Monday, September 30, 2013

Guess How Much 5 Weeks in Peru Cost Me...

I woke up in a panic because I felt well rested! Sure enough, I overslept, and Mari was already downstairs waiting for me to begin class! I sprinted downstairs in my pajamas, contacts in hand, to ask her to wait two more minutes for me! I felt so bad that I took her out to breakfast at a fruit salad restaurant. I don't know how else to describe the place... Seriously the only thing they serve is fruit salad. I guess this would be normal for a small restaurant, but this is a pretty big place. Anyhow, they serve amazing fruit salad.

I bought Mari a departing gift this weekend of a choco seed good luck bracelet, and it turns out she chose the same thing for me! It was really cute. Now me and this 65 year old Peruvian woman have matching friendship bracelets!

When I got back to the hostel after class, I asked about how much I owed them so that I would know if I'd need to go to the bank. The grand total for housing and two meals a day for three and a half weeks... $50! I am not sure what I expected, but that wasn't it. I could literally pay that with the spare change I have accumulated in my purse.

After finding out my Hostel bill, I headed up to the bar to cook myself a late lunch. I haven't really cooked here because food is so cheap, but cooking itself is an activity I really miss. Plus groceries for 3-4 meals costs about 75 cents.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


After work last night, I ended up going to a club with Jessica until way too late! So today, I slept through Pisac, and instead just headed to Prasado for lunch, then the black market of food. Shopped until I could no longer stand the smell of raw meat.

Today was a comedy of errors in the bar. I encountered language barriers, an exploding soda, a soda water that dropped on me, a lack of beer, and a ridiculous situation with the bar manager, Julio. There were barely any people at the bar, but 4 people working. Well, I was working... The other boys were just playing pool and fuseball. 15 minutes before 10, when I was supposed to leave, I asked the manager if I could go since there was nothing to do. He was just sitting around, too. His response - you only have two more days! That is exactly why I wanted to leave. I still haven't eaten at Indigo or at Korma Sutra, and I only have 2 more nights! Everyone who comes into the bar raves about those two places. I just wanted to get some food! So we got into it, and finally, I left. I am dreading working with him tomorrow, but leaving was better than staying there listening to his broken English sexism! This was my first real introduction to South American machismo. I ended up at Indigo, and the pad thai was terrific.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rain, Rain, Go Away

I met up with Amy and Candice for a relaxed brunch at an organic, local, and super trendy German place for a delicious brunch. They relayed the other night's events in utter shock. I still can't believe the boys were in jail! They didn't get out until the afternoon! To make it worse, I found out some guy stole their clothes while they were swimming, so they had to go to the police station in wet boxers! Que idiotas!

After lunch, I got stuck in a hail storm! At first, I tried to wait it out, but the sky showed no signs of letting up. I resigned to buying an enormous plastic poncho off a man in the street, and cautiously headed home. Toms aren't made for rainy season. I should have known better. It has been raining here every day at around 2:00pm for the past couple of weeks. This isn't really the ideal time to be in Cusco. The weather will be much better up north...

I won't miss the weather, but I will miss the people here. I cannot speak kindly enough about the teachers at FairServices. These woman are amazing. They have been incredible teachers, but also just incredibly kind people. Not only have they helped me every time I have had a problem, but today, two of my teachers even came to visit me at the bar for a couple hours. It made the time fly by. It was so thoughtful of them. They kept saying that I need to keep in touch, and in the future I will have to visit them because we are family now. Life in Peru will be difficult without them!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cusco Restaurants

Before class, I took myself out to breakfast at The Meeting Place, a non-profit restaurant in San Blas where they have real, American style waffles! I am trying to hit up all of the restaurants that seem interesting before leaving Cusco. Korma Sutra (Indian) and Indigo (Thai) are the only ones left on my list!

The bar is really getting to me... Not because I don't like it, but because David plays the same music every night! I am not sure why, but Latin Americans love techno and 90s American pop songs. Also, I am over our kitchen, which takes two hours to make a meal. Things taking a long time is a frequent occurrence in Peru, but two hours for a plate of fries is just crazy. I always experience a moral dilemma when someone orders pizza - do I tell them to go to the much faster place down the street and save them an excruciating wait, or do I take their order and stay loyal to my job? Usually I tell them about Tratoria. It kills me to see them sitting there waiting for so long!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Getting Arrested

I started off the day with early morning classes. My teachers and I went to Qurikancha, the temple of the Sun God. It was a beautiful place, with some Incan architecture still intact. It was interesting to see how the Spanish took over the temple with religious (Catholic) art because Incan people could understand the visuals, even if they didn't understand the language. The religious art was also a point of confusion between me and Jenny, my teacher. Jenny was having an extremely difficult time understanding how I could not know the saints and stories of Christ that were pictured in the museum. She was very frustrated with me, and kept saying, "But is the same in America... You know, you know, read the English." She thought there was a language barrier when really it was something completely different. I kept trying to explain that I don't practice Catholicism (this is actually a subject we have discussed at least three times before), but she insisted than non-Catholics must also know these things, too. It was an interesting conversation to have in a place so charged with a history of religious evangelism.

