Destination Dos: Arequipa and Colca Canyon

More and more sunshine! Arequipa is one of the most important cities to Peru’s native history. It was a trading point between the highlands and the coastal areas, and a central location between Cusco, Lake Titicaca, and Lima. For us, it’s one of those beautiful, sunny, gastronomically friendly tourist stops for any visit to Peru. Most Arequipena believe that this city is far greater than Lima, even though it is only the second largest city in Peru. The food is different (heavier), the people are different (more conservative, and friendlier), and the climate is different (sunshine + cold nights). We’re happy here in Arequipa, and here’s why!

We spent 6 days the province of Arequipa.

The Cathedral at Arequipa's Plaza de Armas - With Misti Mountain in the back.

The Cathedral at Arequipa’s Plaza de Armas – With Misti Mountain in the back.

River and Misti Volcano.

River and Misti Volcano.

DAY 1: We arrived about 2.5 hours late to the hotel on the Thursday morning of our arrival. It was a disappointing arrival because we missed the free breakfast at our fancy hotel, and they had to cancel our cooking class because not enough people signed up. Additionally, it took them 2 hours to get our room ready…so we couldn’t even shower or change! Instead, we wandered around the city a little bit, bought some food and water, and waited in their sunny garden for our rooms to be ready. Could have been a lot worse! Since our day had revolved around the cooking class, we found ourselves exhausted from the bus ride with nothing to do. We planned and packed for our Colca Canyon trip, which was leaving at 3:30am the following morning, read a little, caught up on emails, and called it a super early night around 8:30pm.

DAY 2: Up at 2:30am! Holy cow that’s early! We grabbed our stuff, and waited in the lobby for our Colca Canyon tour bus/van to arrive. It took us about 6 hours to get to the start of our trek, including stops for viewing the condor flights, eating breakfast, and taking pictures.

Condor

Condor

Condor Viewpoint

Condor Viewpoint – we had no idea what was coming!

We tried to sleep on the bus, but the driver was taking sharp, blind turns at high speeds, and Zac wasn’t handling the altitude very well. We didn’t get much sleep on the bus, so it’s a good thing we were in bed by 8:30 the night before!

Little did we know, this would be our major trekking day. Colca Canyon is (potentially) the deepest canyon in the world (depends on how you measure it), and the surrounding mountains were created by volcanoes thousands of years ago. It is said to be twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, but it does not appear this way because it looks more like a valley, while the Grand Canyon has sheer cliffs making it seem deeper. We actually thought there would only be about 3 hours of hiking down, but when we opted for the “long trek” it ended up being 6 hours up and down.

So, we took the yellow route highlighted in the map below. We started at Cabanaconde and hiked down to the left. We crossed the river (Rio Colca) after about 3 hours, and had lunch near the spring, which was dried out. We then continued up past Paclla and Malata, headed down the canyon to cross the river again, and arrived at the Oasis. It looked amazing, but by the time we got there, the sun was waning, so the water was freezing cold!

We made it down! 21 KM of hiking!

We made it ! 21 KM of hiking to the Oasis!

The "Oasis"

The “Oasis”

We arrived here around 4:30 (about 30 minutes early), rinsed off the dirt, ate dinner at 7:30 and then went straight to bed!

Colca Trek Map

Colca Trek Map

DAY 3: Okay. Another early morning – up at 4:30. The next day we hiked up the yellow zigzag to end in Cabanaconde. Here’s the zig-zag trail from the other side of the canyon, which I took the previous day when I realized that would be our day 2 hike.

That zig-zag trail is the one we took to get out of the canyon!

This zig-zag trail is how we got out of the canyon!

This is a “3-hour” trail, hiking up 1200 meters in altitude, and about 3 miles in distance walked. It’s supposedly a 3-hour trek, but we did it in 2 hours (1:59) and we were VERY proud of ourselves! Many people decided to party the previous night and took mules up the next day, which they enjoyed, but Zac and I were in it for the challenge, so we fueled up on nuts and Clif bars the night before (thanks Bekah & Bridget!) and called it an early night. It’s a good thing we did, because we were SORE for this hike, and I had 6 blisters from the previous day. Of course, my two injuries (left foot and right hip) decided to flare up about 30 minutes into this hike, so it was rough going for me, but we made it in great time and we were so happy when we reached the peak!

Halfway Up.

Halfway Up.

Hiking like CHAMPIONS. Tyler had 3 beers and a Pisco Sour the night before and still hit the peak before the rest of us. Champion.

Hiking like CHAMPIONS. Tyler had 3 beers and a Pisco Sour the night before and still hit the peak before the rest of us. Champion.

The first 4 from our group. We did it together!

The first 4 from our group. We did it together!

We were TIRED! We relaxed here for about 30-45 minutes while we waited for the others, including our guide and those on mules.

Another dog following Zac around.

Another dog following Zac around.

Then we walked another 25 minutes to breakfast. We were very slow at breakfast time, and getting up was so painful! But it was all worth it. We snagged a few more pictures, then headed back to the bus for several more hours of driving and picture-taking.

Plaza de Armas in Cabanaconde after breakfast.

Plaza de Armas in Cabanaconde after breakfast.

