Sunday, January 25, 2009

Day 23: Silencio

It is my last night in Lima before my trip back to the US. I´ve been hanging out in the city, finalizing errands and of course going out and having a good time. It´s been a very long vacation and I´m worn out. Since I´m pre-occupied packing, I will leave you now with some images of the city:

The construction that I´ve mentioned is an effort that´s going on throughout the city.

The simple slogan for all this construction... (Constructing)

I found this interesting: That´s not how you spell SWAT. SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics... What can this stand for?

PUH-lease!!! Have they NOT read my blogs!

Silencio my, you-know-what!

This is a stand that usually holds a Peruvian Police Woman during rush hour. They are all advertised using Inca Kola. Javier no longer wants to drink Inca Kola ever since Coca Cola bought it. (PS. They use women because apparently women are respected more during traffic)
A famous stadium in Peru. The advertisement is for the Panamerican games which will be hosted in Peru in 2015. (The image of the sun is an ice cream company subsidiary of Nestle, that Javier also does not want to support. He says they are monopolizing the market in Peru... I say, you can´t boycott ice cream!!!)

This is Calle de los Pizzas (Pizza Street). It´s a popular hang out on weekend nights. It´s one short street and all they sell is pizzas. On the second floor of most of these buildings, there are karaoke bars or clubs. We hung out on Saturday night and ate some pizza. We sang Karaoke with Javier´s cousins. I was going to sing Robbie Williams´ ¨I´m Loving Angels Instead¨so that I could have better memories of that song in Peru, but they didn´t have it. Instead I sang the Eagles´Hotel California, missing my roots. It was my first time singing Karaoke other than playing ¨SingStar¨with Will and Stephanie on the Playstation. No windows broke, so that was good...

Finally, this is the ring that I made inspired by my mother in-laws first ring. I have now graduated! I don´t know if I will remember everything, but I´ll definitely play around some when I get back to the states.

Ciao for Now!!!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day 19: McPeru

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away from Lima, there lived a girl named Shirley who was addicted to YouTube. She subscribed to many channels, one in particular of a girl by the name of LaurenCampos. She was a quirky girl with a quirky channel, and Shirley found the channel and its editting fascinating. One video in particular that stood out was when Lauren used finger puppets, and she had one of a llama.

Being Peruvian, Shirley immediately wanted a llama finger puppet. She sent a private message to Lauren asking her where she bought the finger puppets. Sadly, Lauren did not know as they were gifts from a relative.

Time passed and Shirley forgot about the finger puppets. She was scheduled to go to Peru for vacation. During her vacation, she went to the Inka Market, a market place where they sold souvenirs from Peru. She was looking for tchochkies (sic), or as her husband called them ¨cachibaches¨, that she could bring back with her for friends and family.

Wandering through the halls of the marketplace, she was suddenly consumed with pure delight. There they were... staring right at her. The finger puppets! She suddenly noticed them everywhere. Had she never noticed them on her previous trips to Peru? She immediately asked how much a finger puppet cost, and was further delighted to find that they only cost 1 sol! Sold! No one would understand her joy at finding her precious finger puppets, but she was over the moon.

She also bought a necklace made of the huayruro seed (or maybe its a bean: pronounced ¨why-roo-ro¨). She was very happy at this too. It only cost her 10 soles. The exchange rate at the time was 3.13 soles: 1 dollar, so this wonderful huayruro necklace only cost $3.20!!! Better than Forever 21 even!

Her husband told her that she is tan, but she still thinks her face is pale... He says it´s the flash. What do you think? I think she should sun bathe more.


Yes folks, I went to the marketplace and bought a bunch of fun stuff. I can´t show you everything because then certain blog readers will know what I got them.

Javier surprised me today with a little Mickie D´s. Oh how I have missed my Mickie D´s. I´ve been gone too long. I´m in the home stretch of my vacation, and I feel like I´ve been gone for months. A little burger and fries in my tummy went a long way, the flavor is quite close to the good ol´US of A. Although the ¨Ketchoo¨ (aka Ketchup) states ¨Hecho en Chile¨ (made in Chile), and it surprisingly contains nutrition facts on the back.

