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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 9

Day 9- To the beach! May 20th

We woke up today knowing that we would be headed to the beach before not too long, so we were a pretty excited bunch. We showered and grabbed the breakfast, which was filling and delicious as usual. I feel like I have stopped giving it the time and respect the breakfast deserves, but I guess I really do know how good it is, so I need not spend too much time emphasizing it. After breakfast we spent a goodly amount of time playing super smash and Mario Tennis. I know it doesn’t seem like an absolutely necessary thing to do, but it is fun to spend time with the Galdos siblings no matter what our medium of entertainment might be. We were supposed to meet up with Gonzalo at 11:00, but Maury got in the shower at about that time. We sort of felt bad, because we would end up running over an hour (at least) to his place, but, apparently, such tardiness is customary in South America and we shouldn’t worry about it. Whether we should worry or not, it wasn’t our fault, so we didn’t concern ourselves too much.

Once Maury was finally ready, we went to the store to buy some snacks and our food for the beach trip. This was a hard ordeal for a couple of reasons: one, it was awkward to try to split costs and stuff because we were sharing our meat and bread, and Roxanna loaded our stuff together, so we were forced to make one payment; two, it was weird to buy and consider our alcohol choices with a mom present – a problem that we shouldn’t preoccupy ourselves with too much here, but it is weird nevertheless; and three, I never know how to shop or what to get. The milk is never refrigerated and is actually kept in the aisles just like the canned beans and pasta, the juices range in flavor from orange to guanabanana and other shit I have never heard of, and there is such a variety of bread that I cant make an educated decision. Again, I felt bad because we were running so late to Gonzalo’s place, but I guess this trip was a necessary evil, and we made our way there after we stopped by the Santa Patricia Textiles factory (I actually think this stop may have been before the store, but it wasn’t too important anyways).

We unloaded all our food and clothes to Gonzalo’s house, and we said goodbye to Roxanna. She is really quite a sweetheart, and I am proud to call myself “one of her babies.” We could hear beautiful piano playing inside, and, apparently, the whole family is filled with outstanding artists and musicians. The pianist, his sister, introduced herself to us before quickly disappearing, and we took a seat on their back porch area. We were served with lemonade, and food arrived quickly after. The whole maids cooking food, we eating it, and they clean it up thing is still weird to me, and I know I wont be accustomed to it on this trip. The food was basic, yet delicious, and it was nice to have something in our stomach. Though this doesn’t seem like too long of an ordeal, it took well over an hour before we got on our way to the beach.

The ride was to be about an hour, but I think it took us at least 1.5x that to get there. We made stops at a bread store and a lucuma shop (which is a native fruit put into ice cream, chocolates, pastes, etc). The bread was good, but the lucuma is something unlike I have had back home. I originally didn’t think I was a fan, but this shop made me a believer. I got lucuma ice cream with chocolate and pecans, and it is probably my all-time favorite that I have had. It is basically like a caramel fruit, which works perfectly in ice cream. Though the trip was long, it was fun and full of good beach views, but it was still good to get to the beach property.

Gonzalo’s grandpa’s beach house is fantastic and spacious. It has 4 bedrooms, 7 beds, a spacious family, entertainment area, a good lakeside view and location, and a small pool/Jacuzzi right out back. I don’t know how much this place costs, but it is awesome, and I need one. The level of entertainment and fun times that could be had here is incredible, and I wish I could have been a part of the high school/college debauchery that has surely taken place here. Maury told me that he has never been drunk here, but, judging from Gonzalo’s lifestyle, there has surely been some interesting occasions here. We knew we were in for a good night.

We cracked open our liter beers that we got at Wong after a quick walk and tour of the place. Gonzalo made pisco sours that were extra good because they didn’t contain egg (thank God, seriously… it is such an unnecessary ingredient no matter what the locals tell you). We finished our drinks and the other drinks, and we were well on our way towards enjoying our night. After a while of conversating, we decided to make our way to the beach, and, hopefully, at least touch some ocean water.

The sound of the ocean always amazes me, and it takes me back to some fantasy book description of sea life. The sound, smell and overall feel of it makes me never want to leave, and I hope I allow myself a future that has a beach involved. On our way towards the beach, some security dudes kind of stopped us and asked what we were doing. I sat down and played the guitar while Maury’s dealed with the issue, but the guards moved on after a quick Maury dispatching. We got up and continued towards the beach, but it was at this point I thought I had dropped my phone when I sat down. We tried retracing my steps and finding where I had sat, but it turns out my phone was in my coat, which I had left at the beach entrance. Silly mistake, sure, but I care about my iPhone, and losing it would suck balls.

After we found my phone, we continued towards the beach, and I got to get my feet in the water at least. It didn’t even feel too cold, and I loved the feel and smell of sea water. The waves were abnormally this huge, I guess, and it was fun to see their power and act like I faced the waves head on as I stood in the tidal area. I actually wanted to stay there and play in the water (again, I am a five year old), but the guys wanted to move on and head back home. I feel like Jake and I would have stayed and played if it was just us, but the other guys were going back towards the house, so we reluctantly followed.

I knew that the guys would be tired and probably want to sleep upon return, but they stayed up a little while, at least, before retiring. We attempted some singing/harmonizing to different songs (mainly the Beach Boys {fitting right?}), and we had a lot of fun with it. I think Gonzalo believes we are crazy, but I don’t feel bad considering he spent at least 20 minutes showing me his pictures of UFO’s that he has taken. He actually has some interesting pictures with inexplainable shiny objects in the background, and he truly believes they are UFO’s. I think it is some camera error, or something of the sort, but indulging his queries was worth the effort.

After a while everyone was tired and started trickling off to bed. Gonzalo went first, then Maury, and after 20 minutes Jake and Austin made their way as well. Honestly. I kind of wanted to make my way back to the beach, or go swim in the nearby lake thing that eventually joined the ocean, but I didn’t. I decided to catch up on yesterday’s and today’s journal, and it is probably a good thing. Getting more than 2 days behind would be awful, and I already feel like I do myself some sort of injustice by not documenting every second of my vacation. Though that feels like an injustice, surely sleeping is a greater one. I really wish we could have stayed up, swam in the lake, talked on the beach, had another beer, get in a little trouble… something or anything that would have been more than sleeping. Although I understand the physically depressing effects of beer, I guess I am just affected differently. A couple beers makes me want to go out, explore, liven up and have fun, but all too often, others don’t feel the same. I guess it might be a good thing to have others that tone things down a bunch, but I am slightly depressed anyways.

It is 1am, and I have been awake by myself now for over an hour and 15 minutes. I usually get depressed by myself, and I am surprised I have been able to put up with it for this long. Though the beach and exploration is still tempting, I think that I might follow the sleep route so that I can wake up early with the guys and enjoy the beach tomorrow. I bet we are going to have a blast even though I will end up red as a lobster. At least it should be exciting, and I hope that I can feel tired and accomplished. I am sure it will be a good day. I wish I could end my night cuddling up with Allison, but I guess I cant have everything eh… a couple weeks I guess… a couple weeks.

Day 8

Day 8- May 19TH

It is crazy to think we have been in another country for over a week now. I don’t know why it feels like it should be more of a ground breaking, life-altering experience, but I think the privileged way of living both in the States and here allows the similarity. Today was to be a relaxed, catch up day like we have been having in somewhat of excess lately. We woke up around 9-9:30 for breakfast, and then we cleaned up. It feels like this has been the same entry for the last few days, and I find it frustrating because I want spice and something different. Perhaps I expect too much, but, also, I should enjoy the downtime because we have a lot of things yet to come.

After breakfast, we literally hung out, played video games (Super smash brothers and FIFA 2010) for hours. We caught up on our journals a bit, and we enjoyed having nothing to do. I called Allison, Nick and Chase in that order, and all was well on their end of things. It is weird to think about how my social life back home is forever changed, and I am leaving the immature college life for something… except I have no idea what that something is. It is daunting and sad, but life goes on. Sometimes I feel like I care so much about my friends and loved ones that I want to spend all my time with them. True friendship is invaluable, and I want to express that to the best of my ability, but I find that I fail so often. Perhaps the root of my hole-digging is that I care and expect more of myself than I can fairly ask for; or, on the other hand, I am an asshole and simply let people down. Either way, I love my friends, and I will miss what I had at Truman.

