Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spending Time with Friends

I have done a lot of thinking lately about friendships and relationships. I consider myself to be extremely outgoing and friendly. I have no problem walking up to someone, introducing myself and starting a conversation. It has proven to be quite an asset at times and I have met some really interesting people. My best friend here in Cusco became my roommate because I overheard her saying she needed a place to stay and offered a room in my apartment. Thank goodness! I am so glad she moved in and we started a great relationship. While I am happy that I can make friends easily, I have also realized that many friendships are fleeting, especially when you live a nomadic English teacher lifestyle in South America. It really sucks to see friends leave but it's inevitable. Gone are the days when people grew up and continued living in the towns they grew up in with all their childhood friends. Of course, I am not saying that we should all stay put and never move around or explore, but there is something to be said about planting oneself and really making it home. Lately, I have been feeling like Cusco has become a home to me and I asked myself why. It wasn't difficult to realize what the most important part of having a place feel like home. It is the relationships that I have with people that make it so homey. I could be anywhere in the world and if I am surrounded by good people and good company I will be happy. Of course, another part of it is that I am very comfortable speaking the language, eating the food, and dancing a LOT. These are all things that I can get in cantidades grandes (large amounts) here in Cusco. I guess what I am saying is that I am grateful for the people that I have met and the friendships that I have made here.

I have also thought about the relationships that I have with people back home. People have asked me if I am homesick at all and while I occasionally get a pang of nostalgia for certain things like the sound of the central fan in my house during the summer, I can't say that I am very homesick. The internet is a great tool that has allowed me to stay in touch with family and friends quite easily. There is still no way to keep in touch with everyone though. Facebook makes keeping in touch extremely easy but at the same time people somehow fall out of contact. It's normal. It's supposed to happen because it's a part of life and if I held an intimate relationship with everyone I was "friends" with on facebook I would have no life. It would be consumed by internet use and that is no way to live. I had the opportunity to talk with my best friend from high school the other day and it was so fantastic catching up with her. We hadn't talked for a little over a year and it was so great to hear what she had been up to and to be able to share with her what my life has become since moving to Peru. It only takes the occasional phone call or email to keep in touch with someone who matters to you. Even though we haven't seen each other in a while I still feel like she is a great friend and that when we do see each other again it will be great. It's nice to know that when (or if) I return to the States, I will have good people to come home to.

In other friends news, I went to a dinner party the other night at my friend Marissa's new place in San Blas. She make enchiladas and tacos. It was super cute because it turned out to be more of a couples dinner party. I was happy that Marco was able to share it and meet some of my friends and eat excellent food too. We discussed the desserts that were possibilities for the restaurant. This delicious picture is a chocolate and peanut butter cake. Mmmm. I felt kind of bad that we were speaking mostly in English because Marco is still pretty novice but he said that he understood a good portion of what was being said even though he didn't get every word. I have no doubt that he will eventually master English. He is a dedicated student in everything he studies. Hmmm maybe that's why I like him so much. :)

I also spent yesterday morning and early afternoon with three of my Maximo friends who I adore, Erica, Jordan, and Corey. We had a brunch with pancakes, fruit, and eggs. I don't laugh as hard with anyone here like I do with them and it makes me incredibly happy. Everyone should have friends that make them laugh really hard. It is really one of the best simple pleasures in the world.

Something that always intrigues me and really makes relationships and friendships the most interesting and what bonds us are the things that don't always come out or get found out until after the superficial stuff has been said. It is the stuff underneath that leaves us vulnerable and our trust in one another that bonds us and makes friendships strong. Trust, loyalty, dependability, and respect are four things that make a great relationship. If that is in place among two people, there is no doubt that the friendship will last and that is what I try and foster with my friends and loved ones. So to all my friends and even if you are an acquaintance, I hope that you feel the love and know that I am grateful for meeting you and if we haven't talked in a while drop me a line, a comment, or a facebook post. Let's catch up. :)

Below are two photos I cropped and played with on iphoto. My old roommates from Saphi and Erica and myself.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Well, you might thing St. Patricks's Day is just a big excuse for Americans to get drunk but it's also an excuse for gringos in Cusco to get drunk too! Haha. Our hostel hosted a St. Patrick's Day Party and then everyone went out dancing afterward. For some reason I was surprised to find that St. Patrick's Day was celebrated here but I should have known better. Of course they would celebrate in Cusco. Any excuse for a party is a good excuse. It was a fun night and I got my face painted too. It was also my best frined from college's birthday. HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY AMANDA!!

