Thursday, 27 March 2008

Two stories

Behold, two stories for you to read. The easy-read story Peru in a nutshell and the Maaike-is-frustrated story called Me, robbers and the police.

Skip the last one if you just want to read the fun stories!!

For now; I´m off to the jungle on Saturday with 2 Swiss friends Martina and Beat and then next week I will head to Lima with Martina. From there, Suriname it is!!! (fingers crossed that I will actually arrive in Paramaribo because I don´t trust the Venezuelan flight all...)

Peru in a nutshell...

So many things to tell, so I will do it in different´s like an essay, I know...

Mi español
As expected I am the absolute nerd in my class. I love practising my spanish everywhere and any time. I do my homework every day and much more, I learn all the verbs and words by heart constantly. In class I am one of those annoying people who whispers all the answers to the questions. I´m the one who asks ´when do we get past tense, what is the rule for superlatives, I need to know the possessive pronouns´. According to my fellow students I am a walking dictionairy and even if I dont know the word, I´ll take a French word and make it sound Spanish. And often that works too.
Conclusion; I love learning Spanish! And sorry if my English is getting worse...

Spare time
At school there are 2 kind of students. The ones who are early 20, first time away from home and absolutely love going out. And you have the students who are in their late 20´s and 30´s, doing their spanish seriously and enjoy doing cultural things and see all the musea. Guess where I belong to...
By now I have seen most of all the historical places around Cusco (and there are a lot!) and I enjoyed some good hikes and busrides (not all...). And I went to see a Peruvian ´futbol´ match; a qualification match for the Copa Libertadores de America. I learned some rude words there while watching the most slow and boring soccer ever. It´s no Brasil or Argentina...The most excitement happened when the match ended (Cusco won with 1-0) and about 10 militairy police in full armour ran onto the field to protect the referees from angry hooligans...
Furthermore I enjoyed the salsa lessons with Dave (a friend of Patricks from NZ)...To be honest, Dave and I both suck at it...I went rockclimbing (yes Eefje!!) with Dave, Martina and Fiona. I hadn´t done it since Ireland (5 years ago); Back then I saw a friend of mine fall 10 metres down while climbing on cliffs...not good for my courage...But Martina made me come with her and I absolutely loved it. I did 3 climbs with Dave and it was amazing. Very promissing for NZ!!
Rafting (class III-IV) had to be done as well of course and, I am repeating myself, that was fabulous too. Marleene, Rudolf and I tried to go mountainbiking as well, but Dutch cycling experts as we are, we backed out after seeing the bikes (just when we got to our destination...). I mean, you don´t want to go biking when the brakes are not excisting, the gears are playing up that bad that you just cannot cycle and if the wheel is toughing the frame that firm that it makes it hard to go forward...No, even non Dutch would say no to that...

My Peruvian family
My family is very nice and friendly and I feel very welcome. Because of them my Spanish is improving quicker than most of my fellow students who all stay at the campus at school. I understand way more, but speaking is still a bit difficult at times. The mother of the family is a great cook and a ´real´ mother. The kind I never had and the kind that would drive me absolutely mad if it was my own mother. She straightens my cloths in the morning, she walks me to the door, she always checks whether I have enough money and every time I get up in the morning my breakfast awaits me.
At lunch I always tease the dad, and the daughters enjoy that of course. Whenever the dad tries to tease me back, I say annoyingly ´No entiendo´ which means ´I don´t understand´. You understand that we laugh a lot.

Religious Peru
Because of Easter there are a lot of festivities in town. There are many processions and heaps of praying. In some processions the people are traditionally dressed and they sing in Quechua (the language of the indigenous people). Very beautiful and it gave me goozebumps. Do I have a video of it? Yes, I have. But you better read the next story then...
On the monday before Easter they celebrate another thing as well. They have a massive procession for ´El Señor de los Temblores´. El Señor is the protector of Cusco and mainly the protector for the earthquakes. They organise a procession and carry El Señor on their back. To me it was just like Jesus on his cross except for the fact that he was black and he had indigenous features. Very interesting and to be honest moving as well to see so many people praying on the streets.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Me, robbers and the police...

I jinxed myself. Just the other day I was thinking ´Aren´t I lucky, traveling for such a long time and I have never been robbed´...

