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.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

June 19th, 2011

June 19th

            MACHU PICCHU DAY! I have been wanting to go to Machu Picchu for years, and the day finally came. I was up at 2:15 am, and we left the hotel at 3:30am. We walked in the pitch black toward the entry to where you enter to walk up to Machu Picchu, the only real illumination was the flashlight someone had, and Syeda’s headlamp. I got a rush when I could make out the jagged outline of the Andes against the navy blue sky.
            Surely enough, we were the first ones at the gate entrance. And would have to wait for over an hour for the guard to open the gate that leads to access to the path to climb to Machu Picchu. But then Henry had a brilliant idea to bribe the guard so that he’d open the gate early for us, further ensuring that we would be able to climb Huaynapicchu. So each of us gave the guard a sol, and he made out like a bandit.
            We had to climb up an hour’s worth of stone stairs in the woods to ascend to the entrance to Machu Picchu. It was painful, no doubt, but those of us who had spent the past few days marching up the mountains had already been conditioned to it and knew what to expect. Again, we were the first to the entrance. We would be the first people allowed into Machu Picchu that day. We were again, super early and had to wait for an hour or so for it to open.
            The feeling I got when I saw my first real glimpse of Machu Picchu. I swear my eyes watered and I felt my stomach drop.
            We inched our way to the quintessential, post card viewpoint you always see Machu Picchu photographed from and I almost couldn’t believe it was real. I was finally seeing Machu Picchu. One thing that was very special about our trip to Machu Picchu, and something I will never forget was how deserted it was when we got on the grounds because we were the first ones on the mountain, so we were luckily enough to see Machu Picchu really pure, without swarms of tourists. It was really moving.
            For me, this was a special day that I have been waiting for for years. And I really wanted to take some time for myself, away from the rest of the group, so I could truly absorb my experience at Machu Picchu. I sat, eating an apple, on one of the ledges overlooking that classic view for about an hour. I watched Huaynapicchu go from dark, to completely illuminated and shining from the sunrise. I think I’ll remember those solitary 45 minutes my whole life.
            After I sat their for a while we went on a tour of Machu Picchu which was nice, but we were definitely very tired at this point, and for me, Machu Picchu was something I much preferred taking in on my own, despite its fascinating history. We went straight from our tour to the entrance to Huaynapichu. A few of  us started debating whether or not we would actually would go through with the hike up Huaynapicchu, but I had decided I had come so far over the past four days to back out now, since getting to the summit was one of our original goals. However, the majority of the group opted out of the arduous hike up. And difficult it was. It took about an hour of stone stairs, of all shapes and sizes, and even a tunnel to finally reach the top, where we were able to look down onto Machu Picchu. The top was a bit frightening since it was basically just a bunch of huge slanted rocks that people were cramming onto. There was one man up there who worked on the mountain. We were not allowed to stay on the top too long because he had to usher people on and off the summit to control the flow. But it was a beautiful to look out at the Andes and feel on top of the world.
            Later we took the bus back to the town of Aguas Calientes, where we had a few hours to kill before our train and bus rides back to Cusco. On the train, we continued the tradition that we started during the trek of playing the game ‘Contact.’ We arrived in Ollanatambo on the train and then boarded a bus for the final leg to Cusco. We checked into our hotel at about 1:30am and passed out.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

June 18th, 2011

June 18th

            Day 3. We met at the restaurant at 9:30 for breakfast and then got on a van for the ride over to where the train tracks started, where we would begin our walking for the day. I was definitely feeling those hills in my butt when I woke up on this morning,, so hearing that it was going to be all flat was music to our ears, and relief to our legs. When we got off the bus at the train tracks, we got our very first glimpse of Machu Picchu, and excitement resonated through the group. We started our walk, and then 5 minutes in Chino told us we were stopping for lunch, which was a bit awkward because we had only eaten breakfast like an hour ago… but we stopped anyway, sarcastically remarking how we had definitely worked up an appetite after our treacherous 5 minute journey. 
            We got to Aguas Calientes, in the early afternoon and had all day to hang out there, and we would finally meet up with Monica and the rest of the dialogue group around 9pm when they arrived on their train. The town was fun, but it was such a tourist trap full of rip-offs, since it’s where all the travelers stay before they go to Machu Picchu.  We checked into the hotel Monica had originally booked for the dialogue instead of the hostel included in our trip, and we all appreciated it immensely, after having spent 2 nights in rugged, gritty hostels. I thought this night even promised me a hot shower, since I hadn’t showered since Wednesday and was covered in layers of sweat, dirt, and bug spray, but I’ll get to that later.
            After arriving in the town, we decided to check out the “aguas calientes” of Aguas Calientes, which we had heard were hot springs similar to the ones we had visited the day before. But they were gross, tiled pools that smelled like urine, so we ate our 10 sol entry charge and left without going in the water. We walked around a bit, did some shopping, and went back to the hotel. We were super pumped when dinner time came around because we went to a place that had a sign for Mexican food outside. But, the choices ended up being limited to the standard chicken, lomo saltado, (and vegetarian omlettee!) per usual. Chino convinced us 4am was an appropriate time to leave the next day for Machu Picchu. We were all anxious to leave early the next morning because we wanted to be some of the first people there because the first 400 who get a stamp to climb Huaynapicchu are allowed to.  The rest of the group who hadn’t come on the trek arrived to the hotel, and told u they were planning to leave for Machu Picchu at 3am. So we called Chino and told him we wanted 3am too, just to be on the safe side, since one girl on the dialogue tried to climb Huayna by leaving at 2:30am but still didn’t make the cut.
            That meant an early bed time. I had planned on finally getting to take a nice hot shower on this night, and hearing other people talk about there glorious showers made me even more excited for the one I planned to take before bed. But of course, since I have such good luck, the hot water was gone when I was trying to shower. I decided just not to shower, because I had gone too long to succumb to a cold shower, and would just wait it out until I could get hot water to finally shower. So long story short, I smell real bad.

