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





TEFL Certified!

25 08 2009
It´s been quite some time since my last blog post. Apologies for those who have been wanting to know what´s going on in my life. Since my last blog post, I have completed my TEFL certification course! All I need to do is turn in my portfolio, and then I get my certificate.

In addition to the TEFL course, I´m taking two add-on courses: one in international exam preparation and another in business English. I´m hoping these extra courses will help me with my job search in the future. It´s good to have these extra certifications, especially when there is a high demand for business English teachers and tutors for exam preparation.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have written two papers and taught a 7am advanced English class for a week. We had to choose which class we wanted to teach, and since nobody wanted to teach the 7am advanced class, I volunteered myself for it. I knew it would be a challenge since we had been practicing on beginner and intermediate speakers. However, life can be more fun if I´m challenged.

Teaching the advanced class was certainly more challenging than I had anticipated. Unfortunately, I do not think it showed my abilities as a teacher. Here´s why. The advanced students are taught here using a method called task-based learning. I, on the other hand, needed to teach my class using a method called EPA (Engage-Practice-Activation). Because of this, I had to change the curriculum completely and make lesson plans from scratch. Other teachers who taught lower classes for the week were able to use the same curriculum that was in their handbooks because the lower classes follow the EPA format. In the long run, this is probably a good thing for me because I got to see what it was really like to plan a lesson when there is nothing to use for framework. Additionally, my students showed up 10-15 minutes late each day, making it hard to get through a lesson. Anyway, that is the reality of teaching, and I´m glad I got to experience it.

What I found really flattering is that some of my students asked me if they could switch into my class. They thought I was an actual teacher at Maximo Nivel, so that felt really good. I had good rapport with several of the students, and I´ll definitely miss that.

My instructors and classmates were awesome. I´ll miss the fun times that we all had in and outside of class. We all went out this past weekend, and it was tons of fun. One night, we went to a karaoke bar, and another night, we had a party at Maximo and then went to a club. We all decided to dress up in 80´s gear on Saturday. Everyone (myself included) made fools of ourselves (especially with my bad dancing), but life´s no fun if you can´t laugh at yourself.

Karaoke

Karaoke

My TEFL Trainers

My TEFL Trainers

Most of the Class + Peruvian Student

Most of the Class + Peruvian Student

Moving to Buenos Aires?

I was offered a job as an English teacher here at Maximo starting in November. At first, I wanted to take the job. However, upon reflection, I don´t think I´m going to take it. The reason is not because I do not like the organization. Maximo is fantastic; I could not have asked for a better place to work.

The reason is Cusco. My love/hate relationship continues with this city, and right now, I think the cons outweigh the pros. The altitude still affects me at times, and the weather is often cold. Additionally, there are so many parasites and viruses that people catch on a daily basis. And finally, I am not attracted to the Cusqueñan men whatsoever. I´ve had to break too many hearts. I´m ready to go to a different city. So, as of right now, I think I´m going to head to Buenos Aires and try to find a job there in mid-late October. I´ve had dreams of living in Buenos Aires for a few months now. Supposedly, the men are more attractive there too! Jobs as English teachers are harder to find there because of more competition, but I´m going to try. If I´m unsuccessful, I´ll probably make my way over to Santiago or Costa Rica, where there are more opportunities, and where the weather is nicer.





TEFL and Kittens!

9 08 2009

TEFL

It´s been quite a week. I love my TEFL class. It´s a lot of work, but it keeps me busy and stimulated. And, I get to use my creativity and enthusiasm to teach. The students are so friendly, and most of them are really motivated to learn. All of the classes are adult classes, except for a few ¨jovenes¨classes. The jovenes (teenagers) are pretty hard to control.

During the week, we had to observe other English teachers teach their classes. We had four observation write-ups due by the end of the week, and we have two more due this week. I taught my first two mini-lessons (20 minutes each) on Monday and Friday. There was a huge improvement between the two lessons.