We stopped at two places to get pictures of scenery, llamas, alpacas, and wild vicunas, then spent an hour at the hot springs. Many of us weren’t interested in the hot springs, and Zac and I were happy to soak our feet in the ice-cold river water instead.

IMG_1033

Scenery – I was too tired and delusional to know what we were seeing at this point!

Llamas and Alpacas (domesticated)

Llamas and Alpacas (domesticated)

Soaking our feet in the river. Ahhhhh.

Soaking our feet in the river. Ahhhhh.

Colca Canyon was a GREAT experience! We didn’t have the proper hiking gear – we did have to hike the first 20 minutes in the pitch-black without headlamps, we were in running shoes and carrying my backpack/laptop case instead of a normal daypack – but it was still worth it. Next big hike requires a trip to REI though. It was really great to get a good sweat on and really use our muscles since we’ve been very inactive in Lima compared to our normal lifestyles. We arrived back in Lima around 4:30-5:00pm, which gave us plenty of time to move from our fancy hotel to a hostel, shower, scarf down some food, and go to bed. Another early night for us.

DAY 4: Sunday! Zac’s birthday! Man, we were super sore. We ate the so-so hostel breakfast, then spent the morning at Starbucks answering emails and catching up on a little work. Plus, Zac was more than ready for a decent cup of coffee after a week of instant powder! Sundays are quiet days in Lima, and Arequipa is the same. We ended up at Starbucks cause it was the only coffee shop open at 8:30am. Next we headed over to a famous Picanteria, which is a traditional Arequipa restaurant – La Nueva Palomina.

The famous - La Nueva Palomino

The famous – La Nueva Palomino

I wanted to take Zac to La Capitana, which is apparently the best Picanteria. For some reason, even though I clearly said “La Capitana,” the taxi driver took us to Nueva Palomino instead. It’s another picanteria, a little more famous because it’s has been renovated to be huge and gorgeous. I’m actually glad for his mistake because Zac really enjoyed his meal!

We were told that Picanterias dish out gigantic servings, so we ordered a “small” salad and a plate of beef, pork, potatoes, and vegetables to share. We were full after the salad! We were both happy to get vegetables, and are proud to report ZERO ill effects from the huge plate of veggies. Yes!

Peruvian Cancha

Cancha – my favorite little salty snack. As my friend Miranda says, it’s like inside out popcorn! (We serve bread in the states while people wait for their meals, Peruvians serve Cancha and Chifles (fried banana chips).

Salad at Nueva Palomino

“Small” gigantic salad – only $2.86! Loaded with much-needed veggies.

Nueva Palomino - Chuleta Mixto

Chuleta Mixto – beef, pork, vegetables, and potatoes.

After lunch, we walked home along the river, then tried (in vain) to find a sports bar so Zac could watch the first 49ers game of the season. Guess what? All 15 of the sports-like bars in Arequipa are closed on Sundays. Boo. We headed to the park instead, enjoying a popular Arequipena dessert – Queso Helado.

Helado Queso at the Park

Queso Helado at the Park

It’s not actually frozen cheese, but more like very sweet homemade vanilla ice cream. It’s called Queso Helado because it looks like frozen cheese. It was good! On our way home, we grabbed 2 beers to enjoy on the roof before dinner. Happy Birthday Zac!!!

Nueva Palomino

Birthday Boy!

Park in Arequipa

Super crowded park – only open on the weekends. It had blow-up slides and tons of games for kids.

DAY 5: After breakfast, we went on a wild goose hunt to track down our laundry. I must have made 6 trips to this place to get our laundry taken care of because they were never there! At 3:00 we did a Free City Tour of Arequipa, and it was great! It was 2.5 hours, but we learned a lot of history about the city, and got to see the last sights we’d missed. It ended with a little sample of a Pisco Sour and local fruit.  And check out Ekeke – famous guy who fed a starving family and is now a symbol of good luck!

Ekeke - Brings good luck.

Ekeke – Brings good luck.

DAY 6: Our last day in Arequipa. I was determined to have another Rocoto Relleno (spicy red pepper stuffed with beef and cheese) before leaving, and we both wanted to try Chupes Camarones (a traditional mountain soup made with river shrimp). We packed our things, checked out, worked until lunchtime, then headed over to La Capitana. It only took us about 20 minutes to walk there, and we arrived 5 minutes before it opened, but they were already halfway full of people! We ordered both the Rocoto Relleno and the gigantic bowl of Chupes Camarones.

La Capitana Picanteria

La Capitana Picanteria

Rocoto Relleno con Pastel de Papas - La Capitana

Rocoto Relleno con Pastel de Papas – La Capitana

Chupes de Camarones - La Capitana

Chupes de Camarones – La Capitana

I’m happy to report that the RR was everything I hoped it would be, but saddened to say that the soup was disappointing. It wasn’t bad, but we didn’t love it. Either way, I’m glad we made it to La Capitana!

And now, we hang around the hostel until it is time to catch our 8:00pm overnight bus to Cusco. We are hydrating in order to handle the altitude, and taking it easy until we leave. See ya in Cusco!

