Posted by: Phoebe K | June 28, 2010

You’d think Cusco were San Francisco if you weren’t paying attention…

if you only looked at the city flag and went around its very hilly city. I wrote that randomly in my cuadernito, keke.

My family vacay wasn’t la mejor. I won’t even get into that, but being able to travel and see another country and Argentina with fresh eyes was, well, refreshing.
(Welcome to a long and winding post.)

———–I would like to first say that I’m so proud that my Spanish has improved SIGNIFICANTLY since I first arrived in South America/Buenos Aires. I lacked the confidence to ever strike up or maintain a conversation in Spanish, but now I do it with everyone that is fluent in the language. Taxistas, bus drivers, fellow tourists, tour guides, waiters…. everyone! I LOVE IT! And there’s no HUHs or UHHH…REPITE POR FAVOR? from either end. I understand it now, and can give and receive in conversation so fluidly, which was my number one priority this semester. I wouldn’t say I’m fluent, but I’m definitely but a few notches away from it. YAY YAY YAY!

———–And I’m obsessed with the World Cup games. I’ve watched as many as I can and updated my itty bitty schedule score card I got in Argentina in my cuadernito. I’m rooting for Argentina 100%. Everywhere we’ve been, everyone is glued to the television, mesmerized by their favorite players passing the pelota back and forth, making goals and fouls alike. The spirit and passion for the game here….unlike any other. Yes, more than a football, baseball, or basketball game, I believe. The hinchas don’t need to scream and holler all throughout the games: in Argentina, at least, everyone sits and watches intently, quietly, without a peep. Until there’s a foul or a GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLL made. I LOVE the fútbol craze here.

The fam came on Monday the 8th, and I pulled an all-nighter packing and said bye to my lovely Ezcurra host family. Gave the real fam a city tour and they very intelligently lost their passports. I had told my dad to keep them in the hostel, where they’d be safer, but he’s insistent on thinking he’s smarter than me. He’ll continue to think he was robbed of them, but his wallet, keys, and expensive dSLR camera were still in his bag, so the reasonable deduction would be that he’s a fool that misplaced the little sack of all their passports. Thus, we couldn’t go to Uruguay the next day as planned, but instead spent a whole half day retrieving wallet-sized photos and a police report and a ticket exchange and emergency passports at the U.S. embassy, which was oddly not that far from where I had lived. Always listen to the person that has been in such a place longer than you have– usually they know what the eff they’re talking about.

Blah blah blah. Montevideo sucks. It’s literally Buenos Aires’ ugly sister or stepsister. The same sort of metropolitan-feel with less appeal and personality, me parecia. After having gone to Uruguay three times, to the three most popular destinations in said country, I’d like to say I don’t ever want to go there again. And yes I watched my passport very carefully as we crossed back into Argentina.

El Caminito in La Boca

We got creative with the Obelisco.

Iguazú was amazing. There, I said it. Why NYU took us to Córdoba…I’m wondering that now. Not that I regret my decision, because the day NYU had taken everyone to Iguazú it was cloudy and melancholy-looking and I doubt any rainbows were to be found. And what’s an epic waterfall without pretty rainbows to boot. I finally get it, guys. I truly can’t justify what I witnessed there with words. Or sounds. Only first-hand experience can truly capture the puniness you feel when standing above La Garganta del Diablo, your insignificance compared to something so fantastically and naturally-created.  Something that could send you to oblivion in mere seconds. It’s astounding.

La Garganta del Diablo


The next day, Argentina played its first game in the World Cup versus Nigeria and we watched it surrounded by Argentines of Puerto Iguazú. The streets were quiet, many shops closed up for the game. People–young, old, touristy, balding–were all gathered around the nearest television, usually having DirectTV, watching with exhilaration and souls full of hope and zero worry. We boarded the plane back to Buenos Aires moments after the 93 minutes were up, with Argentina of COURSE winning. I wore my jersey proudly, blending in with the many exuberant Argentines.

