Goodbye Chile, hola Mamacita, Peru and the U.S.!

I started this blog sitting in the Houston airport waiting for my flight to SF, and began to recap the last few weeks, but feel that so much has changed since I even began writing this post. First, to start with the emotions I felt while sitting in the airport… I felt a combination of depression, anxiousness, confusion and confidence that I still can’t quite define. As my overattentive ears subconsciously listened with ease to every English conversation(with Spanish I still have to focus a bit to understand) I didn’t feel as happy as I thought I would to be in the U.S., although I always aim to be optimistic. It’s been just about a year since I’ve been on U.S. soil and over a year of traveling in Spanish-speaking countries. It will be very interesting to see how I feel about people, situations, norms, etc. once I have spent a little more time back in the U.S. I’m still figuring it all out…
But to get back to the recap… I last blogged about the beginning of my final week at Colegio Fernando Duran. The end of the last week was pretty-action-packed as I was finishing up lesson planning, running around buying presents for my co-teachers and host family, working on a few songs to sing in front of my whole school, taking advantage of spending time with friends I wouldn’t see for a while and getting ready for my mom to visit. It always all comes at once, doesn’t it?! As I had 5th through 8th grades and 2 classes of each grade, I had a lot of goodbyes. I think I seriously said chau/goodbye to every student about 80 times and my cheek was sore from Chilean kisses by the end of the week. On Wednesday, after I finished watching videos on YouTube and eating snacks with my English Club, I got called into the library where I was surprised by a little goodbye party and cake put together by the teachers at my school. My co-teachers said a few words and teared up a bit, of course making me tear up a bit myself(but no crying on-the-record to report).My last day of school was a bit heavy. So many hugs, notes, presents, Chilean kisses, goodbyes, and why are you leaving us, Miss Ashley ‘s. The students and my co-teachers also put together a show where students from all different grades sang songs, danced and put on a play in my honor – I was humbled, appreciative and frankly, sin palabras(without words). I also had planned with the music teacher to finally sing a few songs to my students as I had told them throughout the year that I loved to sing and used to sing in a band… and promised that I would eventually sing for them. In the end, I sang L-O-V-E by Natalie Cole and Suerte by Shakira in a mix of English and Spanish. Due to the emotions of the day and a tad bit of nervousness I messed up a tad on the Spanish part of the Shakira song… but I think it went alright. The day definitely made me feel that I had made at least a sliver of an impact on their little lives and really made the whole experience even more worth it. After school, I went with one of my co-teachers and two teachers to eat amazing empanadas in Viña del Mar, but in the end, was so exhausted from the day that I couldn’t contribute too much. After that I went home and cleaned and got ready for my mom to come!

The next day, I had to wake up at about 5:00 am to take a 2 hour bus to another bus to the airport to meet my mom! All went smoothly for both of us fortunately(except an hour + wait at the Santiago bus station) and we were catching up on not seeing each for almost a year instantly. I brought her back to my little Chilean world and she immediately loved my Chilean host family and house, although I spent a lot of time translating. 🙂  We spent Saturday and Sunday wandering around Quilpué and hanging with my Chilean fam and Hillary and Julian. Monday, we headed to Valpo to walk up and down the many staircases, took the funiculars up and down, visited the cemetery and ate delicious vegetarian food alongside Chilean wine. Tuesday, we headed to my school to say hello and another goodbye to all my students. It was great to finally show my mom what I’ve been doing all year. After that, we went to Viña del Mar to walk around and then hiked the amazing dunes at Con Con, where we found scalding hot sand and fierce wind, and headed to eat amazing empanadas in the center of Con Con covered in sand, but accompanied by a cute feline regular at the restaurant.

Wednesday, we spent the day running around Quilpué, buying presents for my host family and ingredients to make a cake for my host mom’s early birthday(as I would leave before her actual b-day). It was a nice day, except, when fully loaded with bags while on a little micro(local bus), I thought I felt a hand in my purse. I quickly moved my bag and the man next to me looked disinterested. I then discovered later that he had silently stolen my little coin purse(actually it was unfortunately my mom’s, but I did get her a new one!) Luckily, it only had a few dollars in change in it, but I still felt stupid as it was my first theft experience since I’ve been traveling(other than some credit card fraud, but that had happened to me in the U.S., as well). Anyway, later that night, we had a lovely once with my host fam with the chocolate-coconut, dulce de leche cake that we made, and exchanged presents and talked about memories from the year and all cried a little bit, as it was my last once with them until I return to Chile! I gave them a photo book that I had made with pictures/memories from the year and they teared up while recapping our many lovely, little memories together.