According to the photo and the exchange rate, a Big Mac meal (my fave) costs $3.99. In the US, I usually get it for $4.50-4.99, depending on the McDonald´s restaurant that I´m at.

I also took a photo of gas prices. We usually fill up with 90. Therefore gas here is $3.32/gal. Last I remember, in the US, gas prices were hovering around $2.99-3.20/gal. Another thing I noted at the gas stations in Peru is that there is no such thing as a self-serve gas station. They still do it like in the 50´s with a guy filling up the tank for you. I wonder why self serve didn´t stick...

This photo was taken while Javier was filling up the tank... Yes peoples, Javier has ever-increasingly gotten comfortable driving in Peru, as opposed to me, who has become increasingly tense. Javier honks for any reason and it´s pretty funny. Instead of one big long honk like the norm, he honks in a series of short cutsie honks. No one will take him seriously if he honks like that!

I was talking with Mac the other day about Mac laptops. He hasn´t heard of them, but he´s heard of Apple. Then he asked me if they had iPears. I asked him what that was, and he said it was like an apple but longer. ¨Oh! Yes, we have pears,¨ I replied.

¨For real?¨he asked. ¨I thought they might be fake.¨
Then it dawned on me what he was talking about. On the Disney channel, there is a show called iCarly. She uses a fake Mac laptop on the show. Instead of an apple on the front, it is a pear, so that they don´t have to deal with legal issues. He wasn´t sure if it was a real brand or a fake brand. This must happen a lot in Peru. Poor Peruvians don´t know real from fake or which way is up... I found this interesting.

One funny note before I leave you. In Peru, the cheapest form of transportation is via Combi (Combee). They are like vans or shuttles that hold about 15-18 people like sardines and stop on almost every block. As I walked through the Inka Market, I saw many funny T-shirts. The one that made laugh the most was a fake Ambercrombie and Fitch T-shirt. From far away, it looks real. Then when you get close you notice that the ¨Ambercrombie¨actually says ¨AndoEnCombi¨ or in other words ¨I ride the Combi¨. Too funny!

Ciao for now!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Amazon Day 4: Lucky Bait

Exerpts from Shirley´s Jungle Journal- Sunday 01/18/09

Last night I´m sure there were bats in our roof. We are protected by the mosquito mesh, but still.

It´s our last day in the jungle and I am finally used to taking cold jungle showers.

We went to visit the other side of the river to see some huge lily pads, drink coconut juice straight from the coconut, eat Amazonian grapes and do some more fishing.

Along the way, we saw some water buffalo and were warned not to get too close. So what´s the first thing that Javier does? He pissed off this water buffalo that was peacefully laying down in some water. It´s eyes were fixated on Javier, and it was ready to charge.

We went fishing again today because both Javier and his dad missed fishing yesterday. This was Round 2: Shirley´s Revenge. First we needed to buy some bait, so while Leo stopped at a spot to buy some bait, Javier, Pierre, and Mac took this as an opportunity to swim in the Amazon river. My mother in-law didn´t want Mac to go out too far, and I thought she was being over dramatic. Then I thought for a second. What if it were Qori out there? Yes, I would be acting the same way, so I took back my original thought.

So we were off to fish again. I caught two fish, one after another using the same bait. It was a piraña and a flat-headed fish. I said I had lucky bait. Sadly the next time I cast my fishing line and reeled it in... the bait was gone. Javier and his dad did not catch any fish. There was no time to take a picture of my fish because a loud thunder filled the air and the clouds went gray. A storm was coming and we were on the wrong side of the river. We packed up our fishing sticks and headed back to the lodge. Along the way it seemed like the storm was chasing us. A wonderful cool breeze came out of nowhere. Though it was dangerous, it was refreshing to be running from a storm. We made it back to the lodge in one piece.

Since we came back early from fishing, there was time for a nap before lunch. Inexhaustable Javier had finally worn out and took a nap. The other boys weren´t tired though. It took about 4 days since the airplane episode, but revenge is sweet...

Alas, lunch was over and it was time to pack. We were off on our motorboats back to the city of Iquitos to hang out before our flight. All in all, this was a very nice trip.

