Sunday, June 29, 2008

EUROCUP08 Video

video
This was the footage from THE goal that was made! The crowd went wild. I love futbol!

EUROCUP08

The Euro Cup. I will simply show photos and video because the excitement is so great I am out of words at the moment!
Yo soy EspaƱol.
Ole! Ole! Ole!People in capes are always super! Just think Superhombre!
Mina 5 futbol gathering center of Cadiz. There about 100,000 residents and I think the whole town was there. The rest that were not there just drove around on their motos honking.
Surrounded by the biggest TV in town and still too tiny for most to see.
Folks above in their flats which later threw grocery bags filled with water down below into the crowd. When Spain won buckets were falling down! I will attempt to post video of when Spain made the first goal. The Plaza de Mina went nuts.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ruffles, Sabor a Jamon

Today the staff arrives for our first program to begin tomorrow. The senior staff members will get things off the ground and greet the instructors along with the students at the Jerez de la Frontera airport tomorrow afternoon. In the meantime, quite a bit of little things have to be done. Going to the bank, calling everyone to be sure they have proper transport into the city and of course spending quality time at the tourism office to figure the local happenings. It has been a busy couple of days but time has flown.

Shelli and I are sitting on own respective laptops contacting and networking as one does in the administrative corporate world and decided that it was time to run a couple of errands and get a few snacks. I have been introduced to the most delightful chip: Ruffles, Sabor a Jamon. Yes, friends, Ruffles, Tastes like Ham. Some of you may think to ourselves that is absurd. Who would create such a thing? I am here to tell you that it is delicious, a melted cheese dip would be a nice accent and then you would have a ham and cheese! The options are endless with this party favorite. We also bought fruit from the fruit stand lady. Also good and a nice compliment to the chips happen to be nectarines. Imagine the possibilities when entertaining.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Home Sweet Cadiz

Not to much to report other than our safe arrival to Cadiz. No major hang ups at any airports and all flights steady freddy. We have checked into our nice hotel and are contemplating lunch plans. Tomorrow we will get things done. Surely. Did I mention there is a spa on the first floor of Hotel Spa Senator?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Back to the US of A

We are home. Safe and sound. I could go on about 8 hours in a Lima airport or a ridiculous incident at the Ft Lauderdale airport that if I think too much about makes me angry all over again, but instead I will let it be. I could also be completely stressed by the fact that I think that my computer ate and lost all of my Peru pictures, but that too I will let be, at least for now. The nice thing is being home, even if its for about 48 hours before leaving for Spain. Home is nice.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Going back to Cusco, to Cusco

Plans have altered just a little bit. Originally El was going to stay in Peru until the 27th and I was going to leave from Puno and head to Lima and ultimately the States on the 20th. But the thing is that Puno really really stunk. Literally and figuratively. It was compared to be the Taiwan of South America which I am not sure is a fair assessment since I have heard plenty of nice things about Taipei, but it was small, dirty and had nothing to offer. Throw in the fact that it lies at about 13,000 feet above sea level walking to get a Peruvian pizza which there is a zillion of is a bit painful. It was cold which normally one can deal with but you throw in the rest with a shitty hotel and no heat and you have got one sick pharmacist and one rather cranky girl. The lake is cool but to be honest. Its a lake. You forget that you are in the middle of mountain and poof there is a lake, so I can appreciate the oddity and all but still a port town turns out to be a port town no matter where it is.

So we have opted to return to Cusco early and El will be returning with me to the States. No need to stay in Peru alone when you aren´t feeling great especially when the Spanish speaking one is leaving the country. By the way, a word of advice, never go to a pharmacy with 2 pharmacists and try to translate. Geesh. Regardless, we made it safely to Cusco which now feels like home.

Apparently today was the marking of the first of festival for Cusco. I asked someone what the festival was for specifically and they said it was for Cusco. So God Bless Cusco and all the little children in it! The streets were packed and there was an endless parade of young pre-adolescent boys doing native dances. It was a sight to see.Tomorrow Lima and then the beloved USA. Traveling makes me rather patriotic...well as much as I am ever going to be I suppose.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Puno

We are now in Puno. We were on a bus for 10 HOURS. We have seen every flipping Incan community in this nation AND every "very very important" itty bitty church. Did I mention 10 hours? When we got here, the folks were late to pick us up and apparently they decided to change our reservations to another hotel because the hotel we originally were going to stay at was all book up. OUr room has two twin beds that El pushed together and no heater! Though I asked for one so we will see. In the morning we get the fun of transfering hotels with our bags down the street. Sigh. So now I am on a 1980 IBM with the worst key board on Earth, just to communicate and let everyone know that we have arrived. As you can see I am cranky!

