Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tingo Maria Adventures

When I came to Peru in 2011, I had the opportunity to go with the school field trip of junior high students to visit Tingo Maria. It was pretty fun, but sorely lacking as I mostly got to observe the students doing the activities while I sat on the side with the adults. There was a part of me that really wanted to go back and actually get to experience the jungle (la selva). Thankfully, Yimi really enjoys going to Tingo and was game to accompany us on a short trip. We went from Dec. 5th to 7th.

We left Huanuco in the afternoon on Thursday and took a taxi (basically) to Tingo. It was about a 2.5 hour drive. The ride was fairly normal, the only thing of note was that the driver seemed to prefer driving with his head almost out of the side window rather than just looking through the front window. To each their own.

We got into Tingo around 4ish. First thing on the agenda was to find a hotel to drop off our stuff. I'm not sure if Yimi had actually stayed at this place before or not, but he led us straight to a hotel called "El Viajero," where we checked into our room and called it good. Wasn't the greatest place ever, but it did the job for 2 nights. We didn't do any price comparisons, but it seemed like a good price at S/. 45 ($16) per night and was in a good, convenient location.

After that, we went and wandered around the main road called the "Alameda." I'm not sure what all area Tingo Maria covers, but the downtown area is quite small and the main strip of road with all the shops, market, and restaurants covers about 3 full blocks. We walked up and down that for a bit. We also got some snow cones (raspadillas) from a business that highers people with disabilities, so the vender was a mute gentleman. We didn't realize that was the case until after the fact, so we didn't know what flavors we were getting until we tried them. It all worked out and was a delicious find. It was fun to hang out on the main strip for a bit and see what the locals do in the evenings. We did some good people and dog watching.

For dinner we happened upon a corner restaurant that served S/. 5 meals that were good! The name of the place was Kiosk con Confianza..that seemed to be a joke. I had chicken juanes (rice with chicken inside cooked in a leaf). Melissa has cesina (dried pork) and chorizo (sausage). Yimi got pollo broaster (roasted? chicken). We tried aji de cocona (some orange fruit), that is supposedly very bitter, but was mostly onion.

After our tasty meal, we road the Ferrish Wheel.. of death. It was a combo Ferris Wheel and spinning tea cups ride. It was fun, but probably not the best idea for something to ride right after eating a solid meal. Haha. Finally, we walked back to the hotel and turned in early to prepare for the adventures to come the next day (though we hadn't planned what those would be at that point).

Unfortunately, the hotel was pretty noisy, just like every other hotel I have stayed at in Peru. They are almost purely made out of concrete, glass, and tile, so sounds echo and carry like crazy. I was up around 6am. So I had to wait until 8am before Melissa and Yimi woke up. I got up and took a shower; yes, the water was cold, but there was really good water pressure.

First stop for the day was to eat breakfast. We headed to the market, where there are a few restaurants. The moment we got up the stairs the waitresses surrounded us and were like eat here, we serve these things. It was a bit overwhelming and not my favorite way to go about selecting a place to eat. We ended up eating at a place called "Bella Durmiente" after the famous mountain skyline that looks like a sleeping woman. This is where we tried tocacho, which is mashed up plaintains. I think it would be our equivalent of hashbrowns, but made with bananas. I am told that is what they eat instead of rice or potatoes as their starch. Makes sense.

The good thing about going with Yimi was that he was able to ask people about things to do and how much they would cost and hopefully would get a more straightforward and less inflated price. We ended up with a phone number for Tingo Maria Nunash Tours, where we met our tour guide for the day, Ruben. For the awesome (I think) price of S/. 40 ($14.50) each, we got a tour guide and mototaxi services for 6ish hours. Friday, we did the Circuito No. 1 tour of Tingo. This entailed going to Parque Nacional Tingo Maria, Cueva de Las Lechuzas, Agua Sulfurosa Medicinal, Catarata Santa Carmen, Balneario Cueva de Las Pavas, and Mirador de La Bella Durmiente. It was an incredible adventure!

I enjoyed the swimming adventures the most. First, we swam in sulfur water. Supposedly it is a very healthy thing to do, though I'm not sure why. It smelled pretty rotten, but not horribly strong and you eventually could get used to the smell. We played around in the pool, trying to catch the little fishies, throwing mud at each other, and generally enjoying the water. Second, we hit up the waterfall. My favorite. We had to do a bit of hiking to get up to the falls, but it was so worth it. Being that it had rained right before we got there, the water was not so clean and clear, but still refreshing and it was definitely a powerful falls. We awkwardly changed into our bathing suits (no changing room) and then hit the water. It was fun to swim against the current, climb on the rocks, and take all sorts of pictures of course. We have quite the photo shoot of pics.

The other parts were awesome too. We listened to the bats, parrots, and guaranchero (sp?) (oil bird) sing in the cave. We saw where the rivers meet that gave Tingo Maria its namesake. We saw an amazing double rainbow at the lookout point. And I have to credit Ruben for being an awesome tour guide. Good times. :)

In fact, we had such a good time, we opted to do Circuito No. 2 the next day. Unfortunately, Ruben was not available, so we had a new tour guide. He still did a pretty good job. His name is Alan. On this circuit, we went to Laguna de Los Milagros, Criadero de Paiche, and the Serpentario.

The laguna was really fun. We got to ride in, and even row, a canoe. We did some swimming, but mostly the time in the water was for our skin treatment. There is clay at the bottom of the laguna that is mixed with sand and fish poop. It is quite a good exfoliating treatment and makes your skin feel super soft, suavecito. Also, we visited the Arbol de Deseos, or the wishing tree. You can toss a coin at it and make a wish (then the lady that guards the tree picks up the money). I am informed that you really have to believe in the power of nature for it to come true, apparently I didn't exude belief or something. At any rate the tree is supposedly over 1000 years old. While not a willow tree, it reminded me of the tree from Pocahontas. At the laguna, we ate Pako, some sort of native fish of the piranha family. Delicious.

