Monday, April 28, 2014

Back to Huanuco!

Last week we transitioned from being in Lima back to Huanuco. 

Wednesday morning, we set out for what would be a very treacherous 11 hours on the road. Melissa and Gladys both were sick for almost the whole ride. Yikes. Also, Wilfredo was not having a good car day. First, he got hit by a bus trying to get ahead in the line. There was some sort of road work holding up traffic and this big tour bus comes up and tries to cut. Wilfredo decided he didn't need to move his car when it decided to keep moving after it had already hit another car in front of us. It was not one of his brighter moments. It led to everyone getting out and yelling at each other and the bus people gave him S/. 49 for the damage. There is just a small scratch on his car, but it was still something totally preventable, but Wilfredo chose to do nothing, except get agitated after the fact. The second incident was when Wilfredo tried to pass a semi-truck, but once he moved out and around, decided there wasn't enough time to pass, so had to move to get back behind the truck. Well, he didn't time it so well and he hit the semi. Fortunately, the only damage done was that it clipped his side mirror, so it snapped in (it's one of those mirrors on a hinge, so it can move in). The back plastic portion seems to be kind of broken, so he took it off, but the mirror is still in place. We are all very lucky. Needless to say, I have no desire to ride back to Lima in the car again. Time to look up airplane prices. I don't mean to sound harsh against Wilfredo, we made it safely, it was just a less than desireable experience on all counts. 

After all the excitement of getting to Huanuco, since it is Rocio and Gladys' first time here, we headed out to Tingo Maria. We pretty much did all the same things as last time, just drove around in Wilfredo's car rather than going through a tourist agency. Wilfredo is crazy good at knowing where he is going - he's been to Tingo once by bus, and this time he drove and we didn't get lost. It's an incredible talent. Anyway, we swam in the sulfur water, saw the Bella Durmiente, checked out La Cueva de Las Lechuzas (that doesn't actually have any owls), and ate lots of tacacho. Right now is the end of rainy season, so the roads were awful. Instead of the desired 2+ hours, it took most like 3.5+ hours (both times). The cool part is that it is pretty to see the little cascades/waterfalls down the rocks on the side of the road. 

Eynor and Fabrizio - doin' the potty pose - on our hike. :D
We also visited the Casa de la Perricholi in Tomaykichwa. We opted out of the visit to Kotosh as I have already been twice and Melissa's been once. We missed the tour of the hills around Kotosh, but we went on our own hike with the boys down to check out the new bridge. We may or may not have been lost a few times, but we eventually found our way. No shortage of adventures to be had here. 

Mixed in with the tourism, we made our rounds of visits to say hi to people and share some God time with them. 

First, we visited Carolina's family - her mom, Melanie, Melanie's husband?, Fabrizio, Marjorie, Eynor, Dionicio, and Walter. Dionicio makes fireworks for a living, so they were all busy putting together bases and prepping materials. They very kindly stopped work for a few minutes to chat with us. Rocio taught a class on the parable of the great banquet (Luke 14:15-24) and shared about the enduring principle, all are called. worth of all persons. 

Second, we visited at the house at Junin, where Vanesa and Henry live. Victor, Cristian, Fausta, Eynor, and Fabrizio were also there. Gladys taught a class on the parable of the bags of gold (Matthew 25:14-30) and the enduring principle, worth of all persons.

Third, we had a service at Orlando's house sharing on the theme for the week, Peace Be With You (John 20:19-31). Gladys presided over the service and Rocio shared the message. In attendance we had, Orlando, Carolina, Yimi, Eynor, Fabrizio, Grandpa Antonio, Henry, Vanesa, Rolen, Eder, Marycruz, Wilfredo, Gladys, Rocio, Melissa, and me. 

It was an incredibly busy week, but I'm glad to be back. Last night, Carolina was talking about how living at Huancachupa is way more relaxing than even living at Junin and how it has helped her health. I do enjoy me some good relaxing and napping time. :) However, we certainly have lots to do with house visits, English classes, and weekly services in the works. We'll have to make the most of our last month here! 

~nos vemos~

La Pascua - Easter

Semana Santa - Easter Weekend

When I was younger, Easter was all about Easter baskets, putting on my Easter dress, going to church, hunting for Easter eggs, and then some sort of meal with the family. 

Then we all grew up and we became the people that hid the Easter eggs at church, stopped wearing special Easter clothes, and really stopped making a big deal out of least, to me it didn't seem like a big deal. An odd turn of events as you would think Easter would become more important as you could better understand the crucifixion and resurrection and the significance of it all. 

