I'll try to keep this post shorter, but we'll see. I woke up to a knock on the door and Jay's voice calling my name. I forgot for a second where I was and why/how I was in a top bunk in a bright orange room. Once it all came back, I think it fianlly hit me that I had made it to Peru. Maybe it had something to do with heat that surrouded me like the blanket I had thrown to the floor. Or maybe the mild smell of mildew and rice and lingering perfume that can only come from high traffic hostel rooms. Or maaaybe it was the fact that I could see the sun coming in through the hall window and remembered the palm trees and shadows of buildings and narrow streets from the dreamlike night before and the travel bug came out and I couldn't wait to explore. Oh so exciting! Breakfast at this hostel (which is called Kaclla for all those that want to google stalk) is served from 8-10 every morning, so I narrowed the time of day to be between those hours. I could feel Morgan stirring in the bunk below me and see Lindsey across the room in her bed moving too. We made our way half asleep to the hallway where breakfast was...only to find it was already 9:40 and the boys were almost done eating AND SHOWERED! whoops. Breakfast is comprised of a couple different kinds of bread and homemade peanut butter and jams, plus home brewed coffe, granola mix, and oranges that aren't really oranges but something like an orange. We ate while making a game plan for the day.
Since Jay knew we would be getting in late last night, he had a "rest and acclimate" day scheduled in so we wouldn't have to jump right into volunteering at the orphanage. It was great to have a slow start and settle in a bit to the hostel. We made plans to head to the downtown area outside of Miraflores to the Plaza de Armas, known as the birthplace of Lima where you can see the changing of the guards every day at noon. We agreed to take the metro into the city since it's only about $1.50 round trip and supposedly faster and less hectic than city busses. Well, I have been on some croweded trains (Age, Caz...Cambodia), and some croweded NYC subways, overstuffed taxis, and even an over crowded motorbike (that was terrifying), but something about this crowded train will leave a forever memory. First off, we had to wait about 20 minutes for our bus to show. When the first came it was so packed we couldn't even get through the doors. Then, we had to wait about 15 minutes for another to roll up. Jay told us we were getting on no matter what--- "Just shout PERMISSO PERMISSO PERMISSO and push!", he said. I don't know if it was the best instructions, but we follow directions like A+ students and made it on. Somehow I ended up to the right while everyone else moved left. Luckily Bills head is a solid foot above the crowds, so I could keep an eye on them. I tried to create a little space for myself and keep a handhold in reach since it was standing room only. It worked out well for the first two stops, but for every stop after that it seemed as though 5 people squished in for every 1 that got off. DIOS MIO. I had an armpit in my face, a butt constantly trying to buckle me at knees, multiple shoes attacking my sandle wearing feet, and abosolutely zero ability to rememdy any of it. My saving grace was a really cute kid sitting on his moms lap that didn't care I couldn't speak spanish and at least smiled a lot. All I heard was noise, as none of the words made any sense to me, and as uncomfortable and claustraphobic as it was, I loved every second.
We finally reached our stop and the entire bus emptied. We found ourselves on the streets of the business sector. Banks, and fancy clothing stores, and men and women all in business clothes. Very city like. The Spanish style architecture on the bulidings was beautiful and the stone sidewalks and bright yellows and greens made the whole plaza feel kind of like disney land. (Which speaking of disney, its a big thing down here. Like how hello kitty has a following...disney is here. Mickey license plates, and donald duck car stickers, and a xmas tree that had mini and mickey ears and gloves all over it. interesting). Bill and Zach and Jay and Lindsey all have nice fancy cameras (like the two I have at home but didn't bring) and actaully know how to use them (unlike the two at home I didn't bring), so we spend a lot of time taking great shots and I will have a whole album of pictures of people taking pictures that I am so excited to share :) They are good at noticing things which is great because it makes me notice and appreactiate things I might have otherwised missed. It's gonna be good, I suggest you find them all on facebook and follow their work haha. But really.
We popped in an out of some stores in search of sunscreen and sunglasses for Bill. It's hard not to be a tourist at times and ooh and ahh over all the alpaca gear and t-shirts and shot glasses and trinkets. But having Jay here with his perfect peruvian and wooing demeanor means we all luck out in getting great deals thanks to his bargaining abililties. I'm skipping over lunch real quick to share my most exciting shopping feat...handmade/customized hiking boots! Yes, you read that all right. We pick em up next week, and I'll post a picture later when I have someone teach me how to add photos to blogs. But for 50 soles (i'll let you go search that conversion) its the deal of life time and I can't wait. We all made out at this precious mans shop and I'm excited to go back to pick up my boots and wander around some more.
Ok, so lunch. Jays been talking about this place called Pardos since before we left so it was only fitting it was the place we stopped for our first group lunch. Far from street food or what i had imagined as a Peruvian dining experince; Pardos had better service and a cleaner, friendlier vibe than most places I eat at back home! Rotisserie chicken is a big thing down here. Seasoned with the local beer and served as 1/4, 1/2 or whole portions, I can't say that I'm the least bit upset with this discovery. Pardos delivered and we were all stuffed. The hour and a half we had for wandering was perfect for digesting and taking some more pictures ( and finding the boots!) before heading back to the metro.
Thankfully this time around the metro was WAY less crowded and we all stayed as a group and it was great. We arrived back to the hostel just in time to meet Lisseths mom who is an angel and will be cooking all our lunches and dinners for the rest of our stay here. One of Lissesths cousins will be volunteering at the orphanage with us each day and bringing along the meals for us to eat each morning so they will be at the hostel when we return.
Since we had a late lunch no one was really ready for dinner, so we decided to take advantage of the cool afternoon and free hours and go for a run to explore the neighborhood. WE ARE SO CLOSE TO THE OCEAN. One blockaway from our hostel is the cliff coastlines with a walkway running farther than we could see. We ran along against the flow of the crowds and realized we couldn't have picked a better time to run because we caught the most beautiful sunset and now know what we will be doing probably every night at 6 pm. Don't worry, I'll take some pictures of that too :)
Tonight ended with showers and eating our first Lisseth's-mama-home-cooked meal. two thumbs upfor baked chicken in some sort of carrot and pea sauce and peruvian rice. I alsmot don't even want to tell anyone about the magic of the mangoes down here because I'm now on a mission to hoard them all for myself. I didn't know I could love mangos more than I already do. Come to Peru, if for no other reason than the mangoes.