out with the old (hat)

This new year has crept up too fast! I feel barely ready for it. The last time I had a good grasp on what was happening in 2015, my husband accepted a job offer in the U.S. From that point, we had one month to close out a life in Spain, find an apartment the month after and yet another month to set up a new home.

Whew! It is exhausting me again to think about what ensued to reach this point.

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Goodbye old neighborhood! (Madrid)

So here I am, back in the country where I grew up. Even more, I am back to the metropolitan area that closely resembles “home”. After over a year of life in Madrid – feeling like I’m on perpetual blind dates in search of new friends, having cafe con leche and vino on terrazas when I actually found amazing friends, kissing everyone on the cheek twice (even if I didn’t like them), maneuvering Spanish bureaucracy and other challenges and joys of being an expat – that chapter is closed (for the moment).

Now, a new challenge is in front of me. It’s no longer about integrating into a new culture and new country… at least not that much. I’m still having lunch at 2pm, dinner at 9:30pm and hanging out at “night” starting 6pm, sounds odd. But that aside… knowing that I’m back for a couple of years, there must be a way to merge wandering tendencies with finding peace and contentment back in my old haunts.

So, how can one look at an old place with new lenses? Guess that’s what I will find out. After all, wandering never really ends no matter where you live. There is always something to explore.

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Hello new neighborhood! (Jersey City)

Here’s looking forward to a 2016 full of new discoveries and friendships! Happy New Year!

What are you looking forward to this year?

May Day in Munich

You could definitely tell something was up when drinks were served. Granted, this was the first time that I’ve flown on Lufthansa. But when drinks were passed out and a large bottle  handedProcessed with VSCOcam to those who requested beer, it was more than just good German hospitality.

After arriving in Munich, we walked through the open terrace on the way to the underground. The sound of German folk music signaled that there was some sort of celebration before we saw people dressed in traditional garb! It seems that we came at the perfect time.

We arrived during May Day celebrations (1 May). What lucked to get a 7-hour layover in Munich, Germany! With that kind of time, it’s hard to miss a chance to check out a new city. To make the opportunity even more perfect, Munich Airport has a brochure complete with suggestions on where to go and what to do for people who have a long layover.IMG_7814

With all the merriment, a rainy day in Bavaria couldn’t get me down. We got a partner day ticket (unlimited for one day for 2 people) to take the S-Bahn to and from the city center for 22.30€. It took a half hour or so to get to the center, but it was fun to watch the passing countryside and small towns along the way.

One of the train stops on the way to city center

One of the train stops on the way to city center

With only a handful of hours, we explored one part of the city – Marienplatz, which seemed to be the epicenter of most tourist sights. Sure enough, it was the place to be. In the plaza, there was a crowd of folks who braved the rain, surrounding a platform where bands were performing. To the side, another booth was selling beer to passersby.

The Rathhaus in Marienplatz has a famous glockenspiel that would play a couple of times in the day. Since there was still another hour or so before the next show, there was time to visit nearby St. Peter’s Church for a bird’s-eye view of the city. The staircase to the vantage point was narrow, but well worth the leg burn.

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view of Marienplatz and Rathaus with its famous glockenspiel from the top of St. Peter’s Church

rooftops near Marienplatz

rooftops near Marienplatz

After taking tons of pictures of how gorgeous the city looked from above, it was time to watch the old glockenspiel do its thing. We headed back to the plaza, this time in the pouring rain, and bought a cup of beer to keep us warm.

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Glockenspiel at the Rathaus

The show at the was interesting, but we watched only about 5 minutes. Blame it on short attention spans. Instead, we went to the next must-see listed, the Frauenkirche. It’s a gothic cathedral that is known to have the “Devil’s footstep” inside. During World War II, the inside was destroyed, but you couldn’t tell from seeing it now. Honestly, we were more distracted by the area right in front of the cathedra. We don’t know it’s purpose, but most of our time was spent walking through and taking pictures there.

There were many other sites we discovered while wondering the area around Marienplatz.

Finally after all the walking, we were getting pretty hungry. Since this was the location of the world famous Hofbräuhaus, we tried to get some grub there first.

Hofbräuhaus

However, though the hall itself was larger than Hogwarts and boasted at least 3 floors, there was no room for 2 hungry/wet humans. At least we can say that we’ve been there. Just the experience of being in a very large room filled with loud raucous joyousness all around was memorable. Instead, we went in search of  a restaurant where one finds just the right amount of cheer to hear yourself think.

At the end, we ate at Augustiner am Dom. The restaurant’s layout was fascinating since it was several floors (5 maybe). Though, in areas where space is a hard to come by, it makes sense that even restaurants are built up instead of spread out.

With all that walking, we were very pleased to have some have some comfort food warming our stomachs. After the meal, we headed back to the airport, happy at a half-day layover well spent in this lovely German city.

In the end… you think of the beginning

Where do I even begin on this post?  Tengo solo 6 dias hasta estoy en Nueva Jersey y me siento muy triste.

It´s not as if I don´t miss things about being in the States: high-speed internet, food with flavor, being able to flush the toilet paper in the toilet and not freezing my butt off in June/July.  Also, I dearly miss my family and friends.  But, these last two months have been full of both good and bad adventures that are beyond the realm of my usual routine. I feel uncertain as how my adjustment to my comfortable life in the States would look.

Lately, I ruminated over my experiences from the beginning of this trip, amazed at how it was a mere 7 weeks ago. It feels like I have been here for a lifetime. I guess in a sense it has been a lifetime since life in Cusco began 7 weeks ago.  I built relationships with people that I consider family and created my own bubble of a life in this place, completely separate from the other.  I´m running over all the ¨Hey remember that time when…¨and all the inside jokes and of course the interesting Dutch phrases I´ve learned.

