Thursday, November 29, 2012

Belated Thanks

 (A week late)

  I am so sorry that I am late with this post but I think it is never too late to say thank you for the things that make us happy!

So here is my list of things that I am thankful for!

1. My family. This includes all my extended family too including my in laws on Marco's side, even though I don't know many of them personally. I am very thankful for family because they are the ones who support you through everything including moving to another country permanently. There is less face time but that doesn't mean I love them any less or that I think about them any less. I love you very much mom, dad, and Roger! You guys are the best family anyone could ask for!

2. Marco! He is the love of my life and makes helps me be a better person every day. I seriously love him more and more every day. I love that he supports me and respects me and makes sure to explain to me why I might be acting crazy about something. Thank you for calming me down when I need it and making me food and bringing me medicine and taking care of me all the time! You are the best partner anyone could ever ask for! I am so happy to be spending my life with you!

3. My awesome friends. This includes those who I have very limited contact with. You all have made an impact on me in some way, whether it be making me smile or being there for me when I am having a bad day. I appreciate the support and love I get from all my friends. I appreciate all my facebook friends too. I have an absurd amount of them but I still appreciate all of them, even if I haven't talked to many of them in person in quite a few years. 

4. My doggy! Pepe brings me so much joy and happiness. He makes me crazy sometimes too but that is normal and I wouldn't have it any other way! I love playing with him and I love that he greets me every day when I come home with kisses. He is the best. Thank you Zara for letting us have him!

5. My job. I love my job. I love teaching. I love music. I love kids! I am so lucky to have all of that in one job. I look forward to going to work every day and seeing my students progress in their playing and studies. It's so exciting and I am so proud to be a part of it. I am going to be so sad to leave all of my students behind when I move to Lima in a month. They mean a lot to me and I am so grateful to Qantu. Angela, and Flor, for giving me the chance to try something new. I am thankful that they had faith in me and I gave me a job even though I wasn't technically certified to be doing it in the beginning. Patience and loving kindness and a bit of faith have given me quite a lot! Thank you!

6. The Peruvian Military. I know, you are thinking what? Seriously though. I am grateful that they gave us a house, well that they gave Marco a house that I have been able to live in for the past year almost. They are also going to give us one when we move to Lima eventually. I am grateful that they provide for their employees and that there are lots of facilities for me to use in Lima like a gym and a pool in the circulo militar. 

7. My bandmates. I am so lucky to have met great people with whom I can play really fun music and make money with. I have thoroughly enjoyed singing and playing with the Guardians, Claudio, David, and Alvaro. It's been a blast and an extra income. I couldn't be more thankful to be doing what I love and making a living from it. I have also made some great friends in the process. 

8. Peru! This country has given me a lot. I am so thankful for all of the wonderful things that have come my way in the form of people and job opportunities. 

9. The USA! I also have to be thankful for where I came from and the opportunities and privileges that I had growing up that allowed me to get to the place where I am today. 

10. I am also thankful for myself and my ability to be independent and a strong individual. I am the eternal optimist and because of that my life has turned out pretty fantastic so far. Thank you me for being awesome. I love you and don't ever let anyone make you feel less about yourself. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful turkey filled Thanksgiving! I spent mine chowing down with fellow expats at my friend Elizabeth and Erik's apartment (Another Peruvian American couple). It was super fun. I wish I could have stayed longer but The Guardians played at Saqras that night. I did, however, get to share two pumpkin pies with everyone and they were all gone when I went by to pick up the dishes the next day. Thank you mom for sending me the Libby's pumpkin mix. Totally worth it! YUM!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Birthday Number 3 in Cusco!

It's my birthday and I will smile if I want to, smile if I want to, laugh if I want to. Seriously, it's been a great day so far. Marco woke me up when he rang the doorbell. He had forgotten his key so he had to ring the bell. Haha, no problem. I can go back to sleep after practically anything. He then made me breakfast in bed with orange juice and strawberry juice with honeydew melon, bread and sunny side up eggs. I couldn't have asked for anything more delicious. I was very appreciative and let him know.

After breakfast we headed up to the Temple of the Moon where we took a horseback ride around the ruins. I wanted to run so we ran for a decent amount. Of course, I was a bit weary since I have heard and seen all sorts of accidents to the head when riding a horse. Not wearing a helmet is super stupid no matter what your technical training is or however comfortable you feel on a horse. They are huge animals and can decide to act crazy at any point. There is no guarantee that you won't fall off and hit your head or break a bone. Hurting my head would be worse than breaking a bone unless the bone was my back and caused me to be paralyzed. That would be awful. Anyway, apart from being a bit nervous about having no helmet, I had a great time and ran a lot with Palomo. Marco's horse was not as excited to run as mine was nor as excited as the one that the kid who guided us was riding. That horse loved to run and ran like a crazy horse. We ended up switching horses so I rode the one that Marco had. Haha, I got it to run for me. I didn't like how it trotted but its canter was pretty smooth. Galloping would have been awesome but I wouldn't have wanted to do that unless I had a helmet.

