Monday, May 7, 2012

Eco Truly 'not what I was expecting' Park

The weekend after Cuzco, I went with a few friends to what I had imagined was a community of people living alternatively as far as growing organic food, eating vegetarian/vegan, practicing yoga, and being generally loving blahblahblah(<--my genius housemate recently had the realization that this comes from the word 'habla,' 'he/she talks' repeated. Way cool, huh?). Anyway, I was really excited for all of this! As, obviously, at this point I'm thinking advocating for more sustainable food systems in some way (farming/migrant farmworkers rights/urban ag programs) is what I want to do with at least a good part of my life, and I have a lot of respect for vegetarians and think it's important to be aware of how energy/water intensive meat is and eat less of it, and I love yoga, and I like the basic principle of extending love towards everyone and and and wow I don't always realize what a hippie I've become. Being here with a group of students that are from all over the states and having (in a lot of ways) very different experiences--considering we're all the same age and in college, and now, studying abroad in Peru--is really making me realize how much living in the Bay is shaping me. Ie, how much of my inner hippie is being/has been brought out! It's easy not to notice when you are amongst many people that are often better 'hippie prototypes' than I am. My (genius) housemate Camille is having a similar experience, for example, because she's never thought of herself as being an especially 'sorority-girl' type--but she is and it's only because she's normally around girls that fit that description way more-so.

K, this is a sidetrack from Eco Truly Park but I think hanging out with the people in my program is one of the coolest things about studying abroad! Cuz' very few of us would normally be friends I'm pretty sure. For example, I kind of fled the sorority scene and that was not an accident. And I've never been that stoked on girls that are very sexual and like to get lots of tattoos. Or guys that read/talk about the bible A LOT. Not that I would ever hate on these kinds of people, we just wouldn't normally gravitate towards being friends. But we are here, and I'm having so much fun! Especially with my roommate Camille, who is one of the easiest people to talk to about anything and everything, which we do.

So anyway, Eco Truly Park is a farm community of people that are part of the Hare Krishna movement and live in huts made of mud, called Truly's. They never miss an opportunity to talk about how and why everything they do is for the purpose of pleasing Hare Krishna, who wants everyone to live more natural, spiritual lives guided by the principle of unconditional love towards all that is living. Which sounds dandy.

But then there are other guiding principles, like cleanliness--when I went to volunteer in the kitchen, I had to rinse my mouth with water and be sure not to eat anything while I was cooking to avoid the 'boca sucia'--I guess the idea is your mouth can't be dirty because this is offensive to Hare Krishna? I don't really understand a lot of it, and I really agree with another volunteer that I got to know who took issue with how much authority plays into their religion. He was able to put in words something I had thought of as an issue with all religions, which is the whole 'obedience/feeling of indebtedness towards some higher authority.' I just think it shouldn't depend on the presence of some authority figure to get people interested in having good values. Plus, I don't like the idea that anyone can ever be objectively better than anyone else. I don't really think it's very 'loving' to encourage people to devote their (lesser) lives to a higher authority on the grounds that that's the most meaningful thing you can do with your life which is less than Krishnas', who knows objectively what is good.

So that was the Truly 'not what I was expecting' part about Eco Truly Park.

Plus, the yoga was really weird. We had to do this panting doggie breathing, look straight into the sun, hold hands and run along the beach, and I was temporarily suffocated by my instructor at one point after he whispered crazy sanskrit stuff that I didn't understand into my ear. And then there was temple! That was an experience--I've never seen so many old men so enthused, jumping around in circles, playing instruments, taking pictures like they were going to upload them onto facebook, all dancing to this 'Maha Mantra':

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

Yeah. But volunteering was really fun, and I met some other cool people volunteering there! Plus there was a chef that made BOMB alfajores.


Wowzer. It's been awhile, a testament to how damn busy and overwhelmed I've been with how much fun I'm having. Between Cuzco, Eco Truly Park, Ica, and Iquitos, I was living it up every weekend in April! And between all the traveling, I was trying to keep up with school, capoeira, determining important things for next year (like my classes, where I'm living, and Alternative Breaks), and exploring Lima with my amazing host family.

