Monday, April 15, 2013

Final Reflection

I can’t believe it’s time for me to start writing a final reflection of my time spent in Lima, Peru this past semester.  As cliché as it sounds, it really does only seem like yesterday I was hauling my 3 suitcases to the airport in Omaha.  Now, those bags are being packed back up and another chapter of my life is officially closing.  I truly can’t express in words how bittersweet this feeling is, but I will do my best.
First, and most important, I wouldn’t have made it through the rest of this trip without having a stable Peruvian family by my side.  However, my trip to Peru did not start this way.  When I was originally told that I was living with a 25-year-old male and his older brother I was extremely nervous, not even to mention my anxious family and boyfriend as well. But, I told them to give it a chance because he hosted a female student that was my age last year from UNK. Things started out great.  We got along really well and it seemed as if I was getting that older-brother figure that I’ve always wanted.  But after we got more comfortable with each other, it got even harder to live with each other.  He was no longer a gentleman, I was no longer a priority, and I wasn’t being supplied with the meal plan that I was promised.  I could go on for hours about everything that went wrong but, long story short, I had some good Peruvian and American friends who let me live in their spare bedroom while I awaited the confirmation of a new Peruvian family assignment.
I cannot thank my new family, The Patrucco’s, enough for all that they have done for me.  They’ve had to deal with a broken soul---a homesick girl whose view about Peru was pretty negative at the time.  With their support, love, and good cooking my attitude was quickly changed. It was definitely hard for us to get used to each other and for me to adapt to their family customs, but I am so happy that they were willing to take me in on such short notice. They’ve done all the right things: fed me, given me a bed to sleep in, medicine when I’m sick, and even homemade chicken soup when I was sick.  Now that I think about it, I wish they hadn’t been so welcoming so it would be easier for me to go home.  I’ve learned that an unwelcoming Peruvian family is an oxymoron in this country. 

Life in Lima has been a complete turn-around for me.  I had no idea what to expect.  I thought that it would be a gigantic city with huge, modern skyscrapers and air conditioning.  Boy was I wrong! Of course there are plenty of big buildings and it is 100 times bigger than what I am used to in Nebraska, but Lima is so big that it is split up into little districts that I didn’t even know about.  I live in Lima, but I really haven’t seen it all.  I was also completely shocked that air conditioners really aren’t that popular unless you are in a Starbucks or a nice restaurant.  Even in cars, people usually just roll the windows down and drive fast. You live right on the equator for goodness sake! I will never understand this, but I guess they are saving lots of energy.
And while I’m on the subject of driving, that is an entirely different story in this city. Public transportation, even transportation in your own car, is an absolute nightmare.  And to top it all off, everyone thinks that honking their horn will cure the traffic problem.  I wonder when they’ll figure out that it does nothing but make everyone else angry.  When I walk home from school I can’t even hear myself think because cars honking and busses switching gears block it out.  This is definitely something I won’t miss when I get back to Nebraska.
Speaking of things that I won’t miss let me list a few more and start with the bad news and end with the good.  Not fitting in: Ahh Nebraska, where the blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls all unite as one.  I can see it now!  I am sick and tired of walking down the street and getting completely stared down, most of the time even whistled at or talked to in some nasty-Spanish-talk.  I even got my rear end squeezed by a disgusting guy on a bike.  Yes, you read that right.  Some gross Peruvian squeezed my butt as he passed me on his bike.  I’ve learned that here in Peru the men are either complete gentlemen or the exact opposite. There’s no in between. None.  A few other things I won’t miss very much for obvious reasons are 3-hour long classes, the blazing-hot sun in the middle of the day, the smog of the city, and not being able to see the stars at night.  Other than that, there are lots of things that I am definitely going to miss, but I will get to that later.
There are lots of cultural differences that I have picked up on during my time in Lima.  For example, time really isn’t much of a priority here.  Life is very go-with-the-flow.  If you have a meeting at 2pm, no worries if you show up between 2-2:30pm.  My conversation teacher was at least 15 minutes late to class each week.  Also, this means that plans aren’t really ever made in advance.  Are you ready to go now?  Yeah, I guess.  Ok, vamos! That’s how it goes every single time.
            I’ve also noticed that family customs are a lot different here.  Usually if you are going to the university and your family lives close, you continue to live with them.  Most of the time you will continue to live with them until you are married.  Not that I don’t love being at home with my parents, but I couldn’t imagine still living under their roof past 20 years old.  Here that is very common, and even people in their 30’s and up still live with close family.  It is very different, but very cool that they are so family-oriented. 
One major thing that I learned (was forced to learn) was that Peruvian’s are the true night owls of the world.  On the weekends, if you want to go out to the bars or a dance club, you don’t even think about getting ready to leave until 10 or 11pm at the earliest.  And don’t think you’ll just be out for 2-3 hours.  Ohhh no. You’ll be out until the sun comes back up and the birds are chirping, usually 5 or 6am at the earliest.  The nightlife in Peru is amazing and so alive, but this is definitely something that I would not be able to get used to if I was going to be here longer.  This girl needs her sleep.
Well, now that I’ve talked about some of the negatives and customs that have tested my patience, I think it’s time to get on to all of the fun that I have had this past semester.  I was fortunate enough to travel to four unforgettable sites in this beautiful country: Arequipa, Ica, Iquitos, and Cusco.  During each of the trips I had the pleasure of viewing the very beautiful, historical sites of Colca Valley, the sand dunes of Huacachina, The Amazon Jungle/River, and of course Machu Picchu—one of the Seven Wonders of the World! How lucky am I?  I could write at least five pages of details about all of the fun I had on each of these trips, but that would be a little much.  Each trip had it’s own unique feel, and it was impossible to decide which trip was the best because each one had different aspects and excursions. 

