The next trip that we took was to Iquitos a.k.a The Amazon!! When we arrived in Iquitos, our guide quickly picked us up at the airport and took us to a boat in order to get to our hotel. On our way to our hotel, we stopped at a place to see alligators, parrots, and other interesting creatures of the Amazon. One of the first things that we saw were piranhas, which if you don’t remember is a fish with a red belly that is known as eating people. However, our guide told us that they don’t eat people but do bite if there is blood. I got to feed them and watch them fight over the little pebbles of fish food. Then we saw alligators and turtles. Afterwards, we saw paiche in a pond, which is a very large fish in the Amazon. Later we saw parrots and some people held them. Our tour guide poured pop in a cup and we watched a parrot pick it up with its beak and drink it like a human. It was funny. Afterwards, we left and continued our boat ride to our hotel. As we sailed towards our hotel, I just observed the never-ending Amazon River. It was almost like a lake with a strong current because it was just so huge. It was definitely not how I had imagined it. Then our boat started going into a part of the jungle and after a few moments we spotted our hotel. It was neat how it was hidden by the jungle. When we arrived to our hotel we discovered a room full of hammocks. I think that was one of my favorite things about the hotel was just relaxing in the hammock. For lunch we had cat fish and bananas and it was delicious. It was my first time eating catfish with the skin on it! Our hotel was more like a camp to me. We did not have wifi and we only had electricity for three hours a day (only when they were cooking the meals). Although it was not bad at all and I am glad that it was like a camp because we got the full Amazon experience. Later that night we went on a hike and it was awesome. At one point of the hike, our guide stopped at a tree and explained that people who live in the jungle use plants as medicine. Then, he hit part of the tree with a machete and creamy-like ointment came out of the tree. He then said the ointment that came out of tree was good medicine for the stomach. It was interesting to see how people survive in the jungle, especially when there is not a clinic nearby. The next thing our tour guide did was find a tarantula. He said he would and he was successful. Some people took pictures with it but I’m just not brave… Anyways while walking through the jungle, I saw many different kinds of interesting plants. There were two kinds of trees that had thorns on it. I feel like if you are looking for a weird plant, you should go to the Amazon because you might find it. Later we went back into the jungle for a night hike. This time we saw many different kinds of Amazon creatures. Many of the creatures that we saw were spiders. Spiders that would be in my worst nightmares exist in the Amazon. It was like everywhere I turned, I saw spiders, little or huge, they were there. Then our tour guide found what looked like a spider but instead it was tree scorpion. We also saw possums and toads. In the beginning of our hike, we had hoped to see a snake. However, our tour guide did deliver because towards the end of the hike, he saw a reflection of a snake and got it for us. Our tour guide was awesome and very skilled in finding those wild Amazon creatures. I am amazed on how he spotted a reflection of a snake’s eye as he was walking by a tree. I don’t know if it was just because I saw a lot of spiders, but I always felt like something was crawling on me all the time. Actually, I felt like we all did. Overall it was an awesome night hike.
The next day it rained a lot. We actually had to wait until the rain died down to go out on the boat for the next place. So most of us went to the hammock room and took a nap because it was so comfortable. I’m going to have to invest in a hammock when I get back to the States. After a while, the rain started to die down and we went to Monkey Island. It was more like a house filled with monkeys and other animals, but it was one of my favorite parts of going to Iquitos. When we stepped into the house, I saw toucans, parrots, and a lot of monkeys. The monkeys were swinging over us and it was awesome. They were so cute! Then one of the guys brought a sloth in! It was cute! Then we saw a turtle and a parrot was actually saying “Hola”. Then one of the guys that worked on Monkey Island brought a baby alligator out and I got to hold out. I was so scared while holding it but amazed to how soft its skin was. The next thing the guy brought to us was a huge anaconda snake and I held it! Yes, isn’t crazy how I will hold an anaconda but not a tarantula? I was still really scared and it was weird how I could feel its whole body move while I was holding it. Later that day, we went to another part of the Amazon to see pink dolphins. We saw a couple dolphins but not up close. I would see a fin every once in awhile or when they came up to the surface for air.
