Friday, February 28, 2014

10 Things to Know About the Last 3 Weeks in Peru

Whoops. Not sure how so much time has past since I last wrote. Well, actually I've written 3 separate blog posts but haven't posted them for various reasons. And judging by headlines from all variety of news sources and social media, it appears that society only reads numbered lists these days. So to catch you up on the last three weeks, here is my own numbered list...

1. The Santa Cruz Trek was wonderful ... and wet. 
Our group consisted of 2 Brits, 2 Canadians, 2 Dutch, 2 Columbians, 1 Frenchman, 3 Peruvian guides, 4 donkeys... and a partidge in a pear tree.  We hiked through the Cordillera Blanca, up and over Punta Union (15,584 feet), around Huascaran (the highest mountain in Peru and second highest in South America), and over the river and through the woods. My perfect weather streak was also broken. Up until this trek I had hiked for 50 days since I left the States and had only one rainy day... Day 1 of the Camino de Santiago in September. But hiking during the rainy season in Peru, that was bound to change. And it did. But despite the rain, our awesome group entertained one another with travel experiences, cultural differences and most embarrassing moments. It may come as no surprise that the British rugby player took away top honors in the last category...with flying colors!  Thankful to have shared this experience with such an awesome group!

For some footage... Check out this clip:

2.  I'm thankful I grew up with two brothers. 
Other than having two awesome, caring brothers as friends for life, growing up with Zack and Luke has prepared me for being able to tolerate life with boys, things boys like to talk about, and smells boys like to make.  Sharing a tent with these two would have been short lived if my brothers had been sisters. 

In all seriousness, I've loved my week with Chris and three weeks with Dan...farts and all. But I would be dishonest if I didn't admit to participating as well... I blame it on the altitude. 

3. The Dutch get around. 
Per capita, I'm quite certain the Dutch travel more than people from any other country. This is a completely unscientific conclusion but I'm sure I'm right. In 4 weeks at Albergue Churup, there is at least one new Dutch person staying here every couple of days.  The Dutch are also very large people. Not fat large but crazy tall large.  Whenever I spot a tall white person on the street I peg them as being Dutch. 9 times out of 10 I'm right. Apparently, the only people taller than the Dutch are the Danes. I met my first couple from Denmark on my travels a few weeks ago. They were super nice... As our the Dutch. P.S... If you want any clarification on the difference between The Netherlands, Holland and the Dutch, check out this super informative video by CGP Grey.  He also has many other informative videos about a plethora of topics I have shown my students including: Death to Pennies, The Problem with the Electoral College, Can Texas Secede from the Union and How to Become Pope to name a few! Enjoy!

Marteen the Dutch hiking with Ivan the Peruvian
4. Girl time is good. 
For a simple reason why, see #2. But the other night, I hung out at Lacy's with Lauren (another awesome Colorado chick that I've crossed paths with this last week) and Rebecca (another ex-pat working at a local hostel with her boyfriend).  I'm not sure when the last time was that I was in the company of so many girls...sans boys. It made me miss my Colorado Chicas: Gretchen, Kelly, Witter, Newman, Amy, Claire,The Booksies (only the coolest book club ever) and The Bible Study Beauties.  I'll be in CO in June!  Can't wait to catch up...err...on the past year??? 

5. "There's a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning."
Or the Huaracinos (people from Huaraz) may have changed Jimmy Buffet's line to be: "There's a thin line between Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon."  Last Sunday was La Dia de Las Cruces (Day of the Crosses). All the local villagers come down from the hills to bring their families' crosses to the churches to be blessed by the priests. This is done with great fanfare, music, dancing, processionals and something that I described as cacophony. They start to decend upon the plazas in front of the churches at about noon.  A few hours later, either the people are so tired from carrying their crosses through the street they decide to take naps on the sidewalk, or the local brew has caught up with them. I'm not sure which is more true but I have a guess. See a glimpse here:

6. This book could change your life. 

Have you ever come across a book you are afraid to read? You know, the one that might challenge you to change your life. I have a list of them. They include "Radical" by David Platt and "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. I've read the first chapters of both. I may finish them...someday. Well, now I have another one to add to the list, except I actually finished this one.  I've been challenged and encouraged at the same time. Actually, this book has inspired one of the blog posts that has not been published... yet.  I'll keep you posted on how those changes play out...

7. I love babies. 
Most people who know me, know this... So this isn't really news. But I've also learned from my experience in orphanages that I especially love babies who don't have parents to take care of them. Don't get me wrong... all my friends and family with the cutest babies in the world, I love your kids. But there is a special place in my heart for babies who don't always have someone nearby to tend to their every need. This article from NPR, "Orphans Lonely Beginnings Reveal How Parents Shape A Childs Brain"  inspired another blog I wrote but haven't posted... yet. It also sums up one of the main reasons I have decided to spend time with orphans over the course of the past 7 years.  And this is the sweet girl I get to spend time with while I'm here in Huaraz. 
Meet Rosita! (Short for Milagros). Look at those sweet cheeks!  She is about 6 months old.  It took me a week to piece together her story. This is what I have so far...  Rosita's mother died in childbirth. Her father tried to take care of her but with 7 other kids at home, he found that he couldn't manage.  He also didn't want Rosita to be taken by a local family because he thought it would be too hard for him to see her being raised by someone else. So she was sent away from her jungle community to Huaraz where she has spent the last several months being looked after in a hospital.  And finally she was brought to this home. My understanding is that there are two families interested in adopting her.  Pray for the Lord's hand in this sweet girl's life, as well as all of her older "sisters" in the house who shower little Rosita with a constant stream of kisses. She is definitely the house favorite.  It's not hard to understand why. 

