Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Belated Christmas!

This year was a very different Christmas for me. Last year I spent it with my Ecuador family in Santo Domingo Ecuador in nice hot tropical weather. This year I spent it with my man and my dog in freezing rain! Haha. It was lots of fun though.

Christmas Eve was busy and the day before Marco and I went shopping for Nativity scene supplies. We built one out of cardboard boxes and paper. It was really fun and it turned out pretty well. What do you think? I had various errands to run on Saturday but in the evening I sang with The Guardians at Dragon's Palate and we celebrated the holiday with a toast with champagne and paneton. Now, like I mentioned in my last blog, paneton is Latin America's version of fruitcake and unlike American fruitcake, it's DELICIOUS! The custom here is to eat paneton with hot chocolate. Talk about a great custom and a wonderful way to get nice and chubby during the holiday season. Marco and I shared some paneton and hot chocolate when we got home and watched all the fireworks that kids set off at midnight. It's another great tradition here. The noise from fireworks fills the night at midnight and lasts about half an hour. It was beautiful. Marco has a great view of the city all the way down to the airport. I spent the afternoon cooking Eggplant Parmasean for Marco and myself. He had never tried eggplant before so I thought it fitting to make a delcious eggplant meal. He liked it and I enjoyed making it. I didn't have time to make the pumpkin pie I wanted to but I am going to make it tomorrow so that I have one for Carole's baby shower (she is a piano teacher at Qantu) and one for Marco, Gabriel and I to share when they get back from Lima this weekend.

Christmas day was super lazy. We didn't get out of bed until 11am and later we ate takeout roasted chicken from El Tablon. Around 5:45 I headed over to help with moving our equipment to The Frogs and do the sound check. It went well and I had about 2 hours before I had to be back so I decided to check out the new Starbucks in the plaza de armas. Yup, there is now a Starbucks in Cusco. It wasn't enough to have a McDonald's and KFC. No bustling international city is complete without a Starbucks right? I really can't complain. Starbucks is totally my guilty pleasure and since a drink costs at the least 10 soles here it will have to be a once in a while treat for me. It's actually a good thing that the wi-fi doesn't work on my computer for some reason. It means I will be less tempted to go there and stay or decide to choose it as the place where I want to get work done on the internet. Fortunately, we will soon have internet at Marco's place so I won't have to waste any more money going to cafe's to use the internet. I can always use Maximo Nivel which is what I am doing right now but sometimes I don't feel like being at Maximo. I want a more comfortable atmosphere. Anyway, the show went off without a hitch and we had a great time. Christian liked the show so I think we will be back again. I sure hope so!

I was a little bummed that I wasn't able to skype with everyone on Christmas Eve at the Servillo Christmas Eve party but it's all good. I sent everyone a facebook message to let them know I was thinking about them. I am sure I will be home for Christmas in the next few years or so. The Servillo's Christmas Eve party is something I really really miss. It is always so much fun and being surrounded by all the people I grew up around is comforting. I know there are new traditions to be had and of course, eventually everyone will be married and off doing different Christmas time things so I can't be too sad about it. I will always have great memories!

I am super excited to meet Gabriel, Marco's son. He will be here in about 5 days and will stay for a month and a half. I am nervous because I really want him to like me and I want him to know that I will never try and be his mom. He has a mom. I will be more like the fun girlfriend who he likes to hang out with and whose dog he will love. :)

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and Hannukah!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tis the Season for Concerts

This week was one crazy full week of concerts for Qantu but it was a lot of fun and full of pride even if there were some mess ups here and there.

The first concert I took part in was the soloists’ concert on Monday night. Other than the little choque Marco and I had the evening went very well and the students played very well even though the local was not the best acoustically speaking. It was also fun playing in a little orchestra after a really long time of not playing in one. We had a lot of practices and pulled it off quite nicely. I enjoyed playing with Ernesto Zamora as well, a violinist from Lima. He is helping me out with getting my bow re-strung in Lima. All in all, it was a good concert.

On Tuesday night we had the violin concert which went quite well other than a few mess-ups at the end with the entire group but that was a result of a lot of students not coming to the final practice. I can’t even begin to tell you how proud of my students I was, especially one who I had worked with so hard on changing her bow hold and getting her to relax her palm while putting her fingers down. She played beautifully! We had a special treat from some Canadian boys who were here on vacation and dropped off a ton of donations from different stores and a former teacher of Qantu who now lives in Canada. They played traditional fiddle tunes from Yukon and Cape Breton. One of them accompanied himself with foot percussion. The audience loved it! I am so happy to have had such a successful concert. The first concert I took part in back in July was fun but I wasn’t as invested in it as I was with this one. 8 months of working with students will definitely add some interest and pride. We gave Angela flowers at the end of the concert to conclude her final concert with Qantu. She got emotional which was totally understandable. She puts so much energy into her students and I know she is going to miss them terribly when she is in Lima. She is going to the conservatory where she will only further her music career. I wish her the best of luck!

Finally, on Friday night we had the ensamble concert at the centro de convenciones which is basically the municipality’s conference center. The acoustics were terrible and it was really hard to get everyone to play together in time. It was cold and a lot of hard work was done in vain because it really didn’t turn out too well. It’s unfortunate but that is what we have to deal with here. There are very few areas in Cusco that have really nice acoustics and can fit all of the kids in the ensamble.

Also, we have the great fun of moving clavinovas and cajones to all parts of town for the concerts since no one has a piano here. Seriously, there is not one single place in Cusco that has a really nice grand piano. It is sad and it is something that Flor, our director is always asking for at concerts to let everyone know that we really really need one here for the betterment of our students and so we don’t have to move clavinovas all over the place! It’s really not that bad but it does get tiring after a while. Ideally, we would have a bigger place to teach and to have concerts. It would be wonderful but we need a lot of funding for it. Maybe there is someone out there reading this blog that has the resources to send donations or help us out! That would be genial as they say here.

Today, we celebrated the end of the semester with a chocolatada. It is a tradition here during Christmas time to celebrate with hot chocolate and paneton which is like fruit cake but much lighter and more delicious than what we are used to in the States. The hot chocolate is delicious and the paneton is also scrumptious. I have already had three cups of hot chocolate and two pieces of Paneton. Tis the season to engoradarme (get fat). ☺

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Choque de Costumbre

Well, it finally happened! Marco and I had our first real culture clash on Monday. I invited him to come to a soloist concert since I was playing in the orchestra which was accompanying the soloists. I knew it was going to be a nice concert and I really wanted him to hear it. Anyway, he came and sat down in the row that I had put my things and I saw him so I blew him a kiss and waved hello thinking that it was a sufficient way to say hello and acknowledge him. In the mean time we went down off the stage to sit in the back and wait for the first song to be played so we could all go up together as an orchestra. Meanwhile, Marco was waiting for me to come and say hello until finally he got a call from a friend asking if he could do him a favor. Marco, thinking that I didn't really want him to be there, accepted and left the concert before it started. He did wave to me and let me know that my stuff was still in the chair where I had put it. I, not knowing any better, thought he had left to go talk to someone on the phone and that he would be back soon. The concert started and Marco was no where to be found. We played some more and still no Marco. Finally, I knew he wasn't coming back and decided to call him after the concert was over.

