An Unexpected Adventure

The beauty about living in Peru is that we have plenty of time to see and explore to our hearts’ content.  As a result, we can deviate from our plans knowing that there will be another time to see or do what we originally intended.  It is a wonderful feeling and on Friday we put it into action with a fantastic result.

It was the Saint Rose of Lima holiday, which doesn’t mean a whole lot to us except that Matt didn’t have school (and no volunteering for me).  We wanted to get outside and enjoy the day and after some deliberation decided to walk about 3 ½ miles to a small town in the mountains, Llacanora.  There are also some waterfalls near Llacanora and we thought it would be fun to take a leisurely walk there, eat lunch somewhere and walk back.

We set off and were not disappointed.  10 minutes from our house we were on a road in the mountains.  The views were spectacular and the air was fresh.

About 2 ½ miles into the trip we saw this sign:

The Adventure Begins

The Adventure Begins

“Pictures, that sounds interesting,” we thought and decided that a 450 foot hike up the mountain was probably worth it.  There was a decent path and we quickly came upon a house where a hip-looking guy was climbing a rope spider web, which seemed quite out of place.  We greeted one another and then because the path looked unclear, we asked him if we were headed the right way.  He confirmed that we were and urged us to forge ahead and said there were beautiful views.  He and the woman in the yard were laughing, not in a mean way but in the “silly Americans” way, so we continued on.

We realized that we didn’t know what we were looking for, so I did a quick google search and learned there are caves and ancient rock art on the site.  We hiked about and eventually saw some fantastic rock art that apparently dates back to between 8,000-5,000 BC.

The paths were hit and miss, but it wasn’t as difficult as the climbing at Cumbemayo.  After an hour or so of hiking we decided to head home so we would have time for lunch before our appointment with a new plumber.  (No surprise.  He didn’t show up.) But we will definitely return to this incredible site again, prepared with a picnic lunch and a full day at our disposal to explore the larger caves, which we never found.

Idiot Art

Idiot Art

Once home I did some research on Callacpuma or Puma Orco (Puma Hill), but didn’t find a whole lot.  It is a designated archeological site and there is concern over damage being done to the pictures and people adding their own “rock art” to the site.  Callacpuma isn’t referenced in any of our guidebooks and doesn’t seem to be much of a tourist attraction, which makes us even happier that we found it.  The rock art extends over 3 square kilometers, so we have plenty more to explore.  I also researched whether pumas still live in the area as at one point we heard a noise that sounded like a big cat roar and I joked about mountain lions, not realizing the name of the site we were visiting.  This morning we had breakfast with Maribel and she told us the the place is considered sacred ground and most people go in March when it is believed the spirits don’t mind you are there.  She also said there aren’t any wild animals left in the area.  Perhaps we heard a Puma Spirit!

Q&A Part 1

Many of my faithful readers (okay, friends) have asked questions about our day-to-day lives.   This post will answer that burning question on everyone’s mind: “Matt works, Olga cleans your house, what do you do all day?”

Good question, and Matt is probably reading to find out the same thing!  During the week, I get out of bed around 8:00.  Note “get out of bed” not “wake up.”  Given that one of my reasons for not having children is that I couldn’t stomach the idea of sleepless nights, it is pretty ironic that we have yet to sleep through a night here.  Honestly.  First, our street is the route for heavy vehicles and they rumble by all night long.  While that in and of itself is loud, there is a speed bump in front of our house  that these semis bounce over, adding to the noise.  Sometimes the semis don’t slow down for the speed bump (they always ignore the stop sign) and the vibration of the truck coupled with the banging of the load sets off the car alarm of the red Toyota two doors down.  (This also happens all day long.)    Trucks = average of 3 nightly sleep interruptions.

Then there are the dogs.  They bark all night.  Sometimes it is the dogs across the street barking because a truck woke them up, sometimes it is street dogs fighting or taunting the dogs across the street and sometimes, who the heck knows, they are dogs.  Dogs barking = 3.  Not to be outdone by the canines, are our neighbors the roosters.  It is complete fiction that roosters crow at dawn.  They crow ALL NIGHT LONG!  Roosters = 1.  Next we have bands/music.  At 10:40 last night a band started playing and marching down  the street.  I’m not sure the occasion, but my cabbie earlier this week told me that bands are hired for birthdays.  Perhaps this person was born at 10:40 pm.  Bands/Music = 1.  We also have fireworks and the military.  It is not unusual for the military exercises to start as early as 5:00 am, though I am not sure how safe it is to have gun training in the pitch dark.  Yesterday, in an opposite direction from the band, there were fireworks (more like M80s) going off all night. Random loud booms = 1.  Finally, we have a guy that pounds on a neighbor’s door every morning around 4:30.  Booty call, drunk stumbling home, worker rousing a friend – no clue but it is &%$? annoying!  Door banger = 1.  The beauty is that no one EVER yells at anyone to be quiet.  Apparently Peruvians sleep like the dead.  We don’t and our average nightly tally of being awoken is 10!

