Friday, November 28, 2014

O Christmas tree

Claire found her favorite Christmas decoration and put it to good use.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Walking in heels

At the young age of 18 months, Claire has already mastered the art of walking in heels.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dressing herself

Sorry we haven't had much content recently. Claire has had a cold the last few days and has been very sad and sniffly. This picture is from a few days ago.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday, November 7 - Andahuaylas, Lima, and the voyage home (Mark)

We woke up and didn't take a shower, but washed our hair in the sink and got ready for the journey ahead of us. We didn't have much time before we would be heading off to the airport, so we ate breakfast, got ready to go, and said our goodbyes. Hermano Cesar came by with some homemade cheese - much more than we could handle all at once, and certainly we wouldn't be able to take it with us. We ate what we could, but left the rest with Hermana Rufina. We took a cab to central Andahuaylas, and then caught another cab that would take us to the airport.

The night before with the Solano Family: Rufina, Fernando, Mario, and Araceli

The way to the airport was...unconventional. We never figured out why (perhaps road closures or tolls on the normal road?), but the driver did not take us on the main route to the airport. Instead, he took us on a winding, primitive road that we weren't sure where it was actually going. At times we drove over water, and we went for quite a long time without seeing signs of civilization. Not gonna lie, it was a little unnerving. However, we eventually broke through into the main road again, and found ourselves right next to the airport. We were both very relieved.

I'm not sure if this is the smallest airport I've been to (it may well be, its only competition being Rio Gallegos), but it's certainly the only airport I've been to with no paved roads leading to it. We sat in the small terminal for much longer than we expected - the plane was apparently late in arriving. There were a lot of people in the terminal for such a small plane, and most of them were children. They were evidently on some kind of class trip. After a while, we finally got to move on through security to the gate. The kids were pretty amazed when the plane came by, all of them pressing up against the windows to get a look. I'm sure it was the first time for most of them to see an airplane up close. We got on board, and went along our way.

Once we returned to Lima, we rented a locker to keep most of our luggage at, and went on our way. In possibly our proudest transportation moment on the whole trip, we walked right past the taxi drivers and hopped on a micro, paying the equivalent of a dollar to get transportation back to Pueblo Libre. Taxistas were trying to charge us $20.  Plus, it's much more adventurous than taking a taxi! We walked to a grocery store and bought some food to bring back with us to the USA. It ended up being a nice variety of standard Peruvian treats, and unusually flavored American snacks like pollo-a-la-brasa flavored potato chips.

We needed to get some food, so our strategy was to walk around and find the busiest-looking place and get lunch there. It turned out to be a successful strategy. The food was relatively standard Peruvian fare, but higher quality than we'd had in other places. I had fish, Liz had Peruvian-style arroz con pollo. We also had some passionfruit juice, which we downed quickly and had to get more of. It was definitely one of the better meals we've had here.

We set out to find a house where three old men lived that Liz used to teach (Hermanos La Monja), but we had the wrong house number written down and couldn't find where they actually were. Liz was feeling a little upset to her stomach, so we stopped at a nearby park to relax for a few minutes. After some resting time, we returned to the grocery store to use the restroom, and then went looking for another one of Liz's converts, María Rosa. She was apparently home, but her son told us she was asleep, so we didn't get to see her.

We then decided to drop by the home of the Cardenas family. They were the family Liz lived with in Lima. They were definitely the most well-to-do Peruvian family we visited on this trip, the inside of their home looking not unlike what you would see in your standard American LDS home. Their daughter Araceli was home and let us in. We waited until their parents got home. They were happy to see us, and graciously offered to let us use the showers. After some of the shower facilities we had used (or deliberately not used), this was the best shower of my life.

There was a church activity that night, so we accompanied the Cardenas family to it. It was a Relief Society activity, a showcase of the various crafts they had concocted and skills they had learned over the year. It was pretty well attended, mostly by women in the Relief Society (naturally) but there were some Elders there too. I chatted with them briefly. They didn't realize at first that I was American, not quite picking up on the accent.

After the activity, we went with Los Cardenas to a restaurant, where I would experience my final Peruvian culinary experience for this trip: Chifa. It's basically a Peruvian twist on Chinese food. Hno Cardenas took great pains to explain how Chifa was better than your average Chinese food. He thinks it's better than Chinese food just about anywhere, with the possible exception of China. To his credit, it WAS pretty good. I don't know if I would praise it quite to the extent that he was, however. We think he's just been to the wrong Chinese restaurants in the U.S.

We briefly stopped by at their house on the way out before departing to the airport for our journey home. The flight to the USA would be an overnight flight, so we were hoping to get some sleep. They had a mini-security check before boarding the plane and they made Liz discard her large, overpriced water bottle she purchased in the airport for this trip. She was very upset about this. Our flight was from Lima to Miami to Denver to Seattle. In Denver, we took advantage of our credit card perks to use the United lounge, where we could relax, eat complimentary snacks and drinks, and enjoy our longish layover.

