Random thoughts from Perú:
- There's always room for one more person on the bus (or combi, or collectivo). Seriously, it's hard to believe how many people can cram into a van.
- It's very dusty.
- Always hang on to your bag.
- It's warmer inside when the door is open.
- Every afternoon is windy.
- Hand washing clothes is not fun. Drying clothes on the line gives you an appreciation for "quick dry" materials. Cotton is not your friend.
- No one wears shorts, except for turistas.
- Everywhere are new noises - the rooster in the morning, the donkey next door, the neighbors blaring Peruvian radio, the random fireworks and explosions, the kids playing in the street… ¡Loco!
- There are dogs everywhere, and "ownership" is questionable. They're not in bad shape, so someone must be feeding them, but there is not a correo de perro (dog collar) or a leash in sight.
- It gets muy frijo at night. When the sun goes down, it drops 10 degrees easy. We all sleep with 5 wool blankets on our bed, and our chullos (Peruvian hats).
- It is very dry here. We are all slapping on moisturizer (and sunscreen) like it's going out of style, and it just gets sucked into our skin. Same with our lips - Chapstick is applied constantly.
- It's a cash only society. It's a constant struggle to keep small denominations - most places can't change anything larger than a viente (20) sole note (about $8). The flip side is that ATMs only give you $100 and $200 sole notes, so you need to be looking all the time for ways to break those large bills.
- We are all drinking a lot of maté de coca (coca tea). It's tasty, and has the beneficial side-effect of helping with the altitude (we are 8000+ feet up here in the Valle Sagrado - 11000 feet in Cusco). Thick café con leche is also delicious.
- Bus stops are not marked, but the places that sell chicha (locally fermented corn booze) are. When you want to get off the bus, just shout ¡baja!.
- Seatbelts and helmets are rare, and very optional. Babies are OK to ride on the front of motorcycle.
- Every day is "bring your kid to work day " for Peruvian children. Up to kindergarten (jardin), kids go where their parents go, usually in a blanket tied over the mama's back. We have seen very few strollers in Perú.
- No one wears sunglasses, except for los gringos.
- Bread (pan) for breakfast everyday. With butter (mantequilla) and marmalade (marmeladé). You're lucky to get a huevo. No cereal or milk.
- Local Peruvians wear long pants, sweaters (chompas) and wool hats all the time. Even when it feels like 90 degrees in the sun.
- Internet bandwidth is painfully slow. WiFi is almost nonexistent. You can find a local Int@rnet place, but they won't let you use you own device (just their computers) -- this is regional, certainly the case in Urubamba, but maybe not so much in Cusco (let's hope…)
- All kids must go to school (la escuela). You can not legally homeschool.
- There seem to be two big groups of tourists here - backpackers and tour groups. Although we've met a couple of other traveling families, most other gringos fit into one of those groups. We don't - which is ok. We still feel very conspicuous - especially since our kids are SO LOUD!
- When you buy a cerveza from the local tienda, you still need to put a $1 sole deposit down on it (botella retornables).
- Do NOT put toilet paper in the toilet. After you use it, it gets folded up and put into a small trashcan next to the toilet. Verdad.
- There are at least 10 ways to same the same thing. One way is the way you think it should work, and one way is the normal way of saying it.
- We have yet to find a good Peruvian wine. However, the local cerveza (Cusqueño) is very good, if you can find a cold one.
- We are all having fantastic dreams here. Maybe it's the cold weather, maybe it's the daily exercise (physical and mental), and maybe it's the fact that we're in "The Sacred Valley". Regardless, all of us are having very elaborate and detailed dreams, and remembering them in the morning. Alex says that "70% of people remember 1 of their dreams, and less than 15% remember more than 2." We remember about 3 per night. Very cool.
Amazingly, we are learning Español, slowly but surely. It's a noticeable benefit in learning to speak it all the time - much better than classroom learning. That said, the teachers at our school have been great. They have been patient with us, are good teachers, challenge us, help us outside of class, and have been very tolerant supportive of the kids. It's been a great experience so far, and we are looking forward to continuing it in Cusco when we return on Saturday. ¡Chau!