After I get up, I putter around a bit, assess whether Olga has arrived so I can determine how guilty to feel over lollygagging in bed and then go on my walk, which is usually between 1-1 1/2 hours, depending on whether I run an errand or two on the way home.  Once home I do my PT exercises and additional workout exercises for a half hour to an hour, shower, dress and eat breakfast, all while dodging Olga.  Olga and I usually have some stilted conversation at some point in the morning,  which counts as a Spanish lesson, and the next thing I know it is almost noon.

For the past three weeks, I have been volunteering at Matt’s school on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons.  I leave the house at 12:10 to catch a cab (another Spanish lesson!) and begin at 12:45.  Each day I assist in 3 different elementary classrooms for 45 minutes each and end my day reading for 15 minutes to a class of first graders.  I then hang outside with Matt while he says goodbye to the students and parents and subsequently amuse myself until we leave around 4:30.   While I have always admired my friends in the education field, my admiration has increased dramatically.  Well, not for those that lack classroom management skills.  For those my admiration has plummeted.  I know it has been a really long time since I was in grade school, but I swear we had to sit in our desks during class, not wander around to our cubbies or get drinks of water.  Okay, I also have to admit that on more than one occasion, in high school no less, I had a teacher drag my desk and me to the corner because I wouldn’t quit talking, so maybe these students behave just fine!

Wowing the 1st Graders

Wowing the 1st Graders!

Although I enjoy volunteering and the children are darling, I do not think elementary education will be my next career.  Not only do I find it exhausting being “on” for that long (and I am only there a 1/2 day), but practicing law is very goal oriented and I am accustomed to deadlines, projects, and endings.  And winning.  Learning never ends and I find it frustrating that at the end of a class you can’t measure what has been accomplished and that projects continue ad infinitum.  Matt notes that a child progresses over the course of a year, but I am not known for patience.   While I will continue to volunteer, I plan to scale back to two afternoons a week so I have more time to focus on writing and studying Spanish.

Of course, I might get fired from volunteering  as I accidentally wrote a naughty word on the board.  The teacher had me lead a discussion on the lessons learned from the class’s popcorn and chicha morada sale and I got confused as the students were spelling the word “chicha” for me and wrote chichi instead.  The class went crazy and I knew enough to quickly erase it.  Yes, I wrote the equivalent of “boobies” on the board.  Although in Spain this slang would have been much worse (think female genitalia).  And what about the restaurant chain Chi-Chis?  Apparently they were way ahead of Hooters!

FYI, chicha morada is a fermented, non-alcoholic drink made with purple corn, pineapple rinds and spices.  I’m not a big fan as it is cloyingly sweet.

David Gets My Vote For Smartest Student!

David Gets My Vote For Smartest Student!

On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I usually run some errands, sit outside and study my Spanish, work on this blog and other correspondence, and research random things.  Most exciting random thing to date was finding the NFL Game Pass, which will allow us to watch Green Bay Packers games!

Go Green Bay!

While none of that sounds too difficult, everything here takes longer than it does at home.  For example, our plumbing issues continue and about once a week the plumber shows up and we engage in difficult conversation (Spanish lesson!) for about 15 minutes before he leaves, promising to return to fix the things that are broken.  Last week Tuesday we were discussing a leaky kitchen pipe for the third time and he said he needed a de-clogging product.  By some small miracle, I actually understood him and had some, so I retrieved it for him, fully expecting him to dump it in the sink.  Nope, he took a towel and swabbed some on the outside of the pipe.  As you can imagine, this did not fix the leaky pipe and he has not returned to date despite saying he would be back last week Thursday or Friday to fix the other faulty items.  In the States, we would simply call another plumber, but as this is our absentee landlord’s plumber, we are uncertain of the protocol, and she has not responded to us.  So here we sit with a leaky kitchen pipe that stinks up the cabinet and leads me to fear bugs, a broken toilet, a non functioning cold water pump (the same one spewing water in a prior post) and a broken shower head.  ARGGG.

