Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day 4

Before we leave the lodge, i have to introduce you to Alfredo. No, not the guy i met in Lima... a different Alfredo. I told him about Alfredo the second and he wasn't very thrilled about having a bird named after him. haha. I don't know... Alfredo the second is quite beautiful. And i forgot to tell you that yesterday Harry introduced us to the tapir that come and eat at the lodge every day. We actually got to feed them bananas. Chevere.

We didn't do alot of traveling today. It's Sunday and we have to leave at 2 in order to be in Iquitos for our flight. We did go to the Island of the Monkeys though. It was cool. Nate, you would have loved it! The monkeys basically came and played on you. Like, my arms became tree braches and they would jump off then swing using their tails. It was comic. We all got so dirty, but we got so many laughs from the trip that it was totally worth it.

We left for Iquitos around 2. It really wasn't enough time in the selva, i could have spent weeks here. It's so peaceful and beautiful. I want a week to just chill in a hammock with a book... then a week to get to know the people and a month to visit all of the exciting places. Then i can start over with the book and go through the steps for a year or so...
We wandered around Iquitos for a while. Patricia, Hannah and i decided to try to get lost by just walking down random streets... well, actually, we were following one street, then we were going to go a block to the left and come back to the same place. It was a great plan and worked well, until some guys started following us and we had to do some fast turning to lose them. haha. Yeah, that was fun. We just got a little turned around and ended up walking down this really really sketchy street in order to get back to where we needed. I thought i was going to die. All in all though, Iquitos is a beautiful city (like any city, it has it's not so nice areas, but what can we expect). We went to the airport and discovered that our flight out was delayed almost five hours. So we went and chilled in teh lobby of a 5 star hotel. haha. I basically slept on the couch for three hours, then woke up for 10 minutes and slept again. We obviously couldn't wander around Iquitos at night, so there wasn't really anything to do. After more waiting in the airport, we finally flew out sometime after 11. Late arrival to Lima, but made it safely home. An incredible journey... don't think i could forget it if i wanted to. :) Thanks for the birthday gift Dad and Mom! It was well worth it!

Day 3 of Iquitos

5 am came around quite early this morning. We're heading out before six in order to go bird watching. I was excited about the birds... until i saw the sunrise. It was absolutely breathtaking.

The birdwatching was alot of fun, although i have to admit that the birds were sometimes harder to see than the spiders. We spent a good hour watching and listening. At one point Brasilio asked us how many different birds we could hear during a minute time span. We all sat and listened, although i have to admit i spent more time thinking that this is impossible, rather than counting bird sounds. So i randomly guessed at 6 and he said there were like 12. How in the world he could remember which ones he had already counted is beyond me. I shouldn't have been surprised, he can name any bird from it's call and can mimik just about all of them too. It's amazing!

We returned to the lodge for breakfast. Rita was really sick all day, so she stayed at the lodge all day. I conveniently became the fill-in spanish dictionary for everyone else and discovered that i really enjoyed helping the other ISA students with their Spanish. After Rita, i'm easily the most advanced here.

We visited Indiana today. :) They have the most awesome mode of transportation. Haha... i know my brothers are all jealous. This is it too, like i didn't see any car like in the states. Everyone has one of these... i mean, i think people actually own them. they sit at houses, so... They are also taxis though, which is how i rode in one. The best part of it is, they actually have speed bumps to make you slow down. How fast can you get one of these things going? Not fast enough to merit a speed bump. lol.

We ate some really fun stuff here, they have a market type thing and we just walked along and tried all this strange looking stuff. It was actually, incredibly yummy. I'll put up pictures of a few of the things we tried. The first is called juana. It's a regional thing and is basically rice with some sort of weird flavoring wrapped in a leaf. The second is yucca. Incredibly good! i ate that in the selva... Fruit wise, there was one that resembled a grape, but was much more acidy. It was called camu camu; I absolutly loved it, like we bought a bag for like less than 1 sole and if it wouldn't have eaten my stomach away, i probably could have downed the entire bag. I also tried cocona, (the juice that i loved the first day). It was yummy, but lots of seeds, the juice is much better.