The next day we went piranha fishing. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch any piranhas but I am pretty sure they kept stealing my bait. I saw some sardines and Haley caught a cat fish. Later we went to visit one of the tribes in the rainforest. The tribe spoke Quechua, which was originally the Incan language before the Spaniards came to Peru. Luckily, our tour guide was there to translate it for us. Then the tribe put paint on our faces and entertained us. The main leader of the tribe put two coins on top of a wooden head and we had to knock the coins down with wooden arrows. So we took a long pipe with wooden arrows inside and blew the arrows. I didn’t hit the coins but I did hit the forehead of the wooden head. Then the tribes did dances and we got to participate. Afterwards, I bought sovenuirs from the tribe. It was an awesome experience. After we visited the tribe, it was time for us to go back to Iquitos. Marta, Allie, Claire, and I were staying an extra night in Iquitos while everyone else was going back to Lima. However, we later found out that night that the other group was not able to leave because their plane had technical difficulties so they stayed another night in Iquitos. While we were in Iquitos, there were a lot of motor taxis. Mototaxis are motorcycles hooked to a wagon like car with a bench seat in the back. If you Google it, you will know what I mean. I’m not sure how to explain it but they were all over the city. Unlike Lima where there are a lot of cars, buses, and taxis, in Iquitos, there are a lot of motorcycles. I actually felt like I was going to Sturgis for a moment. Later, we went to a restaurant and tried alligator! I am so glad that I got to try it and it was actually good. The taste was like chicken with a little bit of a fishy taste.
The next day, we woke up early in order to go to the markets. In the markets we saw a lot of food being prepared. For example, there was a lot fish and chicken on the tables. However, I saw a lot of interesting food that made my stomach turn. For example, we saw pieces of turtles! I felt so bad for the turtles because I had just seen a live one the day before. However, after seeing a couple pig heads on the table and fish being gutted, I decided that it was time to head in a different direction of the markets. We saw a lot of markets with many homemade medicines. According to our guide, many people go to the pharmacies or markets with the homemade medicines instead of going to the clinics because it is cheaper. As sketchy as it may sound, a lot of the medicine that is sold in the markets are very effective. For example, Marta had a bug bite and our tour guide put some medicine that was called Dragon’s Blood on it and she said it didn’t hurt or itch. After the markets, our tour guide took us on a canoe and we saw the other side of Iquitos-the side that most people don’t see. I have been living in Peru for over three months now and I have seen a lot of poverty but when we got into that canoe, I saw even more poverty. There were a lot of houses on stilts in the water. It is interesting though because some of those houses had a downstairs and an upstairs. However, the downstairs of the houses were flooded due to the Amazon River being higher because of the rainy season. Our tour guide said that when the rainy season ends, people live downstairs in their houses. I don’t know if I could imagine moving my stuff from one part of my house to another in order to avoid things getting ruined due to the rainy season. Anyways, as we sailed through the neighborhoods, we saw a lot of people that were poor. The houses weren’t in good conditions, people were clothed differently, and it was dirty. I felt depressed afterwards because we had seen that but then again we were getting the full Peruvian experience. According to my professor, you cannot go to another country and only see the beautiful things. We were able to get the full Peruvian experience by observing how people live in different parts of Peru. I mean I felt bad that people were living like that but in a way it makes me thankful for the things that I have. Later that day we went to a zoo in Iquitos. I am so glad that we were able to go because they had a pink dolphin there and since I didn’t really get to see it in the Amazon, it was cool to see what it looked like at the zoo. However, it looked more like a gray color to me but I believe our tour guide said that the Amazon water changes the color on the dolphin so maybe that was why it was more of a grayish color when we were at the zoo. Other animals we saw at the zoo were monkeys, jaguars, black panthers, cheetahs, iguanas, turtles, alligators, owls, an eel, and even some piranhas. Even though we didn’t get to see some of these animals in the wild, I am still glad we went so I can at least say that I have seen a pink dolphin or an eel. The next thing that we did was to see the city of Iquitos. Our tour guide took us around the city and showed us buildings and how a lot of the buildings had architecture that was similar to Spain. Then we did some shopping. I bought so many sovenuirs. Later that night, we flew back to Lima. It was a fun trip and I am so glad that we were able to go to the Amazon because I couldn’t go to Peru without going to the Amazon. So far the Amazon has been one of my favorite trips in Peru!
