I'm sure that you all will be overly excited and interested to learn that 2016 has been the year I grew out of both Peeps and Redvines. And on that note, I will move on to obviously less important and not at all interesting subjects.
I just spent a really amazing and wonderful week with my parents! It was honestly the best timing for their visit as well! Part of the problem with culture shock also comes from a feeling that there is no longer anything special to see around you. One of the greatest parts of spending that time with my parents was that I got to re- experience some of the extreme joy that comes with exploring a new place.
We spent the weekend all together in Lima, which I had never gotten to explore before. We also had amazing food and got some pretty fantastic news (my Mom might get published soon for one of her short stories!!!!!!). The first day we went to an amazing museum. The exhibits chronicled the native peoples of Peru. Some of the information was sad because of the realization of how much was lost when the Spanish arrived and tipped the scales in their own favor. To be fair, there was a lot of history that was essentially RuPaul's Drag Race but acted out by angry men equipped with literal armies. There were some pretty special things about this museum as well:
1) It is the only place you can see a full set of Inca burial armor.
2) There is a spectacular storage space filled with amazing pottery. My dad described it as being like the Department of Mysteries from Harry Potter, and I'm not sure how I could describe it better than that. It was honestly just amazing because there are so many different peoples' faces depicted in the clay as well as a wide array of religious symbolism.
3) The restaurant is freaking the bomb dot com dot weebly dot org!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Then, the next day we went to a huge archaeological spot that just sits randomly in the center of a neighborhood in Lima. It was honestly slightly boring (because most of what you get to go see in Peru is dusty old bricks and this was no exception). However, I still learned a lot and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see a different example of the genius of the Inca people and everyone else who lived in the rich past Peru.
Our whole familial experience in Cuzco together was rather quaint. June is the huge month of festivals, so there were lots of parades to see and people in fancy traditional- ish dress. We went to Machu Picchu, and the second time was better than the first. Part of that probably has a lot more to do with the guide this time, rather than anything else. However, seeing things with my parents alongside me instead of traveling alone probably also improved my experience.
Overall, I am just really thankful for my family's support through all my endeavors. (We'll see what they think when I dip my toes into stand up comedy or politics-- not much of a difference between the two, now is there?) Even though I am having some time finding motivation for my last two weeks in Peru-- wow the time has flown by, hasn't it?-- that does not mean that I want to keep you guys out of the loop of what's up in my life! Just know that if I need some "me time", I am just trying to figure out a different kind of adventure.
Thank you so much and I really love you all.
I'm not sure what I called this type of post while I was in Korea, but here. we. goooooooo!
1) Political slogans and ads are painted on the walls of buildings here, rather than using paper signs.
2) Everyone thinks you're going to die if you drink anything cold, especially water. In addition, tea is an obligatory part of every meal eaten within the home.
3)The only women who don't get catcalled are grandmothers. (or people who look like grandmothers).
4) Recycling is not a thing here.
5) Vegetables are not commonly eaten in large quantities here because they are thought to be "girl food" and this is a male dominated society.
6) See above for the reason that "broccoli" is a rude slang term for gay men in Peru. (I still don't know why "duck" is though).
7) Typically there is more than one starch in every meal. (Ex: for dinner last week, we were once served a pasta dish with potatoes in it and a side of rice).
8) I am so sick of potatoes it is not even funny.
9) My host mother is more upset and worried over the fact that I am not going out to clubs at night with boys than she is about me walking home from Spanish lessons at night. (Interesting from an anthropological standpoint right?)
10) Fireworks go off all the time here, even during the day. I am almost as tired of them as I am of tea and potatoes.
11) Coca leaf legitimately just tastes like green. Not green tea. Green.
12) Everyone wears the touristy clothes here. Peruvians walk around in llama sweaters and hiking boots just like all the people that don't actually live here all the time.
13) The driving is insane and I miss seatbelts.
14) Anything that makes no sense to you culturally can probably be blamed on the altitud. ("But I don't want any more coca leaf and potatoes!" "You must have them!" "Why?" "The altitude!")
15) My sense of humor doesn't really translate here.
16) The Cusco flag is the same as the Gay Pride flag. Someone tried to tell me that the Gay Pride Flag is the Cusco flag upside down, but they were incorrect.
