Hello, my nutterbutters,
I have absolutely no idea if the above will ever be a thing, or if it will be doomed to be just like "fetch" (never going to happen). Basically, I just wanted to have a little chat with you guys. Those of you who have been with me for a longer amount of time probably remember the cultural observations that I made while living in Korea, so here comes part 1 for Cusco:
1) Kids come home in the middle of the day for lunch, which is the largest meal of the day. I find it really interesting that so many countries eat a smaller meal way later in the day and the largest meal in the middle. I guess part of why I find that so interesting is that when I am home, I eat 4 meals a day... You may not yet know this about me, but if I do not eat in the middle of the day, I turn into a Disney villain (probably Yzma or Ursula.... I think I know what costume I have t get started on next ;D). The point is, I find eating habits other than my own to be kind of exciting to learn about. #nerd
2) School age children wear one of two types of uniform. One option appears to be the more traditional, complete with collared shirt and sweater vest. The other is a sweatsuit with the school's name and logo on it, in the same colors as whatever the "traditional" school uniform for their particular school is. The exception to this is that all the kids in the orphanage where I am volunteering appear to wear regular clothes (as in, not a uniform). However, this could very well be because of the time, since I arrive later in the day, around 2pm. This point will require more investigation, but I will be sure to keep you posted!
3) Unlike in Asia, Peru has beauty standards that make a little more sense to me. Women who are more bottom- heavy are considered to be the epitome of true beauty. This means that tight jeans without back pockets are the norm. However, the mixture of more modern and indigenous styles of dress are really amazing!
Also, I'm sure you will all be glad to know that I am actually sort of making friends here... We shall see how that goes.
Please let me know if this type of post is at all interesting to you, I welcome the feedback!
Love and baby alpaca,
Friends, neighbors, countrymen; lend me your eyes and reading skills,
I want to start off by saying that I love having some time to kind of explore Cusco a little bit. Today I did not have Spanish class, but I did have to check in about the upcoming week, so I made my way to the school in a leisurely manner, leaving much later than I usually do. I then had a milk free chocolate and a croissant and got to feel like a tourist, something that I did not really get much time for in Korea, as you guys probably know.
The point is, this week was awesome! Yesterday I went to a different casita than the one I visited on Tuesday and Wednesday, and it turned into a bunch of volunteers all partying with this particular group of kids and coloring in coloring books together, while it rained like nobody's business outside. This means that the other volunteers (UK, Chicago, Holland, and Michigan) and I were able to talk a little to each other and all help the kids do their homework. Of course, everything was fine until little Daniel (pronounced like Danielle in English) hit UK in the eye with a marker. She then passed him to me, and he proceeded to color on my face the same way he had done his own.... It was all in good fun...
Today I went to the house I had gone to on the days before, and met Belgium in the process. I helped one of the boys with his homework, and then got him addicted to Candy Crush, like the good role model you all know that I am.
In terms of observations, I want to leave you with this: there are a lot of dogs on the street in Peru. However, there are people who clean up after them, and I have never seen anyone kick out or yell at any of the dogs, unlike what happens far too often in the US. On that note, today I met the dog who lives in the apartment compound where I am currently living. Her name is Qilya (Keel- ya), which apparently means moon in an indigenous Peruvian language. She was one of the sweetest dogs that I have ever met, and all she wanted to do was play. Unfortunately, after an afternoon full of small beings who just wanted to play, I was plum- tuckered out.
Sending you all happy thoughts,
PS: If there is anything specific you want to hear about, please let me know:)
The beginning of a new adventure
Hi again, my lovelies!
This is the fast and furious version of my first couple of days in Peru. (I will try to post regularly, and my excuse for China is that I did not trust the connection to online to work). Also, as a recap, I will probably talk a lot about food. If you do not like descriptions of food, skip over them and read the meager lines that end up being left over.
First of all, Peru is pretty amazing. I am staying in Cusco and things are already more interesting than they were in my first few days in SK. I am still getting used to the extremely high altitude, but things are rapidly improving for me physically. Mentally, everything is coming up roses. I love being able to communicate with people, everyone is extremely nice, and even though there are no heaters to combat the freezing nights, I have been provided with blankets woven with the pattern of llamas-- LLAMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I started my project at the orphanage yesterday. The set up consists of a few "casitas" where a woman serves as the mother of the kids living in her house. The Aldea de Juan Pablo II is reserved for the children of overly young teenage mothers who are forced to abandon their children. I love working with them; helping with homework, cuddling while watching TV, and painting using my coloring book app on my phone.
