Peru

home. hallelujah!

I am home. And I like it.

Actually, as impossible as it is for me to comprehend, I have been home for slightly more than a week. Even more oddly, I feel like I never left. Peru seems like some crazy, delicious dream. It is weird how memory works.

My plane touched down at 1:44pm on Sunday the 11th, 13 minutes early. That plane certainly did not originate in Peru, though. No, no, no. Here is how my unnecessarily complicated trip home played out:

Cusco -> Lima -> Quito, Ecuador -> Miami airport -> a hotel -> Miami airport -> Charlotte -> Home

It really was not too bad. LAN, the airline I flew to Miami, provided the greatest quantity and best quality of food and entertainment I have experienced on any airlines ever. They served a hot meal, despite the fact that the flight had left at 7:35pm, with real cutlery (how dangerous; someone could have been stabbed!) and ceramic dinnerware!

A roll, rice with zucchini ribbons, beef in beefy sauce with peas, and flan!

Furthermore, the personal seat-back entertainment system on the flight to Miami offered 52 movies, 92 TV programs, games, and a few other options! And the coach class seats reclined sufficiently to keep your head from falling forward if you fell asleep! It was incredible. Also, I rather enjoyed spending the night in the quite nice hotel (thank you, Daddy!) by myself. Best of all, I acquired an Ecuadorian stamp on my passport!

Quito: it looked a lot like Cusco, only less mountainous and much bigger and greener.

My friends Hannah and Anna met me at the airport at home. As promised, they brought me pumpkin muffins! Yum!  My family came to the airport also, but since my plane was early and they were not, they arrived a few minutes after I did. Twas amusing.

Amongst other things, I ate a big, wonderful salad – my first proper salad in nearly three months – for supper on Sunday.

Since then, I have run, helped out with Hannah’s piano recital (I mentioned she teaches piano, right? She’s so cool.), petted Sasha, eaten, cooked, played Monopoly, repeated to mother things I have heard on NPR, seen more of my friends, baked, gone to church, and cooked and eaten some more. It has been wonderful!

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Lima, in summary

[Sorry, people, you are destined to forever be subjected to at least a day, if not two or three, lag in information about my life. I can’t type fast enough, nor do I want to type long enough, to write up everything that happens every day. So, too bad for you, and for me, since I dearly love to blog, but information has its limits.]

First, let me tell you that my Peru guidebook urges everyone, “don’t miss [Lima]!” It needs an addendum: Don’t miss Lima, but don’t stay too long either. While both Father and I enjoyed our time in Lima, we agree that two days are long enough to spend under this sky, an eternal, misty dawn without a sunrise. We glimpsed the sun for a grand total of 5 minutes: on Saturday as it dipped below the cloudy, foggy layer that is Lima’s ceiling, before it plunged in to the ocean, as if to escape its grey prison.

We stayed two full days and four nights in Lima.

Day the First:

Plaza de Armas – The large town square a few blocks down from our hotel is surrounded on four sides with imposing and beautiful buildings, including the Palacio del Gobierno, where the president resides.

Monasterio de San Francisco – This monastery named after Saint Francis of Assisi overflows with 16th and 17th century massive paintings, painted tile, ornate cedar ceilings, intricately carved wooden seats, and gilded altars. Below it, in catacomb-like fashion, are thousands of bones of various monks and townspeople, frequently arranged in patterns made of all one type of bone.

Parque de la Muralla – We stumbled upon this park by accident. Our brief stroll through it revealed some ancient city walls, bougainvillea-covered trellises, and rather a lot of couples in very close proximity to each other.

Plaza de San Martin – Bright yellow buildings surround most of this plaza.

Jirón de la Unión – People flow constantly and thickly through this five- or six-block, pedestrians only street. Shops and restaurants of all kinds are crammed into every space available. Here, after asking around, we purchased a SIM card for my phone.

Museo Andés de Castillo – For me the highlight of this museum of rocks, minerals, and some artifacts, all found in Peru, is the building in which it is house. The enormous restored house is painted white and light green on the inside, has beautiful trim and ironwork, and is filled with natural light.

Domus – My favorite restaurant of our days in Lima, Domus offers a three-course meal with several different options for each course. I had a somewhat Italian chicken roll dish while Dad ate tacu tacu, a traditional beans, rice, and beef concoction. The beverage is always a fresh juice of some kind; ours was an applecidery sort (made with boiled water, I confirmed).

