Saturday, December 25, 2010

Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas everyone! Saludos desde Santo Domingo Ecuador. I had the fortune of being able to travel and now I am in warm humid Santo Domingo, about 2 and a half hours from Quito. We had a really nice Christmas eve dinner that was more like Thanksgiving dinner with Turkey and stuffing. We also had these wonderful things called Pristiñas that tasted like funnel cake. Today we went on a little paseo through town. We check out a Sanctuary that had a wonderful view of the city and then headed to the Tsa'chilas museum which was pretty sweet. The Tsa'chilas are the indigenous people of this area formerly known as los Colorados de Santo Domingo. Tsa'chila is more PC now. They have this stuff called achote that they put on their hair and its awesome because not only does it protect them from rain but also from Malaria and other viral diseases. Not bad! I picked up some cool earrings from one of the ladies selling stuff at the end of the tour we took. We had some ice cream and then headed to Gino's (my host uncle) place to spend the evening in the hot tub. Que rico!! How cool to spend Christmas day in a warm climate and then go hot tubbing at night. When we got home tonight we have coffee and humitas which are like tamales but even richer. Mmm so good. (The picture is of the Christmas tree at my host grandma's place in Santo Domingo)

What was even better about this Christmas was getting to say hello to everyone at the Servillo Christmas eve party. It made me soooo happy. It felt like I was there and I really appreciated that. Thank you David Servillo, for installing Skype on your computer so we could communicate and see one another. I am definitely planning on being home next year for Christmas. I miss seeing snow and pretty Christmas lights twinkling through it all.

I am headed back to Cusco starting tomorrow. I fly to Guayaquil and have a ten hour layover. I might have to find a place to spend the night if they don't let me stay in the airport. I hope they do because I really don't feel like dealing with finding a place to stay. Guayaquil isn't exactly the most safe place to be roaming around at night, especially alone and as a woman with things of value on her. I am sure I can finagle my way into finding a corner of the airport to doze and watch episodes of glee as I wait for my early morning plane.
Hanging with Andi in the Cusco Airport and then later in the Lima airport. :) Soooo good to see this lovely lady.

My wonderful brother and his girlfriend Anabel.

Making Pristiñas with Mami

Achote, what the Tsa'chilas use in their hair to protect them from Malaria and other diseases.

Playing the marimba at the Tsa'chila museum

My super cute grandma and aunt.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


It is amazing how much I miss sleeping during the day. I used to take two or three hour naps in between classes but now I work so at most I get about 45 minutes if I am lucky. I am feeling the exhaustion today. It wouldn´t usually be this bad but I have had to get ready to go to Ecuador so I have been planning like a mad woman for Cameron, who is taking over my classes for Thursday and Monday. I feel that it is only courtesy to plan for your sub when you know you are going to be out. Some teachers don´t follow that rule.

I have been super busy at the hostel. My co-worker left unexpectedly. Well, maybe no unexpectedly to the other people at the hostel but I didn´t find out until right before I came in one day and I got a facebook message from Carlos explaining that he had left and that I needed to make all new contacts. Fantastic. I was all alone and without any contacts or any of the itineraries that I had translated or worked on. Fortunately, I had sent many of the to another co-worker who was going to make them really pretty on a new format so I was able to recover a lot from my emails. I have been emailing and calling agencies a lot though to get the updated prices and new itineraries if needed. So here I was thinking that I was going to be heading up the agency as a part time worker but thankfully, Gustavo has come into the picture. He currently works for Condor Travel which is a huge travel agency here. He is ending on the 30th so he´ll be here full time. He has already proven that he is going to be a great co-worker. I love that his favorite word is chevere, which means cool. He has good ideas such as having a small tour for the hostel clients to go around to a couple of Peruvian discos on a Friday night to go dancing and practice the free salsa that they learned here at the hostel. I think it´s a great idea. I personally, get sick of Mythology, Inka Team, and Mama Africa that are teeming with gringos. Sometimes I just want to dance some salsa and merengue.

I head to Ecuador tomorrow at 7:50am from Cusco. I am so excited but at this point I am more tired than I am excited. I am going to be doing a lot of sleeping on the planes. I have three of them to fly in tomorrow. Cusco - Lima, Lima - Guayaquil, and Guayaquil - Quito. Hopefully, I will make it into Quito by 4:30pm but who knows in South America. It´s always a toss up when you fly. I decided to get all my Ecuadorian family members keychains that I think they would like. I also bought my US family present too and will be sending that package to them when I get back. I haven´t seemed to have the time to get to the post office. I barely made it to the centro where I bought the presents. :)

In other news, I had a dream about having 4 really good friends over for a slumber party and I couldn´t tell you who they were but I was really happy and comfortable and laughing my ass off with them. I think it is a sign that I am very happy here and love my co-workers and friends. A lot of people are leaving after this month and I am a bit sad about it. I guess I have to get used to the transient friend. I am one myself so I shouldn´t get too upset by it. Of course, we will be able to stay in touch but with teaching English abroad there will always be people going in and out.

Finally, I have had an awesome Echo reunion week here in Cusco. I met up with Lauren Magrisso last Thursday and caught up for about half an hour before she was wisked away by her group. It was really good to see her though and know she is doing well. The other lovely camp Echo friend was Andi Hagan and her mother. I saw her two nights ago and took her to a cute little bakery down the street from where I live. We had milkshakes and caught up on the last year. I showed her my place and the Camp Echo DVD that Alyssa Goodman and Nardo made from this past summer. It made us both nostalgic but happy. She has been studying abroad in Santiago this past semester and she told me that at time it could´ve been any city anywhere in the world. I am not surprised. It is a big city and swallows people up I am sure. The more I think about it, the more I want to go to Valparaiso to work instead of Santiago. My brother´s best friend has a lot of contacts there and I would love to get to know the city of Pablo Neruda. It´s also on the beach. I have been having a little difficulty finding English schools online but that doésn´t mean they aren´t there. I definitely have to get a work visa if I want to work in Chile though. They aren´t as willing to let companies ¨hire¨ ¨volunteers¨ like Peru is. That´s OK. I will have a bit of money saved up before I go so I will be able to take some time looking for work and getting the visa issue figured out.

I have decided to apply for a company called the Experiment in International Living Abroad ( which would take me back to the Brattleboro Vermont for training at the end of May and then send me off to South America again but with a group of high schoolers and co guide. We would have a 4-6 week immersion experience with homestays and volunteering. It would be perfect for me. If I get that job I will get a nice little stipend and have that to live off of when I get back to South America and go to Chile. If I don´t get the job, I will just head straight to Chile at the end of April.

Overall, while I am extremely tired a lot of the time, I am very happy and living it up. I hope all of you reading are living it up too!!

P.S. I will put in some pictures when I have some time on my laptop. I also have some new photos to put up on facebook.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Two Jobs

I started my second job last week at Yamanya Hostel. It's a pretty new hostel of about 4 months and I am delighted to be working there. I am working for the tour agency under a guy named Carlos who is a lot of fun. My first day of work consisted of going on a walking tour of Cusco with him and guests of the hostel. It was great and I learned a lot about certain shops I had never been to before. My job mainly consists of translating itineraries at this point. Our goal is to get everything into a similar format so that it is nice and presentable in the binder. Since we work with a bunch of different agencies we have lots of different brochures and formats so it is important that we make it cohesive and with correct English grammar. I am working with a French girl named Clem who is in charge of PR. Once a document is translated and proofread, I send it to her to put into a pretty PDF format with the Yamanya logo and colors etc. After I am finished doing all this I will be working with clients and helping them get set up on a tour that they want.

One of the perks of working for a tour agency is that I get to try out things such as rock climbing for free. This past weekend I took my roommate Erica, a coworker Cameron and her mom rock climbing with this guy Alex who is the climbing instructor for Andexplora, a company we work with now. It was absolutely amazing and such a great experience. After we were done climbing what was definitely not a beginner route, we headed over to this ruins where there were caves all over the place. I took a video and will post it on youtube soon. It was an excellent day and I was very sore afterward. Rock climbing is awesome. I am going to see if I can do some more. Erica has already gone twice with Alex again.