Our first trip to Arequipa was awesome, especially our two day visit to Colca Valley and the city of Chivay.  The altitude was a little much, but we all quickly got over it and had a great time.  The trip to Ica was very relaxing at a very nice resort, but of course with an excursion to go sand boarding and sand buggy-ing in Huacachina.  The trip to Iquitos and the Amazon was extremely unique---we spent 3 nights in the jungle in log cabins with no electricity or warm water.  Although we all got eaten alive by mosquitos, it was definitely a wildlife adventure full of fun and new experiences.  Of course last, but not least, was our trip to Cusco and the ruins at Machu Picchu.  This trip was well worth the wait, as we had to delay travels for over a month due to kidnapping threats.  The altitude here was even harder to deal with, but the breathtaking views that the entire city and surrounding area of Cusco contained were well worth it. 

I suppose it is time to start the water works and reflect on everything that I’m going to miss about Peru.  One of the things I will miss the most is my host mother’s cooking…and Peruvian food in general.  The food is very rich and full of flavor, and I will definitely miss it.  Of course, along with this I will miss my Peruvian family—Luzmilla and Max, and their son Iván who is my age.  They have been nothing but welcoming and I couldn’t have asked for a better family to stay with.  I never thought I’d say it, but Inca Cola has really grown on me.  I am going to miss this bubble-gum flavored soda more than words can say.  Also, I will miss other typical Peruvian drinks such as Chicha Morada or the many different fruit smoothies that are simply delightful. 
I have made some pretty great friends here in Peru, not only from Peru but also from Nebraska.  I am definitely going to miss seeing them every day, but of course I have made some friends that I will most likely never see again (even though I would love to and hope to one day).  Everyone is so nice here and they treat you like family.  I could make a long list right here and now with the names of all the nice Peruvians I have met and will miss when I leave, but that list would be endless. 
I have friends I met here in Peru that I feel like I’ve known for my entire life but it’s really only been a few months.  Two Peruvians that have shown me the most hospitality and friendship since I’ve been living in Lima are my friends David and Kevin Salinas, who happen to be the host brothers of one of the students from Nebraska.  When I was having issues with my first host, they took me in, helped me pack up my stuff, and made sure I was getting fed and had a proper place to stay.  For that, I will be eternally grateful.  Yes, they are my friends, but I truly will always call them the brothers that I never had.  I don’t think I would’ve made it through the rest of the trip if it weren’t for their kindness and support when I was in need.
What I will miss most about Peru and the city of Lima is the 24/7 liveliness.  Everyone is so carefree and full of life.  Everyone gets up early and stays up until it’s almost light again…whether you’re dancing your pants off at a local club or out eating at a restaurant with your family and friends.  The family atmosphere goes right along with it.  Nobody takes any thing for granted and they are thankful for every hour and every second that they get to spend together.  Although I have absolutely loved living with a true Peruvian, mom-and-dad family, it has really made being away from my family that much harder.  I have grown such a bigger appreciation for the ones I love and I am fortunate that I still have all of them in my life.  
The weeks keep passing by; days are getting crossed off the calendar quickly approaching the day that I am returning back to “The Good Life.”  My experience abroad in Lima, Peru has been an unforgettable journey full of ups, downs, laughs, cries, and lots of “wows.”  I never in a million years thought I’d be able to live in a foreign country on my own for an entire semester.  After much persuasion from my family and friends, I decided to jump in with both feet.  Words will never express how thankful I am for getting that little nudge to take this adventure on.  It was by no means easy, but I have learned so much about Spanish, Peruvian culture, and life in general.  For that, I am eternally thankful.  I am more than ready to be home and see my family, but Peru has really shown me an educationally and culturally awesome time.  I’m returning to “The Good Life,” but life here has been pretty great. 
Thanks for the memories, Peru.  I will forever cherish the moments I’ve spent with you and I hope to see you again one day.  ¡Hasta luego!  


