Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fireworks, lasagna and a definite lack of snow!

"chingo glay, chingo glay" This is the catch prase of my awesome four year old neice! What does it mean? Well, if you heard it you would recognize it because she is actually singing Jingle Bells. As I commented once before, we have an abundance of cheesy american Christmas decorations and many of them sing in their tinny-electronic voices (in english). One of the favorites of my neice is a Santa Clause that sings Jingle Bells so she has learned the song pretty well. Sometimes we randomly burst out singing and dancing together and since it is the holiday season Jingle Bells has been a regular. :)

Anyway, there are tons of exciting holiday adventures to describe but I think I'll try to explain chronologically. Starting with Christmas. All month has been relatively festive with the lights and decorations and presents to buy and cards to write. But the intensive Christmas bustle started on the 23. All of the businesses give their employees a basket full of Christmas type food and a ticket for a turkey. Soooo I acompanied my parents to the special turkey pick up store and to buy last minute presents. The stores were CRAZY! People, people everywhere... and the traffic even worse! On the way home we were sitting about 8 blocks from the house without hope of moving so my neice and I got out of the car to go by foot. Adri is my little mini-me and likes to be called Chelan-cita and run :) So we made it home a good 10 or 15 minutes before the others. Yay for alternative transportation. haha Anyway, that night and a good part of the 24th we spent in the kitchen. Lasagna, roast beef, turkey, salads, pies, fudge, fruitcake, hot chocolate and more... The Christmas dinner can beat out Thanksgiving any day! And everything is made the long way too. For example, there is no canned spaghetti sauce in lasagna; we chop the tomatoes and garlic and onion and carrots and cook it all the day before. And we make the white alfredo sauce too. And THEN we alternate the two sauces with three types of cheese and noodles. I'm telling you, its a PROCESS! But it was fun to spend all the time cooking with my mom and everything turned out DELICIOUS!

So the 24th we finished up the kitchen and I helped wrap all the presents from my brother, sister and mom. Then around 6 we had kind of an early celebration with the three little ones. We took a billion pictures wrestling around in front of the Christmas tree and played with them until 8:30 or so. The sad thing is that all three of my neices and nephews had to go to their OTHER grandparents houses for the Christmas dinner. So I went with my brother and mom to drop off the twins and then we stopped by the store for last minute snacks and pop and icecream. Obviously we didn't have enough food already... jajajaja It was just five of us for the official dinner and with a family as huge as ours it felt a little bit lonely. So to make up for the lack of little kids or crazy cousins we went and bought fireworks! :) I was the baby for the evening and got to provide the entertainment swirling my sparklers and setting off the big bangs. haha it was my first experience with fireworks at Christmas and I must say it is a great addition! We had to wait until midnight to start the celebrations so we entertained ourselfs skyping with Alejandra in Canada, setting off a few early fireworks, and thinking about how hungry we were. Finally the clock struck 12 and we rushed out to the street to set off MORE fireworks and give everyone big hugs and shout feliz navidad. And it's hugs for everyone too. Family and random neighbors alike :) When we went back inside we opened all the presents and then moved on to dinner. I don't know if it was just because we were dying from hunger but the present opening went by really fast. Rip rip, "thankyou", hug, next. I'm a fan of the fast opening process because in my opinion the presents really aren't that important... and I wanted food :) But my family did really appreciate the cards that I wrote. I guess heartfelt cards aren't quite as common over here. When we finished the comercial aspect of Christmas we got to start the eatting aspect. mmmmm yum yum yum It was a bit comical how much food we had for just 5 people and when we finished you couldn't even tell that we had eatten. But believe me, I was STUFFED! So stuffed that I couldn't sleep and stayed up until 4 reading runners world. Tired but happy :)

Christmas morning Adri woke me up at 10 to open more presents. We repeated the whole process with the three little ones because they only opened half the night before. It was equally fast on the rip-rip scale but they were so overloaded with plastic junk that it took a while to get through the mountain of presents. Sorry, I don't mean to disgusted but 8 presents for each of the 2 year old twins JUST from their dad seems to be a bit much. Yeah, the rest of Christmas day was a blur of family. I spent a good three hours skyping with lovely Wenatchee folks and all the various aunts and uncles from Peru stopped by the house to visit too. It was literally an all day train of visitors with the last family coming around 12 and leaving at 2:30 am. Luckily they are my favorites and came with their six kids so we had lots of fun eatting and talking... So much fun that they came back the next day for almuerzo and then I spent the next night at their house. We played volleyball in the street, watched random youtube videos, sang songs with their guitar and stayed up talking until seven in the morning... Cousinssssssss :)

Next up on the list is NEW YEARS!!! It's 2011 and I can hardly believe it. 2010 was jam packed full of fun stuff and I can't quite decide if it passed really fast or really slowly. All I know is that I am going to seriously miss all of the wonderful friends and places and experiences from the past 365 days... Senior year of highschool, graduation, Peru and everything inbetween. Thank you to everyone who made it so special :) I hope that every January for the rest of my life I can feel this way... a little sad to say goodbye to the old year but looking forward with a smile at everything the new year is going to bring.