When I called him I asked him what happened thinking that maybe there had been an emergency or something work related. He responded with, I had other things to do. What do you mean other things to do? Honestly, he said, I was upset and uncomfortable that you never came over to say hello to me. I saw other people from the orchestra doing that and you just sat in the back with your friends and talked while I waited. Finally I left because I figured I might as well put my time where it was needed and wanted. I, of course, broke down and started crying while trying to explain to him that typically when someone goes to a concert they don't expect to get a greeting from the person that is in the show or concert until afterward when everyone comes down and thanks all the guests for coming. It didn't even occur to me that I would be offending him by not saying hello. I thought the kiss I blew him was sufficient. Obviously, I was wrong. I understand that he felt uncomfortable but to leave? I felt hurt by that. I was supposed to go out to La Romana to share pizza with my coworkers and the soloists but I didn't feel like it. I needed to get home to resolve the issue. When I got home I cried some more and we talked it out in about 20 minutes. Both of us realize that when it comes to miscommunication it is not something that we should feel bad about for too long because we didn't know any better. No one is to blame and no one should feel hurt because it wasn't intentional. The night ended nicely and we watched a movie cuddling.

I am sure that there will be more occasions in which miscommunication will occur but I feel so fortunate to have such a wonderful man who immediately and calmly expresses himself without blowing up or allowing anything to brew. I am so glad he isn't passive aggressive. That is the worst. Seriously, I am super lucky and it is a great that little challenges like this show me that we just need a little bit of time to explain ourselves and to apologize and come to an understanding. We both agree that we have to meet each other half way and that neither one should just do everything so that the other one feels completely comfortable. It gives me faith that this relationship is going to last. :)

My mom says that me not saying hello to him shows that he is still nervous about me possibly not loving him as much as he loves me and that he might lose me. I poo poo that but she may have a point. Either way, I love him dearly and more than I have ever loved any man in my life.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Great News!!

All the hard work put into sending off a video of me playing the Vivaldi Concerto in A Minor 3rd movement and the Seitz 2nd movement from book four PAID OFF!! I received an email from the Suzuki Association of the Americas telling me that I was granted the scholarship and what's more is that it not only covers the costs of the classes but it also pays for almost the entire cost of the round trip flight I bought. YIPPEEE!! I am really surprised but my dad tells me I should be. Psh, I never expect anything (too much) so that when things don't go my way I am not disappointed. However, after talking to Marco I realized that a lot of people down here don't take the time to do everything necessary to get the scholarship. It doesn't take a lot of work but the video did take some time. I probably took about 10 takes of each song. Most people around here won't even bother. Hey, works for me!! YAY! I am so excited. I am going to use the money I get at the festival (the reimbursement) to help pay for food and transportation and possibly getting a bow re-strung. Maybe I will get another set of strings too! I can't wait!

I am also going to get Marco his birthday present. We went to Maestro, the Peruvian Home Depot and saw an awesome desk and chair set for 279 soles! What a steal! He totally wanted it and I would love to give it to him. I was going to get a 70 sole t-shirt from a Peruvian designer but I think this will serve him much more since he has a lot of studying to do this upcoming year.

I am putting in two photos of me and my new doggy Pepe! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mom Comes to Celebrate my Birthday and Thanksgiving!

What a wonderful and busy 10 days with my mother! It was so great to see her and show her how I live down here. I think it was a bit of a shock for her especially with the realization that my life down here is real and that I will not be coming home anytime soon to live; just to visit.

I will try and recap as best I can the events of our adventure together! Mom got in on a Tuesday afternoon and I was fortunate to be able to pick her up and take her home before I headed off to teach some classes. I re-worked my schedule a lot but there was no way I was going to be able to have all 10 days free with mom. It actually turned out for the best since mom had some trouble adjusting to the altitude. We went for a walking tour on Wednesday morning and in the afternoon when I had to work she passed out. Perfect!

On Thursday morning we ran some errands and found out that mom had a health insurance form she had to fill out by the next day. It was frustrating for her but a small bump in the road. She managed to get herself back to the internet place to scan everything and she even walked home. That is not an easy feat for the second day in a new city. She even did it in the dark. Way to go mom!

On Friday we took a tour of the Sacred Valley which was fun but tiring. I broke down and decided it was a good idea to buy the tourist tickets because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see any of the ruins. We went to Pisac, Ollantaytambo and to the church in Chinchero which was quite a sight. In the evening, I sang with The Guardians at the Dragon’s Palate. It was so great to sing for my mom. She really enjoyed it almost as much as she enjoyed chatting with Elena, one of the owners of the restaurant who is a doll. ☺

Saturday was a full day of work even though it was my birthday. It didn’t matter though because after a full day of working, I was able to relax and enjoy a really nice Peña (music and dance show) dinner at Don Antonio’s with Marco and mom. It was a buffet and it was delicious! Marco gave me a rose and a really nice leather wallet. Mom gave me my violin fixed up as well as a backpack that I really really needed. Thank you mom! They sang Happy Birthday to me and presented me with a cake that I proceeded to start eating the garnish only to realize that is was for the buffet as well. Haha! It was a tasty cake! I didn’t have a crazy 5 cake, show in the night with all my students birthday like I did last year, but this was just as great if not better because I was with two of the most important people in my life! Mom also had a treat from one of the dancers dressed in the Saqras or devil costume.

On Sunday Marco played chaufer and took us to the four ruins outside of Cusco; Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Puca Pucara, and Tambomachay. They were fun and simple and it was a gorgeous day. In the afternoon we headed back to Marco’s house and mom met Pepe our wonderful dog! We also had chicken from El Tablon with chica to boot. It was delicious. Oh! I forgot, we had Olas Bravas for lunch which is a seafood restaurant. Yummy! It was a full day of food. As you can see below I thoroughly enjoyed Sacsayhuaman.

On Monday we got up super early and headed out to Ollantaytambo to catch the train to Aguas Calientes. A kitten made friends with me in the coffee shop and mom held her ground with the lady who attended us and wanted to charge us 30 soles for two drinks that were only 8 soles each. Way to go mom!

We boarded the train at 5:45 and left at 6:10. We arrived in Aguas Calientes around 8:45am and promptly took a bus up to the ruins. It was a gorgeous day and not too sunny until the end of our time up there which was actually quite nice. People get baked from the sun. We had the benefit of Marco’s military binoculars which allowed us to see what we think is a helicopter pad on another mountain, as well as people who climbed up to Huayna Picchu. I showed mom where Roger left the picture of Leah. She said it looked perfect. After about 3 and a half hours at Mapi we headed back down and chilled out until we had our 6:45 train back to Ollantaytambo. While getting some grub I was bombarded with a giant hug by my friend Julia who worked at Maximo and had to leave in September due to a nerve busting in her brain. Scary stuff but she is healthy and she was back with her family to do the touristy stuff. I was so happy to see her. I really bonded with her a lot in the last few months of her being here. It was a full day and exhausting. We got back to Cusco around 10:30pm and both mom and I crashed.

On Tuesday I had a lesson with my teacher Alison and in the afternoon mom and I made pumpkin pie. Oh how deliciously cinniminy her pies are. We made two; one for Marco and myself and one for Thanksgiving dinner.

On Wednesday we took a bus out to Coya to visit Alison and for me to have an unexpected pedagogy lesson. I was thinking we were going to Huchuy Cusco in Lamany but Alison had other plans. It was very interesting though and mom enjoyed it as well as the delicious lunch. We went to the Pisac market as well and shopped around for everything mom was looking for. With gifts in hand we made our way back to Cusco.

On Thursday we ran some errands and visited the popular art museum. I worked in the afternoon and evening and mom spent Thanksgiving with the wonderful people of the healing house. I felt bad leaving her because I had to work but she said it was really touching. A lot of people were very teary eyed especially since a close friend and guide name Miguel Jove had just died on the Choquequirao trek a few days before. My mom felt very blessed to be with such loving people. I am so glad! Thank you Niki and all the healing house people for hosting a great dinner. I scarfed down a huge plate later in the evening when mom came to drop it off at work. THANK YOU MOM! It was delicious and it was the first vegetarian Thanksgiving I have had. Not bad at all even though I do love me some turkey. Christmas eve....

