To Trujillo and Back

While I have taken a multitude of day trips to different districts in Lima, up until earlier this week, I had not actually left the city. To be honest, this break was the first trip that resembled any sort of vacation that I’ve had in a long time and it was great to just travel. Although out of the people who I work with, I am by far the least traveled and sometimes it leaves me feeling a little green. For example, this trip included my first time going on a travel bus – both of them were night busses (not to be confused with the Knight Bus) and staying in a hostal. Nonetheless, the flip side of the situation is that I know that I’m surrounded by people who really know their stuff.

That knowledge was really helpful, because even though this little trip was pretty short, I think I might have been a little overwhelmed if I had done it alone. I still find it hard to believe that we did all that we did in the time that we had. Here’s a basic break down of the logistics:

  • Monday, 11:30 pm: Bus departed Lima
  • Tuesday, 9:00 am: Arrived in Trujillo
  • All the fun times in Huanchaco and Trujillo
  • Wednesday, 10:45 pm: Bus departed Trujillo
  • Thursday, 9:00 am: Arrived in Lima

So what does “All the fun times in Huanchaco and Trujillo” entail? Loads!

The hostal that we stayed in is located in a small beach town called Huanchaco, which is located outside of the central city of Trujillo. When we arrived, we were proper ready for some breakfast. We were served a questionable meal about thirty minutes after leaving Lima the night before and none of us ate much of what we were given (although the alfajore was palatable). Our hostal, MyFriend, had a pretty decent restaurant. The atmosphere was everything you would expect from a surf hostal. Where the walls weren’t covered by framed photos of swells, they were lined with surfboards. A combination of Latin American and beach time resulted in a very very relaxed pace of service, but all of us were too tired to really make anything of it. As if the surf hostal didn’t remind me of Santa Cruz enough, the resident surf instructor, Victor, (they offer full rentals of boards and gear to those who want to take lessons) was wearing a Santa Cruz skate boarding company t-shirt. Too much.

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The beach was about two blocks down the street from the hostal. In fact, there’s a clear shot view of the beach right outside of the hostal’s door. (I still regret not taking a picture of the view!) Although despite the fact that all we had done since arriving in Trujillo was recline on the beach and eat, we were all in for a good power nap. Simply put, Tuesday was tranquillo.

On Wednesday morning we visited the ruins of Chan Chan which are located about half way between Huanchaco and Trujillo. Visiting these ruins was much more enjoyable than the trip to the ruins of Pachacamac – the main reason being that it was incredible to be able to really walk around the palace ruins and semi-freely wander. Yolekha had been before so she provided us with a bit of a tour. Our trusty Lonely Planet guide book supplemented the tour with its ever present knowledge and occasional witty remark.

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Rookie move, I know.

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One of the most interesting parts of the trip was the visit to SKIP (Supporting Kids in Peru). One of the main reasons we went to Trujillo was to visit Yolekha because she’s just finishing up her time volunteering with SKIP. Fun facts: 1. Like Building Dignity, SKIP is an Omprakash Partner organization. 2. I almost volunteered with SKIP. We spent about an hour talking with volunteers and the organizations coordinators at the center about their programming and sharing our own work as well. It was a little surreal to be walking around SKIP’s classrooms and outdoor areas, because being a SKIP volunteer very well could have been what my life looked like. Nevertheless, the visit reinforced how grateful I feel to be involved with Building Dignity and the people that I have gotten to know over the past few months.

Before heading out for dinner and subsequently back to Lima, I got to meet a woman who is in the same Omprakash Volunteer Grant cycle as me! It was so cool to be able to network and meet another grant recipient and in general, someone that I only knew through email and reading responses to material we worked on in EdGE. I think that we may be the first grant recipients to have ever met in person. We very well couldn’t be the first, but I think that the idea sounds really nice.

You did good, Trujillo. Maybe I’ll pass through on my way to Ecuador…

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The Scenic Route to Pachacamac

The plan was to go to Pachacamac, have lunch and come home. That happened, but also a lot more.

