Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 26th, 2011

June 26th

            Well I woke up this morning to a six am call to my hotel room from Klevis asking me if I knew where Yianni and Brielle were. I looked over and Brielle was definitely not in her bed. I was a bit scared, but about an hour later, we heard the voices of our friends returning to their rooms. I was a bit confused, but accepted it, because after all, Peru has been a wild ride. I think they were just finishing it with a bang. Turns out, they had been at the Incateam discoteca the entire night and were just getting back to the hotel when the sun was rising. We were leaving at 8:30am to go to the airport and catch our plane to Lima, but I was certain, knowing Brielle, that she’d be able to pack the rest of her stuff in ten minutes flat and still be early for that bus.
            The group was split into two flights for our return to Lima, but both arrived at our destination at about the same time. We hopped on the bus and returned to the very place where our journey stared, the International Youth Hostel, for one more night of making memories.  I was feeling pretty sick so I basically slept all day until about 7pm when we began congregating on the back patio of the hostel for some last night laughs, stories, and music. Of course the boys jumped in the pool at 1:30am too.  I went up shortly after to catch an hour of sleep and then was up at 2:30am to bring my suitcases down and get ready to leave Lima and head back to the states. When 3am rolled around and we were boarding the bus, it got sad. This was the last leg of our journey. Not only that, but Scott wouldn’t be coming to the airport with us because he was taking a bus to Northern Peru and then to Ecuador to visit a friend, so this was our real goodbye to him until next semester when we’ll have our Peru Crew reunions.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

June 25th, 2011

June 25th

            Me and Brielle were up at 9:30 today and woke the boys up so we could all walk over and hopefully have time to grab some coffee before heading to Amouta for our language exam today. The test was a bit strange. It consisted of a lot of vocabulary as opposed to grammar, which none of us had anticipated. There were multiple choice questions, reading comprehension, and it ended with a written portion where I had to utilize my knowledge of the verb tenses to communicate a series of events.
            After the test we headed to our favorite breakfast spot that had the bagels and outrageous coffee. There was a lot to do today, since it was our last day in Cusco. I needed to pack, do the majority of my gift shopping, and get ready for our fancy last dinner at the monastery tonight. Me, Andrew, and Scott went to San Pedro market and then the Artisan market to do some shopping. I have gotten so good at bargaining for things. I used to be afraid to do it, plagued by guilt and my lack of confidence in my Spanish skills, but after six weeks, I’m bargaining like a pro, and it really feels quite cool.
            After getting all my shopping done, I left the boys and continued walking around Cusco by myself for a bit to soak up my last bit of Cusco by myself.  I walked by a tattoo and piercing shop. I have been going back and forth with myself about getting my nose pierced, so I decided to just go and talk to the man in the shop just to humor myself. We talked for a bit and he showed me the piercing area and how he cleansed the tools and told me a nose piercing cost 50 soles. I told him I’d think about it and that I might come back, and I left the shop seriously considering getting my nose pierced, but also very impressed with the entire transaction I just had in Spanish. It was my second successful Spanish conversation of the day, because earlier that day I had spoken to a waiter in a restaurant who told me I spoke Spanish very well and that my accent was great, compared to most Americans.
            As soon as I stepped out of the shop, I pretty much decided I would just go for it. I called Scott to come back to the plaza and be with me while I got it done because I didn’t want to get it done alone. He came and held my hand while the guy stuck a four-inch needle through my nose and my eyes watered like hell. Luckily, I didn’t see the needle, only Scott did, otherwise I probably would have freaked. I’m satisfied with the result and I have gotten all good reactions to my new nose, so I’m happy with it. It’s a pretty good way to remember Cusco I’d say.
            We headed back to the hotel because we had to get all prettied up for our final dinner as a group at El Monestario. This place was amazing and everyone looked so pretty and handsome. The night was so bittersweet, and the laughs, smiles, and flowing conversation at our table was really heartwarming. We had made an amazing journey together, and although it was coming to an end, this was a time to celebrate the past six weeks, and have the chance to reflect on our new friendships and experiences. Pictures were taken by the hundreds, I’m certain, and we eventually filed out and headed to Indigo.

