Cross Stitch Overload

Ever since I came to Perú, I have had a lot of spare time on my hands. Instead of letting it go to waste, I’ve been doing tons of craft projects.

First up was completing the Sleeping Beauty story panels.


Then I explored some patterns in friendship bracelets based on my imagination and what I saw sold on the streets of Cusco.

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Next up was another unfinished project that I had brought with me- the Dalmation puppy “Achoo!”


Next I did a few small cross stitches from the pets book I brought with me.


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That sums up what I got done in Cusco. When I first got to Lima I did a wrap on my earbuds


and then started the Phoenix, which took me 2.5 months. I’ve estimated that it took 200 hours, so that comes out to an average of 2.5 hours a day. During that time I listened to the entire music collection on my MP3 player and started going to Youtube for some different music.


Since I finished that, I have been doing some more small bits and pieces as gifts for my friends here.

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I have also gone batshit crazy and started this one. If I finish it in 5 years, I will consider myself lucky.


So, that’s what I’ve been doing with my free time! Hopefully I’ll find some time to spare in the upcoming years to continue this type of projects.


Second part of Dad’s Visit

As we made our way down from Cusco to Lima we stopped at several interesting cities in the southern part of Perú.  We had a basic plan of what we were doing but no reservations. Our first stop was Puno and we did the two day tour of the islands. When we arrived at the bus station that morning (5 am) we met a taxi driver that knew a hotel and a tour boat. He got us settled into the hotel and arranged our pickup by the tour company. Everything went smoothly and we were on our way. The first stop was Los Uros, the floating islands.


The next stop was Amantani, where we stayed the night. We did not go to the welcoming party because it was raining very, very hard. Luckily the house had electricity so we didn’t have to get ready for bed in the dark. The family had several children and I make origami figures out of the napkins as gifts for them. The next day we proceeded to Taquile and hiked up to the top for lunch aided by the muña (andean mint) plant. We got back to Puno around 4 and went out for supper. We planned to leave the next night on an overnight bus to Arequipa. We talked to the same guy that got us the hotel/tour to get our bus tickets, which we later found out was a mistake. He got us the tickets but at the wrong time and then told us they were changed to the right time but they weren’t. When he gave the tickets to us in the morning it was obvious that he had been out drinking the night before. We went to the bus station early and it was a good thing we did because I talked to the bus company about the tickets, then the cops about the taxi driver, then another taxi driver who knew the first one, and eventually it worked out that we would get on a bus for a small ticket change fee and finally leave. In the meantime I saw a friend from Cusco in the bus station and we had a nice little talk before Dad and I had to board the bus. We had a ~6 hour ride to Arequipa and arrived just before midnight on New Year’s Eve. On arrival, I tried to find bus tickets for the next step but it was too late at night. We got a taxi and told them to take us to a good but not expensive hotel. He took us to a nice place close to the main square with reasonable rates. We didn’t even stay up to bring in the new year and just crashed. We had a breakfast of bread, jelly, scrambled eggs, and OJ at the hotel and then went out to see the city. We found the main square very easily and then got a taxi to the bus station (across town) to get tickets for that night. We got our tickets and then returned to the main square. Most places were closed since it was New Year’s so we walked around some and chatted for a while.


We went back to the hotel to check out and get our bags and then waited around until it was time for our bus. The hotel called a taxi for us and then we were off to the bus station once again. We found out which gate the bus was leaving from but didn’t realize that we needed to check our bags before getting on so we went back inside to check the bags and then back out to get on the bus. Our next stop was Ica, or more precisely Huacachina. Huacachina is the oasis tourist area that does sandboarding. When we got off the bus in Ica we got a taxi driver and asked him to get us a hotel in Huacachina. It turned out to be the same one that I stayed at the last time! What are the odds? We arranged the sandboarding with the hotel and had a blast. I even went down on my feet a few times!


Note: Video is on Facebook.

