Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I have become

a master chef! At least, I have in my imagination. Look at my wonderful porcupine meatballs and spaghetti. I hope you are proud of me mum! haha. Yesterday I made chicken in an awesome sauce which I will call a la Gemma because it involved anything I could find in the cupboards and was very tasty! But all this domesticity has bored me and I have agreed to take on a few private classes come February so things should get back to being busy soon :)

I wanted to chat to you about New Years in Peru. In Cajamarca (Andean region) they make dolls out of old clothes and bit and bobs that they don´t want and then they burn them. In Ecuador and along the coast of Peru they buy dolls- like Smurfs for example- and burn them. It reminds me of Bonfire Night in England actually. You can see some of them in the picture. I tried to get a picture of one burning but since I am such a brilliant photographer it turned out black and all you can see is that there is a fire. :( Another tradition- eat 12 grapes and make wishes, one for each month. And the most absurd (which I think I mentioned in a previous blog but here it is again) is walking around the streets with an empty suitcase. This means you will travel in the next year. Weird, right!

Carnival has begun here! You´ve probably heard of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnival in Rio right? Well Cajamarca is the capital of the Peruvian Carnival. That means that from now until MARCH the minute you step foot on the street you are at risk of being soaked with buckets of water and hit with water balloons. Luckily I haven´t been hit yet due to my ninja-like dodging tactics but I fear I am only delaying the inevitable. I wouldn´t have a problem with it on Sunday but if I am on my way to work I really don´t want to be soaked and spend the whole night shivering. Last week before I could catch them two boys hurled water balloons from the window of my THIRD FLOOR classroom at poor innocent girls passing by. I bet that stung! It is nice to hear people singing and dancing in the streets though! The key weekend is in February and we have the Monday off work. I have been told that it gets CRAZY so I am pretty excited about it :)

Mum and Dad are going to Jamaica to celebrate their 25th anniversary. How awesome is that! I hope to see lots of photos!

That´s all for now folks! Chau!

Monday, January 23, 2012

I dream of cockroaches.

It seems that the cockroaches which I spent a lot of time dancing around in Guayaquil have actually mortified me and enter my dreams and eat everybody I care about. César found a baby cockroach in our kitchen last week so now we are being super clean and stuff. I mean, our kitchen is never dirty for more than half an hour as we are both kind of obsessive compulsive about it, but somehow a baby entered which means there are mum and dad cockroaches in the vicinity and how am I supposed to sleep now? Especially when the mosquitos eat me when I do. In our old apartment we had no bug problems apart from some really big flies. Now that we live near some fields and flowers and stuff it´s dreadful! This morning César told me that my back looks like the face of a teenager going through puberty. He´s great. I haven´t actually seen my back as we don´t own a mirror. I can´t feel them when they bite me. César wakes up numerous times during the night to try and kill them with an old t-shirt which he usually fails at because they are so fast! And he usually ends up jumping on my leg or something to be able to reach the ceiling. Yesterday he killed one on the wall and it fell into my hair, so that was wonderful.

You want to know how my turkey went right? It was wonderful, really! As you can see in the picture. It only took 6 hours. The one problem was the stuffing. Although I spent eons going from shop to shop in search of boxed stuffing it was all in vain so César said we´d make our own. We bought bread, raisins, onions etc and then César had the excellent idea of buying liquid garlic. He then proceeds to put all the garlic into the mixture along with almost half a mini bottle of vinegar. At this point he looks like a mad scientist minus the goggles. I try it and it actually burns my tongue. César assures me that when we cook it, the true flavor will come out. So I gave him the benefit of the doubt. 6 hours later and the stuffing is practically toxic. Luckily the veggies and potatoes were fine and César´s mother and pregnant sister didn´t die from the experience. It was actually quite nice although I am not keen on the Peruvian tradition of eating turkey at midnight. The bonus is that after you eat all of that food you can go right to bed. Unless you make sangria forgetting that nobody else drinks alcohol (César was sick) and you have to drink it all yourself. What a shame! :) You can see César´s mother and sister enjoying the salad in the picture. They wear the traditional Peruvian clothing. It was lovely to have them over.

I managed to get a great picture of César with with his mother in which they are actually both smiling. Now, remember that I am short and César is pretty much the same height. Peruvians are little people.