I learned about this opportunity to go to Pachacamac from Ana María about two weeks ago. She mentioned that her friend Oscar (or Fernando, I don’t know but there’s more to this and that’s for another day) was giving a tour to a group of school children for a field trip and that if I wanted, I could go with them. Roxana could come too and we wouldn’t even have to chaperone or anything. I thought why not and sure let’s do it! As the trip day got closer, I learned more about what this trip would entail, however, never could I have anticipated what actually happened.

Hannah, Roxana, Ana María’s sister, Amelia and me set out for our trip to Pachacamac at around 8 this morning. We met Oscar at the kids’ school and waited for them on the bus. I was hoping that we would just casually sit in the back and be able to do our own thing, but that did not happen. Once the kids arrived, got seated and we were ready to go (which is no easy feat), we were publicly acknowledged and as all of the kids turned in their seats to look at the “turístas”, I realized that we really didn’t know what we got ourselves into.

Our trip to Pachacamac was really quite the package deal. Not only did we go to the said destination, but also made a few pit stops along the way. We got off of the bus to see some cows (two times), a river bed and this sort of hauntingly beautiful hill top:

One of ten crosses that are located on this hill

The cross at the tip top is just one of ten that are located on this hill.

We made our way through the backroads of Villa El Salvador and through districts that I don’t know the name of and by lunch time we finally made it to places that said “Pachacamac” in their name in some context. That gave us hope, although we had yet to get to the ruins.

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We took a much needed break from the rambunctious group of kids and went to find lunch. Oscar helped us find this particular restaurant that was affordable and had vegetarian options. The food was pretty good as well! I am all about the lomo saltado/verdura saltado so that’s what I got.  It was delicious.

After a quick stop to look at more cows and almost have kids get run over while crossing the street, we finally made it to the ruins of Pachacamac.

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Emelia, Roxana, me, Hannah

The fact that this incredible archeological complex was just minutes away from where I live was surreal. (We went a very roundabout way with the kids, because it only took less than ten minutes to get back home on the bus.) Pachacamac was the most important religious site for the indigenous people of Peru’s costal region and dedicated to the god of the same name. There are more than a dozen pyramidal ruins, many dwellings and frescos. From the first indigenous people (said to have first occupied the site during 200 CE), to the Incas who so revered Pachacamac’s powerful religious standing to the point where they allowed Pachacamac to coexist with their own sun god, Inti, to Pizarro who crashed the party in classic conquistador fashion and left Pachacamac to be forgotten. But not for long (well sort of), because in the 19th century, archeologists began to excavate the site and the rest is history.

Getting to walk around Pachacamac definitely made up for all the random, often tiring little trips along the way. But before we could square this trip away and head back home, we were once again publicly acknowledged. This time we were applauded by the kids and their teachers (I like to think for enduring almost seven hours with 30 third graders and one bus) and many pictures were taken. It was sweet. One of my favorite moments was when the kids’ teacher had her student get out of his seat to take a picture of her sitting with all of us, all while the bus was steam rolling down the highway.

All in all, it was quite a day. I don’t think I’ll be signing up to tag along on another field trip like this one, but nevertheless, it was nothing short of memorable.

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Hydration Education

Did you know that approximately 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water? The EPA also says that “the water you drink may have been a drink for a dinosaur.” I think there are a lot of reasons why not as many people know that one. One reason could be that there is a change to said factoid – but the government shutdown has obstructed the EPA’s ability to update their website. We may never know.

In any case, water is pretty darn important. I don’t think I really, truly, understood just how much of a privilege it is to have constant access to safe drinking water. I’m not saying I was ignorant to it – I’ve just attained a completely different level of understanding now that I’ve been in Peru for about six weeks. I don’t brush my teeth, wash fruit, or let alone drink water straight from the sink. (My life is going pretty well without adding a water borne disease to the mix, thank you very much.) Then how do I get my eight cups of water a day, you ask? Let’s break it down.

SteriPEN

SteriPEN. Magical wand of hydration. (That sounds like a euphemism, but I really didn’t want it to.) Call it whatever you like, it’s pretty great. For those who are unfamiliar, a SteriPEN uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and whatnot and in about a minute, it can sterilize 1 liter of water. I use it about twice a day and while I can’t see it as being the most ideal tool for long-term use, its popularity with outdoorsy people and the likes is very understandable.