Ok, to get off of the food topic, let's talk about people. I have officially lost my heart in Peru... to this little guy. I don't know his name, but i saw him walk by and i would have given anything to have a picture of him. I took one of him walking away and i have to admit, it's just as good. Except that in my hurry, i got my finger. haha. Let's just say that Peruvian children are about as cute as they come! I'd bring them all home if i could!

Before we left Indiana, we had like an hour conversation with a native lady with a 2 year old boy. Adorable child! She was incredibly nice... that seems to be the norm in teh selva. I haven't yet met someone who made me feel uncomfortable. selva, keep in mind, not Lima. there are some strange people in Lima.

So, after Indiana, we went to a really really small village... less than 100 people. San Luis was also unbelievable! I met this cute 15 year old kid named Javier. He reminds me of me actually. He never stopped smiling. We had a grand time talking and laughing for like an hour while we were touring the village. (it really wasn't so big that it took an hour, the problem was everyone wanted to talk to us). As we were going to leave, a lady from the village gave all of the girls a necklace that she had made. Absolutely incredible. I loved it!
We were back to the lodge well before dinner, so we had a few hours to do whatever. Since Rita was sick and sleeping, i didn't want to chill in teh room, so Patricia and Hannah and i grabbed journals and once again hung out in the bar. We were joined... again, by Harry. Hannah thinks he needs to write his stories down so she gave him a journal and told him to start. He started all right... by writing a love poem, which he later gave to me. yeah, long story. While he was writing though, he asked if we would mind if he kept in touch with us by email. We all consented, why not? Yeah, his aim was merely to get my info, but he found it easier to get everyones. He told me that he didn't want to scare me away. haha. Like i said, long story, but we're keeping in touch.
It rained!!!!! my last night in the Amazon and it was incredible! One minute it was hot and humid, the next everything was soaked and it was cool and breezy. I was basically exstatic all night, if rain sounds awesome in the states, it is chevere in the Amazon. :)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day 2

After an incredible breakfast Friday morning, we headed out to see some of the Amazon River. :) Beyond words... is about all i have. I went picture crazy, so forgive the amount of pictures. I did slow down as the weekend went on, but it's hard to not take a picture every fifty feet. There's always something that i don't want to forget; so i take a picture. When my camera battery started dying around noon, i decided i needed to take it easy. Our first destination was a clinic. remote amazon-ness. Before I left the states, i had a conversation with my cousin Jeremy about the fact that Peru isn't exactly the medical capital of the world. Yeah, Jeremy would probably die if he saw these conditions... but for having everything boated in from who knows where, it could have been worse. I took pictures, of course. This room... is the operating room. :) yeah, we just walked in and were all standing around the surgical stuff that is sitting on shelves, in the open. Let's just say, I'm really glad my back surgery was in the states and not here. I'm not sure i'd still be alive. haha. They don't do anything that complex though, and this is the top clinic around. People come from far and wide because there is a doctor here... graduated from school and everything! Seriously though, they are doing everything they can! And it's obvious how much they care about the people in the surrounding villages. All in all, i was really impressed. They are just here to serve the people...and they do the absolute best they can with what they have. They've worked so hard to get where they are and have soo many plans for the future.
We went to another lodge for lunch. It was only about 10 minutes farther into the jungle than the clinic, so it was perfect. Before lunch though, we turned off the path, walked straight into the jungle for about fifteen minutes (finding this little guy along the way... and no Maria, i did not touch him!). Kept going and stumbled upon this village. The Yagua natives performed traditional dances for us. Talk about interesting! All i can say is that they certainly don't dance like us. haha... we were all invited to join for the final dance which basically was all of us walking around in a circle. I was totally confused, but they were so pleased that we joined them (i have videos, i might try to add on in a separate post).