For more pictures check out the "Yamanya" album.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Well, I am sure most of you know about the earthquake that hit on March 12th. We spent the entire morning watching the BBC. The death toll started at a few hundred but within a few hours it had risen to the thousands and now they are predicting that the death toll will be over 10,000. There was talk that Peru would be hit by waves from the tsunami but so far it hasn´t been too bad. There was some damage done by the 1.5 meter waves but nothing too serious. I have been fascinated with the aftermath and I have been reading a lot about what the consequences might be on a social and geographical level. I met a couple here in Cusco on Thanksgiving at the Real McCoy. They were riding their bikes through South America and then heading to Japan. I have followed their blog and they were on the last flight into Japan before the quake hit. They are currently living in the airport and have quite the story. It´s an interesting read. To end the hyperlinks I have one more that I recommend looking at. It´s a New York Times page with before and after satellite pictures of Japan. It´s insane!

Either way, the Earth is pissed off at us. The thing with natural disasters is that there is no one to blame. I personally blame the human population as whole but it´s kind of difficult to make a direct connection, other than we consume and don´t give back. We have lacked respect for our planet and she´s firing back. The worst part is that lots of lives were and are going to be lost in the subsequent natural disasters. The best we can do is help out in anyway possible to help reconstruct and take care of those affected. It wouldn´t hurt to become a little more conscious of our actions and how they affect the environment around us. My heart goes out to all the people in Japan who were affected, including my college classmate who was signing a renewal contract to teach as the quake hit. Fortunately, he took cover and was on the 9th floor of a building, so he was not swept away by the subsequent tsunami.

In other news, there are new pics up in the albums ¨Peru¨, ¨Maximo¨, ¨Yamanya¨ and ¨An Ecuadorian Christmas¨. I realized I never put up the pictures from Christmas on the blog so here they are. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Little Here, A Little There

One week down and life is good. I am settling in well at Yamanya and I only have one class at Excel. There weren’t enough people that matriculated for the other two classes that I was potentially going to teach. Fortunately, I am not desperate for the hours. I am actually kind of excited that I only have one class that I can pour all my energy into. I want to make it fun and exciting and I can certainly do it with all the extra time I have without two other classes.

Last night we celebrated Sadidt’s birthday by getting pizza at a place called La Verona. It was fun and I saw some students that I hadn’t seen since I had them in September.

I’ve been making lots of friends here at the hostel from all over the world. I definitely have a place to stay when I go to Santiago, Mendoza, Cordoba, and Buenos Aires. It’s amazing the amount of networking you can do when you live and work at a hostel. I have also taken to giving suggestions to guests as to where to get lunch and good coffee and pastries. I want to share my knowledge of the city because so often people who work at hostel bars are travelers as well and they don’t know the city that well. I want to make sure that people get good info. I read the reviews of the hostel on hostelworld.com and hostelbooker.com and one of the negative comments that was on there was about bad directions to Pisac. There isn’t much the hostel can do about it’s bar workers and their knowledge of the city but for the time being, I will improve upon that comment and give people correct advice. ☺

In other news, I met up with Marissa, the cousin of Becca who I worked with at Maximo until December. Anyway, Marissa and her boyfriend Humberto are opening up a pasta restaurant called Pasta Mama. It’s a play on the word Pachamama which means mother earth in Quechua. I think I may have mentioned all this before. I’m super excited though! They should be open by the beginning of next month and I will be working there serving and doing whatever else they need me to do. I can’t wait. It’s so exciting to be a part of an entrepreneurial adventure! Right now they are working on lighting and getting some bar stools. I am going to see if I can’t help type up the menu and make it pretty once it is finalized. I will be making about 4 soles an hour but it’s better than nothing. I might get a bit in tips too. I don’t expect much though. Tipping is not common here. A sol here or there would be nice though. I will have to rely on the gringos. They tend to tip; especially if they are from the States. So next month I will be working at the hostel and at Pasta Mama and taking a break from teaching which will be great because my brother Roger is coming on the 15th! He just confirmed his flight and I couldn’t be more excited!! We are going to have a blast. I am going to show him everything!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

El Carnaval!!