The next day, we woke up early to head on a bus to Santiago and said our goodbyes to lovely Quilpué. We spent the afternoon/evening exploring Santiago and enjoying our amazing, little hostel. Friday, we woke up early and got on our plane to Lima! In hot and humid Lima, we had to change airlines/planes to then head to Cuzco. We boarded our second plane and were sitting at the gate for about 30 minutes, when they told us that we had to get off the plane and switch planes as we were having technical difficulties…there’s a first time for everything… but after about another hour and a half, we were on our way to Cuzco!

When we arrived in Cuzco, we took a taxi to our hotel, and went by the beautiful downtown in Cuzco. Immediately, I could see the difference in the Spanish spoken in Chile and the Spanish spoken in Peru. Peruvians speak much clearer and with less slang, so I could understand everything almost perfectly! Unfortunately, though, we could also feel the altitude, as Cuzco is about 12,000 feet above sea level, higher than I’d ever been in my life. We had headaches and stomach aches, but quickly began drinking the recommended natural remedy – coca tea, which isn’t too bad, and definitely made us feel better, albeit slowly. We took it easy that day, walking a bit around town and finding a cute little Peruvian restaurant where we had amazing soup and a veggie quiche of sorts. The food in Peru is absolutely delicious (sorry, Chile) – spices and flavors I’ve never before tasted!

The next day, we headed out to explore a bit more of Cuzco and to find all of our tickets to get to Machu Picchu(which is not an easy trek, by any means). To go for the day(we didn’t do a backpack/camping trip due to time and money), you have to buy a bus ticket to a nearby town(we went to a town called Ollantaytambo first), then you have to buy a train to the town closest to Machu Picchu, called Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Town(as they have no roads at all going into that town), and then from there you take a bus along a windy steep mountain to get to Machu Picchu! It was crazy, but we eventually got everything all purchased, even though it was a public holiday due to a religious festival – the Day of the Immaculate Conception .

The next day, we took the bus to Ollanta and spent some time there wandering around. Ollantaytambo is a beautiful little town, that is surrounded by Incan ruins, that is likely most famous now for being the start of the Inca Trail(the big 4-day trek to Machu Picchu). We had a magical day walking through the cobblestone streets and admiring the amazing scenery in part of what was deemed the Sacred Valley by the Incas. Unfortunately that day we ate some delicious fajitas of sorts that made both of our stomachs a little churny, but nothing too serious, and we were better again by the next day.The following day, we woke up at about 4 am to make the trek up to Machu Picchu. We first went on the amazing train ride to Aguas Calientes, going through some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve seen in my life. It was one of those moments when everything in your life goes into crystal clear perspective. We then took the bus from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu, which was also an amazing, twisty ride through foggy, green, majestic mountains. We then finally got to run around Machu Picchu, which was at first quite foggy but cleared up to be beautiful and definitely one of the prettiest sites I’ve ever seen. Imagine a civilization living at the top of some of the highest mountains in the world – with the amazing, green, foggy Andes greeting you every morning as you woke. Absolutely breathtaking. After taking a million pictures and walking all around the old Incan site, we headed back down to explore Aguas Calientes… which ended up not taking long. We ate lunch, drank some piscos, and ran all over the town, only to find that it was completely over-run with restaurants, shops, and hostels solely for tourists. The beauty of that town definitely died along with the onset of tourism – a bit sad, but we were glad we hadn’t decided to stay a few nights there. We then headed back and spent one more night in Ollanta, and then the next day exploring Cuzco a bit more, as we had to head to the airport on Wednesday for our flight to Lima!After a bit of a scramble of gates in the airport at Lima, resulting in them calling our names, along with quite a few others on the loudspeaker(bad communication on their part), and we were then on our way to Lima! When we arrived we were greeted by the parents of my mom’s good friends who live in Arizona. The parents, Pocho and Carmen, happen to be Peruvian and happened to be willing to open their home/lives to us for our stay in Lima. We also spent time with their son, Javiera ,and his wife, Mariana who were adorable and eager to practice their English with us. It ended up being an absolute amazing stay in Lima and now I feel like I have a little family in Lima, as well! They are all absolutely sweet and patient with my Spanish and took us all over town, showing us old buildings and new, taking us to the Indian market where we bought artesanal crafts, and taking us to the Club they belong to, where we ate some amazing seafood and had beautiful views of the beach.