At any rate, Easter this year did seem a bit more special. Being away from the family is not a desired occurrence, but it is fun to see how other people do things. So, here is what we did for Easter in Peru.. 

The whole week leading up to Easter, Holy Week/Semana Santa, seems to be important. On Monday, I received a flier to attend a Jehova's Witness event and the Catholic churches seemed pretty busy. Also, I am told that they only sell fish at the market (for some reason, we never made it there to know for sure). Some one will have to inform me of the significance of eating fish. This was really good for Consuelo. She had family members helping her all week with selling fish. We even got to try chupe de camarones, which is a creamy shrimp soup that the Lima area is known for, with reason too; it's delicious. Thursday and Friday are federal holidays. 

Friday is where our church activities begin, as usual. Instead of having class, we watched a movie called "El Perdon" (I'm not sure what the movie is called in English, but that translates to "Forgiveness"). We popped popcorn and had soda for our movie treats. As expected, pretty much all little kids came. As our church leaders still have not figured out that we have mostly kids at Monte Sion activities, we did not have a kid-oriented movie. Even still, almost all of them stayed for the whole movie, only a few fell asleep, and the most amazing part was they were not very distruptive. After the movie, Wilfredo helped recap what happened, so that they could understand. Overall, it went well. 

Saturday we had a special church service focused on the crucifixion. For some reason, Jhonny decided we didn't need to have kids class, but we couldn't just leave the kids out. We had been talking about how we decorate and hunt for Easter eggs in the States, so Rocio and Graciela decided that is what we should do. They boiled up some eggs and then when we got to church, the kids colored the eggs. Unfortunately, we don't have any place to hide eggs that dogs wouldn't snatch them up first, so just coloring them was the way to go. Some kids colored and then immediately ate their egg. Others were saving them for later. One kid, Elias, said he was going to save his hard-boiled egg forever because his egg represented Jesus and he can't eat Jesus. I tried to convince him that it was just symbolic and better that he eat the egg before it goes bad...I'm not sure what he decided to do. Haha. 

Elias with his "Jesus"egg.
We had a song and video intensive service. Apparently they have a whole section of the hymnal that has songs for Easter. I didn't recognize a single song we sang. A few people from the family recently went and saw the movie "Son of God" in theaters, so first thing Saturday morning, Jhonny headed out to go find the movie. Gotta love the pirated movie scene here in Peru. Somehow he found it and it was DVD quality, not taped in a movie theater quality. Impressive. For church then, we watched the sentencing up to Jesus on the cross scenes. Thankfully, it is a lot less graphic than "Passion of the Christ," though still quite difficult to watch. After watching the movie, we watched a music video that was mostly scenes from another movie showing the crucifixion. There was a lot of bloody Jesus. I think it is important to know the crucifixion part of the story, but it was a lot for me. I'm used to my home congregation where we talk about the crucifixion and focus on the resurrection, not showing clip after clip of Jesus being whipped and abused. The other day on TV, we were watching a report on a reenactment done in Ayacucho of the crucifixion - like how the South reenacts Civil War battles, they were reeanacting the end of Jesus' life. Finally, Jhonny shared a little bit about the crucifixion and talked mainly about the sign above Jesus on the cross - "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." 

It was a good service and we had a good crowd of people come. I like special events because people come out from hiding. We get to meet new people. The different variety of people changes the dynamic of interactions. It's good stuff to see new people or see people you haven't seen in a long time. 

To conclude Semana Santa, we fasted. During our pre-church classes, we had been studying the Lenten activities as listed on the website. The first Sunday's lesson was on fasting (in spanish = ayuno). As it turned out, not many people here have tried fasting, so Jhonny thought we should give it a shot. Our fast lasted from after lunch on Saturday to lunch on Sunday. They seemed quite scared of not eating for a day, which I thought was a bit dramatic and hilarious. We ate a massive lunch on Saturday. Then, we were busy all that evening in Monte Sion, so we don't normally eat anything until almost midnight those nights anyway. Then, Sunday morning, we got up and went over to Prudencio's to help make lunch. Breakfast is my favorite meal, and I even dreamt that I messed up fasting by eating breakfast, but I didn't. Once lunchtime rolled around, people started pulling snacks out of their pockets. They were prepared to break their fast, couldn't even wait til lunch was served. Lunch, btw, was fantastic. We had grilled beef and chicken, potatoes, corn, a delicious sauce on top, maracuya juice, and brownies. It was nice to have the whole family together. 

The church service was then geared towards the resurrection and Jesus recognizing Mary Magdalene when he reappeared. 