Then there is grocery shopping.  We shop at Metro, which is a Target-esque “little bit of everything” store but smaller, in the El Quinde mall in Cajamarca; the Castope grocery store in Baños, which is tiny compared to a US grocery store; the other Castope near our house, which is the size of a very small gas station convenience store; the Central Market in Cajamarca;  the market in Baños; and sometimes a fruit or vegetable stand on the street.  Why so many stores?  Because none of them has everything we need at any given time.  Castope doesn’t have any decent fish (although yesterday it also didn’t have any chicken) and sometimes no lettuce; we can only find fresh nuts at the Central Market; produce is hit or miss, even at the grocery stores, so sometimes you need to go several places; for two weeks no store had Matt’s favorite soda, Inca Cola Zero; the list goes on.  You cannot assume that because you found an item at one store that you will ever find it there again.    Add the fact that trips to Cajamarca require cab rides and we can only buy what we can carry, and shopping takes a long time.   Not infrequently I go to Castope multiple times a day just to get everything I want (because I know it might not be there tomorrow).  While I try to do most of the shopping while Matt is at work, we usually run some errands after work at least once a week on a day I am volunteering and on the weekends.

Our evenings are pretty boring.  It gets pitch dark by 6:30 pm, which puts us in hibernation mode.  So unless we are invited somewhere or running errands, we are usually home by dark, eat dinner and then work on the computer or watch tv for the evening.  We have yet to find a bar in Baños and vanishing restaurants are the norm. For a week I thought I was losing my mind as I passed this sign, which had me very excited!

Disappearing Bar

The first night at 6:10, Matt and I walked to the place and . . . I couldn’t find it.  We walked around a few blocks while I insisted that I had seen this nice bar (I didn’t have the photo at the time).  The next afternoon, I again attempted to find it with no success.  On the third day it miraculously appeared and I took the photo for proof.  That night, Matt and I again set off, but no bar.  We subsequently did see the door open one weekend afternoon, but  there was no one inside.   I did some internet sleuthing and believe this bar is actually in Cajamarca, so I am not sure why the sign is in a place in Baños.   Many restaurants have no signage and irregular hours so unless you know where you are going and when a place is open, you wander about feeling like a fool!  We found one place that looked very nice and asked the woman who was cleaning when it was open.  9 to 5, Friday through Sunday.  I repeated it twice to make sure we understood and indeed, those are the hours.  So we eat and drink at home for the most part.

Weekends have had no set pattern.  We were in Lima last weekend (stay tuned for that post) and Matt is off this Friday so we plan to do a long walk or excursion at least one of the days and likely will run some errands.  A gardener from school is coming over to cut our grass (we think by hand with a clippers) and trim our bougainvillea (which requires him to climb out our second story window and perch on the porch roof) at 2:00 on Saturday so we will need to be home all afternoon while he is here.  And who knows – maybe the plumber will show up!

Picnic with Peruvians

I was invited by a teacher at Matt´s school to go on an outing last Sunday. As she graciously insisted on collecting me at our house despite needing to take a bus to do so, Matt and I prepared an American bacon and eggs breakfast for Maribel and her 15-year-old daughter Nicole before we headed out. I ended up on a fantastic group outing to Cumbe Mayo, an archeological site about 30 minutes outside of Cajamarca. I did my research on Cumbe Mayo after I returned home and learned that it was a pre-Incan aqueduct built in approximately 1500 BC. Almost more impressive than the ancient feat of engineering is the natural beauty of volcanic rock formations referred to as “the Stone Monks.” The site also has petroglyphs, but I didn’t know to look for any on this visit. Next time!

First Glimpse

Upon leaving our house, my adventure started with my first bus ride in Peru. Buses are really oversized vans and as we didn’t exactly know how they operate, we were too chicken to try one. I learned that the fare is 80 soles anywhere on the route and you pay when you get off. Because the bus was traveling too slowly and we were late, we hopped off and jumped into a moto-taxi, another first for me. We arrived at Maribel’s sister’s house (Yodi, short for Yolanda, I think) because we were going with Yodi, her boyfriend Fabi and her 6 year-old-daughter Kiera (pronounced in a Peruvian fashion that I never quite figured out) to meet some friends and head to Cumbe Mayo. We piled in Fabi’s SUV, stopped to pick up Maribel´s 13-year-old son, Kevin (named after the Macaulay Culkin Home Alone character, honest to god), and headed out of town.

Sort of. Despite the fact that Maribel and Yodi are native Cajamarquinas, they gave Fabi, who is from Lima, wrong directions. We were in a large SUV climbing winding, narrow streets to go up and over the hill to get out of town. We cruised around a corner, zoomed down a street, barely missing dogs and pedestrians, and Dead End. Fabi had to back up the SUV and honestly I am not sure we didn’t hit something on the way out. But he was an excellent driver and for all the near misses, I wasn’t fearing for my life. Perhaps I have Tommy to thank for training me as a passenger (if I yelled to slow down, he sped up. He got Mom´s car airborne and “buried the speedometer” on one memorable ride to teach me not to be a back seat driver! Matt should thank him.).

