Wednesday, July 13, 2011

7-13-11

Us Today


Time sure flies when you are having fun!  I'm sure many of you are saying where did the summer go - is it really half over already??  In the  meantime, I am cheering yes - winter is half over!!  Maybe someday I will see the sun again?  At this point, that feels like a big maybe.  Lima becomes a very different place in the winter months.  I would say the city is just taken over by blah... nothing really has cooler, everything seems a little dirty, the trees are drooping, there is a constant haze type of mist in the air most days (it never really rains, but things are always wet), and it is just plain gloomy.  Come to think of it, it is kind of like you can't even notice color when the air is always heavy and you don't see the sun.  Even cars passing by kind of all look the same.  From what I am told, come September the sun will be back!!  Not in full force until maybe November, but I will be happy with any sun I can get.


First Picture together - still my favorite

          I can't say that too much has really changed even though my last blog was quite a while ago.  For the most part, everything is going steady and good.  The job selling vacations here in Peru is continuing at a somewhat steady pace so that is nice.  The political and economic situation here actually seems pretty stable.  Even though there was soooo much drama and bad publicity throughout the elections; now, things are actually looking somewhat positive for the future of Peru.  I am most surprised by the way people seemed to just really accept the results of the election.  For how much passion and fire these Peruvian people had leading up to the election, I was almost a tad bit disappointed there wasn't more havoc after the results came. in.  I guess it is good that there wasn't a stir of riots and in general the public either doesn't care and feels they can't do anything, or they feel they had their vote and the majority won - no hard feelings. BTW if I hadn't previously stated this, Humala, the far leftist, won the eleciton.

This is hard for me to admit, but, I believe it has been approximately 8 weeks since I have left the city of Lima, Peru.  I always wondered how people who lived in big cities could never leave the city; I kind of now feel like I understand.  This city is so huge that it feels nearly impossible to leave without a lot of planning and time.  I guess the most inhabilitating factor would be that I do not have a car, but there are many other reasons as well.  It is really probably not very safe for me to travel alone, I don't know anyone that lives outside of the city, most destinations of interest are at least 3 hours away, I'm not familiar with those closer local oasis that some may enjoy closer to the city, it's not really that cheap, and there aren't that many things close by that interest me.  I sometimes forget that Lima is actually on a coastal dessert, and you have to go quite a ways before you see much vegetation or really anything.  The point I am trying to make is that I know understand how and why people can get "trapped" in a city.  "Trapped" definitely reflects how I feel here sometimes, and I find myself desperately longing for green cornfields!  However, I will be breaking out of this trap next week, and that I am very excited about.  Julio and I have a vacation planned to the northern coast and a couple days in the sierras.  We are traveling with another couple, friends of Julio's, who are very nice.  I am looking forward to warmer temperatures, sun, relaxation, no work, and lots of new experiences.  Luckily, Julio's friend has a car, so this will be a road trip - my favorite type of trip!  We won't be hitting any major tourist destinations and fighting the crowds; we will be heading to a couple quiet destinations with several sights to see and places to explore.  It is everything I could ever want in a vacation - truly!

The last few weeks I have finally started to see the finish line to a never ending race.  The start of this race began when I said my first "hola como estas" with a horrible American accent.  The end of this race gives me the confidence to actually speak up and completely understand a conversation.  I may not be real close to the end of this race; however, I definitely passed the halfway mark!  I find myself actually understanding people, replying without thinking to hard, and then smiling to myself like wow - I can do this!  Of course, this usually occurs with basic common conversations.  I can usually now understand some of the more complex or group conversations as well; however, I definitely need a lot of time to first think in English - translate to Spanish - make sure I am using the right tense (there are like 40!) - then reply.  My delayed responses are getting my by I guess, but I look forward to further improvements. 

It has been a trying couple of weeks here in Peru as far as my relationship goes.  I blame this on a wonderful thing called finals week!  Thank goodness it is over.  Julio and I generally just see each other on the weekends and one night a week, and that is about right in my opinion.  He is very busy with school and work, and I feel very happy with the time we get to spend together.  However, the last two and half weeks have been more challenging.  He has been crazy busy and stressed - putting him in a bad.  I never get to see him or talk to him - putting me in a bad mood.  I then talk to a couple people who kind of put some crazy ideas in my head like that I need to demand more from my boyfriend and not put up with anything.  So, I get a big head and try to demand that I deserve everything and won't except anything else. (maybe this is a little dramatic - but you probably get the idea).... Anyways....   What I am trying to say is that I took a normal, happy life - made up some problem in my mind and acted on it - which actually created the real problem when there was no problem before - then I feel bad and realize I acted like a "typical woman" which of course no woman wants to be.  In the end, I'm lucky to have a boyfriend who is very understanding and still loves me.  Maybe it is in the water down here, putting that Peruvian fire and passion into my blood - not sure! 

my crazy look


So now that I am back to being sane again - after only being crazy for a couple of days, life is good!  I may not have as much direction and acheivement in my life as I had set out to have, but I think I have something more.  I feel alive, able, and free.  I'm not sure we can ever truly learn and know who we are in our lives, but that does not mean we should ever stop searching.  Life is an everchanging process.  I have no clue what I really want to be (when I grow up), where I want to live, or plans for the future.  Oddly enough, I do still feel 100% confident in who I am and the values I have.  At times, I wonder if I am slacking.... should I be setting higher standards for myself? real life goals?  Then I think, if I had these predefined standards I was working towards at all times - could I ever just live and be happy?  I'm sure there is a combination that works best for each person.  I've decided, at least for now, I'm pretty ok with just taking things as they come.  I always try to do well at what I am doing and make others around me feel happy.  I'm pretty sure that isn't the secret to life or progress in society, but it leaves me at peace.

Good night to all!

Monday, June 6, 2011

6-6-11

The first time I came to Peru, I was a backpacker longing for an adventure through those places not traveled and seen by most.  It was quite a mind rattling experience, but at the same time a complete blur.  It isn't that I wasn't seeing what was going on around me because I definitely had my eyes wide open, but it was a deeper understanding to the question "how?" that I couldn't grasp.  Sure I could see the poverty, I could comprehend the dire situation that these people are in and that the reason for it reaches far out of their personal control, but how?  How in this day and age do we not have a solution?  How in this day and age, after 1000's of years of government, have we not mastered the art of successfully governing the people? How in this day and age do we not understand or care about the consequences of our actions until it is too late?  Is free will to blame? Are we the people of God inhibited by our own free will?  Are we unable to overcome our desire to make decisions based on our own needs and wants?  Is it really human instinct to satisfy your own needs before another's?

Of course I don't have the answers to any of these questions, and of course I am guilty of these selfish acts.  I even dare to complain and suggest that I am having a difficult time.  Shame on me. Had I put that wasted energy into doing some good for someone else - even the smallest of tasks, I would have been reminded that I have everything I could possibly hope for.

The results of Peru's election have been made official. The majority in this country has spoken (although the margin was very small!), and they are ready for a complete 180 of the government process. Ollanta Humala will be the new president of Peru.  From one standpoint he is viewed as a "nationalist" looking to incorporate socialism to better the life of the poor and change the future of this country for equality of all.  On the other hand, he is viewed as a "dictator", an ex-military leader wanting to take complete control of the country and destroy any economic future.  Today, the peruvian stock market fell over 12% in the first hour of opening.  Markets were then closed for the day to avoid a complete disaster.  What will tomorrow bring?  Part of my wants to be fearful and join the belief of the masses that Humala is going to force government control, change the constitution, kick out all the foreign individuals and businesses (me included!) and drive the economy into the ground creating havoc. In reality, \my true feeling is that Humala does want to do what is best for the people and help them.  Socialism is a great idea in theory, but it has a long standing history that proves a socialist society can not rise up.  By taking from the rich (taxes, control, etc...) and giving to the poor, how does the situation really get better?  Sure the gap becomes smaller between the rich and poor, but business growth slows and self-motivation to become better or work harder falls.  I'm not saying that government regulation does not have its place.  I consider myself to personally lean a little to the left in the political spectrum.  There is definitely a place for government control and regulation in a free market society; how much? and where? are the most difficult questions.  I hope Humala can see the need for a balance, and along with his Congress will have the people's future in mind.  What is a fix for today is in no way what will be a fix or success for the future.

That is enough about politics. I pray the people can come together and seek a higher motivation to not only better their own economic situation, but create something that will grow and give the next generation to have the simple luxurious we take for granted at their finger tips.  Basic needs like clean water, a roof, hopefully education and health care will be something available for everyone.