After the museum, I met up with Carmelita to go to lunch at an Indian/Asian fusion place. Everything sounded so good that we ended up with a feast!

On the walk back from San Blas, some girl asked if I wanted to go to her massage place (this happens every time I walk through San Blas), but this time, I did! Luckily, I asked to see the place before committing. This was a smart choice because the massage place was a closet with two beds in the corner of a tourist store filled with alpaca chompas and cheap silver jewelry. I declined and instead headed to the spa Jessica recommended. That was a much better choice, and the massage was the best that I have had yet.

Before meeting up with everyone at salsa class, I grabbed a quick dinner at Toldos. The place was so packed that I was joined by a friendly Peruvian couple at my table! That's something I don't think would have happened in the US, but it's so nice to be able to create that sense of community here.

After salsa, we hung out at FairPlay, then headed to Mystika for Candice's birthday to meet up with some of the teachers. I really liked Mystika. It was a true Peruvian club - we were the only tourists there. We stayed for a few hours, then headed to McDonalds! I never go to McDonalds in the US, but here, they have real heinz ketchup, so it's a luxury! They also have all sorts of spicy Peruvian sauces. I much prefer the McDonalds here to the ones at home. After, I headed home, but everyone else headed to Temple for what turned out to be the craziest of nights. After Temple, at around 7 A.M., when Peruvians were heading to church, two of the guys who I volunteer with decided to swim in the fountain at the Plaza de Armas. They actually did more than swim - they tried to climb up to the top of the fountain to high five the Incan statue at the top. Very disrespectful. The police weren't happy, and arrested them on the spot. As far as we know, they are still in jail.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Networking in Cusco

I have absolutely no patience for people who don't get up to their alarm for more than 2 hours. I wish I knew better Spanish so that I could have reamed my new Brazilian roommate out better, but I did my best.

To cheer myself up, I took myself out to breakfast at Jack's for bacon and American-style home fries. And ice cream.

Class was a struggle today - irregular verbs in the past tense. Plus, 5 minutes into class there was an earthquake! It was really nothing - I felt my chair shake, but I thought there might be construction nearby. Later on, I found out there was a pretty sizable earthquake in Arequipa, and my chair shaking was part of an aftershock.

The afternoon was a huge improvement from the morning. No one was in the bar except for this Californian named Matt who has been here about a week. Since the bar was so dead at 4pm, and since he is a martial arts instructor, he taught me self defense strategies for a couple hours. Poke the person in the eyes is now my go to move. He also sent an email for me to a shaman who lives in the Ecuadorean jungle. The shaman is apparently looking for someone to teach people in the village English so that they can become better tour guides. The short-term job supposedly comes with free stay and free meals, and is right in the middle of the rainforest. It sounds way too cool to be true. I am not banking on it, but it could be interesting...

I also got more of a confirmation from Liza today- it sounds like she is really trying to make it work to meet me in Mancora and cross the border into Ecuador together. I am really hoping that works out!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Intermediate Spanish!

Got up early today and headed to San Pedro market to buy some fruits and vegetables. Then headed to FairServices to make myself lunch. I almost burnt the kitchen down. Burners here are crazy. They don't light on their own - you have to drop a match in.... Which is sort of normal, except these burners are huge and totally exposed. By the time I figured it out, the whole place reaked of gas. But my lunch was delicious, and for 6 soles, I have enough food for three meals.

After the cooking, I had my first intermediate Spanish class! I graduated, and I am no longer a beginner! Now I get to learn past tense. I am kind of sad that I will be leaving before getting a chance to learn the future tense, but maybe I will be able to continue taking classes in Mancora or Quito.

After Spanish class, I went to Paddy's Pub, a Irish bar for ex-pats, to meet up with Liz to talk about potential travel plans. We are trying to coordinate it so that we will meet in Mancora around October 16th, and go from there to Ecuador. It would be nice to have someone to cross the border with, so I am really hoping it works out. Plus, Liz is super nice. The only problem is that she leaves Peru two weeks before I do. If it doesn't work out with Liz, I am sure I will be able to find other people to travel to Ecuador with, so I am not overly concerned.

