Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Year in Review

I think a good general statement for this year is that it was both the best and the worst year of my life. I went through the lowest of lows suffering a nervous breakdown at one point and I also experienced the highest of highs marrying the man of my dreams. I wouldn't change any of it though. I have no regrets because it all served to make me a stronger and more grateful person. Here is a list of things that happened to me this year in no particular order.  

  • We traveled cross-country in a 14 year old Volkswagon Polo from Cusco to Lima.
  • I came to terms with my foreseeable future living in Peru.
  • I lost and regained my identity and realized that it is something that is forever changing depending on what I do and who I am with. We are not nouns (teacher, traveler, student, etc.) we are verbs. We are what we do. I read, I sing, I play violin, I love, I laugh, I teach.
  • I learned to let go of things that I can't change and embrace things that I love about Peru.
  • I fell and continue to fall more and more in love with my husband.
  • I got married in a religious wedding to the best man ever.
  • I learned how to get around on Lima's public transportation.
  • Marco and I played tourists in Lima at least once a month.
  • I became even better friends with my mother and became super grateful for her outlook on life.
  • I was fortunate to get a part time job that opened my eyes to education in Peru. It wasn't a dream job but it was exactly what I needed.
  • I took part in the Suzuki Festival in January which is always a wonderful refreshing experience. 
  • I joined a few expat groups which helped me adjust to life in Lima.
  • I found a yoga class close to my home.
  • I stepped into the role of military wife for the first time by going to some military social events.
  • I taught violin lessons in students' houses and realized that I really don't like doing it that way.
  • I auditioned and made it into a professional choir which has allowed me to meet incredibly talented ladies and make a bit of extra money singing in weddings. Not to mention I have now had the pleasure of seeing an incredible amount of insides of Catholic Churches in Lima.
  • I gigged with my violin.
  • I became best friends with someone who is one of the sweetest most adorable persons in the world.
  • I got a job that will allow me to see my best friend on a daily basis and will allow me to work with kids and teach violin.
  • I met my husband's side of the family
  • I celebrated my 27th birthday (and my 4th birthday in Peru) with a really nice party that included army acquaintances and choir girlfriends.
  • So many friends and family came to Peru for our wedding including my Dad who had never traveled farther south than Mexico before. I love my family so much.
  • My husband and I slowly created the comfy and cozy home we want by adding furniture little by little.
  • I learned about how much power we give to thoughts and those thoughts are our realities. 
  • Gratitude became my best friend this year.
  • I have become incredibly happy and excited for all that is to come in the next year.

As for resolutions, my main resolution is to continue to be optimistic and live a balanced life in all ways possible. There is a great meme that I found on Pinterest that I will try and post because it has great overarching resolutions. Life is an adventure and there is always something more to learn and be curious about. 

I do not own rights to this meme but it sure is great!

Happy New Year 2014 everyone!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Holiday Season Activities

Disclaimer: This was written this past weekend but didn't get published for some reason.

This week has been the most jam-packed holiday week I have ever experienced. Well, that might not be true but there has been something to go to every single day/night this week and we still have one more celebration to participate in tonight for Marco's graduation.

I am going to re-cap in order by days

Monday: Marco and I the pleasure of doing yoga together at a hostel in Barranco. Our yoga instructor had to move location on Mondays because there is now a meditation class held on Monday nights at Casa Taller. They are great classes but I prefer yoga on Monday nights. Anyway, we had an excellent class and proceeded to chow down on a plate of anticuchos (deliciously seasoned cow heart on a stick) from Tio Mario's in Barranco. I highly recommend eating there but you should go on a week day because there is always a line on the weekends.

Tuesday: Marco graduated from his post-grad program and can now sport some pretty awesome yellow cords when the occasion calls for it. My colleagues from work this year organized a ceviche/seafood lunch for me and M who is also leaving next year. He is going back to the States though. It was super fun and the food was excellent. We ate at Punto Azul on Primavera. There are a few Punto Azules in Lima. The price is decent for the quality and the quantity. I cannot get enough chicharron de pescado (fried fish) with tartar sauce. I am so thankful for having met the people I did this year. I know that I have a good friend in A and V, both of whom I plan on keeping in touch with.

On Tuesday evening I partook in a live broadcast event with Coro Arpegio. We gave a Christmas concert that was broadcast live on Filarmonia radio 102.7FM. It was also broadcast online so my family was able to listen in. We sang some Peruvian Christmas carols, some American carols and a few jazz pieces. It was a grand old time and while the piano was a little too "hot" (the mic was too close to it), we got good reviews from our listeners in person and abroad. After the concert I hustled back to the villa where Marco and I celebrated his graduation at a friend's place until 2 in the morning. It was super fun.

Backstage before the Radio Filarmonia concert.
Wednesday: We had a pretty relaxing Wednesday since the majority of it was spent recovering from the night before. I chatted for a bit on skype with my bro which is always nice. I made cookies for the Arpegio Christmas party that took place in the evening and we watched the movie Jobs, which was pretty good. Ashton Kutcher did a good job as Jobs (hehe). Jobs might have been a genius to some but her sure wasn't a nice person. Anyway, in the evening I headed over to the house of one of the choir members and ate a lot of bocaditos. The mother of one of the members made delicious appetizers and I couldn't keep my hands off of them. Our director gave a very nice speech and then we proceeded to get the play by play of what happened last Saturday. It was crazy because there were three weddings in a 3 hour time span and people had to rush to get from one place to the next. Unfortunately, one car was pulled over for speeding and because the insurance card was expired they were taken in. Panic ensued and by the grace of technology and shuffling around some people, all of the weddings went off without a hitch. Youtube saved the day as well. It was hilarious getting the play by play from everyone though. We ended the night by playing some fun party games. I know I have said it before but I will say it again. I really love being a part of Coro Arpegio. The ladies are so fun and there is never a dull moment when we get together whether it is to practice, sing in a wedding, or celebrate a baby shower or the end of the year. I love it.

