little sarah Big World

Tag: travel

Lake Titicaca

~OR~

Things We’ve Been Giggling About Since Gradeschool

So. After much travel, we arrived in Puno. The bus ride was brutal, but Josh slept the whole time, giving me and Brett a chance to talk through some things and then just…talk. It was nice. Like old times, us giving each other relationship advice and teasing and being open.

But then Josh was a total dick to me at our hostel, so much so that I immediately signed up for an overnight tour that left at 7:30 the next morning, despite still being sick, just to get away from him. I may have also gone to a locutorio to call Kevin and cry. And then cried myself to sleep. Okay, yeah, both those things definitely happened. I was just so, so tired, Friends. So exhausted, and both Brett and Josh snore like chainsaws, and it is draining to stay positive in the face of so much cruelty and illness and stress. This was probably my lowest point, the point at which I most regretted having gone to South America in the first place. It was a long, dark night.

Sleep found me at last, however, and the next morning I was up and at ’em, on a boat with about a dozen strangers from all over the world.

Lake Titicaca, a place that my tittering eight-year-old self could never have dreamed I’d actually visit one day.

That green stuff growing in the water is totora, a reed that the people of Uros use to make just about everything, including their floating, movable homes and boats.

They have to continually replenish their islands, adding a new layer of freshly-cut totora over the top of the old dried stuff every week. You can also eat it, which of course I did. The taste is pleasant, somewhat reminiscent of jicama, but with a more fibrous, watery texture.

We stopped off at one of the islands, where we were given a demonstration (using miniatures) of life on Uros. They used to make domed houses, which last longer, but also take a lot longer to make. So now they make A-frame-type houses. They also make boats out of the totora, but filled with recycled plastic bottles, to help them float and cut down on the reeds needed, a detail that I found hopeful–using the trash of modern society to improve upon age-old trades and traditions.

All was not hopeful, however, as there was a pervasive sense that we were there to GIVE THEM MONEY. A lot of pressure to buy tchotchkies, trinkets, souvenirs, etc. Basically, the whole of Uros floating islands depends on tourism, and don’t they know it. It was sad to see them essentially whoring themselves out to a constant stream of tourists in an attempt to reconcile their culture with a modern economy and disconcerting (to say the least) to be seen as a walking ATM, though my fellow boat-mates didn’t seem to notice or mind.

When it was time to go, the women and girls of our little island for the day lined up to sing us a song, first in Spanish, then in Quechua (their native language). At the end, they said “Hasta la vista, babies!”

Everyone laughed, but I wanted to cry.

What can I say? I’m a sensitive gal.

I did, however, enjoy riding on a totora raft while young men from all over the world rowed and reclined, in turn, glistening in the sun.

Just so you know I’m well-balanced.

Tacna, Peru

~OR~

What 24+ Hours of Travel Looks Like

After San Pedro, we were headed to Puno, Peru, which would take about 18 hours if you could drive straight there. But it took us over 24. And why is that? Border crossing, bus schedules, and lies. Or, “the story of Peru.” Basically, there is no direct route, and so we wound up passing a few hours in Tacna, the first town after you cross the Chile-Peru border.

We left San Pedro at about 8:30 at night and arrived in Arica, Chile at about 5am. Then we waited for the border-crossing to open at 8, while I talked to an old French guy about his various lovers spread throughout Europe. Anything was better than being ignored by B & J, I figured, and plus I got to practice my (rustier-than-I’d-thought) French.

Once the border crossing opened up, we took a 5-minute bus from Arica to the border, where we got off and went through various lines and inspections. (Fun fact: my lime didn’t make it through but Josh’s orange did). Then we got back on the bus and drove another 5 minutes or so to Tacna, where we spent the morning walking around, eating, and buying snacks in the market for our forth-coming bus ride to Puno.

Brett and Josh pointed out that the market in this little border town (which Lonely Planet doesn’t seem to think very much of) was nicer than any market in Asuncion, the Paraguayan capital. It wasn’t a bad place to spend a few hours, and we met some nice people at the tourist agency (our first) who basically made our trip to Puno/Lake Titicaca possible.