Medieval Boiling Method

The operative word is “boiling”. The tried and true, boiling of water is quite a constant while at CEDED. The kettle is almost always on when we’re working – especially the past few weeks because for some reason it’s been getting colder instead of warmer. Spring started on September 23rd and evidence has yet to be provided. Anyway, boiling water. Pretty easy. The only draw back is the waiting. And waiting is hard.

*NEW* Water Heater *NEW*

I would like to take this opportunity to share with the interweb that I bought a electric water heater today. Aside from the people I see and talk to here in Peru, I don’t think anyone else can understand just how much of a development this in my life. Never before could I have imagined how liberating it would be to have my own water heater. I almost want to name it.

It’s not that I haven’t had access to hot water before this milestone in the Daily Life of Michelle in Peru. (See, “Medieval Boiling Method”.)  You see, my room isn’t really connected to the rest of the house – I can’t just walk to the kitchen or anything – and I always feel like I’m inconveniencing my host family whenever I ask for hot water. This feeling is completely one-sided, as my host family is incredibly generous, thoughtful and quite frequently offers me a cafésito or tésito. Nonetheless, I’ll be here for a while and the thought of asking for a cup of hot water throughout the seven months I’ll be here is sort of pathetic. So, I decided to be a problem solver and buy myself a water heater.

Now that I have my hot water heater, opportunities are seemingly endless. The most important development is my ability to make oatmeal for breakfast – whenever I want.  I won’t even begin to start on my feelings about oatmeal. Those feelings are deserving of their own post, although I think I’ll save myself any future embarrassment by simply leaving things as is.

I’m very grateful that I was conscious about the consequences of water bottle dependency when traveling, before coming to Peru. I attest a lot of my pre-departure prep to my internship and global development class (EdGE) with the Omprakash Foundation. Travelers and especially long-term volunteers who rely upon bottled water can be really quite damaging to the environment. Imagine all of the waste that’s produced from only drinking bottled water for months and months at a time. It’s a lot. I think that when traveling, people may not be as conscious about trash as they would be when in their usual environment. I have not tested this hypothesis, I have no extensive evidence behind this claim. I suppose what I’m getting at, is that we should be very very appreciative and proactive about the fact that approximately 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, 30% of it is not and those percentages aren’t the other way around.

Note: 1 point for Michelle for crafty blog title? I think yes.

Miraflores Food Adventures

It has become somewhat of a tradition to go on little day trips into different districts in Lima on Tuesdays. Considering it’s essentially everyone’s day off, it makes for a great opportunity for volunteer bonding as well as simply an opportunity to explore Lima. Today’s original plan was to visit Miraflores to see ruins as well as a bakery that Hannah’s friend highly recommended, El Pan de la Chola. While enroute to Miraflores, Hannah and I discovered that said ruins were open every day, except Tuesdays. Nonetheless, we made quite the day.

To be honest, this bakery was the highlight of my day. Probably of my week. Getting there was a bit of a trek, but it was more than worth it. Bread is one of my favorite foods and this place was life changing. Tasting the bread from this bakery was synonymous to the stories of people saying they could finally see leaves on trees upon getting glasses. I’m not joking.

Tostada de aceite de oliva y hummus

Tostada de aceite de oliva y hummus

Hannah and I split the tostada. It came with two different types of bread that were perfectly toasted, olive oil and hummus. This bread was perfect. Its crust was perfectly crunchy and flavorful, while the inside was soft and chewy – almost gooey (for lack of a better word) but not like it was under-baked. It was so good. Simply describing this bread does not do it justice. I was literally sad when it was all gone. Literally.

Not only did they have good bread, but they had phenomenal sandwiches, cookies and coffee. They even sold greek yogurt, but I didn’t end up buying any because I wasn’t up for carrying it around. I was so excited about this bread that I barely took any pictures! Next time. (And there will be a next time.)