Friday, June 24, 2011

June 24th, 2011

June 24th
            Up early for the morning processions of Inti Raymi open to the public, which star at Koricancha, but I ended up not going to the early events because I wanted to look for my camera. I was pretty sure it got stolen yesterday, but checked today. I didn’t want to leave for the public processions without my camera and not have time to find it before the main event at Sachsaywayman, but I ended up not ever finding it anyway. So my camera is gone. It’s a bummer because I had all my pictures since leaving Lima on it. I’m really only sad about this one picture Amy took for me looking over Machu Picchu, that was an important picture for me, and it’s all I can think about. I’m really sad I lost it, but the memory is stronger, that mystical feeling I felt sitting there, and those will undoubtedly last forever, despite the picture being lost. I woke Brielle up for breakfast a little before 10, because sh had opted out of the public processions for some extra rest, sensible since we were all so incredibly exhausted. But my favorite trooper Brielle was up and at’em as soon as I woke her up. We’ve agreed that I am such a good alarm clock. We headed down to the plaza from Prisma, and it was absolutely packed for the festival. We squeezed through the crowds to meet up with Klev, Yianni, and Cara at a restaurant called The Crown with a balcony that overlooked the plaza, so we were able to see the Inti Raymi action as the actors paraded through the Plaza de Aramas. The colors and vibrancy of this traditional event was stunning. But the main event, to which we were lucky enough to have tickets to, was taking place at Sachsaywayman (pronounced “sexy woman” J ) at 1:30, so we were getting on a bus at 11:50 to go up there and take our seats for the spectacle. Inti Raymi as a whole is known as the ‘Festival of the Sun.’ and includes a mock llama sacrifice to the Inca god, the “son of the sun,” in return for a successful harvest. Since we’ve been in Cusco, the city has been gearing up for Inti Raymi, with countrywide dance competitions and celebrations taking place in the Plaza basically since we arrived in Cusco.
            Inti Raymi was an amazing sight. We had wonderful seats to view the procession. The colors and movement was so spiritual and moving. One of the most intriguing parts of the events was the man who was dressed up as a deer. He played his role so precisely it was like watching poetry in motion. He pranced and leaped, and sauntered through the field so elegantly that it was mesmerizing to watch. The entire ceremony was in Quechua, but being able to decipher the language was entirely unnecessary. Just by witnessing the ceremony, you could feel its beauty and power.
            We decided to walk back down to the Plaza from the top of Sachsaywayman because the traffic to get up the hill had been unreal and not only would it most likely be faster to walk down, but also more interesting. It was just that. There were people everywhere descending from the top, as well as people lined up all down the road selling trinkets and food. Me and Cara had to stop for some chocla and cheese because we had been craving it. After we had reached the plaza it was about 4pm and we were ready for lunch. Andres, Tomas, Scott, Cara, and I had decided that falafel was the preferred lunch option, but when we got to our favorite falafel place (conveniently located next to Indigo, might I add) it was closed, so we went to the pizza place Cara had been raving about instead. It was definitely worth it. Me and Scott split a margarita pizza and it was unreal. Later we went out as a group and hit up Mama Africa for some dancing, which it always a good time. Te amo Cusco.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June 23rd, 2011