So, needless to say, I have not had too much free time to get a post in since Thanksgiving. Fortunately, today was a holiday so we had no class. Gotta love the virgin Mary for having an immaculate conception and thus giving me the day off teaching. I am getting really excited because Christmas is around the corner which means my trip to Ecuador is around the corner too. I only have one full week of classes to teach this month which is pretty cool. December has already been flying by. It helps to not have to get up until 7am this month. I know that is going to change again next month but at least at that point I will only have two months left to get through before finishing at Maximo. I really like working there but I think I am going to be more than ready for something new when I am done at the end of February. My plan at this point is to stay in Cusco until I find out whether I get the job I am applying for. It's called The Experiment in International Living Abroad. It is a summer program for high school students to go abroad from 4-6 weeks and get an immersion experience. There are different tracks but I definitely am putting down that I would like to take my kids to Ecuador or Peru since I have experience in both countries. I think it would be the perfect job for me and from what I hear, they will fly me back to the states and then back to South America when I am finished. That would be perfect. If I get the job then I will head to Chile at the end of my time with them in August. If I don't get the job I will head to Chile in May. I want to go to Santiago and definitely to Valparaiso for a little while too. Traveling and teaching is the way to go. 6 months here and 6 months there. I might just work my way all around South America stopping for 6 months at a time in each place. I am A OK with this plan.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

So I am a day late in posting but I want to send out a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there who is American and reads my blog. I am so thankful for the wonderful things and people that have come into my life. First and foremost I am thankful for my family who I love so much and I know loves me a lot too. You guys are everything to me and I can't wait for some of you to visit me here. I want to make a little list of things that I am thankful for so here goes. This is not in order of importance.

-My family
-My health
-My Ecua family
-Camp Echo and all my Echo family, especially my trip guide fam
-The ability to travel to South America and live here
-My current job
-My new job
-My wonderful friends from high school and college as well as my new friend and co-workers here in Cusco
-My students who are so much fun
-Being able to speak Spanish
-Really tasty bread in Cusco
-The mountains
-The Sun
-The rain
-My bed
-Coca tea
-My band and the fact that I can sing and play music here
-Peruvian food....mmm so good, especially papa rellena
-My life

I splurged last night and gave into my desire for turkey and a Thanksgiving meal. I went to a restaurant called The Real McCoy and ate a 30 sole meal of green beans, carrots, broccoli, turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and gravy. It was actually really really good and the first bite of turkey immediately brought back memories of home and eating turkey with the family. To top it off I had a piece of pumpkin pie afterward. It was actually quite good although I will always be partial to my mom's pumpkin pie with the ridiculous amount of cinnamon in it. Mmmm it's so good.

So to everyone out there, I hope your Turkey Day was filled with lots of turkey and lots of sleeping. I'll have to catch up on the sleep this weekend. :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Birthday Weekend!

What an amazing, wonderful, unforgettable birthday I had. I couldn't have asked for a better day. My sweet and thoughtful students bought my 5 cakes! I got a cake in 5 of my 6 classes which is apparently a Maximo record. It was so nice of them. I got my face pushed into every one of them. It's a Peruvian tradition that the birthday girl or guy takes a bite out of the cake before anyone else gets some. While he or she is taking a bite, someone comes from behind and pushes the birthdayer's face into the cake. It's quite fun and it means you get a nice big honkin slice of cake. I have pictures of the entire day and all the different cakes up on facebook. Check out the link on the side bar.

After a wonderful day of watching episodes of Modern Family and not teaching, I had my first gig with The Guardians at a bar called Kilometro 0. It's a tiny little bar in the San Blas neighborhood and we packed the place! At one point, people couldn't get in because there were so many people. What a great feeling! I had such a blast performing for everyone. I couldn't have asked for a better night. To top it off, the owner asked us if we could play every Friday for the next month. Not bad huh? I am going to see if we can get a slight pay raise since the next time there will be three of us instead of just two. Getting paid anything is better than nothing though. I am so used to performing and not getting paid so this is super fun and an extra bonus!

Now for even better news, I got a job at a hostel called Yamanya Backpackers. ( I will be working in their tour agency during the week from 12-4pm. I am super excited because this is a way for me to stay in Cusco longer and get my foot in the travel/tourism industry in South America. I really want to travel more and this is a great way to get to know Cusco and the surrounding area better from the inside. What's exciting is that the agency is very new so I get to start and grow with them. The atmosphere is great at the hostel and I am excited to meet new people. My boss, Camden, is a super cool chick from Australia and I will be meeting Carlos who is the brains behind the agency. So what all this means is that I am going to be working a lot and I am going to be even more tired at the end of the day. It's only temporary though for the next three months. I think I will be able to handle it and fortunately, I still have my weekends to myself to sleep all day if I want to.

Finally, I am going to take a certification course this week at Maximo. It is an International English test prep certification course. I am looking forward to it and I am looking forward to the opportunities it will open up to me. I can teach test prep courses here and back in the states. It is always important to think about what I might be able to do when I do get back to the States. I am not sure exactly when it will be and I am completely OK with that right now. But, when I do get back, it will be nice to have a certification that will allow me to teach test prep courses. It is a good part time gig. Who knows, it might help me pay for grad school when I eventually go back and do that. I am not exactly sure what I want to study so I have a little while before I have to really think about all of that and how I am going to find the money for school. If I go to school for teaching, I could teach my way through a masters maybe.

Shout out to Susan, who's b-day it is today. There are 4 teachers at Maximo who have November birthdays. Next Saturday is Jake's turn. The fun part is that it means we get to eat lots of torta in the teacher's lounge. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

First Show This Friday!

I am so excited! The Guardians are going to play a show this Friday in a bar called Kilometer 0 in San Blas in Cusco. I am a little sad because one of the guitarists can't make it but Michael and I are going to tear it up anyway. I know that all my co-workers are going to come support me and some of my students too. It's my birthday as well so that just makes it super special and fun.

I have been applying to some travel agencies and I have an interview on Thursday for one of them. Wish me luck. I think this is going to be a good week for me. I can feel it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No Puedo Hablar

I lost my voice. Not such a great thing to happen when you are a teacher. Fortunately, I am not feeling ill. My throat doesn´t even hurt. The problem is that I am having a bit of difficulty speaking in front of my classes. Thankfully, Josh stepped in this morning and covered my conversation class. I can get through the rest of my classes but a class that is all talking is a bit much especially in the morning when I am still trying to warm up the vocal cords.

In other news, I met up with Pablo Callejas last night for a few pisco sours at a little bar called Kilometer 0. It was great to see him and talk about Camp Echo. It made me nostalgic. It also made me realize how long it had been since I saw him last. We worked together during the summer of 2005. It´s been 5 years!!! That´s so crazy. He told me that Ben Saper, another Echo alum, visited him not too long ago in Colombia because he was doing an internship there. Not bad. I would love to visit Colombia. Maybe I will be able to soon. You never know. Anyway, it was wonderful seeing him and I love having visitors down here. It´s always nice to have a taste of something familiar even though Cusco has become quite familiar to me over the past two months.

I recently found out that my roommate is a Glee fan which is fantastic because now we can have Glee night on Thursday nights here. The new season starts next Thursday. What a perfect early birthday present! I think we might also have a Glee marathon this Saturday at our place with Becca, another teacher and self professed gleek. :) I´m excited! (Go ahead and smile because you think I am a huge dork!)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

November is Here!

I cannot believe I have been here for a little over 2 months. Time has been flying by and I can´t complain. I have been having a great time and learning a lot about teaching and life in general. I have 6 classes this month which is great. They are all third month classes which means I have had them for the past two months and I know most of my students. It also means, however, that I will have 5 classes of final exams to grade. Fortunately, three classes are basico and their final exams are mostly multiple choice. I also have a conversation class which doesn´t have any type of curriculum or exam. I just get to decide what we are going to talk about for the first hour of my day. It´s great. I only have three students and they are quite enjoyable.

I am going to take an International Test Prep course this month so that I will be able to teach test prep to students. It´s a $500 dollar course in the US but I am taking it for $250 here. It´s still a little more than a paycheck for me so I am skimping a bit this month. It´s all right though. I have Ecuador to look forward to next month.

