Tuesday, January 15, 2013

day 587: first update of the new year!

Hey boys and girls,

Sorry for this super late update. How've you been? Get through the "end of the world according to that mayan calendar no one seems to actually understand but agrees the 21st is the end of the end" day alright? Yea, me too. How were your holidays? Happy, I hope. Me? Yea, it was pretty great.

So if you remember from my last blog in regards to Christmas... actually, I don't remember if I wrote one. I hope I did. Anyway, on the chance that I wrote one, I would have mentioned that most of Peru is Catholic and therefore, Christmas is celebrated by everyone. There is none of this politically correct happy holidays/christmahannukwanzaka/whatever that happens in the states. It's Merry Christmas, dash it all, and happy new year cause Jesus loves you and God is watching.

But the thing is, Christmas is celebrate as soon as it's Christmas. That is, as the clock strikes 12. Christmas Eve, or "la noche buena," is when all the festivities take place. Not many but a few houses have some lights strung up, a few green and red randoms strung, some may have decorated xmas trees, and there's usually a nativity scene either in the house or set up outside in the street. The plaza de armas usually has lights and xmas trees, many of which are themed for the industries that donated them (last year, tons of "pitufos" or smurfs because it was a thing), and many a vuelta are walked around to admire them.

You eat panettonne for like a month and wash it down with hot chocolate, and the night of noche buena is no different. However, one thing you are most likely to have as your meal this night is turkey. In my house, for example, nothing happened all day. It was a day like any other and I'm thinking, "well, guess this is all. Perhaps I shall prepare myself for a night of rest" when my host mom comes a knocking at my door and declares, "Suzi! Vamanos!" When I ask where in the world we're going at 10pm, she tells me that the noche buena dinner will be happening at my host dad's sister's house. Naturally, she informs me of all this 15 minutes before everyone is telling me they shall be leaving. Given the hora peruana (peruvian hour), I know I have roughly an hour to prepare myself.

So we finally set off around 11pm and walk over a whiles away to the house of my host aunt. We bring a panettonne gift and as soon as we walk in, it's a series of greetings and talking and surprise at the korean girl who is now part of the family (I've never met this aunt before, but this is fairly normal- I don't know how many family members I have, and even my host siblings are often surprised to discover that so and so is actually a cousin... family relations in a small town are pretty interesting).

The table is being prepared, stories are being swapped, the women are bustling around in the kitchen (fun fact, there were only 3 males in the entire house- my host day, my little host brother, and my host cousin... the rest just all happened to be female), and the rest of us are pouring wine into little cups when my host cousin shouts, "Dios mio! Está la hora!" Turns out, in the bustle and confusion of it all, we lost track of time and it was 2 minutes until midnight.

Hurriedly, those little wine shots are passed around, words are given and the toast is made. Everyone wishes everyone good health, the wine is tossed back and everyone hugs everyone. Phone calls and text messages are made and received, wishing friends and families the happiest of christmases, and turkey and rice are served with pannettone and hot chocolate.
Host dad hugs little host brother at midnight.

Pavo a la brasa- delicious

The fam by the end of the night

The night ends, we mosey on back home, stuffed and getting chillier as the night goes on, to snuggle back under the covers and sleep until the morning.

On Xmas day, the day goes back to normal and at this point, I am on full vacation mode. My bags have been packed and I'm ready to leave site to head for a week in Ecuador with wonderful friends. Before then, though, I have to figure out how to get to another PCV's site up in Lambayeque. Along the way, I'm muling a suitcase of things for another volunteer to gift to another volunteer in Chiclayo. Many problems arise, predominately with transportation, and by the end, I am cranky as all hell.

Nonetheless, I finally make it to my friend's site and we spend a wonderful few hours making gluten free treats and later, walking her "this dogs needs to be mine but it's my host uncle's or something's" dog. Super cute.

Gluten free no bake cookies!
Rodgers and some gluten free spiced marshmallow coated popcorn.
Will be making more of this cause omg, so delicious...

PITER! awwwww...

We pack up the snacks, say goodbye to super cute Piter, and head to Chiclayo to meet up with the rest and head on to Ecuador.

So Ecuador... well, let's just say- if you are ever wondering about where to celebrate New Year's Eve, I ask that you seriously consider Ecuador.
First night with all the girls together, we had dinner at Cafe "Dios no muere" (God doesn't die) that was this great Ecuadorian/New Orleans mix restaurant. Sadly, restaurants in Quito seem to only make a very specific amount of food in a day and if you show up during regular dinner hours (aka, anytime after 7pm), most of the food is gone. It's seriously annoying but whaddyagonna do.

