Friday, January 24, 2014

Peru: Day Two - Part One

Before I start on day two, I should share my terrifying moment in the night between days one and two. I had a very vivid dream, in which I looked up at the wall next to my bed and saw a small hole. Through the hole, someone was pointing a dart gun, which held a poisonous dart.  I woke up screaming, which woke up Bergs, who was understandably shaken and asked what was wrong. I looked back up at the wall and realized it was just a dream and back to sleep, but it was so scary! I think it was just me getting out all the nerves of being in a foreign country. It was funnier in the morning,

After a shower in the tiny bathroom (hot water, which I didn't realize I was lucky to have) and a breakfast of half a banana and a roll with jam, we embarked into Lima. This is when it really hit me that I was in Peru, and I was struck with how amazing it was that I was there. It was so great to see the city by day. In some ways, it was just like any other big city in the U.S., but it was also very different. I thought it was charming. I felt uncharacteristically adventurous with my backpack strapped on, walking the streets of Lima. We stopped by an internet cafe to call our parents. The payphones were surprisingly inexpensive, considering we were making international calls. 

From there, we went in search of a bus. Buses in Peru are a lot like taxis in that you sort of flag them down on the street, except they're jam-packed with people and you have to jump on as fast as you can.  If you're lucky, you get a seat. In this case, we stood, backpacks and all, en route to Chaclacayo. This was my first view of crazy Peruvian drivers. All of the vehicles are crowded onto one-way streets. The cars next to you are close enough to touch, and if there's an inch of front of your car, someone will take that opportunity to pass you. It was quite terrifying the first couple of days, especially when we were in taxis, but after that it was just funny. I swear that Peruvian drivers must be highly skilled, because I didn't see one traffic accident while we were there. The other thing I noticed is that the Andes mountains around Lima are not green. Quite honestly, they were like giant mounds of dirt. For someone used to green mountains, it was incredibly odd.

In Chaclacayo, we visited a lovely woman named Rosita.  She was one of Bergs' pensionistas in Peru, which means that she cooked all of the missionaries' meals (the Church gives them money for food, but they donate their time and talents).  On our way to her house, I noticed that all of the houses had bars over the windows, but they're all very decorative bars. A lot of them were in flower designs. Also, all of the houses are right next to each other. I didn't see a single free-standing house. Rosita's house was nice looking on the outside as well as the inside.  Most houses were fairly nice, but simple, on the inside, but were very rough-looking on the outside.

Rosita was very excited to see "Hermana Bergsjo", and was very gracious in welcoming me to her home. She made us lunch: aji de gallina, which is chicken in a cream sauce over rice. Aji is a hot sauce. A very hot hot sauce. Bergs warned me that a little went a long way, and I thought I had done that, but it was still so hot (I have a low tolerance for hot foods). Needless to say, I felt like my mouth was on fire. Many Peruvians were amused by this tale during the duration of our visit. With lunch, Rosita gave me Inca Kola! Inca Kola is like the official drink of Peru. You know how we see Pepsi everywhere? That's how Inca Kola is. It tastes like a cross between cream soda and bubble gum, and it's violently yellow colored. I loved it! 

Before, during, and after lunch, I found that I was able to follow the conversation fairly well. I don't speak much Spanish, but enough of it is similar to French or English (and Bergs has an American enough accent) that I could at least pick out the subject most of the time. This was helpful in me not feeling like an idiot.  I was able to actually enjoy the conversation. Rosita asked if we had boyfriends, and was shocked that we didn't (actually, everyone we visited asked this and was shocked). It was amusing. I also got asked a lot if I would date a Peruvian. 

Since this post is getting quite long, I believe this is a good place to stop. Good news: pictures start in the next post! And the story for why the first two posts had no pictures will be on a future post.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Peru - Day One's been a month and a half, but now begins the tale of my travels! The good news is that I took notes on my trip.

Why I went to Peru: My friend, Michelle Bergsjo (aka Bergs), served her mission in Peru. She was planning on going back for a visit, and asked me if I wanted to come. It was a terrifying thought, going to another country where I wouldn't speak the language, but it was too exciting an opportunity to turn down.

Our journey began on a snowy Thursday morning. There was snow on the ground when we left, but the snow starting falling again as we drove through the canyon on the way to the airport. It was exciting to think about the warm weather that awaited us south of the equator.

At the airport we ran into two of the account managers from the company Bergs and I work for. Fun fact: one of them flew first class, one flew economy.  We discussed whether the first class account manager flew first class because she was a senior account manager, or if she paid for her own upgrade.

We flew to Dallas-Fort Worth, then to Lima.  It was a very long flight, and to make it longer, the airplane did not play the movies they said they would. Instead the showed a cycle of screens that showed us how far we had flown and the time/temperature in Dallas and Lima. Oh, and the same episode of Parks & Rec twice. Good times.

We landed in Lima at 1:00 a.m. We went through customs, and I was concerned because the person at the desk didn't seem to speak English. But I got through and received my very first passport stamp! It was quite exciting. We exchanged some currency and looked for a taxi driver who could take us to a nice hostel. We found one, Bergs negotiated price, and we were off!

We drove about half an hour to the hostel. I'd heard about the crazy traffic in Peru, but being the middle of the night it wasn't too crazy. We did drive by the ocean, though! I didn't even realize it because it was so dark. Bergs told me that the ocean was on our right side, and I thought at first I was looking at very small sand dunes; turns out they were waves! I've never seen the ocean at night. It was so cool.

We arrived at Lion Bed and Breakfast for Backpackers and got a room. There was wi-fi, so I checked in on Facebook (we planned on finding a payphone to call our parents in the morning). The room was tiny; there was pretty much only room for two beds and a television. The bathroom was very compact. It was a tiny room with a shower head on one end, a toilet on the other, and a sink in the middle. We found an English station on the television and settled in for our first night in Peru.