I could have done without the mosquitos though. They were brutal to me. I tried to count all my bites but it was too complicated. I lost count somewhere around 150. I think Pierre and I suffered the most bites. I won´t show my wounds because they´re just too gross, but here are poor Pierre´s legs. I think that Iquitos was originally named Mosquitos, and somewhere along the way, the beginning of the name got lost...

Amazon Day 3: 1 Monkey, 2 Monkey, 3 Monkey, Fish

Exerpts from Shirley´s Jungle Journal- Saturday 1/17/09
Despite the millions of bugs last night, I somehow slept OK. For what I can see I have no new bites, but it´s a little hard to tell considering that I have at least 50 bites (no exaggeration needed). I have to deal with 50 legacy bites that are making me itch like crazy. It´s horrible and frustrating at times. The worst is on my ankles, elbows, and finger joints (anywhere that bends basically). I have forsaken my American Eucalyptus repellant and moved on to a creamy Peruvian mosquito repellant in hopes that the bites will stop coming. I also feel a slight sore throat. I hope I do not come down with something during this trip. My father in-law seems to have the same bug, but it hit him worse. He has a slight cold.

I continued to sun bathe my deceased camera this morning. Near the middle of the day, there was a flicker of hope. It just might turn out OK! But we need to continue to let it dry.

Today we went to Monkey Island, minus my father in-law because he is sick. This time we used a more sturdy boat, so the ride was much better. Javier attempted to rock the boat again, but it did not have as much impact as yesterday´s boat. Things are looking up!

Reaching Monkey Island, I immediately saw monkeys from the river. This island is similar to the show on Animal Planet called, ¨Orangutang Island¨ where orphaned and near extinct species are cared for and then returned to the wild. Walking onto the premises, we were told that all species were friendly but to be careful of the ones with babies because they become over-protective. So what is the first thing that happens? A reddish colored monkey comes along with her tiny baby on her back and immediately begins asking us to carry her. Her name is Rosita the monkey, and she is friendly by nature with or without a baby.

So we carry her. She spends the most time on me with her baby constantly crawling all over me. What a cutie. I even fed the baby some banana. She stayed on me for quite awhile as we toured the island. So long in fact that I began to worry about two things: fleas and monkey pee. Will monkeys relieve themselves on you, like birds? Or are they like dogs that need to find the perfect spot to pee? Thank God I didn´t have to find out the answer. Still each time the baby squirmed around under her mother, I felt its warmth and feared it was monkey pee.

No kidding that this is truly Monkey Island. There are monkeys everywhere! Monkeys at your feet, monkeys on your legs, monkeys on your head! Swinging monkeys, sleeping monkeys, jumping monkeys. All different sizes and different species. They also had parrots, and I collected some of their fallen feathers to make jewelry.

At one point we were asked to gather inside a hut where we would be offered things to buy from the island. Sara and I were on our way to the hut when Sara sadly told me that a monkey had run off with a bracelet that she had bought from the tribespeople yesterday. I told her that we must recover the bracelet and that´s when Operation Sara´s Bracelet was put into play. I found the monkey with the bracelet in its mouth and with one hand offered it my shiney camera. It did not let go of the bracelet and I was afraid of getting bit. I offered it my watch and at that point it chirped and opened it´s mouth, I grabbed the bracelet but now the monkey had hold of my other arm and was pulling both my watch and my camera. Sara was screaming in excitement and I handed her the bracelet because now other monkeys were coming for the goods. ¨Run Sara, Run!¨I screamed and we both ran as fast as we could to the safety of the hut. Mission accomplished...

After monkey island we went fishing. We got back onto the Titanic 4 canoe and began fishing with long branches/sticks and rusted hooks. Believe it or not we caught fish... well not me, but our group. We caught mostly pirañas and Mac caught the biggest fish. I think our guide Leo said it was a Lisa fish? That must have been lost in translation.

We got back to the lodge with a big appetite and our prize fish. I immediate went to check out the state of my camera, which was now in intensive care. I was struck with great news that my camera had come out of it´s coma and was fully functioning again! There were some spots on the screen, but I was sure it was because the inner lens was dirty with Amazonian river dander. It is now no longer my new camera... I have named it ¨Ol´Reliable¨.