I'm going to explain my entire New Years weekend because it was super fun :) The 31st was my host dad's birthday so on the 30th we stayed up until 12 to wish him a happy birthday. The general tradition is that you sing happy birthday and eat cake at midnight but we did a little change up. We bought potatochips and pop and I made crepes instead. Extra special crepes with the recipe from my exchange friend from France ;) Neither of my sisters was going to celebrate- one at the beach and the other sleeping with my little neice- so we invited my uncles family to come celebrate instead. They showed up just before 12 and waited in the dark in the dining room to surprise my dad. And it worked!!! We ended up eatting and talking until 4 in the morning with all the cousins. We always play charades or other random games and laugh a TON! So at 4:30 I went to bed slightly exhausted and got up again the next morning to make a big breakfast for my dad. We went to the market and bought fresh cheese and tamales and bread and cooked lomo saltado. It's basically a stirfry of tomato, onion and steak with lots of really yummy spices... mmmmmmmmmm After stuffing myself to bursting with all the good food I decided that I should probably rest up to have energy for New Years Eve. So I went upstairs and took my very first siesta in Peru. I slept from 12 till 4:30!!! Woooooooooh! I got up to go for a run, eat birthday cake and at about seven I left for my friends house. From her house we got dressed for the evening and then went to her aunts house for dinner. The plan was to spend the evening with her aunts and uncles and cousins and then go to a "party" around 1. Obviously timing is a little different over here. Anyway, for all of you who know that I wear running shorts and a t-shirt whenever possible you will probably be slightly horrorized to hear that I wore a mini skirt. LOCO. jaja So we ate yet another big turkey dinner and at midnight went running out to the street to watch the fireworks. I thought Christmas was a ton of fireworks but it is NOTHING compared with New Years... All you can hear is boom, bang, crack and in every direction you see flames! There are lots of supersticious traditions for the New Year and one of them is quemando munecas. Basically think burning scarecrows stuffed full of paper and fireworks. 7 out of 10 houses on the block had a New Years doll blazing away in front of the house. The idea is that you burn everything from 2010 in order to make way from the new year. Some of the other traditions are to wear yellow underwear (yes I bought a pair), eat 12 grapes while sitting under the table (one for every month), throw 12 coins over your shoulder into the street (to make lots of money), take a bath with flower water (to have a sucessful love life), run around the block carrying a suitcase (to travel a lot), and I don't remember what else.

With my friend Valeria and her three cousins we went to our New Years party. Her parents dropped us off around 1:30 but we didn't start dancing until 3. So once again we were up late late late and got back to her house at 8 am after a quick stop to eat hamburgers :) The party was fun but there were a few too many drunk boys wanting to dance and speak English for my liking. Luckily Valerias cousin was our savior and would come ask us to dance if we gave him the look. hahahaha The next two days we spent at the beach playing volleyball, making sand castles, and of course swimming in the ocean. I put sunscreen on about 500 times and am quite proud of the fact that I didn't get burned... :) Valeria's family is kind of like my adopted host family and I am getting to know all of her cousins and aunts and uncles so that is fun too.

Basically to sum everything up I will say that the holiday season was great. Lots of staying up late, eatting big meals, having adventures with host cousins, and setting off fireworks. I really missed you guys and the snow and standard Christmas cookies but it's been fun to experience Peru!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

...aji is a miracle food!

My title really has nothing to do with the general theme of this post but I had to put SOMETHING. And it's true that I love aji. That red hot flavor goes with everything and is absolutely delicious! If the food is good it accents the flavor and makes it even better, if the food is bad it's a fixall solution. Ahhhhhhh how I am going to miss you my dear aji!!! It's a bright red sauce made from special rocoto pepers called aji verde. Rather ironic I know... still haven't figured out who in their right mind would name a red peper "aji verde." But it doesn't matter because I love it!

Anyway, here's the news from my last three weeks...