I also booked my flight from Cusco to Lima next Wednesday afternoon... It is way more expensive than a bus ($125 more), but I am not really into the idea of a 22 hour bus ride right before a couple 10 hour bus rides, especially with my back.

In the evening, I headed to cooking class to make pasta verde. Tonight was Rosie's last night here, so it was another sad farewell. After class, we all headed to some bar in San Blas... Then ended the night with everyone at Milhouse. Without Nahuel on my team, I am no longer reining beer pong champion.

Monday, September 23, 2013

On Saying Goodbye... Again

Skipped classes today. My back still needs the rest, and I wanted to spend a little more time with my friends here before they hop on a bus.

I have been having an incredibly difficult time saying goodbye to people lately. In part it's because I know we probably won't keep in touch, but also because the people I have met have been so genuine. It is rare to find such amazing people. Are people always this kind, and I have been too busy or wrapped up to see it? Or is it that people are at their best when traveling because they are at their happiest and most vulnerable?

Nahuel warned against getting attached to people when traveling. He said travelers give to take because everyone travels because they are looking for something. I'm not sure how I fit into that philosophy. Do I give to take? And what is it that I am looking for exactly?

After laying in bed for hours, I needed to get out of the hostel, so I went for a walk and to get lunch with Nahuel. I even ate some street food... Papas rellleno with eggs. It amazes me how in touristy San Blas, a meal can cost 30-40 soles, but just around the block, a three course lunch is only 5 soles ($1.50). The quality isn't always the same, but I like the 5 sole food just fine. It will be difficult to adjust back to US prices, that's for sure.

I have started planning for after Cusco. I think I will stay here about a week longer, then make my way north via Arequipa and Lima. I will stop in Juarez, Truillo, and Mancora before crossing the border into Ecuador. Julia lived in Ecuador for a bit, and suggested I see Cuenca, Banos, Quito, Coca, and Cotopaxi. I still need to do a lot of research, but that is the tentative plan. Then back to Lima for my flight back to the US. I am only halfway through my trip, but I am already feeling the pull to come back! There is just so much to see. It's impossible.

I really considered getting on the bus to Puno tonight with Nahuel. It would have meant heading for Bolivia, Buenos Aires, and Uruguay... But every decision to do one thing means missing out on something else. I will just have to come back.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Another Day in Bed

Two new people, Sam and Krystie, moved into our room to replace Claudia and Sebas. They are from Australia and seem really nice. They plan to be here for a couple weeks before travelling north to Columbia.

I stayed in bed until around 4 P.M., when I had to go to work at the bar. Luckily, 4:00 is a super slow shift and I didn't have to do much of anything - just chatted online with Ali, applied for a Hanukkah grant from the Schustermans, and searched for flights from SF to Massachusetts in November. Then, Julio let me out early to rest and hang out with Claudia, Nahuel, and Sebas on their last night. This will be the last time I get to see Nahuel!

Saturday, September 21, 2013


I have been in bed since yesterday. My back is already feeling much better, but not normal at all. The constant pain in every position is gone. It is really just my left side that is bothering me now. I am slow walking, and it is nearly impossible to bend or twist. Changing my pants was a twenty minute mission. I am only through one day of the meds, and last time it only took two days for vast improvement, so I am hopeful.

I only left bed to take Nahuel out to dinner at Toldos Los Chicken. He covered my shift last night, and I needed to get out of the hostel bed, if only for an hour across the street.

I have been reading And the Mountains Echoed, and it is stunningly good. I will be sad to finish it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Someone Call a Doctor... Or Don't

My back problems returned today. Despite taking it easy, it was back to feeling as though bone was rubbing on bone. Luckily, I have a really strong network of people here who all took care of me by finding my medicine amidst my things, bringing me food, and periodically checking in on me with ice, weird fake plastic flowers, etc. I am feeling very grateful that I brought methlyprednesone with me. Everyone here suggested calling the doctor to come to the hostel to give me an injection. Of what I couldn't really gather. I'll pass.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

American Comforts

Today was a super rainy and chilly day. I woke up not really feeling well. I have the beginning of a cold. I told this to Mari and Jenny and immediately, Jenny went out and bought soup to make at the school. It reminded me of ramen, but with egg and without the salty taste. It was exactly what I needed.