We spent a few days in Huacachina and went to Ica one day for bus tickets to Lima and lunch. In Ica, we found an awesome deal on chicken that came with french fries, salad, a drink, and a desert. We caught the bus to Lima and had a 4 hour ride and an interesting conversation with the bus attendants. They were trying to learn English and saw us as a great way to practice. We arrived in Lima after dark and immediately got a taxi to the Casa Roja, the hospedaje where I’ve been staying. Well, the taxi driver didn’t recognize the street on the address and I didn’t know any landmarks so we had to stop and ask for directions. Now I know exactly how to direct a taxi home because it’s very close to the intersection of two semi-major roads. We had a few days in Lima before Dad’s flight out so we tried to get the phone that I had bought in Cusco working with moderate success. I can make calls and send texts but other people can not call me, only text. I really don’t mind since I don’t use it much anyways. I arranged for a taxi to come pick Dad up at the hospedaje very early in the morning on the day of his flight and sent him off. The next day I started my volunteer work at the International Potato Center (CIP). I tried to catch the bus but Graciela, the mom of the family at the Casa Roja, thought that it came at 7 instead of at 6:49 so we missed it. After waiting for about 20 minutes we went back to the house and tried to call a taxi with no luck. Eventually we hailed a taxi and went to the CIP. I got a tour of the complex and met Mariella, my boss. I started training on GIS software, the R programming language, Python, and some image processing software.

I also started doing a lot more cross stitch as you will see in the next post.

Visit from Dad- Cusco

Let’s see, quick summary first: Last two weeks of school drag by but are spiced up by my birthday, the arrival of Dad, and the Christmas party on the last day of school. Dad and I explore the Sacred Valley and some sights in Cusco as we prepare for the trip to Machu Picchu after Christmas and the subsequent travels on the way to Lima. We arrive in Lima on the night of the 3rd, settle in, I send Dad off on the 6th, and start work on the 7th. In the meantime I meet a lot of new friends and even find someone to play tennis with! I started cooking for myself and finally learned how to wash dishes in an efficient manner.

This is going to be a long one.

So, for my third week of Indigenous Culture, the Academia brought in a guest teacher that teaches the subject at a university. We learned about andean legends and myths in the most boring way possible. I thought the class would be more interesting because I loved the literature class and this was practically the same thing but I was very much mistaken. Some teachers can make any topic interesting but ours was not one of those. He had a great reading voice, very expressive and calm- just the thing for putting kids to sleep with a bedtime story. He read us a story about a mine goblin making a contract with a miner and then stealing his soul and I could barely stay focused long enough to keep up with the story! Granted, Rebekah and I weren’t the most attentive audience since we were very much done with classes already (see first line of previous post) and didn’t want to be there. We did have two outings again- the first an all morning trip to two more sites of Sacsayhuaman where we saw defaced carvings of the snake, puma, and condor and the second to the Kusi Cancha, a fairly recently excavated site of an Inca palace that had an army barrack built over it for many years. The test that week was horrible because apparently the teacher didn’t know what was on it and we declined the review the morning of because we were so tired of the class and just wanted to get it over with. So, there were two questions that made up 13 points of the 50 point test on a jungle ritual that we had spent about 5 minutes on the day before. That was not fun but I managed to BS enough to get the majority of the points for each of those questions. Rebekah, Denton, and I got together to see Spiderman 4 but it was in Spanish without subtitles in any language so we switched to The Dictator instead. That Friday Rebekah and I met up and watched a Christmas movie together. Denton didn’t show because his sister and girlfriend had just arrived that morning. Later, Rebekah and I went to a Christmas concert in the temple at the Qorikancha and heard some amazing songs from a singer who should be in the opera and the students from her school. We called it an early night and went home to catch some winks.

Sunday was the 16th, my birthday! I came downstairs and immediately saw a chocolate cake on the table and my host mom came out of the kitchen to ask me to cut it! So, we had chocolate cake and hot chocolate for breakfast. That was all. It was explained to me as “Well, we eat the cake in the morning because that way we know that everyone will actually be there.” when I explained to them how weird it was to me to have dessert first. Great start to the day but I’m surprised I didn’t get a stomachache from all the sweets. I went up to the Meeting Place for the weekly meeting in the evening, had Happy Birthday sung to me again, and blew out the candles on the Advent wreath. Overall, a good birthday.