Tomorrow we head sail on Lake Titicaca and stay at the home of a local on an island in the middle of the heightest navigational lake in the world. Should be cool.

Never been so thrilled at the prospects of getting a plane to leave this town.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Machu Picchu

Another early morning yesterday, 5:30AM, silly Peru. I got on to a tiny bus that takes you up to Machu Picchu on a very tiny road with very narrow turns on the side of a mountain. The only precarious thing is that the one bus barely fits and it functions a two lane road, so there are plenty of moments where you figure that you will plummet to your death because what other possible choice would there be, but no fear, we arrived.

Craziest shit ever! You ready for this... I am getting off this bus and I see Vanessa Fernandez Green my friend and co-worker from 2 summers ago in Cadiz, in line waiting to get into the monument. Unbelievable! Who bumps into people in Peru? We were both completely stunned. We eventually found each other again in the actual monument and took a photo. (All photos will be posted at some point.)

During my very early morning guided tour I couldn´t focus. I couldn´t sit still. I was barely paying attention because all I could do was look for Eliot. My guide new that we were suppose to meet up but he assured me that his trek wouldn´t arrive for several more hours. It didn´t matter, I couldn´t help it. I just kept staring up towards the obvious trail hoping that I would catch a glimmer of him. After my tour was complete, my guide took me to the front enterance where the groups usually rest and eat a snack before entering Machu Picchu for theformal tour. They of course have already seen this impressive Incan site from many meters above.

Without further ado, there he was. First I saw Shuster and Ludlow snacking and as I panned the area, I saw him. I get giddy just thinking about it now. We were definitely like two lost lovers that were reunited. We kissed and hugged. He introduced me to his trekking friends and they all kept telling me how he couldn´t stop talking about me the entire time. It was cute. And as I write these lines I find my typical cynicism fade a bit and blush.

Oh right, Machu Picchu...really freaking amazing! It is huge and really incredible how this community created an entire city in this time period. The structures are so solid. For the religion nerd that lives in me, it was particularly cool to see the Temple of the Sun and some very traditional as well as ecumenical symbols in the architechure and supposed worship of these people.

These people which of course my people destroyed. You know you grow up in a somewhat white protestant community and you have some of that white liberal guilt going on. Then you begin to see the world a little bit and you know that your body runs the blood of the Spanaird. So between the Inquistion, the ceasing of Moorish buildings/life and massive colonialization, you feel badly enough. You throw in a little endocturnation and yellow fever and you have one guilty Spanish American girl. And for the love, let´s not bring up Cuba.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Aguas Calientes

5:00AM in the morning I was attaching my backpack and heading downstairs to catch the train to Aguas Calientes. The tiny town is at the foot of Machu Picchu and is the jumping off point to catch the bus and see the impressive ruins. Nevertheless, the normally 4 hour train ride turned into 6 1/2 hours.

First of all, the train had no heat. When you are traveling on a Vistadome train which had windows on both sides and on the top through mountains you may think that the engineers of this contraption would have considered the winter months. So now wearing like 7 layers, we are off. In my experience with trains which is rather limited to European countries, when the tracks need to changed there is usually some rail personnel that is stationed at that location and has some sort of schedule to know when and which train is on the way. Still Perurail figures that it is best not to hire any additional assistance when there is perfectly good employees already on the train. So when leaving Cusco we would drive a bit forward, pause, then move a bit backwards then head forwards again. Over and over did this occur. Just to get out of town it was 45 minutes. The Japanese tour group thought this was hilarious. Everytime we would go forward, pause and then go backwards they laughed heartly surely thinking to themselves that this part of the fun. I, on the other hand, not so much. I was just getting impatient.