For dinner, Sebas cooked a Chilean dish - fries with onions, tomatoes, and eggs. Delicious! I'm constantly impressed by the people I have met here. Everyone goes out of their way for each other.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Life Without Money

Class was super fun because I took Jenny and Mari back to the hostel to play table tennis. It was the first time Mari ever played, and she was so excited! They even wanted to stay an extra half hour and continue playing. They are becoming more like friends than teachers every day. Mari told me she needed to take a photo with me because I am her favorite student. I wonder how many favorite students she has, but nevertheless, it was nice to hear.

After class, I took a quick nap, then worked at the bar. I actually made a lot of money in tips, which is unusual because people do not normally tip in Peru. This is yet another thing I find hard to get used to. Take Nahuel, he told me he lives off tips. He has been traveling for four months, and after traveling to numerous countries, has spent every sol he has. He leaves this Sunday and will travel for two more weeks through Bolivia, Argentina, and finally, home to Uruguay, with only 20 soles and a miscellaneous assortment of small foreign bills to his name. Nothing more than $75. He lives off of tips, and yet, most people tip 50 centimos, if anything. He has collected his 20 soles this way, eating only free breakfast from the hostel and scraps of people's leftovers for the other meals. He has been making small chocolates to sell at the bar for one sole each.

It puts into perspective the day I left the house with only a 100 sole bill and no ATM card. My money soon dwindled down to 22 soles when I remembered I had to pay Mari 70 soles for classes after already buying lunch for 8 soles. Then I had to spend 4 soles on a cab to WaaW and 10 on the field trip with the kids to the planetarium. I was left with only 8 soles, and a sense of mild panic. Rationally, I knew I had more money back at the hostel, and a cab would only cost 4 soles... I would have 4 to spare. But I couldn't avoid the feeling of concern that I had so little on my person. 8 soles is the equivalent of $2. You can't do much with that back in the states. And yet, there are people who live not just days, but weeks, months, years with that same feeling.

Nahuel says he prefers the adventure, and it was his decision to stay extra time in Cusco, draining the little money he had. He seems to be far less concerned abut his financial situation than I am. It serves as proof of how little a person needs to be happy, as he is one of the happiest people I have encountered.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Life Without My Phone

In the morning, I returned to the police station for the last time to get a copy of my police report. After, I met my Spanish teachers to practice sentences with more than one verb. Then, my teachers and I went to Claro, the phone company here, to inquire about a sim card. The best thing to do in Cusco is to by a sim card from Claro (or movistar) for 16 soles, then go to the black market that's only open on Saturdays to by a phone at half of the price of the phone company... About 200 soles. I think I will do that in order to have a phone for the rest of the time that I am here.

Then, I was off to cooking class. We learned how to make lomo saltado. My version had avocado instead of steak. The best part was the spicy yellow chili pepper and peanut sauce. There was a new friend at the class who had met Elena at yoga. She is from New York, and is traveling until the end of October. We talked about possibly doing a trip together to the Silva (rainforest) in mid-October. After class, everyone came back to Milhouse with me for a drink and to hang out.

It is so difficult to decide what to do after Cusco. It is hard to leave, but there is also so much more to see.

A life without luxury has meant more time for relationships and people. Without tv, phone, or even consistent internet, I have found that I have built closer relationships with others than I would have otherwise. I really look forward to seeing all of the new people that are a part of my life in Peru - my teachers (Mari, Nelly, and Jenny), all of my friends from FairServices (Laura, Candice, Amy, Carmelita, Raquel, Lutz, Rosie, Elena, Megan...), and my hostel friends too (Nahuel, David, Sebas, Julia, and Jessica... And the ones who come and go). The hostel friends have taken to calling me ashtray because Nahuel is the only one who understands how to say my name. It is hilarious.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Home Cooked Meals

This afternoon, my teacher accompanied me to the bank for one of the most inefficient experiences thus far in Peru. I needed to go to the bank to get a note to bring to the police in order to acquire a copy of my police report. That isn't even the most inefficient part; the bank itself was crazy. There's only one bank in Peru that will cash payroll checks. There are 2 people who work at this bank. The line is nearly out the door, and takes 2 hours to get through. It's unbelievable to me that people wait in that line every week just to cash their checks.

My teacher said my Spanish really improved over the weekend, especially when I talk about my phone. At least there's an upside! And I am getting in a lot of practice at the bar and with my two hostel roommates who only speak Spanish. I have been holding English classes for them so that we can try to communicate better.

After class, I took a quick nap, then headed to Amy and Carmelita's to cook dinner. We made pesto pasta salad with vegetables (finding pesto was incredibly exciting), pumpkin and chicken, salad, and brownies. It was amazing. It was so nice to cook again. Their apartment is really nice - furnished, short-term lease, right outside of San Blas, and $150 a week each. It makes me feel less bad about my phone when I compare the cost of a week at an apartment to the cost of a new phone (after insurance). Granted, I am working in order to live for free, but I can barely call it working. It is more like socializing, but with set hours.