Categories: Arequipa, Hiking, Peru | 2 Comments

First Stop: Ica-Huacachina

SUNSHINE! That’s the first thing I have to say about Huacachina. Ica is a desert city about 4 hours south and east of Lima. Huacachina is a town on the outskirts of Ica where tourists and Peruvians go to spend the afternoon sandboarding! We stayed in one of the hostels around the lagoon and surrounded by dunes in every direction.

Lagoon & Dunes in Huacachina

Lagoon & Dunes in Huacachina

Zac and I spent 3 days there, and since there isn’t much to do besides the sandboarding, that was enough. It is the desert, so it’s incredibly hot during the day, and very cold at night. So we spent our days reading by the pool or in the hammocks (!!) or just walking around the lagoon.

The oldest dog ever. She followed Zac & I around every day!

The oldest dog ever. She followed Zac & I around every day!

We arrived in midmorning, started settling into the traveling groove again, and decided to go sandboarding that afternoon. The tour through the hostel with the dune buggy ride was 30 soles (~$11), but we happened to find an old man across the lagoon renting out boards for just 3 soles (~$1)! Of course we opted for that, and had a great time. I’m glad we saved the money, but I would probably recommend for others to take the dune buggy ride, apparently it’s like a roller coaster on sand, and you don’t have to carry your board back up the dune since they drive you back up.

HAH! Caitlin's first run. :)

HAH! Caitlin’s first run.

Zac Sandboarding Like a Pro

Zac Sandboarding Like a Pro

On our first morning, we thought it would be a great idea to get up and watch the sunrise, as our friend Eric did many months before. Unfortunately for us, the sky was full of clouds at 6 am, and there was absolutely NO SUN to see. We were up climbing the dunes at 5:15 am for no reason! Not much to see.

Um, sunrise over the dunes?

Um, sunrise over the dunes?

Later that afternoon we went to Tacama winery, located near the city of Ica. Zac’s student has a friend who runs/owns Tacama, and set up a tour and tasting for us. Even though we might call it a winery, they produce a lot more Pisco than wine. We got a private tour of the winery, including the behind-the-scenes processes they don’t normally show you.

Tacama Winery

Tacama Winery

Gigantic urns of Pisco.

Gigantic urns of Pisco.

Later we joined in on the hostel BBQ for 30 soles, which was amazing! That’s an expensive meal for us, but the food was so good, and there were so many vegetables! Unlimited avocado! You just can’t beat that when you’re in the middle of the desert.

Sunset on the dunes.

Sunset on the dunes.

The next day was another relaxing day reading in hammocks. It was amazing! We headed out that evening for our 12-hour overnight bus to Arequipa (which left 2 hours late!!). Look for updates from Arequipa and Colca Canyon. Coming your way soon!

Categories: Ica/Huacachina, Peru | 3 Comments

Adventure Itinerary: Part one

IT’S HERE! Maybe not quite as exciting as boarding a plane to Singapore with a one-way ticket and a bundle of cash, but our trip around Peru and South America is exciting in its own way. We still can’t decide if we should go South (Mendoza Malbec? yes please!) or North (sunshine? need it!) after Cuzco and PM.

In case you want to keep tabs on our journey around Peru & South America, this is what we’ve got so far:

FIrst few weeks of the trip!

FIrst few weeks of the trip!

Sept 2: Bus to Ica (4 hours)  – 2 nights in Ica, sand-boarding, watching the sunrise, relaxing, etc. WE might also get the chance to tour the vineyard of one of Zac’s student’s friends…it’s all about who you know!

Sept 4: Overnight (10-12 hours) bus to Arequipa – Andean COOKING CLASS (yup yup yup), 2-day Colca Canyon Trek (possibly the deepest canyon in the world, they always argue about that), mostly a lot of eating.

Sept 10: 10 hour bus to Cusco (10 hours)  – We planned to take a quick 5ish hour bus to Puno, which is where Lake Titicaca is located, but the city of Puno just had an epic snowstorm, stranding 12,000 families, and killing 250,000 Alpacas (but I thought their coats were so warm!) It sounds pretty rough out there, so instead we’re going straight to Cuzco. Everybody loves Cuzco! Well, we were originally going to take part in some sort of hike – The Inca Trail, Salkantay, Lares Trek – but they’re just SO EXPENSIVE. We found that we could do much cheaper treks elsewhere (Arequipa, Huarez), so we will not be shelling out the $600+ to walk the paths of Chaskis and Incans. Although I like to think I was a Chaski in a previous life. We’re heading up to Machu Picchu on Friday Sept. 13th!

Sept 15: 10 hour bus to Puerto Maldonado. We’re signing up for a clean-up project in the Amazon jungle in Puerto Maldonado. Supposedly we’ll be helping to protect the turtles. Yay TORTUGAS!

Eventually we will either bus it down to Chile and Argentina, or make our way up the Peruvian coast to relax on the beaches and enjoy the beginnings of Spring/Summer. Finally we’ll have to take a series of buses and trains back to Lima to hop our flight to Mexico City.

Nov 6: Flight to Mexico City to visit my sister and her newly acquired husband. She’s doing a lot of super-planning for this trip, but I think there will be lots of tacos and sunshine! AND WE LOVE TACOS.