We didn't get to see a paiche, so that part was a dud. Hopefully, we will see the huge river fish in Iquitos. Finally, we made it to the snakes. We learned about venomous and non-venomous snakes. My favorite part was that the the Shupa Shupa venomous snake's nicknames are Suegra and Perra Rabiosa. Apparently, this snake can launch it's venom, beware if you have any open wounds. Also, it can bite its victim about 6 times, whereas others only bite once. I got to hold a turtle. And then, the ultimate adventure, I held a 10 kilo (22lbs.), 7-8ft long boa constrictor. It was kind of scary, but not too bad as he barely moved while I was holding him. The trainers had calmed him down before we got to hold it. I held a boa!

Overall, it was a crazy adventure in Tingo! Swimming at the waterfall, swinging from the trees, and holding a boa constrictor - quite the jungle experience, if I do say so myself. I would highly recommend it!

Before we left Tingo, we had to buy some jungle bananas for the ride home. Yummers. We piled into our taxi home, ate a banana, and promptly fell asleep. Peace!

~nos vemos~

Monday, December 9, 2013

Killing Chickens for Yimi's Bday

Yimi is my birthday buddy here in Huanuco. He turned 25 on December 3rd (and I will on the 12th).

The tradition here seems to be to have ponche for breakfast. The birthday person gets to select the food of the day, and then Carolina cooks what she is motivated to cook. The birthday person invites people over to eat said food in the afternoon, around 2 or 3pm. Then, we take a break from eating to nap and hang out. Finally, before dinner, we eat the cake.

I tried ponche on Carolina's birthday, but we were not told in advance that you need to be up at 6am to enjoy it. This time, we got to really experience it. The ponche part is rice in this egg, sugar, and water mixture. There is a top icing-esque part that is bomb - so delicious. You just dip bread into the egg and sugar mixture. Mmmmm.

For his birthday, Yimi wanted lokro (sp?). We ate escabeche. Escabeche is an delicious, spicy onion dish that is served with meat and rice. That morning, abuela brought over some chickens from her group for lunch. Well, when I found out that Carolina would be killing said chickens, I had to watch and see how it was done. Orlando told her I wanted to help. She let me hold their feet while she sawed at their knecks.

As a side note: I don't think Carolina trusts us to do anything. She doesn't let us wash our own clothes, so we have to do it when she isn't home or she just takes over. She doesn't let us help her cook or clean anything. There are a few exceptions. For example, we helped her peel some potatoes once, but then she finished them. Also, I started peeling some oranges in the morning to make orange juice, and she came over and finished peeling those. And basically anything we try to help her with, she ends up doing it herself. Oh well, we try.

After she sawed at their knecks with her not so sharp knife, she dipped them in a pot of boiled water and went to town ripping out their feathers (another thing she wouldn't let me help me with). It looked impressively simple, though quite hot, as the feathers came out in bulk.

Finally, she set to cutting them up. We fed the nasty bits to the anxiously awaiting dogs. I think she threw them the intestines and each dog took a turn carrying it around in their mouth trying to break it apart to eat. It was gross to watch. Apparently, the fat is good for your knees or something, so she saved that part separately. One of the chickens had a egg in it that it hadn't laid, so it was kind of cool to see that in it's sack with the placenta and everything, but we ended up letting Carolina eat that business. Ick.

We opted to watch a movie instead of awkwardly hanging out the kitchen to see if Carolina could use our help while she ran around at 1000mph. The movie, called "Warm Bodies" or "Mi Novio es un Zombie," was pretty funny.

Then, we went back to the kitchen to eat lunch. Yimi and his friends ate in the living room. Apparently, we were not cool enough to eat with them. The good part was that Yunina, Tono's gf, brought cold soda, so we got first dibs. By the way, cold soda is quite a novelty here as everyone seems to prefer everything at room temperature or hot. I like my beverages cold, for the most part, so it was extra pleasant.

After another respite and lots of rain, we ate the cake. Orlando picked a flan and jello cake for Jimmy. It was actually pretty good, I was surprised. I have seen them around, but they don't look like a very good combination. The tradition at this part is to sing Happy Birthday in English, then in Spanish (castellano). After the birthday person blows out the candle, then take a bit out of the side of the cake and people try to push their head into the cake (the only time that was successful since we have been here, the cake ended up on the floor).

After cake, we ate dinner and everything went back to normal. End birthday.

Monday, December 2, 2013

All Day Walking Tour of Loma Chicchuy

A thing to do in Huanuco is to go for day trips (paseos) to the hills/mountains that surround the city. Last time I was here, we made the trek up to Huacora to visit Orlando and Carolina's hometown (pueblo). For their 3 year anniversary, Tono and his girlfriend went to Huacora. Generally, their idea of a fun trip is to ride in a car filled to the gills for an hour or so and then get out and walk uphill and then back downhill for the remainder of the day. Don't get me wrong, it is a beautiful and totally worthwhile adventure, but just an interesting perspective on fun things to do.

I guess for a while now, Orlando has been itching to get out and roam the hills, so we decided it would be something fun to do as a church activity. We set the date for December 1, 2013. Then, once that date arrived, basically everyone else from church decided they didn't want to go. The few of us interested set out on our adventure to reach the summit (cumbre) of Chicchuy on Sunday morning.

Hueso driving the Moto.
It's been pretty wet and rainy of late, and unfortunately Sunday morning wasn't much different. It wasn't raining, but still very grey and sombre. The morning had an even sadder feel to it as our little buddy, Hueso, was not doing any better after his doctor visit on Saturday, where they found out he had a virus that had made its way to his brain and they gave him a shot to help. That morning though, he was trembling, foaming at the mouth, spinning in circles...he was not in good shape. [That night we found out that they took him while we were gone to be put down. It was hard to hear the news, but it was time. I'm glad to know he doesn't have to suffer anymore.]

Around 7am, we sat down to eat a hearty breakfast of rice, fried egg, and prepared plaintains. It is really one of my favorite things to eat here. Orlando said to eat up because this was going to be our breakfast and lunch. Noted.