After dinner, I taxied back to the hostel. I am finally breaking through my fear of talking to people who don't already know (or assume) I don't speak Spanish. I talked to the taxi driver on the way, and there wasn't a moment in the conversation when I didn't understand him or know how to respond! That's starting to happen more frequently, and it makes me feel more confident about leaving Cusco to travel north or elsewhere!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

San Pedro Market

This morning, I headed out to find the market beyond San Pedro that people keep talking about. Apparently San Pedro Market is meant for tourists, and if you go out the right hand side door, you will find the local market. So that I did. I spent two hours walking amidst stuffed raw chickens with feet in the air, unidentifiable fruits, and woman constantly chopping vegetables while sitting on blankets that line the railroad tracks. It was more of a raw experience than the clean and semi organized stalls at San Pedro, but it was also far more beautiful and fascinating to see the way people really live. I ended up buying fresh strawberries, mandarins, and bananas for a fruit salad, and a ton of vegetables to bring to Amy and Carmelitas for dinner tomorrow night. I filled two bags with food, yet only spent 10 soles, the equivalent of $3. It is still shocking to me how hard these women work, and how little they get for what they do.

After the market, I headed to Prasada for a felafel tortilla salad. I have been going there so frequently that the girls there now say see you tomorrow!

Then, it was off to work, which is where I am now, typing all of this to you. So far, work has consisted of making myself fruit salad, playing a game of table tennis, making a playlist of Ray LaMontagne, and typing away at the computer. Pretty easy. It is not a bad life.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Confronting the Thief

Today I went with Nahuel and David, the other two guys in my room who I work with every night, to the tourism police station. I was beyond grateful that they went with me. First, finding the station was a mission. Then, the police only spoke Spanish and, worse, they were really harsh with me. They must get a lot of people who abuse their insurance by reporting fake crimes because they really did not want to believe my story. They kept asking why I was even there... as though that was not obvious... Luckily, the guys were very protective and translated everything for me. Unfortunately, I will need to go back to the station on Monday to get a copy of the report.

After the police station, the boys went hostel to hostel to find out where the thief was staying while I went back to the hostel to check on my insurance. After a couple of tries, they found out he was staying right down the street at Kokopelli. They came back and got me and Jessica, the manager of my hostel, so that we could go and try to get the phone back. Unfortunately, the phone was already sold by the time we got there because there was no phone to be found at Kokopelli Hostel. We contemplated calling the police and having him picked up, but according to the people who live here in Cusco, it wouldn't do much good because we did not have any hard evidence. Oh well. We did get him kicked out of the hostel, and Jessica said she would send out an email to the other hostels in Cusco to have him banned.

After all of that, I was off to work. Nahuel switched shifts with me so that I could finish working earlier, so I had to work from 4pm to 10pm. I told Candice about my phone, and she surprised me by organizing everyone from FairPlay to come and have dinner and drinks with me at the hostel. It was so nice of them to come. The one major takeaway from all of this is that the majority of people are amazing and would go the extra mile, even for a new friend.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Robbed in Cusco

Today was not the best day. My phone was stolen off my bed while I was in the bathroom. The worst part is that I know exactly who it was that took it because there was only one other person in the room. When I came out of the bathroom, the other guy, all of his things, and my phone were gone. The guy immediately checked out and switched to another hostel.

Luckily, I took out travel insurance that will probably cover at least part of the cost of a new phone, but it is such a hassle to be without my phone, the camera on it, the alarm, and the app I have been using to record the trip.

All in all, getting my phone stolen could have been a much scarier situation, but it is still annoying. Lesson learned.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


For brunch I headed to El Encuentro, a vegetarian restaurant in San Blas. I had a vegetable omelette. I always forget how bad the cheese is here... It's super salty.

It was freezing today, so instead of walking around town, my practice teachers and I hung out at FairServices and drank tea. I was really grateful because I was not only cold but also pretty sleepy after the late night. I can really see my Spanish improving. Instead of putting together one or two word sentences, I'm able to make compound sentences and actually explain myself. I feel so much more confident exploring on my own now that I'm able to communicate. I think back to my first meal alone in Lima when I knew only a handful of words and could barely order a slice of pizza and a water bottle. Now I'm the one helping other tourists order in restaurants. It's a good shift. I'm still making tons of mistakes, especially with articles, but I am definitely better.