A subject I have been wanting to talk about has really come to the forefront this week.  It kind of falls into line with the elections and thoughts of "how" as well.  I've been thinking a lot about the things that really build our character and make us who we are.   It is common to assume that one has personal characteristics or mannerisms based on their genes or the social condition they were raised in.  Of course this is true, and has been proven so by science.  I was wondering how it is that some people fall so easily into this roll and take on the traits that come so naturally to them and other people don't.  I'm not in any way inclining that one way is better than the other.  The question does arise to me though, is it our choice to change it?  Is it our state of mind that allows us to make the decision to step out of what comes naturally and change it, or is it just dumb luck that some people are 100% not influenced by these natural instincts.  I believe that it is a state of mind; however, I also believe that there are many outside factors that have to fall into place at just the right time to make it possible.  I wonder these things as more of an inquiry on what drives the human race and how can we reach a greater good.  I know I definitely fall into the category of being subject to those natural instincts of genes and social coding that have made me who I am.  I like to think I can at times step away from my instincts and see things as an outsider watching with no predispotion, but at the end of the day most of my ideals have been ingrained through my upbringing. 

At times I may think and wonder too much, but what I am searching for is more the answer to what really contributes most to a peaceful and loving society.  Is it the majority who follow the natural disposition that inhibit a society, or is it those who are watching the world from a different state of mind (a state of mind that maybe does not have a personal benefit or loss) that inhibit society.  I don't think that there is an answer and I'm sure everyone has their own personal way of viewing this.  I tend to be really interested in reading and learning about how we control our own minds and state of being.  Is to master your own state of mind really a deeper way of seeing the world, or does it just cause you to miss out?  For me, the state of mind has an immense power over your own personal destiny, but are we really supposed to have control over that?  Next time you answer a questions, take note of your first instinct, then take a step back and look at it from outside.  Pretend that the outcome will have no personal affect on you, is your answer the same?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

5-31-11

As I sit in my office with my coat on (yes it gets cold here!), I am longing for the beautiful summer days of Minnesota.  You may also be wondering why I am sitting in my office writing this; shouldn't I be working?  Yes - I wish with everything in me that I could be working on something of importance.  My work here has continued to be pretty slow.  This month of May was definitely better than April; however, the last two weeks have become pretty void of interested travelers.  Since the majority of our travelers come from the United States, I guess there are a lot of reasons that justify the lag in tourists.  Due to the continually rising gas prices (flights increasing!), an uncertainty about the economy, and continuous natural disasters - there isn't much hope to see a big rise in the interest to spend thousands of dollars on a family vacation to South America.  I am lucky that it was very busy here when I did first arrive and have continued to have some success in booking trips in advance.  My pay is a very small monthly sum as a salary and the rest comes from commission.  I don't get paid my commissions for a client that books until close to the time before the client arrives.  This is good becasue I have a lot of clientes arriving in the next 3 months, so at least I will still continue to have an ok income through August.  However, I am beginning to get a little worried about what will happen after the summer tourist season ends.  I guess I can only hope that the economic situation improves and people become motivated to try to book their holiday travel to Peru!  (I keep repeating this in my head to try to keep myself positive; but I am finding myself growing more anxious every day)  If anyone has a great home business idea they want to share, I may be interested! =)  I've been playing with a few ideas, but to make it happen here - where I am not even a legal resident - may be quite challenging.

The following week will probably bring about some changes in Peru as elections are on Sunday.  As I have written before, the final two candidates for president are not popular and very extreme on each side of the spectrum.  I am honestly a little worried to see what will happen - especially in the smaller cities outside of Lima.  As the North of Peru is strongly in favor of Keiko and the South of Peru is strongly in favor of Humala.  There have already been some problems with riots and protestors, and I can only imagine that after the election results are confirmed there may be some conflict.  It is an interesting situation and as an outsider I am not trying to judge, but I am a little scared for the people of this country. A lot of the hope that was there for a turn around for the people of this country has been diminished as they are forced to choose between these candidates.  I hear a lot of people saying well I am going to vote for "this candidate" because they will do less damage to the country than the other candidate.  What a way to choose... Pick the candidate seen as doing the "lesser damage" to your country.

I guess the reason I haven't wrote in quite a while is that I haven't really done anything very exciting lately.  My life has pretty much consisted of work during the week plus now I have Spanish classes two nights a week.  Then on the weekends, we have pretty much just stayed in Lima.  Julio's schedule is pretty hectic between work and school, so it is hard to really get away and go do anything right now.  I know that I could plan something on my own or go somewhere with friends here, but it isn't as simple as it sounds.  I could arrange to rent a car I guess (I would never be the driver in this city!) or get on any number of buses that may be going to and from my weekend destination, but it takes quite a bit of time.  Also, I honestly wouldn't be comfortable traveling alone on a bus - and I don't think Julio would ever let me attempt it anyway.  So..... hopefully soon we can plan a a 3 day weekend so we can actually go somewhere and get out of the city.

This entire blog sounds a little bit boring and negative, and that is not the tone I am going for.  It is not that anything is persay "bad" here, it kind of just "is".  Since it "is what it is", it really is up to me to accept it and make the most of it.  For the most part I am very happy here and with the way that everything has turned out, but like anywhere you are or anything you do - you have to set the mood yourself.  Right now I guess I am just choosing to be content with "what it is" and really have no complaints.  I do feel myself getting a little anxious though.  Being anxious is not always a negative thing - I honestly think it will probably inspire some motivation.  What that motivation will be for is yet to be determined.  Maybe I will head out on a new life journey, maybe become inspired on the business side, maybe some faith and soul searching, or any number of scenarios I haven't yet fathomed.  As many of you know, I don't just sit with "content" for very long.  I really believe that I excel and thrive off of change and new challenges.  So even though right now I may be at a bit of a stand still, I know there is some excitement over the horizon - I just haven't looked hard enough yet.  =)

My apologies for the lack of pictures - as I usually really enjoy documenting my experiences with first hand photos to share with you all.  My camera has been under repair for almost 2 months now.  Apparently here in Peru, it is impossible to get a new part for a camera.  Or so it seems.... I think I will just go pick up my camera and us it as is - it still functions - the zoom just does not work due to an incident involving sand. (Julio is in no way to blame for this - haha)  Hopefully soon I will have it back!

Also, to all my friends and family - I would love to hear from you!  Look me up on skype or send me an email - I feel a little out of the loop down here.  Take Care Everyone!

Friday, May 6, 2011

5-6-11

About three weeks ago, Julio and I went on a hike outside of Lima.  It was a little over a 2 hour journey heading out of the city with a combination of combis, taxis, and a bus.  Driving through the outskirts of Lima, I can't help but be amazed by what I see.  It feels entirely impossible to leave this city.  Even as the city road begins to wind through the foothills and  up into the mountains, there are still people living in every liveable crevice.  The land is very uninhabitable in many areas, as it is pretty much dessert like rock/sand hills with virtually no vegetation.  People live all along the highway, right up to the highway, and on up the side of the mountain anywhere they can put a semi fixed structure to call their home.  There is very little regulation as far as land ownership and property lines are concerned.  You could go as far as to say it is unexistent in some regions.  To be honest, it is a little hard to see.  I realize many of these people have no where to go, probably have no jobs as there isn't much out on the outskirts of the city, but it still feels like something should be done.  Where are all these people coming from?  Even Julio commented that since the last time he had been out of the city this direction he did not recall there being this many people.  It is like you can't find the country, no matter how far you keep going.  This is a very disturbing thought and feeling for a girl who comes from southwest MN.  It also opens my eyes wide to how fortunate I am to have grown up in the United States.  I'm not trying to imply that it is a matter of being better or worse, but we definitely have priveleges and assistance in the U.S. that are not possible in a 3rd world country. 