After the service, they made the announcement about Betzabe being pregnant. All of the moms, dads, aunts, and uncles, shared about their joy for her and some of their words of wisdom. Consuelo is very excited to be a grandma. Going to be a big year for her family with her son enegaged to be married and her daughter about to have a baby! 

And so concludes Semana Santa and Easter in Peru. 

~nos vemos~    

Lima Bucket List

Now that we are heading into the final months here in Peru, we have to start checking off all of those things we've been meaning to do, but haven't quite gotten around to doing. We've been making some solid progress with the help of Karen, Rocio, Graciela, and Wilfredo. 

1. Learn how to cook Peruvian Food

Graciela showed me how to make the popular dish, Lomo Saltado. It is actually incredibly easy to do. First, cut up potatoes and fry them - aka, make french fries. Second, cut up the onion and tomato in decent size pieces. Third, once the fries are done, take out some of the oil and add in the beef (cut up in small-ish pieces). To the beef, add salt, pepper, cumin, garlic, dark (apple?) vinegar, and ajinomoto (I think it is MSG - says it adds umami on the package). Third, once the meat is cooked, add in the tomatoes and onions until softened. Fourth mix in some parsley and the french fries. Voila! Hecho. I think I could make this. 

2. Visit Barranco

The whole time we were doing classes in Miraflores people were talking about Barranco and it sounded like a pretty cool place to visit. So we finally went. We talked not-so-spontaneous Wilfredo into coming with us. We went to the Bridge of Sighs. Unfortunately, we didn't do our homework before we went, so we got to the bridge and took pictures of us sighing. As it turns out, you are supposed to hold your breath and walk across the bridge while you make your wish. Once you get to the other side, you gasp for air, hence bridge of sighs. The bummer part is that the wish only comes true if you do it the first time you go. #missedopportunities. Oh well. We then walked down to where you could see the ocean - and back towards Miraflores. Was a pretty nice and Karen decided we needed to have a photo shoot, so we have lots of blurry pictures from the night. To end our trip, we went to dinner. We got a big grill of meat - hot dog, pork chop, beef steak, intestines, and chicken. I'm not big on the intestines, but the rest was pretty tasty. 

3. Visit the Ruins of Pachacamac

We've visited ruins all over Peru, but hadn't made it to the closest ones in Lima, so that seems silly. We got there just behind all of the field trip groups, which meant we had to wait an hour for a guide or just go on our own. No one really wanted to wait, so we just headed out. Probably not our wisest decision. The ruins of Pachacamac are quite ruined. They are in the process of restoring them, so people can get an idea of what it looked like, but at the moment, there isn't a whole lot to see. You can see the stack of rocks that used to be the Sun Temple, the foundation where the women lived, and the structure covering where the painted temple is, but that's about it. A guide would have probably been a far superior choice to get more out of it. In the museum, we learned that Pachcamac was the most important temple of the andean coast and many people made pilgrimmages to this site. Pachacamac is the oracle that predicts the future, so it was very important to the leaders of the time. 

No trip to Pachacamac is complete without a trip to the nearby Lurin for chicharron. We had 3 different types of chicharron - pork smoked in a barrel, pork steamed/cooked in caja china, and house chicharron. The smoked chicharron was my favorite, but they were all good. We also tried a juice called Jora - it is similar to chicha, but it is made with yellow corn and is fermented. 

4. Playa Playa Playa

We have lived on the coast of Peru for nearly 9 months and we'd been to the beach ONCE. Melissa, coming from the land-locked state of Missouri, wanted to make sure we got in another beach day before it gets too cold. We were thinking it would just be us and Wilfredo, possbiliy Prudencio and Graciela. Well, as it turns out, Maundy Thursday is a federal holiday in Peru, so no one had to work. We ended up with a solid group of 10 people that headed to the beach (Wilfredo, Prudencio, Livia, Melissa, Carlos, Gladys, Mirtha, Rocio, Melissa, and me). We also thought we'd only stay for 2 hours max, but everyone was enjoying themselves and 4/5 hours just slipped away. 

We played volleyball, some soccer, and of course in the waves. These were much calmer waves than last time, which was fine by me, less opportunity to get Prudencio'd. When we headed into the water you could see a huge flock of birds chilling out on the water. As it turns out, this is the place to get your pejerrey (king fish) on. When the waves came in, they were full of fish and then as the water went out the fish slapped all over your legs. It was a super weird feeling. After getting over the initial shock of being fish slapped, we attempted to catch some, but they be slippery suckers, though added fun in the water.

Well, that's a start to the Lima Bucket List. We are going to be in Huanuco for the next month, so we'll have to kick out the rest of the items when we get back. Somethings left are: Larco Museum, Bike Tour of Lima, Run at the Beach, Amaz Restuarant, and Ceviche by the Market. Gotta see the sites, eat the food, and get some culture before we head out. 