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

La Última Gran Aventura Peruana de Whitney

I feel like I can finally stop and breathe again! These last three weeks have been absolutely CRAZY! First we traveled to Ica, then Iquitos, and the grand finale (drumroll) ............ Machu Picchu! I seriously can't believe that I have been traveling, literally, at least 12 out of the last 21 days. I am exhausted and extremely behind on online class homework, but I am excited to share my pictures and my stories!

As if we all weren't exhausted enough when we returned from Iquitos on Monday, we crammed in homework, studying for tests, and doing laundry so we could pack up again and head for Cusco at 3am Thursday morning. We knew that we would get a small nap in before activities started later that day, so we weren't too worried about the altitude sickness or exhaustion. But, I had no idea how high the elevation was in this historical town. There were some places we went to that had an altitude of over 13,000 feet, including our hotel! Lets just say this, walking up two flights of stairs to get to my room was the only physical activity I was up for on our first day in Cusco. It was a very hard adjustment, even after taking medicine. Even on the last night in Cusco, I rolled over in bed during the middle of the night and thought I was going to pass took my breath away.

After a much needed nap and bowl of chicken noodle soup, we headed out to visit some very historical sights around Cusco. We visited Qorikancha--a convent near our hotel, Basílica Cathedral, Saqsayhuamán--Incan ruins pronounced somewhat like "sexy woman", Tambomachay, Pukapukara, and many other places and names that you have no idea what I'm talking about. Needless to say, after finding a nice cafe with American food and taking a nice hot shower, we were all ready for bed. (Which was a good thing because our journey to Machu Picchu began at 6am the next morning!

Bright and early, we loaded our mini bus to get to the bus station. Once at the bus station, we loaded a larger bus with a few other passengers and took an hour and a half ride to the train station. Once we were at the train station, we boarded our train and took a two hour ride to a little area called "Aguas Calientes". After this, we boarded our final bus and waited 30 more minutes before we finally got to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World! If you were doing the math and calculating bathroom breaks, train stops, and other issues, you would see that it took us from 6am to  about 11:30am to finally get to our destination! I don't really have much to say about this trip other The pictures I took are beautiful, but they will never do it justice. The view was by far the best few in the whole country! The long travels, homesickness, and exhaustion were all worth it. After spending the afternoon there and the rest of the evening to get back home, we were all ready to get some shut eye and prepare for Saturday's events.

On Saturday we got to wake up a little bit later and we headed to an animal refugee area about 20 minutes from where we were staying in Cusco. This place was so cool! We were able to see many different llamas, alpacas, birds, condors, and even a puma! All of these animals were rescued and are being nursed back to health in hopes of being returned to the wild. Later during the day, we visited other ancient ruins and had many kodak moments. Now I can also say I've visited the Sacred Valley! After getting back around 6pm, we all decided to rest for a while before going out to eat and finding a cool bar to hang out at. It was a very relaxing night, and we were all happy to go back to the cafe with the American food and eat some comfort food.  Unfortunately, later that night we found out that we had to check out of our hotel the next morning at 9:30am. So, we headed home and tried to get some sleep before leaving early the next morning to do some shopping.

After a few hours of shopping the next morning, it was time to head to the airport and get ready to fly back home. Of course our flight was delayed for over an hour. (We have not had ONE flight from Peruvian Airlines leave or arrive on time. I've flown 6 times with this airline. So Peruvian Airlines is not recommended for any of you travelers out there.) We finally got home later that night and I was so happy to be somewhere where I could walk up a flight of stairs and not get winded. My family was waiting for me to get home with supper and I had a good time talking with them about my trip and showing them pictures.

