Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Whatever it Takes to Sleep at Night

Everyone makes mistakes, right? Well, yep, we messed up and need to make some apologies. We take the credibility of our blog very seriously, and couldn't sleep at night knowing we caused the world to point fingers at various people who we now know do not deserve blame. Yes, the whole world, we went there (at least in our minds we went global). Anyways, we would now like to take a moment to make things right:
1. We sincerely apologize for labeling all Peruvians as drunks. We drew this conclusion due to the fact that we see people drinking literally all day every day. However, after we found ourselves day drinking for the fifth day in a row, we totally got it. Did we spend a full day baking Sublime cookies? Yes. Did we do this while drinking beers? Yes. It only made sense to bake with beers. Did we find ourselves filling the awkward gap between lunch and dinner with beers? Yes. So, the the people of Ollanta, you aren't alcoholics and we are so sorry for judging you... It's not a disease, it's a way of life (Anyone know if they have AA in Peru?)
2. To the woman we harshly accused of stealing our 50 cent dinner knives .. We really jumped the gun on that one. Although all the evidence pointed toward Heather, turns out after actually taking the time to talk to her there is no way she was the thief. In fact, Heather is a really nice girl and a fellow victim of kitchen robbery. We are really sorry for painting Heather as the culprit... Thank goodness we changed her name. 
3. This apology is specifically directed toward Micol Spinazzi, who is our symbol for all the muggles of the world who have sustained injuries (pickups 2012 was no joke). Honestly, muggle injuries are real and hurt a lot and really deserve attention without judgement from athletes. As retired athletes and thus real world muggles, Claire has recently punctured her hand with a pocket knife while trying to cut a water bottle in half to clean her retainer in Clorox. On top of this, Alison has likely broken her ankle while walking at a leisurely pace on cobblestone. Both of these catastrophes have impacted our lives greatly. We dare say they are in the ranks with a year long concussion and two ACL tears. *For anyone who can't figure out what a muggle is, it's a nonathlete.
4. Eugenio. Where to begin. Eugenio is a 35 year old restaurant owner who we have befriended. Despite having been to Miami and New York, Eugenio's favorite place in America is Maryland because he loved the deer and squirrels. I mean, come on, how cute is that? The first time Eugenio invited us to a party, we lied and said we were going to Cusco. Awkward when we later saw him in the streets of Ollanta. When he asked us to a second party, we felt bad and decided we had to go. This time we were seriously going to go, until the most insane thunderstorm/tornado hit Ollanta. Shockingly enough the one time we needed to make a call on our joint Peruvian cell phone we didn't have any minutes. To make things worse, when Eugenio called us out for standing him up twice, Alison misinterpreted the comment and responded with "In your dreams." Language barriers will really put you in a pickle sometimes. So, to Eugenio, lover of deer and squirrels, we really apologize, and will send you a picture from your favorite state, Maryland. 
While hearing these apologies may make you think we feel bad about everyone we have accused or judged, this is not the case. There are some people we will just never forgive. These people include the 9 year-old devil Tienda worker, Esquina Man (the owner of a local restaurant) who also gives us small food portions and watches in disgust as we fill our water bottles, and the woman who charged double for a bread and cheese sandwich. We genuinely think you are mean people. It also makes us really sad that none of you like us.. People freaking love us. Also, our consistent eating is your main source of income. You're welcome for those new shoes, we see you. 

Although we have had some rough nights dealing with the guilt of wrongly accusing the innocent, we have somehow managed to continue to live our lives. Claire turned 22. That's a surprise in and of itself. Instead of having 22 beers poured over her head in the Cottage tap room as was the case with 20, this year Claire's head was shoved into a full cake by two 15 year old girls. No matter where she goes, birthdays for Claire somehow always end in her needing to take a shower to get food or drinks out of her hair. Cake was followed by a dance party, the attendees being eight 12-17 year old girls. Isn't this how everyone celebrates their 22nd birthday?? 

The night we ditched Eugenio because of the storm/tornado. We can't say enough about headlamps, they're the greatest invention of all time. As for the beers... Beers and bed, it only makes sense. Again, we apologize to all Peruvians. 

Why don't boys like us? Talk about a dance floor!