We made it out of the city and met up with a couple, a dad and young son and another guy. All very nice but I never managed to get anyone’s name. We set off on the country roads to Cumbe Mayo. The view was stunning the higher we climbed into the mountains and we ended at about 11,800 feet, which is 3,000 feet higher than Cajamarca. Nicole, like her mother, speaks very good English, so the ride went quickly as she asked me to teach her some slang (“no bad words!” decreed by Maribel) and looked at the music and pictures on my iPhone. I did get nervous when we pulled over and Yodi took the wheel. “She´s learning to drive,” Maribel explained. To us that would be learning to drive on the road to Pike’s Peak in Colorado! But I realized that this winding, rutted, dirt road with no guardrails probably is safer than learning in Cajamarca where driving is a blood sport.

Our plan for Cumbe Mayo was to hike around, have a picnic and enjoy the day. And that is exactly what we did. The entry to the site starts with a descent down a path complete with stairs to the base of one of the rock formations. At that point you basically can wander around at will. There are some paths, but, as we later learned, you can also just forge your own. The path we initially chose quickly had us going though a very narrow cave. At one point it is completely dark, which is horrible sensation when you have no idea how big the cave is and are also worried about getting stuck!

We all made it and hiked for about an hour or so before stopping for a picnic lunch at a big stone slab in the midst of a flat, grassy area. One guy joked that the slab was the site of ancient sacrifices, but perhaps he wasn’t joking given the history of the site. The men unloaded their backpacks and everyone set to preparing lunch: hamburgers, Peruvian style. Delicious rolls, pre-cooked patties (I tried not to think about how long these patties had been unrefrigerated as it was at least 3 hours by my count), lettuce, tomatoes and shoe string potatoes. The final addition is typical in Peru, as were the condiment choices, including several ajís. There were multiple kinds of fruit juices and mandarins as well. It was really delicious and the view and fresh air were wonderful. I didn’t even freak out over the stray dogs that circled us like wolves as soon as the food appeared. I could only follow about 50% of the conversation, but that was fine and it was a great way to improve my comprehension. Because this is Peru, the boy had a soccer ball along so our lunch site was perfect for the post-lunch soccer game (I watched), apart from all of the aqueducts that the ball kept falling into.

Eventually we set out again but after about 30 minutes the couple and Kiera decided they had enough of hiking and would wait for us while we ascended a peak. Once we hit the top, Fabi suggested we go “up and around” instead of backtracking. After much yelling down the mountain, it was determined that the rest of the party understood that we would meet them at the car. Our “up and around” adventure began. We went up and then started around, losing sight of the parking lot and our bearings. Eventually Maribel took control and led us in the direction of a woman with cows. By the time we got there, the woman and cows were long gone but two young boys were there. After much discussion, it was determined that we needed to go around a little more and then could descend. An easy task for two boys who live on the mountain, but more challenging for us.

In parts the terrain was overgrown grass with holes everywhere. Yodi fell and twisted her ankle at one point, but thankfully could still limp along. Once that part ended we hit the precipice. After much observation and the realization that if we didn’t go down we were going to have to walk several additional miles around, we headed down. This terrain was mossy rocks, with grassy holes around the rocks. My thighs have just recovered from crab walking down!

We all made it and after a terse discussion with a farmer whose field we needed to cross, eventually we hit the path and were back to the car park where the couple and Kiera were waiting. Everyone was tired so we said some quick goodbyes and headed home. The drive was crazy. Honestly, forget Mario Kart there should be a video game called Peruvian Roadkill. We had near misses with yoked oxen, cows, turkeys, chicken, sheep, dogs and pedestrians. All in all a great day!

Dog 2, Kerry 1 (sort of)


I am afraid of dogs.  I know, we had Ky and my family and friends have dogs and I am not afraid of them, but the sad truth is:  I am afraid of dogs.  And I now live in a place where stray dogs are everywhere and no leash laws exist for the dogs that do have homes.  As anyone who walked with me in Wisconsin knows, I was ruthless in chastising dog owners whose dogs were running wild because invariably the owner was carrying a leash, but just didn’t think that his or her darling needed to be restrained.  No such luck here so I need to adjust my thinking.

At first, it wasn’t so bad because Matt and I were together and I could casually maneuver to put him between me and those canine teeth.  Matt likes dogs, so he either didn’t notice or didn’t care.  There were times where I would make us cross the street if the dog looked particularly scary to me, generally meaning it was big or had German shepherd or pitbull looks.  I know, I know, Ky was a German Shepherd mix, but fear is not rationale (don’t get me started on clowns).  Within a couple of weeks, I could recognize the dogs in the neighborhood: two black labs by the hardware store, the pitbull mix that trots around the neighborhood and is often by the little green space a few blocks away, the fluffy, little, curly-haired, mixed-breed siblings, the list goes on.  These dogs pretty much ignore us and I managed to walk around them with only minor heart palpitations.

