Friday, May 6, 2011

26th-30th Day Adventures

Sorry I lost track of blog posts in Peru so I'll sum up the end of my trip. From Ollantaytambo we boarded a train to Aguas Calientes, the city around Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu was breathtaking. We were lucky that the sun came out and the clouds went away so we got to see the whole thing with nothing obstructing our view. We toured it for a few hours and there were so. Many. Stairs. I was dead by the time I left. The rest of our trip after that was spent in Cusco. Cecilia, Katie, and I had our big spa day that was the greatest day ever. I went to my first discoteca and had a great time!
On Saturday, everyone took a plane home but I didn't leave til the next day. All of their flights were around midnight. I was in my hotel, which was at the airport, at around 11 pm when I heard sirens and screaming. I look outside and I see more than 200 people running out of the airport. I was so scared! I tried calling the front desk but that didn't work. I tried calling Juan but that didn't work either. I didn't know Cecilia, Katie or Luke's phone numbers and I had no way of making sure they were ok. I ran down to the front desk to ask what happened. Miley Cyrus arrived...

25th Day Adventures

The grand opening of the library was today. We packed up our stuff and pulled down the tents then made our way over to the school around lunch time. For about 30 minutes we taught the kids English and played games with them. Then, it was time to feast. The villagers prepared us a huge meal of guinea pig, potatoes, vegetables, and chicken in about 7 different dishes. The guinea pig looked gross but I decided to actually give it a chance when I tried it. It tasted nothing at all like chicken and was not good.
After our incredibly long meal, we inaugurated the library. A bunch of different people made speeches in Spanish and then Nisty gave a short speech in English, thanking the villagers for allowing us to be there. The five of us kids then each put our hand on a hammer and together we smashed a clay pot hanging in the doorway. To all of our surprise it was filled with corn beer, chicha, and went all over us.
The beers were then brought and we served one beer to each adult in the village. After everyone had had their fill they started to dance. Shortly after that we had to leave and go to Ollantaytambo. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone and the kids.

24th Day Adventures

Today we finished up the roof to complete the building. I helped carry shingles down the hill to the school and hand them up to the people on the roof. There wasn't much to do except throw mud at the walls and throw clogs of dirt at the ground. It didn't take long til it was totally finished. Nothing else interesting really happened today.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

23rd Day Adventures

Juan and I went on a hike this morning before going to the school. It was basically just a scenic route around the village to the school. Since the structure of the library had been completed, we had to start on the roof today. The truck that brought the roofing materials got stuck, like every other car we've been in on this trip. After we unloaded all the logs, bamboo, and shingles we got to work. At each joint in the bamboo were fibers that needed to be removed. We worked on that til lunchtime. A very tedious activity that took no effort, just a really long time. About 8 little kids helped us and we gave them an apple, granadia, and 2 sublime chocolate bars.
After lunch, everyone was either sleeping or watching a movie so I was the only one to go work on the library. I finished up peeling the bamboo with the help of some kids, then brought it over to the structure. While working, one of the little boys taught me to count in Quechua. After I'd done all I could, I sat and watched the locals make the roof until tea time. At tea time we had fried wontons filled with cheese. The 5 of us sat in the dining tent until dinner. Juan and Alan still hadn't come back so we began without them. Turns out one of the families prepared them a huge meal of cuy. We all got what we wanted for dinner: fettucini Alfredo. It was so delicious. It was another early night for me.

22nd Day Adventures

Good Friday. Our day off. We took a van into Ollantaytambo to have lunch with Alan's family. They prepared a traditional Easter meal, 8 courses! 3 different kinds of soup, corn, potato, and seafood. Then we had rice with seafood, ceviche, and trout. There were 2 desserts: a peach and rice pudding with chicha morado, a purple corn drink. It was all fabulous. Juan and Alan stayed with the family afterwards and we went and walked around the city plaza.
Alan's family also generously let us use 3 room in their hotel for the day to shower and rest. There was also wifi there! When we took the van home, it was already dark. We hiked our way back to our campsite and picked up firewood on the way. After a dinner of soup, chicken curry, and flan, we made a campfire. Finding stick out here was really hard but we managed to roast marshmallows and make s'mores.