For my first mini-lesson, I taught the Peruvian students how to play a very basic form of blackjack, but I ran out of time toward the end of the lesson to actually play. There was a lot that I (and the other  TEFL students) needed to improve on. All in all, the first lesson was definitely not as intimidating as I thought, and I was eager to teach my second one.

On Friday, I taught my second mini-lesson. We had to teach the students new vocabulary, so I focused on mansions. I used Michael Jackson´s Neverland Ranch as an example and taught the the words hot tub, ferris wheel, dance floor, recording studio and tennis court. The lesson went well. When I heard my teacher tell me,¨I think you pulled off a good lesson,¨it was music to my ears.

For my next mini-lesson tomorrow, we´re supposed to focus on speaking. So, the students are going to read a dialogue that we create and then make up their own dialogues. On Wednesday, our mini-lessons will focus on reading. The goal of every lesson is to get the students to speak as much as possible. We´re learning various techniques to get them to speak. The more you get them to speak, the better the lesson.

My Teaching Future

If time permits, I´ll start working on my international resume today. It´s quite different from resumes in the U.S. I´m supposed to include my picture, marital status, birthday and nationality. The resume is also much less detailed than the ones in the U.S.

My teachers talked to us about different opportunities in different countries. I´m 100% sure that I will end up somewhere in Asia within the next couple of years. The benefits and salaries are fantastic in some countries. Then, when I have money saved up from teaching in Asia, I´ll travel all over. I have always dreamed about working and living in different countries, but I had no idea that the dream would come true so soon.

As far as the next few months go, I am not yet sure if I want to stay in Cusco to teach or not. I´ve been meeting awesome people, so it makes my decision to stay harder. I´ve heard that there are many opportunities in Santiago, Chile, but I´ve heard mixed reviews about the city. I wish there were more opportunities in Buenos Aires because I´d really love to teach there. Another city I´m interested in is Valparaiso, Chile.

Life in General

I´ve been feeling pretty healthy and happy except for some unfortunate stomach bouts that keep coming back during unfortunate times. I´ll spare the details. Unfortunately, I wasn´t able to get as much work done as I  had wanted yesterday due to the stomach problems. For the most part, I´m fine though.

On a random note, I met the son of Monsanto´s CEO at a club the other night. For those who don´t know, Monsanto is a huge, controversial agricultural company.

Kittens!

When I woke up this morning, I came downstairs to make some tea, and Rodolfo the cook told me Blackie was here today. Blackie is his two-month old black kitten. He´s so adorable. Naturally, I sat down on the floor to hold him and play with him.

Then, Luisa (another staff member) walked in holding a box with another kitten, Blackie´s brother. Blackie´s brother is a cute, white kitten. Luisa´s cat had a litter of kittens, so Luisa has been giving them away to different people.

Not a bad way to start my day!

Blackie

Blackie

Unnamed White Kitten

Unnamed White Kitten

Playing!

Playing!





TEFL/TESOL: The Beginning

2 08 2009

It’s a lovely, sunny Sunday morning, and it feels much later than 10 am. Five people have moved out of the house, and five new people have taken their places. It’s always a surprise waking up in the morning or from a nap and coming out of my room to see the newbies. Every couple of weeks, it’s the same conversation. “Where are you from?” “What are you doing here?” “How long are you here for?” “Remember to put the toilet paper in the trash can, not the toilet, etc…”

On another note, tomorrow is my third day of TEFL/TESOL class. I’m teaching a mini-lesson, which is 20 minutes long. We’re basically supposed to teach anything but English. So, I’m teaching a very basic version of blackjack. In the ideal situation, I would need to use the board well, use appropriate handouts, talk less than 40% of the time, elicit English from the students using various techniques and plan my time so that I don’t go way over or way under. Afterwards, the teachers critique us. I’m both anxious and excited. Can’t wait to practice on one of the staff members in my house tonight!