So what happens now? I am getting ready to finish my last few weeks left at UPC. It is so bittersweet. I am more than excited to go home and see my family and friends, but I am going to miss the liveliness and sense of adventure in the atmosphere of Perú. I'm sad to say that this is my last blog post that will have details about a big trip, but I am happy to be "home" and spending time in the good ole' city of Lima. So thankful for this opportunity and the amount of love and support I have gotten from everyone back home. I'm counting down the days until I go home as well as counting my blessings.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Never-ending Adventure

WOW. I can't believe how much I have experienced in these last two weeks. They went by so fast! First Ica, then Iquitos and the Amazon, now............(Drumroll).........Machu Picchu! I am so excited to announce that in 2 very short days I will be boarding a plane and heading for Cusco! The good news was announced last Thursday when we were getting ready to leave for Iquitos. Can you believe it? 3 trips in 3 weeks? I am running pretty low on sleep, but the excitement and adventure that I am experiencing are keeping me alive! Now, let me tell  you about my unexpected, crazy, natural, buggy adventure in the Amazon.

I don't think anyone had any idea what we were getting into when we booked this tour of the Amazon. It included 2 nights and 3 days packed full of adventures and we were so excited, but we didn't know what to expect at all. Turns out, we got to Iquitos and took a long boat ride to our camp....literally IN the Amazon rainforest. It was a beautiful place that even had a room full of hammocks to hang out in. (See what I did there?) Haha. The biggest issue we had with our camp, no electricity. We did have it from 7-9 at night but that was usually when we were busy doing something or eating supper. Yes, this means no light, no phone charging, and cold water. We truly got to experience the nature of the jungle...bugs, wildlife, lots of rain, and the constant hum of noises they make. It was CRAZY hot and extremely humid, so we were definitely miserable during many points of the trip. But the adventures we had during our stay made it all worth it.

The first day, we made it to our camp and went on a 2-hour walk through the jungle. We saw lots of different bugs and frogs, along with a tarantula! Eeek! Afterwards, we all went back to camp to rest and eat supper. After we ate, we even went on a night walk through the jungle! We saw gigantic spiders, frogs, bats, tree rats, and even a snake! It was terrifying....but I am so glad that I survived. 

The next day, we were supposed to go pihrana fishing but it was raining very hard, so we decided to travel to "Monkey Island" where we were really in for a treat. We got off the boat and everyone was hurrying under the building on the island because it was raining. On our way in, we saw this adorable little monkey who didn't seem to be too scared of us at all. Sam said, "I wonder if this little guy will get on my arm" and before he could finish his sentence the monkey jumped up and started climbing to his shoulder! We found out that lots of the monkeys on the island were pretty used to seeing and interacting with humans. Once we got inside the building, we were blessed to experience the company of many different monkeys, a turtle, sloth, parrots, a tucan, caiman, and a gigantic snake! This was by far one of our favorite parts of our Amazonian adventure. Once we got back, we rested for a while and then boarded the boat to go looking for pink dolphins. We did somewhat see a few gray dolphins but we didn't have very much luck. However, we did get a chance to swim in the river for a while before we went back to camp and I thought that was pretty cool. How many people can say they've swam in the Amazon River? Now I can!

On our last day, we went pihrana fishing in the morning. Unfortunately, the pihranas that we were fishing for were mostly smaller than any goldfish I've ever had...but it is cool that I can say I tried. Nobody had luck in catching one, but Haley did catch a small catfish! While in this tree-covered cove, we saw a few iguanas and also a few snakes in the trees. This was my nightmare! I was afraid that the snakes would jump on our boat from the trees, but thankfully we survived!  After our fishing excursion, we went back to camp and walked about 10 minutes through the jungle to visit a native indian tribe called the Yahua. Here, they gave us a short presentation of their culture and even showed us a few of their traditional dances, in which we had to participate. After this, we went back to camp and ate lunch before heading back to Iquitos.

This is where another adventure truly begins. First of all, the boat ride was over twice as long as before  to get back because we were traveling upstream. So, 2.5 hours later, we finally arrived at Iquitos and got in taxis to head for the airport. We got to the airport, got our tickets, waited as they were delayed for over an hour, finally boarded the plane, waited another 30 minutes, and then we were told to exit the plane as they were having technical difficulties. Soooooo, we got off the plane, later to realize that we wouldn't be getting back on it that night. In fact, we wouldn't be leaving that night. A very long story short, we waited in line from 9pm to 1am in order to book a new flight for the next day and get hotel/transportation arrangements made. We finally got to our hotel, showered, and got some sleep in the AC before heading back to the airport at 11am the next morning.