Then, they taught us how to use their totally sweet, but deadly dart guns. Of course, the darts we used weren't deadly which was really good, cause my aim wasn't exactly dead on. I really wanted to bring one home for my brothers, but i only had a carry-on backpack and i didn't think Peruvian airlines would appreciate my carrying 30 mini-darts onto an airplane. The people were really really nice, although they really just wanted us to buy things that they had made. Mostly jewelry and such made from seeds of the jungle and fish vertebrae. Pretty darn awesome if you ask me, but i guess i'm just not one to wear a pirahna head around my neck.

After lunch, we went to find the famous pink dolphin of the Amazon. Found one! Then went swimming about 20 yards away in the Yanayacu River, which means "black water". Yes, i went swimming in the Amazon. :) Pretty darn awesome!I seriously debated not diving in, but how many times do you have a chance to swim in the amazon? Basically, this might be the only chance i get, so i took the risk. Brasilio promised there were no pirhanas. After about 10 minutes, we got back in the boat. 10 minutes away, we pulled off into a darker area and went fishing!

Apparently, i have a knack for pirhana fishing... whatever pride i lost with the dart guns, i regained here. First off, i have to say (cause i'm ridiculously proud of the fact) that i am sooo glad i grew up in a family of hunters. Raw meat is just not that big of a deal. Some of the girls...and the guys actually were unsure of that fact. I was amused. haha. So, i cuaght the first fish... a sardine. lol! Big though... well, bigger than any sardine i've seen in a can. Then i caught 2 pirhanas... the biggest of the day (including the four caught by Brasilio) haha, i should go professional. He asked if i wanted to take one back and eat it... I freakin said no! What was i thinking???? Oh well, i messed up. :( We caught a total of 14 i think, 9 people.

On the way back to the lodge, we stopped off to see the Amazon lilies, some of the biggest ever! I am dead serious when i say i could lay down in one of them quite comfortably and my feet wouldn't be at the other end. I wouldn't float, of course, but anyway... while we were there, the natives had caught some snakes... an anaconda and an arco iris. Small ones, but we all got to hold them. Snakes... and an alligator (or crocodile) i still don't know the difference. And we all got to hold an oso perezoso... aka sloth. Pretty much teh cutest thing ever! The lady in the picture is Maria Elena... she's the awesome one who basically helps us with everything!

Back at the lodge, finally, we ate an incredible dinner while watching a show of dances intermixed with the guys from the lodge playing. :) incredible! It was a great time! After that, I chilled with a few of the girls Patricia, Hannah, and Rita in the bar area, journaling, telling stories. Just girl time.... until Harry showed up. Harry is one of the servers at the lodge... he's basically awesome. He'll show up again later, but for now, just know that he's a great guy. He sat and chilled with four girls for almost three hours. He's got incredible memories of the amazon and knows how to tell a good story. He's worked here for five years and has met sooo many awesome people . He knows bits and pieces of like six languages just from hearing tourists talking. It's quite impressive.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


A week late, but here goes. I'm probably going to divide it into days so that it's not a 10 page post. Then you all can decide how much of it you actually want to read. To sum it all up, the Amazon is incredible! And I don't even think incredible comes close to describing it. It was basically emotional overload as I tried to enjoy every split second and remember everything. I was only there for four days and there was alot of down time, because of the heat, but i wouldn't change a single second.

Thursday morning at 3:00 AM, my alarm sounded like the worst thing in the world. But the excitement soon took hold and i bid sleep goodbye for the next, 40 minutes. haha. I made it as far as the bus that we're taking to the airport before i was sleeping again. Easy getting through the airport, we aren't leaving the country, so no checking baggage or anything. It made traveling much more stress-free. Our flight was supposed to leave at 6 something, but we didn't start boarding until 7 something. We arrived in Iquitos around 9, i can't believe it, but i slept through the entire flight! Darn it! I didn't get to see Iquitos from the air... not that i can do anything about that now, but i am slightly ticked at myself. Using stairs to get off the airplane made up for it though. Yes, small things really amuse me.

