Sunday, July 19, 2009

The adventures after the adventure

So a few people have been asking why I haven't been updating my blog. At first my response was something like, Why would I update my blog when I'm not in a far away land adventuring and doing amazing things? But after thinking for a bit I realized that although I'm not climbing machu picchu, or speeding across the salt flats of Bolivia, or white water rafting in the jungles of Ecuador... (why am I in Texas again?)... I am doing more normal, day to day life kind of things that are just as life changing. Though in a very very very subtle way.

The transition from South America to good old Dallas, Texas was a rough one, though over the last month or two I have found things to do that amuse and entertain me (see above). I worked at the pub for about a month and gathered a little bit of money together. Long hours. Strange nights.
I took a two week trip, traveling from Pride's Crossing, to Martha's Vineyard, and finally to Branson, Missouri. It was incredible. Family is the one thing I wish I could carry with me on my travels.
I've been going through and editing my old blogs, adding pictures and elaborating the stories a bit.
And after returning from my trip I packed up and promptly moved to Austin. I've been here for a little over twenty four hours, and feel as if I'm still vacationing.
But tomorrow starts the job hunt.
And lastly, last week I got one of the best compliments anyone has ever given me. It was a postcard from a friend that said I was a "sneaky custodian of surprise and joy".
That's all for now.
Its not much. But its still an adventure.
Love and bugs

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The winds and I have sworn companionship

Hello All! I believe this will be my final post. I am closing in on the end of my trip, I have less than a week until I´m home, and I have to say the last two weeks have been some of the best. Erin and JC arrived almost a week ago and we´ve explored Cusco, treked through the mountains of Peru, and visited one of the most incredible sites in the world. Guess which one I´m talking about!
Machu Picchu. Duh.
So let´s see. We left Bolivia about two and a half weeks ago. On our last day in La Paz, as I was doing my shopping, I wandered into a weaving shop and basically found an internship that is absolutely perfect for me in every way. The shop is run by a woman from Cambridge, Mass., who started traveling in the seventies and settled in Bolivia almost thirty years ago. She opened up an organization for kids in Bolivia that teaches them art, (including weaving from an old indigenous woman!). All of their artwork is sold at this shop and the money goes towards building new facilities for this art house. She gave me her email and said that if I was in Bolivia again, they offer internships and volunteer opportunities and the employees get to learn how to weave. Quite exciting.
From Bolivia we traveled to a small town called Puno that is on the edge of Lake Titicaca. Unfortunately, I got a bad stomache bug and couldn´t go to the islands with the rest of the group but a few days later was able to visit them with Wilson. The islands in the middle of the lake are unlike anything I´ve ever seen, hand made entirely of reeds grown out in the middle of the lake. They demonstrated how they make the islands, and there are over forty of them with about 25 people living on each one. The greatest thing I heard was that if there is an argument among the families, they simply cut off their part of the island and don´t have to deal with it anymore. We took a boat ride in one of the traditional reed boats, which are made to look like pumas gliding in the water. And on the way I met a woman from South Carolina who quit her job and moved to Bolivia to work in a school for a year. I almost cried when I heard her accent an told her so, at which point she gave me a big grandmotherly hug and patted my hand.
From Puno we headed straight to Cusco where we´ve been for almost two weeks. About two days into our stay, we were separated into groups and placed in different homes throughout the city. My homestay was incredible, with a lovely couple who made great food. We went to spanish school in the mornings, ate traditionally all week and chatted with our families to improve our spanish.
At the end of our homestays we moved back into the hostal and I waited impatiently for Erin and JC to arrive. They were here for about two days before we headed off into the mountains for our final trek. We trekked for four days all the way to a small town called Aguas Calientes. Erin did a fabulous job and didn´t die, despite her one lung. The trek was absolutely beautiful, as always, though pretty tough. When we finally got to Aguas Calientes, which is a town at the base of MaPi, we spent the night there and got up at four the next morning to make it to the top by sunrise. I hiked up to the top, which was pretty incredible, and met Erin and JC up there to tour the ruins. MaPi is not only incredible in its construction and size, but especially because it´s on the top of a mountain. Climbing the stairs up to the top, I realized how horrible it must have been for the people who lived up there because I was ready to pass out by the time I arrived.

Anyway, we have less than a week left. Two more days in Cusco and three in Lima. People are starting to trickle home and the rest of the group leaves tomorrow morning. V. sad.
I absolutely can´t wait to see you all and I hope everything is going well.
Love love love love love and bugs

Thursday, April 23, 2009

TISA, right?

Hi! So let´s see. The trek. The trek! Oh my the trek!

