Saturday, August 27, 2016

The End and a New Beginning

Hello again everyone! Long time no talk!
Well I recently decided to scrapbook my Peruvian Adventure while it is still semi-fresh in my mind. And since I didn't write a blog post about my last week I thought I might as well whip one up to include in my scrapbook but also let everyone know about the awesome last trip I took before coming home! Since the blogs were for class it got so crazy after school that I never got around to writing this- so here it goes... (sorry it's so long! I have a short life update at the end about now) :)

The End of School
With our class, we went and visited a local school. None of us really knew what to expect so we were just thrown into talking in front of the entire school. We told them where we were from and what we were studying. They all sang the Peruvian national anthem for us and then we were told we had to sing ours for them...that was interesting haha! But we got some good Peruvian snacks while sitting around with some of the teachers. That was during our finals week- which was pretty stressful having to go back over everything while trying not to think how I was leaving this beautiful place in just a few weeks. Buuuut they were my last finals ever (!!!!) so I sucked it up. :)
All the students waiting for us
Our snack table! 

A few days later was our Last Hurrah! Mariah and Emi were heading to the airport the next day, so it was our last time as a whole group- so depressing! So obviously we chose to hold it at our favorite place, The Gringo Bar! Starbra were both there, as were both our teachers Rob and Josue! Starbra talked to us a bit and gave us all windmill pins (it's there thing- very sweet) then we laughed the night away. It was so much fun, but also very sad with it being our last group outing in Peru! :(

Watching the sunset before the Last Hurrah!
We found a really good wing place! (Of course right before we leave)

Then my dad came to visit!!
He was only there for 3 days, just like my mom was, so I showed him some of the highlights of Lima- mainly the food and drinks though! We went to the see the fountains, and Barranco, met my family, and walked around the shops quite a bit! We also got to go see the ruins in the middle of the city. That is something so weird and cool to see. There were these ancient ruins with so much history and skyscrapers all around it. Could you imagine living in an apartment and having a view of ancient ruins while also being just a block from your local bar and grocery store?? So crazy- sounds perfect to me!
His first Pisco Sour in Peru!! Of course we go get some right after his flight gets in :)
Walking around the city
This was the BEST ceviche I've ever had- glad I got to share it with him! :)
The infamous water tunnel
The ruins with a nice view, or vice versa...
It was pretty tall for being in the desert!

I can't begin to describe how lucky I am to have two parents that both made the very long trip just to come see me for 3 days! I got to share a huge part of my life with them, and got to show them things that my descriptions would never do justice. My dad ended up liking Lima a lot more than my mom did, it was similar to New York- which he always enjoys traveling to (and has taken me to visit a lot throughout my life)!

The Last Trip
The day after my dad left, Ahnika and I hopped on a plane and headed to Arequipa (the city my host dad was from)! It is a very historic city that is surrounded by mountains, even from the airport it was beautiful! When we got to our hostel we received some bad news: the whole city was out of water for 24 hours. But in Peru, we knew 24 hours could always turn into much longer- which meant no washing hands and no showers. :( We survived on hand sanitizer and showered the next day (don't worry). We met some really cool people in the hostel from all over the world! The first day we just hung out in the hostel and explored a little bit to acclimate to the altitude. But finding a restaurant that was open was tough (due to the no water thing), but we did end up finding one- not the best place but it was food. We then walked around a famous monetary: Monestario de Santa Catalina. It was seriously so cool to explore on our own time and look in all the rooms and read the history. We easily spent a few hours there just wandering around and making sure we saw every last part (it was a bit confusing); it's also still a functioning monastery so we were also trying to see the current nuns and figure out where they live at. That night we ate enjoyed some pizza and wine by the fire of this little restaurant.
Arequipa's Plaza de Armas was the most beautiful I had seen in all of Peru- by far my favorite!