We left for Ezeiza airport to fly to Perú that rainy day. Driving away from the center, from the barrios I’ve walked and cursed and admired…I felt a pang in my heart. A surprise, really. I swore to myself I was ready for change, ready to get the heck out of dodge (story of my life, ain’t it?) and leave behind tango dancers and Borges’ labyrinths and the Subte and colectivos….but cruising along the highway away from Capital Federal….all I wanted to do was hop out and run back. Waiting for departure in Ezeiza, I recognized the place where Kate and Pedro welcomed me with a little NYU pennant and clipboard, where I sat excitedly and worriedly in the La Madeleine cafe area, first meeting Layla and forming our soon-to-be penguin-honking, Sassiano-lovin’ sista bond. All the nervousness I felt then seemed like a crazy dream sequence to me at that moment. Was that really me then? Is this really me now? The changes were so minuscule, but compare me in February to me in June/now….it’s quite the difference. I still didn’t even understand the vos form then–now I live and swear by it. Funny to think what four months and a lifetime of experiences squished into that brief time period will make of you.

And so we came to Perú. Spent a day in Lima, and stumbled upon el Parque del Amor in the very Palermo-esque barrio that is Miraflores. First of all, the huge statue in the middle is of two men embraced and locking lips. Think what you will, small-minded conservative fiends: it’s adorable and gawh-inspiring. Surrounding it are beautiful gardeny greens and a sort of bench made of collages of broken tile bits (why do I ALWAYS forget the word for this?!) and it was literally the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Not only is it colorful, but within it are lines from random South American writers and their poems or just lovey-dovey lines. Me muero. SO romantic. And I was infinitely joyous that I could read and appreciate all that was present.

"Tonight for the first time I feel the intensity of the ocean beneath my hands"

Every Valentine's day, there's a contest in the park for which couple can kiss the longest. This couple just might have a shot at the title.

But…most of it just couldn’t translate directly, the sentiment I mean. It was just so terribly beautiful and romantic in Spanish, but in English….it seemed more like words slabbed onto a bench than lovely poetry. Por ejemplo: AMAR NO ES UN DELITO. Translation: To love is not a crime. Well, that’s obvious to English-speakers, but to me, it just doesn’t translate the immense compassion and passion and intimacy that every South American–or every Argentine, por lo menos— inherently has coursing through their veins. To me, that statement is saying to love is to live. To love is to be human.

Anyhow, Lima is an extensive city. Or maybe I feel that way because its public transportation isn’t as up to par as is Buenos Aires’, and certainly not New York’s, so we had to take cabs to the city center, way way away from Miraflores. SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW: Every main square in Peruvian cities is called La Plaza de Armas. I don’t remember why, but go with it. So we went to Lima’s Plaza de Armas and they have this huge stage and screen and celebration going on for the World Cup. They air the games that day live, and then the whole nation tunes in to celebrate with Lima afterward. SO COOL. Goddamit, I love the rest of the world and how much they love fútbol.

Celebracion a La Plaza de Armas

We went to Puno the next day via plane. It sits on the highest inhabitable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, 12,500 feet above sea level. Imagine the altitude sickness we experienced, and multiply it by 65. It sucked majorly. Well we went to the floating islands lying on the lake. That’s right, islands float, whatever. Except these are MAN-MADE. As in they’re bunches of reeds blocked together and scattered on top to create an island. It’s magnificently-brilliant, and quite awesome to stand upon. And people live there! And have TV signals (no wi-fi though) and are even recognized by the Peruvian government. Que impresionante.

La isla de Uros

These islands float on those blocks put together with many blocks. Each island has two or three families, and one mayor/president/leader fellow. The guy to the left is the Alpha male of Uros, Carlos.

It was the most exhausting excursion, mostly due to our not being able to breathe/adjust to the high altitude. So enough discussion of that. The lake is beautiful and large, though, spanning from Perú to Bolivia.

Lago Titicaca

Next was Cusco, aka the gateway city to the Sacred Valley and MACHU PICCHU. If you don’t know the epicness that is Machu Picchu or haven’t even heard of it, boy do I pity you. It’s so cool and expansive and just wow. But we didn’t get to experience much of it. Day one was the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo.

Sacred Valley and the Urubamba River


And it was here that Zack and I made the first of many many llama friends to come.

Como asi.