Thankfully the gods reward impatience. We make it to our first stop. 6 people join the train. We don´t move. Time passes. We still don´t move. We are served breakfast by the train equivilent of stewardesses. We still don´t move. It is so cold as soon as the coffee is poured it is also cold. Still there. A guide on the train finally asks what the hold up is and of course the engine isn´t working. So they are trying to fix it. We sit. The train inches forward. The Japanese cheer. The train moves back to the station. The train launches itself like a children´s story chugging slightly along. The Japanese cheer. The train moves back to the station. Sigh. New plan. We are hooking up a whole new engine train. Great, I think. We are finally using our knoggins rather then our caboose. We wait. The Bolivian women that I am sitting with are turning slightly purple. They have no additional gear with them because this was supposedly a nice day trip for them. Through the frostbite on my innerlobes, I can hear the Japanese cheer...we are on our way! Hooray!

We chuckle, now that the issue is resolved. We rationalize that at least it happened at a train station, wouldn´t it really stink if we were on the side of a mountain somewhere. Guess what? We spoke too soon. An hour from our debaucle we stop. Granted at this point the sun has begun to creep out and I am down to only 4 layers, so at least this is good. The train stewards have dressed up as conductors to sell us train souvenirs and later as native Peruvians to sell us hand made crafts by poor children. It´s like being trapped on the homeshopping channel, though admittedly entertaining. We stop on the side of a mountain. Literally. There is about half an inch to the left of the track where you can see many meters down a lovely rock filled rushing river and to our right another inch from a hard rock mountain. We sit.

In good tradition of ALL countries and of ALL transportion types. They tell us nothing. I swear that no one got the memo that communication is the best option in 99% of situations. Its like no one is reading any ¨The World is Flat¨or ¨Who moved my Cheese?¨in these industries. The Japanese are now wearing vests, hiking hats, all with the Perurail logo on it and reading their commemorative Machu Picchu Then and Now books. They are comfortable, clearly, just not cheering.

Eventually we make it. We saw breath taking scenary and mountains of every type. I never knew there were that many type of mountains. The only thing that when we arrive at the train station every train that left after us to head to Machu Picchu is also behind us. So 5 trains are unloading at the same time. A total cluster.

This town is quiant. Tiny tiny tiny, but it feels warm. Matter of fact it is warm, down to only one layer. The only thing that kept me sane on the train other than stories of Bolivia was my new book: A Thousand Splendid Suns. If you read Kite Runner and loved it, go get this book. If you care about female rights, go get this book. If you have any understanding of geo-politics, go get this book.

Okay. I am off to explore a little more before heading back to a very traditional backbackers hostal, so I can wake in the morning and meet Eliot at the top of Machu Picchu. Sounds pretty romantic huh? I am sure that everything will slow down, cheesy music will be piped in and we will run to each others arms in slow motion.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cusco: Day 3

This morning I headed out the hotel at 8:30AM to see the Sacred Valley which basically emcompasses Incan Ruins and more Andean History. It was a great day! But exhauting due to the tons of hiking to really high places. At the Pisaq site, I was on this tiny trail headed up about a fourth of the way up and suddenly I looked down. Why? In that moment I was clung to the side of a mountain and wishing that vertigo was just one of those names that people name trendy nightclubs versus a real imbalance in a person´s well person. I took a deep breath and came down to sit with a Belguim girl that hadn´t even attempted from our tour. Infinitely more entertaining and from the others mentioned the trail only got smaller and higher. Damn heights.

As our tiny little bus speed up very tiny roads we were able to see simply beautiful mountains and of course tons of impoverished neighborhoods. There seems to be at every spot an older women in traditional grab with a young toddler also dress in the fashion usually with an alpaca or llama in tow. Several folks on the tour took pictures with them which cost about 1 sole (not even 33 cents) and I can´t help but wonder where the line of exploitation and assitance lies in these moments.

After a lunch buffet in what appears to be a private residence and a few less scary ruin climbs we finished off our day in Chinchero a tiny little town with a church at the top that was built by, guess who? My people, the Spaniards. The basically raped the Incans took their perfectly built walls and created a sacred sanctum for Jesus. The church at this point has been restored somewhat, but they still can´t pay their electric bill, so they worship in the dark. We actually saw it with the slight bit of sunlight left and a flashlight for the inner room. This tiny town was so charming and the artseans incredible.