From here, the bus ride was supposed to be only 5 hours, but we didn’t arrive in Puno until long after dark–tired, cold, and hungry. It was on this bus ride that I resorted to ripping blank pages out of the book I was reading (Committed, by Elizabeth Gilbert) to blow my nose.

Which is equal parts sad and resourceful.

San Pedro de Atacama

~OR~

Back to South America

Not literally, of course. Who knows when I’ll go back? Maybe never. I’ve fully submitted myself to the whims of chance. Mostly out of laziness, but still.

The point is, I will now be writing about my adventures in the past tense (and damn glad of it, but more on that later).

*       *       *

When we last left off, I was on top of Macchu F***ing Pichu! What?! YES. And before that I was in La Serena. But we’ve skipped a part, Friends! Lots of parts, actually, so don’t get too set on more Macchu Pichu photos right this instant. You’ll have to wait for those. Patience, Friends.

Anyways, in addition to sunbathing and reading, Brett and I enjoyed other activities in La Serena. Namely, getting sick. Brett spent most of the time in La Serena sleeping and grumbling, while I went for runs and read outside and took photos. Then I woke up with a sore throat, the day that we left, and followed that with the most miserable overnight bus-ride of my life. Only to arrive in San Pedro de Atacama (pictured above), with aches and chills.

Let me tell you, the Chilean desert is not a great place to nurse a sore throat.

But there were kitties!

And there was an overpriced barbecue which I signed up for mainly for the 3 glasses of wine. Because drinking when I’m sick eases my symptoms, although Brett’s friend Josh unkindly informed me that it’s “really bad for you.” Whatever. He also said that your lymph nodes under your neck are tonsils, so…

The hostel we stayed at (pictured above) was actually not too bad a place to be sick–plenty of sunshine, hammocks, hot water for up to 3 minutes, etc. They organized all sorts of excursions and events, like the barbecue, and we met friendly and interesting people from all over the world–a Chilean astrophysicist/musician, an English couple who’d saved up for years and then quit their jobs to travel together for a year, some pleasant girls from Iceland…lots of stories there.

The astrophysicist was named Sebastian, and he gave me my first charango lesson then cancelled plans with his friends to have dinner with me. I wrote in my journal that I was pretty sure he was into me, but that I just wanted a change of company and a solid, vegan meal.

You see, it was in San Pedro that I began to seriously reconsider traveling with Brett and Josh. But that’s another story…

*       *       *

To be continued!

¡Hola de España! no.3‏

This one was by far my favorite, which is why I reproduced it verbatim in the zine. But I’m also still going to post it here, just because. So far you’ve only missed:

¡Hola de España!

¡Hola de España! #2

*       *       *

¡¿Que tal, todo el mundo?! Speaking of which, ‘que tal’ is a phrase that is used all the time here (like ‘que pasa’), and yet none of us is quite sure what it means. It seems to mean both ‘how are you doing?’ and ‘how did it go?’ All I know is that if you reply ‘bien’ (‘well’), you’re in the clear. Maybe you can help me out on this one, Carolita.

In other news, Im broke. Well, not yet, but my money is basically just evaporating, and I think we all know that I’m far from being an extravagant spender. And I thought I was going to have this temporary nanny job in Madrid in July, but that didn’t pan out. So I’m going to try my hand at street-musician-hood (which is legal here…I´m pretty sure). There’s this older man who’s always playing his violin in the shopping district, and I’m about as good as he is, but I think I’ll play over near the cathedral, because I need to claim my own turf. And besides, I won’t need to use sheet music like he does, because I’ve got my shit MEMORIZED (and because I didn’t pack my stand).

Also, Beatriz just put on SO MUCH perfume. Like 15 spritzes. I don’t even know. I couldn’t count. But it smells good.

And now for some observations:

-When the cross-walk sign here goes from little green man to flashing little green man (before it’s little red man), it flashes, like, TWO TIMES. So there is no time to fool around and you have to run. However, the time between when the light turns red for the cars to stop and when the little green man appears for the ‘peatones’ (pedestrians) to go is FOREVER. It’s so long. And some people jaywalk while others don’t. I do if I’m in a hurry.

