Erin Virginia

Name:
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Monday, March 30, 2009

Portsmouth Initiation

Chris and I had a low-key weekend together. On Saturday, we drove to Portsmouth, NH, about an hour away from our house. Portsmouth seems really quaint, lots of neat shops and restaurants. New Englanders call people who live in this area "crunchy." They tend to be the types who throw their chocolate labradors in the backseat, strap their kayaks/canoes to the top of their Jeeps and head out to the mountains for the weekend with a bag full of granola. Sounds great, huh? Chris and I are actually toying with the idea of moving to Portsmouth for a couple years - it would be a little cheaper than where we live now, and we would have extremely easy access to hiking, the ocean and a more laidback lifestyle. The down side is that my commute to work would be 2 hours roundtrip. Chris would also have a longer commute to school. We'll see...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Saab Story

We have had bad luck with our Saab lately. In January, the motor fan sputtered out, which meant that we drove the car for a few weeks without heat in the car (love those seat warmers and mittens). Finally, when I couldn't defog the windshield and it was becoming a safety issue, we got the fan replaced. Last Wednesday morning about twenty miles into my commute, I shifted the clutch into neutral at a stop light and then couldn't shift it out. The clutch had been sticky lately, and we had a mechanic look at it, but he just replaced some fluids to see if it would help. I ended up coasting into a nearby parking lot and having the car towed to a mechanic in Marlborough. End result: new clutch and sleigh cylinder. On top of that, when I took the car for emissions testing today, it failed. I guess that can happen if work has been recently been done on the car. I'll have to pay to have the emissions testing done again in about a week. This has GOT to be it, right?

The good news of late is that Chris' life has totally de-stressed now that he's not juggling work and school. His severance will last for a couple months, but he's already researching a few legal positions. We're able to spend more time together on the weekends, as well, now that he doesn't need to dedicate that free time to homework.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Peru

We are back from Peru! We flew overnight from Boston, arriving in Lima early Saturday morning. Our first day in Lima, we visited the city center with its churches and bone-filled crypt and walked to the ocean. The next day, we took a taxi about 25 miles (for only $15) to Punta Hermosa, the nearest beach with surfable waves. Chris surfed and then we ate cerviche at a nearby restaurant and took the local bus back. The driver would veer through parking lots and dirt paths to go around traffic; as we neared Lima, we also had a chance to see the huge slums from our window. I hadn't realized previously that Lima is a desert city - the only green areas are aggressively watered grass.



From Lima, we flew to Cusco, a city almost 11,000 feet above sea level. I could feel my heart pounding as I walked up even a slight hill. Chris and I drank coca tea, which supposedly cures elevation sickness - I don't know if it really helped or not. We stayed three nights in Cusco at El Nino hotel, an establishment run by a Swedish woman who donates all proceeds to pay for food and housing for homeless children. All of the rooms are named after children - we stayed in the "Oscar" room. Here's are pictures of our hotel courtyard and of breakfast with coca tea and purple corn jam.

Street dogs roam everywhere in Cusco, some gaunt, some frisky and all very friendly. One dog followed us all the way from Plaza de Arma, the city center, to our hotel room. Chris wouldn't let me pet any of the dogs, but we still made friends with "Pepito" that night.
Cusco has lots of churches and museums. We walked through the Cathedral via audio tour - one story I found interesting was that when the Spanish Catholics arrived in Cusco and began building churches, they enticed the locals inside with mirrors. The Incans had never seen their reflections (except perhaps in water), and the only place to look into a mirror was at the church. As we walked through the city, little kids constantly begged for money or tried to sell us finger puppets or paintings - one kid followed us for about fifteen minutes claiming he needed money for new school shoes. He kept saying, "Why you no buy me shoes for school?" Other children dressed up in costumes carrying baby animals and willingly posed for pictures for 1 soles.

Our second day in Cusco, we rode horseback through the Andean hills. I thought Chris' horse was going to drop dead it kept puffing so much, poor thing. Mine was very ornery - it kicked another horse once and also tried to bite Chris' horse twice. We stopped for a half hour at some ruins - the day was cool with bright sunlight - perfect - and we stretched out on the grass and looked at the hills for a while.
Our third day in Cusco, we took a three hour train ride to another town and from there a bus that veered along the switchback road leading upward to Macchu Picchu. It was an incredible sight. Llamas roam the grass in the ruins, keeping it short and neat.
Macchu Picchu was a whole day event, and we didn't get back to Cusco until after 9:00. The next day we flew back to Lima and spent a couple hours in the city before catching another plane to the jungle town of Iquitos, which is only accessible by plane or boat. We stayed the night at La Casa Fitzcarraldo, where portions of the movie Fitzcarraldo were shot. The hotel has a great pool and an incredible three story tree house.


The next day our tour guide picked us up and took us forty minutes by boat into the jungle. We had previously booked a two day/one night tour of the jungle/Amazon River. On our first boat ride, we saw dolphins jumping out of the water. There were about twelve people total on the tour - everyone besides us was Peruvians from Lima. Most of them spoke English, and we all got along really well. Over the two days, we boated to a primitive village where we tried out a blowgun, hiked through the jungle, watched a shaman ceremony, hiked to another village where a woman made us fresh sugarcane and orange juice, swam in the Amazon, looked, unsucessfully, for the elusive pink dolphin and went on a night boat ride to listen to the jungle sounds. At the lodge where we stayed, monkeys crawled along the railings and parrots perched on ceiling beams. A squirrel or another small animal got into our room while we were gone and chewed holes in one of my bags, and something else (don't know what) took refuge in our bathroom overnight. It was an adventure to be in the jungle but kind of exhausting - hot and humid.