Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What a nice week; with Easter just around the corner and a good week with school under my belt it was very enjoyable. Last weekend we went to Punta Roca again to have another bonfire. We rented a combi (which took forever to get because our Peruvian friends want us to get the best deal so they kept haggling with everyone but it worked out). And technically you aren't suppose to rent a combi or a bus (which we've successfully done both), but the drivers can get in trouble if they go off their route; however, it seems that there is enough corruption that the law looks the other way. Sometimes I would like to give the police officers S./ 50.00 and tell them to do their job because a majority of the time they are sleeping in their cars or standing there observing as car after car breaks the law. But I guess it's just something they have to work on here in Peru. I keep catching myself thinking about back home and how the traffic is there. MUCH better and safer lol. I know I said it before, that my parents should be happy with the way I drive, but I think now I need to be more cautious about driving just to be better because daily I see so many people cut off and I get frustrated with it. Or the fact that people will turn right when there are two lanes between them and the turning lane, but it happens all the time. I need to take a video of this because it's chaos! lol However, I must admit that actually being in a taxi/bus in Peru doesn't scare me as much as it did in the beginning. But back to my adventure to Punta Roca; we took the combi all the way and then played volleyball and catch with the football and just goofed around until it was dark, then we decided to make our fire. There was a really nice restuarant owner who took care of us a majority of the night (although we didn't buy enough wood to burn the whole night, so it was a little chilly); but by about 3:00am we only had embers left.... we huddled around these so in order to survive the extremely chilly weather we broke down and burned the first half of our books (for our politics class). I hadn't planned on burning my book though because I needed to finish the last couple chapters, so at first I only went through the first half. But as the night progressed and the bone cold air was getting deeper and deeper under my skin I decided to give in and take out the rest.
My classmates were/are willing to share their book so I can finish it. Which I did thoroughly enjoy reading the book. I like being able to see the descriptions through Ernesto's eyes. Honestly, if I wouldn't drown on, I wish I could write more like him. I think the descriptions he offers are prefect for this book; it can be difficult to keep track of what's going on because the perspective changes a lot and his ideas are all over the place, but overall I liked this book. It lent an interesting point of view on the life of a Spanish white person though he grew up like an indian. I liked the struggle that Ernesto went through in order to choose which "side" he was to be on, the Spanish wealth or the Indian culture and nature. The ending was one which he went back to the haciendas of his uncle because he wanted to be with the colonos.
We went to help the high schools again, and this time we went to their classroom and we compared the US with Peru; we made posters and gave a little presentation with the girls too.
For Easter I went to the fancy church with Kathy, Jose and Marshall on Thursday. Mass was interesting; although I must admit, not knowing what was going on was frustrating. In the U.S. Easter Sunday is the big day of the weekend, but here in Peru Thursday and Friday are huge. It was a lot of fun seeing what people made out of palms. They had woven little baskets and then had taken the rest of the palm leaves and made flowers out of them; they were beautiful! And because there were so many people on Thursday, we sat outside on the grass watching a projector and listening. But people stood in front of me so I had a difficult time seeing too much; and I was mostly lost because of all the different ceremonies they do for Easter (Semana Santo). I don't know them in English let alone Spanish, but it was an experience none-the-less. I did enjoy going to el Centro and seeing the processions go around the plaza. We finally got to see the inside of the big cathedral in the plaza and then we waited around for the activities to start. We saw a lot of men dressed in purple, we assumed it was like the Knights of Colombus but they carried the different things around. I loved the crowd though, I've been wanting to take more pictures like the ones I got this afternoon. A couple were purely by chance, because I pointed my camera without looking and took the picture. So I definitely had fun with the plaza full of people.
Saturday we headed to Cerro Azul, where Jose's family lives and has their restuarant. The water was a lot higher than last time, but we ended up finding a spot on the beach to lay out. Kathy and I cracked open some clams as we sat on some rocks in the shallow water, that's was pretty fun! But we headed to the restuarant and had amazing food again; and we spent the evening playing pitch. After a while some of Miguel's family came and they sat around playing music on a guitar and box and singing. It was so awesome- not only was I with friends, on the beach, learning to play pitch, but we got traditional music on top of that. It was a real treat to listen.
Even though I missed Easter with everyone this year (and the ham!!!), I enjoyed being with my friends on the beach one last time. I can't believe only three more weeks are left and I'll be back home. I can't wait, but I know I'll be extremely sad to leave Peru (at least for a few years).
 Sand creation- extremely impressive! (at Cerro Azul)
 Higher water!
 One last walk on the pier
 The family band playing for a couple hours. 
Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas
 Inside the Cathedral. 

