I would like to share my story of living abroad in Peru. My first experience here was in July of 2010 and have many stories to share with my family and friends about my life ever since.
I also own a travel agency and promote travel within Peru. If you or someone you know are interested in traveling to Peru, please visit my website at www.expertperutravel.com or my Travel Blog.
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!