Starting a little over a week ago, we traveled by bus to the start of our trek. Besides walking for eight hours a day, it was fairly uneventful. The scenery was beautiful, as always, and we saw a number of exotic birds and lots of llamas. We made our way through almost every kind of weather, starting in snow, working our way through cloud forests, and ending in the hot humid climate of the jungle. Our trek ended in the tiny town of Coroico, where we rested for two days. I was so sore I spent most of the time either in bed or waddling out into the square to find food.

From Coroico we had a twenty hour bus journey. Twenty hours! We ended up in another little jungle town which paved our way into the jungle portion of our adventure. We traveled by jeep to a small river called the Yunga, which feeds into the amazon. From the riverside we hopped on a boat and traveled to our jungle logde. It was a great ride, we saw all kinds of crazy looking birds and monkeys, and we actually got to feed a bunch of capuchins. My favorite bird was a big ancient bird with an orange mohawk and blue circles around his eyes. The lodge was pretty basic, but delightful all the same. There were a bunch of hammocks on the front porch, beds with mosquito nets, and some of the best food I´ve had all trip. Out front was a big tree you could climb and jump into the river from its branches, but after finding a crocodile on the shore one morning I avioded swimming in the river. Each day we had a different activity planned. We hunted anacondas...which is actually a lot more exciting in your head so Ill leave that up to your imagination to think about. We looked for crocodiles at night... really exciting and really creepy. The only way you can find them is by searching for the orange sparkle in their eyes which to me just looks like hunger. Everything we did, we did by boat, so inbetween activities we sailed around looking at the weird plants and animals. On the final day we swam in the river with pink river dolphins and fished for pirhanna in the swampy areas. All in all it was a great trip, except for the fact that I am covered head to toe in mosquito bites and can´t stop scratching them.
At the moment we are back in La Paz, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite cities. Two nights ago we went to a curry house that has something called the vindaloo challenge and the deal is that if you can finish the vindaloo, you get a free t-shirt. Naturally, I took up the challenge and have been regretting it ever since. The curry is almost all pepper seeds and they give you about twice the portion.... I finished it but it took me two and a half hours and I lost my dinner soon after. I´m not really sure why I thought it was a good idea.
We spent yesterday biking. But it wasn´t just any biking day, it was biking something called the Death Road. Not only is it an extremely steep and rocky ride, but one side is a cliff that masures anywhere from 300-900 meters. (Mom, there´s a reason why I didn´t tell you about it before I went) But don´t worry! We were fully geared up and had excellent bikes and the journey was great. And I got another tshirt that says ¨I survived the most dangerous road.¨
And lastly, our group has now lost four of its members, and my closest friend Richard left yesterday. I am a sad panda. But Erin and JC join us in less than two weeks!!!!! And then its only about a week and a half before I am home again.
I love you all, you know I do

Friday, April 10, 2009

Chuchaque en la manana-REMIX

(hangover in the morning)
It was one of the girls birthdays last night, so I´m going to keep this short so that I can go hunt for some water and a coffee.
The last week has been excellent. We took a three day jeep journey across the salt flats of Bolivia. The salt flats are unlike anything I´ve ever seen, filled with lagoons and strange lakes, potassium deposits that look like snow, and beautiful flamingos that live off of the salty shrimp in the shallow waters of the desert. We visited an area properly named the Salvador Dali Desert, as it was a garden of oddly shaped rocks we got to climb all over. Each night we stayed in a local lodge sitting on the edge of a beautiful lagoon and had plenty of time to watch the sun set. I woke up early each morning and climbed the nearest hill to watch the sun rise, as well. The sky is so big here, like Texas, and it makes me a little bit homesick. After that we visited a hotel made enitrely of salt (I licked the wall!) and an island in the middle of the salt flats covered in cacti. One thing about the salt flats is that it is vast expanses of white where you can take a number of exciting pictures, looking as if you´re climbing out of your hat or being crushed by your sunglasses. As a group, we spelled out tranquilo (which means calm and is the theme of our trip) and I still haven´t heard the end of my sad life as a ¨U¨. I never knew my arms were so short!

After the salt flats, we traveled through a number of small towns in the desert. One of which had a train graveyard- a perfect version of an adult playground. We spent hours climbing all over trains and reading the grafiti, one of which said ¨We need a good mechanic urgently¨in spanish. After that, we made our way to a mining town called Potosi. There we toured the mines- outfitted in full miner suits with bandanas over our mouths. We climbed down in to the mines with our guide and met many of the miners and brought them gifts of dynamite, soda and coca leaves. I´ve never been to a mine before, but the treatment of the workers and the pay is hideous. Apparently, though, there is one miner in Potosi who makes over 5000 US dollars a month and owns a mansion and ¨changes cars and girlfriends like he changes socks¨. Otherwise the average wage is 1000 bolivianos a month (which is the equivilant of about thirty dollars) and it takes more than five years to be promoted. At the end of the tour we had some extra dynamite.... so you can imagine the explosions. As it turns out, I like dynamite. Its nice and destructive.
At the moment we´re in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. Its a big city, almost all black market, and we´re about to hit the town to visit the Coca Museum and a few churches.
Tonight we start preparation for our trek into the jungle- machetes! We leave officialy on Sunday and return a little over a week later. We have three days of trekking, three days in a jungle lodge (with a swimming pool!), a safari, and a few days in a small jungle town. Yay.
All for now.
Love and Bugs
and soda


