Mendoza, Argentina (2010)


my name on the side of a mountain in Argentina

It’s unlikely one would accuse my husband of being a sappy romantic. But then there are moments when you find proof to the contrary. He spent several months down in Argentina after we met. During his travels, he wrote out my name with pebbles in the Andes mountains somewhere by Mendoza. I have yet to visit this beautiful country. But I smile when I think that my name was somewhere there. Hopefully one day I’ll get to see this place.


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!


Rusticating in Pisaq, Peru

I am having the absolute best time in this quaint little town. Where can I even begin?  We arrived last Sunday, driving from Cusco, over the mountain and then descended upon this place in the Sacred Valley.  Our school house is at the edge of town, at the base of one of the mountains and my room has a balcony.  Huzzah! 🙂  Classes are in the morning for my friends and I, which means we can actually go do things together.  Thi was put to good use the last couple of days when we were able to do with our time as we will after the set activity for the day.

Yesterday, we visited Salineras by Maras, which are basically salt mines on a terrace.  The salt apparently comes from the mountains and they are sold for animal feed.  It was quite the hike going up and I totally wasn´t expecting it.  I ended up being last and completely overwhelmed with the amount of energy I expended.  However, the place was a beautiful sight and it was fun just to be part of that scene.

Later, we caught a taxi to Moray, which is an archeaological site where Incas apparently used to plant things on a terrace because of various temperature.  The nice ladies by Salineras called their peeps to get us a ride and we went offroading to get to the circular terraces. We hiked down and wandered through the terraces, pondering the real use and being awed at the handiwork of the Incas.  Then we caught the taxi back to a bus stop and took a couple of them to make our way back to town.

Today was an even more amazing day.  I ended up hiking around the Pisaq ruins for about 4.5 hours.  It was a lot of up mountain, down mountain, and even going off the beaten paths with my friends.  There were points when I was basically standing on a rock and a 360 degree view of the Andes Mountains that surrounded me.  It was an amazing feeling to be so up high like that and just be surrounded by awestriking beauty.  It´s so hard to describe, but climbing up by all those different ruins on the different side of the mountain was just unbelievably wonderful.

On our way back down, my friend and I went to another ruin right  on a part of the mountain that was out of the way from the usual tourists.  It was funny cuz here were these ancient stones and then someone went by one of the walls and laid a big one… or according to my friend, someone ¨pinched a loaf¨.  Yes, disgusting.. And in one of the caves was hidden toilet paper.  I guess this is the ¨real¨side of these mysterious ancient ruins.  On our way down as well, there were 2 ladies waiting to sell us things.  We were the last ones down and I felt so bad I ended up buying a bracelet… which I lost.  Ah well.  By the time we made it down, the sun had set and we decided to stop by a little hole in the wall for some empanadas.  Overall, it was definitely one of the best days.

Tomorrow was supposed to be another activity day, but there´s a strike by people in transportation, I think regarding gas.  Therefore, it´s a nice free day.  We´re probably going to climb up the mountain by the school.

And here comes the weekend…

It has been officially 8 days since I´ve arrived in Peru.  I still trips me out when I think about where I am, but I have gotten accustomed to certain things.  It also helps that I have met a great bunch of people to share new adventures with.  =)  One of our bigger bonding sessions was during our salsa class on Friday evening.  Watching everyone learn to salsa, most especially the guys was fun.  Then the instructors handed us their cards including a club where they teach every night.   So, after eating at an Indian buffet, which made me nostalgic for my appendage and her people., we ended up at Zazu.  For a Friday night, it was pretty dead.  After seeing the empty place, we figured we´d just go in for cervezas and watch the few people dance.  However, since our instructors remembered us, we weren´t getting off easy.  We joined in for their lesson which involved dancing in a circle and switching partners every few beats or so.  Since I was still getting used to the altitude and I had some beer, I was a little winded.  At the end of the lesson, I sat down for a bit before the instuctor came back and asked me to dance.  Little did I know what I was in for.  We danced for an entire song (which was pretty long) and he put me through the paces with twists and turns.  Though I was really tired at the end, it was a lot of fun.  I felt bad thugh cuz after, another guy asked me to dance and I had to turn him down cuz I needed a rest.  Apparently I held my own very well, wich was good to know that Filipino debut dancing paid off. lol.

the trio @ Zazu for salsa

Over all, that was good times.  Unfortunately, we didn´t end upo sleeping til late and we had planned a hike the next day.  SO when Saturday morning rolled around, we were not in the mood for much movement, particularly me.  After a night of dancing and a beer, climbing steep uphills is a challenge.  But, I was with a group of cool people and luckily we found a guy who offered to take us horseback riding to the places we wanted to visit.  All we had to do was endure the long hike into their ranch by Sacsayhuaman.  🙂  As tough as the walk was, the view was gorgeous.  It was also a perfect day to ride because the sly was blue and the sun was shining brightly.

After visiting the Temple of the Sun and monkeys, we headed to see Cristo Blanco and admire the beautiful view of Cusco from above.

Then, we went back down to visit the Temple of the Sun and admired the architecture and design of the Incans, whose walls still stood at the temple.  We also got a preview of the Inti Raymi celebrations as the performers practiced on the lawn and in the Temple.

ANyway, that´s it for now.  I´m in Pisac and the internet is annoying me, so I´ll end it here.   🙂

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.