After getting checked in and through security, eating lunch, and waiting another hour due to delays, we finally boarded the plane and began our much awaited journey home to Lima. To make matters even worse, we had a stop in another airport to drop off/pick up other passengers before we got to Lima. We were never made aware of this so we were pretty upset that we got delayed on our trip home even more. To make matters even more worse, my taxi ride home from the airport took 2 hours! Usually if there isn't traffic it is a 35-40 minute drive. It was crazy rush hour times a million and I don't want to get in another taxi for a long long long long time.

But now, here I am at home in my room in Lima. I made it! I am so happy that I can say I survived a weekend in the Amazon with no electricity in the ridiculous heat/humidity. (Although I do have a ridiculous amount of mosquito bites all over my body.) It was a once in a lifetime trip and I will never forget it. Now, I am back home to do some laundry and pack up again to leave for Machu Picchu early Thursday morning. Hopefully we have some better luck with this trip and not too many complications. I can't wait to get back and share even more pictures with everyone! I have class in an hour, so I better get going. Thanks for checking in, as always. ¡Hasta luego!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

So much to little time!

These past two weeks have been absolutely crazy! I have had so much to do in terms of homework, studying for tests, online classes, and traveling that I had to actually had to write down a list of everything that I've done in the past week so I could remember what to write in my blog! I have seen and done so much in such a small amount of time.

Starting with last Saturday, I decided to stay home all day and work on homework, do my laundry, and pack for our trip to Ica. It was a LONG day and I had a lot of homework to do online so I could stay ahead while we were gone for the trip. Also, I was really looking forward to watching SNL that evening because Justin Timberlake was the host...but we had to be at the bus station at 6:45am Sunday morning so I decided I better get some sleep.

Sunday morning we all arrived bright and early to the bus station and boarded one of the most luxurious busses I've ever seen in my life. The seats were extremely comfy and included a foot/leg rest and a recliner. They played good movies, had air conditioning, and served us breakfast. I was a little disappointed to have to get off the bus after the 4-hour ride...but once we got to the resort I was excited for our trip to officially begin!

We dropped off our things in our room and then decided to go to the center of town to eat some lunch. Then, we all really couldn't wait to go sand boarding, so we made some reservations and headed for Las Dunas in Huacachina. It was an absolute blast! We rode in giant dune buggies up and down some steeeeep sand dunes and then we stopped at 3 different dunes to give sand-boarding a try. (Hopefully I should have a few videos up on Facebook soon once I figure that out!) Once we were finished, we all were covered head to toe in sand...seriously.

Since we were out, we decided to go to a local winery on our way back to the resort. Ica is supposed to be well known for producing some of the best pisco and wine in the entire country of Peru, so we were pretty excited to see how it is all done. (If you didn't know, pisco is a very traditional/popular liquor here that is a brandy made from grapes. Not my favorite drink....but I guess I can say I've tried it.) After the tour and the taste-testing, we got back to the resort for just enough time to have a four-on-four basketball tournament in the pool before it closed. It was the perfect ending to a day that was chalked-full of adventures.

Monday, we all were up bright and early at 6:30 to head to the coast for our tour of Las Islas Ballestas. Unfortunately, we were delayed almost an hour due to fog and weather, but two cups of coffee later (yes, black and Grandma Terri should be proud) we were finally in our boat and heading to the islands! There were literally HUNDREDS of sea lions and it was so cool to see all of them together. We also saw quite a bit of them swimming along the side of our boat. We also got to see other animals like thousands and thousands of birds that proved to be pretty dangerous when flying above our boat with full bowels. (haha) We saw some gigantic jellyfish next to our boat and we even saw penguins! Who knew that I'd get to see penguins in South America? It was so neat! After the tour, we spent the rest of the day swimming at the pool and going down the pretty awesome water slide. We played about every single children's game that you played in the local pool when you were 7 years old with your friends and we had a blast. Later in the evening, we had a few drinks and played cards and had fun telling stories and enjoying each others company.