Oh, and the end of the Ecuador story. Well after César got sick we couldn´t really do much. We went sea-dooing in Salinas which probably made him worse thanks to the wind. We also went out on a boat and then I jumped in the ocean and swam around a bit although life jackets seriously impede the ability to swim. That white thing in the picture is me, even though it was plus 6 billion degrees I didn´t get a bit of colour thanks to César´s SPF 100. I suppose white is better than red! We spent lots of time on the beach. I built a sandcastle and made a sand angel while César slept. It was relaxing, but then we had 1 and half days of travelling to return back to Cajamarca. We spent a night in Tumbes and another night in Piura (both in Peru) because he couldn´t manage a stright trip. We went to numerous pharmacies looking for pills etc for César but he just got worse and worse and when we got back to Cajamarca he had to go for lots of shots and spent 2 weeks bedridden. Lesson: don´t eat lobster and take pills! I bought suero and took out my wallet to pay in Tumbes and the lady behind the counter looked at me as if I were an idiot and told me to put my wallet away if I don´t want to get mugged. Brilliant. Last week César started to work again and this week he is going to formalize his buisness which is exciting stuff :) its also time to recover from the economic hit. Be thankful for public healthcare Canada!

Yesterday I went with César (who is an automotive electrician just in case you didn´t know) and a mechanic to Chilete where he had to do a job. It was a 3 hour journey and when we arrived I sat in a cloud for an hour with the mechanic´s girlfriend and froze my bum off. The trip gave me nausea as usual but I loved seeing the magnificent mountain scenery even though the road was hellish. I also saw a cool flower in the main square of Chilete as you can see in the picture.

I have a children´s class this month. I so do not like teaching 7-9 year olds but nobody seems to care about that. I am sucking it up and doing my best just as I learned in girl guides :). I do like my adult classes although the ECCE exam preparation course has to be the most boring thing ever. Try as I might to make it interesting it doesn´t take away from the fact that they have a ridiculous amount of work to do in 2 months and it simply is not fun. Oh well, only 6 classes left of this month´s cycle and then onto new groups (hopefully not children).

Well I´d better let you do something more important then read about my life! Have a good one!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Great Comparison: Peru vs. Ecuador

The first thing I noticed as I entered Ecuador was housing estates. Just like in developed countries. It was truly bizarre, we passed slums and normal middle class south american housing and then we´d pass estate after estate! High walled with security but from what you could see of the houses they were north-american style. That was new for me, because in Cajamarca there aren´t any estates. In Baños lots of rich people live in nice houses but not in Cajamarca itself and those houses are all different and mostly in a Spanish architecture style so it is not the same. César says there are housing estates in Lima but whenever you talk of a city the size of London you are talking about a bit of everything. Anyway you can definetly see the difference the United States has made in Ecuador. That is not necesarily a positive thing. While it is clear that the upper class is more prominent there (I guess Cajamarca is more middle class) there are many more people on the street. I would guess that 10 x more people tried to sell me stuff or begged for money there. So what does becoming a buddy with the U.S. mean in the developing world from what I have seen? Simply a wider gap between the rich and the poor. Now, I am not saying that the housing estates didn´t look like lovely safe places to live, but that beside such poverty they seem perverse.
One more difference: Although I spoke of poverty they are slightly better off than Peruvian slums- we passed a few with satellite dishes all over the place! Is that the solution they have found for poverty? Give them satellite dishes? Because the housing was deplorable and the garbage solution was throw it down the sides of the mountain and into ditches. I also saw a 9 ? year old boy who risked his life running into the road to grab a piece of rubber.
Next: the roads! What beautiful pieces of architecture! The roads and the green trees and rain made me feel as if I were in England while passing through the countryside! Minus the bananas and coco plants! Ecuador beats Peru in roads and bus system! While classy Peruvian busses have more security - finger prints, film, baggage tickets etc. Ecuadorian busses don´t have that but they do have 1 thing, efficiency. In Guayaquil you go to the bus terminal which is like an airport, buy your ticket on the first level and run to find your bus before it leaves on the second or third level. You hope that nobody steals your luggage because it doesn´t have a ticket (to be fair, some agencies put tickets on). The bus leaves quickly. The problem is that a direct bus will stop in EVERY SINGLE VILLAGE AND TOWN to pick up and drop off passengers your 3 hour trip turns into a 5 hour trip. However many busses have air conditioning which is more than can be said for many Peruvian busses in which you get heatstroke in the day and freeze your butt off at night.
In both countries it is rare to find a bus with seatbelts unless you pay big bucks to take a first class top bus like Cruz del Sur (which I don´t).
In the picture I am eating humita, its like mushed up corn (not sweetcorn). That´s the best explanation I can give. People come on the bus at EVERY STOP and try to sell you just about anything, coconut milk, ice-cream, drinks, fruit whatever. It is actually quite convenient because you don´t have to move!
Happily, César is finally recovering. His lips are better and now his tongue is the main problem. At least now he can talk somewhat more clearly and seems to be in less pain unless he tries to eat something that isn´t a non-acidic soup. Yesterday while I was at work he went out to buy water since we didn´t have water for 2 days in the house and forgot his key so he had to walk to his mother´s room to wait for me to finish since he lost his cell phone. Excellent right! Hopefully he will be back to work next week.
Well I am going to go and take advantage of the fact that we have water and stop being cochina (dirty) as César says!
More to come, stay tuned xx