Our guide took us in to his sisters house to show us oh the wool from alpacas, llamas, sheep, what have you are hand cleaned, spun into yearn, dyed from all natural goods and then woven into master pieces. I bought things. Who wouldn´t?

Tomorrow inthe wee hours I am off to Aquas Calientes which is the tiny town below Machu Picchu. Soon I will be reunited with the trekkers. A sappy moment...this is the first time since El and I have met that we have not at least spoken on a telephone. Can´t wait to see him!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cusco: Day 2

The trekkers left this morning to explore the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I stayed behind. In a couple of days I will take a train to the town near by, Aquas Calientes, and then meet them at the top of Machu Picchu.

I slepted in. I woke up and changed rooms from the double to the single. Oddly the single is twice the size and has two beds. Once that was taken care of I headed to a local cafe for some cafe con leche and a bit of reading. It is one of my favorite past times when I travel is to hang a bit and just see life in a city. After cafe, I stumbled upon a beautiful old Convent. It is called the Convento de Merced. Merced is the patron saint of Cucso. I got a guided tour which was totally worth it. (Speaking of worth it. I paid for a private tour guide and admittance to the convent and it was less than $10. It is unreal how inexpensive this place is.)

It had been awhile since I really took the time to connect the female worship in Catholicism with that of ancient female pluralistic worshippers. The image of the mother is so center particularly in Latin America and this was evident in the paintings and even in the decor of this convent. I should mention that there are no nuns here and there never has been but they use this word for the place where the priests and monks would reside as well. In good ol´Spanish colonial style everything is decadent; lined with gold, made of pure marble, stolen and rebuilt in the name of God. I wish I could post pictures. It was amazing.

After I sat had some lunch at a balcony shop and watched the small children dressed in traditional garb eat ice cream as they lined the street for a parade that will be a precusor to the festival late next week.

I swung by the local market which was wild because the raw meats, raw chickens hanging, piles of fruits, piles of potatoes (which are originally a Peru thing, who knew?) little smoothie like stands everything is packed and people are certainly enjoying their late afternoon snacks. I, on the other hand ended my afternoon in the spa.

I enterd the Santa Clara Center of Health which apparently is a spa and a dentist. I was escorted up to the massage room which was blaring Enya from a speaker and instructed to take off all my clothes other than my underwear which is standard procedure when getting a massage. Once that task was accomplished then I was to slip in under the blanket on the table and put my face in the comfy foam hole thing. The masseuse enters the room. She places an additional heated towel over my back and begins. Everything was good. She did a very nice job. From the legs to thighs, to back to arms and neck...perfection. It is finely time for me to turn over. In the States there are usually a couple of sheets on you, so no areas of your body are ever exposed. I turned over and she pulls down the sheet and there I am. There I am with my Peruvian masseure and my chest. The Enya seemed to fade and for a complete minute I was in shock. What is one to do in this moment? I am out there. Before the panic completely ensues she places the warm towel over my top half and continues on with the massage. I can´t help but wonder how many she has seen? Is this the norm? And why am I so...prudish in Peru when in the States, not so much? We finish out 1 1/2 hour relaxtion massage which set me back a total of $15. Unreal.

Now I am currently in the lounge with some Brit blokes watching a little footy and laughing about their remarks about the Queen.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cusco: Day 1

The weather is divine in this ancient Incan Capital. We thought that it would be much cooler than it is. Yesterday me and my boyz (Eliot, Shuster and Ludlow) enjoyed our complimentary breakfast and headed out to explore the great city. We visited the main Cathedral which with impressive architechure and plenty of areas for specific veneration of saints there still is a large stone outside of the church that represents the Sun God of the Incas. The devotees touch the rock as they exit their visit of prayers to praise the Sun God as well. It´s good to have all your bases covered I suppose.

The boys decided that the best plan was to climb to the top of Cusco. So we did. As we slowly went through a variety of neighborhoods including San Blas which is the center of art and modernity (which means as far as I could tell there is a Thai food resturant) Shuster takes the role of Jesus with the little Children. All 3 of these guys are pharmacists and sometimes they venture into a language of inside medication jokes that causes me to look at then funny and call them nerds. Shuster apparently had honed in on the fact that there is quite a bit of poverty here and that children don´t always get the small luxuries. The patron saint of school supplies, Shuster, carries a full backpack with pencils with positive reinforcement messages like Excellent! and Super! and pads of paper to learn how to write the alphabet. At first he passes out a pencil or two, soon the entire community has come looking for the Saint! He is surrounded by little children begging for pencils and paper. We even bump into a little girl that knows the words thank you and yes in English. She becomes our guide for a bit through some neighborhoods. She leads us to the local artisan shack and quickly runs in and retrieves the sacred flower of Cusco, thanking him.

