Thursday, November 3, 2011

Señor de los Milagros

October is the in which Peru celebrates el Señor de los Milagros. The city of Lima goes all out for this holiday. It is rivaled only by Christmas. There is a week-long celebration and parade throughout all parts of Lima. I had the opportunity to watch the parade from the balcony of a friend`s house. And this is no ordinary parade- The streets are dressed in purple and filled with hundreds of thousands of people. There are bands playing live music and vendors everywhere you look (many selling the dessert called "turron de doña pepa" which is a sprinkled pastry associated with the holiday). The streets are filled with people. People create beautiful images in the streets made from colorful flowers and sand for the procession to walk over (like laying down a rug) and the people in the streets and on the rooftops and balconies light fireworks and through flower petals as the procession passes.

The holiday has religious significance. During the procession an image of Christ, as painted in a famous mural, is carried down the streets of Lima. The mural was painted by a black slave in the 17th century and is the image of Christ on the cross with the Holy Spirit and God the Father above and Mary and Mary Magdelene at the feet of Christ. In the 18th century, Lima suffered a massive earthquake and nearly the entire city of Lima was destroyed. The only thing left standing for miles was the wall on which the mural had been painted. It was a declared a miracle.

A photo of the Image

Looking out over the Procession from our Rooftop!

Viaje #4- Iquitos y Las Amazonas

Welcome to the Amazon!

We spent this last weekend in the Amazon Rainforest and it was a great trip! We flew into the city of Iquitos (the largest city only accessible by boat or plane, as no raods lead in or out of the city). From there we took a bus to the Amazon river and then got on boats to travel to our destination within the jungle. Here, you must access everything by boat. We stayed in a jungle lodge located right on the river and tucked into the edge of the Amazon tropical jungle.  The climate is HOT, and has 100% humidity. Once at the lodge, our first activity was hiking through the jungle, where we saw numerous animals (monkeys, frogs, snakes, sloths, turtles, etc.) and learned a lot about the Amazon. We had to wear long pants and long sleeves as to protect against the mosquitos in the jungle.

We also got the chance to spend a whole day on the Amazon river. Fresh water grey and pink dolphins are common on the Amazon and we spotted a ton of these. Also, we were able to see manitees. The second day of the trip, we spent our day fishing for piranhas and swimming in the Amazon! Once nighttime fell, we rode down the river searching for cayman alligators to catch!

One of the best parts about jungle life was surprisingly the food! We were served jungle meals all week and I was able to eat Piranha (the ones we caught earlier that day!) and lots of new fruits. There were bananas at nearly every meal. My favorite meal was Jaune, which was chicken, hard boiled egg and olives wrapped in flavored rice and served on a palm leaf. We put a citrus sauce on top of the meal which made the dish absolutely delicious!

Our final day in the jungle was spent at a native village in the Amazon where we were able to meet many of the people, buy some of their homemade crafts, and play with all the kids. We played lots of volleyball and soccer.

At the Lodge, looking out into the Amazon Jungle

Caught One!

Piranha Teeth!

Hanging Out on the Amazon After Swimming!

Catching Cayman!

One of the Sloths!
Enjoying our Jungle Lunch!

Fun Events to Attend in Lima

Lima is the capital and largest city in Peru. With that, there are countless fun activities and events that take place in Lima. Here are some of the things that I would recommend attending while in Lima:

1. Mistura: A gourmet food festival which took place in August! The best chefs from all over South and Latin America come and prepare their best dishes, while the public can come try all the food! Come with an appetite!

2. Vino Expo: A wine and pisco tasting festival which took place in September. After the ticket, everything inside is free to try, and many of the bartenders at the expo also show off their skills by making fun mixed drinks.

3. Concerts: Lima hosts countless concerts for every type of music. I was able to attend some big-names at the National Stadium here, but my favorite concerts that I have attended have been the free ones put on in places like the Plaza del Gobierno in downtown Lima.

4. Octoberfest: A festival in Lima (Obviously in October) with plenty of beer, bratwurst, sausage, apple strudle, leiderhosen and traditional German and Polka music. A very fun experience that I would recommend to any visitors.

5. Movies/Theatre: There are countless theatre and movie options available to attend. Many are free and put on by cultural centers and the different embassies around Lima. Also, if you are looking to keep up with cinema, the movie theatres in Lima have 2 for 1 discounts on Tuesdays.

6. Karaoke: You will notice that karaoke is a common thing in Lima. This is a fun activity and adds to Lima's nightlife. The karaoke bars are a bit different in that instead of having a stage, most of the bars allow you to pick the playlists and sing with a group or alone while seated at your table.