At 7:40am, we headed out the back gate and wound our way down Huancachupa to the road. It was not an easy route and set the tone of our walking adventure to come.

Right around 8am, we met up with our driver and loaded up in the car. He drove a blue station wagon that has 5 seatbelts. Ok, so seatbelts, except for the front seat passengers typically, are optional in Peru and even more so when you are driving on the back roads where police are not likely to be found. And I say seatbelts, because that does not mean anything for how many people are going to pile into the car. Fabrizio, Eynor, another woman, and all the backpacks and bags were loaded into the trunk. Orlando, Antonio (abuelo), and Yimi sat in the back seat. Then, Melissa and I shared the front seat.

We got down the street a little ways where we picked up the driver's niece or some relation. Guess where she sat?! the driver's seat with the driver. How that man drove the car while practically sitting on top of the stick shift is beyond me, but somehow, he drove for about 40min like that, on a not awful, but still bumpy and windy dirt road.

We eventually made it to the bottom of Chicchuy and the walking part of our journey began around 9am. We got out of the car and Yimi pointed up at an antenna waaaaayyyyyy up the hill and said that was where we were headed. I laughed. I thought he was kidding.

The orange circle at the top of the pic is the antenna..
we had a ways to walk after I took this shot.

The first part of our journey, of course, was uphill. We walked uphill for a little over an hour to reach the summit of Chicchuy. This part of the trip was fairly typical. We passed some people with their horses. There was a gimpy dog that followed us for a while. We passed by a school house. The scariest part of that was passing through this very narrow route with dogs barking their heads off at us, which was just awful after having recently been bit by a dog that had a nasty bark like them. The hike up was not easy, but not terrible. By the end of it, Melissa, Eynor, and Fabrizio were climbing up on all fours, as Melissa said, "because I like dogs." It was a good feeling to reach the summit and at that point I thought we would hang out a bit and then head back down the way we came.

School House - Looks very well built, so I wanted a picture.
Orlando said you should always have people in your pictures to
remember the places you visit. Group photo!

We did hang out for a bit. We got sprinkled on a bit. We enjoyed the little bit of sun that came out, and at over 4000 meters (13k+ feet) up, it's quite strong even if only a little. And we enjoyed the panoramic view of the surrounding hills (lomas) and farms (chakras). After that, instead of heading back down, we headed up.

Turns out we were going to walk up to that antenna. At this part in the journey, the terrain changed from grassy and muddy to grassy and rocky. Going uphill on the rocks was not so bad. I only almost fell a few times. One time I slipped and then slipped again and almost faceplanted, turns out I was just practicing my break dancing moves. Saved it! I'm not sure on the time, but we eventually made it ALL THE WAY UP to the Channel 7 antenna. Woo hoo!

Victory pose!

Once there, we did some more resting and relaxing and enjoying the view. From there, you could look down and see all of Huanuco. It was kind of nice to get a lay of the land. There was some plant that has gum inside of it that Antonio and Orlando set to digging up. I watched the clouds float by - we were at eye level with them and took a nap. That is what it is all about - get up there and just enjoy nature (naturaleza). It doesn't matter how many times you climb up there apparently, because even though Orlando grew up in Huacora and climbing the surrounding hills, he is still awe struck whenever he gets up above it all. It is like being on top of the world .. or as Orlando says, being in another world. The fresh air, the silence and serenity, and the beauty are AMAZING and unlike any other experience. I guess it would be hard to get sick of that.

Panoramic shot of Huanuco from the top of the mountain.
(Huanuco is all of the buildings between the hills in the foreground
and the background. It's really a cool place to have a city.)

Finally, around 1pm, we set out on our journey back down the hill to get home. Well, it wasn't back, it was actually forward, and basically straight down. The first part was pretty good because there was lots of high grass and good foot holds, so we could fairly easily zigzag down.

Then, came the part with the rocks and I slipped and fell, not once, not twice, but three times. After the 3rd time, Orlando offered to hold my arm to keep me from straight up rolling down to Haunuco. Being the strong and independent person that I am, I didn't want to accept the help, but begrudgingly did. I am a fan of imagery and I really like the poem "Footprints," so I just kept thinking about that as Orlando helped me go down the hill. The next 4 hours of the journey did not get any better though. I hated being the weakest and slowest person in the group. I was frustrated with my trembling legs and the tears filling my eyes making it harder to see. It was humiliating that the 70+ year old Antonio gave me his walking stick because I was struggling so much with the route. Things were not made better either when Orlando told Yimi to give me a piggy back ride down the hill (which I refused; I don't care how strong he is, that is not a good idea.) It was a very rough journey, but gosh darn it, I was going to make it down on my own 2 feet; and with my walking stick and Orlando's assistance! Needless to say, going down that hill has to be one of the most taxing things, physically and mentally, that I have ever done.

When we made it down to the road, I let out the biggest sigh of relief. My legs were still trembling, but I made it! We all made it!

While still a somber feel at the Herrera house with the rain and passing of Hueso, it was nice to make it home and be with family and have a nice relaxing evening. It will be a memorable day, both the good parts and the bad parts. As the theme for Sunday said, being a Christian doesn't mean everything in your life will be a piece of cake, but it is nice to know there are people there to support you - even if it means sucking up your pride and taking their hand or accepting their walking stick. And despite it all, I would recommend an 8 hour hiking trip - do it!

Katrina, Melissa, Orlando, Fabrizio, Antonio, and Yimi (from L to R). Photo Credit: Eynor

P.S. Orlando bought us a gel (Fisiodol Gel) to put on our legs before we went to bed. So far, I can still walk with only a little bit of soreness in my legs. The true test will be to see how things go on Tuesday. That will be the true test.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from Peru!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you all enjoy the company of your family and loved ones. I hope you eat some delicious turkey and pumpkin pie. I hope that you take a moment to think about all of the blessings in your life and give thanks to God (or whatever thing or person you want to thank) for the amazing life that you have. And I hope that you can soak up a little bit of today's festivities for me. :)

This is officially my first Thanksgiving away from home. I have spent Thanksgiving in Virigina, but I was still with my brother, so it doesn't really count as "away". But now, I'm in Peru and have no family here and we will not be eating turkey or pumpkin pie. It's a little bit hard to be completely removed from the festivities of the day. I wish I could be there to hang out with everyone. Sometimes, my grandma brings these popper deals that have paper crowns to wear and some sort of whistle or "prize" of sorts. And of course, Thanksgiving is always good food. There will be plenty of Turkey Days to be celebrated in the future, but still feels weird to not be there now to watch the Macy's Day Parade with everyone and do the Thanksgiving Day things.

At the same time, I am still very thankful for the many blessings in my life. I can't believe I have been living in Peru for nearly 5 months. I have made some new friends and have built deeper relationships with those I already knew. I am very thankful for their love and generosity they have shared with us. Working with the church has been an incredible and interesting journey. We have seen the ups and downs with how things are going here. We are continually learning about how we can respond to God's vision for the congregations, people, and communities here. While still a struggle, I am certain I have to know a bit more Spanish than when I started, though it doesn't always feel like that.

And I am glad I can share these blessings with my new friend Melissa. It is crazy to think back to May/June when we first became Facebook friends and talked very briefly on Skype. We barely knew each other before arriving in Peru and committing to live together for a year. Talk about a bit of a leap of faith. In these months, not only have we been learning how to live in Peru, but also how to live and work with each. I think we have done pretty well so far. It is a great comfort to have someone to share with, both the good news and bad news. We also have fairly common interests, so we can bond over music, tv shows, food, and exercise, etc. We still have a ways to go on this journey together in Peru, and I am looking forward to seeing where it takes us. Thank you Melissa for being an awesome WSC partner!

To share Thanksgiving with our family here in Peru, we made hand turkeys at church and had everyone write and share what they are thankful for. It was a fun and simple activity. I especially liked that people named their turkeys - mostly after themselves, but it was cute.

We are thankful!
Fabrizio and Eynor are our resident turkeys.

So, while I am not home to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family and I miss them, I am thankful for many things and am happy to be in Peru! Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Carolina's birthday, so we still get to celebrate something! Last night, we decorated the kitchen a little bit with a sign that said "Feliz Cumpleanos" and we made a paper chain to hang over the kitchen door. I hope it was a pleasant surprise for her this morning. I didn't wake up at 5am to see her reaction, my apologies. We bought a gold garland and hung it up in the kitchen as well, but it wasn't up anymore this morning. It probably wasn't the best idea to hang over the stove, but we only had tape and that wasn't going to stick to the brick, so window over the stove it was. Hopefully, it didn't get taken down because it was burnt! Hahaha. Feliz Cumpleanos Carolina!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

River Trip - Build Your House on the Rock, Dude

On Saturday morning, 11.23.13, Fabrizio knocked on my door around 9am. "Hermanaaaaa." He then proceeded to remind me that the first week we arrived we promised that we would take the boys to go swimming in the river. With the assortment of getting sick, rain, and the river being really dirty, 5 weeks had passed and we still hadn't gone. While it wasn't what I had planned to do this Saturday morning, he had reason, so Melissa, Eynor, Fabrizio, and I got ready to go and headed down to the river.

I don't know how we pulled it off, but none of the dogs followed us, thankfully. The route to the river is full of dogs and it just sucks to walk it with them.

When we got to the river, we set our stuff down on some rocks and immediately waded into the water. Well, turns out going to the river right after it rains is not the best idea. The water was freezing cold, but that was to be expected. The current was also very very strong! The upside was that there wasn't a million people there washing clothes, in fact, no one was there. We had the river all to ourselves.

This is the river on a very busy day - kind of hard to see,
but there is no additional space to squeeze in to wash your clothes. 

Melissa and Eynor were courageous and ventured across immediately. I stayed back with Fabrizio. He really wanted to wade out as far as them, but the problem is that he can't swim, the river is very rocky, and he is super small. It would be disastrous if the current took off with him. Also, it is hard enough to navigate the slippery rocks in the river and the strong current alone, so with a Fabrizio attached to your arm, it is a bit more difficult.

Melissa and Eynor were able to get out of the river and look around for a "better" place to "swim," so we moved upstream a bit. While there really was not swimming to be had and the current was still very strong, it ended up being a nice place to chill.

When you first step into the river, it is sandy, the water is slower, and it is easy to walk. Then you get a few steps further and the rocks get bigger, uneven, and slippery and the current is stronger. Once you get over the short treacherous part, there was a little island of rocks and it was lovely. I had to walk all the way across to say that I made it to the other side of the river, but that island of rocks was really where it was at.

Fabrizio and Melissa took off down the river to find another spot to swim. Eynor ran into his buddies and went off and played with them. And I just sat on the island of rocks in between.

It was most enjoyable to sit on the rocks and feel the cool water against my skin and hear it rushing over the rocks and head downstream. As always, as soon as we attempt to go swimming, the clouds roll in, so it wasn't blazing hot anymore, but still nice enough. From my seat, I could watch Eynor playing with his buddies, splashing and throwing mud at each other and floating in the water a bit. And I could turn around and see Melissa and Fabrizio chilling in the water as well. I just sat and listened and watched and was. The island of rocks was a blessing. I could just sit and enjoy everything around me. It was beautiful.

Then, Eynor lost his shoes, so I had to jump into action to retrieve them before they washed away. I bonked my knee pretty good on a rock, but I saved the shoes!

When Melissa and Fabrizio returned, we decided to check out another part of the river, which meant getting Fabrizio back across the short treachous part. I'm not sure what happened, but Melissa lost her footing and started heading downstream and then I lost my footing and hit my other knee on a rock. It was less than desirable, but we successfully got Fabrizio across without problems. He then proceeded to make fun of us for getting hurt but he was all fine.

At any rate, we went up stream a little bit and then walked in the water and jumped on some rocks for a bit longer before taking off.

We got home right as it started to sprinkle. Good timing.

Typically, I prefer everything to be planned out and arranged ahead of time, but this ended up being quite a happy adventure. While not a perfect trip, it was a good time. I will always remember my little rock island in the middle of the fast-paced river. And for the moment, I have my battle wounds on my knees to keep the memory fresh.

Eynor and Fabrizio playing in the river on an earlier visit.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saludos a Monte Sion

November marked the 1 year anniversary of having a new church building at Monte Sion. Since we couldn't be there to celebrate in person, we sent them a a hello from Huanuco. Here is the video!

(Hopefully the Spanish is decent. :D) 

Dog Blog

Here at Huancachupa, we live with 6 dogs, and encounter many more on a daily basis. The dogs have become our friends and are involved in many of our conversations. A bit odd for the non-dog-lover that I am, but I admit, I enjoy these dogs.

So, the cast is Oso (bear), Loki (from Thor, which I thought was Lucky until recently), Scotty (like the Scott brand TP), Mojada (Wet), Pom Pom (aka Pelusa - fuzz/hairy), and Hueso (bone). I think it is hilarious they just use common words to name their dogs. This dog is always wet, let's call her wet...hence, Mojada.

As for the non-dog-lover business, I greatly dislike when they rub their wet noses on me, try to lick me, jump up on me when they have muddy/wet paws, or snap at me. I am also not a huge fan of the crazy barking fits that keep me from sleeping or wake me up at ridiculous hours. Ugh.

However, I am becoming a fan of their companionship. For instance, often, I will find Pom Pom sitting under my chair or bounding at me for pets..and it's so dang cute. This I can appreciate. Also, a while back, we went to the river to wash our clothes, and this guy was very curious and kept coming over to us and bothering us until Scotty and Loki showed him whose boss and barked a good deal at him to keep him on edge. He asked me if they bite, so I told him they did, even though I haven't seen them bite anyone. Always a possibility though.. At any rate, he stopped bothering us.

It is also fun to learn their personalities. Hueso, Pom Pom, and Mojada are the puppies of the group They are super playful and like to bite each other when playing. Oso, Loki, and Scotty are the older dogs.

Hueso is the curious one and always has his ears up and alert to find out where he needs to go next. Melissa complains that this is the reason he has the most insects living in his's gross. But he is always there if anything is happening. And if Melissa is involved, she is in her lap or as close to in her lap as he can be. The other day, he wiggled his way into her lap while she was squatting down petting another dog. As Melissa says, "He's a mess."

Pom Pom has a thing for (or maybe against) Rolen and barks like crazy when he come to visit. It's hilarious. The other day, he came in and she started barking, and this time he sort of played around with her. For some reason, she thought she would find cover in the sink, but really just cornered herself. It was great. She is also called "the kitchen witch" because she guards the kitchen. The first night I was here, she bit my ankle when I was going into the kitchen, and she continues to guard the kitchen now, but it easier on my ankles. She is always waiting for more food and always drinking water, like she is deprived or something, which she in fact, is not. I think she is the cutest.

Mojada is Melissa's favorite because she is a trouble-maker. She is a little under the weather at the moment, but when she is at full health, she is always causing trouble and getting into fights with the other dogs. She is super energetic and thinks she is the queen of the house. She has decided she is allowed to sit on the couch in the living room. Haha. Mischievious little girl.

Oso is the oldest of the dogs and we refer to him as the grumpy old man. He has this hilarious growl that is real deep and piggish sounding. Cracks us up. When you pet him, he smiles with teeth. Also, he waits up for us to get back when it is dark. The other night, we got back around 8pm and sure enough, he came bounding at us, growling - we think he was scolding us for getting back when it is already dark. Then, he wanted pets. He's my favorite.

Loki is the biggest of the dogs and is very mellow. He sort of has sad eyes that remind me of Eeyor. He always walks up to me and just stares at me with his sad me, pet me. He typically lays on the ground in front of our room, which is also next to the bathroom. So, when I want to shower, I have to drag my bucket of water to the bathroom. The first few weeks, Loki wouldn't move and then I would splash water all over him trying to lift the heavy bucket over him and balancing between all the dogs legs finding a place to step. Now, when he hears me coming with my water, he gets up and moves. We have a good system.

Scotty is Fabrizio's dog from Lima. He is a very independent dog and likes to go exploring. He is the one that shared his sickness with Mojada, so he has been a bit more chill, but he is getting better and likes to play a bit more now. He is the culprit of all of the muddy paw prints on my jeans. Tisk tisk. Also, he is a very smelly dog. I think he has gas. Unfortunately for us, he enjoy the piece of ground right in front of the door to our room the most. Needless to say, he gets pushed away a lot. Poor guy. He's a good dog though, after all, he did protect us at the river.

So yea, these dogs are fun and have become our friends of Huancachupa. They can be obnoxious, but they're cute sometimes too.

And wouldn't you know - they like to dance too! Check out our video of them getting down. :)

~nos vemos~

El Gimnasio

When we were preparing to come to Huanuco, we knew we wanted to keep up exercising, so we downloaded a bunch of videos to follow and such since we weren't sure what the running situation would be here. We live at the top of a hill, and running on the hill would be deadly. 

This week, we had the glorious experience of trying out the gym in Peru. Yimi (pronounced "Jimmy") asked us if we wanted to go to the gym. Being the adventurous spirits, in need of new places to visit and things to try out, we decided to give it a shot. 

The first time, we walked to 3 different gyms before we landed on one to try out. The first gym didn't have any women, so Yimi thought that would be awkward for us. The second gym closes from 12-1pm and we arrived at 11:45pm. The third gym was just right...or something. 