17) Nobody bothers a woman who is walking with a man.
18) Inca Cola tastes like banana bubble gum Trust me, you're not missing much,
Before I begin, I just want y'all to know that my great weekend is not inclusive of either the LGBT club shooting in Orlando or the shooting of Christina Grimmie. My heart is bleeding for those directly effected.
Moving on, there is not really anything hugely interesting that has happened over here in Peru since I last wrote. Basically the most interesting thing that has been going on is the blossoming romance between Kansas and a young Peruvian guy. I say young, but he is a little older than we are. The point is that he is incredibly romantic and caring towards Kansas. One night at 10:30 he even went out and bought her garlic bread. (if that doesn't scream keeper, I don't know what does). Kansas left Peru yesterday, and his parting gift to her was a red leather- bound journal printed with a message from him on the end pages, quite a lot of work, actually. The upside to their love story is that he will be moving to Kansas (!) this November for a job as a teacher, so they'll be reunited. I have been promised a spot as a bridesmaid in the wedding, so stay tuned for that (hahahaha).
The weekend overall was pretty fantastic. Kansas and I went to a traditional Incan style cookout known as a watia with Italy and our Peruvian friend from the Lake Titikaka trip. We got introduced to a bunch of young Peruvian adults, played a friendly game of soccer, and had pretty amazing food.
The watia began with a fire being built in a sort of mini- cave formation. Then the fire was allowed to almost die out before the potatoes and sweet potatoes were thrown on top of it along with some whole fava bean pods. Then everything is covered in dirt and left to cook for around 2 hours. We ate the potatoes and beans with squeaky cheese and some pretty fantastic chicken, surrounded in our group's entirety by stray dogs hoping for a morsel. Kansas obliged them, but nobody else did.
The point about the cake is that we found two places- TWO!!!!!- that have chocolate cake that is "the bomb dot com dot org dot uk".
I think that's everything!
Talk soon, lovelies!
So as you guys probably know (or maybe not), when I found out my blood type, I decided to take it as a guide on how to live my life. I'm B positive.
That being said, this is a kind of disappointing post to have to write. Mostly, I am writing this as a sort of warning and reminder for all of you guys to stay as safe as possible.
First of all, I went out to dinner with Italy, Kansas, and a new friend from our Lake Titikaka trip, Lima on Friday. The dinner was amazing, even if Colorado was blocked from joining us due to her goodbye dinner that was hosted by the Spanish School. After such a wonderful dinner, Kansas and I walked back to where we are living. Taxis slowed down to catcall us, random men catcalled us, and the whole atmosphere was a little less than pleasant. However, we brushed it off, both hoping to just make it back to the apartment so that we could sleep.
There is a small side street we tend to use in order to get from the square to the street where the apartment building is. This street had about twenty five to thirty men in it, and it soon became apparent that the men had been drinking. They all started to catcall and yell at us, and we tried to brush it off and keep going, but they just got louder. Being afraid, we grasped hands and got catcalled even louder for the "girl on girl action". Finally we broke into a run, turning the corner to get home as quickly as possible, but even that just made the men louder.
I can honestly say that I have never been that kind of scared in my life. Luckily Kansas and I made it out okay.
Saturday, Colorado and I went on a Sacred Valley tour, which was amazing! The entire day was incredible, and even though the rest of our tour group probably found Colorado and I incredibly obnoxious, the tour guide loved us. We got to go to all kinds of amazing architectural sights and had a pretty rad buffet for lunch. We even made friends! We ended up meeting two Brits living in NYC on vacation in Peru. One of them got particularly.... friendly with Colorado. the point is that they were really kind gentlemen and it was wonderful to meet them.
After yet another day that seemed to be so perfect and amazing, nothing could possibly go wrong, right? Wrong! Colorado and I were walking home when we ended up in a shuffle of people which escalated into some pushing and shoving. Somehow, one of the men in the shuffle stole Colorado's phone.
Now, before you go blaming my friend, let me point something out to you. Her hands were both in the kangaroo pocket of her hoody and her phone was in her hands within the pocket. The man had to have gone out of his way to get her phone. She cried the whole way home over the loss of all her pictures of the kids from the orphanage she had taken but had not gotten the chance to upload onto social media.
