Friday, July 22, 2011

The Doctor Told Me to See a Shaman

Inferma (sick). It always happens, at the worst of times.... A.) I practically had walking pneumonia while visiting the GALAPAGOS ISLANDS.. B.) Broken in Cusco.. home of MACHU PICCHU!


Let me start from the beginning of my whirlwind travels through Peru.. which leads me to Cusco, where I am now.. broken, exhausted, almost finished. I haven't felt much like blogging, nor have I had much time.. so this will have to make up for it for now!


I left Mancora on July 2nd, and took the night bus to Trujillo. I arrived at about 8AM.. found a fabulous hostel (which I fully didn't expect from what my Lonely Planet stated) and I fell in love with the city. I didn't have very high expectation for Trujillo.. and didn't have as much time as I would have liked to play around there.. but it was great!

Day 1, I visited Chan Chan and Huanchaco. Chan Chan is the largest pre-colombian city in South America, and it was fully made from adobe. I didn't learn as much as I could have here, because I didn't hire a guide... I am honestly the last person you want to ask about Chan Chan, because all I can tell you is that it was pretty cool just wandering around the desert and imagining what the heck used to happen here! I didn't actually find out what happened there, but if you're interested:

Next for the day, I hopped on the bus to Huanchaca.. what I thought was going to be a quaint little fishing village.. the fisherman still use old school reed boats.. which are seen in advertisements for Peru all over. I arrived... and found a million gringo surf dudes... I was exhausted from the night bus so I plopped down on the trash strewn beach and took a nap.. waking up starving, I tried to find a restaurant that wasn't tourist centered and didn't really have much luck. I took my pictures of the boats (of course a million tourists in the background.. Peruvian tourists as well) and went on my way back to Trujillo.

Trujillo at night is glorious. The lighting in the city was so wonderful, the churches popped, the colors brightened, there were festivals and live music happening in the main square.. I had a lovely time.. but retired early!

Day 2, I went to find Huaca del Sol y Huaca de la Luna. These were temples built by the Moche civilization.. I know a bit more about these temples because I had a guide.. and it was actually quite interesting! They just recently discovered these temples about 20 years ago... they had always known they were there.. but the people just thought they were mounds of mud and used to climb them and play around on them. Then, one day someone found a piece of a brick that had part of a petroglyph on it.. it was shown to authorities, and the temple began to be excavated and slightly restored. The petroglyphs found inside the temple had been preserved and have not been touched up, which I found amazing.. the Moche people used to add to the temple every 100 years, covering the old with bricks, and building on top of it.. so this is what has preserved the paintings. Huaca del Sol was by far my favorite ruin in Trujillo.

Day 3, I joyfully wandered around Trujillo awaiting my night bus to Huaraz... during this time I was avoiding my new 'friend' from Trujillo that couldn't take no as an answer.. there happens to be many of those out there as I have learned... I'll save my ranting for later, but let's just say that it was about this time that I REALLY wanted to come back home!

I arrived at 6:30AM in Huaraz on July 6. This is where the bone chilling weather began and pretty much never ended for the rest of the month! I was thoroughly exhausted from not sleeping too well on the bus, and being at such a high altitude.. and dumbly signed up for a trek within 30 minutes of arriving in Huaraz (NOT recommended!)... I thougth I was signing up with the tour agency in my hostel (which is supposed to be reputable).. since the guy who brought me to the hostel, sat down at the HOSTEL'S FRONT DESK and took my money.. BUT he worked for a different agency which isn't very reputable and I basically got a bit ripped off... not seriously ripped off, because I paid the normal amount for the trek, but since it was an 'economical' agency, I should have bargained it for way less... but I didn't realize that was what it was.

ANYWAYS, this hostel.. Hotel Galexia.. was not my best life choice (not just because of the trek situation). I met a Korean there that ended up trying to sleep with me.. oh yea, did I mention that he was supposed to be on a tour I was going on AND on my trek for the next FOUR DAYS. This may be super stereotypical.. but of all people, I did not expect the Korean to be the one I would be yelling at to get the heck out of my room. I tried not to be super mean, and I tried not to make things awkward because I knew we would be spending a ton of time together for the next 5 days, so I told him that he can make it really awkward the next morning, or it can be normal.. his choice, but I would make his life hell if he tried anything again.

Long story short, he showed up to the tour.. tried to hold my hand.. I said, dude we're just friends.. he asked what we were going to see today.. I said mountains, duh.. he said 'I'm not really interested in that'.. I said, well that sucks because you're about to be living in them for 4 days.. he got off the bus and cancelled his tour. THANK GOD!

And guess what?! I got a replacement Korean on the tour.. a guy named DJ, who is currently in school at NYU and a super cool Korean, unlike the other.. so I was happy :)

Santa Cruz Trek
My 4 day trek was amazing.. not because of the company, but because of the people I met! There were 13 of us, we represented about 10 different countries! It was great, my tent buddies were Nicki, the New Yorker, and Matt, the Kiwi. I felt like I was back in Korea with so many people around me from different countries, hearing a New Zealand accent and having such a fun laughter filled time!

I thank God for Nicki and Matt too, it got below freezing at night and I needed their body heat BAD.. plus at different times we all didn't feel very well (guides using dirty river water to wash our cups, and not boiling the water long enough).. so we were a good support system for each other!

We saw some amazing mountains and lagoons, and climbed to a bone chilling 4,600 meters.

Nicki and I basically had the same plans for Peru, so on our fourth day we decided to skip staying in a hotel for the night and having to stay in the town of Huaraz (boo) ANOTHER DAY, while waiting for the night bus to Lima...
... this is where bad decisions began... we arrived back from the trek, and hours later hopped on a night bus to Lima, and planned on hopping on the 5 hour bus to Ica right when we get to Lima, then a taxi to Huacachina.

I would say this was about when exhaustion set in!

Where to begin with Huacachina.. we only planned on staying there for a day to see the desert... plus we had heard that Huacachina was just a strange town with a strange vibe.

We loved it, don't get me wrong... but wandering around Huacachina takes 5 minutes.. and to wander around Huacachina you basically just walk along the lagoon which the town is built around.. which is in the middle of the desert.. an oasis of sorts!

We got to Huacachina on July 13th.. arrived around noon (we had left Huaraz at 10PM the night before!!).. got a spot in a sweet hostel which had a POOL.. and reserved our Dune Buggy trip!!