 The main church all lit up at night
During the day it was pretty grand as well
The monastery's gardens were beautiful

The view from the rooftop of the monastery 
I climbed every staircase to see if we could go up- most of them were closed though
I wouldn't mind walking down this every day

The next day we headed to Colca Canyon- the deepest canyon in the world (yes, deeper than the Grand canyon)! We got up at like 3:30 and waited in the lobby of the hostel. Some drunk/weird guy was still up and started talking to us and woke up the front desk worker for us- even though we didn't need anything. Very odd. So we rode this bus for what seemed like forever and couldn't feel my toes the whole time. You may have gathered from all my hiking posts in the past that we did not pack well for cold climates. Yes, we are used to Nebraska's changing weather but at 3:30 am in the mountains is beyond freezing (literally). Around 6 we stopped for breakfast and gobbled up all the food and tea trying to de-thaw ourselves. We saw a volcano and waited for the condors. Condors are Peru's national bird and they are huge. They live towards the bottom of the canyon and usually at about 9am they start flying up around the top of the canyon. Along with hundreds of others, we waited patiently hoping we get the chance to see one. They started soaring around and I took hundreds of photos. They were so majestic and mesmerizing to watch- it was so amazing! The number they usually hope to have their tours see is like 5...but if I remember correctly we saw 14!!! There were so many of them flying back and forth that I just watched and watched until it was time to go. We drove around for a while longer and saw a lot more of the mountain side (and a lot of alpacas! Yay!!)
That night we went to this french restaurant and ordered chef's surprise (he actually was french). It was pretty good, not my favorite though. Afterwards we went to a chocolate shop that I saw some good reviews on to hang out for the night- it was terrible. We both got hot chocolate and a brownie, turns out all they used was dark chocolate. So these treats were gross and not sweet whatsoever. We tried to choke down as much as we could before we had to stop and duck out of there before everyone knew we hated it. 

I seriously love alpacas
I'm not sure if you can see them, but there are 4 condors flying in this one
They're both so cute!
The grandest canyon in the world!
We didn't end up taking many pictures together on this trip, unfortunately

The next morning we got on a bus and rode for a few hours to get to Puno. Here we came to see the highest navigable lake in the world: Lake Titicaca! This place was even colder and at an even higher altitude. We headed right for the hostel (which had one heater in the common space), which was freezing and jumped into bed. We lounged around for a while, trying to not get altitude sick by drinking our body weight in Coca Tea and taking it real easy. The next day we got up early to go see the lake and Las Islas Flotantes (The Floating Islands). These islands have been there for hundreds of years and people are still living on them today just as they did back then. They are made of reeds that grow in the lake and are very thick but are able to float. Other than having a group of tourists come every day, some now having motor boats, and some having cable, they really do live quite similar to their ancestors. We listened to them talk about their history, how the islands are made and showed some of their crafts they made. We then rode a boat to another island that had a little shop with snacks and some more items for purchase. After that we headed back to the hostel and explored a little bit. We found a really good restaurant with a fireplace, wifi, and really good tea- so we stayed there for as long as we could until we needed to go to bed.
The islands
Our hosts waiting for us
There were a lot of them!
Our only other picture together from this trip
The boat we road in between islands
The islands were bouncy/cushiony- hard to explain
The leader of this island explaining how the islands work

That afternoon we headed back to the bus stop to ride the bus back to Arequipa. We were seriously sick of busses after Peru, the busses took forever and were crowded and just-ugh. That night we just headed back to the hostel (same one as before) and ate some pb&js we had made. The next morning we walked around and bought some of our last gifts before we had to head home-home. For brunch we found this other highly-rated place that changed my life forever. I had ordered a Caprese crepe, but instead of mozzarella it had goat cheese (I love goat cheese). This is literally the best thing I have ever eaten, and I am writing this three months later and I still think about it often. Haha! Pathetic but so so good. Ahnika and I played some dice game she taught me for a while until we went back to head to the airport to fly back to Lima.