Rodger's boo finally flies into Quito and the love birds are reunited. This means that all of us are now together in Ecuador and the adventure truly begins!

We took a bus from Chiclayo to Guayaquil and a plane from Guayaquil to Quito. Here are those of us who took the bus  at the Guayaquil airport, which, by the way, has some seriously delicious smoothies.
In Guayaquil, we climbed up the "Punto Cerro" and got a great view of the city.
There's not much to do in Guayaquil, but  still, very pretty.
The Malecon 2000 in Guayaquil is a nice little walk and there are lizards all up in the trees.
There's a specific lizard park, but we didn't make it there. We head to the airport and set off for Quito!

The hostal we stayed at. It was a fairly decent hostal, close to Calle La Ronda where all there restaurants and stuff were but we had a small incident here when the worker woke us up at 1 in the morning to tell a bunch of the girls they had to get out of the room because another group was coming in. Turned out to be a huge misunderstanding (aka the hostal f'ed up and was a huge annoyance) but they gave us a 10% discount and were eventually forgiven for the mistake. Sort of.

We spend the next morning in Otavalo at a giant market
Then in the afternoon, we head to... I forget what this is called but it carried us to the top of the hill to get a nice view of Quito!

Then we head to Calle LaRonda where chocolate covered strawberries are sold by the street for $1. Let this be known: this will become my favorite thing in Quito, although it was always a hit and a miss when this damn store would ever be open!

Mexican food in Plaza Foche for dinner 
We end our days in Quito (to return later) and head off to adventure land in Baños where the first  thing we see is...  Taffy Pulling. Awesome.

After settling into the hostal, we go for a hike to the Bellavista.
Group pic at the beginning of the hike :)

Group pic at the end! :D

The adventure continues with some fast, fun, bike riding. There was also waterfall rappelling and white water rafting, none of which I have pictures of because they involve water and that ain't touching my digital camera!

Deedee and I stray from the group to go paragliding

A few of us also decide to go ziplining. Seriously, baños was great!
There's this seed in the jungle called tagua, known as the vegetal ivory of the world, that is used to make fun things like this! Just a fun fact.
Ok, here's why Baños/Ecuador is so great during new year's eve. Basically, guys dress up as either widows mourning the death of old year, or more likely, prostitutes celebrating the birth of new year. Then they build makeshift stops on the street and more or less harass drivers for treats/money if they want to pass. It's like halloween but way funnier and crazy!

After Baños, we head back to Quito so that Gato and B can head back to Lima while the rest of us continue on our adventures. We had a bit of time to visit the Basilica.
It was quite beautiful and nice and high up.
The really pretty stained glass, although some of it was missing (it's old, what can you say)
This window made Rodgers kind of nervous... but you could press right up against it and it felt like you were hovering on the edge of Quito.
We visited the Mitad del Mundo (Equator line), although there were 2- the first, big, touristy fake one (shown here) and a smaller but GPS correct cooler one (that we didn't go to because after not sleeping through NYE, the idea of listening to someone talk for 45 min made me want to die)
We made our way the next day to Quilotoa, where there's a beautiful blue lake that is actually an active volcano- it lies under the water and you can see bubbles rising up from it. It's also seriously cold here.

Finally, we head to Cuenca- a beautiful city with very old architecture and a super relaxing atmosphere.
As usual, we head into a church somewhere and began to play with the wax of the candles left. It was fun.
We also found this great "modern art" museum that had the weirdest stuff. This is just an example.
Finally we grabbed some delicious ice cream (Thank Justin, for the treat!) and made our way back to the bus to head back to Perú and home... Ecuador gets two thumbs up!
So, that was my Xmas and New Years in Ecuador! It was basically a giant blast and I had some serious fun, even though I did get pretty hangry sometimes and I thank the dear lord that my friends were patient with me. I don't know what the rest of my year will bring and I've worked on a few resolutions, but I know my time here is coming to a close much too quickly! More about my life now to be posted soon. It's nearly noon and time to get ready for lunch! 

Love you all, and peace on earth



  1. i believe the cart that brings you up the mountain is called a ferrocarril?

    1. very possible! i still have no idea :D but i'm sure the internet knows...