What a fantastic day!! After a fast morning shift, Corey came over and we got ready to rock out to Pisac. Catherine tagged along with and I am so glad she did! When we got to Pisac we made sure to get something to eat before planning our attack on the small children in the square. Carnaval is all about water, water balloons, foam (espuma), and silly string. Everyone gets soaked. It's a requirement. We picked up a few bottles of espuma each and went at the kids. It was so much fun. We were some of the few gringos that took part in the soak/foam fest. What is the point of going to a Carnaval festival if you aren't going to partake? The kids loved us and managed to get us pretty badly. I was soaked from head to toe by the end of the few hours we spent running around. We ran into a few friends from the bar including Miguel Angel (my bartending teacher) who is from Pisac. He seems to be somewhat of a celebrity there. Everyone knows him. Granted, the town has about 700 people in it. Either way, we got a few free water balloons from him and continued on our mission to spray as many people we could. After running out of ammo and realizing how cold we actually were, we headed back to Cusco; happy, tired, wet, and ready for a hot shower! I will post some pics once Corey sends me some. I am currently working on cropping the video that Catherine got on her camera. It's awesome.

In other news, I bought a camera! Woohoo! It ended up being about $130 US but it's totally worth it. I am happy to have a photo taking machine again. My requirements were that it had a lithium battery and could take video. I ended up going with a Kodak 14 megapixel camera. I don't care at all about the megapixels. I was fine with my 6 megapixel canon before but they just don't stop getting bigger. Oh well. I am content and in lieu of the new camera, I am posting some pics of the hostel: my new home!

The first two pictures are of the bar. The final picture is the view from the second floor looking down on reception and the first patio.

Sweet Salmonella Sickness

Well, the time has finally come for a viscious little bacilli to enter my stomach and wreak havoc. I am pretty sure I got Salmonella from a mango sour I made. Miguel helped me make it and we used the egg white from an egg I never saw. Word to wise, if you ever use raw eggs, make sure you actually see the egg it came out of. I don´t know how old the clara (egg white) was and it was most likely the culprit. I originally thought I had eaten something bad when I cooked spaghetti on Tuesday but I had terrible cramps the following days so I decided to see a doctor. Good thing I did! He took a blood sample and stool sample to check for Salmonella and for parasties. I am now taking cipro and staying away from alcohol for the week which won´t be difficult.

I have worked the past three mornings at the bar for the breakfast shift and I have to say I don´t mind working this shift as much as I thought I would. I don´t have to think like I did when I was up teaching at 7am. I just put out bread, coffee, milk, and tea. I make sure there are clean dishes and that people are happy. I also get to play whatever music I want. I am scheduled to work this shift 4 days in a row next Thursday through Sunday. We´ll see if I can´t get a switcheroo with someone maybe on Sunday morning. Apparently, Miguel, who did the scheduling, thinks that I have to work the mornings because I am in charge of making sure the food is ordered and bought for breakfast and sandwiches. Fortunately, my co-worker Catherine, explained to him that I just need to take a count after the shift is over and make sure to buy whatever is needed for the following day.

I start classes tomorrow in the afternoon and I won´t find out my exact schedule until tomorrow morning nor what levels I am teaching. They don´t really give you much time to plan for the first day but it´s all good. First days are meant for introductions and review. Either way, I am excited about it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Home Sweet Yamanya

I have made the move to Yamanya! I am now living in a dorm with 6 other people which has already brought its interesting moments. Just today, someone moved in and one of the most interesting of my roommates had a little bit of a fit about losing a cover (of which he had four!). His name is Antonio and he is such a character. He is working as a cook here in the hostel and he is from Italy. His food is amazing and he has cooked all over the world. He is definitely the ladies man though. I am sure he will be the source of many of the adventures that occur here.