I want to cry just looking at this pure beauty

The Last of Lima
We only had a day and a half after we got back from Arequipa to pack up before leaving for America. It was so weird knowing that in just 2 days I would be back home. My life had changed so much that I couldn't imagine going back to what I was before. How would this experience change me in my everyday life? Would it? I didn't want to come back and be the same as before I had this adventure. I got out of my comfort zone, I pushed myself, I challenged myself daily. I had experienced so many amazing things that I felt so lucky to have done it all, and sad to have it come to an end. I didn't have to leave for the airport until around 9:00 pm, so I had a whole day and had packed most of it before I left for Arequipa. So Ahnika and I went to get some ice cream at the first place my host mom took me for ice cream. It was my first day and last day. The same place. A different me.

That night my family all gathered and sat at the table talking until I had to leave. My dad took his car to the shop the day before and hadn't gotten it back yet. So me and Ahnika got our last taxi and watched Lima out our windows. It was sad, yet exciting. I was going to be home, with my best friend waiting at the airport for me, I was going to graduate in 3 days, and start my full-time job in a little over a week. SO many mixed emotions.
I love my whole familia so much!! I'm so happy I got to join their family for 4 months <3

Me Now
I have now been working for 3 months at Habitat for Humanity of Sarpy County as the Development & Special Events Coordinator, and I am really enjoying it! I am getting comfortable in my role and figuring out how to best do my job to improve our organization! I have let my Spanish sort of fall through, unfortunately, so I need to pick it back up so I can continue to improve! I'm really starting to miss the constant adventure of living in Peru and am trying to curb my wanderlust by finding things to do and places to go, but it seems I'm the only one of my friends able to travel right now so I'm just waiting. Not that I'm this grand, ole-wise adult now, but I've come to a lot of realizations within the last few months: about myself, my friends, my life, my future. Now that I'm not busy with school, I have free time so I'm learning about myself- what I need, what I deserve, and what I want. It is really refreshing!

I have decided to make this scrapbook since I have been missing Peru lately, so hopefully I will relive it a little through my pictures and my blog! I want to thank everyone for reading my blog posts all this time (especially this really long one) and supporting me through this journey. My schooling and my Peru is finally coming to an end with me writing this final piece.
<3 Chau mis amores <3

Officially an adult. Thanks to my amazing parents for providing me with a world of opportunities and endless support in anything and everything I want to do. There's no way I could've made it to where I am today without the endless positive influences you have made throughout my life.
I love you both.

Monday, April 18, 2016

I am the Amazon

Hostel problems:
We arrived in Iquitos around midnight Wednesday night, there were surprisingly taxis waiting for us with our names to take us to the hostel. We found out that surprisingly, Iquitos is about the same size as Omaha but is so vastly different. I thought the Omaha airport was small, Iquitos only has 2 gates. The city, which is made up of many different little towns, is only accessible by boat or plane. No driving to and from anywhere outside the city. So crazy! Anyway, we arrive at our hostel (that we made reservations at btw) and the lady kindly informs us that she has no room for us. Ahnika showed her the confirmation they sent her and somehow they decided to not hold a room for us. Thankfully she felt bad so she called around until a hostel had enough space for all 6 of us. This place was super nice and had A/C!!! 