Saturday, April 4, 2009

I must admit its getting better, getting better all the time

Where to start?? I guess I last left you with a pretty miserable blog and a pretty miserable me. But things have gotten better. MUCH better.

After spending a few days recovering in Huaraz we headed for the big city of Lima. I really loved Lima. Though its overwhelming at first, it is full of incredible architecture, great museums and coffee shops (my favorite), and an abundance of things to do. We spent most of our time wandering through the city, looking in book stores and sitting at the only starbucks in South America. I had a mocha latte. Oh my.

After choosing from a number of museums in the area we decided our first should be one that is most well known for having the best collection of pottery in South America. The collection itself is one of the most impressive things Ive ever seen. Not only are the ceramics extremely advanced for their time but our guide was excellent and was passionate about every single piece. Let me talk about the restaraunt, though. You can imagine that after sleeping in a storage shed and eating rice, vegetables, and soup for two weeks anywhere would seem like paradise. But this really was. The restaraunt had an outdoor patio with ivy falling down from the ceiling sitting in a garden bursting with beautiful flowers. I have been so happy. I ate well that day and smile for about three days afterwards. My favorite part of the museum, though, was a room full of ancient textiles. It houses everything from the world record holder for the most threads per square centimeter to tapestries woven entirely from colored feathers. It was my dream world. Next to the textiles was a room of ancient jewelry- everything from large nose rings to full head dresses made of beaten copper. (lyndsey I took about 20 pictures for you- I know youll be inspired!)

We visited a number of other museums in Lima and a beautiful cathedral with a series of catacombs that has over thirty thousand bodies buried in it. Its pretty creepy down there, actually.

Our next stop was a small seaside town called Paracas. It was a lovely town, though we only stayed for a night. Right as we arrived, though, the owner of the hostel took a bunch of us out to play soccer and with in about twenty minutes of play we had another six people ready to face us. I hate to admit it but we lost horribly and owed the other team a six pack. The following day we took a boat tour of the Ballestos islands. The entire island is full of sea lions, penguins, and blue footed boobies (the coolest birds in the world).

Next up is Nazca, known for its the mysterious lines that can only be seen from the sky. We stayed in a lovely hostel with a pool and the next day took a ride in a five seater airplane to view the lines. Can I tell you how sick I was? Thank god it only lasted half an hour.

Ill have to fill you in later on with the details on this next story but let me just give you a quick recap of that night. Long story short, some people got angry with us in a restaraunt Richard was head butted in the face, John jumped off the balcony to catch the guy and in turn was stopped by the waiter. I had to hold John off while Richard ran back to the hostal to stop his nose bleed and I had to file a police report. In spanish!

Anywho, next up is a twenty four hour busy journey that I dont really need to fill you in on except to say that I got quite attached to our cab driver who took us across the border into Chile (his name was Raul) and tipped him quite well.

At the moment I am in Chile, though in about twelve hours were headed into Bolivia. The last few days have been excellent, I watched the sun set from the Lunar valley and toured the area. Yesterday I spent about eight hours on a bike and sandboarded out in the dunes. So much fun but i got a mouth full of sand and a tiny sunburn. Today we got up at 3am to meet a tour bus outside our hostal to take us to a famous field of geysers and some thermal pools. It was an amazing day, but driving up into the mountians of Chile the temperature drops by about thirty degrees and I had on jeans and a thin sweater. The geysers were incredible, though, and seeing them at sunrise was almost ethereal.

