Nearing the End

This semester has just flown by! I really can’t believe it! And it’s been so busy that I haven’t been finding the time to blog. Last week was finals week so it was packed with studying, writing an essay, and various “farewells”. I definitely am happy that classes are done because now I have a little bit of time to breathe and enjoy Perú before I come back home.

I’ve had so many mixed emotions this last week. Stress because it was finals week. Excitement once Thursday hit and finals week was over. And sadness because some people have already gone home. Wednesday, we went to Derek’s house because his family threw us a going away party. Thursday, we had a farewell luncheon with all the UNK students, our teachers, and some coordinators of this program from UPC. Thursday night me, Mary, Hugo, Derek, and Nicki walked around Miraflores reminiscing about the entire semester and all the awesome experiences we’ve had. Then on Friday, Mary left us to go back to the US. We had a soldier go down. :( So overall it was just kind of a sad end to the week because none of us are quite ready to go home yet. Of course, it’s going to be awesome coming home and seeing all our friends and family, but then after that first week back, it’s going to be back to the real world with having to take a summer class and working in boring ole Columbus. It’s definitely going to be a change from Lima because ,in Lima, it’s almost impossible to get bored. There are so many things to do, and if you really don’t have anything to do, then you can just go to a big park like the one in Miraflores and walk around.

I really shouldn’t be bumming myself out too much, though, because I still have 2 and a half more weeks to live it up before it’s time to come home on May 9th. AND, I’m lucky enough to be able to be going to the Amazon Jungle (which my flight leaves in 6 and a half hours which is why I’m keeping this post short!). We arrive back from the jungle on Thursday morning, so thankfully I’ll have one last weekend here in Lima to enjoy. Then, on Monday I fly out to go see my Chilean sister Koni! I could not be more excited to see her again! So, this blog is just a tiny update of what’s been going on lately, and I’ll have a much better blog next week with lots of pictures from the jungle!! :)

Arequipa, Perú

Two weekends ago, a group of 13 of us from Nebraska decided we weren’t ready to stop exploring Perú outside of Lima, so we flew out to Arequipa which is the second largest city in Perú. The big attractions in/around Arequipa is Mt. Misti which is a still active volcano that you can hike up and also the Colca Canyon which is deeper than the Grand Canyon. Some common themes for this trip was how incredibly cheap everything was and an immense lack of sleep that we got.

El Misti - the volcano right outside of Arequipa. last erupted in 1985

We arrived to Arequipa early Friday morning (after having to get up at 2 in the morning to catch our flight) and we went straight to the hostel that we were staying in for the weekend to try to get a little sleep before we did anything. A hostel is like a hotel only wayyy cheaper. It’s more for travelers who are looking to save some moulah, and you sometimes have these bigger rooms that hold like 8 people and you could potentially be staying with people you don’t know. We stayed in our hostel for 24 soles ($9) a night for each person which is dirt cheap! Nevertheless, we weren’t really sure what we were getting ourselves into, and we were a little scared to see what this hostel was going to be like. We thought it was going to be pretty sketchy since it was so cheap, but it turns out it wasn’t too bad! We had our own little bunk beds and electricity and everything! It wasn’t luxurious by any means, but hey, it was at least somewhere to sleep!

After resting up a bit, we walked around in Arequipa’s Plaza de Armas. (If you’ve been paying attention to my previous blogs, you’d notice a reoccurrence of “La Plaza de Armas”. Each city has one and its just the main square with shops and food surrounding it and they are always so pretty!) In the afternoon, we hopped on a 4 hour double decker tour bus going around Arequipa for only 15 soles ($6)! This was the perfect thing to do today because it was mostly a sightseeing tour from the bus of beautiful green scenery once again with just a few stops which was good since we were so tired from our 5am flight. At one of our stops, we were able to ride horses for 10 soles ($4). I was totally on that bandwagon!! I’ve never rode a horse before, so I was excited. Unfortunately, I picked the ambitious horse that decided to lead the whole pack, and I must admit I was kinda scared because, first of all, I didn’t know where we were going, and second, my horse early on led me down this slope of rocks into a stream because he was thirsty and all the while I was screaming like a little girl! Haha I was scared, okay? It’s not like horses have traction on their hooves and I was so scared that it would lose its footing and we would just go tumbling. Good news is I obviously survived! :) I was just a little paranoid the rest of the ride, but it was still fun.

La Plaza de Armas in Arequipa

some scenery outside of Arequipa from our tour bus

ridin' my psycho horse

Saturday morning we were pleasantly surprised to find out that our hostel makes these specialty pancakes for us. It was giant pancake rolled up with bananas in the middle with manjar (a cross between caramel and peanut butter?) on top. They only made one at a time, so we had to wait our turn, but it was so delicious. It was good to get fueled up before our main activity for the day: white water rafting! (and only for 60 soles ($22)!)

We were so pumped for this! So pumped that we didn’t even mind cramming all 13 of us into one van (which then again, we’ve had plenty of practice with cramming people into vehicles for the last 3 months because we always fit as many people as we can into taxis. Whatever we got to do to save a few soles!) After putting on all of our gear (with some complications on my part since I mistakenly put my wet suit on backwards and had to call in the reinforcements to help me get it straightened out), learning all the rules and commands, and playing some games while we were waiting for the rafts to get pumped up, we were ready to go rafting down El Rio de Chili!