The next weekend, we went to Ica. We went to Ica by Cruz del Sur which is a bus and it took us a few hours to get there. The bus that we took was really nice. They even gave us a little pillow and blanket, but unfortunately did not let us keep it as sovenuirs. Anyways, they served us snacks and we watched movies on our way to Ica. The only thing that I had heard about Ica was sand dunes and sand bugging but I sure did not know what I was in for. The bus dropped us off at our resort and the only plan that we had that weekend was going to Paracas. Some people did not like that we did not have a plan for the whole weekend, but I did not mind. It was nice not being on a schedule the entire time and being able to schedule things as a group. The first thing that we did in Ica was go to the sand dunes. We got into two of these cars that had seat belts like roller coasters and they really felt like roller coasters. Our drivers would go up and down these sand dunes and they were really high. I got the passenger seat and the first sand dune that we went over was like a roller coaster. It was fun though, I wish I could have video-taped it. The next thing that we did in the sand dunes was sand boarding. Sand boarding is similar to snowboarding. The first sand dune we went over, I was for sure I was not going to make it because it was very steep. However, I got on the board and laid down on my stomach and screamed the whole way down. It was incredible. The next sand dune that we went down, I decided to sit on the board this time. It was definitely not as fun as laying on the board but it was still awesome. Then we reached the final sand dune and that one was interesting. Some people stood on the boards and went down but I decided that I was not that brave so I decided to sit on the board again. The only thing that I did not see coming was the bumps towards the end of the dune. Well I biffed it. It is okay though because I still had fun even though I wiped out. I still want to do it again someday. I am currently trying to decide if I should go to Nasca or not and they have the tallest sand dune in the world, so I could redeem myself on that dune. J It was so awesome being out in the desert because I just felt so free. Like I could see the city in one direction but in another direction I saw never-ending sand dunes.
The next day we went to Paracas to see the Ballestas Islands. We arrived to Paracas and had to wait an hour for our boat due to the fog. However, we got to go shopping while we were waiting and I got to feed a pelican a piece of fish. Then we got on our boat and rode to the Ballestas Islands. The islands were definitely not what I was expecting because when I think of islands the image of Hawaii just pops in my head. For example, palm trees, sand, and the typical beach area. However, when we arrived to the islands that is not what I saw. Instead, it was an island with rocks that had penguins, sea lions, and thousands of birds. Who knew that there were penguins in Peru? I didn’t! But it was so awesome! We stayed in our boat the entire time while our tour guide explained to us about the islands. We saw many sea lions on the beach and a few that were swimming close to the shore. We also saw a starfish that was on a rock and a huge crab. There were thousands of birds on the rocks and just flying over us that I was for sure that I was going to get pooped on. However, I did not realize that I would be the first one to get pooped on. I wonder if that’s good luck…or something. Anyways it was quite the experience. On our way back to Paracas, we saw images in the sands that were similar to the Nasca Lines. One image that we saw looked like a cactus. It was better than I expected. I really enjoyed going to the Ballestas Islands.
The next day we were leaving that afternoon and had free time. Well I really wanted to go horseback riding because the first time I went horseback riding was not very fun. So Kim and I went horseback riding in the desert with a guide. When I got on my horse, she (her name was Monica) was ready to go. At first we rode one-by-one but after awhile my horse decided that she was going to get up by our guide even though I pulled the reins. However, by the time we reached the beginning of the desert, all of our horses were ready to take off galloping. I had never really been horseback riding without someone else holding the reins but being able to control the horse and ride in the desert with no one else around except the guide and Kim was amazing. I felt so free again. I even galloped a little with the horse which was very scary at first because I thought I was going to fall off but as soon as I got the hang of it, it was incredible. Our trip to Ica was relaxing and fun. It was nice to have a trip like that before our next two weeks full of trips.
Over the past month, I have traveled to many parts of Peru. The first trip that I took in the beginning of March was to Cañete and Lunahuana. Claire, Allie, Carla, and I went with Josefina, who has become a good friend while in Peru and she is also one of the conversation partners. Josefina is from Cañete and we were lucky enough to visit her hometown and do some sightseeing. We arrived to Cañete by PeruBus which is a bus that constantly picks up passengers and goes to certain parts of Peru. When we arrived, we were able to take a tour around Josefina’s family’s winery. Her family owned a winery, a farm, and a hotel. I have never been in a winery before but it was definitely interesting to see how they make the wine here. The next stop we made was to her family’s farm. Her family’s farm was beautiful and it almost felt like I was in Nebraska for a moment, except without the mountains in the background. We even got to pick a few fruits off the vine like oranges and avocados. Later, we went to see the main square of Cañete. I have seen a lot of main squares of cities in Peru and they almost always seem to be the same. They always have something in the middle of the square like a monument, statue, or fountain. There are always many people in the square and usually you can find the best restaurants near the main square.