My Spanish lessons have been... interesting to say the least. My teacher wants to take me to parties where I can gain experience kissing Peruvian boys, and large parts of class is taken up by her asking me for advice in her romantic endeavors with men from other countries... It begins again, because people keep asking me for relationship advice even though I am "#foreveralone".
I know you want to hear about this, so food! (or maybe you do not care, but this is my blog, after all). While in Peru, I have already knowingly eaten two things that i do not like: sweet potatoes and avocado. Please do not ask why I dislike them, because I would be unable to explain concisely or in a way that makes any sense whatsoever. Yesterday I had a sandwich made of fried pork, pickled red onions, and sliced cooked sweet potatoes. It was surprisingly delicious, as well as coming from a place close to the Spanish School (that is the literal name of the school). Today I had my first vegan burger, made from quinoa and topped with all kinds of interesting things that I have no name for. It was delicious, if a little expensive.
Last is a sort of review of my advisor. He is really nice and took me out for a welcome dinner... My host mom privately berated him because he took all the other past volunteers out for heartier, more expensive meals, but he took me for traditional Peruvian doughnuts with honey. Does it look like I'm complaining?
PS: I wanted to write more, but the windows are a little loose and the air is freezing at night here... My host dad says things are transitioning towards becoming even colder soon :(
I guess that my first order of business should be to apologize to any of you who were using this blog to aid in your procrastination. I kept putting off this post, and if I let you down through my actions I am truly sorry. Basically, all you missed was my trip through China. It was awesome, if a little lonely.
My first stop was Beijing. In all honesty, this is an amazing city, just not one that actively caters towards tourists. I got to visit the Great Wall (the Ba Da Ling part, which is apparently considered to be the least authentic), the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, a traditional foot massage place, the Sky Temple, (I cannot remember the exact name off the top of my head, my apologies) and a place where they sold jade. I met lots of really interesting people on my two full day tours, but the hi- light had to be the racist Chinese woman who served as my tour guide for both days, including but not limited to a really awful caricature of hula dancing performed on the moving bus when she found out that one of the couples lived in Hawaii. My last day was spent wandering around lost within the railroad station. I was meant to depart that evening, but the building was huge and once you got up to the entrance gate, there was no down escalator, so I got stuck. I should point out that all the people in my hostel in Beijing were awesome, and there was even a really nice Korean guy around my age, which was funny in an odd way.
Honorable mention goes to the Chinese guide screaming in my face in broken English that I was not to go to the ATM near my hostel at night. Basically, she thought I should never go anywhere at night or alone. Of course, this is part of the reason that I basically hid in the room of my hostel and ate cashew nuts for my dinner on those two nights... Hahaha, the alone thing went over well for someone TRAVELING ALONE!!!!!!
Moving on to Shanghai, which was my favorite city out of the three places that I visited on my trip. It was a little nerve- wracking to be on the sleeper train because it did make stops, and those stops were not repeated in English. I lay awake most of the night, crippled with fear at the thought that I could miss my station and end up lost in some random part of China (did I mention that this was Lunar New Year and almost everything was closed?!). To make a boring story extremely short, I did not miss my stop (I had to fight hard against a Hamilton reference here...). Even better, there was a pretty random guy at the station (I was not wearing my glasses, might I add) who spoke a little bit of English and apparently spends long periods of his life waiting around in train stations to help poor, confused tourists find their lodgings for money. He drove me to my hostel for slightly less than a taxi would have cost, and all was well. I suppose that this is the part where I caution you, dear readers. I had read scary things about people stealing girls who traveled alone through China and trafficking them, thoughts along this train of thought were whizzing through my head as the man drove, but everything was fine and he was really nice.