The Dunes were AMAZING.. I would say it was one of the top things I've ever done... It was insane.. crazier than a roller coaster, because you realized that when you were airborne over them, there was no telling what was going to happen when you landed and kept catapulting forward down the hill of sand!

It was absolutely wicked! The driver was crazy but safe, we got to sand board (my knee was on its second day of feeling bad) but I mainly went down on my stomach (like many people did).. PLUS we all know that I do NOT have the skills to snow board, let alone sand board!

We spent the next day at the pool, becuase we had a night bus arranged to take us to Arequipa (I decided to skip the Nazca lines.. too expensive and annoying to get to).


We arrived in the city on the morning of July 14th and booked into Bothy hostel.. Nicki had booked the Inca Trail to get to Machu Picchu a while back, and had to be in Cusco by a certain time.. I had been planning on going to Lake Titicaca and then going to Cusco afterwards.. but after talking to people and hearing about how touristy it is and how the Bolivian side is much better, I decided to skip it.. and head to Cusco with Nicki.

It's been nice having a travel buddy, we've been traveling together for almost 3 weeks now.. which has been super nice since I've been doing it on my own for the past couple of months! I had been planning on hanging around Cusco for 2 weeks (part of that being a 4-5 day trek to Machu Picchu), and Nicki only had about 1 week total.. so we rushed Arequipa a bit to get to Cusco in time for her to tour around it.

This ended up being a good idea, because I needed a doctor (sick AND my knee.. a week later, was STILL hurting!).

In Arequipa I made a bad decision (kind of) and decided to do the Colca Canyon Trek like I had planned, even though my knee was killing me (to the point I asked for Vicodin at the pharmacist the night before the trek).. BUT I had heard that you could hire a donkey to take you out.. so I figured what the heck, might as well do it! It was only 2-days.. and what we thought would be a simple go to the Canyon and come back out... welp, of course it wasn't!

We signed up with an agency which the thougth was reputable (PLUS it was in the Lonely Planet).. and they never told us to stay on the bus (that picked us up at THREE AM!) after we went to the Condor sighting spot... WELL, there were about 15 people on the bus and 2 guides... the guides each said that they weren't our guides.. so we were like, what the heck do we do?!

One luckily was super sweet, and tried calling our agency (no answers) and later said that we could come with his group... thank God, because we had arrived to the middle of no where, with no guide, and had NO clue what to do. So long story short, we got our money back from the other company, ended up paying less going about it on our own with the help of the other guide, and we had a great time!

Colca Canyon was no Grand Canyon.. but it was pretty cool!

AND AGAIN, we had a night bus planned for the night we got back from the trek.. what the heck was I thinking?! I KNOW my immune system.. I KNOW how easily I get warn out.. ayayay, when will I ever learn?!


We arrived in Cusco around 11AM on July 17th... by now, I am sick (not a sinus infection yet thank God!) and my knee is still in pain when I walk (given, I'm freaking out a bit because I didn't do anything specifically to it.. so I have NO clue why it feel slike this.. freakin out a bit!).

What do we do?! We plan a rafting trip for the following day... best choice of my life?! When do I make good choices.. obviously not in Peru! The water was ICE.. COLD! We expected it to be cold.. not quite that cold.. shivering cold.. even in wet suits.. we LOVED the experience, but were so happy when it was over and we could dry off. I personally couldn't get warm again, and felt absolutely horrible when we arrived back in Cusco

... so I called the doctor...

.. went to the doctor ..

... the doctor told me to call a shaman...

I'm not so sure she was kidding either, between my knee, my throat, the random hives/bites I had all over my body for an absolutely unknown reason (happened sometime between Huacachina and Arequipa)... I was bascially just broken.

She gave me meds for pharyngitis, and I went back the next day for the knee doctor who said that I was having tendon issues as far as he could tell.. dosed me up on more meds and gave me a huge knee brace, which I detested at first, but am beginning to love.

I went through a period (a day) of just saying screw Machu Picchu, I don't even care anymore... but talked myself out of that thought. I moved my flight date to a week before (I really don't need 2 weeks in Cusco, without a trek.. and I felt I needed much more time to see my family and friends than I have before Korea), I've booked a train to and from Machu Picchu, and I'm home in ONE WEEK! :) YAY

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

All of a Sudden, the Streets Turned to Sand.. Mancora, Peru

As I started walking, the taxi drivers followed me telling me about hotels (they get commission from) and asking to give me a ride.. I try to not be too rude but tell them I just want to walk around and find one… they tell me I’m walking the wrong direction. I’m thinking.. that’s fine, to get a point across that I will not be following their orders.. I keep walking, thinking I’d just take the next street and walk around the block… HA… ha HA.

Well, I found the next street.. if I were to ‘walk around the block’.. I would have started to walk on a dirt road.. so, I walked a couple of blocks straight towards the beach, thinking I’m bound to find a place.. and OH! All of these roads all around me, including the one I'm walking on, are all of a sudden dirt-sandy roads, with rows of connected houses on each side of me…

I’m thinking…
WHERE THE HECK AM I?! Isn’t Mancora a super popular, touristy, surf beach?! Am I really in Mancora? I’m so confused!

I finally found a couple of hostels, one offered a great price for a bungalow sort of thing for about $7US. ALL TO MY OWN… just what I needed, there were no bars or clubs around to keep me up at night… no roommates… my own room, I can be lazy on the beach all day and be a hermit at night (I had arrived on a Friday night to Mancora… it’s known for it’s parties… I just couldn’t be bothered… I needed relaxation!)

I suited up, and went to catch up on my beauty rest on the beach… there weren’t very many people around at all… but I noticed that down on the other part of the beach there were a ton of people, and lots of kite surfing, and even farther down were a hundred fishing boats! I was in a daze-y state the entire Friday… I walked down the beach to the boats and then walked back.. basked in the sun again on the quiet part.. and then went and found lunch and later dinner.

I made it my entire first day without entering the typical tourist area of the town.

Utterly confused about how Mancora could be mainly dirt roads, and where the heck are the ‘tourist’ hostels like HI and Loki, and [insert surf name here] hostel… I decided to go on a search… surely, I’m missing a part of this town.

