Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Home sweet Home.

I'm back. It's strange so say and even stranger to feel. A few things have changed. My brother is taller, my dog is fatter and I speak spanish... but the bottom line is that I don't feel all that different. In the Rotary conferences they always warned us that we would probably have to combat reverse culture shock. They said that we would come back completely changed and struggle to identify with our old lives. But I don't. To tell you the truth, I don't feel like I ever left. It seems like I just went to sleep- lived an entire life- and then woke up from a nice dream. Ok, maybe that's not totally true. I do feel older and wiser. I feel like I have a lot more perspective and understanding of the world. But as far being home, its all the same. Just good old Wenatchee. The river, the mountains, the cherries and all the crazy people. I missed it a lot and I must say it is VERY nice to be home.

I could tell you about the welcome home surprise party that Skye threw for me or the XC girls forking my yard but that would be starting a completely new story. This was a blog about Peru and not adventures in Wenatchee. Lets just say that I have been back for one week and it's been FABULOUS! I've eaten all of my favorite foods, run my favorite routes, hiked up saddlerock multiple times and started all of the catch up with all of my friends after a year of separation. I'll work cherries and life guarding this summer and then in August it will be off to Whitman. A whole new and exciting adventure!

So, thank you to EVERYONE who helped me to live that dream!

Living every moment!


PS One of my favorite people in the world shared this quote with me the other day and it is just too great to leave out...

Life is not about weathering the storm- it is about learning to dance in the rain.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Ok, so I really don't have ANY time but it has been way too long since my last post so I am going to give you some five sentance updates.

1) I went on an INCREDIBLE 10 day trip with all of the exchange students to Cusco and Puno. Even though I had been there once before it was a unique experience and I saw new things and had a blast. As a group of exchange students we got to know eachother way better and united into the family that we should have been all year long. Highlights include walking barefoot all over Machu Picchu and swimming in Lake Titicaca ( the high navigable lake in the world and the biggest body of fresh water I have seen in my life)!

2) I went on my last trip with my host parents to visit the homeland of my host dad - Jauja. It was a three day escape from Lima and it was FABULOUS! We walked the streets that he hadn't seen in 30+ years, ate all of the tipical foods ( jello made out of cows feet, potroast cooked in a pit underground, flat bread from the little old ladies selling on the streets etc ) and did a one day tour in the back of a pickup truck to see the countryside. I swam under a waterfall, saw the land that belonged to my host grandpa, and danced the night away in the plaza de armas.

3) I had to say my first goodbye. One of my best friends from the group of exchange students left on May 15th and it was awful! We spent the entire weekend with her and then went to the airport at 4 in the morning. I must say I am not terribly excited for the next two weeks of hugs and tears...

Here is a copy of my last rotex roundup. I think it does a fairly good job summing up my feelings right now...

I can’t believe I’m leaving home again. It’s time to say goodbye to my family, my friends, my dog, my running routes, and everything else that has become mine in the past year. Basically I have to say farewell to an entire culture, language and life. But it’s also welcome back. The months and days have flown by and in less that two weeks I will be in Wenatchee. I’ll be in my own bed, in the valley where I have spent 18 years of my life. I’ll be back in the real world where I don’t stand out as the gringo girl and where my family looks like me. I’ll be with the people I loved and missed all year long. I’ll see snow, eat chocolate chip cookies, speak English, swim in Lake Chelan and live the life that until this year was my only reality.
I don’t know what to think. In some ways it feels like I have lived in Peru forever and at the same time I feel like I just arrived a month ago. Time is playing tricks on my mind and blurring everything together. Each day of this exchange has been an adventure and everyday I thank Rotary for the opportunity of a lifetime, for the dream come true. I have seen, heard, loved, felt, and truly become a part of this incredible country. I have learned about a culture, a history and a language… and even more importantly I have learned who I am. I have discovered my strengths and tried to overcome my weaknesses. Now I know what I value in the world and what is important in my life. I have defined myself and I can say with confidence that I am Chelan Pauly.
To tell you the truth, I very have mixed feelings about the end of this exchange. There is no denying the fact that I am sad. I have become accustomed to my life in Lima, the food, the music, and the energy of the city. And the life of an exchange student is obviously fabulous… for an entire year my only responsibility has been to travel, learn, and experience. It is going to be very, very difficult to leave that paradise. But I think I am ready. I feel as if this year I hit the pause button and it’s time to push play again. These months have been the perfect sabbatical to find myself and recharge my batteries but now it’s time to get on with life. It has been one of the best years of my life and I’ll miss it like crazy but it’s time to move forward. I have a career to study and a future to pursue!


PS. I will oficially be arriving in Seattle June 13th. Mind blowing!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The clock keeps ticking...

Life did it again. A month went by and I didn't blog. It always seems to happen this way... the random daily occurrences aren't big enough to deserve their own post so they build and build and build until there is a giant conglomeration that needs to be narrated or ( in this case) I go on a trip and am slapped in the face by the awesomeness of my adventures and the necessity of sharing them. Well, this time I think I am going to start with general updates on my life and random highlights and then if I get the change I will elaborate on the trip.