K, where to begin seeing as it has almost been 2 months? Oh, yeah, CUZCO and MACHU PICCHU! I went there :) During Santa Semana, the weekend leading up to Easter.

Tours of Saqsaywaman and other ruins in SPANISH! Even though I might've missed a few things, I really need the practice listening. And I even learned a few words in Quechua, the native language of the area.

Cuzco is BEAUTIFUL. Maybe it's just the contrast to the smoggy-foggy Lima skies, but the sky there was always so epic. And the landscape was so GREEN and lush and mountainous. We had a free day where there were no organized tours for us, so I went to Pisaq with a few friends, a village that was a beautiful bus ride away, and we rode horses up to some ruins. My horses' name was Fantaseria, and she was very well-behaved unlike my friends horses. I can't remember why, but everyone else was having a lot of difficulties. I think my success with Fantaseria was due to my words of encouragement and constant spouting of flattering remarks.

The nightlife in Cuzco was also cool. I've never been into the whole 'clubbing' scene, but it seems to be the thing to do and it's pretty fun. It's mostly a lot of drinking then running around and dancing and more drinking. Mama Africa was the name of one of the popular places there, and I couldn't tell you what distinguished it from the rest except that for some reason there were large-screen tv's with white-water rafting videos playing. Maybe it's because I don't normally like to get drunk enough to really appreciate those places, but I definitely prefer hanging out in more chill settings where I can actually talk to people.

After 2 nights in Cuzco, we took a scenic bus ride that included a stop in this village where we watched women dye alpaca wool, and another stop to try chicha (!). First we played a game called 'sapo' (frog) that can be best compared to bags--you try to toss these coins into the mouth of a frog that's centered on a borad with other holes that are worth different amounts of points. I guess it's a pretty common game here as it's been at every hotel we've stayed at since, and I'm getting the hang of it ;) Then we got to learn about and try chicha, a drink made from chewed and spit out corn that is fermented (ohman i miss kombucha!) Riquísimo!

Then we took a train to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu. A group of us decided we wanted to hike the whole thing rather than take the bus to the entrance of the Huayna/Machu Picchu hikes. So we woke up at 4:30AM, ate some continental breakfast, and set out on an hour-long hike under the moonlit periwinkle sky. Then, it turned out that they didn't have enough passes for everyone to do the Huayna Picchu hike, so myself and a few others did the MACHU Picchu hike (which was a lot higher, no big deal ;) )  The day was a blur of a TON of stairs, epic views(see facebook for pictures), good people, and me trying to understand the tour guides when they talked about Incan history in spanish.

Then I went to the 'hot springs,' which weren't like the hot springs I was envisioning (a) because no one was naked, and (b) because they were cement and outside of a bohemian-style restaurant and not nestled in the mountains.

K, that's all for now. Adventures in Eco Truly Park and Ica coming shortly!

Monday, March 12, 2012


I am just so excited all the time. Probably because everything is all new here. I think I would make a good gypsy, and I am definitely wearing the correct pants. I do lots of heel clicks in my room because I can't sit down for very long(not even through a Colbert episode), and I know it looks cool in my gypsy pants.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mama Gallinas, Miraflores, and Muchas Espanol!

At our orientation last Monday, our director explained to us some of the things we will have to get used to: throwing toilet paper in the trash, not being offended if people call you derogatory nicknames or stare at you, close calls with transportation in crazy traffic. Oh, and receiving the 'princesa treatment.' In Peru, mothers are what they call 'mama gallinas,' or mother hens. Our director tells us that it will be difficult at first, what with our normally having independence, to get used to our host families taking care of:
-our laundry
-cooking/putting out delicious home-cooked meals
-washing our dishes
-cleaning our rooms and bathrooms
-escorting us the first week on the buses/combis/taxis
-taking us to the beach
-taking us out, a little too regularly, for sushi, ceviche, and peruvian desserts
-informing us that all the students in our program are coming over for lunch and a lesson in making 'pisco sours,' the national (alcoholic) drink that is kind of like tequila

All of this, while singing and dancing to 'Ai Se Eu Te Pego' (youtube this stat if you don't know this song) and repeating things as many times as it takes for us to understand with our limited espanol. Oh, Carmela. But don't worry about me too much, somehow I'll get through it.