We were to meet with Gonzalo at 3:00 to go get our bus tickets, but there was no apparent rush because we ran a little late. We had a light lunch of chicken with rice, which I promptly covered with Rocoto. As always, the food was delicious, and we made our way to Gonzalo’s soon after. We arrived at his house and were met with weak lemonade and a beautiful house. Apparently, his grandpa is the dean of the best medical school in Peru and a former doctor. We were all in spectacular company, but I fear we have been desensitized of such things by Maury’s lifestyle here in Peru. He is the in most upper class, and, although we expected it, it is still interesting to observe the social construct he operates in. It varies greatly from what I perceive as my own back home, and It is a weird observation. My third-world country friend lives better and in a far upper class than any of my family ever has… I dunno, it’s just hard to accept where I come from sometimes, perhaps it is this way for everyone.

After hanging out at Gonzalo’s house for a bit, we left to go get our bus tickets to Huaraz which we would need for the 27th. He is a crazy driver, and, again, I felt like I would die multiple times. The absence of road rules coupled with his reckless abandon directed us toward certain doom, but we all somewhat expected such a fate upon arrival in Peru. We awkwardly parked outside the bus place (half on the sidewalk, half in the street) and ended up blocking one of the street lanes from normal traffic progression. Gonzalo didn’t seem to mind, so we piled out the safe side of the car and made our way towards the bus purchasing area of the complex. The tickets only ended up being $45 for 16 hours of VIP bus riding, which I found to be a pretty good deal. We have reclinable bed-seats and TV’s in our VIP riding area, so we should be relatively comfortable throughout the trip. A funny point to mention is that Gonzalo had his shoes shined during the purchasing process. We were in an awkward time crunch, yet he decided to stimulate the third-world economy for a few minutes anyways. I guess he is somewhat of an airhead and this is normal for him, but I thought it was funny nevertheless.

After getting our tickets, we made our way to the local mall to meet up with Roxanna and Jazz. We had no idea we were even going to meet them there, but Maury doesn’t usually keep us privy to our plans anyways, so no harm, no foul I guess. Austin and I got these oreo cappuccino things for half-price, and I was surprised at the classiness of the McDonald’s here. They even had fancy dishware instead of just Styrofoam cups – something that I was surprised about having been a 3-year McDonald’s employer. Anyways, it was good, and then we toured around the shopping complex for a while with Gonzalo. He is an interesting character because he is distracted easily and indulges the slightest of whims that he may have. This general nature led to a long stay in the joke shop, which we all found amusing, but he loved this place more than I ever could. Though I often feel like a five-year-old, his endearing immaturity tops mine, and it is sort of relieving. We briefly stopped by a couple of other over-priced shops (for Peru, of course) before making our way to Maury’s Grandparents’ house.

At his house, we had Cusquenas waiting for us (thanks to his grandpa), so we had a few and just hang out and talked. It oddly felt like some sort of holiday dinner where all the kids sat together because it was the five of us, Mafud, Sarah (Mafud’s girlfriend) and Jazz. We talked about our experience so far, old memories and our preferred pastimes, and it was an overall good time. After a while, there were some sandwiches for us to eat that were fantastic. The high level of bread here never ceases to amaze me, and I worry I will come back to the states finding things second-rate. I wonder how African tourists feel in the states…

We returned to the Galdos home after an extended stay at their grandparents’ house, and it was nice to know a good night of sleep was looming. Though I have been relatively well rested over the past few nights, the joy of sleeping in is a nice indulgence no matter the day. We hung out, I called Allison and everyone got ready for bed. The funny part of the night was right before we all went to sleep and we talked to Mafud. He pulled out this ugly-looking hair piece and offered it in my direction. Knowing that I would probably need a hairpiece in a couple years, I reached out for it. He told me that I probably wouldn’t want to touch it and the story of the hairpiece began. Apparently it was made of real human hair which came from his grandparents’ former, beloved maid. Even weirder, the wig had been used for a weird science experiment Mafud had to do for school which involved making shampoo that inflicted glowing hair (under the blacklight). To top the story off, the maid was actually dead, and this was the only remaining proof of her existence in the Galdos/Garretta family. Super weird, but it was a hilarious storing that left Austin and I in near tears before we went to bed. I hoped that I would not dream of haunted hairpieces, and I installed my newly acquired earplugs for another night of hard work. We can sleep in again tomorrow, but we are going to the beach, so I am excited to get there asap.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 7- We Rested

Day 7- We rested

It was great to sleep in until 9:30, and I finally feel caught up on sleep – this means we should probably start going out and losing some again. I showered and grabbed breakfast with everyone. It is weird to feel stuffed after breakfast because I am just not used to it. We knew that we would be heading out to Maury’s grandparents house before too long, but it turns out we had tons of time to spare, even after everyone showered and got ready. I used the extra time to catch up on journaling, call Allison briefly and just lounge around – a refreshing morning.

We headed to the gpa’s house in our shorts and flipflops, but everyone thought we were crazy because it was “cold”. Apparently 68 degrees is a tad on the cold side, but I found the weather perfect, though I wouldn’t have minded some sun as well. The gparents’ house is nice, and apparently it is like 40 years old. We saw baby pictures of Mauricio yesterday that were actually taken in the house. The house was really nice, very open and well-furnished, and they made us feel at home instantly. We also got to meet Maury’s uncle, who actually lives in a apartment on the property (which is quite large for Peru, maybe 3-4 acres).

Mauricio’s uncle gave us a couple beers (cusquenas, limited edition… yuuup), and then he and Maury went to make us a couple Pisco Sours to follow it up. I swear we have had something to drink every day, even though we have only actively sought it out two or three times (well, and talking about it spurred my desire, so I just went and grabbed a Pilsen actually). While they were making our Pisco Sours we talked with Mafud’s girlfriend, Sara and hung out with the family in their nice living room. The adjacent entertainment room was furnished with a 42” flatscreen TV, and I knew Mafud was jealous, because he needs it for all his video games. The TV was extra remarkable because their previous two had been stolen; however, their brand new security system gave them enough faith to keep this investment safe.

We talked and visited for around an hour, before we headed out to lunch. We were told that it was rotisserie style chicken, and, personally, I didn’t give it a second thought. I apologize for the following rant, but life-changing moments must make their way into a journal, no matter how interesting or disinteresting they may be. The smell of the chicken was incredible, and there were around 35 chickens rotating around a bricked fire. We sat down and opened the menus to try to decide what we wanted, but apparently we were all going to order the same thing. I was sort of disheartened for two reasons: one was that I wouldn’t be able to pick what I wanted; two, was that it meant his grandparents were probably paying for us. Whatever tiny bit of dismay I may have had was quickly assuaged…

The first thing they waiter brought out was fried plantains, beef heart and this weird corn stuff which I actually didn’t try. I am pretty sure I have never had beef heart before, but it was absolutely incredible in taste, texture and appearance. Only a few minutes later, they brought out the next round of salad and fries. The salad didn’t look too appealing to me because it consisted of carrots, green beans and beats, but I tried a little bit and it was just fine. The fries were great, though, and I knew I was going to be in trouble because there would simply not be enough room in my stomach for the amount of food I was going to want to eat. The ketchup they had was super sweet, and I wasn’t a fan; however, there was enough Ahi for me to douse everything, so I was more than content. They brought out plates of chicken, and my worries about stomach room were confirmed because each person got a whole rotisserie chicken as well. The succulent, well-seasoned chicken fell apart in my mouth. I was in heaven, and so was everyone else. The meal took over an hour and a half, but I would have been happy to stay there all day. Needless to say, the meal definitely takes its place in my top 5 food experiences of all time.