I have noticed a few more things about Peruvians. They love wearing Chucks or Converse shoes for those of you that don´t know what Chucks are. The men also like wearing fanny packs. Hilarious but economical.

I am super excited because a Colombian friend of mine who worked at Camp Echo about 4 or 5 summers ago is in Cusco. I can´t wait to meet up with him and catch up.

My birthday is on the 19th and I am really excited. I think I am going to go to a Karaoke bar. I definitely know that I am not going to teach. I am going to show movies in my classes and bring in popcorn. Why not? I know my students will enjoy it!

Other than that, I think I will do some laundry today and maybe get a little bit of lesson planning done today. Enjoy the week everyone!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Arequipa and Colca Canyon

It feels good to be home. Arequipa was wonderful as was Colca Canyon, but I am happy to be home in Cusco. Quick shout out to my cousin Emy, whose birthday was yesterday. FELIZ CUMPLEAÑOS!

We got back from Arequipa this morning around 7am after 11 and a half hours of riding. It should’ve taken only 10 or so but the driver thought it would be a good idea to stop everywhere to see if anyone wanted to hop on for a ride. Needless to say, there were some angry passengers. Lots of “vamos” were heard. I would be yelling vamos too if I had had to work today. Fortunately, Maximo observes Dia de los Muertos y Dia de la vida. There were also festivities throughout Peru for Halloween but I didn’t take part. Instead I was on a two day tour of Colca Canyon.

On Friday night I took a bus to Arequipa and just so happened to be sitting next to Alex, a fellow Maximo teacher. When we got to Arequipa we took a good hour to search for a hostel to stay in. Alex was going to meet up with Elisabeth, his girlfriend on Saturday. She left to Chile a few days before to do a border run. Finally, after much searching and many places being way too expensive for what they offered, we found Hostel Regis. It was a nice hostel with the basic amenities and a wonderful terrace with a rooftop hang out spot to enjoy the city.
The most wonderful thing about it was the incredibly hot water. I hadn’t had a scalding hot shower since I got to Cusco. I spent at least 20 minutes basking in the warmth. After a nice shower we met up with Elisabeth and headed to dinner. I wanted to get shrimp but we found a good oferta or deal with a place that had pizza and wine for S./12. We also had live entertainment for a little while.

Arequipa has a very European feel to it. There are quite a few streets that are only for foot traffic and the architecture is gorgeous with beautiful white stone and lovely balconies. It’s funny because I was also reminded of New Orleans when I saw some of the buildings. The town is called “The White City” because of the white lava rock they built many of the buildings out of. It is amazing how clean if feels because of the architecture. It also feels clean because it is clean in comparison to Cusco.
I also noticed a lot more trees and not just Eucalyptus trees that dot the countryside of the Sacred Valley. Alex commented on how it felt like home when we were in a taxi driving to the Plaza de Armas. I fully agreed. I miss trees so much. I miss green space. It is not a lie when people say trees and green space are important for well being. I fully agree and I feel rejuvenated having spent some time with trees in Arquipa, as weird as that sounds.

What’s funny about Arequipa is that it is the second largest city next to Lima in Peru and it’s chalk full of modern amenities such as malls, fast food, and movie theaters. Alex and I went to see a movie. It was an animated movie about owls. It was your standard good versus evil plot but the animation was awesome and owls are just cool animals in general. Why not make them battle each other with armor? Walking through the mall was quite a trip. I felt like I was in anytown USA.
This picture of Burger King, KFC and and Pizza Hut sums it up pretty well. As much as I miss some things from the US, malls aren’t high on my list. I occasionally miss Target but other than that, large commercial stores aren’t a big loss. I did stop into a place called Vanilla Coffee which had a resemblance to Starbucks and the frappecino I had tasted exactly like one from starbucks.I am happy that I live in Cusco. It’s got a better atmosphere (even if it isn’t the cleanest in terms of pollution.) At the end of the trip I was kind of excited to be heading back home to Cusco. I am taking that as a good sign. ☺

Visiting Arequipa is cool but not as cool as visiting Colca Canyon. After searching around 10 or so different tour agencies we finally settled on taking a conventional tour for S./65. No meals were included but that was OK. We had a great tour guide and enjoyed the tour in Spanish. Personally, I get more out of tour guides when they speak Spanish than when they speak English since most of the time their English is limited.
The first day we left at 8:30am and headed to the mountains. We stopped at a few places along the way including Salinas which is a national reserve for Vicuñas.
They are in the cameloid group and they look kind of like hairier deer. Super cute and a great attraction. We can’t forget about the llamas and alpacas which are also very cute. We stopped at a camp where there were quite a few hangin out in a pen. Apparently their guano goes for a 130-200 soles a kilo. Great fertilizer.
You should have heard them crying though. They moaned and whined a bit as we took pictures. Of course, we had to be mindful not to get too close or else they would spit. Llama spit is disgusting and I didn’t feel like getting a loogie in the face that day. We also stopped and looked at some wild Southern Viscacha which are part of the chinchilla family. What cute little guys. Too bad condors like to eat them for lunch. ☺

Right before we got to Chivay, the town we would stay in, we stopped at the highest pass which was about 4900 meters which is over 15,000 feet. It didn’t feel too bad. I had a little headache but nothing terrible. What a gorgeous view. We could see all the volcanoes including Misti. There isn’t too much going on in the way of flora and fauna up there but there were plent of ofrendas, or offerings to the Gods. They are caryns, more or less, but they are everywhere. I made on myself and said a little prayer. It felt right.

In Chivay we had a little bit of down time before heading to Calera where the hot springs are. Oh man, did it feel good to jump into a hot spring. I have been craving a bath since I got here and it cured my need. I spent a good hour and a half in and out of the hot spring. A beer in hand and good company. We also had a great view of the zip line overhead. Alex took the plunge and did it. It seemed a little slow but he had a good time.

That evening we went to a peña restaurant which includes dinner and traditional dance. It was quite fun although I have to say one of the dances included beating the man with a whip and vice versa. They even got the audience to participate. I enjoyed a wonderful dinner of alpaca steak which is excellent! It was nice and juicy and seasoned very well. I highly recommend trying it if you ever get the chance. I still haven’t tried cuy yet. That is next on the list.

On Monday morning we woke up at 5:30am and started the drive to Colca Canyon. It was amazing and the countryside is beautiful! There are pre-incan terraces that dot the countryside as we drove along the mountainside. At one point we went through a tunnel that didn’t seem to have an end to it. I enjoyed the stop in a little town called Maca. I tried a Colca Sour which is like a pisco sour except they add cactus fruit. It’s better than I thought it would be. I am not a huge pisco sour fan but colca sours aren’t bad.

The canyon is gorgeous. I was fortunate enough to be able to see a few condors. One of them decided to give us a good show and flew around for a good minute. I wasn’t able to get a cool close picture but I got a few pretty good ones. Condors are such amazing birds. They live in the canyon because it gives them a good vantage point to see all the little snakes and animals they eat. Beautiful creatures they are.

On the way back we checked out a few pre-incan tombs in the cliffs. Back in the day there wasn’t as much erosion so it was easier for them to climb up to the places where people were buried. I really wish I could’ve seen Juanita, the ice princess mummy. She has been moved to Lima though. I think mummies have got to be one of the coolest relics left over from ancient civilizations. They aren’t just another piece of pottery or tool. It is the best proof that there was life way back when. History is so cool. Haha, the dork in me comes out.

So now I am ready to start the 3 day work week. Ready to rock and roll! I am pumped because I have a conversation class first thing in the morning which means I don’t have to be stressed about having something planned other than a topic or two.

P.S. If anyone wants to listen to some fun Latin music check out Camila’s album Todo Cambio. Also, thank you thank you thank you Dad for sending me all my music on a hard drive. Now I can copy music for my band to listen and cover. This is a picture of Misti Volcano. To see more pictures check out the link under photos.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Party!

