Friday, September 10, 2010

We finally made it to the lunch spot with our dear friends. Our reunion was rushed, as we frantically had to divide our packs into 12 kilos per person. Since my pack currently weighed at least double that, there was a lot that had to be sent back to the hostel, which our kind drivers took care of for us.

We were introduced to our guide, Edwin, and another couple from Spain who were in our group. They had all rested and eaten lunch. We, again frantically, had to eat as Edwin reminded us, "You need your strength."

I was amazed by the food, all prepared by our resident cooks, Juan and Margarita. Creamy asparagus soup, chicken and vegetables, with all the garlic bread you could want.

The air was thin and freezing and though we had only been there for 30 minutes, I could feel the affects on my body. We started hiking straight up. Within minutes my heart was pounding faster than I can ever remember. We were moving at a very slow pace and each step was very deliberate for me. My body warmed up, but it was still a slow and steady process.

The Salkantay

We continued for 3 hours, back and forth up some very challenging switchbacks. The view of the nearby Salkantay was breathtaking. The altitude was also breathtaking, and my head and heart were struggling. But then, like my knight in dusty hiking boots, R carried my day pack until we reached our campsite for the night. A hiking stud, that's what he is.

Our campsite was set up by our rock star sherpa, Francisco. The cooks were busily preparing our dinner. We changed into our warmest clothes possible and tried to stay warm. Edwin announced it was "chocolate time." We didn't know what that meant, but we liked the sounds of it. So, we gathered in the food tent to find hot chocolate to warm our soul and stove popped popcorn.

Are you kidding me?? Popcorn at the top of the Andes. It was like my personal heaven. Not even my Whirley Pop could compare in deliciousness. I was on top of the world.


A blurry shot of "chocolate time." The outside air was freezing and the inside of the tent was warm. Hence, a foggy lens.

Our cooks...not sure how they cooked such amazing things in such conditions!

Hello gorgeous campsite!!

And then.....

This is the part where things get graphic, and can best be understood by anyone who has experienced altitude sickness. Your body starts shaking uncontrollably, though you don't feel cold. And the nausea won't quit. And one minute your fine, enjoying "chocolate time" with your friends, and the next minute your puking next to a pile of horse manure. Hey, I warned you it was graphic.

I wasn't the only one who got sick, but I was certainly the most wimpy. Thank goodness for good friends that stand by you in your worst possible moments! I'm talking champion friends for life, these people. And Edwin, he continuously filled my sleeping bag with hot water bottles to keep me toasty through the night.

S and Edwin

I didn't sleep much that first night, but I survived and that was enough.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

We arrived in Lima just in time for breakfast at McDonald's. Ah, those universal golden arches. But you know what's not so universal? That peaches and coconut parfait. So tasty!

Another quick flight and we finally reached our destination of Cusco. We walked off the plane and stretched our arms open wide, basking in the sun and the joy of finally arriving.

Talk about service, Raul, from our trek company, was waiting to receive us. Yes, he even had our names printed out on a sign. He loaded our bags into the van and introduced us to our driver, Jesus. They were the best. Since we had arrived a day late and our group had started hiking at 6 that morning, they were going to drive us to the lunch site. They were the friendliest people. As we started our drive, Raul pointed across to the snowy mountain way in the distance and said, "That's where we were going." We had so much fun on our drive, chatting and listening to a mixture of 90s American tunes and every type of salsa. They promised to take us to the discoteque after our long hike.

Jesus and Raul

We drove for nearly 3 hours, through windy and bumpy roads. But, I was in awe at the beauty of the mountains. Every so often we'd drive through small little towns with so much to see. Peruvian men and women with loads larger than their whole bodies on their back, hiking to the market. Little children doing the same. We stopped to pick up bottled water and use the bathroom.

Our first bathroom

Then a little while later stopped to pick up coca leaves, which is a supposed cure for altitude sickness. You can chew them or drink them in tea. (Actually, I saw the leaves in most everything including chocolate). S was the first one to dive in. She was also one of the few that did not get altitude sickness when we reached the highest peak. And that's when I became a believer of the coca.

