Sunday, October 31, 2010

A few stories, a purple parade and a campout!

I feel like I'm falling behind!!!!!!!!!!!!! I guess it's a good thing because my life is so full of new experiences that I can't possibly begin to relate them all here. But its a tad bit frustrating to play catch up everytime I open my blog. Maybe just maybe I'll get in the habbit of blogging a little more often. Anyway, I have three big adventures to write about and about a million and one other little things that I would love to describe but don't have time to do so. I'll start with an example adventure from Iquitos. I truly had all the good intentions to write about each day or atleast the most exciting things that happened over there but there is no way that's going to happen now. So I'll give you a taste of my experience in the jungle and you will just have to come visit me in Peru to hear more :)

On Friday (day 7 of the Jungle adventure) we got up without a real plan for the day. We had explored pretty much all of the standard tourist sites and were ready to step a little outside the box. Rosy and Edwin were working so our only limitations were the distances we could travel with motortaxi and/or riverboat (basically everywhere in a 4 hour radius of Iquitos) While we were eatting breakfast with Luz I brought down a scrap of paper with a list of things to do in Iquitos. We had done a little bit of research on the internet before we left Lima... We started quizing Luz on the places from my list and even though she hadn't been to the majority of them, she had heard something of each one. We finally agreed on Playa Santa Clara and decided to leave around 12 so each of us could spent the morning doing something different. Luz hurried with all house work so she could go out with us and my mom did some laudry and dyed her hair. I decided to go on a running adventure to the Plaza de Armas. The Plaza de Armas exists in every town or city and always has the municipalidad on one side and the church on the other. It is the central plaza where everyone goes at night and generally in the middle of downtown as well. It's about two miles from their house and the entire route has interesting things to see. It's definitely not a route you take to really get in shape though; the whole time is stop, go, dodge a flipped over motor taxi, jump over a dog sun bathing on the sidewalk etc... Plus Iquitos is really really hot so I was running slowly to begin with. Anyway, I made my way from the Plaza de Armas to the bank to take out money, and then got distracted by the stores along Prospero. Prospero is the main comercial street and has a ton of stores with clothes for ridiculously cheap prices!!! I'm actually a little embarrased by the number of shirts, tanktops, shorts and dresses I bought during my stay in Iquitos. But, when you can buy a GAP shirts for 5 soles (less than 2 bucks) its rather difficult to resist! haha So I ran back home with my new treasures and got caught by the RAIN! The wind blew, the motorcycles disappeared from the streets and within 30 seconds I was soaked. It is one of the best feelings in the world to run up a muddy street/river with rain pouring off your skin and the sound of water pelting down all around. I got to the house, took a quick shower and we all piled into Luz's son's motortaxi to explore Santa Clara.