Chocolate chip cookie with oats and pecans

Chocolate chip cookie with oats and pecans

Café Americano

Café Americano

After our little brunch at El Pan de la Chola, we headed over towards Kennedy Park. This park is surrounded by touristic hustle and bustle, and we were surrounded by many familiar franchises i.e. McDonalds, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and even a Pinkberry. Being the tourist district of Lima, I wasn’t really surprised that these establishments were in Miraflores. But it was a little surreal to see them, especially the Pinkberry. And for reasons passing understanding, there were a lot of cats.

Parque Kennedy

So many cats.

So many cats

While around Kennedy Park, we made a stop into the Metro, which is a supermarket chain and a Ripleys, which is like the Peruvian equivalent of Bloomingdales. Visiting both stores made me feel like I was back in the US – a feeling I haven’t felt at all since I’ve been here. More than anything, I felt very out of place. I haven’t been to a supermarket here, so it was really interesting to look around. I was in search of peanut butter, but due to the high-ish prices and questionable color, I didn’t buy any this time around. (This is veiled message to you, Mom. I am waiting for my peanut butter.)

For lunch, we met up with Emily at La Maquina. Considering we’d all spent a lot of money on food already and we were all up for the solid quality of food that La Maquina always provides as well as their budget friendly prices. They did not disappoint. I ordered ceviche croquettes as the appetizer and an entre of rice and a ground beef mixture that was layered in a circular form and topped with a fried egg. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of that either, as I was pretty eager to start eating. Also, we were all very engaged in a conversation about the ever entertaining shenanigans of the US legislative branch.

But the food adventures didn’t end in Miraflores. Earlier that morning, Ana María invited Roxana and I to go out to dinner with her and her friend to a restaurant that served food from the La Selva region of Peru. (La Selva is in the Amazonian area of the country.) The restaurant was about a five minute taxi ride from our house and I could barely distinguish where it was at night, so I’m guessing that trying to find it during the day would be pretty difficult. But nonetheless, this little hole-in-the-wall place served really good food. We all started off with tamales filled with chicken and olives, with a spicy salsa on the side. Our main courses were two big spheres of mashed plátano with a generous portion of  lean, smokey, salty ham. It created the perfect combination of flavors, despite its apparent simplicity. I suppose that could be said for a lot of the food I’ve had here.

In summary, today made the foodie in me very happy. We’ll just ignore the hole in my wallet for now. Until next Tuesday…

 

Central Lima 3.0

I know, my creativity is lacking in the title-making department.

But really, today I went into central Lima for the third time. Except, I almost didn’t.

Tuesdays are virtually everyone’s day off at CEDED because the only program is one that starts at 6pm. I hadn’t anticipated going anywhere today, except for doing random errands and such. But to my surprise, I heard a knock on my door at around 6:30am with Roxana on the other side, asking me if I wanted to go into central Lima with her and Hannah. My newly discovered spontaneity embraced it and decided, “Why not?”.

We headed out at around 8am, similar to last Tuesday’s adventure. Today we decided to explore a church we didn’t have time to see last time, the Saint Dominic Priory. Architecturally it was very similar to the Convento de San Francisco on the other side of Plaza de Armas. The cathedral or Convento de Santo Domigo was also very similar to the Basilica of Lima. The tombs of Saint Rosa of Lima, Saint Martin de Porres and Saint John Macías are all located at the Saint Dominic Priory.

One of the coolest things about this tour, was that we got to go up into the bell tower. We climbed up some of the most precarious stairs I’ve ever been on, but the view from the top was worth it.

Me, Hannah, Roxana

After climbing back down, we went to a coffee shop only half a block away for a much needed coffee fix. As you can see in the picture above, it was pretty foggy and there was even a little drizzle. Coffee was a must.

Conveniently across the street from the coffee shop, was the Casa de la Gastronomía. Basically, a museum dedicated to food. It was everything you could want from a food museum, except for the fact that they don’t serve any food. But nonetheless, it was really fun.

The different types of pastry/bread in Peru aka heaven.

Quinoa!