For those of you who don't know your Amazon, Iquitos is the largest city in the Peruvian rainforest and the largest city in the world that is inaccesible by land. Water or air are the only ways in. We didn't stay in Iquitos; only stopped for a few minutes... in some small shops finding batteries for Hannah's camera. We went straight to the headquarters of Explorama Lodge. We're taking a 45 minute boat ride in order to get to our lodge. Our guide, Brasilio who met us at the airport, is incredible! He spent the entire bus ride telling us all about the Amazon and the plans he had for us. He's ridiculously smart and muy amable! One of the other girls on the trip, Patricia and I decided that we're going to start an "adopt your family from Peru" and Brasilio is definitely going to be part of it. Haha, the people here in Iquitos and the Amazon are basically some of the nicest people i have ever met. It's quite different from Lima.

So, we arrived at the lodge after forty minutes on the River Road, watching the shoreline go by and waving to basically everyone. Apparently, it's some sort of tradition or something because everyone on the shore always (and i mean always!) waves to the boats... so you just wave back. haha. Upon arrival, we
were greeted at the door with drinks of cocona juice. And i thought the pineapple ice cream was good. That's nothing compared to this! Besides the fact that the flavor is incredible, it was cold! When the selva is, to put it nicely, an oven; there is nothing better than a cold drink. We recieved rooms and listened to the ropes of the place. Basically summarized in 1. don't leave, you'll get lost. The only other important thing was that we learned when meals are served. 7:30 am; 12:30pm; and 7:30 pm. I was basically ecstatic, i only had to remember two times. lol.

We had quite a few hours of free time, most people slept until lunch. Food here, is incredible! I wish i had written down everything i ate. It was certainly interesting, but really delicious! That wasn't the only weird part though, every meal, there are people waiting on you. And i've been struggling to get used to having a maid. This was worse. As soon as your water glass was 1/3 of the way empty, someone was there to fill it. as soon as your fork left your hand, someone was there to take your plate away. "Senorita, would you like tea or coffee?" "Senorita, can i get you anything?" "Senorita, may i take your plate" "senorita" "senorita" "senorita"... I've never been so formal in my life! By the end of lunch i was like, can i please just wash my dishes? Just to clear up though, I got used to it by dinner and enjoyed it after that!

We took a walk into the selva. It was basically awesome! It is soo green and the air is so clear! Although really really heavy. And i thought Lima was humid, i could practically take a shower in the humidity here. Saw lots of monkeys, and some huge bugs. :) We were randomly walking back and I saw saw basically the biggest spider i've ever seen in my life. At first i thought it was a bird on a tree branch, but then it crawled around the trunk and i was like, wow huge! Brasilio was really impressed that i saw it and afterwards kept asking me if i saw things because "i have good eyes". lol. I was amused. Towards the end of the walk we stumbled upon all of the guys (employees) playing soccer. It was intense.

During the hottest part of the day, lots of people chilled in the hammock area. Very nice! Rita and I were tired of 'resting' so we started walking around the lodge. It's actually quite large with sidewalks going all around the place. We maxed out the sidewalks though and since rule number 1 was don't leave, we figured we'd find something else to do. Not that getting lost in the amazon wouldn't be fun. :) We ended up playing monopoly in Spanish... quite fun. Thanks for letting me use your tactics Nate. haha, i won! Half way through the game, some employees of the lodge started playing music for us. Jose, (we met him later) on the guitar and another guy on the cajon - basically looks like a box with a hole in it and they sit on it and play it like a drum. it's pretty awesome! we were being serenaded for like an hour and then a whole bunch of other people came to eat dinner.

After dinner, they continued playing. This time more instruments...and singing. Some people were dancing and there were drinks of course (not for me, no worries); it was basically just a fun evening, but we all cut out fairly early cause we were still exhausted.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hey all!

