I’ve been so busy the past few weeks I don’t know where to start this new post!
After a relaxing two weeks in Lima catching up on sleep and browsing the internet far too much I was saved from (happy) boredom by the arrival of my mom, sister, aunt, and aunt’s friend. We had the fantastic opportunity to take a cooking class in the SkyKitchen, which was everyone’s favorite part of the Lima. I recommend it to anyone who visits there, as it gives you a great insight into the food culture of Peru and excellent recipes! The morning of our class we met the German chef-turned-entrepreneur at the market for a tour. He took us around the stalls and demonstrated different fruits and vegetables, explaining the names and uses of each. Then, we taxied to the kitchen nearby and got to try at least 20 different fruits including dragonfruit and three kinds of passionfruit! For the main part, we cooked all of my favorite dishes—Papa a la Huancaina, Aji de Gallina, and Ceviche, each of them the best version I tasted in my entire time, and cooked (more or less) by some novices like us!
After our short stay in Lima we all flew to Cusco for our big Machu Picchu adventure. My aunt’s friend had dreamed of visiting the lost city of the Incas since seeing a picture of the ruins when she was 9. So we were a little nervous to hear that parts of the road were washed out, and that parts of the train tracks couldn’t be used. Thankfully, fate was on our side and the morning of our tickets we made it to the top, after waiting two hours for the buses to arrive. It turned out to be a beautiful day to explore the ruins, with big clouds lifting and falling over the hill tops, misty and mysterious just like the ruins themselves. My sister and I took a short hike to the Sun Gate, which was the official entrance to the city and part of the Inca Trail. The view of the city from far away was incredible. On our route we had to maneuver around some llamas that were hanging out, giving the whole thing a very authentic feel— llamas were transportation, meat, and wool for the Incan people.
We also took a day trip to the Salineras of Maras, which are man-made saltwater pools are fed by an underground hot spring that produces salt in the sunny season of the Sacred Valley. These salt mines have been used since the time of the Incas!
After (too) much souvenier shopping and some interesting restaurants, we left Cusco, my aunt and her friend off to the US and back to their real lives, and me, my sister, and my mother off to Brazil for a week!
Brazil was wonderful, and I almost wish I had learned Portuguese just so that I could live in such a beautiful place. It was very interesting to note that some words and phrases were so identical that it sounded like Spanish, and I could read the signs pretty well too. The only problems came when I needed something, and I realized how wonderful it is to speak the local language and not feel so helpless. We spent two days in Botucatu with the family of our past foreign-exchange student, and then they took us to the MOST gorgeous beach probably in the world, called Juquehy (pronounced joo-kay-ee). There we spent two days doing absolutely nothing except soaking in sun rays and walking the beach, playing in the waves, and relaxing.
Next we went to Sao Paolo, a city that reminded me of Chicago but hillier and much, much larger. I got to go to a soccer game, shop in an upscale mall that made me feel more out of place than I ever did in Peru, and try some great food. I bought a little mp3 player at the Chinese knock-off (“replica”) markets since my old iPod died in Peru. Madison people will understand my obsession of Pao de Quejo. Picture cheese bread from the farmer’s market but bite-sized or roll-sized, hot and not spicy (sadly). This is a thing they eat every day. It was wonderful.
I wish I would have had more time in Sao Paolo and Brazil, but perhaps I will visit again someday. I was so happy to see my family and spend lots of time with them, and it was nice to have a break from being the tour guide in Peru. I realized how great it is to be able to live in a place long term instead of just a short vacation… most days during our trips I would fall into bed at the end of the day like it was a victory finish line, so thankful to be able to sleep, yet wishing I could stay up and do more with such little time!
Now, I am in Quito, Ecuador, living with a host family and three other girls who are doing similar CFHI (Child Family Health International) medical programs with me. Many of the students in my group are fourth year medical students (or in my case pre-public health), so a feel a bit young and inexperienced, but at least I have Spanish! More later!!!