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.