Weekend excursion to Ica and Huacachina!

As I mentioned at the end of my previous blog post, I headed away from Lima this past weekend for a small excursion to the city of Ica and visited the village of Huacachina.

The city of Ica is about a 4-hour bus ride away from Lima and is located on the Ica River, near the desert coast in the southern part of Perú. Near Ica is an oasis built surrounded by the village of Huacachina (which is the popular tourist spot because this is where you can find the Ica dunes for sandboarding and sand buggy rides). Ica is known for their winemaking, specifically for their source of Pisco (a type of brandy produced here).

I left for the city of Ica by bus on Friday afternoon (Cruz del Sur bus service, I would highly recommend it – they give free snacks and a beverage during the ride). The bus trip to get to Ica was about 4 and a half hours or so and it was a direct trip. I went with two other girls from my IFSA study abroad program so we all split the price for staying at our hostel in the city of Ica (we stayed at El Huerto Hostel, which I would also definitely recommend – there was free wifi and breakfast was included). The owners of the hostel, Juan and Olga, were both extremely kind and helped us in arranging our tour on Saturday to go to El Cañón de los Perdidos.

On Saturday, we woke up early to leave our hostel at 6:45am. We headed even further south, for about a 3 and a half hour long car ride away from the city of Ica to get to El Cañón de los Perdidos. El Cañón de los Perdidos (“Lost Canyon”) is located in the southeast of the district of Santiago in Ica province. Even though it was a long trip to get to the canyon, it was definitely worth it! Walking through the canyon was such a surreal experience (at times I literally felt like I was in the movie Holes because we were basically in the middle of nowhere in the desert). Up above me I could see the black vultures flying around and seeing the lagoon in the middle of the canyon was spectacular. I don’t really have words to describe the experience of walking through the canyon so I’ll leave some photos below so that you can see just how amazing it really was.

We left the canyon around 12:30 and got back to the city of Ica at about 3pm. In the evening, after recovering from our long trip to and from the canyon, we decided to head over to Huacachina and catch a glimpse of the sunset (See photos below! It was INCREDIBLE!). We then went for a Pisco tasting in which we had the chance to sample 6 different kinds of Pisco. The two that I remember best are the Rosé and the straight Pisco shot. The Pisco shot was disgusting and burned my throat (even though it was a tiny amount, it was super strong). After the sampling and information on how the Pisco is made, we were able to buy the different liqueurs if we wanted to. My friend took advantage of the opportunity and bought a bottle of the Rosé for only 30 soles (that’s $9 USD, pretty cheap for a bottle of wine… you aren’t gonna get those kinds of prices for a bottle of wine back in the states that’s for sure).

On Sunday we spent the entire day at the village of Huacachina. This might have been my favorite day thus far in Perú because of the dune buggy ride and just in general, having the opportunity to be at the sand dunes. With the sand dunes surrounding the oasis, Huacachina is a place that just feels so calming and picturesque. The dune buggy ride was like being on a roller coaster. Our driver, Ricardo, went so fast (I guess my screaming didn’t bother him too much because he was NOT slowing that buggy down at all). I’m not gonna lie, I got scared to do sandboarding once I was at the top of the sand dune and looked down. I saw how steep the slope was and I just could not get myself to do the sandboarding; however, my friends both did it.

Now that I’ve described all of this in such immense detail, it’s time for some pictures (the best part, of course)!

El Cañón de los Perdidos

Sunset at Huacachina (it was even more incredible in person, trust me)

The oasis at Huacachina  

Pisco tasting…

Huacachina and dune buggy riding Ricardo (our driver) is the guy in the middle 


Long time, no blog post: brief recap of what’s been going on this past week here in Perú!

Hi again everyone! I am back with a new blog post (finally!). I apologize for not posting anything in the past week and a half or so but I’ve been extremely busy with studying for my Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú midterms (which are now over – phew).

So instead of making a super long post about each day in the past week, I decided I’ll just give a brief summary to touch on some things I’ve been doing (outside of studying for my midterms, of course).

Since I did need to study a lot last weekend because the education system is different here from that of my home university (Bryn Mawr College), I didn’t really get a chance to explore anywhere outside of Miraflores; however, I did have the opportunity to find some interesting new food places around my neighborhood.

Last Saturday I took a little study break midday and had my first Peruvian taco experience! (See photo below – sorry this wasn’t the highest quality picture of my taco but it was honestly such a good taco, the photo does NOT do it justice). It was different from a typical Mexican taco because it was much larger and they really stuffed it inside with a lot of chorizo and chicken (I got a “Taco Mixto” so it came with chorizo, chicken, some beans, cheese, and some other fillings). There was no sour cream in it but instead there was mayonnaise and even ketchup for some reason (not really complaining though, it was still pretty delicious!). To me, it was more like a burrito than a taco.