After dinner we had a couple of errands to run which consisted of family visits. We drove to his great grandmother’s house (aka his bisabuela). We could actually understand her fairly well, and I was glad she seemed to like us pretty well. The highlight of the experience was that Austin reminded her of her nephew, Cookie. Haha. It is as bad as it sounds, because, apparently, Cookie is a little overweight, and Bisa called Austin un gordito. Poor guy, we all felt awful, but she is just one of those old people that say what they want to no matter what. We had a good laugh there, and then we briefly visited his uncle which lived directly below Bisa.

After these visits, we went to visit Maury’s Godmother, Ursula who is Roxanna’s 9-years younger sister. She was super nice, and so is their apartment actually. She married the chief of police, and they are saving up for a new house which will probably be really nice given their respective statuses (she has an upper position at a fancy store here in Lima). She offered us some Johnnie Walker, which people here have a weird obsession for. Honestly, I have never seen it so heavily marketed or purchased, and I wonder of this is just a Peru thing. Ursula was super, super nice, and she spoke good English which was nice. She has actually spent around 15 years in the states between Cali and New York. She also made us some coffee, Billarica, which is the best I have ever had, and I want to try to buy some before I leave.

We were planning on going to a movie, so we had to leave and make a hasty run for the movies. We bought our tickets for Robin Hood, and we were only a few minutes late. The movie was ok, although it felt like a giant trailer for more Robin Hood movies to come. It was also funny, because the movie played in English, but there were Spanish subtitles… t makes sense, and it isn’t that funny, but it was just different for me. We actually had a few problems because we went to the wrong theatre because we didn’t understand the people that worked there, but we figured it out in the end.

After the movie we went to a place called San Antonio which is one of Mauri’s favorite places for good reason. We were there for at least 2 hours, because we ate, talked and Jokes with mauricio’s parents who met us there after the movie. I got a milkshake san Antonio which is about the most chocolate that I can handle all at once, but it was absolutely delicious. I also had an meat empanada, though I was still pretty full from our massive lunch. It was really fun, and I feel like we connect really well with the entire family. Ricardo made a joke about how Roxanna snores from her mouth and down below, meaning she has some gas issues, and it was really funny. I don’t think she appreciated it, but the entire table was in tears. The small dinner thing is kind of weird, and I don’t think I can ever get used to it completely, but my rhythm is adjusting here. It was a great, undwinding experience, and I hope we get to go back for breakfast some time.

We all planned on going to sleep pretty soon after we got home even though we could afford to sleep in again. I called Allison and talked to her for a good while… I need to talk to my family, chase, nick and others but I never seem to find the time. Hopefully, I will be able to make some more calls tomorrow. Roxanna heard about the snoring problems that I have to deal with, and, so, she gave me some of her earplugs because apparently the snoring is genetic. I hope they will fulfill their duty.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 6- Return from Cuzco

Day 6- Return from Cuzco

It was nice to be able to sort-of sleep in after last night’s awful drive home and even nicer to be able to eat the delicious El Dorado breakfast one last time. Rolando was set to meet with us at 10 and get us to the airport. Austin and I got packed up and ready quickly, and we ended up waiting on Mauricio like usual. Rolando was a little late, but I had no problems with getting to the airport at a reasonable time instead of ridiculously early like we always end up being.

Austin came up with the term “Brolando” and told him his new nickname. We have this song about Brolando Broin’ it up, then Blowin it up, then uh uh uh… anyways, we will perform it upon our return, and hopefully we can get Jasmin to do a Spanish rap, because all we have is this chorus. The drive over was short and painless, and checking our bags was as well. We took a picture with Brolando and said our final goodbyes… it is sad because we will probably never see him again, and he was such a nice guy that helped us out a lot. He will be remembered forever.

We met a father and son from Colorado that traveled to Peru together for a father-son trip. Apparently the father, who had to be in his late sixties, got in an awful motorcycle accident during one of their ventures in Peru, but at least he was ok. It was cool to see a guy with Denver Broncos apparel in Peru. It made me feel a lot more connected. We had to wait for our plane for what felt like forever yet again. I passed the time by playing a little simon (I am averaging in the 30’s now which is pretty impressive if I say so myself) and talking with the guys. We ended up boarding the plane a little after noon, so we were set to arrive at about 1:30. I used the flight to catch up on my journal, because it has become so difficult to keep up on it. It seriously feels like homework sometimes, especially when I am trying to keep pictures on the blog and whatnot. I know it will be nice to have it all in the end though.

Roxanna was waiting for us in Lima, so we grabbed our luggage and climbed in for the hour ride home. Once we got back, I sorted my clothes and put them in Mafud’s closet, who was nice enough to spare us quite a bit of space. I feel like we live here now, because we have so many clothes in his closet. Oh well, it is nice to not live out of my bag, especially on such a long venture. It wasn’t long before lunch was ready which was spaghetti (to which I added copious amounts of ahi!!). It was really good, and I could not be enjoying the food here more.

Everyone was pretty tired and in a lazy, lazy mood, so we hung out around the house for a couple hours, had a couple beers, and caught up on our journals and blogs. I also fit in some time for calling Allison, which is nice because I feel like I never actually have time to call her, and I definitely cant call her whenever I told her I would try to, because my plans never work out. We debated amongst ourselves what we felt like doing, but we were pretty torn between going and doing something and just chilling for the night. Maury’s friend Felipe would be the deciding factor in our night’s plans.

He came over around 7, and we sat and talked to him upstairs for at least an hour. He and Mafud made quick work of the rest of my Cheeze-Itz, which I found pretty funny to be honest. They love unhealthy treats probably more than I do, which is pretty impressive. It was nice to be rid of them, especially because they had spilt in my luggage, and I was kindof holding a grudge against them. Anyways, Felipe is interesting, and it was fun talking to him. He is super spoiled, lives a lavish life, and is rough around the edges (he is also fairly racist on top of everything else). Despite his faults, he is apparently a great friend to Mauricio, and he is always the first one to come see Maury when he comes back in town.

We decided to grab burgers with Felipe (which is funny because he is definitely a larger Peruvian than any one I have actually seen). The drive was about 30 minutes, but Felipe would drive much more to get a burger I would imagine. He talked a little about the differences in Peruvian lifestyle and how the similarities to the caste system, which I found interesting and sad. The rest of the time was spent on black, jew and women jokes, and there cant be many more people who know more than he does. Seriously, he is a little racist. Our burgers were good, and it was worth the $6 for the fancy burger, the Arnold Palmer (half lemonade, half tea… still called an AP in Peru though, haha) and the 6 chicken wings I got (again, I doused everything in Ahi sauce, I love that stuff). I think Austin actually got a little carsick on the way there, but he felt better after we got back. I am glad I have been lucky enough not to feel sickness of any sort during my trip here… hopefully, my luck will continue.

Felipe dropped us off at maury’s house, and we all felt like it was about time to go to bed. Jake and I actually ended up staying awake until around 2 because we were working on our journals, and I was doing my best to update and format my blog which is a total bitch to do. I don’t know why I care so much, because no one really reads it because the posts are so huge… but at the same time, I use it as my journal, and I really don’t want to have to do my journal and blog posts separately. This is especially difficult because I am so thorough we everything we do, that it takes up a lot of my time.

Anyways, I spent a couple hours on the blog stuff and then made my way to bed. Jake and I couldn’t remember how to set the alarm, so we had to wake Maury up to get it done. I felt bad, but apparently thievery is a big issue here, and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for not getting the alarm set. It would have been nice if I could have passed out right away, but the snoring is ridiculous. I laid away for at least 15 minutes hoping Austin would stop his snoring, and he finally did; however, Mafud started snoring just seconds after Austin stopped… fml right? It is like they were tag-team sleep depriving me, and I was about to kill one of them, but I ended up drifting asleep somehow in the midst of the duo trumpets. At least there wouldn’t be too much to do the next day.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Machu Picchu

More can be found online and on the other guys' blogs ( and Especially pictures with all of us in them can be found there and on facebook.

Famous Quotes

Remember this is a dynamic and ever growing section, so hopefully we will continue to come up with good stuff.

It's not that bad. I've pooped in a stable dude.

He'l be in a white station wagon. His name is Victor. He will be waiting for you.
-Our trustworthy travel agency

Would you look to shoot some caps then?
-The really drunk Brits on the train back from MP

Austin: This is your man (Austin points to me as I turn the corner).
Steve: Yes, I am definitely your man (I say to the sketchy local they are speaking with)
Sketchy Local: Ok man, you want some cocaine?