Last night Marco and I went to Chicha and had a delicious dinner. I had risotto de la sierra y costa that had octopus, shrimp, trough, onion, tomato and a delicious risotto. I also had a drink called Cusqueñita which was a pisco and strawberry drink. It was delicious. Marco had rocoto relleno with chicha morada. We shared a chocolate souflee which was very tasty. I was super happy with the quality of food. I had heard a few not so wonderful reviews but I was impressed with the food. The restaurant is owned by Gaston Acurio who is the number one chef in Peru. The only bad thing I have to say about the place is that it took a really long time to get the drinks. The food came pretty quickly though.

It has rained a lot lately but fortunately, each time we wanted to do something this weekend we had pretty good weather. The horseback riding today was great, and going out dancing on Saturday night was rain free for the most part. It rained before we got to Chicha last night but we had Marco's car and there was a parking spot right in front of the restaurant. The biggest downside to the rainy season is doing laundry. It takes a lot longer for clothes to dry on the line and if you don't remember that your clothes are on the line they might end up getting wetter than they were in the first place. Oops.

I have had an absolutely wonderful birthday. I am so happy that Marco took off the day to spend it with me. We are about to go pick up my birthday cake from El Hada, the best heladeria in town. The cake is so delicious. It's butter cream and it's salty sweet. I love it. We are going to make tequeños tonight and drink some cusqueña beer and watch a movie. It is the perfect birthday for me.

I am also very thankful for all the birthday love I have gotten on facebook. It doesn't take much to write on someone's wall and tell them happy birthday and it makes the person's day whose birthday it is.

This picture is from Saturday night at the Muse. We danced Salsa!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Exchange a tweet for a real live Hello!

Everyone has their tech products, myself included. I have a macbook that I bought used and refurbished from ebay for $500 in January of 2010. It's a 2006 macbook but it works fine. I don't have much battery life when it is not connected directly to a power source but that's fine because I usually use it at home or somewhere inside like a cafe or restaurant that has an outlet nearby. Anyway, mac products and personal devices are everywhere. It seems like every other person has an iphone and if it isn't an iphone it is a smartphone. I personally don't feel like I need an iphone and it is just a liability in Peru. I guess I technically have one because it takes pictures and if I had internet service I could access facebook and the internet but I don't so it's not a smartphone for me. Now, in terms of liability, American's are not safe from tech theft. It has risen a lot in the past few years in the States. My cousin in New York City was victim to a seriously violent robbing of his girlfriend's ipad that left him with a jaw wired shut and a knee injury. That's super scary. He ended up writing an article on it for the Wall Street Journal where he works. Hey, that's definitely a way to make a positive out of a negative. Mac and other companies are coming up with more security features so that devices cannot be activated or used if they are stolen but I don't think that is going to stop the second hand selling of all the items. People are smart and techies can get around applications.

Don't get me wrong. I love having a computer and access to the internet. It's a wonderful thing. It keeps me in contact with family that is far away and up to date of the latest in news around the world. I can type super fast and update my blog and listen to tons of music. I can edit movies and post pictures and write a ton but there are downfalls to being so immersed in technology. I think the biggest downside to all the technology is not the possibility of theft and loss of a lot of money but that people are losing contact with one another and they are losing social graces. I have see so many people out at dinner or in bars or wherever in public and they are so plugged into their phones that they lose all social interaction with the people they are with. That's kind of sad if you ask me. Why go out if you are just going to click away on facebook or twitter on your phone? It seems a bit counter-intuitive right? Something I love about being in Peru is that you don't see as much of that as you do in the States. Obviously, you see it here but it isn't as prevalent. The majority of people who are going out are tourists and they aren't trying to be stuck on their phones the entire time. Of course, there was the other night when I was playing with Claudio and the two people at the bar were both on their phones. They clapped after the songs were over but it's totally disconcerting singing to people who are plugged into their phone. The locals here don't have smartphones for the most part. They are getting more popular but most choose to use their cheap 60 soles phones. I don't blame them either because pickpocketing is popular here. Why waste money on a nice phone when it is most likely going to be lost or stolen?