First off, my host family situation. It was one of those simmering problems that has blown up and cooled off continuously for the past 4 months. I didn't bring it up on the blog because it was a rather dynamic issue and didn't seem appropriate to complain. But now that its a closed book I'll give you guys the scoop. The truth is, I screwed up. It wasn't a disaster or a scandal but it was definitely a learning experience. Something that I won't forget ever and that in the long run has hopefully made me a better person. I was not the happiest of campers in my second host house but I learned from my mistakes and matured and everything worked out in the end. Anyway, the result is that I am back with my original host family. And it is FABULOUS! They are the people who truly care about me as a person. The have time for me and treat me like part of the family- we trust each other, talk, laugh and generally live together. I feel like I have gotten the best of both worlds because I started out in the honeymoon stage of the exchange, struggled a bit in the middle, and am ending once again in heaven. :)
So, basically what happened in the other house is that there was no connection. They were super busy and I already had a well established base of friends and family in Lima so I didn’t put much effort into getting to know them. The three kids were in the US studying and the two parents worked a ton so I hardly ever saw them in the house. And therefore I spent most of my time traveling or out doing my own thing. This set up the negative vibes. I went with the good intentions to get along and build relationships with my new host parents but it just didn’t happen. They were completely different (neither better nor worse, just different) from my first family and instead of accepting and embracing those differences I began to compare. (NOT GOOD) Anyway, it became painfully obvious that there was a lack of bonding. We were always cordial and I never gave up trying to talk and have conversations but it just wasn’t working. I was much much better friends with the two employees that my host parents and when my host sister came back things didn’t improve. I admit that it was mostly my fault because I am the exchange student that should be adapting and putting in the effort to make connections but I am still going to say it was a two-sided fail. In the end the other exchange student who had moved to my previous house had issues and was required to switch so it worked out fine. We flip flopped back and I think everyone was happy. I had some good conversations with my second host parents and apologized for not integrating very well into their family. I left on good terms and learned how important it is to put effort into relationships and not make comparisons. Life is good. :)

What else? There was a marijuana scandal and unfortunately two of our gang of 17 exchangees got sent home. Due to a few unfortunate text messages and bad luck my name got thrown into the whole mess but luckily I’m still here to tell the tale. Don’t worry, I had nothing to do with the scandal… but it was still a scary thought to think that I COULD have been sent home. Thank goodness my host parents trust me and I have a good rep. :)

On the brighter side I have had a great time running around Lima the last couple of weeks… In the mornings I go to my Spanish class bright and early at 8:30 and almost every afternoon I have a class in the university. To tell you the truth, neither one has really taught me a ton so far but I get to meet fantastic new friends and it’s fun. In the Spanish class we are a group of six from all different parts of the world- two girls from Korea, a woman from India, and two fellow US girls. Even though we have different backgrounds and there is an age gap of 20+ years, we are all great friends and have even gone out for group bonding and dinner. ;) In the university, the dance classes continue to be my favorites and my Marinera professor even invited me to a huge dance performance/ party. I went with two other girls and he let us all in free and bought us drinks and welcomed us to sit at a table with his friends and everything. Even though he was the announcer/ organizer of the entire evening he managed to make us feel welcomed and comfortable… Talk about generous

Well, it’s time for bed but before I do so, I’d like to say an official happy belated Easter and happy Apple Blossom to everyone! This will be the first year in the past 15 that I haven’t done the fun run so I vote everyone gets out and does it if they can. :)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

I finally made it...

The most famous part of Peru...
One of the seven wonders of the world...
An incredible mix of culture, history and construction...
The capital of the Incan empire...

What could I be referring to? None other than MACHU PICCHU!!! And after 8 months of hearing the unending praise of this marvelous city, I can finally say I´ve been there. Haleluja! This month truly has been marvelous though, and not only because I made it to Machu Picchu. I turned 19, visited two of the most famous cities in the entire country, started at my university, and above all got to spend two weeks with my family. My REAL, flesh and blood family!!! =) They flew all the way down here and spent 12 days seeing the sights with tour guide Chelan. My mom and I spent a good number of hours sending emails and skyping to figure out the itinerary, hotels, buses, flights etc but it the end we got everything pretty well ironed out. It was a new experience to plan a trip for the family and although it was a bit exhausting it was WELL WORTH the time. Of course I made my mistakes and learned my lessons but for the most part everything ran smoothly. I think my biggest mistake was choosing restaurants that just didn’t seem to have their ovens turned on. hahahahahaha

So, I guess I’ll start from the beginning. My host family took me to the airport to pick up the family around 11 on Sunday and I can tell you that I was a ball of emotions. Excited... nervous... restless... and every other state inbetween. First we left the house late because my host dad couldn’t find the keys, and then you add in the horrid Lima traffic and it was not a good situation- luckily we still made it about 5 minutes before they came out of the gate. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I was standing there jumping up and down with my bright orange welcome sign and Skye and I did the awesome flying, running embrace thing- Although a slightly comical version because she had a giant hiking backpack and I had an awkward welcome sign. haha But it really felt amazing to hug those four crazy Paulys who I hadn’t seen in 8 months! Jace finally sprouted up and was a whole lot taller (still hasn’t passed me yet) but other than that they were all exactly how I remembered. :)

I won’t get into all of our adventures but I basically showed them the most important places in Lima, my life as a Peruvian, and my wonderful host families. Skye, Jace and I took a few rides on the local buses and I dragged the whole family out to run a few of my favorite routes. Well, everyone except Jace who enjoyed the soft pillows and a few hours of extra snooze time. haha Skye and I had THE biggest birthday celebration of our lives with no less than 5 birthday cakes and three nights of parties. The day before my birthday we had a party in my current host house with lots of exchange students and friends from school. They have a perfect back yard and my host mom went all out with plastic tables, chairs, loud music and TONS of food. We had chocolate fondue, little chicken sandwiches, chips and salsa, vegis, fruit, cheese and crackers, and the two delicacies- waffles and PB&J sandwiches (most of my friends had never tried either one…) awhhhhh I felt so special :) And it was fun to introduce Skye to my world over here too. The second night (my actual birthday) we visited my other host house and had a bit of a family reunion with them. I have become so attached it feels like we have known each other forever so it was great to be able to introduce my two families. (mom, this is mom other mom. haha) They cooked my favorite dish and and we sang happy birthday and basically just enjoyed general bonding time. Yayzers.