Well, it was easy to find! I found the hoard of stalls at the market, walked a bit farther, and VOILA, a newly made road out of red bricks led to brand new buildings filled with restaurants, shops and hostels.. a boardwalk, resorts…

Welp, I found it.. then I left.. being thankful for my lack of a sense of direction (not a fan of a million tourists/tourist rip-offs/surfers.. ALTHOUGH I do enjoy looking at the latter)!

Trujillo here I come… night bus number 2 in 2 days.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

22 hours, 2 friends, 2 countries

I have arrived in Peru!

It was of course an interesting adventure, one I wished I had a friend to hold my hand through.. but it is me against the road again, soltera & free as a bird to do whatever I please!

I woke up on Thursday morning and decided it was time for me to leave Dana & her family and head to Peru. I couldn´t get Peru off of my mind.. there gets to be a point, where you´ve been in a country for too long.. and even though you haven´t seen everything you want to see, you just know when the time is to leave.

I found my time, told Dana & the fam.. gave huge hugs and many thanks for giving me a home in Ecuador for 2 weeks.. and left for my one hourish trip to Riobamba.

The road was... well.. let´s just say, that it needed renovation! And I needed someone to hold my hand!

Thankfully, I arrived in Riobamba! And I wished I had more time to spend there!! Everyone in the city seemed super nice, and the people there looked beautiful!! I swear, the majority of people I saw walking around were gorgeous.. and it seemed like a nice city.. not sure there is much to do there though!

My ‘direct’ bus to Guayaquil was supposed to take 5-6 hours.. somehow the bus that stopped every 5-minutes to let people on and off, the entire journey, made it to Guayaquil in FOUR hours. Now, I was left twittling my thumbs at the ginormous Terminal Terestre in Guayaquil.. luckily they had internet cafes, clothing shops, and McDonalds! What a better time to need comfort food than when you’re about to finish the last and most unknowing leg of your 22 hour journey?!

I was told by who knows how many people, including my guidebook that the border crossing between Peru and Ecuador was more than dangerous. THAT is, if you do it on your own and not on an international bus that takes you from one city in Ecuador into a different city IN Peru… apparently if you decide to take a bus to a border down and taxi your way to the other side (you CAN walk, but it’s super far through no man’s land and with a bunch of hastlers) you can land yourself in a whole lot of trouble.. i.e. having a taxi take you down a random dirt road and demanding a specific amount of cash from you, I even met a girl who her friend had been picked up by the police because they told her it was too dangerous, and then after they said she needed to pay them for such a service along with being all flirtatious and touching her legs… basically, nothing good comes from the Peru/Ecuador border crossing. Then when two guys tell you that they did the border crossing together and it scared the crap out of them… I hardcore opted for the international bus!

While waiting in line for the bus to come.. it was late.. a 50-year old Peruvian lady adopted me.. at least, I like to think she did! Her name was Luc, and even though my Spanish is horrible, she continued to talk to me. She told me about her family, her favorite things about Peru, and talked to me about what I’ve been doing the past few months and why on earth I would do it alone. Then, when the bus finally arrived, we had to separate because our seats were on two different parts of the bus :(.

OF COURSE, the guy that I had noticed being the ‘class clown’ of the bunch while we waited in line is sitting next to me! Geeze, what did I do wrooooong?! First, I get on the bus to find I have an aisle seat.. after asking for a window.. then he hesitates next to me while looking for his number.. and OF COURSE… he says the magical word, Permisso! GAG!

So, I soak it up.. put my big girl pants on, and know exactly where this is probably headed. We start talking, he says he doesn’t know any English.. even though every now and then when I needed a translation, he magically knew the words IN ENGLISH! Anyways, we talked about absolutely everything he wanted to talk about…his life seemed interesting as well, his father being Italian and his mother a Peruvian… then the convo of course leads to the…

In Spanish:
Byron: You’re such a nice beautiful girl, you shouldn’t be traveling by yourself, it isn’t safe.. I’d like to come with you to Mancora so you aren’t alone.

Me: HA!

No, thanks.

Byron: You don’t understand. Uummm… ummm… ::thinking how to say it in a different way:: Do you have a dictionary?

Me: Yes, hang on.

Byron: :::finds the word, undertake.. the word connected to it is attack:::

Me: :::thinking.. gotta love those direct translations, and the second word is obviously a sign from God.. although a sign wasn’t needed for me to understand the creepiness of the situation::: NO, thanks for the offer.. but I enjoy being alone.. I have been with many people traveling the past month, and Peru is for me to travel by myself.

… welp, that pretty much stops the conversation… I blow up my pillow… and take myself to sleep land.

We finally arrive to the Ecuador side of the ’24 hour’ border crossing at 1AM…as we walk to the office to find no one in there.. and people begin sitting down (they’ve obviously been a part of this circus act before).. I find Luc again, and she tells me that they probably won’t open until 3AM.. I chuckle, mainly because I’m praying I didn’t hear her correctly.

I run and find the bathroom.. immediately entering the office of the crossing I pray my nose to stop working.. the whole thing smells like a sewer… walk into the bathroom, there’s a man peeing with the door open.. obviously that’s the men’s.. open another door, nope that’s an office.. a lady points to the room I just walked into and says that’s the only bathroom… the man is done doing his business in the dark.. I walk in,, GREAT, the light doesn’t work.. strap my bookbag to the front of me, find my spare toilet paper, DROP my handsantizer on the soaking wet floor… FABULOUS… angry, I slam the door and squat in darkness, wishing I had dropped it low a few extra times on the dance floor to make my legs stronger :). I debate whether to just leave the sanitizer or not.. but decide it’s worth its weight in gold and wrap it up in toilet paper (no soap in the ‘bathroom’ of course).

Luc and I chat it up for TWO hours longer and exchange phone numbers.. I’ll definitely be calling this lady when I arrive in Lima in August.

We finish all of the border humbo-jumbo at 4:30AM, and arrive in Mancora, Peru at 6:30AM… groggily I get off the bus, yell at taxi drivers to stop talking to me while the driver looks EVERYWHERE for my bag, and start walking…..

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Peru Please!

Ecuador, thanks for being so amazing... I feel like it has been my home since I lived in Montanita for 5-weeks, made some amazing friends in the Galapagos after 2 weeks, and hung out with Dana & the fam for 2 weeks in Quito!!! It has been a wild ride, but I haven´t been able to stop thinking about Peru, so I told the fam this morning that I would be bouncing out a few days early to head down to Mancora.