Friday, April 22, 2011

21st Day Adventures

We woke up earlier to the drinks and hot tubs of water this morning. Katie and I woke up with the same thing Cecilia had and she was still sick too. Juan made me drink a whole cup of muña. Eew. The three of us stayed at the camp and slept while everyone else went to work. We all woke up at the same time because being in sleeping bags became unbearable. It's shorts and tank top weather during the day but long underwear weather at night. I rested in the tent with the door open after that while Katie and Cecilia fell asleep outside getting their tan on. They woke up to some of the kids from school poking them in the ears with grass. The kids came to beg for food. We gave them some granola bars and they went away. The children here are so malnourished.
After lunch, some of the kids came back. Cecilia and Katie were sleeping again so I went outside to play with them. It was an 11 year old girl with her younger brother and sister. They sang for me and asked me a million questions. I asked about school and the girl said it was good but she had no pencil to write with so I gave her pens. She said she had no shampoo to wash her hair with so I gave her mine. I also gave them some socks and a water bottle full of water and a little more food. They were so happy and grateful. Then, they just wanted to play and take pictures with my camera. The kids here aren't greedy about pictures like kids in high tourism areas, they just want to look at the pictures afterwards and laugh. They don't ask for any money.
They left. We all rested. At dinner, everyone felt at least a little better.

20th Day Adventures

We woke up at 8 to tubs of hot water outside our tents for washing our faces. Then, the chefs came around with tea, hot chocolate and coffee. They then prepared a nice breakfast of fruit salad with apple, papaya, banana, pear and pineapple. We walked to the school around 10 and went into the classroom of the first and second graders. They were so excited to see us! They had prepared a song which they performed. I just wish I knew what they were saying. We then went outside to the side of the school where the library was already in progress. The villagers had laid out the foundation, basically just marked the area with rocks. In the middle was tons and tons of mud. All around the school lay 1,100 adobe bricks. We jumped right in the mud to mix it up. It was to be used for mortar in between the bricks. Cecilia left soon after we started because of stomach problems and she cut her foot on a rock.
I took a break from the mud to help carry adobe bricks. They weighed 30lbs each. So heavy and they hurt your hands to carry. We went on this way, carrying bricks, mixing mud, or putting the mud on the structure so someone could lay the next brick. Around 11, the kids got a break to eat lunch. The government gives them milk and a piece of potato bread. We sat around with our snacks as they ate lunch. They were so curious about us. They kept asking about our parents and pets and commenting on how white we are. It seemed like a lot of the younger ones had never seen white people. They quickly started up a game of soccer when they were finished eating. Nisty and I joined their teams but the game was harder than I expected. The field had knee deep grass and there were rocks scattered around so you had to watch out, especially when barefoot. It ended with the score 1-1.
After the game, it was back to work until our lunch. We had tortillas with bologna, guacamole, cucumbers, and homemade queso (so strong). We all got big surprise when we saw Lucas walking into our campsite. His plane tickets got messed up and he decided to come find us. It's a miracle that he did because we are literally in the middle of nowhere. We rested for a bit after the lunch before walking back to the school. We got back just as the kids were getting out of school. The villagers who were helping us became more talkative. They constantly made fun of the way we spoke Spanish or the way we used a pick axe or shovel. In a loving way, I think. By the end of the day, we successfully completed 8 levels of adobe!
When we got back to the campsite we had tea time. A tub of popcorn and a plate of the most delicious crackers (my new obsession) were waiting for us along with tea, coffee and hot chocolate. We stayed at the table and played cards til dinner.
Just before dinner, a shaman came into our dining tent. He was making an offering to the Andean gods for the success of our building. The offering consisted of llama fat, an alpaca fetus, confetti, animal crackers, a catholic cross, gold and silver, fake money, garbonzo beans, a star fish, shells, sugar, rice, threads, candies, and a treat that the five of us call fagals. He laid everything out in it's proper place and blessed it. He then left us. He and a few others would travel 2 hours to the top of the mountain at midnight to burn the offering. They do it at the top of the mountains because they believe they are closer to the gods. If the fire is big and burns for a long time, Pachamama accepts the offering. If it is a low, quick fire, Pachamama does not accept it. We then had a quick dinner of soup and chicken curry. I was the first to fall asleep.