So what happened? Two things actually. Two weeks ago I was on the phone to someone in Venezuela about my plane ticket to Suriname (yes, complicated, I will not bore you with the full story). You have those closed off phone booths here in Peru; very handy. So I was on the phone, my bag between my legs and I was getting pretty agitated with the people on the other line when I felt something touching my leg. I looked down and I saw a guy trying to grab my bag. In an impulse I half kicked him and yelled in Spanish (yes, I am integrating pretty well) ´Fuera´ which literally means ´get out´ but it has the connotation of ´piss off´...I was pretty amuzed with myself lateron that I responded in Spanish...So 1 point for me, 0 for the robbers and 0 for the police...(Maaike 1 - Robber 0 - Police 0)

Then the revenge of the robbers community...On sunday I was in a local bus with 2 of my friends. Marleene and I were sitting at the back of the bus, both holding our bags on our lap. On the left hand side there was a Peruvian guy sitting as well. No problem, we had some small talk (that´s as far as I get in Spanish) and we got off at Cusco. Marleene, Rudolf and I went for coffee and when I wanted to pay I noticed my wallet and my camera were gone...Damn. Maaike 1 - Robber 1 - Police 0

To be honest I wasn´t really angry. The guy obviously was an expert, I mean; my bag on my lap AND I was hugging it! I hope he will spend the money well. On school fees for his children, or a nice present for his wife, some good food or on some repairs on his house (this is my story, so I can think what I want and I like to think positive!!)

So what to do when you get robbed? Exactly, I rang my bank and cancelled my ATM-card. Luckily I left my credit card, more cash, pasport and driving license at home. Next step: the lovely Peruvian police. Marleene joined me to help me out with the Spanish if needed. So off we went, Tourist Police here we come. We walked in, and first I asked whether they spoke English. Nope. Maaike 1 - Robber 1 - Police 1

Ok, Spanish it is. I explained what happened and what got stolen. The policewoman looked at my suspiciously. A very macho man joined her and asked me again what happened and persisted that I showed him how I was holding my bag in the bus. So I did and then he said he didn´t believe me and he walked off. Maaike 1 - Robber 1 - Police 2
It gets worse. So I say it´s true (¡Es verdad!) and the man starts laughing about it. What the fuck?! Maaike 1 - Robber 1 - Police 3
Then the lady says I have to prove I was in the bus. But I cannot, because the mountainbike guide paid the busdriver...But ok, if they want to play it like that; I will ring Percy and ask for the freaking ticket. Don´t mess with Maaike... Maaike 2 - Robber 1 - Police 3
Half an hour later I´m back with Percy and he tells his story. Yes, mister police, we were all in a public bus...Percy translates some additional stuff and they sort of believe me (not willingly though!). Time to make a report. Maaike 3 - Robber 1 - Police 3
Name, nationality, pasport number and address in Peru please. ´The exact adddress´ I ask, because I know the street name, but the full address of my family was on a piece of paper in, exactly, my stolen wallet. ´Si, senorita, no es possible sin direccion´ and why did I live with a Peruvian family anyway (very very suspicious looks at me again...) Maaike 3 - Robber 1 - Police 4
So I ask if it´s possible to arrange everything for the police report except my address because at least now Percy is there to help me out with the Spanish. Nope, they cannot do that...Maaike 3 - Robber 1 - Police 5
So Percy jumps in and says he will come back with me tomorrow when I have the address. You got to love Percy!!! And guess what, both the policeman and woman swith to English...freaking losers! Maaike 5 - Robber 1 - Police 5 (yes, I think I deserve 2 points for that!!)

After this episode I told my Peruvian family and my Peruvian mother went wild. Who does the police think they are in not believing me! Great mum, so she wrote down the address, phone number and everything she could think off on a piece of paper and she even offered to go with me.
The next day I head to the police. I´m in a different world. There is a friendly, English speaking, policeman taking down my story, without doubting me. Maaike 6 - Robber 1 - Police 5
Ok, all is done. I only needed to go to the bank to pay 3 soles 50 (almost 1 euro) to get the report the next day...What, I need to pay for this? Maaike 6 - Robber 1 - Police 6
Percy shows me where to get the ticket and the next day I hop back to the police station to meet the same rude policemen again who now have to hand over my ´hot-wanted´ police report...