That evening I went to Garabatos with Marco to celebrate Julia's despedida. It was super fun and she said she might be coming back in a month! PLEASE COME BACK JULIA! I MISS YOU! Seriously, it would be so much fun to have her back. The funny part of the night is that Marco forgot to pay. We think that Carlos might have paid for everything because no one cam running after us to make us pay. If that was the case, thank you Carlos. If not, too bad for you Garabatos. Haha!

On Friday we went to the Qoricancha or temple of the sun and enjoyed a final lunch at Jack’s Café. We had a quick goodbye in front of my house as I set mom off in a cab to airport. We didn’t have time to get too cry but I will admit I got a bit teary eyed as I watched her drive away. The great thing is that I just booked my tickets to come home in May so we will see each other very soon!

It was a wonderful 10 days and I am so glad and proud that my mom made such a great journey to Peru. I have a feeling she will be frequenting this country more often in the future. ;)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Belated Halloween!

Sorry I am so late about posting on Halloween. I took part in a Halloween Circus Show with the Clusterfunks similar to what we did in July and August except with a creepy fun Halloween theme! It took place at Groove Club and while the Saturday night performance didn’t have too many attendees, the actual Halloween show on Monday night was a hit and went over super well!

I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it all and it was a great way to spend Halloween weekend. I also got to play around with fun make-up and wear a hot dress from Hilo, a boutique owned by an Irish woman named Eibhlin. Definitely check out the photos on facebook!

I didn’t play as much violin in this show as I did in the last one but I did play a tango that was fun! I love working with all the people in the show and I really liked getting to hang out with Niki and Elizabeth more. Elizabeth is getting married in August in Easter Island and I am going to do everything I can to save up enough money to be able to go. What a great reason to go to Easter Island and Chile!

One thing I never knew about Halloween in Cusco is that it is INSANE in the plaza. It’s almost as crazy as New Year’s Eve but with a lot more children and no fireworks. Seriously, it’s packed! Instead of trick or treating door to door the kids and their parents, many with no idea of what cordial means, ask for candy from the surrounding businesses. Also, instead of trick or treat they yell “Halloween, Halloween!” and hold out their candy bags. I will say that the candy bags are super tiny and I didn’t see a single kid carrying around pillow case full of candy. It should also be said that the candy that is given out is not snickers or kit kats, but super cheap tiny hard candies and bubblegum for the most part. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups costs almost 6 soles here, which is over 2 dollars for two tasty treats. People aren’t going to spend crazy amounts of money on candy like they will in the States. Granted, snickers and Reese’s are cheaper in the States because they aren’t imported like they are in Peru.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Titicaca.....nope, it´s a lake in Bolivia

Well, here I am again in Copacabana Bolivia on a quick trip across the border to renew my Peru visa. I am staying in a very nice hotel called Hotel Paraiso and for 50 Bolivianos a night I get my own room with a private bathroom connected to a warm sunny terrace and cable TV. I also can have breakfast in the morning for 10 Bolivianos extra. The internet is a bit expensive for 10 Bolivianos an hour (4 soles an hour or a little over a dollar an hour). However, there is free wi-fi which means the next time I come to Copacabana I will definitely bring my computer. Why not?

I have noticed a few things this time that I didn´t the last time I was here. People love flying kites which is fun and pretty. There are more books here than I imagined. Almost every restaurant has a book exchange and there is a bookstore/outfitter called The Spitting Llama that has books for sale or you can exchange one for another a 50% or 2 of your books for one free one from them! Not bad! I was super tempted to buy a book on our societies obsession with the internet and relationships via internet but 75 bolivianos was a bit much and also I have quite a few books to get through before I buy any more. I brought two with me which will keep me more than entertained!

Fun story about last night. I went out at 8pm to get dinner. I stopped into Pueblo Viejo where I ate the last time I was here and it was pretty good. I ordered at 8:15pm and didn´t get my food until 10 minutes to 10pm. I complained to the waitress and told her that this was unacceptable. I should get a discount of some sort. She didn´t do anything and just apologized. I ate my food which was a bit cold and on the table I left her 5 bolivianos less than what would have been on the check. I feel justified since the meal were quinoa cakes and it costs 35 bolivianos which was way too expensive for what I was given.

Today has been pretty relaxed. The stress I was feeling about my audition video for the Suzuki scholarship for the classes I am going to take went away because Marco is an angel and got it sent off yesterday. I spent almost my entire day trying to upload it on Thursday and had no success. Thankfully, Andres (Pepe my dog to be´s dad) helped Marco out with free internet.

Speaking of Pepe, we are getting him for good tomorrow!! I am so excited. Zara isn´t leaving until the beginning of December but wants us to have him for good now so if we do have some problems she might still be able to help us. I am not worried. He is part of the fam now. He is also going to be with Marco when I get into Cusco tomorrow evening greeting me with his wagging butt and kisses (maybe Marco too..hahah!)

Life is for getting 6 months when I cross the border tomorrow!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More than a month!

I am so sorry to everyone who might be a loyal follower just waiting for updates from my life. (Who am I kidding, this is just something fun to read when there is a new post. No one is going to die if I don't put something up.)

Well, I can tell you one thing for sure. It has not been boring and there have been many exciting things that have happened and/or are going to happen soon.

First, I have an awesome violin teacher who has tons of years of experience teaching suzuki and playing all over the world. She is not only giving my lessons but once a month I go out to her awesome house in Coya (one of the poorest towns in the Sacred Valley) and we have a yummy dinner and the following morning we have a good 2 hour pedagogy session. I am going to give her husband some English lessons in return.

Second, I have recently gained four more violin students which puts my total to 20! I couldn't be more excited! This is only going to help me save a little faster for my trip home to Evanston and camp in May! Which brings me to my next happy point...Marco is going to come with my when I travel home next May. He is going to stay for 10 days and I am going to stay for a month and a half so I can work a month a camp. I am beyond excited to bring him home. He will already have met my brother and my mom by that time so it will just be a new meeting for my dad and him and Judy of course! He has to wait until January to reserve tickets and get a resolution from the military that will allow him to go. He has to have an interview in Lima as well before he they issue a visa. It is a super long process which is the complete opposite for any American wanting to come to Peru. Just hop on a plane and ask for your amount of days when you go through immigration at the airport in Lima. I am really hoping that the military official and having ties to Peru will make getting the visa a sinch. We shall see but I am keeping my fingers crossed.

In other happy news, we are adopting a dog named Pepe! He is a 2 and a half year old English cocker spaniel and is absolutely adorable He is somewhat trained too but he doesn't get cars so it is unsafe still to let him off the leash near cars; only in big fields. I walk him twice a week. Actually, I am running with him twice a week. He has given me the motivation to run and get some exercise. I find it funny actually because the first few times he was super flojo (lazy) and didn't want to run. He was just out of the habit though. He is much better now. His momma is Australian and she is headed back there at the end of November and because of that she was looking for someone to adopt Pepe. She wanted to bring him home with her but the laws regarding bringing pets back to Australia are really difficult to go through with and Pepe would most likely be living with the Australian government for a while. Not cool. Anyway, Marco told me he wanted to get me a puppy but he is happy now. I brought Pepe over to his new home for a visit last Sunday and daddy to be and Pepe played together. The one thing we agree upon is training him not to sleep in the bed with us. Unfortunately, he has that habit with Zara so it might take a little bit to break it out of him but he is still young so it shouldn't be too difficult. We shall see.