So that brings us to Cuzco. INCREDIBLE! Probably the most enchanting city I have been to in my life. Aside from the gorgeous artisania and fascinating people, the streets just call my name. There is one neighborhood called San Blas that I could wander for weeks without ever getting bored. It is all cobble stone with little winding streets and stone steps. It is full of old houses, little shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. It is also on the edge of town so as you go father and father back you gain altitude and end up with a breathtaking view of the city and surrounding mountains. Anyway, we met up with Vicki and Heather (fellow Wenatchee-ites volunteering in Cusco) and they gave us a lovely first hand tour. We went to a delicious restaurant by the number one chef in Peru (Gaston Acurio) and then in the evening Heather and Vicki took us for a little more birthday celebration. In honor of Saint Patricks day we went to an Irish Pub (full of Europians and Americans since that particular holiday doesn't seem to exist in Peru) and then to a discoteca. Around four in the morning we shared our fifth an final birthday cake :)

The next day we did the rounds of all of the not-so-famous but equally impresive ruins in the Sacred Valley. In Sacsaywaman (the first ruin right outside Cusco) we found ourselves a guide who ended up accompanying us the entire way to Ollantaytambo (the last city where the train embarks to Machu Picchu). By the end of the day we had made great friends with not only the guide Agusto but the taxi driver joined us for dinner. I don't think I can possible explain the intricate stonework, ingenious engineering and pure aww factor of the Incan ruins we saw that day, but I can say that everyone should see them at some point in their life. This ancient culture knew exactly how to construct their houses, agricultural terraces, economical centers and religious temples to withstand the wear of time. They were antisismic, anti erosion, antiwind, flood proof designs with irigation and water chanels built right into the walls. Plus everything was aligned with the sun, stars, and certain imaginary lines they had made going out from the center of the ancient culture- Machu Picchu. Wow, talk about forward thinkers and an advanced society!

We spent that night in Ollantaytambo and the next day exploring more ancient ruins, making our way to Aguas Calientes and preparing for the ultimate marvel, Machu Picchu itself. Ollantaytambo is a gorgeous little town in the center of a valley surprisingly similar to Wenatchee and Leavenworth. Skye and I went running (I am proud to say I have run in every single city I have visited in Peru) it the morning and felt perfecttly at home tucked between the mountains with a river running along one side. It is obviously somewhat touristic because it houses the train to Machu Picchu but impressively enough it has retained a lot of the traditional culture and small town feel. Anyway, the day itself doesn't need much describing but train is worth a callout... it is an ancient clackity-clacking old thing but fits the ambiance perfectly. We walked about half a mile along a cobbled street to get to the station and before getting on I bought corn on the cob with fresh cheese from a little old lady in her brightly colored skirts and leather hat. We sat in seats facing each other with a table in the middle but that hardly mattered because our eyes were glued to the window the entire time. With huge windows on either side and sky-lights above it is the perfect setup and even better is the speed of the train. It chugs along swaying from side to side at somewhere around 15 or 20 miles an hour. Just about equal to cruising speed on a fast road bike... We followed the river Urubamba all the way to Aguas Calientes and admired the power of its rapids for about two hours straight. March is the end of the rainy season in Cusco so the waters are swollen to the brim and it is ready to swallow any person or thing who dares to get in its way. Anyway, we enjoyed it :)

So… Machu Picchu. After getting the tickets bought, alarms set, and everything laid out the night before Jace managed to chance our plans in an instant. And that instant happened to be at 4:41 am. To make a long story short and save the gory details, we will just say that he had a very unhappy stomach and was absolutely incapable to hit the trail. So Skye, my dad and I headed up the Incan steps on our own and my mom stayed on bed duty for a few extra hours. We made our way up up up for about an hour through the light rain and eventually reached the goal around 7. From the check-in point we raced to the far outpost and managed to get our name on the list to climb Wayna Picchu. They only allow 450 people to head up each day and we were lucky enough to get the last couple slots for the 10 am group. Yayyyyyyyyyyy Since it was still early we explored the ruins and had a little picnic breakfast with some Argentinian friends while we waited. And thank goodness we waited! As we were climbing Wayna Picchu (the mountain just behind Machu Picchu) the sun broke through and we were rewarded with gorgeous views on the ancient city and a full rainbow to boot! Wow. The trail up to the top is a bit precarious with little Incan steps and drop off cliffs but in the end the view is entirely worth it. On the way down we got the chance to chat a lot with another new Argentinian friend since it is a single set of stairs and impossible to pass double wide. Back at the ruins, I went running off in search of my mom (she had taken the bus up a little later in the morning) and Skye and my dad found themselves a guide to take us on the official tour. It was somewhat miraculous that I found her in the midst of so many people and so much space (we had no meeting plan or means of communication) but with in 20 0r 25 minutes we were all united and ready to go. I’m not going to recount the rest of the tour or day but Skye and I spent a full 12 hours walking and exploring that day. Wow! Lets just say that the hot springs the next morning felt AMAZING!!! =)