The dorm isn’t that bad. The hooked me up with an amazing feather comforter and the beds are to die for. The picture above shows my little cave. Pull down the sheet and it almost feels like I am in my own room. Too bad Antonio snores when he sleeps after drinking. I have been sleeping on such a crappy colchón for the last 6 months. It’s quite a nice change. I also have a windowsill for my toiletries which makes life a lot easier. There is not a ton of ventilation in the room so when there are more people I am sure it will get more stuffy. For now, it isn’t terrible. The most important thing is that we have lockable cubbies that roll under our beds as seen in the pic above. We don't lock our dorm door so anyone could potentially come in. Huzzah for locks!

As for my work here, I am learning the ropes of the bar. I haven’t had to make any drinks yet but I am sure I will get my chance to show my skills (or lack thereof) tonight when I work the 8:30pm to 1am shift. I am looking forward to it. It’s something I can add to my list of renaissance activities. Haha. I also had a meeting with Esther at Excel yesterday. It was a short orientation as to how things work there. In a lot of ways I am quite impressed with their system. She broke it down into hours for each unit and how the attendance and grading works. It is definitely a school and not just a private business that teaches English to its clients. A few of the things I like are the attendance policy. If you are absent more than 3 times, you don’t pass the course. The same goes for tardies, but you have 5 tardies before you fail the class. You are also not allowed to have cell phone’s in class. I also like that classes are an hour and a half long. It will give me more time to develop the lesson and give my students time to practice. I do hear that you only get one dry erase marker so I took the liberty of borrowing some from office 6. When I am done I will give them back. I will find out when my classes are tomorrow afternoon and pick up my books so I can start lesson planning. Classes start on Friday and since I specified that I can’t work in the mornings, I will only have 2 or 3 classes in the afternoon/evening. I am really glad that I am doing it because it will get me out of the hostel. It’s super easy to get caught here since everything is right here: a bed, food, drinks, wi-fi, really awesome hot showers, and interesting company from all over the world. I have promised myself that I will not let myself get sucked in and make sure to hang out with Erica. I miss living with her.

Last night I had my first run in with a bit of food poisoning. I made myself some spaghetti with veggies from the kitchen and ended up throwing all of it up after I sang at Kamikase. While I made it to the toilet, I managed to get some on my pants. It was a bit embarrassing walking out of the bathroom to Marco who gave me a “are you OK?” look to which I responded with a pout and a sigh. He’s a good guy though and made sure I got home safe. I was hoping that that was the only incident I would have but low and behold, at 3:30am I found myself running to the bathroom again. I think that it was after the second time that I really felt better. Either way, this morning I downed a nalgene and ended up sleeping most of the day. That’s the last time I use someone else’s veggies.

Life is good right now. I am excited about the change. I had a knot in my stomach for a few days before I moved, but it’s been fading since I have moved in. I have met some really interesting people and I enjoy the company of one of my fellow bar workers and roommies named Catherine. Another Glee fan. I can’t complain! She is from Canada and she is looking for EFL teaching jobs. Unfortunately, as she has found out since she started her search, getting a job in South America (or at least around here) has proven to be a bit more difficult with a 60 hour TEFL certification. Most certifications are 120 hours with 100 of the hours being classroom work and 20 hours being student teaching, or in my case, tutoring. She is looking into working in Asia and apparently has 3 offers already which is great! I don’t know if I could teach in Asia. Well, I know I could teach, but I wouldn’t be as comfortable in the culture as I am here. I also don’t know any asian languages which makes daily life a bit more difficult. I am so happy down here. People have asked me when I am going back to the states and I honestly don’t know. Well, I might be back for a stint if I get the Experiment in International Living Abroad job, but I have no idea when I will be back for more than just a short time. At this point, I have nothing that I need to be back in the States for. My life is here and I really enjoy it. It is going to be difficult when I leave Cusco because I have gotten used to my life here. I am in a band, I have a job, I have great friends, and a great boyfriend. I couldn’t ask for more. To top it off, my brother is coming in April! So excited!!!!!