My raft consisted of Emily and Derek in the front, me and Mary next, Nicki in her oddsome, and then the guide in the very back. Rafting was awesome! The water had a nice little chill to it. It was kind of a bummer though because the water level was really low this day, and there were a lot of rocks that we kept getting stuck on. Otherwise, one of the other two rafts would get stuck, and we would have to wait for them. It wasn’t too bad though because it only prolonged our trip so that we had more time to enjoy it! At some point further down the river, we came to a trickier part. I’m not even for sure what exactly happened since it all happened so quickly, but we were going down a little drop and our raft smacked a rock which jerked it to the side really quickly and all I saw was Emily in front of me go overboard with Derek following shortly behind her, and I was about certain I was going with them since they both went overboard on my side literally right in front of me. I stuck my feet in further in the little slots, though, and with the help of my abdominal muscles, I managed to stay in the raft. Emily ended up towards the rear of the raft, and our guide was able to pull her up right away. Derek managed to grab ahold of the side of the raft right by me, and I was in such shock of what was going on that I couldn’t think! There was a wave that sucked Derek down beneath water for a little bit but then he came back up and by that point me and Mary grabbed him and pulled him back into the raft. Talk about getting our hearts pumping!

The other two rafts also had incidences with people falling out of their rafts, but luckily noone got hurt which was good so that we could all laugh about it later. At one point, Andrei was stuck on a rock in the middle of the river, and they had to save him by throwing him a rope. It definitely was some good memories! I think my favorite part, though, was at the very end when our guide said we could hop out and just float the rest of the way since the water was deeper. It was sweet because here we were just chilling, holding on to each other while floating down a river in South America, taking it all in. Like when are we ever going to have this opportunity again?! It was awesome.

the highlight of Arequipa!

Then on Sunday we had to wake up bright and early at 2 am for our full day tour of the Colca Canyon (which again was dirt cheap because it was only 58 soles ($21) and included breakfast and lunch). The biggest bummer about this tour was the fact that we were like zombies the whole time because it was so early in the morning and we didn’t hardly get any sleep the night before, and the van/bus thing we rode in had THE most uncomfortable seats in the world so we couldn’t sleep a lick. We were just dead tired which really was a shame because I don’t think we appreciated how pretty the canyon was. A lot of the day, too, was spent on the van, so we were just tired and uncomfortable. Another thing was the fact that it was so COLD and we weren’t prepared for that at all, being used to our Lima heat so much. It even sleeted/snowed a little bit on our way home! That made me so happy to see (but also gave me a little wave of homesickness!).

Chivay- the town we passed through where we ate our breakfast and lunch

all of us at the canyon

the Colca Canyon!

The canyon was really pretty, though, which makes me mad that we couldn’t enjoy it as much as we should have. It wasn’t the Cusco/Machu Picchu “gorgeous”, though, because that place literally stole my heart! But it was still pretty. On the way home, one of our stops were at las aguas calientes (the hot springs) and a few of us went swimming in them for a little bit which felt like heaven! Also on the way home, we stopped at these fields with hundreds of llamas grazing. It was quite comical to see actually because it just reminded me of how we have hundreds of cows grazing in our fields instead. Thats the difference between Nebraska and Perú I guess! After all of this, though, we were definitely ready to head on home.

me with some little indigenous girls, but some aren't lookin' too happy!

condor watching! the perfect picture of our group with a condor! these things have a wingspan of 10 feet... aka- massive

Monday morning we had to wake up at 2:15 (for the 3rd time in 4 days!) to catch our flight and head back to reality with a crazy, busy week with a quiz, an oral test, a written test, an extra class, a class trip to see a play, and a visit to a highschool to speak english with some students. I was stressin’ just a tad to say the least! And even though it was a stressful week, Arequipa was a blast and was totally worth it all!

Ica, Perú and St. Patty’s Day

I’m behind on blogging– what’s new!

Two Sundays ago, the entire Nebraska crew parted ways with Lima once again to head to Ica which is a city more or less in the desert. I was really excited for this trip because I knew that we didn’t have much of anything planned and that this would be a more relaxing trip. We stayed at a resort and pretty much all of the trip’s activities took place there. It really was awesome, though, because it was all time to ourselves. On Sunday alone, we hung out at the pool and played a nice game of water polo, went sandboarding, played soccer that night, and then sang karaoke at the bar. Sandboarding was awesome! It’s just like snowboarding but instead on sand. All the girls that went before me went down sitting on their butts, but me being the daredevil I am (ha, jokes!) went down standing up. It was actually kind of terrifying because it went like straight down! I went down twice like that and I think I did a pretty good job actually! Well.. up until the point where I had to stop. There were bushes at the bottom of the sand dune so you had to make sure to stop in time, and when I tried stopping, it did not end well. The second time I ended up taking a tumble and nailed my head. Luckily, its sand so it’s soft, but I knew I’d be feeling it the next day and sure enough I did. My neck was not too happy with me for the next few days.. It was a lot of fun though still and totally worth it!

flying down the mountain! probably right before I bit it haha

Monday, we woke up early to go to the Paracas reserve near Ica. We took a boat ride to these islands to see the thousands upon thousands of birds there, and also the sea lions and penguins. We were warned before even getting on the boat that once we got near the islands there would be a horrible smell from all the bird poop. Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to be THAT bad… It WAS THAT bad. I was sitting with Nicki on the boat, and with the combination of the blazing heat, the horrible smell, and the boat rocking back and forth, we were not feeling too hot haha. I was just waiting for the moment that I had to puke, and Nicki was in the same boat (literally! hahaa oh puns!). Nevertheless, neither of us puked. We did enjoy the first part of the ride though! It was all so beautiful!

a few sea lions soaking up the sun


another part of the islands. got some sea lions chilling underneath the arch

When we returned home from the Paracas reserve, we went straight to sand buggying! That was seriously so much fun. There were huge dunes and when we went down some of them, it was just like going on a rollercoaster– stomach dropping and everything. Definitely a good thrill, and it was cool seeing all of the sand dunes being as I’ve never been in a desert before.

out in the desert!

us with our buggies

We only had Tuesday morning to enjoy our last few moments in Ica because our bus left early afternoon back for Lima. We decided to go to Huacachina which was a tiny little lagoon right outside of Ica. Once again- so pretty! It was just this inky dinky lagoon completely surrounded by sand dunes. We took some stylish Egyptian looking rowboats out in the lagoon and just hung out for a while taking it all in before we had to leave. All in all, our trip to Ica was a success. It was nice just to relax and not have to worry about homework or anything else!

me and Nicki are slaves to Queen Mary, just paddling away

Huacachina- such a pretty lagoon!

On a more recent note:

To prepare ourselves for St. Patrick’s day, me, Mary, Derek, and Hugo our Peruvian friend decided to make some St. Patty’s cookies (thanks to my mother!). She sent me a package with lots of goodies (she’s such a goodie herself!) and she also sent me things to make green mint cookies. We kinda had some troubles, though. First of all, cooking times are different here and we learned that the hard way when Mary said, “Do you guys smell that?” We had burned the cookies a little! So Hugo went to take them out of the oven, and I was holding down the oven door for him so it wouldn’t automatically start closing and burn his arms. This is where problem number two came into play. Hugo was only using paper towels to protect his hands when he grabbed the cookie sheet, so of course he burned his hands! He was waiting for someone to clear off a space on the counter so he could put the cookies down, and in the mean time, was holding the cookie sheet inches from my face since I was still holding the oven door down, so I was screaming “Don’t burn my face! Don’t burn my face!” Problem number three: he’s Peruvian and doesn’t understand English when someone’s literally screaming at him. So in the end, since he was still in the process of burning his hands, he dropped the cookie sheet on the open over door and some cookies splattered. Haha all in all, batch number one wasn’t the greatest (but we ate them anyways and gave the rest to the kids! Haha) and batch number was a lot better.


Then, St. Patrick’s day night, me and Mary went to Derek’s house because it was his host dad’s birthday party. We showed up at 8:45 for the 8:30 party, and of course we were the first ones there because you have to take into account “Peruvian time”. Guests started filing in finally about 45 minutes later, and me and Mary realized we were very glad we showed up first because when you come, you have to greet everyone with a kiss on the cheek. So by the time the last guests arrived, there was a whole room full of guests to greet, and when one guy finished, he literally took out a handkerchief to wipe off the sweat! Haha it’s tough work. From then on, we spent the first couple hours just sitting on a couch and chatting while being waited on like princesses. They would come around and bring all the guests refills on their drinks and rounds and rounds of appetizers. It was amazing! Just when we started to get full, they started to bring out the real food on the table for dinner- at 11:30 at night! It was ridiculous! Haha the Peruvian culture is something else at times. We had so much food, I couldn’t believe it. Then they brought out the cake and we sang to Derek’s host dad around midnight, as is tradition here. After all the food, Derek’s host mom cranked the music up a little louder and me, Mary, Derek, and few others got out on the floor to get the party started! Since, after all, it was Derek’s host dad’s birthday party, we were pretty much the only young people there so we were dancing and talking with all of the older people. They sure know how to party, though! Me and Mary were tired by 1:30 and were ready to leave, and we were pretty much the first ones to leave! Talk about embarrassing getting showed up by all these older people that can out-party me! Haha it was a good time, though.

the feast!.... at 11:30 at night haha

A few side notes:

For some reason, even though it is literally summer here and the weather is beautiful, I haven’t actually been able to tell myself that it’s summer right now. I don’t know it’s just kind of a weird feeling haha. I really want to convince myself that I’m in summer right now, but it’s just not working. It may be because I’m taking classes, or my body just knows that it’s not time for summer yet. I think also it’s because I’m missing all the little connotations that go along with summer in Columbus. Nevertheless, I still definitely prefer this weather over the cold– though I hear that you guys are having about the same weather as I am back home! ¡Qué loco!

I’ve had two attack-of-the-ants! (sadly). First time, I freaked out and skyped mom and dad which didn’t really help the situation since they are thousands of miles away. Second time, I was a little more prepared to handle the situation. Turns out, ants like saltine crackers and peanut butter– a lot. This time, though, I am smarter. I bought a new jar of peanut butter with its lid as tightly sealed as I can get it, in a ziplock baggie, in a double knotted grocery sack. Try gettin’ in that, ants!