 Adorable little girl playing next to us. 
 An example of the palms being sold this week. 
 One of the processions

Teaching away in the high school. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lima-Ica-Arequipa and back again!

My apologies for not writing smaller ones after each trip, its been so exciting and I just wanted to include it all in one since every week I was going to some new town lol. (I'm going to recount it backwards though- =) warning). We got to volunteer at a high school today. At Colegio PIO XII we met girls that were from 14 to 17 years old. I was terrified to go because the other school that people went to on Monday was bad. The kids not only didn't do their homework but they had no respect for the teacher or anyone else. But with the girls we met today, it was pretty good. We didn't help them with their classes, but we went around and just talked with them. They actaully have better English than some of the university students we know lol. 

We've also been reading Deep Rivers; even though it's a slightly difficult read, it's been interesting. Its from the perspective of a younger boy and his thought process is tricky to understand because he skips around a lot. But I like the book because I've been able to get a look at the indigenous way of life a bit more. He talks about how nature is desperately importante to him and how each town shapes him. I like how his innocence has an impact to his life as well; but everyone thinks he is crazy for his thoughts.
Then there was Arequipa, it was amazing!! It's called the white city because of the volcanic rock they use for their buildings. I got to stay in my first hostel ever and it wasn't too shabby at all! Internet, bed, hot water, and pancakes with bananas and caramel; what else could a girl ask for? But we all took a nap since most of us didn't sleep before our flight, but we ventured out to the plaza which was close to our hostel. The plaza had a lot of things, the first thing we came upon were statues of different people from the area all dressed up, there were women in traditional dresses and "creatures" dancing about too. We then started exploring the edges of the plaza and person after person came up to us to offer things. Adriana and I found paintings that were awesome! But then we headed to eat up on the second floor and we had a great view of the plaza. I tried anticucho!! And let me tell you, cow's heart is pretty tasty if I do say so myself. Afterwards we found a tour for only 15 soles, it was 4 hours long and took us through the town and out to the country a little ways. It was a huge double decker bus that was pretty cool to ride in, I could touch the sides of buildings as we drove down the streets in Arequipa. We saw el Mundo Alpaca where they have a little farm of alpacas and llamas and separate their fur and then they have two little ladies creating art! It was cool seeing them at work and then seeing the different kinds of animals. The other couple of places we stopped at in town were mostly to see the view, the city and the countryside. And I love taking pictures of people, there was a violinist in the park and it was so good to hear the sound of it! I also got to try queso helado, which is almost like ice with milk, cheese and other sweeting things in ice cream form. After this stop we headed to the country to see other sites, the one place we actually stopped was an old mill that had a few other attractions as well. We all got on a horse and rode for about 20 minutes. But these horses weren't like the ones in Ica, they seemed underfed and grumpy. A few of them even tried biting one another! And there was no running involved lol. But afterwards I got to put a hawk on my arm!! It was amazing!! So after we headed back, we went back to the square and went to a couple different travel agencies to get a trip to Colca Canyon. Andrei and I found the one for cheaper and that fed us breakfast and lunch (definitely a must!). We also set up a white water rafting excursion for Saturday! By far the best part of the trip! I've never done it before, but I'm so glad I did! Our raft guide Roberto was pretty chill and although I'm pretty sure he made us tip the boat over, it was sooo much fun! And lucky me Jose saved my butt before I floated away. And once I was not moving I grabbed Chelsie as well. But great day!! We overcame a Level 4 difficulty on the river (there are only 5 so I was pumped). After trying to scrub the mud off of my shoulders and back, we headed to eat a good Peruvian dish. I got a fantastic alpaca steak with a red wine sauce! Absolutely amazing! The Canyon was fantastic as well though. We got up and moving around 3am and headed out; it's about a 4 hour trip to get to the Canyon itself so to make the day better we started before the sun lol. But we ate breakfast at the Capitol of the providence, Chivay. The breakfast was simple and I got to play with their kitten too. But what surprised me was that Chivay was the capitol, but there were hardly paved roads throughout the town and it was so small! We also talked about this in our politics class and how different each region and each city is from Lima. I also remember everytime we go through an area with poor towns alongisde of the road, it's disheartening and uplifting at the same time. Most of the buildings look abandoned, but I know people actually live in them, but the people just live their life with what they DO have. But then I see a soccer field and I see how much pride they have in their culture and even if they have so little, they always turn to their heritage- I love seeing it all! The mountains and canyon were so beautiful though! The terraces were everywhere, and much to our ignorance a lot of them were not Incan, but pre-Incan. We traveled mostly in our bus, but we did hike some of the way to the place where we were suppose to the condors... unfortunately did not.. But the hike was awesome! and the pictures were super cool. Our tour guide said we should drive up a little longer and find another area to maybe see the condors, and I'm so glad he did! We saw 5 different condors and a couple flew over us! definitely impressive. And on our way back we stopped at saw the alpacas and llamas and the little ponds were perfect for pictures! Then it was time to head back to Arequipa and leave super early in the morning! 
The trip before this was to Ica and Paracas. This was part of our school's plan. It was down south and we stayed at this awesome resort. The bus we took was pretty darn nice as well, even if we thought the driver was playing a game of frogger instead of driving! But the resort was super nice. Right after we got there a couple of us signed up for horse back riding! Holy moly! I've never been on a horse for anything but a circle ride in girl scouts and it was the best part of the weekend, Ashley and I even raced our horses. We just had to do it again right before we left too, worth it! But after our ride we met up with everyone and went sand boarding down this crazy tall hill. Pretty sweet as well; definitely biffed it though both times and but the third time was a success! The highlight of the trip was to see the islands in Paracas about an hour away. In my mind the islands were covered in animals and it was tropical and sweet looking..... well unfortunately they were covered in birds and sea lions, but absolutely no plant life at all. I still really liked the boat ride and the views, but it was just a surprise. And even more surprising was that people lived there a few months and cleaned the poop up. After a while out and about we came back and I fed the pelicans that could probably maul you if they saw you had food. lol But it was a great change of pace to be outside of Lima and just being able to relax without any worries. And also a great chance to talk with people I don't normally get to chat with; different room assignments can always be for the best. 
A couple days before we left for Ica, we had a bonfire at Punta Roca- fantastic! It was so nice to hang out with our Peruvian friends and joke around. We had smores too and Emily was awesome enough to make a couple branches into marshmellow and hotdog roasting sticks.
A hawk just sitting on my arm, never would have thought I had enough guts to do this.
After our white water rafting experience.
Loving every minute of this!! haha 
On our way up to the Condor lookout, in Colca Canyon