After class I took a much needed nap, then headed to Prasada for dinner. Unfortunately, they were closed, so I "splurged" and went to Jack's for an enormous BLT and salad with red peppers and eggplant. Jack's is expensive for Cusco - 20 soles or $7, but it's always so good. I'm working my way through their menu.

On my way back to the hostel from Jack's there was a parade in the Plaza de Armas. There is a parade every single day in Peru. Not a day goes by when I don't see groups of people marching the streets, sometimes in costume, other times chanting together for some political cause. I haven't really figured out why there are so many parades, or what they are for, but I have definitely seen one every single day.

I'm starting to feel less like I'm traveling and more like I'm actually living here. The job and the schedule of classes help, but it's also that I no longer have to search for restaurants - I already know where the good ones are. And throughout the day I sometimes run into people I know - from the hostel or FairPlay or yoga. It's been nice to stay here for a while. Cusco is a great city. I have been trying to choose my favorite street, and I think it's Carmen Alto. There are two really great boutiques, there's the yoga place, and there are 5 or 6 really great restaurants in close proximity (including my two favorites, Jack's and Prasada). I'm looking forward to trying the Indian place over there (Korma Sutra), maybe this weekend.

Candice is wanting to go to the ruins at Pisac this weekend, and I really want to see them as well, but I'm a little worried that I will be too tired. Plus, I was thinking of going to yoga on Saturday. The nice thing about being here for so long is that there will be more opportunities to see things.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

First Day of Bartending

To accommodate my new working schedule, I moved my Spanish classes to the afternoon. For the first time in a while I was able to sleep in. Breakfast at Milhouse was alright... A buffet of bread, cereal, and fruit. What's nice is that it goes from 7:30-10:30. The other great thing about breakfast is that it's located on a terrace that overlooks rolling hills and scattered houses.

Breakfast was OK, but lunch was the best. I have learned that I really value choosing what I will eat. That's something that's so normal in the US, but so absent from my life in Peru lately, especially having been in a home stay for the past couple of weeks. It was so great to go to Jack's in San Blas and order a salad with vegetables! Vegetables are also something I took for granted. They are popular at the markets, but traditional meals rely on potatoes rather than the rainbow of colorful veggies that I am used to when cooking for myself.

After lunch, I headed to class to study regular verbs. Class went by quickly, then I headed to the hostel to change rooms (now I am in the staff room with three others) and to learn the bar.

The bar was really fun. I worked with two other guys, one from Uruguay and one from Chile. It's cool because they speak mostly Spanish, so I am forced to practice and learn more. Everyone from the school (all 11 friends) came to visit me on my first night, which was so nice. We organized a beer pong tournament, which my team won the first two rounds of. Also, I became a pro at making Pisco sours, Peru's official drink. First you crush ice. Then, add two shots of Pisco, one shot of lime juice, and one shot of a different liquor. Then, add one egg white. Shake until the outside of the mixer is covered in frost. Pour and spritz in a small amount of some brown liquid. Salud!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Spanish Class, Yoga Class, Cooking Class

In class this morning I practiced the verbs "ser" and "estar." It's amazing how quickly my Spanish is progressing. Then, I went with my practice teacher to the textile museum to learn about how different fabrics are made here, and what traditional outfits consist of. The mix of grammar classes with practical practice classes is such a great formula for learning a new language.

After lunch at the home stay, I headed via taxi to my hostel and new home. Moving my belongings in was simple - it's crazy that everything I own can fit into a 3 ft by 3 ft locker. To kill time I relaxed in a hammock and did my homework for class.

Around 5, I headed to my first yoga class in the city at Inbound Yoga in San Blas. Even though the style of yoga was different, it was nice to do something familiar. It was also nice to meet other travelers. I got talking with one girl who has also been here a couple of weeks... She works at the meeting place coffee shop and said its the only place around with real waffles. I'll have to try it. Breakfast in Peru isn't the best... Usually just bread and jelly.

After yoga was cooking class with the girls from WaaW. We made rocoto relleno. It was pretty tasty.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Working in Another Country

This morning I awoke to an email from the manager at Milhouse saying she would like to meet with me to discuss positions at the hostel. So after my classes, I headed to the hostel. Actually, my practice teacher helped me find the hostel, which we searched for for 15 minutes. The manager of the hostel was really nice and the accommodations were great, so I agreed to start on Wednesday. I move in tomorrow.

