Drinky, Drinky; Dancy, Dancy
So I haven’t posted in a few days and I won’t have access to the internet until Monday so expect this to be a longer post. I don’t think I’ve posted since chocolate class Wednesday night. So, I’ll start with Thursday. On Thursday we had a salsa class!!! It was just really basic stuff because it was a beginner class. We did the basic steps and lady’s right turn. I’m not sure why they didn’t teach the guys right turn because it’s exactly the same just on a different count (lady’s turn on 5 guys turn on 1). But whatever. After the class I talked to the instructors about where I can salsa and they told me about a bar called Inca Team. Inca Team has salsa every night from 9-11 but I think it’s just beginner stuff. We went to dinner after this and ended up at a pizzeria. It was pretty good but kind of expensive. It was in the Plaza de Armas so I guess that should be expected. Not much happened after that. We were all going to go to a club but it was late and we had a test the next morning so, we all just decided to go home. When I got home I studied a bit but because I wasn’t sure what was going to be on the exam I didn’t really know how or what to study.
Friday was exam day. There was not a listening section like our teacher said or an oral section. So, that was a little frustrating but at the same time I was relieved. The exam took me about 45 mins to finish and I was the first one done. Despite being the first one done I got the highest grade in the class, I don’t think I’ve ever done that…or at least not since high school. During out break I had these fried mashed potato things. Ok imagine this: The best mashed potatoes and they make a pocket inside with spinach and cheese, and then close the pocket and pan fry it. It was slightly amazing. After class I called Lawrence but I couldn’t talk too long because I had to get home for lunch. Lunch here is the big meal of the day. Everyone comes home, all the shops close, and they eat lunch together (mostly). Cesar and Ursula are university students so they aren’t always home and Cesar Sr. works a lot so, he’s not always home for lunch or at least he eats later than I do. I usually have to go back to school so I eat kind of early to their standards.
After lunch on Friday, I read and finished the Hunger Games and took a nap then got ready to go out. I showered and got dressed and by 6pm I was ready to leave even though I didn’t have to be at the school until 7:30. The school is just a common rally point for all of us. I wanted to start a new book but thought it should at least be by a Hispanic author. I have Hundred Years of Solitude on my kindle and loved it in high school but I kind of wanted to read a book in Spanish. I had never done this so I thought it could be a fun challenge. I asked Belinda if she knew how I could get a copy of it in Spanish. She didn’t know so she asked Ursula who asked Cesar Jr. who looked through his books. Ursula then called her boyfriend to see if he had it and it turned into this giant manhunt. Turns out Ursula’s boyfriend had it but she had a copy of El Amor en los Tiempos de Colera (Love in the Time of Cholera) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. So, I’m trying to read that but it’s a slow read…meaning it takes me 20 mins to read 2 pages.
Anyways, we started the night by going to dinner. I thought it was just going to be the MSU students but then there ended up being 14 people with us. A lot of people from the school who I didn’t know came but it’s whatever. We ended up going to this restaurant in the plaza de armas. Since there was 14 of us we asked if they could separate our bills. The waiter said no, so, I knew it wasn’t going to be fun trying to dived the bill. After we all ate and sat for I while I noticed that one of our MSU guys had disappeared to the plaza. It was really loud and in the restaurant so I gave the group S/. 30 for my bill and joined him in the plaza. We ended up talking to this street vender named María. She was selling hats and gloves. As we talked to her we learned that she’s a high school student who likes math and was studying accounting. We didn’t buy anything from her just then and finally the group had figured out the bill so we all went to a club called Inca Team. It was a very loud salsa/club. We danced and had fun. I ended up meeting this girl named Katie from Ohio. She’s living in Cusco on a Fulbright scholarship and is a fantastic dancer. At about 11 Inca Team stops playing salsa music and turns into a normal club but Katie told me about another bar called The Muse that has a live salsa band. So, I was like “heck yeah” and about 11:30 we went over to the Muse. It was the smallest club I have ever been in. but once the music started it was pretty cool, except for the people smoking in the tiny, tiny bar. I danced with Katie for a bit and then I felt bad for leaving everyone at Inca Team and I couldn’t really breathe so I went back. Not before finding out that there is a salsa school right next to my school and they are looking for another instructor. I might look into this on Monday. I ended up back at Inca Team where we stayed until about 2:15am. These 3 really creepy guys kept staring at our girls and taking pictures with them. At one point, I think they were hitting on me and one guy bought me a beer. I didn’t drink it because it was already open and he was creepy. I ended up using Heather as an excuse to leave the situation and made her dance with me on away from these guys. After we left nothing too noteworthy happened. I got home about 2:45am and went to bed. I only had one drink the entire night and it was really strong.
Today we went to the four ruins (Cuatro Ruinas). We stated by driving up into the mountains. We made our first stop by the Cristo Blanco Statue. It’s a statue that resembles the large Crist statue in Rio de Janero. From here we could see most of Cusco. We took a bunch of pictures and there were two girls in traditional dress with a llama. For S/. .50 you could take your picture with them.
