I guess i should probably give you an idea about how I even came to Peru to visit Amanda in the first place.
Amanda and I grew up in a town called Challis, population 909, in the middle of nowhere Idaho. Like the most middle of nowhere you could probably imagine. We met on our first day of pre-school. Being such a small town, best friends for life aren't easy to come by, but Amanda and I managed to work it out. We grew up together, went to college together, lived together, and shared everything. Like so much, you don't even WANT to know the details. So I'll spare you. Just get the idea that this girl has been my best friend and soulmate since we were wee. So when Amanda decided to join the Peace Corp, I figured I'd be a total dummy to not go visit her wherever she was.
Now…ONTO THE VACATION.
While I was in Peru, I bought a small notebook and made bullet points about each of the towns that we went to or just about my observations in Peru in general. It was so vastly different than any place I had ever been that I figured it warranted its own notebook. I'll try my best to regurgitate the trip in a nutshell and highlight the details from my notebook.
[side note from Amanda: All of the following pictures are taken by Becky! She did a great job of taking photos I always want to, or forget to take.]
Amanda picked me up at the airport late at night and we were both pretty tired, so we just went straight to the hostel. We walked around the city the next day and it was beautiful, smoggy, and interesting. Here are a few of the details:
- Cats LIVE IN THE PARK. A ton of them. So many that there is a sign asking people to no longer dump their cats in the park.
- Granadilla: the grossest looking fruit you'll ever see in your life. You crack a plum-size nut looking fruit open and expose the seeds that you eat. And those seeds look EXACTLY like bug larvae. Amanda loves this fruit. I tried it, because I think it's an important part of the culture to try foods, but I did not love it.
- Bus rides where you LAY DOWN ALL THE WAY. Peru has a pretty great bus system. It's how people get around the country. They're big ol' double decker buses and for the right prices, you can get yourself a super relaxing twelve hour bus ride in a comfortable seat that completely reclines. This is what we took to get to…
- Pacai: another weird fruit thing where you peel back the outside and eat the weird seeds on the inside. But this one was way better. And you don't actually eat the seeds, you eat this fluffy white encasing that surrounds the seeds. Tasty and waaaay better texture than granadilla.
- Bodoque: this popsicle in a plastic bag, usually with milk, and usually interesting fruit flavors. DELISH.
- *also let me just add here about how SWEET EVERYTHING in Peru is. Especially the drinks. People don't drink bottled water much (you can't drink water from taps, so families boil it in their homes if they need hydration) so if you have to buy something, why not buy something with a little zest!? Lika Inca Kola, Peru's favorite neon yellow soda that tastes like bubble gum and will send you into diabetic shock in less than sixteen ounces. I'm more of a salty over sweet gal, so you can imagine how tough snacking in Peru was for me. Amanda's addiction to sugar (as it's a huge comfort food for her) is also entertaining. But that would be a whole different blog.*
- Ceviche! One of Amanda's favorite thing to eat in Peru. She forgot to tell me that it was just warm sliced raw fish in lime juice. Taste is great, texture is something to get used to.
- Combis. Not sure if I'm spelling it it right, but they're these very convenient little buses that get you through town for super cheap. Also, the way people drive in Peru is terrifying.
- The market where people buy all their goods. THIS WAS AMAZING. A huge open air market that snaked its way around a couple city blocks. It was covered with blue tarps and was a maze on the inside. You can get everything you need at the this market from your voodoo dolls and shaman herbs to your pork for the evening dinner to party supplies. What I liked most about this market is that it's all local vendors and an integral part of the community. It brings people together and it helps people support one another.
- Cuyes. No, I did not eat cuy while I was in Peru at all. But from our hostel, we could see cages and cages of cuyes being raised for food on one of the roofs of the building next to us.
- Sleepy people. Amanda, her friend Zack, and myself had a conversation about how sleepy people in Peru seemed to be. They fall asleep on buses and combis pretty quickly and easily. We hypothesized it has to do with the heat, the amount of carbohydrates consumed (rice AND potatoes with every meal) and the amount of MSG used in food. Regardless, people are sleepy in Peru.
Amanda's site!Amanda's host site is a little town with about 4,000 people south of Chiclayo in what they call the campo. Which what I gathered, roughly translates to the farm country kind of area on the coast. When we arrived it was about a million degrees and the power was out. This sent me to the comfort of the cement floor in Amanda's bedroom. Not like it really matters. There is no air conditioning in Peru. Unless you're a department store or something fancy like that. Or Starbucks. Starbucks will always have air conditioning.