June 23rd, 2011
            Today at we got to Cusco at 9am after a thirteen-hour bus ride, 2 hours longer than anticipated. There was a lot of commotion on the bus last night and it was a little frightening when we were flying over the rough, rocky, bumpy road in the dead of night and our belongings were flying everywhere, but hey, that’s bus transportation in Peru! Today is Corpus Christi in Peru, so after dropping our suitcases off at the Prisma Hotel, we got ready to go out and explore the action in the streets of Cusco, where the events of Corpus Christi are the most vibrant. About 15 small towns outside of Cusco transport a life-size replica of a patron saint to the Plaza de Armas. The arrival of the replicas to the catedral symbolizes the redemption of Christ and the festival is very cheerful with music and dancing. On our way to the Plaza de Armas, we saw an entire street lined with traditional women selling traditional foods including buckets of cuye and mounds of corn breads. 
            We made our way to a bagel shop with some killer food, and it soon became one of our top favorite places in Cusco, however Indigo still takes the cake, don’t get me wrong. The giant mugs of coffee hit the spot. We split up after eating. I explored a bit, while some of the crew went to try to get a tour of the Cusquena factory, which they weren’t able to do because it was closed for tours because of Corpus Christi and Inti Raymi. We hung out later at the hotel for a bit before venturing back out into the streets and stopping at a Chinese food restaurant, and later made our way back to Indigo for a relaxing evening. Tomorrow is Inti Raymi!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June 22nd, 2011

June 22, 2011

            5:00am wake up knock on the door by the tour guides. It was absolutely freezing in the morning and had woken up at 4am to put on all the shirts that I had brought on the trip to Arequipa. We had breakfast (a piece of bread and instant coffee) in a room and then got in the vans to go to the Valle de Cocla, the Valley of the Condors. It was about a 2 hour ride to the canyons, but I was asleep so it went by fast. This canyon is the fourth biggest canyon in the world. When we arrived at the canyon I was a bit surprised because ever since we found out we were coming here, I kept picturing something that looked like the Grand Canyon in Arizona. This definitely does not look like the Grand Canyon, but really just looks likes mountains similar to the ones we had been seeing on the trek and at the top of Huaynapicchu. But it was gorgeous, and breathtaking as well, even more because we had increased our altitude yet again.
            We were kind of bummed out at first because we weren’t seeing any condors. We figured it was a longshot anyways and didn’t get out hopes up, but it would have been quite a sight. Monica had come up to me and told me to go over to the edge because she had just seen a condor, so I went over and sure enough I saw it! I got really excited and ran over to Yianni and Klevis to tell them. Then the next thing we knew there were atleast 18 condors circling above the lookout point. I don’t know where they came from all of a sudden, but it was very cool. They were huge and strange looking, dodging very close to the crowd that was staring at them in awe. They stayed for a few minutes, and then they all disappeared into the canyon together. It was pretty incredible.
            We got back into the vans for a 5 hour ride back to Arequipa. I spent half my ride watching Toy Story 3 with Yianni on his Ipad, and the second half fast asleep. We got to Arequipa and stored our stuff at a hostel before going out to find lunch. We ended up eating at a restaurant with a balcony over-looking the Plaza de Armas of Arequipa. We all really loved Arequipa, even only after getting to spend a few hours there. It was a really cool city and we wished we had more time there, but atleast we got to visit. It was really beautiful, not a lot of tourists, and it had a very European feel. We were leaving from the hostel to the bus station at 7pm and had about 15 minutes to kill,  so people ran out quickly to make there final food purchases for the 11 hour drive… and Scott came back with an antique chest he bought for 100 soles.
            Something weird happened in the cab and I’m writing it here in my blog so I remember. Me, Scott, Andres, and Syeda got into our cab and out of nowhere I started singing the wicked random old song “Your Love” by The Outfield. A belted out a line and then shut up. The second later the cab driver turned on the radio and that exact song was playing. We all tripped out, it was the craziest thing. Life is funny.
            Now we’re on the bus, 45 minutes into our ride back to Cusco, and the bust has proven to be quite conducive to getting some effective blogging done. I hope to get some sleep this time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June 21st, 2011