More than half the students in the class are in their 20s. I saw them all at one of the popular dance clubs on Friday night. There are also a couple of older men and a couple of people from Holland in the class.

Lately, I’ve been missing warm weather and grassy parks. A few months ago, I was in San Francisco, where it seems like there are parks every few blocks. A year ago, I was traveling through Europe, and there were parks everywhere. Cusco has no clean, grassy parks where I can just sit and relax. I’ve been going to some quiet cafes, but it’s not the same. As much as I love city life, I also love quiet, safe areas outside. I have yet to find my outside haven.





My First Professional Soccer Game

26 07 2009

Today, I went to my first professional soccer game. The Cusco team played against the Lima team, and unfortunately, we lost 0-2. Apparently, the team here is not very good. Nonetheless, I had so much fun.

Cusco Team Attempting a Goal

Cusco Team Attempting a Goal

A bunch of us bought jerseys and wore them throughout the game. I´m actually still wearing mine as I write. There were food and drink vendors everywhere, and of course lots of cheering and swearing from the crowd. A former TEFL student (now an English teacher here) and I decided to eat beef and potatoes on a stick. I had been dying to try it for some time now. Very tasty.

Beef and Potato On a Stick

Beef and Potato On a Stick

Beef and Potato On a Stick

Beef and Potato On a Stick

During the game, it started raining a little bit. The weather here has been pretty strange the past few days– cloudy and rainy. It´s dry season right now, so Cusco doesn´t usually get this type of weather this time of year.

While walking home from the game, I happened to walk right into the middle of a parade about a block from my house. There are street parades all the time here. And, Peru is celebrating Independence Day on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I´m sure there will be lots more street parades this week.

Street Parade While Walking Home

Street Parade While Walking Home

On Wednesday, I start my TEFL/TESOL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language/Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) class. Basically, I´ll be a full-time student for the next four weeks. No more working with children right now. From what I´ve heard and seen, the class is very intense, but also rewarding and fun. I´ll have to make lesson plans, write papers, read and teach English lessons to students at Maximo Nivel. Super excited for the challenge and what lies ahead! When the class ends, Maximo holds a party with free food and alcohol for all the TEFL students, the staff and volunteers. I´ve now been to three parties.

TEFL/TESOL Party with Valerie, Recent TEFL/TESOL Grad and Soon-to-Be Teacher at Maximo

TEFL/TESOL Party with Valerie, Recent TEFL/TESOL Grad and Soon-to-Be Teacher at Maximo





Lake Titicaca

15 07 2009
 

 

 

Before

 

 

 

 

I´m headed by myself to Lake Titicaca tomorrow by plane. I´m flying to the town of Juliaca, Peru, where I´ll take a bus to Copacabana, Bolivia and renew my visa. I´m spending some time on the Bolivian side of the lake. Then, I´ll head over to the Peruvian side too. It´s supposed to be very cold and very beautiful. I rented a sleeping bag in case I go camping.

It amazes me how some volunteers don´t even know about Lake Titicaca. Some people came here with so much naiveté that it sometimes frustrates me.

More to come after I get back on Tuesday!

After

Wow. So much has happened within the past five days that it´s hard to even know where to start. I´ll describe my adventure chronologically.

Day 1 – Bad Luck Transportation Fairy

I woke up bright and early with tons of excitement to go to the Cusco airport. When I got there, I waited a bit and then was told that my plane was circling in the air waiting for the clouds to clear. Turns out, the plane could not land because of the cloud cover. Instead, it headed to Lima, which was its final destination. Long story short, my flight was cancelled and I had to come back several hours later to take another flight.

Thinking that the bad luck transportation fairy had finished its visit, I was wrong. My flight went smoothly, and I took a bus to Puno, Peru (The city on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca). I thought I would just be able to catch another bus to Copacabana, but as I am learning, nothing is ever as easy as it seems down here. The bus driver told me I couldn´t take a bus to Copacabana because the immigration office would have been closed by the time I arrived. Before I had time to even think about what to do next, he and his assistant were already unloading my backpack into a nearby hostel.