~nos vemos~ 

P.S. We celebrated Karen's 23rd birthday last night. :) It was fun to chat with the family people and eat some yummy cake.

Puno - Lake Titicaca

Puno Blog Post: 

Puno - Lago Titicaca (Pronounced Titi-jaja by locals)

So, after our walking intensive adventure in Colca Canyon, we headed to Puno for the sitting intensive part of the trip. Just to give you an idea of the amount of sitting here is what our itinerary was: 

1. 6 Hour Bus Ride from Arequipa to Puno
2. 1.5 Hour Boat Ride to Islas de Los Uros
3. 2 Hours, 40 Minute Boat Ride from Uros to Amantani
4. 2 Hour Boat Ride from Amantani to Taquile
5. 3 Hour Boat Ride from Taquile back to Puno
6. 6 Hour Bus Ride from Puno back to Arequipa

Lots. Of. Sitting. 

But don't worry, we also did more high altitude walking, which never seems to get easier. 

To start out our journey in Puno, we were told there were some miradors to walk to for a cool view of the city. First, we were told the Huajsapata mirador was close and easy to get to. We start walking there and notice a group of half a dozen or so teenagers headed up to the mirador. We start up, with a little suspicion, then a local asks us where we're going and when we say up to the lookout, she said it is best not to visit that one and to take a taxi to the Condor mirador. So we took her advice. We didn't need to tempt fate. So, we catch a cab for S/.3 over to the Condor. Well, sort of. The taxi pulled up to the sign that said go this follow the arrow over with your eyes and it is just stairs going straight UP. So we climbed the million stairs at the very high altitude, I think Puno is like 3000m above sea level, but don't quote me on that. If I had internet, I'd check my facts. (Presently in the car on the way back to Huanuco - hopefully only 2 more hours! We left at 6am...) It was beautiful once we got up there, and just in time for sunset too. The islands on the lake were too far out to see, but you get an idea of the layout of the city of Puno and the expanse of the Lake. It's huge. The condor statute at the top was also fun to see. There's not much else do to in the city besides eat, try Huajsapata, shop for souveniers, check out the main square, and enjoy the art in the streets. 

The next 2 days, we spent out on the Lake and at the islands: Uros, Amantani, and Taquile. Uros is a floating island, meaning that it is a man-made island made of reeds, but it is anchored down, so they don't float into Bolivia - need a passport for that. We got a quick explanation for how they grow the reeds to be big enough to support an entire community. There are about 30 floating islands. The one that we visited had 10 families living there. Each family has their own hut and we had the opportunity to visit Elsa's. She told us about life on the island. They share 3 kitchen huts between the families. They have a separate island to go to the bathroom about 1km away, so the potty water doesn't contaminate their potable water as they use the water straight out of the lake for drinking and cooking. If I'm not mistaken, the water in the Lake is salty. The main source of work is making crafts to sell to the tourists and fishing. The Canadians and Australians contributed the King Fish and Trout to the Lake's fish species. Unfortunately, they are bigger and are eating the native fish. Fortunately, I didn't feel bad about helping reduce their trout population - YUM. Their main mode of transportation is obviously boat - they have motor boat, but they also have reed boats - called balsas (sp?) - but more commonly known as the Mercedes Benz. Elsa told us they go into Puno about once a week to get milk and other things they can't maintain on the island. The kids go to school on another island, which happened to be about 5km away from the island we visited. The floating islands became home to many during the Spanish conquests to escape their rule. Interesting stuff! 

The Island of Amantani is where we stayed the night with Luisa's family in the Santa Rosa Community. Her house is no easy walk from the dock, another uphill adventure. Amantani is the largest of the Peruvian islands (the Sun Island is the biggest, but it is on the Bolivia side) with approximately 2500 inhabitants, divided into 10 communities - it's bigger than Lamoni, IA! Haha. We stayed at Luisa's with 2 other girls from our tour, Amanda and Jo. It was cool to have some different company. Fortunately, walking up to Luisa's house got up about halfway up to the Temple of Pachatata (Father Earth), which is 4145m above sea level. From there we could see the Boolivian side of the Lake. The Lake is split, 60/40, but depends on who you ask who has the 60 and who has the 40, Peruvians or Bolivians. Also, they joke that Peru is the "Titi" part, which doesn't have any significance, and that Bolivia is the "caca" part of the name, which you can figure out why. Friendly rivalry. Another note, the Peruvians speak Quechua, while the Bolivians speak Imari (they speak Imari on the floating islands, primarily). Everyone seems to know Spanish too. That night, we had a little celebration where we dressed up in typical island dress and went dancing (or rather, running in circles doing our best to twirl our skirts)!!  