Cuiy, aka guinea pig. Yeah, we ate that. After trying to avoid Cuiy like the plague, our student, Luis, insisted his mom make us a proper goodbye meal. It was Cuiy. You know, now that we think about it, we should apologize to our childhood pets, whose cousins are now in our bellies. If you're interested, it tasted like a strange mixture of pig and chicken. 

Well, we are now headed to Bolivia to travel around for a month. We don't really know how that will turn out, but yeah, it's happening. 

Until next time ya guys,
Alison and Claire

P.S. turns out the girls in the dorm we worked at (the invite list for Claire's 22 bday party) thought we were a band, "Grupo Alison y Cler".  Look out for our next hit single, "La Vida Gorda"

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Whatever it Takes to Solve the Mysteries

Well guys, we've been robbed. What was stolen from us you ask? Our iPods? Money? Passports? No, no, even worse.. Our dinner knives. It has now been a full week since our 50 cent knives have gone missing. In that time we have compiled a thorough list of suspects. 
Suspect 1: Crazy Lady - this chick is nuts and happens to live below us. On the first day we met her, she chased Alison around the kitchen with a broom. We thought, okay maybe she's having a bad day. Then she started speaking Spanish to us and English to our Peruvian landlord. That just doesn't make sense. The kicker was when she told us she doesn't believe in Internet and only believes in person-to-person interactions. This is hysterical because she's the least personable human we've ever met. It doesn't help that her butt crack is always hanging out. We've decided Crazy needed the knives to simultaneously kill us. 
Suspect 2: Third Floor Ghost - we don't know why, but every morning at 8am the ghost on the third floor rearranges the furniture in the room. Incredible seeing as the furniture just includes a bed, chair, and side table. Also incredible because we have been living here for 3 weeks and have never seen anyone go up or come down from the third floor. Ghosts could need knives, right?
Suspect 3: 9-year-old Tienda Worker - we know this girl is 9, but she is the devil. Why? Not only did she try to sell us bread for five times the actual price, but she also gives us the smallest pieces of cake. You just cannot trust people who don't serve good desert portions. Thus, she is a suspect. 
Suspect 4: Our Quechua-speaking Witch Abuela - we haven't seen our Quechua-speaking abuela since we moved out, and are pretty sure she has been up to some witch business. What better way to drive to two fat gringas crazy than steal a necessary tool for eating? 
Suspect 5: Heather*: We're actually pretty sure this is the culprit. Turns out she's the only other one who uses the kitchen.  Also, when our mug was previously stolen it was returned with lipstick marks. Heather was conveniently wearing lipstick the night before for Halloween. Coincidence? We don't think so *Name was changed to protect the identity of our suspect. 
For now, the case is open, but we'll let you know if we solve it. In the mean time, remember that time we told you we were going to Bolivia? We went. 

Usually you have to take a 12 hour bus to Puno, hop in a colectivo, catch a bike taxi, cross the border, and then take another colectivo to get to Copacabana. So when the director of our program, Gabby, invited us to go to Bolivia with her and her friend, Manuel, who owns a car, we were pretty pumped. We thought, "How comfortable! How quick and easy! How safe it will be driving with the locals." Absolutely every assumption we had was incorrect. How is this this possible? Well, let us tell you:

We woke up at 430AM super eager to start the trip. We walk outside and see a beautiful, brand new Chevy SUV, with a warm scrambled egg breakfast waiting for us. This can't be real.. Talk about the best trip ever! We got on the road, and man, Manuel had a bomb road trip playlist featuring One Republic, Don Omar, Katy Perry and some awesome Spanish dance tunes. As we jammed to P!nk's Raise Your Glass, we kind of forgot we weren't in America and instead were roadtripping through the Andes in Peru with an Argentinian and Peruvian. We were literally thrown back to reality when we flew over a speed bump at serious pace. We quickly learned that Manuel had no clue how to drive. It also didn't help that he might be legally blind. We don't have enough fingers to count the number of times he ran into stationary objects. He also actually hit a dog (as dog lovers that part was really hard for us so we ate our feelings away with sublimes and bread. Classic). We were making great time, and by 10AM we were only about 15 minutes away from Puno, the main city on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, close to the Bolivian border. Anddd that's where we stopped. Remember that time when we went to go to the "jungle" and had to ride in an 18 wheeler with eggs and sugar because of a strike? Welp, the strike struck again. The road was covered with boulders and tree trunks so no cars could pass into the town of Juliaca, which was on strike because of raised taxes. Why they chose to protest the tax in the form of closing the roads is beyond us. We parked behind a row of cars waiting to pass, and with nothing else to do, decided it was the perfect time for a picnic. Seeing as we were in the middle of nowhere with very limited food options, we had to make the most of what was available at the closest store. By this we mean we ate "atun" which is supposed to be tuna, but we are pretty sure was canned sardines, white bread, bottled yogurt, and saltine crackers. What a nutritious meal. So that brought us to about noon, giving us 6 more hours until the strike was supposed to be over. What came next? A beer.