The second city that we visited is called Arrequipa. It is probably the most europian city in Peru and has a completely different feel from Cusco. It was also fascinating to explore but for lack of time I am not going to go into detail. Just believe me that it is a great city and I enjoyed myself very much. We took an overnight but from Cusco to Arrequipa (first one ever for the rest of the family) and checked into our hotel the next morning. It was a huge old mansion renovated as a hotel and probably one of the most interesting places I have ever spent the night. The rooms had double high ceilings with equally large windows and doors. They were decorated with furnishings at least 100 years old each one opened into a small courtyard connected to the others through a series of passages and stone steps. Definitely recommend it! The day after we arrived Skye and I split off on our own little adventure and went on a guided tour of the Colca Canyon. It is supposedly even deeper than the Grand Canyon, has stunning views, and is supposedly home to some of the worlds only Condors. These are giant birds with 9 ft wing spans who are super impressive to see and NEVER SHOWED THEMSELVES. Yup, we were in that canyon for two days straight and I did not see one condor. UNFAIR!. Ok, really it wasn’t that big of a deal. We had a great group of hikers and I spent the majority of my time talking with them and admiring the surrounding mountains. There was a young couple from france, a girl who just finished her two years of service in Israel, a super cool guy from England with an AWESOME ACCENT, a fascinating couple from Europe (the wife from Russia, the husband from Germany and they had spent 5 years traveling the world working as doctors on cruise ships and then getting off in random places) and of course our guide from Peru.

And yeah, I’m kinda tired of writing so I’m going to leave it at that… I spent 12 fabulous days with my family and now I’m back in Lima. I miss them but I’m still perfectly happy living my life over here. Basically it was fun to have a little piece of Wenatchee in Peru but it’s good to be back to a slightly more normal schedule. Life is good.

Lets see, a few other interesting random things that have happened in the past month…

* I went to my first Peruvian wedding! I didn’t even know the bride or groom but I still had a blast and it was fun to see the marriage process in another culture. I went with my friend Valeria and her parents who just happen to be some of the greatest people in the world… they always invite me to do things with them and have become my second adoptive family down here. They take me to the beach or to go camping or go to family functions and I know practically all of the cousins and aunts and uncles. But that is beside the point. What I wanted to explain is how Peruvian weddings work. They are (like all social functions) a late night party full of drinking, dancing and eating combined with a little bit of catholic religion. This was actually a very small scale wedding with only about 130 people at the party and even fewer during the church service. We went early because Valeria’s dad was the padrino of the bride but the majority of people didn’t even arrive until 11. The dinner was served around 12, they did all of the boquet throwing, guarder removing and formal waltzing and around 1 we started to dance. :) One interesting thing is that the bride changed from her white fluffy dress to a hot pink one for the party. haha Anyway, we had the “hora loca” and danced like crazy people until 4 in the morning… fun stuff!

* Diego Torres concert!!! Most of you have probably never heard of him but I am a big fan! He sings two of my favorite songs that I learned in junior year Spanish class and is relatively well known in the latin world. The only thing is that he is 40 and isn’t really famous with the younger generation. Doesn’t matter, my exchange friend Savannah and I bought our cheap tickets and went very happily to stand in the crown and sing along with our latin hero. It was an outdoor concert on a gorgeous summer night and you really can’t beat the magic of the entire crown singing “Color Esperanza” at the top of their lungs and dancing together :)

* Gamarra. Picture a giant market full of little stores, people, and clothing. It is infamous in Lima if you want to buy cheap clothing but it also has the reputation of being packed full of people and somewhat dangerous. Obviously with lots of people come lots of thieves and pickpockets. Anyway, I went there for the first time a couple weeks ago and it was not lacking in clothes or people. On the contrary, it was the most shirts, shorts, pants, dresses, and other fabricated items I have seen in my entire life! Cotton of every color, shape and size flashed before my eyes and the mazes of little stalls exploding from all sides literally made me dizzy. It was rather overwhelming and I felt like the shops and passageways packed with people could easily swallow me in an instant. I know there are some women who are time weathered masters of Gamarra and know exactly where to find the best prices and cutest cloths but I felt like it was impossible to ever find your way out! Still, I bought a few things and enjoyed the experience very much :)

* I started my first week of university classes in Peru. It is rather comical and a slight disappointment how little we do but I still enjoy it immensely. I have four hours of academic classes per week and four hours of dancing. :) The academic class is called Realidad Nacional y Globalicacion and the dance classes are Salsa and Marinera ( a traditional dance from the north). It is a small university but I like it a lot… there are two cafeterias stocked full of good snacks, a library on the 8th floor of one building, lots of green grass and trees, free water ( a miracle in Peru), plenty of stairs and most importantly lots of fun looking people to get to know. I’m EXCITED! :)

Monday, February 28, 2011

North, South and all about!

Like always, I am going to start this blog with an apology. I try to keep it up to date but the adventures keep piling up and now I have TWO trips to write about and about 55555 other little things I’d love to share. I guess it’s a good thing… everyday I go out to see something new and there just isn’t time to write about it all. I much prefer it this way than the opposite! Anyway, I am going to say the horribly cliché but completely accurate


… on the 22nd of every month at midnight I celebrate my anniversary of arriving in Peru. At first it was a delight and slight shock that I had lived in a foreign country 1, 2, 3 months. But now I am Peruvian and this is my home. Everyday I learn more about myself, the world, and this country. I have never had the slightest desire to go home but now the thought is even more painful… I have so much to explore and so little time. I don’t want to leaveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! But since the goodbyes are inevitable I am determined to fill these last three months full to bursting and arrive back in Wenatchee tired, out of breath and completely awed by what I have seen, done and heard. On that note I will recount my latest travels.

