Packers Party in Peru

What a weekend: Torch Festival, More Baños Bash, House Party, School APAFA (PTO) Fundraiser and Packers Party!  Good thing I am leaving for the States today for the wedding of our dear friends, Angela and Craig, so I can relax.  Those of you who know me know how likely that is. :-)

Matt already blogged on the first half of our weekend, so if you haven’t read it yet, check out his post and pictures here: http://mattgeiger.blogspot.com/2013/09/torch-parade-18th-anniversary-green-bay.html

It is true what they say about Latin time.  Saturday night we went to a birthday party at a teacher’s house, which was a lot of fun, but we needed to leave to go to the school fundraiser.  The party started at 8:00 and we knew we would be the first ones there when we arrived at 8:40.  But I also knew the American hostess is always ready early so we would be welcome.  We left the birthday party at 11:15 pm, shortly after many guests had just arrived.  In the States, Matt would usually be asleep by 11:15 even if we were at a party, so the fact that we got to another one after that time was pretty impressive for us.

TicketWe didn’t know what to expect from the fundraiser and it was unlike any in the States.  It was held in a large pavillion and as we walked up to the gate, the security from Matt’s school greeted us and allowed us into the courtyard.   (There is a lot of private security in Peru.  Many businesses and even private homes have security guards.  People do not leave their homes unattended; Olga stays at our house if we are out of town.) In the courtyard there was a small food stand where anticuchos (skewed beef hearts, which are a typical street food) were cooking over a fire. ¨That’s odd,” I remarked, “who is eating out here?  The staff?”  We entered the chilly pavilion where the band was in full swing and the dance floor was rocking (or salsa-ing).  We stopped at the bar and discovered that our options were beer, soda or bottles of booze.  We each had a beer and settled in at a table with Matt’s boss and his wife to check out the scene.  It was very nice, but noticeably different.  First, people dance here.  Even the men.  While there are still groups of women dancing, I have never seen so many men dance and people dance like they know what they are doing.  Also, Peruvians like to party: last year the party lasted until 4:00 am and the organizers were shooting for 6:00 am this year.  And all these people have kids! Then, there is the Loca Hora, where they hand out balloons, masks and noisemakers and people go crazy.  Apparently that happens around 2:00 am, but we left before then.  Finally, we found out the anticuchos in the courtyard were the available food, and you went outside to buy them.  Earlier in the evening they also had papas rellenas, but those were gone by the time we arrived. So while there was food, drink and music, like in the States, everything was just a hair different that made it distinctly a Peruvian Party.

Baños has been utter chaos this week with the festival.  It is as though we live in West Allis during the Wisconsin State Fair but can’t make any money parking cars on our lawn.  Bands, fireworks, parades and crowds last into the wee hours.  On Saturday we arrived home just in time to watch the 12:45 a.m. firework display from the corner of our house.

On Sunday, in preparation for the Packers Party,  I had my first high altitude baking disasters.  Yes, plural.  For my first attempt, I made high altitude adjustments and the orange loaf cake was tasty, but flat.  It puffed up on the sides and then collapsed.  So for the second cake, I skipped the high altitude adjustments and had a cake explosion. I managed to salvage the cake, but post-explosion it became a very flat, chocolate bundt cake and some super flat brownies.  So my research continues into baking at 8700 feet!

As we were finishing up our final preparations for the Peruvian Packers Party, a crowd began to gather in front of our house.  Suspecting that the locals were not trying to horn in on American football, we headed to our balcony and discovered a procession in honor of Saint Mary of the Nativity.  The procession was confusing.  First, there were Atahualpa and his crew.  Given that Pisarro, with the blessing from the Pope, wiped out the Incan empire by first slaughtering Atahualpa after double crossing him when the Incans paid his agreed upon ransom of silver and gold, we weren’t sure why he would be hanging around in a Catholic procession.

Then there were these guys, whose significance remains a mystery.  Even more mysterious is why they began to build the worst human pyramid ever.

Finally there was the mini me of Santa Maria before the real deal.  All very confusing to us, but we had a great view and enjoyed the action.