Sorry about the delay, classes started this week and i'm about as lost as a needle in a haystack. Slowly figuring things out, but these first two weeks are going to be rough. I'm getting ahead of myself though, so let's go back to where i left off. My host family: I moved in with the Maldonado family on Sunday, March 7th. I'm still working on getting used to Peruvian time, aka late. Maria Elena was supposed to meet me at 8:30 but never showed up till after 10. When i arrived at the house, only Julianna, the maid was there to greet me. She's really quite incredible and is trying so hard to make everything perfect (especially with my host mom still in spain). I met my brother Ernie (left), who knows everything basically and never turns down a chance to help someone. He's incredible! Then there's Daniel (right). He's amazing as well! He plays soccer for a living (yeah, incredible, i know) and loves to tell stories and laugh. Nate, he reminds me alot of you; and don't worry, he has already started picking on me so i'm sure i won't have a big head by the time i return to the states. Denisse(middle obviously) is so very sweet! She has already helped me with sooo many things and is always ready for a good time. :)

Some random pics of a few of the rooms in my home...

Sunday night, Rita and i met up with Maria Elena again. We are all going to Central Lima to see a dance performance. Dances from all over south and latin america and even a few from Europe. Traditional costumes were absolutely incredible! Unfortunately, we couldn't take pictures, but there were some gorgeous dresses! It was really long and the announcer was horrible! haha, but i enjoyed the dancing. It was all fun until about two hours in when i found out that maybe there should have been a rating on the performance. oops. All in all though, i loved the Venezuela performance as well as Haiti! alot of really really talented people!

Monday we met with ISA staff for a safety, dos and don'ts session. Unfortunately, it was in English which was really upsetting. After the three hour meeting, mi padre picked up Becca and I and we went to visit Denisse's university. We hung out in Miraflores for a while, looking in clothing stores and going out to eat. Depending on where you are, of course, the price changes, but shirts here are as cheap as 2-3 dollars. there was an entire store with a wall of shirts for 5 soles- roughly 2 dollars. it was incredible!

Tuesday, we spent at La Catolica; rita and i were slightly bored since we've been here multiple times before. Wednesday, we meet a bunch of Peruvian students. I was basically adopted by this guy. lol. He's really nice, graduated last year (so i'm not sure how he got here... but oh well). He has the most awesome accent ever when he speaks in English. He's fluent in both languages, but he really wanted to practice some English, so we slipped into a sort of Spanglish. Anyway, his name is Alfredo. yeah, when i first met him, all i could think of was pasta. His friend Sergio is amazing too. He's hard-core into salsa and stands in disbelief of the fact that i've never danced with anyone. He's as determined to take me dancing as i am not to go. haha, we'll have to see who wins out. At dusk, we went on a Mirabus tour. The city at night was quite beautiful, but after about 20 minutes, i was bored. The English translation was terrible and the Spanish was not very interesting. Basically, Rita and i amused ourselves by quoting movies and remembering Guate. :)
Iquitos, tonight. Hopefully!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

sometimes things just dont work as planned

yeah, all the excitement about having the internet was spoken a bit too soon.... Unfortunately the internet has been down for the past week so i havent really been able to check anything. I have pestered my brother often enough, but even his computer has been acting oddly. Anyway, im alive and well. The week has been busy with ISA activities. Alot of hanging out with Peruvian students and learning the ropes of the program.

So, i think im going to have an apology in every post basically, but you are all going to have to chill for a few days knowing that im ok. I leave at three thirty am tomorrow for the amazon which means i have to wake up in less than three hours. i am therefore, not going to take the time to write much. Then there will be an extra extra long post to cover this week and the amazon trip.

p.s. Ernie just fixed the internet, so i will have access henceforth. Except for the next four days of course.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Ok, first off, i need to apologize for being long-winded. Combine my being an English major with the fact that my family says i didn't write enough last summer and you'll probably get some long posts....

Here goes some of the details that i didn't put in the last one. Sunday was basically a rest day. We took Austin to Cruz del Sur where he caught a bus for southern Peru before crossing into Chile. (He has since arrived safely even with all of the confusion from the earthquake). Trip to the supermarket gave me an idea of some of the foods of Peru. They have some strange stuff here, but i haven't had the opportunity to try too many different things. We haven't really eaten out much, and Senorita Marlene doesn't cook. She works most of the day, so Rita and i are typically on our own. That means fruits and vegetables... and rice. Fine though, i'm not complaining.