We were happy to return home and we sure missed Claire, but this was an unforgettable and endurance-testing trip. We won't be returning to Peru for a while, if at all, so we were glad to be able to have the experiences we had while on this trip. We're plotting our next big international trip and we promise it won't take as long to get the photos up.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thursday, November 6 - Andahuaylas (Liz)

We woke up earlier than we would have liked to the sound of dogs barking and roosters crowing, which was definitely reminiscent of my time as a missionary. Hermana Rufina made us soup for breakfast which we enjoyed with the bread that Richard and Sandra had brought us the night before. We decided against paying a visit to Pacucha and Sondor since it would be about an hour's drive in each direction and we were still sick of being in a car from the previous day.

Instead, we decided just to head to Andahuylas and hang out. We took a taxi to the Plaza de Armas, then went searching for the French cafe that I visited a few times as a missionary that would most assuredly have wifi. Much to my dismay, the cafe no longer exists. So we unsuccessfully continued our search for wifi and then settled for an internet cafe. We got our internet fix, then headed to the stadium where archaeologists have put together a museum displaying the mummies they have found in the area. Unfortunately, the museum was closed even though it should have been open according to the sign. It was a pretty hot day so we took a break in an ice cream parlor with mediocre ice cream before heading back to the plaza to confirm our flight with LC Peru for the next day.

The landscape of Andahuaylas

For lunch, we headed back to the Solanos and Hermana Rufina fed us soup, pollo a la holla and ensalada rusa. The plan was to visit families in the afternoon. We headed out to visit the Familia Alcarraz, but after walking just a few minutes we ran into Victor driving his mototaxi and he said the wife & kids weren't far behind. So instead of walking all the way to their house, we were able to meet with them in the Solano's house which was easier and more comfortable. We were stuffed from lunch but they brought fresh cheese and Inka Cola which we were obliged to partake of. They aren't attending church very regularly - which was easily noted by the fact that their ten year old Ronald hasn't been baptized yet, so we tried to motivate them to attend regularly. The hermanas are also working with them which is good. Victor and Ysidora have had two children since my time in Talavera which brings the total now to nine. Some of the older ones are in Lima now, working and studying. The youngest, Rosa, is only a few months old.

Baby Rosa!

After their visit, we were running short on time but Araceli took us to Herman Cesar's house for a quick visit. Hermana Nunuvero and I found and started teaching him and he was later baptized and has been very faithful. He has served in the branch presidency and has been to the temple. He's got a very distinctive way of talking and it amuses me.

Then it was time to head to Richard and Sandra's house as they had invited us for a cuy dinner, Mark's first (and probably only ever) cuy experience! Araceli joined us. Mark was a little worried when he saw the live guinea pigs scurrying around under the stove. They were incredibly generous and served each of us an entire cuy - way more than I had ever been given before. I ate a little less than 3/4 of it, and Mark about the same. They laughed at Mark when he picked up a fork and knife to use. Cuy is finger food! While we waited for the food to be ready, the boys Miguel and Sebastian amused themselves with games on my phone. They even loved the games that are meant for babies. It was fun to spend the evening with this family and we really appreciated the sacrifices they made to prepare us such a delicious feast. Cuy is not cheap.

We got back and snapped a few fotos con los Solano, then got our suitcases ready and headed to bed.

  • I think Mark and I will be speaking in Spanglish to each other for the next few months.
  • EVERYONE has an opinion about why I'm sick and what I need to do to get better. They're all wrong.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wednesday, November 5 - Cuzco to Andahuaylas (Mark)

We had another early rise - this time to catch our bus to Andahuaylas. We made it with time to spare, and got ourselves a small breakfast at the bus terminal. We were in for a long ride.

The bus itself was nice enough, and we had seats near the front with extra leg room. The ride got off to an inauspicious start when a guy with a microphone came on board and started speaking. At first I thought he was doing a safety briefing, but then he started talking about health in a long-winded fashion. He was right next to me and would. Not. Shut. Up. Then after what felt like a half hour, he tag-teamed it off to his buddy, who continued on the same vein. I think they were trying to sell ginseng tea or something. I made my position clear by putting in my earplugs.

The ride was long and hot. The roadway was mostly in the mountains, winding around the foothills rather than along the lower elevations. We stopped for lunch at a Peruvian truck stop partway through. It was probably the cheapest meal we paid for on the trip, probably about 2-3 dollars per meal. It was also some of the worst food, tasting just as cheap as the price we paid for it. The bathrooms were also pretty nasty, but we kept the food down and continued the voyage. We were beset with several other problems: There was construction that brought us to a crawl early in the trip. Later, the road was closed off entirely, and it took our driver 30 minutes of sweet-talking the construction guy to finally let us through. At another point the bus wouldn't start back up and they had to work on it before we could proceed.