Something else that helps with social interaction is geography. The geographic make-up of Cusco is such that everyone is outside walking or on a combi. Personal cars are almost unheard of so most people use public transportation or walk places. Cusco isn't terribly big and it doesn't take long to get anywhere. I run into people I know all the time because we are all out walking around. I used to run into someone I knew in Evanston once every couple of weeks or so. Everyone is in their cars. I saw more people I knew going to the YMCA but that is because it is a community space but out and about it was not as common. I guess what all this rambling sums up is that slowly but surely, American's are isolating themselves with all the technology they have and the social, geographic daily norms are not helping the situation. Peru, as it seems is on the same path with all the hype about smartphones but at least in Cusco there is still a geographic aspect that helps to keep people in personal contact with one another. To anyone reading this I challenge you to get outside and take a walk and see if you run into anyone you know. Say hello to someone who you might not know! It could make their day! Oh, and I also challenge you to not look at your phone while you are out with a friend for lunch or a get together. THAT might be more difficult.


Haha, I think this picture is a scary and funny representation of what is happening to relationships.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Birthday Paseo

I went to Huambutio today to celebrate Flor, my director's, birthday. Well, I guess it is called Vlicabamba but we spent a decent hour in Huambutio not knowing where to go. Fortunately, Fil answered his phone and let us know where to go. We would never have found the place if we hadn't been able to reach him. It turned out to be a really beautiful place that can house up to 30 people at a time if necessary. There were 16 beds in one of the rooms we saw.

When Marco and I got there everyone had finished eating lunch. Fortunately, there was more for us and we enjoyed lechon (pig ribs) along with two tamales and a baked cheesy potato dish. It was delicious! We drank chicha morada and wine. After eating the kids went out to play and we chatted a bit inside before heading out and enjoying the sun for a little bit. The weather here has been so hot lately and the sun has been burning more than making anyone feel warm and comfortable. It should be raining all the time now but it had been really hot. Yay global warming! Anyway, Marco and I checked out the rooms and watched the kids play Mata la Gente which is like a dodgeball game. Flor came inside and asked everyone to come out and play a game of "futbol" which was really a circle game. (I love circle games. I think it is the camp counselor in me.) Every other person was on a different team. Flor gave a set of keys to one team on one end of the circle and a set of keys to the other end and the object was to get the set of keys to the other end of the circle. The hard part is that in between each team member of team A is a team member from team B trying to block the pass of the keys to the next person. No one is allowed to throw the keys and you aren't supposed to use your hands. Of course, we ended up with some tramposos or cheaters but it was super fun. We all had a good laugh.

We hung out for a little while after that. I joined a bit of volleying with Fil and some of the girls. He is hilarious. We would have taken some people back but apparently there was a car coming to pick everyone up. I hate leaving people behind that need rides but fortunately, there was no one that needed a ride. I am really glad that Flor enjoyed her birthday. It is tomorrow but we had this little gathering for her. The kids want to have a Qantu campamento at the house and I don't blame them. I think it would be super fun but probably a safer bet when it is the dry season. Overall, it was a really nice paseo.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Combi Complaining Time

I use combis a lot because they are cheap and go almost everywhere from my house, most importantly to Qantu. I really feel like making a pro/con list for them.

  • cheap
  • relatively fast
  • There is a new one every five to seven minutes 
  • There are more and more large buses as opposed to mini-van sized cars

  • Most are small and uncomfortable to sit or stand in.
  • The drivers can decide to pick you up or not and if they are late for their time punch they will not stop for you.
  • People will bring any and everything onto the bus including very odorous things.
  • If they are ahead of schedule they will stay at a paradero (stop) for up to 8 minutes just to pass time not giving a toot about whether you need to be somewhere on time.
  • If you don't say "baja" at the right time you will not be dropped off and the stop may be passed
  • Paying with anything larger than a 10 sole bill will make the cobrador (the person who takes the money) angry and annoyed. 
So as you can see I tend to get more annoyed with combis than I am happy with them but I did the math and by not using a taxi twice a day I save 163 soles a month so it's a necessary evil. I wish I could say that I can look forward to having larger combis in Lima but that is not the case because I definitely took some very uncomfortable combis to Miraflores from La Molina. There are definitely more large buses but I will have to make do with what they have. The good thing is that there are plans to expand the Metropolitano which is Lima's version of the "L" (elevated train in Chicago). It's nice and fast and has a bus system as well. Woohoo for modernization and more safe methods of traveling around the city!

Something I think someone who wants to make money should do is ride every single combi there is in Cusco and map it's route and the make a Guia T like they have in Buenos Aires. It would increase ridership and decrease accidental rides. The only problem is that there is constantly construction in Cusco so routes tend to get changed at any point. 

In the meantime, I have to go catch the Huancaro combi.