Tours by Megan: Or, How to Make your Friends Violently Ill in Just One Week!

These are my best friends from high school, Emily and Lauren:

Three weeks ago, they stumbled off of a terrible American Airlines flight and into the waiting arms of Rachel, for I was still in transit, somewhere between Portland and Dallas and Miami and Lima. I got home around 5 AM, climbed into my bed, and woke up four hours later to find the ladies standing in my courtyard, trying to decide whether it was a good idea or a bad idea to go exploring on their own.

And explore we did. In 10 days, we wandered around Pueblo Libre, Barranco, and El Centro; we saw Yuyachkani's new show and attended a video performance/party at elgalpon; we traveled to Nasca, Cuzco, and Machu Picchu by bus, train, plane, and several combis; and we ate cuy, camote chips, and cebiche (plus the occasional Esnickers). We also missed out on a lot of REM cycles. Lauren and I stayed up all night and spent a few hours waiting at a gas station, drinking chocolate milk, to catch our 4 AM bus to Nasca:

Then two days later we stumbled out of bed around 3:30 AM to hop a plane to Cuzco, where we stayed at the incredible Hospedaje Caith, part of Centro Yanapanakusun, a non-profit that works to support domestic workers' rights. Here's a non-profit that's doing something right: all proceeds from the hostal support their programs, which include a home for young women doing domestic work in Cuzco; a radical radio program run by the young women; outreach in and around Cuzco; workshops with domestic workers and employers; and other really cool organizing. If any of you, dear readers, find yourself planning a trip to Machu Picchu in the next few years, I highly recommend staying there.

Anyway, we spent two days exploring Cuzco, then we slept in until about 6 before taking the bus/train to Aguas Calientes, the somewhat sad tourist city at the base of Machu Picchu. It was overwhelming: Europeans and North Americans everywhere, Yale "study abroad" counselors trying to befriend us (trying to steal our artifacts, more like it), restaurant hosts and hostesses fighting for our patronage. Yeesh. But it turns out that Machu Picchu was worth it. I suppose this is why it's a wonder of the world:

The next day Rach and I got up at 3 AM to climb Machu Picchu in darkness and to get entrance stamps so we could go up Wayna Picchu. Clemente, a security guard at Machu Picchu who does this hike every morning (the bus costs $7 each way, which is a lot of money for a twenty-minute ride), offered to walk us up. It's a good thing he did: we were hiking by moonlight up hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of steps, and I'm not sure I could have done it if I hadn't been worried about making him late for work. He also regaled us with stories of weeping tourists who had lost their entrance passes, a story that we saw reenacted around 5:15 AM by a rather unfortunate British girl. Finally, a bit after 7 AM, we watched the sun rise over Machu Picchu. This was spectacular, even though we were sitting right in front of an Italian tour group whose guide was going on and on about the heroics of Hiram Bingham.

Also on this day, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was passed in the NY State Senate!!!

Finally, all those nights of sleeplessness plus a bad sunburn and a pussing toe took their toll: Emily and Lauren ended up sick in bed for our last day in Cuzco. Whoops. Sorry, guys!

Pobrecitas. Plus, they missed out on Corpus Cristi in Cuzco, in which they parade 15 saints around the central square, each saint accompanied by his or her own brass band and dancers:

On Corpus Cristi, it's also traditional to eat Chiri Uchu, or a cold plate of chicken, cuy, cornbread, seaweed, fish eggs, and corn. Yummm. Emily didn't seem to regret missing out on this one, though, and we brought Lauren a plate to eat in bed.

Then it was back to Lima via a long-delayed one-hour flight, made tolerable only by Lauren's sister's pub quizzes, and then the ladies flew back to the States. Now I'm in week two of Normal Life after a whole month of travelling. This is an interesting adjustment, but luckily the World Cup is around to keep me from being too productive. My roommates are divided: one for Argentina, one for Germany, a few indifferent. Personally, I'm going for the vuvuzelas.

So that was the trip. Lauren and Em, thanks for coming! Love you, ladies!


Happy Birthday, Miguelito!

Congratulations, Michael, on leaving your teenage years behind you. I and this enormous Ekeko wish you the happiest of birthdays.

Also, a brief story (in celebration, too, of us not getting our culos kicked by the Brits): I've been teaching English classes this week, and my students and I were talking about the World Cup. Peru, as you may or may not know, has not made it to the World Cup for about 30 years. Thinking of the joys and sorrows of being a Mariner's fan, I empathetically expressed my regret over the state of soccer in Peru. Then one of my students turned to me and said, "But the US is in it!"

I, trying as always to distance myself from US hegemonic power, replied, "Yeah, but they're not going to win."

My student blinked at me, then gently said, "Yes, but it is an honor just to be there." It was one of those moments that reminded me that sometimes, no matter how I try, I still think and talk like a norteamericana.

/story slash deeply meaningful sports metaphor ... Happy birthday, Michael!


Back in the U.S.S.A.

Hello, world! GA is back from her journeys, SIM card full to bursting.
Today I'll post some pictures from the trip to California for Erin's graduation; sometime this weekend, I'll add some from Lauren and Emily's visit and our subsequent trip to Cuzco and Machu Picchu.

But first, congratulations to my little sister! Erin has officially become a Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience. Way to go, buddy. Congrats, too, to Litza, Peter, Shruti, Mallory, Leslie, and the Moose, who reminded me several nights in a row what it means to party like a college student. Good job, guys. (Now go get a job. May I suggest a career in oil spill clean up?)

So. I spent the days in Claremont trying to eat as much American food as possible, specifically coffee from the Motley's new brew bar and burritos at Patty's. (Also pizza and curry. Yum.) That was delightful. Then Erin and I combed through the detritus left by outgoing Scripps students, collecting enough food to last us for a week. If we'd had more room in the car, we could have taken enough to last the whole summer, no problem. I even found a half-full bottle of Jack Daniel's in the recycling bin. Did I drink it, you ask? Is my name Megan Hanley?, I answer.

Then we hit the road in our mumus for the most good-looking Road Trip you can imagine, with stops in no less than THREE national parks in one week:



and Redwood National Park, where there be elk, which are dangerous, so you should not stop on the side of the road to photograph them.

It was all really, really good-looking.

But watch out, all ye Great American Campers-- these parks are full of OSOS (bears... shhh, say it quietly, so Erin doesn't hear, freak out, and start wrestling the furriest thing in sight):

Consider yourself warned.

The bear-free part of the road trip was great, too. We ran into some wonderful buddies in Fish Camp and Oakland and Tillamook; I nearly froze to death, first in Yosemite and then in a
swamp; and we had a couple of great meals and a few epic fails.

Finally we met up with our parents and a Stanford Alumnae convention for two beautiful days on the Oregon Coast, and then I hopped on a couple of planes and jetted back to Lima...