I spent my first day in Shanghai speaking Spanish. This might seem a little bit odd, but I met up with a Venezuelan guy and his Colombian girlfriend (be careful, it is "Co-lOm-bi-a" if you pronounce it with the letter "u", Colombians become angry) along with a guy from Birmingham, England who was vacationing in China while living with his Spanish girlfriend who had stayed in Spain. We had an amazing time, going almost everywhere in the city on a tour bus (Big Red, it really is awesome, y'all should look into it for your next trip). We even went up a 57 (I think?) story building in 45 seconds, which was one of the coolest things I have ever done. Unfortunately, by this point my phone had died, and we parted that evening with the promise to meet in the morning and exchange contact information.
Not only had my phone died the day before, but the time it was broadcasting did not actually correspond to any known timezone. I missed my chance to hang out with my new friends, which was obviously heartbreaking.
I still made the best of my last day in the beautiful city. I ended up meeting up with some Brazilian guys studying engineering in China, and one of them was kind enough to spend the day with me. We walked around the city center talking and laughing, and he helped me get some strange fruit on a stick in hard clear candy. I joked that maybe it was a poison trap for the tourists, but then we saw a little Chinese girl eating the same thing, thus proving me wrong. I think it might have been fresh goji berries, but I have no way to say for sure.
Onward, to Guangzhou by sleeper train. This was slightly better, my Brazilian friend helped me get to the correct station, and there were the cutest little Chinese kids I have ever seen waiting with me. (The little girl was a little bit older than her brother, and their smiles legitimately lit up my world. I wanted to take them home with me, but they had attentive parents and kidnapping is frowned upon). In addition, this train had bilingual announcements, which was awesome. There was also Chinese guy who was working towards a scholarship in the US for his PHD, and his English was amazing so he helped me as well. Here is where the story gets interesting...
The taxi driver was incapable of finding my hostel in Guangzhou. Finally he dropped me off at some random hotel. I thought I was in the right place, but it soon became apparent that that was not the case. The nice man inside looked up the hostel address and pointed me in the right direction, telling me that I could walk to my destination, I thanked him and set off. After walking for a few minutes, I happened upon a bus depot and pointed to the address written in Chinese to make sure that I was going in the correct direction. They nodded and I kept walking, stopping to make sure I was going in the correct direction. All of them nodded at my questioning glances and pointed fingers in the general direction of "that way". I had walked as far as I could "that way" and could find nothing, so I asked someone else for help. Guess where they pointed!? In the opposite direction. I walked back all the way to the bus depot where there was a very sweet set of people who finally called the police because they had no way to help me. We drove all the way back the way I had walked before turning around, turned right, and there hidden in a building was the hostel.
To set the picture for you, the hallway was barely lit and one of the workers was serenely smoking a cigarette under the "No Smoking" sign when the police and I barged in. I say barged and mean meandered. After a long time of serious looks being exchanged and a little muttering, we all left. I had no idea why. Then I ended up exactly where I started in the nice hotel in the middle of nowhere. It turned out that this hostel was not allowed to have people from outside China stay there. Luckily for me, I had booked a hostel in a different part of Guangzhou for the next night. I was able to call them and arrange for an extra night.
This hostel was awesome, and I ended up going to an art and culture museum that day, since all my adventuring had taken place before 9 am that morning. Together we had the greasiest, worst noodles ever in the museum cafeteria before I went to have dinner and hang out with a friend I had not gotten to see in a while. I had squid ink pasta for the first time that night, before the two of us went to hang out with two of his other friends who were briefly home after studying abroad in Korea. we went to a bar and stayed out until past midnight. (You may not know that I turn into a pumpkin at 11:30 pm, but now you know and a lot of things about my adventuring probably make a lot more sense). We said goodnight with plans to meet the next day.
However, connection is constantly going in and out due to government involvement, and the two of us were unab[e to meet up for the duration of my stay in China. I ended up doing some low- key exploration of the area around the hostel as well as taking an entire day to try to find souvenirs. Along the way I found a Chinese Muslim restaurant where people cast me suspicious looks due to my Arabic greetings and got cool gifts for my friends.
The moral of this story is that Guangzhou is no fun unless you are sure that you will be able to spend time with someone who actually lives there, and that nothing restores faith in the police like driving around with them while seated next to your rolling duffle.
Lots of love,
Everyday Acts of Activism