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!

Monday, February 14, 2011


Buenas Noches Amigos, Good Evening Friends,

It has been just about a week since my last post, so I'd like to give a little update on life in Peru. I did not keep a daily journal this time, so I'll just tell you a little bit about my week in general. This week has been really good overall, but there are definitely some struggles I will need to overcome!

Spanish, spanish, spanish..... this is obviously my number one nemesis. Steps are being taken however to break down this barrier. I started private Spanish lessons last Wednesday. I was recommended this tutor by my landlord, Gloria, and the price was definitely more than fair. My Spanish teacher is a young lady, well maybe a few years older than me, named Carol. She used to teach Spanish as a second language in a school and has just recently decided to start teaching private lessons instead. She is great, we spent a lot of time laughing and getting to know eachother. Our lessons are completely in Spanish, no English is to be spoken unless absolutely, positively necessary. I was shocked that I could talk and learn in Spanish for the whole two hours of the lesson. Carol obviously spoke very clearly and said things in a simple fashion making it so easy for me to understand her. I think the most important thing I got from this first lesson was confidence. I know a lot of Spanish, but am not at all confident speaking. Carol really made me feel like I was doing great and that when I really concentrate and listen I can understand. I had my second lesson with her on Friday, and we will meet three more times this week. I definitely have noticed a big improvement in my ability to understand and speak even after just two lessons.

I hate to say it, but I began feeling a little bit bored this week. I have done a lot of exploring, but with no real purpose. I've done a lot of walking around, enjoying parks, shopping, eating at some local venues, learning to use the combis (little buses), and just trying to interact with others to practice speaking. However, during the week, everyone is working, and I'm wandering a little aimlessly on my own. I wouldn't really say it feels lonely, but I guess I just need more of a purpose or destination. I'm going to try to go see/do some more specific things or activities this week. I think that will help.

On a very positive note, I did have a small victory in my job search. I have been searching online and in the newspapers this week for jobs for English speakers. I have applied for a couple teaching jobs ( I have a TESOL teaching certificate through an online course I did) and a couple of jobs in the tourist industry. I actually got replies from two jobs right away, both wanting to do interviews. One was for a teaching position for a company that goes around giving English business classes to local companies wanting to educate their employees, and the other was as a travel advisor for a Peru vacations company. After doing some research about the companies, I realized I did not want to work for the company offering business classes. There were a lot of bad reviews from past employees online. So I decided to just go to the one interview on Friday for the Travel Advisor position.

The interview was in the business district in San Isidro, Lima, Peru. It is actually only a block away from where Julio works at Citibank. Obviously, I am excited that it is so close to his work, and it would be an ideal situation if we ever wanted to share rides or meet up after work. The business is actually located inside of a pretty nice house. When I walked up to the address, I was a little leary, thinking to myself what if this is some crazy guy luring girls to his home saying it is for an interview. So, I called him from outside the home to double check and make sure everything was fine. A young lady came out to the door smiling, greeting me, and urging me inside. This made me feel much better. As I entered, I could see the home was set up with offices and in the style of a business with several people working. The interview was only about 30 minutes long and was pretty typical of what an interview would be like here. I think their main concern was that I was able to speak fluent English, which soon become obvious. He has a couple other interviews set up for this week, so he told me he would probably be deciding on Wednesday or Thursday and would get back to me. The environment seemed really relaxed and comfortable; I really hope I get the job! After the interview I was able to meet up with Julio for lunch. I had only seen Julio once since Sunday, so I was really anxious to spend a little time together. We had lunch, then went to the park and enjoyed the beautiful, but very hot, weather. All in all, it was a great day.

Over the weekend I stayed at Julio's house with his family. They have been so kind to me, I feel very lucky. His parents do not speak any English, but have been very patient with me in trying to communicate. With a combination of words and motions we seem to usually come to an understanding. Julio's mother is very busy, always on the go, cleaning, cooking, running errands, and always making sure everyone has everything they need. She insisted on doing my laundry instead of me bringing it to a laundry mat, so, how could I say no? ;) Only one of Julio's sisters was home and she does speak English well. She has also been very kind to me and provides me with some assistance when my language skills are lacking.