Nov 19: Back to The States!

So, that’s the plan! We’re up at 5:30am on Monday morning to catch our bus to Ica, and then it’s bon voyage Lima! Stay tuned!

Categories: Arequipa, Cuzco, Lake Titicaca, Peru, Travel | Leave a comment

Huaca Pucllana & Early Birthday!

This is it, the last week in Lima! We are sad to say goodbye to our friends, and even a little sad to leave our new home in Surquillo (thanks, Trevor!), but we’re definitely ready to see the better parts of Peru and get a taste of sunshine, mountain air, and jungle steam!

We’ve been a little more active the last two Saturdays, with good reason. Our amazing Peruvian family and I put together a small surprise birthday party for Zac on a Friday night. We even ordered KFC – Zac’s favorite – and I made the insane brownie-cookie-cake cake, which Zac surely thought he wouldn’t get this year. (Three years in a row! I love surprising other people!) It was really fun to see how happy he was from something so little!

3-Layer Brownie, Cookie, Yellow Birthday Cake

3-Layer Brownie, Cookie, Yellow Birthday Cake

I dragged him out of the house for a walk, while they compiled the cake, KFC, and awesome handmade signs. We happened upon an American bar during our walk, and a quick peak at the TVs told us there were football games on. Of course Zac dragged me inside, found the Niners on one of the TVs and insisted we have a beer. So, we were at least 30-45 minutes late to his party, but since it was his day, even though he didn’t know it, I had to comply!

Happy Camper watching the 49ers' preseason game.

Happy Zac watching the 49ers’ preseason game.

No matter what people say about birthdays, they’re always best when celebrated with friends and “family.”

Zac's Surprise Early Birthday - For the record, his real bday isn't until Sept 8, so he was REALLY surprised!

Zac’s Surprise Early Birthday – For the record, his real bday isn’t until Sept 8, so he was REALLY surprised!

The next day, we visited Huaca Pucllana, which is a series of ruins from the Lima tribes. The most interesting thing to me is that their homes and structures were made of various sandy bricks. One big rain would wipe them all out, but that just shows you how little it rains here in Lima!

Zac in front of the Huaca

Zac in front of the Huaca

Traditional Dining Area

Traditional Dining Area

I didn’t catch everything the guide said, but apparently when enemies (probably Spanish conquistadores) came to take over the Lima tribe, they sacrificed and buried the important people from the Lima tribe, often with their children, hence the tiny packages resting higher up in the picture below.

Tombs

Tombs

They set up a little farm area, where traditional foods are grown, such as quinoa, camote (sweet potato), and coca. They also had plenty of alpacas and llamas, but they looked pretty sad to be there.

Spelled "quinua" in native Quechua, Quinoa is a very popular grain for us health-nut "Norte Americanos." And here it grows!

Spelled “quinua” in native Quechua, Quinoa is a very popular grain for us health-nut “Norte Americanos.” And here it grows!

Quinoa Buds Up Close

Quinoa Buds Up Close

The strangest view comes in the form of a city-to-ruins juxtaposition. You can see the modern development butting up against the ruins, which are now protected by the government.

Ruins in the midst of a gigantic, developing city.

Ruins in the midst of a gigantic, developing city.

And of course, Zac and I got the token shot in front of the ruins. They’re fascinating to see up close, but the tour was kind of pricey for just 25 minutes.

IMG_0917

We’re happier than we look, I promise! Too much KFC the night before!

We planned to visit Tokio Ramen, a ramen noodle shop in San Isidro that was highly recommended by one of my students, then head over to the Huaca. After an hour or so, we didn’t find the ramen shop, so we were a little tired and cranky by the time we reached the ruins.

However, we DID get much better directions from my student and went the following weekend. We always talked about renting a bike for Zac on a Saturday (I had one) and just riding around Lima. We never did it due to price, or timing, or fear of biking on the street, but I forced it last Saturday, and it was so worth it! I’ve done enough biking to know some of the safer areas, so for an hour-long bike ride, we only had to hit the streets and sidewalks for about 6 blocks. We made it to the ramen shop for MSG-laden noodles and gyoza as a way to assuage my need for Japan in my life! (We delayed the Japan 2014 for Japan 2015.)

Tokio Ramen

Tokio Ramen

Anyway, as most of you know by now, we’ll be back in San Diego in January of 2014, but for now, we’ve got a lot more traveling to do. This week will be spent packing and tying up loose ends, and next time you see us we’ll be in Ica, Peru!

Categories: Lima, Peru, Travel | 6 Comments

Winter in Lima

The life as an American expat in Peru has a lot more hiccups than normal First World living, but all in all, you fall into the same routine. You work, you sleep, you play, you get rained on inside your apartment, you see some interesting stuff, and you forget how interesting it really is. For us, we spend a lot of time struggling with the landlord from HADES, letting it taint our experience, but don’t worry, we’ve had fun along the way.

Flooded Apartment

 In an attempt to escape the fogfest of Miraflores, a few of us jumped on a 2-hour bus inland to spend a childlike day in the sunshine of Cieneguilla. We saw our first alpaca (they spit!), and played on swings and seesaws, just enjoying the sun.