The "white"city blocks.

The Plaza de Armas
Weaving a wall hanging at Mundo Alpaca
Violinst in one of the parks we toured
Condor!! The male is the white one and the female is brown.

They stack the rocks as a sort of prayer, it's considered to be their spirits.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cuzco & Machu Picchu- Enough Said.

The week was centered on out flight that left early on Thursday- wait, wait, wait.... But even with the early hours and wait in the airport, it was defeinitely worth it. I'll try to explain it to everyone- it was such an incredible experience- I wouldn't and couldn't have imagined I would get to go to Machu Picchu in my life let alone this young! Anyways.. it was so much fun leaving the coast to see lush green mountains popping up after just a little while. We were the last group to arrive in Cuzco and our tour bus took us from the airport to our hotel and we got a sneak peak of Cuzco (and a little video along the way for everyone to see later- I'm not sure if it'll post on here, its a few minutes long lol) but anyway. We got to our hotel on a street where almost every shop sold matresses, so goofy! And we got our first taste of coca in the form of tea- mate de coca. Pretty good if I do say so myself. But we rested for a little while before meeting our tour guide for the tour of Cuzco. She was nice and along the way taught us quechua (the other official language of Peru). I'll try and put the quechua word in parentheses if we learned it. We ventured to Qorikancha- meaning containing gold or a shining enclosure- it was the temple of the sun and part of the captial of the Incas. There were always so many people waiting for us to sell things to when we got off the bus. I liked the cute, little woman with a baby alpaca, she definitely got a sole from me. Once again snapped a couple of pictures I wasn't suppose to but they hadn't said anything before I did it, the ceiling was just so beautiful! She explained the different rooms that were around the courtyard in the middle, where we took group pictures and you can see the bell tower in the background. The small rooms were for minor Gods. What was crazy was that everything was original, all of the stones were trapezoidal and thus stood the earthquakes. We walked under mural after mural that were goregeous and came into a balcony that overlooked some of Cuzco and then had paintings next to it. The first one that points to a center is actually an Incan trail and each dot represents a city (waka) and they were connected by imaginary lines (seqes). Kozko (quechua) means around or centered. It was by Miguel Aráoz Cartagena. The second (and my favorite) was of the cosmos! It was stunning and represented their Milky Way- The Urubamba River is the Milky Way and the llama and serpent protect it. They believed the cosmos were a model for the cities they built, the Incas were very good at astronomy. In Machu Picchu we learned that all their sacrifice tables and sun dials are perfected aligned on the Cardinal Points. The major Gods included the sun, moon, stars. Viracocha was supreme (sun). Which we had learned about him in the first story in our literature class! haha We had to cut the tour of Qorikancha short because of time, and possibly because she was trying to talk to us in English even though we asked her to talk in Spanish.. oh well it was a struggle to understand her but I'm sure at times that's how the Peruvians feel about us when we speak Spanish lol.
Once we left it started to sprinkle on us and our bus was parked a few blocks away so on our ponchos went! We looked fantastic! lol but the ponchos were pretty stylish if I do say so myself. Our next stop was the cathedral in la Plaza de las Armas (each city has a center plaza). Ciclo Religioso Cuzco Basílica Catedral was stunning, more non-permitted pictures followed the tour. The Baroque Style was beautiful, it was cedar wood but covered in gold and the middle portion was pure silver. She explained there were 3 streets or sections to it because the Incans believed in the three dimensions of everything- humans, animals, and cosmos. Some of the interesting things she shared with us were that: there were mirrors everywhere because the Spaniards used them to attract the quechuan people to convince them to become Catholic, but the quechuans were suspicious because they saw that we "punished" our god by putting him on the cross bloody. But somehow they converted many quechuan people. The ceiling was once again beautiful, and yes a couple pictures were taken, each area between the columns were a different pattern. It was a very peaceful place as we were walking around. We left to walk around the plaza. I felt like I was in Europe and the pictures that I've seen of the streets. The wound, went up and down and were narrow, but fascinating! I loved walking through the streets, all the different shops and restaurants, we found a pizzeria after a bit, and they made it from a wood fire- mouth-watering and amazing!