The first we went to was really high up in the mountains, probably close to 12,000 feet above sea level. It was called Pucupucara. It was religious center for the Incas and overlooks a large portion of the valley. It was really interesting but the sun was so powerful you could hardly stand standing in the sun for more than a few minutes. It’s a weird sensation. Being at 12,000 ft+ so it’s cold but the sun is that much closer so it’s warm….it’s kind of like putting one hand in a bowl of warm water and the other in a bowl of ice water. I think the most notable thing about this place were these men dressed in ornate clothing singing and dancing and playing musical instruments. I think they were shooting a music video.
The second ruins we visited was another religious center for the Incas. In this place they used the water to purify the mummies. It was thought that if a person was mummified and then the body was washed in this fountain/river they would be reincarnated as Mountains. Each mountain was a family’s protector. For this only the most important Incas were mummified. We only spent a few minutes here but it was still pretty cool. We got to explore a little but not enough in my opinion. I think we spent more time in line for our tickets then we did in the actual ruins. We had to give them our international IDs and our driver’s license. I don’t know why but they were being really difficult about it. But here we got out Boletos de tourism (Tourist tickets). With these tickets we can get into most of the historical sites until next month when they expire.
The third Ruin that we visited was a place of human sacrifice. These ruins were built into a large rock quarry and when you were inside it was at least 10 degrees cooler. In this cave there was three tables. The First was the table of sacrifice. This was probably the most ominous because it had a channel for the blood to run into the ground and away from the body. The Second table was for mummification. And the third was for offering. The third table was pretty interesting because the sun only hits it on the summer solstice and this is when they made their offerings of food and gold to the sun god and creator. We left this place rather abruptly as well because were behind schedule and the tour guide was getting visibly annoyed with us.
The final place that we visited was called Saquesahuaman. This was spiritual center of the Inca Empire. We walked along the outer wall and that’s about it. We took a few pictures and found some llamas but weren’t allowed to explore the area at all. I kind of felt cheated. We paid to see the ruins but instead only saw the outer wall.
We didn’t make it to the final destination, Koriquanche The temple of the sun. So, that was kind of a bust. We ended up getting back to Cusco around 5:30 and we were all really hungry so we wandered for about 45 mins until we found a chifa. A chifa restaurant is a fusion of Peruvian and Chinese food. It was kind of gross and ended up making me sick about 3:30 in the morning. That was about it for the day.
Feliz Compleaños a mí
Today was my birthday and it started rather early, 8:30am. I got to the school around 8:15 and it was just Armando and Me for a while. So, wandered a bit and he found a tomale vendor. The bus arrived almost an hour late but we finally left for Parque de papas (Potato Park). Parque de Papas is a national park that protects over 1,500 types of potatoes. Many of the people there don’t speak Spanish but rather Quetchua (the native language). It was an absolutely amazing view all the way out and I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
There was one point where we were at about 15,000 ft and we were driving along this mountain road with nothing but air next to us for about 500 ft. it was really kind of scary. We didn’t get to try any potatoes but we stopped a few times to take pictures alongside the road. At one point we stopped at an outdoor market and I bought a few gifts.
When we got back my host family made me a special lunch of those fried mashed potatoes that I talked about earlier and chicken soup. After lunch Andi, Will, and I decided to climb a mountain. There are two mountains close to us that have things burned into them. The mountain we climbed had the words “Viva El Perú” burned into the side (kind of like a crop circle). It was a difficult climb but we made many stops. To start the trek there were 2 sets of stairs that went nearly vertical. This was the toughest part of the climb. We had to take a few breaks just going up the stairs. After getting past the stairs there we made a shorter trek to the Pachacútec statue. Pachacutec was the 9th Inca (king). The title Inca was reserved for the kings of the empire. I think Andi put it best when she said he was the Alexander the Great of the Incas. It was under his reign that Machu Pichu was started (I think). The statue itself was rather impressive but there was a lot of graffiti on it and a lot of broken bottles. After the statue we encountered our first real obstacle: wild dogs. In Cusco there are a lot of stray dogs that roam the streets but in the mountains they revert to a more feral state and live in large packs. We were pretty good about getting past them but we mostly just avoided them. However, if we know we were approaching an area with lots of dogs we would pick up pointed rocks. After we got past the dogs the only real challenge was the steep grade, the harsh (and often pointed) vegetation, and lack of oxygen. We made our climb in about 2:15. We were only passed once by a family of three (of which included a little girl) but we still made it to the top. We placed flowers at the cross and the shrine to the Virgin Mary. It was a very reverent place and it just felt very peaceful. From the top of the mountain we could see the entire city; from the airport in the east to the Cristo Blanco statue in the West. It was such an amazing view but unfortunately we all forgot to bring a camera. Well, not so much forgot but warned not go up the mountain/bring anything of value. Andi’s family told her that thieves liked to frequent the mountain but hindsight rendered this argument useless. There is nothing at the top of the mountain nor anything of value (including people). We did pass a small village community on the way up, though. After we took in the view for about 30 minutes we wanted cake to celebrate my birthday. We descended in about 1 hour.
We bought cake from a local bakery and took it back to my house to eat. We all shared in the cake (including my family). After cake I played with Agustin some more. We built things from his blocks and played with his airplane. I think my Spanish is getting better because I can understand him most of the time. Then He went to bed I did some homework and updated my blog. So, that was my weekend. I’ll have more for y’all in a few days until then Hasta Luego.