Monday, August 16, 2010

S and I woke up Friday morning, laughing. The situation was altogether humorous on such little sleep. I peeked out the blinds, and made up some ditty about how good it was to wake up in America. Then we laughed some more.

If you do have to be stuck somewhere, may I recommend Connecticut. It is gorgeous. C's house is situated on a small lake with foot bridges and tall trees. It was lovely. C made us french toast and we ate on the back deck with her family.

The rest of the morning was spent on the phone, where I was able to convince American Airlines to reissue our ticket at no additional cost. The excitement was back as if we had just got a ticket for the first time.

"We're going to Peru!"

We also got in contact with our friends who had safely arrived in Peru via email and g-chat. I do love technology. They had not yet met with our trek company, but were hopefully going to be able to arrange it so that we did not miss it.

After a quick nap and some lunch, C's parents drove us to JFK. It took us 2 hours in traffic, but don't worry, we still arrived 7 hours early. We were taking no chances. Check-in lasted all of ten minutes. Which left us with 6 hours and 50 minutes to do whatever we pleased. Our activities included: shopping for Toblerone, eating Toblerone, lots of good girl talk, and dancing. Wait? Are we at a slumber party or the airport?

I think we were there so long we kind of forgot.

Finally, the time came to board our flight. 11:45 pm. We popped some sleeping pills in hopes of a decent night's sleep. I scored a seat next to a beautiful man who only spoke Spanish. Why did I take French in high school??? I also scored a window seat, so I propped my new thermarest pillow (best $20 bucks I've ever spent) against it, snuggled in my blanket and woke up just in time to land in Lima, Peru.

By Thursday night our excitement was bursting.

I was so prepared. You could tell by the 70 pound hiking pack towering above my head.

We were given two rules. Number one: Don't die. Number two: Don't go to jail. With that wisdom safely tucked in our minds, we set off for our adventure.

We had a few minor delays to the airport. Our ride was stuck in traffic, then there was a motorcade, then I thought I saw a double rainbow. My excitement forced our driver off course. The fates were on our side, or so we thought, because we still made it with plenty of time.

We met up with C, who had taken the bus to DC from NY so she could fly with us. Coincidentally, our flight took us straight to NY where we were supposed to catch a connection to Lima. As is customary at JFK, things did not go as planned. More appropriately I should say, as is customary with American Airlines, things did not go as planned.

In DC we were given one boarding pass. When we inquired as to where the others were for our 2 connecting flights we were told that we would get them in New York. Foolishly, we believed. Our flight to New York was a little delayed, but we landed in time to make our flight to Lima.

Now, if only there were some way to get a boarding pass! Can anyone help us? LAN airlines can't give us one. American Airlines can't give us one. Who will help us get to Peru?

The answer is no one.

We frantically call M, who was boarding our flight to Lima. She had taken a bus from DC to NY and checked in hours ago, patiently waiting for us to join her. We shared the bad news that we weren't making that flight. I frantically gave her all the information I could about the hostel, the trek, our other friend's flights and then she was gone. Off on the adventure without us.

Since it was after midnight, there was not much we could do until the morning. Luckily C's parents live an hour outside New York. We called C's friend SS. I wonder if her middle initial is O because she came and rescued us from our distress as fast as she could.

In the meantime, we consoled ourselves with bananas and dry blueberry muffins and vowed to never again book a flight with a company called CheapOAir. We ended the night fast asleep in C's house, ironically where C had began that morning.

Though definitely not as we had planned, I was thankful that we had a comfortable and safe place to sleep and that I was with people who certainly make lemonade out of life's lemons!

The week before my Peru trip was much like I expected. Lots of prepping, packing and shopping for last minute supplies. If I've got the time, I actually love this part of it. Thankfully, my roommate and I had the whole week to prepare. We spent hours at Target and $90 later had the best looking first-aid kit you've ever seen. We also spent hours at REI, where I acquired two nice big blisters on my pinky fingers from tying so many hiking boots. We pranced around the store in at least 50 different pairs of hiking pants to make sure they felt just right, then tried to mask their masculinity with some bright feminine-colored tees. There were rain jackets and bug sprays and electrolyte jelly beans, oh my! Until even the sales associate at REI said, "You two look like you are having a lot of fun."