Trip to the North #2

It was COMPLETELY different. Everything from the basic structure of the trip to the cities we visited to the food we ate was polar opposite. The first trip was self organized and go-with-the-flow… when an opportunity presented itself we took it and ran. We ate when we were hungry and slept when we were tired. It was also economical. As in a very minimalist exchange student sort of budget. This second trip was organized though a travel company. Our group of 12 (10 exchange students and two adults) was led by a guide named Mercedes and she was in charge- in charge of everything. It was quite a contrast and at least in my case taught me that I do NOT like group traveling. We were large, clumsy and inflexible. We spent an unreasonable amount of time waiting and had zero freedom to break into smaller groups or split up. There was a complete lack of communication and lots of complaints about food, transportation and just about everything else. The problem was that Mercedes had our 300 bucks and the money that she didn’t spend was what she earned. Thus she was stingy on a lot of stuff but then spent money on ridiculous things that we didn’t want. She never specified exactly what the trip included or what the procedure was for food and travel. Sometimes she did things like hire a private van for 11 and make us sit four across for a two and a half hour ride. Or she would ask one person what they wanted to eat and then order it for everyone. grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr That being said, it was still a good trip. I don’t mean to make it sound like I didn’t enjoy myself because I did. As a group of exchange student we got to know each other a lot better and had lots of fun sharing stories and laughing. We played little kid games in Spanish, French and English and generally made fools of ourselves. The Rotarian who accompanied us, Holger, was also super cool. He is 33 and acts younger which is a refreshing change from the average age of the Rotarians in my club. (grey haired and annoyingly respectable and proper) So don’t worry, we did have fun and get to see lots of interesting things I just don’t think there will be a repeat experience with that travel agency. Ever.
Basically here’s the run down. It was an 8 day trip and we made our way up the coast of Peru by bus stopping in Trujillo, Chiclayo, Colan, and Mancora. The first four days were spent getting to know the two major northern cities and seeing all of the archeological and historical sites (lots!). We stayed in the houses of Rotarians and got somewhat of an inside view of life in the North. The next two days were spent in an Interact conference. We listened to lectures, learned more about Interact and got to meet about 150 youth from all around the north of Peru. The last two days were beach time. Mancora was a repeat but Punta Sal was new and both beaches are GORGEOUS!!!
So, in Trujillo we arrived after sleeping all night on the bus and were dropped off with our three host families. Five of us stayed in the same house and they were the most welcoming, kindhearted couple I have met. They had a delicious breakfast waiting on the table when we arrived (starving and tired) and in the evening when we got back from the day’s tour they took us to buy sandals and eat. Trujillo is known for its quality factories and cheap prices so almost everyone buys shoes or clothes when they go. I think 5 of the 7 girls bought a pair and all of us paid less than 12 bucks. Yay for Peruvian prices! During the day we went on a tour of Huaka de la Luna which is an archeological site with ruins and a museum about the culture Mochica. We also went to the largest mud city in South America called Chanchan. It is remarkably well preserved and absolutely jaw dropping to learn about how organized the society was 5000 years ago. Our tour guide was the tiniest, most enthusiastic little lady ever. She was genuinely excited to talk for the 1000 time about the ancient culture and truly inspired me to find a job that I love. For lunch we ate ceviche on the beach and Savannah and I were brave enough to try out the Caballitos de Totora. They are somewhat like kayaks but much heavier and made of reeds. The same design has been used by the fishermen for thousands of years and it is pretty efficient with a seat in front for the paddler and a seat in back for the passenger or fish. The only downer is that the water is frigid and the guy paddling mine flipped us. Aggggggggggg! He was in a wetsuit but I was not. jaja After that I asked if I could try paddling and I will proudly say that we did not flip again!
In Chiclayo three of us were together in another very nice Rotary house. We almost never saw our “host dad” because he was busy working but the employee was super nice and became our friend/ host anyway. She was only 19 so when we had down time we went out exploring the city or sat talking with her and playing with the puppy.(Yoko is a 6 month mini poodle and he is adorable!!! ) The highlights of Chiclayo were definitely the pyramids of Tucume and Senor de Sipan. He is a fairly recent discovery (1987) but they estimate his tomb to be from the year 300. We went to see the tombs where he was found as well as the museum devoted entirely to him and his ancient culture. It is quite honestly the best museum I have ever been to and definitely worth a visit for anyone in the area. It was opened in 2002 and is top quality! The pyramids are from the culture Chimu and are about 1000 year old. We got to see their building technique and art work up close but the best part was hiking to the lookout. There are 26 pyramids in total and from the lookout you can see the entire valley. Two friends and I continued hiking upward from there and managed to make it to the highest point in the entire province. Incredible views… J We were Switzerland, France and the US standing together looking out over Peru. How awesome is that?

What else? The conference in Colan. I’ll start by saying that it was an interesting experience to say the least. There were some great parts and some very, very annoying parts. The great parts? We went to a gorgeous beach with lots of waves and awesome rock formations, there was a costume dance, we got to hang out with cool youth from the north, we saw the oldest church in South America, and we experienced an Interact Conference. The bad parts? The living conditions and long… long… long… lectures. The lectures are fairly self explanatory and somewhat expected but the living conditions were something else. We stayed in a school with 170 other people. We slept in a big room with thirty other people and almost no air. The lights never turned off. The mattresses didn’t have sheets or pillows, and I am quite certain that I shared my bed with about 500 other little critters. But all of that could have been passable… it was really the bathroom situation that got to me. There were three showers for 170 people and they weren’t even reliable. When there was water it came out in a dribble about as strong as a leaky faucet. When there wasn’t water we had two big plastic garbage cans full of water that we could use with buckets. But by the end of the night those were empty and we plain old didn’t have access to water. Which obviously means that the toilets didn’t work either. Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww I must say I was quite happy to move on to part three of the trip.
Beach time! I loved mancora the first time we visited but now I love it even more J We stayed in a bright colored hostel with a swimming pool and cute little balconies. We spent two days living the beach life and it was fabulous. My friend from Switzerland taught me how to body surf and my friend from France went running/exploring early in the morning with me. The white sand, warm water and hot sun were heaven! And Mancora is small enough that Mercedes gave us a little bit of rein and aside from meals we were free to spend our time doing whatever. We even ate one meal in a Mexican restaurant of our picking ( we had to pay the cost difference between her cheap-o meals and our delicious one but it was well worth the price)… I can’t explain how much I have missed Mexican food! I ordered a giant burrito and savored every bite of the tortilla, cheese, and pico de gallo goodness J And it’s a good thing that the last two days were so nice because the trip home was a DISASTER! Honestly! Mercedes switched our bus company from the reliable, safe and comfortable Cruz de Sur to abominable Roggiero. Once again it was the cheaper option. I had a full 24 hours to contemplate so I made a list of the 12 deadly sins of that bus. I don’t want it to sound like this entire post is complaints but it was really so bad that it was comical. And since you guys didn’t have to experience it, you should find it entirely comical!