Some of the lovely ladies from Coro Arpegio

Thursday: Marco and I have been able to have lunch together almost every day this week which has been excellent. I know that come the beginning of the school year we will not have that luxury anymore so I am taking full advantage right now. We were invited over to a friend's house yesterday to make sushi and eat it! I met Lisa through a mutual friend from Cusco. She lived there last year and taught 4th grade and recently moved to Lima in August. If you are interested in her blog check it out here. I love meeting other expats and on top of that she is also married to a Peruvian. They came to see me sing in the choir concert we put on a few weeks ago at ICNPA but we didn't actually meet in person until last Friday when we had lunch. Anyway, she invited us to dinner and we had a blast. Marco had never tried sushi before. Actually it was mahi I believe since there was no fish involved. We learned how to make our own as well. I love seeing Marco's reaction to new things like food. He is always a bit skeptical at first and sometimes he doesn't like it but he definitely liked what we ate last night including the wasabi/soy sauce mix. There were a few other friend of Lisa's that had dinner with us and overall it was a relaxing evening out.

Off to the last event of the week!

Update: The last even of the week was the celebration for Marco's graduation and it was a blast. We stayed out 'til the wee hours of the morning and we danced our butts off which we were not able to do as much of at our wedding. We made up for that. I am so proud of him for all he has done this year managing the move to Lima, a demanding schedule of exams and classes, and of course, me and all my ups and downs. 

It's Christmas Time

It's Christmas time. It's Christmas time. Dupa dupa doo it's Christmas time. (Put whatever melody you would like to that and it is probably how I sang it.) Today is Christmas Eve Day and we are going to take on the task of cooking a turkey. This is going to be the first time I try my hand at cooking something so large. I just hope that our little oven can handle a 6 kilo turkey. I have learned over the years that in Peru it is most common to send your turkey off to a bakery or restaurant oven to have it cooked since most people don't want to waste their gas from their ovens. I also think it might have more to deal with the fact that the majority of stoves here are not very big and some don't have the oven part. Anyway, it isn't a bad idea but you lose out on basting the turkey. It is also not guaranteed that you will have a moist turkey since the people who are cooking your turkey won't be so preocupied with seasoning it and caring for it like you would. So today is the day to see if I can make something delicious!

It is customary in Peru to open all your presents at midnight. Santa is a concept here, mostly in decorations and a Santa's workshop at the mall, but most families don't go to the trouble of perpetuating the story of Santa by making kids wait until the morning to open their gifts. Everyone has a nativity scene and at midnight you put the baby Jesus in his bed of hay. It's cute and I like the idea of adding new animals every year to the nativity scene. Also, people put up some really nice decorations, at least on the villa militar. However, the person who invented musical lights needs to be fired. They are non-stop and high pitched. They ruin great Christmas songs and if there are multiple strings playing at once it is a jumble of noise that makes you want to rip all of them out of the socket. 

I digress. I have decided that while I like the Christmas traditions here, I would also like to add some of my traditions from growing up. One of those is going to be filling the stockings. Even if we decide to open presents at midnight, the stockings will be filled by Santa at the very least. This tradition will happen when there are children in the picture but we do have a stocking up for us and for Pepe, our dog. I am also going to make my great grandmother's coffee cake on Christmas Day morning. Since Christmas Day is pretty anti-climactic since all the presents were opened the night before, most people sleep in nice and late. That is perfect for me. I can take my time with making breakfast. I also plan on getting my hands on a re-fillable advent calendar because those are always super fun as a kid and I have not seen any here. 

What about the religious aspect of Christmas you say? Well, Christmas was originally a pagan holiday and the church decided to add it onto their customs and assign it as the day of birth of Jesus Christ. I am not a Catholic nor a practicing Christian but I do believe in the idea of celebrating love and compassion and spending time with family. I think that Christmas is about taking time to be thankful and I am very very thankful. I have my husband and his mother is in town for the week. My brother and sister in law with their daughter will come over as well. I will skype with my family back in the States and we will eat lots of Paneton. Oh yeah! Paneton is another great tradition here in Peru. I know I wrote about it last year in Cusco but Paneton is like fruitcake but bigger and so much better. It is sweet bread with fruit pieces in it. (More like gummy fruits). It is accompanied by hot chocolate no matter how hot it may be outside in Lima. I love it and I can't get enough of the stuff which is dangerous because one paneton will give at least another pound or two of body weight. Haha! It's worth it!

Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bazaar Navideño, New Job and a Violin Concert

I am officially done with teaching music in La Molina this year! Overall, I am really grateful for the experience and while I don't see myself teaching general music any time soon, I do see myself working with primary aged kids and that is exactly what I will be doing next year. I was fortunate enough to get a job as the English enrichment teacher for kindergarten at an all girls Catholic school in Miraflores starting next February. I have decided to use general references when it comes to names of people and places because, while we think we are safe while typing away at a screen, there are plenty of people out there who might want to use information to be malicious. Granted, if someone really wanted to be malicious, it wouldn't be too hard to get the information he or she needed. I digress. I am extremely happy because I will be working with 5 kindergarten classes on a daily basis singing songs, playing games and improving pronunciation. I will have my own office with a computer, desk and a table for kids to sit at and work on English tutoring. I will also have a violin workshop on Mondays and Wednesdays! I am beyond excited about all of it. On top of all of this, it is only 25 minutes from home and my best friend J will be working next door in Pre-kinder. She is the reason I got the job as well. I actually have to thank M from Coro Arpegio because she teaches music there and originally told me about it but it was after J's interview in which she passed along my info, that I finally decided to go for it. Funny how things work out when you are open to opportunities.

This past week we had the Bazaar Navideño or Christmas Bazaar at the school in La Molina. My kindergarteners, 1st graders and 2nd graders all performed. It was a great atmosphere and since people were milling about buying things from vendors, the kids weren't as stressed out about the performance. I was very pleased with everyone's performance and I am so thankful to all the tutoras that helped with rehearsals and practiced the songs in class. I am definitely going to miss some of my colleagues. 

On Thursday we had the final presentation of the pre-school show. The preparation was intense and egos and attitudes were all over the place among the teachers but I was able to play mediator and we were able to have a successful show which is the most important thing. The kids did a great job and while the choir was a bit difficult to animate, the majority of them sang and didn't fidget too much. They are 3 and 4 year olds after all. All in all, this year has been a huge demonstration to me that attitude makes all the difference when it comes to something panning out stress free or not. Positivity is key!

Finally, last week one of my two violin students took part in the end of the year violin and music theory concert that two of my Suzuki colleagues put on. It went really well and I hope that next year my students will be able to participate in Saturday groups classes that my friend teaches. Here is a picture of my student's performance.

Tomorrow I am looking forward to lunch with my colleagues. One of my co-workers so sweetly organized a lunch for my despedida. I was not expecting that at all especially considering I only worked 2 days a week. There is nothing like feeling appreciated and I am super appreciative of them.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

End of the Year Activities

It is time to update! There is much to tell! I will start with the Lima Contact gathering. Lima Contact is an expat group of mostly women. There are also Peruvians who attend activities as well. Honestly, I am not completely sure what the group does but there was a Christmas brunch that was organized by a very active expat who does things with various groups including expats married to peruvians. The lunch was really great and there was champagne to start and a delicious buffet. There were also really cute gifts for everyone. I got two little cacti in a bowl. We are slowly but surely growing our plant collection in the house. I met a few women including one who has lived in Peru since the 70s. I also met a Peruvian woman who is a tour guide and a professor. I love gatherings like this. There are always super cool people to talk to.

Marco and I had a great time celebrating Thanksgiving with Emma, my yoga instructor and her friends that included Peruvians, Americans, a German and and Irish. It was really nice and I made pumpkin pie. I tried to make whipped cream out of egg whites which is technically a meringue but it worked. Marco wasn't expecting to get filled up by the food but it turned out that he like pretty much everything. We ended up passing out in a tryptophan induced sleep at the end of the night, content and very thankful. We will be celebrating Thanksgiving every year no matter what. It is my favorite American holiday. I know that Marco has no complaints especially if we don't have to make the turkey but we get to eat it. Haha!

We had the pleasure of going out to dinner with Marco's best friend from Acari, his wife and sister in law with her daughter. We ate at Javier, this great seafood place on the bajada de los baños in Barranco. The service isn't great but the food is fantastic and there is this delicious drink called Cielo del Inka that has pisco and vermouth in it. Anyway, it was really great getting to know everyone and we ended the night by coming back to our place and staying up til 3 in the morning! We were invited to Acari for New Years. We might just make it! We shall see.

On Sunday Marco and I set up our Christmas tree and our nativity scene. I think I mentioned in a post last year in my Cusco blog about how nativity scenes are customary here. In Cusco you could buy fresh vegetation to use as grass. We had our set and all of our little animals from last year and we will continue to add a few animals each year. I have a feeling when we have kids they will be getting animals each year along with ornaments like my parents to my brother and me. We only have two personal ornaments on our tree right now and neither belongs to us. One is Marco's son's and the other belongs to Pepe. It says "Dogs love Christmas too". If Pepe is good Santa might be rewarding him with his stocking filled with treats. The other ornaments are typical round ornaments that are purple and gold. We never had those when I was growing up but that is because we had so many ornaments as gifts throughout the year. I think having personal ornaments is much more fun not only for sentimental reasons but because it is fun to look at all the different ornaments on the tree. Soon I will have all the ones that I got while growing up. I taught Marco how to properly put lights on a tree to make it look like they are part of the tree and not just slung about. We still lack a skirt for the bottom of the tree and a star to put on top but it is coming along very nicely!
I don't have a picture right now of the lights that are up all over the villa but it is wonderful walking Pepe at night. It is getting warmer too since we are going into summer time so walking around at night looking at lights is very pleasant.

Finally, the choir that I sing with (Coro Arpegio) had a concert on Monday night. We sang some Christmas songs, some criollo songs, a few songs for weddings and some jazz. It was super fun and we looked so cute with all black and red pizazz. I absolutely love singing with Arpegio. Not only is it a bit of income but the girls are so much fun and we have such a good time together. That's the best part. We are going to be giving another concert next Tuesday and we are going to be broadcast live on radio filarmonica 102.7 in Lima. How cool is that?