On Saturday, Julio and I went to the Jockey Club; they have gyms, pools, courts, etc... It was great to hang out by the pool and do some swimming. It is a really nice venue, and we had a lot of fun. Julio and I are hoping to start playing some squash there. I have played a lot of raquetball, and squash is very similar. After returning from the pool, we had dinner and then headed out for the night. Some of Julio's friends were getting together nearby, so we spent the evening having a few drinks and hanging out. There were a couple other native English speakers here, and pretty much everyone spoke some English. Although, I should be practicing my Spanish, it was nice to speak a little English and socialize!

Overall, I can't say life here feels entirely different than being back home. Of course there are many cultural differences, but it doesn' t feel as different as I thought it might. There are definitely two different worlds here in the city. The middle and upper class live in homes and have lifestyles not entirely different than in the U.S. The biggest difference is in the large population that fall into the poverty level. Neighborhoods are very distinctly broken up between well to do and not so well to do. It does appear that effort is really being made to make improvements here though. There is a lot of construction and development happening.

I'd like to just leave off with a couple notes about the differences in life here:

- You can not flush toiletpaper down the toilet. There is a little trash next to every toilet and that is where you put the paper. (This is hard to get used to, I have more than once instincitively dropped toilet paper in the toilet!)
- They cut their grass with weedwackers. (yards are small, yes, but even workers in parks and on boulevards are walking 4 or 5 wide with weedwackers)
- Driving here is crazy. I don't think any laws are really enforced. Cops are usually just paid off or bribed with $10 or less for crimes. This is a real problem.
- Everyone whistles. Whether you are getting a friends attention, or referring to an action in a story, or see someone you think looks good walking by, everyone is always whistling in every conversation.

Hasta Luego!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Peru Arrival 2-3-11

I would like to say a special thanks to my family for all their support and love! I'm blessed to have this opportunity, and I hope I can take full advantage of it. I want to immerse myself in this place and this culture. It helps knowing I will always have a safe place to come home to and continuous love from my family.

I arrived in Peru late on Thursday night, February 3rd, 2011; it's hard to believe that was only four days ago. I would like to use this blog as a place for me to document my experiences, and also to share a bit of my life with my family and friends. I came to Lima, Peru because I was feeling a little stuck. Life was really good, but I could not shake the feeling that I needed to get out and do some more exploring. As many of you know, this is not my first time visiting Peru. I came here for two weeks in July of 2010. When I was here on vacation I got to explore the country by backpacking through the Andes and along the northern coast. Oh... and did I forget to mention that my boyfriend, Julio, lives in Lima, Peru. He just may be part of the reason I even know where Lima, Peru is, let alone that I am now calling it home for an undetermined amount of time.

So the journey begins:

February 3rd
- My flight left for Peru at about 9:30 am. I had stops in Houston, TX and Panama City, Panama. I was lucky enough to get out just in time to avoid an ice storm in Houston, TX. (yes, really - it was 27 degress in Houston!) It was a long day of travel, and I have to admit I was beginning to think to myself, "Am I crazy?"

I arrived in Peru at 12:30 am. Julio picked me up from the airport and brought me to my new home. I had made arrangements ahead of time for a place to stay via the internet, and Julio had met with the landlord and received the key. The house is very quaint and pleasant, the neighborhood, better than I imagined it would be. I have close access to everything I need, and most importantly, the beach is only about a 10 minute walk. It was so great to catch up with Julio and have everything in place when I arrived. As for still thinking, "Am I crazy?", as soon as I saw Julio at the airport I knew the answer to that.

