1 Year Ago Today

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One year ago today, I landed in Cusco, Peru.  I cannot believe it’s been an entire year since that day!  I wanted to take some time to reflect back on that trip.  People often say that seeing the world has the power to change you.  I think about my trip to Peru almost every single day.  Despite some not-so-pleasant parts of the trip, those three weeks were some of the best weeks of my life.

This was my first international trip without my family (I had gone to Switzerland with my parents and siblings in 2008).  It was not my first plane flight without my parents, but it was the first time I was travelling with a group of people that I largely didn’t know.  I remember when my parents dropped me off at the airport, then were in a no-parking zone and were unable to go in with me to make sure I made it into the gate area.  I hadn’t expected that, so I panicked a bit.  Most of the group had driven together from the college and had arrived quite awhile before me, so I was all alone.  I was so happy when I recognized another girl waiting in line for her ticket.  I didn’t know her, but I knew she was from my college and assumed she must be going on the trip.  We stood in line together and made our way to our gate.  After that first terrifying moment of realizing I was going into a huge international airport (JFK) by myself, the rest of the trip to Peru went pretty smoothly.

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The trip was truly amazing.  There were a few not-so-great experiences (primarily getting stuck in a huge mob of about 100,000 people in the Plaza de Armas of Cusco during Monday of Holy Week and getting really sick twice).  But the rest of the trip was wonderful.  There were two groups from my college that went to Peru.  One trip (the one I was on) was a Spanish immersion trip.  There were five students, including me, and one professor.  The other trip was an economics trip, with seven students and another professor.  We spent the first week together, along with the last 2 days in Lima.  We all got along really well.

The several months leading up to the trip had been some really difficult months for me.  I was struggling with depression and I was also having trouble with a lot of more personal things.  It was good to have something big to look forward to.  I had almost gone on a trip to Ireland, and I am so, so glad that didn’t work out (there were limited slots and I didn’t make it).  I had wanted to go to Peru since middle school, but several of my friends were going on the Ireland trip.  I’m glad that, in the end, I got to go to the place that I had dreamed of visiting for years.  It was a little scary to travel with a group of people I didn’t know, but we ended up all being friends in the end.

I can’t wait to travel again!

(*To learn more about my trip, check out my posts from the trip here)

Days 19 and 20 in Peru (Last 2 days): Puno to Juliaca to Lima

May 1st and 2nd 

**This is a long post, so I am truncating it.  Please read on to see more pictures/hear more about my trip!

We started Thursday off in Puno, leaving the hotel pretty early to start the drive to Juliaca (where we would be catching a plane to Lima).  On the way, we stopped at another Pre-Inca and Inca site.  This site was used as a cemetery and burial place for both the Pre-Incas and the Incas.  It is called Sillustani, which means fingernails because of the little peninsulas that go into the small lake.  There were several tombs, along with amazing views of a nearby lake.  We walked around the site and our guide Percy explained the burial rituals and practices of the Pre-Inca tribes and the Incas.

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Days 17 and 18 in Peru: Lake Titicaca

April 29th and 30th

**I am truncating this post because it is VERY long with a ton of photos, so please read on to see more!**

This part of the trip was my favorite!  We started off Tuesday by checking out of the hotel (they stored all of our luggage for the 2 days we were gone) and taking only a change of clothes, basic toiletries, and cameras/money in a backpack for our 2-day excursion on Lake Titicaca.  It’s been a while since I had been on a boat, so it was really nice to sit on the back deck of the boat and feel the sun and gentle breeze on my skin.

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Day 16 in Peru: Cusco to Puno

April 28th

**I am truncating this post because it is quite long with lots of photos. Please read on to see more!

We departed from Mery’s house early in the morning to head to the bus terminal with all of our luggage (we all accumulated more stuff while in Cusco).  We boarded the bus by 7 AM.  We took a large tour bus to Puno.  It was a 10-hour trip, but we made 5 stops, so it wasn’t too bad.

Our first stop was Andahuaylillas, a church that is often called “The Sistine Chapel of the Americas” because of its amazing murals on the walls and ceilings.  It was originally built by the Jesuits, who commissioned the murals, and for awhile was owned by the Dominicans during the time the Jesuits were driven out of Peru by the Spanish because they had gained too much power.  After the Independence Revolution, the Jesuits returned and regained ownership of the church.  Because of the two different influences, there are two altars and two pulpits with very different styles.  The Jesuit altar/pulpit is covered with murals, while the Dominicans built an intricately carved wooden pulpit.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take pictures inside the church. Another interesting part of the church is one of the doorways, where “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” is written in five different languages: Spanish, Latin, Quechua (still spoken by the indigenous people in many parts of Peru), Aymara (still spoken in some areas of Peru near Lake Titicaca), and Pukina (now extinct).

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Days 14 and 15 in Peru: Free day in Cusco, Pikallacta, Tipon

April 26th and 27th

**I am truncating this post as it is quite long with lots of pictures. Please read on to see more!

On Saturday the 26th, we had a free day in Cusco.  We had planned to go to the orphanage, but the kids had a field trip, so instead we just had the day free to do as we wished.  We started off the day at Dirección Regional de Cultura Cusco: Museo Historico Regional, which is a museum of Cusco’s history back to the creation of the continent (pre-humans).  It was a really interesting museum and we learned a lot from the tour about the entire history of Cusco, including the pre-human era, the Pre-Incas, the Incas, the conquisition, up to more present times.  The museum is housed in the former home of Garcilaso del Inca, who wrote the first official history of the Incas, so there was also a room about him and his books (unfortunately, photos weren’t allowed).

From there, we went to a restaurant that was a bit more off the beaten path.  We ate outside and the food was pretty nice.  Our professor then went off to do her own thing and the rest of us walked to the artisan marketplace we had gone the weekend before to do some last-minute shopping because we were going to leave Cusco on Monday.  After much deliberation, I finally decided to get a bag I had been eyeing all afternoon.  On our way back to La Plaza de Armas, we stopped at a small ice cream place with wifi.  We had all been craving ice cream and wanted to find wifi in order to contact our families and write our college blog.

From there, we headed back to the plaza and ate at Ciccolina, an Italian restaurant.

On Sunday the 27th, we took a day trip out to Pikallacta and Tipon, stopping along the way at a town where they make bread.  We went first to Pikallacta, stopping closes by first at Huancarpay, a small town with a small laguna (originally there was a large lake here, but overtime it has become much smaller.

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