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Peru Adventure!

a travel blog by kfox



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Auburn, United States




permalink written by  kfox on June 3, 2010 from Auburn, United States
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San Francisco, United States




permalink written by  kfox on June 3, 2010 from San Francisco, United States
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Mexico, Mexico




permalink written by  kfox on June 4, 2010 from Mexico, Mexico
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Lima, Peru




permalink written by  kfox on June 5, 2010 from Lima, Peru
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Chop it OFF!

Cusco, Peru


Hello everyone! So, welcome to the first entry of my travel blog for my adventure in Peru (other adventures will follow soon as well, I am sure). This is the first time I´ve had access to a computer since I got here so bear with me while I try to remember all of the details of my trip so far...it´s only been a few days, but much has happened.

First of all, can I just say how unfunny it was of the universe to make it necessary for me to have bodily tissue removal about 20 hours before I left the country? The plan for Thursday was to go to a dentist appointment at 9 am for a teeth cleaning, say good-bye to my grandparents, finish packing my things, and be picked up at 1 by Amy and her mother, Melisa so we could drive to San Francisco in time to exchange currency, make an REI stop, and see Wicked (which Melisa so generously bought us tickets for), spend the night at Amy´s grandmother´s house, and then wake up the next morning for our flight out of SFO at 11:20 am. So, you can imagine my distress when my dentist tells me I have a "precancerous lesion" in my mouth and that he recommends I see an oral surgeon. I call the oral surgeon and tell his secretary that I am leaving the country tomorrow, so could I please have an appointment for that day? All she can offer me is one at 3:30 pm. It will totally throw off the day´s plans, but Amy, Melisa and I all decide it´s important enough to make adjustments for. They pick me up around 2 and we run around Auburn trying to exchange currency (no success) and buy hiking boots (success!). Then we wait in the waiting room of the oral surgeon´s practice until 4:15, at which point i am rocking back and forth wondering how we will make it to SF in time to see Wicked. Then the doctor calls me back and tells me there´s no way of telling if my lesion is cancerous or not unless we do a biopsy. He suggests that I just let him cut the whole thing off even though it probably isn´t cancerous. I ask, "What will happen if I don´t?" and he says worst case scenario is that it will be malignant and grow bigger while I´m in Peru and then he´ll have to cut off part of my lip. I promptly freak out and tell him to chop the freakin thing off. It costs $400, which my insurance does not cover (thankfully I have wonderful parents who want me to be cancer free). He gives me a local anesthetic, cuts it off, catarizes my cells, stitches me up, writes me a prescription for painkillers and antibiotics, and sends me on my merry way. By the time we start driving to San Francisco, it is after 5:30 and half of my bottom lip is as big as the Titanic. Somehow we make it to Wicked on time and I enjoy it soooo much, despite the fact that I am loopy from the painkillers and look like the Elephant Man. Yeah...not funny universe. *shakes fist*

Well, that´s about all I have time for right now...more to come later though. Hugs to all you back home!

permalink written by  kfox on June 5, 2010 from Cusco, Peru
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Can we eat it?!

Cusco, Peru


So, thus far I have described my chaotic pre-plane mouth cancer adventure. Now for the flights themselves. Fortunately, I have this uncanny ability to sleep on planes (no doubt obtained from 4 years of flying back and forth between New York and California)...therefore, I was asleep the vast majority of the time, including during the take-offs and landings while poor Amy, who cannot sleep on planes, looked on with envy. Somehow the little Spanish that Amy and I know got us through immigration and customs in Mexico City, and we were deposited on the other side of customs hungry, tired, and wondering what we could possibly eat. Before I left home, I was warned by my doctor, my vaccine administrator, and Lonely Planet that I should not eat/drink anything that had not been boiled, cooked, or peeled in Peru so that we did not end up with typhoid/hepatitis/world´s worst diarrhea ever. Food we ate should be served hot (as in having just been cooked immediately before we consume it) and fresh, uncooked produce should be avoided. We assumed the same would be true in Mexico. Given the fact that the majority of airport food consists of fast food (which may or may not have been reheated), cold sandwiches chock full of uncooked produce, candy bars, and buffet-style Chinese food that has been sitting out forever and ever, we had no idea what we could eat. After wandering around for about an hour, we finally stumbled upon a restaurant that looked expensive and thereby reputable (according to Lonely Planet) and bought some quesadillas and bottled water. We put grapefruit seed extract (courtesy of Amy´s homeopathic, hippie mother) in the water to kill any pathogens just in case, meaning that our water tasted incredibly bitter. We also turned down the fresh guacamole (which killed the avacado-lover inside me) in case it was made of fresh produce. Then we cried over the fact that we would not be eating fresh produce or drinking water that did not taste like ass for the next two months. Our check came out to 274 pesos, which scared the crap out of us, but it turns out there´s about 11 pesos to a dollar. At that point, we were just happy to be fed. After finishing up our 6 hour layover, flying to Lima, and boarding yet another plane to Cusco, we finally arrived at our destination about 24 hours after boarding our first plane.

