Antioquia, Peru

blog-3854About two hours outside Lima, is the little town of Antioquia.  We recently drove there on a Saturday morning, tired of overcast skies and bleak Lima weather.  As soon as we crossed the first hills, about 20 minutes from home, the white skies were suddenly blue, with bright sunlight bathing the brown hills and green river valley.  We drove past Cieneguilla, our usual weekend day trip, and continued on a pretty awful road.  Just when I was about to say something about the rearrangement of my internal organs, there was a relatively new and smooth road that started in the middle of no-where.  (Welcome to Peru.)

The road follows a river valley with plenty of agriculture, where we identified everything from aji amarillo, to quince, to the small peruvian apples, to what we think was potato plants.  The road crosses several rather… well, frightening Indiana-Jones-ish, bridges.  Unless you are a small boy with a sense of adventure, or the father of said small boys.  All three my boys screamed “weeeeee!” at every downhill and every bridge.

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The town is famous for its murals.  The buildings are bright white – in sharp contrast to the dusty mountains and fertile valley.  The favorite themes seemed to be flowers, fruit, and birds of all sorts.  The village church was definitely worth a second look.

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Unfortunately there is not many places you can park a typical american SUV.  (Even though ours, a Jeep Liberty, is on the smaller end.)  We ended up not walking around as much, as we had two sleeping boys in the car, no place to park, and wanted to find a place to eat before waking the sleeping monsters!  Most of these pictures were taking from the car.

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We had lunch at a campesino restaurant next to a canal , where there was plenty of space for little people to stretch their legs, play with sticks, and enjoy an honest to goodness tire swing!  Lunch was a parillada – beef, pork, chicken, served with salads, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and the andean version of tamales, called humitas.  Delicious!  The whole meal was Sol/80 (about $30)

blog-3876 I look forward to making the trip again – this time with a wide angle lens for the incredible mountainous terrain and more time to walk around.  Definitely worth the two rather bumpy hours!  I would however suggest that you leave there early enough to make the return trip in daylight.  blog-3883

5 Reasons Expats Should Love Technology

  1. Skype or Facetime (or both):  The childrens’ relationship with their grandparents no longer has to suffer because they are too little to talk on the phone. While I’m sure my mom would say it is still not enough, we open Christmas present together, sing happy birthday and blow out candles, and just chat while my mom watches the kids play with toys pretty much all the time. I don’t know how people did it before this!
  2. On-line shopping. Can’t find decent (fill in the blank) in your new location? Birthday gifts for the kids are of very dubious quality (you don’t want to ask) or very expensive locally? While shipping may be pricey and slow, you can still get pretty much anything you need. Amazon prime gets to us in a week to ten days here in Lima. It is pretty easy.
  3. Instructions and manuals:  Ever try to look for the crib assembly instructions when it looks like the contents of a very large warehouse was vomited all over your new house and the baby is crying in exhaustion? Enter Mr. Google, your new best friend.   I have downloaded pdf instructions for just about everything we own so we could dump the heavy paper copies too.
  4. Kindle!! My kindle is one of my most prized osessions. I was a late adopter – I love the feel of books, I really do. Once I got a Kindle though, I was hooked. I’m a much more active reader: looking up new words, making comments, and underlining favorite quotes. Besides, do you know how much books weigh? A lot! And weight allowances simple does not allow for a family of voracious readers.  I can buy books (in english!) instantly, or download from the various libraries where we have memberships.
  5. Pinterest. Ok, so this one is a slippery slope. Anyone remember the heart shaped carrots? Let me explain myself. When you are stuck on evacuation in a small apartment for five months with two small children and limited resources (such as toys) you better get creative. Ditto for the two months the four of us spent in a hotel room. Besides, how else would you find ways to home-make your favorite cleaners when the post office refuses to send you liquids by mail? Basically, I use pinterest as a giant to-do list for all the things I want to try with the boys, or make for the house, or places I want to travel, or … You get the idea.  Pinterest only works if you do not use it as a way to berate yourself about other people’s “better” accomplishments.  Need help with that? Read this.

Okay expats, your turn.  What technology makes you feel more connected?

Right Now

Right now I’m

… happy to announce our household goods (HHE) have arrived.  For those who were keeping track, we were without our things for 10 months, the Cairo apartment was packed in September, finally shipped in January, and got to us here in Lima the last week in April.

…still sweating from my morning run to drop the boys at school.  Did I mention my beloved BOB stroller was in our household shipment?  Maybe you’ve heard me speak of it… once or twice… a minute… for ten months?  We are reunited.  And it does feel so good.

… washing dishes and laundry, constantly.  Everything coming out of the boxes is dusty, musty, and gross.

…listening to a Power of Moms podcast marathon – it makes everything go easier.

…packing box after box for the yard sale we’ll be participating in later this season

…not yet ready to put the baby things in that pile.

… tripping over the Thomas trains the boys have been playing with non stop since it same out of the boxes.

… thinking that it was a shame (and expensive) to ship boxes and boxes of expired groceries (mostly canned food) and medicine all the way here.  I went on a huge shopping trip just days before evacuation – we were told to stock up since it may not be safe to go grocery shopping, power may be out, etc.  Little did we know.

… planning where all the art will hang.  It will finally be our home.

… smelling bread baking – my first home made bread in over a year.  It is good to be home.

…inviting you to come visit, friends!

Wandering in Peru

Remember how sad I was that we didn’t get to see all we wanted to see and do in Egypt?

This time, I’m determined not to have the same regrets.  We have made a bucket list, and have even started crossing things off.  Without further ado, here the top five things I think you should see and experience in Peru:

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1. Cusco and the Sacred Valley

Cusco is filled with lovely architecture and is picturesque in every direction.  The houses cling to the steep hillsides at impossible angles.  Above the town are the massive ruins of Sacsahuaman.  Alpaca shops abound, and are a good deal by U.S. standards.  There are also more hiking outfitters than I’ve seen in a long time.