I am officially a high school graduate! (for the second time :)) I think I am probably one of the only people in the world who can say they have graduated two time in six monthes. Once in the US and once in Peru. Once in Spanish and once in English. Once in the lovely purple gowns of WHS and once in the all white garmets of Santa Rosa de Lima. I literally felt like an angel with my white cap, gown and of course glaringly pale skin. haha The entire process was surprisingly familiar despite the fact that it is a private, catholic school in South America. We all lined up and marched into the auditorium with the traditional graduation music. Of course I was in the very back of the line because, well it was by height. When we got to our seats we remained standing for the national anthem and the school song in Spanish and then AGAIN for the english version. I can tell you that when we finally sat everyone was quite happy to rest their feet. I don't know if its a passing fad or a cultural thing to make up for the lack of height, but everyone down here wears HIGHheels! The rest of the ceremony was fairly standard with a student speaker, words from the principal, presentation of the diploma, passing of the little ball on the cap and of course tons and tons of photos. The student speaker did a great job combining funny comments with nostalgic memories with words of wisdom. This graduation means a LOT to my classmates and just about everyone was crying by the end of his speech. There is a deep connection and a lot of memories when you are together for 11 years... Which is why I feel so special to be included in the Promo of 49- San Juan de Macias. They made me feel part of the group from the very beginning and I will always appreciate that. For example, the principal wasn't originally going to let me graduate but my friends and teachers convinced her that I deserved to wear the robe and walk side by side with my classmates. And, when we put the plack on the wall with the 75 names of the promo, my name was included!!! Now my name will remain forever inscribed on the walls of Santa Rosa de Lima. I can come back in 20 years and show everyone that I really did go to school for a year in Peru :)

I think I mentioned before that I have been taking a native dance class for the past 10 weeks with a friend from school. Every Tuesday we would go to the center of Lima to dance for three hours and learn two tipical dances- Caporales and Diablada. The studio where we were learning is called Brisas de Titicaca and is actually a fairly prestigious school of dance here in Lima. Anyway, last Saturday was the final presentation. It was a HUGE event where they sold entrance tickets and served food and we were the cultural entertainment- a demonstration of 20 typical dances with live music and colorful costumes. We danced in front of an audiance of 500 and I must say it was rather nerve racking! They put a new floor in two days prior and despite our best attempts to gain traction by pouring Cocacola on the bottom of our shoes it was a bit of a disaster. One lady even fell during the first dance it was so slippery... But overall in was a very fun experience :) I got to put on two incredibly elaborate costumes and paint my face with about 500 pounds of make up. This alone was quite the experience. If it weren't for all the help from my new friends I would never have been ready on time. In Caporales we wore three different skirts, two blouses, long fake braids wound in with yellow ribbons, little hats and lace up high heels. YIKES! The hardest part was definitely dancing in heels but getting those braids securely attached was a close second. And in Diablada my costum was even more complicated if you can imagine. There is a fight scene between the devil and the angel and this time I literally got to dress like an angel. :) I had a huge head piece, wings, a spade and armor. Plus the high heels again. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Another new experience was Prom in Peru. Yes it's a big deal in the US but it is NOTHING like prom over here. There is only one dance in highschool over here, and that is Prom. To start with we arrived in limo. A group of 14 of us all met up in one friend's house and we arrived at the hotel Melia with style. Now the limo turned out to be a bit of a ripoff but that doesn't matter, we still went in limo. I can say that my first (and probably last) experience in a limo was riding through the streets of Lima Peru. :) The main problem with the limousine is that the company told us it seated 16 when it was really a limo for 10. Oooops! We were packed in there like sardines in a can with two kids sitting practically in the bar and one across the laps of the others. jajajaja And they didn't pull out the red carpet or serve champain like advertised. But it doesn't really matter because we still had a ton of fun sticking out heads out the sun roof, blasting music, and stopping in all the gorgeous parts of Lima to snap photos. When we arrived at the hotel we got to make the big entrance with more pictures, music, bright lights and an anouncer naming each couple. There was even a bubble and fog machine for effect :) It was held in one of the super fancy ballrooms where you find 15 utencils on either side of your plate and have no idea what to use first... Anyway, we spent the next 8 hours eatting super delicious food, drinking pisco sour (not me), and dancing dancing dancing. That is one of the best things about peruvian parties is that EVERYONE dances! And legit dancing too. Salsa and cumbia and of course the popular american music as well... One of my friends is excellent salsa dancer and I was able to follow his lead and actually dance!!! :) Yayyyyyy I must say I was quite proud! jaja We finally left at about 5:30 in the morning and my friend and I slept until 2 the next afternoon! Woooooooow!