8.  Taxis should not flag down potential customers by honking at them. 
I'm pretty understanding of cultural differences, or at least I think I am. But there is one cultural difference that I'm really struggling with. Taxis around here have the obnoxious habit of honking at pedestrians if they think the pediatrians might want use of their services. If you are a gringo, it appears as though the driver thinks his chances are higher that you will want his services. This results in nearly every empty cab that drives by honking at me. I'm not sure road rage can apply to pediatrians, but I've definitely got a case of something. 

9. The term "gringo" is not an insult here. 
At least that's what I'm lead to believe. I mean, how can the sweet lady around the corner from my place greet me everyday with "Hola, Gringita" (little white girl), in such a sweet voice with a smile on her face if she doesn't really like me?  Also, "gringo" applies to just about anyone who is not Latin American. 

10. DuoLingo teaches more than just Spanish. 

And don't you forget it!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Blogging About Blogging.

I've intended to write this post since I became a blogger back in May of 2013.  Now is the time. 

I have been incredibly humbled by the number of people who have been keeping up with wherever "The Journey" has taken me during the past 5 months.  I also find it very kind of people to take time out of their lives to read not only my blog but any blog. And I say this because I don't read blogs, or at least not faithfully like so many of you have.

And so, this is a shout out to some of my most faithful readers... all of my mom's friends:  "Share Group", "M&M's" and "The Best Small Group in the World".  (I made that last one up but it seems an accurate name considering how much mom and dad have loved being a part of this group during the last couple years.)

I know there are many others who have been so kind to tune in from various parts  of my life: family, life long friends, friends from the Valley, traveling friends, Eagle Valley friends, Bible Study friends... the list is long.  Know that I'm thankful for each of you in my life and I've been blessed by your support during this past year. 

In other news...

I'm LOVING life in Peru!

I arrived in Lima a few weeks ago and spent a full day seeing the sights: Plaza Mayor - very well manicured, Changing of the Guard at the Presidential Palace - humorously the most elaborate such ceremony that may exist in the world, the Catacombs - creepy, and the views of the Pacific Ocean from Larcomar at Miraflores - a shockingly upscale shopping area... the likes of which I had not seen for months and caught me quite by surprise.  (Check out the Magisto clip here:

And then it was time to move on to Huaraz. I took an 8 hour bus ride to my home for the next two months. The bus was nicer than many planes I've been on AND served a meal!  Apparently this is how they roll (pun intended) in South America for long bus rides.  Sweet.  Although the 15 minute delay because of a flat tire and then 30 minute delay because of running over the left behind tire jack were not so sweet. 
 (View from my bus window) 

I arrived on a Friday evening and it was so great to be greeted at the bus station by Lacy Rammuno.  Lacy was born and raised in Eagle County. She graduated from EVHS ... a few years before I got there. And I've taught with her dad, as well as taught her younger sister and brother over the last ten years. But I got to know Lacy when she was working on a landscaping crew one summer with a guy I was dating.  Our encounters were few but I remember thinking we would be good friends if we had the time.  Well, now we do!  She moved down to Huaraz a years ago to be with her boyfriend, Matt. Matt moved down here a few years before to help start the local brewing company Sierra Andina.  I ran into Lacy at the EVHS graduation last May and caught up with her real quick.  When she told me she was living in Peru, I told her of my plan to spend time there.  She had great things to say about Huaraz, a place I had never heard of but would continue to be raved about by fellow travelers. I decided this would be my spot to plant myself during my longer stint in Peru.  

So I've made my home at the Albergue Churup in Huaraz for the past week.  It is a gem of a hostel. I have an awesome private room, with a fabulous hot shower.

And there is a beautiful living area on the top floor with almost 180 degree views of the Cordillera Blanca... minus the 4 story brick building right smack dab in the center of the panorama windows. 

Bummer. But the awesome fireplace with a huge semi-circular couch makes up for it.  

La Doña Nelly gave me a smoking deal when I told them I'd be here for at least a month.  $7 a night includes breakfast!  Yes, please!! 

Over the course of the past week I've found a church (Allianza), checked out the work Lacy is doing with a local non-profit called Seeds of Hope, went to a Monday night Bible Study (all in Spanish...and followed almost all of it), got out for a couple hikes with some incredible views (a short glimpse is captured here: my new best friend Dan from Jackson, Wyoming / Boston whom I've spent most if not all of the last 3 days with, found the best coffee shop in town at the California Cafe... and the best "Menu", a fixed price 4 course lunch of soup, main course with rice and French fries, salad, dessert and fresh juice for $3 at El Fogon. And yesterday we met up with Katherine to learn more about a local non-profit running a soup kitchen for kids, caught an awesome game of ultimate frisbee with the kids from the California Cafe, and then a much needed nap, and ended the day with Trivia night to benefit the non-profit we had visited that morning. Of course, our team of 2 Peruvians, 2 Americans and 2 Frenchmen was victorious! Competition was stiff amongst the 30 or so people present, but we did manage to beat out the smarty-pants Peace Corps kids at the table next to us. ;)  And today was spent organizing and resting up for a 4 day trek known as Santa Cruz that we take off for early tomorrow morning.  We found 2 Canadians, a Frenchman (from trivia night) and 2 Brits to join us. Should be fun!  I'll report back with some great stories and amazing pics once I return.

In the meantime, blessings to you all!!

(Sorry about the long hyperlink.  Blogging on an iPhone had its limitations...)