There was a lame two-day strike in Cusco, protesting the government selling oil to Chile or something like that. Not only was it not violent or effective, but it stalled all transportation to and from the city, meaning NO tours went out to Machu Picchu. We were supposed to spend the night there and thus have two days there to soak it all in, but alas we spent too short a time there instead. Screw you, Cusco and your ineffective political quasi-movements.

There are too many sad tiny Peruvian women and children who sell their souls to the tourism devils and try to sell their handmade items to hapless tourists, or to force them to take pictures with them in their pretty outfits and holding their baby llamas. I got very annoyed after a while. 60% of Cusco I believe does something along the lines of this, and that makes me sad.

At least the baby llamas are cute.

Oh and there’s another old temple with the funniest name, Saqsaywaman. Pronounce it like “sex-ay wo-man,” no joke. If you look at it aerially it looks like the head of a fierce puma, a meaningful symbol for the Incas. Oh, and touring all over Sacred Valley, I learned too much about the Incas.

Saqsaywaman (the jaggedness is supposed to be the puma's teeth)

Finally, MACHU PICCHU. No words can describe it. Yeah that sounds like a cop-out to anything I “can’t describe,” but you don’t know until you’ve been and seen it with your own two googly eyes. That’s South America for you, and it sucks that most of  yall just don’t understand the sheer amazingness of everything it beholds.

Okay first I should say it’s near impossible to get there. You can only get there by train, PeruRail, which has monopolized transportation to the majestic site and thus you have to take an hour plus-long ride on a shuttle tourism bus to the train, and then ride it for an hour, then take a bus up the mountain, then scale up the stairs to Machu Picchu. Oh and the terrain is anything but easy. It’s rocky and hilly and most of the time you ride along the train track and the roads are only one way so you wait forever for the opposite side to pass befor you can go. It’s very similar to riding the Texas Giant rollercoaster for four hours straight, and then taking it back.  I wish I could say I was exaggerating. Oh, and our tourism agency was weird and we took a car to get to the bus to get to the train to the mountain bus to arrive to Machu Picchu. Total travel time there and back? 8 hours. Good thing it’s a spectacular, must-see view.

This was literally my sole goal for this excursion: To take a picture of Machu Picchu with an overlooking llama. Mission Accomplished.

Holy llama, I can say I've been there. Pinch me, it was real.

Oh, but in reference to the title of this here post, Cusco’s city flag is very gay-friendly, and I’m sure they get many many eyebrow-raises for it.

Left: Cusco flag. Right: Chile flag

Next was the Amazon. It’s been my dream for forever to experience the Amazon jungle, and now I can say I have. We stayed in this reserve owned by a resorty place, though that description doesn’t justify it. They preserve copious amounts of hectares from farmers and other dumb humans that destroy the rainforest. Inkaterra’s huge lot of the Amazon actually has over 365 different species of ants, which is a world record, and we all love having bragging rights….even if it is about having a lot of ants.

Our guide, Marco, showed us these particular ants that are really sweet. Literally. He ate them right off his hand soon after, saying they have a citrus-y taste. No gracias.

If you can see the bumpy-looking vine in the middle, it's called a Monkey Ladder since it looks like stairs fit for a little primate, and it's actually super thick and hard. It grows in the direction of sunlight upwards towards the sunlight.

Oh and I saw lots of caimans! (Crocodiles to you gringos)

Caiman at night!

Canopy climbing

We found a sloth!!

Lago Sandoval. We saw black caimans, billions of birds, and hundreds of itty bitty monkeys there!

We also walked through the forest in pitch black at night. I was hoping to see the glowing eyes of a leopard or jaguar or even hear the slither of an anaconda, but I settled for a hopping cane toad.

We saw tarantulas too! During the night walk we saw six sibling tarantulas that likely ate their mother since they were a big clan, but they scattered quickly. We bothered some in their nests during the day to compensate.

I’ve never been treated so poshly on vacation ever. But it’s only expensive because they use a huge chunk to preserve their land and fund research and stuff. And the entire place would make earth lovers and treehuggers very very pleased. Even our shampoo and insect repellent was all-natural, made from plants and their juices in the area. Oh and they have energy-saving periods and shut it all completely down during sleeping hours and mid-day. It’s SO AMAZING! I kept thinking Victor Galli would love and approve of it most sincerely.