On Sunday, my entire IFSA group went out for dinner together. We had “Comida Arabe” (Arabic Food) at a place called Tierra Santa right here in Miraflores (See photos below!). Half of our group ordered the banquet style dinner to share several different dishes. I was loving the grape leaves – they were probably my favorite part. Oh, and the hummus with falafel of course! Nothing could really ever compare to the falafel I had when I was in Israel but all in all, it was still super tasty!

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I had to take my midterms at college but now that they’re over, I can finally relax a bit for the weekend. I’ve decided to take a small weekend trip (or should I call it a vacation?) to Ica and Huacachina this weekend until Sunday so I will be sure to post upon my return to Lima to give updates and details about how my trip went!

FINALLY… here are those pictures of the delicious foods I mentioned in the above post:

Taco Mixto  Grape Leaves!  Comida Arabe The HUMMUS  Group Selfie… 

Visit to La Punta, Callao this past weekend

This past weekend was a longer weekend here in Lima because yesterday (Monday, October 8th) was a “Feriado” (Holiday). It was “Batalla de Angamos”, a battle that was fought between the navies of Chile and Perú at Punta Angamos on October 8th, 1879.

Since it was a longer weekend, I decided to take advantage of some of my extra free time and visit another district here in Lima: La Punta. La Punta is one of the seven districts that makes up Callao. It is a pretty cool spot here in Lima because it is practically surrounded by water (the Pacific Ocean). It was extremely quiet and empty there this weekend when I went. I am not completely sure if it is always as quiet as it was this past Saturday but I honestly really enjoyed the serenity and peace I experienced while being there. Perhaps due to the cloudiness there were less people at La Punta than usual. It’s definitely a place that I’m looking forward to returning to as the sun starts to come out and the weather warms up.

The beach at La Punta is different from the typical sandy beaches that I am used to back in the states. This is because the beach at La Punta is “una playa de piedras”, composed of little pebbles and rocks. I wasn’t able to actually go into the water this past weekend because it’s still a bit too cold for that. Nevertheless, the view of the water from La Punta was spectacular and I’m so glad that I took the time to make this trip this weekend.

From Miraflores, it was about an hour and a half bus ride (took two buses to get there).

Below are some pictures I took while at La Punta. My lunch pictured below was a plate of Arroz Chaufa con Pescado (the tastiest fish I’ve had here thus far!).

La playa de piedras – Punta, Callao, Perú (you can see what I mean about how cloudy it was…)  Another part of La PuntaLunch: Arroz Chaufa con Pescado (YUM!) Some other photos I took while walking around Callao/La Punta:

Volunteering at Hospital de niños, San Borja

My blog post for today will discuss my first day of volunteering at my NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) for my semester abroad in Perú.

One of the requirements (and benefits) of my study abroad program is that each student must meet a certain number of hours either through volunteering to work with a NGO (many of which have partnered with IFSA-Butler in past semesters) or doing an individual research project on a theme pertaining to Peruvian Social Reality. Each volunteer organization that partners with my study abroad program focuses on different aspects of Peruvian Social Reality, making it easier for students to find an organization that will be best suited for them and their own personal interests. The goal is that by the end of the semester, each student will have gained enough understanding regarding a certain theme in Perú to be able to develop and give a final report on this topic (this final report makes up a significant part of our final course grade in our Peruvian Social Reality class this semester).

Originally, I wasn’t entirely sure about what I wanted to do for my volunteer work this semester while in Lima. I knew there was an option to go and work at the Huaca Pucllana (an archaeological site here in Miraflores – see my previous post “Miraflores – my home for the semester” for more info.). While I knew that the Huaca would’ve been convenient and a great experience I wasn’t completely sold on the fact that it was going to be the volunteer work best suited for me. I was also thinking a lot about potentially what I may want to do after college and even though I’m really not at all certain at the moment about what that will be, I do know that a career in teaching might be a possibility. For a teaching career, I know that having experience with working with kids is never a bad idea. This is one of the reasons that ultimately led me to choose to volunteer at the Hospital de niños in San Borja.

The Hospital de niños is located in San Borja in Lima. The children who come to this hospital are mostly from poorer areas of Lima or are children who have been referred to this hospital from other hospitals within’ the country. These are children who need serious medical attention and most likely have come to the hospital in San Borja because it is one of the few hospitals in the region where they can receive this kind of proper care.

As a volunteer at the hospital, my job is quite simple yet still extremely rewarding. Basically, we just have to entertain the children as they wait for their appointment in the hospital. Upon arrival, we (myself and the two other volunteers from my program who come on Fridays) are asked to bring small tables and chairs to the hospitals’ waiting room along with some materials for drawing/coloring and playing games/assembling puzzles. While the kids are in the waiting room with their parents, we as volunteers supervise the kids as they color in drawing print-outs or assemble puzzles that we’ve provided them with.

Since the parents of the kids are there with them, we as volunteers are not really in any way babysitting the kids; however, we do interact with the children and make sure they are enjoying themselves while waiting to go in for their appointments. Going to a hospital can be a very scary experience and dealing with any kind of sickness is no fun so it made me really happy to see the many smiling faces of these children as they were coloring in their drawings this morning. Not to mention, the kids were all extremely creative. When we ran out of print-outs to color in at one point, several of the kids just took it upon themselves to use the back of the paper and make their own original drawings from scratch.