The gym we ended up at on Monday, first of all, cost S/. 2.50 (that's less than $1!). That is a price I can handle. It was a small gym, but had the basic gym equipment. Mostly, it just didn't have as many of each thing as the gyms in the States. One or maybe 2 of each machine/station. Each gym we went to, Melissa was looking for cardio machines, so first thing her and Yimi hopped on the elipticals. Unfortunately, there were only 2. While standing waiting for them to finish for my turn, an employee from the gym came up to me and was like do this ab machine, 15 reps x 4. After my turn on the eliptical and everyone doing a turn at the ab machine, we then were guided through a leg workout (at no additional cost; say what?!). All of the machines were things I have used in the states. (Some of them were even Golds Gym brand.) We did all of the machines that target thighs. Hmm.. Everything went pretty well, except that the trainer was a bit rude. I know that being blunt is a thing here - you're fat, you're really short, you're Chinese (even if you're not), are common things to hear. However, someone trying to make a pitch of why they should be your trainer, should be a bit more suave about things. At any rate, we weren't looking for a trainer, we just wanted to use the machines at the gym because they have things we can't do at home on our own. Plus, it's fun and different. 

On Wednesday, we visited another gym. It is closer to the market (main part of town), so it cost S/. 3 (a little over a buck). Still not gonna break the bank. This gym was a lot bigger with more space between equipment and some open floor space to do non-equipment things. Melissa's favorite part was that they had a mascot at this gym - it was a little black Scotty (?) dog. He was pretty cute and was just sort of hanging out at the gym. Again, somehow, we ended up working with a trainer and he wanted to do the exact same things we had done on Monday. Why?? Idk. We were already a bit sore from Monday, so doing the same things on Wednesday, was a bit rough, but we stuck with it for a while. One of the machines is for working out your inner thighs, and well, it is the most awkward machine to use at the gym. On top of that, it faced into the big open room that is full of people. So, you sit on this machine and open and close your legs.. and everyone can watch. Not that they were, but it doesn't make the machine less awkward to use. Finally, after doing all leg exercises, we gave up on following the trainer. We just wanted to do an arm work out because we don't have weights at home. More awkwardness ensued as there wasn't a lot of space in front of the weight wall, so we snuck into this little corner in front of another machine that people kept coming over to to take the weights. At the other gym, people would stare at us, but we seemed to be more of a spectacle at this gym. Every time we switched equipment there were eyes following us. 

Maybe, when we go back to the gym in the future, we can tell the trainer what we want to do rather than just being told what to do. It is nice to have them tell you what things to do and how to do them though. I also enjoy being able to switch up the workout routine. 

I am definitely glad to be back to healthy so that we can take on these activities again. In Callao, we had gotten into a pretty good exercise routine and it felt good to be active. When we moved here and then got sick on top of it, it threw everything off. We enjoy being able to exercise just as something to do on our own.. plus it makes eating potatoes and rice for or with every meal not so horrible (still not ideal, but we don't get much say in that department). 

This morning, we got Yimi (and Fabrizio and Eynor for a few seconds) to do Thai Chi with us. We follow a video that is instructed by Dan Fiori - I think it is geared towards the elderly, but whatevs. Thai Chi is about focusing on energy, balance, and breathing. I liked the videos because Fiori is good about explaining how to do the moves and how to transition from one thing to the next. He also explains the benefits of the moves, such as "This move helps lower blood pressure" and "If you do this move often enough you could grow .5 inch", which I am not sure if either of those have happened, but it makes for a good time imitating him. It's a good way to start the morning. 

Now, about that papa rellena (fried mashed potatoes with a boiled egg and onions inside) and french fries {YUM!} I just ate for breakfast... How many miles do I need to run to work that off?? Hahaha, probably better not to think about it. 

*Just enjoying life* :) 

~nos vemos

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Communion in Peru...and Around the World

Last Sunday, we planned to do communion, but there was a little bit lacking when it came to the actually acquiring of the things required to partake of communion. At the last minute, we were looking around at what we had: water and animal crackers. Well, that became our awesome communion meal.

So far, we have had bread for all of the communion services. That one is easy. Bread is very cheap and easy to come by, when you make time to go get it.. :O We also have quite the variety to choose from. Camote (sweet potato) bread is my favorite so far to use.

As fast the the wine (juice) goes, we have had freshly made chicha morada and grape juice. I am not a big fan of the chicha, but made with enough lime juice I can handle it. It was really fun to see Wilfredo use grapes and make his own grape juice from scratch too. In the States, it is so easy to just go to the store and buy a jug of grape juice or what have you, which is fine, but not nearly as exciting.

So animal crackers and water is not the typical communion here in Peru, but we had to make do with our circumstances. I think we still got the message across.

This got me thinking about what other people around the world use for their communion. Anyone have any unique communion experiences they would like to share? Leave me a comment! :)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Better Late Than Never - Here's what happened last week!

Alrighty, going on the 2nd full week here in Huanuco. We're still working on the work routine aspects of our stay here in terms of when things are happening and when we need to be ready, but we have a pretty good daily routine. Everyone here gets up and gets going really early, as in, they wake up at 5am and are gone by 8am, usually. While I am not so good at getting up at 5am, I have moved from my 9am wake-up time in Callao, to 7:15am here in Huanuco. It seems necessary to get up earlier here. The days seems to come and go so quickly. I like to get up and laze around a bit, but when you get up and everyone is running around, it is hard to just sit and do nothing. So, my morning routine thus far is to get up, say hi to people, do some thai chi, eat breakfast, work on stuff/study, exercise, and shower. By then, it is either time for us to head down the hill to see what's happening below or spend a little more time working before the chillun's get home from school and we move into English class and hanging out with Eynor and Fabrizio. Really, these few hours in the morning are the only alone time we get, so better to get up early and take advantage, than to sleep all morning and never be alone until I hop into bed at night. Fortunately, the weather is mostly beautiful and that makes it easier to get out of bed in the morning (plus, it is motivation to get things done before the sun gets too strong).


On Tuesday, we had a new group for English class. Last week, it was Eynor, Fabrizio, and Estefaney. This time, we were in a different place and our new students are Rossmeri, Imelda, Emily, Fabiola, and Lisbeth. We opted to start with food as it usually goes over well. I like to hear about the different kinds of food they enjoy and it is easy for them to talk about. The catch is keeping it to foods we have an English word for as well. Maracuya and aguaymanto are not fruits we have in the least not that I have seen...and I wouldn't know their translation if they did. "Strawberry" seemed to be the hardest one to remember and pronounce. Also quite a challenge having an age range of 5-12 years. I think it went pretty well, and we'll know for next week to prepare something for the variety.