Dédalo – We browsed in this modern, local crafts shop for a good 45 minutes. It offers everything from furniture to mugs to alpaca jackets to coasters.

Antica Trattoria – This Italian restaurant has menu at least 20 pages long. We had mushroom pizza and pesto pizza, but we could have eaten calzones, bruschetta, or gnocchi, if we had so desired.

Day the Second:

LAN Office – In the morning we found the LAN airlines office on the Plaza de Armas to print my boarding pass for Sunday.

Palacio de Gobierno – As we left the LAN office, we noticed people crowding around the wrought iron fence in front of the presidential residence. We watched the changing of the blue and red uniformed, duck stepping guard to triumphant music. Something else probably happened after we left, since a local news agency arrived, but we got bored with ten minutes of no change in the uniform posture of the guards.

Museo de la Nación – We came to this museum for the Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s exhibit on the conflict and strife from in Peru from the 80s to 2000, which Dad really wanted to see. While it was good (in the sense that it was well done, not to say that the events it documented were within a thousand miles of commendable), I enjoyed the traveling National Geographic photo exhibit on the discovery of Machu Picchu more. The striking black and white photographs transported you right back to the early 1900s, when the crazy young guy, Bingham, from Yale, trekked into the Andes in search of a fabled Incan ruin. I can’t say I spent more than seven minutes in the exhibit, but I did appreciate the material even with my brief perusal of its contents. I never stay long in museums anyways.

Huaca Huallamarca – A “highly restored” (according to my Peru book) adobe pyramid, this 50 or 60-foot high thing rises right out of the middle of the city. It is really random. We stayed about five minutes, as there was not really much to see or do, other than walk up the pyramid and soak in the bizarreness of it all.

Mi Causa – This restaurant specializes in causas, traditional Peruvian mashed potato salad dishes. Basing my assumptions on our two dishes, I would say that if you mash the strangest potatoes you can find, maybe add some puréed something to the potatoes, put a mayonnaise-based filling with other stuff between layers of the mashed potato, and encircle the whole thing with vegetables or meat or whatever you feel like, you would have a causa. They were not too bad.

Puruchuco – We finally mostly escaped the city to see these very restored ruins of an Incan fort sort of place like a tiny, walled town, complete with a guinea pig farming area and a square for trading. The mountainous hill near which it is build is totally devoid of any green plant. It is just rock. It appears almost looks volcanic.

Malecón – We wandered around on this clean, open-air, somewhat high-end shopping and dining complex situated on the cliffs above the Pacific for about an hour.

Norky’s – We ate at this sit-down–fast-food-rotisserie-chicken-and-fries place for our final supper in Lima. It was delicious! And Dad finally partook of the necessary and traditional alcoholic beverage, the pisco sour.

And that, people, was basically our Lima experience!

On Sunday we got up at 3:30 am to take a taxi to the airport, where started his journey home and I flew to Cusco – more about Cusco in my next post!

we arrived

We’re here in Lima! Our trip was quite uneventful, definitely undelayed, and really rather enjoyable, I thought. Praise God! Here is a brief summary:

– Woke up at 5:30 am and drove to the airport from our hotel; it took about 4 minutes.
– Checked in and ate a scone and muffin for breakfast (Dad and I, respectively).
– Figured out that our flight landed in Ft. Lauderdale and the next one left out of Miami. whoops.
– Flew to Ft. Lauderdale, disembarked, and retrieved our luggage without any hassel.
– Easily caught a bus to a train (one with two levels and a nice view) to a bus to the Miami airport.
– Walked rather a long way to find our check-in counter and checked in.
– Briefly observed the strange people who decide to pay $15 to get their suitcases saran wrapped.
– Ate a sandwich and a muffin and spinach croissant-like thing (Dad, me, respectively) for lunch in a Barnes and Nobles-like bookstore.
– Wandered down to our gate and sat there for an hour and a half or so.
– Hopped on the plane and flew out promptly at 4:30.
– Waited in eager expectation for a promised in-flight dinner to be served.
– Ate a snack and then supper (I LOVE airplane meals! Always have, probably always will!).
– Did not watch the dumb-looking movie, Arthur, that was playing.
– Attempted to sleep. And failed.
– Reviewed some Spanish grammar for approximately 52 seconds.
– Landed, cleared immigration, and picked up our baggage.
– Saw some apparently famous singers in the baggage area and walked past their chanting, cheering fans outside.
– Got a taxi for a reasonable rate.
– Noted a somewhat excessive amount of PDA on the taxi ride to the hotel.
– Was surprised by the mildness of the taxi’s driving.
– Checked in to the hotel and immediately consumed the crackers and chocolate provided.
– Zapped some water with my super water zapper thingy and drank it.
– Hoped and prayed that the water zapper works.
– Got on the computer to post this.