Finally dinnertime came. It was dark again, and it was our last night in the jungle. All had calmed down in comparison to the buggy night we had last night. We dined on chicken and then out came the freshly caught fish... fried piraña anyone? Not me. I´m not really that into fish in the first place. Especially the carnivorous, flesh-eating ones. That´s OK... I´m good.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Amazon Day 2: All Jungled Out

Exerpts from Shirley´s Jungle Journal - Friday 01/16/09

Today has been a day filled with mixed emotions. It´s probably due to a certain luteal phase that I´m going through. Upon taking my shower today, I noticed that 1) the water is cold & 2) it´s not clear. The toilet water is the worst, and I´m definitely NOT brushing my teeth with the sink water. I´ll be filling up my water bottle with filtered water from the mess-hall.

Today we took a long walk through the jungle. Again we needed to use our boots because of the crazy jungle slush. I thought about Qori while on our hike. He would like walking through this jungle... then I thought about it some more....maybe not. The red ants could bite his sensitive toes and I would just be stressed for the entire walk. It was better that I was not sharing this walk with him.

We were on our way to visit a tribe. We reached a small river and got on a different canoe. Our guide, Leo, said it was called the Titanic 4 (because the first three sank). I hoped he was just joking. Looking at the canoe, it was apparent that it had been ¨refurbished¨. As we were reaching our destination, we noticed that the canoe had significantly filled with water. Leo focused our attention to the large seeds floating near our canoe that are used to make jewelry. At hearing this my mother in-law and I started trying to collect as many as we could reach from the canoe. Suddenly, I heard a ¨Plunk!¨ and I wondered what that noise was for a split second....

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! My beloved digital camera had fallen into the murky water that had seeped into the boat and the only sign of it was the small bubbles that were being created as the pouch it was in was filling with water!!! I stuck my hand in the water and searched for my beloved camera and out came a sorry looking camera. I immediately removed it from the pouch, but it was evident that I was too late... It was soaked. I did everything I could. I took the battery, memory, everything out. I tried to dry it. I shook it a little. Within the next few minutes I tried to turn it on. A blurry image of Sara (she was in front of me) filled the screen. I was amazed that it even worked. But then, BLACK, and it died. I immediately thought that those seeds were going to have been the most expensive jewelry I had ever created for how much it cost me.

Needless to say, I was no longer in a good mood when I reached the tribespeople. I tried my best, but I felt like I had lost a loved one.

We sat down inside of a hut where the tribespeople painted our faces with red paint that came from the seeds of a plant. The bench that Javier and Pierre (the 2 chubs) were sitting on broke and they fell onto the floor. I laughed, but it was a hollow laugh. Then one by one the half naked tribespeople took us out of the hut for a tribal dance. Then we tried our marksmanship out with their dart thrower thingy. And finally, they tried to sell us their artifacts. We bought stuff and left.

As soon as we reached the lodge, I laid my deceased beloved camera out in the sun in hopes that it would resuscitate. I would not try to turn it back on until it was completely dry. Unfortunately, drying did not go as quickly as I had hoped.

Before I knew it, we were off to our next excursion, sans my camera. It was OK though, we would just use Mac´s camera. We were on our way to an animal rehabilitation area. As soon as we reached land again, I saw animals! Monkeys, Toucans, these anteater/bear looking animals, cayman, etc,. And all the animals were friendly enough to hold! I was in heaven!

And the excursions weren´t over just yet! Our next excursion was to swim with the dolphins. The supposedly pink and gray dolphins. Unfortunately, I would not be able to swim today... the whole luteal thing. We stopped our flimsy boat in the middle of the Amazon river (the wider/deeper part) and began whistling for dolphins.

This is when Javier noted that with his weight and position on the flimsy boat, he could mess around and give us a scare. From one side of the boat, he yelled, ¨Look! Look at the dolphin!¨and threw his weight to the other side of the boat. This caused the boat to feel like it was going to flip over and the whole ¨Tarantula¨ group screamed for their lives! He continued dicking around like this many times over and I was in no mood for it. I had had enough electronic equipment get wet for one day, but most of all I was extremely tense. One of my biggest fears is falling into deep dark water, whether falling from a bridge or a boat, it doesn´t matter. It´s almost like a phobia, and seeing the joy in his face as he toyed with my emotions, pissed me the hell off.