Seesaw

SEESAW

Meat and starch: a healthy Peruvian diet!

Meat and starch: a healthy Peruvian diet!

Zaitlin and Trevanda cramming into a Cieneguilla tuk-tuk. I'm not proud of the names either.

Zaitlin and Trevanda cramming into a Cieneguilla tuk-tuk. I’m not proud of the names either.

ALPACA

ANGRY ALPACA

Adorable little nun-in-training who "smiled" for me on the bus on the way to Cieneguilla. Then she removed her head covering and showed me that she has hair underneath.

Adorable little nun-in-training who “smiled” for me on the bus on the way to Cieneguilla. Then she removed her head covering and showed me that she has hair underneath.

We’re so lucky to have awesome friends down here!

For 10 days in July, I had the wonderful presence of two of my closest high school friends and an awesome husband. Despite my previous stories of insanity, Bekah, Bridget, and Bobby took up the challenge that is the city of Lima, and came for a fun-filled visit to the place we’ve called home for the past 7 months. They left virtually unscathed. Their trip was in two parts – first in Lima for 4 nights, then Cuzco for 4 nights, and back in Lima for 2 nights. When they arrived back to Lima, their hotel was completely SHUT DOWN. Running without a license or something like that. Ah, who needs silly things like that? We found them a few dorm beds in a hostel (sorry guys!) and continued on with the day.

B-Cubed in Peru: Bobby, Bridget, Bekah (The brave Americans who visited, despite my horror stories.)

B-Cubed in Peru: Bobby, Bridget, Bekah (The brave Americans who visited, despite my horror stories.)

We finally ate the ever-elusive Andean dish of Pachamanca. We shared beef hearts and chilcanos, and even tried our hand at being in our early 20’s again by staying out until 1am! We took them to the historic center of Lima for fancy Pisco Sours, and for an awesome Peruvian Independence Day celebration with traditional dance and a lot of food. Bekah and Bridget went paragliding with our Danish friend Soren, and the crew even had the chance to visit Cuzco! My favorite was showing them Mercado de Surquillo. Raw chicken and all!

Historic Center of Lima

Historic Center of Lima

Mercado de Surquillo PRODUCE

Mercado de Surquillo PRODUCE

Mercado de Surquillo CHEESE

Mercado de Surquillo CHEESE

Mercado de Surquillo MEAT

Mercado de Surquillo MEAT

Parque de las Aguas on B^3's last night.

Parque de las Aguas on B^3’s last night.

Traditional Dancers at Brisas del Titicaca

Traditional Dancers at Brisas del Titicaca

Fireworks seen from our apt on Peru's Independence Day

Fireworks seen from our apt on Peru’s Independence Day

Anticuchos - Beef Hearts. Delicious!

Anticuchos – Beef Hearts. Delicious!

Flying Bridget!

Flying Bridget!

Now it’s back to the daily grind – but not for long! Zac and I have put in our notice with our classes, and are heading out of Lima at the end of August!

(And not a moment too soon, might I add.)

We’re going to spend about 2 weeks seeing the beauties of Peru – from Cuzco and Machu Picchu to Puno and Lake Titicaca. I couldn’t be more excited about this part of the trip. While we both miss our friends, family, and hot water, I’m happy to finally see the best parts of a country we’ve come to know only through the city lens of Lima. After that, we plan to travel around South America a little more, then we head to Mexico City at the beginning of November to stay with my sister for two weeks.

While here in Lima, we had the good fortune to meet a silly German sausage by the name of Eric, who is sadly leaving us at the end of this week to return to the motherland. But not without an epic night out and some pretty great pictures. We’ll see ya in Germany, buddy!

Eric The White Sausage

Eric The White Sausage

Now that our time in Lima is coming to an end, we’re ready to take on the backpacking world again. And so my friends, you’ll see more frequent posts coming soon!

Zac kisses Lima goodbye!

Zac kisses Lima goodbye! Yes, that’s a whole frozen pig found at the Wong grocery store.

Categories: Expat Living, Food, Lima, Peru, Travel | 7 Comments

BUGZ & Stories

Remember when I told you all about the various ways we have to clean our vegetables if we want to eat them? Did I also tell you that Peru banned GMOs ten years ago because they are very protective of their naturally grown produce, especially their corn? How about how South American countries have some of the loosest regulations on pesticide use in the world, and might actually be continuing to use DDT under the radar?

Well, when that’s all said and done, we still got a worm in our bell pepper.

Bug

I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. I mean, bugs are mostly good in lettuce and spinach and stuff, because it shows that the produce ain’t got no DDT. However, this bell pepper did not have a single hole or blemish on the outside. It was perfect. The inside was filled with black things, which I think were rotten seeds (or worm eggs) and a worm. I’m not even sure if the worm was dead or alive because I couldn’t manage to investigate it through my shock and disgust. I just can’t fathom how the worm got in there. Anyway, I know this is probably sacrilege, but I threw the whole thing out. Worms are something I just don’t mess with…even though they’re harmless when cooked. At least bell peppers here are only 30-40 cents each here!