We spent a lot of our time in traffic, as Lima seems to be the L.A. of South America in terms of traffic congestion. But fortunately, this allowed for plenty of time for Spanish chatter, as they don’t really speak English and I talked away to them in Spanish, translating as much as I could to my mom. On Friday, we went to downtown Lima and took a tour of the amazing old San Francisco Church and the Catacombs there. The church was beautiful, complete with monks still living on site and amazing architecture and history. And the catacombs were AMAZING! They basically had built and maintained a cemetery under the church for about 300 years and had put all the bones of family members together in little group plots. But when you visit you can see hundreds of human bones, skulls, femurs, etc. – a bit freaky but very interesting to see! After wandering around the downtown, we headed to eat Chifa – which is a combination of Chinese food and Peruvian spices – very good, but not too easy on the stomach – haha. After that, we headed back to the house to relax and pack and took in as much of their amazing company as possible.

My mom and I then headed off to the airport together, our flights to Phoenix and San Francisco, respectively, about an hour apart. After a long wait and some annoyance through customs, we hugged our goodbyes and were happy that we would see each other in about another week. After a fairly uneventful series of flights and some delayed luggage, I was back in the Bay… greeted by my awesome sister, who I hadn’t seen in entirely too long(about 7 months to be exact). My week in the Bay Area was kind of a blur – I worked for my sister quite a bit at her brand new, adorable retail shop in Oakland called Resurrect. I could never describe how I felt the first day I went in – a mixture of disbelief, happiness, and immense pride at seeing how she had made her dream a reality. But, I was also sad that I had missed out on so much of the initial stages of her store’s journey.
Obviously my experiences abroad were amazing and worth it, but one of my pillars of existence is definitely the people I care about, and I feel like I’ve neglected some of them in the last year, mostly by the simple fact of my absence from big events in their lives – weddings, child births, store openings, birthdays, etc… Anyway, it felt good to finally see it and tell her how proud I am of her, because seriously I am. But I spent a lot of time in the store, some time with some amazing friends that I haven’t had the pleasure of spending time with in too long, met some new, interesting people, and in all of this, only confused myself more in what the next steps in my life will be… Bay Area, Chile, or somewhere new… stay tuned, as all of that is still a work in progress… but for now I’m enjoying my time in Phoenix with my mom and dad, before I head back for a few more weeks in SF/Oakland!001 002 003 004 005 006 007 008 009 010 011 012 013 014 015 016 017 018 019 020 021 022 023 024 025 026 027 028 029 030 031 032 033 034 035 036 037 038 039 040 041 042 043 044 045 046 047 048 049 050 051 052 053 054 055 056 057 058 059 060 061 062 063 064 065 066 067 068 069 070 071 072 073 074 075 076 077 078 079 080 081 082 083 084 085 086 087 088 089 090 091 092 093 094 095 096 097 098 099 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 204 205 206 207 208 209 210 211 212 213 214 215 216 217 218 219 220 221 222 223 224 225 226 227 228 229 230 231 232 233 234 235 236 237 238 239 240 241 242 243 244 245 246 247 248 249 250 251 252 253 254 255 256 257 258 259 260 261 262 263 264 265 266 267 268 269 270 271 272 273 274 275 276 277 278 279 280 281 282 283 284 285 286 287 288 289 290 291 292 293 294 295 296 297 298 299 300 301 302 303 304 305 306 307 308 309 310 311 312 313 314 315 316 317 318 319 320 321 322 323 324 325 326 327 328 329 330 331 332 333 334 335 336 337 338 339 340 341 342 343 344 345 346 347 348 349 350 351 352 353 354
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