Frustrated, I called the hotel in Copacabana to cancel my reservation for the night. I didn´t want to be in Puno for the night; it wasn´t part of my plan. Clearly, plans can change very quickly here.

To clear my head and cheer myself up, I decided to go eat at a restaurant recommended by my Lonely Planet guidebook. I had the most delicious meal in all of my trip here. If this meal was a person, I´d be in love. First, I ordered hot chocolate. Then came the main dish: Alpaca steak with vegetables in a cream sauce and warm apple sauce on the side. It was so good, and I felt much better after eating such a satisfying meal.

What I realized this first day was that things happen for a reason and not to get so upset if something doesn´t go as planned. I´m here to learn and to experience new cultures and ways of life. With more patience and flexibility, I´ll be happier.

Day 2 – Arriving in Copacabana

The next morning, I took a bus headed to Copacabana. For the most part, there were few complications. Of course being American, I had to pay a large fee to enter Bolivia. And since I didn´t have a copy of my immunization records, I had to pay an extra ten dollars. Keep in mind, people who are not American did not have to pay a large fee or show any type of health records.

The hotel I stayed at was nice compared to the first night. They offered free tea and fruit at any time of the day. The room was comfy and most importantly had a warm shower. There, I booked a ticket to go to Isla del Sol (the main island on the Bolivian side of the lake) for the morning after.

Once I got settled, I went out to explore Copacabana. Of all the cities and towns I´ve been to so far, Copacabana is my favorite. It´s a relaxing, tranquil, lakefront town with beautiful views. When I visited the church (also very beautiful), there were a bunch of poor people sitting in front begging for whatever people would give them. Feeling sorry for them, I gave away all my snack food.  The look on these kids´faces when I gave them a half-filled bag of peanuts was priceless.

Church in Copacabana

Church in Copacabana

Copacabana

Copacabana

Street Vendor in Copacabana

Street Vendor in Copacabana

Later on, I climbed a nearby mountain to watch the sunset. Let me tell you, when I´m in a city that has an elevation of over 12,000 feet, and I have asthma, trekking up a mountain is very difficult. Winded and exhausted, I finally made it. The extraordinary sunset was worth every breathe I took to get up there.

The Mountain I Climbed

The Mountain I Climbed

Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

Then, I had a relaxing dinner at a coffee shop where I was serenaded by a wonderful live band with two guitar players, a flute player and a drummer.

Day 3 – Sick and Trekking Isla Del Sol

There is nothing worse than pain. Whether it be physical, emotional, psychological or in some other form, pain is one of the hardest things to endure.

I had been experiencing minor abdominal pain on Day 2, but I didn´t think much about it and tried to ignore it. Well, around 3:30 in the morning on Day 3, this pain was there to stay. The ¨parasitic¨pain that I had endured several weeks ago had come back. Once again, waves of abdomincal pain struck– it felt like someone was squeezing my intestines. Pepto didn´t help either.

The pain continued well into the morning. Then the mental debate started. Should I go to Isla del Sol, or not? What if the pain gets worse and I´m stuck on this island? Suck it up and go, Alexa. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Fatigued, exhausted and still experiencing terrible cramping, I ended the battle of thoughts when I decided I would go. I wasn´t sure if I´d ever see this part of the world again.

The boat ride to the island lasted over an hour and a half. I appropriately and undeliberately sat next to the neon green life jackets in the back. At least I knew I´d be safe if the boat started sinking. Of the 80+ people on the boat, I might have been the only one alone. I looked around and saw all these affectionate young couples and talkative friends. And here I was. Sick, by myself, no one to comfort me.

The boat dropped us off at one end of the island and left. We were supposed to walk to the other end of the island, which takes three to five hours depending on how fast you go. While some people took a tour, I ventured off to walk as quickly as I could to finish. Surrounded by ruins, rocky terrain and breathtaking views, all I could think about was lying down on a bed with a soft pillow.