19th Day Adventures

Today was kind of a lazy day. We had no set schedule so we slept in and had a late breakfast. I had my last good shower before camping (sorry Mom and Dad some of my dreads would not come out). Then, we all walked around town with our new guide, Alan. Until lunch, he walked us around to famous sites and talked about the history. We stopped at a horrible little restaurant for lunch and Luke broke some bad news to us. Today was his last day with us. His grandmother had gotten really sick and his parents wanted him to go home. It definitely put a damper on our day. After lunch, we went to the markets in the plaza to buy gifts. Cecilia, Nisty, and I chipped in to buy a traditional mask thing for him and he loved it.
We walked back to the hotel and the van was waiting there to take us to our next destination. Our bags were put in the car and we all said goodbye to Luke. We started the drive to Kamicancha but stopped about an hour and a half in, in the town of Ollantaytambo. This was Alan's hometown. We had pizza in his restaurant and stocked up on water and snacks before boarding the van again. It took another 2 very bumpy hours to reach our small village. Tourism doesn't exist here. The van stopped at the end of the road and we all got out. About 50 kids came running around the corner. They were all smiling and laughing. We they handed each of us a bunch of flowers and threw confetti on our heads. We took pictures and before we could help, they all went to the back of the van to grab our bags. It was so cute and sweet. We walked about 25 minutes to our campsite which is right behind their school. The kids were so excited to show us their school.
By the time they dropped off our bags it was already dark so they left us to go home. There were 5 yellow tents in the field and 2 bigger ones a little higher up. Katie and I are sharing a tent so the first thing we did was settle in. There's barely enough room for us and our bags. Juan called us out to look the stars. It was amazing. Plus the moon was almost full so the whole valley was lit up and the glacier seemed to glow. We walked up to the food tents. Our cooks were preparing vegetable soup, trout, and potatoes for dinner. In the other tent, there was a table with 6 chairs around it and a candle on top. The cooks served us dinner, which was delicious. For dessert, they fried bananas in rum for us. After dinner, we got ready for bed and passed out.

18th Day Adventures

We all woke up really early to catch the 8 o clock bus from Puno to Cuzco. It took 7 hours. Bleh. They never served us lunch on the bus even though we arrived to Cuzco at 3. At the bus station I was so hungry I bought a bag of Dorito's chips which was a huge mistake. I got sick a few hours later because I'm not used to processed foods anymore. All I've been eating is veggies, fish and the occasional chicken. I felt horrible so I took a nice, long nap. When I woke up, all the girls were getting ready to go out. They were going to dinner and then to a discoteca but I was feeling too sick to go. Juan got me some Chinese food from the next block and then they all left to go out. The rest of my night was spent on the Internet and sleeping.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

17th Day Adventures

Today was travel day again. We slept in, shopped in the co-op for a bit, then began the treacherous hike down to the port on the other side of the island. I don't know what was worse, going up or going down. There were over 500 stairs to reach the other port and they were basically just rocks thrown wherever. Walking down them was so hard because of the steepness and the fact that the rocks were so uneven and most of them were too far apart. We stocked up on snacks at the port and paid a sol to use the bathroom. The people from the hostel prepared a trout lunch for us with oka, corn, hard boiled eggs, steamed veggies, rice and potatoes. They brought it all the way across the island and served us lunch on the top of the boat. We were definitely spoiled.
The 3 hour boat ride to Puno went by really fast and before I knew it we were getting off the boat. Everyone's jaws dropped when we arrived at the hotel. There were men in suits holding the doors for us. It was so nice and the rooms were incredible. We sat in the hotel for a few hours enjoying electricity and Internet. Then, we went to a restaurant called Incabar for dinner. Most everyone got some form of pasta. It was pretty good but the noodles in Peru just don't taste the same. I also got water, with ice! Ice doesn't exist in Peru and I was so happy to have ice water! After dinner we went to a cool bar called Rock and Reggae. It was a super fun place cause they had great music and everything was black lighting. We got back to the hotel and got back on the Internet before going to sleep.

16th Day Adventures

Our service task for today wasn't nearly as easy. There was a 3rd classroom at the school which was used for the 4 year old class. The wood hadn't been painted in the first place like the other two rooms but instead had an oil poured on it that was pretty toxic to the kids. We spent all day with wooden block and pieces of sandpaper sanding the floor. The results you could see were amazing. At first we were on our hands and knees scrubbing with our hands. After a few hours of that we figured out a way to get it done faster and more efficiently. We put the sandpaper on our feet and scrapped the floor that way.
Sanding took up our whole day so besides that we rested, had dinner and then played cards for a few more hours.

15th Day Adventures

Our service of Taquile began this morning. Before going to the school, we explored the co-op. Everyone in Taquile is an expert weaver or knitter. They are allowed to submit 8 items each into the co-op for them to be sold. It's a little more expensive but you can't find better quality anywhere in Peru. Everything is made from sheep's wool and there are sheep all over the small island.
We trekked 20 minutes to the school on another path that goes up and down at steep angles. First we started off by clearing out the 2 classrooms of all their stuff. Then we got down on our hands and knees and scrubbed the floor clean with rags. That took up the whole morning and part of the afternoon so we went back to the hostel for lunch to let the water dry in the rooms.
When we arrived back at the school, the rooms were ready to paint. Kike, Cecilia, Juan and I took the big room while the other 3 took the little room. It took hours to paint. Our brushes weren't the biggest so it took a good while. When we were finally done, everything looked great!
We went back to the hostel for dinner and played cards for a few hours.