Food... It's so good

This is known as Lomo Saltado, which is Mauricio's favorite food and is absolutely delicious... the chicken version was good too.

This is Aji de Gallina which reminds me of an Indian Curry with potatoes and chicken.

This, the Alpaca steak is probably everyone's favorite thing we have had so far. Supposedly it is the lowest fat meat that exists.

At the restaurant with shitty service, I got the pizza (turns out pizzaries are worldwide), and Jake got the Steak Trattoria.

Day 5- Machu Picchu and Back

Machu Picchu

**for pictures on all this stuff go to Austin's blog for some good ones which is
also, we are trying to get all of our pictures up on facebook as well. Sorry i don't have the correlating ones here and ready, but i plan too at some point... patience.

We chose 6:00 as our wake up time, so we would be able to eat and get ready for our long trip to Machu Picchu. None of us were excited about the long trip, even though we had no idea exactly how long it was. All we knew is that it would be around 4 hours. Breakfast was amazing as it always, and I really feel like I want to try to continue this sort of breakfast habit when I return to the states. We all have our own favorites and methods of doing breakfast. For instance, Maury loves nesquick, jake loves his yogurt, I love my juice and sandwiches and Austin loves him some fruit. I will definitely miss the Cuzco breakfasts, but I bet that Ilda will take care of us just fine back home.

Rolando had us meet him, so we would walk over to where our van was leaving. We originally thought we were taking train to train to bus, but apparently the plans changed to van to train to bus. Anyways, the van was not as comfortable as it could have been, but the views along the way were so incredible that I found it hard to care. The other 3 guys slept a good amount, but I put on my headphones and tried to enjoy the views as much as possible. I really wanted to hype myself up for Machu Picchu by thoroughly enjoying the scenery before hand, and it was a good strategy. The van ride lasted around two hours, and I think I slept for maybe five minutes of the ride. I figure you got to enjoy another country’s landscape while you’re there.

There was this weird layover process where we sat and waited for 20 minutes before we could continue driving the van, and then another wait before we could board the train. We thoroughly lathered on the sunscreen because the sun beats down here like I haven’t experienced in the states. Odd digression, but the sky is even a different color of blue. It is a deeper, darker blue that seems somehow more full and protective than our light, sky blue back home.

The train was nice, and it made is feel like we were that much closer to Machu Picchu, because the switch to the train provided a different, jungle-like landscape that we didn’t get on the van over. None of us slept a wink, but, instead, we talked, laughed, enjoyed the couple runes that we got to see, and eavesdropped on the german couple sitting next to us. The train only took an hour and twenty, so it went by quickly because we were comfortable and happy the entire trip.

Our arrival in Aguas Calientes was uneventful, and we met Christina who was our Agency’s contact there. She gave us the lowdown about where we would eat, when our bus was leaving to MP, and our daily time frame. Apparently, we didn’t have food scheduled until after our tour, which meant we were all going to die of hunger while enjoying MP. Our spirits were too high to be extremely bothered by this, but it was still a little sad. At least we would be able to see MP sooner than we originally anticipated.

The bus ride up was exciting, because we knew we were about to see one of the wonders of the world. I expected beauty, but words, like my expectations couldn’t be close to the real thing. We caught quick glimpses of the runes on the way up, but it was always slightly clouded by the trees and brush. The view was still amazing on the way up… I honestly cant express how intimidating and massive the landscape is. The cliffs are so steep that it is scary, and I have never felt so small and insignificant. The 25 minute bus ride was a great primer to the real mind-blowing experience.

We chose the guide that spoke English, for obvious reason, and we started climbing up towards the best view. It honestly wasn’t long at all before we got too look over the 700-year-old runes that spanned hundreds of yards lengthwise and varied in altitude at least 100 yards. We were going picture crazy, but pictures can not do it justice. I have seen the runes on TV, gawked at the posters, wondered at the actual beauty of the place… but nothing except seeing it can give it justice. Honestly, just taking the bus and touring around the place doesn’t even really do it. As I walked through the runes, I couldn’t help but wish we had done the Inca Trail, or at least a small part of it. Perhaps only with an extended immersion in the landscape and jungle/mountain feel, can one truly feel like they are at MP; otherwise, it sort of feels like a memorable, passing dream.

One of the most impacting things for me was the amount of time such a city took to make. Think about the number of man hours necessary to make 216 buildings, 4 of which are temples out of stone blocks. The investment is mind boggling, and this fact was confirmed by the quarries and unfinished works which remained. The buildings, the terraces, the water systems (200-300 gallons per day guided from the natural mountain spring), the astronomical aspects (The cardinal directions had been carved in stone, and a calendar that used the rising sun and temple windows), Wayna Picchu (the nearby mountain which is quite a bit higher and serves as a lookout point for the city), the trails (which are often carved out of the mountain side), the aspects we don’t get to see such as the farming and roof thatching… I don’t know… the compilation of so many generations work is incredible, and it makes me feel like I will accomplish nothing. What a joy it would have been to be a part of such a beautiful manifestation of hard work; moreover, it is further satisfying because that work is still enjoyed to this day, and will continue to be visited for centuries to come.

The pictures we took cant do it justice, and I could not be more convinced that MP should be on the top of everyone’s places-to-travel-to list. We had so much fun taking pictures, dangling our legs over ledges that would prove fatal if we fell, and trying our best to take everything in. The tour lasted about 3 hours, and we decided to go see the Inkan Bridge after the tour was over. On the way to the bridge we stopped by one of the temples, which offers a unique acoustic aspect: if you speak into one of the window-like recesses, the sound can be heard in the other 5 recesses the building possesses. We decided to hum a couple notes and try to take full advantage of the acoustic temple, and it was actually a lot of fun. We tried to capture the sounds via recording, but none of the recordings could do our harmonies justice. We continued towards the Incan Bridge and ran into a group of girls doing the same thing that attend Roanoke College. Though they all claimed to be 20, I would have sworn they were on a rich high school girls field trip. There were actually a good number of Americans all around, which really shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, but it was nice to use English to communicate again. The bridge itself was pretty anticlimactic, but the short hike was fun, and we got some really good pictures that I want to put up on facebook asap so people can enjoy them, some of them are pretty entertaining. Once we were done with the bridge, Jake and I wanted to get a cool picture in the distance, so people could appreciate how big MP actually is. We did a quick jog to get to the spot, and I implore people to look at the pictures just to get a good idea of how massive and beautiful this place is.

The time went by so fast because we were so thoroughly engulfed in our surroundings and because we were having a lot of fun. Mauricio and Austin’s interaction is priceless, and I wish our friends could peak in and see it, because it is hilarious. Austin constantly bashes Peru and its smell, dirtiness, short people and overall lack of all that is good (remember this is just Austin, and while Peru is dirty, it does smell, has an obscene amount of short people, and does lack thinks like Ice, free refills, free water with dinner, sanitary conditions, etc, he is just trying to get back at Mauri), and Mauricio gives Austin shit for being a bad hiker and tourist, which Austin naturally objects to, or at least the tourist part anyways. Austin had some trouble with the hike because we were so tired, the elevation was 4x Kirksville, there was a lot, and I mean a lot, of stair climbing involved, and we had to keep a healthy pace to keep up with our tour guide (which reminds me, our tour guide sucked, didn’t fill us in on a lot of things, had an attitude I wasn’t too fond of, but the worst was that his cell phone kept ringing loudly, and he was even on the phone for much of the tour!). Austin still had a blast, of course, but I think he would have appreciated a little more consideration, a slightly slower pace, and probably some more humility from the 3 of us because we were definitely tired as well. There was no harm done though, and there still haven’t been any blowups or tangible anger. The four of us get along swimmingly, and I have total faith this will continue through the remainder of our stay.