Anyway, as I said tomorrow we head into Bolivia and we start out three day jeep journey across the salt flats. I hope all is well. I love you all.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Loneliness is Misery´s Best Company

I just got back from two weeks in the remotest parts of Peru. Sounds cool, right? Well it wasn´t. It was a combination of the hardest and most miserable two weeks of my life, with a few sprinklings of sunshine. You know how in hindsight, you tend to forget the bad parts? Well, I will never forget. Ever. I´m being a little strong here, but let me explain.
Starting about two weeks ago, we set off on a five day trek through a region called the Cordillera Blanca. Its a gorgeous area, full of picturesque views, indigenous women herding sheep and knitting hats, llamas and alpacas, beautiful rivers and lakes, and a number of small self sustaining mud villages. Each day covered different terrain, some relatively flat trails and some trails that were entirely vertical. Though it was tough, it was gorgeous and extremely rewarding. Each day we would arrive at our campsite around four, pitch our tents, cook dinner, and be in bed by seven. The days were long but believe it or not, I love treking. It gives you time to think, to sort out your mind and your body, and the nights give you a chance to scare people in their tents. Treking also gives you an excuse to eat all day long, as there is not a minute when you´re not burning calories.
But, the problems started at night. At around five o´clock, the rain would start. Not a big problem if you have shelter, but we did not, and alternating our campsites between fields in small towns and construction sites meant that we were either sleeping on rocks or in mud puddles. We were split into groups and were meant to cook our food each night, but many went hungry because of the rain, or as was the case in our group, because of poor pre-trek shopping.
About four days into the trek, the sicknesses started. I got a bad case of the shits (excuse me, but I have no modesty left), which lasted until about two days ago. On the final day of our trek we practically ran the trail, imagining a number of exotic sites at the bottom (many of which involved toilets and showers). In reality, though, we arrived in a small town made entirely of mud with no shelter, bathrooms or showers for us, where it constantly rained and smelled of dead chickens and cow manure. I cannot tell you the disappointment that swept over the group upon our arrival. The town didn´t even seem to know we were coming and spent the rest of the day scrambling around trying to find us some kind of accomodation. In the end, I slept in a storage shed with four other people and the rest of the group slept in a local chapel. Our bathroom was a field in front of the church and showers were nonexistent. While we were meant to teach children English and plant trees at the project site, upon arrival we found out that there was no functioning school and plenty of trees. We ended up building a fence for a future campsite for the many many tourists who trek through that area (note the sarcasm). It was a bust and I do not feel as if we did anything except busy work. Lastly, about a day after we arrived I came down with a bad cold and soon after came down with some kind of terrible stomache bug. Hmph.

I do want to point out some positives, though, because who wants to read only about misery?

The town. The town was pretty quaint, filled with old women with so many stories in their faces I sometimes couldn´t look away. One morning when I was sick I went outside to get some fresh air at about four thirty and I watched the sun rise and the village come to life. I watched the old women, who wear the same outfits every day, slowly come out of their tiny homes and tend to their pigs and chickens. There was one particular woman who I loved to watch, she was about three feet tall and over ninety years old and looked as much like a witch as anyone I´ve ever seen. Next to her house was a pile of rubbish where a family of pigs lived and she would wake up in the mornings and feed them, shuffling around slowly and speaking the traditional mountain language which is rather whispery and harsh. Everything she said sounded like a curse. On that morning I watched the shephards herd their sheep from a small mountain town below up to where we were staying. And lastly I watched all the village kids come out looking sleepy and bored with their lazy south american eyes and their brightly colored clothes.
Lets see, what else? On our final day, I almost killed a chicken, but at the last minute I couldn´t do it. I was standing over it, one foot on its feet and one on its wings, holding a rambo blade in one hand and its head in the other and at the last minute it opened its mouth and cawed and I just couldn´t do it. I did everything else, though, from plucking the chicken to removing its insides. We made a football with its throat (remind you of anything?) and I spent about three hours cutting it up to make a traditional Peruvian dish for the last night of our stay. It was delicious and I shall make it for you when I get back! After everyone finished eating Wilson (the good trip leader) took me to the center of town with the leftovers and called everyone to come try it. About 20 kids came running from all over with their bowls and we filled them up. Then slowly, the old women came out of their homes looking sly and as soon as they saw the food they whipped their bowls out from behind their backs and smirked a toothless smile at us. Everyone looked so incredibly happy at the prospect of good food and that is truly what made the last two weeks worthwhile. I have to say, though, with only a few rays of sunshine a miserable few weeks doesn´t do much for your mood while you´re traveling. And I will never do it again.
But, as Bob Ross says, ¨We don´t make mistakes, we make happy little accidents.¨So I´m going to continue with my trip and hope that the rest is better than the last two weeks. And if it isn´t, I will still come home with some great souveniers, some good stories, a new perspective on how to live, and a little Spanish under my belt.
Love and bugs,