While in Cusco, we went to the Sacred Valley for a day, and it was magnificent.  I want to go back, and again and again.  The landscape is incredible, the opportunities for hiking around is legion. Inca Ruins abound – my favorites were Pisac and Ollantaytambo.  Pisac is described in the guidebook as “some ruins above the town.”  Instead, it was terraces taller than two people spread over steep mountainsides like a quilt, over 300 burial sites, and an incredible town clinging the the mountain top like a crown.  The walls are very well preserved, and there are several styles of building at the site.  Ollantaytambo has long been on my list as it is the site of the most famous Inca victory over the Spaniards.  Seeing it in person makes the history that much more real.  We didn’t have a chance to see Moray – more reason to go back!

2. Inca Ruins

There is, of course, Machu Picchu, and we will definitely make the trip.  However, there are other sites I would love to see as much if not more.  Top on this list is Choquequirao.  The site is often called a sister city to Machu Picchu, and is only 30% excavated.  There are terraces with stone llamas that I would just love to see.  From what I’ve read, this one is a hike though, so probably a kid-free visit.  I’ve also read so much about Vilcabamba the Old or Espiritu Pampa, supposedly the last city of the Incas.

3. Amazon River Cruise

My sons are fascinated by “the jungle” and after watching this travel with kids show, I think they would enjoy it hugely.

4. Lake Titicaca

Isla Del Sol, an island in the middle of the lake, is the site of the Inca creation myth.  It seems silly not to see that given my new obsession with all things Inca.  Besides, the lake is apparently beautiful.  I would also love to experience Puno’s Festival de la Virgen de la Candelaria (Candlemas).

5. The Inca Trail

This one has been on my bucket list for a very long time.  There are a few caveats: 1.) Definitely not with the kids, 2) definitely not at my current fitness level.  The wikipedia article is fairly informative.  I would like to do the classic trail in five days.

If you are interested in Peru at all, you should probably read “Turn Right at Machu Picchu” by Mark Adams.  It is a hugely enjoyable read, and started my fascination with all things Inca.  I now have a VERY long reading list – thank goodness for electronic library collections.

I haven’t even mentioned Nazca, Paracas, or or or… Peru is certainly a fascinating place.  Now I just wonder whether the two and a half year we have left is enough!

Peru visitors, what did I miss?

This post was written in response to a Daily Post prompt 

We are home!

Here’s a little status report.  For those of you who read this blog for something other than the minutia of (my) Foreign Service life, feel free to skip.

We finally received the keys to our house last Friday.  On Saturday, the movers came with our air shipment (“UAB” or unaccompanied baggage).  None FS people – we get a small portion of our stuff moved from destination to destination by air – since it takes so long to get the rest of the stuff, but more on that later.

Our air shipment was packed in our absence, but a lovely friend was kind enough to oversee the packing.  I asked for a toddler bed or crib mattress and my beloved BOB stroller, but neither fit in the puny boxes they used in Cairo, so instead we got oodles of duplos (the boys are so happy), my espresso maker (I’m so happy) and Captain Jack’s entire work wardrobe.  (Captain Jack was so happy to be reunited with his ties.)

We have not seen our belongings since June, so I can’t tell you how nice it was!  I have not a single picture of all the boxes arriving as we were so eager to open them – it was Christmas in February!

Following my own advice, I have tried to settle in immediately.  We are all sleeping in our own sheets, using our own towels, and have our own coffee mugs!  We have eaten our meals at home, and I’m cooking from scratch every night.  The boxes are all gone.  The boys’ bedroom has been decorated with a variety of wall decals from target, purchased just for this occasion almost six months ago.

Our house is lovely and airy with beautiful light.  Where the builders couldn’t fit a window, they put in a skylight. The last place I saw this much glass is Iceland, so I’m a little nervous about what this means for winter here.  Lima is covered in heavy mist or fog for a large part of the year, so we have been warned to enjoy the sunshine now.  The boys do enjoy every minute in our small yard and pool.  I’m itching to get a few plants in, but that will have to wait for next summer.

Lima is a critical crime level post, so all our lovely windows are covered in metal safety gates.  We also live in a secure neighborhood, with all kinds of patrols and alarms.  In some ways, I feel like I’m back in South Africa.  I have certainly heard of more petty crimes while in Egypt than I have here to date, but since I’ve been living in a hotel I may be a little out of the loop.

Of course there are the inevitable snags.  We still don’t have internet access, so I’ll be uploading this using my phone as a wifi spot.  (If you’re reading, it worked.)  Our brand new oven doesn’t work, and the replacement they brought didn’t work either.  I think they told me it was a factory defect (they speak Spanish, I ask questions in English, we mime and nod a lot.)  We don’t have enough power allotted to this house to run the air conditioners and washer and dryer simultaneously, so I run around cycling things on and off every few hours.  I know, all of these are such “first world problems” as my friend Jackie would say.

There aren’t many sidewalks here, and the horrible temporary stroller is none too maneuverable.  Public service notice: do not buy a Safety First double umbrella stroller.  Ours is 8 months old and held together with duct tape.  Oh, how I miss my BOB!

Which brings me back to the rest of our stuff.  Our HHE (house hold effects shipment) has finally left Cairo, and is on its way to Miami, along with our car.  Maybe end of March, but I’m thinking April or May.  While there are certainly things I miss (the BOB, art for our walls, some of my cookbooks, for example) we have managed to live with very little for eight months now, and it is pretty liberating.

There was a birthday here this week, I have made some excellent meals, and I have my sewing machine back.  There won’t be any pictures until the internet connection is up though, so more later.

Yay house!