The Adventures of April

We shall not cease from exploration - And the end of all our exploring - Will be to arrive where we started - And know the place for the first time. -- T.S. Eliot

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ever recognize somebody on CNN?

I was (briefly) checking today and noticed this story about a certain Ambassador that visited the Embassy back in March. Opps.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My Schedule

For those of you might want to know when I'm going to be where, here is the timeline of my upcoming transition. As you can see, as of this past Monday it is go-go-go for a couple weeks! I will do my best to keep this updated, especially with my adventures in Cusco.

Friday, April 27: First and foremost, Happy Birthday Deidre! My last day of work at the Embassy.

Saturday, April 28: Fly to Cusco. Hang out with Jeff and Carolyn and acclimatize for a few days.

Tuesday, May 1: Four-day hike to Machu Picchu.

Saturday, May 5: Return to Lima. One last delicious Peruvian dinner!

Sunday, May 6: Clean and pack like crazy; head to the airport for my overnight flight to Atlanta.

Monday, May 7: Arrive in Atlanta. Sleep and eat bagels and sushi and Diet Coke.

Tuesday, May 8: First day of work. I don't miss a beat!

Saturday, May 12: Take a deep breath. Take in my surrondings. Be thankful to hang out with Katie, a friend from college. Begin new chapter of life, etc.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Change is Afoot

On Friday my entire office went out to lunch together. It was the last time we would all be in the office due to travel schedules. We also made it my despidida, or going away party.

What, you might say, your going away party?! Yes, I have big news! I now have a job and will be leaving Peru early. I will be working at InterfaceRAISE, a consulting firm that helps businesses adopt increasingly sustainable practices! It's a wonderful opportunity and I'm looking forward to becoming established in Atlanta.

Unfortunately, I have had to cancel my month-long trip in June with my friend Anna. I'm very disappointed because I was looking forward to traveling with her but I'm lucky to have such a good friend who is very understanding of the value of full-time employment.

I'll keep you all updated with my new contact information and moving plans. I will be in Atlanta two weeks from now.

P.S. There are more posts below - sorry I've been taking a while to get posts up! The internet is so slow here and it tries my patience.


On Saturday night I hung out with Jeff (Consular Section Intern) and his wife Carolyn. We went to Manos Morenos, a restaurant that features dancing and music. Peruvians eat very late. Our reservation was at 9 PM, and the place didn't start to fill up until 10:30! The dancing and music was great!


My boss at the Foreign Agricultural Service has repeatedly said that the worst day in the field is better than the best day in the office. It wasn't until this week that I got to experience the truth of this adage! My boss, Gene, Gaspar (the highest FSN, Foreign Service National, i.e. Peruvian in the office) and I went to Ayacucho for the week to meet with the agricultural ministers there to see how our programs were functioning and where we could be of additional assistance.

Day 1 - Monday

It is a seven hour drive to Ayacucho. The first three hours are along the coast south of Lima. Hot and lifeless sand dunes and desert stretch for miles and miles. Once you reach Pisco, you turn and drive directly into the interior through the Andes. Most of this area was entirely off limits until a few years. Terrorism inflicted by the Shining Path and the Senderos left the area depopulated with bodies of victims lying by the road. More than 70,000 people were killed in the violence that lasted until the 90s and ended with the capture of Guzman, their leader. Now the area is dramatically safer otherwise we would not have ventured in!

Once we were headed inland, we began climbing very quickly. The highest point we reached was 15,600 ft. This number means nothing to me, so let me give you some context. The highest point in the contiguous 48 states is Mount Whitney which only rises to 14,505 ft! Mount McKinley in Alaska goes to 20,320 ft. Mount Everest is 29,028 ft. So, we climbed from sea level (0 ft.) to halfway up Mount Everest in a manner of 1 1/2 hours. Needless to say, I had a raging headache and some difficultly putting my thoughts together due to the lack of oxygen!

My boss' brother was in town and accompanied us for the first part of the trip. He was an interesting character and was just like the John Candy character Uncle Buck. As you can imagine, traveling around Peru with Uncle Buck has its humorous moments.

Day 2 - Tuesday
On Tuesday we headed south. An entourage of about 15 Peruvians in three vehicles arrived to accompany us; it's a big deal when visitors from the US Embassy come to the area. We stopped at several projects that our office had funded, including three little cheese factories. They served us fresh cheese, yogurt, manjar blanco (caramel), indigenous potatoes, choclo (indigenous corn), and bread. It was delicious!