This past weekend was the monthly TEFL party at Maximo. It's an open bar party to celebrate the graduation of all the TEFL students. It's super fun and this month we had a Halloween costume party. It was a grand old time. I went as a rose garden although most people thought I was Ivy from Batman. It was a fun and easy costume. My favorite was Becca's costume. She dressed up as a pregnant indigenous woman with a baby on her back. There were a lot of traditional dresses worn. They were super cute.

One more month of classes is over! We finish quizzes and exams today and after our morning meeting we have a 4 day weekend! Hallelujah! I am headed to Arequipa to do a two day trek to Colca Canyon. I can't wait. I am going alone but another teacher is going with his girlfriend and we may meet up and do the trek together. I'd definitely be down with that. I am looking forward to the solo travel though. I find it kind of fun and very freeing. I can do whatever I want to do. There is no one that I have to make plans with which allows for more spur of the moment type things. One of my students recommended some chocolate I should try and a bus I should take. The advice that I have gotten from my students for lots of things has been very helpful.

I am excited. I don't want to jinx myself but I am looking forward to my interview with Tucan Travel this month. Wish me luck! This could be the best job I get in a while.

I have some good news! I am typing this blog post from my computer! It is functioning somewhat normally again. At least the keyboard is not stuck in caps anymore and the programs are running faster. A few weird things are still not working such as the sound or camera or the edit option on photoshop. No idea. All that matters though is that I can connect to the internet and I can type. That's really all you need a computer for. Oh, and to store pictures too. I can't wait to get my hard drive of music and pictures from Dad. Thanks again dad for doing that.

Akhtiara, Erica, Whitney, and Becca as Peruvian women

Scooby Doo!

My rose garden costume

Helping out my Brother

Sorry it's been so long since my last post. I promise to update soon. I want to send a shout out to my brother and try and help him with his music career. He and Sabrey, aka Good Hood has a song on and you can download it. It's called Beautiful Game and it's all about soccer. There is only one week to download so do it now and tell your friends! The artist with the most downloads will be featured by Heineken. Pretty awesome if you ask me. Check it out

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Few Things About Cusco

I don't have too much to update you all on so I figure I might as well talk about the differences I have noticed since living in Peru.

1. It is so dry here. My nose is in a perpetual state of crustiness. Gross right? All I need is a humidifier. I tend to wake up with a a dry mouth as well. My godsend is chapstick and lotion here. Hallelujah.

2. Two seasons are kind of lame. I miss the colors of the fall. Hell, I miss trees. There are none here. It has started raining a lot here and apparently it doesn't end until March. I chose the perfect time to come and work here. I get to spend the majority of my time here soaked and chilly. I might have to get back to camp next summer just to get some warmth and humidity. I never thought I would say that I miss humidity. Haha.

3. Bread stores or panaderias are not as common here as they were in Ecuador and it makes me kind of sad. Don't get me wrong, I can still find plenty of bread but it's not as readily available as it was there. At the same time, it is probably a good thing since I would usually eat the sweet bread products that make you fat eventually. :P

4. Usually companies that sell the same thing try to set up shop in different parts of town so as to get different clients. Here, it is the opposite. If you sell musical instruments, you sell them alongside everyone else who sells instruments/motorcycles/keys/plastic containers etc. It makes is very easy for the consumer but it can't be smart for the seller.

5. There is no such thing as a cinema here. It sucks. What's worse is I have no DVD player and my computer doesn't work so I am limited to watching what is on HBO or cinemax. I should be outside or reading more anyway.

6. I miss baths. I miss really hot water is more like it. My shower is warm at best. I guess I just need to travel to the hot springs nearby.

7. I don't know when I will wear shorts again. It's never quite warm enough for them.

That's about it for now. I am sure I will come up with more as time progresses. Things are good though. There is a Halloween party next weekend at Maximo and I have to come up with a costume. I am thinking about going as a crayon. It's pretty simple and I just need to find clothes of a similar color, make a cone hat and tape a crayola sign on my stomach.

Besos y Abrazos!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

An Unlikely Trio

I got together with Michael Thompson, the ex-pat that hosted me when I first got to Cusco, and a metal guitarist named Carlos on Thursday. A bit of an unlikely trio huh? Maybe that will be out band name. We jammed a bit and decided on some songs that we'd like to try covering. I am so excited!! I am singing again and it feels so good! We are hoping to get enough songs ready for performing by the end of the month of so. It would be so fun to play around Cusco. The hard part is that I have a ton of music on my iPod and even more on my computer at home but I have no way of ripping the music on a CD for the guys to listen to on their own time. My dad, being the amazing, wonderful, helpful person he is, is going to hook me up by getting a big enough USB flash drive and putting all my music from my comp onto it. Once I have that I can go to any computer, put the music I want to rip onto the computer and then make a CD. I just can't wait to perform again! I love being in front of people and sharing music. Here is the link to the song

In other news, I went to Pisac yesterday and spent the day hanging out writing, reading and pondering. The market was nice and Pisac is a nice little town. It's about an hour from Cusco and known for the ruins or citadel on the side of the mountain with lots of terracing. I didn't go up because you have to have a tourist ticket and it's something like 70 soles for access to about 14 different sites and it's only good for two weeks. No thanks. I can take pictures from afar. While it would be cool to see the terracing up close, I am more than happy to settle with some pictures from farther away.

I am working on lesson planning. Unfortunately, this month is shorter than the rest because we started on the 4th. That means we only have 16 days to teach 22 days worth of material. It kind of sucks because there is no room for fun and games. I just want to make sure my students get all the new information and have time to soak it in. I hate having to rush things, but alas, that is unavoidable sometimes.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Painting and Biking

What a wonderful weekend!! I had the pleasure of traveling to Taray with the teachers of Maximo for a day of service. We painted a few houses bright colors such as Celeste and naranja! I didn't like the sandpapering so much but the painting was fun and it looked so nice afterward as you can see! We had a delicious lunch and gave chocolatada to the niños of the town. We topped it off with a little soccer in the small cement field they had. Unfortunately, Taray is suceptable to flooding and therefore no one wants to invest and money into it to build anything since most of it would crumble and be washed away. Our hope is that we bring at least a little bit of color to the town and lift some spirits. It poured for a little while after lunch but we were able to finish everything up in no time. It was nice working with Nicole and Alex who are coworkers I haven't had as much opportunity to hang out with. I like them both a lot. While we were sanding Alex wrote on the wall with the sandpaper Apoj which in Russian means "be inspired". He is half Russian half South African. It makes for quite the accent!

On Saturday I had the pleasure of mountain biking through 28 kilometers of the Peruvian countryside. Although it was a bit expensive for a day trip ($85) I had a blast and I am so glad that the rain from the morning didn't stay with us. It turned into a beautiful day and the three of us (Danielle, Marc, and I) made out way through the backroads to Moray which is an archeological site known to be a laboratory or sorts for the Inca. There are multiple whole dug into the earth with large tiers making their way up the sides. Supposedly different type of corn and potatoes were grown on different levels.

We had a nice lunch of sandwiches, juice, and cookies in Maray as we watched everyone set up for elections which took place today. (Cusco is more or less shut down today because of the elections. Also Peruvians are not allowed to buy alcohol the two days preceeding the elections. Everyone has to vote or else they get fined and no one could enjoy going out this weekend either. Bummer for Peruvians.) After lunch we continued on to the Maras salt mines which were awesome! There a tons of pools of salt water. The water, that comes from the mountainside, flows into pools and eventually evaporates leaving salt behind. There are three types of salt: white, the kind we eat, brown, the kind for animals, and dirty which is for fertilizer maybe? I forget what the dirty kind is used for. Most likely for animals as well. The last part of the trip was incredibly steep and full of sharp turns. I pride myself on the fact that I only had to legitimately get off my bike once to walk it. A few times I stopped and kind of hobbled my bike around a corner or two but for the most part I stayed on. Mountain biking might be my new favorite sport. The suspension on the bikes we used (Kona)was insane! My butt is very sore today but it was worth it. I missed riding my bike so much!