It was a beautiful drive with fresh air smelling of rain and green trees on all sides but I was very glad to arrive when we did... 40 minutes is a long time to bounce along a dirt road full of potholes and splash through giant puddles. There were honestly a few times when I thought we wouldn´t make it out of the mud! Plus, motortaxi's only fit 3 people across so I got to sit with the 30 kg Gonzalo on my lap. Needless to say it felt very good to stretch my legs. We walked all around the little town and a very generous lady let us use the bathroom in her house. I was extatic because I had been wanting to see inside one of the houses and I finally got my chance in Santa Clara. This one had a dirt floor and wooden walls but it was organized and clean as can be. The woman showed us to the back door which looked out on the river and pointed to a muddy trail that led to the outhouse about 100 m away. But then she said we were welcome to just pee right there on the back porch with the chickens and trash. So we did. haha After the bathroom stop and a ten minute lesson from some little girls on a new jumprope game we went down to the river. A boat was leaving right then and only cost 1 sole so we jumped on. This is obvioiusly the best type of adventure when you don't know exactly where you are going :) The river was smooth as could be and we spent the whole ride taking pictures standing on the bow and oohing and awwing over the greenness all around us. We stopped once to let someone off on the side of the river bank and the trip ended in a little dock at the town of Juliana. The driver of the Peke-peke promised not to leave without us so we set off carefree to explore. One of the two motor taxi's took us the whole length of the town in about 5 minutes and dropped us off where the sidewalk ended. The street is a five foot wide sidewalk and runs in a straight line with houses on either side. That's it. There is no more to Juliana. It is literally one line of houses, all of which are on wooden stilts and have little kids and chickens and dogs in the front yards. Definitely one of the cutest little towns I've seen. After paying the 12 year old boy who drove our motortaxi, we continued walking down "mainstreet" which quickly turned into a dirt path. It was INCREDIBLE! I found myself on a little muddy trail in the middle of the jungle of Peru; I was surrounded by huge trees and birds singing and the sun shining was shining. Talk about heaven! I was wearing my five finger shoes and there was absolutely no way I could leave that place without running. So, I took off and yelled that I'd be back in 10 minutes. I jumped from side to side avoiding puddles and did my best to split my attention between the trail and the gorgeous scenery. It was a challenge not to just follow that little trail forever and loose myself in the green wilderness. It was one of those moments that can't be shared with anyone because you feel so totally alive and happy and perfect. Surely I was the happiest person to ever run through that forest and definitely the first gringa. =) But, my conscious eventually turned me around and I returned out of breath to find a VERY VERY angry mom. It turns out that she didn't hear me and thought I had just disappeared into the jungle never to be heard from again. Ooops! When I had been sufficently chewed out for scaring her half to death and promised to never-ever-ever do something like that again, we were able to laugh about it. Thank goodness my host mom is so loving and kind and good natured. I assured her that I had not been attacked by any creepy jungle men and when her nerves were sufficently calmed I asked permission to run a little more. This time I ran through town behind the motor taxi and by the time we arrived at the docks I had a little parade. Some of the boys and a couple dogs joined me for the last bit and ALL the heads turned to see such a strange sight. I guess its not very often that gringas go running through their little town. :) But when I got to the river I just couldn't leave the beautiful banks untouched so I jumped across and ran along the beach. For the third time that day I found myself running in a gorgeous place never before touched by man. My five finger shoes whisked along leaving perfect prints in the sand and it could have been a "rave run" from Runners World. In the end my river bank turned into an island and I had to wade out and jump on our Peke-peke to head back to Iquitos.

So, that is just one example of my loverly jungle adventures :) Now I'll describe briefly my other events and then its time for BEEEEEDDDDDDDDDD!

I went on a three day trip to Huacho and Caral with 12 of the other exchange students last weekend. It was a FABULOUS adventure and I absolutely love all of the other exchangees!!! No matter what we do together we also have fun and it is just like a big huge family. <3 We got to visit the oldest ruins in America (5000 years), the Castle of Chancay, the place where Peruvian Independence was originally declared and a hindu eco-friendly village. We camped in the back yard of the grandparents of one of the exchangees. They have an incredible house, it is like a mansion/ museum/ zoo all in one! The zoo is because they have an alpaca, three giant turtles, 4 parrots and some other animals all right there in the yard. And the artifacts from ancient peruvian cultures make it feel like a museum. But the best part was definitely the hammocks and teeter-totter. When we weren't eatting delicious food or getting to know some new aspect of Peru we were playing on the toys. :) Here are a few random highlights from the trip.
1) Running through Huacho with another XC exchangee from Yakima
2) Buying 4 kilos of strawberries for 4 soles. (that is a huge monster box for $1)
3) Swimming and playing on the beach in jeans and a t-shirt
4) Fresh tamales for breakfast
5) Learning peruvian games during the BBQ with the Rotaract kids from Huacho
6) Singing the Peruvian National Anthem, happy birthday, and disney songs in Spanish, French and English at the top of our lungs on the bus

Also, we had an exchange student halloween party and I CARVED A PUMPKIN!!!!!!!! Yayyyyyyyyy :) Halloween isn't really big over here... They don't really do the whole pumpkin thing, there are hardly any trick-o-treaters and nobody has decorations on their houses. Needless to say I was really really excited to find pumpkins in the Metro. :)