Not surprisingly, after perusing through a museum of food, we were pretty hungry. We decided to head down towards Miraflores in search of the cafe that Hannah and I went to a couple of weeks ago for a BD marketing meeting. (Considering we had to get back to Villa before 3pm, we were a little frenzied as we power-walked our way through Lima and the Metropolitano bus stations. There was even some sprinting.)

Once we got to the cafe, we settled down for a quick lunch. It was pretty darn good, too. For only 10 soles, each of us got a nicely portioned appetizer, entre, drink and a little dessert. I would have posted a picture of said lunch, but I was a little too hungry to remember. My appetizer was a frittata-esque sweet potato gratin (if you can imagine that) and my entre was rice in a little pyramid form, perfectly grilled chicken and a little side salad. It was delicious. That is all.

I’m becoming very fond of these little day trips because it’s really nice to explore places outside of Villa. I don’t think it’s going to turn into a weekly thing, as that could become sort of expensive, but I’m definitely looking forward to excursions around the city.

Throwback Thursday: Central Lima Edition

(Ya, I know it’s #transformationtuesday and #throwbackthursday. Titles are hard.)

Uneventful is the last word I would use to describe any part of the time I’ve been in Peru. Today was no exception.

Today, Hannah and I went on a quick trip up to central Lima to sight-see, as we both had today off and Hannah hadn’t gotten a chance to see many other places in Lima besides Villa el Salvador. To say it started off rocky, would be an understatement. First, I did a perfect 10/10 A+ face plant while catching the Metropoliano. I’m still sort of confused about how this happened because 1. I’m pretty sure I’m not a clumsy person and 2. I wasn’t even running. I think that I literally took one step and that was that. Oh, well. Hannah reminded me that I should be lucky to have fallen on sand/dirt and not cement. Thank you, unpaved roads? Once we got on the bus, we hit morning rush-hour traffic. Because we had to be back in Villa by around 1-2pm, we left at 8am. So for about a half hour, somewhat still covered in dirt, hands stinging from the fall, I stood in a ridiculously crowded bus that was going less than 20mph. Things were not looking up, that’s for sure.

But all of a sudden, traffic dispersed and we were on our way. Just like that. We hit the freeway and were into central Lima before 10am. Thankfully, the Metropolitano has a stop that is literally blocks away from the Plaza de Armas, which is where Hannah and I were wanting to go. Today was my second time there, since I went with my aunt and uncle two weeks ago. But nonetheless, I enjoyed being able to have a little more freedom this time.

We went to the Convento de San Francisco as well as the Basilica Cathedral of Lima. On the tour I took with my aunt and uncle, the guide talked briefly about it but we never went in. This cathedral is one if not the most important cathedral in all of South America, as Francisco Pizarro laid the building’s first stone. He’s also buried there. We could have gone to see his tomb, but it was a little expensive so we opted for just a tour of the cathedral, which by the way, is nothing to scoff at.

There are 15 smaller cathedral/shrine like rooms that wall the basilica. Each one is dedicated to a saint and beneath it, there are tombs of benefactors and other important people associated with the church/society.

Apparently one of Santo Toribio de Mogrovejo’s fingers is in that thing. 100% True.

Before we left Plaza de Armas, we were able to see the changing of the guards in front of the presidential palace. The entire ceremony was almost an hour long, but it was really quite interesting. The police block off any traffic that would go through the street that runs right in front so that people can watch. The band played maybe three or four songs and I thought it was over. Then more uniformed men walked out from two passage ways from the palace and did their thing.

The ride back to Villa was a fraction of the time it took to get to Lima. Once we got back, we headed up to the lavandería to pick up our laundry. Did I mention that I have to get my laundry done for me? Ok, so that sort of sounded like it was a problem, but it really isn’t. Who doesn’t want someone to do their laundry for them? The only catch is that they don’t wash underwear so you have to do that by hand. But that really isn’t too bad.

So, considering I started the day face-first in dirt, I think everything worked out pretty well.

Catch Up 2.0

Once again, I have fallen short on the daily-update of this blog. Although, I didn’t set out to make this a daily-entry blog, I think that routine posting creates a nice sense of continuity.