So I was feeling pretty good about my dog issues when Matt started school and I was on my own.  I went for my walks and practiced yoga breathing and silent “nice doggie” mantras.  At times, I likely looked drunk or incredibly confused as I would crisscross the street to avoid scary looking dogs.  But I thought I had progressed well in conquering my phobia.

Scary blue-eyed dog

Then I set off on the best walk in the area, on the bike path to Otuzco.  Matt and I had walked this route the prior weekend and I loved it.  The paved path runs along a river and the road has little traffic.  If it weren’t for all of the garbage in the river, the scenery would be breathtaking with the mountains, river and farms.  It still is very picturesque and it is nice to walk without worrying about sudden holes or the amount of diesel in the air.  The dog population didn’t appear greater in this area, so I had none beyond my usual worries as I walked along.

Dog and trash

Dog and Trash

My goal was the bridge, which is about a 4-mile, round trip walk.  On the way out I noticed a few excavating sites on the opposite side of the road and didn’t give them much thought.  On the way back, a truck was backing out of one such site and a worker and a scrawny dog were on the path in front of me.  I watched the truck, walked past the worker and dog, and YIP YIP YIP! SNARL SNARL! SNAP!  The little shit bit me!  Okay, it wasn’t really a bite, no skin was broken, but it was a nip that meant business.  I screamed and looked at the guy who impassively stared at me and said nothing.  Needless to say I scurried away, looking over my shoulder in fear of pursuit.  I then decided that arming myself was necessary.  Not sure how much that will help as I have no aim and can fit rocks slightly larger than pebbles in my hands.  Score: Dog 1.


My confidence was shot, and I stuck to the diesel clogged Atahualpa path the rest of the week.  But I vowed that I had to try the bike path at least once a week to conquer my tormentor.  The additional downside was that I again feared every dog I saw, even the ones in my neighborhood who I had learned to … tolerate, and I set off on walks with my ammo.

So the next week I again set off down the bike path.  I got a great aerobic workout because my heart was beating so fast the entire time that I thought I was going to puke.  About 100 feet away from the site I was clutching my rocks, doing deep breathing and peaceful visualization when the dog raced to the top of a rock pile the edge of the site and started growling and barking at me.  A worker yelled at the dog, but I was done and did a quick about face and hurried away.  Score: Dog 2.

Week three I again faced the bike path.  Same routine: rocks, deep breathing, positive vibes.  I made a point to greet anyone I passed thinking that perhaps they would come to my aid in the event of an attack.  About 200 feet from the site of doom I saw two women walking toward me.  Heck, they looked just like me but Peruvian: my height, capris, sneakers, and baseball caps.  I watched with interest how the mangy cur would react to them and …nothing.   Emboldened (unless the dog was prejudiced and didn’t like Americans) I strode toward the site, looking out of the corner of my eye.  No dog!  The workers were there so I nodded and waved to one and carried on my way to the bridge.  Of course, I had to walk back past the site and again, no dog.  Score: Kerry 1 by forfeit.

So it is now week 4 and I have yet to get in my bike path walk.  I have time… and rocks!

Note:  Before my animal lover friends take me to task for the rocks, know that I don’t wish the dogs ill and don’t really want to throw rocks at them. But if my choice is throw rocks or get bit, I’m gonna throw the rocks.  And don’t tell me you would do differently.

A Visit From Alex

Within days of our arrival, before we understood that door-to-door salesmen are the norm here, we opened our door to Alex, the rug guy.  We then let him in because he invoked the magical words “Shauna and Max,” the prior occupants of the home.  They had told us about Alex and said that he offered good rugs at good prices, so we took a look.  It helped that Alex speaks good English, which seems pretty amazing for a guy from the high Andes who goes around the country peddling his rugs.  Alex arrived on foot pulling a cart with a bundle of rugs that easily weighed 100 pounds.  If we understood correctly, Alex lives south of Lima in the Huancayo Region at an elevation about double ours.  So we are barely in the mountains according to Alex.