My mother in-law, who doesn´t know how to swim, was so frightened that she decided to put on a life-jacket which, as she zipped it on, Sara screamed and told her there was a spider on it.

True enough there was a spider the size of a medium cookie standing right on the life jacket she was wearing. When my mother in-law saw it, she screamed with all fury and threw the life jacket down in front of me on the boat. That´s when all hell broke loose. Everyone was screaming, ¨Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!! kill it! kill it!¨ My mother in-law was stomping so hard and screaming, the boat was rocking like crazy, I felt like we were about to tip over... In the madness my screams were lost, ¨Señora! Señora the boat is tipping over.... stop stomping!!!!!!!!¨ But nobody could hear anyone else. Each person was in their own mini terror movie and we were all screaming for our lives. Somehow I know Javier found the whole thing amusing.

And in the end we didn´t see any dolphins... just trunkophins. I´m still skeptical about the whole pink dolphin thing if you can´t tell.

To make it up, on the way back there was the most beautiful Amazonian sunset. I admired it while on the boat, breathing in the jungle air, feeling the wind against my face.... and something else on my face........ DAMN! A mosquito bite just under my right eye. I could tell just by feeling it that my eye was pretty swollen. This sucks!

That night the Tarantula group was supposed to do a night jungle walk. It´s one thing to read it on your itinerary, and another thing when you are actually there. The short of it is that out of all of us, only Sergio the Spaniard went. This night, I noted a significant increase in nighttime bugs. They were everywhere! The mess-hall seemed to be infested with cockroaches, crickets, and grasshoppers while we tried to eat our dinner. It was by far the worst night in the jungle. Even our room was infested. And it scared me because I don´t know how they even got in. That saying, ¨Crawl out of the woodwork¨ was soooo true in this case. I tried to grab the kerosene lamp that I had left in the bathroom and when I lifted it there were bugs hiding underneath it... Then a grasshopper or cricket jumped on my hand that was holding the lamp. And I thought I saw a mosquito in the bathroom. I was through. I didn´t know what to do. I doused myself in a eucalyptus spray insect repellant and slept under a bedsheet this time. I covered my entire body and head under the blanket. I was dying of asfixation due to the eucalyptus spray under the sheet. But I was torn: Asfixation vs. Bugs. I chose asfixation.

The one cool thing I saw was a lightning bug. I had never seen one before. It seemed to have two greenish lights on its back, then suddenly its whole lower body shined red. I had no idea that they produced different colored light. That was the only cool bug. At this point, I was all jungled out. If you would have asked me at that moment, I would have told you that this was it for me... no more jungles. From now on, my vacations would purely consist of beaches, pools, and tropical drinks.

Amazon Day 1: Tarzan vs. Jane

Exerpts from Shirley´s Jungle Journal - Thursday, 01/15/09

The trip has begun and there´s already a bit of drama. 7 of us are going on the trip (Me, Javier, his mom, dad, son Mac, and his nephew & niece, Pierre & Sara). Javier´s brother and sister were unable to come. Because Pierre and Sara will be traveling without their parents, their mother went to the notary to give permission for us to take them with us to Iquitos. She handed Javier the notarized document and asked if he also wanted a copy of their birth certificates. He declined. I spoke to him on the side in English and strongly suggested that he take their birth certificates (Otherwise, we could take any child we found off the street and pass them off as Pierre or Sara). He wasn´t seeing my reasoning. You probably think you know where this story is going, but he thought about it a few minutes more and accepted the additional documentation.

In the wee hours of the morning (around 3 am), Javier´s brother drove us to the airport. Everything was going fine during check in, until we were asked to show some kind, ANY kind of identification for Mac. No one had brought ANYTHING! I asked the grandparents if they had brought either his passport (he has 2: 1 peruvian, 1 American), his ID, or his birth certificate, and they casually responded with, ¨no?¨ as if to question why I was asking. HellO people´s! How are you going to fly with a child with absolutely no identification??? Long story short, Javier´s brother Luciano had to drive all the way back to get the birth certificate. This is why they suggest to get to the airport 2 hrs early.

When we finally got on the plane, Mac and Pierre fell fast asleep. They were so excited about the trip that they stayed up all night talking before the trip. They were out cold on the plane. NEVER let your guard down around Javier or else you will be sorry...