Everyone here is ridiculously friendly and patient as I try to learn spanish. Learning a language this way (immersion, not in a classroom yet) is loads of fun. I am such a toddler. My friend Luis, (who is peruvian but 'studying abroad' with our program anyway after spending 3 years studying in the states), asked me if I 'always have this much energy.' I did a demonstration of my toddler energy as we were walking, asking him if this was what he was referring to (it was). I had to explain to him that the 'toddler' in my level of spanish-speaking abilities is starting to transcend into everything else I do. But hey, it's really nice to get so much approval just for stringing together a sentence! Especially sentences that I probably couldn't have accomplished the day prior...I'm learning thaat much every day :) Almost everything happens in Spanish and 'poco a poco', I'm starting to know what's going on!

But other times, I don't. On Friday, our group volunteered at a soup kitchen in a 'pueblos jovenes' (the favelas, shantytowns, etc., of Lima). We helped with the cooking, painted the building, and loaded up passing-by kids with 'dulces.' My friend Kay, another girl in my program, and I were talking with some of the men eating there who talked really fast and quietly. I don't know how she was able to converse with them! But Kay, who is fluent is spanish, informed me later that they had asked us whether or not we were single (I didn't know what I was saying yes to) and if we wanted to marry peruvian men. Gracias Kay, for navigating that one :)

The rest of our group has been really wonderful to get to know. It is definitely an eclectic group of people, many of which I might not normally be friends with. But we are definitely becoming friends, and I am stoked. We've been hitting up the 'barras y discotecas' in Miraflores and Barranco this past week, which has been great. Oh, and I also won big at a casino in Miraflores while being served free sandwiches and drinks, no big deal. I won more than I've spent shopping so far, and with only one (my first) press of a button at a 'Sea Monkeys' (the amazing live!) machine.

Cobra, por favor! (Cash out, please)


ALSO: Haley Kitchens, if you are reading this, or having someone read it to you...are you and your olhos bonitos ok? Please say yes.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

BIenvenidos al Peru!

WHHAAAAAAAAT? This is too wonderful and absurd.

When I landed at 1AM in Lima last night, my plan was to meet up with another girl in my program whose flight came in before mine, and wait with her until we could get a ride with our program at 6AM. So when I saw a man with a whiteboard that read 'Elizabeth Fairweather,' I knew he was my kidnapper and if I went with him I would be lost forever in some freaky sex trafficking business until I died of a cocaine overdose. I wasn't about to have a 'Taken' experience, so I just averted my eyes and sat around in populated areas for almost an hour, before a woman comes up to me and says she's my host mom. My spanish was not only limited, but also mixed with a lot of portuguese (in less than 24 hours I'm back on track though, this family is super encouraging and I'm learning spanish pretty fast talking to them, wahoo!) But somehow I became convinced she was Carmela, my host mom, and not an innocent-looking decoy and we were off with the poor taxi driver who had to wait for me. And vamos! We're driving through Lima, trying to speak spanish, and then we're at the most AMAZING BEAUTIFUL HOME AND I GOT TO PICK MY ROOM WHICH WAS STOCKED WITH DOCES AND FLORES AND MY OWN BATHROOM AND WHY DO I GET TO BE SUCH A PRINCESS?!?

This morning, we walked into Centro de San Borja (San Borja is the district of Lima we live in) and bought crazy frutas, pan integral, and tamales. Carmela and I both like quinoa and todos verduras solo no pimientos (all vegetables except peppers), so basically we're best friends. Then, I met her son Renzo and his wife Carola, and her husband Pepe before going to the beach. Except first we went house-hunting for Renzo and Carola, which was insane and involved me swimming in a pool right by the beach and saltando en un trampolin (jumping on a trampoline, fuck yeah!) at a YACHT club while they looked at the propriedads. Then we bought some food (recommended were Ritz crackers, plantain chips and keke (cake), before going to the beach.

When we came back, Taylor, one of the other 2 girls that will be staying in this castle of a casa, had arrived. She's from LA, plays rugby, and dedicated one entire suitcase to zapatos. I'm excited about her! We went out to dinner at a 'chifa' restaurant, which is peruvian-chinese fusion. The food and INKA KOLA was deliciosa.