14th Day Adventures

Our families walked us all down to the port in the morning and it was time to say goodbye. We boarded a little tourist boat and rode for about an hour out to the Uros floating islands. Only a limited amount of people per year are allowed on the islands because of the damage that can be caused. The island we went to was home to 4 families. It was so little and I don't know how they could live like that. We learned all about how the islands were made and how their houses were made. The reed the island and houses are made of is also edible and tastes like celery. Then, one of the guys who lives on the island rowed us over to a neighbor island on a small boat shaped like a puma (Lake Titicaca means puma stone). The next island was slightly bigger and there was a solar panel on it.
We boarded to boat again and rode another hour and a half to the island of Taquile. We had to make a 35 minute hike with all our luggage up the steepest, rockiest slope ever. It was so much worse because of the altitude. We got to our hostel and were in for. A big surprise: no electricity. Each room had 2 candles for lighting. The hostel had a great view of the lake and served good food. We explored around the plaza but it was too late for anything to be open.

13th Day Adventures

We decided to do one roof a day, and today my family's roof was chosen. Nisty was getting sick too and I wasn't feeling any better so we stayed in bed. This roof was a lot steeper and bigger so Juan went up first. He began to paint the roof above where me and Nisty were resting when we heard a big crack of metal. Juan had a dented the roof all the way across. He gave the family the money necessary for the repairs. It was decided that we should abort the project because it was costing the family more than the good it was doing and because it was quite dangerous to have kids climbing on roofs with the risk of falling off. We were supposed to start the project that was to be finished by other kids this summer. The project was decided by the village president so Juan called a meeting with him and the other villagers tonight to explain why we are not going through with this and to ask them for suggestions for another project for the community.
Nisty and I were given a big thermos of muña tea to drink. It's awful. Santusa also boiled eucalyptus water for us to breath in the vapors. The vapor therapy really helped open us up and get a lot of the junk out of our sinuses.
After Nisty and I had laid in bed all day long, Santusa came into our room with a huge sack of clothes. There was a party going on tonight and we were all getting dressed up in the traditional clothes of Luquina Chico. Nisty was still pretty sick so she decided not to go. Santusa put 5 thick, wool skirts on me that were all neon colors. Then an embroidered black jacket and a handwoven belt the width of both my hands. She finished my outfit off with a white sash and a funny hat. All of the women in the village have their hair in 2 braids so that's how my host mother did mine. We all met at the school/recreation center and 6 of the elders from the village demonstrated the 3 dances we would do. It was so much fun but so tiring because you were constantly moving and at a very high altitude. After we finished dancing, a few of the local children showed us their moves.
I stayed after at the school with Juan and Kike for a town meeting. Juan told the community members that it wasn't feasible to paint the roofs because they were being damaged. It was decided that rustic pathways would instead plaster the outside of the adobe houses this summer.

Monday, April 18, 2011

12th Day Adventures

This morning our family cooked us an omelet with onions in it and a side of quinoa. From breakfast we met at the school/community center and walked over to the adobe Katie and Cecilia were staying at. 2 other girls and I climbed onto the roof of the structure Kaite and Cecilia's beds were in and we spread out over the roof. Juan and Kike handed us paint cans and brushes and we started to paint the roof bright red. We did this for a few hours until we finished and then went back to our families to have lunch. We were given trout with oka and potatoes. I still was feeling super crappy so I went back to take a nap after lunch.
When I woke up, everyone was going down to the school to give out school supplies to the children. I was getting even more sick so I stayed in bed until dinner. I was so bummed I had to miss out on that.

11th Day Adventures

This morning we woke up and took taxis to the bus station. We then rode 6 hours on the second story of a double decker bus to Puno. It was nicer than an airplane. On the way we watched 3 movies: Grown-Ups, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and The Hangover (which I'm super surprised they showed). The bus ride took forever, and since Juan knew I was bad with altitude he made me drink tons of coca tea, which is very very nasty. I guess it worked though cause I didn't feel sick (except for my cold which has gotten way worse). At the bus station in Puno we met up with our next guide, Kike who Juan had never met. The seven of us took a van to Luquina Chico. When we arrived at the beginning of the village, we were greeted by the president of the community and we gave him a ride into the heart of the village. We then found out we were being split into groups of twos and sent to host families for the next 3 days. Nisty and I are sharing a room at the house of a couple, Jorge and Santusa, with 2 young children, Sulma who is 3 and Julio who is 8. Immediately when we got to our room it started hailing. Kike is also staying with this family in another room so he is helping us translate when it gets difficult. The family made us a nice dinner of quinoa and other vegetables that grow in the area.