In my last blog about my classes, I talked about indigenous groups in Latin America and how they’ve been oppressed over the years. I said that even though we haven’t specifically read about Perú, I was sure that these same things went on here. Well, this last weekend, these notions were confirmed and a few of my classmates unfortunately had to witness it first hand. Nicki, Kathy, and Emily went to Trujillo with Nicki’s host family this weekend (a city north of Lima about 8 hours by bus). On their way back on Monday, they were stopped for 24 hours on their bus because there was a mining protest with 2,000 protestors blocking off Panamerica Norte which is the main huge interstate in Perú. According to Kathy, they were burning tires, throwing rocks, and I can’t really remember what else. The police here are corrupt, and they aren’t really able to enforce anything which didn’t help the situation. They ended up having to go back to Trujillo and miss Monday and Tuesday’s classes. Sounds like a nightmare! (And I was soo close to going with them this weekend!) Luckily, they made it home okay this morning!! A little scarred maybe, but at least they’re safe now!

A group of about 13 of us or so are flying out at 5:30 Friday morning for Arequipa- trip number 3! …and I think we are backpacking? I’ve never backpacked before so this should be interesting. I’m just hoping that we don’t encounter any crazy protestors along the way!

This Ain’t Just a 4 Month Vacation! (though, I wish….)

I must admit, we have gone out and seen and done a lot of cool things with the time that we’ve been here. I always find myself wanting to go out and do more- to see more of the city. I get frustrated when I sometimes have to turn things down when we have an overabundance of homework. Truth is, though, that I came here to STUDY! haha. The biggest thing is just trying to find a good balance between the two so I can fit them both into my schedule, and for the most part, I’ve been doing a pretty good job of that I think.

In general, classes these days have been going a lot better than the first couple weeks. I talked about my classes a little bit in one of my first blogs I think, but just as a reminder, I have one class in english and three classes in spanish. We only have one class a day Monday through Thursday, but here’s the kicker– each class is 3 hours long! We’re supposed to get a 15 minute break every day too, but normally we are lucky if we even get 5!

My one class in english is Indigenous Cultures in Latin America. This class basically consists of reading various articles and then discussing them during the class. The articles talk about all of the oppression that indigenous cultures have experienced over the years. It really is kind of sad because time after time, we read about how different governments ignore the rights and wishes of indigenous cultures. The governments take over the indigenous’s land to extract resources or do whatever else, and during this process, the indigenous are left with pollution and contamination or just being completely driven off their land. They are rarely given a say in the matter, which leads to them protesting in order to try to stand up for their rights. Though we have not specifically gotten to Perú yet, I’m sure that the indigenous groups here are experiencing these same kinds of things. What is most surprising is that some of the articles that we read are fairly recent, like within the last couple of years. Unfortunately, this kind of treatment towards indigenous groups is still happening today.

Tuesday’s class is Peruvian Literature. This one is the hardest to go and sit through every week because we have to read the literature as homework, and then the class consists of a 3 hour lecture in spanish where he talks about the authors or we analyze the stories. It’s just kind of dry. I feel bad though because our teacher is super nice and is so energetic and into the stories, but it’s just hard for all of us students to get into it much. The cool thing is, though, that it is PERUVIAN literature and many of the places where the stories occur are places that we have been to, like Miraflores (a district within Lima) or Cusco (the city near Machu Picchu). Reading these stories always reminds me of how much history there actually is here in Perú.

Our class on Wednesday is Advanced Conversation and Writing. This is our best class when it comes to learning more spanish. Our teacher is good about pronounciating words when he talks, so it is to the point where I can understand everything he says. This definitely encourages me and makes me think that my spanish is pretty good, and then right about the time I’m having these thoughts, my teacher himself shoots these thoughts back down! Lately in his class, we have been watching youtube videos about random things and we have to answer questions about what people were saying. In these videos, I cannot understand a darn word, and it is so frustrating! The people talk so fast, and maybe it’s because it’s a youtube video and therefore the speech is not clear to begin with, but I always feel semi disappointed after watching them since I don’t understand much. It’s definitely hard at times, but overall I’m sure I am improving bit by bit. I like his class the best out of the 3 spanish classes, though, because we actually practice speaking spanish every now and then. One time, he had us each memorize two different “trabalenguas” (tounge twisters) and present it to the class. One of mine was:

El que poco coco come, poco coco compra;

El que poca capa se tapa, poca capa se compra.

Como yo poco coco como, poco coco compro,

Y como poca capa me tapo, poca capa me compro.

(and I mastered it!)

Lastly, our class on Thursday is Advanced Grammar. At first I feel like we wasted time a little bit because we were learning about all the different dialects of Spanish. Me and the others felt like we shouldn’t be learning about that because we needed all this precious time to actually work on our grammar because it stinks! Seriously, our grammar is horrible. When you talk, you can’t translate it literally from english into spanish because many times it just doesn’t work out that way. There are many little rules to know. It’s funny because sometimes now when we speak in English, we use different words or different sentence structures that are always a little odd. We don’t do it on purpose, either, so it always gives us a good laugh. We are starting now to get into things more in class, but now we only have a few weeks left of school– only FIVE!! There’s too much to learn and not enough time to learn it!