Our waiter for those three days, Carlos, was super nice, and developed a crush on me because I spoke only Spanish to him. We became buddies and talked about the World Cup often.

Inkaterra Amazonica Reserve Cabins

Finally, we went to see the Nazca Lines. First we went around the Ballesta Island and saw lobos del mar and penguins and booby birds.

The Nazca lines are pretty ancient, and a worldly mystery. They’re huge carvings in the sand-duney ground and have lasted for forever. We took a plane that seemed like something out of Indiana Jones and flew around crazily for 30 minutes trying to spot them all.

The guy in the mountain is called "The Astronaut." And it's really really big, as you can see it's carved on a mountain, not a pile of sand.

It's faint, but the Spider is near the lower left corner.

The Hummingbird

You know how crazy planes fly when they're getting shot at? Ours was very similar to that, and Zack felt very close to death for the 30-minute ride. Pobrecito.

Afterwards, we went to an oasis in the middle of nowhere. And rode a dunebuggy and sand-surfed. At night. So. Freaking. Fun.

La luna y la arena


And then….we went back to Lima, and headed back to America. We had a layover in Miami, and immediately…I felt weird. Worse than when I left Buenos Aires. I felt like a foreigner. Everything was in English. People were overweight. I heard southern drawls. Arriving in Dallas, I immediately saw a guy in a ten-gallon hat and considered hopping back onto the plane to wherever. Everything was weird, unfamiliar, not likable. The heat and humidity sucked. All around me was expansive land, filled only with residential areas, highways, and malls malls malls. And SO. MANY. CARS. There was so much…space, and I immediately wished I was in Argentina instead. I can’t truly explain it all without sounding stuck-up or whatever, and to those who haven’t ever spent time abroad…you just wouldn’t understand, really. The reverse culture-shock was, for lack of better words, quite the bitch. I just felt….sad, coming back, being back in the state and metroplex where I was raised. The closer we got to our house, the more melancholy I became. I don’t fit in here anymore. It’s like trying to fit a Lego piece in any empty space of a jigsaw puzzle– it sticks out like a sore thumb because it just doesn’t match the rest of the picture. That’s how I feel: displaced. I enjoyed seeing some friends again, but…it wasn’t the same. Immediately I longed for my long Buenos Aires nights and fellow abroaders and the sense of different-ness I felt away from here.

I don’t belong here anymore.

My life has changed. My attitude and mentality and life plans and perspective have DRASTICALLY changed. I realized that we live in within a box, THE box. We abide by the preordained rules and live our miserably monotonous 9-5 lives. High school, college, maybe grad school, real world jobs, family, taxes, age, death. The same line, similar sequences. I don’t want this anymore. I refuse to stay in this box any longer. I am impatiently waiting to live life outside the box and never return. Too many of us forget there is a world outside of our own, outside that comfortable country border, city border, or even neighborhood border. We’re so caught up in the monotony that is daily life that we don’t even consider to aprovechar the life that we could have and that exists out there. We think we’re #1 in any aspect, and on paper, sure, that’s the case. But I will not settle for “same-ness” anymore. Regularity, monotony will be the death of me.

I’ve lived a life outside the box, and I refuse to ever step back in.

To be continued…



  1. This post was made a while ago, but scrolling through by RSS feeds, yours was bolded so I decided to take a gander.
    I didn’t read every word, but what you wrote at the end really rang true with me.
    I LITERALLY just gave the same spiel to my aunt. I DON’T WANT TO FOLLOW “THE PATH.”
    Really. It freaks me the fuck out to picture what the rest of my college career and life is supposed to be: Work my ass off on my classes, try to get as many internships as I can in hopes of being asked to stay on or get a bigger and better internship (or job if I’m lucky) somewhere else, to start a career, to again work my ass off to try move up, to get married, have kids, get old, and be done.
    It seriously stresses me out how much I don’t want my life to end up like this. America acts like she wants us to be diverse and different and world-changing, but there’s no way to live life the way American standards have set up for us.
    I know my ranting doesn’t do anything, but make myself even more frustrated, but I wanted to let you know that I don’t want to live in the box either.

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