back to Arequipa.  On the way back though we stopped at a highest point on a mountain and there was SNOW!!!! It was nice to see and play in it for a little bit.  But that was enough for me because I dislike all things that make me cold... ice cream being an exception ;)

December 30th
Heather`s parents had to leave on the 30th and it was very hard to see my adopted parents go.  I am so thankful to them for including me in their holidays and allowing me to travel with their wonderful daughter.  I am so apperciative for all that they did for me and am so glad they came to visit us in Peru. 

December 31st
Heather and I headed to Puno that morning.  To celebrate the new years we made reservations at a restaurant that had some shows.  The food was classy and the shows were traditional Peruvian dances.  We also celebrated with some Peruvian traditions at the restaurant.  We made wishes on Coca leaves and I was blessed by this sort of shaman.  He dipped a plant in water and wiped it over me and then did it with another plant, too.  At midnight we ate 12 grapes and threw yellow confetti, which could be scene in the cities for weeks after.  After some dancing at the restaurant Heather and I went dancing at some discotecas.  It was really fun and we met some fun people.  We went to bed right as it was becoming midnight in Washington.

January 1st
To celebrate the new year Heather and I took a tour of Puno`s floating islands.  The floating islands are made of reeds.  The way the people lived was interesting.  Even their houses and beds were made out of the reeds.  We took a ride on a boat made out of reeds, which was good because if the natives don`t get business on the first day it`s supposed to be bad luck for the rest of the year.  Plus, Heather and I got to converse with this adorable little girl that tried to sing twinkle twinkle little star to us hehe. 
We also visited an island called Tequile on Lake Titicaca.  We ate lunch on the island and after lunch got to dance a native dance.  The island is interesting because the people wear certain things depending on their status on the island and their status in relationships.  The island is also run by a group of elders.  In order to marry someone you have to ask permission.  And once you are married you cannot get divorced.  There were some other interesting facts that I cannot remember right now. 
That night we headed to Cuzco.

January 2nd
Our bus didn`t take as long as we expected to get to Cuzco.  We arrived in Cuzco at 4 in the morning and we decided it was too early to go to the hostal and too dangerous to wander around looking for one.  So we decided to wait at the bus station.  Heather and I headed to this spot that was empty to settle in.  I was busy reading the guide book when Heather said ¨Vicki, we have to move now.¨ I looked up to see all these creepy guys starting to surround us in a not so casual way.  They wouldn`t even make eye contact with us.  We were right by a door so it would have been a perfect spot to grab and go for them.  As soon as I looked up we grabbed our bags and  headed for a safer place.  When we looked back at our old spot the men had already started going their own ways.  We were essentially almost mugged.  Thank goodness for Heather who was paying more attention then I was at our surroundings. 
We spent 3 hours at the bus station until we decided it was safe to try and find the hostal.  We got a taxi and he took us to a wrong street so we decided to go to a restaurant we really wanted to try called Jack`s.  It is popular with tourists because it has American tasting food.  Even though it was morning... I had to order nachos:)  Their nachos aren`t the nachos I`m used to, but they are good.  They are a huge heap of beans, wantons for chips, fritos (that was new), and guacamole.  They are delicious!
After that we headed to the Aldea Yanapay hostal.  The hostal helps fund the school.  There also is an Aldea Yanapay restaurant.  The restaurant also helps fund the school.  The after school program isn`t funded by the government at all.  Heather and I arrived a day early so had to stay at the hostal instead of at Haydee`s house.  Haydee is the director of the school`s mom.  The hostal is nice except it gets freezing at night, well same at the house I guess.  They have these little alcohol heaters that help keep the cold out. 

Now, I have lost track of dates so I will just summarize what my experience has been like at the school and Cuzco, well I can do that in one word I guess... CRAZY.  It was hard to go to school the first week because Heather was sick (we found out later it was parasites, which is not an uncommon thing here).  My spanish isn`t that good so it`s difficult to contribute in the classes.  I`m getting better and more familiar with the words I really need like sit down, calm down, give it to me, and all the other good commands for school in spanish haha.  I`ve worked at the school for 4 weeks now and the kids really grow on you and you can tell you grow on them, too.  When they first meet you some are hesitant to give you the kiss on the cheek and the ¨Hola, profe¨.  But as they get to know you and you walk into the door they come running up to you with a hug and a kiss.  The school has a structure, but it`s still hectic.  The kids come from bad family lives, whether it be being poor or violence in the home, so some have behavior problems.  All we can do is show them another way of living and give them all the love we can. 