Eventually, we did reach a point along the river valley where everything turned green and beautiful as we begin to really drive into the tall mountains of the Andes.   We got dropped off at a small village where we paid a fee of 2 soles to enter the trail.  It was supposed to be a 3 hour hike up to a beautiful waterfall deep in the mountains.  We didn't start until about 11 am and we knew the rains were expected to begin later in the afternoon, so we started out in a hurry.  I like to think I am pretty in shape and can keep up with the best, and I tried my darndest.  Julio is also quite an athlete, and I think one who is not accustomed to traveling with a girl =).  The first hour was very intense, up, up, and up.  The trail was fairly well mainted for a while, but then turned into a very jagged rocky trail and not real easy to hike.  The most amaing thing was that there were several very small villages and farms along the way.  We even had to jump off the path in a hurry as an andean women herded her cows, donkeys, and sheep down the mountain with her 2 small kids running along beside her.  This was not real easy terrain to maneuver in, and the fact that these people probably do this every day - 5 times a day - now that is the way to train for a marathan!  Anyway, we began to close in on what seemed like it should be the top as we saw a sign that said 2 km to the falls - I think the hike was 5 km each way.  I must admit - I needed a break!  I was beat and having a hard time catching my breathe in the high altitude.  After a couple granola bars, some water, and a short rest - we finally climbed up the rest of the way.  At a little slower of a pace as I think Julio finally realized he was a little intense for me.  We reached the viewpoint in record time and had about an hour to sit and enjoy the scenery.  It was a beautiful set of waterfalls in an almost rainforest like setting.  The vegetation is absolutely amaing in these mountains. I pointed to two small homes at the very top and said to Julio, "Can you build me a house there?"  I don't think he realizes that I actually am serious. A couple of the hikers we had passed on the way up began to reach the top as well - one of them was very friendly and wanted to take our picture.  He then emailed me the pictures from the hike so I have something to share.  Here is a picture of us on our way back down.

After getting back down at about 3 pm we headed out to get the first bus back towards Lima.  We were both exhausted and not feeling the best.  I began to have this pain in my head while we were on the bus - all I could do was close my eyes.  When we stopped to transfer buses I had to grab a little something to eat and drink because the pain in my head was making me feel sick.  Finally, we just decided it was better to go and get home.  We got in a combi - extremely crowded, smelly, and loud.  This was not good.  I have never felt such pain in my life - the last hour of that drive was one of the most miserable things I have ever experienced.  Julio knew I was struggling - and he was trying so hard to help, but I couldn't even look at hiim or talk to him.  Luckily I eventually got a seat and opened the window with my head almost hanging out to try to get some air.  Some guy on the bus was trying to yell at me to close my window and started throwing a fit.  Julio got so mad and got into it pretty good with this guy.  Sometimes - I am glad I can not understand all of the Spanish.  Anyways, we finally got off the bus and got back to Julio's house with him pretty much dragging me along as I was too dizzy to hardly walk myself.  I had tears pouring down my face and the worst headache I have ever felt in my life.  I guess I now know what a migraine is!  I symphathize with any and all people who suffer from this - especially my little brother who used to get migraines all the time.  I have never felt so horrible and hope I never have another!  I kind of feel like it wasn't just the hike and altitude that made me sick, but maybe a combination of all the stresses in my life that I had been holding in.   Julio took such good care of me though, I must say I am one very lucky girl!

Life has been pretty casual around here the last couple of weeks.  Work had been really slow for a couple weeks, I believe due to the hike in flight prices in April.  Luckily the last two weeks have seen a little relief in airline prices - and it sounds like gas may have reached the peak and either level off or head down - so things are looking up!  I had a really busy week this week at work and I can tell my mood is up already.  When work is slow I feel unproductive, bored, and not as motivated to even do other things in my life.  I truly prefer to be so busy that it feels like a tornado just went through the office.  I kind of thrive on the energy and fast pace - and I can tell that it directly impacts how I am outside of work.  After a busy day at work I come home with my mood up and feeling productive - it is a good feeling!

The weather here is really beginning to change.  It is a little more dreary outside and the temperatures have definitely dropped in the evenings.  I also am feeling some physical side affects to this climate change.  My allergies have always bothered, but I did get allergy shots in high school and they actually helped some.  My allergies were not real bad throughout college or while I lived in Colorado.  Here, there most be something new I am allergic too.  I semi jokingly said I was allergic to the city, but in all reality I kind of think I am.  I have been feeling a little trapped - gasping for fresh air and open fields!  Now, it's not just the emotional pull I am feeling, but also something physically telling me my body was not made for this.  Well, I'm not planning on leaving anytime soon, so let's hope I adjust quickly!

Good night to all - thanks for reading my random blog.

Monday, May 2, 2011

5-2-11

I know I had said I wasn't going to blog on such a regular schedule, but I did not intend to abandon my blog for this long.  You could say I've been feeling a little unmotivated as of late.  I'm not sure what has come over me the last couple weeks - well other than a lack of motivation.  Life is becoming a little challenging at times, and I am not progressing in my life here the way I had hoped.  I have very high expectations of myself and when those are not met, I have a hard time excepting the truth.  I kind of give up or get down when things aren't going real well.  It is hard for me to deal with these times, I think, becasue 9 times out of 10 in my life things have gone really well.  Everything from academics, sports, moving, jobs, or life changes - I typically handle, adjust, and succeed. 

Some things are not coming to me as easily as I had hoped - mainly language. Since language is the basis for any social or academic progression - all of that has pretty much halted as well.  I felt a real progression for like the first maybe 6 weeks that I was living here, but now, these last six weeks have pretty  much felt like a stand still.  I admit that this is mostly my own fault.  Due to some frustration and absolute boredom with trying to study on my own, I have made absolutely no efforts to study and push myself.  I have reached a point in my abilities where I can communicate and make out what is being asked of me.  However, this is on a very basic level of communication.  When it comes to social matters, local lingo, talking in groups, or understanding when someone isn't speaking directly and clearly - I am pretty much lost.  This inability to just catch on once I knew the vocab is very frustrating.  As I said before, I had high expectation and thought I would just start to pick things up and be speaking like a regular Peruvian.  It has only been 3 months, and I realize these expectations are crazy; however, part of me though maybe it was possible.  At long last, I don't have the patience to just wait around until I eventually start to speak better. (this could take like a year!)  I have decided that one of the biggest benefits I will receive out of living in Peru is becoming somewhat fluent in another language.  This will undoubtedly be a big help in my future and open many possibilities for future jobs.   Not to mention that I no longer want to be that "American" that only speaks "American". (and yes I meant to say speaks American instead of speaks English)  This weekend I began my search for a language school that teaches Spanish.  Surprisingly, there are a ton of schools that offer spanish language classes to expats living in Peru.  The problem lies in the schedule of this classes.  Most schools are targetting full time students and offering a full language immersion. (this means between 4 - 8 hours of class everyday during the day)  There are a couple schools that offer alternative class options that only require one class a day, but these classes are only offered during the hours that I am working.  At long last I found two schools that have possible schedules that may work for me.  One school offered a four hour class every Saturday, so I called to inquire.  It turns out that even though they advertise this class, it only becomes available when enough interest arises to put a class together - currently I am the only one interested. Alas, I found one school that offers a night class - Monday - Wednesday - Friday - from 6-8pm.  This could potential be a very good option.  I need to talk to my boss and possibly renegotiate my hours/wages to make room for this class.  I typically work until 6:30pm currently - I would have to probably leave work by 5:15 in order to get to my class on time.  Also, this school happens to be apparently the best language school in Lima; therefore, the most expensive.  Time will tell, but I hope in the near future I will be enrolled!  Wow - this is probably really boring for someone to read.  I apologize, but it is what is weighing heavy on my mind currently.  Fixing the language issue is really the first step for me to expand my horizons and fully enjoy this culture and experience.  Without it I basically feel like I am walking around with a blindfold on.

I think I am going to call it a night.  I have a couple stories and topics I want to touch on, but I will save that for tomorrow as I am pretty much falling asleep on my computer as we speak.  =) Goodnight World

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

4-12-11

Well it has been a busy couple of weeks here in Peru, but very exciting as well.  To be honest, being busy is actually not the reason at all that I have not updated my blog.  I have been kind of starting to ask myself, "Why am I keeping this blog?"  I am not trying to just use this as another social media outlet to broadcast information about myself or brag about everything I am doing.  Writing this blog has actually been really enjoyable for me; but I don't want it to become a chore - just something I have to do for any readers out there I may have.  The truth is I started this because I enjoy writing and thought it would be wonderful to document some of my experiences to look back on later in life.  Of course, at the same time I know it is a great way for my family and friends to check in on me and share comments if they'd like.  I also want to make sure to try to use this blog for more of a purpose rather than just gossip or updates on what I am doing.  (Because to be honest, it is wonderful and exciting, but no matter what you do or don't do in life you can choose to make it wonderful and exciting)  In conclusion, you may find that from now I probably won't share as many deatils about my day to day activities.  More than anything, I want to share the meaningful experiences and hopefully send a message that will somehow brighten another person's day or touch them in some way. 