Gene and I rode horses to check out a dam that had been recently constructed to irrigate the valley. The situation was immediately funny to me. People gathered around to see the two gringos ride horses. They gave us the slowest horses and no combination of sounds would make my horse speed up. Gene joked that we were riding through the shire - the little farms, rivers, stone fences and whatnot certainly looked like a place Frodo Baggins might hang out!

Day 3 - Wednesday

On Wednesday we headed to the North. Part of the day included a beautiful hike to a pre-Incan site. From that height I could see the valley for miles and miles; one river flowed to the Pacific, the other to the Atlantic. Ayacucho is renowned for its musicians, and so at the end of the day one of our travel companions invited us to his house for some excellent guitar playing.

Day 4 - Thursday

We spent the day driving back to Lima. Once again I enjoyed the dramatic views of the rapidly changing scenery. We stopped at a hacienda Gaspar had interned at and had an amazing traditional Peruvian lunch.

It was a wonderful trip and I learned a lot!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

El Perro Necesita su SueƱo de Belleza

One thing I didn't realize until I started traveling more around Latin America is that these countries are incredibly diverse and are home to not only indigenous Americans, descendants of Europeans, and mestizos (indigenous + European) but also people from Asia and Africa as well.

Saturday another intern, Adam, and I went down to Barrio Chino - Chinatown, located in central Lima. The area is much like other Chinatowns I've visited of Toronto and New York, except a bit smaller and with a Latin twist. Peruvians love Chinese food and their version of it is called chifa.

We went to a fantastic restaurant for dim sum, a type of meal where you are served little miniature appetizers (like tapas) for the entire meal. The waiter brings you little dishes that you can either pass on or try. I don't know the name of almost everything we ate, but it was absolutely delicious and I plan on going back.

I wrote last week that I saw another great hairless dog at an Incan pyramid in Lima. I returned there on Saturday, camera in tow, to try and snap a picture of myself with the fine specimen. Unfortunately the dog was sleeping somewhere and was not to be found. However, there was this poster of the dog whose name is Urpi, and so I settled for a picture with that.

Last night I saw a little hairless dog outside of a grocery store, but thought it might be too socially unacceptable to take a picture with somebody else's dog. I guess I could've blamed it on gringo-ness ("we take pictures with other people's dogs all the time in the US!") but I wasn't that creative at the moment.

This week has been an interesting week for me health-wise. Luckily, I have not been in too much pain and I got some very powerful drugs on Thursday that I think will do the trick. I imagine by this time next week I should be back to normal.

Tomorrow I leave for a work trip to Ayacucho. I'm really excited - Ayacucho is a beautiful colonial city up in the mountains. I will take plenty of pictures and have an update for you all next week!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Yet Another Great Reason to Get Travel Insurance

This is what kidney stones look like. It's a great way to enjoy new sensations and experiences with your body, and to get to know the joys of a Peruvian hospital on a holiday such as Easter. Thanks, Kidney Stones!!

This past weekend was one for the books! Pretty much everybody I knew was out of town, which left me to my own devices for the entire 4-day weekend. I planned a host of productive endeavors (beading! baking! cleaning! sight-seeing!) to keep myself occupied.

The marathon 'o fun began on Thursday. While I was sitting in the cab, some lovely man decided to stick his hand in the window, grab me and try to steal my stuff. Luckily I escaped unscathed and with enough adrenaline to run a marathon.

That pretty much deflated my enthusiasm to get out into those crowds in neighborhoods I don't know and partake in the Semana Santa (Holy Week) activities. Saturday I recovered my will and went and saw an Incan pyramid that is located in Lima. The best part was, of course, the hairless dog. I really liked this one, but unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me because I was still paranoid from Thursday. I might have to revisit it because this dog is running a close second to the first hairless dog I met.

I'll spare you the gory details of Sunday, but basically I spent most of the day in the hospital trying to figure out what was going on with me. Luckily I wasn't in too much pain and after I had the echogram (ultrasound) we determined that I didn't need to be hospitalized.

Most of the day I was overwhelmed to be sitting alone in a hospital in a foreign country, not knowing what was wrong and trying to speak in Spanish to the doctors and nurses. However, there was a part of me that was thinking 'what an adventure!' and so the day was not completely lost.