To the jungle:
We woke up early and headed to the jungle, our tour picked us up from our hostel and we drove to the port and went down river for about 2 hours. When we finally arrived at the little camp site I felt like I was back at church camp, except this was the Amazon Rainforest! I was already getting eaten by bugs because for some reason I am a tasty treat for them. After setting our stuff down and hanging in some hammocks (pun intended) we ate lunch. A little after that we packed up and headed to Monkey Island. This was my dream. I got to play with monkeys and hold them and I was so full of happiness. At one point I was taking a picture for Danielle and a monkey landed on my shoulder and as much as it scared me it was awesome! Some of the monkeys were play fighting and would fall from a tree onto or into our arms. It was so cool, especially since it was wild, the monkeys and birds and everything could come and go as they please, but since there's food and people rescue some monkeys and donate them here. They were all so happy and entertaining to watch. I also held quite a few birds and an anaconda!! After that we just drove around the river for a while looking for cool things to see. We saw some pink and grey dolphins but they were kind of hard to spot. We returned home just before the sun went down and then went on a short night hike through the jungle with only the sweat on our backs and some headlamps. There were a lot of spikey trees and bugs. But we saw some really cool moths and a tree frog who decided to go on the rest of the trek with us by riding our guide's back (he would not get back onto the plant and just kept jumping back onto him, so we continued)! We returned around dinner time and scarfed down some really good food. By this point, both lunch and dinner had consisted of pickled vegetables, rice, meat (chicken/catfish) and beans. But it really hit the spot. The rooms have big screens and yet are filled with bugs. There is literally no getting away from them. By the time I went to bed, my legs were covered with bites, despite the fact that I wore leggings all day. Oh well. The camp only has power from 6pm-9pm. Just enough time to charge everyone's phones/cameras (since there's no derive out here in the wild, a phone is now just a photo-taking device). Since lights out was at 9 and it was pitch black by 7, we were all in bed ready for bed about 8:30. Sleeping was very rough because the jungle apparently comes alive at night, it was way louder than during the day. So being the light sleeper that I am, I woke up at every and any noise and took forever to fall asleep.
A note about our tour guide Josiah (aka Yaku): He was absolutely amazing. He knew every plant and animal and had worked on tv shows on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and more!! And the most amazing part is, he stopped going to school after elementary school. WOAH! Somehow he started working with scientists and learned from them, then started teaching jungle survival skills and now doing what he loves: showing people like us the time of their lives. 

On our way to the jungle!
If you look close, you can see the line between the rivers. The Amazon is the brown.
So many boat rides
Heading up to camp
Our bungalows 
The hammocks are my favorite place
Yes! I ate Piranha!
So rainforest-y
Huge lillypads!!
Cayman (aka crocodiles)

This monkey jumped on our boat before we could get off and unscrewed the lid to his water bottle!
He was not very friendly. No cracker for Polly.
Related to the Raccoon, he was not too friendly (this day) either
He attacked me for this banana, but he's cute so it's okay
This guy tried stealing my sunglasses
A nice resting spot
Arr Mateys ! 
I love Toucans.
Monkey hugs
Huge tree with a huge (old) Hornet's nest
Just pulling out an anaconda
Apparently hopping in the anaconda's water is no big deal
Squeezing my arm and really heavy

We woke up around 5:45 the next morning and took the boat to go fish for piranhas. Since I have never caught a fish in my life, I expected to just stare at the water the whole time. Little did I know, I have a knack for piranha fishing with a stick. Our guide tied fishing wire and a hook to the stick and we threw our hooks with a piece of beef into the water and had to thrash the end of the pole in the water, I'm assuming to represent a struggle. Then you wait for a bite and yank it up, hoping the nibbles you felt result in a fish and not just an empty hook with no meat. I caught one! I was ecstatic! I could now say my first fish was a piranha!! Then...I caught 5 more. Yes. I caught SIX pirhanas!!! I was so beyond excited! I even got a really big one! If it wasn't for all the bugs, I would come live here as a piranha fisher for the rest of my life. After we caught all the pirhanas jn our area, we drove around a little more and saw a Tiger Rat snake that our guide tried to go grab out of the tree, but it slithered away too fast. He also caught a baby tarantula which I gladly held (it reminded me of the one my first grade teacher had)! Then we stopped at a little village thing to see a Cayman (alligator) and sloth.

Not a wand. This is my fishing pole!
The guide was proud of this big one I caught :)
I proudly caught most of those!
Baby Tarantula 
Yes, I held the tarantula. But I did that in first grade too. No big deal.

Now let me tell you about sloths. I hate them. I personally think they are one of the grossest animals around. Their claws/talons, the way they move on a flat surface. It makes me gag. But I overcame my fear and held the sloth. The fur was not as wirey as I expected and it just looked like a robot. So that may have helped me a little bit. I held it, took some pics (I have both the good smiling ones, and my disgusted face included below) and gave it back to one of the many sloth-lovers in my group. I even got the courage to hold it again, this was the mistake. It grabbed my leg like a tree, oh how cute, then proceeded to get stuck on/in me. It's claws moved around and got caught in the bag and my shorts. It was squeezing by butt with the claws that I hate and was latched onto the back of my shorts and Claire had to pry it off me. That was enough. This is my reason why I still do not like sloths, but they're not as gross as I believed before (but very painful with their grip). 
A baby cayman
"It looks like a robot"
It stared into my soul all morning...creepy
You're really weird
You cannot see the sloth but this is the process of getting him off my shorts
Beautiful reflections
I love it.