Que Miedo!
On Wednesday, we celebrated a little bit of Halloween. We are working on food and commadjectives, so decided to incorporate the theme into the class. First, we tested out vampire fangs (los dientes de los vampiros). They were delicious (ricos/deliciosos).

Then, we bobbed for red apples (manzanas rojas). Eynor started us off with a clever move and grabbed the apple by the stem with his teeth. It was a good plan until Yimi took all of the stems off of the apples. Challenge accepted. Fabrizio was the contemplative bobber as he spent most of his time trying to decide which was the best apple to dive after. Then, Yimi set the bar high and removed 3/5 apples. Next came Melissa, the competitive bobber, who was able to remove 4/5. I also took a turn and got 4/5 (thank you, thank you), but Yimi came back with a vengence and got all 5!

Finally, we carved an orange pumpkin (calabaza naranja). We literally bought the last one at the grocery store. The orange pumpkins are not common here, green and white pumpkins are the typical sort. Fabrizio and Eynor found the guts of the pumpkin to be repulsive, so they didn't really help clean the pumpkin out. Haha. Yimi helped clean it out and we gave him the honor of wielding the very large knife to cut out the face. And of course we toasted up the seeds, tasty.
Yimi, Katrina, Fabrizio, y Melissa
After dinner the little boys had to go to bed, so then we watched the movie "The Conjuring" or "El Conjuro" in Spanish. It was a freaky exorcism movie, appropriate for Halloween. It was their first time celebrating Halloween and they seemed to enjoy the activities, I know I did. :)


Concierto de Marcos Witt
On Thursday, we went to the Marcos Witt concert with Vanesa and her friend Marco. It was a lot of fun and the music was great! When I was here last time, I was introduced to his song, "Yo Te Busco", which I really like, but that was the only song of his that I knew. The concert ended with fireworks, always enjoyable. The only part that was less than stellar was that we had to wait 4.5 hours for the concert to start. The ticket said it started at 5pm, so we got there at 4:45. We were among the first 20 people to show up. We just assumed it was running on Peru time and would prob start around 6 or 7pm. Well, those hours came and went. Finally, at 9:15pm Witt came on stage. Live and learn. I still had a good time.
Melissa, Katrina, y Vanesa

The learning moment of this week was balancing my concept of time with Huanuco's concept of time. Mostly, it means keeping cool when things are constantly getting changed. Maybe someday I will figure out how to be fluid with time. I just don't know how to schedule anything like this.


And for a little update.. I wrote this on my computer, so it would be quick to upload once I had internet access, so it is a little behind the times. 

We got sick again, but not to worry. We hit up the hospital and got some shots and meds. We are starting to feel much better now and even plan to venture off the hill after 4 days of barely leaving our room except to go to the hospital. Yay! 

Hope you are all doing well and if you read this, update me on what's going on where ever you are (state, country, stage of life, etc..). Thanks! 

~nos vemos~

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Life on an ANIMAL Farm:

I grew up on a farm and the farmers grew tomatoes, beans, and hay behind our house. I was woken up by crop dusters and went to bed with the sounds of harvesters. It was very dusty and dirty, especially during harvest. 

Now, I get to experience the other style of farm life, with animals. I wake up to the sounds of pigs oinking, roosters crowing, and dogs barking and go to bed in near complete silence (with the exception of some random things here and there). 
The Rooster is stealing the mototaxi! Help!

We are now going to live in Huanuco for 2 months with the Herrera Family. Their names are Orlando (dad-mid 40s), Carolina (mom-mid 40s), Toño (son-25), Yimi (son-24), Eynor (son-11), and Fabricio (nephew/cousin-7). 

Their house is located in Huancachupa on the hill called "Las Lomas De Vista Alegre" (aka, The Happy Views' Hills). It's the truth, the view from here is spectacular. It looks beautiful at night with the full moon lighting up the sky enough to see the outline of the hills enclosing the city. We have excellent roof top seating to enjoy said view. It is probably my favorite thing so far. 

People refer to this location as the house behind the pig farm, because the house is located right behind the pig farm. There must be about 40 some odd pigs in there (it's hard to count the little ones). They also have roosters and hens and guinea pigs. 

The other day, we went to the Higueras River to wash clothes. Fortunately, we have only been here a few days, so didn't have that much to wash, but it still took an hour! We will have to get used to washing clothes more often so we don't have to wash so much at a time. It is tiring...and we only had to rinse the clothes off...Carolina didn't seem to trust us with the washing part or maybe she just knows she could get that part done faster. It was kind of fun to stand in the cool water and get the assistance of the rushing river to rinse off our clothes. They seem quite fresh and clean. Though, I was a little jealous of the boys playing in the looked fun! Another time.. The second time we did laundry, we stayed up at the house and just used the water here since it was working that day. 

I am also learning the art of saving water and taking bucket showers. I am not sure what the deal is with the water here, but we don't have running water everyday. So, on days that we do have running water, we fill up a bunch of buckets in preparation. Also, the shower doesn't seem to work often, if at all, so we use the water from the buckets to bathe. FYI, I was very concerned about having to take cold showers everyday for 2 months. Well, now I have learned that if you set the bucket of water in the sun for a while before bathing, you don't have to suffer! A warm bucket shower is superior to any bathing involving icy cold water. It is a welcome adjustment. 

So far, there has only been one sacrifice on the farm, that I am aware of. Last Sunday was Rolen's birthday (Orlando's brother), and they made pachamanca. It is a typical Huanceño dish - prepared by cooking everything with a special combination of herbs and spices in the ground. It was prepared with pork. I feel bad for the pig, but mmm, it was delicious. I look forward to seeing what other wonderful foods we will get to eat (especially now that the sickness has passed - hopefully, that means that I am good to go on the food front). 
Welcome to Haunuco!