I'll get to the purple parade next post...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I am officially in love with the SELVA!!! The greenness and animals and rivers and people and every single little aspect about it! Yep, even the heat and humidity and bugs added to the charm. My host mom and I spent 10 days in Iquitos living the jungle life together. Talk about paradise! It's funny because at first living in Peru was complete isolation but now I have so many friends and activities that it's starting to feel like a busy senior year all over again. Yikes! It was fabulous to disconnect for a week and just relax. Observing and thinking and living in the moment. For more than a week my life was all about getting to know the SELVA! Anyway, we stayed with my cousin and spent our time exploring the city and the surrounding rainforest. I enjoyed every minute of it... Iquitos is the capital of Loreto (one of the 24 departments of Peru) and the largest city in the Selva. It has around 500,000 people and is bustling 24 hours a day. The two most distinctive aspects of Iquitos are the greeness and the motorcycles. The first does not refer to enviornmentally frinedly stores or recyling but to the literal green tinge. The abundance of trees and flowers and random vines popping up in the yards and streets is incredible! When you drive to the top of a hill and look out over the city its like seeing one of those awesome screensavers. Green green treetops stretch out below as far as the eye can see and are broken only by the shiny tin roofs or leafy malocas. These are a common sight in Iquitos and consist of a roof made of huge leaves supported by wooden poles. They lack walls and are multipurpuse structures... can be used for restaurants, stores, research stations or random sunshades. The second peculularity about Iquitos is the motorcycles. I swear I have NEVER seen so many in my life and certainly not with the diversity of people driving them. From teenage girls in miniskirts and four-inch heels to pregnant moms with three kids clinging on behind to fat old men, there is no discrimination. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE rides them! Motorcycles or threewheeled motortaxis (motocycle with a cart behind it) are the most popular mode of transportation and easily make up 95 % of the traffic in Iquitos. The only time that the streets are not jammed with motorcycles is during a rainstorm . Im not sure exactly how but with the rain starts, all of the cyclists magically disappear from the streets and leave only the motortaxis with their waterproof roofs. And for good reason too, the rains of Iquitos pour down fast and furious. The wind blows... WOOSH... right before the torrent begins and then there is no escape. If you stand for 30 seconds in the middle of a hard rain you might as well have taken a shower. One day the rain caught me during a run about 5 minutes from the house. I felt like one of the hardcore models in the Runners World ads who are drenched and splattered with mud and smiling like a maniac. I don't think I can possibly describe how much fun it is to run in rain like that... its FABULOUS! I couldn't see a thing and I was running up this dirt road which was practically a river. Wahoooooooooooooooooo

Anyway, I'm a big fan of the climate in Iquitos because you get to wear the least number of clothes possible. It's always summertime and even when it rains it's warm. Tanktops, shorts and flipsflops are the norm and nobody questions your right to wear a hat. To prove how warm it is, hot showers don't exist. Even the nicest houses don't have hot water because nobody would EVER want to bathe themselves with anything but cold. The temperature outside vary's between permanant sweating and mildly warm but never drops below the red zone. On cold nights you sleep with sheets but most of the time its much more comfortable without. I am quite proud to say that I managed to protect myself from the sun and was never more than pleasantly pink. I did however spend a good number of days looking like a crazy tourist with my safari hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen perfume. :) Lets see, what else about the city? Due to the heat it has a very relaxed feel and the culture is a whole lot more "go with the flow". All of the neighbors have the habit of sitting in the doorway and spend hours just sitting and trying to stay cool. Muy tranquillo... The people are super friendly and always seem to be smiling too. Maybe its the sun or the delicious food or perhaps the gorgeous people. I don't know how but there is a definitly an uneven proportion of beautiful Peruvians in Iquitos. That coupled with the scanty clothing leads to a whole lots of catcalling and whistles. Honestly though, I felt like I was surrounde!d by models wherever I went... the market, the plaza, even the neighborhood BBQ!