7. Museums: Like theatre, museums are countless and many are free. The majority of Lima's museums are located in downtown and there is a lot to learn about the history and culture in each of the different museums.

8. Dinner Show: In Lima, there are many different cultural dinner shows that one can attend. I went to a dinner show at the Sharaton Hotel in Lima. The show included a performance of singing and dancing and was very entertaining, but the best part was the FOOD! There was a buffet of all types of peruvian dishes and desserts. I had nearly 5 helpings of dinner and then 6 desserts. It was some of the most increible food I have ever had.

9. Parasailing: You can go parasailing in a number of different places around Lima. I would recommend going to Miraflores if you are interested in parasailing. You can parasail along the cliffs of the coast and the veiw is amazing.

10. Surfing: Surfing is very common in Lima and you can get surfing lessons for a great deal. If you walk along the beaches in Miraflores, you can find lessons for 50 soles (less than $20) and this includes a wet suit, board, private 2 hour lesson, and then you keep all the equipment as a rental for the entire day to perfect your skills after the lesson.

11. Soccer Game: Soccer is the most popular sport and I would recommend going to a game if you get the chance. I went to the Peru v. Paraguay qualifier game in Lima and the experience was incredible. Peru won 2-0!

12. Senor de los Milagros Parade: During October, Lima celebrates a religious holiday for Senor de los Milagros with a week-long parade and festival. This is a CAN'T-MISS experience if you are in Peru in the month of October!

Places To Visit

Peru is a country unlike any other! It has nearly all of the world's climates within the country's borders.
I have had the opportunity of going to the Andes Mountains, the Amazon Rainforest, the central jungle, the Pacific coast, the Peruvian desert among others.
Here are my recommendations of places to visit while in Peru:

1. Machu Picchu: The ancient ruins of the Inca city is one of the Wonders of the World. This trip was the most incredible experience of my life! You can do a multiple day hike to arrive at Machu Picchu, or also travel to Cusco and stay in the city before visiting Machu Picchu. I visited twice and loved doing both! Also, if you visit Machu Picchu and are up for climbing, you can climb Huayna Picchu, which is the enormous mountain behind the ruins. We climbed to the tip; the climb and the view overlooking the ruins was unlike anything else!

2. Amazon Jungle: The Amazon Rainforest is home to amazing wildlife and makes for a unique and fun trip. A traveler can fly into Iquitos (this city can only be accessed by boat or plane, as there are no roads leading in or out of the city) and can then travel into the Amazon. There are dolphins, birds, monkeys, sloths, piranhas and many more animals that will be seen in the rainforest.

3. The Peruvian Desert: Ica is a fun city in the desert and tourists can ride dune bugggies and try sandboarding while here. The desert in itself is an incredible place, but adding the adventure and action of these activities made the trip one of the most fun! I would also recommend traveling to Paracas from Ica, which a coastal city nearby, where one will find the Islas Ballestas. These islands are incredibly beautiful and home to countless sea lions, and even penguins!

4. Mancora: This is a coastal city and known to have the most beutiful beaches in Peru! There is sun in Mancora during all times of the year! The city is located in northern Peru right next to the Ecuador border. Also, there are bus lines that run from Lima to Mancora for great prices. I got a ticket for only 140 soles trip (About $50)!

5. Punta Hermosa: If you are living in Lima and looking for a cheaper option for travel, there is a nearby coastal city named Punta Hermosa. This also has wonderful beaches, is typically sunny, even when Lima is not, and is less than a 2 hour ride outside of Lima.  You can take a combi for only 2.50 soles each way to arrive at the beaches in Punta Hermosa. This is known as being more of a young-people's destination and for that, it has a fun night-life as well.

At Machu Picchu!

The Beautiful Islas Ballestas!

In the Amazon Rainforest!

If staying in Lima, there are great places to visit as well:

1. Central Lima: This is home to the Plaza de Gobierno, countless incredible churches, museums and parks. There is always something going on and tons of people around in downtown Lima. The architecture is traditional Spanish, and the downtown squares are beautiful. Definitely a fun place to spend the day sight-seeing.

2. Miraflores: Known for being more of the tourist destination in Lima. The Miraflores district holds Parque Kennedy (park), Larcomar (shopping), the beach, countless hotels, restaurants and shops, and an amazing nightlife.

3.  Barranco: This district is another district in Lima that is known for its parks and beauty. It is a great place to spend an afternoon! Also, Barranco has a great strip of discotecas and bars which provide a very fun nightlife. The nightlife here is a favorite to many students and young adults.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Barras Bravas

Alongside the popularity and passion of Peruvian soccer, the sport draws fanatics. As mentioned in previous posts, the fans at the games and around the city during games are insane! Unfortunately in Peru, this insanity can turn dangerous and violent very quickly.