Tuesday, we all woke up fairly late in the morning with just enough time to pack up our things and drink our free frozen limonadas from the bar by the pool. I was sad to leave Ica, and I knew that the entire bus ride home would include studying for the grammar test I had the next day and doing homework. It was a much longer/more miserable ride than before because the AC wasn't really working the greatest, either. But we finally made it home.

Wednesday, we had classes all day because we missed class on Tuesday due to our trip. So, we had grammar class at 9am-12pm and then literature from 2-5pm like normal. Unfortunately, I stayed up until 2am studying for the grammar test we were supposed to have, and I didn't even hear my alarm go off for class. Needless to say, I was a good 45 minutes late to class. Thankfully we didn't have to take our quiz, but I was a little bummed that I stayed up so late to prepare for something I didn't need to! After classes, a few of us went to the store to get items we needed for our trip, and then I worked on homework again until almost 2am. It has been really hard for me to take 12 credits here along with 6 credits of online classes. Thankfully it's almost Spring Break for UNK so that will be a good break from online classes for me!

Today, I am getting ready to go to class from 4-7pm and then I plan on coming straight home, packing, and going to bed! Our plane for Iquitos (the Amazon) leaves at 6:30am tomorrow, so we are leaving my house for the airport at 3:30am. That's in almost 12 hours! I am beyond excited for this trip, however. We get to tour floating islands, witness the many wildlife of the jungle, and even go fishing for pihranas. I can't wait to come back and share all of my adventures with you all. I better finish this novel up so I can do some last minute homework before I go to class. ¡Chao!

Monday, March 4, 2013

There's no place like home...

Well I've officially been at my new home for a week now. It has been an absolute blessing and I can't express how thankful I am for the Patrucco's for taking me in when I needed them. Not only have I been blessed with their love, support, and company, but I have also been fed some Peru's finest dishes in the short time span of one week. The food has been absolutely incredible and I haven't had anything I didn't like. I've had all sorts of different dishes from cow hearts and pork to sheep and yuca...and I am not complaining! I've never been a picky eater, and I am so thankful for that. It has been really fun to have something different to eat every day. Each day is a new experience and I'm loving it.

Last week was one of the most stressful weeks I've had as a student at UPC. As if my online classes don't add enough work as it is, I had a test every single day of the week...Monday through Thursday. It was especially hard for me because I was also trying to adapt to my new life in the Patrucco household. But, I survived. :)

On Thursday evening, we went out with some of our Peruvian friends to a disco and had a great time dancing to great music. Needless to say I was very tired when I woke up on Friday morning. That evening, we decided to take it easy and go see Here Comes the Boom in theaters. It was a pretty funny movie, but our heads hurt after it was over because the movie was entirely in Spanish! I was definitely ready for bed after that. On Saturday, a few of my friends and I went to this well-known shopping market called Polvo Azules that was supposed to have really cheap goods. We went around 3pm and it was absolutely CRAZY. There were people everywhere and it was pretty miserable for me. I am hoping to return during a week day sometime to see if I can actually get some shopping done. That evening, we decided to go to Miraflores and walk around to some of the different bars/discos that were in the area. We had a great time together and it was nice to take a break from the stress of studying and homework that was so excessive during the week.

And here is the part of my blog where y'all get to listen to me whine and be all mooshy-gooshy and cliché. First of all, I know I say that homesickness has started to kick in before....but I think I've reached an even higher level. I Skyped my parents on Sunday and had them meet my Peruvian family, and I bawled my eyes out for the first 20 minutes I talked to them. Sometimes I wish I could slip on some red sparkly slippers and click my heels 3 times like Dorothy so I could go home just to hug and kiss everyone, but I've had to pinch myself a couple of times and remind myself that it isn't reality.  I get to talk to my mom and sister quite a bit considering we all have iPhones, but communication with my dad isn't so frequent. This daddy's girl is having a rough time with that. I am not ready to leave Peru, but I am more than ready to go home and see my family and my puppies.

Secondly, I want to reflect on the friendships I've been blessed with during this adventure in Peru. I came here kind-of knowing a few people from Spanish classes at UNK, and I am leaving with 11 people I can call friends. I especially want to mention the friendship I've gained with these 3 hooligans.

Through troubles with host families, being homesick, and the stresses of being a student in a Spanish-speaking country, Sam, Luke & Haley have always been there. It is nice to have someone to lean on when things just aren't going right. It's also nice to know that I have friends I can be comfortable with and be myself around. Don't think I would've made it this far without them!