On Friday, I went with Emily, Hannah and Andy to Miraflores to meet with Alisa, a current study-abroad student who will be helping format BD’s newsletter. We met in a hip cafe in town and got to business talking about BD marketing. Although before I get to that, I must describe to you what we ate! Because as many of my posts contain my experiences volunteering, I have also been having quite a few culinary adventures as well.

Everyone ordered a coffee drink and I got an “Ice Cappuccino”. I’m not usually someone who goes for the fancier drinks, but this morning I felt like why the heck not. We also ordered an appetizer of fried wanton-like dough that came with guacamole. They were so good. My drink was also super delicious – the cappuccino had been blended up with ice and had a drizzle of chocolate syrup on top. Its sweetness wasn’t overwhelming as well.

The meeting was really quite interesting. I learned a lot about BD’s goals as an organization as well as its history. I attended the meeting because not only will I be working on programs at the center, but also with BD’s Facebook page. (If you haven’t already liked them on FB, go do it!) I gained a lot of experience about how to utilize the information that Facebook gives to people who host pages about their organizations on their website due to the social media internship I had with Omprakash. I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge with BD.

The rest of the day consisted of another delicious lunch made by Martha at CEDED and horas publicas later that evening. As most Friday night tutoring has been, today was not exception. It was pretty quiet.

Saturday was another full day at CEDED. That morning’s guitar class was really awesome, because we played for most of the time. When I got there, it was only Andy and one student, Isaac. The three us of played a song by the Latin American band, Camila. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t played a lot of guitar lately because I had been so busy with school. The calluses on my fingers are no longer, so playing this Saturday was a little bit of an exercise. One of my favorite moments was when Isaac pulled up chords for a song he really liked and we proceeded to learn it together. I even got to show him an easier way to play the song by using some bar chords. It was super fun to jam and play along with the song on YouTube. About 30 minutes before the end of the class, a younger boy came. He had never played guitar before and it was great to see him being so enthusiastic about wanting to learn. We spent the final few minutes eating cake and drinking tea. Pretty great start to the day.

Now, fast-track to this afternoon’s Voices of Youth meeting. As mentioned before, there are Voices of Youth meetings twice a week; Thursday and Sunday afternoons. Today’s group had a couple of kids that also went on Thursday, but I saw a lot of new faces. We played name games and had groups compete in a competition of completing challenges while their wrists were tied together. We tested their teamwork skills and they did fantastically. I’ve only been to two of these meetings, but I’m really excited to get to know these kids better and collaborate with BD on the program’s curriculum.

Full disclosure, I would like for this to be the last time I have to make up for missing posts. I don’t really enjoy the rushed tone that these types of posts exude and they aren’t as interesting to write. I know that this being my own blog, I can write about whatever I choose, but I like to think I hold myself up to some standards. In conclusion, look forward to more consistent posts! I’m looking forward to writing them.

Catch Up

Apologies for the lack in posts over the past few days. I haven’t worked at CEDED since Saturday, as Sunday was a free day and Monday I spent the day with my aunt and uncle in Miraflores. Today I’ll be heading up to the community center to meet a new volunteer and join her on her tour of Lomo de Corvina.

It’s been nice to have these past few days to reflect on all that has happened in my life during my first week in Peru. I have reached the one week mark! It’s still unbelievable. This week will be the first time I will get to experience what a typical work week will be for me, with my semi-established schedule. I’m looking forward to it.

Yesterday was pretty special, because I got to spend the day with my aunt and uncle. Coincidentally, they are on a trip to Peru right now, visiting Lima, Cusco, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and going to the Amazon. They were only in Lima for two days, so I’m thankful I got to see them.

We went on a guided tour of Miraflores, which is the tourist district in Lima. It was a beautiful, educational and fun tour. It was nice to see new parts of Lima, as I’ve stayed primarily in Villa El Salvador. As our guide, Luis, said to us, the weather must have been happy to have us in Lima because it was a truly beautiful day. As mentioned before, it is currently winter so the skies are always overcast and it’s a little chilly. But not yesterday. The sun was out and it even got a little warm.

