Traveling has made blogging difficult this past week, but saying goodbye to Ecuador was a million times harder. Rachel and I decided for our farewell gift of sorts, we would cook our family dinner during the last week. We chose to make lasagna, one of my personal favorites, and apple pie accompanied by ice cream. I can’t say we did justice to either. We went shopping at the Super Maxi early afternoon the day of the dinner. I was to make the lasagna, and Rachel was to make the pie. I know my mother’s incredibly delicious lasagna recipe by heart, so I went in thinking five minutes of quick shopping and we would be all set. This was not how it played out. My simple lasagna was to contain noodles, pasta sauce, mozzarella, cottage cheese, and Italian sausage. Upon arriving at the aisle in which the Italian sausage should have been kept, I found a very odd array of meats. I looked in my dictionary and found out how to say Italian sausage. I then went on to find the noodles, but alas, none were long enough. I decided I would have to settle for the short ones. I trucked on toward the dairy section in pursuit of the cottage and mozzarella cheeses. It turns out that they really don’t enjoy grating their cheeses in Ecuador, and cottage cheese doesn’t even exist. I found some satisfactory cheese and rounded up the rest of my grocery list, only to find Rachel wandering the store in search of a pie. Pie was also impossible to find, so she settled on cake and ice cream.
I went home feeling very prepared and decided to start cooking. I was first to cook the Italian sausage. It turned out to be a very large hunk of hot dog meat. Thus, the lasagna became vegetarian. Rachel successfully mixed together her cake ingredients, however, upon cooking the cake it literally poured over the sides of the pan and took hours to cook. Needless to say, it was a delicious dinner. My papa wore an array of different hats and we all danced to typical American wedding music, while my mama laughed so hard at us that she cried. It was one of my favorite nights in Cuenca.
Leaving my Ecuadorian family was extremely difficult. They provided so much for us; family, food, fun, and a place to call home while we were so far away from the states. I’ve never known a family to invite someone into their home so willingly. I remember our first night at the house I was so nervous that we wouldn’t like each other or I wouldn’t know what to say and how to behave around them, but before we even arrived home Mama was calling each of us “mi amor” and “mi vida” (my love and my life). They took us in as part of their very own family and I will never forget their generosity and love.
We left for Peru and had the longest bus ride yet of over 10 hours. I did my best to sleep throughout the ride, but we all know how that goes for me. Despite the mass amount of time spent on wheels, we managed to arrive with all of our belongings and eager to see Peru. We stayed in a hotel in Trujillo that was right on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. By the time we arrived it was already dark, but everyone hastily dropped their stuff and ran to the beach. We stayed there for a few days and got to go swimming on the beach one day after visiting a few museums. I am a little afraid of the water because I had an unfortunate swimming incident in grade school gym class, but Nick and Christina helped me to conquer my fears and have a really great time. This basically means I tried desperately to hang onto my swimsuit as the waves threw me all over the ocean, leaving me very soggy and with an extremely salty taste in my mouth. So far, Peru was amazing.
We also did a lot of visiting of ancient ruins. I think we went to about four or five ancient ruin sites in one day, and my favorite was called Chan Chan. Chan Chan was a very large site considering what we had seen so far, and the whole place was surrounded by a huge wall. Inside there were a couple of plazas that were used as gathering places for ceremonies, parties, and even sacrifices. There were an incredible amount of rooms, and the walls were decorated with patterns of waves, fish, and fishnets. This was likely because it was so close to the ocean. Some archaelogists were working on excavating, restoring, and reconstructing the site. It was uncanny to think that these ruins had been discovered so recently that they were still digging it up and finding more and more. Imagining the site with the walls and roofs all in tact made it seem surreal. It makes me wonder what’s underneath the land that I live on at home.
I thought that Chan Chan may have been one of the most interesting sites I would see on this trip, but I was highly mistaken. Just a few days ago, half of our group went to visit Machu Picchu. We camped overnight underneath the mountains that contained the site, and at about 4:30 am we woke up to hike up to the Gateway of the Sun. Now, I thought that the mountains we have hiked so far were difficult, but this mountain did not even compare. It was estimated that it would take us around an hour to hike to the top. I took about two and a half hours, and I was exhausted. That was literally the most physically challenging task that I have ever faced, and I am proud to say that I conquered it. I’m not sure that my legs or butt feel as positively about the adventure at this point, but I wouldn’t trade that hike. I can’t even explain how grueling it was for me, and how much relief I felt when I reached the top. When we finally got through the admissions and reached the Gateway of the Sun, I was in so much awe I felt tears fill my eyes. It was worth the hike. The spectacular vast view took away all the pain in my body; all feelings of resentment I had toward the immense mountain fell away. Machu Picchu was so amazing to me because it was so originally beautiful. One of our guides said that over eighty percent of Machu Picchu is original. There is something really humane about knowing that you are walking where a whole civilization of people once lived, breathed, cooked, laughed, played. The people who spent years and years building a city in which to perform the same actions and experience the same emotions once lived where I was standing. I don’t know if there is a word, a way, in which I can explain the greatness of Machu Picchu. There is no doubt that it is a wonder of this world. All of the other sites that we visited don’t even come close to the marvel of Machu Picchu.
As of now, all of the students have returned to Cusco and we’re resting up in preparation for our switch. Those who went to Machu Picchu will go to the rainforest and vice versa. It has been really fun to hear about the other trip, and even more fun to freak people out with the mass amount of bug bites that all of us who went to Sacred Valley have (I believe my count is up to about 80 bug bites, all of which immediately bled when I got them and now itch to no avail). I’m excited to visit the rainforest because I’ve never been to a rainforest and I’ve heard numerous rumors about large boats and alligators. Hopefully I’ll make it back to write about how it goes!
P.S. I will add pics whenever I can, but right now I do not have a camera.