The next day we woke up early to go to Lunahuana, a city that was only an hour away. When we arrived in Lunahuana, a guide greeted us and showed us around the town. The town was very small but there were several people and many tourists. The first building that we went to see was a church. The next place that we went to was another winery called Bodega Beyna De Lunahuana. After the winery we went to a honey farm and for a moment I felt like I was on Fear Factor. The honey farm was great and we got to sample two different types of honey that was good for the throat and the stomach. However, when the lady came around with the samples, bees would swarm us. I felt like I was on Fear Factor because I don’t like bees and trying to stay calm was a struggle. However, if I have learned anything while being in Peru it is that you have to be calm and have patience in situations. Anyways I bought two jars of honey and I hope I can get them home in my suitcase without customs taking it out! The next thing that we did was go to La Casa Encantada (A haunted house). I’m not exactly sure what happened but I believe our tour guide said something along the lines that when the owners of the house died, people began seeing ghosts. Anyways we were able to tour the house and it was quite big. There was a lot of graffiti on the walls and the house was completely empty. One cool thing about the house was that it had an amazing view of the mountains and the river below. Later, we went white water rafting which became my favorite part of the trip. I was so nervous and excited when we got in the boat. Our instructors would tell us when to paddle, when not to, and when we were about to get splashed. We got soaked but it was AWESOME! Definitely a must do in Peru! I wish I could do it a couple more times before I leave Peru!
Overall that weekend was fun and went by so quickly. I will never forget the memories I had during that trip, especially when we went white water rafting. Another great thing about that weekend was that we were able to talk in Spanish most of the time. I even learned a couple words I did not know before!
Another thing that happened during that part of that week was that I went to a Clinic. I dropped a glass in my host family’s house in my bedroom and it shattered everywhere. A lot of the glass went under my bed and I was trying to sweep it up and I was putting some of the glass in a plastic bag just to remove it from my room. Well, I went to sweep up some glass from my bed and as I was crouching down, my leg gave up and my foot landed right on top of the plastic bag which cut my foot. So then I called Marta and we went to the clinic because we were not sure if I needed stitches or if there was piece of glass in there. So I got to observe the Peruvian clinic, which was actually a hospital. When we arrived, they got us into a room and looked at it. Luckily I only needed a sterile strip and no stitches, which is awesome. Then they gave me a prescription for antibiotics and unlike hospitals in the U.S., there was an actual pharmacy inside the hospital. The process of getting in and out was pretty fast because it was less than an hour. The only bad thing that happened was the bill. It was very expensive because I had to pay all of it up front because UNK’s insurance reimburses me later. I was not happy that I cut my foot but at least I got to experience the Peruvian medical system.
Last weekend, we got to go to El Parque de las Leyendas (Park of Legends) which was a zoo in Peru! It was amazing! When we got to the park there were many vendors there and they really do pride themselves on suggestive selling because they follow you and tell you about their products. Anyways, we entered the zoo and it was huge. I think almost as big as the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE. Anyways we saw many animals such as ducks, llamas, parrots, hawks, condors (up close they are huge. Pretty sure the biggest bird I have ever seen!!), goats, bobcats, owls, foxes, toucans, monkeys (many different types), chimpanzees, black bears, crocodiles, tigers, turtles, Japanese fish, tapirs (which are animals that look like large pigs but are from South America, Central America, and Southeast Asia), emus, jaguars, lions, zebras, giraffes, penguins, hippos, snakes, iguanas, and sea lions. While we were at the zoo, we entered Laberinto de Espejos which was a maze of mirrors. I remember going to one of these when I went to the Ripley´s Believe It or Not Museum in Dallas, TX for a band trip. They gave us sticks when we entered the maze so that we would not run into a mirror because when you are in the maze it looks like all the directions are open but they are not. They turned the lights out on us a couple of times and we had fun listening to ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson and trying to find our way out. Afterwards, we went to eat lunch. I tried Ceviche for the first time and it was delicious! It is a very popular dish here in Peru. It is raw fish that is served with a type of corn, a sweet potato, banana chips, onions, and roasted almonds. It was delicious. Another thing we did in the zoo was peddle boating. I am sure that we got a bad boat though because for the first five minutes we went in circles near the dock. Claire, Liz, and I had a fun and interesting time figuring out how to steer the boat but we are pretty sure it was kind of broken. Afterwards, we walked through the garden which is basically a garden with a lot of unique plants in it. I also tried a snow cone there with a fruit flavor of strawberries and maracuya. Maracuya is similar to a mango but sweeter. It was delicious. Overall it was an amazing day!