I spent the day teaching "sports" with Lutz and Laura. Sports is a lot easier because less Spanish is required, and the kids are free to run around. At the end of the day, though, I returned to the classroom. Julio was trying to read a book that had both Spanish and English, and asked me to read one of the English words (bird). When I offered to read the book to him, he jumped out of his seat and into my lap, so excited to be reading English. I started to read to him, but he stopped me, asking me to read only one word at a time so that he could repeat everything I said. I have never seen such enthusiasm. When reading time was over, the main teacher had to pry the book from Julio's grip. He replaced the book with my hand, whispering "thank you" over and over. I wish I could read to Julio in English for hours. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Day Tripping to Maras, Moray, and Salineras

By 9 A.M., I was already off to see some ruins with Candice. We headed to the "bus station" to get a van to Maras and Moray. The bus station is less like a bus station and more like a driveway. Our first stop (after missing the stop for Chincinero) was Maras. Maras might have been a town at one point, but these days it's a collection of crumbling buildings. We hailed a cab and drove through to Moray. On the way, the cab stopped at the "gas station" (someone's house) to fill up via funnel. Moray was absolutely beautiful. It was an Incan science experiment. They used terracing in circular patterns to test different micro climates. Each level of Moray has a completely different temperature. It's crazy to think about how advanced this civilization was.

We paid our cab driver to wait for us for an hour while we saw Moray so that we would definitely have transportation for the next 9 km portion of our trip. He was still there waiting, so we headed to Salineras, a salt mine that was created during Incan times, but is still functioning. Salineras is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places that I have been to. A small hot spring at the top of the mine carries salty water across an impressive array of salt flats. The place is mind boggling. How anyone created such a thing is unreal.

On the way back from Moray, we stopped at our original stop to have lunch and to check out the market. The market had the typical assortment of alpaca gloves and blankets and bags. We spent most of our time having lunch at a restaurant right outside of the market. It's always crazy to me that I can buy a three course meal with drink for 14 soles or $7.

After lunch, we hailed a combi from the side of the highway, then headed back to Cusco. Our next stop was the Museo de Pisco. I had an amazing strawberry Pisco drink that the bartender actually set on fire.

After the Piscos, we tried to meet up with our friends at Amy's house. Amy gave us directions and sent us a map on my phone, but neither helped. When the street is called E1, there's no hope in finding it. We found a place called E1, and knocked on the door, but a random Peruvian man opened the door. He took a look at our map, but even he didn't know where her house is. We wandered the streets for almost an hour before giving up. We bought a chocolate cake and headed home.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

In Search Of A New Home...

Spent the day in central Cusco with my new friend and housemate, Candice. We went to lunch, then went to a bunch of hostels to see which might be the best for me to stay at after the home stay. Wild Rover and Pariwana are the top contenders, though neither need someone to work there immediately. Both offer free stay, half off lunch and free dinner if you work 4 shifts a week. Not a bad deal...

Speaking of the home stay, when Candice and I returned to the house, no one was home because the family went to a wedding. The family must have anticipated being home earlier because they set the (very loud) alarm to the house, which went off as soon as we opened the gate. The family never even told us there was an alarm, so we definitely didn't have the code to turn it off! We frantically scrambled around the house trying to find clues as to what the code might be. No luck. After fifteen minutes, the police showed up and managed to call the company to have them turn off the alarm. What an ordeal. For a while, the policeman sat with us, waiting for the homeowners to return his call and confirm that we were not in fact robbers. Eventually, he gave up, and left us be. All in all, the experience was hilarious, especially my attempt (in broken Spanish) at explaining that we actually live here and have no intention of stealing the few possessions (marmalade, bottled water, a fax machine) that the family has.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Back to the Big Christ

It's Friday! I made it through the first week at FairServices.

The classes are wonderful. I spent 2 hours in a classroom, then 2 hours walking around Cusco with another teacher. Since it's Friday, I took her to lunch at a delicious and super cheap vegetarian place.

After class, we took the WaaW students on a field trip to the big white Christ park to fly kites. It was wonderful. At the end, we all took a combi back to the school. The combi was already full, but we stuffed another 20 people inside. There was literally no room to breathe. I was holding on to the ceiling, but one student, Carell, kept tickling me, so it was even more of a struggle. The combis here are insane.

A new girl moved into our house. She is from Belgium, and is also taking classes and is working at the school. We made tentative plans to go to the ruins of Moray this weekend.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Volunteering Abroad

Day two of school and teaching... Though I shouldn't really call it teaching because I don't know much of what's going on. Luckily there are 6 volunteers for the fifteen kids we have, so I can always ask them questions. The school is great because we teach them academic content as well as nutrition and personal hygiene. Each afternoon starts off and ends with brushing teeth and eating a healthy meal.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Clases de Espanol

Today I started the Spanish classes and volunteered at WaaW school.