There are still some more things to update everyone about including the Christmas Bazaar concert at the school where I taught this year and a NEW JOB for next year. I am so happy to say that the end of my first year in Lima is shaping up to be a complete 180 from the beginning. I will make sure to put up a new post soon. For now, it's time to catch up on some sleep and recuperate some energy after all the craziness of finishing up school this week.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mi Santo

We took advantage of the weekend before my birthday to celebrate with a party at our place. It was attended by military couples and my girlfriends from Arpegio. I had a great time even though I had to go back and forth between two groups the entire time. People don't mix and mingle at parties like I am used to but it was all good. I really liked the fact that some of the choir girls made themselves right at home and started making drinks and picking away at the food on the table. It is custom at gatherings in Peru that you go around and serve food and drinks to everyone instead of them getting up and doing it themselves. I don't mind getting people their first drinks and offering to fill them up if they are low but I want people to feel like they can do things for themselves too. I am working at finding a good balance between being the overly attentive host like most people are here and relaxing and letting eat and drink at their pace. I find that with a various cultural differences I am figuring out what works best for me but also doesn't completely offend others. Everyone had drinks and there was karaoke so in the end I think everyone was satisfied. I was surprised with trick candles that Marco put on the cake. He was surprised as well and we ended up in a cloud of smoke. Good thing we didn't burn down the apartment. Our neighbors would not have been happy. It was really really awesome having so many people show up to the party. I wasn't expecting more than 15 or so but there ended up being around 30. It meant a lot to me that everyone came out to celebrate for a bit. 

I had a wonderful day on my birthday. I had work at the school but my classes went really well and the rehearsal we had for 1st grade went pretty well too! I was greeted with a rendition of happy birthday by the woman who is the head of human resources at the school. It was a great way to start the day off. I didn't let me students know it was my birthday because I didn't really want them to have an excuse to ask to watch videos instead of practice for the show cultural.

When I got home I opened the apartment door and found rose petals leading to the table where Marco had spelled out Te Amo with more rose petals. There was a huge flower arrangement behind it and an adidas hat and shirt on the chair. What a sweetheart! It was super romantic and so thoughtful. I hope that never changes!

In the evening Marco took me out to a restaurant called KuoWha. It looks like a casino from the outside but it has a beautiful japanese garden on the inside and a delicious buffet dinner. I ate so much food. It was wonderful! There was this yummy dessert that was like a funnel cake ball with poppy seeds on the outside. I could have eaten 10 of them. I also loved the egg rolls. I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who is in Lima looking for asian food. It was delicious!

After eating we headed to a casino around the corner and gambled 10 soles. I won 10 soles on my third try and lost the rest of the original 10 so I ended up breaking even! It was fun but definitely not something I could imagine myself doing on a regular basis. It was my birthday though so why not?

Something fun about the name of this entry is that Peruvians call your birthday your santo. You might hear someone say "Cuando es tu santo? - When is your birthday?" and they refer to the birthday girl or guy as "la santa" o "el santo". That is because every day has a saint assigned to it and in the olden days people were named after the saint of whose date their birthday fell on. My saint is Saint Avelino so I could have been Avelina if I had been born in the 60s or before. My handy daily planner told me that because it has the name of the saint that corresponds to each date on each page.

The two gringas at the party!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Date Night, The Spanish Inquisition and Donating Blood