Friday, June 17, 2011

June 17th, 2011

June 17th, 2011

            Day 2. We hiked for 8 hours. The first hour or two was no indication of what lied ahead for us. We started on a dusty road and ended in a small town and taking little fruits with orange dye in them to paint our bodies before scaling mountains sides on parts of the Inca Trail, the stairs carved into the side of the mountain. The sights were breathtaking. My eyes almost couldn’t take in everything I was seeing when I looked out, and I couldn’t believe how high up we had climbed. But then again, yes I could, because I could feel the two hours of constant uphill in my quads.
            This day was amazing. And if you ask anyone of us who went on this trek, we will all maintain that one of our top highlights of the day was the guacamole we got at lunch. Best guacamole I have ever had, right there in the Peruvian jungle, and when eating it we could literally feel it being made only 5 minutes ago. I won’t lie, when the bread was gone, we were all scraping at the plates with our spoons to get the last of this guacamole. We still had considerable hour-age of hiking ahead of us, which would conclude at a hot spring. I only dipped my legs in, but the water sure was hot, and everyone had a great time changing into their bathing suits and hanging out here for a while. We opted to van the last leg to the hostel, which was only about 15 minutes from the hot spring, and I was thankful for this decision because I could feel my feet swelling.
            We got to our hostel, had some dinner, and then most of the crew went out to a discoteca that our guide knew about, which was the only discoteca in the town. I stayed in because I wasn’t feeling too good, and at this point the last thing I would want was to get sick and not be able to go to Machu Picchu. The next day was not going to be as long, or nearly as challenging, and we’d be able to sleep until after 9am, so going out that night wouldn’t do much damage to the next day. And I’m quite surprised there even was a discoteca, since there was essentially nothing in the town. But apparently it was only the gringos who were at the club anyway, and our group ran into the some of the people who had stayed at the same hostel as us the previous night. We would end up seeing these same people at our different stops all the way through Machu Picchu because we were all on similar multiple day excursions. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June 16th, 2011

June 16th, 2011
            Now I am going to recap my adventure from the past four days. I haven't showered in five. The past several days have been incredible, and have really enhanced the trip for me even more. I am so glad I got to experience this extra adventure, in addition to what was already planned. At 630am Brielle and I were the first ones waiting outside he travel agency at the Plaza de Armas, anxious and ready to start our four day excursion. We had been up late packing our luggage, which we would not see until we got to our hotel in Cusco late Sunday night, and we hoped it was in good hands, for all we would be able to take on our adventure was a backpack with the necessities. The group convened, 14 of us, and Henry, making it 15. And we piled into a van to begin our two hour ride to Ollantatamba, where we would begin our bicycle ride. I fell asleep on Andrew for the majority of the ride to the mouton we would be biking down, but when I finally awoke, I was greeted by an impressive view. I had another “I can’t believe where I am” moment. We were high in the Andes Mountains. Klevis exclaimed, look guys, we're level with the clouds, and surely enough, strait ahead of us was a white cloud at our eye level. Only after ten more minutes of driving up the winding mountain road, nothing was visible, because we were inside the clouds, surrounded by white in every direction. It was a bit eerie, but so cool nonetheless.             When we reached the place we would launch the bike trip from, we were still high in the sky, still encompassed by the white masses. In the distance, we could see the snowcapped Andes. Our guides unloaded the bicycles format he roof of the car and gave one to each of us, along with a helmet and hand gloves, and after a few instructions we were on our way. At first it was absolutely freezing and we couldn't see much because of the clouds, but the ride was supposed to last about 3 hours, so the scenery would surely change without he descent. Unfortunately we did have a little mishap only about 10 minutes into our ride, when Syeda fell off her bike and hit her head, thus ending the bike trip for her, but she was totally fine and just took the van the rest of the way down. This made me thankful we had decided to go with this agency rather than the first one, since there was a help vehicle, and lo and behold, we did need it. Half of the group was too far ahead to have heard abbot Syeda's fall, so they continued, while some of us hung back until we knew she was okay, and then took off, vowing to be more careful. Carefulness and alertness was a necessity on this biking trip, because we were high in the mountains, and the roads were very windy. When I think of the views, I almost can’t fathom the splendor of what surrounded me. Peru is a beautiful, beautiful country,
            We arrived for lunch and to drop our belongings off our hostel. In one room, there were 11 beds., and Jenn, Ilana, Priscilla, and Katy had a room on the first floor for themselves. We loved our room. It was just a giant room with 11 beds with mismatched seats lined up. We called it our orphanage. 
            We met our guide Chino, and a van with a raft strapped to its roof, outside the hostel, and we were on our way to rafting. I have never white water rafted so I was very anxious for what was in store, but it was a ton of fun, a bit scary at times, but totally exhilarating. I’m also  pretty sure I was in the seat that got the most soaked.
            After rafting we chilled at the hostel for a bit and then went down to the same restaurant we were at for lunch to have dinner. When we got back, all of us went to bed pretty early because it had been a long, packed day, and the next day promised to be our longest, most arduous day of hiking. I put my Ipod in, set my alarm for 5:45am, and called it a night. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 15th, 2011

