8.27.2015

La comida Peruana es delicioso!

My favorite breakfast: avocado (lemon, salt, and pepper) spread on toast with eggs and coffee.  Our host family owns a coffee farm and we were lucky to enjoy their coffee every morning.
  The coffee was so well-balanced that this was the first time I enjoyed black coffee.  

Here, coffee is made espresso style, creating a "coffee essence" and then adding hot water to adjust the strength of your coffee. Because of the high altitude, there is less oxygen, which makes it harder for fire to burn, so boiling water here takes around 15 minutes and cooking takes even longer than we are used to at sea level. 
The Peruvian diet is largely based on potatoes, corn, rice, and meat.  Most of the meals we have eaten have some combination of the above.

We went to a local restaurant called Yola, right off the main street Avenida del Sol. Many locals eat here, as the food is good, portions are generous, and the price is right.  

The Arroz con Pollo from Yola consists of a large slab of chicken buried under a pile of rice that is green due to a pesto-like sauce.

Chicken Milanesa (breaded and lightly fried chicken breast) with rice, an ear of corn and beet salad.  I don't much enjoy beets, but I was advised that it isn't safe (for travelers) to eat salad that is not cooked so beet salad it was.
Fried trout with rice, beet salad, and fried papas (French fries)
There are more than 350 varieties of potatoes in Peru, and a whole section dedicated to them in the Mercado San Pedro. 

Likewise, the corn is not like the sweet & crisp American corn I am used to at home.  Most of the corn we ate was much larger in kernel size and chewier, making for substantially heavy-in-starch meals.

Chicha Morada is a drink made of fermented (or non-fermented) purple/black corn.
It can be alcoholic or not.  We had the non-alcoholic version.  It's very sweet!

Corn: "the bread of Peru."  Here it is served as an appetizer with cubes of cheese that taste similar to Mexican queso fresco.

We also had plenty of empanadas during our time around Cusco.

The empanada lady selling empanadas hot out of the oven at 5 soles apiece.

Empanada Tracional - with cheese, tomatoes, onions, & basil inside
Rocoto Rellenos - a spicy pepper stuffed with beef, rice, tomatoes, cheese and served with what else -
potatoes & corn on the side.
Pisco Sour - the national drink of Peru is made with Pisco (a type of brandy), egg white, lemon juice and sugar.  I waited a few days to try this due to the altitude (Drinking alcohol or caffiene can affect you in different ways than usual).
Some specialties from a local favorite hole-in-the-wall, La Causita de Marquez: 

Cheese empanada - the pastry is similar to that of a croissant and the cheese is not savory.
Chicken empanada

Causa a la limeƱa - a cold casserole made of layers of mashed potato and something reminiscent of a chicken salad 

Lastly, we can't forget dessert!
My favorite! Tortas de Tres Leches; it looks sweeter than it is; very moist!

Going Downtown in Cusco

On our first full day in Cusco, Manu took us downtown to visit a few of main monuments and attractions.  Cusco is a small city and seeing everything wouldn't take more than 3-4 hours by foot.  Walking down Avenida Del Sol, Manu explained some of the history of Cusco to us.

A statue of Pachacutec, the Inca emperor on the main street Avenida del Sol

The name "Cusco" is actually the Spanish pronunciation of the city's name.  The native people of Peru are the Quechuas (KEH-chooahs) also the name of their language and pronounce the city's name "Cosco" (COS-co) which means "umbilical cord" as it was believed to be the center of the world.

Fruit vendors selling their goods on Avenida del Sol
Many people confuse the Quechuas with the "Incas," but Inca actually means "king" in Quechua language.  So Quechua is to Inca as Spanish is to Rey (the Spanish term for king).

The fountain on Avenida del sol - Cusco is short on water right now!

Behind the fountain.
The 3 most important animals in Cusco are the puma, the snake, and the condor,
representing earth, the underworld, and heaven, respectively. 
In the middle of Avenida Del Sol is a large mural showing the  history of Cusco, which is based on legends.  It is believed that the Sun God created man and man initially had sex with animals, but it wasn't right with the Sun God, so he created woman, who emerged from waters of Lake Titicaca.  The Sun God then gave the man and woman a gold staff, and decided that the empire of the world would be built where ever the staff was planted in the ground, which is known today as Cusco.


The Quechuas did not practice slavery, but did had a separate-but-equal class system.
They were also a superstitious people and worshiped many gods.  When an army of 103 Spanish soldiers came to Cusco by ship, the Quechuas mistakenly believed that they were gods because they came from the sea and thus, surrendered everything to the Spanish.