While taking a break at one point during the beginning, a woman asked me if I was okay. I must have looked pretty bad. I told her I was having stomach problems, and she insisted that it was altitude related because she, too, was having problems. I found it a bit absurd that she thought she could diagnose my problem without even knowing what I was going through.

Lonely Planet describes the hike as ¨moderately strenuous.¨However, when in pain and feeling the effects of asthma and altitude, it´s much harder than that.

The hike had several checkpoints, where we had to pay small fees to keep going. At one particular checkpoint, the money collector said to me, ¨Hola Señor.¨Wait a second. Señor? Really? Do I really look that bad? I guess my hat, lack of makeup and hiking clothes made me look manly. And my flat chest didn´t help. Ouch. Way to add insult to injury.

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca

Finally, I finished after almost four hours. I checked myself into a hotel with electricity and a nice view of the lake. Before I could fully relax, they had to clean the bathroom and mop the floors. I waited on the bed while the very friendly cleaning lady cleaned. Her name was Primativa. She was a 20 year-old native who spoke the indigenous dialect, and she wanted to talk. The last thing I wanted to do was carry on a conversation. If I had been feeling well, I would have welcomed the opportunity to practice Spanish, but all I wanted to do was rest. She was so interested in me that when she was done cleaning, she sat down on the bed next to me and just looked at me for a couple minutes. Then, she said goodbye and left after an awkward silence.
I rested all afternoon and evening, not even getting up to eat dinner. I then fell asleep and woke the next morning to no pain. Yay!
Day 4 – Shopping, Relaxing, La Cúpula
 
After a night on the island, I took a boat back to Copacabana. I got a room at the place I had originally booked, La Cúpula. It´s wonderful. It runs on solar power, which means I had my best shower so far in South America. The bed was also very comfy, and there were lots of hammocks outside. They even had a hot tub.
Following my hot shower, I went to get some pizza and coffee. The pizza was so big that I gave my un-eaten slices to the sorriest-looking people I could find. One of them had very few teeth.  
Restaurant in Copacabana

Restaurant in Copacabana

Full and content, I went shopping for jewelry and Bolivian music. I bought four pairs of cheap, hand-made earrings and a traditional music CD. I have yet to hear the entire CD, but I´m hoping it has flutes and guitars like the music I heard in the coffee shop.

As I was strolling on the lakefront, I passed by about 20 stalls all selling cooked trout. They looked delicious. I also watched a group of native kids and adults playing soccer on the pavement. They looked so happy, and I was smiling as I was watching them. When the ball came towards me, I kicked it back. Then, one of the women asked if I wanted to play with them. It made my day.

Trout Stands

Trout Stands

Later, I ate dinner with a Swiss woman I met at the hotel. She was so interesting and so smart. All the Swiss people I meet are always so cultured and know so many different languages. She told me that she had lived in Panama for a year through the foreign exchange program AFS. Small world because that´s the organization my family is affiliated with.

Then, I retired to my room to read and translate a Cosmopolitan magazine article in Spanish. Oh, and of course I had diarrhea later on that night too. Lovely.

Day 5 – Back to Puno, and Juliaca too?

The next morning, I took a bus back to Puno. I had intended on staying in Puno and taking another bus to the airport the next morning. Once I got to Puno, I found a hostel and set out to sight see. First, I decided to go to this landmark about thirty minutes outside of the city. I hopped on a bus, and sitting next to me was a nice Peruvian English professor. She told me to definitely stay in the city of Juliaca that night (Juliaca is the city with the airport) because there was going to be a transportation strike the next day. She wrote down a couple of trustworthy hotels for me, and gave me some advice about the city of Juliaca.