It's been a great first week in Huanuco! We are having a great time getting to know the family and their way of life. The rain finally arrived yesterday, but has just been a slow sprinkle. Feels good to cool down a bit. The weather is super nice here, but if you are standing in the sun, it is strong. I have a few burns to show for it. Ooops. There are lots and lots of mosquitos here! I have a few bites to show for that too. Sunscreen is the new lotion. Bug spray is the new perfume.  

It's a welcome change of pace and scenery to be in Huanuco. 

A few pics so far... 

Melissa and Mirtha - Kotosh October 17, 2013
Mirtha testing the acoustics in the meeting circle. 

Tono taking a nap on the Energy Rock.

Crazy Rope Bridge! [Wilfredo, Tono, Melissa, Mirtha]

Wilfredo and Tono posing with the statues of the Negritos.

Huanuco's Mascot.. RAWR

~nos vemos~

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Last Night in Lima

Tomorrow at 6am (well, you know, maybe 6:30 or 7am), we will start our 8 hour trek to Huanuco!

Fortunately, this time, we will be travelling by car. It will be El Comandante's (that's what name we helped Wilfredo pick for his car) first real trip! It should be way comfier than the bus and, with luck, a little faster than the bus.

Unfortunately for Wilfredo, neither of us drive a manual and really don't want to practice in his brand new car. This means Wilfredo will have to drive the whole way. I have faith in him! :) And, I will do my best not to sleep the whole time and keep him company. I have been stocking up music to entertain us and I'm sure we'll come up with interesting things to talk about.

It will be a big change and, as I said before, we will have to adjust to a new way of life even though it is the same country. I am really looking forward to the experience and should be interesting to see how things are different from last time I was there.

Living with Graciela's family for a much longer time period has been great. I feel like I have actually gotten to know the family, rather than just meet them. Not to say I have them all figured out, not even close, but we make more of a family now.

So, now on to Huanuco to build stronger relationships with the Herreras and the church. :)

But, before we jump to that, we had to squeeze in all those things we have been meaning to do since we'll only be back in Lima for 2 days before we head back to the States. I'm not sure how it came down to this, but we really wanted to cook! I mean, we wanted to do other things too such as Christmas shopping and the paragliding. But for the people that don't cook much or at all when living on their own, we wanted to cook gosh darn it. So we did .. to the good or bad fortune of the family. Haha.

First, because Wilfredo has a brand-spanking-new kitchen, we wanted to make lunch for him. On a subconscious level, it was motivation for him to finally use the kitchen for other than pouring a glass of water or yogurt. He's been there for 3 months and just that day we were pulling the plastic off the oven. Also, he bought his couches and chair, so we got to test those out and see how they looked in the house. I think they are great! For that meal, we made fish, cilantro lime rice, sauteed veggies, and rice. Nothing crazy and not difficult. Well, the hard part was buying the fish. I had never bought a whole fish at the market before that day. We were told to look for fish that don't have clear eyes. So we set out in search of our perfect fish, no other information. We found one and it wasn't crazy expensive and ended up being the right amount of food. The vendor even removed the guts, cut off the head, and cut it into pieces for us. Wilfredo has informed me that for next time I can even ask them to remove the bones. Maybe you learn the other tricks as you buy more fish.. hard to say.

Second, we made banana chocolate chispe pancakes. They. Were. Delicious. It was the first, potentially 2nd, time I made pancakes from scratch. No Bisquick nor Krusteaz were used. The batter was simple enough, the experiment came with the banana. We ended up smashing it all up and mixing it with the batter. Best. Idea. Ever. Then, Melissa really wanted chocolate chips in her pancakes, but unfortunately, they don't seem to exist here. Whodda thunk it?! Rocio left on an excursion to see if we just missed them, but all she could scrounge up were these chocolate covered rice crisp sprinkle type things. They sort of did the job, but chocolate chips are definitely preferred. Anyway, we had invited everyone over to try, but only Sandra and Rocio were takers. We enjoyed a feast of pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs, and pineapple. It was by far the best breakfast I have had in a while. :)

Third, we made chili. This is also something we have not made before, just knew we wanted to eat it. We bought 1.5 kilos of beans for the chili and now I am aware that that is a LOT of beans! We prob used a little over .5 kilo in the chili. They'll be eating beans for a few days yet.. Also, we attempted to buy sausage to include, but whatever we ended up buying was awful. When it was "raw" it was a real deep red and then once cooked for maybe 3 min they were pitch black. They were sorely lacking in flavor and had a chalky texture. Womp womp. However, the rest of it turned out pretty great! It wasn't a spicy chili, I'll have to work on that, but all the fresh veggies and meat and beans made for a tasty lunch. We were also proud of ourselves for making something that fits the parameters for a meal here: (1) it has to be reasonably priced (we got 9 mouths to feed people!), (2) it needs to reheat well, and (3) there needs to be enough to feed people for lunch and for dinner. Quite an accomplishment on our part!

Fourth, we have all of this peanut butter here that my Grandma and Lela coordinated to bring to us, so of course Classic Peanut Butter cookies were in order. They will be a welcome snack for the car ride tomorrow. :) *Excited* This is the first thing I made here that I could prepare basically the same way I would have in the US. It is so nice to do something the way I know how and not have to make major adjustments, btw. The only thing we had to switch up was that the recipe called for baking soda, which also doesn't seem to exist here. Instead, according to the Google, you can just add more baking powder, so that is what we did. I don't know what difference it made, but they turned out dang good!

So, that was our cooking adventure to semi-close this chapter in Callao, Peru with the Carlos, Paz, Yanqui, and Herrera families and the congregations of Monte Sion and Filadelfia.

Shall be interesting to see what tomorrow's road trip and the next 2 months in Huanuco have to teach us!

It seems I was not in the mood to take pics of the things we made, my apologies. Melissa graciously snapped the meal from Wilfredo's. Just imagine all the goodness! ;)

~nos vemos~