In a few hours, I´ll be hopping on a bus and heading to the beach! I just can´t get enough of sun and fun on this trip.. especially since I´m about to freeze my booty off in the Andes Mountains!!!

Next time you hear from me, hopefully I´ll have eaten some Guinea Pig! Hopefully I will have thrown out these Rainbow flip flops too... they´re experiencing a bit of jungle rot.. and now smell HORRIBLY!!! I only have Mancora.. and possibly the desert left to wear them.. so they will not scare new friends away from me any more!!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dirty Daniel & Crazy Sophie

I met up with Dirty D and Soph from my CELTA course in Montanita, in Quito! We went to Daniel’s house and had a lovely lunch and chatted for a couple of hours. Many laughs were shared, and it was so great to be around EVEN MORE people that I know.

Since I’m traveling alone, it’s been quite rare that I see people that I ‘know’ a lot. So far, I’ve met up with Jos & Ness from Colombia in Montanita, Luna from Montanita in the Galapagos, Hernan from the Galapagos in Quito, and Dana from KOREA in Quito… I love this life, the surprises never stop coming!!!!

Hello Amazon, Where is Tarzan?

While Dana and her Daddy were on their trek in Sangay, I decided to take a little trip to the Amazon. I stayed at Cuyabeno River Lodge located in the Cuyabeno National Park. To get there, I had to take a 9 hour bus ride, which turned out to be 12, to Cuyabeno from Quito. The bus ride was the most painful thing on the planet. I had to pee SO terribly bad when I got to the bus.. the traffic was so bad and the terminal was so far outside of the city that I made it to the bus with 10 minutes to spare, I wasn’t about to ask the driver if I had time to find the bathroom located in the huge terminal.. I figured I’d wait and use the one on the bus. WELL, the bus starts up and is about to back out when I asked the driver’s assistant for the key to the bus bathroom, “No key”. NO KEY?! You have to be joking.. welp, no he wasn’t. We had such an old and crappy bus that the seats hardly went back.. we stopped a million times to pick people up on the side of the road, and I had to wait 4 hours to use the bathroom… I was seriously tempted to try to pee in a bottle once everyone had gone to sleep.. I was going through all of the steps I would have to do so and thinking of any possible issues I may have while attempting such a thing. Luckily, no one was sitting beside of me so I could lounge in a comfy position that didn’t put pressure on my bladder and pray!

The tour agency that booked my 3-night/4-day package for the Amazon adventure told me that there were 3 other fun guys booked for the lodge.. I thought, hey that sounds like fun.. then when I got to the bus and found the guys, they said they were going on a canoe trip, “OH GREAT! I get to be in the middle of the jungle by myself! Fabulous. And I only bought one book. AAGH I can’t believe you guys are leaving me!!” A guy I met in the Galapagos had told me about his Amazon adventure in Peru where he was in a lodge by himself for 4-days and hadn’t brought a book or ipod or anything.. he said it was miserably boring at times! So the bus ride just sucked all around!

Once we arrived, our guide was immediately waiting for us to get off the bus.. they packed us into a motorized canoe and we headed about 15 minutes up the river to our lodge which was magnificent! I couldn’t believe that I was staying in the middle of the jungle in this thatched roof place of goodness! I was thrilled regardless of being alone, but then we met two older ladies that would be staying at the lodge for a couple of days, so I wasn’t too worried anymore.

The first day, we went out in the motorized canoe on a search for pink dolphins in the lagoon…. We didn’t see any, apparently because the water in the river was 7-meters higher than normal, so it would be really difficult to see a lot of the wildlife. I arrived at the very end of rainy season as well, so it started POURING down rain on the way back to the lodge, and continued to beat down for the rest of the night (SORRY about your canoe trip and camping in tents boys! Haha). The raindrops were insane, and the bubbles they made in the river entertained me for a while!

The second day we rowed a canoe up-river for a couple of hours and found a bunch of different monkeys, went piranha fishing (with a lack of luck, apparently AGAIN because of the river height, but I think it was because my guide sucked and he just gave up too easily), we also went into a bunch of smaller rivers which were filled with trees and vines and LOTS and lots of green things!

On the third day, we hiked up into the highlands.. another fail, no animals really. Then, we went on a night hike which was ANOTHER fail, no tarantulas, no snakes, no scary things, we saw some piranhas in the waters, and the back of an armadillo running away from us.

The fourth day was spent around the lowlands for about 3 and a half hours. It was one of the funnest parts of the trip. Our guide had to chop down almost everything in our paths with a machete, so we could get through. We went through black water (which contains electric eels and anacondas) that was up to our belly buttons… it was definitely a bit unnerving, but he hadn’t told us what was in the water until we got out of it (we were in it for at least an hour total) but I KNEW that’s where the Anacondas had to be, so I was looking for them the whole time we were sludging through it all.

All in all, the trip was great. I mainly enjoyed just being amongst all of the trees, birds and monkeys. The coolest animals we saw were definitely the 8-different types of monkeys and the Macaws. We saw the worlds smallest monkeys, black monkeys, red howlers, squirrel monkeys.. and where there was one monkey there were normally about 10 others swinging away through the vines and on the limbs… I was in heaven watching them gallivanting around!

The bus ride back went five thousand times smoother because we used a different bus company, it was non-stop and we didn’t pick-up random people along the scary roads at night.


$10.00 – teeth cleaning
$1.75 – almuerzo (fresh pineapple juice, soup, beef, rice, beans, pineapple)
$3.00 – haircut (no joke)


Yup, the math is done right! Insane huh?!

I knew I didn’t want to pay the insane US prices to have my teeth cleaned in the states, and I didn’t want to try to have them cleaned in Korea again (I had a SCALING done instead, which is what old people normally have done, and it was soooo painful)… so I walked into a random dentist office downtown and had it done in the snap of a finger… it was definitely a bit different than usual, but it got the job done!

The almuerzo was super cheap, yet still good (so long as you aren’t too picky of a person!).

The haircut was quite fabulous and the lady even ‘styled’ it afterwards… I was definitely seriously nervous the entire time it was being done.. and just praying (since I told her in my horrid Spanish that I wanted just the dead ends trimmed off and maybe a bit more style.. as in layers).. I got all of the above, PLUS she didn’t butcher my bangs (which was by far the part I least wanted to watch!

Quito Goodness

I now love Quito.. at first, I would definitely say I was unsure about how long I could spend in this city!

