Monday, May 27, 2013

Welcome to Hippie Land!

UWe went to Ecuador. Chantelle, Britt and I decided to take a little vacation away from Chulucanas for a visit to Guayaquil and Montañita, Ecuador. This extremely long journey began 10:30 at night by catching an eleven hour bus ride from Piura (the closest big city) to Guayaquil, Ecuador. Thankfully, I was able to sleep most of the bus ride and felt fairly awake, alive and alert upon our arrival. After finding a hotel in the center of the city,  $15 for the night (Ecuador use the US dollar), we began exploring the city. On our list of places to visit were the famed Malecón and iguana park.

A long stretch of parks, restaurants, and shopping the Malecón runs alongside the river and is amazing. Adorned with beautiful gardens and face painting stands, it was particularly busy as it was a holiday in Ecuador. Among all of the activities was giant blow up, plastic balls that children are placed in and then pushed out onto a little lake where they can virtually walk on water. There was an age limit of 15 years for this activity so, naturally, I talked my way in (with much coaxing by Britt I might add as she insisted I could totally pass for 15). I promise to post some pictures of it because this was quite priceless I assure you!

Equally as entertaining, El Parque de las Iguanas is an open plaza inhabited by about 20 huge and friendly iguanas. These amazing creatures are so used to visitors (and visitors feeding them) that they will let you get close enough to touch them! Which of course we did. This fun day was capped off with happy hour and nachos at a riverside table along the Malecón.

Our next day (Saturday) began early with our planned destination: Montañita. Having missed the first bus there and not wanting to wait another 4 hours for the next, we decided to take a taxi there. Imagine the seagull "mine!" scene from Finding Nemo and you have essentially imagined what it was like trying to find a driver- they all wanted the job. We shared the car we eventually chose with 2 other travelers and were shoved in a 5 passenger vehicle with 6 people. Needless to say we got real close during the ride and Chantelle had to keep ducking down to avoid detection from the police- always an adventure.

However, this was all worth it for how cool Montañita was. Built right on the beach, this tiny tourist town is only about 4 by 4 streets wide. Our hostel was right in the center of town and made it easy for us to enjoy what Britt named, "Vegas on the beach... Without the gambling and more dancing." Amply and artistically decorated, this fascinating town was a constant party and we loved every minute of it! It was strange to see so many tourists but fun to see so many surfers and hippies attracted by the famed waves of the Pacific ocean. One of our favorite quotes from the trip came from Freddie, a jewelry artisan. He said, "Welcome to Hippieland!" and he was quite right, they even had vegetarian food - none of which I ate I might add. 

All in all it was an amazing trip and a nice break away from Chulucanas, but we were definitely happy to return home once again.

I'm really loving it here now. I've slowed down a bit, learned some patience, and take each day one step at a time. After all, "Todo lo puedo en Cristo que me fortalece."

Les amo!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Completely Random and Completely Wonderful.

¡Hola amigos! Please excuse my lack of blogging as of late. If I have been bored at any point during my time here in  Chulucanas, those days are long gone! Any free moments
that I have are filled with preparing for class, tutoring, cooking, or breathing (which seems like it needs to be scheduled in now!). This past weekend, however, we celebrated Chantelle's 23rd birthday: woohoo! The celebration began Thursday night with the quema. This translates to "burning" and is a time that is supposed to be spent with friends, remembering the old year and looking forward to the new!

Cake #1.

Chantelle with our friend Mercedes (on the right) and her niece. They both joined us for the quema celebration.

Chantelle and I have a choreographed dance to the song, "Volvi a Nacer."  Be jealous.

Wilson, one of Chantelle's university students, is a chef. He came to our house on her birthday to cook her some traditional Peruvian dishes... that were DELICIOUS! Here he is washing "pulpo," octopus!

The master chef at work! Note the adorable apron that he brought himself!

Chantelle with the defrosted pulpo!

Wilson and Anderson (another university student who came to "help" Wilson) put a candle in  one of the dishes.

Seco de Chavelo con pollo. A dish made of mashed, fried plantains and chicken. It sounds werid  but is AMAZING. Note how beautifully and artistically he prepared it.

The sign that Britt and I made to decorate! We also had balloons.

Beer in the fruit drawer as the rest of our fridge was stocked full of cake!

Wilson, proud of a job well done.

Chicharrones de pulpo. Fried octopus! Tastier than calamari and garnished with chifles, aji peppers, and onion. Mmmmm!

Cake #2. Left to right: Roderigo, Antonio, and Dr. John (the same doctor who treated me in the hospital actually!)

The successfully opened pinata! It was shaped like a large Pilsen (a local beer) bottle.

Pinata on her head!

Dancing at the party! Left to Right: Suzy and Britt, Chantelle and Dr. John, Wilson. 
Everyone who came to Chantelle's birthday party! Back Row Fom Left: Britt, Suzy, Antonio, Roderigo, Angela, Dr John. Front Row From Left: Me, Nelson, Chantelle, Wilson.

Saturday night we went to the discoteca (obviously) and off to Piura for some grocery shopping on Sunday. All in all, it was a fantastic and fun weekend. Completely random and completely wonderful. We live in Peru.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I Truly Fell in Love With It

Mother's Day is a huge deal here. Some say that it's celebrated even more than Christmas. Unfortunately, the day has become an opportunity for mothers to cook and clean all day while everyone else drinks and parties... Hardly a day of celebrating maternal love. In honor of the occasion and in an attempt to change this mindset, the CEO Betania threw a big party/variety show today. During the show prizes were awarded to a number of the mothers, students sang songs, and performed traditional dances. My favorite part about this elaborately decorated and organized event was one of the performances: the Marinera.