In other news, I have a few interesting stories to share. You might remember that last Thursday a pigeon was trapped in our bathroom for around 30 minutes, just doing what pigeons do, flapping around, getting feathers everywhere, and leaving goopy grossness for us to clean up. Thank you, rat of the sky. Finally, Zac and I called in reinforcement from downstairs. Another tenant had to grab the thing with his bare hands and put him on the terrace, then scare him enough to fly away. Bizarre. (Also, we saw a nanny help her 2-year-old pee on the wall next to a busy intersection. We saw that in Asia a lot, but that’s the first time here.)

Well, that was last week. This Tuesday we had another interesting situation:

Plumber comes to fix the water, knocks entire window out of its frame. It crashes to the alley, 4 floors below, alerting the attention of all nearby pedestrians and construction workers. Oops. Nobody does anything about it. We’re told the water will be shut off in 15 minutes, so use the bathroom now. People start using the bathroom. 2 minutes later, manager sprints into the apartment, “NEVERMIND, they already cut the pipe, you can’t use the water.” (Imagine Zac, toothpastey mouth agape, wtf?) We begin complaining about how we gotta get notice when this is going to happen when BANG BANG BANG-BANG-BANG!(*&$*()#$*. Woman goes batshiz crazy on our apartment door, shouting in Spanish for 20 minutes about our apartment, about water leaking into her bathroom because of us, about how it’s “not a hostel” but it’s treated like one. She broke our security gate with her loco-fest. Luckily, Zac Heisey and Eric Walgenbachwere able to escape to Spanish class without being punched. Good morning, Peru!

Well, how fun! This place is really testing our patience and acceptance of the unknown. It kind of makes me miss Asia. Although, it’s not Lima’s fault that our landlord is awful!

 

Categories: Lima, Peru | 1 Comment

Being Tourists – Parque del Agua

Time-wise, you could do Lima in about 4 days, and see just about all there is to see. Considering traffic, it might take you 8 days, but that’s an issue for another blog post. Zac and I have been here for almost 4 months, and our visit to the Parque del Agua (Water Park) was one of the first things we’ve really done. We spend a lot of time working, traveling to and from teaching, and curled up in the fetal position with easy access to the bathroom (TMI?) watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory. I feel like my stomach is a big ol’ pansy when it comes to battling the Peruvian bacteria, but most people say that 3-4 months in is usually the turning point, so I’m hoping we’ll be good to go in the belly department pretty soon.

Anyway, back to the water park! We decided to have a quiet Friday night, and man did this place deliver! You can hardly hear the traffic from inside the darkened park, lit only by the water and light shows. I’m into inanimate objects dancing, ya know, stuffed teddy bears, mushrooms from Fantasia, etc., so this was right up my alley.

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It’s basically a park with lots of colorfully lit fountains. This first shot is at the entrance. Then we saw this…looks like Dorothy had a rough landing?

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There’s a huge fountain that dances to light and music, called Fantasia, which was my favorite.

Fantasia

Fantasia

There were some really cool displays, so here are a few fun photos for ya!

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Kind of a creepy tea party – Alice in Wonderland-esque display.

The following night, we headed out for our friend’s birthday. We  ate the world’s best antichuchos, played cards at the house, then grabbed a drink at this new bar around the corner. For those of you who don’t know, anticuchos are made from beef heart, skewered, grilled, and delicious. This woman, Grimanessa, is famous for her anticuchos, and they’re definitely the best we’ve had here! Disclaimer: Peruvian food is not healthy. That’s just another weekend in the big city!

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This one would have been awesome if I had better camera skills.

Anyway, that’s that! At least we’re getting out of our apartment once in a while. :) The following weekend we spent Saturday at an all-you-can-eat sushi place called Wasabi. Worst. Decision. Ever. Not only did we eat too much, (about 36 rolls between 4 people) but also, we all got sick for 24 hours! One of us is Peruvian, so she’s acclimated to the bacteria here and still got sick. Wasabi, your quality is terrible and I will not be endorsing you.

Categories: Food, Lima, Peru | Leave a comment

Signs and Sights of Lima

The most interesting thing about a foreign country, besides the food of course, is the way they communicate.  Whether it’s a high reliance on body language and eye contact, or the simple use of different signs and symbols in public places. I like to see what they use for their marketing tactics, and how their celebrities relate to the people. There are some pretty amazing aspects of different cultures in general, and here are a few of my favorite photos from around town.

Here we have an example of the packaging around a yoga mat I purchased at the “swap meet” style market Polvos Rosado. The girl in the middle just really makes me wanna get my yoga on.

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Then we’ve got the very specific sign on the bus:

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Make sure you’re not giving your seat up for just any heavy person, okay? There’s gotta be a FETUS in there.

This one is all about preventing sexual harassment on the bus!

I can't remember exactly what the words are, it was a bumpy, late-night bus ride, but I think the picture speaks for itself.

I can’t remember exactly what the words are, it was a bumpy, late-night bus ride, but I think the picture on the right speaks for itself.

This lady gets to ride around on a bike all day selling coffee?? Sign me up!