And now, to bed!

packing

I officially started packing this afternoon, though nothing is actually in my suitcase as I write this. I have been doing things like encasing my shampoo and conditioner in ziploc bags, washing a last-minute load of laundry, and choosing which of my mechanical pencils to bring.

This morning I picked up a necklace I had ordered from a local artisan for my host mother in Peru. The artisan also happens to be my best friend, who, besides being a professional pianist, piano teacher, harpist, harp teacher, and blogger, also happens to make jewelry in her few brief moments of spare time. Though I am in no way an expert on jewelry, I do think the necklaces and earrings and such that she invents are usually quite pretty. The one for my Peru lady is especially lovely. I sort of want it. And so did Hannah. And so did her mother. Oh well. Its fine sea glass and silvery beaded strands are now safely enclosed in a padded, green polkadot box, ready to be delivered, with some coffee from Port City Java, our local version of Starbucks, to my host mother. There’s no way she couldn’t like it.

mailing and email addresses

Some of you have expressed an interest in sending me mail whilst I am in Peru, and for that, I thank you. Also for that, you need a physical mailing address, something you have requested. Up until this point, I have not had one available with which to provide you. But! Now I do! In the interest of not telling the whole world my mailing address, I will not be including it with this post. However, if you would like the address, email or comment or call or facebook or contact me somehow so that I can email it to you.

My other address, the electronic mail one, will also change slightly while I’m in Peru. I will not have access to my current email address. Therefore, yet again, contact me if you would like to know what email address to use while I am in Peru.

Of course, you can always get in touch with me simply by commenting on a post, preferable the most recent one, on this blog.

one week and an embedded slideshow test

One week, people. That is almost precisely how long I have until Father and I leave. I say “almost precisely” because our flight leaves rather early in the morning, (early enough, in fact, that we are spending Wednesday night in a hotel in close proximity to the airport to avoid rising any earlier than absolutely necessary) and, as it is now the early afternoon, I have slightly less than one week left here at home. That is all I have to say on the matter.

Ahem. This is a test of the embedded-slideshow-function-on-Claire’s-blog system. If this was an actual slideshow of gap year pictures, a slideshow of Claire’s most recent and relevant photographs would appear below this message. This has been a test of the embedded-slideshow-function-on-Claire’s-blog system.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

the pile in the corner and changes in appearance

I have started a little pile in the corner of my room sort of between my bookcase and dresser. It is my extraneous Peru items pile. I figured that since my departure is rather imminent and somewhat looming, I ought to have some visual manifestation of that list of extraneous Peru items I have been making. So, now I have it. Thus far, the rather lonely little group of stuff consists of only my water zapper thingy, my Peru maps (generously provided by Grandpa L), my Peru and South America books (kindly supplied by Uncle Tom), some nifty bulk-reducing packing bags, my totally awesome Platypus water bottle, and a tiny first aid kit I bought in Switzerland and recently rediscovered in my closet. But, it’s a start!

As you may have (I should certainly hope you have) noticed, this blog looks different. Yup, well, that’s because I changed its theme. When blogging with WordPress, one has the blessing of having pre-constructed themes to use for one’s blog so one does not have to design one’s whole blog oneself. When blogging with WordPress, one also has the curse of being forced to use pre-constructed themes for one’s blog. And so here we are. My previous theme, my beloved DePo Square theme, did not have enough customizable features. Foreseeing the future frustration this lack of options would cause me, I decided to abandon it. Twas a sad day, this day. Ah well. This blog now sports a right hand column that enables you people out there to access content that you would otherwise have had no way to see (right now that’s just a pointless list of my favorite sites, but later it will be links to pictures, I hope). Furthermore, this new theme, rather more boring and annoyingly dash-filled though it is, will provide the flexibility I was looking for. But! Do not be shocked or amazed if I discard this option also. I may not be able to get past this obsessive need to use whiteout on my computer screen to cover up those hideous dashes between things in the left column and before the title at the top. ugh. We shall see.