Alex makes the rugs with the help of others in his village.  It appears that the finer weaving is done by men; women knit. He was justifiably proud of his wares and took a lot of time to explain the different offerings.  He has items in wools from sheep, young alpaca and alpaca, and showed us examples of each.  The young alpaca wool is incredibly soft and we quickly learned that those items are to be used as bedcovers or wall hangings, not rugs.   While we loved the idea of a bedspread, both Matt and I are allergic to wool and decided not to take a chance with something we could end up hating.  Alex explained the meanings of the designs.  Some were traditional Peruvian designs, such as “the Gossiping Women,” which depicts a group of women in traditional dress and hats sitting with clay jugs for sale, and hunting and warrior scenes.  Birds, butterflies, cats and frogs are also prevalent in the designs.  Alex also designs his own patterns, and was very proud to show us “Women Going to Church,” another one of Jesus that he did for a church, and one depicting a traditional scissors dance. Ultimately Matt and I special ordered a rug that will have condors around the perimeter and other animals on the inside squares.  The consummate salesman, Alex left us with the promise to return with our ordered rug (no deposit was requested, which seemed odd) in late November/early December so we could buy Christmas presents and invite other expats over to see his selections.  He agreed to the photo because he thought perhaps our friends at home might also like to buy some things from him and gave us his website to share.  He also suggested that by his return trip our Spanish would be better.  Let’s hope he is right on that count!

Beautiful Rugs and Tapestries

Beautiful Rugs and Tapestries

Peruvian Fiestas Patrias

Peruvian Independence day is July 28, and the related festivities in our area began on Thursday, July 25, with a parade Baños del Inca’s main square, which is about 3 blocks from our house.  We were tipped off to the parade when we saw a few bands go by and a bunch of military.  The base is a block away from our house and we previously had seen the men on training runs and in other formations.  This time, the formations included a lot of guys with weapons and a party atmosphere.  It was either war or a parade, so we decided to investigate!

Once in the square, it was a typical pre-parade chaotic scene.  School and other groups trying to get organized, the military trying to set up a big cannon and, most interesting, a zip line from the top of the municipal building to the ground.  There was a bunch of people like us (well, they were Peruvian; we didn’t see any other foreigners in the mix) just waiting.  Oddly enough, it was pretty quiet given the number of people and the nature of the event.

Eventually, the endless speeches began.  We caught some of it as it sounded like your basic independence rhetoric: freedom, pride, liberty – the usual.  Then the Peruvian flag was raised, during which the anthem was half-heartedly sung by a few on the stage.  Not even the school groups were singing it, which I found rather odd.  To our great amusement, the song is essentially Simon & Garfunkel’s song “El Cóndor Pasa (“If I Could”) (“I’d rather be a hammer than a nail, yes I would…”).  Sure enough, a glance through my guidebook when I returned home mentioned that Paul Simon heard this song played by Los Incas and then recorded it for the Bridge Over Troubled Water album (there is more to the story about the origins and copyrights, but the lawyer in me will spare you those details).  Anyhow, the raising of the flag was punctuated by a huge cannon shot.  That took about a year off my life!  Then the Baños flag was raised and this time we were ready.  Not only did the cannon boom, but also a soldier shot several rounds from a machine gun into a tree (poor tree) and another soldier zipped down the line to the ground waving the Peruvian flag.  What drama!

Then the action moved to another bandstand adjacent to the first and the set up for the parade continued.  As I determined that I do not like Peruvian parades any more than I like American ones, we didn’t last long.

So imagine how lucky I felt to learn that our trip to get our internet connection on Friday was going to coincide with the Cajamarca Patria parade.  We finally received a water bill so we could have Cruz sign us up for internet service.  Yippee!  I had run out of data on my phone within 5 days of getting it, so this was a big moment.   Although the company has offices all over Cajamarca (and Baños, for that matter), we had to go to the main one at the main square (Plaza de Armas) to order the service.  We got there and the scene was identical to that in Baños but on a larger scale.  The internet office was directly behind the grandstand and Matt and I were too intimidated by the military presence to go over there as on the prior day in Baños the military shooed everyone away from the stage (and cannon, for obvious reasons).  But once we found Cruz, we all walked back there and stood behind the grandstand until the office opened.

It was a fun perspective to have, but again, the usual pre-parade chaos.  After ordering our internet service, which went very well because Matt and I had pre-shopped on our own a few days prior and actually managed to understand most things so we knew what we wanted and the same woman assisted us, we watched the parade for awhile.  Speeches given, flags raised, songs sung (with more audience participation this time including that of some preschoolers who were pretty funny screaming “Cajamarca” and “Viva Peru” at the appropriate moments.)  Apparently the zip line riding, flag-waving soldier is customary as it happened again.  While this parade seemed somewhat more organized and had far more groups involved, including interesting military ones such as some shirtless guys with black paint over their bodies and faces carrying large weapons and another military group with progressively more involved camouflage so that the guys on the end looked like Sigmund the Seamonster, a parade is a parade is a parade so we watched for only a short while.