I sent in my matriculation fee for the classes I am going to take in Lima in January. I might be staying with a friend of Marco's family in San Isidro which would be really nice. I will be there for almost 2 full weeks taking the certification courses in book 1 and book 2. I am totally stoked and all I have left to do is turn in the video of me playing two songs from book four for the possibility of getting a scholarship! That would rock but if not, it's only 160 bucks for the two classes.

Finally, my mom is coming to visit in less than a month! I am beyond excited! We are going to see Machu Picchu together and possibly the Sacred Valley tour but the most important thing is that she is going to be here for my birthday and for Thanksgiving. I am going to make a sweet potato and pumpkin pie. The only down side is that we won't have the extra room anymore. My roommate's mom came for two months and stayed in the extra room and now my roommate wants another person to live here. I don't blame her for wanting to make cheaper rent but it would've been nice if she had waited one more month. It's all good though because I have a big bed and mom will stay in it and I can stay at Marco's. I am pretty much there all the time already.

That's it for now! Have a great Thursday everyone!

Monday, September 12, 2011

10 Years Later

I feel really removed from the United States. I watched a bit of the 911 ceremony on Sunday and it made me think of where I was 10 years ago and how fast the time has gone by. I don't think about terrorism being a threat to me in Peru. It's not something I have to worry about here. I said a little prayer for all the families who lost someone in the attacks but I also said a prayer for the people who live in terror and fear everyday in parts of the world that don't have the ability to make a memorial for all the people who have died at the hands of terrorism. I find it hard to believe that Americans aren't more aware of how our country creates a lot of anger among other countries and that if we went about trying to solve this war on terrorism by actually setting up infrastructures and giving back to the countries we have messed up (i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan and Palestine indirectly), we wouldn't have to live in such fear that more attacks are coming. I am sick of self righteousness and the whole "our way or the highway" mentality. I do not downplay the sadness of what happened ten years ago but it is up to the US and its people, including myself to be goodwill ambassadors and start making a difference instead of sitting on our butts and letting politicians make STUPID STUPID decisions about what we should do. My dad always tells me that power in numbers really works and I think he is right. As for what I am doing in South America, I am trying to promote a positive image of what Americans are like and that we all aren't fat ignorant people who don't care about anything but our own happiness and making money. (It's a sad but very real stereotype that people believe down here.)

I challenge everyone reading this to be proactive and live each day consciously so that not only you can be a happier person but for the future of the planet and international realtions. (I know, huge least you'll think about it though!)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Depedida, a little Religion, and an ENORMOUS banner

First of all, sorry for not blogging earlier. I realize that I have been pretty bad with entries lately. To tell the truth, not too much exciting has happened. I have a new student who is 3 years old. I celebrated Kate, EV, and Molly’s despedida last weekend at La Paccha which was fun and a throwback since I saw a ton of my old students and could name about half. Julia and I had a good time dancing together and Roxburying a few people (Roxburying refers to the movie Night at the Roxbury which was originally an SNL skit with Will Ferrell and Chris Katan who bump a woman til she can’t stand/move.)

EV, Kate, and Molly

I finished a book called “The Pagan Christ” by Tom Harpur which was extremely interesting and not surprising. In a brief summary Tom Harpur concludes that the bible is fiction that is a compilation of myths and stories from older religions compiled in a manner and strung together to make it seem like a true history. He is a Christian himself and says that while he was shocked by the revelation he has found that he no longer struggles with the mysteries of the bible and reads stories as allegory with an ultimate truth. Jesus Christ shouldn’t be demythologized, he should be remythologized so that each person can find the Christ within and live life seeking the truths from the bible, not the actual history. I like what he brings up and I think it is cool to think of true Christianity as a religion that doesn’t have all the stupid strict rules and doesn’t take the bible literally. Christ is more of less another version of Horus, the Egyptian version of Jesus that came years before him. The similarities are uncanny! They both have stories that teach us how to treat one another and to search for our own personal truths. I like it. I think it Jesus was looked at as a cosmic spirit that everyone has within them searching for the ultimate truths, Christianity would be more like Buddhism. Really, all religions have the same basis that we all connected by a higher being of God. The only difference is how people act it out and demonstrate their beliefs and faith. I went to mass tonight with Marco and it was cool taking the story used from the bible as a myth that has an ultimate truth. I highly recommend this book to everyone interested in religion and a different perspective.

Something pretty cool happened Saturday night. We, The Guardians, are playing a weekly gig at Dragon’s Palate on Saturday evenings during dinner time. I looked up at the wall above the door at the restaurant and this is what I saw!

It was a gift from Richard, our manager. He is a retiree who is in Cusco now and friends with Michael. He is chillin and living nicely off the money he made back in the States and it was a gift from him to our band. How awesome right? I feel like a true rockstar with a big banner like that! Because of him we are playing this Friday at a restaurant above McDonald’s in the plaza de armas called Pabillon. I hope we can put this banner up outside the restaurant because it would be fantastic publicity! I am all about having a manager too because if we are playing more often we can get better gigs and get them more often and get paid more often. Can’t complain about that.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

Today marks my one year anniversary for being in Cusco. I technically got to Peru on the 21st of August but I didn't get into Cusco until the 22nd. So, you are probably wondering what I am going to do to celebrate! Well, for starters, I got up and took a shower. I headed to a corner store to drop off a beer bottle that I got a sol for bringing back. I went to the casa de cambio and got my rent money changed into dollars. I was a little pissed about the rent being paid in dollars when we first started but since the dollar has decreased in value I am now paying less money for rent. If I were a landlady I would have my rent fixed in soles. I am not going to bet on the value of the dollar, especially not right now. Anyway, back to the day. After the money exchange I bought another pillow for my bed. I only had one which isn't enough for a big bed, especially if someone shares it with you. Before heading home I stopped into Sebastian Salon on the corner next to the post office and got my hair cut. It was my anniversary present to myself. It had been more than 6 months since my last real haircut. It was time. Here is a photobooth photo of the new do!

I headed back home and stopped at Don Justo, my new favorite 3 sole menu joint down the street from my house. The food isn't bad and it's only 3 soles!

As for the rest of my day I have a full afternoon of lessons with students and then maybe, I will go out for a drink with Marco. I haven't decided yet. Originally I was thinking I would party it up but I don't have that desire anymore. I have to be up super early tomorrow to teach an 8:30am lesson and go to my own violin lesson at 10am. I am not in the mood to be nursing any kind of hang over or just tiredness tomorrow. Call it maturity or call it boring but I am perfectly content with a quiet evening and maybe a movie.

It is crazy to think that one year has gone by though! I have learned soooo much in this past year and I completely content with the life I have made for myself in Cusco. It's insane to think about how different my life was even just 6 months ago. I keep getting messages from God that tell me that this is where I am supposed to be and I am going to follow his advice!

I celebrated another anniversary last week too. Marco and I have been dating for 6 months now which is half the time I have been in Cusco. It seems like the first six months here took a lot longer to pass than the second six months. I think part of the reason has to do with being with Marco. I couldn't be happier. I never thought I would feel this way about someone while on my journey in South America but I do and it's wonderful and I wouldn't give it up for anything. I hope we have an amazing time over the next 6 months like we had during the first six!

I am beyond excited about the upcoming months. I turn 25 in less than three months...what?! Quarter century here I come! Also, my wonderful mother is coming on the 15th of November to celebrate Thanksgiving and my birthday with me. I can't wait! South America and Peru are going to blow her mind! :)

To any of my followers out there who are celebrating anniversaries or sorts, mazel tov and congratulations as well as felicitaciones! I hope they rock just like mine have!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pago a la Tierra

It’s quite a trip thinking of oneself as a tool of God or the spirits or whatever deity one might believe in. I recently had a revelation that has made me think really hard about my spirituality and relationship with what I consider to be God.