I took Monday and Tuesday off from school because Dad came in at 12 on Monday on the bus from Lima. I had told him it was a bad idea but, well, you know how he can be about saving money. He says he won’t do that again. Ever. I gave another math lesson that afternoon after I dropped Dad off at his hostel and got him settled in. Later that night I picked Dad up from the hostel and we went over to Jack’s Cafe to meet up with Denton, his sister (Emily) and girlfriend (Brittney), and Rebekah for a belated birthday dinner. Dad and Denton both had some kind of Mexican eggs, I had pancakes, someone else (Rebekah?) also had pancakes, either Emily or Brittney had french toast, and I don’t remember the other order. Weird how our minds work sometimes, right? It seems like we remember everything and just need a trigger point to recall distinguishable points in long term memory. It’s like our brains make little topic tags with an expand button associated with them. Funny how that doesn’t work on most tests. I guess you have to have a separate file for each object or you see random attributes from each layer in the scene but have no clue which is which. Oh well, most of us don’t have an Intersect in our brains. Only Chuck and Bryce.

On Tuesday I brought Dad home for lunch and introduced him to my host family. I think we had seafood and rice for supper that night. I spent the rest of the day putting the final touches on the 5 page report (in Spanish) that I had to turn in on Wednesday. I wrote it on the history of Peruvian art from pre-Columbian times until now. I didn’t have Internet at all during that time so I got by with using my dictionary for a few words. I found out that if I am writing in Spanish I get writer’s block a lot faster than when I write in English so I wrote the last page and a half in English and then translated it. I still ended up putting accent marks in at the last minute the morning it was due because I actually had internet at school, allowing me to find the page to copy over the accents. I also found out that it is a lot easier to put the document in google docs (online, not offline like how I wrote it), let it recognize the language as Spanish, and let spellcheck tell me where the accents need to be.

Wednesday I actually had classes so I left Dad to his own devices for lunch and then we went to some sites around Cusco like the Qoricancha, my school, and the Plaza de Armas (Main Square). I tried to remember obscure facts about random places and rock formations while Dad took the pictures. That night I wrote my presentation to give the next morning on the paper that I had just turned in. It consisted entirely of slide titles and photos after the title slide and then a slide at the end that said “Any questions?”. I left captioning completely up to my memory and it went much better than I thought it would. Rebekah and Denton made sure that they presented before me even though I was the least prepared of the three of us- something about how I usually didn’t study for the tests much either. Anyways, the three of us presented for the academics director, Carolina, and our teacher, Rebeca. Mayke, the school director, happened to drop in during my presentation and stayed to ask some questions as well. I haven’t actually seen my grades for the paper or the presentation but I was assured by Carolina that they were fine.
On Thursday after school we all went to The Meeting Place for lunch and Dad finally met Steve! As I thought, they hit it off immediately and were chatting for the rest of the afternoon. FYI, Steve is a volunteer at The Meeting Place and my brain more or less adopted him as a surrogate father figure once I got to know him. Dad and I both got bacon cheeseburgers and they were AWESOME. We stayed until it stopped raining and then headed back down to the school to make some chocolate dipped crackers for the Christmas party. I stopped to buy some crackers on the way down and since Dad had brought down marshmallow creme, peanut butter, and dipping chocolate from home, we then had everything we needed to make some chocolatey goodness. Oddly enough, none of the other Americans had ever made chocolate coated crackers.
We made a few with only peanut butter, some with only marshmallow creme, but the majority were both. We ended up sending Denton (my friend) to buy more crackers because we used more than I thought. We used all of the jar of marshmallow creme (aided by the fact that it wasn’t all there to start with because it had exploded in Dad’s luggage) and about half of the peanut butter. Turns out that Dad had a good judgement call in bringing both trays of melting chocolate because we used it all. At the end we were all a little sticky but we enjoyed every moment of it- especially taste testing. We stored the goodies in the fridge at the school until the party the next day.

Friday: test day. We did a review and then gritted our teeth and dove into the test. Happily, the review basically told us what was on the test so Rebekah and I both did really well. We had a bit of a break until the party started. Before the party started, we had the “despedida” (goodbye) for all of the students that were leaving the school. I hadn’t written a speech so I just made something up on the spot. Denton, Rebekah, and I had agreed earlier that we weren’t going to write speeches because we didn’t feel like it. There were other students that were leaving as well and none of them had speeches written either. Then the party started! Each nationality represented in the school brought a typical holiday food and some were coerced into singing. Somehow I was talked into introducing the American food and then all of us went up and sang Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. That was lunch- very sweet but also very filling with the rice pudding from Denmark. The school gave everyone a little bag of chocolates too. We got lots of lovely comments on the chocolate coated crackers and I think a lot of people will be making them at some point.

That Saturday we went on a tour of the Sacred Valley and saw some amazing ruins. I managed to sleep through the commentary, which was pretty amazing on those roads. The interesting thing about these tours is that since I understood both versions of what the guide was saying (Spanish and English) I could listen selectively and still get the full benefit. Actually, I understood them better in Spanish than in English because they didn’t mispronounce words and they also had a fuller vocabulary. It was a bit drizzly that day but it cleared up a bit towards the end.
That Sunday I helped Dad move in with my host family- it made things a heck of a lot easier for Christmas dinner on Tuesday. I also baked two batches of foccacia bread for the pot-luck Christmas dinner at The Meeting Place that night. The dinner was amazing, with both wonderful food and company. Dad made the gravy and the turkey was delicious.

On Monday we went to Santuranticuy, the Christmas market. It was filled with people and overflowing. The main market was in the Plaza de Armas (main square) but there was another smaller one in the plaza of Belén (Bethlehem).


These photos were taken as we were people-watching from the Starbucks balcony.
We went back to my host family’s house for lunch and then I went to teach a final math lesson while Dad took a walk back to the Plaza. We met up at the Plaza around 6 and saw a beautiful rainbow. However, that meant that it was going to start raining again so we picked up the laundry from the laundromat and caught a taxi home just before the rain started. Once we got home, we waited until 10 to have the traditional Christmas dinner. The food was amazing and there was more than enough for another meal (Tuesday’s lunch!). Once the radio countdown hit midnight, we all lit sparklers (yes, in the house) and waved them at the elaborate nativity scene in the dining room until we ran out of sparklers. After that we all crowded around the window to see the fireworks that everyone was setting off like crazy. The fireworks had started several hours earlier but suddenly increased in volume at midnight and gradually tapered down until dawn. The city doesn’t set off their own fireworks but it seemed like everyone who could buy them had and it sounded more like a bombing than a party. Apparently there are even more fireworks during New Year’s but Dad and I were already in Arequipa at that point.

On Tuesday night several of us got together at The Meeting Place to watch some Christmas movies and have a bite to eat. We watched Elf but it was a pirated disc so it had some problems. Dad and I finished packing for Machu Picchu that night so we could take off easily in the morning.

That Wednesday we took a taxi to the Plaza, walked to the bus to Ollantaytambo, had a ~1.5 hour ride (in which I slept), caught the train, and had a 3 hour ride to Aguas Calientes. Once we arrived we were taken to the hotel where we were staying and signed into our room. After about an hour of downtime we changed into our bathing suits and walked over to the hot springs. We spent a couple of hours in there and experienced some refreshing rain drizzles (not quite showers) that came through the area. Once we got dried off and changed we went out to eat. We also tried to find where to catch the bus in the morning but that didn’t work so well in the dark. One of the interesting things about Aguas Calientes is that there are no cars. Everyone arrives by train and the streets are so narrow and steep that cars simply would not be of use. Also, it is one of the few towns that preserved the Inca drainage system in the streets (canal down the middle) so turns would be practically impossible. Cusco is in the sierra and thus has dry and wet seasons. Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu, however, are in a cloud forest so it’s wet and wetter. Luckily it didn’t rain hard enough to lose power like it did for some of my friends the week before.

Anyways, the next day we got up, saw that it was raining, and went back to bed until the latest possible hour before we would miss breakfast. Then we proceeded to the bus, which crossed the river and climbed a ridiculous number of switchbacks before arriving at Machu Picchu.
We caught our tour of Machu Picchu in the rain and both wore our ponchos. Our lunch consisted of Pringles, granola bars, water, and probably something else typical and snacky that I can’t remember. We had bought most of these supplies the night before in Aguas Calientes because we knew in advance that the prices would be ridiculous on the top of the mountain. We sat around for a bit waiting for the rain to stop and eventually, it did! We re-entered Machu Picchu and I did a bit of exploring and stair climbing to get some good pictures.
Eventually we came back down to Aguas Calientes (by bus, I slept) and chilled for a while before eating dinner and heading back to catch our 9:00 train. We tried out some Chifa dishes in one of the many Chifa restaurants close to the hotel. Chifa is the peruvian take on Chinese food. It’s not exactly chinese dishes but you probably need to speak chinese to work in one of those restaurants.