At the airport, we were met by Mimi, a member of the host family that Amy and I would be staying with courtesy of our program, Fairplay. We all took a cab to the homestead, only costing us a total of 4 soles (about $1.33!). From the street, the homestead just looks like a ten-foot pink wall with a door and some tinted windows in it. Once you walk through the door, however, you walk into a cement courtyard that belongs to the Huanac Cabana family, the family we are staying with. The courtyard is surrounded on three sides by rooms, kind of like at a motel, and one of these sides is four stories high! Mimi showed us to our room/bathroom on the second story, which is good because the fourth floor is very high up and looks slightly unstable. The entire homestead is this random conglomeration of colorful tile, wooden planks, and metal spiral staircases, non of which match. Compared to the other homes I have seen in Cusco (many of which have sheet metal for walls/roofs)however, it is quite nice. We live there with John, the program director of Fairplay, his wife and kids, and the wife´s sisters and mother, Manchi, and their husbands. There are also a couple of other students like us (Brittany, an American with a penchant for cake, and Arne, a Belgian with a penchant for hallucinagins) living in the homestead. That is good because almost none of the Peruvians we live with speak English...I´ve been smiling and nodding a lot, haha. Fortunately though, I have also been picking up on Spanish pretty quickly out of pure necessity. I make awkward and stilted conversations with Manchi, who cooks the Fairplay students breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. She knows how to cook so that we don´t contract any diseases!!! :D Our room is very nice with bright green walls, orange curtains, a wardrobe, table, and a double bed. Amy and I have been telling people/acting like we are just friends, however, because Peruvians are pretty uncomfortable with the whole homosexual thing. It´s been interesting walking around without holding her hand or giving her little kisses, but it´s bearable. We get to cuddle once we are locked away in our green and orange room. We also have a bathroom with a toilet you can´t put toilet paper in (apparently all toilets in Peru are like that...they clog easily so every toilet has a trash can you can deposit toilet paper into next to it) and a shower that dumps freezing cold water onto us whenever we feel brave enough to turn it on. Overall, it is a very nice set-up and I am very pleased.

Ok, computer time is up...more about Cusco and Spanish classes later!

permalink written by  kfox on June 8, 2010 from Cusco, Peru
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Cake

Cusco, Peru


I feel like I´ve been here a couple weeks rather than five days, mostly because I´ve learned so much since I´ve gotten here. The first night after meeting my host family and eating dinner with the other students, Brittany invited Amy and I out to meet some of her friends at the Plaza de Armas (the center of the city, very pretty but also very touristy). Amy declined because she was exhausted (we don´t all turn into sleeping machines on planes, haha) but I decided to go. Brittany showed me how to catch a cab, including how to tell which ones are legit (they typically have lit advertisements on the top and radios inside) and which ones are random people just perusing around in cars...apparently many tourists fall for these fake taxis and end up getting robbed. :S Anyhoo, we made it to the Plaza just fine. The Plaza de Armas is this square in the middle of Cusco that is encompassed in shops, restaurants and bars, and a very old and impressive cathedral and church (Brittany says they´re different somehow). In the center is a fountain that changes colors at night and is surrounded by lawns and rainbow flags (apparently these represent the Inca empire, even though they look similar enough to gay pride flags to make my heart feel a bit happier). The Plaza is teeming with tourists...Brittany and I ran into two small groups of English-speaking people she knew while we were waiting for the friends she was supposed to meet...everyone ended up knowing each other, so we all decided to go out together. It seems like it could be a nice community to be a part of...everyone seems very open and friendly and has lots of interesting traveling experience/advice...if I end up taking any trips Amy can´t go on then I could totally find someone else to go with! The whole night reminded me of a night in Dunedin, which was very comforting and exciting. :) Brittany and I left the others a bit early though...she wanted cake rather than alcohol and I didn´t want to be drinking before I had adjusted to the altitude...Cusco is at 11,000 feet! Luckily I haven´t had any issues breathing, but many people say they feel like they´re constantly walking uphill and breathing hard even when they´re sitting down. Amy and I also had some minor headache/stomachache problems (I totally thought I had contracted some evil diarrhea-inducing pathogen haha) and general fatigue but no major issues...apparently extreme altitude sickness can be serious and even fatal. :S Anyhoo, Brittany and I went out to a little restaurant and ate cake...it was probably the sweetest cake I have ever had and probably gave me diabetes, haha. Then we went home and I got to sleep foreeeeeeeever...it was so nice. The next morning (or afternoon, rather), Amy and I walked to the Plaza and saw it during the daytime. We wandered through shops and marketplaces and were accosted by Peruvian salespeople wanting to "giving ladies good price." Somehow we refrained from buying anything and ended up back in the cake place...I thought Amy could use some sweets, haha. Then we walked home before dark, and I was very proud of myself for memorizing the route from my delirious taxi ride the night before. It´s a very interesting walk because you wander through nontouristy Cusco, which is completely different than touristy Cusco...the roads are surrounded by hole-in-the-wall streets and businesses made from an odd conglomeration of plaster, wood planks, and sheet metal...it makes me think about how lucky I am that I was raised in a house with a sturdy frame and a roof that doesn´t leak. Anyhoo, more on that later...I have to be going now. Bye!