June 15th, 2011

            Today after class Monica was waiting at Amouta to talk with us and help us go to the agencies and nail down the details of our Inca Jungle trek. Details have been sketchy, so I was glad to have Monica come help us iron out the plans. We had all the people who were planning to go meet at McDonalds so we could go to the agency we had originally decided to go with. During the break between classes today, Scott and Cara had gone to the agency to put a deposit on our trip, which I was skeptical and uneasy about, but I couldn’t speak for twelve other people. Me went to the first agency with Monica and she was not too happy with the safety of the trip and didn’t seem to trust the lady in charge, so she suggested we go to another agency across the plaza that Patty from Amouta said was trustworthy. We ultimately decided that the second agency was far, far better than the first one and we decided we would go with them. But now we needed to go fight with the first agency to get our deposit back. The lady was horribly nasty to Monica when she told them we intended on getting our money back, so Monica headed to the tourist police to help us. In the meantime, Klevis took matters into his own hands after getting the deposit receipt from Scott and went into the agency to have a word with the lady. He was successful. His skillful way with words got us back all our pooled money for the deposit, aside from about 100 soles, and since Cara had fronted the money for the deposit, we all threw her 5 US dollars to cover that lost money. I’m very confident that the agency we decided to go with was far better than the original for so many reasons. And the four day trek would only cost us 100 US dollars, with meals and white water rafting included.
            After the long day of nailing down our hike plans, me and Brielle went home for dinner, strange as usual, and then went to another discussion session at Amouta. Tonight we were discussing laws with Henry, whereas yesterday we had discussed governmental history with Monica. The discussions were valuable, interesting, and insightful. After the discussions let out, it was time for Indigo, and then bed because we had to be at the Plaza de Armas at 6:30am the next morning for our trek

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 14th, 2011

June 14th, 2011

            Today for class Patty took us out to the Plaza de Armas to watch the dance competitions that have been taking place throughout the past week. The kids come from all over to do traditional dances in Peruvian costumes in front of judges. The week is very celebratory and filled with life and the kids essentially get the week off from school. Our host mom was telling us her son has no homework during this week. It was really fascinating to watch the dances and know that each movement and the costume designs are symbolic for something in Peruvian culture.
            The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, just some Indigo and chilling in Cusco.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 13th, 2011

June 13th, 2011

            Second week of classes of the Amouta School. Our classmates were the same but we had different teachers. One of my new teachers is Patty and I like her a lot. We engaged in a lot of conversation today and it was great. We talked a lot about the recent election in Peru and Patty gave some fascinating personal insight into the situation. She revealed to us that she was worried about Ollanta’s victory and that she may be planning to move to Brazil in the near future to avoid any potential downfall Peru may have under it’s newly elected president.
            After class we paid for a 5 sole cab ride to take us to the supposed best cuyeria in Cusco so that the boys and Brielle could try guinea pig for the first time. The view from the restaurant was incredible and we could looked out over Cusco. Everyone ordered cuy and I asked for a salad, but the man who worked there looked at me and said, no we only serve cuy. I was a bit confused, but it turns out the restaurant legitimately only serves cuy. Lucky me though, we brought me out a plate of onions with some vinegar on them for lunch… yum? At the sight of her cuy, Brielle freaked and couldn’t eat it. It definitely was a sight. The man brought them out on plates and you could see there little teeth so clearly. The boys tore into the little fried bodies and began searching for the organs, getting super excited when they found something and then holding the entrails out on a fork to display their findings. I’ve seen enough guinea pig hearts, brains, and livers to last me for the rest of my life, thank you very much.
            After our interesting lunch (for all since we were either consuming an American household pet, our a plate of raw onions) we had a cabs take us back to San Pedro market to get the amazing juices they make there before we had to meet up with the group for another museum tour at the old house of Garcilaso, the most famous Mestizo. This means the person has one Spanish parent and one native Peruvian parent.  Garcilaso’s father was a Spanish army captain and his mother was an Incan princess. Garcilaso was famous for recording Peru’s history.
            After the tour we unveiled our plan to Monica about the 4 day Inca jungle trek we wanted to take and had been planning for two weeks. Brielle had even prepared a power point. We were not expecting Monica to agree with the plan, but Monica seemed thrilled with the idea and said it was definitely possible, we just needed to get our details straight. We could not have been more excited.
            We had to meet at Amouta for a film, but before that Brielle, Syeda, Andrew, Klev, and I went to Inka Café for some dinner. I adore this place because they have the most delicious vegetable dishes in Peru. The movie we watched at Amouta was about terrorism during the Shining Path movement in Peru and it was very eye opening. It was resonating with me because one of my professors at Amouta was telling us stories about how she lived through these exact events and witnessed these tragedies happening.
            After the movie we headed to Indigo for some hookah and good times.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