Anyway, that is the extent that I will write of my strange mood.  I have many things to add to the blog and have been completely behind on… mostly the adventures of Machu Picchu, Arequipa, Colca Canyon and Manu (which I´ll probably do retroactively).

Cusco seems to constantly have celebrations and fireworks (usually waking me at crazy hours of the night/morning).  This week is Independence Day and last week was Virgen del Carmen. So I guess it will be as noisy and fun packed as June.

Stay tuned for more…

Las fiestas de Inti Raymi

The biggest fiesta of the year in Cusco occurs around the time of the winter solstice. Theoretically, Inti Raymi occurs only on June 24th (originally June 21st) as the Incans celebrated their god, Inti (sol, sun) on the winter solstice.  However, Cusqueñans don´t seem to believe in celebrating for just a day.  All of June seemed to have some celebration or other occuring at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco.

Little did I know what I was in for this past week, until I returned from Pisaq to a Plaza de Armas filled with people, parades and random gigantic floats.  Since then, there is a daily parade that lasts through most of daylight, plenty of random fireworks going off and tons of people milling about the area.

Of course, it was difficult not to get sucked in when the air of excitement emanating from the city.  When there was a chance to be part of the big parade the night before Inti Raymi, I signed up. My friends and I spent two nights rehearsing, which resulted in much hilarity.  It was even funnier when we practiced at the plaza because the locals were laughing as they watched foreigners attempting their local dance.  Since we were not taking ourselves too seriously, there were only good times all around.

The day after rehearsals was even more interesting. I had to buy a pair of jotas (sandals made out of car tires… yes really!) to go with the costumes.  However, when I tried to get to the mercado, there was a parade (another one)!  I detoured through the streets with other tourists and saw a plethora of just stuff being sold on the street and sidewalk.  To top it off, there was a 5 year old who (out of nowhere) pulled down his pants and peed on the street exactly where he stood.

I had to ask around to find jotas. Everyone pointed me to actual shoes.  When I told them I needed jotas, they looked at me quizically, likely wondering why I would want those type of sandals. Finaly, I was pointed to a certain direction, which I followed until I finally found the special footwear.  I tried on the size 5s, which were too big.  When I asked the kid for 4s, he thought I meant price and countered with 4.50.  So I ended up getting a pair (in the right size) for only 4.50 soles!

At about 6:30, we all met to get our traditional Peruvian clothing on.  It was a skirt and sandals on a winter night!  I was afraid of freezing to death since the parade lasts til 2am! But, the teachers took care of that problem.  When we got to our places, they handed out shots of ron y coca-cola and bottles of cervezas for the duration of our walk.

The part that I found most amusing was that we actually were allowed (almost mandated) to drink while walking in the parade! It was how they keep warm. To top it off, my Dutch friends had been pre-gaming and therefore completely drunk for most of it.  They began an Amauta School chant in Dutch and would randomly chant-sing-yell something or other.

When we arrived at the plaza, we were ordered to chug the beers so that we could start our performance.  There were so many people who all cheered us along.  The announcer made a point to mention that we were comprised of people from around the world and everyone seemed to enjoy our dance.

After that amazing experience, we hugged everybody and went out to grab some dinner (it was midnight at that point).  Since the rest of Cusco was partying, we had to do the same and headed out to one of the discoteca after eating.  My friends back home would probably be surprised to hear this, but I do enjoy dancing.  And somehow, the discotecas here were more fun than whatever I encountered at home.  We danced until around 3 in the morning.

After that night, I had 3 hours of sleep before heading out the next morning to catch the Inti Raymi celebration, which was a steep uphill climb from the main square.  There were so many people when we arrived and all were pushing for space.  It got nasty though when some people pushed their way in and didn´t have space to sit because the people behind were yelling for them to sit and started throwing things at them.  At first, it was a little more innocent with fruit peels being thrown, but it slowly turned to bottles and even pebbles.  It got a bit scary being around those people.

After a while, we decided to head back down the mountain for a late lunch and I walked back home with my friend for a nap.  This was very much necessary since my other friend would be returning back to town this weekend (after traveling around Peru) and we needed to celebrate.

So, this is a long account already. I´m tired and really need a siesta ahora!

Ciao

Journey to Cuzco

I am now currently in Cuzco, Peru in one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had.

Cusco viewIt began when the pilot turned the cabin light on at an ungodly hour of about 5 in the morning.  Since I was sitting at a window seat, my first instinct was to lift the window shade and see what I could find outside.  At that time in the morning, it was still dark, but after a moment, my eyes adjusted and was greeted by a striking view; far out in the horizon was a thin glowing line where the sun would later rise.  Above it, the midnight blue sky still held some stars and the ever present light of Venus. Below was this expanse of darkness.  Land.

The sheer vastness of black had taken me by surprise.  Though I´ve flown over the States several times during the night, I usually see large clusters of orange glow or the omnipresent line of a highway.  However, during this time, below me were small, faint orange clusters.

This was the moment that it really hit me.  I was flying over South America. The realization was overwhelming… though in a heart pounding kind of exciting way.  When I was young, I would look at maps and globes, dreaming of all the places that I wanted to visit.  South America was just a distant land then that I meant to visit but knew very little about or really had no concrete plans to visit. Now here I was.  And for a two month stint!  I can´t wait to see what adventures this land holds for me.

Well, these are my initial thoughts.  I have to go back to my homestay.  But there will be more to come.