permalink written by  kfox on June 9, 2010 from Cusco, Peru
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Death, combi-style

Cusco, Peru


So, today is my fourth day of Spanish classes and so far immersion has been really tough. I struggled with the oral communication part of French in high school and tried to avoid talking as much as possible. Now with Spanish, I have no choice. Very few people here speak more than a smattering of English, and it is impossible to communicate with my host family, my teachers, or taxi drivers/waiters/venders/EVERYONE without Spanish. I thought my teachers would humor me and clarify words in English with me when I had no idea what they were saying...turns out they can´t do that because because they have no idea what I am saying. Therefore, one of us has to learn the other´s language and since I´m paying for Spanish lessons, they expect it to be me. Which is fine, except for when my brain gets tired. When my brain gets tired, I get cranky/less receptive/have a harder time continuing the conversation. And then my random neurons in my brain start firing and I want to speak French. I haven´t taken French in 6 years and I only took 3 years in high school, but somehow it stuck in my brain enough to come back and haunt me. If I had a sol for every time I almost said "beaucoup" instead of "mucho" I could pay for soooooo many cab rides.

Don´t get me wrong though, the classes are very helpful/fun most of the time. Monday morning, Amy and I woke up at 7, had breakfast, and were met by my grammer teacher, Mariluz (don´t know if I spelled that right), who picked us up at the homestay. She walked us into town and showed us how to catch a bus, or "combi." Or rather, she chattered at me in Spanish and I smiled a lot. Amy knows more Spanish than me so she was actually able to converse with Mariluz, whereas at that point, I knew a grand total of 5 words so I just nodded like a bobblehead and tried to convey that I was terrified of getting on the combi because I thought I would probably throw up. These combis are not real buses; they are Peruvian death traps. Each "bus" is actually an old giant van (like the kind Sierra College uses for their field trips) that has been gutted and had 3-4 short rows of seats put inside. If you are lucky enough to grab one of these seats, you can look out the window and observe the combi nearly running into everything within ten feet of it (I think there´s some law of magnitism at work here that is fairly inclusive...we´re talking about cars/people/other combis/dogs here...they care as much about pedestrians as Bush cares about the environment). Usually the combi gets within a foot of whatever it is about to hit so that you wince and latch on to something "sturdy" because you are certain that you will be hearing the sound of crunching metal in about half a second. And then that sickening sound never comes and you are so happy to be alive...until it all happens again 5 seconds later. This is if you´re fortunate enough to be sitting. If you are one of the unlucky 20 people standing (yes, 20 in one van, it´s packed tighter than the freaking New York subway) then you are clinging to a handrail bolted to the top of the van, swinging into the people surrounding you (if you´re lucky enough to have enough room to swing rather than nudge) and wondering why the hell there are so many car horns honking outside and why the driver stopped so suddenly. There is also the matter of the side sliding door which allows people to enter/exit and is monitored by a Peruvian man or woman yelling "Baja baja baja!" whenever the bus pulls up to a stop. This Peruvian then opens the door to let even more people in and often doesn´t shut it again until the van is in motion, meaning that if you have just gotten in to a crowded combi and have to stand near the door, you must be careful not to fall out of it. So, in short, this is why I was afraid of vomitting, as Amy kindly explained to Mariluz.

Anyhoo, somehow I managed not to throw up or die! Mariluz, Amy, and I arrived at the Fairplay school safe and sound and I had my first gramatica lesson. Unfortunately I don´t have enough time to write about it because I´m leaving for Machu Piccu today! I´ll be back Sunday, unless I have died from happiness.

permalink written by  kfox on June 10, 2010 from Cusco, Peru
from the travel blog: Peru Adventure!
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Ollantaytambo, Peru




permalink written by  kfox on June 11, 2010 from Ollantaytambo, Peru
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Aguas Calientes, Peru




permalink written by  kfox on June 11, 2010 from Aguas Calientes, Peru
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