Later that night, our host dad took us out for pizza (some of the strangest pizza I have ever had in my life), and also had us go over to the police to tell them about what happened. Not only did they refuse to even try to help, but they did not even go over to the place where the robbery took place to check it out and see if maybe the phone had just dropped.
I guess the whole point I want to make here is that places like Peru are sort of like a Venus Fly Trap or a Pitcher Plant. Things seem beautiful and exotic at first glance, and even though they are, you need to be aware that they are also dangerous. I even did something I said I would never do out of fear-- I bought a fannypack. It is small enough to fit under my clothing and hard enough to get into that I am not worried about having things get stolen from me.
I love you guys so much! Please stay safe!
If anyone shows interest, I would be happy to go more into the fun experiences of this weekend :)
The kids at the orphanage are some of the strongest people I have ever had the honor to meet. I have a couple of favorites (I won't lie to you guys). The point is that they have been through and seen some unspeakable things and yet they still smile and laugh like regular children.
Unlike in movies, musicals, or other dramatizations, this particular orphanage is split into casitas. Each house has a mother in charge of it and 7- 10 kids living there. The situation is obviously not ideal, but everything seemed to be pretty much okay, right? Wrong! My last week of working, I ended up walking to work with Belgium, who is volunteering as a psychologist at the orphanage and Colorado, who was volunteering with me at the time. It turns out that not only do most of the kids not even know their own birthdays, but some of them are still holding on to the hope that their families are coming back for them... To make matters worse, the kids are very seldom allowed to leave the orphanage, even for the holidays and festivals that fill the streets of Cusco on what seems like an almost weekly basis.
My last day at the orphanage, we all went to a free clinic that had been set up by some American pre- med students. The whole process was long and boring, and I found out for certain that almost none of the kids I had grown to love knew when they were born. Now, this doesn't sound like much of a big deal, right? However, knowing your birthday is a link to the idea that somebody notices you and cares about you. I wish I could take them all home.
A couple of days after my time at the orphanage finished, an article about some of the mothers in the orphanage's abusive behaviors towards some of the children was published in the newspaper. Let's just leave this with an overview that the content hurt my heart, but was not really all that surprising when I put the dots together as to who at least one of the kids was.
My favorite kid is 11 years old, and his brother is 2 or 3, also living in the orphanage, but in a different casita. He prays every night that they can go home. He is amazingly bright, willing to learn, and deserving of far more opportunities than he will probably ever get. I taught him to count in Korean and English up to ten as well as the pronunciation of the English alphabet just because he asked me if I would teach him. In the United States we take so much for granted, and it takes stepping away from it all to realize just how lucky we truly are.
That 11 year old boy and his little brother? I would take them home with me if I could. There is no one in this world that deserves a miracle more than the kids in this orphanage. I only hope that this is one miracle that is granted.
So yo girl Lay-lay's on a roll today...
My intention with this is not to throw shade at my last host family, not at all. I just want to reach out to all of you guys and remind you that if you feel uncomfortable about something (or, lord forbid, unsafe), you really should speak up. I'm not sure I ever really addressed the fact that I bathed in freezing water for 5 months while living with my host family- part of which was deep winter, but I was afraid of making other people feel uncomfortable, and so I willingly sacrificed my own comfort.
In Peru, at least I eventually figured out how to make the shower work! I went out a few weeks ago with the intention to meet up with a friend from a different program whose time had ended at the orphanage. He sent me all the information I needed to know, including a screenshot of a map to the bar we were going to meet at. Now, I don't drink, but I was really hoping that the night could be fun, even for a non- drinker like myself. Unfortunately, this particular Saturday night was not destined to be particularly lucky for me. As it turned out, in order to get to the bar, you needed to walk down one of the most dangerous (possibly THE most dangerous) street near the Plaza de Armas. Within two steps, I had witnessed a drug deal and could smell something stronger than marijuana (probably, cause what do I know?). I made it about halfway down the crowded, sketchy, and dark street, before someone stopped me. this someone (who I'm almost certain was there looking for Xanax) spotted me, and kindly escorted me back from whence I had come. This might sound like not much of a big deal or even a bit rude, but this random stranger from New York (who immediately told me that he was gay and here for a meditation conference) was genuinely worried about my safety. He even tried to think of anon- creepy way to check in and make sure I got back safely to the apartment. (which turned out to be unnecessary, since I ran into his weird hand- gesturing self at Starbucks the next day).