In general, that’s kinda how I’ve felt up to this point when it comes to my spanish speaking skills– too much to learn and not enough time. Originally, I thought I was going to go to Perú for 4 months and come back fluent, and now I know that that is not the case. It’s kinda a bummer that my speaking skills haven’t come along too great because I was expecting them to be a lot better by this point. I’m starting to come to terms with this fact, though, and it’s okay. The problem is that I haven’t really been exposed to HAVING to talk spanish much. Though my host family is very nice, I rarely see them, and I think within your living situation is where you are going to get the most practice of talking in spanish. Sadly, I think this is why my spanish hasn’t improved drastically. This little aspect is kinda a let down, but in the grand scheme of things it’s okay. I know my spanish has still improved since before I came here. And above all, I’ve been having the time of my life being here, so it is all still worth it even if I don’t come back speaking fluently!

No Wonder it’s Considered One of the Seven Wonders of the World!

P.S. Sorry this blog is so late! (Cusco, Perú and Machu Picchu, February 23-25)

So even before we got to Cusco, all the Peruvians have been giving us plenty of warnings. “When you’re there, don’t run! Take it easy because of the high altitude or you’ll get sick!” and also, “Make sure to bring lots of warm clothes! It is really cold there!”

Well, one of these things were correct, at least. The other… not so much. We stepped out of the airport to meet beautiful weather! Yes, it was coldER, but not cold. I think we were all pretty pumped about the weather because it reminded us of home. It actually rains in Cusco too!–at 4 different times our first day alone! That’s one thing I definitely miss from home because in the summer we have rain and thunderstorms all the time. Lima is a desert with nada when it somes to rain!

So anyways, right when we stepped out of the airport, I fell in love with Cusco. Cusco is a city in the mountains, so there were mountains all around us, and since it rains so much, the mountains and everything were vibrant green. I loved it too because all of the roads were cobblestone. Cusco has kind of an antique feel to it, yet still modern in a way. It was just beautiful! We could definitely tell that there was an altitude difference, though. Right away we headed to the hotel and had an hour to relax, so I tried to take a quick power nap since we had to wake up at 5:00 this morning. My breath was really short, though, and I couldn’t breathe very easily so my nap didn’t really happen.

We then went out to take some tours in the city of Cusco! We got a tour of Qorikancha- The Temple of the Sun (which was a monastery)- and also of the Cathedral of Cusco. Both places were beautiful! We had a tour guide that liked to stop at every little sign or painting or whatever and talk for 10 minutes about each thing so that got a little boring. Haha we survived though. Well, kinda. Some people were really feeling the effects of the altitude and were not feeling good, so after these tours we called it an early day and decided to do the rest of what was planned for today tomorrow in the morning.

Derek, me, Nicki, Mary, and Roberto our grammar teacher in the courtyard of the Qorikancha monastery

Instead, we decided to go to a pizzeria to refuel ourselves, and it was SO DELICIOUS! Being here in Perú has made me realize how much I love pizza and how much I miss it when I don’t have it. I’ve only had it 3 times here, and let me tell ya, I’ve made it count each time. We got to the pizzeria at roughly 4:30 and didn’t leave until after 7:00. That’s how Peruvians roll. If you go out to eat, you need to set aside a chunk of time. They expect you to sit around and socialize, so it takes forever to order, then get your food, and then asking for the bill and getting your change is a whole other hour in itself! I really don’t mind this any more though. It’s nice just sitting and chatting.

Tonight a group of us walked around some shops in La Plaza de Armas and bought a few things. We were on an all-time high tonight just laughing about everything and having a good time. Since Machu Picchu is near Cusco, this city is very touristic. This means that there is a lot of pickpocketing that goes on because locals target the tourists. We noticed a person that was trying to pickpocket someone in our group, and after this incident we decided we needed to come up with some kind of warning. In an attempt to not have people understand us but ourselves (since many Peruvians know some English), we came up with “Goons be lurkin’!” haha. So if we saw sketchy people that looked like they were going to pickpocket us, we just yelled “Goons be lurkin’!” and got the heck out of there! Luckily, we survived the night without getting robbed, and we just had a great time. The city is so beautiful that it put us all in great moods. Day one was definitely a success!

Kathy, Jose, Jessica, and myself at La Plaza de Armas in Cusco. The Cathedral is in the background.

The next day started off early with sightseeing of different ruins. We saw four different ones. One, Saqsaywaman, was a huge flat land up in the mountains that overlooked the city of Cusco which was really neat. Apart from the ruins, we also saw El Valle Sagrado de Las Incas (Sacred Valley of the Incas). This was beautiful as well. Our morning was spent just sightseeing these beautiful ruins.

El Valle Sagrado de Las Incas

We drove for about a half hour through beautiful green scenery to get to our lunch destination, and I am telling you, the scenery does NOT get old. We had a huge lunch buffet at this place was some cute little gazebos basically in the middle of nowhere just for us! After lunch we stopped at one last town nearby to see the ruins there. All the ruins were different and very interesting to see! Then we had another long bus ride to get back to Cusco. Once again, there was more gorgeous scenery and this time when we drove, we had some traditional flute music playing. It was seriously the most peaceful drive ever. I kinda wanna go back now just to relive that bus ride hahaa it was awesome!

so green and pretty! the pictures really just don't do it justice either!