Note:  All this morning there were shots/booms coming from the military base.  Loud shots and booms.  Not sure what is going on over there, but it is a pretty common occurrence.  The noise gets the dogs barking and also sets off car alarms.  Life is not quiet here.

Note 2:  It took two more visits to the internet office before our service was finally installed last week.  Life is not fast here either.

The Walk to Matt’s School

It is hard to describe the 4-mile route to Matt’s school, which we walked a few times in anticipation of his daily “commute” in an effort to find the most direct route to a non-direct place.  We found a good route and Matt has walked every day to school thus far and catches a cab home.  You can check out his blog to see some great sunrise pictures and video showing the start to his day.

We start, obviously, at our house in Baños del Inca and walk through the town.  Baños is small –we can easily walk around the entire town – and was the center of the expat community when there were more expats in the area.  Houses are crowded close together and, like ours, generally run right up to the sidewalk. The main street in town has countless tiny shops and restaurants on one side and a market and main square/park on the other.  We have become accustomed to walking around here, which was an adventure in and of itself at first.  Sidewalks suddenly end or have large holes or random steps here and there, and piles of rocks pop up in the way.  We have become pretty adept at navigating around Baños but still remain vigilant to avoid a broken ankle.

We rent the first two floors of our house.  Our neighbor’s entrance is on the adjacent side and then they go up the outside stairs to the third floor.  Maricarmen, her baby daughter and mother live there and are very nice.  Conveniently, Maricarmen’s husband is Mexican and while he is currently working out of town, she speaks English as a result!

Once out of Baños we take the walking path along Avenue Atahualpa, which is the main road between Baños and Cajamarca.  The path is decent and well used by walkers and joggers, and it would be a nice walk if not for the large amount of traffic (much diesel) on the road.

After about 1 1/3 miles is the turn off to Bella Union – a tiny hamlet.  At first glance, the road doesn’t look much worse than Av. Atahualpa, but come the rainy season it will be a rutted mess.

Matt taking the road to Bella Union

Now we are in the country.  A few cars go down this road, but not many, and we pass many farm families and countless animals.  The natural aspect is quite pretty and pastoral, but we wonder how these people live apparently so behind the times.  Just as we think that, a house will have DirectTV or a nice car in front of it.  This is my favorite part of the walk although the countless dogs make me nervous.  I would like to do this walk on my own, but am not sure that I will feel comfortable doing so without Matt.

After about another 1 1/3 miles we turn on a road that runs adjacent to the airport.  This road is well paved, but a nightmare to walk due to all the traffic.  We tried walking against the traffic, as taught in Wisconsin, and with the traffic, as they seem to do here, and neither makes for a safe-feeling walk.  We pass a large piece of Caterpillar equipment on this road, and the first time by we stopped to take a picture to send to Tommy.  Suddenly two dogs came running toward us, barking and teeth bared.  Thankfully a passing motorcyclist beeped at the dogs and they ran away.  The next time we didn’t linger but noticed that indeed the two dogs were guarding the Cat.Cat and Dog Airport

The airport road ends at Hoyas Rubio, which is the street with Matt’s school and finally we are back on a sidewalk for the last part of the walk.  If I could manage to get out of bed to leave at 5:50 am, I could join Matt on the the country part of the walk each day, but anyone who knows me that isn´t going to happen!

Davy College

Food Part 2 – Dining Out (Safe for Reading)

Apart from the cuy (see Food Part 1) Peruvian food is delicious: many fruits and vegetables (more on those in another post coming soon), meats of all kinds, seafood, excellent chicken, the best French fries ever, good bread, delicious seasonings.  The list goes on.  Peru is well known for its potatoes, there are over 1,000 varieties (and dozens in daily use), and cholco, which is corn with huge kernels.  Peruvians love their starches; many meals come with both French fries and rice, in addition to a roll or slice of bread.  Juice is also quite popular and while I have yet to find a food processor in a store, I have seen countless juicers and numerous street vendors sell freshly squeezed juices.

It is quite cheap to get a good meal in a restaurant.  A couple of weeks ago we had lunch at a cevicheria, La Base, in Cajamarca.  This time there were no French fries, but there were the best cancha, or corn nuts, ever.  These were freshly roasted and came to our table a little warm, crunchy on the outside and creamy/starchy on the inside.  Nothing like the hard teeth breakers we buy at the bar at home!  We each had the ceviche misto, which was a plate of fresh ceviche made with shrimp, octopus, and squid.  There were two root veggies on the plate, which appeared to be boiled, and cholco.  One root veggie was similar to a sweet potato and the other was white.  Neither of them did much for me, so I focused on the ceviche instead.  Total cost for the meal, including waters and a tip was 29 soles or $10.88.

