Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Last Day in South America

While waiting for the taxi to Lima airport this morning, I saw Peter and he told me about how he was robbed at gunpoint yesterday in broad daylight and lost his camera.

I was constantly aware of the risks of traveling here, particularly of traveling alone... And I was cautious (probably overly cautious at points, which Ali can attest to)... But I was also lucky. I am fortunate that my experience was a positive one. My phone was robbed, but it was the most tranquil robbery possible. I was lucky. I heard crazy horror stories. Stories I didn't write about because I didn't want to think about them and because they would have painted a very incomplete and incorrect picture of my experience here. I didn't really run into trouble. I escaped the devil's dust that Sing Sing encountered, the knife stuck into Laura's wrist in the park, and the gun Peter escaped just yesterday. I was lucky.

As I leave, I am grateful that what I will remember will not be these isolated terrors, the events that happen infrequently but are most talked about. Instead, I will look back on my teachers who took me in as though I were family, the kids who let me teach them, even though I couldn't even speak their language, the new traveler friends who I feel like I have known for far longer than a couple weeks, the strangers who helped me find a restaurant, the people on planes or buses who patiently talked to me, waiting for me to find the words in Spanish, and all of the other locals who were kind, generous and helpful. I also can't leave out the memories of terrific food, strong pisco sours, getting way too many massages, seeing spectacular views, the long, but beautiful bus rides through the Andes, and the vibrant colors of the markets. Most importantly, I learned that the only way to be rich is to want little.

All in all, my departure day was standard. I woke up early and shared a cab to the airport with Stephanie and Miriam who both continued on to Cusco. That was the last of the teary goodbyes. I bought some Pisco in duty free, already nostalgic for Cusco. I got my Pisco taken away in San Salvador when I switched planes and had to subject myself to a second bag search. And as I sat on the plane, I reflected on my experience in South America, realizing I took far more than I could have ever given.

And then it was over.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Going to the Movies

There isn't a ton to see in Lima, and this is my third time in the city, so I spent the day doing random things like watching a bad movie (in English!) at the movie theater, getting my nails done for $3, and stocking up on airport food at the grocery store. Lima is an anti-climactic ending to an amazing trip. The best part of the day was when Jessica, Miriam and I met up for a very nice dinner at a touristy restaurant on “Pizza Street.” I can't wait to be in a place where you don't get inundated by the restaurant hosts as your walk down the street. That tactic doesn't really work on me; in fact, it has the opposite effect. but the dinner we had was great, and it reminded me that throughout this trip, I have met the kindest people. I think the people have had as big of an impact on me as anything else.

I also spent the entire day trying to coordinate with Sebas to retrieve my suitcase. He is on Peruvian time, so I had a lot of trouble getting him to commit to a time that he would be available. Around midnight, and after a fair amount of frustration, he finally gave me his address and I headed by taxi to get my things. Miriam was super nice and came with me to keep me company. Even though it was a bit frustrating at the end, it was so nice of Sebas to hold onto my bag. It was so much easier traveling through Ecuador without it.

Finished reading When I Was Puerto Rican, started reading Cutting for Stone.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Last Nights in Lima

For the five minutes that I was awake on the bus, I dreamed about a sandwich from La Lucheria. So despite it only being 8am, I headed directly there for a lunch sandwich. It was exactly how I remembered it. Then, I walked around Lima for a while, only to realize nothing is open until 11 on Mondays. I retreated back to my hostel, and discovered Peter is staying there, too! It is crazy to think that I have run into some people in more than one country!

In the afternoon, I met up with Jessica, my manager from Cusco. She was in Lima to get her residency visa for the next two years. It was so nice getting a chance to see her! We waited for Miriam to arrive from the bus station, then headed to dinner at an Arabic restaurant.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Almost a Disaster

My worst fear about getting to Lima with almost a couple days to spare almost came true. When we asked our hostel to book us a bus for later tonight, she said "Well, that will be difficult," and shook her head. After looking up 4 companies, we found they were all booked and nearly ran to the travel agent down the road. Again, we were greeted with, "Hmmm.... That's not really possible." Luckily, we ended up scoring one seat for tonight and one for tomorrow morning. I jumped on the night bus, unable to suffer through another day of nothingness on the day bus.

After the stress of booking a bus, we had an easy morning eating brunch and staring at the waves. Later, we headed to Chan Chan, the ruins of an early civilization. The ruins were kind of... ruined by the backdrop of buildings and modern city life. After Cusco, it is hard to see ruins and not expect to be fully transported back to ancient times. Anyhow, we had fun taking pictures on top of mounds of sand, in front of mounds of sand, and next to mounds of sand. Lots of pictures of sand.