The school day is structured like this: From 3 to 5 the kids are put into 4 different classrooms; art, tutoring, library, or games.  The kids get a break depending on the classroom they are put into.  They are in a different classroom everyday.  At 5 there is circle time, which is where the whole school (over 80 kids) get together in a circle and talk about a topic of the leader`s choosing.  The leader is the director, Yuri, or the assitant directors, Janek or Raquel.  We talk for about 20 minutes and the kids raising their hands and respecting each other is stressed throughout the circle.  After that the kids are split up into families for class.  There are 7 families.  Starting from the youngest it goes delfin, cielo, tigre, uvas, corazon, sol, and dinosaur.  The kids in the school range from age 3 to 14.  My first week I had sol, second and third week corazon, and last week I had dinosaurs.  Dinosaurs is definitely my favorite.  I love all the kids, but dinosaurs are the oldest so you can joke with them and be random.  It reminded me a little of coaching my middle school kids back at home.  I`m realizing it`s a good thing I want to be a high school or middle school teacher because I definitely like teaching older kids better. 

The school is fun, but it is very challenging.  The kids don`t respect you as much if you don`t speak spanish ( I call it the subsitute teacher syndrome,  they know they can take advantage of you).  There are times when I think ¨What the heck am I doing here?¨ But there are other times when I`m connecting with a kid by talking or playing with them and it`s completely awesome.  It`s so fun to see kids being creative and using their imagination.  Kids are a crack up. 

I started taking spanish classes, but I won`t be able to take that many because they are expensive.  I`m taking them at a place called Excel language school, which, I just discovered today, is right by a bakery with amazing churros:) yummmmmmm. 

Cuzco is definitely different than the jungle.  I miss the jungle a lot and am planning to go back there for at least two weeks before I head back home.  It really hit me how much I dislike cities when I was on a tour of some Incan ruins in the Sacred Valley and it felt so right to be surrounded by nature.  It might be also that Cuzco isn`t the safest place to be.  We`re safe, so don`t worry, but we really have to be smart and on our toes.  It gets dark here at around 7 and when it is dark you can`t walk alone.  There have been horror stories, even while I have been here, about volunteers getting mugged.  Heather and I are both careful and have enough common sense so I don`t want anyone to worry.  I miss home though where I can be out till 6am and not have a thought about danger in my head. 

Some fun things Heather and I have done while we have been here was go on horseback rides (I did two because Heather missed the first one because she was sick), visit Incan ruins, go to dance clubs (a highlight was acting out and singing Total Eclipse of the Heart on a table), and making new friends. 

The horseback riding was absolutely gorgeous.  People talk about the Sacred Valley, but no one has ever mentioned to me how gorgeous it is.  It is the rainy season right now so everything is so green.  I loved my horse, too.  His name was Inti (after the Incan sun god) and he had a quarky personality.  He didn`t like to be last so he`d go his own pace until one of the other horses sped up and then he`s speed up and cut them off haha I thought it was hilarious.  We got to run with our horses at times across the valley and it was an amazing feeling.  I loved it.  I wanted it to be like in Avatar and have my halu connect with Inti haha... wow, I am a nerd.  On both the horseback rides we visited an Incan ruin called Moray.  Moray was an experimental agricultural place for the Incas.  It has different levels because every level has a different temperature so they could grow different crops.

Heather and I have seen tons of Incan ruins (I can`t think of their names right now) within the past month because Cuzco has this thing called a tourist ticket, which only lasts ten days... basically it`s super annoying we had to crame everything in, but I`m glad we saw it.  We saw everything, but one museum on the tourist ticket so we definitely got our money`s worth. 

The dance clubs are great fun here.  I learned a little bit of Marangay in the jungle and now I`m learning more and more Salsa.  It`s SO FUN!!  There is my favorite place, called InkaTeam, which has salsa lessons from 9 to 11 every night.  There are also people that regularly go there so I have made friends with them.   