In the morning we got to leave Cuzco to see the ruins that were within an hours drive. Saqsaywuman was a simple few walls of huge stones on top of a hill overlooking Cuzco. The sight was crazy, the stones were very well put together and some were taller than me. But the view over Cuzco and the entire valley was so beautiful- only half a million people live in Cuzco, but the buildings stretched forever. The chilly air was forgotten as the empire stretched out underneath me. I LOVED the view! On the way to the next stop, Tambomachay, we rode through the other valleys around Cuzco and the clouds literally came down to touch the small mountains, it was so cool! It was so amazing watching the scenery pass by, just seeing the greens of the fields and the mountains and then the whites of the clouds was lovely! When we stopped and walked up toward the gathering place, a finally felt a little winded. But this was a short stop where we saw a few llamas and I watched Jose and Marshall run to see who could get around the corner faster... boys can be so weird. Anyways this was a nice walk other than the dizziness.
The next adventure was making our way through more mountains and stopping at the Sacred Valley. We could see the Urubamba River, which is the Holy River in Peru. I was surprised to learn that there are over 4000 types of potatoes (ocamamas) grown in Peru! We stopped in a small town (with a HUGE indian market) and we found some different trinkets, and my baragaining skills were wokring at full blast lol. But we saw some 3 year girls that walk around with tiny puppy dogs and you just HAVE to take their picture. But they are really cute girls. I just feel bad for them, but they wear traditional clothing that is super pretty. Then we went to this awesome buffet! There were literally 2 long tables waiting for us when we got there. I was not expecting it to be much considering we were in the middle of nowhere and there were three tiki-like huts for us to sit, but once you get in, its amazing! And they had a garden area and a llama/ alpaca farm too. So then we headed to another little town for our last tour. She showed us how the people lived there, the walkways if you can call them that, their sidewalks maybe, were lined with stone walls that also acted as their walls for houses. In the particular house we went to there were maybe 40 guinea pigs in one of the rooms all huddled together getting fed. So naturally Ashley and I walk in first to give them more food! lol What was really interesting though were the skulls on the wall, they were part of a shrine, the weird thing was it was their grandparents. Kinda... freaky. At any rate, we left that place and she lead us out of the housing area and showed us the corners of each conjunction and they called them aillu, which means a team. So there were teams holding up the walls at each intersection. But when we emerged the fortress came into view. And that was the real reason we had come to this town. Ollantaytambo had been a place for the royal family and was a fortress when the Spaniards arrived. It was also a good warm-up for Machu Picchu. I definitely took it slow going up each terrace, but when we got to the top it was amazing and the breeze felt so good! She pointed out the narrow path at the bottom of two mountains that would be our way to get to Machu Picchu the next morning by train. But these ruins were enough for the day. It was a long one, but a very good day, and I was so proud to make it to the top! Before she left she told us one more word in quechua, munahquiqui which means I love you. She was a good tour guide for the two days we were in Cuzco. On the bus ride home we finally saw some snow capped mountains! Which was a sight for sore eyes considering I thought the majority of mountains had snow on top of them, but Peruvian mountains have surprised me and the majority of them are just green. OH AND this reminds me, when I first came to Lima there is what I called a "mountain" close to my neighborhood. I FINALLY understand why they call it a hill now. The Andes are very very large in comparison to my small hill I see daily.

