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Published: April 7th 2011
Since I didn't mention before, our hotel is Hostal Torreblanca-- www.torreblancaperu.com/ -- a funky and nice hotel in the VERY nice Miraflores District of Lima. Danielle and I were sharing a cute room on the 4th (top) floor with two twin beds and a decent sized bathroom. Compared to some of the places Martin and I stayed last year, this place was a four-star resort! The only drawback was the steep climb up to the 4th floor- no elevators in this place.
Our first full day started with a bit of a panic. We somehow didn't receive a wake-up call until just around 7:45am, at which point Lindsay also knocked on our door to see if we were awake. I showered, we both scrambled and made it downstairs in just around 20 minutes with everything we needed for the day.
Breakfast was eggs with bacon, rolls, cheese, all sorts of fruit, yogurt, kalamata olives, prunes, juice and COFFEE. I'm sure you can guess what I indulged in- a roll with cheese, lots of fruit, olives and coffee coffee coffee. Ahh, fresh Peruvian coffee. I even drank it black and enjoyed it!
We began the day with a morning meeting, the way we would begin every morning hereafter. Edith introduced herself further to all of us and gave an overview of the week. After finishing eating, we moved into a separate space to have a group meeting where we came up with team goals and discussed aspirations for the week. The overall goals we came up with were:
To learn some Spanish
To gain a global perspective
To experience Peruvian culture
To have fun!
Each team goal had multiple post-it notes underneath it with more descriptions about what each of those things meant to us as a team. Edith reminded us over and over that we were not a group- we were now a TEAM. "We are 17" would soon become the mantra of the week.
After the team-building, we piled into the same bus as the night before and were off to Ciudad de Los Ninos (City of the Children), one of the sites we would be volunteering at starting on Monday. We took a brief tour of the facilities and met with the director of the organization to get a better idea of what it was about. CDLN is a children's home for boys up to age 18 who cannot live at home due to various reasons- they don't have parents/other family, they are 'at risk' due to poverty or violence or just some other reason that the parent has decided they cannot care for their child. CDLN is comprised of multiple houses where children in similar age ranges live together as 'families' with three Hermanas (sisters) who take care of the boys 24/7. The hermanas are allowed to go home to their own families and homes once every 15 days. The boys must clean their house constantly, and everything sparkles. We toured the house where the youngest children, age 2-5 live- it was spotless. Really? 35 little boys live here? Impossible. They were tearing around the place, intrigued by the foreigners and clinging to our legs laughing, smiling, wanting to play. We all immediately knew we would enjoy working with them later in the week.
After CDLN, it was back to the center of Lima to have lunch at a local restaurant. There were 3 other vegetarians, and we were served some DELICIOUS veggies, rice with amazing hot sauce and papas fritas (french fries)! We also tried the lemonade and it was heavenly. The restaurant was only a few blocks from our hotel, and right next to a grocery store, our first stop after eating. You can pay in dollars at the grocery stores and receive soles (the local currency) back, so that was a nice way of getting local currency.
The rest of the day was spent taking a full city tour, complete with a tour guide in our bus. It was a jam-packed day, and many of us were feeling pretty lethargic after all the traveling. We visited a beautiful monastery, Saint Francis (Iglesia de San Francisco) and got to take a tour of the catacombs below- described here on a travel website: "The best part of a tour is a visit to the vast catacombs. The city's first cemetery, these underground tunnels contains the bones of some 75,000 people. In many places the bones have been stacked in eerie geometric patterns." It was pretty fascinating, and a bit disturbing!
The most stressful part of the day was after our tour guide announced we would be driving to the top of a hill that was off in the distance and had a giant cross statue on it. The way up the hill? A narrow, windy, one-way road with no guard rail. In a bus (well, large van, really) that barely fit on the road. I thought we were going to die numerous times, especially when one back tire started to slide off the "road" in a moment of pulling over for another car to attempt to pass us. It was crazy. One girl in our group started having somewhat of a panic attack, and ended up having to walk most of the way back down rather than go in the car. It WAS a beautiful view once we got up there, and we were able to walk around and take lots of pictures of the city (covered in smog...), but I'm still not convinced it was really worth the drive. I don't think I'd do it again. 😊 We spent nearly an hour getting back to the hotel in crazy traffic and everyone pretty much slept through it.
Once back at the hotel, we had another brief meeting about the week and then were off to dinner. This meal was at a pizza and empanada place- delicious. Empanada de queso? I could eat those on a daily basis, especially when they're paired with Cusqueña, Lima's beer of choice!
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