Dana left with her Dad to go on a trek for 5-days, so I was left to figure out what to do with myself.

On the first day, I wandered around the quaint streets of Quito for a good 5-hours.. and even then, I wasn’t really finished. I visited about 4 different Cathedrals, all of which were very different, the Compania being absolutely covered with gold on the inside, the others being your typical city historical cathedral, and he Basilica. The Basilica was awesome, everyone had told me about the ‘scary’ steps up to the clock towers.. but for some reason I imagined just a bunch of tiring stairs that lead up to them… wrong-o! After walking up about 8-flights of stairs, I thought I was finished… not impressed with the view or the ‘scary’ walk up because the stairs were all indoors. Then, when I was about to leave, I saw some people climbing the wall in the very far distance… well they weren’t really climbing the wall, they were going up a ladder.. I just couldn’t tell because I was an entire sanctuary away from them. It was wicked, they have a wood ‘bridge’ that allows you to walk on top of the roof-ish of the sanctuary (so you can see how the rounded ceilings are made). At the end of this walkway, there is a ladder that heads up to the top of the church, that part wasn’t too scary.. it was the next two ladders that were a bit sketchier because it was windy outside and it felt like you could easily just be blown off the ladder. But the view was gorgeous and I could see the El Banesillo angel statue that I had just visited… happy days!

Before I visited any of the cathedrals, I wandered around the small historic super cute streets around Centro Historico… I would have been satisfied just doing that the entire 5 hours! But, in the car when we had arrived in the Center, I noticed a huge angel statue on the top of a hill that was really close to the downtown district, I immediately knew I’d be headed there for some awesome views… I just didn’t really know how to get up there. There were tons of houses located on the hill, and many different stairs leading their way randomly up the hill. So after wandering the streets, I worked my way towards the hill, when at the bottom of it, I couldn’t quite tell exactly where the angel was, so I just started walking up some stairs.. about a quarter of the way up I realized that it probably wasn’t the best of ideas. I was honestly just waiting to get robbed, because I was the only person, let alone white girl, walking up through this neighborhood. BUT luckily, my angel was looking out for me and nothing happened. When I got to the top, I was expecting NO ONE to be there, since I hadn’t hardly seen a single person, but there were heaps of people (mainly in tourist groups).. I found out later that all of the travel books recommend that you take a taxi up because it isn’t safe… welp I didn’t read that part! It was a seriously lucky day, and I was able to see all of the volcanoes and massive snow topped mountains surrounding Quito. It was SO breath taking, and really made Quito seem more special to me than ‘just another city’!!

Hernan (the local from the Galapagos Islands that I hung out with practically the whole time I was there) flew to Quito for a couple of days to hang out with me and to run some work errands. We had a fun time roaming around the city, I think I’ve been to about every neighborhood now, and we also went up the cable cars of the Teleferiqo. He warned me that it was going to be cold when we got to the top and to bring my jacket.. I kind of laughed, but brought it anyways. THANK GOODNESS, we went up to 4,100 Meters within about 15 minutes.. and it was CHILLY! There are trails at the top that you can wander around and get different views of the city way down below and of Volcano Pichincha. We goofed off for a bit, and realized it was definitely time to go when it started to hail and the wind started acting a fool.. it was a bit sketchy on the way down, but we’re still alive!

It was sad to say good-bye to him and pretty much know that I wouldn’t ever see him again.. although I do think I’ll see him again because I plan on coming back to Ecuador and to the Islands…good-byes suck… one of the unlucky things about traveling! It’s making me a stronger person though!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Papa Oso's Panga

I have a new best friend, as always I suppose, his name is Miguel.. he also goes by Amigo, Papito, Mi Amor, Mi Vida, Papa Oso, Papito Oso and Heeeey! He is the cutest fluffiest Ecuadorian on the planet, I just always want to give him a hug. He is one of the crew members on the boat, and he always drives one of the Pangas.. or Dinghies (I thought it sounded funny to call the blog ‘Papa Oso’s Dingy’). Anyways, I always look forward to getting into his Dinghy when we go on an excursion because he’s always smiling and happy.

We snorkeled at Devil’s Crown today, which was W-I-C-K-E-D-L-Y unbelievable!! I saw a school of 9 Eagle Rays swimming way below me and a ton of cool fish, it was like a little Disneyland down there for fish!! Insanely magically intense, loved!

Later, we went through another lava tunnel and picked up letters from Post Office Bay on Floreana Island. Post office Bay has a really cool story, which I’m sure can be Googled. Basically, in the 1700’s pirates started leaving messages on Post Office Bay… they placed a barrel there and the letters were put inside. Then, when ships sailed past the bay, they would stop and pick up the letters that were addressed for their country, and then could leave letters that needed to be sent to a different country. They carry on the tradition now by having the tourists that stop by the island on their cruise to leave a post card in the barrel. I didn’t pick up any to deliver from the USA, but I found one from Korea that I’ll take with me and mail once I get to Korea! Good times : )

This is our last day on the boat, and we’ll be dropped off back at my home of Puerto Ayora tonight after dinner!

What Else Can We Do to the Sea Lions?!

Day 3:
Sea Lions, Albatrosses, & Boobies; OH MY!

Espanola Island was next up for our adventures on the cruise. When we arrived at the deserted beach.. it wasn’t really deserted! The rocks that we thought were scattered about the beach were actually sea lions!! They became the star of the show for at least 20 minutes, while everyone oooh-ed and awww-ed over them and took a million pictures. We started to take some funny pictures with them, like trying to lie down next to a group of them passed out.. it always ended in a scream or two as the lions barked at us to get away from their kids. It was a ton of fun, and one of the funnest things we’ve done!

We ventured about the island and found some Nazca ‘Masked’ Boobies (no blue feet) and some Blue-Footed Boobies. The Boobies did a mating dance, it looked like a sort of sun dance done in circles, and then he would give the girl Booby some sticks. Then, we saw at least 20 Albatrosses. They’re so cute looking, I just wanted to take one home and put it on my farm, they reminded me of a HUGE hen, but cuter! The most amazing thing was standing in the ‘airport’ and watching them fly. They’re so huge, that they need to run and open their wings in order to start flying.. much like an airplane.

Later, we saw some Galapagos Hawks, which looked wicked awesome flying about!