1) The bus came 2 hours late so after hurrying as fast as possible while lugging giant suitcases for 6 blocks, we got to sit on the curb. Waiting… waiting… waiting… all the while thinking about the luxurious, lovely beach only half a mile away.
2) They messed up the luggage tags and we spent about 20 minutes trying to get them retagged and safely stored under the bus.
3) The gave us the incorrect seats so after two hours a huge group of passengers boarded and started yelling that we were their seats. “this is MY seat” “your in MY seat” “this is where I sit” “my backpack goes HERE”. Blah blah blah! We were half asleep and comfortable but after 20 minutes trying to solve the dilemma everyone was well awake and irritated…
4) There was no air conditioning and most of the windows didn’t open. It you can imagine that makes for a stifling, smelly and almost unbearable ride when it is hot summer outside.
5) There were no lights. All of the overhead lights were broken so when they turned off the lights it was pitch black. You couldn’t see to go to the bathroom, get something out of your bag or read after 7 pm. ugh. When it is impossible to sleep it is even worse to know that you can’t distract yourself with a book.
6) The TV’s didn’t work. Instead of playing something inspiration, funny or at least distracting then were dark and soundless then entire ride. What they did have as compensation was scratchy, makes-you-want-to-go-insane type of music that blared all night and didn’t let us sleep. Definitely an even switch (NOT.)
7) It was not a bed bus. The seats on the way there reclined to 150 and had a leg rest that made it relatively comfortable or at least possible to sleep. These did not. They went back as far as your average charter bus and nothing for the legs. UGH.
8) It was not a private bus that goes the entire way without stops. This thing stopped in every little town and let people on and off. Thus, we had the oh-so-wonderful vendors who like to board the buses and try to sell their miracle powder. The only thing is that they had to stay on for an hour + so they had to keep rattling on and on and on about the benefits of that magic powder… I was seriously ready to throw this guys briefcase full of magic powder out the window!!!
9) They don’t give you food. When you go with the good company they serve you little meals like on airplanes. They have water and tea and juice and give you snacks every once and a while. It’s really quite delicious… But on this piece of junk they don’t give you one little drop of water. Nothing. So what did our lovely guide give us for dinner? A banana and 5 crackers. Yup that’s right. We were getting to the harry potter level of starvation in a cupboard! haha
10) Someone stole my friends 350 euro camera. She had it clipped to the side of her seat between the wall and her feet and at some point during the night they cut the straps and took the camera. By the time she looked down to check on it in the morning the thief was gone. We searched the entire bus and even had the police get on but obviously it wasn’t there. After the fact a 14 year old girl sitting across the isle said that during the night a man stood up and disconnected a cable to the lights and then leaned down behind my friends seat. The girl said that the man accidently kicked her and that earlier in the day her money and pop had gone missing. The guy that we think stole the camera had been pretending to be in charge of the bus too. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr
11) The bathroom had no light. No toilet paper. No water for hand washing. And no door handle. (you had to pull on a plastic bad tied in a loop)
12) And the ultimate bummer? The bus broke down about 2 hours outside of Lima. We got to wait and extra hour and half for our guide to call a van to pick us up. We squished inside buried under a mountain of suitcases and finally made it into Lima around 7. Karma. That’s all I can say is karma for the end of the trip.