June 12th, 2011

June 12th, 2011

            We met at 8:30 in the Plaza de Santiago today for a big day of touring of the Sacred Valley. Our first stop was at Pisac ruins at the Urubamba Valley. Our guide motioned to the mountains in the distance that served as tombs, but when they were discovered only three bodies remained in them. We could see all the holes carved into the rock of the mountain that served as the tombs, in which the bodies were positioned in the fetal position. There were about 3000 holes in the mountain that served as tombs.The traditional terraces and stonework were incredible as usual. We then stopped at a market for a bit, where I made my first alpaca chompa purchase.
            We stopped at lunch at an unbelievably beautiful location. It was a buffet of tons of traditional Peruvian food and a lovely array of vegetables. After eating we ventured out to the backyard area of the restaurant that was right along the Urubamba River. We sat by the river and followed the llamas and vicunyas that were wandering around the grounds.
            Our last stop was Ollantaytambo, which was an important ceremonial site for the Incas. The climb up all those stairs definitely got our hearts racing. But reaching the top gave us a beautiful view, with the sun shining and the valley below us. We continued up a small path and stopped to check out the view, only to look down and realize there was a bull fight going on right below us in a ring, so we sat contently for a while watching the excited crowd cheer while sitting beside Incan ruins. Not many people can say that. Luckily, we learned they didn’t hurt the bull, as tradition would have it, but they just really piss the bull off. We managed to have Monica tweak the itinerary a bit in the moment so that we could stay and absorb our surroundings for a bit longer at the ruins instead of going to see more ceramic artifacts somewhere. We grabbed some churros from a street vendor before getting on the bus for the 2 hour ride back to Cusco.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

June 11th, 2011

June 11th, 2011

            Hoy fue un dia libre! And, it was much needed. Some of the boys and Brielle and I had planned to go white water rafting today, but when me and Brielle awoke at 8 to potentially leave to meet the boys, we decided rafting wasn’t in the cards for us, and went back to bed.  We might have gone had it not been dark and cloudy, not to mention cold as usual, when we woke up. The idea of water in this temperature and weather was chilling our bones, and we weren’t even there yet. So we went back to bed until eleven. After gathering ourselves and our computers, Brielle and I met up with Andres, Cara, and Katy at a café called La Bondiet to camp out and get homework done. We sat there for atleast three hours, and I was able to get a significant chunk of my assignments completed. Not to mention, I had the most amazing fruit salad and a nice coffee to keep me going. It was very relaxing to just unwind, type, and chat with my friends, instead of the constant continuing the constant bustle we’ve been maintaining. I was so content being at the café, so I knew I had made the right decision to lay low and not go rafting.
            After La Bondiet, Brielle, Syeda, and I walked over to the artisan market for some shopping. It’s a huge red building with all the knick-knacks you could imagine. Very touristy, but lots of fun. I always manage to be mesmerized by the colors in this country. Here in particular, it was the bright  reds, pinks, and oranges of the gloves, hats, and chompas that lined the aisles. I was pretty unproductive in my gift-buying, but Briellle managed to find something for everyone on her list. After the market, we stopped at a grocery store that was on the way back to the Plaza de Armas so I could purchase apples, per usual. We decided to go back to the Israeli restaurant/ hookah bar and have dinner there, since we have been dreaming of the hummus ever since our first meal there. I ordered the falafel again and couldn’t have been happier.
            After dinner we cabbed home. Yianni, Scott, Andrew, Klevis, and Tomas came over our house for a bit to hang out before we planned to go back out to the discotecas. We ended up having tons of fun and laughs just sitting in our room, and soon it had been almost three hours. At about 11:30 they decided to head to the Plaza de Armas, but I, not surprisingly, changed my mind and stayed in for the night. We have to get up early tomorrow for a big day of touring, and like I’ve said before, since I have been feeling tired and rundown lately, it’s best to save my energy.