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Hello! I apologize, I know the last one was short but this one must be even shorter.
But quickly....
First of all, I´m alive!
Second of all, we´re in a hostal! I have a bed! and toilet paper!
Third of all, we´re about to camp for two weeks. No shower. No bathroom. No bed. :( Sad panda.
Ummmmm Oh, and we´re in Peru. I love Peru. The people are lovely and have great clothes. Lots of colors and full skirts, hand made felt hats, and interesting patterns. The women carry their belongings in big colorful cloths that they tie around their shoulders.... when I go back to school I plan on carrying my books in one. The food is delicious, mostly chicken and rice and some delicious pastries shaped like rockets that are filled with apples. At the moment we´re staying in a small city called Huaraz where both our leaders are from, though we´re about to head into the hills into a region called the Cordillera Blanca to do a five day trek and a nine day volunteer project. SO! I won´t have internet or phone access. I love you all and will call/write when I return to civilization.
I miss you!
Love and bugs,

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Illness and Injury

Hola! This is going to be quick, as the internet is extra slow today and I´m a bit cranky.
Its been a very long week, one that I would not like to relive. Ever.
In a nutshell, three people in our group are out of comission for a few weeks. One split her head open on some stairs and had to get a minor surgery. One received a bad burn from a motorcycle and can´t walk. And the other has a severe sinus infection and migraines (sp?) and is in a lot of pain. If you´re still curious how these things happened when I got home, I´ll tell you the whole story...but on a later date.
We´ve come to the end of our time in Puerto Lopez. Its been a strange combination of really good and really bad here, though the community has been wonderful, it is an extremely poor, hot, and dirty town and it is very difficult to live here. We did in fact finish the kitchen we had been building and the town threw us a lunch yesterday. It was some of the most delicious food I´ve eaten here. We´ve developed good relationships with a lot of the townspeople, especially the children. Just yesterday I met a little girl named Maria who played soccer with us and followed me around speaking spanish too quickly for me to understand. We have a local hang out in town and have gotten to know the owners of a few good restaurants. In terms of food, John and I have been running to the fish market pretty often so that we can use the small barbecue pit we have outside our house. Its really fun to haggle with the guys in the fish and meat markets. Pedro, a local we´ve gotten close with, taught us how to cook the best tuna I´ve ever had in my life. Richard and I cooked a few meals for the group and I got to gutt an entire chicken that still had the neck and feet on it. So satisfying!
Tonight is our last night here and at about four tomorrow morning we head into Peru. I´m excited, but the bus ride is supposed to be about 15 hours with some uncomfortable bus changes inbetween. Anyway, I´ve got to head back to try to cram all of my belongings into my pack. Wish me luck!
Love love love and bugs

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blue Footed boobies!

I´m back! This will just be a quick one but I´m attempting to upload a photo right now, so hopefully it will work.
Today we hired a boat and went fishing for about 7 hours. It was a wonderful day, we sailed around the islands off the coast of Puerto Lopez and fished out at sea. Though we only caught one fish, we spent the day laying out on the boat, chatting, and pushing each other in. The sea here is really beautiful, though a bit violent. And will you believe it, I didn´t get sunburned! Mom, aren´t you proud? When we got back to shore, my friend John marched around town with the fish above his head screaming ¨Vente Dollares! Just for you, un bonita pescado!¨ We gutted it when we got home and examined its insides- so amazing- and at the moment John has it on a spit and is grilling it for us for dinner.
The rest of the week and the weekend has been good. We worked most of the day Saturday and then went out about town Saturday night. This weekend is a big festival where people from all over come into town to crack eggs over each others heads and dump buckets of water on each other. Its a very strange festival and I am unhappy to say that I was attacked by three guys with eggs last night. A bunch of us headed back early to take showers only to find out that the water had run out, so John and I took baths in a big barrel of rain water outside our house.

Anyway, I miss you all! xoxoxox
Love and bugs

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oh, hi

I wish I had more time to work on this blog and make it presentable, come up with creative titles and make you sit on the edge of your seat as you read this. Alas, I am in an internet cafe slower than an old lady in a hover-round with about six people in line behind me. Its time for an update, though.
We are currently in a small town on the coast of ecuador called Puerto Lopez. Its a wonderful town, more like a village really, filled with curious little kids, dirt roads, and shabby huts. After being stranded in Quito for an extra day, we started our journey here on a private bus. The trip was originally supposed to take only about 8 hours and in the end took about 17 because of a series of landslides that occurred on almost every road leading out of Quito. About seven hours into our trip we hit another road crippled by a landslide and somehow ended up on a single land dirt road, driving through a series of banana farms. I can´t tell you how terrifying this journey was, but I will say that at one point everyone had to get off the bus and push it up a particlarly steep and muddy hill.
Arriving in Puerto lopez, it turns out that not only are we staying in a house built by previous members of Venture Co, but we´re sleeping five to a room the size of a closet on a concrete floor in heat I can´t even describe. I woke up last night with a friendly little cockroach sitting on my shoulder which I quickly flung against the wall and crushed. I was awake ever after.
Richard and I have been running in the mornings, which is good for me as I have already gained about 7 lbs with my excellent diet of meat, potatoes, rice and ice cream.
We started our first project yesterday, which has been really wonderful so far. We´re building a small kitchen for a local school and inbetween we´ve been playing soccer with the local kids and heading to the beach every day for swims. The work is hard, though and I am getting more tired by the day. The combination of cockroad guard at night and trench digger during the day is exhausting.
All for now.
Love and bugs bugs bugs
PS Dad, that last comment was AMAZING.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My knees are on fire, we´re stuck in Quito, I miss you