10th Day Adventures

Election Day! From Chivay we drove an hour and a half on the worst road I have ever seen in my life to go to the Condor Cross. The road was riddled with pot holes and wasn't paved at all. When we finally got to the Condor Cross, we immediately saw the huge birds. We could see about 7 but they were all perched. Then after waiting for about 30 minutes the first ones took flight. The birds were freaking immense. With a 9 ft wingspan they are the largest flight birds in the world. More and more birds came out to fly til there were about 15 condors flying around, and there are only 32 in that area. Because they are so big, they have to have absolutely perfect conditions to fly and we were so lucky to have gotten to see them.
We stayed at the cross for an hour and a half and then began the 4 hour journey home. Because I had been sick the night before, I was allowed to sit in the very front passenger seat during the times when the road was bad. After and hour and half I went to the very back row to try and fall asleep cause I was worried about getting altitude sickness again. I fell asleep about 2 hours into the drive when we had just started our ascent. We came to a stop and I thought I'd been asleep for 5 minutes but it had actually been an hour. I was so grateful I missed all of the elevation. We stopped to take pictures of alpaca and for people to use the restroom. When we finally got back to Arequipa we went to lunch at a Turkish restaurant. Then everyone either wanted to go shower or nap so Juan took me to the Santa Catalina Monastery.
On our way to the monastery we stopped by the plaza. There was political protest going on so we stopped to watch it. The group was supporters of presidential candidate Ollante (socialist) and they were rallying in front of a group standing on the second floor balcony. The man standing on the balcony was another presidential candidate, kochynski (capitalist). The monastery was so beautiful. The walls were all bright blue, red, and orange. It was incredibly creepy though. They had mannequin people all over the place and those are the scariest things in the world to me. It took a good hour and a half for Juan and I to go through the whole place and I got some amazing pictures.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

9th Day Adventures

This morning we woke up bright and early and boarded a tour bus to the city of Chivay. It took over 4 hours. On the way, we stopped at a few handmade textiles markets and I bought a few gifts. I ALSO GOT TO FEED A BABY ALPACA FROM A BOTTLE! Alpacas are the cutest things ever and I really want one mom and dad :) it was so sad though today because the bus ran over a dog. It didn't die but I think it broke a leg. I started to feel sick on the bus on our way up so I had to suck on coca leaves which are the grossest things on the planet. You stack 6 together then fold it and put it in your mouth like dip. Disgusting. When we arrived in Chivay, I still wasn't feeling good so guess what Juan gave me...coca again but this time in tea form which was also gross.
We had a small lunch then had a siesta. The bus came back and picked us up to go to the hot springs. They felt soooooo nice but there were tons of people there. We then went to dinner where they had a Peruvian flute band playing and people doing traditional dances in traditional outfits. It was really awesome, and since I had a light lunch I decided to gorge myself on cream of vegetable soup and spaghetti. Worst decision of my life. Around 8:30 I started puking and it didn't stop til 1 in the morning. My body apparently hates being at 15,000 feet.

8th Day Adventures

Today we woke up nice and early to take a van to Cañete. From Cañete we took a charter bus for 3 hours to Lima. We then took a 45 minute taxi ride to the airport. The first thing we did in the airport was get super unhealthy American food: dunkin donuts and papa johns. Then, we sat at starbucks for about an hour because we finally got wifi! Then we had to say goodbye to Pepe which was really sad. We then flew for an hour to Arequipa. Overall it was a very long day of traveling.
We got to our hostel pretty late then went to Crepisimo, a crepe restaurant. Then we tried to go to a discoteca but none were open because it's illegal to serve alcohol on voting weekend. Nothing else really happened except I electrocuted my hand again trying to charge my camera.

Friday, April 8, 2011

7th Day Adventures

Today was our last day at the elementary school teaching the kids. We took them into the big room we cleaned out and played musical chairs a bunch of times. It went really well and no one got hurt to my surprise. It was sad saying goodbye but I walked with about 10 of them until we got to the bungalows. They kept asking me how to say things in English like good afternoon and they were saying "goot afta noo" to the villagers walking by. They would not let me go and kept asking me things about where I live and where we were going next.
After taking a very long nap in a hammock, we left to go to the school to clean the abandoned room some more. They had a bunch of posters from the 80s and 90s in a corner so we went through them for about an hour. We sorted them between ones they could still use and ones to throw away. There were some good ones about the respiratory system and maps of South America, but there were also some weird outdated ones about alcoholism and drug addictions and even super outdated maps of Peru but it's missing provinces.
Straight from the school we took a hike to a swinging bridge over the Rio Cañete. Juan bought us ice cream and we sat for about an hour by the river just talking.
We arrived back at the bungalows and two of the kids from school (Karla and Diego) were in the back playing on the playground. Karla, Diego, and I played tag and hide and go seek until we couldn't see anymore. After, I taught them and their mom and grandmother to use an iPad. They loved all the pictures of them at school and hopefully I'll be able to send them to them when I get back home. Tonight was our last day with Pepe and we have to drive him to the airport really really early tomorrow morning.