Trip to the South

So this trip was 110% better in my opinion J Although at first the Rotary President was being a big pain in the but and wasn’t going to authorize it. I won’t get into those details though because everything worked out and in the end and we pushed through and made it happen. I was working on this end and my friend from France was working on the other end and with about 24 hours to spare we got the whole thing organized. Exchange student power J
Ok, here’s the background. Ilo is a little port town in the South of Peru where my French friend has been living out her exchange. It is in the hot hot desert of the coast but has a continuous breeze running through the town so it isn’t as stifling as Lima. There is also a little green valley in the middle of all the dryness with olive groves and a little river running down the middle. The economy is obvious somewhat fish based but there is also a HUGE copper company that brings in quite a bit of money. It is the biggest copper company in Peru and the second largest in South America. And since it was originally an American company there is a strong US influence and the town is abnormally clean and well ordered. It is a completely different lifestyle and experience to live in the provinces instead of Lima so obviously I wanted to see what it was like. Louison invited all of us to visit for a week and her rotary club is fabulous so they housed and fed us too. I’m telling you, that is the way to travel J It ended up being a group of 7 exchangees that went to visit and I think we all really enjoyed it. I was probably the luckiest because I got to stay with Lou in her house and saw the real version of what her life is like down there. The others were a little bit more controlled by their temporary host parents but Lou took me to meet all of her friends and we had complete freedom. Ilo is quite tiny and you can basically walk everywhere of interest inside the town and if not she has tons of friends to give us a ride. J Honestly, when we walked down the beach we stopped about every 20 feet to say hi to a friend or kiss the cheek of yet another tio rotario. It is really cute because with the small town feel all of the Rotarians are tios or tias (uncles and aunts) and it seems like everyone knows everyone. Plus her host mom is running for Congress and has lived in Ilo her entire life so they are a pretty well known family. That’s another thing, it was fun to get to see a Peruvian political campaign up close. She has a publicity center down town and did a big campaign push on Sunday afternoons on the beach and has signs all over the town. Wowzers. If I were to vote I would check that yellow box in a heartbeat!
So what did we do? First off, we got to tour the copper refinery which I found fascinating. We wore the hard hats and safety goggles and it was legit. I didn’t know ANYTHING about the mining industry before and since it is one of the most important parts of Peru’s economy I felt like I should. This company is quite exemplary and I have to say it’s probably because it was founded by the US. I guess I never really appreciated how American companies follow safety protocol and are organized and efficient and care for the environment but after 7 months of absence I find it very refreshing! They did a powerpoint presentation to explain everything and afterward we got to see it all up-close. We even got to see the machine that turns saltwater into freshwater. AWESOME! The three guys who gave us the tour were Rotarian and afterwards their wife showed us the entire little mini-city for the workers. It has its own school, housing, hospital, recreation center and EVERYTHING just for the employees…
Ummm I have to wrap up this post so I’ll be brief. We also we to a discoteca (fun but the head Rotarian made us come home by 1:00 which is when everyone generally arrives), toured the port in a little boat (saw sea lions and pelicans and giant fishing boats), went to a museum (yet another ancient culture but as always fascinating), went to the beach (several times), went to the golf club ( yay for saunas and swimming pools J ), and toured a navy cruzer. That was probably a once in a life time experience! There were three of them stopped in the port for two days and we were lucky enough to get a tour. All of the guys were in their full white uniforms and I must say that they are much much better looking than the average Peruvian. Plus the fact that there is a height minimum so they were all at least five cm taller than me. yayyyyyyyyyy! And then they invited us to their party that night and it was AWESOME! We scrounged around and found dresses and suits to borrow and went to dance on the Navy Cruzer!!! Way cool J Oh, and on the last day we visited Tacna which is the most southern city in Peru. Now I can officially say I have gone the ENTIRE coast… Every step of the way from Ecuador to Chile!

Chau for now but I promise I’ll post again soon!

Monday, February 7, 2011

... the big change!

Ok, so there is one thing I forgot to tell you guys. A rather important thing. Quite possibly the biggest influence on my life in Peru… and that is my host family. At the very beginning of January I had to experience the tragic, tear-jerking,


Ok, so it really wasn’t THAT bad but I do miss them a lot and go back to visit whenever I get the chance. Yesterday I went and spent the entire day over there and we had a huge water fight with all the little ones. I really clicked with that family... I feel like that is where I belong because they truly are my second family. But I guess I appreciate the time we get to spend together a whole lot more now. And they always make me feel EXTRA special when I go back to visit. My mamacita, Adri, and chiquita (the dog) were waiting for me when I got off the bus and they cooked my favorite food for lunch. :) :) :)

My new host family is great too but I haven’t gotten the chance to get to know them as well. Probably my fault since I have been traveling traveling traveling… Literally 3 of the 4 weeks I have been with them I’ve been out of the house. Anyway, I am in a new neighborhood and a new social class. It’s upper crust with giant houses and fancy alarm systems that don’t allow you to open your window at night. ( Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ) We have a pool and a waterfall in the house and my dad is the president of the biggest chocolate company in the country. My host family has traveled all over the world and my host siblings have been to florida and the east coast at least 5 times more than I have. (never, jaja) I think you get what I’m saying… it’s a different experience! Unfortunately my three host siblings are all in the US studying or working so I’m the lone ranger for now.

I'm heading out to meet up with a friend but I'll try to post about my second excursion to the north in the next couple days.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Escape to the North

I officially love to travel. I just got back from one of those trips that makes you want to be a traveling hippie for your entire life. Honestly! I am starting to learn the secrets to happy traveling and I’m ready for more. J Two friends and I escaped the constraints of Lima and host families and took off to the North for twelve days. Talk about freedommmmmmm! We spent our time based in Tumbes doing little day trips or overnight adventures to the surrounding area. We stayed with the sister of the sister-in-law of my exchange friend but it was very much our responsibility to plan everything. We bought our own food (from the little corner stores about the size of your average concession stand) and cooked all of our meals if we didn’t eat out. I must say it is quite an experience to budget, buy and feed yourself for twelve days. I feel like I seriously rediscovered the beauty of staple foods like potatoes, noodles, bread and eggs. They are cheap, filling, tasty (when mixed with a few key spices) and did I mention cheap? jaja We also planed and executed our entire itinerary and transportation. Basically there are three options. Collectivo- which is a taxi that has a certain route and stops to pick up random people along the way. Motor taxi- for shorter trips within the city this is a good option because the drivers know how to get everywhere even if you don’t. J Bus- for a longer trip to the beach or another city. But, it’s definitely the least comfortable of the three options because they are super crowded, hard seated and lack air conditioning. After getting off the bus from Ecuador my shirt was so sweaty that the nine year old daughter literally thought I had been hit by a water ballon. hahahahaha! That reminds me of an absolutely FABULOUS tradition that should definitely become part of Wenatchee life. It’s called carnivales! Basically that means that all summer long the entire city is entitled to participate in a ginormous water fight. At any given moment you can be pegged by water balloons or squirtguns and it is completely acceptable. It makes walking to the store MUCH more of an adventure… and unfortunately for us the gringos stick out as very nice targets! We had quite a few incidents with little neighbor boys, motor taxi’s full of teenagers, and even random guys standing on the corner. haha J