Oh, one random thing is that I love the game Bananagrams now.  The Aldea Yanapay restaurant has games to play there so that is the game Heather and I choose to play :)

We have met up with various friends including Kelly (mine and Heather`s travel partner for a bit from Canada), Elizabeth and Susanna from Taricaya, and hopefully more to come!  It was great seeing all of them and fun to reconnect.

I know I`m still behind, but now I need to go study spanish.  I`ll try to write again soon, but the internet at my house is not dependable so we`ll see what happens.  I miss all my friends and family and hope they are doing well. 

It`s a tad late, but Happy Birthday to my mom (January 20th) and Heather`s mom, Jan, (February 1).  If anyone who is reading this happens to see either of them give them a hug from me!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The last memories at Taricaya

Heather and I left Taricaya on December 14th and I already miss it like crazy.  I still have a lot to write about the last month or so at Taricaya that I haven´t written about.  So much has happened and I haven´t written about it in my journal yet so the order of which I´ll write about them will be off.

A week after Thanksgiving we visited Lake Valencia, a lake about 2 hours away.  We got the whole day off to go and hang out.  Our boat driver specialist, Gigo, took us through this creek in which we dodged branches and logs.  The branches of the trees would scrape the side of the boat and we would have to bend over in a rush to avoid getting smacked in the face by them.  I must admit, I got smacked in the head a couple times because I was distracted haha.  When we got to the lake we could immediately see the change in the water color.  The water was green, but only because of the reflection of all the trees surrounding it.  We saw the brown water of the creek be cosumed by this delicious looking water of the lake.  Gigo drove us a ways up the lake and then stopped the boat and said this was where we were swimming.  I thought he was joking because we were in the middle of the lake.  Apparently we couldn´t dock anywhere.  That didn´t matter to us with adventurous spirits though.  We jumped right on into the lake from the boat.  Oh, by the way, this lake contains giant otters and caiman... luckily we didn´t see though hehe.  One of the volunteers, Zack, snuck up on another, Lucy, and grabbed her leg and she started screaming bloody murder.  We for sure thought something had got her until Zack popped up right beside Lucy.  It´s terrifying to hear someone scream in the water when you can´t get to them to help them.  For lunch the staff had packed a traditional Peruvian meal.  The name escapes me right now, but it was rice, chicken, egg, and some vegetables wrapped in a banana leaf.  It was delicous!  They also made this extremely spicy salsa from onion that kind of kicked my butt haha.

When we were headed towards home, we stopped at a little village at the head of the lake.  It was extremely small, but we walked around a bit and took pics.  Every small village we´ve seen has a soccer field but this one had huge bulls on it!  We saw them and they seemed to be unteathered so we walked cautiously by them... and then got brave and got closer to take pictures haha.  We saw little farm animals, such as ducks and chickens, and a huge mango tree I´d love to have at home.  I could eat a mango every day for the rest of my life:)

A week or so later, we went to another village called Palmo Real for a celebration.  They are of the tribe Ese-Eja.  This village was a little bigger and had 300 people living in it.  We ate, played soccer, and joined in competitions of soccer and volleyball.  All the volunteers were playing soccer against each other and all these little kids joined us for the game.  They were really good and super cute.  The girl volunteers wanted to compete in the  soccer tournament later, but sadly we could only play volleyball.  It was still a blast though.  For those of you that don´t know, volleyball is a big deal in Peru.  For never having played, our team did really well.  Sandra, Nando´s (one of our directors) wife, coached us a bit and it was great fun.  We lost in the tournament, but we weren´t killed like we thought we´d be.  We gave a good fight:)

Now, back to adventures at Taricaya.  Cockroaches have a strange way of getting into the wrong places.  I have mentioned that they would be in our room constantly at night, but one night, while we were in the kitchen, one of the volunteers started yelling and taking his pants off.  A cockroach had crawled up his pants!  It was a good laugh, but he kept saying how he felt so violated.  I definitely am glad that didn´t happen to me hehe.