I spent last weekend on a little trip for work.  It was a 4 day / 3 night trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu - packed full of tours and hotel visits.  I won't explain everything about this trip, but there are definitely some highlights worth mentioning.  The ancient city of Cusco was the heart and driving force of the Inca Empire.  Learning more about the history and power of this Empire is incredible;  I highly suggest any history buffs out there to go do some reading about the rise of this colony and era.  The architecture, art, intelect, spirtuality, and power of the Inca Empire can not really completely be understood until you are standing there in front of something like Machu Picchu.  Breathtaking is truly an understatement.  Looking down on this massive ruin temple you literally feel the energy and spirit of the place come to life.  There is no doubt that the significance of this site can not be fully understood by us today.  There are many unanswered questions about the purpose of this site, how it was constructed, and the capabilities of the people whom dwelt here.  The fact that these Inca ruins have withstood hundreds of years of abuse - hidden under brush, withstanding several earthquakes, massive floods, and have been uncovered in nearly perfect condition is astonishing.  Can you honestly imagine any buildings we build today will be standing in 500 or 1000 years from now?  Obviously we haven't figured out how to build buildings that withstand earthquakes, yet the logic of building something at a 9 degree angle leaning inward to withstand any ground movements was very aparent to ancient societies.  The architecture and manpower is absolutely mind boggling.

Another important thing I took away from this trip was the experience of being a tourist - and doing it alone.  Of course I was on tours with different groups everyday, but it is a totally different experience to arrive somewhere and travel alone.  A lot of people tell me I am very independent and brave, and I also like to think I can be at times; however this isn't always true.  Being a solo traveler in a group, people are very receptive of you.  I made a lot of friends and had some great conversations with travelers from all of the place.  The other solo travelers tend to group together, and many other young and old adventurers become very interested in finding out how you got here and what your story is.  I was definitely received much differently than I would have been had I been traveling with a friend or boyfriend by my side.  I have a new respect for many of those people who head out on vacations and adventure treks completely alone.  It is a totally different experience from traveling with friends, and I think many new doors are opened to you when you are solo.  Although it may be hard to take that first step off the plane alone or walk onto a bus with no one to sit next too, I think everyone should try it.  It is definitely not something I always want to do, but it really taught me a lot about myself and made me feel more confident.  I am not in any way saying that traveling alone is better than sharing a vacation with a spouse or friend, but I honestly feel it is something everyone should experience.  So if anyone is looking to get away and experience traveling on their own, please call me at my office and I'l'l set up your trip.... (sorry I have to add a little plug!)

There is a major change happening in Peru right now politically.  The primary election round was just held this past Sunday and voters have finalized two candidates to run for election in June.  Peru is still most definitely a "third world country" (I don't really like this term) but has received an economic surge over the past 15 - 20 years.  Obviously I have not lived here and can not speak from experience, but I would like to share some of what I have learned.  Peru has had many corrupt governments in the past that have held the country and people far behind the rest of the world.  The sudden upturn Peru (basically Lima) has experienced in it's recent history has been accredited to the right side currently in office.  Peru is seen from the outside as a rising power with a lot of potential for growth.  It is very evident in the beautiful communities here in Lima that there definitely is wealth and opportunity.  However, what is not typically seen by the rest of the world is that two blocks away from the most modern, impressive buildings and companies in Lima there is extreme poverty.  The living conditions outside of this safe, heart of Lima (that I am fortunate to live in) are often covered up and not portrayed in news, media, or corprate decisions.  This isn't to say that the country is not still progressing and improving the lives of those in poverty; it is just an observation regarding the extreme differences that exist.  The front running and top candidates of the current party in office, as portrayed by the media, didn't even come close to winning.  It turns out there is a much larger population in Peru than that of the upperclass, educated young adults, and people dwelling in the heart of Lima.  What became impressively evident in the elections was the desire for change by the underclass.  They do not feel the last 20 years of economic growth have benefitted them; they are looking for a change.  The winning candidates for election in Peru have been portrayed in a very ugly light in the media.  Ollanta Humala is known as an extreme leftist with socialist ideas.  He was strongly active in the military with a track record that consists of a lot of human rights issues and uprising, also a brother serving a life sentence for involvement in a lot of dangerous activities that many think Humala should have been arrested for as well.  Many think Humala will be a dictator, throwing out Congress and allowing complete military control. The other candidate is a young women, Keiko.  She is advocating for lots of help and support for the poor and continued growth of the current economic system.  The problem is that her father was president of Peru during some very ugly years.  He was involved in a lot of government scandels and is serving consecutive life sentences in prison for some horrible acts he was part of.  Peru celebrated the day her father was taken out of office, and this is when the country first began to surge and take an economic rise.  How she is even being considered for office after what her father had done is questioned by many.  I want to point out that this is my perception as an outsider - based on television reports, news, and opinions of many of the young people around me.  There is definitely a sense of uncertainty about what is going to happen; many people will refuse to vote for either of the final candidates.  Peru is in for some changes that is evident; however, how soon or in what form these changes will come is to be determined.  I guess we can only hope that whoever takes office truly has the best interest of the people in hand.  With today's media and bashing during elections, it is hard to say what is and isn't true.  It will be interesting to see everything unfold in the June elections.  (if you thought political campaigns were dirty in the U.S. - you have no idea)

I talked to my family tonight - got to talk with my godson and nephew, Hudson.  I sure do miss being part of his life, he is one special little boy that is for sure.  I'm not sure where my future is headed.  It would be nice if life were easy and I could just travel all around returning home anytime I missed my family and wanted to visit.  Unfortunately it is not quite as easy as that.  Finding a balance between all the things you want in your life and all the things you need in your life is not always easy.  I guess I am continually learning.  Right now I am missing home - yet I am loving the experience of life here.  My heart is torn, but I know that things always do fall into place.  It is sometimes just the waiting and decision making that is hard.

Good night to all!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Susan!  I have to send her a wish becasue we share birthday/half birthdays!  It's always been so fun to celebrate with you Suz!  Sorry I am missing it this year, but please know I am thinking of you!

3 - 28 - 11

Celebrating with the Birthday Girl
Buenas Noches Amigos!  Tonight I am writing from Starbucks while enjoy a chai tea - and yes it tastes the same as in the U.S.  It is really nice to walk into some of the chain restaurants here simply because it looks just the same as in the States.  They have McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and I'm sure others I haven't run into yet.  I never was much of a fast food fan, but I must say I've been eating more of it lately and I think it is because I like the familiarity more than the food.  I guess I need to hurry up and join a gym if I keep this up!

Not a whole lot has changed since my last update, work is still going well.  The biggest update is that I moved.  The move was super easy being as I only own about 2 suitcases worth of items.  I did have to make a big trip to Plaza Vea (like walmart) here and buy a lot of household items which is nice.  The new place is great; I walked to work this morning with a huge smile on my face!  It is located right next to a beautiful park and very close to a fancy shopping district.  This could be bad news..... walking next to these high end shops I already feel my credit card burning a hole in my pocket. 

My co-workers
This weekend I got to head out to a birthday party on Friday night.  One of the girls I work with was celebrating her 25th birthday and hosted a big party at her house.  All of my coworkers were there along with a lot of other people.  Julio came with me, and we had a really good time!  One thing I can say about people in Peru is they really know how to host a party.  They serve food all night long, always make sure your glass is full, play great music, and everyone is very friendly.  After the party, Julio and I went out and met up with one of his friends.  This made for a rather comical evening.  Julio's friend had a rather good time telling me all of Julio's secrets and what he maybe says about me when I am not around.  I think Julio was a little embarrassed, but all in all it was pretty funny - and good insight for me!  As I sometimes accuse Julio of never wanting me to meet his friends from school.  I guess now I know why.

Saturday was very relaxed and Sunday was just a busy day of moving.  I think I was a little too stressed, which made Julio stressed, which made for not the best moving day in the world.  But, it was a good thing I don't have much stuff.  Now I am all settled in for now; although I already have a list of new things I need to buy for the house!