It was about 5ish by the time we got back to Aguas Calientes (the small city at the base of MP), and we were starving. We had apparently already paid for dinner (it was included in our trip), so we made our way to Payacha which had similar food to every other restaurant we have been to. I got a criolle soup that changed my life (and I made it even better by adding Aji to it [remember that aji is the spicy sauce I had at Mauri’s that is amazing]), lomo saltado (again, remember I had this at Mauri’s as well), which didn’t turn out to be as good as the stuff I had had previously, and a pancake which chocolate syrup for dessert. The meal was satisfying, even though our waitress was kind of a bitch, and I think she hated us all. Luckily for her, the tip is automatically added to the bill, and because we got a couple liters of lemonade she tagged us 10%, which we really cant complain about anyways.

At dinner, Maury said how much he wanted a couple beers, and he wanted them asap. We made our way to where the bars were, and this is where it got crazy. We were innocently walking by the bars, towards the one which we had been directed earlier, when I heard one of the Bar’s workers (much like the people that try to recruit you into party’s in Cuzco, there are workers outside trying to suck you in with special deals) say something about a Happy Hour. Unable to help myself, I inquired further about this happy hour, and I was promptly surrounded by at least 3 other restaurants’ recruiters trying to get the four of us to go to their place. They were all yelling out deals to us in Spanish, English and even what appeared to be elementary sign language. It was a total clusterfuck and I loved every seoond of it. I honestly cant help myself… I love attention, in general, and everyone wants to be desired, which, boy did they want us to frequent their establishment. I was listening to the different offers, my favorite of which included free nachos with Queso AND Guacamole, so I tried to tell Mauricio this while he was doing the serious bartering. It should definitely be noted that Mauricio does not appreciate when I attract all the recruiters like a stupid American (this was my second incident, the first was when we were out finding a bar in Cuzco 2 nights previously). All Mauri wanted was a good beer, but I had to go and make a mess out of it. (surely that is what was going through his mind). Austin felt bad for the mess I had made, so he followed one of the recruiters to her bar, and I followed because she offered us these huge beers (620 ml for 7 soles, which is basically two beers worth for $2.50, not a bad deal for a cool, balcony bar). Maury and Jake found a better deal, or at least agreed to go to another bar (the one which first tried to recruit me), but we were already up the stairs of another one, so they had to let her down and follow us.

Though it was a total disaster, and I think Mauri told me he hated me at least 100 times, it actually ended up working out beautifully because it was cheap, and the Cusquena is delicious! We all kind of wanted to drink a little, but we were split as to how much we actually wanted to drink, because we didn’t know if it would be a good idea to be drunk and try to make our way home (there were some complications, which would have been best handled sober). On the other hand, the ride back is awful, and a couple beers could make the ride more enjoyable, or at least help us sleep through the ride back. I will leave it up to the reader to guess who wanted to do what. We each had 2 of the big, double beers and one small one before we realized we were running out of time before we had to board the train. We got a pisco sour on the way out, and decided to head towards our 4-5 hour ride back home.

As we made our way to where our train was set to leave, Christina (the agency’s contact here) informed us that the driver set to pick us up and take us the final leg home, would not be able to take us after all. She basically told us that we were on our own for the last 1.5 hrs unless Rolando could find someone. Since Rolando is a badass (aka Brolando), he actually found someone and had Christina tell us the following: “He’ll be in a white station wagon. His name is victor. He’ll be waiting for you.” This was basically the scariest/funniest thing that we had heard in ages, because it was just so sketchy. First of all, who has white station wagons? And, I dunno… it just sounded like bad news. And it was.

We found our seats for the first part of the trip back on the train. I actually ended up sitting by a woman that was from Nottingham, England. She was taking a 7 month trip with her boyfriend, which encompassed the Americas. She was really nice, and I always like to make friends when I can. Also, it was nice to pass some time as well. I did feel bad though, because I am pretty sure there were only like 3 people awake in our train car and we were still talking, but fuck ‘em right? Anyways, that part of the trip went smoothly, but we still had the van ride followed by the mysterious white station wagon.

We had to exit the train and then multiple people went various ways to cuzco from there. Our route, via Peru Rail, was the most popular, so we got in that line to board the vans. Our conversation, as usual, was awkward, and I believe our topic focused on how much Austin loves babies. Some Brits overheard the conversation and commented on the obsession… it was downhill from there. I started talking to them quite a bit – remember, I love friends – and we discovered that they were pretty wasted. There were six people in their group, although the woman I primarily talked to on the van-ride came with just her boyfriend, and they picked up the rest along their 6-month voyage which is gonna end here in a couple weeks. Her boyfriend had a pint of some sort of rum, and he offered us some “caps.” We accepted a round. The whole thing was cute until we had to sit directly adjacent to them in the van, and they were loud and obnoxious, while everyone else was just trying to sleep. I felt bad, but I really couldn’t ignore the woman that was talking, because it could have gotten weird. Our conversation was insignificant and brushed on our respective career paths, but I doubt she’ll be able to remember of it anyways. That ride took forever, because it wasn’t too comfortable, and the company was just as bad.

We finally got to whatever small town it was where we needed to find our station wagon. The Brits thought we were in Cuzco, so I have no idea if they ever made it back to their hostel. We found our ride pretty quickly, and we learned that we were gonna have an extra passenger hang out in the back. We still have no idea who this dude was, but he just jumped right in and tagged along for the hour and a half ride of hell to Cuzco. The roads are crazy rocky, bumpy, turny, hilly, and a ton of other uncomfortable adjectives. Our driver, victor, was flying down them, so there was no way to sleep for more than 1 minute at a time, which was hell because we were so exhausted and dozing off constantly. To add to it all, there were the three of us (Mauri was comfortable in shotgun) in the backseat, and our dozing led to heads knocking, bodies flopping and a lot of unwanted touching. I am pretty sure it was the worst ride of my life, and I have never been more happy to arrive at a destination. After we dropped random dude off, we went straight to the hotel. We climbed in through the little door, which is used to allow guests in after everything is officially locked up.

Austin went right to sleep, but I felt absolutely disgusting having stepped on and dragged alpaca poo everywhere in MP. We were dusty, sweaty and gross, so I took the shower because I knew I couldn’t sleep like this. It was one of the most rewarding showers of my life. I was kinda bummed because I knew we were leaving Cuzco the following day, and I love that place. A lot happened here, and I cant help but think it will be one of, if not the biggest highlight of the whole trip to Peru. My bad was soft and accepting. I felt clean, happy and exhausted. I am sure my dreams were happy ones.

I will miss you Cuzco.

Day 4- Chill and Relax

Day 4- Cuzco

We let ourselves sleep in as late as possible and still be able to grab breakfast. I love the food here btw, and none of us have suffered from bad water or food or anything. We knew it was going to be a relaxing, easy day, so there was really no rush to anything we did.

After breakfast we went to the Museo Inka and read all about the Incan’s history. This basically entails tribes that existed before the incans, some of those tribes disbanded, died, etc, the incans united and conquered, and then the Spanish fucked over the Incans hardcore style like we did in the North. Turns out almost 10 million incans died in the mines because the Spaniards worked them to death, so they would be able to bring back gold and silver to Europe. Total douches right? Anyways, Cuzco which was the capital of the incan empire (originally spelled Qosqo and means Center) was 95% destroyed by the Spaniards, and Machu Picchu is pretty much the only totally in-tact incan city. The museum was cool and informative, and it was a good primer for actually seeing Machu Picchu the next day.

We wandered around the town for a little while after that like we did the day before. We didn’t buy anything, but we did find the stone of 12 angles which is a 6-ton stone that is pivotal to some random wall’s structure. Shit’s a mystery how the Incans made and transported those stones, and it is pretty cool to see them in person. After all the walking we were pretty tired, so we decided to go find something to eat.

We decided on La Trattoria which was a pizzeria place. I got a ham and mushroom pizza because it was pretty cheap, and the other guys got some native stuff (pepper steak, steak trattoria, and pollo saltado). The food was good, and it was nice to wash it down with lemonade. I do kind of hate this country because you cant drink all you want of anything. Seriously, I feel dehydrated 98% of the time. Anyways, I was itching to get out of there because I was supposed to go talk to Allison at 3, but our check took 45 minutes to arrive and be processed. We were all pissed. I haven’t had service that bad anywhere in my life. I ended up missing Allison by like 2 minutes, which was totally frustrating, but I couldn’t do anything about it. Fuck that place.

