Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Salt Flats and Rainbows

My friends and I have made it a tradition to try to go somewhere different every weekend. This past weekend, it was Salineras - the salt flats about 30 minutes away.

When you try to go somewhere in Peru, you never have an address or an exit to go by. You get word-of-mouth directions using random landmarks. This time our directions were as follows: "Head to Urubamba, but don't go all the way there. When you see the rainbow hostel, you're in the right place." Mind you, the Inca flag is a rainbow, and it's absolutely impossible to differentiate the real rainbow hostel from the imposters.

As we were Combi-ing along, we all started thinking that maybe we had gone too far. We were almost at Urubamba when somebody shouted "RAINBOW!" and all seven of us, in unison, yell "BAJA!" (Which is what you say to get the Combi to stop and let you off). Every Peruvian on that combi was either staring at us or laughing at us uncontrollably.

When we got off and realized that we were probably at the wrong rainbow hostel, we asked some random Quechua lady on the side of the road for directions. She told us we had to walk for a half an hour. Instead of doing thattt, we went the lazy route and hopped on a moto (basically a motorcycle with 3 wheels and barely enough room for 3 people) and headed to the actual rainbow hostel. Of course, when we got off the moto, we were incredibly gringo-ed by the driver, who charged us 2 soles per person when it really should have been 50 centimos. Lesson #234890: Always negotiate the price before hopping in your preferred method of transportation.


After wheezing my way to the top of the salt flats, we had an incredible view that seemed to go on and on and on. I'd say it was definitely worth the 2 soles.

Salineras! (Yes, that is all salt)

Later that night we had "family dinner" at the volunteer house, where my friends Sunni and Kate attempted (and succeeded) to make their own Pisco Sours. (Pisco + raw egg whites + a million limes + simple syrup + ice)

Sunni flaunting her new pisco-souresque purchases at the market

Sunday night we hit up The Albergue, the fanciest restaurant in town. Awamaki volunteers not only get a discount on their food, but they can also use the sauna for free afterwards. SO perfect.

This coming weekend is the Aniversario of Ollantaytambo. What does that mean, exactly? Parties every night (and most days) from this Thursday until Tuesday. Awamaki will even be marching in a parade on Saturday morning (including Yours Truly!) Looks like my next blog post will be muchhhh much more interesting.

P.S. Today is my 4 week mark in Ollanta! So glad I'm here :-)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Never wear leather boots in Cusco

El Foto del Dia - Mi familia!
From the left: Samira (age 8), Alex (age 15 mo.), Analy (age 15)

On Saturday I went to Cusco with some friends for the day. We indulged in our American favorites - sandwiches, ice cream, and nail polish remover. A few lessons I learned from the day:

  1. Never wear leather boots in Cusco (or any other large city for that matter) - I had little boys following me around all day offering to shine my shoes. It was one of those times that I really wish I knew how to say "My boots are not supposed to be shiny!" in Spanish. I'll come better equipped next time.
  2. NEVER sit on the aisle on the bus - We took a combi to Urubamba (a city about 30 minutes away) and then a bus to Cusco. What I didn't realize is that they sell tickets beyond the number of seats. That's right kids, the aisles are chock full of people, most of which don't smell very good. On our way back from Cusco, I spent about 2 hours staring at this man's beer belly which, actually was the best part of the trip. I spent the rest of the time smushed by large women's backsides and their hair grazing my face. I could think of nothing but the longggg, necessary shower I was going to take when I went home.
  3. Avoid the meat section in the market - I applaud Peru's use of the entire animal upon butchering, but do you really need to sell cow faces at the market?
Today I spent about 2 hours eating with my family, and had a few interesting experiences. We were listening to the radio at the table, and all of a sudden Justin Beiber's "Baby" came on. Everybody in my house started singing along, but kept asking me to translate his poetic words. Conversely, when a friend and I mentioned that Mick Jagger may be in town, they had NO idea who the Rolling Stones were. I had no idea that Beiber Fever was so widespread.