I had a jam-packed weekend and it started with a model class to show that I could teach 6th grade English. I am super excited to be on the path to getting a full time teaching job in a subject area that I feel I have a lot more dominance in. There are a number of factors as to why I have decided to look towards teaching at the secondary level instead of pursuing music at this point. I think that in order to get the most out of life and find what works for me I have to ride the waves and go with the flow of where I am. Things are different in a big city and what I really want is to have a place where I work and feel like I am part of a team/community. I love teaching and I am still figuring out exactly where I fit into the teaching world but I have a great opportunity to possibly teach full time at a school that uses the International Baccalaureate program which is super cool and fascinating. (If you want to know more about it go to
On Thursday night I decided to take my husband out on a date to the restaurant Charlotte in Barranco. It was delicious. I had a lomo saltado lasagna with hauncaina sauce on top. What a great mix of italian and Peruvian food in one tasty dish! Marco went with pollo saltado, a chicken, tomato, onion dish with fries and rice. We headed over to Posada del Angel and I tried an angel sour which was a pisco sour with fresh peach juice. Yum! We listened to a bit of live music before hopping on a bus right outside which dropped us at the villa. I love that we live so close to Barranco. It takes 10 minutes to walk to the Barranco plaza from our place. While we were walking to our dinner spot we stopped in a homeopathy store that had all sorts of chocolates, cereals, grains, and plants as well as tea and oils. Marco said that Barranco is kind of like Cusco with its fun shops and cafes and the artsy vibe. I totally agree and it makes me beyond happy. Lima is starting to feel more like home. I can't complain.
On Friday I had a piano lesson with my friend and then called up another girlfriend and invited her over for dinner and wine. I tried my hand at making estofado de res, a red meat dish with a red sauce. I added too much water to the dressing so I improvised and added spaghetti to keep the flavor in and soak up some of the water so as not to have estofado soup. It worked pretty well and both my friend and Marco were satisfied. I am slowly but surely building up my Peruvian cooking skills and adding a little flavor of my own. I am so glad that I invited my amiga over. She is also from the States and had been going through a lot of difficulty with her significant other. I am more than happy to be that friend who is there to listen and help others get through tough times. The worst thing in the world is to feel like you have no one to run to when things get bad. True friends will stick through the good and bad. I only give what I would like to get in return and sometimes it is a hug, an ear, or even a bed to stay in depending on the circumstance. I am a strong believer that relationships are what make life so wonderful.
On Saturday Marco and I headed to the Inquisition Museum located in the center of Lima across from the Congressional building. It was all about the Spanish Inquisition in Peru. They had all the torture items on display with mannequins in place. It wasn't as creepy as the Medieval Times torture chamber that I went to for a birthday party one year in the States when I was a kid. The museum was well lit and the guide was pretty indifferent. I took some pictures for you to enjoy. Apparently only 33 people were actually killed by the inquisition but I find that hard to believe. I am sure there were more and I am convinced the catacombs of San Francisco are where a lot of their bones ended up.
Marco loves the colonial style balconies in the center of Lima.
This ceiling in the Inquisition Museum has been restored but the original was kept in place by nothing more than pressure. No glue, nails or mortar.
We ate lunch at an American style saloon/bar around the corner from the presidential palace. The food was OK but nothing to rave about. The ambience was pretty cool though with the high ceilings and shutter style doors.
I have to say that I am huge fan of the turron candy bar. It is a traditional Peruvian treat with cookie, honey, and sprinkles on top. I treated myself to a tasty bite on the way back home from our lunch in the center. Good thing they don't have the Doña Pepa shops near where I live. 
Saturday night ended with a Matt Damon movie called Hereafter. It was all right but nothing too exciting. I watched the last bit of a show that one of my fellow choir members sang in that was airing on TV Peru as well. It was a rock concert with opera vocals mixed in. It was super cool. That choir member ended up being a part of our weekend the following day.
I got a call from M who told me that another choir member's mother had been sick and they needed two more units of blood to give back to the blood bank for her time at the clinic in San Miguel. I asked Marco if he was available to give blood with me and he agreed. It turns out that he has never given blood even though he will often call on soldiers to go give blood. They way it works here is that when you give blood you give it to a specific clinic or hospital. 
There is no centralized blood bank like the American Red Cross. Also, for however much blood that is used during your stay, you have to replace it by getting others to donate or you have to pay 200 soles per unit. We asked about the possibility of being able to donate every 6 months and creating a personal blood bank in case anything happens. Apparently, that is a possibility. I am super thankful that Marco is in the military because we won't have to worry about blood shortages and it helps that I am o+ which is the most common blood type among soldiers here. It was an interesting and unexpected way to end our weekend but it felt good to be helping a friend out, while leaving us a little light headed and super hungry. We were told not to eat for four hours before giving blood so both of us were ravenous at the end. 
We were treated to some food afterward by the choir member whom we were helping out. I always like it when Marco has the opportunity to meet more of my friends. What a better way to bond with my hubby and have him meet people than donate blood? 
The judges of your blasphemous crimes.
If you were lucky you would only have to walk around the square with this outfit.

If you were unlucky you would receive this kind of torture.

Hmmm....I am pretty sure that this type of torture is still used today. Guantanamo anyone?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wedding Recap

The big day has come and gone and I couldn't be more happy with the outcome. All the preparation and time spent making sure that things came together all paid off. My family and friends were super happy and content with the service they got and that is what mattered most to me. Marco and I get to spend every day with each other for the rest of our lives. While a religious wedding is about the couple, we both think it is really about everyone coming together and having a good time and sharing in the love and happiness. Marco and I had the privilege of being married legally last year in Cusco. We got married in the morning with our witnesses and had lunch a friend's place. We watched a Peru Chile soccer game in our PJs in the afternoon and then went out to dinner at another friend's restaurant. We made it out dancing for a bit as well. It was completely our day. I think everyone should take a day and enjoy their civil wedding because a religious wedding is a huge logistical affair and it is so easy to stress out about it. It was all worth it though and I am beyond happy that I had my two worlds merge and everyone was so happy. I didn't let little hiccups ruin the wedding either. My poor dad was taken to the reception hall instead of the church and missed the walk in but my first thought was that he was in traffic and there was nothing he could do. I love him so much and he made it to the end of the ceremony. He was there for the vows and to sign as my godfather. He looked so sharp too! When it comes down to it, all that mattered to me is that we were all together to celebrate the love. 

The father had such a wonderful speech as well and he told us that the death of a marriage is routine. When things get boring, the love dies. I completely agree. We will be keeping it fresh for as long as we are together! It was perfect having the choir I sing with sing for the mass as well. It was beautiful and I sang along to all the songs. 

The ceremony concluded with our walk under the tunnel of swords held up by promos of Marco. We thanked each one of them as we walked by. It was cool seeing a lot of them crack a smile while creating the tunnel. We took a picture with all of them at the end but I don't have a copy of it yet. 

The reception was a trip. I sat down all of two times, once for dinner and once to talk to Flor for a bit. I surprised Marco by singing the song "Andar Conmigo" by Julieta Venegas. The look on his face was priceless and I will never forget it. We did pretty much all the activities before dinner including the bouquet toss and the garter as well as a military toast in which we drank champaign with Marco's promos and threw the glasses in the air before Marco smashed all of them with his feet on the ground. It was awesome! We danced with each other's parents and we took photos with family and friends. After dinner we cut our cake with Marco's sword and we danced to Marc Anthony's "Vivir mi Vida". It started the party and people danced and danced til the music was cut off.