The absolute highlight of our day, was finding a long beach that had hundreds of sea lions basking in the sun. We had 2-½ hours to snorkel in Gardener Bay and play with the sea lions! Snorkeling, I saw a sting ray, two spotted tiger eels, a rainbow fish, needle looking long skinny fish, and a ton of others.. MAGICAL!!!

I can’t even begin to explain all of the things we did with the sea lions, just look at the pictures!!

Oh yea, and Chris saw a sea turtle! (bully)

My First Non-X-Rated Boobies

Day 2:
Attention ladies and GENTLEMAN: it is possible to look at Boobies you can’t touch the Boobies, and you don’t have to be 18. Strange thing is though, these Boobies are blue.. not sure if you’re into that sort of thing, just thought I’d warn ya!

Today was filled with interesting things, Blue-Footed Boobies, sea lions, land iguanas, frigate birds and more huge Tortugas on North Seymour Island!

The Boobies were fabulous, they knew just how to pose.. it was insane, they were not afraid of us one bit! I had heard before coming to the islands, that you’ll basically be stepping over the animals in the trail way.. and it was more than true!! Think about what it’s like when you walk up to a bird back home.. it flies away! Here.. they pose and pose and pose, and whistle, and do mating dances. What fun!

Sea lions are the cutest thing on the planet earth. They’re so clumsy, and the babies look just like puppies! The first one we saw on Seymour was sad though, it’s mom had abandoned it and it was fending for itself.. the guide didn’t think it would last much more than a couple more weeks. He also said that the Galapagos scientists won’t help it, because it is not dying because of something ‘man’ did.. it was just so sad, I’m still praying for that baby sea lion!

Land iguanas are ginormous, and nothing really new to me. My favorite neighbors growing up always had some sort of lizard as a pet… and they had one iguana for YEARS! I remember hypnotizing it and always wanting to take it for a walk. These iguanas are a bit different, orange and green, HUGE, and not afraid of you at all!! They’re pretty wicked to see in the wild!

We also walked through some lava tunnels and saw some huge craters created by lava flow on Santa Cruz Island.

Cruisin' the Galapagos - Eden Yacht

Day 1:
I left Puerto Ayora to meet the cruise at Baltra Airport at 7AM.. waited around for a couple of hours, and finally we were off and ready to explore! First thought, holy crap my first cruise! Second thought, this boat is gorgeous! Third thought, lets get this party started!

We were shown our rooms, I’m sharing one with a girl from San Francisco.. great roomie! We had lunch, then set off for a beach on the opposite side of Santa Cruz. On the way, we passed a school of dolphins.. I THINK I’ve gone dolphin watching before.. but I’m pretty sure I was too young to really remember it, and I DEFINITELY didn’t see as many as we had just seen.. there were at least 30! We also saw a shark circling around, looking for food. I took a deep breath, and thought.. woah, I’ve been on this boat for 15 minute and have already seen two things I hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing in my entire life.. this is going to be a good next 4 days!

On the beach, we saw a Heron trying to eat a baby sea turtle… well, it did eat the baby sea turtle :( . We thought it was just playing with a fish at first, and then realized that it was trying to crack the turtle’s shell by biting it. Finally, after a couple of minutes of me begging the guide to let me scare the Heron to drop the turtle (“it’s just nature Paula, blah blah”), it finally gave up and swallowed that sucker! The turtle was still putting up a little fight in its throat, but it eventually stopped and we all said our “aw’s” and searched for other amazements of nature.

We didn’t see much else, just marine iguanas, a pink flamingo, cool crabs, and some fish while snorkeling!

That night, we chilled out, had a yummy dinner and I immediately went to sleep because the boat was rocking FAR too much for me to stay awake comfortably!!

OH, and I can’t find my motion sickness medicine, fabs :). It isn’t too bad yet though!

Livin' La Vida Local

I’ve had an amazing experience on the Galapagos Islands so far.. well I’ve only been on 2 of the islands, Baltra & Santa Cruz.. lived on Santa Cruz for 6 days, seem to have a boyfriend and a handful of friends already, been a few feet away from the President, watched the President sing with a huge band & act a fool, and I’ve dropped it to the suelo in La Panga. I think I’m pretty much a local now, I’ve actually had 2 people ask me if I live here.. I’m not sure why, seems like a strange question to ask.. there are a lot of foreigners that live here, so I suppose that’s why.

I honestly do feel like I live here, my friends here are great.. all very different.. for once, I’ve been meeting nothing but locals (still though, only guys).. and for some reason only one out of three speaks English well! I went an entire day the other day speaking only Spanish, it was EXHAUSTING! It’s obviously much better, but I’m still uncomfortable talking to new people unless they have a super chill personality.. then I don’t get so nervous.

Seeing the President have a fun time on stage was interesting to say the least. I couldn’t help but watch him and have a good time. Some people love him and thought it was great, some people hate him and think he’s an embarrassment to the country.. especially when doing something like that!

I went to dinner with Juan, a super funny 60-year old ex-chilean party animal friend/customer of Hernan’s on Friday night. It was… interesting! Especially since he can’t speak English!! We managed it though, and I never got bored once, even after an hour and a half. I ordered a quesadilla, and he ordered freaking lobster! I don’t know if it’s because of how I grew up, but I always try to order the cheapest most economical thing on the menu.. even if I’m with someone I know is rolling in the money.. I can’t help it!! That’s just who I am! When he saw my quesadilla come out.. I guess he hadn’t realized that that was what I had ordered, he made a face.. and said I had to eat some of his lobster. At one point he even told the waitress that my quesadilla was ugly!! It was pretty funny, we had 3 Caiprinas in an hour and a half, and whenever we would try to talk and couldn’t understand each other, we would just roll our eyes, pick up our drink, and cheers! It was good fun.. followed by PECAN PIE!

We were going to go out dancing after and some friends were going to meet up, but it was obviously too early, and he said he had to take me back to Hernan because we are ‘enamorado’… I got mad and said that he was supposed to salsa with me (I had heard he was awesome!), he said ‘No, I’m an old man and I’m going to go to sleep. You need to be with Hernan.’… WHATEVER JUANITO! Hasta manana.

