Wednesday, September 22, 2010

No cars go

So my jungle trip has been delayed due to a city wide strike. It turns out that the people in Cusco aren't too happy with water privatization. School, stores, and roads are closed down indefinitely. I thought I would show you all what it looks like here in the Plaza.

It is just so strange because I have not ever seen anything like this in the United States. When the protesters would walk by stores would slam their doors and close the blinds.
Police are everywhere in the streets standing where the cars should be. It is very eery. Well my internet isn't so great but I thought I would keep you all updated!! Take care!

Monday, September 20, 2010

I'm feeling the pull

I have officially been in Cusco for two weeks (more than that actually) and in Peru for three. I can't say that the time has flown by, but the days are definitely passing by more quickly. I thought it was a good time to fill you all in on some of my new favorite Peruvian/Cusquenian things.

1. La Plaza de Armas: So close to my classes, this beautiful plaza is home to our group's favorite cafes, restaurants and discotecas (which have a HUGE following in Cusco). There are usually about a million tourists here, but it is so beautiful I hardly care. See what I mean:

2. La comida: I was so suprised by the abundance of potatoes in Cusco, there are more than 60 kinds! I think that Peru is probably Ireland's biggest potato competitor. My new favorite food is platano con leche. My host mom tells me its juice, but it sure tastes like a banana milkshake to me. ¡Que rico! (this means how delicious).

3. El molino: Also known as Cusco's black market, el molino is home to everything you could possibly imagine. After listening to my Spanish professor talk about it for two weeks, I finally went yesterday. I got a camping mattress for the jungle, a towel, and an entire season of Friends all for less than 50 soles, which is about 20 dollars. What a find!

4. Hiking: There are so many places to explore less than an hour away from the city. This weekend I went to Pisac, which was a 3 hour hike with beautiful ruins around every corner. It is about 13,000 feet high and when I would stop to catch my breath I felt like I was sucking air through a straw. Here I am about to climb the stairs up the mountain:

I'm heading to the Amazon basin on Wednesday, so the next time I write will be about the jungle! Until then!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's all uncharted

So it has finally happened, I have succumbed to illness. I was in bed most of Sunday and Monday. My study abroad advisor said that it is a cruel joke that the first thing that happens when you enter a new culture is getting sick because you are out of your comfort zone and feel awful. My host mom was really great though, giving me tons of tea and strange pink corn mush that is supposed to be the cure for everything. I also was able to use a rubber hot water bottle, the last of which was probably seen in 1970.

However, my strangest experience happened when I went to tell my professor that I didn't feel well. There just happened to be a shaman (natural healer) in her office who was going to give us a lecture that day. Before I knew it he had taken out cedar wood and rosemary essences and began rubbing them on my head. At first I was quite uncomfortable, but after a few minutes I did feel better (and I smelled like a tree).

From instinct, the healer could tell that I needed to eat more healthy fats, drink more water, and relax more. He wanted to put acupuncture needles in my ears but I told him that it wouldn't be necessary and that I probably just needed some advil. After two days of sleep and about a million cups of tea, I do feel better. Who knows, maybe it was the alternative medicine that did the trick! Until later!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Put your hands in the air

I have been in Cusco for more than a week. I'm experiencing the strangest combination of feeling like I've been here forever and no time at all. I should have written a post about my trip to MACHU PICCHU last week so here it is:

We went last Wednesday and the day started wonderfully and I couldn't get over the view (and the llamas). I learned that Machu Picchu is pronounced Mah-chu Pik-chu, and if you say it Mah-choo Pi-choo it means something completely different (and might I add quite inappropriate). However, the day took a turn for the worse when it started downpouring on us. Steep stone steps plus rain and mud do not make for an easy trek. My lovely raincoat couldn't even keep out the water and I was forced to don a white poncho that made me look like an Incan ghost. All I have to say is that sometimes comfort and style do not coincide.
Here is what the great ruins looked like when I saw them:

The ruins were so great that I hardly cared that I struggled to see them and almost died going down the stairs. I don't know how people over the age of 35 can do this stuff. Hasta tarde amigos!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Staying alive

Culture shock. How do you know if you have it? What does it feel like? Well, it feels like seeing an entire roasted pig (head and all) on the kitchen table for lunch. In Peru, it's called lechón, and it is a delicacy that my family bought from Lima. I ate it, but it was one of the biggest struggles of my new Peruvian life. I want you all to see it, so here it is:

I am officially living with my host family in Cusco. They are a very nice retired couple with five children who have moved away. I have never had a television, my own bathroom, or a king sized bed, so it is so strange to have that all for the first time in Peru.

Besides the suckling pig, food here is so different. We eat bread and jam for breakfast, and HUGE lunch, and a tiny dinner at around eight at night. As someone who is suffering from a caffeine addiction, the coffee could not be any better.

Other differences...traffic lights are hard to find and stop signs are more like suggestions. Every time I cross the street I pray I don't get hit by a rogue Cusqenian car. Only the bravest of the brave drive in Cusco. And did I mention how cold I am? It is seriously time to buy some alpaca sweaters. Okay well, that is it for now, I just wanted to show every Alliot complainer my lunch. ¡Ciao! (That's how people say goodbye, but doesn't it sound Italian?)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Estoy aqui

After more than 24 hours of flying and layovers, I'm here, I'm here!! I got off the plane in Cusco and met up with the 14 other people in my program. It was great meeting everyone, especially since we come from all different areas of the United States. It is hard to believe that I will be here until December.

Our first few nights we stayed in a small town an hour away from Cusco called Urubamba. This is what it looks like:

We stayed in a hostel here for four nights and tonight we head out to Cusco but here are some things we did in Urubamba:

1. Went to a guinea pig (or cui en español) farm.
There were so many but own one cui was black. In Peru, the black ones are good luck and they are rubbed on people who are sick for healing purposes. Look at this:
2. We saw how chocolate is made. It turns out the seeds are grown, toasted, and then ground with peanuts and some sugar to get the real deal. Hershey's better watch out because this natural chocolate is pretty delicious. I think i'm going to go back today to buy some more!

On another note, there are a few things about Peru that have surprised me. First of all, it is so cold! I thought (in my ignorance) that it was supposed to be cold under the equator, but I find myself doubling up on my sweaters during the day. Another thing (which may be too much information for some), toilet paper is hard to find, so it is suggested that we all carry our supply around. More to come, but I'm going to end on one of my new favorite pictures:
¡Qué hermosa! (that means what beauty).