On Sunday, we went surfing! I have wanted to go surfing since I went to the beach here for the first time. So on Sunday, we went to Miraflores. We got in wet suits and then took our boards out to sea. It was really hard to get up and keep balance on the board. I fell off so many times haha but it is okay! I did paddle over a few huge waves which was really fun! After surfing we walked to Larcomar, which is a mall that is built into a cliff that overlooks the ocean, it was beautiful! We ate lunch, took pictures, and shopped a little. Afterwards, we went to the artisan markets. The artisan markets are where you can find sovenuirs. This was the place to bargain but it is so hard to bargain here because I feel like if they know you are American, they try to overcharge you. It is the same with taxis sometimes. Taxis here do not have flat rate prices so you have to bargain with the taxistas, taxi drivers. For example, when I am at school and I want to take a taxi home usually it costs 4-5 soles. However, since they know I am American or a “Gringa” they always give me a higher price like 8-10 soles. Most of the time I take a collectivos because it is much cheaper than a taxi. Usually it is 1 sole which is $0.40 in U.S. dollars. However, collectivos fill up the car until it is full and drop people off. After the markets, we decided to go home. Later that night, my host sister and I went to see Warm Bodies (Mi novio es un zombie) in the movie theater. Surprisingly the movie was in English with Spanish subtitles! I was really relieved because I was not sure if would understand without any English. The movie was great and the seats were so comfortable, they were leather! Afterwards, we went to Bembos, which is a popular fast food restaurant here. They have hamburgers, fries, chicken, ice cream, and other types of food. However, their hamburgers are not the same as they are in Nebraska. Here, they taste like sausage in a way and are not really beefy. I suppose I am just used to American food.
Some of the things here really make me thankful for the way things are in the U.S. For example, usually when we go to another district of Lima, we take the bus or a combi (mini bus, pretty much a collectivo). They are inexpensive but the only problem is that there are too many people sometimes. The buses and combis can be really crowded, I am so glad I am not a claustrophobia person. I am always trying to explain combis to my mom but honestly they remind me of a Volkswagen bus with 50 people packed inside. It can be really uncomfortable and the seats are obviously not made for tall people. However, it is inexpensive so we usually take them to save money. Another thing I am thankful for in U.S. is bathrooms. I know that sounds silly but after being here for 6 weeks, there have been times when I needed to use the bathroom and had to pay. I’ve had to pay from 50 centavos (cents) to 1 sole to use the bathroom. It is not expensive, just weird. Another thing is that sometimes the bathrooms that I have gone into after I paid are not well-maintained and they don’t supply toilet paper. I’m so glad I always carry Kleenex in my purse! When we were in Arequipa, we went into this bathroom that only one canister of toilet paper which was by the sink and not in the stalls. It is just so weird to me but I guess when you go to another country, it makes you appreciate the things in the U.S. more.
Two weeks ago, part of the group and I took our first big trip to Arequipa. I woke up around 2 a.m. on Friday and quickly finished packing my suitcase. Then I walked to UPC and took the bus with the rest of the group to the airport. We got to airport around 4:30 a.m. and quickly went through security. While I waited for the plane I went to some of their shops in the airport and bought sovenuirs! Then when our plane was called we lined up at the gate and took a bus to the plane. It was different because we were not expecting to take a bus to the plane from the gate but I suppose I am in another country so of course things are going to be different. Then we caught our plane and headed off to Arequipa. Luckily on the plane, I was close to the window and could see the view. We took off and as we gained altitude I could see fishing boats below (because the airport is really close to the ocean) and of course the huge city of Lima, which is nice because when I first arrived in Peru it was really late at night and I could not see very much. About an hour later, as we were dropping altitude, I saw the beautiful mountains and dessert like view of Arequipa. When we landed, we climbed down the ladder of the plane, and gazed at El Misti which looked like a snowy mountain but it was a volcano. It was also very cold in Arequipa. I had heard that it was colder before I left but I just brought one pair of sweatpants with me thinking that’s all I would need. However, it was much colder than I thought. I’m not sure how cold it was in degrees but I did buy a handmade sweater while I was there, so I guess it worked out.