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ecuador- Part 1

Well folks here we are back in Peru and César is half dead. It really isn´t fun that his immune system sucks so much. Anyway, now we have to go to the clinic 3 times a day, and there is no public health system here...wonderful. I start work tomorrow again so I guess he will have to fend for himself. At least he is getting better. We arrived here on Monday and went straight to the doctor. He had a cold when we left which changed into a raving fever and has now developed into infections and he can´t speak and only drinks liquids like soup and porridge (gross). But anyway, the trip!
Well Ecuador was pretty cool! Not difficult to enter Ecuador illegally though, on the bus they said, anyone who wants to go through customs, now is your chance. Like as if there was a choice? Weird. Some busses just went zooming on through. The river gives you an idea of what it was like arriving- wet! Raining hard! In Ecuador there are a LOT of bananas. Acres and acres for hours! You can see a bit of that in the photo.
Well, passing the border we went straight to Guayaquil. In Ecuador the money is American Dollars, so everything seems more expensive but actually the whole trip including everything from Cajamarca and back cost less than 350$ so that isn´t bad. We pretty much went straight from Cajamarca to Guayaquil so we were tired because thats about 24 hours of straight bus rides. Luckily I am getting good at sleeping on busses though so I was less tired than César who had a fever by then. It was sweltering hot in Guayaquil so we stripped down and went exploring. We had broken out a sweat within 1 minute of walking- well I had, César was already sweating heavily due to his fever. We had heard about the iguana park and wanted to go, but was asked a local and he had no idea what we were talking about! We kept walking until we got the mall. I should explain, the taxi driver from the bus terminal to the hostal told us that Guayaquil had the biggest mall in South America. I was surprised because, you know, Ecuador is not one of the richest countries around here and we had never heard of it. Then it ocurred to me that the driver had probably never left Ecuador. The mall was not that big, nor very impressive. I guess about 2 times the length of Brandon mall. I ate cake. It was great, better than the disgusting lunch we had. Peruvian food is better folks!
Further proof of this fact: we went back to the hostal for a nap and later wanted to go out for a good meal (we didn´t eat much on the busses at all). I asked the man at the reception desk where we could out for a decent meal and he looked at me aghast. ¨What, at this time of night?¨ I might add, that it was 9:30 p.m. ¨Well, I´d suggest KFC.¨
And that ladies and gentlemen is what Ecuadorians consider a decent meal. They are obsessed with it, everywhere you go there are loads and its like McDonalds in extreme! Anyway, after walking for 40 minutes we found a restaurant in an expensive hotel. I do not kid you, EVERYTHING was closed! It was a dead city. I don´t know how it got compared to New York, this city sleeps before 9! And AHHHH COCKROACHES! Big cockroaches all over the pavement at night! I had to dance around to avoid them. César thought I was being ridiculous but I didnt want them crawling up my legs! It is weird because the population of Guayaquil is about 2 million. Maybe we were in the wrong part...but we were in the city centre!
The other picture is an awesome tree.
Anyway, after the mall we walked around and went to a museum. I went to tourist information and asked what there was to do. They made me sign a guest book and then gave me... a map of Guayaquil. Not exactly what I had in mind. But there you go. Then we stumbled across the iguana park. It was cool! They are tame and they are everywhere. César got an awesome picture of one which you can see here!
Well, after that we were pretty bored of Guayaquil and couldn´t take the heat so we headed on to Salinas...but that´s a blog for another day! Better go and see to César!
It´s raining in Cajamarca, but at least we have escaped the heat!