I had a wonderful weekend and I just got my schedule for the next month. I have 3 Bascio month 2 classes which is totally cool with me. I like Basico and having more classes at the same level makes lesson planning that much faster. I also have an Intermediate 1 month 2 and month 3 class as well as an advanced month 2 class. Most of the classes are continuing with me from last month which is great. I really liked my classes a lot so it will be nice to be with the same students and continue to help them!

Next week we have a three day weekend and I am thinking of taking a trip to Arequipa if I can. I'd really like to go with another person if I can find someone. Maybe Shane will go with me from the Family House. He is trying to travel more. As much as I love travelling alone, it's nice to have company some times. :)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hard at Work

Today is Review Day which means everyone is trying to finish up grading before we all go insane. Fortunately I finished the majority of my grading the past two days. I also managed to read 430 pages in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet´s Nest while my students were taking their quizzes or exams. I only had to grade 12 exams today after our teacher meeting. You´d think grading days are better than work days but after a while it gets a bit monotonous. It was pay day today though so that helped. I am happy because only 7 or 8 of my students didn´t pass their exam or quiz. I must have done somewhat of a good job right?

Tomorrow is our mandatory service day at Maximo. All of the teachers will be going to Taray and helping build houses. I´m looking forward to it. We get paid too which is funny because it is a service day. It is mandatory though so it makes sense that we are paid. I´d be down either way. I´m excited to visit a new place.

Speaking of new places, I am going on a bike ride to the Maras salt mines and Moray which is an archeological site. I´m pumped! I´m finally going to be back on a bike. I miss mine so much. It´s really too bad it was stolen two days before I left. Poor mom won´t get to ride it while I am gone.

Other than that my plan is to take it easy today and finish my book. There is a farewell party for Carl who was a teacher here and just finished his last month. He is going back to England to go to University. He´s only 19! That´s crazy to me. I cannot imagine moving to another country and teaching and then going back home to go to college. That´d be rough. I´m glad I don´t have to do that. I can stay here as long as I want potentially! :) Don´t worry, I will come back at some point even if it´s just to visit.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A little bit of Mozart and Grammar

This week my intermediate classes had a short reading on Mozart, the child prodigy and musical genious. It made me nostalgic because I have fond memories of watching ¨The Magic Flute¨ and ¨The Marriage of Figaro¨ as a child and loving them. I was sad when I realized I had no Mozart on my Ipod. What a shame! I wanted to play my students some music. Most of them had never heard of Mozart. Now that´s a shame. I love classical music and have recently been listening to more of it. I have a wonderful Baroque album of Yo-Yo Ma´s. It´s great background music for any occasion. :)

In other news I got a package from my Dad!!! It had Jif peanut butter and Kiss My Face lotion in it! What a wonderful package. If anyone wants to send me anything feel free to do so and send it to
Amy Brown C/O South American Explorers
Apartado 500
Cusco Peru

Letters a welcomed (especially since they are cheaper to send than packages). If you write me I WILL write back, guaranteed.

There is only one more day of class before all the students either take quizes or exams. All I have to do this weekend is prepare jeopary games for a few of my classes. I am looking forward to resting. I have a little bit of a cold and I don´t want it to get any worse. I am definitely staying in tonight and getting a lot of sleep. I hope I feel well enough to play volleyball tomorrow. It was so much fun last weekend. I miss playing sports so it is nice to have something to look forward to every Saturday.

I also have plans to do a bit more weekend traveling. I really want to go to Maras Moray which is a ruin about an hour away. I also would like to go to Quillabamba which is towards the Amazon and I might have the opportunity to do so this next weekend with my roommate Whitney. It´s really important that I travel a bit especially if I want to get the job with Tucan. Any travel experience around here will do nothing but help my chances I am sure.

Tomorrow there is a potluck at an apartment of some of the teachers here. I´m looking foward to it. I am going to make pasta salad. I´ve never made it before but I am sure it won´t be too difficult. Now, if I could find some feta cheese...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Somewhat Broken Computer but No Broken Heart

Well, I figured this would probably happen. My computer is being really weird and only booting in safe mode. On top of that it only types in caps even though the caps lock is not on. Everything opens and functions very slowly. It´s frustrating but not the worst thing. I don´t have internet at my house and I use the computers at Maximo pretty much every day. The only thing that is annoying is that I can´t type on it if I want to. Being stuck in caps lock means something is definitely wrong with the keyboard. I know there is an apple store in Lima but the question is, when will I be in Lima next or when will someone I know be going to Lima who might take it with them? Oh well. I am not dependent on my computer. I bought one used because I knew it might die. Optimism will prevail. Haha.

In other news I met informally with some people from Tucan Travel and they are interested in setting up an interview for November when they have a better idea of who they will need at the end of February! Keep your fingers crossed for me!

I have still managed to stay healthy which is great. I have been cooking a lot for myself. Lots of rice and onions and tuna. Mmm mmm. I need to cut back on the crackers a bit though. They are just soo good. I am also thinking of joining a gym possibly. Maybe I will start doing Yoga with some of the girls at work during the week. They say it´s great.

I am off to play some volleyball with co-workers in Parque Zonal. Chao!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

It´s the Weekend!!

I´ve made it through my first full week of teaching and couldn´t be happier! I ended today with some race to the board games with my basic classes that culminated in peanut M&Ms being passed out and consumed. I also played the song ¨Let me Love You¨ by Mario to my Pre-intermediate class that is learning about how to give advice using the word should. It was awesome! Apparently it was so cool that one of my coworkers decided to use the song too in his class. Score! It´s been a great week!

A few fun things that have happened this weekend:

I found a lamp for my room at El Molino which is, according to Ian (a coworker of mine), what the bastard child of a mall and a flea market would be. It´s pretty accurate actually. There is everything from DVDs to shoes to tacky toys and towels. I picked up some soap, a towel, a lamp, a couple bulbs and a pair of scissors. It was a successful trip.

Whitney, who is one of my apartment mates went on a walk with me earlier in the week when I was searching for a lamp and we found some great shops over near the San Pedro market. After payday we plan on heading over there to see what we can find. I wouldn´t mind getting a few more tops.

I made friends with one of my apartment mates named Roberto. He is in his 40s and has three kids that visit him on the weekends usually. He is an architect and has a beautiful drawing on his wall. He lent me a book of Peruvian poetry and also brought me nails so that I can put up my mirror. He is a very nice man. Some may think it´s weird that I live with two older men but I rarely see the other one and they are both clean. I have had to replace TP and soap though because no one else was doing it and I refuse to live without TP and soap even if I have to throw it in a bucket instead of in the toilet. That´s a luxury of the US that I forgot about until I got here. Throwing your dirty TP in a trash can next to the toilet makes for a smelly bathroom after a little while.

I went to an open mic on Wednesday night with Whitney. It was super fun and next week I think I might sing! I also met a former student of Whitney´s named Josed who I am going to climb to Christo Blanco with tomorrow morning. Christo Blanco is a statue of Christ that is white and on top of a hill that overlooks Cusco. I´m looking forward to the view. I will make sure to post pictures.

Other than that, things are good. I am going out tonight with some coworkers and there is a potluck tomorrow at one of their places. I am going to make a rice and veggie dish of some sort. Simple and quick.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

New Pictures!

New pictures of my apartment are up in the Peru album. :)

First Week Completed!

Week one is over! I made it and while I was absolutely exhausted on Friday night I had a moment in class when everything felt right. I really like teaching. I had a feeling I would. I definitely had my share of misshaps. I accidentally taught possessive pronouns as my, your, his, her, its, etc. when really they are possessive adjectives. Possessive pronouns are mine, yours, ours, etc. Easily remedies though. I will just make sure to fix the error on Monday so that everyone has the words classified correctly. If they messed that up on the final exam it would certainly be my fault.

In other news I found an apartment and I moved in yesterday (Saturday). It is 4 blocks from the Plaza de Armas on calle Zaphi. I found it through a co-worker who just moved in as well. I had to move out of the Family House by Saturday so I was very happy to find this place for such a decent price. It’s S/. 427 a month which works out to roughly $150 a month and it includes utilities and cable. I don’t have internet but that’s OK. If I need to use internet for some reason I can always run down the street to an internet café. I am just so happy to be able to unpack and make this place my home for at least the next 2 months. I haven’t decided yet if I am going to stay longer. It depends if something better came up. I really can’t beat the location though. It’s only a 15 minute walk to work and if I ever go out at night I don’t have to worry about needing to take a taxi home. The only things it doesn’t have going for it is that the walls are not soundproof at all, but that is typical in Peruvian houses. It would be great to have gas heated water too but electric is better than nothing. At least there is heat of some sort right?