Friday, June 10, 2011

June 10th, 2010

June 10th, 2011

            Class was class, but luckily today is Friday so we have the weekend off from Amauta. Not much to say about class, other than it was our last day with our teachers for this week and next week we will have new teachers. However, I’m still thinking about how impressed I am by what Brielle can pull off. We live together, but I left Mama Africa much earlier than she did, and she chose to stay out with the gang. We hear a lot about being careful and not taking cabs by yourself late at night, but I knew Brielle would be fine because she was with the boys and they’d get her home safe. She’s also one of those people who is miraculously resourceful and calm, and can find a solution to the stickiest situations. So last night at about 4am Brielle finally strolled into our room. I gave her a weak and confused hello and she told me how she was locked out of our apartment and had the security guard try to help her get in. She had called Klevis to ask him if she could stay at his place because she couldn’t get in, but meanwhile the security guard had been causing such a commotion while trying to open the door the our host mom had woken up and come to the door. Turns out our mom had latched some extra lock on the door that we don’t have a key too, thinking we were all home, but we weren’t. No worries though, and Brielle still made it to class. What a trooper.
            After school we went to lunch at a restaurant near the Plaza de Armas, but unfortunately the food didn’t seem to sit well with me. It may have been the restaurant, because Yianni and Klevis also felt sick, but there’s also a chance I could have felt queasy because I have been eating a lot of apples, and perhaps I didn’t clean one well enough. Because I felt sick, I decided to go home to rest, which ultimately meant I would have to miss the Cusco city tour and the trip to Sacasayhuaman, but at this stage in the game with so many people getting sick, I felt it was better to rest than push myself. I keep getting scared that I’ll get sick right before Machu Picchu and miss it, so I wanted to take precautions and stay on the safe side.

June 9th, 2011

June 9th, 2011

            Today my Amauta class did an activity similar to the activity we did in Ica, where we needed to converse with natives. So, today we paired up and went to the Plaza de Armas with a list of questions we had comprised in class and had to talk to at least three different people, using our questions as a starting point. Upon hearing we had to do this, I was a bit apprehensive because I remember feeling awkward the last time we did this interview style conversation in Ica. But, once we started I felt so much more at ease. I definitely felt the difference these past couple weeks in Peru have made in regards to my Spanish skills. I was much more confident to approach people and my mind works faster to put together sentences. By the second person we interviewed, I was not phased at all. In fact, in general, I am far more confident about my Spanish skills and I know I have improved since departing for Peru.
            After school a few of us went to an Israeli restaurant that promised to have amazing hummus. It most certainly did, and the falafel was outrageous as well. I’m fairly certain we will be returning to this same spot before our time in Cusco comes to an end.
            Following lunch we went to yet another museum. Our enthusiasm for museums in dwindling because the information has been so repetitive. Of course the pre-Incan civilizations are fascinating, but between class and all the tours, we have heard the same information about the Huari, Chavin, Caral, Paracas, and Mochica cultures, and seen enough pre-Incan ceramic to tide me over for a while. The most interesting part of this museum was probably the real bodies they had there, which were found in the customary fetal position.
            A lot of people had been going to the San Pedro market during classes to experience a real Peruvian market experience, but my class had not gone, and after hearing how cool it was, and seeing all the neat things people were buying, I have really been wanting to go. Yesterday Scott bought some chocolate from the market and I tried a piece, and it was literally unlike anything I have ever tasted. It was so pure. So, after the museum, we went to the market for a bit so I could check out this place. The market seemed endless, and the array of colors, sounds, and smells was a shock to the senses. You can purchase anything here, from a keychain to a recently deceased cow head. I of course was mesmerized by the fruit isles, with towers of familiar and unfamiliar fruits on either side of me. It was just beyond the meat isles, flooded with animal parts, even full bodies, and a distinct smell. I opted to only walk through this isle quickly, because it was a little too much for me, but fascinating nonetheless. We didn’t stay too long at San Pedro because we had to get home in time for dinner, but I definitely I going back.
            Tonight was also my first real experience at the discotecas. A bunch of us met up at a bar called Mushrooms to hang out for a bit before we went upstairs to the club Mama Africa. It was definitely fun, but I can’t hang like the rest of the crew can, and was getting a bit overwhelmed so I left around 1:30am. Time for bed.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 8th, 2011

June 8th, 2011

            The mornings in Cusco are absolutely freezing! I actually love the weather here right now. I do not like being hot, so the briskness is lovely for me. There is a drastic temperature change each day though because t does get very hot in the daytime. Today only Rosanna, Alyson and I made it in to language class today, but it ended up still being a great class. Even though there is only about six of us in each class to begin with, to have only three people today made the learning very intimate. Every body is getting sick and dropping like flies. I actually just found out one girl in our group who had been sick had to have an appendectomy because her sickness was actually appendicitis.  So many people have been in out of the hospital it feels like and it’s a bit unnerving.
            For culture class our teacher wanted to get us out of the class for some experiential learning and culture exposure, rather than reading pages of history to us, that at this point is very redundant. Our class took cabs to the cemetery in Lima for our field trip. It was pretty neat, and far different from cemeteries in the United States. This cemetery is for the wealthier people, but there is another one further outside Cusco for the poorer people. Visiting the cemetery was very interesting. There were a lot of mausoleums, but in addition to the mausoleums, there were walls and walls of above ground graves. It is a bit hard to explain. The “walls” were concrete and on each one there were dozens of windows that had space inside. Inside the glass the families put decorations, flowers, and tokens for their deceased. What was really neat about this kind of cemetery was you were able to get such a sense for who that person was and what they loved by looking at their grave because it was very personal.
            We came home for another very strange lunch. Then I showered. We also have hot water in our house, which I hear a lot of people also currently do not have access to.  So what we lack in edible food, we make up for in wifi and hot water. It’s a pretty fair exchange I suppose. Brielle and I showered up and then the boys came over to hang out before we all had to head back to Amouta for a movie about terrorism in Peru. I ended up not being able to stay for the movie unfortunately because Rosanna was not feeling very good and needed to go home but didn’t want to cab back alone so I went with her. I tried getting back in time to catch some of the film but after I walked up Calle Seucio, the big wooden doors were closed so it looked like everyone had already left.  It was only about nine, and I was hoping to catch my crew coming down the hill from the school to the Plaza, but it didn’t work out like I had hoped and I didn’t run into them. And, my phone has been acting weird lately and won’t send text messages, so I was phoneless. I just grabbed a coffee at McDonalds and sat on a bench by myself in the Plaza de Armas for a few minutes to absorb my surroundings. Then I decided just to go home early to get some work done and get to sleep earl because I feel like I am always so exhausted here!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