We certainly were. And the trip hadn't even begun!

But, even all that shopping gets to be exhausting, so we took a break in the pool, because after all it's summertime and spontaneous pool breaks are required. We coupled it with homemade chicken alfredo pizza and I thought life couldn't get much better.

And then I went to Peru.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Back to Life, Back to Reality

9 days and 45 kilometers of hiking later, I am back from one of my new favorite spots and one of the best vacations.

Cusco, Peru and Machu Picchu.

This picture pretty much sums up how I feel about the entire trip, but I have about 2000 more pictures to organize and through {a few of} them can hopefully share the little slice of heaven I found waiting for me in the Andes mountains!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Needing A Little Magic

I heard this song on the way home from work today.

I'm pretty sure I'm that young girl he's singing about.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I appreciate simplicity, even though I seem to make things unnecessarily complicated.

I appreciate quiet moments, even though I seem to be so busy that the silence is rarely near.

I appreciate reminders of what I know, even though sometimes my mind tries to convince my heart otherwise.

It's easy to cling to what was good once. But what was good once isn't necessarily good always.

It was a simple, quiet moment today that reminded me of this lesson I've learned over and over the past few years.

And as I seek the answer of what is good to come, I must not forget to seek the means by which such an answer is given.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

We Really Need You!

My heart is singing with these fine Clevelanders.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

My Motherhood

With the recent celebration of motherhood, I've been thinking a lot about myself as a mother.

This past year I've spent a lot of time with children, 17 of them to be exact, none of them technically mine, though by this point they feel like they are. And in this privileged, yet challenging environment, I have felt in just a small way what it's like to be a mother.

One time my mom had just gotten home from the grocery store. We were outside helping her unload the car. In the rush, my mom dropped a 2 liter bottle of pop. You can imagine the explosion. I laughed and laughed 'til I was near tears. And then I noticed my mom was in real tears.

"It's just a bottle of pop," I reminded her, not understanding her emotion.

It's like that expression, "No use crying over spilled milk."

Well, logically speaking yes. But, try telling that to someone who has dealt with spilled milk at least once a week for the past 9 months, even after endless reminders to "be very careful with your milk so that it won't spill." Or what if that spilled milk occurs after you've already cleaned up spilled orange juice or the remains of a raspberry churro that didn't sit quite right in one child's stomach.

These are not dramatic representations. This is real life. It's been my real life for 9 months.

And while we're on cliche sayings, how about "I couldn't hear myself think." Can you all really need something right at this moment? Can you all really be calling my name from opposite ends of the room? Yes, I do want to listen, but if you tell me one more time that he said he's not your friend, I might lose it. What was it that I was trying to finish again? "Ms. FLOOOORY" I guess I'll just finish it tomorrow.

One night I was crying with exhaustion. It's so tiring. It takes so much energy. How can I possibly solve all their needs? And take care of myself at the same time? I don't feel like a woman. I feel like a frump covered in snot and Elmer's glue. Forget about hair and make-up or pretty clothes, I feel lucky just to be clean. Did I exercise this month?? I can't remember.

And all of sudden I knew why my mom was crying that night in the driveway.

If these feelings can come to me as a teacher, when I send my children home at 2, then I don't know what it will be like as a full-time mother.

Is it ironic to say I can't wait?

Because even though the above is all true, sometimes painfully so, there is glory in motherhood.

It comes in bouquets of dandelions after recess or a big hug around the neck when you bend down to tie a shoe. It's in those lint-covered grapes that were stored in a pocket just for you. It's definitely in the moment you realize scribbles have turned into letters and those letters now spell your name.

And don't forget the laughter. There is so much joy in a child's laughter. How's that for cliche? But, I couldn't mean it anymore if I had coined it myself.

Motherhood is sacrifice. It's forgiveness. It's love, pure and complete.

