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 .
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.