The classes were terrific. The teachers were extremely patient and helpful. I reviewed colors, numbers, family members, and foods. One teacher took me to the market to practice the names of foods and to buy fruit.

After class was lunch. Everyone at the house eats at the same time, family style. The family I live with speaks only Spanish, so it's interesting trying to communicate. Luckily, Laura is also staying at this homestay and speaks English. She's in the same FairPlay program and has been really helpful with figuring out combis and has been able to tell me where to go to get certain things like peanut butter or cereal. While the house provides all meals, it's nice to have things on hand in case I don't really like the food.

After lunch, a group of us headed to WaaW to teach the kids. Teaching kids without knowing how to properly communicate in their language is quite the experience.

Because communicating was a struggle, I had a lot of time to think about my initial reactions to the structure and format of the school. The school is great in the sense that the kids are excited to be there, are excited about learning, and they have access to things like toothbrushes, soap, and dinner. There are some challenges that I see right off the bat - like the volunteers work with different kids every day, so they are simply helping with homework vs. actually filling in education gaps. It's difficult for me because I come from a perspective where growth, achievement, and behavior management were the priorities. That simply isn't the case here. It's going to be an adjustment, but it is wonderful to see what it's like to teach in an environment where the whole child is valued. Cultivating social skills is a huge component of the program, which is so important, especially in a society where the way you connect with others can be more valuable than what you know.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Life On My Own in South America...

Today was Ali's last day in Peru! She headed to the airport around 1 after a delicious lunch at a vegetarian sandwich stand called Prasada, and I headed to FairServices to find out where I will be living and what I will be doing for the next few weeks.

FairServices is run by John from Belgium and his Peruvian wife Fannie. John speaks English, which is super helpful. After asking about a million questions I decided to start small and book one week at the home stay. The woman running the home stay is super nice, but the house is kind of far from the center plaza. I'll see how it works out. The nice part about the home stay is that all three meals are included, and there are other people from the program staying at the house as well. The home stay is also close to the school I will be volunteering at.

In addition to the home stay, I am also signed up for two weeks of Spanish classes and volunteering at the school. The Spanish classes will be fun because they are one-on-one from 8am-12pm. Then there's a break for lunch, then volunteering at the school from 2pm-6pm. It will be very busy.

Tonight there were cooking classes at FairPlay, so I went and learned how to make a Peruvian chicken. It was nice to finally meet all of the people in the program. Everyone there is an English speaker. There's even one other girl from Massachusetts. Everyone is super nice!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Ali's Last Night in Peru

We started off the morning at San Pedro Market, where Ali finished up shopping for everyone in San Francisco. I wanted tamales from the market, but every time we go, the woman selling them isn't there.

After the market, we found an amazing pollo a la brasa (roasted chicken) place that even had a salad bar! It was next door to a tiny casino the size of a shoe store, so I went in and gambled (and lost) 1 sol.

I also talked to the people from FairPlay about starting classes and my home stay tomorrow. Exciting!

For dinner, Ali wanted to find a fancy place to eat Lomo Saltado (a steak dish), so we went to San Blast Street. We ate at a place that was by far the fanciest yet. We shared an appetizer of mashed potatoes that was stuffed with chicken and then deep fried. Then she ate steak and I had an avocado salad that had a new fruit I had never had before. It's called aguymente, and it's delicious.

After dinner, we went to Paddy's Pub, the highest Irish-owned bar in the world. We also made a stop at a super weird club with a bunch of Peruvian teenagers standing around in an awkward circle on the dance floor.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Machu Pichu

Today we hiked and explored Machu Picchu. I have procrastinated writing about the experience because it really can't be summed up easily. It was just as impressive as all of the pictures. The vastness of the mountains was overwhelming.

We spent nearly 3 hours climbing Machu Picchu Mountain, which was grueling, but had amazing views.

By the end of the day, Ali and I passed out on a patch of grass with a view of the ruins for one of the best naps ever.

The train that took us back from Aguas Calientes to Ollyatombo was a hilarious experience. Because it was too dark for viewing the mountain, the train company provided entertainment. First, they had a scary clown dance around the train. This clown was terrifying. It crept up behind me without warning and I jumped out of my seat, begging Ali to switch to the isle. Then, there was a fashion show of llama outfits. Our train steward and stewardess were the models.

After the train, we took a combi, or minibus for local travel, back to Cusco. I slept the entire time even though Spanish dubbed Justin Timberlake was blasting through the speakers.