L-R: Me, Melissa, Jo, and Amanda - Luisa got all us dressed
and tied up in our skirts, shirts, belts, and head wrap/shawl. 

The Island of Taquile is known for its textiles and their knitting men. Before lunch, we had a presentation on the hats the men wear. First, they are shaped like a flower on the island, sort of like a bell. The single men wear red and white hats and are more ornate and finely made than the married man's hat. Women decide whether someone is husband material in part baased on how well they made their hat. Married men wear a red hat. The boys are taught how to knit when they are very young. They showed us one thing, like a back support wrap, that was made using women's hair. Weird. They knit with the smallest needles I have ever seen. They have to use incredibly fine yarn. As the people wander around on the island they work on spooling (is that a word?) their string. Good way to multi-task. 

The final hurrah on the islands was the delicious lunch. We had quinoa soup, trout, and coca/muna mixed tea. If you ever go, I highly recommend that lunch. 

When we got back to Puno, we met up with Amanda and went out to dinner. Turns out the Colombian girls on our tour picked the same restaurant, so we sort of had dinner with them too. I got in another alpaca dish, it's really quite good. I would recommend eating that over guinea pig, if you're up for something a little different. We also had some tasty sours - Coca, Muna, and regular. 

Before we headed to our bus, we headed out of Puno to visit Sillustani (another hour long drive, btw). It has the ruins of the tombs of the pre-Incans (Kollas, Lupacas, & Pakaje) and Incans. The pre-Incans used smaller rocks to build cylindrical structures to enclose the dead. The Incans, with their things for really big rocks, took it a step farther and encase the pre-Incan structures in another layer of smooth, I think volcanic, rock. Incans averaged about 2m - 6ft tall and must have been ridiculously strong to construct the things they built without modern technology. 

Vidal was our guide for Sillustani. He explained a lot more about the lake, than our guide did on the lake, which was cool to hear about. The best part is the stories. Vidal grew up on the Uros island, so he had more insight into the beliefs and traditions of the lake people. Apparently, for a long time, the people believed Lake Titicaca was formed much like the Noah's Ark story - there was a city at the bottom of the lake, but they were misbehaving, so it flooded and the survivors had to restart civilization. Also, I'm not sure I mentioned it in my Cusco blog, but the Incans believed the condors represented the heavens, pumas represented the earth, and snakes represented the underworld. We asked which one the people feared most, and Vidal said the condors, which surprised me. Anyway, he told us this story about a community back in the day that had people that were human for during the day and condor form during the night. One of these condor people fell in love with a woman. Her community was none too pleased about this and tried to keep them apart. However, the condor man was not about that, so he took her to his cave far away from the people. He would go to the community to get food and other necesseties for the woman to survive. Eventually, they had some condor/human babies. It became suspicious what the condor man was doing when he went into the city for supplies, so one day the woman's father followed the condor man back to his cave, where he found his daughter and grandkids. The father returned his family back to the city and plucked out all of the kids' feathers. The condor man was not happy about this and destroyed the city. Instilled quite a bit of fear. 

There isn't a ton to do in Puno and on the Lake (too cold to swim), but it's a place with a lot of character, just gotta find it, and of course, lots of history. We met a lot of cool people and saw some beautiful places, so definitely worth the trip. 

~nos vemos~

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The White City - Arequipa

Melissa and I went on vacation to visit Southern Peru. We had been talking about taking this trip for a while and as time is now running out, we had to make sure we fit it in. 

We arrived in Arequipa the night of April 1st. The next morning, we got up and set out to see what there is to do in the city. We spent a good half hour trying to find the market to grab some breakfast, but it was worth it. I love me a fresh smoothie from the market. After that, we walked down to the main square (every city has one) and had time to take just a few pictures of the Cathedral of Arequipa before a lady walked up to us and started her pitch for those double-decker bus tours. While we were debating about whether the trip included things we wanted to see, she kept dropping the price, so it ended up being a win!

We headed over to the agency to pay then hopped in a taxi to catch up to the tour, because it had actually already started about 10 minutes before. Haha. Our first stop was Parque de Yanahuara and the mirador (lookout point), which is where we met our guide, Raul. For some reason people don't believe us when we say we understand Spanish, so the guides insist on giving their talk in English to us. Apparently, Raul learned that Senorita = Lady in English, and so begin the adventures of Lady Melissa and Lady Katrina...

