Paraguay and Iguazu

30 09 2009

Paraguay

Currently, I am in Asuncion, Paraguay. My parents and I arrived here a little over a week ago, and I am happy to say that we have been enjoying our stay. As mentioned in my previous post, we are visiting my foreign exchange sister from high school, Gabi, and her family. Never in my life have I met such a close-knit family. They are like the Brady Bunch times ten!

On the day of our arrival, Gabi’s family had us over for a delicious barbecue with what they say was some of the finest steak in South America, even better than Argentina. Her mom’s siblings and their spouses joined us. In total, there were 22 family members present! Tomorrow, there will be an even bigger dinner at a cousin’s house with more family members.

Delicious BBQ

Delicious BBQ

They have been great tour guides chauffeuring us all over Paraguay. We visited two hydroelectric damns, one of which is the biggest in the world and supplies 95% of Paraguay’s electricity. We also went fishing on the Parana River, a huge river in South America. They are such a warm family; Gabi’s mom even took me to see her cousin who is a dentist because I had a toothache!

Parana River

Parana River

Parana River

Parana River

In my short time here, I’ve learned some random facts and have made some general observations that I’d like to share:

1. The currency is called guaranis. There are 5,000 guaranis to one dollar!

2. Paraguayans are incredibly friendly and hospitable. When meeting with people, you kiss on both the right and left cheeks, even if you don’t know them well.

2. A huge portion of the population drinks a beverage called terere. It’s a type of herbal tea, but they drink it cold. They pour the herbs into a tall cup, and then they pour in the water from a thermos and drink it through a straw with a filter.

Terere Thermoses

Terere Thermoses

Terere Cups and Filtered Straws

Terere Cups and Filtered Straws

3. Paraguay is very green. The environment is much more sub-tropical than I had anticipated, and the green landscapes are beautiful. There are also lots of parrots and interesting wildlife.

Parrots in Asuncion

Parrot in Asuncion

4. Many kids wash car windows because they want money. Even if you say no, they still might continue in hopes of getting some. If you refuse, some of them get angry and hit your car. I had similar experiences in Peru as well.

5. Typical food: Chipa – Chipa is a type of bread that oftentimes has cheese in the middle. It’s a very tasty snack. It can also come in a cracker form. Milonesa – Basically, this is breaded chicken, beef or fish. Also very good. Steak – The steak here is great. The best quality steaks are the ones where the cow has been fed all natural food.

6. Some fast food places, like Burger King and Pizza Hut, deliver.

7. Asuncion is the capital and only has 1.2 million people.

8. Most people live at home until they get married.

9. It’s unfortunate that there is not a tourism infrastructure because the country is beautiful.

I have five more days in Asuncion before I head to Buenos Aires.

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls is incredible. In fact, it’s so incredible that I voted for it to be one of the new wonders of the world. My parents and I visited both the Argentinian side and the Brazilian side of the falls. It was sunny and warm when we visited the Argentinian side. However, the next day, when we went to the Brazilian side, it was cloudy and cold. Nonetheless, both sides were gorgeous, and we saw tons of wildlife.

Argentinian Side

Argentinian Side

Argentinian Side

Argentinian Side

Brazilian Side

Brazilian Side

Wildlife

Wildlife

Wildlife

Wildlife

Wildlife

Wildlife

Wildlife

Wildlife

Wildlife

Wildlife

* Many more pics of Paraguay and Iguazu to be posted on my photobucket site shortly





Goodbye Cusco

19 09 2009

I left Cusco yesterday, and it was a very bittersweet feeling. I have met some awesome people who I will miss greatly. I´ll also miss the pizzerias (The pizza here is great!), the pollerias (cheap and delicious chicken) and the chifa places (cheap Chinese food). The Cusqueñans are incredibly friendly and will often go out of their way to help you, even if they don´t know you very well. I will miss their hospitality too.

Two days ago, I went to Machu Picchu. It was so incredible that the pictures don´t do it justice. When, I arrived in Aguas Calientes (the small town near Machu Picchu), I decided I would climb a mountain nearby. However, I ran out of water, and some people coming down recommended that I stop and go back because I would need more water to finish. Since I got pretty hot, I rolled up my pants. BAD IDEA. My legs were soon eaten alive by these tiny flies. Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu are in a fairly tropical environment, which is why there were so many bugs. The bites didn´t start itching until I got back to Cusco. I literally have over 50 bites, and my legs look diseased! I finally bought some anti-itch cream here in Lima this morning because I couldn´t take the itching any longer.