It is hard for me to relate to many of the Peruvian "young adults" here, because their lifestyle is much different.  It is very common for people to live under their parents roof until they are in their late 20s or married.  Kids generally don't have a lot of responsibilities as the mother cares very diligently for her family.  She cooks all the meals, wakes her kids up for school/work, cleans up after them, and most households hire a maid because it is so cheap to have one.  It is also very common for the family to pay for all of the kids education.  I hate to spoiled, because that really isn't the right word.  Life is not as easy here as in the States, that is for sure.  However, I guess young adults don't have the same responsibilities here as we do in the U.S.  I feel like as soon as I was out of the house I had to take care of everything on my own.  I had school, work, bills, had to clean and cook for myself, came home to a dorm or empty house, etc.... I may have been a little too independent and tried to hard to do everything on my own, but still, in generally I'm not sure that young adults here can really understand the independence that we crave in the U.S.  Even Julio, although I think he craves to have the independence, can not always relate to what I am talking about.  It isn't fair for me to compare young adults here to young adults in the States though, because here, without a degree, you don't really have the opportunity to make enough money to live on your own.  There are a lot of little things I notice about Julio and some of my friends here that tell me they would not know what to do if they had to live on their own.  It just isn't part of the culture here.

Anyway, my chai tea is about gone so I think I may retire for the evening.  This Starbucks was recently robbed by gunpoint and all the laptops were stolen from the patrons.  It is funny how that makes me feel extra safe.  There are now two cops standing outside the door with guns.  I wouldn't say this city is dangerous by any means, I actually feel very safe here.  However, like in any big city robberies do happen.  However, it is pretty rare a robber would came back to the same place again a week later - so I think I am safe! 

I leave for Cuzco on Friday - and get to be a tourist - finally!! Words can't describe my excitement, but I will share the whole experience when I return next week.  Hopefully I will have some pretty sweet pictures as well.  Take Care Everyone!



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

3 - 22 - 11

Well better late than never... I am a little late on my weekly update.  I hope I haven't left my family/friends in any distress wondering what happened. :o)  (kidding)  I guess time is just flying by, days are running into each other and turning into weeks, weeks are running into each other and are turning into months, etc.... Ok so that is a little bit dramatic, but you get the point.  I guess things aren't as new and exciting as when I first got here, so everything is blending together a little more.  That just means I am in more of a routine and following the same patterns day after day, which is what happens when you have a job.  It would be pretty sweet if I could just wonder from park to park each day and learn more about the culture, but reality is I have to pay rent among other things.

The job is still going really well.  It is always exciting, sometimes crazy, yet able to be handled at your own pace and on your own accord.  I enjoy the independence of the job and the fact that how hard I work determines how well I do.  I also work with some pretty great folks.  We all went out for a little celebration one night after work last week to celebrate my first sales.  It was fun to spend a little time with everyone outside of the office.  We had a lot of laughs, some good food, and a couple drinks.  I've always had really good relationships with my coworkers at pretty much all of my jobs.  I think this makes life more enjoyable, I mean you spend a minimum of 40 hours a week with these people - you might as well enjoy their company and spend a little more!

Oh Julio - I try not to write too much about him in this blog.  I'm not sure how much he appreciates all these aspects of his life being shared with all my family/friends.  Not that he minds, but maybe the idea is a little strange being he has never met any of you.  I tell him that probably the whole town of Storden knows everything about him, probably even more than I know!  I love to tell him stories about life in MN and how wonderful it is.  Living here has really made me appreciate all the wonderful things about living in the country.  Hopefully someday I can bring Julio back with me and you all can show him just how wonderful of a place southwest MN is!  Julio has been so great to me this week.  Not that he wasn't nice before, but I think he is starting to get maybe a little more sweet on me than he thought he would.  ( I hope he doesn't read this ) We learn so much from each other and about each other every day.  It's funny how you go from just wanting a chance to be in the same country, to in the same area of the city, to in the same room, to having them by your side. I really like to have my own space, but I think it's okay if Julio wants to be in that space.

I'm moving!  This is both exciting and a little sad, but more exciting.  I will be moving to a really nice area of the city, and it is walking distance from my job.  Goodbye taxis, goodbye combis, goodbye headache from the traffic every morning - you will not be missed!  I will be moving in with another American girl who has been living here in Peru for a while.  She teaches English and also has a Peruvian boyfriend.  We've got a lot in common and I think it will be a great living situation.  My lease starts on the first of April, but I can start moving next Sunday.  I am excited to do a little shopping.  My new house is not completely furnished like the one I have now, so I will need to buy a few things.  It will be nice to have my own things in my house, it makes it more comfortable and homey. 

This past weekend I was a little sick.  Not really sure with what, but I stayed home for a pretty quiet weekend and I now feel much better.  I did get out a little bit over the weekend though.  I went to the Fuentes show here in Lima.  It is a beautiful park with lots of Fountains and a featured show with lights, music, water, etc... We sell this at my job, and everyone talked about how great it was, so I wanted to see for myself.  It only costs about a $1.50 to get into the park, and it was well worth it.  I went with Julio and my roommate, Mario.  I think we were all pretty impressed and surprised at  how beautiful everything was at night.  Even Julio had never been to this show.  On Sunday Julio and I went to a beach here in Lima.  The beaches here in the city aren't really that pretty, and are mostly rocky.  It was still nice to enjoy some sun and just have a little time to talk.  The highlight really was this poor man who took our picture.  He had one of those really old camera's that prints your picture right away and then you wait a few minutes for the picture to show up.  It was such a great idea and I will cherish the picture forever.  For 5 soles I have the most beautiful picture of Julio and I by the ocean.  I wish I could share it with you all, it kind of looks like an antique! 

I had wanted to write something a little different this week.  Something more personal about myself and what life is really like when you move to another country.  It is surprising the little things that start to matter to you or no longer matter to you.  I guess I'll wait and go into detail about this in another post.  Right now I am feeling a little tired and hungry for ice cream.  Ice cream is like home to me here.  When I was little, I ate ice cream as my bedtime snack, then of course there was the Shady, a 7-foot ice-cream cone I constructed, boxes upon boxes of ice cream in college, and now more ice cream in Peru.  I guess ice cream is a big part of my life.  It is what I always want to eat when I want to feel good or be reminded of home.  Pretty much every day I get an ice cream.  Here in Peru, there are vendors for different ice cream brands that ride around on bikes ( 3 wheeled contraptions ) with a cooler selling ice cream treats.  They ride around there section blowing there horn alerting people that they are coming by.  It really is just like having an ice cream truck drive around with its little music playing.  Everyone knows that sound that signifies the ice cream vendor and everyone here loves to run out and have an ice cream treat.  ( People definitely eat more desserts here, yet they are still skinny - it isn't fair )

I should have an exciting next couple of weeks with some upcoming plans.  I look forward to sharing more soon!  Good night!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

3-13-11

Forward motion only requires one small step
There is a song I have been finding myself listening to again and again and again.  I first heard it about 3 months ago on my itunes radio and fell in love with it.  It was starting to get pretty popular before I left, so many of you may know this song: Dog Days are Over by Florence and the Machine - Song.  A very unique artist, and I can't begin to imagine where the inspiration for the song or the video came from.  However, for some reason I want this song to be like my theme song.  I don't think that my life relates to this song, not really anyway, but it inspires me and I love the lyrics. 

This week I feel like I've really settled in.  Everything is starting to feel comfortable, and I'm adjusted to the idea that this is my life.  It's not just something I'm trying out, wandering through, or watching from the outside.  This is my life, the one life I have, and I want to be 100% in this moment.  My mind has become more aware and present.  When I first arrived, my energy was focused a lot on myself.  Not because I was trying to be selfish, but because I was so lost that it took everything I had to just get what I needed.  Now I can actually listen to, understand, and really relate to someone else.  The focus of my attention can now be on someone else's wants or needs.  I guess the biggest barriers were the language and uncertainty of my surroundings.  I am definitely pretty comfortable with my surrounding, and the language, well it is coming along as good as I can expect after living here for a month. 

Work provided me with another busy week.  This is a good thing.  I like being so busy that I don't have enough time to really think about anything.  Like when you're really in the groove and flowing from one thing to the next.  It's like you just know what to do and how to do it without thinking it through.  It was another successful week and I think vacation planning is actually kind of a fun career.  Next week, the other sales agent returns from her over two week vacation.  It will be nice to have some of the loud taken off, but even nicer to have someone to help me learn how to do more things.