Santa Maria close up

Santa Maria close up

The Packer Party was a great success, despite the final score.  Matt explained the rules to our Peruvian guests while I explained what chili and cheddar cheese and beer dip were.  The food was well received, but we are not sure whether we converted any soccer fans to football!

The Baños festival wound down last night at 3:30 am!  No fireworks, but the band played on.  Many vendors remain in the square but life seems to be reverting to normal.

Back to the Baños Bash

The party has continued all week here in Baños, and every day we are surprised by the latest happenings.  More vendors arrive daily although the newcomers have brought cheap clothes, jewelry,  kitchenware, shoes, hardware etc. as opposed to the nice craft goods the initial vendors have.  The town has been unbelievably crowded and tonight some of the main streets are closed.  The party is currently rocking, and the music will likely last until at least 2:00 am.  We went for about an hour earlier tonight after a function at Matt’s school, and the band was a lot of fun.  The crowd is drunk – very similar to a Wisconsin church festival – and several people offered us beers as we are a novelty.  This guy also was trying to get Matt to trade hats (he didn’t) while his drunk friend insisted on dancing with me.  They drove 6 hours for the festival.  I didn’t ask, but I suspect they will be sleeping in the square tonight.

photo (2)Matt and his new friend.  And hat.

At some point this weekend there will be fireworks, which are launched from these rickety structures.  Actually, many of them aren’t launched, rather they will wildly spin on the structure.  It is really cool to see although a bit mind boggling to have fireworks set off in the middle of town.  The first time we saw one of these structures, we thought a float was being built.   It is unclear when the fireworks are, but I am sure we will hear them. :-)

 Earlier in the week, I came upon a scene that appeared to be a product expo of some kind.  New tents suddenly appeared on the perimeter of the square and contained booths with what appeared to be regional products, including cuy, flowers, corn, potatoes, beans, textiles, and honey.  There were crowds of people taking photos and some booths were giving out literature (not to me as I clearly wasn’t the target audience).  Nothing was being sold at that time although later that evening I saw one or two of the textile booths selling their wares.  I couldn’t stay long as I had to get to my volunteer gig, so I didn’t exactly figure out what was going on.  Most impressive were the different varieties of potatoes and corn.

It is very difficult to find good pots here as they are either small or flimsy, so I went native with this one from the fair.  For $16 the price can’t be beat so I didn’t even have the heart to barter.  I made chili in it today for the Green Bay Packers party we are throwing on Sunday – tasty!

Traditional pot

Traditional pot

I finally had my churros.  A few nights ago, Renzo’s Pizza, one of the vanishing restaurants that Matt has wanted to try, was open for the first time since we moved here, so we went there for dinner.  It was horrible – the crust was okay and toppings were fine, but the sauce was some awful brown sauce.  We couldn’t identify the taste, but it was bad.  I really miss Lalli’s Pizza in Wauwatosa!  So as a consolation we stopped at the fair for churros.  They were delicious.

The fair lasts through Sunday, so I am sure we will check it out again this weekend.  Who knows what we will find!

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.  http://mattgeiger.blogspot.com/

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

Heading to Our New Home

We made it to Cajamarca yesterday around 4:30 and were met by Henry and Cruz from the school. Their vehicle wasn’t big enough for our baggage and the people in charge of the cargo were “working on the plane” so we went to the hotel with only our carry ons. Last night we ate dinner and went to bed at 8:30! It was wonderful to get a full night of sleep.

It is winter in Peru, but by Wisconsin standards, the Cajamarca weather is really nice. Very dry, sunny, lows at night in the 30s and up to 70 during the day. The hardest thing will be to remember to wear sunscreen and hats given how close we are to the equator and to limit our time outside at first until we are acclimated. Summer weather will be about the same as winter weather but in the 50s at night. Summer is the rainy season, which allegedly runs from February through April although it extended much longer this past year. Regardless of season, the temperature doesn’t appear to get above 72 degrees due to our altitude (around 8900 feet).

Our next few days will be spent getting our house in order, setting up our bank account, ordering services etc. We just heard from Cruz that Henry picked up all of our baggage and it is waiting for us at home. Yippee! All the good thoughts, prayers and vibes paid off!

I am not sure when our internet connection will be live or whether we will have any wifi access at school, so this may be my last post for awhile. Hasta luego!