-The dogs here are full of personality. They’re all over the city and off the leash, just walking down the street with their owners like ‘Oh, hey, what´s up? Yeah, me? I´m just goin’ for a walk with my human pal, no biggie.’ It’s awesome. I want to steal one.

-All of the children here are immaculately dressed. They’ve all got cardigans and knee-high socks and leather shoes and it looks like from the forties but it’s now and I want to steal one of these, too. Dashiel says I should pick a young one so it won’t have memories of its parents.

-All of the grandmas in this city have their grandkids in the afternoon, out and about. All of them. Or so it seems.

-The word for refrigerator here is ‘frigerifico’ which translates to ‘fridgerific’ which translates to ‘awesome word.’ Almost as cool as ‘autostopista’ (hitch-hiker)

-and this one’s an anecdote: My mom here has this spray that she does in the kitchen after her boyfriend smokes a cigarette, or really just whenever she feels like it, and anything that isn’t on lockdown (i.e. in the refrigerator or sealed by me and not her) gets the spray in it and then it tastes and smells like chemicals for ever after. Like this turrón candy that she keeps pushing on me. Or the sandwich bread. The other night she made me a ham and cheese sandwich and it tasted like poison, so I was trying to eat as little as possible while still being polite, and then she offered to toast it, which either evaporated the chemically-ness or just singed it deeper into the food, but either way I ate it and I’m too wussy to be like ‘Listen, Beatriz, it’s about the slow poisoning that you’re accidentally imposing on us…’

And now it’s midnight and I need to go to bed because I have to get up at 6ish to catch a bus to Bilbao. Woo! This is our free weekend, and I’m going to Bilbao and then to San Sebastian with the twins and a quiet boy named Kevin. We did fake interviews in pairs today in conversation class (in Spanish), and we all had to draw a famous person’s name out of a hat for who the interviewee would be. I was the interviewer in my pair and Katrina was Madonna. We won. She just kept saying ‘Madonna IS Kabalah, she IS yoga’ and I guess I did a good job of being the caring/concerned host (‘¿Cómo estás, Madonna? ¿Cómo. Es. TÁS?’). Kevin was Cookie Monster, and he played it totally straight, like ‘Well, I usually just hang around Sesame Street with my friends, Elmo and Oscar–he lives in the trash–and we count to ten, or we talk about different letters, like M, or maybe S.’ I thought I was going to pee my pants.

And that´s all for now! Oh, there’s so much more to write about! Later, though, later. I love you all! ¡Hasta luego!

-Sarah

p.s. Those of you who are receiving this for the first time: Yeah, that’s because I decided you should recieve this now.

¡Hola de España! #2‏

Need to catch up? So far you’ve only missed:

¡Hola de España!

¡Hola, Todo el Mundo! So, tomorrow I will have been here for a week, and that´s interesting and strange for me to think about. I oscillate back and forth between feeling like ‘I have plenty of time and so much has happened already and it´s only been a week and I still have four more weeks here to do so many other things and I´m going to learn so much!’ and like ‘A week has already passed and there´s still so much to do and I´m running out of time and I´m not going to be able to do everything that I want and I´m not learning nearly enough and I´m not going to learn hardly anything!’ You know, but that´s just me, and Beatriz assures me that I´m already speaking so much better, and I know that I´m comprehending a ton more.

But I should point out that both Beatriz and my professor thank it´s funny that, as well as we speak (in level four), none of us knows basic vocab, like for the names of different articles of clothing, or the names of animals. I don´t know, I´ve just never learned that stuff and never really needed to know it before. So I´m gaining lots of vocab.

We all sort of feel like kids again though. I´ll tell you how my days go, and then you´ll see. I wake up and get ready and Beatriz is already up and has layed out breakfast like in those cereal commercials where they´re like ‘part of a complete breakfast,’ and you´re like ‘I thought cereal WAS a complete breakfast…’ Then she gives me a snack to take to school, and then I walk to school with this girl named Jeanine and then I have school from 9:30 to 2, and in school we learn the names of animals and how to descibe people´s faces and we play games. Then after school everyone goes home to eat lunch with their families and I eat with Beatriz and we watch the news and chat about the world and our days (I guess that part is a bit more adult). Then I take a nap, and then I practice violin, and then I hang out with my friends until dinner (at 10). Then I come home, eat dinner and chat with Beatriz and Eusebio (her novio). And then I do my homework and go to bed. I feel about twelve.