The following morning we woke up bright and early (3 am to be exact!). We took a 2 hour bus ride to get to the town where the train leaves to take you to MACHU PICCHU!! We were all so pumped to go see Machu Picchu. The train took us through the mountains and followed the Urubamba River the whole way, so once again, everything was beautiful!

the train ride along the Urubamba River at the crack of dawn

We FINALLY then got to Machu Picchu, and we had literally the whole day to spend there. The place was unreal. We were high up in the mountains with green green mountains surrounding us on all sides. The ruins itself were really cool. We spent a good portion of our morning with our tour guide just walking along in the ruins getting the details. Its crazy actually how big it is! A lot of the pictures of the whole thing are from high up, so everything looks so small, but when you’re there its a whole different story! One thing was evident right from the get-go: today, we were going to get a workout in! Stairs were everywhere, and they weren’t normal steps; they were steps made from stones so each one was different and it was almost like taking two steps at a time because they were so tall. We got used to them pretty quickly, but I know I can say hands down that I have never taken so many stairs in one day!

finally made it here!!

Today was semi-physically demanding yet so relaxing at the same time. We took many breaks throughout the day, especially with having to deal with the high altitude. More towards the end of the day, a few of us went on two separate hikes on some mountains near Machu Picchu which were a lot of fun and rewarding. Especially on the second hike, whenever we walked past people, everyone had smiles on their faces and said hello. People just seemed “extra cheerful” here. I feel like it’s kinda hard to be at Machu Picchu and not be in a great mood because everything is so gorgeous. At one point today, our whole crew sat on a terrace ledge overlooking it all, and I seriously just sat there thinking how I could sit there in that same place for days. I did not want to leave this beauty, and I could definitely see why Machu Picchu is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. There is no doubt that the city of Cusco and Machu Picchu itself are the most beautiful places I have ever been to, and I highly recommend it for everyone to see!

taking a break and taking it all in

the fearless crew that wasn't quite ready to leave Machu Picchu yet and instead of going back down into the city, stayed to do one last vigorous hike! the ruins are the grayish part smack dab in the center of the photo, so we sure hiked a ways!

our whole gang at Machu Picchu

saying my farewell with one last picture

Finding Ordinary in the Unordinary

So, I kept saying that I was going to blog more often so that all of my blogs didn’t get to be so stinking long. Well….that’s clearly not really happening! Haha. I only blog about once every 2 weeks, so I feel like it justifies itself.

After talking to my mom on skype, she’s helped me to realize that there are so many things here that seem ordinary to me now that I kind of just forget about, and that some of these things may be of interest to you. I’ll touch on a few things that I don’t think I’ve really covered yet:

1. The food is cheaper in general, I think. You can buy a pack of snacky foods like cookies for a buck or so. Imported items…now that’s a different story! My box of Honey Bunches of Oats costs me about $6 here! And, actually, all of their cereal is pretty expensive. Also, I saw a tiny bag of bite-sized Snickers for about $9. How ridiculous! Perú really has not mastered chocolate like the US has, either. I’ve had a brownie and chocolate cake once, and they were both quite the disappointment. As for milk, I’m scared of it!! They don’t keep it refrigerated in the supermarket– it’s just sitting there right on a shelf! Haha. I’ve definitely been keeping my distance from it and only drink it when I have to. My biggest disappointment of all, though, is the fact that they don’t have Chex or any similar cereal so I can make puppy chow. What kind of place is this?! Luckily, my wonderful mother sent me an entire package in the mail with things so I can bake, including a box of Chex cereal!

2. We have a full-time maid in our house, and it’s very common for families to have maids. Our maid, Alisia, does all the cleaning around the house, but my host mom, Milly, still does the cooking. I hate to admit it, too, but Milly’s really starting to make me like eggs a lot more. I always gave my real mom crap because she goes crazy over eggs and says, “you can have eggs any meal of the day!” I used to be 100% completely against this statement, but not so much anymore…

3. It’s summer here yes, but I’ve yet to see a lawnmower. I guess they just have some rare magical species of grass that’s always green and doesn’t grow! Haha no, I’m guessing they have lawnmowers for all of the parks, I just haven’t seen them. There’s not a lot of room for people to have big lawns here, but many houses do have a little patch of grass outside their homes, and I’ve seen 2 people use weedeaters to “mow” their grass haha. I guess it makes sense for how little their lawns are!

4. There’s jobs here for everything. Many neighborhoods, including my own, have a gate you have to go through in order to enter. They have security guards at this gate to open it for the cars. Also, there are always people that walk along the beach with coolers of ice cream or whatever else. There are little venders in the streets as well that push carts or ride bicycles with a tray of goodies. Talk about service! At the gas pumps, there are men that do it all for you. Since all around us there are mountains (or hills as they say) with no vegetation on them (only dirt), it’s always kind of dirty. They surely do their best to keep everything clean, though, by having people sweep the sidewalks all the time!

5. Air conditioning is not something common. We don’t have air conditioning in our house. It is always comfortable, though, and is not really a necessity.