And last, but certainly not least, I have to stop and say something about missing this guy.
As summer is quickly approaching back home in the US, I am reminded that in July I will have spent the last 5 years of my life with this crazy dude. Time has flown by so fast! Seems like just yesterday I was just the high school band nerd/cheerleader dating the homecoming king. Now My boyfriend is graduating and I am studying in a different country. Crazy! These last few months have most definitely not been easy, and I can't thank him enough for baring with me. I am having the time of my life here in Peru, but it kills me not being there for him during his last semester student teaching in Grand Island. It is exciting for me to hear about all of the wonderful experience he is getting out of this semester, and I can't wait to get back in April and watch him graduate from UNK! I am one proud girlfriend, and I hope he knows that. :)

And....that concludes the lovey-dovey posts of the week. Thanks for checking in and keeping up with my crazy adventure. On Sunday, we leave for Ica so hopefully I will have some fun pictures and stories to share. ¡Hasta luego!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Holy crap, I don't remember the last time I sat down and wrote in this blog. A lot has happened in the past two weeks and it has honestly been pretty rough to say the least. I don't really have any pictures to share with you, and I don't have much to say about the events that have taken place in the last few weeks, so here it goes.

For starters, UNK gave us the no-go on our trip to Macchu Pichu. I was really hoping that this blog post would be chalked full of beautiful pictures and experiences to share with everyone, but I guess I will have to save it for another time. There has been a kidnapping warning that went out to all American travelers through the Embassy here in Peru and they advised that it isn't safe to travel to Cusco and the area until after February. So, unfortunately we had to cancel. We are all hoping and praying that we can reschedule it for little or no cost during the month of I will update on this situation when I know more later in the month! 

To make matters even worse, my debit card number somehow got hacked, so when I tried to get money with my card through the ATM, it ATE my card and left me with nothing. So, I had no cash and no credit card that allows cash withdrawal. And I am in South America. Ahh. Luckily I have another card coming in the mail hopefully soon, and a friend had some money to spare that I could borrow from them until I have a card of my own. Thank God! 

Another big even that occurred this last week was that I decided to move host families. I very much enjoyed my time living with Fabricio, but I found that living with two men in their late twenties and early thirties was not so easy for a 20 year old girl like me. It was not an easy decision to make, and it was a struggle living out of bags for almost a week, but what I am about to describe about my new home life will definitely prove that it was worth the trouble.

I talked with Cynthia in the International Office and she helped me find another family that possibly wanted to be my new host. We visited them after I had class on Wednesday and I instantly fell in love with the house and the people who could potentially be my new family. I was excited to hear that they accepted me into their home and I just recently moved in this Sunday. Besides the fact that I have an awesome mom, dad, and brother here....I think my favorite part has been the AIR CONDITIONING! I feel so spoiled. I am so very thankful to the Patrucco's for taking me in at such late notice and for treating me like one of the family after being in the house for the first 20 minutes. I've only been here for 3 days and I've been served some of the best meals I've tasted in Peru. I go to bed at night now finally feeling like I have a home and I belong somewhere. Sometimes I get teary because I can finally be at peace and have the consistency of home life here in Peru.

One fun thing that happened yesterday was the birthday celebration for my new Peruvian brother, Iván. He turned 20 yesterday, so there was a big supper with lots of family members that lasted from about 8 until midnight. It was so fun to meet everybody and experience some amazing Peruvian food. I think I'm going to have to go on a run or two this week to make up for the amount of food I ate yesterday! 

This new family life I've experienced this week has really helped sooth the homesickness that has become worse since these issues have arose. I miss my puppies, my boyfriend, my family, and my friends so much it hurts. These last few weeks were really rough for me, especially without all of those wonderful people here physically to support me. However, I can't thank all of my friends here that have lent a hand. Whether is was lending me money, giving me a place to stay, or simply asking me how I was holding up, I will forever appreciate it. I have gained some great friends here in Peru, both from Nebraska and Lima as well. Everyone has been so willing to help and support me, no matter what it was that I needed. 

This week is pretty packed with exams, homework, and lots of tasks to do for my two online classes. So, this is why my blog post is pretty straight and to the point. On that note, I better go finish up my studying for my literature exam. Adios!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mi Aventura a Arequipa!

Well, a LOT has happened since I last updated this blog. Nothing too exciting happened during the week. But, this weekend was such a blast! Me and 8 of my classmates from Nebraska journeyed to the beautiful Colca Valley near the city of Arequipa!