All kinds of relationships have been growing around me this week.  Now that I am beginning to communicate with others and am able to listen to them, people have really opened up to me.  I dare say, I may even have a few new friends.  From people in the office to old and new roommates at my house, it has been a social week.  I am learning a lot about the interesting people around me.  They come from all walks of life, each unique, and many with extremely interesting stories to tell! I think this whole growing process has really been great for the relationship I already had as well.  Julio has always been really great, but I feel now that he maybe appreciates me more.  We never really knew each other that well; we had more of an instant deep connection than an actual relationship.  Now, we are really getting to know each other, and I think it's safe to say we still like each other, probably even more than before.  :o)


My vantage point - tsunami waves

This week there was a great sadness that hit our country with the earthquake and following tsunami in Japan.  It's great the way the world can really pull together at times of need.  It is also amazing how small our world really is.  A tragedy like that in Japan not only reaches our homes through communication means, but it touches us physically with the aftermaths.  The fact that the tsunami waves could reach as far as the US shore, and here in Peru, just baffles my mind.  The waves were set to reach the Peruvian coast at about 8:45 on Friday night in Lima.  A lot of the city had shut down at 4:00 as a safety measure.  The coastal highways were closed, all businesses were instructed to close at 4:00, and people were urged to take safety precautions.  People lined the Dunes overlooking the coast waiting to watch and experience what was to come.  There were some pretty good sized continuous waves, but I can't say they were any bigger than the waves are here on a windy day, I think everyone felt a sigh of relief, but also a little disappointment; as they were hoping to witness sometheing a little bit bigger.  All in all, it is just most important that everyone was safe.


The other onlookers

This weekend we had a big party at my house.  It was a party in celebration of the leaving of one of the girls that lives her.  She will be returning in a couple of months, but nonetheless, a good reason for a party.  Here in Peru, everyone likes to go all out for a celebration.  We had a great BBQ with way too much food, good music, lots of laughs, and many kind people.  It was fun to socialize a little bit, especially in Spanish!  I also met a couple other Americans, and I really enjoyed talking to them about their experiences here.  There are so many really unique great people traveling here.  I look forward to meeting more American travelers and also making more Peruvian friends.

Today, I went out for an amazing lunch with my roommates.  It was at a restaurant called El Mirador.  It is a long ways away from my home, in the northern most part of the city.  It overlooks the harbor where hundreds of vessels come with cargo.  It is a very pretty area with a Naval Academy, Army Museums, a beautiful beach area, and some nice shops and restaurants.  It is small, it is not like the large areas of the city where there is always traffic and hustle and bustle.  Driving through the city today, I really have started to realize how huge this place is.  There are so many areas I don't know and haven't seen.  I think you could live here a lifetime and still not know all the little secrets.  I guess that is just how big cities are though.  I'm used to Storden where I have ever street corner, tree, building, or change that has ever happened, engraved in my brain.  I'm excited to do some more exploring.

I hope everyone back home is well and safe.  Also, please remember that I do live here and I am a travel agent.  If you want a vacation, please take advantage of me!  I would love love love to see some familiar faces this year!!!  Here is my work website:  http://www.peruvacationtours.com/

Hasta Luego!


Monday, March 7, 2011

3-7-11

Here is a link to some pictures from the festival I was at yesterday.  Photos of courtesy of Gloria - http://www.flickr.com/photos/gloriapardo/sets/72157626213799600/   Very beautiful pictures!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

3 - 6 - 11

It's been a week already, and time for another update.  I'm finding I really enjoy this whole blogging thing.  I find myself making notes during the week or thinking, wow I can't wait to put this in my blog and tell everyone!  It really is a great way to stay connected, but even more than that, it's great self therapy.  It gives me time to reflect on everything that has happened during the week and actually see it in writing.  It is much different to actually read your thoughts rather than just think them. 

This week had a very sad beginning.  My Grandpa, Derold Parker, passed away on Monday morning.  He had been battling cancer for almost a year. For a lot of this past year he has been doing really well, but the last 3 months had definitely gone down hill.  I guess I sort of knew when I said goodbye to him before I left for Peru that it may be the last time I saw him, but it's hard to really say goodbye in that way before you really can say goodbye.  (I'm not sure if that makes sense to everyone, but it makes sense to me) My Grandpa was a very unique man, and I mean that in a good way.  I can't say I have ever known or will ever know anyone who is at all like him.  He had a very big heart, loved to spend time with his grandkids, and had a lot of great stories to tell.  I have many great memories with him.  He is now resting in peace and has no more pain. 

Last week, I talked a lot about the stress and long hours with my job.  Well I guess it is true that hard work pays off.  I had a very successful week at work and everything seems to be coming together with the job.  I have taken in so much information about traveling in Peru, I feel like an expert on places I have never been.  It must have reflected in my conversations with clients this week, because I closed 6 new sales.  My boss, and our investor, sat me down and simply asked me, "How did you do that?"  I guess in the past, it typically has taken a new agent at least a month before they are lucky enough to close one deal.  Needless to say, they were very happy with me, and are now sending me on a free vacation to Machu Picchu the first of April!  They said, if you can sell this good without even knowing the place, we'd like to see how much you can sell after you have been there.  Ok, enough of tooting my own horn!  I was pleasantly surprised with myself and feel much more confident in my abilities.  So, I am looking forward to work this week.  With all the busy hustle and buslte of doing bookings and working closely with a couple of the other girls in the office, I feel like I finally fit in.  I am getting better at communicating in Spanish, and I think they really appreciated my hard work.  Because well, frankly, the more the sales agent sells, the more everyone in the office makes.

This week, I took a taxi every day to work.  And wow, I was in such a better mood.  The taxi drivers are actually pretty nice and usually really like to talk to me.  I enjoy this because it gives me really good practice with my Spanish!  The reason I wanted to mention the taxis and being in a better mood is because I'd like to talk about the importance of putting yourself into a state of mind.  After having a bit of a breakdown last week, I simply made up mind that I was going to make some changes.  My attitude was completely adjusted and I looked at everything as an opportunity.  I smiled, laughed, and enjoyed myself more this week than I can really ever remember doing.  I know many of you have probably read books like The Secret or the Power of Positive Thinking, but have you ever really tried it?  I can't say I believe one theory is exactly correct or that it really brings extra success your way, but I think it does make your life better.  I'm struggling to explain this in words without making it sound really silly, but I think each morning we choose our destiny for that day.  If you wake up dreading going into work, you're going to mope around all day at work.  If you wake up excited about what your working on, you're going to find success and fulfillment.  My thoughts go a lot deeper on this whole subject of positive thinking and living in the now, but for now, I'll just leave it at this.  Remember to give thanks for everything you have, remember to smile at everyone you meet, and remember to take time to take care of yourself.

Again, I spent this weekend here in the city.  Since I had such a great week at work, I decided I was going to dress up and head out on the town.  On Friday night, Julio and I went out walking around the busy downtown area and stopping in a couple places to have a drink or two.  I haven't really been out to the bars here yet, so it was kind of nice just to experience the atmosphere.  We had a lot of fun, maybe a little too much fun, as Julio ended up almost having to carry me home later that night :).  I can't say that going out here is really a whole lot different than going out in a big city in the US.  Here, the parties just last until the sun comes up.  On Saturday, I had to go into work for about 4 hours.  ( I have to work every third Saturday from 10 - 2)  After work, I kind of just walked around the city, went to KFC because I was craving some "American food" and went home to take a nap.  The evening was spent pretty relaxed as well just watching a movie. 

Today, Sunday, may have been the craziest day I have ever had.  Crazy in a really good way.  I woke up without any plans really, and then saw that my landlord had emailed me about a festival going on in the city.  It was just a parade/carnival to celebrate summer.  I thought sure, maybe this will be fun.  It was a blast!  I went with Julio and a couple of his friends.  We then met up with my landlord and one of my roommates.  This wasn't just a parade.  It was a massive mob of people in crazy costumes taking up about 6 city blocks.  The parade wans't something you watched, it was something you were part of.  There were big banners, drumlines, tall charicatures, and about 10,000 hippies.  There were also several bands playing at various locations, lots of food to share, and complete happiness!  Oh, and I haven't mentioned paint!  The main attraction of this parade was the crazy costumes and paint.  There were water guns with paint, ballons with paint, and just buckets of paint everywhere.  People just came up to you with globs and paint and threw it on you or drew on you.  Everyone was covered head to toe in a beautiful canvas of paint!  No one cared how they looked or what they were doing, everyone was just dancing, singing, laughing, and enjoying! It is hard to describe this experience as I don't think there could ever be anything like this in the US.  My landlord, Gloria, took lots of pictures!  As soon as I get some from her, I will put some on here.  The funny thing about being covered in paint is that it made me feel beautiful!  I think I was more beautiful today than I have ever been in my life.


