Last weekend's events was a perfect split of Peruvian and American.
Saturday: Trip to Lima including lunch at Chili's, Starbucks treats, and a trip to The North Face store. Dancing with the gringos in the evening.
Sunday: "Platos Tipicos" event with Arturo and a full afternoon of Peruvian festivities. Dancing with Peruvians.
The weekend began with a trip to Lima on Saturday with the gang. We were divided in our language groups and assigned activities. When this was finished, we were set free in Lima. I had 2 priorities for the Lima trip, aside from what was planned for us: Starbucks and The North Face. To my great surprise/ relief/ affirmed love for Peru, I found them situated RIGHT next to each other. Win! Yeah, I was in a super-duper American tourist trap. However, I have no shame. My loyalty to the backpack that I toted around through most of college, Spain, many a road trip, etc. for the past 5 years or so blinded me to the fact that it had been sprouting a few holes prior to my departure. After a couple weeks of combi commutes and binder/ lunchbox bearing, my backpack decided to quit me. The holes made it unusable. To find a new bag that would last the next 2 years and treat me the way my little Jansport pack did, I needed a miracle... or a North Face ;) I know it's not cool to drool over big US-esque shopping centers in South America, but this was travel perfection in it's finest form. In about 10 minutes time I was outfitted with a beautiful new bag and a delicious soy latte. Nom!
Following this little joy, as well as a nice lunch and an ocean view, we headed back to Yanacoto in a taxi. I believe this ride was the closest I will ever come to experiencing real live Mario Kart. Seriously, things were zipping around and we were flying through lanes/ vehicles so quickly that I was wondering where my bullet was so I could make it to the finish sooner.
That night a bunch of us got together to relax and have some fun. While dancing with my new American friends I felt a little guilty about my American binge that day. I had eaten a cheese quesadilla for lunch, drank S-bucks, made a 'big' purchase at a chain store, drank Orange Crush soda, then finished it all off by dancing to Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson. Little did I know that less than 24 hours later I would be dancing with a group of Peruvians older than my parents to folkloric music while being videotaped...
Sunday. The school immediately above my host home was having an event called "platos tipicos" in which each grade prepared food, information, decorations, and a parade presentation for each department (state or province) of Peru. My host mom works at the school and was at the event in the morning, and most of my friends had other plans, so Arturo ( 5 year old host brother) somehow got convinced to go with me. We took the dog, Benji, too. My friend Amanda was there and we tried some food from Puno. I bought Arturo a chocolate for hanging out with me. He was a fan of the chocolate and was generally enjoying himself, so he asked to stay for the parade. It was really cute and I learned a few more things to add to my tiny pile of Peru knowledge that is slowly getting bigger. My favorite part of this event was the real-live monkey they had to represent the jungle region of Loreto. They also had a parrot and, wait for it... a turrrtttllle! Awesomeness.
When I returned from above, my host mom was dressed very nicely and ready to go somewhere. When I asked where, she explained that she was going to a "meeting" but didn't really explain much further. She asked if I wanted to go and I sat on the invite for about 12 minutes. I had planned on updating the blog/ uploading pictures and running that afternoon. But I really wanted to accept an invitation, so that I get more in the future. Also, I wanted to spend some time with Elena and was very curious about this meeting she spoke of. I told her I would like to go and we were off. It's a rather liberating feeling going somewhere when you have no idea what is in store for you- no watch, no phone, nothing; just a few soles and a host mom. After a rather long combi ride on the main highway, a pretty long walk, and a taxi ride, Elena and I arrived at a very small town where a very large party was happening. This was our meeting. My 3 soles were paid for the entrance fee and soon we were huddled around 2 large wax floats with the Virgin Mary mounted on the top. We prayed around Mary for a bit, then the floats were moved aside. Next Elena took me in a shrine to pray and show me pictures of where she grew up. All the while this was happening, we were greeted by friends and relatives of hers that were very happy to see her. After this we settled into a spot where we spent the afternoon watching folkloric dances and eating potatoes, rice, and the other treats that were distributed to all in attendance. There was live music, super impressive dancing, and lots for me to watch. I would say the average age of those in attendance was around 58. I stood out... I'm getting used to that. Directly in front of me was this group of men who reminded me of Dad, Hammy, Marty, etc. They kept offering me beer, cigarettes, soda, a dance, food, etc. At first Elena was watching out for me and warding them off alright. Then when she started chatting with them and realized they were harmless and sort of fun, she was all like, "hija, dance! Dance!" So as the dancing for everyone began, dancing with the gringa became the thing to do. I'm cool with this, because I love to dance. The problem, though, is that there were actual steps to the songs that were playing and I was the only one who knew neither the songs nor the steps. My confusion was apparent immediately, which may be why the man with the video camera came zipping over immediately. I made it through the first dance after much fun and many stares from the crowd. The next dance turned out to be very long, but it was fun because I was in a dancing circle, which is something I am farily accustomed to after many cousin weddings. My partner was an 84 year old man who asked me to dance with him and was very sweet. He took me to the circle where turns were taken dancing in the middle and where the camera made a return appearance anytime I was in the middle. The people there were all really nice and caught on quickly to the fact that I like to dance, but needed a little help. As usual, I was glad to be dancing and happy the viejito got me out there. Elena and I left shortly after that to begin our trip home. As we were leaving, apparatuses were being set up for the fireworks display that followed in the evening. Overall, it was a really enjoyable day and I was glad to have gone, rather than sticking to my familiar habits. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my camera and have no photos of this event :( Sorry!
Sunday turned out to be enough of a Peruvian day to balance out the incredibly American Saturday that I had had. Gotta love a good healthy balance.