Here are a couple random highlights

1) Beachtime. Tumbes is right on the border with Ecuador and it is HOT HOT HOT! So what better way to spend the day than playing in the ocean? Especially when this province is known to have some of the most beautiful beaches in Peru. Our favorite beach was Zorritos and we spent three afternoons tumbling around in its waves and lounging in the shade of the palm structures. It is one of those HUGE beaches that you see in postcards with white sand, blue water and crashing waves. But the best thing about it is that it isn’t overly crowded. On the contrary it was nearly private. We only had to share with about three or four other families and a lot of red crabs. Although we did have three different encounters with overly friendly men. This guys would come over and start a conversation with us while we were swimming and then they didn’t take the hints that we were DONE talking. And we were quite blunt too. hahahahaha Once we practically had to run away to convince the dude that we didn’t want a ride back to Tumbes.

2) Cerros de Amotape. This was our adventure in the wilderness. It is a national park with gorgeous hiking and lookout spots but it’s a tab bit difficult to access. First you have to get permission from the government and then you have to find a way to spend the night. We ended up camping in a borrowed tent without any type of sleeping gear or padding. jaja luckily it wasn’t cold and we found a nice little lady in the miniscule town to sell us a few bottles of water and cook us dinner. Totally worth it.

3) Hervideros. These are basically big huge medicinal mud pits. You take a motor taxi about half an hour into the middle of nowhere and then you see these huge stone walls. Inside are 5 different mudpits, the sound of hundreds of singing birds and some buckets full of yellowish water to rinse off. It is really one of the most tranquil places I have ever been and I am sure a lot of people would pay good money if they knew about it. Lucky for us we only had to pay two soles to the ancient little grandpa for filling up the rinsing buckets. Yay! We spent about 2 hours playing in the mud and smearing ourselves with various shades of black, brown and green. oooooooooooo just think back to how fun it was to wiggle your toes in the mud when you were a little kid making mud pies and then multiply it by 1000. Best feeling in the world!

4) Rainstorm. Tumbes is still costal but it has a totally different type of climate than Lima. Much more desert-y trees and brush land. AND it has a rainy season. It turns out that we picked the perfect dates for our trip because we had sun everyday but we still got to experience one night of torrential rainstorm. Ahhhhhh how wonderful is rain! We were up on the third floor in the hamak when the drops started pounding down on the tin roof. It sounded like a semi truck rumbling along and completely blocked out all noice. So instead of the suffocating, sleep-without-sheets type of weather and loud crowing of the neighborhood roosters, we got to relax in one night of paradise. I slept like a baby is the cool air and yummy smell of fresh rain. I must say I really started to appreciate the value of water during this trip! Swimming in the ocean, hearing the sound of rain or even just drinking a glass of water was heaven. We were buying our own water so I can tell you that we drank at least 65 liters between the three of us... YIKES!

5) Mancora. This is considered the most gorgeous beach in the north and is also part of an awesome little hippy town. It is two hours south of Tumbes so we took our backpacks, some food, and jumped on the bus to explore. We found a hostel on the main street for just 10 soles ($ 3.50) a night so we spent two days living the life of a beach bum. J I absolutely loved the relaxed atmosphere and random mix of Peruvians tourists from all over the world. We met people from Columbia, Ecuador, Argentina, Spain, Europe, the US and of course other parts of Peru…From the restaurant owners to the surfshop instructors to the street vendors to the other beach goers, everyone was SUPER friendly! At night we went and joined a huge bonfire on the beach too. We just sat there listening to the sound of the waves mix with the guitars, drums and voices of the Argentinean hippies and enjoyed the night. A few rather drucken firedancers performed for us and we watched the stars and it was an incredible end to the evening J

6) Puerto Pizzaro. Where the river Tumbes meets the ocean and Francisco Pizzaro first landed to claim Peru, it is a very famous tourist attraction. This was our first adventure and we got slightly ripped off as unknowing tourists. Our nine year old buddies later informed us that we had paid about 30 soles too much. Opps! But it was still a fantastic day. We went on a boat tour to see the Manglares, toured the crocodile reserve, ate ceviche and black conch on an island and explored the sandy/ muddy beaches of the island Huesos de Ballena.

7) Thief. Somebody tried to steal my friends camera! This is the second time I have been walking with a friend during an attempted pickpocket. Neither time was the kid successful but Savannah is the first female exchange student to have to fight for her stuff. And she did AWESOME! We were just three American girls walking innocently to the plaza de Armas in our summer dresses when BANG- disaster struck. Savannah had her camera inside a flowery bag but somehow the kid knew it was there. We think he probably saw us taking pictures earlier and then ran ahead to wait for us. Anyway, he was a very inexperienced thief and completely failed to steal anything. He made the grab, wrestled her for a few seconds, realized his mistake and jumped into a waiting motortaxi to get away. Savannah used her awesome basketball instincts and even sacrificed a little blood and a scraped knee to win that fight. YAY!

8) Ecuador. Yes, that’s right, I have now been to ECUADOR! It wasn’t a long trip because we just passed into the border city but it still counts. We ate icecream, walked around in the plaza de armas, and even bought something with dollars. Woooooow they use US bills, one dollar coins and a few of their own coins as well, so it’s quite an odd mix.

Wow, I got back on Friday and am leaving for another 8 day trip today (Monday). Just enough time to unpack, rest, wash clothes, write a quick blog post, and repack again…