Monday, July 21, 2008

My Last Post?

Wow! It´s amazing to think that this will probably be my last post from Peru. Only three more days in Cuzco and then I´m off for my 32 hour trip home!

I´ve been feeling a lot better and have been able to sleep through the night the past two evenings.

On Friday, Katie and I brought the markers and coloring books that had been in the care package. The girls absolutely loved coloring the pictures and enjoyed trying to recognize what Bible stories were happening in the pictures. Every few minutes one of them would shout ¨Jesús!¨ and point excitedly at her picture. The pictures also had captions on them in English and I had an interesting time trying to translate them into Spanish.

On Saturday, Katie, Natalie, James and I all went to go visit Qoricancha. Qoricancha used to be an Incan temple that was coverted into a Catholic church when the Spanish conquered the area. It was very interesting to walk around but I was really impressed by the gardens outside of the museum. I realized that it had been a really long time since I had seen any flowers and felt some homesickness for my Dad´s yard at home.

The Incan portion
And the Spanish addition
My artsy photo

While in the Amazon, Katie and I met an Irish priest who lives and works in Qoricancha.

The main courtyard

Me, Natalie, and Katie waiting for James´ friend, Chris. While we were sitting here we saw two guys get arrested. Pretty exciting!

On Sunday, Katie and I decided to walk around the city and ended up at one of our favorite markets, El Molino. Sunday night, our house went on an adventure to look for corn to make popcorn and after trying six or seven different stores we finally found one that had what we were looking for!

El Molino

I don´t have anything too exciting planned for the rest of the week. The next couple of days I´m going to visit my favorite places in Cuzco and make sure that all of my things are packed up. Wednesday night, my house and some other friends are going to Katie and my favorite restaurant in Cuzco and Thursday night will be time to say good bye to Yoni, Wendy, and everyone else in our house.

Friday morning, Katie and I need to be at the airport at 6am and we fly to Lima at 7:55. The flight is a little more than an hour and we´ll be arriving in Lima around 9:20. We´ll probably be spending the day hanging out in the Lima airport (where there is a Papa Johns and Starbucks!) and we fly out at 10:50pm. We fly to Newark Airport and arrive around 7 in the morning. From there, I´ll be leaving for Milwaukee a few hours later and finally arriving home.

Well, this is probably it unless something really exciting happens in the next few days. Thanks to everyone who has read this and sent me messages and comments. They´ve all been really helpful, especially while I was sick. If anyone wants to see more pictures when I get back, let me know because I will definitely want to show them to you!

Thanks again for all of your prayers and support. See you in a few days!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Some Before and After pictures...

We´re done painting!!!!!

Here are some before and after pictures from some of the painting we did at the orphanage. Overall, we painted a swing set, monkey bars, six benches, volleyball poles, two soccer goals and two see saws. It´s good to be done.

Today I received a package in the mail from my parents that included some real Wisconsin cheese. So we´re going to treat ourselves tonight to grilled cheese sandwiches, potato chips, marinated cucumbers (it´s as close as we can get to pickles) and ice cream. It should be an excellent evening.

It´s hard to believe that a week from today I´ll be sitting in the Lima airport waiting to come home. I´m definitely excited and looking forward to seeing everyone again. Peru is an amazing country and if anyone is interested in coming here I will definitely be happy to serve as a tour guide! Despite all of the discouraging things that have happened (salmonella, parasites, homesickness), I´m still very happy that I´ve come on this trip. I´ve learned a lot about myself and I hope I bring all of those lessons home.

More later...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Things are Normal... for Peru

Things have been pretty normal here. Or at least as normal as things ever are in Peru! Katie and I are working on finishing up our painting project by Friday and are hoping to have our last three days next week to play with the girls.

Generally, I´m just enjoying the last of my time here. I´ve really loved being in Peru but I´m also excited to return home and share my stories and experiences. Whoever runs into me my first few weeks home better be ready to hear some stories about Peru!

Well, I better get going. I think Yoni is preparing my favorite meal for lunch (hamburgers! how original.) and I don´t want to be late!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I Went to Lost...

On Wednesday morning, my house mate, Dan, and I decided to walk to the Sacsayhuman ruins that overlook Cuzco. Sacsayhuman was the site of Inti Raymi but when we went that time we didn´t have any time to walk around and explore.

The walk to the ruins took about an hour and was uphill the whole way. I´ll be glad to be home and not have to climb hills and stairs all of the time! The Incans must have been very fit.
You can tell how big the stones are compared to the people.
El Cristo Blanco or the White Christ. This statue overlooks the city and is absolutely gorgeous at night when it is all lit up.

On Thursday, Katie and I left for a three day, two night trip to the jungle. We were supossed to fly out of Cuzco at 10:10 but while we were waiting at our gate the flight was cancelled. We had no idea what to do and tried to contact our travel agency. While we were attempting to make phone calls, Jonathon, the main worker at the agency, found us at the airport and helped us get on a new flight. We had to wait in line for over an hour (the whole time being told that all flightson Thursday and Friday were full) but when we reached the ticket counter we got on the next flight without any problem.
We were met at the airport by people from EcoAmazonia Lodge and took the back roads around Puerto Maladondo. On Wednesday, there had been a nation wide strike in Cuzco and it had gotten out of hand in Puerto Maladondo. Rumor is that the citizens in PM had burned down all of the governmental buildings in the city and that the strike was continuing on Thursday. Regardless, we felt safe.

Back roads by Puerto Maladondo. The actual city isn´t very nice.

The boat ride to the Lodge took two hours along the Madre de Dios River. It was very pretty and it was nice to be surronded by green again. When we arrived at the lodge we were given lunch, which was chicken and rice cooked and wrapped in a huge leaf. After lunch we had a short time to settle in before heading out to Monkey Island.