6. The poverty is really evident in some areas. A lot of the poorer people have to build their houses up on the mountains. Also, sometimes when we are stopped at stoplights, there are people or children that dance or do tricks and then go around to the cars asking for money. Just the other day, a lady was leading around a blind man to cars asking for money. This is always really sad to see.

all the poor houses are up in the mountains, like so

7. “Finger foods” are a foreign concept. You always use your fork and knife! I now eat chicken off the bone with my fork and knife. French fries, yep, I got that fork. I did go eat at TGI Fridays the other day, though, with my host sister Juli and some of her friends (which by the way was the first time I ever ate there. Haha I have to go out of the country before I eat at places like this! I’ve never had Chile’s until I came here either!). Anyways, I ordered a nice big Bacon Cheeseburger since I have yet to have a cheeseburger here. I surely gave it a good try to eat that thing with my silverware, but after one bite, all the toppings spilled out everywhere so from then on I didn’t care and just used my hands haha. I mean, come on, I had a huge delicious burger in front of me…there was no way I was going to fiddle around with my fork and knife the whole rest of the meal! I looked over at a girl who ordered a steak and corn on the cob (which was the first time I saw REAL “Nebraska-looking” corn on the cob! Their corn is messed up here; the kernels are huge). I unfortunately had to witness the poor girl cut the kernels off the cob with her knife and eat it that way. What a shame. These people just aren’t livin!

Now just for some other side notes:

I’ve finally gotten out and went for a run! I went on my first run two weekends ago after having pizza for the second time since I’ve been to Perú. The pizza was seriously the most amazing thing ever which resulted in me eating 5 slices. I felt kinda bad afterwards haha so I decided it was time I go for a run. You cross country runners would love it here because there definitely are some hills to conquer if you’re up for it. I tried running up one of the mountains near me and ended up almost getting lost with all the crazy winding roads, so no more of that for me! Haha

I’ve gotten my first packages from the parents, and oh, I could not have been more excited!! Valentine’s Day candy and ingredients for baking! Mmmm…..

I always feel kind of dirty here because of the dust that blows off from the mountains. A positive from this is that I actually have fingernails now!! My hands many times just feel kinda gross, so I’m too grossed out to put them in my mouth. Therefore a few days ago, I experimented with the foreign concept of clipping one’s fingernails and successfully clipped my nails for literally the first time for as far back as my brain can remember! Gross, yes I know. But it’s the truth and I was pumped! Hehe.

I have nails!! anyone who "knows" me, knows I'm the biggest nail-biter ever!

I experienced earthquake number 2! It felt a lot stronger than the first one but it didn’t last as long, and I must say I didn’t freak out this time like last time haha. This one was magnitude 4.8 about 25 miles from Lima. Earthquakes are exhilarating and get my adrenaline pumping– I like it! I get paranoid sometimes now thinking that I feel an earthquake coming on, but it never does. Also, there are times throughout the day when I think, “Wow. This would be a rather inconvenient place to be if an earthquake happened!” For example, an elevator or the shower… haha

Speaking of showering… It’s rather difficult to shower when there’s no water!! We’ve ran out of water twice now! Each time was for about a whole day. This last time, I managed to wash my face, brush my teeth, and attempt to bath myself with a half a bottle of water. Talk about the things we take for granted!

I realize I should not be saying this next part because I could potentially get kicked out of my family for saying it, but… I’ve been missing country music dangit! Lately, I’ll listen to my iPod but only to listen to country music. If a pop, rock, or rap song comes on, it gets switched within a matter of seconds!

I received the awesomest letter from Grandpa Zach in the mail the other day! It was a Valentine’s Day card, but he wrote me a letter on some notebook paper inside as well. He told me a little bit about how he was abroad in Germany when he was my age for the army. He was able to travel to some other countries in his spare time, too. Grandpa, thank you so much for the letter! You really made my day!!

I’ll try to start wrapping this up now! I just want to say that, yes, my Spanish is improving, but clearly not enough! I was at one of the bigger parks with Mary, Nicki, and Derek the other day, and we wanted to try some “picarones” which is Peru’s version of doughnuts. We went to a little vender in the park, and there was a sign that clearly confused us. The sign said “Chicha- 1.50 soles” along with other things (thinking “chicha” was a size), and we weren’t very hungry so we tried asking how many doughnuts came in it. We asked, “Cuántos picarones hay en una chicha?” Well, “chicha” actually was short for “chicha morada” which is a purple-y corn drink haha so the literal translation of our question was, “How many doughnuts are there in a glass of juice?” Hahahaa yes, we are dumb at times! Nevertheless, the picarones were delicious and taste a lot like funnelcakes! Mmm :)

Derek, Nicki, and myself with our picarones and chicha morada haha

Lastly, I’ve been getting super excited these past couple weeks because tomorrow morning we fly out to Cusco to go see Machu Picchu! This definitely has the potential to be the highlight of our trip and I could not be any more excited! I’m just a little worried about getting sick, though, because we’ve received countless warnings from Peruvians to take it easy when we’re there and drink lots of fluids because its really high in the mountains and is very easy to get altitude sickness. I’m really hoping that we all stay healthy because that would be the biggest bummer ever if we were too sick to go see Machu Picchu!!

our field trip for our grammar class to La Fortaleza de Real Felipe. our teacher for this class is Roberto, the one in the black with khaki shorts

spending more time on the beach!

One Month Down, Three to Go!

It’s unreal thinking it’s already been one full month! Where does this time go?! No doubt my spanish is improving, but boy, these next three months I got some work to do! I am nowhere near the level of Spanish I want to be at so I just have to keep practicing I suppose!

Lately, little things have been bringing a smile to my face:

1. People from the US. This past month, I’ve had so many people write on my wall on facebook or start chatting with me, just wishing me a good time in Perú. Those tiniest of messages really make my day and are a pleasant surprise.