The exception is last night, though, when we drank beer. The majoritiy of the students in my program want to party, and a lot of the dudes are on a perpetual quest for weed, and I keep having to explain that ‘I´m a prude and I may have a beer but I´m not going to get drunk.’ Last night we wound up at a bar with all of the other students (something we´ve been trying to avoid), and they were WASTED and LOUD, and it sucked. There´s about 4 others who (like the twins and I) don´t want to party, but even that turns me off, because I know I won´t make any Spanish friends in such a large group, and that´s what I really want. Sometimes I even feel stifled with just me and the twins. So I´m going to start taking afternoon walks by myself to try and meet some Spanish kids (if it ever stops RAINING!).

Okay, really long e-mail, so I guess this is enough for now. ¡Hasta Luego!

-Love, Sarah

p.s. Mom, can you forward this to Steve. I lost his e-mail address already. Also, can you send whatever Netflix just came for me back? I put my account on hold, but that doesn´t go into effect until they get that back. Thank you!

 p.p.s Spanish speakers: today we went on an excursion, and I was like ‘Man, I want to hacer me some senderismo’ Thought that was funny.

*       *       *

Stay tuned for more blasts from the past!

Santiago de Noche

-OR-

Piscola and TariTA

Eight hours on bus, after I had double-checked that it would only be 5 1/2, and Brett was still miraculously waiting for me at the station. I’ve never been so happy to see anyone in all my life. He waited for 2 1/2 hours. Big, big hugs and bigger smiles.

We made it to Giuseppe (our host)’s house, dropped my stuff, went out for a walk. I finally bought two of the four things I wished I’d packed–a cardigan and a scarf. (The other two would be my pocket alarm and my camera battery charger. Ah, well). Then we ate dinner, plus a bottle of wine, at an Italian place. So far, Chile is cheaper than Argentina, and I’m okay with that.

I was feeling pretty groggy after the wine and wanted to just stay home and turn in early, but Giuseppe Sr. made me a pisco sour (the national drink, more or less), and I rallied by (inexpertly) taking pulls off of  Brett’s cigarette. Then we went with Giuseppe to a planning party/drinking fest at his friend’s house with a bunch of members of Rotaract (like JV Rotary Club).

We drank piscola (the JV national drink, and much better than Spain’s calimocho), danced, talked, and played drinking games until the host’s mom came home and bade us goodbye. Then it was: giggling on a public bus, late night french fries, and a good, long sleep in a bed while Brett snored.

It’s good to be with friends in a welcoming country.

Crossing the Border

-OR-

8 Hours in a Camioneta

So I thought I could save time and money by taking a van from Mendoza to Santiago, instead of one of the big, plush tourbuses.

But it still took a full 8 hours, and I probably only saved $10. Ah, well. The scenery was lovely, and then van was surprisingly comfortable.

Even if customs took, like, 3 hours. No joke. It was worth it.

Welcome to Chile.

First Day and Night

~OR~

Introduction to Buenos Aires

Spent the afternoon out walking around with Jose, after napping for 2 hours on his bed.

I must seem so non-plussed to him, but really it’s just…I don’t know.

I guess I don’t feel any radical changes right now, despite being in a foreign country.

I guess it’s pretty weird that yesterday I was in the Spring and now I’m in the Fall. That, at least, continues to blow my mind.

Couch Surfing 101

~OR~

I Made It!

After over an hour sitting on the runway in Salt Lake, a 3 hour flight, a 2 hour layover in Houston, a 10 hour FREEZING and stiff neck-inducing flight, an hours bus ride, missed connections and several frantic locutorio/couchsurfing/skype communications…I’m here. Safe with my couchsurfing host, Jose, in his apartment.

…in Buenos Aires.

Because, you know, this is what I do. Getting to know the Big World, one random, crazy adventure at a time.