After finding our luggage, we decided to look around the airport as we waited for our tour guide to arrive. The first place I went to was the stores to look around to see what they had. Then we waited at a café. Luckily our tour guide showed up earlier than we expected and we hopped into the bus to begin our tour to the Colca Valley and Canyon. Before we went into the Colca Valley and Canyon, we made a stop at a convenient store. The store was filled with Inca sovenuirs, snacks, drinks, and they were actually handing out tea in coffee cups. I thought that it was weird that they were handing out tea like that so I asked someone about it. It turns out it was coca tea which is very popular in the Colca Valley and Canyon because it helps prevent altitude sickness. And then it hit me… I totally forgot to bring altitude sickness pills with me! Oops! So of course I bought a glass of the tea and it tasted like grass. It was just water with coca leaves in it… it wasn’t very appetizing but I drank it anyways because I didn’t want to get sick in the beginning of the trip. While I was drinking the tea, I looked around and found little coca candies that helped prevent altitude sickness. I bought them and they actually tasted much better than the tea. Then we got back into the bus and continued our tour into the Colca Valley. As we climbed altitude, I saw fields of green grass with creeks of water and usually there were animals in the field like llamas or donkeys. There were also mountains, large boulders, and even waterfalls. It was very pretty! After a few hours of touring the valley we got to the highest point and stopped. There was even snow on the ground which made me think of home and how it is snowing like crazy there. There were also many piles of stacked rocks and our tour guide told us that tourists and native people stack the rocks together and make a wish. Then we went into a town called Chivary and ate lunch. We went to a restaurant which in the end turned out to be our hostel to. It was a buffet and we were able to try many different types of food. I think my favorite was fried bananas which is very popular here. Then we went up to our rooms which were very nice. I have never stayed in a hostel before but the Peruvian ones are good. It was clean and had probably ten covers on the bed because it was so cold. After going up to our rooms we changed into our bathing suits to get ready for the hot springs. Then we drove about 40 minutes to an hour to the springs and to our surprise it was in a pool. I was thinking that the hot springs would be in the land, but it was still fed by natural hot spring water. When we got into the pool, it was like huge hot tub. The water was so warm and relaxing. While we were there, we noticed other tourists that were from a different country. We saw a family from Germany which we continued to run into throughout the whole weekend because the different tour companies go to the same places. After the hot springs, we went back to the hostel to get ready for dinner. Our tour guide said that he was taking us somewhere very special for a celebration. Later, when we got to the restaurant, we sat down and ordered. The restaurant had live music and also traditional Inca dancing. As we waited for our food, we watched the traditional dancing. It was very unique and a couple people from our group, Luke and Whitney, and other people from the other tours participated in the dances. The food was also very delicious. I order chicken soup, fried chicken, and flan. Then we left the restaurant and headed to our hostel. It was a very good and exciting today! I just want to note that throughout the Colca Valley and Canyon, the people were dressed different than the ones in Lima or the actual city of Arequipa. They wore the Inca traditional clothing which I thought was interesting. I am not sure if they just wear that because it is their culture or if they wear it for the tourists. Also, our tour guide told us that a lot of them speak more Quechua than Spanish. Quechua is the language that Incas spoke before the Spaniards came to Peru. Today, there are still a lot of people that speak the language here. One of my friends had a maid that used to work in her house that spoke Quechua, Spanish, Japanese, and some English! That’s amazing; I admire people who can speak so many different languages!
The next day, we got up early and ate breakfast at 6am. They served us rolls with butter and jelly and papaya juice. It was different than what I eat for breakfast with my host family. With my host family I usually eat corn flakes and yogurt mixed together. The yogurt is like the substitute for milk but it is really good. One thing that I will note is that here, Peruvians make a lot of homemade juices which is so much better than the ones you get at the supermarket. I almost think that I will come back to the States with recipes to make homemade juices. Also, the fruit here is so much fresher than it is in the States. I’m really not a fan of mangos in the States but here they absolutely delicious. After breakfast, we continued our adventure to the Colca Valley. It was a cool and foggy morning but we still saw many beautiful views of the Valley. One of the stops we made was at a mountain side. Along the street, there were little markets filled with sovenuirs and handcrafted items. While we there our tour guide told us about tombs in the mountain. As we looked up, we saw a honey comb looking seal in some of the rocks. It turns out that behind the seal are tombs of priests. Then we returned to the bus and drove to the next stopping point. As we were driving we went through a tunnel that was like a cave. It was so awesome! It definitely made me feel like Indiana Jones in a way. Then we stopped at the Cruz de Condor for about an hour. At this point there were little markets to buy snacks and sovenuirs. This spot was known for seeing condors. Condors are these very large birds in the Colca Valley and Canyon region. Condors are like huge vultures and I believe our tour guide said they can live up 100 years!! Unfortunately we weren’t able to see a condor from that standpoint due to the fog. Then, we loaded up the bus and drove on to our next lookout point. When we arrived at the next stop, we could see the beginning of the Colca Canyon. We really didn’t go into the Canyon very much but just so you know the Canyon is twice the size of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. It is really huge and I hope to come back to the Colca Canyon in April with some friends to see more of it. However, at this standpoint we could see a river below and many mountains in the background. As we were standing there, all of a sudden we saw a large bird in the sky and pointed to it, thinking it was a condor. Our tour guide proceeded to tell us that it was only an eagle. After a few moments, another bird flew high in the sky and then our tour guide told us it was a condor. I am sad that I wasn’t able to see the bird completely because it was so far away but it looked huge from the distance. Our tour guide mentioned that during the rainy season, it is very rare to see condors. Luckily we got to see one from afar!! Our next stop included markets of sovenuirs and I also got to try a juice that was popular in the region. I didn’t like the juice very much because it was very bitter but our tour guide told us that it was good for our livers. Then we stopped at a restaurant to eat lunch. It was similar to the restaurant we ate at the previous day because it was a buffet. I also ate this meat which I thought was beef and later found out that it was llama!! Then we headed back into the bus and drove into Chivary (where we had stayed in the hostel). We shopped a little bit more at some stores. Needless to say I came back with half of my suitcase filled with sovenuirs! Then we packed up our suitcases and headed to the city of Arequipa. After a few hours of driving, we finally arrived in Arequipa. We went to our hotel which was very nice. The rooms were huge and we even had cable! I guess I am so surprised by how nice it was because we only paid like $12.80 for the room! The hotel even had computers to use and a huge kitchen. We decided to go to the supermarket and buy some food instead of eating out. We bought bread, chicken, cheese, fruit, pop, and Kraft’s macaroni and cheese. We cooked and played some card games. It was a good, relaxing night.