I was a little sad to say good-bye to the Family House since there is always someone there to talk to and hang out with if I wanted. They are just around the corner though and most of them are still around for another couple months. We had fun going out a few times.

I went shopping yesterday for food and unfortunately on my way back someone swiped my phone. I should’ve known better because the phone was in my pocket and the pocket was unzipped. Honestly I am happy they took the phone and not my wallet or keys. Those are a lot more valuable to me than a phone. It was easily replaced and not expensive so it’s all good. It was a good reality check though. I might have been getting a little too comfortable since I feel safer here than in Quito. I learned my lesson. I won’t let that happen again.

I am expecting to be making a decent amount of rice and beans as well as spaghetti. I bought the basic breakfast, lunch and dinner food. ! I made a rice, tuna and onion mix for dinner last night and it was delicious! It is so nice to have my own kitchen.

Today I am planning on getting a decent amount of lesson planning done for this week. My goal is to at least have Mon-Wednesday planned for all my classes by the end of today. I also am looking to find some hangers and maybe a lamp at some point as well. I definitely need hangers since the dresser I have has only 3 shelves and a place for hangers. Guess I have to live out of my luggage for just a little longer.

Other than that, things are good! I am looking forward to working a full week and seeing how it goes!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Teacher, Teacher!

Well, I made it! Day one is over and I am feeling pretty good! My students are really nice and I really like my Intermediate I class. They are funny. I was a little nervous going into my first class today but as soon as it started I felt at ease. I don't know what I was worried about. I like speaking in front of people and I love when my students (aka clients or learners according to Maximo Nivel) get the vocab word or concept. One student today asked what even though meant and eventually asked if "in spite of" would work. Yes, yes it would. It was great!

In between my morning classes (7-10am) I went on an apartment hunt. (Afternoon classes are from 5-8pm.) The first place I tried to find was a failure. I hope that tomorrow I can reach the woman so she can meet me and walk with me to her place. The other place I went to see is a 2 bedroom and he is asking $175 a month if I find a roommate and $250 if I am by myself. There is no way I can afford that. That's more than half my paycheck. Haha. Gives you a good idea how far the dollar goes here. I talked to a co-worker who said she is in a place that costs S/ 400.00 which is roughly $143. I am going to check it out tomorrow. It does have going for it that it is so close to work and the plaza. We'll have to see. I want to keep my options open but I am also really needing to find a place. I need to move out of the Family House by Friday if I don't want to have to pay the extra money per day.

After classes today I went to a place called the Real McCoy which just so happened to be hosting the South American Explorer's Club quiz night. Perfect! I knew I joined that organization for reason. I only had to pay 3 soles instead of 5 to partake along with a few of my co-workers. I'm going to have to hang out at the clubhouse a bit when I'm needing a break from Maximo.

It is 10:40pm which is past my bedtime. I wake up at 10 to 6am so I can use all the sleep I can get. What's really nice is that there is no reason for me to have to stay up late when I have all day to plan for the following morning or mornings for that matter. I am planning on getting week long lesson plans done over the weekends which will make life even easier. Having 3 different levels of classes is a bit overwhelming but a good challenge. I managed to elicit all the vocabulary words from them without using Spanish. It's so hard not to use Spanish when I know it would just be easier for them to understand the meaning of the word if I did. I do say yes if they say it in Spanish, as long as I wasn't the one who offered the word. :)

Off to bed I go.

Monday, August 30, 2010

New Teacher Orientation

Thank goodness for new teacher orientation. I feel so much better going into my 6 classes on Wednesday. I am teaching two beginning classes, three intermediate and one advanced class. It would be wonderful if I had all the books and curriculum to read over tonight but I have to wait for all of that tomorrow. It means I will be doing a lot of reading and planning tomorrow afternoon and evening. I was supposed to start in the academic office and be a floater or a substitute for the first month but apparently there were teachers that left who were not expected to be leaving. That’s OK though. I’m just going to have to dive right in! I feel so much better having met my fellow new teachers (Nick, Susan, Andrew, Jake, and Ian) and going through everything with Tom, one of my bosses. There are 23 teachers in total and I believe I am the only person who was recently hired by Máximo Nivél that hasn’t gone through their TEFL program. It’s a little intimidating but I think I will be OK. I don’t have the same student teaching experience they do but like everyone has said, it is all about enthusiasm, patience, and your rapport with students. I think I can handle that. I just have to remember that it’s stressful for everyone the first month of so. Máximo is known as one of the most prestigious English institutes as well as one that knows how to party. Haha. I think I am going to get along really well with everyone.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Time to become a Cusqueña

I have moved into the Maximo Nivel family house for the next five days should I need it. It is free lodging and food while I look for an apartment. I went to Maximo Nivel yesterday thinking I had a meeting to attend. They showed me around and that was it. It was nice to see the place though and the teacher’s lounge is fantastic. There is a big screen TV, computers, wi-fi, personal cubbies and a cubbies for shoes. It did also make me more nervous though. I got my schedule and it says that I am teaching 6 classes starting on Wednesday. They are different levels too. When Tom and I spoke last it was set that I was going to work in the academic office and be a floater and substitute as needed for the first few weeks or so. I also though I was going to have time to do more observations. I don't even know the book that we use and where I need to begin with my students who are at higher levels. Let the stress begin. Enthusiasm and patience are the two things that I have going for me. I'll just have to figure things out as I go.

While I was in the teacher's lounge I met Carl and he offered a room in his place that is open. I would be very happy moving into a place with 3 other teachers and only a 20 minute walk from work. He has been working for Maximo Nivel for 8 months and likes it. I spent some time uploading photos and got in contact with Leslie Eme who was in Cusco on vacation. We met up and got some food. I took her back to my place for a bit while I packed and then we headed to Jack’s café for some coffee and dessert. I love the fact that we keep meeting up with each other in South American and other places in our lives. She is definitely one of my favorite persons of all time.

I really like this Family house. My room is super tiny but the amenities are great. There is wi-fi and laundry services. I met a few people who are here volunteering or taking the TEFL course at Maximo Nivel. I hope to move into an apartment within the next few days though. There is an all teachers meeting on Tuesday so I should be able to work something out with Carl and his roomies if possible.

I think I am going to take a nap now to make up for the lack of sleep over the last 5 days.

Machu Picchu

First off I would like to say that the trek to Machu Picchu is one hell of a work out on the legs. It was absolutely amazing though. Each ruin that we passed was cooler than the last. I think my favorite one was Intipunku that was a place to worship the sun. It has lots of terraces and I had a view of the valley, our campsite, the mountain Machu Picchu and the Rio Urubamba.

All right I will begin with my pick up at 6:30am from the place I am staying at in San Sebastian. We met up with the Canadian family who were to be my group mates. The parents were from Taiwan originally and the two daughter Kelly and Chayling (I called her Chai and have no idea how to correctly spell her name.) who were 22 and 26. I really liked them a lot but found myself spending more time making friends on the trail. My guides were Ruben and Romulo who were friendly but had some difficulty with their English. I spoke in Spanish with both of them because it was easier.