Parked waiting for the road to open... Those rocks in the distance are nothing compared to what we drove through later in Juliaca 

Picnic lunch in the middle of a Peruvian strike. It makes sense 

 It's weird how we have found ourselves in a car during a strike drinking a beer more than once. 

The boredom was actually unbearable, so we decided to backtrack an hour to visit some pre Inca ruins in the middle of nowhere. This decision ended up being great. The ruins were incredible, and the timing was perfect. When we got back, the road was open. "What luck! How perfect! It's gonna be smooth sailing from here!" We literally couldn't have been more wrong. While waiting 8 hours for the road to open was miserably boring, driving through Juliaca was actually hell. We know we exaggerate a lot (examples: this is the coldest day of my life, She's my nightmare, you're the funniest person I know), but this time we are under exaggerating so our parents don't have heart attacks. People were lighting everything on fire, the roads were covered with glass, boulders, and huge mounds of dirt, people were yelling very mean things at us, there was even an abuela threatening to throw rocks at the car and a child ready to hit the car with plywood. So yeah, whoever said the strike was over was way off. To avoid the madness we found a nice, local taxi driver to lead us through the back roads to get out of this hell. Two hours later and 200 yards away from the road to Puno literally the worst possible thing happened. We got a flat tire. We can't say we were surprised we got a flat due to the facts that our driver was blind and the road was completely covered with broken glass and boulders. Oh, and at this point it was freezing cold, pouring rain, pitch black, and the brand new car didn't come with a wrench to change the tire. So that's all ideal. After a half hour of walking through the pouring rain searching for help, Manuel returned with two Peruvian angels and the proper wrench and fixed the tire. By midnight, after 19 hours of travel, we arrived in Puno. NOT EVEN COPACABANA. 

We don't have a photo of the hell that was Juliaca because we were focused on staying alive and guarding our belongings from the lunatics. Here's a photo from the Pukara Ruins though!

The next morning we woke up and began attempt number 2. For some strange reason we found ourselves leaving the car at a police station just outside the border. Turns out you can't really take a car across the border. Good thing our local Peruvian and Argentinian friends looked into that before the trip. Just as we would have had we taken the bus, we took a colectivo to the border where you walk about 50 steps and boom you're in Bolivia. At 2pm on Friday we finally arrived in Copacabana. Though getting there was a nightmare, Copacabana was sick. The town is right on Lake Titicaca with unreal views. The Lake is at such high altitude it looked like it was in the clouds. So crazy. Speaking of crazy, we visited the beautiful white church and the Virgin Mary shrine where it's tradition for visitors to light a candle, each of which has a particular significance. Pretty ironic when us two broke, unemployed Princeton grads randomly were given the candles for money and work. Rather than taking this as a sign to get our lives together, we decided to continue our adventure and go to Isla Del Sol, an island in Lake Titicaca. Isla Del Sol was unbelievable. We got dropped off at the north dock where we hiked up to a Labryinth of ruins. From here, we hiked from the north end through the island to the southern dock. During the 2 hour hike we saw the terrain change from Arizona desert to a forest to a terraced mountainside all while being surrounded by the worlds highest navigable lake. Work and money can wait while we take in sights like these. 