On Thursday night we had a Pago a la Tierra (payment to the Earth) at Qantu. Every August many Andean people pay hommage to PacchaMama (mother earth) with this type of ceremony. It is thought that she gets hungry so she must be satisfied with this things the people have to offer her and in return she will grant the people their wishes. It was just the profes, a shaman, and an interpreter. First, coca leaves were spread out on a manta (a blanket) and we all looked for full leaves to make quintas, or groups of three leaves placed in the shape of a clover. We gave them to each other as offerings or respect and friendship and every quinta I received I was to put in my mouth and chew. Well, for anyone who has chewed coca leaves, after a while your tongue falls asleep because of the alkaloids in the plants. The interpreter passed around ceniza which you are only supposed to take a very small bit of. It’s super strong but when it is mixed with the coca leaves it creates a sweet taste. Unfortunately, all the coca and ceniza left my tongue with 5 canker sore. Oh well, it was worth it if what we asked for comes to fruition.

We sat in a circle and kept making quintas, making a pile of them for every intention we wanted to share and offer to Pacchamama (mother earth). Many people asked for the prosperity of Qantu, a larger house for the association, the health and well being of students and professors, but what affected me the most was the request for a new violin teacher to come quickly before Angela leaves for school next January. Had they asked for a violin teacher last time they did a pago a la tierra? I asked Flor afterward and she said yes, they had asked for a violin teacher and here I was. Whoa, was I somehow sent by the Apus (mountain gods) to Qantu? We continued on and after everyone had asked for what they wanted we watched as the shaman put all sorts of trinkets and toys into the package along with all our coca leaves. Each item represented something. For example, there was fake money to represent wealth, there was a plastic house to represent a home, food, cloth, lots of cereals such as quinoa and anis. Once the package was complete it was put over a fire to be burned to ashes which would then be buried in the ground the following day. Only when the offering is in the ground with Pacchamama take action. One thing I thought was kind of funny was how as women, a lot of us were not able to actually look directly as the burning homage. Why? Who know, probably some machista bs but whatever, I wasn’t going to jinx anything by watching it.

So, the whole ceremony got me thinking about myself as a tool sent by the spirits but what really got me thinking more was later that night when I was talking to Marco about everything. He told me that a year and a half ago he had asked Señor de Huanca or Señor de los Milagros in Lima, for happiness. He wasn’t specific about it so it left the possibilities wide open but he told me that his happiness came when I came into his life. He wasn’t a depressed, down in the dumps, kind of person before but he has been through a lot the past 8 years and he just wanted some happiness to come about. What a feeling knowing that I was what made him believe in his faith even more than before. Did Señor de Huanca bring me to Marco? Was it just coincidence? I honestly can’t say but ever since I got to Cusco I have felt a change in the way I feel about my faith in a higher spirit. I honestly think that sometimes it isn’t coincidence that certain things happen and at other moments I am absolutely positive it is coincidence. With these two I am leaning more towards faith and the possibility that I do have a destiny. However, I am not entirely convinced that I have no control over my destiny. I think that on the one hand we have choices and if we are in situations that seem hopeless there is always the option of changing our attitudes which in turn can drastically change the outcome of a situation. The rational part of me keeps saying that I should think logically about things but the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that some things are meant to be and and not meant to be pondered so intensely. I have to say, it’s a wonderful feeling!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

What's a little food poisoning?

Whether you are a gringo or a local you will most likely get sick within a year of being in Cusco. It's not just the weak stomached extranjeros who have problems with the cleanliness of food here. When I first got to Cusco I remember going to the office of the tour agency with whom I did the Inca Trail and the guy who was helping me had to go to the bathroom about 3 times during our 10 minute meeting. Not fun. There is a reason the US has strict health codes. When was the last time you got food poisoning and food poisoning from a restaurant? (I remember getting food poisoning from a thanksgiving dinner but it was a homemade meal.) There is a law in Washington DC that if you want to distribute "home made" food you have to make it in an industrial kitchen where all the codes are upheld. It's probably not a bad thing, even though it might be a bit more difficult to sell what it is that you want to make considering you also have to pay to rent the kitchen.

I write this because I had a day of misery yesterday with a 24 hour food poisoning and I am not sure where it came from. It could have been some bad pineapple I ate, or maybe the egg from the maracuya sour I made but who knows. Fortunately, with some cipro and some good loving from my number one nurse I survived. The funny thing is that it isn't even the worst episode I have had since getting tho Cusco. I dealt with Salmonella which was incredibly gross and my fair share of bouts of food exiting my body way too easily. (Pardon the gross mental image.)

Anyway, I feel pretty lucky considering I haven't had a parasite that has lasted more than a day. I fully understand that I take a risk every time I put any food into my mouth but I am hoping that the strong stomach gene I got from my mom and grandpa will keep me healthy. I also need to stay away from street food and maybe raw eggs too. I do love me some pisco sours but I can definitely live without them.

As for now, I am enjoying some tea and cookies (both prepackaged. :).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mi vida es loca but I like it!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I have been running around like a mad woman trying to get all my students caught up on lessons and practicing for the Circus I played in last Thursday evening.

I am up to 15 students right now and I will have 17 starting in August. I seem to keep gaining them from all over the place. I couldn't ask for anything more. I am so blessed to be working in a job where I love every single minute. It is challenging and I know that there will always be something for me to improve upon. Right now it is everything. I taught note reading for the first time to two students today and it went really well. Poco a poco! I am going to be teaching one group class on my own and working as an assistant for another one with Angela. On top of that I will be an assistant for Camarata (the string orchestra) and the chorus and orchestras on Saturday afternoons. Right now there are two weeks of vacation from groups but I am continuing with my private classes so that everyone is caught up for July.

I was invited to play with the Closterfunks (a funk band in Cusco) for the Circus presentation called Soy Payaso. I had a blast! We practiced 3 times as a whole band but there was still improving all over the place on the night of. It didn't matter because the bar was packed and the acts were wonderful! There is a guy who does silks, jugglers, clowns, and dancers. I was so happy to be a part of it and I am excited that we have another show coming up on the 4th. Niki, the girl who was instrumental in pulling the whole thing off wants to make it something of a regular thing. We definitely want to do something for Halloween. We could make it super creepy and fun. I really enjoy all the people I played with and I actually ended up judging a voice contest on Satruday at ICPNAC (Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano) with the pianist from the band. Haha, it was really fun. The girl who won sang My Heart with Go on by Celine Dion. Pictures from the Circus are up in the Peru #3 album.

Anyway, I feel very lucky to have met the people at the healing house as well as the South American Explorers Club. They are great people and good group of expats to hang out with since I don't have much connection to Maximo people anymore (which is totally fine by me.) My besties have all left Cusco so I have to make new friends. I am sad because Marissa is leaving too. She has been sick for almost a month and they can't seem to figure out what it is. She is going back to the states on the 17th. She took a job teaching massage therapy in DC. More power to her but I am definitely going to miss her. I don't really have time for Pasta Mama anymore but I will miss our mornings together baking and chatting.

So that's what's going on in my life right now. I am super busy and beyond happy. I wouldn't trade my life for anything. :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

5 Days of travel!

What a trip getting back to Cusco! I couldn't have asked for a more drawn out adventure.