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Best. Job. Ever

Oh, and this one tells you to OPEN THE WINDOW TO PREVENT TUBERCULOSIS. Hi, please don’t get on the bus if you have tuberculosis. Thanks. Sincerely, everyone else.

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There are a lot of street performers throughout the city, but my favorite is when they take advantage of the 74-second red light (yes, there’s a countdown) and get all circus-like in the intersection. I just got the tail end of this, but that guy was juggling while standing on his partner’s shoulders. Pretty neat!

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Okay, this picture encapsulates our favorite discovery. On Sundays here in Miraflores, we have something called “Ciclovia,” where the entire street (normally a very busy road) is closed to cars, and open to pedestrians, bikers, bladers, skaters, etc. About a block’s-worth of the street is used for this amazing scene you’ll see below.

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Yep, dancing aerobics with like 200 people, in the middle of the street. As far as I know, anybody can join, but there are some pretty serious dancers out there. This picture shows the people near the back who aren’t quite so talented, but still far better than me! Zac and I keep saying we’ll join, but we haven’t quite plucked up the courage yet.

Here’s a dog, sitting in the middle of the park, just chowing down.

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We’ve also got some interesting art throughout the city.

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This one is a little strange to me because they’re actually pretty sexist here, so you don’t see a lot of strong women characters. But hey, that’s what makes it awesome!

That’s it for me! Zac & I say hi to you all from this beautiful view of a beach in Chorrillos. (A 20-minute bus ride south from our apartment.)

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Categories: Lima, Peru | 1 Comment

Semana Santa

I can’t believe that I am so terrible at posting! This is the last time you’ll hear that from me, because I promise to post at LEAST 2-4 times a month from now on. We had a rough patch there, and not much going on in our lives, so it was harder to come up with things to post!

Peru is a very interesting country, and I’ve decided that Lima does not showcase much of what this South American country has to offer. There are a lot of horns and angry people. There are homeless men fighting on the street. There are plenty of people trying to take advantage of tourists, and there are lots of hiked-up prices. The infrastructure isn’t that great, and the management in our apartment is really bad. These things combined to make Zac & I second-guess our choice. We’ve decided to stick it out for the full year anyway, but we’re surely going to be spending more and more time out of the city, despite having Saturday classes.

As you all know, yesterday was Easter. Here in Peru, the dates and celebrations are a little different. They don’t do much of anything for Easter on Sunday, but they have a 4-day weekend, and consider Friday the biggest day in the holiday. In fact, most Peruvians refer to Friday as “Easter.” On that day, most shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs are closed, and Thursday and Friday are national holidays. It was great to have a 4-day weekend, so we decided to get the heck out of the noisy city for a quiet vacation only 30 minutes away in Punta Hermosa.

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Tiny beach with a lot of umbrellas.

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Punta Hermosa is improving.

We headed down with a group of 5-8 people, depending on the day. It was really nice down there, and revived all of our feelings about the country, inspiring us to plan more and more trips like this!

This quiet little beach town was definitely geared towards Peruvian tourists, but most of the prices were actually lower than those in our district of Miraflores. That was surprising, despite a very overpriced guest house. It’s okay, it was nice to just leave the horns and whistles and car alarms behind (mostly).

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Zac!

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So great!!

The guys all did a lot of surfing, and I even joined them out there one day. I basically sat on my gigantic longboard for 45 minutes praying that no waves came my way. And lucky for me, they didn’t! I’m kind of scared of the ocean anyway, but with a 8-foot board under me, I was pretty terrified that we would both get totally smashed up. The waves were small or nonexistent, so everyone else was kind of bummed, but I felt like I was on a huge raft out in the middle of the ocean, which is great!

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Sunset

We got to see the sunset a lot, we barbecued on the terrace, and we had a lot of laughs.

Sunset with La Ballena rock formation in the background. (The Whale)

Sunset with La Ballena rock formation in the background. (The Whale)

Shopping for the BBQ at the Market

Shopping for the BBQ at the Market

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We even drank beer on the street! We walked past a bunch of cops in front of a church on our way to watch the sunset, beer in hand, and they didn’t say a word to us. We’d seen so many people do it that we figured it was allowed. They even sell beer cans on the beach for 5 soles ($2.50).

Oops!

Oops!

 

Well, on our way back from the coast, we saw this sign, and realized that they just weren’t enforcing the rules for some reason. Our Peruvian friend Maria says it’s because we’re white. We pass through a gate to get to the beach, and we were never stopped or searched, no matter what bags we were carrying, but we saw plenty of Peruvians getting their bags searched intensely.

On Saturday, we headed over to Zac’s student’s beach house about 10 minutes down the road for lunch. Well, a quick lunch at 12:00 turned into an all-day affair. We were there for almost 6 hours! It was a little strange, but man, the hospitality was great!Here in Peru they have this grilling box called a Caja China, which is actually pretty similar to an oven. It’s a wooden box, lined with metal on the inside. You put the meat inside, then cover it with a metal lid filled with burning charcoal. It was delicious, despite getting sucked into a 6-hour “lunch” with a client while our friends enjoyed the beach!