First of all, gushers are amazing. No one on the trip seems to realize the incredible deliciousness that comes in a pack of gushers but if you are in the states, I strongly suggest you go out and buy a box and let me know how quickly they go.
We spent the weekend in a tiny village called Tena in the jungle. Can I tell you that I love the jungle? I do. The bus ride was beautiful, and terrifying. (Dad, remember the roads in Greece? Imagine switchbacks made out of rocks held together by chicken wire) We traveled through some beautiful towns and mountain ranges with exotic plants and birds buzzing about, waterfalls pouring out of unsuspecting places and dense fog covering everything but five feet of road in front of us. Tena is a great town, very poor, but I liked it about ten times as much as Quito. The houses are small and colorful with woven hay and aluminum roofs. Hummingbirds fly around the town like mosquitos and there is almost no criminal behavior. When we got in, we got caught in one of the biggest thunderstorms I´ve ever been in and were soaked to the bone.
We spent the evening in a pool hall with a bunch of locals. When we first walked in, a bunch of men surrounded our pool table and stared us down for about half an hour. Surprisingly, I´m a pretty good pool player, though, as are the guys I was with and they nodded and wandered away. It was strange, though, as the men in the pool hall get drunk, they start to tie their shirts up like belly shirts and walk around showing off their respective beer bellies.
My favorite food so far has been street food called pinchos, which is basically a scewer of meat, potatoes, and some kind of zucchini. I can´t resist one whenever I walk past a stand and in turn have been eating about six meals a day. (Mom, you would love them!)
On sunday morning we got up early and piled into a bunch of trucks and headed to the river for some white water rafting! We treaded through the jungle to get to the river... if I could tread through the jungle every day for the rest of my life I would. It was one of the greatest days I´ve had on the trip so far. We headed down the river, taking turns hitting the rapids and played tricks on each other to knock everyone off the boat. At one point I got to ride on the front through a particularly rough patch- it was fabulous. Our guide was hilarious and spent the entire time trying to either flip our boat or push me off. I got him in the end, though and he let me play guide for a while until I made us miss some particularly exciting rapids because I was busy spinning the boat. The only downside was that I got my knees very badly burned and can barely walk.
We spent last night heading back to Quito and found out that we´re stuck here for another day because of a bunch of landslides on the main roads heading out of Quito.
All for now. I love you, and love the comments still.
love and bugs

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Yo necesito pagar la cuenta de la correa!

So the week´s been good, with the exception of a little sickness and the fact that I can´t walk up or down stairs.
We visited the equator yesterday. I was able to successfully stand an egg on its end (for which i got a signed certificate) and I was able to hit a target with a blow dart gun. The equator is really beautiful and sits next to one of the largest ecological reserves in the world. And honestly, I was more intrigued by the ecological reserve than the equator. The reserve is inside a volcano where there are over 200 hummingbird species and hundreds of different exotic plants. People live in there to tend to the plants and birds. How amazing is that. I've been imagining an advanced and successful society of old ladies, herding sheep and knitting and drinking chicha on the front porch of their little volcanic homes.
The equator itself is pretty touristy, but I met a bunch of people from Boston (yay mese and julia!). The best part of the tour was when the guide brought us over to the preserved animal and human head display. Sound weird? It was. Apparently in ancient times
I´m getting closer to a number of people on the trip and I´ve been having a lot of fun. We had Salsa classes tonight and apparently I´m a natural?? Alejandro, the son of the hostel owner, grabbed me about half way through the lesson and started spinning me and twirling me like mad. I had a great time, though I have no idea what he said to me at the end of it all. I´m pretty sure it was positive though.
So a few days ago I got a package in the mail. And during one of my lessons Myriam and I went to the post office to pick it up. When we got there I signed a bunch of papers and gave them multiple copies of my passport and Myriam and I sat and waited. We waited for about twenty minutes until an armed officer came out and called the name Sara Blair Patterson. I figured he was talking to me so I followed him into a small office. He then pulled out a razor blade, held up my package and slit it open. He asked me if I knew what was in it and I said I didn´t so he turned the package upside down and out came thirty packs of gushers. I have never laughed so hard in my life, but obviously he wasn´t in on the joke. So then he put everything back in the package, retaped it and put it in a separte bin. I couldn´t figure out why they weren´t giving me the package so I got up and started to walk over to the bin but he stopped me and told me that I had to pay a tax on the package. The problem is that the officers at the post office can´t be trusted with money so I was to go to the Bank of Ecuador to pay the tax. Two days later, I get to the bank and its closed but Jossie and I sneak in the back entrance at which time another armed guard stops me and asks me what I´m doing there. I try to explain in my broken spanish that I need to pay the tax so I can get my package (by the way I only had two days to pay) and he leaves us in a private area of the bank. He then comes out and tells us that we can´t pay the tax there and sends us to another bank near the airport. Big mistake as it is closed and there was no back entrance to sneak into. Anyway, at the end of all of this Jossie and I decide to try a local bank and I walk in and talk to another guard who points to a window that is reserved specifically for mail tax. Gah!! I pay the tax and Jossie and I book it back to the other side of town only to get my package minutes before the office closes and minutes before my package disappears forever. We left the post office and ate gushers all the way home. They were the most delicious gushers I had ever eaten in my entire life. And Erin, I will be your valentine, I will!