I really hope everyone is doing well!  This week, I got to talk with my family a little more than usual.  Although it was under sad circumstances, it was really nice!  I definitely miss home, my family, and my friends!  I find myself having a little bit of an internal battle.  I feel a little guilty for leaving everything behind, like it was kind of selfish for me to move to Peru.  Yet on the other hand, I am absolutely loving it and can't imagine my life without having this experience.  So I hope you all know how much I think of you and do truly miss you, please come visit me!  I can probably sell you a vacation ;) 

Unfortunately, I kind of forgot to take any pictures this week, so here is a couple more from my trip a couple weeks ago!

Sea Lions at Ballestas Islands
Chillin on the beach

Sunday, February 27, 2011

2 - 27 - 11


Looking out to Miraflores from a park near my home

Well this week has been a little different than the the past couple weeks.  There have been a lot of changes, not bad, but just things I have to learn to adjust to.  I've also had a big reality check this week.  I'm learning a lot about myself and how I handle my stress and daily challenges.

Unfortunately I don't have much for crazy adventures to share this time, but I'll share a little bit about my new job.  (Which I guess has been kind of a crazy adventure)  I feel a little like I've been thrown into something very unprepared, and I don't like that.  I like to feel confident in what I am doing and have all the facts and figures in front of me.  I don't mind learning on my own at all, I actually prefer it, I just feel because of their desperate need to fill the position and train someone before the only other sales agent when on a two week vacation that I wasn't given ample time.  I can honestly say I have never felt so busy at a job before.  What should be a 40 hour work week was over 50 hours this week.  In all honesty, I guess I choose to work that much; I can basically work as much or little as want depending on the needs of my clients and how many sales I want to make.  However, all incoming clients are coming to me this week, and even my boss said it has been an unusually busy week with new requests.  I think I finally have a really good grasp on how the whole process works and I feel confident in my ability to do the job.  I gained about 15 new clients this week.  This involves calling the client, talking to them about their trip and what they want, putting together a package, quoting prices for all hotels/flights/tours/dinners/etc...., and putting it in a written itinerary to sell the finished product.  Obviously, no one is ever happy with the initial offer.  There are always calls for changes in the itinerary, changes in dates, or just wanting to negotiate the price.  Most of my clients I talked with this week about 2 or 3 times over the phone and endless emails.  I've only made one for sure booking, but a lot of hopeful ones for this week!  I hope!  (I also lost one really big booking that I spent way too much time on with the client.... very frustrating....)  I've found myself not always telling the whole truth on the phone either, like when people ask if I've been somewhere or done something, of course I tell them about how great of an experience I had.  I hope this doesn't come back to haunt me later on.

Everyone I work with is really nice and helpful.  Although I hate to have to ask for help, when I need to, everyone has been very patient with me.  It's been a little difficult because some of the people I need to work with for price quotes do not speak English.  It's been good practice for me with my Spanish skills I guess, but also trying at times.  Another language barrier at work that is really bothering me is Microsoft Office.  I use Microsoft Excel and Word for every package, and everything is in Spanish.  It's not that hard, but every once in a while I find myself wasting time trying to figure out how to edit something or change a formula and I can't read the darn toolbar.  Again, just making my work day longer.

My commute to work is a topic I would rather pass over.  It takes me anywhere from 40 minutes to almost an hour to get to and from work via the bus.  The bus is crowded, smelly, and causing me more stress than I want to deal with.  After some thinking and talking with Julio about quality of life versus money, I think I am willing to pay more for a taxi everyday.  I read an article a while back about how your commute to work is a top contributor to your level of happiness.  The less traffic and less time it takes you to get to work, the happier you really will be.  I've never had much of a commute to work before and let me tell you, I now think that article is 100% right.  I'm not sure what happened this week, but I definitely felt way to much anxiety over my commute to work, I was not smiling and bubbly the way I should be.

Example of another type of neighborhood in the city
Since I'm on the subject of using the bus and taxi services, I have to admit I got kind of lost this week. One night after work I got on apparently the wrong bus. (technically it was kind of the right bus, but a special one that does like an off route from the main one) How was I supposed to know this?  Well I didn't, and the bus was so crowded, I didn't realize we had turned off the route until we were somewhere I did not recognize.  I tried to ask a couple people around me where we were and if we were going back to Javier Prado, but no one seemed to care or understand me.  It was dark and I had no idea where I was going, so I just got off the bus.  This was a mistake.  I was in a really bad part of town.  I instantly had people coming up to me and trying to sell me stuff, everyone was whistling and yelling at me, and it looked like a dump.  I was scared and really did not know what to do.  I knew that I was not that far from the coast, so I walked as fast as I could toward the ocean.  After a few blocks I got to a point where I could see the ocean and kind of knew which direction I needed to go to get home.  I was not close though and had to take a taxi. Taking a taxi at night alone is not very advisable for a female, but I felt I had no other choice.  Thank goodness my taxi driver was very nice and got me home safe, even though he definitely overcharged me.

I think I lost my mind for a while this weekend.  I'm honestly not sure how to describe it, but I just felt like I was in another world, all alone, and completely unable to understand what was going on around me.  I guess after some struggles this week; work, buses, taxis, miscommunication with Julio - more than once, I kind of just checked out.  Up until this point I had felt I was adapting really well and learning more every day.  This weekend, everything just felt so unfamiliar and frankly I was sick of constantly trying so hard to understand what is going on around me.  I was feeling a little like I was just there going through the motions because I had no choices and no way to communicate. All of this was very obvious to Julio, because well he is really the only friend I have here.  There were just really stupid common sense things I was forgetting, I wasn't hearing what was being said to me, and I was definitely not even trying to make conversation.  After talking with Julio yesterday afternoon, or more so just listening, I think some things are a little more clear to me now.

I am not in the United States anymore, I am in Peru.  The types of actions, interactions, and basic things I took for granted before are not here.  I need to learn to communicate exactly what I want, and not assume that I am always understood, because I am not.  I also need to learn alot about being in a relationship.  I've never been one to really want a relationship, not in a long time anyway.  And now, I am in one with a whole pile of extra challenges thrown on top.  Julio has been so patient and caring towards me.  I wouldn't be able to do this without him, and I really hope he knows how thankful I am to have him in my life.  Me coming has obviously changed his life a lot to.  He went from just worrying about himself to now not only having a girlfriend, but one he feels he has to take care of so much because she is pretty much lost.  I have never been able to really communicate my feelings well; I've always felt I can handle everything on my own and don't need to.  I can't assume that Julio knows how I feel or what I need, I need to learn to communicate with him.  This is especially important becasue we come from two very different cultures with different norms. 

Julio went to the beach last night with a couple friends.  They were planning to do some biking and kayaking today.  I was actually really glad he wanted to do this.  He needs to have time with his friends, and I definitely needed some time alone to wrap my head around a few things.  After a lot of thinking, I'm definitely ready to put myself back on a positive track.  I'm going to pay more for the things in life that will make me happier, I'm going to make some new friends (I hope!), and I'm going try my darndest to spend more time smiling everyday.  Actions really do speak louder than words.  Since my words are a little lacking in this language, it is important that I find other ways to express to people my thanks, happiness, or needs.

- One final note, Julio and I did get to play squash a couple times this week.  Unfortunately, even after all my bragging about my raquetball skills, Julio still won.  (Actually I just let him win, but don't tell him this!)

Monday, February 21, 2011

2 - 21 - 11

This week's blog is coming in a little late due to a very tired Julia after a busy week!  I'm sorry to hear that back home in Minnesota everyone is sufferring through another blizzard........while I'm relaxing on the beach :o).  Didn't I tell everyone I surely had good reason to move here?  Ok, well that is enough of that.  It has really been an amazing week, full of only good things!  I hardly even want to say it, but things are going so well it almost seems a little too good.  I keep looking around every corner wondering when I'm going to get hit with that big set back.  Just keep your fingers crossed for me that I don't!

My week started out on a pretty usual note.  I spent Tuesday morning trying to do some Spanish studying. Then I headed down to San Isidro to meet Julio for lunch during his break.  It's always nice to see him during the day when he is all dressed up for work.  I think he enjoys getting out of the office once in a while too.  I was beginning to feel pretty anxious and unsure about my chances of getting the job.  I knew I would be getting a phone call in the next couple days letting me know, but I wasn't even sure if I would really be able to do the job even if I did get.