We enjoyed some breakfast in a small village and then drove around in the boat a little more to spot neat nature things. After lunch and some more hammock time, we went back to Monkey Island for a little bit. I'm really glad we went on Friday because today there were only 5 monkeys hanging around and they were all preoccupied with each other. They were not really wanting to play with humans, until we got some food in our hands of course. Then the monkeys were climbing all over us and ended up taking our snacks and running off with them. It was pretty cute. Then we went to swim in the river with dolphins!! It was intimidating, especially because the river is very brown so you could not see anything in the water. Anytime I were swimming next to each someone and I brushed up against their leg I freaked out! Some dolphins got pretty close to us, but they're blind and not really used to humans, so they don't usually come right up next to people. But after the heat and the bugs all day, it was so refreshing. That night after dinner we went out on a little boat to look for more things in the dark. We found tree frogs and birds and moths and lots of bats. I really like bats for some reason, I think they are so cool, so seeing so many fly over us was awesome. Thankfully, I passed out once I got in bed, so I caught up on a little sleep.
Monkey Island round 2
What're you looking at?
Swimming in the Amazon!

The next morning we were out of bed by 4:30 and out on the water to see the sunrise over the amazon. Since it rained all night (which is why I slept so hard- I haven't had a thunderstorm or rain since Nebraska!) it was still cloudy in the morning when we woke up. Unfortunately I am only left with my imagination to make the sunrise since it was too overcast for anything. Headed back to the camp and I took one of the best 2 hour naps of my life! Breakfast then we went to a village in the jungle to watch a native dance and shoot a blow dart gun! We took a short hike through the village and out to a little circle where they did the ceremony. Our amazing guide told us some history about them and then the dancing commenced. The little kids had us join in the dances with them and even though it was raining and buggy and muddy, we all really enjoyed it. And I am proud to say that even if my aim with the blow dart gun is not the best (really my aim with anything is just terrible), my accuracy is on point. Another point for Shelby! Then I bought a bracelet and a necklace because why not? They're from the Amazon! This ended our trip and we went back to the camp to eat lunch, pack and nap/hammock time.
He carried a bag full of Yuca (a root) on a rope around his head
"Traditional ceremonial dress"
Dancing and music
This is the statue we shot the gun (tall pole on the left) at
Me and the chief 
The kids were a lot of fun to slip around dancing in the mud with

After the 2+ hour boat ride back up river to Iquitos, we checked into our hostel (the same one that didn't have room for us a few days prior) and the guys that took the room we booked were still there. Not only still at the hostel, but still in the same spots and still chain smoking. I'm convinced they just came to sit around. We walked to the main square and came upon a Margaritaville. I'm not sure if it was a licensed one, but we were ecstatic to see something with texmex. But of course no chips and salsa. I ordered hot wings that were fried wings with a death-by-fire sauce to dip it in (I ended up getting BBQ sauce because it was too much to handle).  Back at the hostel I struggled for some sleep but it was somehow hotter than the jungle was and I continued to get bitten. Needless to say I did not get much sleep before our alarm went off at 3 am to catch our flight. It was a torrential downpour outside, the streets were flooding a little bit, but we made it out safely and I am home nursing my hydrocortisone-covered legs.
Our cool, adventurous group (with our Arbolist friend from Australia on the left, boat driver in the middle and cool guide on the right)
They eat slugs. They look like the ones Simba eats in The Lion King
Goodbye for now, Amazon

This was by far the best trip of Peru and maybe even ever for me. It was so much fun and I would go back in a heartbeat (with correct cargo pants and about a gallon more of bug spray). I can't believe I have only 2 weeks left in Peru! Time is flying by and it is finals week this week. Time to get to studying...but I'll probably just be looking at the pictures of this weekend instead. :)
Mountain Range and Sunrises=a great ending to an amazing trip