We have our Spanish final exam tomorrow, which will just assess where everyone is at the end of the past two weeks of lessons. Saturday we head to the small town of Tena to do some white water rafting and jungle exploration. I hope they give me a machete. After that we head to Puerto Lopez to start our first project.

I love you all.

love and bugs,

Monday, February 9, 2009

Never ever ever again

Never again will I attempt to climb a volcano, especially when that volcano is actually a glacier, with an incline of about 40 degrees, at 20 below, with severe altitude sickness, only a liter of water, and plastic boots that give you a new blister every three minutes.
I don´t even want to tell you the story so I won´t go through it, I will just say that I did not make it to the top of the volcano even though I climbed for six hours. I did sleep for twelve hours when I got home, though and feel as if I could sleep for about four more days.
Otherwise, I´m alive!
love love love

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Updates, updates, updates

Hola! Como estas? Bien? Mal? Mas o menos?
I am well, though I´m starting to realize how long three months actually is.
I´ve had spanish lessons every morning this week and am improving greatly, though I now think in a weird mixture of Spanish and English with a British accent. Myriam, my teacher, is absolutely wonderful. Ella con paciencia. We spend about two hours in the morning learning new vocabulary and having conversations and after a short break we usually have a field trip around Quito. Yesterday we went to the local market, which is incredible. They have everything from whole roasted pigs (which let me tell you are about 5 ft long) to cow tongues and brains (lenguas y cessa de baca). They sell traditional Ecuadorian chocolate in the raw meat section (weird placement choice?). And my favorite, there is every kind of fruit you can possibly think of there. I tried a few new ones, one of which was one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted. Its similar to a kiwi, except grows from a rare cactus on the coast of Ecuador and has a thick, spiy skin. Myriam and I wandered the market and I was able to hold a full conversation with her. Very exciting.
In the afternoons I usually take everyone on an adventure I find in my guide book. Yesterday was exciting, we rode a sky tram to the top of a local volcano and hiked up to the top. We took tons of pictures, all involving us jumping from large rocks to make it look as if we were floating easily in the clouds. At the bottom of the sky tram is a very strange amusement park that was completely empty except for us. We rode go-carts. Simply so that we could say we did it on the side of a volcano.
Other than that, its Spanish, spanish, spanish, but we have a seriously exciting weekend ahead of us. We are climbing the tallest active volcano in the entire world. Its a tough climb, though and about four people have already opted out. Apparently we will be outfitted in full winter gear, including ice picks and crampons, and we start the hike at one in the morning. The plan is to arrive by sunrise because the top of the volcano is all glacier, and is difficult to climb once the ice starts to melt.
Thats all for now. Thanks for all the comments, you guys, its really wonderful to hear from you all!
Love and bugs,

PS. Abigail- if you read this, I went to the supermarket yesterday like you told me in my journal. It was fabulous and I´ve been there three times since.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Theft, Otavalo, and back again

Hi again!
I am back in Quito after an incredible weekend in a tiny town north of here called Otavalo. I don't have that much time but I just wanted to give you all a quick update.
Only a day after everyone arrived for the trip, we hopped on a bus to Otavalo. One of the most important things you need to know about the bus ride from Quito to Otavalo is that it is one of the main routes for theft. Most people traveling from one to the next are either tourists or indigenous people heading into the market, and for the most part tourists are carrying lots of cash to spend on hand made goods. Before leaving, our guide warned us about theft, though with a slight note of unconcern. We boarded the bus, stuffed our bags underneath our seats, and attempted to take naps/listen to our i-pods. The ride itself is only about three hours, but when we got off the bus one of the girls on our trip noticed that her passport was missing. She looked down to find two huge slashes in the bottom of her backpack through which someone had stolen her passport, money, credit cards, camera, and medicine. You know that feeling of violation that hits you after your car has been broken into? Now multiply that by ten and this is what she was feeling. The good thing is that all can be replaced, except the cash. We were pretty shaken up at the end of it all. When we got to the hostel I sewed up her bag and embroidered a little flower on it so it didn't look so terrible. Soon after, we set out to explore the town.