On Wednesday, I sat in the park in Miraflores trying to do a little studying.  Miraflores is a very new up and coming part of the city. It is full of a lot of outsiders (non peruvians) and definitely feels pretty similar to a city in the U.S. So I sat and enjoyed people watching mostly occassionaly taking a few minutes to do some studying.  My phone rang at about 11:00 and I thought well this is it, it must be the job.  It was in fact about a job, but not the one I had interviewed for. It was for another company I had done a phone interview with a couple weeks prior, and they wanted me to come in for an interview.  Great, I thought, at least I have a backup plan if I don't get the other job.  I headed back home at about 1:00 feeling good, but still nervous about getting a phone call from the other job.  On my walk home, my phone rang again.  It was Pablo from Peru Vacation Tours, he was calling to tell me I had the job and I could start in about 3 weeks.  Woohoo!!  It was a big feeling of relief to know that in fact, yes, I do have a job, no more searching!  I then met with Carol, my Spanish tutor, and during the lesson my phone rang again.  ( It's pretty amazing to have my phone ring 3 times in one day, I don't know anyone here! ) It was Pablo again.  This time telling me that if I wanted I could start right away.  So I agreed to come in the next day.  What great luck!

Thursday morning I got up early, got ready, and headed out to catch a bus to work.  It was a good thing I went out early, because, wow, an almost 40 minute crowded bus ride to go about 2 miles was not what I had in mind.  I pretty much ran the 6 blocks from the bus stop to work to make sure I wasn't late on my first day!  I spent the morning reviewing the company website, packages they offer, and reading general information on tourist sites in Peru.  Everyone in the office was really nice.  There are about 12 employees; only 3 or 4 speak English and all of them are Peruvian.  The great thing about this is that my Spanish skills will defiitely improve quickly - I hope!  During the afternoon, I got some lessons on how the whole operation works.  I got to watch as the other girl spoke with guests on the phone, put a package together for them using their requests, priced out a quote, and sent them an itinerary with the quote.  It is a lot of information and a lot to learn.  I was feeling a little overwhelmed.  To top it off, all their information pages for putting together packages and quotes are in Spanish. Taking a bus home at 6:30 was impossible.  After waiting at the bus stop 10 minutes, then having the bus pass me because it was too full, I decided I was walking.  I didn't have the best walking shoes or attire on, so this maybe was not a good idea.  (I've got a few blisters to prove it)  I was so mad and annoyed; I decided it just may be worth it to pay 10 times as much for a taxi.  ( The bus costs 1 sol ($0.35) and the taxi costs about 10 soles ($3.50) ) 

Friday was a new day and I was anxious to learn more at work.  It also was a short work day for me because I had told Pablo ( my boss ) that I had already paid for class at 2:00 on Friday and he said it was fine if I left work at 1:00.  Work went well, class went well, and now it was time for the weeekend!  Julio and I had been planning a little get away to get out of the city.  I packed my bags, did some laundry, and then headed over to Julio's house.  We ate a late dinner and finalized our plan for the trip.  We were taking an overnight bus to Ica ( about 6 hours).  We arrived at the bus depot at about midnight and got tickets for a 1:00 bus.  Sleeping on a bus isn't that fun, but I have to admit it sure makes for an easy way to travel cheap. 

After arriving in Ica, we had to get on another bus line that went to Nazca.  We got on another bus right away, this ride was a little less than 2 hours long.  It was through the dessert and some small villages.  The difference between the city of Lima and the rest of country absolutely amazes me.  Outside of Lima, life is pretty bad.  People live literally in little shelters built out of scraps of wood and garbage all over the place.  Most of the buildings are falling apart, all of the walls have grafitti ( old political campaigns mostly ), and there is virtually no evidence of business or jobs.  Well besides people selling crafts or food at the most trafficed intersections.  It seems sad, but in a way it kind of just is the lifestyle most of and Andeans have always lived.  Not much has changed in the last few hundred years, and the changes that they do make don't seem to stick.  Right outside of Nazca there was a really fertile valley that the river passed through.  There was a lot of farmland in this area.  Grapes, other fruits, potatoes, and who knows what else was being grown.  There were tons of workers in the field digging, planting, and whatever else they do all by hand.  The only source of technology in the farming seemed to be a single plow.  One row being pulled by a mule.  Man, our farmers back in MN sure have it good!  :o) 

Ok, finally, we arrived in Nazca!  We had breakfast and headed out to the tiny local airport. Literally you wouldn't believe what they call an airport unless you saw it.  We had been warned by a lot of people that travel in and out of this airport was very dangerous, and there have been a lot of accidents over the last few years. Anyways, we were planning to go out on a small plane to view the Nazca Lines.  They are famous drawings done in the dessert over 2000 years ago by the ancient Nazca people.  The lines are massive, mysterious, and can only be seen by plane.  I won't waste to much time talking about them, but here is a link if anyone wants to learn more about the Nazca Lines. After some haggling over prices, we booked a flight.  At about 11:30 we were loading the plane in some extreme dessert heat.  It was a little scary being in a 6 passenger plane, but I was still excited.  Once we were airborne, all worries were gone.  We spent only about 40 minutes in the air.  I have to admit it was better than I had thought.  You really could see the lines and it was a pretty impressive view.  The ride was quite shaky, and there was a moment I thought I may loose my breakfast, but I made it through with a smile! 

Our next destination for the weekend was back to Ica.  Outside of Ica there is a small oasis called Huacachina; it has a beautiful tropical lagoon and is surrounded by sand dunes.  The sand dunes are a popular destination for sandboarding.  Julio was pretty darn excited to get out there and try it, I on the other hand not so much.  Intense heat, sand in the face, and knowing that it really doesn't work that well, were not very motivating factors.  Anyways Julio had a pretty good time giving it a shot, and I did give it a half hearted attempt as well.  I think it made for better pictures than actual enjoyment.  Watching the sunset over the sand dunes was probably one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever scene.  I've never taken the time to really appreciate sand before.  We spent the evening enjoying the little boardwalk where vendors sold goods and there were several restaurants and hostals.  We went back to our hostal to find that they were preparing for a huge party.  Parties here typical begin at 11 and go until about 6 in the morning.  We had to leave for Paracas at 6:30 the next morning.  Needless to say, it was a long night, and not because we partied, we were far too tired for that.  Sleeping through the music shaking the walls was worse than sleeping on the bus.  And Julio freaking out and waking me up at about 2:00am to inform me that we were being eaten alive by mosquitos (or some bug that is like a mosquito) was really the icing on the cake.

We woke up early and headed out to Paracas.  It is a small town on the ocean about an hour away from Ica.  We took a boat tour to the Ballestas Islands.  The Islands are actually beautiful rocks that are sanctuary to a lot of marine life and birds.  A huge ( I mean 1,000s if not 10,000s ) colony of sea lions live along some of the rocky shorelines.  There were tons of sea birds of every kind, and the rocks are actually a beautiful white color due to years of bird poop landing on them.  The most surprising animal was the penguin.  Apparently there are penguins off the coast of Peru, and I thought they only lived in Antarctica.  They were a different kind of penguin, but a penguin none the less.  There are also supposedly dolphins that live in the area, but we didn't get ot see any.  After returning back to shore and having a little lunch, we went to the National Reserve right outside of Paracas.  It is a dessert area with a beautiful sand/cliff coastline all along the bay that inlets from the ocean.  We spent a couple hours on the beach enjoying the view and taking in the sun.  Wow, what a packed full weekend it had been, so it was time to start heading home.  We got on a bus to leave Paracas at about 4:00 and returned to Lima a little after 7:00.  Since the weekend had been so full with virtually no sleep, I think we were both kind of glad to be back.  I know I was. 

I have a million beautiful pictures that I will share online when I get the time! 

I have to do one last blurb about Peru.  In all it's beauty, there is something that is really, really bothering me.  I saw garbage trucks dumping trash directly into the ocean last week, and it really hit home with me.  I did a little research, and I think water pollution is really a major problem here.  Garbage, sewage, and who knows what else are directly dumped into the coast all along Peru.  I could see it in small communities, but for a city like Lima, it is a great shame.  Of course not all their trash is put in the ocean, but a good chunk.  From what I could find online, it seems like the problem is kind of being pushed under the rug.  Not talked about and hoping that everyone can just pretend it isn't happening.  With Lima's economic rise and growing population you think it would be a topic worthy of debate, but it's not.  No one seems to care.  I've noticed traveling through the very poor regions of Peru that trash is just everywhere.  Piled along the streets, thrown out, no one even tries to pile it up let alone bury or burn it.  It seems like it's just a problem that is being ignored by the country all together.  Maybe I can start a political campaign and stand along the shores with protest signs??  Well maybe not, but it's something I'd like to learn more about!

This is far too long - so good night to all!