Monday we walked to La Catolica and saw the campus. It's beautiful!! Much bigger than Grove City, but that shouldn't be a problem. We basically roamed around for an hour before deciding that we had no idea which buildings our classes will be in. We did stumble upon the bookstore, from which i had a hard time leaving. Surrounded by Spanish books, the only thing i could think of was how many it would take before my suitcase would be too heavy on the way home. Since then, i've been to the campus every day to see Maria Elena, the coordinator of all the ISA stuff here at La Catolica. She is incredible! She has taken us to a few places, arranged meetings with families, and answered more questions than i can count. She's been incredibly helpful during this first week.

Tuesday Maria Elena treated Rita and i to lunch at the university. Wow, less than two dollars and more food than i could eat! There was a nice sized piece of chicken served with a potato and an entire plate of rice. There was also bread, a salad, and a dessert. Basically, Peruvians eat their biggest meal early (well, not early, more like 2)then dinner is much smaller around 9 or 10. She went with us to Miraflores... specifically Larcomar. Absolutely gorgeous!

The view, obviously, was incredible! Larcomar is filled with touristy restaurants and shops, all expensive. But there are also numerous parks along the shoreline... or above the shoreline is more like it. Maria Elena treated us again, this time to ice cream. Two flavors and it was no surprise what i chose. They had this wonderful stuff called coconut ice cream... pretty much awesome. Then they had even more wonderful stuff called pineapple ice cream. It doesn't get much better!
I also got to meet my host family yesterday. I don't think there will be any problems! Senor Maldonado and his son Daniel came to La Catolica and took Rita and I back to their home. Let's just say the house in huge! My room, (i have a choice of two, but haven't yet decided which one to take) is bigger than my room at home. And definitely bigger than a dorm room at GCC. To top it off, i don't have to share it with anyone, so i'm wondering what in the world to do with all the the space. Unfortunately, i don't have pictures yet, but i'll put some up on Sunday hopefully, when i move in. Back to the family... They are all so very willing to do anything i need... help me in any way. They speak at about 100 miles an hour so after three hours with them, my brain felt like it had taken in enough Spanish to last for months! The Maldonado family has another son(i have yet to meet him) and a daughter Denisse. She's 18 and i'm sure we're going to get along great! The mother is currently stuck in Spain... long story, but she won't be able to return until April 15. We had lunch with the Maldonado family (prepared by the maid... yeah, i have a maid for the next five months...). in truth, i will NOT go hungry, ever, in this house. There was sooo much food. I'm ridiculously excited for Sunday!!!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


After meeting up with Austin in Florida, we all boarded our final flight to Lima. Six hours in the air before passing through customs in Lima. Talk about nerve wracking! Luckily, i made it through perfectly and recieved 150 days on my tourist visa. Rita wasnt so lucky and unfortunately only has 90 days, after which she has to pay a dollar per day (or change to a student visa).

Senorita Marlene met us at the airport and we took a taxi to her house. Guatemala driving prepared me for Lima definitely! After Litos driving, i can survive anything. :) The city... basically, is huge. currently, im staying in Pueblo Libre with Senorita Marlene, but next week, i will move in with my family in San Miquel. (where i will have wireless internet for all of you worrying that i will never be able to call home). At first, the country girl in me won out and i didnt really like the huge city, but its growing on me. Quickly! Rita and i spent the day yesterday walking everywhere. We found La Catolica and visited a few important places. Library included. Ill describe the university and city more later when i am on my own time. Right now, i need to wrap up as im on the computer in the ISA office in the U.

Update on me.... im great really. my hair is ridiculously curly and im cherry red because of sunburn. haha, bad planning on my part. Its great though! Theres no time to waste, so were off on another outing. We now have a tour guide from ISA who is going to show us more of Lima as soon as we eat lunch.

Adventure is just beginning! So ill write more as soon as i can... and fill in the details about the school.