The next day, we slept in and explored Arequipa. We walked around La Plaza de Armas (a government palace like the one in Lima) and other stores. I bought so much stuff! I even tried out my bargaining skills but it looks like I need to perfect it a little more. Then we hung out at the hotel as we waited for our ride to the airport. Overall it was a good weekend and I am excited to see what else Peru has in store for me!
Well it is weird to say but I have been here for almost a month now!! Things are going great and I am improving my Spanish a lot! I feel like the more that I talk in Spanish, the better I get. I won’t lie though, some days it is a struggle to talk with my host family or someone because I completely miss what they are saying, but I guess that is just motivation for me to become better in Spanish.
Over the past few weeks, I have seen so much of Peru. Last weekend I went to La Plaza de Armas and El Barrio Chino (Chinatown!!) which is in downtown Lima with Claire and one of my conversation partners, Catty. Downtown Lima is so beautiful. I love the historical buildings and it reminds me a little bit of New York City because there are vendors on the street and there are also many city-like buildings. The first place we went to was El Barrio Chino which is Peruvian Chinatown and it was awesome. We went to a restaurant called Walok and it was so delicious. We had fried rice with chicken, noodles with vegetables, and chicha morada. Also, just so you know this kind of Chinese food is not the same as you find in China or another Chinatown because it also has Peruvian style added to it. Chicha morada is corn juice from purple corn that is very sweet. I don’t know how I am going to live without chicha morada and Inca Kola after I leave Peru!! Chicha morada looks similar to grape kool-aid but the taste is out of this world! I also heard that chicha morada dates back to the Inca empire and it is good for you. After we ate lunch, we walked through the streets of El Barrio Chino and walked through some stores. The stores were very cheap and I even picked up a few sovenuirs. After walking through the stores, I discovered the beautiful buildings of downtown Lima. Some of the buildings were like any buildings you would find in a city, very modern. However, there were buildings that were very historical and the architecture was very detailed. After walking through the city for awhile, we went down the street of De La Únion which had many stores that you would find in a mall and there were restaurants. I even saw a couple restaurants from the U.S. which were KFC and McDonald’s. After walking down the street we heard distant drumming and cheering. It turns out that there was a show that El Barrio Chino was putting on. There were people in dragon suits and drummers marching down the street with a gong following them. It was so awesome! Then, we headed towards La Plaza de Armas which is a government palace and it is actually guarded by soldiers in red suits wearing a knight helmet. It reminded me of England and how they have British soldiers that do not move but guard places. Next to La Plaza de Armas was a huge cathedral. We went inside for a few moments and it was so beautiful. The walls were covered with paintings and the alter was very detailed with statues. I would not mind going to a mass there! After seeing these places, we rode a tram and were able to get a tour of the city in Spanish! I didn’t catch everything the tour guide said but I did get a couple of awesome pictures of the city! After the tram ride, we went to another part of the town that was a park. In this park, there was entertainment, food, and even a man preaching to the people. I was able to try some food like picarones and skewers with beef and potatoes. Picarones looks like doughnuts but reminded me of funnel cakes only it is covered with a honey sauce. It was so good and I will have to eat more before I leave this awesome place! After we left the park, we decided it was probably best to head home. However, after saying goodbye to Catty, Claire and I watched a movie in Spanish through Netflix. It was awesome and I think being able to watch movies on Netflix in the language with Spanish subtitles is starting to help a lot!