February 4th
- I woke up early to the sound of birds chirping and the sun coming up. Soon to follow was the sound of traffic starting to move as people began their commutes for the day. Tired and anxious, I got out of bed and began to get acquainted with the house. Julio had to work all day, so I was on my own. There are two rooms in the house and two studios connected with outside access. I met two of my roommates in the morning. Luckily, both spoke English. I spent the morning unpacking my bags, organizing, and learning my way around the house. At about noon hunger started setting in. I was excited to go out of the house, and a trip to the grocery store would be a good start. Gloria, the landlord, had left me a hand drawn map showing all the streets and places that may be useful in the district. Since I have such superb navigation skills, I had no trouble finding my way to Vivanda (local grocery store). I was pleasantly surprised with how nice and safe the neighborhood felt as I walked to the store. I definitely felt like this is a place I could call home for a while.

After having lunch, it was time to do what I had been most looking forward to! With my Spanish Vocab words in tote, I headed down to the beach. It was 82 degrees, and humid, I definitely worked up more than just a bit of a sweat on my way to the beach. (not that I am complaining or anything!) The beach is hard to describe. There are large dunes(sand/dirt) leading up to the coast. Below the dunes there is one coastal road and lots of parks and gardens right along the coast. There is a lot of construction and landscaping going on. The coastal area closest to my home is more of a pebble/stone beach. There are sand beaches developed, but along other parts of the coast. I will post pictures eventually!

Later that afternoon, Julio informed me that we could head to his friend's beach house for the weekend about 20 miles south of the city. It sounded like a great idea to me! Julio came to get me after work and then we packed our bags and headed out. The beach we went to is called Punta de Hermosa. There are lots of houses and small shops leading up to the beach area. It appears to be pretty poor and run down, but as you get closer to the ocean there are lots of beautiful homes and clubs. There were about 10 people staying at the beach house; all friends and acquaintances of Julio. I really started to realize that my Spanish skills were lacking! It was still a good time though, and everyone was very kind to me.

February 5th
- Beach, sun, and water. There really isn't much more to say. We spent the day laying out on the beach, taking an occasional dip in the water, and eating a little ceviche de pescada (a peruvian dish). I'm pretty sure I was by far the fairest skinned person on the beach and used almost an entire bottle of sunscreen throughout the day! After being worn out from the sun, Julio and I returned back to my house that night.

February 6th
- After finally getting a full night's rest, I woke up feeling really at ease. Julio and I did a little shopping, attempted to get me a local cellphone(the store we needed was not open on Sunday), and stopped at his family's house for lunch. It was nice to see his family again. I was getting more used to listening and trying to respond in Spanish, but there is a long way to go! We took Julio's dogs to the park and spent the afternoon watching the horse races at the Jockey Club. We placed some bets and I won 8 soles! ($3) I completely forgot that the superbowl was on. I have to admit, I think the horse races were a little better. We then went home to watch a movie. Apparently in Peru, you can buy movies that aren't even yet out on video in the U.S. for only $1!! Julio brought me back to my house and tried to give me some lessons on how to use the bus system. There really is no system, I would just call it caos. Anyways, I felt confident that the next day I could get on the bus alone and get to the cellphone store and buy a local phone. I don't think Julio actually thought I would be able to do this.

February 7th
- First thing in the morning, I headed out in persuit of a cellphone. I was a little nervous about using the bus and possibly getting lost in a city of 9 million people, but what better time to learn than now! Success! I made it to the store, got my phone (after a long drawn out conversation with the representative due to my poor Spanish skills), had lunch, and returned home. I think Julio was a little shocked when I sent him a text message from my new phone.

I spent this afternoon trying to study my Spanish. The more I try to study, the more I realize I just need to go out and talk to people. I have 1000s of words memorized, but I need to actually HEAR people speaking them to really understand. At about 5 pm I needed to get out of the house, so I went for a walk. About 8 blocks from my house, I randomly run into Julio's sister on the sidewalk. What a crazy coincidence. I'm in a city of 9 million, only know about 1o people's names, and I run into her. It turns out she works only about a mile from where I live and she was on her way to meet a friend for dinner after work.

Well that is it for now. Tomorrow I am planning to meet with a Spanish teacher, hopefully this will help! Gloria, the landlord, will also be taking me on a little tour of the area to show me around and help me find some information on getting a job! I'll give another update next week. Hopefully things continue to go well! :)