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.  SeƱor 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!