Everyone who came from the States

Some of the highlights for the night were seeing my soon to be sister in law run around with the whiskey bottle and pour it into the mouths of everyone she could get her hands on. Her philosophy was it is a party so lets mix and mingle and get everyone drunk! I loved it and she was the hora loca (a typical activity in a party where balloons and whistles are passed out, clowns and people on stilts dance and fast paced music is played to get everyone pumped up) that we didn't have planned. I also really enjoyed going around and thanking everyone for coming. We took so many pictures. My cheeks hurt by the end of the night. Actually, they had already begun to hurt in the ceremony because I smiled practically the entire time. I also loved seeing my uncle and my sister in law dancing away. I also received so many really kind sweet words from family and friends. I was bursting with happiness. It means so much to me that everyone came out to celebrate with us. I am so thankful for the family and friends I have and the life I have with my amazing husband. There are so many things that life throws our way but I am determined to ride the waves and do it with a smile on my face and wonderful partner by my side. 

So now I am looking to the future and excited for all that is to come. It was a bit depressing seeing everyone go home but I know we will be together soon. It was nice that my family left gradually. I had time this week to spend with my mom, brother, S.I.L, dad and his girlfriend after the wedding. No matter how far apart we may live, my family will always be a huge important part of my life. They are the reason I was able to be adventuresome and find the love of my life. Thank you to everyone who shared in this amazing moment in my and Marco's lives either in person or on facebook. It means the world to us!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Family and Wedding Prep

I don't have much time to write but I just wanted to say that having family here in Peru from the States is fantastic! Seeing Marco and my family interact is fantastic. Having people here to take out our dog is fantastic! I am so grateful. We did some tourism and took a tour of the San Francisco church and catacombs. We went to mesa redonda, or the shopping district in the center of Lima where everything is much cheaper. We ate pollo a la brasa at Norky's and we went to the Parque de las Aguas Magicas. We celebrated Will's birthday with a bottle of Jack Daniels and we bought a super awesome bar from Villa El Salvador on Sunday. My wonderful cousin and maid of honor got in this morning and we are off to do some shopping and then get mani pedis. The big day is quickly approaching and I am so excited. Everyone will be at our place tomorrow for a huge Peruvian food buffet dinner. I can't wait!! Here is a picture of our birthday celebration on Saturday night.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Planning, Gigging, and Getting very Excited!

I cannot wait for my family to get here. I am so excited! Seriously. Only 5 more days until my mother, brother and other brother get here. I have to figure out what we are going to do for the weekend. It is a great excuse to get out and do some touristy stuff around Lima. Marco and I have done a fair amount of things like go to the Fountain park, the catacombs of San Francisco church and the zoo. Maybe I will try and find some cool museums.
I am trying to stay nice and calm about all the wedding details. Everything is shaping up nicely. I just want to make sure that all is in order so people have a good time. I have to send out an email to everyone to let them know how the reception is going to work. I recently found out that all of the activities during a wedding besides dancing and drinking happen before we eat dinner. That includes a toast with the military folk, speeches, dances, bouquet tossing, garter tossing etc. It is also custom to just have a pisco sour during this entire thing and for toasts later on. I am going to see if beer can be put out at each table for folks to drink as they desire. Dinner is also going to be nice and late around 9:15 - 9:30pm. Snacks are encouraged for before and after the ceremony.
I am trying to get things planned for after the wedding too. I want to make sure that I don't have to spend any time at all on school stuff after my family gets here. I want to focus completely on being with them and not worrying about having everything ready to go for work the following Monday. I am so lucky to have a job from which I am able to take time off. Granted, I don't get paid for those two days of work but it is worth it. I have chosen to live a few thousand miles away from my family so I have to take advantage of all the time I have with them when we are together physically. No money could ever replace time with family. There are very few people who say they regret not working over spending quality time with family.
The weather here has been awful. Everyone says that in October the weather is typically warmer. Unfortunately, it has been quite chilly (i.e. 50s and 60s) and there has been a huge lack of sun. I am very thankful for the fact that La Molina has sun on a more consistent basis and when I come up from the basement where I teach music it is unbelievably nice to get some sunshine and warmth on my skin.
I played my violin in a presentation at the Ministerio de Cultura building for a delegation of folks from Huancavelica, a provincial town in Peru. A friend of mine mentioned me to the coordinator and we practiced on Tuesday. We played 4 songs, all of which are traditional Peruvian classics such as Virgenes del Sol and Condor Pasa. We were supposed to start at 8pm originally but I got a message saying to come at 8:15. Then I got another message telling me to be there at 8:30pm to start at 9pm. We didn't go on until after 10pm. Unfortunately, it is a common occurrence with cultural events from what my friend tells me. I convinced the coordinator to pay us a bit extra so it worked out all right. I also really enjoyed playing. I am happy that I am able to take part in fun things like this even if they are a little disorganized.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Run, Mistura, and Registry Fun

Sunday was a jam packed day. It started with Marco leaving the house at 6:30 am and heading to the center of Lima for a run down the via expresa ending on Javier Prado. It was a run for Dia de las Fuerzas Armadas or Day of the Armed Forces. It was fun seeing different groups run together. There were other people invited to run as well so in between the blocks of military personnel there were random runners. Marco ran with his classmates from War School. 

Where's Marco?

After watching the run Marco and I headed to Mistura. Mistura is Lima's annual food festival started by Gaston Acurio. He is Peru's claim to fame when it comes to promoting Peruvian gourmet around the world. I think he might have just opened a new restaurant in Chicago. I should look that up. I liked eating at Chicha in Cusco and I am going to be trying out Tanta here in Lima next week.

