Time to catch up again. My mother is now with me and she has informed me that people at home start to ask questions if I go for more than a few days without blogging. Enough motivation to keep me on track I suppose. Problem being we were without Internet for several days in a row. So there is a lot to write. I'll be breaking it into two entries…
My last few days in Quito were a little disappointing in the sense that one illness lead to another. Montezuma decided I was to be his next victim which prevented me from straying too far from a bathroom. I did manage to volunteer for just a few more hours on Thursday evening. I ended up seeing 35 patients in a poor community on a hill side overlooking Quito. The climb up the steep path the concrete room I practiced in was tough, especially as weak as I felt, but the views of the city and the people's kind faces were worth it.
Friday I rested in the morning then joined some of the Timmy volunteers, Valerie and Muz and two of Muz's Canadian friends at a market in the south of Quito. The market was full of exotic fruits and vegetables and business was pretty slow. Apparently, however, the peak hour for market shopping is between 2 and 3am when all the shipments arrive- so we were a little late (or early).
From the market, I took several buses from the south of Quito to the airport about 2 hours north of the city. An hour and a half flight later, and I was in the Lima, Peru, ready to begin my trek of country number 3 of my trip, and, more importantly, ready to meet my mother. The latter task, unfortunately, was easier said than done. My flight was delayed and got in just a few minutes before my mom's flight was to arrive, so I thought it would be best for me to wait for her right before the entrance to customs. I waited and waited and finally realized her flight had already gone through- somehow I had missed her. After the 45 minute line through customs, I emerged into a sea of men with signs, one of which was supposed to be for me (a driver was picking us up). After 10 minutes of frantic looking, no sign of my mother or our driver. I had no cell phone and there is no wireless internet in the Lima airport. And, not planning ahead well, we had no contingency plan. It all worked out in the end, I exchanged money for a few soles, made a call to the driver's cell phone, found the driver and found my mother, but it was an exhausting experience.
Our driver, Giovanni, was actually hired by my friend Dennis's family to pick us up from the airport. Dennis lives in the US, but his family owns homes in Lima, Bolivia, Miami and most recently Cincinnati as well. Dennis's parents were actually out of town this week, but his sisters, Grecia and Laura, welcomed us into their beautiful mansion of a home on the outskirts of Lima.
Saturday morning, Grecia drove us in to a touristy area of Lima known as Miraflores, right near the coast. Mom and I played tourists for the day and took a “mirabus,” one of those double decker tour buses, around the city. The tour was a little frustrating, unfortunately, because not only did the motor of the bus engine frequently drown out the tour guide, the English interpretation of the tour was with a pretty thick accent. I ended up doing a lot of English to English interpretation! The coolest part of the tour was visiting the monastery of San Francisco, a beautiful cathedral that has been rebuilt several times over the years due to earthquake destruction. Under the cathedral were tunnels of catacombs- our guide led us through the dark narrow tunnels where piles of real human bones were displayed- kind of creepy.
After the tour, we walked around Kennedy Park in Miraflores, enjoying the flowers, the artesania, and the dozens of cats that live in this particular park. There was also a little rink where a Saturday afternoon social dance took place. We loved watching the older couples dance the afternoon away to the cumbias and ballads of Peru.
Saturday night, Grecia and Laura invited some friends and family over for poker night. My mom went to bed relatively early, but I got my first lesson in Texas Holdem- who would have thought this Texas resident would learn how to play in Peru??? I actually went pretty far in the first game but quickly lost the second. When I went to bed at 3:30am, the game was still in full swing, most of the group didn't go home or to bed until dawn.
Sunday, as to be expected, everyone slept in. In the afternoon, Laura offered to take my mom and I shopping in an artisan market downtown. Lots of beautiful crafts and fabrics, the most prevalent (and expensive!) of which was the alpaca wool. Sunday night we treated the sisters, Laura's boyfriend and Grecia's friend to dinner at a woodfire pizza restaurant near the house- it was delicious!
On Monday, Grecia and Laura had to go to work so we had Giovanni drive us back downtown to do some more exploring. We walked around the main “Plaza de Armas” and checked out the daily changing of the guard. The Peruvian national marching band, while rather mediocre in skill, played some lively music and accompanied the guards as they marched in front of the palace.
We hopped a local bus back to Miraflores and walked to the coast again, watching the paragliders swoop and swerve what felt like dangerously close to the rocky cliffs. We checked out a local “cevichería” for lunch, a restaurant whose specialty was the lime marinated fish treat for which Peru is well-known. We then walked along the “malecón,” a path paralleling the coast line through some of Lima's most beautiful (and wealthy) neighborhoods. The sun was shining and the views were incredible- definitely the highlight of our time in Lima.
Giovanni drove us back to the house Monday night where we got our bags ready to travel to Arequipa in the morning. Unfortunately, it was now my mom's turn to fall ill, and neither of us slept well that night.
Arequipa deserves more than one blog entry in itself- stay tuned.