The tour lasted for a couple of hours and then we were dropped off at my aunt and uncle’s hotel. Now it was time for me to get home. By myself. I was a little nervous, but I was told that the bus line that I was going to use was incredibly easy and virtually fool-proof. There’s only one bus line on this bus system, the Metrepolitano. All I had to do was make sure I went south. That was comforting, except I didn’t anticipate having to do it at night! It was almost ironic that I had mentioned earlier that morning that I felt alright getting around during the day by myself, but I still needed some help at night. Every bird needs to learn how to leave the nest at some point. (Ok, so I guess that could also apply to many other situations right now.)

My concern wasn’t due to a fear of being harmed or something. It was mainly that I wasn’t going to go the right direction and that I would end up going in circles late into the night. But that did not happen because I had a little help on the way. A man and woman who worked together helped me get to the right stop for Villa El Salvador. They were incredibly sweet and gracious. Now, I understand if you think that I might have been naive or careless to let these people help me or carry a conversation with them. But I must ask you to trust my judgement. They were dressed in nice business wear, which prompted me to ask if I could inquire what their jobs were while we walked to the stops at the last terminal. The man said he was an accountant and the woman said she was a lawyer. He then lowered his voice and told me they worked for the government. I guess he did so due to potential security reasons, but I’m not sure. In any case, I felt safe with them. He even walked me all the way to the line (there were a lot of people waiting for this bus) for Villa El Salvador, which is the farthest one in the terminal – it was even past his own stop! He told me that I should be careful this late at night and to take care. I thanked him for his help and then I was on my own again. On my next bus, I even got help from the bus driver, who made sure I got off at the stop I requested. I know that the people who helped me last night probably aren’t reading this, but I just wanted to mention my immense thanks. The kindness that has been shown to me from the people here in Peru has been so humbling and it only reinforces my belief that I’m so lucky to be here.

To say I was proud of myself when I saw Ana Maria’s house in sight would be an understatement. I was absolutely over the moon. Even though my first time on the Metrepolitano wasn’t completely without assistance, it was the first time I was getting around without the help of Ana Maria, Jesus, Emily or someone that I already knew. I already had begun to feel more confident getting around, but I think that last night’s bus success has solidified that confidence.

It looks like there is a trip to the market in store for me, as I don’t really have anymore food left. It’ll be a piece of cake. (I also kind of want a piece of cake.)

“Chosica, la Villa del Sol”

On Wednesday night, I got a call from Ana Maria asking me about something that would happen at 10am the following morning. I wasn’t entirely sure what she said because it was over the phone and hard to hear, but I said yes. Little did I know how much of a day I was agreeing to.

Thursday was incredible. Ana María, her friend Fernando and I took a trip to the district of Chosica, which is located higher up in the mountains. (V. Salvador is right against the coast.) At 10am Ana María and I left home and got on a bus to Santa Maria, where we met Fernando. Ana María showed me a flyer for a Krishna temple and I finally understood where we were going. The bus ride was anything but uneventful. There were salesmen selling pens and herbs and a group of young men who rapped.

After Santa María, we met Fernando and got a smaller bus that took us all the way to Chosica. The difference in altitude was enough to need to clear our ears on the way up. (The bus rides took a long time because it’s relatively far away and the bus makes a lot of stops.) When we got off the bus in Chosica, we were right in front of the Krishna temple.

It was beautiful. The bright colors of the temple with the gray/brown backdrop of the mountains only enhanced the beauty of the temple. Inside the temple, everyone was shoe-less. The first question I had was if it was ok for me to take pictures. A woman named Gobi (unsure if that’s the correct spelling) told me that it was encouraged. She is from Europe and spoke English, which was a nice surprise. Her husband, Ekacakra Das also spoke a little English and they both explained the origins of the Krishna Consciousness. It was really quite interesting and I’m grateful that I got to participate in some of their rituals. That day was Krishna’s birthday, so they had special chants, music, dancing and food to celebrate and offer to him. Ana María and I participated in pouring a fruit mixture over a small golden statue of Krishna. Everyone did so as well.

After about an hour at the temple, I started to get hungry. By that time it was around 2pm and everyone exited temple. I forgot the reason why, but they only needed about 10 minutes. At that time, we decided to go get lunch in the downtown area of the city.