6th Day Adventures

We woke up at 6 this morning to go step grapes at a Bodega. We cleaned our feet then stepped in the grapes the traditional way, in a cement square hole that dripped into another cement square hole. It took a while to figure out how to do it correctly and you had to be careful not to step onto bees (I stepped on and got stung by 2. On each foot). The grapes reached just below our ankles and they kind of irritated your feet. Once we did that for about 20 minutes, they had us switch into a huge cement hole with 5,000 kilos of fresh grapes. We jumped in and immediately were up to our waists. The pile was twice as tall as us and we had to hold ropes so we didn't sink too much. You can only step fresh grapes for about 10 minutes because of all the acid in them. My legs were so red after stepping out. Juan toured us around the Bodega and showed us the next steps in the process. The juice is fermented for either 2 or 11 days. Then they boil it and direct the steam into cold water where it condensates. It comes out at the end as pisco. The workers opened a bottle for us and gave us about a fourth of a shot each. It was really gross and sour.
School went so well today!! Me, Katie, and Nisty brought in a bunch of national geographic magazine and had the kids make collages. It kept them all engaged and in their seats which was nice for a change. We also had a big photo sesh and all the kids kept taking my camera and taking pictures of me and their classmates. They actually turned out really well and some of them were very creative.
After a nice hour long siesta in a hammock looking out at the Andes mountains, everyone trekked up and out of the town to pre-Incan ruins for a beautiful sunset hike. On the way, we tried to walk along a wall in the middle of a corn field but as we were on it, Luke stepped on a loose spot and the wall came tumbling down and he almost got really really hurt. We finally got to the 1600 year old city. It had been destroyed by a landslide. We all sat on the ancient walls and listened to Pepe talk about the history of the culture and why it was beneficial to have the city where it was. As we got up to explore, the first thing we saw was skulls. There were bones strewn about the ruins. The view of the valley was amazing from the mountainside. On our way back, me, Juan, Pepe, and Nisty lagged behind and stopped at another one of Juan's friend's houses. He had a dog that jumped like a kangaroo and I got a great picture of it. The man also ran a villa (where we should stay when we come visit Lunahuana and Catapalla, parents) which was so much nicer than our accommodations.
We ended the day with dinner in the city and we hitchhiked our way there and back.

5th Day Adventures

One of the girls got really sick this morning and that was not at all comforting to me. At the school, Katie and I had the kids watch Planet Earth and then translated the names of the animals into English for them. They made really cute posters afterwards of all the animals in the movie. Luke and Nisty taught them fútbol and really wore them out. When we were watching the movie with the younger grades, two girls (both 6 and both named Carla) got into a fight. Carla #1 shoved a dead bug in Carla #2's face. Carla #2 didn't like that and punched Carla #1 in the face really hard. Other than that, we didn't have as many problems with the kids today as we did yesterday. The teachers don't know a single word in English so they ask us how to say simple things like hasta mañana in English. While we watched Planet Earth, I had the kids repeat after me the animals in English and the teachers were also repeating with me. It was really cool to teach the kids AND the teachers while at the same time learning Spanish from them. Thats how I know that we are being useful when even the teachers are learning. Its so cute whenever we leave the kids just yell our names and tell us they can't wait til tomorrow. They have so much fun during weeks like these and that makes everything seem worthwhile.
These twin 4 year old girls were leaving the school as we were so we walked them home. They live really far away from the school and they make the walk all by themselves everyday. Ruth held Juan's hand as we walked and Elena held mine. They lived way past our bungalows so everyone else went back to our stay while we walked on. On our way back, we stopped at the house of an old friend of Juan and Pepe. They were some of the richest people in Lunahuana yet they still had dirt floors and no doors in their house except for the front door.
After that, we left to go to the orphanage. We walked for a good 10 minutes before we got to an actual paved road. There we waited for another 15 minutes before we hitchhiked a ride to the orphanage. The 7 of us sat down in the grass and started coloring. Eventually, the kids warmed up and came to draw with us. I played with this one boy who was 3 named Christian. He was too scared to come join the group. I think he was new to the orphanage and had been removed from his home. He had bruises on his face and his forehead was very swollen. It was so sad but it was rewarding being able to help a toddler like that. When we left the orphanage, we stopped a mototaxi (a "motorcycle taxi", basically a motorcycle with a carriage with wheels added onto it) and all 7 of us plus the driver piled in, the four girls in the back (that seats 2) and Juan and Luke on the back. Pepe drove and the actual driver hung on the outside of the mototaxi. It could barely make it up hills with so much weight. We joined a pick up soccer game with some of the local kids but it quickly turned into dodgeball, Juan and Pepe against everyone else.
We then went directly to the elementary school for the town meeting about what rustic pathways is planning to do to the school in the summer. We asked them for their input because they know what they need in their town. We had to drag ideas out of then but they were all good and positive. Then, 2 drunk guys came in halfway through. They were very rude and were telling us our ideas were crap and they had no idea why we were even trying. Their idea was a medical center, something completely not feasible. It would take so much money to get the supplies to run a medical center 24 hours a day that was better than the one provided by the government and they just didn't understand that. Juan and Pepe got so mad because they were calling us all stupid and then the villagers went at it with them. It was so chaotic and crazy because people just don't want to try to even understand. This week, we're here to help the kids and make them happy, which we have succeeded, not save the world.
Food was awesome as always. For breakfast we had fried cheese and fried yuca. For lunch we had sandwiches where the bread was mashed potatoes and the inside was chicken salad. Dinner was amazing as always. My second favorite meal. A squash soup (which I surprisingly LOVED) and rice with a meat sautéed in onions, tomatoes and French fries. I asked Juan to help me get the recipes and he's going to try and have the cook give us some cooking lessons!