You know its interesting because this must have been what the disciples and such felt like with Jesus. A swarm full of blind, deaf, infermed people coming for help and they just stand around in ah, shocked that this one guy can make such a difference in a small gesture.

In the evening we went to the Andean Grill in the Plaza de Armas. We had almost a 4 hour meal in which we tried many native Peruvian foods. For those of you that maybe wondering we did in fact sample Coy (guinea pig) and the beloved Alpaca. Both which were really tasty. Alpaca especially good. The coy was good but these are not meaty animals therefore it is a bit of a struggle to get meat off the bone, but once that is accomplished it is good. Our 3 hour meal was delicious from beginning to end. Well mostly at the end. We tried a mango like pie that had the consistency of stale marshmellows. Luckily I ordered ice cream too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Peru

After a bit of a stint in Ft. Lauderdale international airport which I could bitch about for awhile but refer to other airport antics and that would probably be equivilent, we jumped on Spirit airlines and headed the Lima. The flight was lovely and even though it is a solid 6 hours they intentionally to keep cost down do not have any in flight entertainment and all snacks must be paid for, so the interruptions to my reading were very minimal. I decided to finally read the Sex and the City book. It is nonfiction and it is the collection of columns by Candice Bushnell. I think it puts some things in context about the show. But I digress...

We arrived in Lima and saw the Peruvian National Futbol team in customs. There was a million people waiting for them outside because apparently they lost to Mexico the night before. Latin Americas are serious about their soccer. We jumped a cab and headed to meet Shuster at the Melodia. Lima is dirty, crowded and really not at all impressive. We headed out for dinner and tried the local drink pisco sour. It tastes like a mojito and as long as you don´t over think that there is egg whites in your cocktail, it´s pretty tasty. The hotel was nice (pics to be added later) and the perfect way to end the day. Of course when you get engaged at 7:15 AM and rush off to the airport, it´s really nice to slip into bed with your finacee(add goofy smile here), take a deep breath and get ready for the rest of the adventure.

The adventure came early. Our new taxi friend picked us up at 6AM and we headed to the airport once again to meet Ludlow and head to Cusco. This flight was short and really spectacular. You can see the mountains from the windows of the plain and as you are descending you think to yourself, oh shit we are going to hit one of those! and then when you land you feel like the there can´t be that much more to this mountain and the plane could just tip right over. Obviously, we didn´t do either. Cusco is 10500-11000 feet high. There are moments where you wonder if someone has slipped something into your cafe con leche because you are a little loopy and silly for no reason. The altitude hasn´t been too bad at all. We confirmed things with our travel agent, had lunch took a nap and then hit a pub for dinner.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

And we are off...




Everything at school ended well. Considering I only had one week before leaving for Peru I have managed to get a lot done. The girls (as many did around the nation) invoked a special evening event to see Sex and the City, the movie. We went to L' Olivier, a great French crepe restaurant where we sipped wine and indulged. The food was light and to die for! The above image was the crepe filled with fresh seafood scampi. It got rave reviews. We shared dessert and headed to the cinema.


A few post school parties, here is Chadd sipping on a bucket of goodness at Jimmy B's. Eliot and I even managed to check out a Siam Thai on 9th Street. It is literally two blocks away from us but we never made it there. They throw in a bit of flashy in the most subtle of ways. They make insects out of their lemons and place them on your water glass and we ordered a few finger foods that came to us on special metal warming towers. Our favorite was the Phad Seew noodle dish that we could have eaten for days. If you don't like too much spice it is a perfect selection. If you do, I recommend the curry. You still might have to tell them to kick it up but the taste is right on.

Tomorrow we leave for Peru. Backpacks are packed. We will be trekking mostly through the southern part of the country. We fly into Lima, meet up with a buddy to crash and head to Cusco the next day.