More on Dad’s visit will be coming soon.
Sorry about the wait on this post, I’ll try to be more regular.

Updates and Random Thoughts

I am sooo done with my classes here. Four hours of the same subject gets old when it is an interesting topic but when you are learning about the differences between ten types of folk dances or the characteristics of three different dictatorships that you’ve never heard of before, it gets old fast. However, next week is on legends and myths so I think I will enjoy that more.

For a place where it rains a lot, you would think that Cusco would have good drainage systems. Apparently the Incas knew a lot more about the rain than they do now because the streets resemble little brown rivers when it rains. Also, rain here means an incessant downpour for at least 3 or 4 hours. I bought rubber boots and I carry them with me everywhere after I soaked my sneakers twice. Also, rain ruins all kinds of plans. It’s hard to go anywhere when it’s risky to cross the street.

The other day when I left my house I saw what seemed to be a dog taking a nap under the car at first glance. It was one of the local chickens with a bald neck. That brought home once again that while this is a city, it’s not that far to the countryside. Also, the neighbors behind us have a rooster that I hear every morning and the neighborhood dogs are obnoxious at night.

The good part about my new class (Indigenous Culture) is that we have two outings every week. Last week we went to see the llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos at the Awana Kancha. This is an organization that is trying to preserve the native textiles and teach the tourists about the South American “camelidos”. After that we went to a rescue zoo with parrots, condors, pumas, and more. Please DO NOT buy anything with parrot feathers because it probably came from the black market, where 90% of the birds die during transport out of the jungle. Also, if you get birds please get two because they get very lonely and can start pulling out their own feathers. We got to go into the condor cage, where there was an older male, a younger male, and a juvenile female. The older condor will be released but the younger pair will be kept for the breeding program (since condors are monogamous, when one mate dies the other will not continue reproducing). Anyways, Rebekah and I got our pictures taken with the juvenile female and then we got to see the condors fly at close range. We didn’t get any good pictures of them flying but it was awesome to see.

This week we had an afternoon class and went to see the dances at the Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo (Qosqo is the old form of Cusco). We got to see two of the dances we had been studying this week and it is definitely better to see them than read about the theory. Afterwards Rebekah and I went out for a cheap hamburger, studied a little, and then went to do some (salsa) dancing of our own.

Yesterday we had classes in the morning again and had our second outing- this time to a local textile museum. It was very interesting but it was actually priced to what they deserved for it so it all seemed really expensive. We got together and watched The Avengers by a fire in the little wood stove in the common area at school in the afternoon. It was great- we watched it on Denton’s computer- and the fire was so nice that both Denton and Rebekah fell asleep at some point. After the movie, Rebekah and I went to a free concert in the Qorikancha. It was Andean music on adopted European instruments, so it was a fitting end to our week of folklore music/dance/festival studies.

Trip to Puno

I finally got to see Lake Titicaca! We had a three-day weekend and a group of five of us from the school went to Puno. We left early that Friday and caught the bus. It was a 6 hour trip and I was grateful once again that travel knocks me out. I slept most of the way there but when we arrived I found out that I had lost my local phone somewhere on the way. It must have slipped out of my pocket while I was reclined on the bus. I only used it for an alarm clock anyways so I have been living without a phone for the last month. Anyways, we were picked up by our tour agency and taken to our hotel. It was quite a nice place- we had two rooms of two and one room with one person. We went out to eat soon after- there was no food on the bus- and we found a decent place with good prices. One piece of advice: only order pasta in Peru if you are really hungry because the servings are huge. After eating our lunch/supper we returned to the hotel to take showers (we could actually regulate the temperature! Yay!) and relax.