One day, while we were collecting old leaves from the tapir cage for the compost, Heather and I had a true rodeo experience.  The tapirs have never been agressive and have always seemed pretty harmless.  They would go up to you sometimes and you could pet their plump body and touch their long, overactive nose.  However, we believe that the female tapir might be pregnant now and so the male tapir is getting defensive of her.  Heather and I were picking up the old leaves with not a care in the world, but then Heather bent over to pick a bunch up and we heard heavy running and bushes breaking because of the powerful body of the tapir.  The tapir was charging at Heather.  I yelled her name and she stood up.  The tapir stopped short in front of her and then started biting her leg (they don´t have a hard bite).  He went away then so I went over by her and we started picking up leaves again.  But then we heard the intense running again and the tapir was headed straight for us.  I have never jumped over a fence faster!  I just grabbed the other side and flung myself over as quick as possible.  Heather did the same.  It was a true jungle rodeo!

An activity that Heather and I were able to do was go on a frog hunt.  Frog hunts take place at night.  All the volunteers are split up into teams and go in different sections of Taricaya to collect frogs.  Heather and I were with the frog master, Daniel.  We hiked to many spots looking for frogs, and I was always cautious for snakes because of our ferdalance experience.  We saw and heard the frogs, but only caught one.  We got back and joined with the other teams in the lab to identitfy the frogs and take pictures.  Some were so cute, while others looked like squished piles of pooh.  It´s all in the name of camoflage I guess.

In our last times at Taricaya, there was a lot of mud fighting happening.  I, of course, didn´t mind it at all:)  We had a mud fight on the bank, in the creek, and on our last day on the soccer field at Amazon Planet.  The mud on the creek is the best because it is so slimey and gooey that it becomes a mud slide right into the creek.  I slid in like a caiman many times hehe.  Well, after being thrown down there by Gigo of course.  It was like a horror movie:  I was already muddy, but he was dragging me across the field to the creek.  I was trying to grab on the grass to hold on to something, but to no avail.  He just kept dragging me closer and closer to the creek.  Finally, I gave up trying and he picked me up and we both slid into the creek hehe.  On the soccer field at Amazon Planet it was quite perfect.  We had about 16 people playing handball/rugby/no rules just get the ball in the goal game.  It was storming and raining all around us.  We were covered in dirt and mud and were tackling each other to get the precious soccer ball.  I couldn´t have asked for a more perfect last mud experience at Taricaya.

What I don´t think I have mentioned is No Shave November.  At home, usually only the guys do this...well, at least publicly haha.  They don´t shave their facial hair for the whole month of November.  So what other perfect time to do this then when you are in the jungle and no one cares what you look like anyways.  Therefore, Heather and I preached the value of No Shave November and tried to convince everyone to do it with us.  We succeeded in convincing 5 other volunteers to do it, 4 of them were guys though.  At the end of November we have some hilarious pictures of us posing with our hairy armpits, legs, and for the guys mustaches.  One german volunteer was so disgusted by mine and Heather´s long hair on our legs and armpits that he wouldn´t hug us until we shaved hahahaha.  It was truly disgusting, but I´m glad I did it.  I do prefer my shaved legs and armpits though;)

At the beginning of December, Heather and I had the honor of welcoming Tjos to Taricaya.  It was great having him there and showing him the little sliver of our experience there.  We are greatful to him for making the effort to come visit us and hope he loved it at Taricaya as much as we did.

On our last day at Taricaya a very sad thing happened.  Sid, our beloved otter who we had just swam with a few days before, was found dead with a whole in his shoulder.  I am not saying I´m glad he´s dead at all, but I was able to help with the autoposy and it was fascinating.  Sid will be missed though.  Love you Sidders.

Two new activities were added  the last week we were at Taricaya; Bats and Rodents.  Rodents was hard work because Tjos,  Heather, and I had to help build the traps to catch them.  The traps are this long piece of tarp perpendicular to the ground with buckets places in the ground at intervals.  What happens is animals reach the tarp, cannot pass underneath it, so travels to the side of it until they drop into the bucket that is in the ground.  We check the traps everyday to see if any animals are inside that we can identify.  The bat activity was a late night activity running from 5:30pm to about 1:30am.  We set up 7 mist nets to catch them and would hike to them multiple times to see if we caught any.  If we leave the bats in the mist nets they could die.  It was exciting to see these creatures of the night.  If Hugo, the Batman hehe, already new what species it was we´d release them.  This was a magical experience.  You´d hold their wings by their strong bones and throw them up into the air to watch them fly away.  Heather had an epic releasing pose hehe.  If Hugo didn´t know what species it was, then we´d put them in material bags and take them back to the lab to identify them.  A couple years before, Hugo found a new species to the bat world at Taricaya.  He still needs to find more specimens to prove it is a new species, but that is super exciting!  That night, we saw a bunch of bats that were pregnant, too.  We could feel the babies inside of them!