We hung out at the hotel for a while and caught up on our respective journals. I read a funny entry in Maury’s about how he couldn’t pee because he had a boner no matter how hard he tried. Everyone back home needs to hear the story from him, because it made me cry I was laughing so hard.

I kindof wanted to get a cappuccino next door, which was promised to be the best in all of Cuzco, so I convinced the guys to come with me. We got the cappuccino, some lemonade and enjoyed the free bread they gave us. After we were almost ready to go, Maury decided that he wanted something more to eat, so he ordered a chicken skewer. Typical Mauricio to order something after we are almost done and to make everyone wait another 30 minutes, but we had nowhere to be, so we really didn’t mind that much.

We took a couple pictures of a massive cathedral right next to the hotel, and then we decided to stay in, call it a night and prepare for MP the next day. I got cleaned up, and then we decided to watch Zombieland. The movie was alright, but I have no desire to see it again, and I don’t think I would suggest it if there are other choices that sound remotely appealing. It was something to do, and it offered a few laughs, however, so I guess it served its purpose.

It was bed time, because Machu Picchu was looming before us, and we had to wake up at 6:30 to catch our ride. I was really excited, but I didn’t have too many specific expectations because I knew expectations were useless when seeing a wonder of the world. I am definitely excited, and I know that tomorrow will be a long day and, accordingly, a long journal entry.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 3 - Cuzco

Day 3

Having showered and packed last night, I knew that I could wake up at 2:30 and be ready to go by 3. Mauricio and Jake, however, had not showered so they planned to wake up at 2 in order to be ready in time. When my quacking alarm went off, I knew I was the only one awake because the place was totally silent. I walked into Maury’s room and woke them up, so they would have 20 minutes to get ready before the taxi arrived (which is only 40 soles or 15 bucks for the relatively long trip). Maury’s parents managed to wake up as well and say goodbye which was completely unnecessary because it was 3am, but we appreciated it nonetheless.

We all stayed awake the whole ride, and it only took us 30 minutes to get there which must be some sort of record. It took forever to check our bags, but I assume any 30 minute wait seems like forever at 3:45 in the morning. After we checked our bags, we had just under an hour an a half before the plane arrived. I don’t mean to be too critical, but I really don’t understand this need to be well over an hour early. I understand we don’t want to miss our flight, and that shit happens, but, seriously, waiting in airports seems like such a waste of time. On the plus side, this gave me more time to read the book about the guy living strictly by biblical law for a year. It isn’t even that interesting of a book, but it is more engaging than trying to look for attractive Peruvian girls or making fun of Mauricio for the same things we always do.

Our wait went by at a mediocre pace, and we took a bus to the plane where we climbed up stairs to board it. I don’t know why, but we all pictured a small Cessna or something of that sort; surprisingly to us, the plane was quite large, and we figured it would be comfortable. It wasn’t a packed flight, however, so maury and I shared a row, jake had his own, and Austin conversed with Americans from Delaware. Austin really is the most lovable dude, and he carried on a light, casual conversation with ease. I was jealous of his social interaction, but the landscape from my window seat was incredible enough to assuage jealousy of any sort. We flew over the Andes the whole trip, and we saw mountains and hills of all sizes. Some of the most beautiful landscapes were those that had lakes which formed in the mountain valleys. I actually got to see the sun rise over a mountain which was quite the view, and no words in my vocabulary can do it justice. I like to imagine a young Incan climbing these mountains, perching himself at the highest point, watching the sun set over the mountains as he sees the snowy peak and orange sky reflect off of the water in front of him. Oddly enough, the Incan in mind resembles me in more ways than one. With dark, non-balding hair, I might make a good Incan. My favorite part of the flight was the landing. The pilot curled us around this hill, and it seemed like we were a mere 100 feet away from touching the trees that reached out to us. The single air strip made its way into view as we finished our curl, and the pilot landed us smoothly in the ancient city of cuzco.

We grabbed our checked baggage and made our way outside to find our taxi driver, Rolando, who is the nicest Cuzcodude I have met since arriving here. There are few things more satisfying than a foreign guy holding a whiteboard with your party’s name on it, and I love every minute of it. He explained to us our options as we made our way to our fancy hotel. Apparently we received an upgrade because of some mix up regarding the number of beds and adjacent rooms – nice, I know. Upon arrival to the hotel, we snagged ourselves some Mate de Coca which is a popular tea seemingly available at every establishment in Cuzco. It smells and tastes like cocoa tea, and it is supposed to help with the altitude. Honestly, I think all that herbal stuff is bullshit and employs a seemingly successful placebo effect. Perhaps the end result of feeling better is what matters, and I am glad people can take solace in aesthetics that I simply disregard as BS. Our rooms are nice by any standard, but I suspect especially so here in peru. We have fridges, a safe, travelers bottles of shampoo and soap, but most importantly, mine and Austin’s room has a balcony fit for the four of us. It overlooks the main tourist street in Cuzco, Avenida Del Sol, and the cool, 13,000 feet air, the bustle of natives and tourists, and the safety of my 4 Star hotel make the experience worth whatever extra we are paying for it.

The guys were tired, so Austin and Mauricio quickly hit the soft, single beds and I decided to catch up on yesterday’s journal and then explore the town myself a bit. It was honestly scary going out by myself because I still don’t have tremendous faith in my Spanish, and I am afraid of being abducted for my welll-working kidneys. I toured around a couple blocks and bought a giant piece of apple pie for what equaled a dollar. I would have liked something more substantial, but I felt bad eating a meal when I knew we had a big lunch planned, and, secondly, just buying pie was a feat I was proud of. I made my way back to the room, expecting to find Jake sleeping as well, but he was nowhere to be seen and he left me a note that said: fue de pescar which may or may not correctly translate as gone fishing. I figured I had an hour before we would wake up and meet Rolando for lunch ideas, so I took a much-needed nap before the real day began.

I think we disappointed Rolando a lot by deciding not to partake in the $90 tour, but we figured we would have more fun conquering the city ourselves – that, and we are jews. Despite this let down, he still gave us some good ideas for food places, and he even walked us to Paititi which means El Dorado. This place was way too nice for us, but we made it this far, and not spending the money on the tour meant we had some cash to blow here. My meal was amazing and included complimentary Pisco Sours (the native alcoholic drink of choice as far as I can tell), Cusqueno Negro (a dark, delicious beer), garlic bread, and Aji Gallena. It basically reminded me of Indian curry with chicken and rice, and it was perfectly done. Honestly, I wish it would have been a little more exciting or spicy, but it tasted fantastic, and the entire meal only ended up costing me $14. I had a couple bites of the alpaca that Maury and Austin got, and Jake gave me some of his noodles. I think I actually liked all of their food better, but I could not complain at all – typical me, if I think I am getting a deal, I am ecstatic. The undersung highlight of the meal was Jake feeling sick because of the altitude and deciding to step outside. Our waiter and the hostess went outside with him and performed the emergency treatment which consisted of rubbing alcohol on his face and hair. If it would have happened to any of us we would have taken it in stride, but I worry Jake’s pride covered up how sick he actually felt. Anyways, I don’t think he is actually totally recovered even now at 6pm, but he was well enough to go out and about with us after the meal.

We briefly went back to the hotel to make sure things were locked and to drop off Jake’s food, and then we headed to the town square to take some pictures and hang out. The square has to be one of the most beautiful places in Peru. The landscape is beautiful, the fountains are extravagant and running well, and scenic architecture in the form of cathedrals, shops and other building surround it. It is no surprise that there are an equal number, if not more, locals as tourists just sitting around and enjoying the atmosphere as much as we do. The only bad thing, if it can be considered a bad thing, is that we were continually accosted by the local youth to buy their wares. I suffered my first scam and bought a pair of Ray Ban’s for $20. He originally was asking for 80 soles, which is like $30, so I could have bargained him down more. To be honest, I didn’t really have the denominations that I needed to bargain well, but, nevertheless, I still fell for it and bought the Ray Ban aviators which may or may not be real. Also, I honestly think I would pay the $20 to have them anyways and to have the toolish look. I just wanted to clear that up.