Many restaurants offer only a special menu at the lunch hour.  The menu usually includes a roll; choice of salad or soup; a choice of entrée, often fried fish, breaded fish, lomo saltado (beef/veggie stir fry served over, you guessed it, French fries), chicken, a pork dish or cuy (we are done with that!); fresh juice and sometimes a dessert.  The entrée comes with a veggie and a starch or sometimes two starches.  Matt and I went to Tuna Café in Cajamarca and for 9 soles ($3.38) each we had the following: a roll, glass of fresh fruit juice, chicken soup or salad (we had soup, see the water blog), chicken with sautéed veggies and rice (Kerry) and a beef stew with rice (Matt), and a caramel pudding.  Everything was fresh and delicious and our entire meal and tip was under $10.

We have also had some lunch misses.  We have tried a few cheaper joints both in Banos and in Cajamarca.  At one place the daily lunch special  (soup, main dish, juice) was 4 soles and the food was not very good.  Plus the place was just too dirty for me to feel comfortable with the food and I kept hoping the soup had been boiled for 3 minutes!  We ate at another place in Cajamarca that was packed with locals for the 5 or 6 sole lunch, and while it was a little better, it was not a place we will return due to the lack of cleanliness and sub par food.  For the low price at a “good” place, we do not need to eat at a bad one!

One day we treated ourselves to lunch at one of the nicer restaurants in town, Querubino.  They do not serve a daily lunch special so we ordered off the menu.  I had a lovely fish, although I cannot now recall what kind, served with sautéed veggies and rice.  Matt had a beef carpaccio appetizer and a steak served with French fries and sautéed veggies.  We each had a drink and bottled water.  Total price was 87 soles or $31.32.

Rotisserie chicken is a specialty in the area due to the farming, and we have had excellent chicken both at home and in restaurants.  For 10 soles at our local restaurant we can get ¼ chicken, salad and French fries that are to die for.  Condiments are usually served with meals and while I have never been an American condiment fan (no ketchup, mustard, mayo or ranch dressing for me!), I love the Peruvian condiments.  Aji, is a pepper sauce and ranges from mild to really spicy.  Then there is an herb, garlic, olive oil sauce that is incredible.  Often there is a mayo type item and ketchup, but I ignore those.

We are doing our best to return to low carb eating, but it is difficult, if not impossible, with the type of foods prevalent here.  So we try to keep carbs like bread, sweets, rice or potatoes out of our house and to eat them in moderation when we are out.  I am never very successful with the French fries, though, and fear the cancha will be another one of my downfalls!

Water, Water Everywhere Nor Any Drop to Drink

It is hard getting used to not drinking the water.  While the water here is theoretically potable, it isn’t for us.  And not drinking includes: not brushing your teeth with it, not opening your mouth when you are in the shower or washing your face, not rinsing food with it, not having iced drinks when we are out.  We have a 20-liter container of bottled water that we use for these things, which costs 16 nuevos soles or $6.  So far it lasts about 6 days.  The good news is that to get a refill, we can just stop in or call our corner store and they deliver it.  A guy rides it over on his scooter, comes in and swaps out the old bottle for the new.  Udate: We found an even better deal – 10 soles for established delivery every week or we can call to get water more frequently.  This sale happened in what we are learning is the customary fashion – someone came to our house and when we said no the first time, came back a week later.  Door to door salespeople are common here and they appear to sell just about everything: cell/internet service, rugs, kitchen wares, stuffed animals and water.  The cell/internet people are canvassing the neighborhood in earnest these days and we get several knocks on our door a day from them.

Using bottled water isn’t the biggest hardship, but is a pain when you want to brush your teeth and need to run downstairs for some water.  We have also been advised not to eat fruits or uncooked vegetables in restaurants right now because they will have been washed in “bad” (for us) water.  Once we adjust a bit to the environment (i.e., dirt) around here, it should be less of a risk to eat those foods outside our house.

In the meantime, washing fruits and vegetables is a process.  First, I rinse them and then soak them in “bad” water and bleach, yes, bleach, for 5 minutes. Swish them around a bit, hope I don’t get bleach on my clothes and then rinse them with “good” water.  I need to rinse them thoroughly so they don’t taste like bleach, which uses quite a bit of good water.  So I am now experimenting with turning “bad” water into “good” water by boiling it for 3 minutes.  While the travel nurse told us 20 seconds was adequate boiling time, the CDC says 1 minute is needed and 3 minutes if at high altitude.  So let’s hope 3 minutes works otherwise Matt and I might be sick tomorrow from our dinner salad!