2. My walks to class. The weather here is seriously beautiful. It only has been about a high of 80 degrees, so its never scorching hot. Good weather automatically puts me in a good mood. Also, I’ve come to start recognizing some of the security guards at the gates to certain neighborhoods along my walk, and they always say “buenas días” or “buenas tardes, señorita”. Haha I love it.

3. My mornings. I am not a morning person whatsoever, and since my classes are in the afternoon, about 3 or 4 mornings a week I can sleep in and spend the morning how I want to. (The other mornings I do have to wake up for certain things). I’ve been reading a book called “The Lamb’s Supper” that Austin and Melissa lent me, and it’s great to spend part of the morning just to relax and read for fun rather than having to read for homework, because trust me, there is plentyyy of that going on too!

4. My sliding doors in my room. They are constantly open, and I love the little breeze that always floats in. Also, I like hearing the noises coming from the neighbors or the cars that occasionally drive by. In the US, rarely is there a time when the TV is turned off or music isn’t playing. Here, rarely do I hear music or the TV. Instead, my silence is filled with natural noises.

5. The rain. Rather, the sprinkles; it doesn’t really rain here in Lima. In the summer, a whole month can go by without any rain, and if there is rain, it is only a light shower that lasts 10-20 minutes. I was lucky enough to experience 2 mini showers this week! I like it because it reminds me of the storms during the summer in Nebraska :)

Now, for the things I did over the last 10 days, trying to not go into TOO much detail (for the sake of your eyes):

1. Two saturdays ago, we had a trip for our Peruvian Literature class to the Miraflores district. We had a tour guide that walked us around different parks and filled us in on some history. Then we went to see the Huaca Pucllana ruins. The construction and history of these ruins were really interesting.

Huaca Pucllana ruins

2. That night we went to El Parque de Aguas with Raul and Oscar who have been our own personal tour guides for many things so far. We (fortunately!) met them our first week here in Peru when we played soccer after class one day. Since then, they (especially Raul) have taken us out to see a lot!

the fountain we ran through!

our tour guides oscar and raul!

3. Thursday, I went to a casino for the first time! We each changed 10 soles for 10 tokens. (remember 1 sole is roughly 40 cents). The casino was kind of small and only had slot machines which bummed me out because I was wanting to play some card games. I played my first game, though, and won 8 soles!! I felt like I had won the jackpot! (though, in reality, I only won like 3 dollars lol). I was so happy, that I stopped and didn’t play any more games and just cashed my money in! Haha, I guess I’m not much of a gambler. I’ll need to work on this problem before we go to Vegas this year for my birthday, I think!


4. Friday, I went to the beach with Milly, Juli, and Milly’s friend and her daughter. We went to the friend’s beach house, and she lived in a beautiful area with her own private beach that blocked the waves in a way so we could actually go swimming in the ocean. I love the beach!

at the beach with my host mom, Milly

don't let these cloudy days deceive you! its still super hot and i still get burned!

5. I had 2 American breakfasts this weekend! Friday night, we made french toast at Kathy’s house, and Saturday morning, we made pancakes at Nicki’s house. Yuummmmmyyyyyyyyy!

6. Got a pedicure with Nicki and Kathy. If you want a cheap pedicure, come to Perú! It was totally legit and only costed 21 soles (8 dollars).

7. Saturday was movie night at my house! It was me, Nicki, Derek, Kathy, and Steph. Milly and Juli joined us for the evening as well which was awesome! Many times Milly and Juli are busy doing things so I don’t get to see or talk to them a whole lot. Tonight was awesome though to spend the whole night with them. :)

8. Sunday was paaacked with crazy, fun things. Raul took us to see Las Catacombas and El Convento de San Francisco (The Catacombs and the Franciscan Monastery). The monastery was absolutely beautiful with paintings and decorations so old and intricate. They didn’t allow you to take photos, though, so we were pretty bummed about that. Afterwards we went to Mass at La Iglesia de San Francisco (the Church of Saint Francis Solano, patron saint of Lima). The Church was pretty, as well.

La Iglesia de San Francisco- the focal point. The doors to the left were the entrance to the tour of the catacombs and the Franciscan Monastery.

9. After Mass, we went to La Plaza de Armas, and there was a crazy huge festival going on! There was a parade with hundreds of traditional dancers and bands. We took pictures with tons of different types of dancers. It was funny because everybody wanted their picture with “The Americans”. We were walking on a street later that day even and got stopped by a lady asking if her children could take a quick picture with us. We are like celebrities here haha. But no, the parade was so awesome. It was pretty hot out this day, and all the dancers have these outfits that looked sooo hot! Instead of worrying about the heat, though, they were all so happy and having a great time dancing! There were so many people around watching the parade, too. That’s what’s so awesome about Perú. People take the time to just go out and enjoy things. They have so much pride in their history and their culture. In the US, we get wrapped up in our busy lives and take so many things for granted. We need to be like the Peruvians and just LIVE a little!

posing with some traditional dancers

La Plaza de Armas

There’s a few other things I could blog about, but I figure I should probably just leave this blog how it is and wrap it up! I just want to finish by saying that all this spanish stuff is really starting to mess with my English! I must admit that I normally am a superb speller. I was typing out an application the other day and typed the word “commities”, but I knew it looked weird. I literally sat for 2 minutes trying to figure it out. “Commity”. “Comities”. Nothing looked quite right. Eventually I had to google dictionary it, and it asked me “do you mean: committees?” Ha. Yes. Yes, I did.


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