Final score: Maaike 7 - Robber 1 - Police 6

Going with the score: a Maaike with loads of frustation, a full Peruvian experience and without wallet and camera...And anyone who dears to suggest that I should put some lively pictures with this story, I will personaly kick his or her ass as soon as I see that person...

Monday, 10 March 2008

Pictures from South America

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Outdoor Peru

The last 2 weeks have been absolutely exhausting; going to bed absolutely knackered at 8 PM were a regular thing...

From Bolivia we took a bus to Arequipa were we had arranged a 3 day horseback riding trip. Sara is a great rider, I lied a bit about the amount of experience I had to get on the trip; but it was worth it! And besides, our guide was more into riding donkeys so she was the slow one of the three of us...
We started off near the Colca Canyon; the most lovely horseman was waiting for us with his best 4 horses. He had put the saddles on already, but sara and I made sure he didn´t do that anymore. If he was getting up at 6AM to get the horses ready, then we were getting up at that time. No special treatment ´you are rich tourists and you paid for everything´. Oh no, we were in this together! And besides, Sara and I had lots to learn, because Peruvian horses have a different way of saddling them up (can you say it this way in English?)
The tracks itself were through remote villages, lovely to see the houses, the kids, the countryside and not see any tourists. It was just me and Morena (that was my horse...!) An absolute feeling of freedom and the feeling ´I am the luckiest person in the world´ returned again in my blood. (did it leave at all....euh, no, not really!)

After this wonderful trip we headed to Cusco to do some serious hiking. Most people walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, but since Sara and I don´t consider us as ´most people´ we wanted to do a different track. So we decided to do the challenging Lares Track. Three days hiking and camping and the fourth day at Machu Picchu. Great, we couldn´t wait! We met our guide José the day before and he seemed to know what he was talking about. He told us that because the Inca Trail was closed for another day, that the Lares Track might be a bit more busy as usual. Ah well, we´ll see....Little did we know...
The next morning at 4.30AM José picked us up with....another guide. José couldn´t come (for some unexplained reason) so his friend Brain would take us. Sara and I quickly looked at each other (do you trust this? Yes, no? Yes, we just want to go!). So off we went to the most dodgy busstation I ever been and there we met our cooking lady who turned out not to be able to cook, but she was lovely. And we met Brain´s lovely assissant Eric...we still wonder what his job description was...With the bus we went into the countryside, off to Lares where we met our horseman who took along 2 horses to carry all the stuff. Peruvians have never heard of ultralight packaging...
From the moment we started hiking we had the BEST time. The scenery was truly amazing, Brain was ok, the mountains were stunning, the snow was still present, the ´even-more-remote-villages-than-Arequipa´ were absolutely impressive and best of all; we didn´t meet ANY tourists...Weird hey?! That´s what Sara and I thought as well, so we figured we walked the best track ever, but it was just not the Lares track... Especially because we ended in a village where were not suppose to end...Hilarious!
Anyhow, the hike was fabulous. We crossed villages without electricity, without running water, just a freezing cold river and no place to go to the toilet (great, open air toilets, we love them!). Men and women wearing traditional clothing (they were even playing soccer in them!) and we met the cutest kids you can imagine. In the freezing cold they walk on sandels or barefoot, girls wear skirts without covering their cold legs and while handing out our candy you could feel their ice cold fingers but they just don´t seem to mind. Different world.
On the fourth day Machu Picchu was impressive. We climbed one of the mountains to have a great view over the place; when we got there it was cloudy, so we decided to sit down and wait. The Gods had a positive attitude that morning, because we got the best surprise while waiting. First bits and pieces of the clouds vanished and eventually it was a clear blue sky.

In short: the best ´goodbye´ trip for Sara who has returned home already. Although I was sorry for Sara to leave (great month!) I am quite happy on my own again, enjoying some good sleep-ins till 8AM, interesting musea and finally arranging heaps of stuff I needed to be doing for ages (like figuring out how on earth I am getting to Suriname in 4 weeks time...)
So what´s next. Well, since I noticed that my Spanish is too limited to understand the people, I have decided to go back to school. As of this monday I am taking Spanish lessons!! My plan is to be the absolute language nerd and to make more progress than the rest of my class I am going to stay with a Peruvian family. So Spanish it is from morning till evening!!