So, I'll describe the house and family I was staying with and then we can get on to some random anecdotes... Like I said, we stayed with my cousin and her husband and their 6 year old son. Rosy and Edwin are both lawyers and moved to Iquitos ten years ago for work. Yeah, thats right, more lawyers! I don't understand exactly what it is about this family and lawyers but there are a ton of them! Between my two sisters, max, and all my cousins I'm pretty sure I have 10+ family members that can bail me out if I get in trouble with the law. haha Anyway, Rosy and Edwin are wonderful people and hosts and made us feel totally at home. Their son Gonzalo had the week off for vacation as well so we got to go on a lot of outings with him. He is a hilarious little kid but rather spoiled too. He loves soda and detests walking and spends lots of time throwing water on himself to cool off. All habits to stay cool in a hot climate like Iquitos. He's picked up this singsong form of speaking as well and it was a bit of a challenge for me to understand him. Between Rosy talking super fast and Gonzalo's accent I'm sure my language skills bumbed up a notch during the week! And even harder to understand was the accent of Luz, their employee. She was born in Columbia and has a fascinating life story but that accent takes some serious getting used to! Still, by the end of the week I was able to understand and she taught me all about the typical foods and different aspects of Iquitos. She joined us on outings to the market and a few of the random villages and offered a inside look and totally different perspective to life in Iquitos. So now a little about the house. Like all peruvian houses it has a huge metal door and impenatrable cement walls and from the outside it doesn't look all the nice. Its set on a dirt street and all to the right is just swampy greenness. My cousin and her husband have been living in Iquitos for 10 years but built the house relatively recently. The top floor still lacks some finishing and you can see straight through to the tin roof but the bottom is GORGEOUS! It's painted with greens and orange and all of the pictures were done by my dads sister. She is a fabulous artist and I would love to decorate my house with her work... The house has lots of windows to let in light and air and is always open to the patio in front and back. The open doors let in the much needed breeze to cool off but the downside is that they allow full access to the aunts and flies and whatever random insect cares to enter. The only thing that doesn't get to come inside is Fito, the little white fluffball puppy. He is 6 monthes old and totally LOCO! But, to tell you the truth I would rather let the dog in and keep the cochroaches out...

And now the most important part... the food. Everything was delicious (like always in Peru) and lots of it was fried (also a common theme). The three most typical dishes that I ate were cecina with tacashno, juanes, and pescado a la parrilla. Yummmmmmmmmy! Juanes are my favorite food from the jungle and are basically specially prepared rice with chicken and egg all wrapped in a huge green leaf. The are specific to the fiesta of Saint Juan but you can buy them on almost every corner too. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! Oh, and of course bananas. People in the Selva eat bananas with EVERYTHING! It's basically a replacement for potato. Fried banana, boiled banana, BBQ'ed banana, mashed banana, and of course fresh banana. It's served for breakfast, lunch and dinner and can go with pretty much anything. Banana with egg? or rice? or chicken? Of COURSE! Its not bad but I'm pretty sure if given the choice I will still choose the potato over banana. I don't know, maybe I need a few more weeks in the jungle before the banana really wins me over. haha

Hmmm, that's all for tonight. I know I'm lacking that actual stories and exciting adventures but I promise I'll get to that in the next post. For now you can just use your imagination. Chauuuuuuuu

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lions, tigers, and bears OH MY!

Ok, so you may be wondering exactly what this title refers to... did I watch the Wizard of Oz or go hunting in the oh so abundant forests of my city of 8 million? And the answer is NEITHER! Ha, what a surprise. I actually went on an adventure with a rotary friend to explore the zoo. Park of Legends to be precise. We left from school early at 1 so as to have sufficient time and that was just the first part of a GREAT day. :) Don't get me wrong, I really do like school and I hardly ever skip but on this particular ocasion it worked out perfectly. What happened is that the next day was a half day in honor of the principals birthday. When I was planning to go to the zoo my mom messed up and told me we had a half day so I arranged to leave at 1:00 and she was sooooooooooo generous as to let me leave anyway. Yayyyyy! So, Parque de las Leyendas... It is one of the coolest zoos ever because not only does it have all the regular animals (yes thats where the lions and tigers and bears come in) but it has the three ecological regions of Peru as well. We walked through the entire park (its ginormous!) and got to see monkeys from the jungle, vicuna and condors from the mountains and sealions and penguins from the coast. Each region is landscaped with the plants native to the area and I even carved my name into a bamboo in the jungle part. Obviously its not as good as the actual region but it is pretty darn realistic. Also, mining is a really important aspect of the economy in Peru, so we got to go through a whole simulation mine with info about the silver and gold and minerals etc. Very interesting and full of awesome photo ops too. :) After the zoo we went to a place where they sell tons and tons of cultural peruvian stuff and I got to act like an awesome tourist again. I bought some of the classic striped pants and a bag and a few yummy Peruvian deserts. The excess of delicious typical foods over here is incredible... I think I will be able to try new sweets every single day this year without repeating!