My practicum for motherhood began this year, but these lessons of motherhood I've been learning from day 1, from my own mother. She loves me all the time. She always has. She always will. She loves my dad. She loves my siblings. And everything that she does is evidence of that love.

And only she can cut toast exactly the way I like it.

That's because she's my mom.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Welcome Spring

It was lovely spending my afternoon with you!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Growing up in Ohio provided me with a healthy appreciation for snow. It's fun, it's beautiful and if we were lucky, it provided a day off of school. As time went on, snow no longer delivered it's same excitement, what with it's snowmen and angels and days to do nothing but bundle up for a an hour (Moooooom, where are my snow boots??? or I can't find my other mitten ... seriously every time) only to go outside for 10 minutes until our mittens were sufficiently soggy, followed up with drying out by the furnace while mom whipped us up some hot soup.

In college, it still provided some fun, but school went on with or without snow and working full time proved just the same! Commuting takes triple the time and no one at work offers to make you hot soup!

Then there's the car issue. Bless my good dad and brothers for always scraping off my windshield and warming up my car on those early, blustery days. They always shoveled the steps, and created a clear path down the driveway. Then they'd drive to grandma's house to do the very same. I always just thought they liked it, until I had to do it myself. Turns out it's HARD. Do you know how heavy snow is to move with just a shovel? Do you know how long it takes to shovel a driveway with 3 feet of snow? Yeah, approximately 6 hours.

Yes, the beauty of snowfall has somewhat been masked in recent history because it creates such a hassle.

But not this year. My appreciation for snow has returned, maybe even to a higher level than before. And gratefully so because the DC area has received record breaking amounts. It turns out that I really like being snowed in. It's so cozy and fun!! We've played outside, watched movies, cleaned the house, taken walks, played games and even had a slumber party, dance party included. It forces life to slow down, which is perfect because I hate to be rushed.

And as an added bonus, SNOW DAYS!

I thought I liked snow days as a student, but I find them even sweeter now that I'm a teacher (I feel the same way about weekends). Here I sit, enjoying the 4th snow day of the year. Nothing beats waking up at 5:30 only to find you can go right back to bed.

Oh snow, you glisten and sparkle in the sunshine out my window. You adorn the roof, the trees picturesque with your touch. You are lovely to me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

When you're my size having a good tailor is very important. Clothes are made for the average sized woman, which I am anything but. Thus, having a tailor is not only a good idea, it's a necessity.

When I lived in Ohio I went to a woman that I liked who charged me barely anything. Maybe that's why I liked her.

Then I moved to DC and I was appalled at the prices!! But seeing as my legs didn't get any longer, I paid them anyway.

Once I moved to Maryland, I found a guy that was reasonably priced and did a good job. Except for that one time when he hemmed one leg shorter than the other, but no one's perfect.

Then, I met Jerry.

Jerry puts all other tailors to shame. Walking in his quaint little house is like a step back in time. A time where local services reigned and the owner of such local services knew each customer by name. A time where you didn't rush in or rush out, but actually spent a few moments visiting and exchanging good news. A time where you were invited to the back garden to grab some of the overflowing bounty.

That's our Jerry.

If that wasn't enough, Jerry makes you feel like a million bucks the minute you walk through the door. He raves about the many wonderful things about you until you can't believe he likes any customer better than you. Then when you leave, he stands at the door and waves good-bye as if you were family.

The last time I went to see Jerry was simply to pick up a pair of pants. We talked for forty-five minutes. He told me about his love for potatoes and his hometown in Peru. He asked about the "men that come to call on me" until I assured him I would not make any decisions without first consulting with him. He told me how he met his wife, stories of their travels together and showed me pictures of his beautiful granddaughters. We shared his lifetime of experiences, my life of hopes and dreams and there was understanding.

Before I left, he said, "Remember this:" then he spouted off a beautiful message in Spanish which I wish I could have understood. I waited for his translation.

"If you want to cross the river, you have to be willing to get wet."

I've thought a lot about those few words in the past month, and the many ways it applies to my life right at this moment. It's given me a new perspective and is shaping the decisions I make every day, big and small.

And so it goes. Anyone can hem your pants. But there's only one Jerry.