4th Day Adventures

We started the day off with fresh juice and tamales. The school was about a ten minute walk down the road from the bungalows. I was so excited to get to teach and play with the children!
The school was absolutely hectic. Me, Katie and Luke taught English to the 4-6th graders in the morning. They were very well behaved and eager to learn. They told us they want to learn English, dancing, futból, and about animals. Then, the three of us tried to teach the 1-3rd graders but it was a disaster. They were climbing all over us and yelling and fighting and wouldn't listen to us at all. Giving them silly bands was the worst idea ever. They kept trying to eat them and got really mad if another kid had more than them. One of the little girls stole the bag I had and took all of them so I had to sneakily steal them back.
At the corner store down the street from us we saw kids from the school and we picked up supplies. We then went back to the school to clean up the damaged room. We spent 3 hours just cleaning it and taking everything out of the room and into the courtyard. Katie and I swept the place and it was so filthy! We ended up having 10 buckets full of dirt and dust. Stuff was piled all over the room (I'll post pictures on Facebook) and we ended up finding a scorpion under a bunch of posters. Then we found a bag full of old volleyball uniforms which were bright orange and green speedos. We put them on and continued to clean. All the kids and locals who were passing by busted out laughing at us. We did an amazing job getting the project started for the students this summer.
So far my favorite thing about Peru is the food. Which is really really really surprising. I've been eating soooooo healthy. For lunch we had lettuce, hard boiled egg, avocado, potato, and chicken covered in a yellow pepper sauce. It was seriously the most delicious thing I've ever had. For dinner we had chicken noodle soup and some kind of marinated meat over rice. On the side we had mashed potatoes that were very runny because they had a lot of milk in them. We ended the night perfectly with a bonfire by the river and I saw the milky way for the first time.

3rd Day Adventures

This morning I woke up super early. The only other person awake was Juan's dad. We put fresh papaya and lime and water in the blender and made some tasty juice. Then we boiled tamales. That's not the pepper kind of tamales but a mashed up concoction of green peppers and corn and cilantro wrapped in corn husk. It was really really good with slices of onion and a local orange pepper with a vinegar sauce. I'm eating really weird but really healthy foods and actually developing a taste for fish.
After everyone woke up we decided to have a nice relaxing day on the beach. A few of us layed out on the beach and I AM SO BURNT NOW. The ocean was really cold but it was my first time swimming in the pacific ocean!
Around 3 we packed up and took a taxi van to Cañete and switched taxis to take us to Lunahuana. It was a beautiful drive. The city is located on the western fringe of the Andes mountains. Along the way we got to see pre-Incan ruins and a lot of unique architecture. We are spending the week in little bungalows in the annex of camapaya on the edge of a river full of rapids.
We went into the city for dinner and I tried yuca root for the first time. Everywhere around Lunahuana there are yuca plants and grape vines for making pisco. Tomorrow will be our first day doing service. We are helping teach about 40 students from grades 1-6 in the morning in a 2 classroom school. Then in the afternoon we will travel to another local school destroyed by an earthquake many years ago and begin the renovation project that will be completed by other rustic pathways students this summer.

Sunday, April 3, 2011
Link to pictures on Facebook since I can't upload pictures on here from. My iPad.