June 21st

            Got off the bus at about 7am. Interesting experience to say the least. It was strange looking out of the big windows in the front of the bus and only seeing us travel on a dirt road for hours and hours. Then there was that weird moment where Andrew somehow opened the door of the bus and stepped off to go to the bathroom, which I still don’t understand but it’s still hilarious.
            We stopped at a place where we had breakfast waiting for us. A tiny plate of watery scrambled eggs mixed with chopped hot dog. A vegetarian delight. We were excited to be in Arequipa because it looked like a cool place to hang. However, after breakfast we got back on a van that took us to a viewing place for volcanoes, one that was active and one that is inactive. But the active one hasn’t erupted since 1500. The view was definitely very beautiful. We didn’t stay that long until we were loaded up in the vans again. We were about 20 or so minutes into our drive when our guide decided to fill us in on the fact that we’d be in the van for the next three hours. Cool. Per usual, we passed the majority of that time playing Contact. We arrived at Chaviy to a buffet lunch and then went to the hostel. We had the option of going to hot springs. The boys went, and said it was awesome, but Brielle and I passed because we were too exhausted. I was a bit peeved when the man at the hostel asked me for my passport (and everyone else) so he could copy them. I fought him about it because I didn’t want to hand it over, but I ended up giving it to him like everyone else. I then proceeded to watch him stuff the passports in a duffel bag around his shoulder and ride his bicycle down to a copy shop in the plaza. But don’t worry mom! I was on him until I got it back! And I did, so don’t worry to hard when you read this J  Before we went to dinner we walked down to the main plaza of the town, where there really wasn’t much of anything, only a few stores and small restaurants open.
            For dinner we went to a place that was literally only a stone’s throw from the hostel we were staying at. Fitting, since the town was so tiny. It was a bar/restaurant/Pena type place with live traditional Peruvian music and dancing. This was so much fun! I was the first of us to get up and dance with the Peruvian dancers after a few of the other girls declined. I’m not much of a dancer but I laughed my way through it. It got pretty funny when Yianni and Monica got brought up to do a dance that involved them lying on the group and having the Peruvian dancers whip them. Tomas and Pricilla were dressed up as the opposite sex for the next dance and then we all got on the floor to finish the night. It was a very genuine and happy time.
            A lot of people went to find a bar or disco in the small town, and I headed back to the hostel to decompress. After a while when they came back, I met back up with them and we went to the roof of the hostel to spend some time under the South American stars. I love stars. I’ve been mesmerized by the stars down here since I first saw them shining in the night. It’s completely different down here because in the Southern Hemisphere there are more stars, and entirely different ones. Its incredible. And there is so little light that there is nothing spoiling their sparkle. I swear I could have stared for hours. That night I saw three shooting stars.   

Monday, June 20, 2011

June 20th, 2011

June 20th

            Today was a bit of a hectic morning for me. We got to the hotel very late last night. Unfortunately, despite how tired I was, I still couldn’t sleep and by 8am I decided I didn’t want to just lay in my bed wishing for sleep any longer. So I got dressed and left to explore Cusco a bit on my own, since I thought we had the hotel all day. to the
            Apparently that wasn’t so. I was in McDonalds in the plaza using the WiFi there, when he told me we had to be checked out of our hotel rooms as 11am. It was 11:30am, and I still had not showered (still since the Wednesday before the trek) and my crap was all over the hotel room, because I thought I had time to kill. So I booked it out of thesre, basically in a panic, because I had the hotel key with me. Coincidentally I ran into Brielle, Klev, and Yianni as they were walking to the plaza. Brielle knew where I was because I had left a note for her in the room when I left, but my phone was dead so she had no way of telling me that Monica had the rooms called at 10am to wake us up and tell us to check out in an hour. So I then continued my run to the hotel. And honestly at this point, I’m really bumming if I don’t get a hot shower. I got to the lady at the front desk, and she acknowledged that I missed the checkout. I explained what had happened to her and she was very understanding and let me pay 15 US dollars to keep the room for an extra hour. And, my shower was cold.
            After I checked out and brought the bags to storage we had more time to kill, so I just spent some time moving from location to location to utilize the wifi in the area. Then the crew went to Indigo, the hookah bar we’ve basically moved into, for some hookah and dinner before we left Cusco for Arequipa. At  7pm we met at the hotel to go to the bus station, so pumped for our 11 hour bus ride tonight. We’re on the bus right now. It’s a double decker bus and we got the top floor. It is definitely interesting. There’s a lot of strange action going on here with various Peruvians shouting and entering and exiting the bus. It’ll be a long night.