Our plane left on Friday morning bright and early at 6:00am. The problem is, we (thought we lived) live close to an hour away from the airport and we wanted to be there within at least 1.5 or 2 hours early. To make matters worse, our professor, Marta from UNK came down with a terrible case of food poisoning on Thursday evening, so she was unable to make the trip with us. We were so bummed for her! But, we met with Marta before we left and of course she said the show must go on. After some rearranging, we all met at UPC at 2:45am...some of us with only an hour or less of sleep. But, we were off!

We arrived at the airport in Arequipa at 7:30am and had about a 2 hour wait for our guide to pick us up.  Gonzalo picked us up and helped us carry our luggage to the bus as we met the other passengers from Peru and Chile who joined us on the journey. Colca Valley is about a good 3 hours or more from Arequipa, so we had a long day ahead of us. To top it all off, we were driving up into the mountains at a very high altitude. Needless to say, after the first hour or so of driving many of us were already feeling sick. Our first stop was at a little store with a restroom and people selling homemade goods. Here, we also tried mate de coca, which is pretty much hot tea with coca leaves in it. (tasted like green tea to me) It is supposed to help cure the symptoms of altitude sickness and make you feel better. Thankfully it helped for a while, but the trip kept getting higher and higher. After a while, the tea wore off and we were all ready to get off of that dang bus!

After we arrived at our hotel in Chivay (in Colca Valley) we took a short siesta and got ready to head to the hot springs with the group. The pool looked really dirty, but it was very it was natural, hot water being filtered into the area. After the hot springs, we got ready and ate supper with the rest of the group.

We went to a nice little restaurant that had live entertainment for us. There were four men singing and playing instruments, and every once in a while there were traditional dances performed for us. During a few of the songs, the dancers would pick people out of the audience to come up and dance with them. Of course, I was the lucky one.

The dance I was talked into doing was a very odd one. It involved a piece of fruit being carried around by one dancer and the other dancer chasing after it. Once they receive the fruit they fall to the floor because it was apparently poisonous. In order to wake up the poisoned dancer, the other takes a whip-like rope and hits the unconscious dancer's legs with it. After finally awakening the sick dancer (the woman), the male dancer throws the female dancer over his shoulder and carries her away. Of course, when I was asked to come up and dance I got to reenact this. Yes, I was whipped fairly roughly on my legs and yes I was thrown over a dancer's shoulders like a sack of potatoes and carried away. It was a great time.

The next day, we woke up and began exploring Colca Valley very early around 6:30am. We stopped at many different view points and got some great pictures. (Check Facebook to see more!) Unfortunately the later it got, the cloudier it got so after a while we didn't have the best view. This was especially disappointing when we got to "el cruce de condor" where we were supposed to have a good chance of seeing condors. When I say it was cloudy...I mean we were literally IN the clouds. It was so weird. Luckily, we did see a few condors but they were so far away that it didn't really seem to affect me. I am, however, glad that this was really the only disappointing factor of the tour.

After touring more of Colca Valley, we returned to Arequipa and found our next hotel, which was really like a bed and breakfast. It was very, very nice and it had a full kitchen and living room that we were allowed to use whenever we wanted. Since we ended up spending more money on food during the tour than we thought, we decided to hit up the local grocery store and fix up a good old' supper of mac and cheese with ham sandwiches and fresh fruit. It was so delicious and we had a good time making it together! This will always be a special memory for me when I think about the trip.

One pretty scary thing we found out when we were traveling in Arequipa was the fact that there were about 18 deaths in Arequipa due to the insane amount of rain. Apparently this day was the most rain that they had ever had! We didn't see much of the destruction or flooding, but some of us had host parents and Peruvian friends calling/texting us to make sure we were safe. We had no idea rain could be so deadly!

After eating, we played cards and hung out together. Then, we decided that we wanted to go out downtown and see what the discos were like in Arequipa. We had a blast and danced until we were exhausted! We were all ready to go home the next day, but it was pretty hard to leave such a beautiful place!

This week has been pretty busy with homework for classes here and for my online classes, but nothing too interesting has been happening so far. I am really excited to say that next weekend (Feb 21st) I will be heading to Cusco to see Machu Picchu! I am so ready to go and I can hardly wait! Thanks again to everyone reading this and keeping tabs on what I'm up to. Homesickness has definitely started kicking in...especially when February rolled around. But, I am loving my time here and I can't believe how fast time has flown.

Hasta luego!