The plane ride only lasted 1 hr and 15 mins. We deboarded the plane like the president on Airforce 1 where our tour guide was waiting for us. We got into a car on the way to the city of Iquitos. Along the way, I was amazed at the amount of motorcyles and moto-taxis that there were on the streets. I´m not kidding when I say that about 90% of vehicles were motorcycles or moto-taxis. The guy driving our car said that they were referred to as the ¨mosquitos¨of the city because there is an infestation and all you hear is the buzzing. It´s true, there was a light buzzing sound that filled the air, and I noticed that there was significantly less honking. Do motorcycles not have horns? I really got a laid-back feeling in Iquitos. It reminded me of island life in Hawaii. It must be something about the water.

When we reached the inner city, we were immediately whisked away on moto-taxis to our boat dock. I sat with Sara.

This is a picture of Javier telling me to hold on to my luggage so it doesn´t get stolen.

The boat ride lasted 45mins. and at this point I was really feeling like I was in the Amazon. The river is beautiful, wide, and peaceful. The first thing we noticed is the natural debris in the water: many fallen tree trunks and water plants like lilys. The floating trunks are scary because to the novice eye, you would think they were crocs. Our tour guide called them ¨tronkodrilos¨or ¨trunkadriles¨ because of the resemblence.

On the boat, my mother in-law noticed a spider that she wanted to kill immediately. Our tour guide told us not to worry about the tiny spider because we would be seeing tarantulas shortly. We all got quiet and just stared at each other for comfort. That´s when it hit me that we were going to the jungle...

Unfortunately, before we could do so, our boat broke down. Boats are easy prey for ¨tronkodrilos¨ which can easily chew up propellers. So another boat was called and we had to switch boats in the middle of the river. During the switch, I noticed our tour guide pulled a live dog-sized, guineau pig-looking animal out of the old boat and onto our new one. It scurried and found a spot at the front of the boat. I prayed that this was not going to be dinner. I did not even want to think about it...

When we reached land, there was nothing but trees on the shore and a small trail. We walked down the trail until it became a staircase leading about 4 feet up to a long bridge or plank with a roof. It was very long as we used it to walk deeper and deeper into the jungle. Finally, it gave way to the lodge which consisted of many hut-like rooms and a large circular mess-hall in the middle. The entire lodge was reinforced with mosquito mesh to keep the bugs out, but all you need is an open door to let one mosquito in. We were shown our rooms which were decent, but we only got to spend limited time in them when we were taken on a short boat ride through a small river. On the boat ride we saw these big turkey birds that had asthma (they made a panting/huffing noise that was really unique).

By the time we got back, it was lunch time and we all met in the mess-hall. The rest our our tour group arrived which consisted of a woman named Rosa and her two teenage sons from Lima, and a Spaniard named Sergio. Our group was dubbed ¨Tarantula¨. We ate lunch in the mess-hall when a green parrot came into the mess-hall (walking on the floor and opening the door), walked straight to Pierre, used its beak and one good leg to climb Pierre´s chair, and proceeded to feast on Pierre´s food. Pierre wasn´t too happy. He likes to eat.

At that point, the dog-sized, guineau pig thing was released into the mess-hall and it just walked around receiving affection. It was the lodge´s new pet. I was happy that it would not be killed.

After lunch, we were given time to relax before our big jungle walk. Outside of the mess-hall there was a big hammock area that consisted of about 7 hammocks all tied together in the center forming a big circle. The kids found this to be an endless form of entertainment. Paco, a blue McCaw, did not seem to think so. He walked over in his parrot stance each time the kids got too rowdy and squaked and pretended that he was going to attack them. He even filed his beak on the floor like he was making it sharp just for them. Then he would proceed to chase them around the hammocks and sometimes pinch their butts from the floor as they laid on the hammocks. I´m not sure who was having more fun: Paco or the kids...

It was time for the tarantula group to go into the jungle for a walk. We donned big plastic fishing boots to keep the water and especially the sometimes deadly red ants out. We walked for what seemed like hours through thick slippery mud, leaves, and branches that we often tripped on. There was a clearing and a real Tarzan rope. We all tried to be tarzan. I thought it would be easy but halfway out on my swing, I thought I wasn´t going to be able to hang on. Poor Pierre, didn´t make it and let go and went straight into the jungle slush. Even his grandpa made it back. Mac did a pretty good job too.