Many of the Peruvian club teams have gangs of fans associated with the teams. These gangs are calles barras bravas. The gangs will travel to games with the teams and especially when their team is playing a rival team, the gangs often get out of hand at these games. These gangs rose up around the 70s and are a very large part of the soccer culture in Lima today.

Fights are certain to break out within and outside of the stadium between opposing gangs. The public knows and is cautious to avoid areas where these gangs might be, although many times this includes major streets in Lima near the stadiums. The gangs are known for throwing large rocks, fighting, breaking things, vandalism, throwing trash/paint/etc. on opposing fans. Sadly, the gangs have turned more violent and some have even began using weapons during altercations in recent times. This has resulted in a number of deaths as well. For example, last year members of a barra brava pushed a local woman from a moving bus while driving through Lima after a soccer game.  This past month, a university student was pushed from a balcony in the stadium at a soccer game by members of the opposing team's barra brava after these delinquents broke into the box seat that the student was in. Both cases resulted in death.

This type of violence is absolutely unacceptable, and from my perspective, it seems no one in Lima wants to take responsibility for what is happening. With no one taking responsibility, no changes are being made. The clubs, the stadium, the city, the police, the State, the players and other fans themselves must ban together to prevent this from taking place any longer. Someone needs to take harsh action, because this must stop!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Futbol en Lima

Soccer, or futbol, is a HUGE thing here; and, as I knew that the sport was very popular around the world, and especially in Latin and South America, but I had no idea just how popular it is here!

I got a chance to go to the Peru vs. Paraguay game last weekend in Lima at the National Stadium! It was INSANE! The game was a qualifier for the 2014 FIFA World Cup which will be played in Brazil. The entire city seemed to stop and either attend or tune in for the game. The week before, a few members of our group waited in line for 8 hours just to buy tickets!!! They are sold at a typical ticket vendor, but easily sell out within the day that they are put up. There is truly not a bad seat in the stadium and as the tickets let you into particular sections, but don't specify the seat to which you are assigned, most fans wait in line the day of the game to get in first and get a good seat. This is what our group did as well. We went to the stadium at 2pm for our game which started at 8:30pm!! Although it was a six hour wait, the time passed quickly because of all the excitement going on around the stadium with vendors and other fans. I was with a group of a few Peruvians and a few other American students. We were interviewed at least four times by news cameras (blonde hair blatantly stands out here!) and being foreigners enjoying the game and cheering for Peru, many stations wanted to interview us. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t realize we would be interviewed on camera and neglected to do our homework on the Peruvian national team. So when asked questions about our favorite players, leading scorers, and the club’s record or history, our answers were probably a little embarrassing. Ha.

Once they opened the gates to let the fans in, it was a mad-dash to the doors of the stadium and into the seats. We got INCREDIBLE seats (about 8th row) and at the end of the field near the goal where Peru scored their two goals in the second half to win the game 2-0 over Paraguay! Inside the game, the excitement of all the fans was unlike anything I have seen in the US. There were fans with fireworks in the crowd and the wave went around the stadium about 100 times! Throughout the entire game, the crowd was fully engaged and excited, and when Peru scored their goals, the crowd, and even the entire city went crazy! You could hear the cheering in all streets in Lima! Of course, the celebration was equally exciting after the win!

Even the following week, this past Tuesday, Peru had a game in Chile.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that all the university classes were cancelled during the game! Again, the entire city stopped to watch the game. Unfortunately this time, Peru lost. But still, the experience was great!

Concerts in Lima

Lima is the capital and biggest city in Peru and for this, there is always something going on. Lima hosts concerts all the time and I have been able to attend a few. All of the big name preformers put Lima on their tours and for this, Lima's hosted Aerosmith, Ricky Martin, Britney Spears, Rod Stewart, Daddy Yankee and others. The bigger names perform in the National Stadium, which is brand new.

In September I went to the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert in the National Stadium in Lima with a group of good friends and it was a blast! It was funny to listen to the crowd singing along to the songs in English while in Peru. We got to the stadium early to try to get good seat and while waiting there for the show to start, the favorite activity from the crowd during the concert was doing the wave. It seriously went 30 times around the stadium (not kidding) before that got old to the crowd.

Lesser known bands come all the time as well, and these concerts are usually free to attend around Lima. I went to a concert in the Plaza del Gobierno in downtown Lima last month and it was one of my favorite events. There were crowds of people gathered to listen to the bands and dance with the music. It was a very fun experience.