Then, the weather got really bad, and I didn´t feel safe exploring the landmark alone in the middle of nowhere where it was cold, cloudy and windy. While taking the bus back to Puno, I saw lightning. Thus, I could no longer explore the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. Long story short, I took a taxi to one of the hotels in Juliaca that the English professor had recommended.

The Ominous Clouds

The Ominous Clouds

The hotel was nice and a bit more than I would have wanted to pay, but it was safe, so that´s all that really matters. As dinner time approached, I looked out my window and saw tons of people in the Chinese restaurant across the street. So, I went over there and had a huge, delicious meal for less than two dollars. The place was run by Chinese people. No wonder it was so good. The last Chinese food I had in Peru was mediocre, but this was fantastic.

Day 6 – Transportation Strike and Back to Cusco

The bad luck transportation fairy decided to pay me another visit today on my last day of the trip. Indeed, it was a good idea to stay in Juliaca the night before my flight because there were very few vehicles in the street. To get to the airport, I had to take a motorized rickshaw. Since strikers had blocked the main road, the driver took an alternate, rocky, unpaved route. I thought we might topple over at any minute, but we made it safely.

Motorized Rickshaw

Motorized Rickshaw

To my surprise, the flight was not delayed or cancelled! The scenery from the plane was awesome, as we flew over a cascade of mountains.

View From the Plane

View From the Plane

Once we landed, I didn´t think I´d have any problems getting back home. Wrong! I got in a taxi, but we couldn´t go very far. The protestors from the strike had blocked all the routes coming from the airport. Lucky me! My only other option was to walk. I walked for quite some time with my luggage until I passed the road blocks. And finally, I got a taxi.

My New Room

When I got home, the friendly staff greeted me and took me to my new room. I had been stuck living in a triple again for several weeks and had been asking to switch rooms for a while. Now I have the best room in the house! It´s a single with a big bed and an attached private bathroom. The staff had moved and re-organized all my stuff in my new room. Not a bad welcome if you ask me!





Doing the Hokey Pokey

11 07 2009

On Thursday night, I had a couple too many drinks while out celebrating household birthdays. Nonetheless, I still had a great time. Funny side note: I met a fellow volunteer named Eliza, and she has a sister named Alexis.

My hangover was a bit rough on Friday morning, and I arrived at my project about half an hour late. I´m so glad I decided to go because it was a special day for the kids. Several doctors came to talk to the kids about sexual, physical and psychological abuse. Most of these kids are abused by their fathers, so I´m very pleased that people came to talk to them.

On top of this, the doctors looked at each kid and gave them toothbrushes and taught them how to brush their teeth. It was incredibly adorable.

And, to put some icing on the cake, I brought in my five-dollar speakers and children´s songs. We listened to Old MacDonald Had a Farm, The Wheels on the Bus, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, If You´re Happy and You Know It, and of course the Hokey Pokey, which we´re slowly teaching.

They absolutely loved the music, and they were so intrigued by my speakers. I´m not sure if they had ever seen speakers before. They were touching them and were so curious about how the speakers were transmitting the music. On Monday, I´m bringing in Michael Jackson music upon request.

Kids and Doctors

Kids and Doctors

Teaching the Kids About Hygiene

Teaching the Kids About Hygiene

The Niñas Brushing

The Niñas Brushing

Some of the Niños

Some of the Niños

Kevin

Kevin

Reynaldo

Reynaldo

Animal Crossings Are Very Typical

Animal Crossings Are Very Typical

After my hungover Friday morning fun, I took the bus back to Cusco and sat next to a very old Quechuan woman. I wanted to take a picture, but I didn´t think it would be very appropriate. I find the older Quechuan women very fascinating because in addition to looking really old and fragile, they carry so much on their backs.

I´m about to go explore some of the famous churches here. Then, I´m going to work on some fundraising letters for my project. If anyone would like to check out the project´s website, it´s here: http://www.asociacionwara.org/. The website is a work in progress and is by no means complete at all. At some point, I´m going to ask friends and family for donations. Even a small amount of money can go a long way.