I can’t believe I have only been in Peru for one week!! It just does not feel like it because I have done so much this past week. After months of worrying about this trip and wondering what I would experience while in Peru, on January 4th I hopped on the plane and began my adventure to Peru. After many hours of flying, I finally arrived in Peru. After going through customs and finding my luggage I walked out of security, finding myself in a large room full of many people holding signs. It was very loud and overwhelming but after a few minutes I found my host mom, Carolina, and my host brother, Diego, holding a sign with my name on it.
After conversing for a few moments we found a taxi and hulled my luggage to the car. One thing I have learned about Lima this week is that people drive very crazy here. As I rode in the cab with my host family, we weaved in and out of traffic. Sometimes we cut people off and other times other cars cut us off. It was an interesting experience I was for sure that we were going to be in a car accident but, we arrived to my host family’s house unharmed. After unloading my luggage from the taxi, we walked inside their beautiful house and then I met my host sister, Claudia. After talking for a bit, I unpacked, and went to bed.
The next day I learned more about Peruvian culture and customs. Claudia and I went to her friend’s baby shower and it was way better than American baby showers. On our way to her friend’s house, we took a combi which is basically a mini bus that travels all over the city. The bus crams people in it but it is very inexpensive. When we arrived to the baby shower, we walked into the backyard of her friend’s house. One thing I want to point out is that there is a difference between backyards in the U.S. and the backyards here in Peru. Here in Peru, most houses are surrounded by a wall as a security. It is similar to a very tall fence. Anyways, as we walked to the backyard there were about 40 chairs that were arranged in a large circle. As the party began to start, a lady dressed in a long, white skirt with a ball under her shirt (to make it look like she was pregnant) with a clown nose on came out and welcomed the crowd. She was the presenter during the baby shower. During the entire baby shower, she entertained the crowd by talking with them and having the guests participate in games. For example, there was one game that was played where two guests that were men had to dress up in baby clothes and dance to ‘I’m Sexy and I Know It’ and the crowd voted who danced the best. The next game was musical chairs and the people who lost in this game had to wear baby clothes. There was also an eating contest. While watching these games being played by other guests, there was a waiter that was dressed up in a suit that served us finger food like mini sandwiches, cookies, and bite size fruit pies. The food was very delicious. In between the games, the couple who was expecting would open a few of their gifts. At the end of the party, we danced to many different kinds of music. Another interesting thing about Peru so far is that people listen to American music a lot here. At the baby shower we listened to ‘I’m Sexy and I Know It’, ‘Gangnam Style’, ‘Good feeling’, and many other popular hits in the U.S. Not only did I hear American music in the baby shower, but I also heard it on the radio from taxis, buses, combis, restaurants, and bars. The music isn’t just the popular hits right now in the U.S. there are a few old ones I have heard like some from Bryan Adams, Aerosmith, Guns and Rose, etc. It is interesting but it is nice to hear some music from home every once in awhile.
On Monday, I had my first day of school at UPC and it went well. We have one class each day for 3 hours but we don’t have school on Friday. I am currently taking Indigenous Cultures, Advanced Grammar, Literature, and Advanced Conversations. The school is beautiful and is a very open campus which is nice because it is very hot here. It’s not as hot as Nebraska but it gets very humid here. Also, another thing to add is that it is summertime here in Peru. So technically I am taking summer classes until March because in March, other students begin their fall semester. Another thing I would like to add is that in Lima, there are a lot of security guards. UPC is surrounded by a wall and two gates with security guards. Not only are there security guards there but there are also some that stand at gates to let cars in to neighborhoods. The first week of school went well and I am excited to learn more Spanish so that I can converse more with my host family and learn more about the culture here.
Another awesome thing I did in my first week of Lima was go to the beach. I have wanted to go to the beach since I arrived here. We went to El Silencio which was about 45 minutes to an hour away by taxi. It was beautiful. I went to the beach with Claudia and her friends and I had a blast. When we arrived to the beach we had to stand in line because there was security where they check your bag and you have to throw away any drinks you have. You also have to show your identification. I just showed my driver’s license and it was accepted. After going through the gate, there was a wide variety of restaurants in there that served ceviche (a famous fish dish here that I still want to try), alcohol, and other different types of food. There were also speakers with music playing and a stage with people dancing on it. We sat and talked for awhile and then danced. After dancing we swam in the ocean a little bit. It was cold but perfect because it is so hot here.
I have had a good week so far and I hope to experience more over the next 4 months. I also become better at Spanish every day. I am still having trouble understanding some words that my host family say but I know that with my classes and every day conversations I will become better at speaking the language.