The next day the tour agency picked us up after a great breakfast provided in the hotel and took us to the dock. We caught a boat and settled in for the short ride to the Uros islands. These are floating islands that people live on but now the main reason to live there is tourism. They started when the Incas tried to conquer that tribe in the Puno area but the people started making floating islands instead. That’s the reason why the people who live in los Uros speak a different native language than the other island inhabitants because the others were settled after the colonization when the Spanish brought in Cusqueñans to work on their islands. Quechua, the language of the Incas, is the most dominant native language but there are many tribes in the jungle with their own language. Unfortunately, quechua is being lost in the cities because it is seen as shameful or backwards to speak quechua. There is also discrimination against the quechua speakers, especially in Lima. Tangent aside, everyone in tourist areas also speaks Spanish with the exception of some elders. We visited two islands in los Uros, passing between the two in a boat made of reeds. They use reeds for everything: the islands, their houses, extra nutrition, boats, and crafts. The islands were organized in a cooperative to make sure that each island got the same amount of tourism. This is very common in Peru because there was a socialist dictator between 1968 and 1975 that started an agrarian reform, which would normally be a great idea but in this case didn’t turn out well at all. The farm laborers all formed cooperatives because that was the political ideology of the dictator and also because it preserved the unit of labor from the Inca times. However, the cooperatives didn’t know how to take care of the land since they had always been told how to do it and they didn’t use fertilizer or study agriculture. After the reform, the quality of Peruvian products dropped so dramatically that now the Peruvians prefer to buy foreign products because they generally are made better. I have been learning quite a lot in my history and culture classes at the school. Anyways, after los Uros we had a three hour ride to the island Amantani. We met the families we would be spending the night with and had supper there before climbing to the top of the island. We were lucky and got one of the few families with electricity on the island. There are 10 different communities on the island and each host family receives tourists once or twice a month. We had muña tea (like mint) to help with the altitude (lake Titicaca is higher up than Cusco) and then went on our little walk. While there are cement/stone paths on Amantani, they are ridiculously steep. We arrived at the top with a few stops along the way to catch our breath and the view was amazing. The lake was huge and we could see snow-covered mountains in the distance (photos on FB). I stayed up on the top until sunset and then came back down to the house where I was staying. After that, they dressed us all in tipical clothes and we went to a little party with lots of dancing. That was really fun. First we put on the loose, embroidered shirt, then the embroidered skirt, and then a very colorful belt. There was also a colorful shawl-like cloth that we were supposed to wear on our heads but it kept slipping off. The young daughter of the family led us to the party across the village in the dark and none of us got lost or fell into the creek. BTW- bring a flashlight if you travel in South America. Althought the lake gives off enough heat at night to allow the islands to have agriculture, it is very cold at night. All of the beds had three thick blankets and my bed in Cusco only has two. They had running water for sinks and showers but we flushed the toilet with a bucket of water poured in the bowl and there was no hot water other than the tea. Therefore, I skipped my shower that night. Side note: the public toilets in Puno (city) didn’t flush either.
The next day we had a breakfast of pancakes, tea, and I don’t remember what else. It was great. After that we caught the boat to the next island, Taquile. Taquile is unique in that it is the only island where the guys knit. They make their own knitted hats and many other articles of clothing to sell to tourists. The women weave a special blanket that takes them at least a month of hard work and they have designs that tell stories of their past or of the seasons. We hiked up to the main plaza and looked at all of the work for sale. Taquile is also run by a cooperative so we were told which restaurant to go to for our lunch of fried trout (or an omelet for those who didn’t like fish). All of the restaurants serve the same food and cost the same with the reasoning that everyone should benefit equally from the tourism on the island. After we ate, we descended over 500 stairs to the port on the other side of the island where our boat awaited us. We had a long ride back to Puno but the lake wasn’t too choppy so I was able to take a little nap. The other reason I took a nap was because I tried to read a book about the local fauna and it put me right out. I also spent some time talking to my new friends, Bill and Anne. They are a retired couple from California and it turned out that we had a lot to talk about. When we got back to Puno, the tour agency bussed us back to our hotels but since we didn’t have a room anymore we just hung out in the lobby. We met up with our new friend from Australia for supper and then got a ride to the bus station for the journey back to Cusco. We arrived in Cusco at 4 in the morning on Monday, just in time to grab a nap before going to class/volunteering.

A few days later I bought an alarm clock because I couldn’t keep waking myself up in time for school because I don’t get much rest at all when I do that. I was never late for class but when it is light at 5 and you don’t need to get up until 6:45 you don’t get much deep rest.