View of Copacabana and Lake Titicaca

'twas beautiful 

Isla Del Sol

Top of Isla Del Sol with our Peruvian and Argentinian 

From Hell in Juliaca to The path to Heaven on Isla Del Sol

The lake in the sky .. Trippy

Luckily we made it back to Ollanta safe, and walked right into a 7 day fiesta. Who would have thought town anniversaries are a huge deal here? Parades, concerts, dances, abuelas posted up on the curb with cases on cases of beer, it's a sight and a half. In the spirit of the fiesta, we decided to go to our first and last discoteca. It would have been culturally insensitive to not celebrate. Unfortunately, discotecas happen to be the hot spot for 15 year old boys in Ollanta. Yes, we do just mean boys. On the opposite end of the age spectrum, we recently had a 5'4", 80 year old abuelo and a 50 year old business man get in a legit fist fight over us. This happened at Urubamba's anniversary party. At first we thought it was cute, we were salsa dancing with the abuelo, he bought us a beer, what a nice guy. We decided it was time to leave when the abuelo professed his love and karate kicked the business man who was also attempting to express his love. Why is it that Peruvian abuelos are fighting over us but we cant get boyfriends in the U.S? All around weird Anniversary experiences. Probably not as weird as our recent trip to the corn fields, though. Our old house mom, Sonia, invited us over for lunch on Day of the Living (yeah, we didn't know that was a thing either.. They really celebrate everything here). After living there for a month and seeing the ragers Sonia usually throws, we were expecting a lot of people and music. So we were a little confused when it was just us, Sonia, and her daughter eating greasy pork and tomales. Just as we were starting to feel special since we were the only ones invited, thinking she really must have missed us, she dropped the bomb. This was all a ploy to get us to work in her corn field. We tried to avoid it, throwing out excuse after excuse, but she was persistent. Realizing we had no other option, we hopped in the van and headed to work in the fields. We didn't really do much, but we learned two things: 1) never give a child a machete, and 2) a day of work in Ollanta always ends with beer.. Two good lessons if you ask us. We also walked away with pieces of Inca pottery because the field is on Inca ceramic grounds. That was pretty cool. As funny as it was to be conned into working the fields it was great catching up with our Peruvian family. 

This is Rio, our 5 year old "brother," with multiple machetes in the field. The good thing about language barriers is the entire time Rio was running wild with multiple machetes, we were able to make comments like "you're out of your mind," "who is your mother?" "there's something wrong with you," without anyone understanding and being offended. 

Aside from our Peruvian family we have also gotten close with the rural community of Pomatales where we teach primary school. Since we are headed to Bolivia soon, we just had our last day of teaching which was so depressing. The school threw us a little goodbye ceremony where the students recited poems, gave us flowers, and man we got a lot of love notes. We decided we can't volunteer anymore because it's just too hard on our hearts. How the hell do you respond when small children are begging you to stay? That ain't right. But back to us, woof, we were flattered. The flattery faded fast when a five year old boy touched Alison's leg and reacted with "gorda," (Translation: fat), followed by the teacher straight up saying "you girls are fat." Ya hate to hear that. We won't let em get to us though! We still end every night with Sublime time. Also, due to our frequent (read: every night) cake purchases, we were just offered a discount on all desserts and pizzas at a local restaurant. This will seriously save us a lot of money. 

Claire's Soccer Squad

Alison's Squad 

Where dreams come true.. School on the left. Baller, Nicanor, with the ball

Morning line up

The kids who called us fat.. How cool are they though?

We just went on a hike to Maray Terraces and are now firm believers in aliens. We are going to leave it at that. 



WE DON'T GET IT .. But smile!

Passed these Salt Pans on the way .. Lots of salt 

Also passed the two coolest women of all time from New Jersey (okay, this might be an exaggeration). Had to take a pic

Well guys, we leave you with the ugliest picture you will ever lay eyes on. Hope you are entertained by this. We are now thinking this "game" where our wrists were tied together was actually a ploy the teachers had to watch two gringas look like idiots. They were successful. How about our hats though? Pretty sweet. 

This Is The End:

9. We hear the lunatics of Juliaca yelling "Decapitate Them!" Seriously? Wo says that?
10. Alison gets the first Parasite. 
11. Learning that cars stop going back to Ollanta from Urubamba at 6PM. We were in Urubamba and it was 9PM. That's a sticky situation 
12. 5 year old Rio swinging two machetes around while we stand in a burning field. That was pretty dangerous actually 
13. Sometimes we get really bored in the small town of Ollanta. To curb this boredom, we picked up the only logical hobby: glass cutting. Just so you know, trying to cut a beer bottle with string, nail polish remover, and matches is pretty difficult and ridiculously dangerous