Friday July 8th: I headed to the Ezeiza airport around 11am to find out at 2pm that the flight was cancelled due to the ash that was still in the air from the volcano that erupted. No problem. I spent the night reading and slept about 6 hours. No one can do anything about ash so there is no point in getting upset about a cancelled flight. They said there would be one the following day. I made sure that everything was in order for my flight to Cusco from La Paz since I knew I probably wouldn't be making that flight on Sunday morning. They assured me that it was taken care of and planned for Monday morning.

Saturday July 9th: After around 30 hours in the Ezeiza airport we finally got on a flight to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia at midnight and arrived around 3am. Here is where things started to get crappy. We were told that we would have a place to spend the night taken care of by Aero Sur but when we got to Bolivia they told us that our flight to La Paz wouldn't occur until 12:30pm the following day (Sunday). They also told us that there was no hotel or food for us even though we had a 9 hour layover. They blamed it on the ash but we were in Bolivia now. The ash isn't in Bolivia and our tickets said to La Paz, not to Santa Cruz. Oh well, another night in an airport. At least this time I had some company. I met a couple from New York named Andrea and Brian. They had been living in Argentina for a few months and were headed to Bolivia and to Peru to do some travel before heading back to the states. I hung with them until we made it to La Paz on Sunday afternoon. While I was in Bolivia I made sure to check that my flight to Cusco was still on. They said it was.

Sunday July 10th: At 12:30pm we headed to La Paz and I somehow still had to pay the airport tax in Santa Cruz even though my flight was supposed to be a connection. Grrr. When I got into La Paz I headed to Jorge's place and proceeded to take a shower and pass out until dinner time. His roommates Gonzalo and Melissa as well as Jorge and his girlfriend Maya and I went to a cafe called Beirut. I was super tired and ready to get on my plane to Cusco.

Monday July 11th: I headed to the airport at 6:30am only to find that my flight was scheduled for Tuesday. WHAT?! I was so upset. How could two different people have told me that my flight was on Monday and then I find out that it is on Tuesday on the day I was supposed to leave. I was furious but furious for me means lots and lots of tears. After calling Marco and Jorge to let them know what happened I filled out a complaint form and headed to the central office of Aero Sur to complain directly and see if I could get any compensation. Fortunately, the lady at ODECO was super nice and helped me get 150 bolivianos to help me pay for the transportation to and from the airport. It ended up being food money for the day which was needed. I also called Maria Elena at Qantu to have her all all of my students that wouldn't be having class this day since I was STILL in La Paz. The best part of the day was definitely the crepe making and eating that occurred at Jorge's. A bunch of friends of the roommates came over and we ate waaaay too many crepes, salty and sweet ones.
Melissa ate this crepe in about 15 seconds after buttering and sugaring it.
I had 5 and was done!

I am so happy to be home. I have a ridiculous amount of work to do and I am going to be performing in a circus concert at Ukukus next Thursday and we have a violin concert next friday. I have to make up a ton of classes and I have 7 news students! Yikes! It's all good though and I like being busy. As long as I have some time to practice and see my man. It felt great coming home to Marissa who said she missed me a ton at Pasta Mama. It feels good to be loved.

I also got a package full of music from my mother! YES! So happy and thankful for that.

I forgot to mention that I went to a Milonga, or a Tango bar in BA on Thursday night before I left. One of my classmates was playing so I went to see her. It was awesome and impressive to see everyone dancing tango. It's such a sexy dance.

I am off to teach my first group class today! Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore

Coolest. Bookstore. Ever. The Grand Splendid was originally a theater constructed in 1919 by an Italian architect and used to present Tango shows. It was later turned into a movie theater and then in 2000 it was leased to a pubslishing company that turned it into a bookstore! Voila! A breathtaking bookstore! There is a coffee shop in the stage area and there is a children´s section in the basement. I was in paradise. What a wonderful mixture of art and literature in the same place. The one thing that totally blew my mind though was that every single book in the building was in Spanish except for a very small section of English novelas (which pretty much means romance novels and cheap trashy novels.) Now, one would think in a city such as Buenos Aires where people are known to be well educated and into books, that there would be more of a selection of foreign language books than that. Barnes and Noble in the US is not nearly as large as this bookstore yet it has a decent section of books in all sorts of different languages. Good thing I can read books in Spanish! I found one called Vivir Zen by an Argentine psychologist. We shall see how it is. I am excited to find out. Here are some more pictures for your viewing pleasure!

Puerto Madero and La Boca

Yesterday was a wonderful day of sightseeing and souvenir shopping. I met up with Roxana, Marco´s cousin in the morning for a cup of coffee and to give her her birthday gift from Marco. She was super sweet and showed me pictures of her gorda as she calls Mia, her daughter.After coffee she headed to work and I headed to Puerto Madero. It was beautiful. I walked all the way down it and into La Boca. On my way I passed a few boat museums and a cool bridge called Puente de La Mujer or Woman Bridge. I saw a few kayakers head underneath it and that definitly made me jealous. I would love to do some kayaking, especially sea kayaking. The last time I was in a kayak was in Georgian bay in 2009.

After about an hour or so of walking around and into La Boca, I finally found the tourist street ¨caminito¨ filled with brightly painted buildings, drawings of tango dancers and actual tango dancers performing at parillas or Argentine grillhouses. I sat down at one and had a steak for 10 US dollars. It was more expensive than what I would´ve paid somewhere else in town but oh well, it was worth it. It was delicious. I am hoping to get to the club Milonga tonight to take a tango class before watching a classmate from this week play the piano with her tango group. This picture is of the corner of the street. Gotta love the lampost and the statue of a person looking over the balcony. There was a lot of that. It reminded me a bit of an oldschool burlesque circus without the burlseque dancing of course.

Finally, I headed back to the apartment before heading out one more time to eat more parilla with Roxana and Mia. We went to a place called Sofia and at this delicious mixture of meat. We had wonderful conversation and I had a fun time playing with Mia. She is quite the singer. I hope to see her again some day but who knows when I will be back in Buenos Aires or when she will come to Peru. I enjoyed getting to know some of Marco´s family. They were the first two!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Friends in Buenos Aires

I have had the wonderful fortune of being able to meet up with three friends from different parts of my life. First, I met up with Cameron (whom I worked with in Cusco at Maximo) on Thursday for a tour around Palermo and a bit of the city. We saw the flower that used to open in the morning and close at night but it´s broken now. It was still pretty and fun to see though. We had a good two hour lunch and caught up. I learned a lot about Porteñan culture (Porteños are from Buenos Aires. Puerto means port in Spanish and someone from the port is a porteño meaning Buenos Aires citizen.)

The following day I met up with my friend Sara whom I know from Camp Echo. We made a dry run of the route I would be taking to get to my class and ate a cute little place called Pierena. We had personal pizzas that were made on a thick bread and absolutely delicious! I was told that there was good pizza here and I am happy I was able to eat some!

After meeting up with Sara, I made my way to the US embassy and waited outside for my friend Teresa who is in Argentina on a Fullbright scholarship teaching in Chaco in the North of the country. She came out and I found out that they had to reschedule their flights due to the ash from Chile sweeping over. She headed to the airport to sort things out and I went home to get ready to go out with Cameron. Friday evening turned out to be quite fun because not only did I get to hang out with Cameron but Teresa came along too. We went to a bar called Esquina Libertad and caught the last minutes of the Copa America game between Argentina and Bolivia. (They tied.) We chatted with a few porteños and headed out. I had to get up early for class so I wasn{t trying to stay out late. (1 am was late enough!)

On Saturday Fernando came into town to hang out. He and Gabi were the ones I met when I was working at Yamanya hostel. After class we hung out at Marian and Mariano´s place (Marian is Gabi and Fer´s sister who lives in the apartment next door to Gabi) and then went out for a drink. We wanted to find a place to do karaoke but the only place we found cost 40 pesos. That´s 10 dollars too expensive for me.