Trip to Chile (Around Oct. 20)

Ashay, Denton, Vincent, and I went out to a nice little pizza place on Friday before catching the bus to Arequipa. We met up with Anna and Kira at the school and then Ebert took us over to the bus station. On the way down we took Cruz del Sur (the most famous/prestigious/secure bus company) and had a 11 hour ride down to Arequipa. We arrived early in the morning and a bus picked us up and took us to a hostel to have breakfast and wait for our tour of Colca Canyon. We hadn’t quite finished breakfast when the bus came so we wolfed down the rest and started our two day bus tour of Colca Valley/Canyon. We drove through a reservation for los camelidos (alpacas, llamas, and vicuñas) and I bought a nice alpaca sweater. Arequipa is in volcano territory and we saw lovely rock formations as well as the volcanoes themselves. We saw herds of wild vicuñas along the rainwater ponds and also several types of local birds. We made several stops along the way to break up the four + hour drive. We drove through the crater of an old volcano and then stopped at the highest point in the trip. We had a lot of changes in altitude during this trip. We arrived in Chivay in time for lunch and stopped at the tourist buffet. It was expensive but I ate enough to make it worth it. We had alpaca meat (very tasty), little spinach balls, quinoa balls, a pasta dish with alpaca, and some other dishes I can’t remember. After that we had a little break and then most of us went to the hot springs. It was awesome, like swimming in a hot tub just a little cooler because we stayed away from where the water entered. It was 39 degrees Celsius- I feel confident that you can convert that to Fahrenheit on your own. For dinner that night we ate at a great little local place close to the main square. When we started dinner, the town didn’t have power so everything was done by candle light. The lights came back on half way through but we all liked it better without power. However, I did enjoy having power back later that night when I took a shower.

We all got up early the next morning to have a quick breakfast before starting our second (and final) day of the bus tour. We made a couple quick stops on our way to the Cruz del Condor and got to see a beautiful Colonial-era church from the inside. In that same stop there was a guy with a hawk that he placed on us in different poses for pictures (which will be posted… eventually). All of us had to get our picture taken and then we hurried back to the bus. We arrived at Cruz del Condor just before nine and were lucky to see three condors. It was the middle of nesting season, the guide explained to us, and only the adolescents were out flying. I got one picture of a condor in the distance below us and saw another up close but it caught me by surprise and I didn’t get a picture. As we came back through the canyon we stopped to look at the pre-Inca tombs and a model of the terraces made before their construction. It was very interesting to see these models since I had watched a video about them during my third week of grammer class. We came back to Chivay for lunch, to the same expensive tourist trap, but we just ordered sandwiches for a lot cheaper. After that we bought popsicles and settled in the bus for the long haul back to Arequipa. We were dropped off at the hostel that we had breakfasted in on our arrival in Arequipa and left our stuff there so we could explore the city unemcumbered before being picked up later that night to go to the bus station. We went to have some drinks before supper in a cafe on a balcony overlooking the beautiful Plaza de Armas de Arequipa- I had a juice- and then went for pizza for supper. It’s interesting how many little pizza places you see here in Peru. While everyone else went to check out the William Wallace bar, wore funny hats, and shouted “Freedooommm!!”, I played guarddog in the hostel and read some more in the book that Ashay lent me. Eventually everyone came back to the hostel and we waited there for our ride to the bus station. Our next bus was to Tacna, a trip of about 6 hours, which meant that we got to Tacna before the sun did.