Katie and me before going to Monkey Island.

A monkey!

We hiked around Monkey Island for awhile seeing three different types of monkeys, which was probably the highlight of the trip. When we finished our hike we ended up on a beach which made me feel at home. We were able to catch the sunset over the river which was absolutely gorgeous.

After Monkey Island, we had a little time to relax in our bungalow before we had to go caiman hunting. Caimans are like small alligators and they are very common in the area we were in. We didn´t find many that night but it was cool being on the river at night and being able to look at the stars. After caiman hunting we had supper and then Katie and I turned in for an early night.

The Bungalows

Friday morning we had to wake up bright and early at 5:00 in order to have breakfast at 5:30 and leave for our hike at 6:00. The hike consisted of 1 km of hiking, followed by 3 km of canoeing, then another 1 km of hiking. We then took a boat ride around a small lake and then hiked 6 km back to where the boat dropped us off.

The path. During the first hour of the hike all I could think was ¨I´m on Lost!¨

Our boats for crossing the marsh.

Around the halfway point of the hike we climbed to the top of a tree in order to see above the canopy.

After our break at the canopy we crossed a 700 meter long bridge to get to the Lost Lake. At the Lost Lake, our guide paddled us around and pointed out different wildlife, like turtles, caimans, macaws, and other birds. Part of our group even saw a black anaconda!

A caiman

A turtle with a bird on its back

When we returned back from the hike we had lunch and then Katie and I went swimming for awhile. After our swim we were exhausted so we both took naps and then met up with some other volunteers from Cuzco in the game room. After supper we decided to take it easy and relaxed in our bungalow. I ended up falling asleep in the hammack on our porch listening the animal noises.

Saturday morning, we had to wake up at 6:00 in order to be ready to leave at 7:00. We had a two hour boat ride back to Puerto Maldanodo and then we had a few hours to kill at the airport. Our flight back to Cuzco was delayed forty minutes but we finally made it home!

Me and Katie outside of our bungalow

The view from our porch

The smoke monster is coming... (that´s a Lost reference)

Monday, July 7, 2008

I´m Feeling Better...

For those of you who have been concerned, I´m feeling a lot better. The antibiotics the doctor gave me have worked amazingly and I feel now like Thursday was just a really really bad dream.

Last week Wednesday was a great day at the orphanage. We had some additional volunteers who were there to do some landscaping and some of the boys from our brother orphanage came to help out. For the Oostburgians reading this blog, it felt a lot like Kool to be Kind, for the Whitewaterians it reminded me of Make A Difference Day. For everyone else, it was just a lot of fun. It was also the last day of two of the volunteers and they brought ice cream for everyone. It was quite the treat and the girls really enjoyed it.

Heidi is in the middle painting a bench with the help of two of the girls

This reminded me of Grandpa´s gardening tools, though not quite as primitive.

On Saturday, Heidi, Katie, Natalie and I decided to check out a museum I had read about in Frommer´s called Templo de Merced. It was a really old, really beautiful religious building that has been partially turned into a museum though other parts still serve as the living quarters for monks. There was a lot of religious art work form the 15th and 16th centuries and it was interesting to see how indigenous artists depicted the religious stories. The museum also is the home of the second largest pearl in the world, which was cool. My favorite part was a set of three rooms that had been painted using all natural dyes, like berries and roots. The artist was a monk who depicted heaven, purgatory and hell in different ways.

Katie, Heidi, me, and Natalie at the museum

Another shot of the museum courtyard

After visiting the museum we decided to pamper ourselves a little bit. Heidi and I got hour long massages for around 8 dollars and Natalie and Katie got pedicures. Once we all met up again we went out to Jack´s Cafe, a popular gringo restaurant.

On Sunday, Katie, Heidi and I went on a tour of the Sacred Valley, the area surronding Cuzco. Our first stop was a llama and alpaca petting ¨zoo¨. They also give demonstrations on how the Andean people still use natural dyes to make products and showed us how different textiles were made.

I still don´t know the difference between llamas and alpacas.

This one looked like a cow.
A demonstration of traditional textile making
After the ¨zoo¨ we went to a famous market in Peru, called the Pisac market. It is huge and only open three days a week. We only had forty five minutes here so I did some quick shopping and made some good purchases.

After the Pisac market we drove about forty minutes to Urumba where we had dinner. We ate at an amazing buffet restaurant which featured cerviche (marinated fish), alpaca, sushi, and two whole tables of deserts. Katie and Heidi both said that the lunch alone made the whole trip worth it.The restaurant

The gardens outside of the restaurant

After lunch, we journeyed to Ollyantambo, the site of Incan ruins. Ollyantambo is one of the poorest villages in Peru and they have only recently received running water. Five years ago, they were still using water from the mountains that they would get from troughs that run through the streets.

We visited a traditional house and saw the way that most people in the Andes live. The house only had one room, in which five people lived. Oh, a lot of guinea pigs lived in it too.

The guinea pigs

The kitchen area

The pantry

After visiting the house we hiked to the Ollyantambo ruins. In Incan times, this area was used as a defense post and guarded Cuzco from enemies. They aren´t as well perseved as the ruins at Machu Picchu since the Spanish discovered Ollyantambo and completely ransacked them.

After hiking through the ruins, two little girls sang for us in exchange for a propina (tip). They were really cute.I´ve been trying to get a good picture of this mountain since arriving here... I think I finally got it.

When we arrived home yesterday, we had two new people living in our house, a brother and sister from California. They seem really nice though now we have a very full house with six volunteers plus Yoni and Wendy.

On Thrusday, Katie and I are leaving for a three day/two night trip to the jungle. So I´m going to rest up these next few days in order to be healthy. This afternoon, I´m returning to the orphanage and I´m excited to start painting again.

More later...