2nd Day Adventures

Today we woke up at 9:30 and had breakfast at the hostel. Then we drove down to the beach in Chilca to stay at Juan's parents' beach house for the day and night. I rode in the car with Juan and his dad and another girl on the trip, Katie. I learned so much about Peru on the short trip to the beach. Its amazing being able to see first hand the different stages of development of Peru. We learned all about Lima's history and how the eradication of terrorism allowed the province to boom economically. We saw everything from the nicest parts of the cities to the shanty towns where all the properties are marked with a distinct white line in the dirt and the walls of the huts are made of straw.
When we arrived the first thing we did was go to the local village and buy food for the rest of today and tomorrow morning. We went to a panaderia and a local fresh market where we purchased fish and fresh fruits and veggies. The people were so friendly and helpful.
We spent the afternoon walking the private beach and going in caves. There were so many different kinds of birds everywhere. It was really sad to see a lot of dead birds though. They travel to the quiet beaches to die in peace. The tide was freaking crazy on the beaches!!! I had no idea Lima was such an epic place for surfing. One of the guides, Pepe, is really into bird watching so we drove to the local wetlands and spotted about 30 different species of birds. Then we went around the city of Chilca and saw La Salinas, the salt beds that you can still get salt from. We ended up watching the sunset on a local beach and it was absolutely incredible.
Surprisingly, I enjoyed dinner. We had fish that doesn't have a name in English, Lima bean puree that looked kinda like mashed potatoes, and this super whole grain rice cake thing plus beans and potatoes. I've been trying to pick up Spanish from listening to Juan and Pepe talk to each other and I understand a little sometimes. A few of us went on a log walk down the beach late at night to go visit Pepe's friend and Juan's cousins. Then I had what was supposedly my last decent shower....

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Adventure Begins

I've been flying for what seems like forever. I started with an afternoon flight to Hotlanta and then continued to Lima on a 6 and a half hour flight. The second plane was crazy. I could actually lay down in the seat and we got a 4 course meal with roasted duck breast and steak tenderloin and shrimp tons of other yummy stuff. My last ( somewhat) normal meal. Even though the seat/bed thing was super comfy I just couldn't sleep.
Baggage took foorreevveerrr but I was finally able to make it through customs and meet up with the group. Everyone seems pretty chill and the guides Juan and Pepe are super cool. We decided to go to the beach tomorrow instead of staying around Lima. Breakfast at 9:30 and then packing up and leaving.
Saying goodbye to everyone was pretty rough, especially to my parents and Tyler. I can't wait to see everyone again but I know I'm going to have the experience of a lifetime on this trip and I couldn't be more appreciative. I look forward to all of my adventures to come.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Change of Plans....

Only 10 more days til I leave. It still really doesn't feel like it's happening and I'm sure it won't until I actually get there. All of the previous travel plans I had were completely switched around. I'm now going to Peru first to do community service throughout the country at many different cities. In May, I will go to Costa Rica to teach ESL at a middle school and assist at a special needs school. I may be taking Spanish classes in the morning in Costa Rica but nothing is set in stone yet. We are also trying to hook it up so I can help at a local environmental research facility.
In Peru, I will be helping out in the city of Arequipa, at the base of the great Misti Volcano. Then, I will travel to rural cities in the Andes for service projects. Then I go to Lake Titicaca and the Sacred Valley of the Incas for more community service. I'm hoping I will have at least some access to the internet, but I doubt I will because it will be very very rustic.
Yesterday I had an amazing opportunity to chat with someone who traveled to Panama with Rustic Pathways, the same group I'm going with. She offered great tips and really boosted my confidence about the trip. It was one of the best experiences of her life! She lived among the Kuna people on an island the size of 2 football fields. I only hope my trip will be as beneficial, not only to me but to the people of Peru, as her trip was!
Overall I'm really looking forward to this trip and I feel like it can't come soon enough! I'm going to miss everyone but I'll have my iPad with me so as long as there is Internet I can FaceTime, Skype, Email, Facebook, and Text anyone who wants to :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Travels...

Starting April 1st, I am traveling abroad for 2 months. I start my adventures in Costa Rica for 2 and a half weeks where I'll stay in Turriabla at the base of a volcano with a host family. I'll be taking Spanish classes and assisting with ESL classes at an elementary school in Azul.
I then transfer to Panama for the remainder of April and live in the island paradise of Bocos del Toro with another host family. While there I will be in another language school.
For the entire month of May I will return to Turriabla, Costa Rica. This time I will be participating in a "Gap for Good" service program. I will be either tutoring young children in English and math or assisting at a local school for children with special needs.
Overall I'm very excited for my trip! It will be the experience of a lifetime and I thank God and my parents for the amazing opportunity!