It's officially the first day of summer today. And boy can I can feel it! The sun is out with super strength and on my run home today I almost died. (not really... but I was very, very sweaty. jaja) I can already hear the beach calling my name and now that it's summer vacation I am ready to hit the water. As I sit here in shorts and a tanktop, I can see the advantages to Christmas in the summer... :)

Which reminds me, MERRY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! I wish you all the best and hope you have a fabulous 25th with lots of friends and family and good food. I'll be thinking of everyone back home and just imagine I'm giving you a big huge peruvian hug! :)

Lots of love from South America,


PS. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the lovely care package from home! I have already started making my way through the GIANT bag of chocolatechips (yep, Costco sized :)) I spent all day yesterday in the kitchen baking and took cookies to my friends at school. A little bit of US holiday spirit and a new experience for them!

PPS. I had a lovely visit from some Wenatchee folks (the Dappen family and Vicki Monreal) the other day and got to play tour guide :) It was great to see those familiar faces again and speak english for two days and best of all I didn't feel like a giant anymore. Yayyyyyyy! Thank you guys for a GREAT visit! :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


As I'm sure all of you guys know, Thanksgiving was last Thursday. The day when everyone goes to grandma's house to eat turkey and pumpkin pie and watch football. It is something that happens every year without question. We see the gorgeous leaves scattering the ground and lots of rustic decorations and know its time to give thanks. The thing is, it's an AMERICAN holiday and im not in america!!! For the first time in my life there was no fourday weekend or cornstalk decorations. Instead I got to initiate, explain and prepare Thanksgiving. I have to admit I was a bit nervous about cooking the turkey and slightly homesick for all the aunts and uncles and cousins but in the end it was an absolute success. I stayed home from school and spent the day in the kitchen. With the help of both my parents, my exchange friend Savannah, and Dina (my neice's nanny) we pulled off a delicious feast! We had the typical American thanksgiving with turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and apple pie but then we added a Peruvian twist. We also had asado, lemon pie, rice and pallares. Mmmmmmmm mmmmmm good! We didn't end up eatting until 9:30 or 10 because everyone gets off work late but it was fabulous. :) There were 22 of us all crowded round the table eatting and laughing and generally feeling the good vibes. Savannah and I made awesome turkey decorations and explained the history of Thanksgiving. And then we went in a circle and each person said something they were thankful for. To tell you the truth I think I appreciated the significance of the holiday a whole lot more over here than I ever did in the states.

So, both of my past two weekends I got to spend camping – two very different experience but each one fun in a different way. The first weekend was a Rotary service project called handicamp. I went with my couselor to a colegio in the middle of Lima without knowing exactly what to expect. We showed up at 10 and found various groups of youth sitting with their piles of sleeping bags and backpacks. We went to say hi and talk with each group and everyone was full of positive energy. You see, this was a very special group of 60 people. They had Downs Syndrome or were mentally retarded but they were also some of the most enthusiastic, genuinely happy people I have met. I was lucky enough to spend all of Saturday and Sunday dancing, eatting, doing art projects, and playing games with these new friends. The camp wasn't terribly well organized so I got to practice my leadership and spanish skills and lead a lot of the activities too. The great thing is that they all have the spirit of champions and loving playing sports. One boy had even gone to China for the special olympics! The whole weekend was incredibly rewarding and my favorite group of students even invited me to their school dance next week. :)

The second weekend was with my good friend Valeria in the outskirts of Lima. We went to a "club" called Kankay and camped with about 20 of her extended family. When I say "club" I am refering to something more or less like a state park in the US. It has a restaurant, BBQ's, picnic tables, climbing toys, a pool, horses, four wheelers and lots of green grass and trees. Since Lima is both a extremely dry desert and a huge city going to clubs is the only opportunity to find greeness. Anyway, Valeria's family is fabulous and treats me just like their own exchange student. We played with all the cousins and ate tons of yummy food and stayed up until 4 in the morning talking and laughing by the fire. At night it was rather chilly and I had to put my sweatpants over my jeans but during the day the sun was FUERTISIMO! I managed to burn my scalp and currently have a lovely red line running down the top of my head. I’m not sure if it was all the time in the swimming pool or playing volleyball but it definitely taught me my lesson. I have to say I am a little bit scared for my poor skin this summer. I think I’ll turn out like an overcooked tomato!