So the zoo WAS fabulous but it's really just a pretext to start this blog post. An example of all the fun adventures I've been having over here. I guess I should probably try to blog a little more often and keep you guys up to date but thats easier said than done. I'll give you a couple highlights to share a taste of Lima and you will just have to imagine the rest because I can't possible recount everything. Basically its finally spring and I can feel it! The sun shines a whole lot more often and I wore my jumper and blouse without the red sweater for the first time a few days ago. It's amazing how strong the sun is when you are close to the equator. When it shines is REALLY shines! I can already feel the sunburns coming and I'm preparing to be one of those people who's perfume is Banana Boat. haha

Anyway, I have started running almost everyday outside after school. The air may not be perfectly fresh but it feels great to get out. I get to explore the streets of Lima and exercise at the same time. It's not the same relaxing experience running in the city because I have to be a whole lot more alert but its really fun. I do lots of dodoging of people and dogs and street vendors and there is always something exciting to look at. Plus the fact that I have to pay attention to where I'm going and what the traffic is doing. Lima traffic is rather insane and the drivers definitely have the right of way... not pedestrians. Anyway, I have about 5 or 6 different routes that I like to take and I am learning more and more. One of my favorites follows the metropolitano and then drops down to the beach to run along the Costa Verde. I get to smell the ocean, watch all the people and be in the company of other runners. Its a very popular site for recreational type people. People play soccer on the beach or walk or run or use the cool mini gyms with bars for pull ups, sit ups and dips.

I am learning to love the freedom of public transportation... I am starting to mobilize myself and getting really well oriented in Lima. Yeah thats right, Chelan actually knows her way around. haha The other day I left the house all by myself to go out with friends and it was a success. I used the metropolitano and micros and didn't get lost once. Yayyyyyy!

I learn new things everyday but usually they are about culture or the spanish language. A few days ago I learned something about English. I learned that in British english you can say "got". You know how teachers HATE it when we use got in the wrong place and its a huge gramatical error? Well the reason is that when we came from England we changed a few things to be different... and that was one of the changes!

Other exciting news and random comments that I don't have time to explain in lots of detail...

1) I am going to take dance classes with a friend! Its a 10 week session and we learn two native Peruvian dances and then perform them at the end with extravagant costums and everything. Super Super excited about that!

2) Today is election day! Its obligatory to vote in Peru so its a huge deal... Technically you aren't really even supposed to go out so that the traffic isn't as bad. Everyone votes in a specific school assigned to them by the government and the streets are full of people going to vote. If you don't vote you get fined. I got to accompany my sisters to their school and took lots of picture to record how the Peruvian election system works. It's been pretty fun following the elections in a different country and trying to understand the political drama. Anyway, we don't have school tomorrow because they will be cleaning the huge mess from today.

3) Im going to the SELVAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! My mom and I are going to go for a week and stay with my cousin and then my sister is going to join us for a few days at the end. It's going to be fabulous!!!

4) I got my first care package from HOME!!! Thank you thank you thank you thank you!

5) Peruvian breakfasts are amazing. Usually we go to the market on saturdays and buy fresh cheese and fruit and tamales and random little sweets and then sit down together to gorge. Last weekend I got to help cook this stirfry thing with tomatoes and steak and onion and peppers and lots of spices and it was incredible. But today I made WAFFLES! I new experience for my family... :)