The route was pretty but also kind of terrifying. I was worried the driver would lose control and we would tumble down the hillside like Wesley in the Princess Bride. We never did. Along the ride, we picked up and dropped off many a people, including a few vendors and Quechua-speaking grannies. I don't know how (or if) they paid.

We finally got to Andahuaylas after five, where Hermana Rufina was waiting for us. We caught a cab just as thunder and rain were rolling in, and ended up at the house of the Solano family.

Our dwellings are rustic, to say the least. The room is not completely closed off, and the toilet doesn't have a seat. Oh well, I've lived similarly on my mission. We ate a dinner of chaufa (fried rice) with Mario Solano, who talks a LOT. I didn't have much to contribute since a lot of the conversation was about people I don't know. Another family arrived, the ones for whom we acted as padrinos de promoción. They brought two large pieces of sweetened bread, which we definitely could not eat much of but had to try our best so that they knew we appreciated it.

Overall it was a rough day with our trip, but the stay in Andahuaylas will prove to be interesting.

(We did not take any pictures today, unfortunately)

  • It is, or was recently election season in Peru. Advertising is a bit different than the USA: Instead of signs, they like to paint a candidate's name as large as possible, so most big blank walls end up becoming giant campaign ads.
  • Peruvian folk music all sounds the same. they were playing some for part of the bus ride. Two consecutive songs had literally the same guitar part (or mandolin, or whatever it was) and only slightly different lyrics.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tuesday, November 4 - Machu Picchu (Liz)

This was yet another early morning for us, as we needed to be at the train station at 6:10 AM. We bough some cheese sandwiches outside of the station for breakfast. Our train car on the way there was filled with a group of French tourists. I know this sounds funny, but I don't like being in places with lots of tourists which doesn't quite work since I myself am a tourist and contribute to the number. The train included beverage and snack service, which was a nice surprise due to our small breakfast.

The train ride was again full of beautiful scenery. The tracks follow the Río Urubamba which is a fast-flowing river with beautifully weathered rocks. We were sitting right behind the conductor's area and the French tourists kept coming up and shoving their cameras in a little window to take pictures of him. They had Peruvian-style panflute music playing the whole time, but it was all American / British pop music that they were playing such as Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Hey Jude, and Simon & Garfunkel songs. It made us laugh.

The train ends in Aguas Calientes, the staging town for Machu Picchu. When we got off the train, we headed down the 20 minutes to the entry point for hiking up to Machu Picchu, while the other 98% paid way too much money to take a Mercedes Benz bus up to the top. Well, when we got down to the bottom, come to find out, we needed to go back to town to actually get physical tickets rather than just our internet print-outs. (Of course, our print-outs didn't mention anything about this.) So it was 20 minutes back up to Aguas Calientes, and 20 minutes back down. We were REALLY warmed up by the time we started the hike up to Machu Picchu.

The hike is very steep but short - it's 1.8 kilometers and it's an estimated climb of one hour. I counted the stairs to keep myself going, as I was still a little sick. Mark was very patient with me, and we made it to the top, huffing and sweaty, in about an hour and ten minutes. It was very rewarding to have made the climb.

The photos with this sign actually happened before we started our upward ascent.

Mid-hike. This is a good representation of the slope of our hike.

We entered the grounds and Mark was in awe. We followed the typical paths through the ruins and took lots of photos. We didn't hire a guide but rather went in with what minimal information our guidebook had, and whatever tidbits we overheard from the English and Spanish speaking guides. There isn't really much else to say - we took plenty of photos and did lots of walking. Afterwards, we ate our leftover pizza from the night before to get our strength up for the hike back down.

It rained a bit as we were going down, which was actually very refreshing. I sweated more than I thought I would for going down, but we made it in 39 minutes and then walked up to Aguas Calientes to eat something more substantial.

We found a restaurant that wasn't impressive by any means but cheaper than the other tourist traps, and had a decent lunch. We then found an ATM and finally got my bank card to work (yay!), then went to the station to await our train.
Dog at the restaurant where we ate lunch

The train ride back to Ollantaytambo was pretty uneventful - this time there was a large group of Chinese tourists in our car - and then we loaded into a colectivo to head back to Cuzco. There were a few German girls in our van so Mark was happy to have a chance to practice a little of his German. My bowels were about to explode by the time we got to Cuzco, and luckily I recognized the plaza where we stopped so I was able to run into a nearby restaurant. We ended up eating mediocre pollo a la brassa there, then headed to our hotel for some much needed R&R after a long day.


  • Some tourists (especially older ones) take completely unnecessary photos. For example, the arrivals board at the train station when you yourself are leaving rather than arriving. Also, the Americanized cafe in the train waiting area or the train conductor in his own special room with whom you've had absolutely no contact.