We wondered around town for a couple hours and actually covered a lot of ground. We really didn’t purchase that much, but we had a lot of fun. I picked up a couple necklaces for AJ and Joe, and I bought some tea leaves for Allison’s dad. My mom wants me to pick her up an Alpaca sweater, but the real ones are kindof expensive, and I am having trouble finding an extra large. I think this problems actually stems from the people in Lima all being 4 foot tall, so the idea of an extra large woman’s alpaca coat is ridiculous I guess. We even wondered into the not touristy party of Cuzco, and I really want to eat at those restaurants which seem locally authentic and cheap. Also, the bread stores smell life-changing, and I definitely need to invest in some various breads before I leave here.

After wandering our way back, we chilled for about an hour and a half. Jake and Austin took little baby naps because Jake still wasn’t feeling in top shape and Austin had a pounding headache. Mauri and I caught up on our journals, and just relaxed until 6 which is when happy hour started at the hotel bar. We bought a couple of pisco sours for $3 each, and then we headed out to Bembo’s which is Peru’s fast food equivalent to McDonalds. I ended up getting kind of screwed on my meal. Turns out I could have had a delicious full meal with soda and fries for like $3.50, but I wanted to biggy size it (typical American) which costs 2 extra dollars! Also, I ordered a Franca, which is the Peruvian equivalent to Natty Light, because I love the idea of getting beer at a fast food place like McDonalds (which also happens to sell beer here). I got el solterito which I thought was going to have peppers and garlic and onions, but it actually had corn and beans on it. It didn’t taste as bad as it sounds once I added some Ahi, well a lot of ahi, to the burger to spice it up a bit. Overall, it was a cool experience, but I really don’t want to eat there again while I am in Peru.

After Bembo’s we went to get something to drink for the night. After about an hour of searching and becoming lost among the foreign alcohol choices, we decided to split a fifth of Pisco and mix it with orange juice. It is a completely different alcohol, and I am not completely sure how I feel about it, but at 84 proof it gets the job done. I made myself a drink and talked to Allison on facebook for around 20 minutes. As you can see, I had a lot to talk about so it was impossible to fit it all in a short facebook conversation, but it is nice to have any sort of communication. We couldn’t get Maury’s T-mobile Hot Spot at Home feature to work, so we cant use his phone for US calls like we could at his house. At least we have internet connection, though, so we can keep the girlfriends and families reasonably updated; however, it is important and funny to note that Jake has not had any communication with anyone back home, and I think he wants to keep it that way. We got ready to go the clubs by finishing the fifth, listening to music and taking group shots. I think Maury and I were the only fans of the Pisco, but everyone drank it nevertheless. We all felt a little buzzed, and the added energy gave us inspiration to go out and find a bar/club/discoteca to socialize at.

The going out experience was a blast because there are tons of youth out recruiting passersby to go to their parties. It definitely made me feel important and desired even if they only wanted my American dollar. We stopped by once place, didn’t get a great vibe, the drinks were a little pricey and it was really smoky (although there was a good live band there which would have been fun to enjoy), so we decided to leave. The second place we went to was alright and we got a special corner section with U shaped couch arrangement. We settled on the 2 drinks for 20 soles deal, and Austin and I got the Machu Picchu which started out delicious and then tasted like minty shit by the end. The other guys got a Algarobina which I don’t know what it is, and I don’t care to explain it because it was probably better than what we got. After finishing our drinks, we went upstairs to the dance floor to indulge Jacob’s need to dance. The whole dancing experience was super awkward because Austin, Maury and I all feel bad about dancing with girls given our cute commitments back home. We basically ended up dancing on each other and being gay most of the night, but it was still fun, just not totally fulfilling.

We left that club to go find a final place to spend the evening, which was a difficult decision because we were being pulled in multiple directions by the 5 foot party recruiters. The whole thing is confusing because you half-heartedly commit to a cool little dudes party, and then you want to go somewhere else for various reasons… anyways it was a lot of fun. At one point, we turned a corner and a dude that was totally high, stoned or something offered us cocaine. Unfortunately for me, I was the last one to turn the corner and as I did Austin pointed to me and said “he’s your man.” At this point I agreed whole-heartedly and said “Si, soy tu hombre” and then he asked me if I wanted cocaine. Awkward situation all around, and I can add that experience to my all time list of first time experiences.

The final club we went to had this African, club vibe and there were laser lights and intense, remix music playing. It was actually a really cool vibe, so we jumped right in and recommenced the gay dance while Jake had a couple failed attempts to maintain a local dance partner. Ideally, it would have been nice to find some other Americans or something to hang out with and dance, but, honestly, it felt like a 98% local population. Though the dancing, for us, wasn’t all it could have been, we had a blast. We burnt out pretty quickly, or I should say Austin and Maury were ready to go, I was mostly ready to go and Jake could have stayed all night. We had a fun, buzzed walk back reminiscing on the guys offering us cocaine, marijuana and party invites. We talked about Street Justice, or Justicio del Pueblo which basically means that the street vendors can beat our ass with sticks if they catch us stealing or anything. We fell in love with the idea, because imagining me getting beat up by locals is kind of hilarious. Anyways, it was a good walk back and a nice way to settle down after the clubbing experience. Perhaps clubbing in the US is like this ( I wouldn’t really know), but it is definitely a good time here, and I think we plan on going again the day after we go to Machu Picchu.

I fell asleep pretty fast once we got back, because I had barely got any sleep the previous couple days, and I was a little drunk on top of that. We had no plans for the next day, so it was nice to know we would be able to sleep in as long as we didn’t miss breakfast. Needless to say, it was a hell of a first day in Cuzco. It feels like we have been in Peru for at least a week already, because we have been so busy, done so much and had so little downtime. I hope this pace continues, and that everything continues to progress swimmingly… I am sure it will.

Day 2 Continued- the Galdos Family

Thursday, May 13

To be honest, I think it would be impossible to do the day justice. I feel like I lived more in that single day than I have in nearly any other I can remember. I should expect this given a new country and everything, but it is still difficult to process and maintain a decent chronology of events – this may also be due to the 2 hours of sleep from which was unwelcomingly interrupted by Austin’s trumpet of a snore. Though I was tired and experiencing severe sensory overload, my spirits were high and remain that way now.

After my “nap” we had breakfast which consisted of cereal, juices (literally freshly squeezed orange and papaya), and yogurt, which comes in one-quart containers and is delicious. I wish we had such yogurt in the states. Ilda, the maid, is responsible for nearly all preparation and clean up as far as I can tell. The Galdos family fully expects her to do nearly everything as far as I can tell, and we Americans definitely struggle with what type of relationship we should have with Ilda.

After breakfast we got ready to go to the travel agency in order to pay for our Cuzco trip (which I am currently en route to). We ended up having to pay 3.6% extra because I paid with my debit card, which was frustrating, but the only was around that would have been to bring $1300 cash. I forgot to bring my pasaporte, but, thankfully, I remembered the number so it wasn’t a big deal. I should mention that I forgot to bring my passport because I was playing Street Fighter IV with Mafoot and took a thorough beating I might add. Interestingly, Mafoot’s English is quite worse than either Mauricio’s or Jasmin’s because he went to a different school. Turns out that attending a British Academy (Primary School?) improves your English noticeably. Anyways, the trip to the agency was long and tenuous given the small Galdos family car which barely fits the five of us snugly. We still enjoy driving around because the area is unique and the novelty of a new country hasn’t, and I hope wont, worn off yet. It seems like it takes forever to get anywhere, and a trip to downtown takes the entire day.