June 7th, 2011

June 7th, 2011

            School. I’m so excited because I discovered the coffee at Amouta. Yesterday I loaded up on the coca leaf tea for the second day, but I was in need of some coffee. I thought once we left El Sol we wouldn’t have the luxury of constant free coffee, but I am so glad I was wrong. Alyson had coffee yesterday, but it took me another day to figure out the small pot of dark liquid is the coffee mix, and then you have to add hot water to it. Not the best coffee, but I’ll take what I can get.
            After class we headed home for lunch. Not so keen on the food our mother gives us here. It’s pretty horrible. Lunch today was an extremely bizarre mixture of what seemed to be old left-over French fries cut up and mixed with cut up bits of green beans. I miss my Lima host mom’s cooking so much. Me and Brielle have decided we will be eating at our host family as little as possible, which is kind of a bummer because we’ll have to pay, but there’re no way we can subsist on this.
            After lunch, if you can call it that, Yianni and Scott came over to our house to do some blogging since we have internet access in our house. We left the house and went to the Inka Café, which was an awesome little spot. I ordered a plate of vegetables, and when they brought it out, I swear the steamed broccoli and cauliflower was speaking to me. It was heaven. I even took a picture of it. Literally when I get home, the first thing I’m doing is eating the biggest bowl of steamed broccoli ever. So mom, I know you’re reading this, and it would be wonderful thing to come home to, but you already know that.
            Next we went back to Amouta at about 6:45pm to attend a lecture on the Quechua language, the indigenous language of the Andean people, which was quite interesting. After the lecture we went to another hookah bar called Indigo. It’s a cool spot with a very relaxing and ambient atmosphere, so it is a nice place to hang out with friends. We also got dinner there. Yianni ordered alpaca teriyaki, since alpaca is a very common food here, and apparently it was delicious. Next on his list is to try guinea pig.

Monday, June 6, 2011

June 6th, 2011

June 6th, 2011

            First day of school at Amouta! Woke up and still had a pounding headache, so I took some extra strength Tylenol, and it worked like magic. My headache subsided shortly after. I hope that’s all the altitude sickness I get during my time in Cusco. 
            Brielle, Kim, and I cabbed to school with Carla and Syeda because they live close to us. It’s about a fifteen minute drive to the school from our house with traffic. The school is located seconds away form the Plaza de Armas, on a small uphill cobblestone road called Calle Suecio, We have come to find out that the taxi drivers will only take you up the hill for more money. But at 8:15am, when we’re tired, still acclimating to the altitude and therefore already gasping for air, the last thing we want to do is trudge up the steep hill from the Plaza to the school, so we pay that extra sol!
            Class was easy today. Something different about this class though is that my teacher is from Spain and therefore has a very strong accent, which we have to adjust to. It is a cool opportunity to have the exposure to this dialect. I strongly considered switching out of my class into the next level up, but I decided to stay where I was after talking to the placement lady at Amouta. I told her that I was concerned that I was not learning anything new in terms of grammar and that everything was review, as it was for me at El Sol too, however since El Sol was the first school we were attending, I was comfortable with my level their because it allowed me to regain a solid Spanish base, but at times it was very boring. But she explained that this class was designed more to incite discussion based on my level of Spanish, and it was not really about learning more new grammar. It was about cementing what I already knew. I had not really thought about that, so I appreciated her explanation and have decided to stay with my current placement.
            After school, Brielle and I had lunch at McDonalds, but clearly the salad I ordered could not suppress my burning need for some fresh vegetables. We have come to find out that basically none of the other host families get internet at their houses, and that me, Brielle, and Kim super lucked out with our wifi access. So, McDonalds, which has wifi, is probably going to be a popular congregation location.  After eating, Brielle and I met up with Scott, Yianni, and Syeda. We decided to get massages. Twenty soles for an hour and a half, full body and hot rocks.  It was an interesting experience to say the least, but for only twenty soles, I will not complain! After the massages, which we left us covered in oil, we had to do some shopping. I am in love with my purchases, a decorative owl mirror and one of those knit Cusco hats that everybody just has to buy when they come to Peru. I put it on right away to hide my raunchy hair, all greased up from head rub I got at the massage place.  Scott, Syeda and I grabbed a coffee before heading to the restaurant where we would have our welcome dinner, provided by the Amouta School. Of course, Lomo Saltado was featured dish, but I was able to get some spaghetti, and munched on other people’s unwanted vegetables that were served with the Lomo Saltado. Following dinner a whole bunch of us, including other Amouta students not with our group, went to a hookah bar to chill out for a while. It was definitely relaxing and fun, but me and Brielle cabbed home relatively early to catch some sleep.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June 5th, 2011