Tupac Amaru Shakur (a.k.a. 2Pac a.k.a. Makeveli) was named after the Peruvian revolutionary who was executed after leading an indigenous uprising against Spanish rule (Wiki).  Read more here about both Tupacs here and here.
At that time, Quechuas considered conch shells to be more valuable than gold or silver and surrendered their gold and silver to these "gods."  When the Spanish returned to Spain and, they told their queen of their plans to kill the Quechuas, but the Queen insisted that they take them as slaves instead.

Central Walkway down Avenida del Sol
This was the beginning of a long history of slavery, destruction of the Quechua's history records and explains the mixed features of Quechua people.  Some may notice that Peruvians have seemingly Asian facial features, especially in their eyes.  Because so much of Quechua history was destroyed, it is hard to tell the "true history" of the Quechuas.  On the other hand, who hasn't heard that history is biased by those who record it?

Plaza de Armas
We were warned to watch our bags when walking on the street and to beware of cars when crossing the street.  Cusco is considered to be fairly safe, but it's a well known fact that cab drivers take the right of way.

Mercado de San Pedro
Inside the market, you can buy groceries, souvenirs, textiles, medicine, fresh juices, jewelry and crafts, and more.

It's always such a trip to see such old established buildings and monuments around a city and then find a piece of capital America amongst them.  There's a Starbucks and a McDonald's in Plaza de Armas (Army Square) right next to the oldest church in the city.

Outside Mercado de San  Pedro is a place in which you can make offerings to PachaMama
PachaMama means Earth Mother (Mother Nature) and the people still give sacrifices and gifts to her regularly.  Among these gifts are candles, paper money, food, and  llama fetuses, commonly sold in the market.
Some offerings include water, flowers, pottery, potatoes, and coca leaves.
"As everything comes from the earth, so it will return to the earth."

8.22.2015

Getting your cell phone to work in Peru

Sometimes being without a phone while traveling is a relief and a means to really get away from it all.
Other times, having the stress of carrying a phone in order to call, text, find directions, view maps, buy plane tickets, book hotels, connect with friends, or call the tourist police is way worth it.
Here's a cheap way to do it, courtesy of Steph (the brains of this outfit):
1. Before you go, call your carrier and tell them you're going abroad and need your cell unlocked; they'll ask for your IMEI (located in your phone when you remove the back) and send you a number to unlock usually within 24 hours.
2. Create a Google Voice account; give your Google Voice number to those you want to contact.  Do the same with WhatsApp.
3. (After you go to Peru) Find a carrier of your choice. (We picked Claro) Buy a SIM card (6 Soles + 3 Soles activation fee = 9 soles, which is about $3 USD right now).  You'll get a few minutes of calling. Note: WhatsApp is free to use with Claro.
4.  To add internet: 10 Soles = 200 MB.  It's not as fast as 4G in America, but it'll do in a pinch.
5. Take out your old SIM card (save it!), put in your new Claro SIM
6. It works!  Use it when you don't have WiFi. Use Google Voice/Whatsapp to call/text people from home. 
7. Add money as necessary.

Claros everywhere!

8.21.2015

Altitude sickness strikes... gently

Altitude sickness is no joke, and even though what I'm experiencing does not seem that serious, I am definitely feeling something.  Normal symptoms include headaches, dizziness, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.  Well, I'm certainly not experiencing the last two of those.

At first, I felt fine.  I was tired, but reasoned with myself that it must be because of the long flight; after all, I rarely sleep well on flights.
Also, I'm a firm believer in the placebo effect.  Be positive!  Live in denial!
"I don't have altitude sickness," I told myself,
"I'm just sleepy!"
"I always have a hard time going up 5 steps."
"I just stood up too fast.  I should moderate that knee-straightening speed."
"I always eat twice as much when I travel."

Then after settling into the Manu's place, I realized I was very hungry -  more than usual, that is. Even after eating the two airplane meals and pizza at Lima airport, and then the late lunch and dinner at home, I found myself still hungry before bed. This was all within 24 hours, mind you.

I slept soundly, but had some very weird dreams and woke up early in the morning feeling sad.  My overall disposition was negative and I was in no mood to do anything.  After showering and eating, I felt better but couldn't shake the tiredness.  Throughout the day, I felt better but was winded after going up just one flight of stairs or moving quickly to pack my bag.
  
Sometimes I feel dizzy in a drunken way even though I didn't have anything (alcoholic) to drink.   Other times, I find myself needing to pause and stand still to regain orientation. It really isn't as bad as it sounds but I can definitely tell that something is off.

Granted it's only been a day and I haven't experienced nausea or vomiting,  I think I'm acclimating alright.  It takes 4 to 5 days to adjust and Manu said it's normal to feel this way.  

The best advice to adjust is: 
1. rest a lot  
2. drink lots of water 
3. take deep breaths and take it easy.

That said, buenas noches!

The southern hemisphere makes the crescent moon smile.