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The Caja China

Punta Hermosa has a little island that shoots out into the sea, and is basically covered in mussels and bird poop. We did some climbing out there in the poop-free areas, and it was interesting to get a view of the “city” from the ocean. We were also able to watch the surfers and the sets rolling in on 4 different beach breaks.

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Punta Hermosa Isla

Birds responsible for the kaka.

Birds responsible for the kaka.

That’s about it! We didn’t do anything too crazy, but we were able to relax and not use a computer for 4 days! The group below is the original crew that arrived together Thursday and stayed until Sunday. Trevor (Boston), Zac, Caitlin, Emilio (England), and Eric (Germany).

Our last sunset

Our last family sunset.

Additionally, here are a few posts that Zac & I submitted to the TEFL Alumni blog for a little extra money. This is another reason why I haven’t been posting here – too much time writing for money! Thanks for following and you’ll hear from me again soon. Happy April Fool’s!

A Varied Palette in Peru (Caitlin)

Jumping Off the Edge of the Earth (Zac)

First World Problems (Caitlin)

Preparing for the Worst (Zac)

Categories: Peru, Teaching English, Travel | 2 Comments

Trials and Tribulations of Third-World Living

Hola!

It’s been quite a delay since my last post. Sorry! Here are the updates.

We’re pretty settled in our apartment now, and we’ve been teaching for a little over a month now. We both like it, but there are certainly frustrations. It’s common for our students to cancel several classes a week right now, because it is summer here and they go on vacation. Unfortunately, that means we don’t get paid! Zac has two students on a a 2-week vacation, which kills about a fourth of his paycheck.

I have the same issues, but I’m teaching kids as well as adults, and I’m working with several different schools. This helps me keep my schedule full. I think we’ve officially reached equilibrium though, and I’m hoping we won’t have to take any more money out of the bank! The hardest thing is communication. Even when we have advanced students, they have a very indirect communication style, so it is rare to get firm confirmations of schedules, or for them to say, “no, I don’t understand.” That’s a challenge, but we’re working through it.

Other than that, we aren’t doing much. We spend a lot of time traveling to and from classes, and preparing for classes that may or may not be canceled!

This week, Zac and I agreed to eat a vegetarian diet, with zero alcohol, and zero sweets. I really wanted to challenge my kitchenability, and we both wanted to save a little money. It was quite an adventure in the kitchen. I made Quinoa Spinach Cakes, Hawaiian “Sloppy Joes,” Lentil Meatballs, naan bread, beet and white bean hummus, and more. It was actually kind of scary in there, but I’m most proud of that naan bread because I’ve never made any kind of bread before! You’ll see a working link to my food site soon, but here’s a picture!

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My foot is not in good shape, so running is not possible. I went to the doctor last week, who said I might have another three months of waiting to do. Next week I’ll go get another X-Ray to see if my fears are true, and the fracture has gotten worse. I did buy a bike this week though, which is great! I need a helmet and a lock and I”m good to go. Buying the bike isn’t something I could have done alone. Central Lima is the true heart of the culture here. This is where tourists go to get robbed, and where locals go to buy anything. We have a friend here from Denmark who has lived here for a decade, married a Peruvian, and has two kids. He took me to Central Lima to get a bike, and I’m glad he did! He took care of haggling and negotiating, and I just said thinks like, “no rosada, mas alto siento, esta bien.” Clearly not perfect Spanish, but translates to like, “no pink, a taller seat, it’s good.”

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This week, Zac suffered from the worst sickness I’ve ever seen. Serious food poisoning with all the fixin’s. We eat all the same things, but I didn’t get sick. Not sure why, but I’m glad I was well so I could take care of him. We’re talking violent shaking, fever, vomiting, and more. It wasn’t pretty. Don’t worry though, he’s much better today. He spent about 24-30 hours in bed, with me forcing liquids and antibiotics and crackers on him. He’s still on a mostly liquid diet, but he’s graduated to fresh naan bread and oatmeal.

As if having bodily fluids come from every orifice wasn’t bad enough, it happened to fall on the same 3 days that the WATER STOPPED WORKING. We got water back after about 12 hours, but haven’t had hot water since about 6am Wednesday. Luckily Zac and I were up and showered by the time it stopped working. Yay for early birds! We can’t even set foot in the shower though, it is covered in grime and gravel that came up from the drain. Today’s “shower” was with boiled water and washcloths. What a glorious life we lead!

Other than the ridiculous week, things are going okay here. We’re looking forward to having some more leeway in our budget to do things, and to making some other friends our age! We don’t get out much as of right now, but we do meet our Peruvian friend Maria for lunch or dinner about once a week, and we might take a trip to Machu Pichu with her soon!

Here are some pictures of our latest meal with Maria. Fusion food is huge here, and Japanese – Peruvian food is one of the most popular. It’s not like sushi in Japan, it’s more like California sushi, but Peruvian. This roll literally tasted like Ceviche Sushi, and it was delicious.

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When we drink, we try to stick with the Peruvian beers and Pisco, and I’m a huge fan of the Pisco Sours. They’re a little too sweet for my palate though, so maybe I’ll have to learn to make them myself. :)

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 (Zac opted for an Asahi this time though.) Well, that’s the update!

Categories: Food, Peru, Teaching English | 2 Comments

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