That was the start of a long, long day. We got a taxi to take us across the border to Chile and only had a minor hiccup when Vincent forgot his visa and had to pay a small fine. We found out that Chile is two hours ahead of Peru between Daylight Savings Time and who knows what else so we crossed from about 5 in Peru to 7 in Chile. We landed in the bus station in Arica, Chile, I changed my dollars for pesos, and I started to get really hungry. We caught a taxi to the hostel we were staying in (two to be precise), dropped off our stuff and started walking back towards town to see what we could scrounge up for breakfast. About halfway through the walk we decided it wasn’t worth it and caught a bus into town. After that we walked around in town for about an hour trying to decide where to eat. At that point I was ready to walk into the nearest place that sold anything remotely appetizing and start chowing down. However, the rest of the group had different ideas about what qualified as “breakfast”. Also, in Chile they have a custom of not eating out for breakfast until 11 and so the good places didn’t open until then. As we walked I ate the whole mini-tube of Pringles that I brought for bus snacks and almost convined everyone to eat at the nearest place that looked like it had good clientele but we ended up completing our circle and going to one of the places we had passed over earlier. I had a cheese sandwich, some juice, and a disgusting cup of tea that reminded me why I always picked out the tea bag. We were not very impressed with Chilean manners, service, or eating habits. After that we searched for a supermarket because the plan was to spend a day drinking on the beach. While they bought rum, wine, etc. I bought some water. I should mention that we all had our swimsuits on under our clothes because the original plan was to find some breakfast along the beach and then go swimming. After the alcohol was purchased we started walking back towards the beach. Some of us were in favor of taking a bus back but didn’t know how to find the right one. I pointed out that once we were out of town they all went to the same place- the touristy beach. Once we were out of town we just kept walking until we found the beach we were looking for. We went for the unwalled section and found out why the beach was walled in- the shore was actually very rocky and they wanted to keep the sand on the beach. Since it was walled, the waves weren’t anything to speak of but after the sun came out the water felt very nice. I stayed in the water the most but still managed to get a terrible burn, which showed its full extent the following day. We were all burnt to a crisp. The next week everyone at school knew who had gone on the trip because we were so burnt. We came back to the hostel to wash off and then watched the sun set at 8 (not at 6 like in Peru!) and went for dinner at the restaurant by the beach. After that, we laid our burned bodies and let ourselves get some rest.
Denton and I decided to come back early and not spend all week in Chile because of some money issues. We came back on Tuesday with the rest of the group.

We slept in until about 9, packed, and got taxis to the bus station. From there we got taxis across the border to Tacna, reversing our trip to Chile. While I was going through immigration, I told the official that I wanted to be in Peru for three months (the maximum allowance for a tourist visa) and for no apparent reason he gave me six months! I was really pleased with this development but I still have to check if I have to make another trip out of the country at some point to complete my stay. When we had just gotten through border control, they had a tsunami drill. This meant that everyone had to get out of the building and pretend to walk through the sand to the safe point. They also had a mock fire rescue from the roof of one of the buildings. We had recieved advance notice in Arica about the tsunami drill but didn’t know what time it would be. Eventually we got to Tacna and bought the bus tickets back home to Cusco. We had a great brunch there of lomo saltado and some pineapple juice. The bus was very relaxing, practically a straight shot up the coast, and I was able to read my book in between glances at the movie. We stopped in Arequipa and had an interesting time finding the correct bus station but we had a great supper of spaghetti with chicken in the second (wrong) station we were in. We arrived in the third (correct) station just in time to use the bathroom and load the bus. In all of the busses I rode on this trip I made sure to have the window seat because I’ve found that I don’t need to get up as much as my friends on long trips. We arrived in Cusco at six in the morning on Wednesday and I came home in time to eat breakfast and go back to sleep since sunburn, bus seats, and sleep mix about as well as oil and water- which is to say not at all.

All told, this was a great trip and I learned a very valuable lesson: Always wear sunscreen!

Reflections on the Week

Written Oct.19

I used this week to rest up before my big trip to Arequipa. Tuesday I went and taught how to make bracelets to the volunteers in their meeting and then had a nice evening at the school’s residence making and eating pancakes with some of my friends from Holland. I found out that in Holland they sprinkle their pancakes with sugar instead of pouring syrup on them. We put bacon, cheese, and apples in our pancakes as desired. It was nice to help with the cooking because at home I’m not really allowed to do anything with the food but eat it.

Last night (Thursday) I met up with three friends and we went to a mexican restaurant. Oddly enough we were all American, which almost never happens because most of the students in the school are European. After that I came home to study for my last Literature exam, which I took this morning. Being down here is finally teaching me how to study because with this material I need more than a quick review the morning of the test. Since I started studying for the tests, my grades have definitely gone up. We have been reading short stories and analyzing them- which is an amazing improvement over when I arrived. Nevertheless, I am definitely glad to have a week of vacation and a change in topic.

I will be spending my week of vacation in Chile. I will be taking a bus to Arequipa tonight and then down to Tacna and across the border! These are very long bus rides but I will have five of my friends with me so it won’t seem as long.