(I'd like to do a little advert here for travel insurance ( My little ordeal cost me several hundred dollars which will all be reimbursed. Phew! The insurance has been worth it - don't leave home without it, because even healthy people can get sick!)

Unfortunately, I had to miss out on a work trip this week. We were going to go over the Andes, stopping in a beautiful mountain town called Tarma and continuing down to the coffee plantations in Chanchamayo, the beginnings of the Amazon jungle. Thankfully I'm not in too much pain (as of now) so I'm praying that the situation will peacefully remedy itself.

Well, I hope your holiday was a tad better than mine and that you had a chance to reflect upon and appreciate the significance of the day!

And thanks always for taking the time to read my blog. I really appreciate it! Feel free to leave a comment if you feel so inclined!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Everybody's Working for the Weekend

As you can tell by the lack on entries on this blog, the last few weeks have been crazy. Last weekend was a good opportunity to relax a bit around Lima. On Friday night we went to see this group called Mayoonuna. It was similar to Stomp (or the finale of STRIKE for readers who go way back!) and was highly entertaining for only $5. The seating was kind of cramped; let's just say that one awesome shoulder massage line could've been started up and down the bleachers.

On Saturday Adam, Gabe, a Peace Corps volunteer that was in town and I met in central Lima to see some of the sights. We ended up in Plaza Martin where we sat around and tried to figure out something funny to say to the drug dealer standing 20 feet away from us. All we could come up with is this picture, which I think might be one of my favorites so far.

This week is Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Last weekend we got to see a preview of some of the activities to come this weekend. Semana Santa in Latin America frequently involves elaborate and long processions of the crucifix and various symbols of the resurrecton throughout the villages and cities. Here is a taste of what's to come this weekend for your viewing pleasure. (Gabe had a hard time with the incense; I, however, was raised Catholic, and thus am accustomed to inhaling large amounts.)

My fellow intern and travel buddy who has frequently graced this blog, Gabe Fosson, returned to Utah on Monday evening since he completed his internship on Friday. He's been a great friend and has a heart of gold. He'll be missed!

Dinner at the Deputy Chief of Mission's House

A few weeks ago a new intern arrived in the Political Section, Adam. Like the rest of us, he didn't have a place to live and landed a sweet deal - staying with the Deputy Chief of Mission. The DCM is second in control on the Embassy, directly under the Ambassador. Needless to say, it is a very high position, and one that comes with a pretty nice pad. Every day, Adam is waited upon by six maids who serve him breakfast and dinner and pack him a jealousy-inspiring lunch.

The Interns, from left to right: Gabe (American Citizen Services), Jeff (Consular Services - Fraud), Carolyn (Jeff's Wife), Yours Truly, Anthony (Foreign Commercial Service), Adam (Political Section)

Adam was nice enough to arrange a dinner for the interns at the DCM's house. I think we were all little nervous and intimidated; it was formal and required that the guys wear suits and ties. The DCM's house was very nice and provided us with about a dozen different options for seating areas to enjoy some appetizers.

This time with feeling - jazz hands! Some people have a better understanding of the concept of jazz hands than others... way to rock, Carolyn!

There was a lot nervous energy among the interns - not wanting to screw up, trying to avoid awkward silences, choosing the right utensil, etc. We sat down to eat dinner and Gabe remarked "well, this is formal!" Smooth. During dinner we did a good job of keeping the conversation rolling. Second hand, the stories aren't funny, but at the time, I had tears in my eyes.

Relaxing after dinner - Gabe sabotaging my efforts at a candid photo.

I think we all did a great job eating the first few courses, but the desert provided more of a challenge. It was a pudding/fruit medley in a little chocolate cup. Screw the 'chocolate' part - that thing was cup-o'-steel. The little desert spoon was no match for its edges, and manners were not going to get in the way of me and a cup made of chocolate! At first I thought I was the only one having trouble, but then I looked over and Gabe was double fisting it with a fork and a spoon. I tried using the spoon like a chisel and hitting the top of it with my hand, but I think we all sucumbed to stuffing large, awkwardly shaped peices of chocolate into our mouths while the DCM was looking away.

The DCM excused herself after dinner and then nervous chatter and laughter ensued. We played Apples to Apples and had a good time. It was a great intern bonding experience and will make me chuckle for some time to come.