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.