In Peru, the biggest meal of the day is lunch. Breakfast and dinner are lighter meals and as of late, the lunches I’ve eaten have been so big that I’ve only snacked on crackers or a piece of bread when I got home. The lunch we had in Chosica was no different. Fernando and Ana Maria helped describe some of the plates that were really good. This restaurant even had Chinese food! I opted for the lomo saltado and a papa con huancainca with creme de rocoto. The lomo saltado is rice, meat, onions, bell peppers and french fries. It was so good. The papa con huancainca was a cold dish: a cooked potato with a cream sauce of tomato and I’m not sure about the yellow sauce. Maybe cheese? This meal also included my first taste of Inca Kola, which is a really popular drink in Peru. It’s bright yellow color was alarming at first and I honestly didn’t know what to expect. It’s hard to describe, but it sort of tastes like a cream soda, but also not. That’s the best I can do.

Lomo Saltado

After lunch we continued to tour many of the historical landmarks around the city. (I have an entire album on Facebook, so if you’re friends with me check them out! If not, feel free to send over a friend request if you’d like.)

One of the many memorable moments was when we were taking a taxi back down to the downtown area from a large public park for kids. There was a lot of traffic on this particular road so naturally, our driver started driving on the other side of the road as on-coming traffic sped past. If there was a picture of the look on my face…

Picarones

The day was a great success and was topped off by a fried dough dessert that was sold by one of the many street vendors in the plaza. They’re called picarones. It looks like funnel cake, but it’s chewier and they drizzle a thin sweet sauce over it. This too was incredibly delicious.

By the time we were on the bus back home, I was exhausted. We were in Chosica from maybe 12pm to 7pm and most of that time was spent walking! I had a fantastic time. Fernando even offered to go on another day trip while I’m here in Peru.

When we got home, I asked Ana María if I could have some hot water for the tea I bought on Wednesday. This lead to me going with her and her nephew Andrés to a near by market for crackers which were then eaten while we drank tea in her living room. For about an hour, we drank tea and talked about our day in Chosica. Ana María’s sisters Amelia and Nancy were there as well. I’m still amazed by how comfortable it was. It felt like I always drank tea and and talked with them during the evening. Sometimes I have to take a second to count back the days I’ve been here, because it really doesn’t feel like it’s only been a couple of days. I’m incredibly grateful for that. I’m so thankful to have such welcoming and knowledgeable friends and I cannot wait for all of the adventures to come.

Bienvenue

I’ll start off by saying that I was planning on not writing this particular post. I wanted to make it a short video (I still do) because writing takes thinking at this very moment that sort of thing is a little hard. Unfortunately, there is some sort of construction in the International Terminal at Toronto Pearson and it’s dark outside and the indoor lighting is sad. Also there are a lot of people around me. So I’ll keep this short.

SFO: My romanticization of airports and all things The Terminal were quickly replaced with how stressful an airport can be. In fact I’m pretty sure there’s nothing romantic about airports. When I had to say goodbye to my mom, I cried. I also nearly cried when I saw how much a yogurt, small (so small) salad, apple and bottle of water cost.

SFO > TORONTO: Uneventful. However, the plane did have screens on the back of the seats, which is something I’ve never experienced before! However, I didn’t watch anything except this map that was tracking where the plane was throughout the flight. It was honestly very interesting.

TORONTO: Even though I don’t really know what Canada looks like (It’s almost 11pm here) it is already pretty fabulous. I made some extremely necessary purchases (Canada keychain and maple leaf pin), the price of food did not make me cry, I got the last maple dip donut from Canada’s donut darling, Tim Horton’s (aka Timmie’s) and their wifi is everything you could want from wifi.

My flight to Lima leaves in about a half hour. I will try to make a post tomorrow, I’m just not sure what my internet setup will be like. It’s absolutely insane to think that I’ll be in Lima so shortly. That’s all I can really articulate at this point.

I also wanted to thank everyone who has left me such sweet messages wishing safe travels. It means a great deal to me to have your support.