Mistura was packed but what was more daunting than anything was the line to get in! Marco and I would probably have waited a good 45 minutes just to get into the festival if we hadn't decided to walk around to the other side. We were a part of a group of people who had the same idea. There was no way there was only one entrance. Sure enough, there was no line on the other side! Huzzah! We didn't want to spend too much time in lines so we steered clear of the cilindrada (barbeque section). Peruvians love their roasted everything. I found a recoto relleno stand. It is a stuffed pepper with meat and veggies inside. It was accompanied by a cheesy potato dish. Marco found arroz con pato (duck and rice) and we shared mazamorra (a syrup made of purple corn) with arroz con leche (milky rice). We weren't full so we headed over to the limeño section and shared a causa (mashed yellow potatoe stuffed with chicken and avocado). To finish off our gluttonous afternoon we ate picarones (sweet potato funnel cake/donut).
The line extended back at least a half kilometer.
We found the secret entrance on the other side!
This is the first time both Marco and myself went to Mistura and we were impressed with the layout. It wasn't well advertised that there were two entrances but once inside we had relatively little wait time in lines. We did choose things that were less popular but overall we were happy with the outcome. There was a ticket system and tickets were sold in 13, 7, 3, and 1 sol increments. Most portions were 13 soles and with any food festival the consumer tends to get a taste of what the vendor has to offer instead of a regular sized plate. Granted, regular sized plates in restaurants here tend to be quite large (mostly filled with white rice though). That is to be expected at a fair though. I think of Taste of Chicago and that really is a perfect name for a food festival. You get a taste of things. That's what makes it fun though. Also, there were restaurants represented that sell plates from 40 to 50 soles a plate so getting a sample for 13 is a steal. We weren't so interested in finding those restaurants as much as we were interested in finding the food that suited our desires in the moment. I have a feeling that Mistura will only continue to grow in the years to come. It is a relatively new event. It stared in 2008 under the name "Peru Mucho Gusto" and then the following year it was renamed Mistura. I am interested to see how many people went through over the course of the 15 day event. It has to be in the 300,000s.

After leaving Mistura and taking a quick nap in the grass outside (with sun! Hurray for spring! Let there be more sun in Lima!) we headed over to Saga Falabella where we got our hands on a scanner and registered all the things we would like for our place. It was really fun picking things out with Marco. The custom in Peru is that you drop off a wedding gift at the residence of the couple before or after the wedding. People don't bring their gifts to the reception like they do in the States. I think that is kind of nice. It means that people have to take time out of their day to make a trip to personally deliver a gift. We also have to personally deliver our wedding invitations. That, on the other hand, is not so much fun. Fortunately, Marco is the one doing most of the delivering since many of the guests are in the military so he has more contact with them. I am sure that this is the custom because the mail system is not completely reliable here.

I hope everyone has a great week!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cañete: Cuna y Capital del Arte Negro

This is a statue of a girl dancing Festejo, a traditional Afro-Peruvian dance.

Marco and I had a great time this weekend. We made a trip out to Cañete, Marco's birth place and home to his Dad's side of the family. We decided to take a bus instead of risking the car breaking down on us and it took us three hours to get there. It is typically a two hour ride. Granted we had to go to the center of Lima to pick up our bus and it is a company that stops and picks people up along the way. There are three types of omnibus options. The nicest ones don't stop anywhere except the final destination. The second rate ones are like the one we took called Soyus. They have a terminal where you can buy your ticket and get the seats you want but it stops every once in a while to pick people up at certain bus stops. There is a person who comes around and asks for ID and charges you for your seat if you get picked up later on. The final type of bus is the one that stops at every bus stop and will pack people on until there is no more room. They are the worst and the slowest of course.
Anyway, we got to Cañete and immediately hopped in a taxi that took us out to Marco's aunt and uncles' house. We chatted for a bit. Marco's aunt was very emotional about seeing Marco. He hadn't been back to visit in almost 15 years! That's nuts. I am happy that he is getting back into touch with his family. We dropped off wedding invites and then headed over to Marco's dad's place. His sister and brother in law are in the process of constructing a house on the same lot as his father's. It is a bit of a squeeze but slowly and surely they will have their house completely constructed. Lizett, Marco's sister, is a doll and her two daughters are so adorable. One of them reminds me so much of myself. She is super outgoing and sings and dances around. She was curious and she was constantly showing us things. When we got home last night she said while half asleep "buenas noches tia amy." It was so cute! She didn't want us to leave the following day. I didn't really want to leave either. I would have loved to stay a few more days to hang out with the fam!

I really enjoyed getting to know Lizett better and it was great seeing how she and Marco interacted. It reminded me a lot of me and my brother. I am excited to have a relationship with a new sister and I am pretty sure she is too!
Marco and I had a blast. After drinking a chela (Peruvianism for beer) Peruvian style with his brother and dad (meaning you pass around one cup and one beer bottle and each person pours what they want and then passes it to the next person when he or she is done. Neither Marco nor I are huge fans of the custom.) we headed out and stopped by the birthday party the girls went to. Oriana dragged me inside to dance and I was happy to oblige. All the kids were fascinated and happy to have an adult dancing with them. They gave me a bag full of sweets when we left. I ate so much food and sugar Saturday night. It was worth it though.
Marco and I went to the feria. Cañete was celebrating it's 457th birthday. Something I love about carnivals and fairs in Peru is that it isn't just fair rides and games. You will find people selling random stuff, lots of food stands, and live music. We tried our hand at a few games. My gun skills are not as great with a cork rifle as opposed to a real pistol but Marco informed me that they are meant to shoot the cork as a bad angle no matter what. I won a rubik's cube and I gave it to a kid who was standing beside me the entire time. He asked me where I was from and I told him to guess. He said the United States and I nodded. His response in English was "Oh my God!" It was super cute. I knew he would get more out of a rubik's cube than I would. He was super happy to receive it. Did I perpetuate the idea that foreigners will give you things if you hang around them long enough? Maybe. I might also have brightened the kids day. I like to think it was the second.