We got to Ollantaytambo (Oh-yan-tee-tom-bow) and I bought a walking stick and some coca leaves to chew on while walking. Then we passed through the punto de control or checkpoint and I got my passport stamped. The passport stamp at Machu Picchu is the coolest one though. Anyway we started our hike of about 10 km I believe and learned about the flora and fauna of the area. I saw lots of baby animals on the trek including chicks, ducks, donkeys, and llamas. Lunch was quite a treat. We got a two-course meal every lunch and dinner which included soup and some meat with rice and potatoes. There was also garlic bread at every meal. I have never eaten so well in the backcountry. Our cook was amazing. There was a tent to eat in with a table, table cloth, plates, utensils and cups. It was so fancy! We got to our campsite that was in the backyard of a family’s house along the river at about 4:30pm and set up shop. It was so weird not having to do any work when I got into camp. The tents were all set up and all I had to do was use my steri pen to get some drinkable water. I met my first friend from another group while doing that. His name is William Plumhoff and he is from New York. He is a Bichram Yoga teacher and is in Peru to do the trek and go to a Ayahuasca ceremony in Iquitos that includes hallucinatory plants and shamans. Pretty cool. He became a great walking companion over the next few days. That night we had fish for dinner because the porters were able to catch some in the river. It was delicioso! After dinner I watched the moon rise over the mountains. It was so pretty. I have been feeling a very strong connection to the moon lately and even more so here in Cusco. Can’t really explain it but it feels good.

The next day we woke up at 5:30am and got on the trail by 6:15am. This day was really long. We climbed to 13,776 feet from about 9,840 feet. It felt like it was never going to end but I got into a groove. I met quite a few people on the way up including Daniel from Trujillo Peru who is a surgeon and is on vacation. Really nice guy. I also met Marcelo and Marcela from Paraguay, Sandro and Flavia from Rio de Janeiro and Brad and Alex from England and Australia. There also seemed to be quite a few Canadians on the trek. Didn’t meet too many Americans which was interesting. I digress. I made it to the top of dead woman’s pass way before my guides and the Ku family did. I was asked to join in on another groups’ picture at the top but politely refused because I felt like I was betraying my group. That was the highest I have ever climbed before and I could feel the lack of oxygen in my chest and my fingers when they tingled a bit. I didn’t stay up there for long. The journey down was almost harder than the one going up because it’s harder on the knees. I also had to pee really badly and could not for the life of me find a place with enough cover. Fortunately, I found a spot and William stood lookout. Thank goodness. The toilets were mostly pit toilets at our campsites and absolutely disgusting. I kind of like pit toilets because they are easy and it’s just like nature peeing in terms of how you squat but wow, they were so gross. The worst night was the last campsite where there was a bar so the toilets smelled even worse.

I got into camp around 2:30pm and had lunch by myself and took a nap. I explored a bit and hung out at the campsite waiting for the Kus. While waiting I met another tour guide name Yamil who lives in Cusco and is more than happy to hook me up with kayaking, hiking, and biking tours that his buddies lead. I’m looking forward to it. I enjoyed chatting with him because he didn’t seem like he was trying to get my info or be flirty like a lot of Peruvians. He’s what they would call tranquilo here which more or less means he’s chill.

Kelly and Chai showed up around 4:45pm and had their lunch and Tina and Tim didn’t show up until 6pm. They ate a little bit of food and passed out. I didn’t blame them. They had been on the trail for almost 12 hours. That’s a lot of time.

While I was taking my nap after getting into camp I overheard a conversation between a tourist and a guide. The guide was explaining how tipping usually worked and when he said 10 US dollars per porter and guide the man (who was Peruvian) got a little upset about it. “I’m Peruvian too. That’s 100 dollars in tip! I can’t do that!” In Spanish of course. Tipping was probably the most stressful thing I dealt with on the trail. I only brought about 100 soles and 10 US dollars with me because I didn’t realize that there was going to be 10 porters including the head cook and two guides. I ended up tipping the porters 10 soles each and the head cook 10 US dollars. He definitely deserved it. The food was sooooo good. I told the guides that I would leave them tip at the agency when I got back and they said don’t worry about it because if I did that the agency would most likely take it before they saw it. I am going to try and get in contact with Romulo. He gave me his info at the end.

The next morning we got up at 5am and were the first people on the trail to Runkuraqay. It was super cool being first and away from the rush of people. We eventually were passed by a lot of people but for the first few hours it was very nice and quiet. I met my Urugauyan friends on the way up. We stopped at a few ruins this day including one of my favorites called Putupatamarca. There was so much going on there and I got a really good explanation of the place from Ronny who was William’s guide. Ruben gave a little explanation too when he got there with the Ku family but it was not as in depth. I am glad I caught Ronny’s explanation.

After Putupatamarca we headed to the campsite. It was all downhill from here and while I was stopped for a quick break I saw Juan Martin running down the stairs like a crazy person. He stopped for a second and as we were talking I asked him if his bag felt comfortable because it looked like it was sitting way too high above his hips. He said it was fine. We decided to switch bags really quickly to compare how much we were carrying. His was probably a few pounds lighter than mine. We switched back and got on our way. I learned that he works for his family’s business selling spas, jacuzzis, and pools back in Montevideo and that he has traveled all over the world with his buddies. Later that evening I met his friend Federico who obliged me with some merengue dancing.

We had the choice to go right to the campsite or left to Intipata which was another ruin. I wanted to see the ruin so I took the left route and I am glad I did. It was so nice and quiet. Most people chose to go to the campsite because they were tired. There was no way I was passing up a ruin. Who knows when or if I will do the trek again. When I got there I found about 10 people. One of them was William, of course. We sat and enjoyed the view of the valley and the Urubamba river. It was fun just imagining lots of people sitting and worshipping the sun from where we were.

The last campsite on the trek has a bar and music, hot showers and massages. Lots of people showered but I wasn’t about to spend 5 soles on a shower that would be free the next day. We had a magnificent dinner of about 5 or 6 different dishes. The cook, like I said, was the most amazing cook I have ever met. I couldn’t finish it all. While in the main building I noticed someone who I met in the Lima airport. It was Liam and his wife Courtney. We thought we were going on different days but apparently we were on the same schedule. It was nice running into them again.

In the past when there were thousands of people on the trek a day there used to be mayhem and lots of drunkenness the last night. Most people went to bed early and only a few got really drunk. I was in my tent and at about 11:45pm a man and woman came to our campsite making a ton of noise. The guy tried getting into a tent and all of a sudden realized he was not in the right place. It was pretty amusing. I can’t imagine getting super drunk on a night when we would have to get up at 3:30am in the morning. It was difficult enough as it was to get up that early. I was not a happy camper at all for the first few hours. The reason we got up so early was so that the porters could catch the one train that would take them back to Oyantalltambo. The checkpoint didn’t open until 5:30am so we had a bit of waiting to do.

It was mostly a gradual uphill climb to Machu Picchu. The end was downhill from the sun gate. Unfortunately, it was very cloudy so we didn’t get a very good view of the ruins from the sun gate but it was all good. When I got there it felt so awesome having all my stuff on me. I was dirty and tired and feeling super badass. After checking my bag we took a tour of Machu Picchu. I listened in to a lot of other tours and got quite a lot from it all. It is absolutely amazing what the Incans were able to do. The place is enormous too. After the tour was over I sat on a terrace for a little while and took in the views. I didn’t have to be down in Aguas Calientes for my train until 2pm so I took it easy.

Aguas Calientes is a nice place. I hung out for a bit before my almost 4 hours train ride back to Cusco. I didn’t have money to spend so I just walked around and played some soccer with the Uruguayans and a few local kids. When my train finally left at 5:03pm I was ready to pass out. I got a little bit of sleep in with drool included. It was nice having a table to lean on.

So one would think I would go home, shower and sleep but I decided it would be more fun to go out with some people from the trek. We went to Mythology which is a club in the plaza. It was fun until the police came and said we had to have our passports. It was really lame and nothing came of it other than the music being turned off. Oh well. I still had a good time.

I will try and put pictures into this post when the uploading works better. For now, if you want to see pictures just click on the link on the sidebar that says Machu Picchu.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I made it!

It is amazing how airplanes can take you across the world in a matter of hours. I left the O’Hare airport at 12:15pm on Friday and got in to Lima at 11:15pm. We got out about 45 minutes late in Houston but fortunately Nella and her husband knew that I would be later than 10:30pm especially with customs and immigration. During the flight I made friends with a guy named Kris who was off to Arequipa to speak at a banquet the non-profit he built houses with is having. He gave me some great advice on places to go in Arequipa should I visit. I definitely want to at some point. I don’t have to worry about making a visa trip any time soon though. I asked for a 6 month visa and the nice immigrations man gave it to me. This means I don’t have to leave the country until February. However, I am thinking I might try and get up to Ecuador for Christmas if it is possible with my work schedule. I’d love to spend Christmas with my second family since flying home to my first one isn’t too economical right now. I digress.

I am so glad that I had a place to stay in Lima and didn’t have to stay in a hostel. Their place is so nice and they really couldn’t have been more hospitable. I was able to shower and in the morning I gave my mom a quick call telling her that I was safe and sound. Their little boy is probably one of the cutest babies I have seen. Dad is from Japan and mom is Peruvian. His name was Adriano and when I gave him a little stuffed bear he got so excited. “Pooh” he called it since every bear to him is Winnie the Pooh. I’m glad he liked it. We’re best friends now.

The flight to Cuzco was 40 minutes late but that’s pretty standard I hear, especially with Taca airlines. I was impressed however, with the quality of the airplane and the service we received while in flight. There was in flight entertainment and drinks and snacks. After a short flight of 55 minutes we landed in the tiny Cuzco airport and I happened to meet at Máximo Nivel worker who helped me with my bags outside. As soon as I stepped outside I met Michael, a stringy haired 50-something expat with a canvas hat and big smile.

I think I may have said this in my previous entry but I found the Thompson’s on facebook through an expats in Peru group. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation. After I got settled in my room here I had a cup of coca tea with Michael and met his friend Brad who is from Canada and staying with them as well. We headed into town to get some money exchanged; a key made, and have some almuerzo. I was quite winded but not as winded as Brad after our bus ride and walk around the plaza de armas and plaza de San Francisco I was ready for a break and some lunch. Nella told me to not eat too much as my metabolism will slow down a bit at higher altitude. I don’t disagree with her. Lunch was yummy though with soup and a side of potatoes with a tasty sauce. The main course was beef and rice with whipped mashed potatoes. Good thing I love potatoes. It is a staple here. I also love yucca which is much life potato and another popular food.

I could go on and on about the deliciousness of the food here even though I haven’t been in Cusco for more than a day. There is fresh fruit and produce everywhere. It’s so healthy and grown in the backyard. I love it. I wish it was like that in the US.

I really like Michael. He is an interesting guy who moved to Cuzco 7 years ago with his wife and two kids. They are from New Mexico and his daughter Angela, whom I will meet soon, is 20 and Gabe is 18. Gabe is currently in California with Laurel, the woman I spoke most with when setting up this homestay. He had to get cataract surgery and Glaucoma surgery. Yikes. Hope he is doing well. Anyway, Michael puts out a tourist newspaper which he asked me if I could proofread his Spanish. He writes the articles in English and then translates them online. He speaks Spanish but his writing is a bit rusty he said. I was happy to read it but I did warn him that I am a bit rusty myself and that a second opinion after mine would be a good idea. He taught me a few things about life in Cuzco and things to know such as how much it costs to take a taxi around town. It shouldn’t be more than 4 or 5 soles from the house to the plaza. That’s the equivalent to roughly a $1.50. The bus is even better and runs about .50 soles. Soles are referred to as luca by the locals. He also showed me the best place to exchange money. It’s called Wachi’s and it’s down the street from work which is great. I also know now who to go to when I want to get some good fresh coca and dried fruit. The market is fantastic and there is everything you could need there in terms of cooking. I am really hoping to learn how to make some good soup while I am here. I need to find a teacher first.

Later in the evening we were listening to some music and Michael asked if I would like to lay down some harmonies to a song he wrote. We had talked about what I did in college before that and he picked up on the a cappella singing. I told him I would love to. The song is great! We made a date to go to the studio at his friends place on the 31st in the morning. I can’t wait! I love recording. When I get a copy of the song I will try and post it on here.

I also met another guy named Carlos who was impressed with my castellano accent. It made me happy to hear that I sounded like a true Spanish speaker. I feel super rusty right now and slow in my formation of sentences but I know that with some time it’ll come back to me. Carlos is a friend of Michael’s and came over to hang out. That’s another thing I really like about latin America. People just show up and say hello and have a cup of tea with friends. It seems like getting together with anyone in the US requires a calendar and making a specific date and time. I’m all about people coming over and hanging out all the time. It felt very homey and I know that I am going to like it a lot here. Life is slower and people are really friendly and hospitable.

Later in the evening:

I had a good four-hour conversation with Brad who is also staying with Michael and Angela right now. He is an interesting guy from Nova Scotia Canada. He is here on a spiritual quest and only eating a bit of food and drinking lots of water. He sold everything he owns and headed down here for however long it takes. He believes that we can harness light energy like plants and it shifts our DNA and we can take in energy directly. It is a very cool idea and he has a plethora of other spiritual tid bits that brought up some great conversation about life and the earth. I thoroughly enjoyed it and while I don’t believe everything he brought up, it is always nice to hear different ways of thinking about things. One thing I definitely got out of it was the feeling that I made the right choice to come down here. I’ve only been here a few days and while I know I will go through a period of homesickness, I think I am going to be very happy here. We had a nice little fire in the fire ring they have in their yard here. The moon was almost full and the stars were beautiful. Southern hemisphere stars are great. It’s an entirely new sky to get oriented to. I had a very nice night and I am going to bed around 8:30pm again. I slept 12 hours last night and couldn’t be happier to be sleeping and getting acclimated slowly and without a lot of headache.

I also walked back from the tour guide company today. It was a good 45 minute walk but I feel like walking the neighborhoods of a new place is the best way to get to know it. While Cuzco is a bit confusing with its twisting roads, I already feel much more oriented than before. I immediately took a nap when I got back. I am going to go on a walk with Brad tomorrow, possibly to the plaza de armas. We shall see what our energy levels are like.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Unpacking and Packing

It is a bit overwhelming to pack for 6 months of living abroad when you are not sure if you'll stay longer or not. It's also overwhelming to unpack from 3 months of camp and then re-pack in the span of 4 days. I am currently trying to do laundry, run errands, and make sure my back up hard drive works all at the same time. It seems to be going pretty well so far.

For those of you that don't know what is going on in my life right now I shall explain. I took a TEFL certification course (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) last October in the hopes that I would be abroad again after another summer of leading adventure trips for Camp Echo. I originally was thinking I would head back to Ecuador but as I did more thinking I realized that I wanted to go somewhere new and somewhere I could have opportunities to work in the travel/tour industry after teaching. Cuzco seemed like the perfect place to go. Not only is there the Inca Trail to go on but a multitude of other outdoor activities to partake in. I have always wanted to do the trek to Machu Picchu and am set up to do it from the 24th through the 27th of August. Of course, I have wanted to teach as well and after applying to a few places in Cuzco I got an offer from an institute called Maximo Nivel. It is run by Americans and they have locations in Costa Rica Guatemala and the US. It has wonderful amenities and lots of resources which is fantastic. I immediately said yes. The interview went really well and the way I am set up to work is that in September I will start in the Academic Office and be a substitute while I get the orientation I missed because I will have been on the Inca Trail. I am very happy with the arrangement because I will have the time to observe and get to know the institute before being thrown into having 6 classes a day.

I am not going to lie and say that I have no nerves and am completely comfortable with everything that is about to happen over the next month let alone 6 but I am ready for the stress and the discomfort because it's all a part of growing and learning. I just have to remember that it will pass and I will eventually get into a groove. My biggest worry is actually altitude sickness at this point. Cuzco is above 10,000 feet and I will be coming from sea level. My body is not the happiest with drastic altitude changes but hopefully a few days of rest and a lot of water will allow me to be ready to do the trek. Thank goodness the company I am going with carries oxygen just in case.

I am also a bit nervous about being completely alone. I am staying with a family I found of facebook when I first get to Cuzco and then I will be moving in with a family associated with Maximo Nivel while I look for an apartment. I am hoping to move in with another teacher so as to have some camaraderie and to have someone who is in the same boat as me. I'm not worried that I won't make friends but there is always that point when moving to a new place when I feel like I don't know anyone and I am completely alone. It happened in college and I have no doubt it will happen again. At least this time I am ready for it.

Back to packing! Peru me voy!