Luckily, I've already had the pleasure of witnessing this dance, but it was today that I truly fell in love with it. The dance is performed by two people: a man and a woman. She wears a long flowing skirt, a "peasant top," and a flower in her hair while he dons simple pants, a white long-sleeved shirt, and a straw hat. Neither one wears shoes but each holds a white kerchief. They are dressed as traditional country folk, and -to me- the dance mimics this traditional country life.

Before they begin, they stand facing one other, her head held high while his is tucked downward, his hat covering his face. She holds her dress out to frame them both, and the music swells. It is always to a beautiful orchestral arrangement to which they have this physical conversation. Throughout the dance they use a huge amount of floor space for the two of them, occasionally moving apart but always returning to pose and again frame one another. Their feet never stop moving in intricate patterns and movements. He constantly removes his hat while she swishes her skirt back and forth. The clothing is important, it is part of the dance.

Proud, strong and beautiful this dance is an example of a rich and vibrant culture that is still celebrated today.

Con amor y cariño,

PS prayers and positive vibes to my aunt Rita as she had surgery today. Love ya Aunty!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

El camino es largo pero la vida es buena!

Random people playing awesome music outside of our house! I was mad when they first woke me from my nap... but then I saw how cool it was!

Javier teaching me how to drive a moto.

Casually hacking away at the backyard with a machete.


Cinnamon bread I baked!

Nuestra fogata... our bonfire!

Making popcorn!

Us with John, the guy who stayed with us for a few a days.


My new favorite spot!

Let's all dress up like Incans and parade through the streets!

Britt with students!

More students! They made those costumes!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Big White Letters in the Hillside

Happy May! It has been a phenomenal past couple of days. Part of this success is most assuredly linked with my recent recommitment to caffeine and therefore overall enhancement of energy. You see, my mentor, a past AV who offered me advice and answered questions, sent me a bag of ground coffee- surprisingly near impossible to find down here. Sadly, the majority of the coffee grown is exported out of the country and the locals really only drink instant coffee.

This weekend we had the pleasure of hosting the younger brother of a former AV. John has been backpacking around Central and South America for six months now and wanted to make a pit stop in Chulucanas so he stayed with us. We had fun toting him around with us and even brought him with us to the Augustinians' house for our monthly Friday night dinner. Like always, the food was just as rich and filling as the conversation. There's never a dull moment with the padres. I can also thank padre Arturo for giving me his old French Press-which makes delicious coffee by the way. After that we went home and invited Francis (an English boy that is living is Chulucanas for the month as a volunteer) over to hang out. Before long, some of our other friends showed up- there is never a shortage of friends in Chulucanas.

John left to continue his travels on Saturday but our spare bedroom was once again occupied by Micah and Jocelyn (the couple from Stonehill also serving down here). We brought them out to one of our favorite restaurants and made them try anticucho (beef heart-so good!). Next came a trip to the ice cream shop: always a wonderful time!A Saturday night Chulucanas tradition is to walk around the main plaza (so many times that you're practically dizzy!). So after ice cream we went to work off the carbs, doing laps around the plaza and saying hello to all the friends and students we passed. We soon met up with Francis again who also had a hankering for ice cream, so it was off the the other ice cream shop in Chulu. Once there we surprised ourselves by ordering more ice cream- solidarity with Francis!

The next morning we all went to the market for a breakfast of bread and fresh juice. The bread here is so good. Even though I have a fun time baking bread, I LOVE the local bread, and it's cheap: a sol for a full bag of bread! After our breakfast we climbed to the top of the hill that stands right at the city "gate." From this lookout point, you can see out over all of Chulucanas. We had some fun taking in the view and posing by the Chulucanas "Hollywood sign," which is exactly what it sounds like, big white letters placed in the hillside. Soon after Jocelyn and Micah boarded a moto on their way home, but not without us promising to visit them next! They're really great, deeply spiritual, and fun people.

Coffee was not the only thing making me high on Monday morning. The day started with a bang when Britt texted and told us to come right away- and bring a camera! All of the students from the school where she teaches were parading through the streets, dressed in traditional Incan clothes. The costumes were beautiful and it was so fun to see the students literally stopping traffic.

It was so good to see my students again after a week away and it helped that they all professed that they had missed me and were concerned for my well being. Later that day I had my favorite university class. They're active listeners, they laugh at my jokes, and they always complain at the end of the class because they don't want me to leave!

After my class, I pedaled my way to Pelau's house. On the way there, I passed Pelau on the street with some friends and we rode the rest of the way to his house together (precious, right?). Sucora quit her job at the chicken place as she wants to start her own business instead. I'm so happy to see her so relaxed and excited for the future. As I hugged Pelau goodbye he said, come back soon I miss you! Again, precious.

For dinner we went with our friends Ruso, Keny, and Francis to El Cincuenta, a small town just outside of Chulu which is famous for its carne seca and chifles (dried meat, which is kind of like beef jerky, and fried banana chips). Delicious.

Last night consisted of a delicious dinner at the Obispado, and then a visit to the Serenata at San Jose Obrero (the Augustinian parish). Every year on the anniversary of the creation of the parish zone, there is a big party/talent show. It was so fun and interesting to sit and watch the many singers and traditional dancers perform. We finished our fabulous night by going to the Faborit Festival. Faborit is the new discoteca that they will soon be opening in Chulu so to promote it the owners held a big party in a big field. So. Much. Fun!

Ok, I've talked your ear off enough (can you say that when you're only typing?).

May your coffee energize you, may your bread be cheap, and may your chifles always be served with carne seca!!!

Love you!