I have one more morning of class tomorrow and then I am free to roam the city as a tourist again! First stop is here, an old theater that they turned into a bookstore! So EXCITED! I am also going to go to a Tango show that one of my classmates is in on Thursday evening. I definitely need to try parilla (Argentine bbq) and some Argentinian wine before I leave.

That´s all for now! I will write about my course soon but most likely after my trip. Don´t want to waste the day on the computer. :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Culture Shock

Tell me this doesn´t remind you of the prairie of Illinois if you have ever been there. It was the bus ride in from Ezeiza airport to the city.

I knew I would have some culture shock and it kicked in when I found out I could throw toilet paper into the toilet! Oh happy day! No smelly garbage bin next to the toilet filled with dirty paper. Not only that, you can drink water from the tap! Wahoo!! No buying bottled water for me! I also realized that there are no llamada ladies which means I have to find a pay phone to make a call if I am not at Gabi´s apartment. Fortunately, they aren´t that difficult to find. Getting on a bus that is tall enough for me to stand upright is really weird and quite refreshing. EVERYONE has leather boots. (If they aren´t wearing them I am sure they have a pair at home.) a 37 peso menu is not the same as a 10 sole menu.

I am kind of excited about the Starbucks around the corner from my place. I haven´t gone yet but I will definitely make it there at least once before I leave. Frappecinos are a weakness of mine along with donuts (of which I only indulged in one in Bolivia!)

There are dog walkers!! What a foreign concept to someone who has been living around wild dogs all over the city in Cusco. It´s not like I haven´t seen dog walkers before but I had forgotton that that is something people do in big cities. It´s funny when you see a dog on a leash, let alone walked by one person along with a bunch of other dogs. Cusqueñans would laugh.

There are parks eveywhere and they are huge and wonderful and full of grass. I miss grass in Cusco. It´s this weird kind of astro turf kind of grass there.

All the people I have met so far have been very nice. I have gotten a few ridiculous cat calls and a ¨You have a very nice ass!¨ from one nice gentleman, but that´s nothing new. It is South America after all.

I met up with my friend Sara this morning for lunch and now I am headed off to meet up with my friend Teresa who I went to Denison with. I also met up with Cameron yesterday who I worked with at Maximo in Cusco. I will write the next post about my adventures with my friends here in BA.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Well Hello there Buenos Aires

All right! I made it safe and sound! Yesterday I saw the 4th Pirates of the Caribbean movie which was quite entertaining. Gotta love Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, even if it is dubbed in Spanish. Whoever the guy was who dubbed him was good too. I also indulged in a donut that was absolutely delicious. It´s probably a good thing they don´t have them all over Cusco. I would be super fat. I mentioned in an earlier post that I wanted to find a pair of jeans. Well, I went to a store at the Shopping Norte mall and the only ones that fit me were high waisted and 360 bolivianos which is roughly 60 dollar. No thanks. I went outside and around the corner and found a nice store that was going out of business and everything was 50% to 70% off. I, thankfully, found a pair of jeans that fit me as well as a shirt for Marco that I think he will like. It pays hommage to the Wright Brothers with design pictures of planes. He works with war materials, some of which include planes, close enough right? Haha. After buying them I realized that there were some cute clothes on the rack and since the jeans and the shirt only cost 175 bolivianos (25 dollars) maybe I would find some other good stuff. I definitely did. Three shirts later and another 120 bolivianos later I left the store a happy girl. I really dislike shopping for jeans because it takes forever to find a pair that fits me. I don´t even remember the last time I went clothes shopping. It was probably at Target last year some time. Sometimes, especially when your jeans rip, it´s a necessary evil to undertake.

I called Jorge who was just about to head out the door to spend the night with his girlfriend. I am glad I caught him. I headed over to his place and met his two temporary roommates, Melissa (from France) and Gonzalo (from Lima Peru). Melissa is working with an NGO and Gonzalo is there for the ride taking some French classes in the meantime. They met last year when they went to school together in Lima. Super cute couple. We had dinner together at a German cafe that I just so happened to have visited on my last trip to La Paz, go figure. During dinner I realized that I had forgotton my pack towel at the hostel so I called them and sure enough, they had it. I made my way back to pick up but totally forgot that I left my patagonia cap 3 shirt that I like to sleep in as well. Oh well. Things are things. Everything goes eventually (Thank you wonderful buddism book that I am reading right now called Stumbling Toward Enlightenment by Geri Larken).

Continuing on my trip, I woke up nice and early this morning and took a private cab ride to the airport where I proceeded to solve 13 sudoku puzzles while waiting for my flight to arrive. Everything went smoothly and we made it to Santa Cruz without a hitch. When I went through immigration the officer took a while looking at my passport and my visa. Why? I have no idea but he eventually let me leave the country. On the flight to BA I met a nice guy named Percy who is Bolivian and works for Avon. (Yup, Avon, the cosmetic company.) He was super nice and told me about Buenos Aires and places I should eat if I get the chance. I definitely have to try out the pizza here and the meat. Mmmm meat.

Once I landed I headed to the Manuel Tienda Leon bus counter and bought a ticket to take me directly to my friend´s apartment. It was great service with a coach bus to their station and then a private taxi to the apartment. The one thing that struck me when I was on the bus was how much the landscape reminded me of Illinois with the different types of trees and prairie. I was immediately in a good mood. I knew Argentina would be awesome and this just makes it feel like home. Don´t get me wrong, I am so ready for the difference in culture. I am having more culture shock from living in Cusco and coming to Buenos Aires than anything. First of all, I miss the llamada ladies who stand around with neon green cloth and let you dial anyone you need to. Fortunately, I found a payphone and after 15 minutes and was able to call Gabi. She let me know that the bell boy had the key for me so I was able to get in and now I am writing my entry! Que vacan or here they say Que barabaro! I love it.

Well, Gabi just walked in the door so I am off for now! Until the next post!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

En Ruta

Happy day! I made it to La Paz last night after two days in a row on a bus. My itinerary was as follows:

Cusco - Arequipa 10 hours 50 soles (with cockroaches..ick...don´t take San Cristobal del Sur)
Arequipa - Tacna 4 and a half hours 20 soles (had two seats to myself..sweet deal!)
Tacna - Arica 2 hours including immigration 10 soles (had a good convo with a Peruvian guy sitting next to me)
Arica - La Paz 10 hours 8000 Chilean Pesos or 50 soles or 17 dollars depending on how you want to look at it

On the bus to La Paz I met a really nice woman named Veronica who sat next to me and warned me about the possibility that we might not make it through the border if we didn´t get there by a quarter to 8pm. Thank goodness we got there ten minutes before it closed. It was not nearly as cold as the winters in Chicago but MAN, I forgot how cold cold can be. The Andes mountains are no joke when it comes to cold. If we had had to stay the night at the border, which happened to Veronica before, we would´ve frozen our tushes off. I had enough time to eat some dinner too but not without a little run after the bus to let me on. The driver was detained for a little while due to paper issues and what not so we took the time to sit down and eat. We were going to have soup but the bus honked and starting backing away! Nothing like a little panic to add to a trip! I made it though...phew!

I did make the smart decision to reserve a room at a hostel called Bash n Crash in La Paz. I found internet in Arica and made my 10 percent deposit of .50 cents USD. One night cost me 35 bolivianos which is roughly 5 USD. Gotta love cheap prices in Bolivia!