Chachani ~ Misti ~ Pichu Pichu

After learning a little about white syllar, which is the volcanic rock used in the construction of a lot of building in Arequipa, hence "the white city", we headed over to see some volcanoes at the Mirador de Carmen Alto. From that viewpoint, we could see the very famous and active Misti Volcano and its 2 smaller companions Chachani and Pichu Pichu. 

Queso Helado
Also, we were introduced to Queso Helado. As it turns out, queso helado has no cheese in it. Phew! It is usually frozen in a cheesewheel box and then served like slices of cheese, hence its name. I'm having a hard time coming up with a comparable flavor for it, but you'll just have to take my word for it, it's delicious!

Then, we visited a store where we learned more about baby alpaca and vicuna fibers. Not cheap, but oh so soft. We also went horseback riding, where Melissa met Princesa. Unfortunately, I forgot the name of my horse, but apparently it had the talent of pooping and walking. We also visited the house of the founder of Arequipa, which is beautiful.

Rocotto Relleno
Once we got back to the city, we had to find Rocoto Relleno, which is Arequipa's famous dish. Rocoto is one of the spiciest peppers you will find in Peru. I have been advised to cut these guys with a knife and fork, do not touch the pepper directly with your hands. The filling is ground beef with some more delicious spices and there is usually one or 2 raisins thrown in for some added sweetness, and relief from the spicy. Then the whole thing is covered a creamy cheesy sauce. Yum!

After lunch, we hit up the tourist agencies where we happened upon Cevitur and planned our big trip for Arequipa to Colca Canyon.

Condor just flying by..
The van came and picked us up at 3:10am, yes, in the very early morning, and we headed out for the Canyon. We arrived in the city of Chivay around 6am and had breakfast - bread with jam and tea. Next stop was Cabanaconde and Condor Cross to watch for condors. According to our guide, the day before had been rainy and there weren't any condors, so we lucked out with beautiful bright blue skies and a good number of condors. :) 

A little way down the road in Cabanaconde, we began our trek into the canyon. The first day of the trek was an 1100 meter descent, which is about 8 km of zigzagging downhill that took about 4 hours. We were in a group of 6 - Roy (the guide), Lazarus (the 60 year-old Greek guy with a pacemaker), Nicole and Yvonne (the 25 and 23 year olds from Holland), and Melissa and me. We took it very easy, stopping frequently, especially when Roy had an important story to tell us, usually about how much better Arequipenos (people from Arequipa) are than other Peruvians. He had a lot of Arequipenan pride.

Once we got to the bottom, we headed to our rest stop at San Juan. There we had lunch, took cold showers, and hung out for the afternoon. Around dusk, we had planned to go for a walk to see the area, but we could see the rain moving in on us. As Roy predicted, it arrived quickly and was a pretty heavy rain for 20 minutes. It was an incredible storm and you could see where it snowed the next day. After the rain, we wandered around for a bit, ate a pomegranate, then had dinner, and went to bed. There wasn't any electricity in our rooms, so our light literally was a candle. 

Melissa, Lazarus, Nicole, and Yvonne
The next day, we had a delicious breakfast of chocolate and banana crepes! Waaayy better than bread with jam blah-ness. The day 2 trek was quite a bit easier. It was 6k and again took about 4 hours, but again, we stopped to chat a lot. This part of the journey had more variety of uphill parts and downhill parts. Also, Roy took time to teach us about various plants. Apparently 7 different types of mint grow in the canyon. Also, there are a few substances used for dyes - Roy used one to draw the symbol of the Pachamama on Yvonne's arm and the other he used to paint our faces. He also showed us how they use the branches from the agave cactus to make ropes that were even used to suspend their bridges. I enjoyed learning about how people live off the land in the bottom of the canyon. There are only roads for cars to the mines, so everyone else that lives there has to walk or take a mule in and out for all other errands. 

Colca Canyon Trekkers
We stayed at the Oasis that night. According to Roy, the soil where the Oasis is located is actually from the top of the canyon and it took some 600 men to carry it down into the canyon. The soil is very rich and great for plants. They had a mango tree on site with ripe mangos! Perfection. We went swimming in the pool, spent time swinging in the hammocks, took a nap, ate, and just hung out. Really, the Oasis was beautiful and it was nice to meet up with other trekkers and see how things were going for them. I don't think I would want to stay for long though, because I got bored quickly. Would have been nice to have a book or something electricity to charge my phone so I could listen to music. I guess it is good to be forced to be with your thoughts sometimes..or just go to bed early. 