New adventures in food: Beer + Coca Cola. I gave them this weird look and then tried it - surprisingly delicious. Of course, I like the taste of plain ol' beer more, but for those that don't like hoppiness it provides a sweet little flavor.

This week I'll just be doing most of the same stuff - volunteering, going to meetings, etc. There's supposedly an online fundraiser on Wednesday morning where I will be begging my friends to donate (and drinking beer in the process), so if you feel like being cheap, I suggest that you avoid the internet at all costs. If you feel like NOT being a cheapskate, come share a little love and money with your favorite Awamaki volunteer :-)

Next weekend I may be going horseback riding (!!!) I don't think I've been since Girl Scout horse camp when I was like 10. Hopefully it comes back to me faster than my Spanish did (not)...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Las Noticias

Here's a few new developments that have happened in the last few days:

  1. Turns out my adorable 18 month old "hermanita" is actually an hermanitO. Yes, Alex is in fact a boy and I've been calling him a girl for the past week. And yes, it took me that long of eavesdropping Spanish conversations to finally figure it out. I'm hoping my family just attributes the first couple weeks to my horrible Spanish skills.
  2. Yesterday I had to be snuck out of the side door of my house, through a store, and out onto the street. My host dad was talking to somebody outside but I still have no clue why they couldn't see me leaving...Am I an illegal immigrant?
  3. Today our bunny, Blanca, died :-( I don't really know why she died, but she was probably the least-white white bunny I've ever seen. Is it possible to die from being too dirty? (In that case, I should probably take a shower...)
  4. Yesterday I learned how to knit!! I bought HUGE knitting needles and really thin white yarn from the market, so it kinda looks like I'm making a doily rather than a scarf but I now know how to knit!! There's an Awamaki knitting club at the English pub on Wednesday nights, which is definitely a tradition I can get behind.
  5. Apparently a lot of Peruvian reality shows revolve around cutting girls' hair off. Yesterday I watched a show with my host-sisters where 3 girls were strapped down and had to answer math questions. If they got them wrong, they got 5 centimeters of hair cut off until they gave up or beat out the other 2 girls. The prize was a CHANCE for a trip to Cancun. I still don't really get it.
Weekend plans: Going to Cusco and attempting to do my own laundry. We'll see how this turns out...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Machu Picchu!!

Last weekend I went to Machu Picchu and it was absolutely gorgeous! Apparently this past weekend was one of the last weekends with good weather before the rainy season starts. There are several hikes in the area, so we started by exploring the ruins and then hiking to the sun gate and the Incan bridge. The sun gate is an hour and a half hike that only took us a half an hour and goes to the top of a mountain nearby. It is also the place where people who have been hiking on the Incan trail for 4 days see Machu Picchu for the first time, so there was lots of celebrating to be had there. I’ll try to post some pictures if I can.

When we took a lunch break, we decided to break the rules and eat on one of the terraces near the llamas (yes, there are llamas everywhere). Kate, one of the girls I was with, was very popular with a particular llama, mainly because of the banana she was eating. Since the llama was on the terrace below and definitely could not jump that high, she started taunting him with the banana. Turns out, llamas are smarter than you think, as he walked over to the lower part of the wall, jumped up, and headed straight for Kate. He didn’t leave, even with the luring of orange peels, for the entire time we were there.

Moral of the story: NEVER taunt a llama.

We headed back Sunday morning and I started feeling a little sick so I’ve just been taking it easy. I am SO glad I bought a ridiculous amount of pharmaceuticals (thanks, Mom!) because going to the pharmacy and asking for certain medications is really the last thing I want to do when I’m not feeling my best.

Today I have my first meeting with Awamaki and the health team. The health team meeting is at a bar (ironic) so I’m excited to see what’s in store. Miss you and love you all mucho!