When Hernan closed the restaurant, we went to get our dance on at Bongo. The music sucked and I was ready to bounce.. when Hernan said ‘LOOK! Juanito!!’… and oh my dear gracious, Juanito was getting his groove on with a girl about my age I think. He’s like practically the age of my grandfather, yet a perv on the dance floor!! It was quite hilarious, and I just praised Jesus that Hernan was with me.. because it was a crazy hilarious sight. Of course I danced with Juanito... how could I give up that comical moment in my life?!

Hernan and I left, and went to La Panga which is the non-touristy, latino filled club. Pretty sure I was the only gringa.. and loving every minute of it! Salsa, meringue.. loved the regaeton, reminded me of Montanita! The cops shut down the clubs one by one, we hopped along the street to try to find the last open one..

….but by-golly Galapagos, there were no more!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mi Vida - Purple Trees

Today I walked into a tienda and searched through an amazing collection of sunglasses that HAD to have been made in the 80s.. literally, they were all scratched up and worn, there is no way they are reproductions. I found a pair I liked, $3.. way too expensive, but you don’t find sunglasses like that too often (and you definitely don’t find any cheaper than $3 on the Galapagos!). They also had amazing hot pink hats that say ‘Galapagos’, the kind I’m sure you wore in family vacation photos way back when… pictures to come, I’m sure!

Anyways, in this store I met my new best friend. I paid him for the hat & glasses, and I only needed $2 back.. he asked if I needed change (as in change-change.. hard to come by around Ecuador!).. I just needed $2 back, so I thought it was a bit weird.. but said okay. He tells me he wants to practice his English, so he counded in FIVES all the way to $2.. there were a couple of dimes, mainly nickels, and 4 quarters. The last quarter was Connecticut (I believe).. one of the ‘new’ state quarters.. the one with the ginormous tree on it, my favorite! He continued to tell me that he immediately felt a good energy when I walked into the store, and how he could feel my love for life and nature, blah blah. Then he said, are you busy?! I have a gift for you… I was like oh crap, don’t tell me I got myself into another latino love situation. But it wasn’t like that, he told me to close my eyes and take deep breaths, think of some form of water ( I chose a lake, because it reminded me of home ), and to imagine rain falling forming the lake. I did all of the above, and he placed my arms across my chest, (still breathing and calming), and THEN he cracked my back ALL THE WAY DOWN, practically each vertebrae. Even the chiropractors that I visited for a year couldn’t do it that successfully, it was AMAZING! He told me I reminded him of a tree, which is ironic because my favorite part of nature is trees. We literally talked for hours after that.. about the world, energies, auras, it reminded me a lot of the Paulo Coehlo books that I’ve read. I haven’t had an intellectually stimulating conversation like that in a while, it was extremely refreshing!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

All You Single Ladies...

..had better get your culas (butts) to the Galapagos Islands in 10.. no.. 9 days now! From what my oh so insistent new friends, Hernan & Byron have told me.. the laws are changing again. It started off that any Ecuadorian citizen could move to the Galapagos Islas, then it changed to no one else is allowed to move here but if you’re here you can stay.. with this law everyone you has to marry an islander to be able to move here. Now, they’re about to change the law so that if you want to move to the island, it will take you 10 years to get your residency card rather than getting it immediately. My friends were seriously freaking out a bit, they’re 32 and 31 and say that there are not very single women on the island, and they are very far and few between.

Apparently it is super typical for girls to get pregnant at 13, 14, 15 years of age and then they get married and have a few more kids.. it’s very typical, mainly because the island has been overhauled by the Catholic religion which refuses birth control and most importantly sex education.

So ladies, get your plane tickets and plan that boda (wedding) on the flight here! I got lots of boys in need of a good wife, the sale is on for 9 more days only.. take your tickets! If you come past the due date, your life could be that much harder trying to stay on the islands forever!!

Some of the men are pretty cute here.. but I sure do miss looking at the costeños in Ecuador... ooh ruta del sol!

Mr. Cuerpo's Kayak

Today is yesterday’s tomorrow now, and I feel HORRIBLE.. absolutely horrible! I once again woke up every hour on the hour, sweats, wheezing, could hardly breathe.. hurt to breathe, blowing my nose every 30 minutes. I had bought some Penicillin ($0.25 a pop, yea dude!) but had only taken one the previous day, so it didn’t have much time to work (it’s night time now, and I took 3 today, and I still feel the same if not worse). I’m achey, I can hardly walk outside because the sun is too bright (possibly also because I don’t have any sunglasses anymore), my throat hurts, I’ve started coughing painfully.. everything is just all wrong!! I decided I’d go crazy if I stayed in the hotel, and maybe the sun and the salt water would dry me up. FAIL, the closest (& nicest) beach is an hours walk away.. so I decided I’d just take it slow, sleep on the beach, force some salt water up my nostrils and peace out…
Wrong-O, the delicious cuerpo (body) of one of the Islanders whisked me away into lala land, and after talking to him a bit, I asked him to about the kayaks he was renting out. I told him however, there was no way in hello I’m doing it by myself (PS, this conversation with Mr. Cuerpo was allll in Spanish!).. he said of course not, he’s going with me. Mwahahahaaa! I was a happy girl, yet still wishing I could have convinced him to do it tomorrow instead of today.. the paaaain! All I could think of was that I can’t take my tissues, I’d be sniffling 100% of the time, I’m sure coughing would ensue without my water, and I just can’t do it right now… BUT Mr. Cuerpo (aka Sandro.. sound like one of those Romance novel names? See picture! Long curly hair, C-U-E-R-P-O, dark skin) says the word Tortuga and I hopped in that kayak in a flash.

It was wickedly awesome, and I can’t wait to do it again!! I saw at least 18 turtles, some amazingly huge birds, big waves, and just ginormous turtles!!! I can’t get over them! They were my favorite part… up until that moment, the only real sea turtles I had seen in the wild were the 3 that I found dead on the beach in Montanita (which sadly happens often, they think because of fishing nets).. so this experience made up for them! Their heads just poke out of the water to breathe, I saw some a couple of feet away from our kayak but under the water.. they looked MASSIVE! I wanted a ride on one! : )

Mr. Cuerpo brought along snorkeling equipment.. but I told him that I honestly can hardly breathe outside of the water, let alone face down in the water.. I was really sad though, because I wanted to do it sooo bad! Hopefully by the end of the week I’ll be better.. actually by the end of the week I had better be better!