For our last day of the trek, we headed out at 5am. It took us 2.5 hours to zigzag uphill for 6km, 1000 meters. Man, that was some workout! The night before, we were told that there are mules to rent to go to the top (I hear they cost S/. 60) and they leave at 6am. I was making good headway at the beginning, but then midway had to switch to carry the big backpack with Melissa (we were not prepared to leave stuff behind at the hotel, so we had to leave my backpack full of stuff in Arequipa and shove all of our stuff for the trek into Melissa's backpack, so we took turns carrying the beast). I slowed down a lot. I was about 45 minutes from the top when I started to see the mules coming and I just wanted to beat them to the top. Unfortunately, they won. :( It was still a sweet victory to arrive at the top and not have to climb uphill anymore. 

Nicole, Yvonne, Me, Melissa, and Lazarus

We then had to walk to the city to get breakfast. Haha. The trek in Colca was a lot a walking, but it was beautiful and a lot of fun. It is deeper than the Grand Canyon, so I guess I should be able to take that on some time in the future and see how it compares.

Showing off our hats :D
On our way back to Arequipa, we stopped again in Chivay, where I was able to buy a hat like the locals from there wear. They are called cabanas and are fully embroidered. The lady I bought it from makes them too and she said it takes about a day to day and a half depending on how busy you are to complete it. They used to be done all by hand, but now they do them by sowing machine, with the exception of the part where the bill meets the dome part, which has to be finished by hand. Everyone then proceeded to ask me how much it cost, which is fine, but a little awkward. Anyway, probably the best S/. 130 I ever spent. Our Colca Canyon adventure was a great hiking accomplishment and a beautiful adventure! Success! 

~Next, we spent 4 days in Puno, but I'll do a separate post for that.~

When we got back from Puno, we pretty much had the entire day to kill before we needed to catch our flight back to Lima the night of the 10th. We got up and headed over to the Monastery of Santa Catalina. There we learned about the life of a cloister nun. Also, we got to see why it is called a city within a city, with all of its streets and neighborhood feel. It was really quite neat. I can't imagine being a nun, especially not one that can NEVER leave the compound except to go to the doctor's office. Our guide said the average age of the current nuns is late 30s and there are only 20. We also took a tour of the Cathedral of Arequipa, where we got to check out its organ and even head to the roof for a beautiful view of the plaza below and an up close view of the bells.

A street in the convent..
Courtyard behind the church of the
Monastary of Santa Catalina.

The chocolatiest
hot chocolate.
We had contemplated going white water rafting on the Chili River, but after a fun and adventure filled previous 8 days, it was nice to just take time to roam the streets of Arequipa. We took a picture with their famous bronze bulls. And finally, wouldn't you believe, but we found the chocolate place we'd been looking for the whole time we were there! When we flew in, we sat next to a woman from the USA, but that is now living in Arequipa. She said to go check this place out, but she couldn't remember the name and she just new that is was a few blocks up from the church and was upstairs. It completely escaped us, until finally, Melissa spotted it! Turns out it is called Chaqchao and they are trying to rejuvenate the chocolate industry in Arequipa and bring some competition to the very famous La Iberica chocolate stores. We tried chocolate from both places. Both delicious. I wish we had found it sooner because they have a class where you can make your own chocolate! Shucks. 

To end our time in Arequipa, we had a very nice taxi driver that took us to the airport. He gave me his phone number and said I should call him up when I come back and he will make us the very best rocoto relleno in the world. I'll hold you to it, Fernando! Haha. 

The fighting bronze bulls of Arequipa.
~nos vemos~

Monday, April 14, 2014

Celebration Time!

So, we have had some major successes here lately, so... 


As my grandma likes to say and seems appropriate here, "You go Girls!" :D A few weekends back, we found out that Gladys delivered her thesis and received her "titulacion", which I believe translates into her official graduation diploma. 

That weekend, I happened to be presiding at church, and as always, Jhonny did not do as I asked to celebrate good news during church, so I decided to head up announcements with the sharing of good news. I mean, a graduation is big news and very exciting, but I just had no idea. For the proceeding 15 minutes or so, Gladys' brother and aunts and uncles got up to congratulate her and share how proud they were of her for accomplishing such a feat. It was very heart-warming and there were lots of tears shed. 

As it turns out, Gladys was just about to start college when her mother passed away. And if anyone meets the family, even though it has been 8 years now, you will quickly learn how hard that was on the family. Not to say Gladys, being the youngest, suffered the most, but she definitely had a difficult time, both mentally and physically, dealing with grief and depression over the loss of her mom. 

So, with the time to heal and the financial assistance of her siblings, Gladys did eventually start college and has now GRADUATED! We are all very proud and excited for her! Yay Gladys! What I gather so far is that she has the equivalent of a Bachelor's in Business Administration. She currently works for BCP Bank. Now that she has her degree, I am not sure what or if any changes she plans to make. It is exciting to have the possibilities of new things now. 