Meat on a stick. We didn't eat this but we did eat a lot of anticucho (cow heart) at the dance contest.

We went to the stadium to buy our tickets only to find out that the festejo contest wasn't going to start until 10:30pm even though it said 8pm on the sign. That's typical. We headed to the main plaza and found ourselves a cute little place called La Esquina de Pisco and had ourselves 5 sole pisco sours. They were strong and decently sized. Next time we go back we will definitely be hitting up La Esquina. 30 soles and you have yourself a night! I saw that there was a karaoke bar so we went inside. It wasn't too full so I got my fair share of singing in. Meanwhile, Lizett met up with us at the bar before we headed over to the stadium. Marco and I could not stop raving about how cheap going out there was. It's nice to get away from the city every once and a while not only for a change of scenery but also for a change in the price of things!
The festejo conest was awesome. Cañete is known in Peru as the birthplace and capital of arte negro. Festejo is a type of dance and music that is a mixture of Peruvian and African dance and music. It is super fun and really catchy. The groups that danced were great and then individual ladies got out and danced. All the while Lizett, Marco and I had a ball drinking chelas and eating anticucho and papa rellena. We ended the night by heading to a discoteca called Anubis. It was really packed but still fun. We got home around 4am! It's been a while since we have been out that late.
I wrote about festejo after going to Rompe y Raja here in Lima if you are interested in seeing some videos. You can also plug in festejo to youtube and see what comes up.
It was a great weekend and I am really glad that we were able to get out of Lima for a bit. It was relaxing and fun. I am happy to say that I had a great two days at work as well. This week I have lots of wedding things to do and we have the first of two meetings at the church for couples counseling. It is a requirement to get married in the Catholic church. Both Marco and I are very intrigued by what we are going to learn about marriage from a priest. I will definitely be blogging about it. 
That's it for now! Have a great week everyone!

Friday, August 30, 2013


I had a full day yesterday! I started out by getting up nice and early to finish up cleaning the house and getting everything set for the brunch for expats married to Peruvians. It is a group that I became a member of after getting an email from a woman who is married to a colonel in the Peruvian Airforce because my name was passed on to her from a woman whom I met at the American Women's Literary Club back in February. (Phew!) The group is comprised of ladies from all different countries. Out of those who came to the brunch, Ireland, Australia, Spain, The UK, The Netherlands, and the States were all represented. It was really great and everyone is so laid back. We ate lots of sweet cakes and bread and there were lots of leftovers which means Marco and I are set for our bread and sweet snacks for days! I like being a part of this group because we are more long term expats and being married to a Peruvian is different that being an expat married to another expat living in Peru or an expat in a relationship with a Peruvian. Most of the ladies have kids too which is nice. Support systems are wonderful things to have whether you live in your country of origin or abroad.

Something I find interesting about hosting events and get-togethers here in Peru is how formal they are. It is pretty typical that even when you invite friends over, you don't let them do anything. Marco told me I should buy wine glasses for a toast and I told him that it wasn't that kind of gathering. We all bring food and chat and drink tea and coffee. I went to my friend Julie's later in the evening and her boyfriend was quick to apologize profusely for the lack of wine glasses. I responded by saying that it was no problem. Julie and I are good friends. I didn't need any formalities. Julie was super happy to be hosting American friends because she knew that we would just make ourselves at home. That is exactly what her friend Mia did by entering and greeting us holding a pot in one hand and a bag of food in the other asking "Who's ready to eat?". We went to the kitchen to chat, drink wine and cook food. It was glorious! Mia heard the story of how Julie and I met and later we chatted about classroom management because we are all teachers. I really look forward to hanging out with both of them soon.

I have been able to do a decent amount of socializing lately. I hung out with my yoga instructor and a friend of hers last weekend. There is nothing like wine and conversation with lady friends. We are headed out to listen to some Jazz with them tonight.

So to finish with the rest of what I did yesterday, after cleaning up and prepping for a violin lesson, I headed to Magdalena to give one of my students her lesson. We are working with a real violin now! I can't say I enjoy the commute but I really enjoy teaching her and spreading music in the small way that I can. After that I headed to Benavides where I played in a funeral mass. I only played a few songs because the couple that sings and plays piano (who have been doing it for 25 years in the same church!) were 20 minutes late. Lima traffic is a nightmare. Seriously. There was a Discovery Channel video that was just aired called "Don't Drive Here: Lima". While the host makes some good points, he also drives a bit crazy himself. Either way, there are way to many cars so more than accidents causing you harm, it will most likely be anxiety and impatience that will get to you if you drive around Lima during rush hour.

Marco and I are headed to Cañete tomorrow for a festival and to give wedding invitations to the family that lives there. I am super excited to see some afro-Peruvian dancing, listen to criollo music and eat good food.