After the travel agency we made our way to Mauri’s father’s factory/place of business. It is called Santa Patricia’s textiles or something along those lines. As I expected, it is easy to understand why the Galdos family has such a nice home. There were at least 6 massive machines making different textiles operating at once. The designs are quite impressive, and the bustling atmosphere implies that business is good. It turns out that Sr, Galdos works from 8am-10pm every day but Sunday, and his hard work has really paid off. We saw some of the business awards SP has won which include best business of the year (we were told that it was among textile companies) from 2002-2007 and apparently other awards were stored away elsewhere. While some may not take great pride in random awards and recognition, Ricardo told me specifically that the awards were “priceless,” and I like to think of them as a manifestation of his passion and hard work. I left proud to have a friend who’s father is a self-made man, and does not settle for mediocrity. It excites him to still be expanding, as the building has two additional floors to grow into. Part of me wishes that one of his sons would take over the business and continue the hard work, but the whole family knows that it won’t happen – it turns out that the struggle to differentiate from your parents is universal. Regardless, We were all proud of everything about the business, and I hope they continue to do well.

We stopped for beer on the way back from the family business, as I was more than wont to do. We all got something different, although I don’t know if Mauricio really considers any alcohol here really different. It turns out that the beer here is almost exactly the same as many beers back home. My brand, Pilsen, tasted almost exactly like one of our light beers, and I am convinced that it is the Bud Light of South America even if it can only be found in Peru. Jake got a girly beer called Quara and was promptly mocked by Mafoot upon return to the house. I did find it funny, however, that Mauricio had tried and enjoyed it. Part of me thinks it is sad I indulge my journal with 10 lines focused on our beer purchase… perhaps time away from college will change my thought process, but, for now, I am excited to try their beer and have a couple drinks with my friends, Mauricio’s family and, hopefully, Ilda! Maury’s mother’s parents were waiting for us when we returned with beer in hand, which had the potential to be awkward, but I am pretty sure his grandfather has had many a beer himself and would jump at the chance to drink with us should the opportunity present itself.

Dinner was ready and served soon after we got back, and I would definitely consider it the highlight of my day. We had the same thing that Maury and Jose had prepared for us at White Apt 2 last year, but Ilda’s cooking and the condiments that were available made it totally unique to me. The meal was beef steak cooked with peppers and tomatoes served on rice with fresh, homemade french-fries on top of it all. My favorite part was definitely the condiments which are called Aji and something else resembling the world Ricotta. They were spicy, but the warnings I received from the family were unnecessary as it was definitely not too hot (my nose wasn’t even running which is what I usually consider the perfect measure of spice). Regardless of how spicy the sauce was, it added a kick to the dish that was spectacular, and no amount of words could grasp how I felt about the meal. I wanted to eat until there was none left, but I refrained myself (which I am quite proud of btw) and saved room for ice cream and homemade hot chocolate syrup. We washed the whole meal down with Inca Cola which, apparently, is the only soft drink that outsells Coke here in Peru.

Dinner was at least an hour and a half experience, and I felt like the day was so much later than 5pm, but at least we still had time to do the last few remaining errands for the day. We had to go change our money to the Nuevo Sol and the exchange rate was exactly 2.82 Nuevo Sol to the Dollar, so I felt pretty well-off leaving with near 400 soles. After changing our money we went to this clothing store that has name-brand clothing for really cheap. I knew we would be going to a store like this at some point, and I came with the full intention of returning to the USA with a new, brand-name ward robe. I was slightly dismayed, however, in the selection offered and the higher price of the nice dress shirts. While I do understand that these shirts are ~100 in the States, $35 still didn’t seem too cheap, but what can I do? I bought a pink Armani shirt for 10$ and we all bought matching Banana Republic briefs which we plan to take pictures in at some point over the next month (I am imagining some sort of Hollister poster with 4 scarcely clad men leaning against a rail facing away from the camera… it is just an idea, but I can hope). Our final destination was the mall where we picked up Jasmin. It should definitely be noted that there are not hot chicks in Peru. The segue from Jasmin to no hot chicks is not intentional I promise… I guess I thought mall then girls then the homely ones we found at the mall. I don’t know why I was expecting hot Latinas to be rampant, but I guess I sort of expected younger versions of Mauricio’s mom to at least make an appearance. I don’t care really, btw, I just thought it should be noted. Our final errand was to stop by Wong (the Peruvian Walmart, although Mauricio would disagree) to get suntan lotion, toothepaste, body wash and shampoo, the latter three having been confiscated at Lambert for containing too much liquid, fuck right? At least the stuff was cheap here even though I was taken advantage of and overcharged 3 soles for my toothepaste which was supposed to be on sale. I know that it is very much like me to remember incidences like this, but I am not sorry that one dollar bothers me, Ben Franklin would be proud.

It felt like after midnight by the time we got back to the house, though it was only like 7:45. My plan was to pack my Cuzco stuff, shower, call Allison and go to sleep by 9, but it ended up taking a little bit longer than that. We had a fourth meal I guess one would say which was nice because I was a tad hungry having not been my usual, gluttonous self, and it was nice not to be starving in the morning. I called and talked to Allison through Mauricio’s hot spot at home by T-mobile for 30 minutes which was nice. She is worried she is going to have a boring summer, but I really hope that is not the case. I want her to have fun, enjoy herself and do things, but that is really easy to say given that I am here in Peru and I don’t know what I would be doing if I was at home. Anyways, hopefully she knows I love and miss her and will enjoy the serenity of the next month at home. I showered using our newly bought hygiene products, and it felt good to be clean after a day of driving around in a car. Speaking of bathrooms, they don’t flush the toilet paper here which I always think is disgusting, but at least we don’t have to use squatters here.

I was exhausted, but it also took me a good while to go to sleep. The combination of the stiff bed, the busy day, the active mind and excitement for cuzco made it difficult. Hopefully the cuzco trip will be great and I won’t be too tired to fully enjoy it.

*Written at 9:00am in the Cuzco hotel

Day 2 (flight and arrival to Lima)

6:20 AM

The plane to Lima was awesome. It felt like a 4th grade sleepover where we stayed up late, played video games, and fell asleep next to each other. I passed a couple hours losing to Maury at chess and then promptly regaining my pride with four straight wins at Battleship. It is at times like this that I again realize I have the maturity of a 4th grader, but perhaps such a view on life is beneficial in dealing with the stresses of travel and Mauricio. From my window seat, I could not see the lights of the city until we actually landed which was disconcerting because I was under the impression that Lima was huge.

I was hoping that we would not actually be herded through the normal ramps and connections, but, instead, I wanted to take stairs straight to the ground and breathe Lima’s dirty air as soon as possible. I would have to wait to breathe the dirty air, however, because we had to make our way through customs and immigration and all that business. I am constantly fearful of having to rely on my Spanish (though I know it is not too dreadful), so one can imagine my fear of making my way through customs. I made it through without incident, and I didn’t have to claim my CheeseItz (sp?) as I hoped I would. The highlight of the customs/immigration experience was that Maury was the only one of us who got the red light and had to be specially checked and evaluated by the moustached men from Lima. We all had a good laugh, because it is typical Maury that he would be singled out in his own country after just calling us out for being the foreigners.

The drive back from the aeropuerto was incredible. Imagine driving through the bad part of town in a big city… well, that is what all of Lima is like. There are casinos with short, burly men defending them and dilapidated, graffitied buildings everywhere. The advertisements for all sorts of things, ranging from coke to Chile’s, are rampant, and odd political campaign posters emphasizing continued change are around every corner. I don’t know if it is fair to judge adherence to the road rules by taxi drivers, but, from what I gather, delineation of lanes is unnecessary and some street lights flash green and red simultaneously. It was agreed that we are now all at Mauricio’s mercy because we have no idea how to get anywhere.

*The smell of the air here is unique and, for me, indescribable. I think it smells dirty, but perhaps this is just what Peru or other countries smell like… maybe the US smells bad and I didn’t even know it.

Mauricio’s house is impressive, beautiful, exotic, well-furnished, comforting, lavish, fun and full of love. The large, intimidating stained door at the gated entrance unveils a small slice of Peruvian heaven that the Galdos family has offered to share with us. I would go into detail describing the various rooms and aspects of the house, but, thankfully, the pictures will say all that I can’t. Needless to say, their family has a beautiful home that will house 3 Americans easily, and I am excited to get drunk at their bar, sneak into their maid’s quarters and, hopefully, watch more sunrises over the mountains from their onning.