The Hike Up the Mountain

The Hike Up the Mountain

On the Hike (Wooden Ladder Almost Vertical)

On the Hike (Wooden Ladder Almost Vertical)

Just a Few of the Bites

Just a Few of the Bites

The next day, I woke up very early to go to Machu Picchu. There had been a thunderstorm that night, so everything was still pretty wet, and it was very cloudy. Luckily, the clouds cleared a few hours later, and I got some great pictures. Check them out below. When I find a faster Internet place, I will make a special album devoted to MaPi. The place I am at right now is slow, and the photobucket site isn´t working.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Now, I am in Miraflores, Lima. Lima is not the safest city, but Miraflores is one of the safer areas. I don´t feel safe walking around in any other part of the city because I´m alone, so I´m just going to stick to Miraflores. Also, the taxi rides are expensive to get from one part of the city to another part of the city.

I found a nice-looking gym, which I´m going to go to later. My exercise will make up for the delicious meal I had last night. I went to a fabulous restaurant, which I had read about it in my Lonely Planet guidebook. The food was orgasmic. I think I was the only person wearing jeans and sneakers, but I really didn´t care. I sat at the bar since all the tables had been reserved. First, I ordered a very good cocktail, and they brought me olives and cheese to snack on. Then, they brought me this home-made bread basket with two different sauces– a spicy sauce and an olive sauce. So good! After that, I had three different types of raw fish all marinated in three different sauces. The sauces all had a citrus base, similar to ceviche. My tastebuds were overflowing with happiness. Then came the main course: shrimp and marlin (I think) covered in really good sauce and veggies over a bed of rice casserole. It was definitely one of the best meals I´ve eaten in Peru.

In two and a half days, my parents and I head to Paraguay to visit my Paraguayan foreign exchange sister from high school and her family. Exciting times! Then, we will go to Iguazu Falls and back to Asuncion. I´m off to Argentina after that.





Life is Good in Cusco, Peru

11 09 2009

I have one more week in Cusco! I´ve had the time of my life, and I´m ready to move on to more cities in South America. This week has been great– I visited my volunteer project and went hiking in this really cool area. And my parents are coming on Sunday!

Back with the Kids

Since I didn´t have class this week, I went back to my volunteer project a couple days this week and visited the kids. They´re just so adorable! Lots has happened since I left. A playroom was built,  and things are much more organized. It´s great to see that they are making so much progress. These kids have TONS of toys now, thanks to volunteers who donated. I´ll probably go back one more time before I leave. Here are some recent pics of the kids.

Yusbet and Yessica

Yusbet and Yessica

The New Playroom

The New Playroom

Alejandra

Alejandra

Yeferson

Yeferson

One of the Little Ones

One of the Little Ones

 * Many more pics on my photobucket site

Hiking!

I went hiking yesterday in this area right outside of Cusco. My Cusqueñan friend took me and another friend to this Incan site. There´s no way I would have ever discovered this place if a local hadn´t taken me. It was really beautiful– small waterfalls and green scenery. It reminded me of California.

Scenery

Scenery

Lana and Me

Lana and Me

The Ruins

The Ruins

 Future Plans

As I  mentioned, my parents are coming to Cusco on Sunday. I´m so excited to see them! I think I´m going to see a shaman with my mom, which should be interesting. We´re also going to Machu Picchu next week. I hope it doesn´t rain because there is rain in the forecast. Then, while my parents see the rest of Peru, I´ll head to Lima for a few days.

After Lima, we´re going to Paraguay to visit my foreign exchange sister from high school and her family. Yay! After that, my parents and I are headed to Iguazu Falls, which is supposed to be breathtaking.

My parents will then leave, and I will go to Argentina. Luckily, I now have a couple of connections for English-teaching jobs in Buenos Aires. Everything is so exciting right now, and I´m very happy 🙂





Reflections

7 09 2009

Over the past few months, I have had lots of different experiences because Peru is such a different country. Below, I am reflecting on some of the cultural and random experiences that I have encountered.