Dinner ran a little late, and after quickly saying goodbye to my friends, I rushed to the hostel to call a cab and to finish packing. I guess today was the day of poor planning. Even though it was 8:30, and my bus wasn't until 10, the receptionist said it would take over a half hour to get a cab here and I had better run down the street with all of my luggage and try to catch one at the intersection a quarter mile away. A little worried, I followed his advice, and after 20 minutes, finally caught a cab. I ended up arriving just in time to hop onto the most luxurious bus ever.

You know those photos in travel magazines of airplanes in Japan... The ones where instead of seats, there are beds complete with blankets and pillows? Well it is real, and it is called SuperVIP, pronounced suuuupervip (short i, not an acronym). Suuuuupervip is the best. I cuddled up to the nice lady and 7 month old baby 2 inches from my face, relishing the fact that I could eat a second dinner just because it is available all the while resting my feet horizontally, watching my personal TV, even if it is in Spanish and I am too tired to understand.

I slept like a baby. Mostly because there was a baby next to me and I woke up every time the baby did, but also because the completely horizontal seat was amazing. The lady next to me explained that I was basically the luckiest person ever because her husband found out he had to work and cancelled his ticket right before I purchased it. She said since it is a holiday (who knew?), she had booked the tickets two weeks ago! So I guess booking a day earlier wouldn't have really helped that much... In any case, lucky me, because otherwise I would be missing my flight to the US.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Beaches of Trujillo

We started off the morning on yet another bus, finally making our way all the way to Trujillo, staying just outside the city in a hostel called Naylamp in Huanchaco. I was so happy to see the beach and to be off the bus that I could have danced.

We headed straight to lunch after a second morning of being trapped on a bus without anything to eat. I need to go prepared with snacks from now on. Lunch was wonderful, and Kristie, the girl I worked with in Cusco also walked into the restaurant. We spent a couple hours catching up and talking about how she has been volunteering here. She found an incredibly sick dog here, and raised money to take him to the vet via Facebook. When she was at the vet's, she learned a lot about the stray dog situation here, and got connected to a woman who was building a dog shelter in town. Krystie's boyfriend, Sam actually worked in construction back in Australia, so they spent two weeks here, building the shelter from the ground up.

After lunch, Miriam and I went for a walk along the beach, taking lots of photos of the surfers and the sunset. The beach here is beautiful, and since the town isn't overly developed, there actually aren't that many tourists.

In the evening, we met back up with Nikky and split a piece of apple pie before heading back to our hostel for a proper dinner of vegetarian pizza.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Quick Stops in Puira and Chiclayo

The bus from Loja to Puira takes Forrrrevvvvver. I am totally caught up on the new seasons of Scandal and Parenthood. 7am - 6pm on the bus to Puira.

The route must be new because it is completely unpaved for much of the way, and straddles a craggy cliff you constantly worry about falling off. So many people were crossing themselves and praying that I thought maybe I should be doing it, too. Luckily, or unluckily, depending how you look at it, the bus only drove 17 miles an hour.

The border crossing itself was a breeze, once we actually reached it. The only real problem was that we had limited access to food and drinks until supper. The only food I was able to get was a bunch of bananas that I acquired by hanging my head out the window and begging a lady on the street to sell me some as we were slowly passing by. Again, no one came onto the bus to sell things, save one guy who was selling ginko pills, which Nikky bought!

Nikky is a new friend who was staying at Izhcayluma and was also traveling to Huanchaco the same day as us. She is super friendly.

In Puira, we were starving, so I told the taxi driver to take us to the reliable Rocky's for dinner. We almost got conned into taking a taxi to Chiclayo for "30 soles," but by now I have learned to get multiple second opinions before making a big travel decision like taking a taxi instead of a bus. When we asked advice at Rocky's, they said that sounded like a scam, and a better option would be to take the 9:00pm Transportes Chiclayo bus. We followed their advice, and I quickly remembered how drastically different buses are in Peru as compared to Ecuador. We upgraded to cama (bed) seats for an extra dollar, and were living in luxury. While Peru has double decker buses with plush seats and footrests, Ecuador only has go-cart buses with scratchy seats that barely have any space.

We had planned to go to Trujillo, and had booked a hostel there, but after a much longer travel day than anticipated, we opted for a 3 hour bus to Chiclayo as opposed to another 7 hours of travel. So, unprepared and without having researched a nice place to stay, we were stuck in another bizarre Lonely Planet suggestion (Hotel Sican) for the second night in a row. The beds were a bit nicer, but the three beds were crammed into the room. My bed was actually touching the other two beds. It wasn't ideal, but since we were so exhausted, we all slept well enough.