We saw a lot of things along the way. Ants, frogs, birds, and even a tarantula! As our tour guide focused our attention to a tarantula on a tree, one of Rosa´s teenage sons saw something fall next to Javier and he screamed, ¨What is that!!!!!´¨

It was a small spider, maybe a tarantula, but it was dry and dead. Javier took the poor dead bug and used it as a photo opportunity.

His father did the same with a live centipede.

Near the end of our walk, the trail got shorter until there was no trail left at all and the water level seemed to be rising. At one point we were trying to board a canoe, but to get to it, we had to balance on a branch that was underwater. Poor Pierre had no balancing skills and fell into the water. Then Sara lost her balance and to stabilize, she used me. That sent one of my legs to the point of no return as I felt my boot filling with water. Eeeeeeew! Sara saved herself.

By the time we got back, it was getting dark and it was already time for dinner. That´s when I realized that this lodge had no electricity!!! All light was provided by kerosene lamp. There was no TV, no internet, no phones, no NOTHING! Except there were a whole lotta mosquitos which seemed to like me more than the Lima mosquitos. We were really roughing it out here in the jungle. The only minimal amount of power supply that was available was from a generator that was turned on every night at 6:30 pm that we could use to charge our cameras. We hung out in the mess-hall (which had netting for mosquitos) and got to know everyone, played with the parrots, dogs, and guineau pig thing, played on the hammocks, while the mosquitos had a feast on my skin. That night I slept pretty well. The mosquito netting did its job well and the sounds of the jungle were soothing. Unfortunately, I woke up at 3 am to find Javier standing up holding his big stick that he had found on our walk. He said he heard tigers. I listened.... I heard the panting noise, but I was sure it was from the asthmatic turkey birds that we had seen earlier in the day. I told him to relax and go back to sleep.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Birthday Frog Blog

The weather has pretty much sucked out loud since our trip to Asia. Every morning it starts off cloudy and my inlaws swear that the sun comes out around 11 am, but it never does. The other night as Javier and I went to check out a casino, it even started raining. At least he won $30 playing Black Jack.

Yesterday was my father in-law´s 68th birthday, and it was a good food day for me. It almost started off not being so. I woke up to find that my mother in-law had prepared cau-cau for breakfaskt! Cau-cau (pronounced Cow-cow) is beef tripe I think. I politely declined and she fried me an egg instead. I told them that I can now eat ceviche, but tripe is still a struggle for me.

So we were off to a country club that my father in-law is a member of called Club 7 de Agosto in a town called Ñaña (nya-nya). My husband kept threatening that he was going to drive us there and I thought it was a joke at first. Until I saw the family start to load the car, and I knew that his brother was working, so he wouldn´t be able to drive.

Just last week, my husband was also threatening to drive. Everyone was saying no, what a bad idea it was, and we should just let his brother, Luciano drive. Javier took the key and told us that he was just going to warm up the engine. I had been upstairs getting ready. By the time I made it to the garage, I only witnessed the nose of the car backing up into the street before the door completely shut and garage was left empty and silent.

I returned to tell my mother in-law that they had all left me, when we realized that everyone except my husband was home! He had left with no warning! You should have seen how concerned my mother in-law was for the 15 mins. that he was gone. It turns out that my husband stole away to the gas station to fill up the tank.

So now that we were going to Ñaña, nobody spoke up against my husband driving the car. So the entire 1 hr long drive, I was tense...
He did a pretty good job, but you could tell he was American because he got cut-off a lot for not being bold enough. On the way back from Ñaña was his ovalo test. He missed the ovalo exit so we swirled around in the ovalo twice before we were able to make our exit. Later, his brother Luciano told me that on a different occasion, Javier had missed the exit and they had circled the ovalo 3 times.