The last month I was at Taricaya I got brave enough to drive the boat a couple of times.  And I didn´t do too bad! haha.  I might have killed the motor once... but we got to shore safely;)

I am never a fan of creepy crawly things... especially ones that look as freaky as caterpillars in the jungle.  We had a caterpillar activity that I hoped I would never get because the caterpillars wiggle and search with their weird head to eat food.  They also have spikes on their back.  It was okay though because I finally faced my fear of them!  I did the activity probably 3 times and I never freaked out.  I´m glad I faced my fear of the caterpillars. 

Heather and I have been traveling around since we left Taricaya December 14th.  Our first stop was Lima.  Lima is one of my favorite cities!  Of course, we were in the really touristy part of it and I didn´t experience the whole thing.  Lima gets a lot of bad rep though and I don´t see why.  I loved it.  We also saw tons of people in Lima.  The first day we got there, Heather and I took our time in the hostel and finally decided to explore a bit.  Our first stop was Park Kennedy for our dear friend Zack Kennedy who said we had to go there.  Within the first 10 minutes, we met this group of 4 Americans and a woman from Dubai that we befriended.  We spent a good 4 hours just hanging out and getting to know these amazing people.  They were volunteering in Lima for about a week.  One of the volunteers was traveling the world with his 72 year old grandma!  It was an inspiring story.  The woman from Dubai is a famous fashion designer there.  Her story was also really inspiring.  Everyone was so kind and outgoing.  We danced a little bit at the place we were getting dinner before they had to head to a movie they bought tickets for.  After that, we were able to hang out with my good friend Rodrigo who just happened to be in Lima for the same days we were.  Rodrigo grew up in Lima and so knows the ropes:)  It was great hanging out with him and he and his cousin showed Heather and I endless amounts of kindness.  Later that night , Heather´s parents, Andy and Jan, flew in to join us for a few days.  It was great to hang out with the Dappen family and they welcomed me with open arms.  I am eternally grateful to them.  I can´t wait to see them tomorrow when we head to Arequipa. 

Now that I actually remember the dates... I´ll start using the past couple of days.

Monday, December 15th
Monday morning we had the great opportunity to see one of our other friends from Wenatchee in Lima!  Chelan is on an exchange in Lima so we got together with her and toured some things.  We started at the Plaza de Armas (if I haven´t mentioned this before, every city has a Plaza de Armas) where the President lives, La Catedral de Lima is, and where the Monestereo de San Francisco is.  Ew, that was a really badly put sentence haha oh well.  We went to the Catedral de Lima first.  That is where Francisco Pizarro´s body is... well, bones now.  The Catedral was beautiful and very interesting.  The tour was great.  We learned about Saint Rose, which is honored throughout Lima.  She did intense things though like hang herself by her hair so she wouldn´t sleep and could pray more... maybe I should do that to study.  We also strangely saw and read stuff about Saint Francis of Assisi.  Assisi is a town and church that Heather and I visited in Italy.  That was one of our favorite towns!  This world is too small haha.

To break up the monotamy of museums, we went to a market with tons of Peruvian souveniers.  I love their multicolored things!  I wanted everything, but alas had to save my money for the long year ahead.

Next, we went to the Monestary of Saint Francisco.  It was a lot of repeat of the same information from the Catedral de Lima, but the Monestary had bone lined catacombs underneath it!  It was crazy seeing all these bones that came from people.  Even the paths we walked on were tombs.  The bones were not found how they were placed, they were placed as a display.  They had so many bones because they would reuse the same tombs for the common people.  They would put three bodies in at a time and cover it with certain chemicals and lime to not allow the odor to spread.  The chemicals would make the bodies decompose faster so they could reuse the same tomb.  There is more to be found in the catacombs, but it is now too dangerous to dig. 

For lunch we ate at the Lima equivalent of McDonalds; Bembos.  I gladly ordered a bacon burger.  It was the first time I had bacon in 3 months!  It wasn´t as good as the stuff at home, but was very pleasing to my tastebuds.

I´m not finished with Monday, but I sadly have to go for now.  I´ll write again soon:) Love you all!