June 5th, 2011

            Sitting in my bed at my new home stay in Cusco. I’m undoubtedly feeling the effects of Seroche now because I have a massive headache. Even this computer screen is very irritating right now, so as soon as I’m done blogging I’m going to try to fall back asleep.
            On another note, today is election day. The results should be very interesting.
            We arrived in Cusco today. We met at 7am at the hostel to load up the bus and make our way to the airport. Some latecomers, who caused a bit of anxiety since we had a plane to catch, but we ended up checking out bags, getting through security, and getting to our gate just in time. Shortly after our hour-long flight landed, we were already feeling the change in altitude, with some shortness of breath and lightheadedness rippling through the group. And, of course the first thing we do after exiting the airport is walk up a hill lugging our many suitcases to reach the bus that took us to Amouta Language school, where our new families were waiting for us.
            Just from what I saw during the 20 minute bus ride from the airport to Amouta, I knew I already loved Cusco. Gazing outside the window at the stone roads and the mountains that surround the city, I am excited that I have the next two weeks to explore Cusco. At Amouta we went over some basic information about the school and our classes, and from what I heard, I anticipate that my experience at Amouta will be on par with my experience at El Sol.
            When we arrived at Amouta, all the home stay parents were sitting in chairs waiting to greet us. This time around I’m living with Brielle and Kim.  Our host mom seems very nice and she has a sixteen year old son, however today we did not spend much time in detailed conversation because I needed to rests right away. There was an optional city tour we could go on at 4pm today, but since I’m not feeling so well, I’m laying low today and moving as little as possible. I have two weeks to explore Cusco, and there is not doubt that I plan too, so it’s best that I spend my day acclimating to keep from getting sick. Our host mom has been pumping us up with coca tea and it’s delicious. Brielle  got back from the tour and told me that Ollanta had beat Keiko in the election today, and she said they had seen some small celebratory riots in the streets after it was announced. Cusco isprimarily in favor of Ollanta. It is also interesting to note that in Peru, they candidates were publicized under their first names, not their last, which is strange coming from the USA.
            We just had a small dinner with our host mom, small to prevent further side effects of Seroche. Dinner was interesting… it seemed to be a bowl of cough syrup. Now, I’m about to lie in bed for awhile, hoping sleep comes soon so I am numbed of my throbbing head.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

June 4th, 2011

June 4th, 2011
            Free day today. But first, we had met back at El Sol school this morning to pick up our “graduation” certificates. We didn’t realize we were stepping into an hour and a half lecture after we received our certificates, which was fine, except we were all really anxious to spend our free day exploring Lima on our final day. However, I was really pleased with the presentation. It was about a lot of background and historical context of Peru, and then branched into discussing politics and the economy, leading up to today, and the upcoming election, for which votes are cast tomorrow. It is really interesting to have been able to watch this race for the presidency from Peru. I felt so much more educated about the candidates and the seriousness of this election. It has been interesting talking to the Peruvians about the election and whom they will vote for. Neither candidate is ideal, so the population is left to decide who they think is the better of two evils. Our presenter, the founder of El Sol, and a US man who is now a Peruvian citizen, revealed to us that his vote is for Keiko because he feels Peru’s continued advancement stands a far better chance under her than Ollanta. We also discussed that the race is very close, which I did not realize. I was under the impression that Keiko was probably going to win since I see her name plastered everywhere I turn, but I learned that Keiko signs aren’t flooding all of Peru, but they were prominent in Lima, a city that primarily supports Keiko currently. Ollanta has the advantage by winning all the votes from the uneducated population, those residing far out of Lima.
            Tonight was really wonderful. Our group convened around 6pm at what I have heard is the nicest restaurant in Lima. When Natalie, Syeda, and I got out of the taxi we walked the pier to get to La Rosa Nautica, where right alongside us were surfers taking their last runs of the day. The restaurant sparkled over the waves. Everyone looked quite dapper, all dressed up for the occasion. The room we were seated in for dinner was incredible, situated on the pier, with one wall lined with mirrors, and the other of complete windows, looking out onto the ocean. As a vegetarian, I couldn’t partake in eating the seafood appetizers that were whisked out to us, impeccably arranged in giant crustacean shells, but everyone said the dishes were amazing.
            A few people headed out to see the light show at the Parque de Agua when dinner was finished, but I opted to come home because I still need to pack for Cusco, which I am about to go do now!