Now, I have the day in La Paz to hang out and see a movie. I have to take advantage of the cinema since there are none in Cusco. I also need to find a pair of jeans since mine ripped while on the bus ride. La Paz is the place to shop! Cheap prices and decent stuff. I am not expecting crazy good quality jeans but something that will work for a while.

My flight to La Paz is tomorrow morning and my awesome friend Gabi, whom I am staying with in BA, gave me all the details for the bus that I need to take that will only cost me around 17 USD as opposed to the 40 a taxi would cost. Let the frugality continue! :)

I do need to send a shout out to the rents for making this trip possible for me! You guys are the best!

Corpus Christi and Inti Raymi

*Written on Sunday, June 26th, 2011*
Festivities this week have been quite amusing and somewhat annoying at the same time. Desfiles (parades) are fun for a little while but they got old pretty quick and traffic due to the plaza being closed is also a pain in the butt. I did enjoy going to see the floats of the saints during Corpus Christi. It’s cool how Inca and Catholic customs are mixed for this holiday. The saints are paraded around the plaza just as the mummies of the great Incas were paraded around. When the Incans converted to Catholocism, they just replaced mummies with saints. Some people have a problem with it because it is like idolizing saints which is a sin according to Catholicism. Nothing should be worshipped or idolized except God. It doesn’t matter to me what they idolize but, I will say, it is interesting how Incan ceremonies such as Inti Raymi take place in front of two Catholic Churches. It’s ironic. Corpus at least has something to do with Catholicism. The mixture of indigenous culture and religion with Catholicism has always been something that has intrigued me. I find it interesting how they justify their Incan ceremonies being the Catholics that they claim to be. It seems to be a little bit like how people in the states say they are Christian but never go to church or practice the religion. Maybe it is just a way to identify themselves even though they aren’t all practicing Catholics here in Cusco. I will post pictures as soon as I get back from Buenos Aires in a few weeks.

I didn’t get any pictures of Inti Raymi (The Sun ceremony) but I did see some of the ceremony in the plaza and the unveiling of the Inca statue on top of the fountain that had been turned into a giant rock. Check it out on Google. I am sure there are pictures if you put in “Inti Raymi Cusco 2011”. I was wondering why they had the fountain covered up for so long during June, which is festival month. It all made sense after seeing it. Marco had a fun time pointing out military guys in the group of actors and dancers. I didn’t make it up to Sacsayhuaman to see the entire ceremony but instead, I moved into my new house. I now live within 5 minutes of both of my jobs. Pretty awesome if you ask me. I also have a double bed! Finally, a large bed. It´s my first large bed ever in my life! All I have to do now is by sheets for it. I am also going to buy a comoda (dresser) with three cajones (drawers). The plaza Tupac Amaru has all sorts of wooden things so when I get back I can check it out.

I am so grateful for Marco having a car and being able to help me move without using a taxi. He was even going to pick up the dresser for me on Saturday but I had other things to worry about and he was in inamovilidad (code for lockdown on the base) because of all the issues in Puno. They sent a few troops over there to lay down the law so to speak, and he was able to leave the base by the afternoon.

For now, I can’t think about much else than going to Buenos Aires. I need to get packed! I will try and update in Buenos Aires but we will see how much time I have!

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

What a day. This morning I woke up to a phone call from Flor, the director at Qantu, telling me that things in Puno have gotten worse and people have been killed. She and Elena, the secretary had talked and agreed that they would help pay for part of my flight from Cusco to La Paz. So this morning for three hours I ran myself around Cusco searching for flights and bus tickets and ATMs that didn’t have a line half a block long. (Thank you Banco de la Nacion for costing me another taxi ride.) So this was my morning:

1st: I went to Aero Sur to see if there was a flight open on Sunday. Nope. Booked full. There was the possibility (but only the possibility) of a flight opening up on Tuesday to La Paz but she wouldn’t know until tomorrow.

2nd: I went to LAN to see what their prices were. I should have known better. It was 585 bucks one way form Cusco to La Paz. Not happening.

3rd: I left and headed back to Aero Sur where I made my reservation for a flight back to Cusco from La Paz for $216.95.

4th: I made my way to the bus terminal (Thank you Jacob for lending me 5 soles since I only had large bills). I bought a ticket to Arquipa for tonight at 8pm. It will bring me to Arequipa in the morning and then I will hop on a bus to Tacna which is another 4 hours from Arequipa. From there I will take a combi across the border of Chile to Arica. I will most likely be spending the night in Arica before taking a bus on Tuesday morning direct from Arica to La Paz. It is going to be two days of travel to La Paz but I will make my flight on Wednesday to Buenos Aires.

5th: Went home to get my passport and violin because I had students after work at Pasta Mama.

6th: Went to Banco de la Nacion to withdrawl money from Marco’s account (because he rocks and is lending me money for the return flight) but the line was half a block long. Instead of being smart and just walking to the other cajero down the street near the post office, I thought it would be better to go to the one near my old house. Another taxi and a little wait in line later, I withdrew the money I needed and headed back to Aero Sur to buy my return flight.

7th: I walked to Pasta Mama to work the afternoon.

8th: I gave one student a lesson and proceeded to call the rest of my Monday students to let them know that there wouldn’t be any classes on Monday and to see if any of them could recuperate classes tomorrow. Fortunately, 2 of them can. I am going to have a bunch of classes to recuperate when I get back but it’s doable and while it will be hectic, I HAVE to get to Buenos Aires, no matter how broke it makes me! I will survive and I know it will be worth it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Help My Brother Win a Recording Contract!

My brother and his partner of Good Hood Hip Hop are in a contest in Washington DC to win a recording contract. If you can help them out by submitting one vote a day until the 21st of June that would be awesome!!! Just copy and past the following link. You can listen to a song of theirs called ¨Rock Steady¨

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Concert and Festivities

I went to a concert put on by Sergio and Flor last night with Marco. Sergio plays the cello and Flor, the piano. It was wonderful and absolutely what I have been missing in Cusco. Two nights before I played in a concert for the Wanchaq Municipality workers with the youth orchestra we have and I got to hear the Cusco Symphony Orchestra play a bit, but other than that it's been mostly huayno (music of the area that gets tiring after one of two songs and is only slightly remedied by being played on instruments without any voice) or disco music. Anyway, Sergio played Vivaldi's Sonata V, J.S. Bach's Suite II, and Sonata in G Major as well as a few traditional Andean songs to round it off. We are in Peru so why not? It was great and I am glad that Marco enjoyed it too. I asked him if he was bored at all and he said no. He takes it as an opportunity to learn about something he has absolutely no previous knowledge in. What a guy! Talk to most men (not just Peruvians) and they would tell you they would rather watch TV than go to a classical music concert. Needless to say, it made me incredibly happy to hear that. I don't expect him to fall in love with classical music but it's nice to know he shows interest in what I am interested in.

After the concert we headed down to the plaza to find tons of groups practicing and dancing in the street. There is something every day here and there isn't a single day this month that has gone by without groups practicing outside of my front door. The month of June is festival time in Cusco and there is something to watch and enjoy every day. Inti Raymi is the most well known celebration and the most ridiculous according to Marco. Last year he could barely get through the main plaza because it was so packed with people and most of them were drunk. Can't wait!! Haha, I will be helping Marissa out by selling some tasty treats from the restaurant and handing out flyers during Inti Raymi. I might head up to the ceremony in Sacsayhauman too if it isn't too crazy. There is no way I am paying for a ticket though. They range from 70 - 110 dollars. I will watch from the side, thanks. The following pictures are a few of the groups practicing and looking like they are having a grand old time! Gotta love Cusco for how much everyone wants to take part in all the festivities and dance! (The excessive drinking gets a bit old though)