Otavalo is a small town where not much happens. It is quaint and extremely busy,and home of one of the most incredible markets in South America. They sell everything there from raw chickens with the feet still on to beautiful hand made tapestries. We spent hours wandering the market. I bought a hand made shirt, some headbands and a replica of the necklaces the indigenous people wear. I wish I could describe the vibrancy of the people and the market itself but there really are no words. There is lots of interesting food, as well, including fried fish, bags of potatoes and meat, and fruits of all kind. I was feeling particularly adventurous and ate a huge fried fish, fins and all (Mom you would have loved it!). One of the main street foods is beef and potatoes, which is given to you in a little plastic bag and you eat it with a tiny spoon, like the ones they give you at paciugo. So delicious. So unhygienic.
There are lots of old women who wander around the market, decked out in full indigenous garb, who beg for money. If you can imagine someone wandering into joanna's fabric, buying samples of all the cloth from the ethnic section and draping themselves in it, that is how the women dress. Their necks are adorned with ten rows of golden beads, which they make and sell to the tourists. Apparently their families force them to head to the market every day to earn money for the family because they are ¨useless at home¨. They're all pretty cute and I had a hard time not giving them money. One woman followed me around the market after I gave her twenty cents.

We got back to Quito last night and started our Spanish lessons this morning. Im a bit overwhelmed with everything we need to learn, but my tutor is very sweet and patient with me (although I caught her chuckling with one of the other professors and looking my direction so she may only be sweet because she doesnt speak any English.) Either way, I'm excited.

I'm anxious to start moving around the country, though, and am already a little bit bored with Quito. Its a big city, pretty polluted, and we are confined to the hostel for food so there isn't much exploration in our meals. But I still have another three or four months. I am in no hurry.

Anyway, I am happy to report that the trip has been excellent so far and I already feel my Spanish improving, if slowly.

More later. Miss you tons.
Love and bugs,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Confessions of a post teenage runaway

Oh, hello!
I know what you´re thinking... I thought she was dead! But no. I am alive and well in Ecuador.
I don´t have any spectacular stories to give you yet but I will tell you that I am spending the day wandering around Quito with my trip leader, Jim. He´s pretty damn cool and I have a feeling that in just a few days I will be itching to get back to the internet cafe to fill you in.
So far I´ve eaten a stale roll with some cheese and it was one of the best things I´ve ever tasted.
One of the greatest things I´ve seen today was a man in a shop the size of a closet with a beautiful antique sewing maching making shoes. I waved and he looked puzzled. One of these days I want someone to wave back. There´s also an incredible cathedral we walked by that is one of the most ornate things I´ve ever seen.
Two things I wish I had done before the trip are... cut my packing in half and learned Spanish. Yes, dad, you were right. But, private lessons start on Monday so I will be on my way to fluent in no time.
Anyway, more later.
love and bugs,

PS. Like the title, david?
PPS A little elf snuck into my bag before I left and hid notes for me. Thanks Erin, that was amazing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Due South

Aaaaaaaaaaaand I'm off!
Love and bugs,
PS. xoxoxoxo

Monday, January 26, 2009

Traveler underestimates the weight of her backpack

Dallas, Texas-- Betty Teaspoon, a young traveler headed to South America, suffocated last night after being trapped for almost six hours under her own backpack.
Her father warned her that her pack was too heavy but she insisted that everything in it was necessary. "As soon as it reached 73 lbs I thought 'this is absurd!', but she's always been hard headed. She liked to do things her own way and if she thought she needed that six pack of LoneStar and gallon of salsa to remind her of home, by god she would have it."
"I just didn't see it coming." says her mother, "I warned her about being sold into white slavery. I warned her about wandering off into the desert (she tends to do that) and being attacked by iguanas. I even warned her about the dangers of the coca plant; I mean it took me years to rid myself of that habit. But I was the one who made her add that eighth bottle of spf 50 sunscreen. I just didn't want her to get sunburned."
We all worry about the dangers of traveling. Pick pockets, muggers, they're all on our minds. But no one expects the danger to set in before the trip even starts. "She had been working out so regularly," her sister comments, "we all thought she could handle it. I guess now I get to keep all her clothes permanently; before she was only going to let me borrow them while she was away. And at least I won't have to buy sunscreen next summer."