Upon reaching the country club, everything was really nice. There was a lot of green grass, trees, a swimming pool, horses to ride, etc. There were also two sad looking llamas (my mother in-law said they were Alpacas, but I´m still not sure what the difference is) that had run of the entire country club. They went wherever they wanted to go. I got close for a picture, but not within spitting distance (as you know, llama spit goes a long way).
There was also a yellow lab that I kept my eye on in the distance. She was hanging out with the horses and her owner. A typical lab, she went where ever her owner went, and stood around wagging her tail, begging for affection. Eventually, her wish was granted. At one point she came near to me, although this was a Peruvian dog, speaking to a dog is universal and I called her over in English. She came and I gave her affection as she stepped on my toe. I immediately thought about my little Qori (infamous for stepping on toes and dubbed ¨Hell-toes¨).
We were hungry for lunch, so we had my favorite plate, lomo saltado (translates to tossed steak?). So far it´s the best lomo that I´ve eaten here. It used to be from the Mi Caracochita restaurant, but that place sucked this time. At the country club, I ate the entire plate. I barely left one grain of rice. Although it was a great plate, I feared that my mother in-law would see that my stomach is better and begin to feed me huge plates again.

There were many activities at the club. Javier assembled a team of Peruvian boys together and they played soccer for awhile (I think they gave him a run for his money - hahaha). He also played foosball (is that how you spell it? I have no idea) which is his favorite. He gets an intense look on his face and if you play against him, prepare to see that the entire table will have danced about a foot away from its original starting position by the end of the game.
We also played a game called ¨Sapo¨(Frog). It´s a box that you toss heavy coins at aiming to get the golden coin inside the golden frog´s mouth, a feat that as of yesterday I would have told you is virtually impossible. If you don´t make it in the frog´s mouth, not to worry, your coin my fall into the surrounding holes and you can gather points that way which is far more common. I don´t really enjoy playing this game because my tossing skills pretty much suck, but I was obligated to play. Like I said, I sucked the whole game until the very end. After playing three games of three rounds each on my last coin, I tossed to get it over with and you´ll never believe what happened! It went ever so smoothly into the frog´s mouth!!! Everybody yelled ¨SAPO!!!¨and for a moment I was still left wondering where my gold coin went. One minute it was in the air, the next minute it was gone. I only heard the sound very similar to when you make a goal in air hockey. The only proof I can give you is this photo of me taking my lucky gold coin out of the 4000 pt. box. You´ll probably guess that even by making ¨Sapo¨, I still lost the game. That´s how much I suck... Everyone was so happy that I had made ¨Sapo¨and I told my father in-law that I did it in recognition of his birthday.

Finally, it was time to head back to the house, another tense ride for me home. As we were getting close to the house, Javier had a craving for Masa-mora, a Peruvian dessert. So my father in-law suggested a place in the city. I was nervous about Javier continuing to drive, but who am I, and we were off. The restaurant was called something like Manjares - Dulces Peruanos, and it offered all kinds of Peruvian delights. I had my favorite, arroz con leche (rice pudding), Javier had a combo of arroz con leche and masa-mora, and everyone else had Picarones, which are sort of like Peruvian donuts. The dough is thick and I think it has yams in it because it´s a colorful dough. It´s fried in a circle like a donut, and then dipped in a syrup and eaten. After this, we finally made it home. Alive and in one piece.

The final course came later at around 9 pm. We feasted on Peecsa (aka. Pizza). I think it was Dominoes. (I told you it was a good food day for me!). Then we all went around the table and expressed some words for my father in-law´s birthday. We started off with the shyest of them all, Sarah, my sister in-law´s 11 yr old daughter. An uncomfortable silence swept the dinner table as nothing came out and she stared around blankly. Finally, after was seemed like an eternity but probably did not exceed 2 or 3 minutes, a simple Happy Birthday and I wish you many more... came out. When my turn came up, I was nervous. We don´t usually give speeches at my house. To the contrary, we all try to not speak, including the adults! We prefer to joke than to be serious. Coupled with the language, this was going to be hard for me... So I began...

¨Feliz Nav....¨ (Oh my god! I was about to say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Birthday! That´s basic spanish, what was wrong with me?!) We all laughed at me and that helped the tension go down. So I continued and did OK. But like I said, the language coupled with the nervousness made this very difficult for me. So ended a good food day for me and a happy birthday for my father in-law.
Today will be more laid-back since we are all getting ready for our trip to the jungle tomorrow. There will be no internet in the jungle, so this will probably be my last post until I return to Lima on the 19th.

Ciao for now!