- Piter! He's the dog of Amanda's host uncle. She takes him for long walks as he's just a puppy and needs to run around. He lives in the back of Amanda's host uncle's house with the cocks he raises for cock fighting. Yeah, that's a thing in Peru too. Amanda says she still hasn't quite acclimated to that part of the culture.
- The cemetery. Every time I go to a Latin American country, I HAVE to visit the cemetery. Their attitudes and rituals toward death are so much more progressive and healthier than ours, in my humble opinion anyway. And the effort that they put toward loved ones tombs to make them beautiful is AMAZING. And fortunately for me, this is where Amanda takes Piter on walks so he can run around like crazy.
- Skulls! Some of the tombs at the cemetery were broken open, just from weather and wear, I'm sure, but we kind of poked our heads in some and saw real life skulls. Which is terrifying. I hopefully didn't catch any bad juju while I was sticking my nose in there.
- Mango bread. Amanda and I made mango bread one day using gluten free flour (Amanda can't eat the glutens) and it may have been the most delicious thing I've ever consumed in my life.
- Mango maggots. I was about halfway through mauing down on a delicious mango that Amanda had so generously chopped up for me one morning when I realized there were little white maggots crawling in it. Oh well. Just some extra protein I guess.
- Chicken. Just so everyone knows, I have been a vegetarian since 2007. And I ate a metric shit ton of chicken in Peru. And from what I remember of chicken here, the chicken in Peru is FAR superior. Probably because they come from the market and were killed earlier in the day when the chicken here is typically from a gross factory farm and frozen on a truck for a significant amount of time before it ever makes it to a kitchen table. But I digress…
- The Zaña River. This little river is what keeps this desert region flourishing. And it has some killer sunsets.
Huanchaco!A little tourist town right on the beach about a 4 hour bus ride south of Amanda's site. It's BEAUTIFUL.
- Tourists. Are. Everywhere. After getting used to not being able to communicate with anyone and experiencing a legitimate Perivual lifestyle for a few days, it was definitely a shocker to roll into Huanchaco and hear English spoken all around me. It wasn't bad, but it took some readjusting.
- Turtles! Giant turtles (or tortoises?) lived in our hostel in the common area. So cute!
- The beach. The beach in Huanchaco is beautiful and one of its main draws for tourists and surfers.
- Food poisoning. I didn't get to see as much as Huanchaco as much as I wanted due to violent food poisoning. That I got from VEGETARIAN PIZZA. Seriously. I was eating so much stuff that I wasn't used to and then the one thing that gets me is the same crap that I eat in the states. Amanda thinks that maybe the cheese they used on it was unpasteurized. That would make sense.
- *while I'm thinking about it, you also can't really eat fruits or vegetables in Peru that have peels on them. Well, you can, but it's not recommended if you're only going to be visiting for a short period of time as it takes your body some time to get used to the amount of pesticides that are used on them and can make you sick. I would also like to add here that none of the vegetables on my vegetarian pizza had any peels on them. Which just adds insult to injury.
Amanda and I got back on a night bus and headed back to Lima the night after food poisoning ravaged my body. Once back in Lima, I was still feeling pretty out of it and slept a bunch, so I won't add more details to that day.
But now I'm back home and have been home for awhile. Peru was so unreal and amazing and everything I wanted it to be. I would never be able to put everything I wanted down in a guest blog post, but hopefully this gives you a bit of an idea of what it's like to go hang with your bestie in a foreign country that she's been living in for almost two years. Which is where I'd like to end this whole blog. Amanda is doing some ridiculously awesome things in Peru. And she has grown so much in the past two years and I think proud is the only word I can use to describe how I feel about her. She is able to haggle with cabbies in perfect Spanish. She's able to navigate confusing cities and stick up for herself in tense situations. I'm so blown away by her adaptability to a foreign country that she's been able to call home for some time. Seriously. She is so inspiring and doing so great out there. Thanks Amanda for letting me come to see you on your adventure and letting me share this part of your life with you! I can't wait to see what other adventures we have up our sleeves together. But until then…I'll see you when you get home!
Thank you Becky for the great blog! You didn't think I would keep the title you jokingly suggested, did you? I loved having you visit to see my little corner of Peru, it meant a lot to me that you would come all this way. It was also great to see Peru through your eyes and have the chance to show you all I've been up to. We have known each other for almost our entire lives and been friends longer than most marriages last, and I can't express how nice it was to have my best friend there and just get it. I love you!