I am looking forward to returning to the hospital in the coming weeks as I continue with my volunteer program. I am particularly interested in learning about the children on a more personal level. I am also able to observe a lot from my surroundings when I am in places like this where I know that the children who are coming in come from more impoverished areas of the country. I will most likely add more blog posts later on to capture the details of my experiences at the hospital throughout coming weeks.

Here are some pictures from today’s visit to the hospital.  I didn’t take any photos of the kids in the waiting room as they were drawing because it didn’t seem appropriate.

Oh yes, and I forgot to mention… being on your feet and working with kids for 3 hours straight definitely makes you hungry so I went to a “Chifa” (Peruvian Chinese Restaurant) along with the two other volunteers from my program afterwards. See photos below!

View of hospital de niños, San Borja from the bridge I walk across at Rosa Toro:

Ready for our first day of volunteering (the orange aprons are required for volunteers to wear so they can identify us while we are there):  “Chifa” lunch afterwards… worked up quite the appetite: 

Sopa de Wonton 
Chaufa con Frejolito Chino 

My visit to Lugar de la Memoria, Miraflores (LUM – Lugar de la Memoria, la Tolerancia y la Inclusión Social)

Today after finishing my class at the university, I had the chance to stop by a museum right here in Miraflores – El Lugar de la Memoria, la Tolerancia y la Inclusión Social (The Place of Memory, Tolerance and Social Inclusion). I had been wanting to check this museum out ever since seeing Claudia Llosa’s film La Teta Asustada (The Milk of Sorrow) in my IFSA-Butler Advanced Writing course and learning about the violence that took place in Ayacucho (an area in south-central Perú) as a result of the Sendero Luminoso and MRTA (Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement). Before visiting the museum, I had been thinking a lot about how we recuperate memories of the past and the importance of looking back at the past in order to be able to reflect on history and ultimately improve for the future. Despite the difficulty that is presented to us upon looking back at the ugly parts of a country’s history, it is ultimately what helps us to fully understand and be well informed about society.  For this reason, going to El Lugar de la Memoria was a very enriching experience for me, as I was able to enhance my understanding of Perú’s past through the photographs I saw and the audios that I heard.

The museum consists of three floors and a basement. The first floor is devoted to Perú during the years of 1980-2000, showing the origins of this violent era as well as how it impacted the educational system. Also, something which I really liked on the first floor was that there were testimonies from actual people who were victims of the violence inflicted by terrorists in the country. Hearing people from different communities throughout the country share their own stories in these testimonies was really moving to me because they were speaking their personal truths (See the photo below to read brief descriptions of each person’s testimony).

I actually spent a lot of time checking out the first floor today and decided that I am going to return to the museum another day in order to check out the second and third floors more thoroughly. I will probably make another post later on that connects to this post so that I can follow-up and describe more about the second and third floors.

As I already mentioned, the museum itself is a lot to take in at once considering that this was a very difficult part of Perú’s history.  Thus, it can be extremely tough for Peruvians to revisit this traumatic past and even my host parents here have made it very clear to me that they have absolutely no interest in visiting the museum.

Here are some photos that I took during my visit to the museum (not too many actually because it didn’t feel like the kind of museum visit where you really want to take pictures). The first photo I’ve included is the one with the descriptions of different victims testimonies, as mentioned in the above post: 

Miraflores – my home for the semester

In this second post, I wanted to talk a little bit more about the district of Lima in which I am staying for the semester, Miraflores.

Miraflores is one of the more touristy districts within’ Lima Province with restaurants, bars, cafés, nightclubs, and plenty of shopping too of course. San Isidro and Barranco are neighbors to Miraflores, just a short bus ride away. Additionally, La Huaca Pucllana, which is a pre-Incan ruin is located in Miraflores and at the beginning of my program I had the opportunity to take a tour of this archaeological site. I wish I could share some photos I took during my tour at La Huaca Pucllana but unfortunately, my phone with the pictures from la Huaca got stolen during a bus ride into school one morning last month. I guess this just gives me a reason to go back to visit la Huaca at some point during the next two months while I am still here!

One of my personal favorite spots to go to in Miraflores has to be Parque Kennedy, which is literally a five minute walk away from where my house is located. I love spending weekends walking through the park and looking at the exhibitions that are going on. There is also an amphitheatre towards the center of the park where often times you’ll find music playing and couples dancing.

By far, one of the best parts about living in Miraflores and specifically where my house is located has to be the view of the Pacific ocean. This is a view that I realized I haven’t really been taking full advantage of during my time here just yet, which is probably due to the fact that it’s still been pretty chilly here in Lima. However, as it warms up I am sure that I will start to seriously appreciate how close my house is to the water.

Picture time now! Take a look below to see some photographs of the places I’ve been spending my time at while here in Miraflores: