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.