So far, my experience in Peru is confirming my suspicion that I am destined to always be in the best situation possible, surrounded by the best people. I guess I can't escape it, no matter how far I travel. Oh well!

Goal: Understand what these people are saying, soon, even though Brasil has made me quite used to never knowing what's going on.

Hasta luego!

Monday, February 27, 2012


Last night I got back from Ihla Grande, a beautiful ISLAND (no big deal) off the coast of Rio.

But, first I need to talk about the paradise that was an ORGANIC VEGETARIAN ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT BUFFET that Haley and I discovered today. I was starting to become convinced that Brazilians just like to poison themselves everyday, and was painfully letting my food groups stray from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, etc. towards azucar, queijo, e carne (sugar, cheese, and meat). As it turns out, eating healthy, just like consent (as I learned at carnaval), can seem like a Berkeley luxury.

Today was a new day! Haley, Sam Koch, Mackenzie, Justin, and I embarked down a narrow hallway, where we came upon a marble buddha fountain in a misty foyer. A mahogany staircase floated us upwards, spiraling towards a feast of foods forgotten. Avocado halves as vessels for vegetables and tofu. Zucchini noodles. Squash piled high. Spinach packed injera rolls. Grainy rice with black beans, funky mushrooms, and 'meat'balls interspersed with sesame seeds. Banana, fig, and brazil nut dessert sushi. A 'tranquil sounds of nature' soundtrack lulling me into a food coma, and I realize I'm stuffed silly for the first time in Brasil, which is otherwise a normal occurrence for me. And all for 18 reais, which is like $11. Ohhh baby.

Ihla Grande. Last Wednesday night, Haley and I went to capoeira in 'fantasia,' which is costumes for carnaval. Afterwards we went out with some of the capoeiristas, which is always fun until it gets exhausting. Which is fast for me with all the trying to understand and speak portuguese and drinking only beer when I just want water and foood. When we get back at 4AM, Haley checks her facebook and sees that one of her friends organized a trip to Ilha Grande, which is off the coast of Rio. They're meeting up in 3 hours, but we decide 'vale a pena' (it's worth it) because it was a good deal for a 4-day escape from the exhausting (both vehicular and pace of life) Rio. And we'll be on an ISLAND. So we get a wink of sleep, clean the house until it looked like carnaval never happened, pack, and meet up with a goofy, eclectic group of kids in Haley's program. With Bob, our still-bitter-about-losing-Survivor-12-years-ago guide and Annapoala, his smokin-hot-tattooed-perpetually-high-maniacally-laughing wife, 14 of us go to Angra dos Reis, where we then take a boat to the island. Oh, and there is also this 'camera-man' that is afraid of the water. On the boat I ask him 'Todo bom?' (Everything good?) And he just says 'No.' Poor guy. He turns out to be an interesting character who wants nothing to do with any of us and awkwardly films us when we're eating. And it's frustrating because we can tell he's a cool, or at least interesting guy. Justin overheard him talking to these really friendly physics teachers we met, and he said 'In real life I know no one, but on the internet I'm huge!' Huh.

The next morning I watched the sunrise (epic), and then we ate crackers, corn flakes, jelly, rice pudding, chocolate milk, and IOWASCA for a breakfast of champions of sorts. Iowasca, Bob explains, is a special tea made by shamans that you take when you have a special question or are looking to be healed. He says we can drink some as long as we have no ghosts, and only a little so we don't vom. I was mostly confident that I didn't have any ghosts, so I had a few sips. Then about half the group and I set off on a longer hike than the rest of the group/guides wanted to do. I never had any spiritual epiphanies, but the day was beautiful and filled with pit stops at beach coves, navigating around huge spiders in their elaborate webs, rock scramblin', rugged rainforest, ascensions, descensions, etc. By the end of the day, I was exhausted, hungry, and slightly moody. Bob had given us snack packs that consisted of sugar cookies, candy, and sugar-coated granola bars that weren't doing much for me. But there's something to be said about not always having all of your needs satisfied, I've decided. It's like yoga, where you have to breathe through 'powerful pose' and other uncomfortable positions before your 'final savasana,' simply lying down, can be absurdly wonderful and appreciated. Being sleep-deprived, kind of sick, hungry, and trucking along drenched in sweat for a day leading to a deeply felt appreciation for my usual existence, which is underlied by comfort and convenience, is the same idea. We finally got back to camp at 7 that night, and ate some damn good beans and rice with farofa. Then we had a campfire where we talked to this guy named Chico. I asked, 'Que significa su camiseta?' And he said MST, which turns out to be a really cool-sounding political group that's focused on rural land reform and addressing income inequality. Plus they're part of Via Campesina! Which is an awesome international movement that is big on family-farm-based sustainable ag and empowering rural and indigenous communities etc. How 'bout that :)