Walking back from the failed excursion, I got catcalled by some man in a taxi, who followed me for a block and asked if I was a prostitute. The next morning, I reached out for some sort of comfort from my host mother and did not really get the reaction I had been hoping for. The point I am trying to make here is that we are different kinds of people and there is nothing wrong with that. She is not my mother, and has no true obligation to coddle me.
Just to be clear: no one did anything wrong in this situation. I can just already tell that my new host family is a better fit for me:)
Love you guys so much
SOo much has changed since I last was able to talk to you...
First of all, I moved in with a new host family. Something happened with the other family that I had been staying with that made me realize that we were not a good fit.
Second of all, I made some friends. Kansas and Colorado are wonderful girls, something that is made even better by the fact that they also live with this new host family.
Third, and probably the most bittersweet part of the whole thing is that I reached the middle part of my time in Peru and switched projects. I'm not really sure whether or not I ever talked about how much I loved the kids at the orphanage, but I really and truly do ADORE them (if anyone wants to know, this is a reference to my current favorite drag queen, who is amazingly talented). The whole thing is bittersweet because I began my new project this past Monday at a school, which was pretty rad, I'll admit.
I guess I should be honest and say that I also went to the zoo a couple of weeks ago as part of my Spanish class and that it was awesome. They had all kinds of different monkeys and I got to both feed and pet a deer for the first time ever. That whole day was amazing and I am so grateful to have gotten opportunities like these, even if they seem kind of lame at first glance :) I dragged Colorado along on the zoo trip (this was before Kansas arrived), and it was really wonderful. Now Kansas is jealous and wants to go as well...
This last weekend, we had a pretty incredible time with Italy. All four of us traveled on an overnight bus to Puno last Friday. We arrived Saturday morning at around 5. Then, we had a meager "continental" breakfast; which consisted of a strange juice, hot chocolate (that we had to fight to receive) and "toast". The toast was the most disappointing part. It was essentially half- stale bread that someone had drawn almost perfect diagonal lines on using a light saber.
Everything went up from there. We got to visit one of the man-made Uros islands in Lake Titikaka later that day. The Uros islands are this interesting combination of sadness covered in over- enthusiasm. The islands are made out of this particular kind of reed, which apparently they eat and we got to taste it. The plant was surprisingly salty. The reason that the islands seem sad is because it is very apparent that they feel uncomfortable that their only means of survival is exploiting their own culture to silly tourists.
Then, after quite a hike, we made it to the top of the island where we would be staying, Taquile. The highlight of the hike was not being able to breathe. Wait, just kidding! The true high light was the strange older lady in the floral leggings who decided that she needed to pull enough of the wild mint we were told to help us with the altitude from the ground to have an entire bush in her hands... We laughed harder than we should have, if I'm being honest.
Taquile was beautiful. the food was delicious, our guide was amazingly kind, and there were lots of sheep. The only downside was how cold it was at night, but even having to sleep in our clothes and the absence of a shower or any running hot water at all was not enough to take away from the powerful beauty of Taquile. The best part was that there were not very many tourists, meaning we got to see more of a glimpse into what their more traditional way of life is like. (If you hit me up, I can hook you up so you can have an amazing island getaway of your own. Trust me, it is totally worth it!)
We got to learn about the three types of hats worn by the men. Single men wear a red or deep fuchsia hat. Married men wear a hat that is half pure white and half the same patterned reddish shade as the singles. Then, the important men wear a brightly colored knit hat with ear flaps. Our sweet guide told us that parents have their very small children wear the same type of hat as the important men as a sort of hopeful wish for the future. Then, we were also schooled on the topic of the wedding belt. The front is all the hopes the woman has for their relationship, and the back is the most amazing part. The back is partially made out of the woman's hair, so a part of her is literally supporting the man's back while he works in the fields.
I think that's everything for now, lovelies!
Everyday Acts of Activism