Peeing in Public

To begin, I think I see a man pee in public almost every day. I still think it´s weird, and I don´t think that I will ever get over the fact that it´s considered normal here. Sometimes they aren´t discreet, and they don´t even pee in a corner. They´ll just whip it out and pee right in the middle of the street. I just don´t get it. If women are able to hold it, then the men should be able to hold it too!

Public Bathrooms

The grossest public bathroom I have ever been to was here in Cusco. Here´s the story:

One day, I had been out all morning looking for some pants, and I finally found some. Since they were too long, I took them to get hemmed (price of a hem: less than $2!). The tailor said it would take 30 minutes to hem, and my  bladder couldn´t wait another 30 minutes. So, I ventured to find a bathroom.

The only bathroom nearby was this disgusting public bathroom, with showers in the back, a trough for men to pee in on the left and stalls on the right. Even before I stepped in, I could smell the rancid odor coming from this miserable place they called a bathroom. Even worse, I had to pay!

After paying, I stepped onto the wet, filthy floor covered in urine into one of the stalls. There was no toilet– just a hole. The hole was about the size of a baseball. I got out of there as soon as I could, as it was probably the most unsanitary place I  have ever been in my life.

Crazy Drivers

The drivers here are crazy. I feel very fortunate that I haven´t been in an accident or seen one. I´ve heard of people getting hit by buses and dying, to say the least. And, most vehicles have no seatbelts for the back seats.

Yesterday, I went to a town an hour away. To get to the town, you have to go through windy mountain roads. The taxi driver was driving so fast and erratically that we had to tell him to slow down and be careful. I thought we were going to drive off the cliff! Thankfully, he slowed down after we said something because I was scared out of my mind.

¨I Love You¨

Finally, a little more on Cusqueñan men. Let me just say that no guy had ever told me he loved me before I came to Peru. Saying those three words means something special in the states. Here, I struggle to understand intentions of the Peruvian men when they say ¨I love you.¨ I have now heard it twice.

The first time was with a friend who I had been dancing with until 4am. He escorted me home and told me he loved me. Then, a few days later, he gave me a rose and chocolate. Not interested. I told him we should just be friends.

The second time was yesterday when I went on a date. I had actually met a good-looking Cusqueñan. He is a tour guide and an advanced English speaker who takes lessons at Maximo. He took me to this really cool Olympic-sized pool an hour away at a resort. We drank local chicha (a special drink made from corn) and ate home-made empanadas in the small town with the resort. It would have been a great date if he hadn´t kept telling me how much he loved me! It was so strange. Every few minutes he would tell me how much he liked/loved me, and it got a little weird. Guess that is the culture here. It´s also something I don´t think I could ever get used to.

* Note: I have enjoyed my stay in Cusco, and I can truly say that I love this city despite its major differences to cities in the United States. I came here with an open mind, and I knew that I would see and experience things that I had never seen before. The topics I have written about are sharp contrasts to the Western world, which is why I chose to write about them.

The Olympic-sized Pool

The Olympic-sized Pool

Empanada Place

Empanada Place

At the Pool

At the Pool





International Exam Prep and Business English

4 09 2009

It´s Friday! This means that tomorrow is my last day of my Teaching Business English class. This also means that I will be checking out one of the new lounges here in Cusco. It´s supposed to be really cool, with lots of bean bags and a pool table. It also supposedly has good food 🙂

Last week, I completed my extra certification course in international exam preparation. Remember when we took the SATs and ACTs for college entrance? Well, there are several standardized English tests that many foreigners have to take for professional certifications and university entrance. I´m now well-educated on how to tutor people and run a class on international English exams. Pretty cool!

As I mentioned above, tomorrow I finish my course on Teaching Business English. This was also very valuable because I will probably have many business clients in Buenos Aires. We learned the basics of accounting (making income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements) and talked about several different business contexts. Next week, I have to turn in my deliverables, which are a couple lesson plans and a final exam that I have to create. All in all, the class has been really stimulating and interesting. Can´t wait until I start teaching!

I´ve been a little behind on the picture taking, so I´ll be taking more pics of the classrooms and the night life. Stay tuned!

One of the Many Classrooms

One of the Many Classrooms