K, I think that's all that needs to be said about Ilha Grande. Except the next day we went to a surreal beach that had sifted flour sand and I played capoeira with Annapoala. And there was this beautiful African family and the husband and wife made the most beautiful jewelry that I can't remember why I didn't buy. Oh yeah, cuz I'm spending reais like it's going out of style.

Even after drinking the miraculous agua de coco, I am spent and need to go to sleep. Amandoim (means Peanut and is the nickname of the beautiful black man who instructs capo when Nestor isn't there; when he plays, I'm pretty sure I can feel the entire circle orgasm) WORKED us. Spending about an hour on your hands before actually playing is muitas dificile, and this is coming from a girl who spent a good part of her early years in a handstand.

Boa noite!

Monday, February 20, 2012

More Carnaval and Good People and Portuguese...

Today we went to a Beatles bloco! It was cool to know the words for once, plus we hung out with Sam Koch. I love that kid! He's one of those people that you're sort of friends with in real life (this isn't real life right now), but you're not close for no reason in particular besides being closer to other people, and then when you're in a surreal situation like being in Brasil at carnaval together you're the bestest of buds.

Other than that we've been hanging out mostly with Leah from Berkeley, Michelle from Santa Cruz, and Cindy. All really cool people that I'm glad are in Haley's program. Us ladies have been hanging out pre and post-bloco at Haley's apartment, making delicioso bebidas, and then pizzas and whipping through guarana (the popular soda here) and water-that's-more-expensive-than-guarana.

And what's exciting is that I'm starting to know a few basic verbs and feel like there's a chance I might get the gist of what people are talking about. K, here goes me listing my words so far so I can remember them:

-obrigada = thank you
-desculpe = sorry
-tchau = bye (the kiss kiss kind)
-nao = no (brazilians don't like to say it)
- eu nao falo portugues = i don't speak portuguese
-todo bem/todo bom = everything good? or yup, everythings good
-muita prazer = nice to meet you
- eu trento = i try
- olhos = eyes
-eu entendo nada, todo = i understand nothing, everthing
-todo mundo = everyone
-muitas = very
-grande = big
-agora = now
-comidas = food
-subway = the brazilian food of choice, no joke
-compra = to buy
-onde = where
-tenho (tenyo) = I have, tem = you have, he/she has. temos = we have
-delicioso = delicious
-ai se eu te pego = Hey, if I catch you
-assim voce me mata = you're killing me
-noce = wow or we
-legal = cool
-serio = serious?
-escola = school
-se rolar = to have sex
-use camisinha = use a condom
-se diriger = to drive
-cervesa = beer
-cachasa = stuff that makes you crazy drunk
-cerca = near
-banheiro = bathroom
-como se chama? = what's your name?
-beijar = to kiss
-poder = to be able to
-posso? = can I?
-chutar = to kick
-antes/depois = before/after
-dia, semana, mes, ano = day week month year
-lugar = place
- ciencia cognitiva = cog sci
- filosofia, neurociencia, psicologia, linguistica = philosophy, neuro, pysch, ling
-misto = mix
- fazer = to do
- gostar = to like
- amar = to love
- estudar = to study
- melhor = better
- quente/frio = hot/cold
-chapeu = hat
- fantasia = costume

phew! maybe that's not exactly blog material, but if anyone wants to learn some portuguese, there you have some basics.