Friday, June 3, 2011

June 3rd, 2011

June 3rd, 2011

            Today was our final day at El Sol, and I will admit I’m a bit sad! I hope our language school in Cusco is similar to El Sol because I enjoyed the way we were taught. I appreciated how interactive the language component of the program is.  My teacher at El Sol, Andres, always aimed to keep us speaking in Spanish, and conversation was always flowing. I also enjoyed the culture class because simultaneous with our class lectures, we have been visiting sites and museums in Lima that house the artifacts of the same pre-Hispanic cultures we discuss in class. We had a quick multiple-choice test in class today as well, which I assume is to be sent to our next school for placement. We ended class with a group class picture with our teacher Andres.
            I am very proud of what happened next. I have needed a new SIM card for my phone since it disappeared as soon as I got it, and today I finally had time and was right near the Movistar phone store, so I decided to buy it. Everyone was eating lunch, so I had to go to the store solo, meaning I would have to communicate what I needed to the staff without a more proficient Spanish student as a crutch. I was scared, but I was also really excited to go into this phone store, silly as it sounds, because it was going to be a perfect situation to practice my Spanish. Sparing the details, I successfully bought a SIM card! I was really proud of myself, because it made me feel like I had accomplished something really cool by being able to communicate with that man in the store, without anybody’s help. That was the first time I could say that, and it felt really good. And now I can finally communicate with the group the good old American way, texting!
            After my success at Movistar, I went home grabbed my computer and went over to Starbucks near Kennedy Park to use the wifi there, grab a coffee, and get some work done. I didn’t get too much done though, because soon Scott called me and told me to meet up with some people so we could go see the beach. I hadn’t seen the playa up close yet so I had to go! Our trek to the shore was a long walk with many stairs to get down that massive Lima cliff you see in all the shoreline pictures, but as soon as we reached the shore, lined with dozens of surfers out in the waves, I was glad I had came. We spent some time walking up and down the shore and the boys made arrangements to have surfing lessons tomorrow. Its a shame Lima’s winter is so gloomy and dark, because I could feel how beautiful the view would be in the bright sun. We grabbed some more Starbucks and then a cab and headed back to El Sol, because they were having a small party for our last day.
            The party was more fun than I had actually anticipated, and I think that goes to show how cohesive and amiable our group is. It was only our dialogue group and some of our teachers and El Sol staff, but put this group in a room with some music, maybe a Pisco Sour here and there, and the result is a very enjoyable night with new friends. We were all more than ready for dinner when it was ready at 10pm, and luckily there was salad and potato salad for the veggies.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

June 2nd, 2011

June 2nd, 2011
            Today we switched it up a little at El Sol and my class spent our second half of class time having Spanish conversation outside on the El Sol patio. Today the weather was so beautiful, so sunny a bright, rare for a winter day in Lima, Peru, so we convinced our teacher to bring us out there.
            Today was also our last day teaching at the Colegio de FAP. I was working with my original group again, which I was happy about because I got to teach with Brielle. I have been teaching alongside her for few classes and she really exudes a great energy. She is so good with kids and such a natural teacher that the classes respond very well. Today we split our class up into four groups after reviewing shopping dialogue and phrases with them. Then we split the class into four groups and had them put together a skit, which each group would then take a turn acting out in front of the class in English.
            After teaching we had one final lecture and then a closing ceremony that we stayed for. The lecture was by far the most interesting one we have had because it was primarily focused on current events in Peru, rather than another history lecture. There was a bit of lag time between the lecture and the actual closing ceremony, which ended up starting at about 5pm. The coolest part was that a group of boys and girls performed a traditional Peruvian dance for us. They were elaborately dressed in bright blue velvety attire, sequined and shining, and perfectly matching the mood of the music and dancing. They really were wonderful. Following the dance, a few of the kids presented Monica with an Alpaca blanket, and it was the softest thing I have ever touched. Then the students set up a table lined with Peruvian dishes, and the line quickly formed for the food. There was a rice pudding cup with raisins in it that was literally so good. After we ate, there were lots of pictures taken and we said our goodbyes before we all headed back to our houses. I ended up going to Larco Mar with some people and having dinner at Café Café again. I like this restaurant because not only is the view of the Pacific Ocean from the patio tables stunning, but they also have many delicious vegetarian food options! Later that night our group ended up near Parque Kennedy again, and went found a dance club called Son de Cuba on Calle de Pizzas and spent the night together there.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 1st, 2011

June 1st, 2011

            Today was relatively uneventful. We had class in the morning at El Sol and then in the afternoon we went to FAP as usual. At FAP we have been working on teaching the kids about America shopping. I really enjoyed the class I worked with today because they were so enthusiastic and excited to participate. Today my group worked on teaching the kids commonly used phrases that Americans use when shopping. These included phrases to use when you need a dressing room, a different size, and other things in a polite manner. After covering a lot of shopping terminology, the teacher of the class seized the opportunity to ask us to teach his students about Halloween in America. He said that they know of Halloween and have traditions in Peru as well, but the kids were interested in how we celebrate it in America. The kids loved hearing about jack-o-lanterns and I described how we carve the pumpkins and put candles inside them and then place the pumpkins in front of our houses for decoration on the night of trick-or-treating. The kids at FAP loved this and said they had never seen a real jack-o-lantern, only fake ones.
            After FAP some people stayed to play baseball but I have been so tired, so I opted to grab a taxi back home to Jose Pardo. I’m relaxing a little, doing a little blogging, and then heading over to Scott’s house to hang out on the roof deck, our new favorite place in Lima.