Melissa has been job hunting like a fiend since the day we got back to Peru, which our trip to Iquitos being the only exception of taking time away from it. I will attest to the fact that she was very diligent. 

After 3 months, 29 job applications submitted, and some half a dozen or so interviews, Melissa got a job! By all information I have gathered from other people job hunting, that's fast! Good stuff. 

Melissa will be working for a high school in Lee's Summit, MO starting in August. She will be teaching english to 9th and 12th graders. Woo hoo! Yay Melissa! 

Now she can sit back and enjoy Peru...until she has to start making lessons plans, of course. 

~nos vemos~

Let's Go Surfin' Now, Everybody's Learning How, Come On and Safari with Me!

Took a few days to wind down from the crazy week of MEADS stuff, which means that I finished reading Insurgent and Allegiant. :) I am loving having time in the day to read, but still have time to accomplish other things as well.

The big activity for the week was SURFING! Melissa and I had been talking about going surfing for a while. Every time we were in Miraflores, the topic would come up. We set various dates for going, but things kept coming up and then she had to get stitches on her toe (her 6lbs weight fell on it..ouchie!). 

Por Fin! The stars aligned and we made it happen. 

After reading up on the surf scene online and exploring some surf companies, we more or less decided on Pukana Surf (meaning that if they were difficult to find or crazy expensive, we would look around some more). Well, we took a new route from where we got off the combi down to the beach, but it happened to pop us out right next to Pukana and it cost S/. 60 ($20) for an hour lesson. Done. 

For those wondering, yes, I would recommend Pukana. They were easy to find, good price, good instructor, and they even had a space to change and guard our personal belongings while we were out in the water. Win! 

They hooked us up with wet suits to wear. I have never worn a wet suit before, but they are awesome! Also, they are incredibly difficult to put on, and take off for that matter. The guy gave me a plastic bag to put over my foot while I slid on the leg, which helped a whole bunch. Their "changing room" was a section in the back of the truck they use for transporting their boards and equipment with a curtain on one side and the truck door to close it off. Anyway, Melissa said the whole truck was shaking while I was trying to put on my wet suit. LOL. Not easy, but worth it. We even got water shoes.

After we got changed up, we met up with our instructor for a quick dry-land lesson of the basics. Put your feet here, bend your knees, line your face up here, sorts of information. We went over stuff for about 10-ish minutes before we headed out. I probably could have used an hour alone on that part, but where's the fun in that? 

So we headed out to the water...and with the wet suit, I didn't even realize the water was cold. 

Our instructor helped us get from the shore into the water and then said start paddling out. Paddling while laying on your stomach is really hard work, FYI. 

We got out to where the other surfers are hanging out. Fun to be part of the gang we had been watching for so long every time we visited. When we started up the water was pretty calm and waves were small. It was good for beginners. I even almost "surfed" at one point, meaning I got up on both my feet and let the water move me. 

Then, the water got rougher...not a lot, but enough. 

We moved around a bit to find a good spot, which was horrible because it meant more paddling. My shoulders hurt so much. I almost just wanted to sit out in the water on my board, just so I didn't have to paddle back out. Hahaha. One time, a wave came up on my at just the wrong spot and carried me almost back to shore and knocked me off my board, so I wasn't even trying to ride the wave and had to paddle back out. Grrr. 

There were a good number of waves that took us out - or as we like to say, we got Prudencio'd. Prudencio is one of the older family members here and he is straight up fearless. When we went to the beach for church, he got in the water, even though he doesn't know how to swim, and just got whipped around and taken down by the waves, and he loved every moment of it! So, we call getting taken out by a wave, Prudencio'd. Swallowing and inhaling all that salt water is a great replacement for a netty pot, but that's about it, as it kind of hurts. At least, from Prudencio, we learned to just laugh about it. 

After a bit, Melissa started to feel nauseous, so she had to get out of the water. I stayed out for a bit longer to make a few more attempts at getting up, unfortunately, I didn't have much, if any, success. At least we tried! 


It was a lot of hard work, but surfing is actually kind of fun. :) If I ever happen to live in a surf region again and I have free time, I think it would be fun to actually take surf lessons. Anything's possible. 

Finally, when people ask me if I have ever surfed (because you know many people from the land-locked states ask me as soon as they find out I'm from California), I can say YES! Just not in CA. Details.  

~nos vemos~

P.S. Why are the lyrics "come on and SAFARI with me" and not SURF? What is a Surfin' Safari? *sigh*