                                           Ollantaytambo Ruins

So then (at 3:00am we woke up) to get ready to leave for MACHU PICCHU! And considering we only needed to go about 70 miles, the four hours to get there were a little long, but I couldn't sleep. Our bus took us through the train station that left at 6:00 and then we went through that narrow mountain pass and followed the Urubamba River the whole way. Once we got to the town at the foothills of the mountains we took another bus to the top right next to Machu Picchu. The first sight of the city was amazing! I had no idea of its size or that the condition was still so well maintained. We had a tour guide for almost 2 hours and then the rest of the day we got to stroll around wherever we wanted. I learned so many things. As we went from one area to the next, history came alive right before my eyes, from 1350 to 1532 the Incas were the elite, the had the control of the region in South America. They were extremely advanced in their sciences like astronomy and physics. They had drainage systems thoroughout the city and each compass he pointed out is exactly aligned with the cardinal points, talk about smart! The Condor Room (where we posed as birds) was used for burials and he said they would bury people in the fetal position because they believed that time was in a circle. The Sun Temple (Pacha Mama) was also impressive; they built this one out of smooth and very well put together stones, since it was a sacred place they used only the best. There was a natural stone that was used and built around for this temple, showing that they did not try to repress nature or command it but worked with it. They natural rock is considered the heart of the mother. He told us the Incas lived by these standards: don't steal, don't lie, and don't be lazy. The King's room was also very interesting because he too recieved the best stone because he was considered half man and half god. I loved the room we went to that was at the top of the city (when I say top though I mean in the center of the city at the highest point on the ground level- we climbed above it and its almost directly in the middle by the open field where everyone would gather). Our guide told us to put our heads in the closed windows of the room and then he started talking to us, it was a very cool effect, almost like he was talking all around me. After coming to the top of the largest building, we made our way down and ended our tour. Now time for our own exploring! He told us a couple places we should visit so we made our way to the Watch Tower, which is at the top of the terraces. That walk was pretty enjoyable and once you were this far we walked around the top and made our way to the Incan Bridge. It was a good change of pace because it got to be more of a jungle feeling, having natural overhangs and only a small, narrow, tiny pathway to walk on or I would fall over the edge to my doom, but like I said I LOVED this part too. I was thinking that their idea of a bridge was the trail I was on, so I was quite excited to get to the end and see a small bridge that linked to another side of the mountain and stairs. It was closed unfortunately, but I still thought it was pretty darn cool! And right before the bridge was a sweet (miniture version) Lion King rock that I got to sit on. And so after making our way back to Machu Picchu, we enjoyed the overlook of it and sat on a terrace. I can't even describe how amazing it was. I could have sat there the entire after (even if I had already eaten all my snacks for the day). It was truly a sight to behold and I still cannot believe I was sitting there. Between the mountains, Machu Picchu, the river, and the company it was definitely the best day of my trip. 

I love how they used the existing rock for their buildings
Condor Room!
Our guide! Clapping to show us it echoed
Behind me is the "top" of the city I kept referring to, the open space was for sacrifices and for the priests to get everyone's attention because below it is the open public space.
Here you can see where everyone would gather to listen to the priests' message
The Sun Temple

Inca Bridge
"Lion King" Rock, you can see the bridge from here