Mr. Cuerpo didn’t make me pay for our kayak of amazingness, he cheesily (thank you latinos) said (all in Spanish, so of course I can’t help but swoon).. my heart opens and our lives dance together when the magic comes into your eyes and your laughter from seeing the turtles… Oh God, please get me off this island! He absolutely refused for me to pay him, which I hated because that’s just a little awkward, and said un beso… INFERMA! INFERMA! Got out of that one, hasta luego Mr. Cuerpo!

Heading to the G's.. Galapagos Islands that is

I chose B!

On Sunday, I packed all of my things (which was SAD, because I fell in love with the EcoResort at Kamala.. my students.. my trainers.. my tranquil yet fiesta-fide life there) and headed to Guayaquil at 11AM. It started out a bit rocky, as I got to the bus terminal and ALL of the Guayaquil bus tickets had been booked for the entire day as of 10AM.. but lucked out and got a van ride for $10.. it was shorter, safer (I’ve been hearing many bad stories from other travelers about the buses getting hijacked recently), and it dropped me off directly at the airport!

When I got to the airport in Guayaquil (the one everyone has to go through to get to the Galapagos), I went to the main airline ‘AeroGal’. They gave me horrible news, and said the tickets were booked solid until Thursday (OH FAAABULOUS, so I have to stay in Guayaquil until Thursday?! You’re kidding me?).. so they pointed me in the direction of ‘TAME’ airline.. which I didn’t have much hope for when walking in.

SUCCESS! I got a ticket for the next morning, Monday at 10AM, and a return flight to Quito on June 13th for $355. Sound expensive? I know, it hurt a little! But that is the normal rate for LOW season, high season which starts on the 15th is about $50 more.

I arrived in the Galapagos, took the bus-ferry-bus combo to get to Puerto Ayora (the main port for finding a cruise tour) and found a $10 a night hotel. Not too shabby, loud (because of everyone slamming their doors.. and waking my sick butt up in the middle of the night), no toilet paper (weird! I know), and WIFI : ). I was sick as a dog when I arrived.. and have been gradually been getting worse and worse (I haven’t even been here 48 hours!!! Ugh).

I immediately dropped my things off, and began roaming the streets to look for tour agencies.. there were MANY! A guy rolled up on his bike and started speaking to me in Spanish, I asked him where to find the boats so I can talk to them and arrange a tour. He told me that he has a friend at a tour agency and took me there. Well, this friend sucked.. I would have to say that he gave me the worst prices for cruises of everyone I ended up talking to. The guy on the bike introduced himself (Hernan) and told me he owned a café/restaurant down the street called .. Hernan’s, and told me to drop by sometime.

After not having much success with the 8 tour agencies I walked into.. I was a bit bummed and pondering what to do now. I talked to 2 guys who had recently booked a pretty sweet deal through a guy in Quito, and they gave me his business card and I was honestly about to give up and go e-mail him!!! On my way back to the hotel, I am about to cross the street, look up, and see Hernan talking to a friend and waving me over. WOW, his restaurant is super nice.. not what I expected! Hernan only speaks Spanish, lucky me.. I stayed and chatted with them for at least 2 hours over coffee, and unfortunately didn’t discover Byron’s English fluency until hour 2.. they made me suffer speaking Spanish for an hour!!! But I did it, I suppose I’m getting better.. they didn’t take off running or anything : ).

Coffee AND talking was a horrible idea, toward the end of hour 2, I was miserable.. wanted to take a nap (coulnd’t.. A.) because I’ve had insomnia for the past 2 days B.) stupid caffeine), needed to find food, needed to talk to the owner of a boat they directed me to, SO MANY NEEDS.. needed an ATM.. the list goes on and on, and miserable hardly describes what I was feeling!

First order of business, food. CHECK, found a street with the cheapest food around.

Second order, CRUISE! The best way to see all of the islands and get the most out of the Galapagos is through a boat tour where you sleep on the boat while it takes you island to island. I dropped in Eden Yacht’s office, and asked for prices. I decided I was only going to do the 4 day cruise, because I’ve never ever been on a boat for that long.. I bought motion sickness pills.. but I’m a bit nervous about how it would be especially since I already feel like crap!! So we decided on the price of $600 for 4-days on a FIRST CLASS boat.. walking in there, I had no idea it was a first class boat!! My friends Joss & Ness whom I had met in Colombia, booked a tour with a boat a class size down for 4 days, and I think they paid about $750 for it.. so I was very much pleased and happy that my plan was working out!!

Third order, ATM. Pay for that baby!

Lastly, the failed siesta.

Cumbia Me Chuchaqui

::Cumbia = Ecuadorian traditional dance; Chuchaqui = Ecuadorian slang 'hangover'::
In Colombia, I learned to Salsa.
In Ecuador, I learned to Cumbia.
Colombia, you won! Every time I try to Cumbia, I get really mad at my partner and say I just want to do Salsa. It’s basically a more boring version of Salsa.. with less excitement in my heart! Although, the main night I learned to Cumbia I had to go home early because my knee felt like it was 100 years old.. so maybe it is more difficult than I thought?

A Cumbia-fest of sorts happened in the quiet town of Manglaralto on our last night out as a CELTA group. Our students were ready to dance us farewell, and we had an absolute blast!! Manglaralto is a tiny little sleepy beach town that was a 5-minute walk South down the beach. The roads are basically dirt (well.. sand), wide, empty, yet filled with life when it wants to be. Everyone was dancing up a storm in the streets and kickin’ up that dust. I’ve never seen that many people in Manglaralto, I don’t know where they came from, but it was a crazy good time.

One of the nights we went there.. celebrating the 150th year of independence, I believe.. they were playing the ABSOLUTELY most awful music you’ve ever had to listen to and try not to look like you were in pain! We decided to go to the one bar in the town that looked like it might provide some good dancing fun.. and we found no one in there but the bartender drinking by himself and a DJ pumping the jams. The group of us were sober, so it made the event much more hilarious. All of a sudden, we look out the door and there are about 20 guys (mainly) just staring in, watching, observing.. pondering! We figured they must be underage because they sure did look like youngins! Then, a couple began to come in.. and all of a sudden there were about 30 guys in the place and 6 girls (not including us). The boys were dancing with the boys.. it was a bit awkward, and then we look out the door again and there are even more youngish kids looking in.. we decide this is just too awkward and strange, so we walked out. As we’re standing a bit away from the ruckus, deciding if we’re going to go home or not.. we look in, and everyone starts to leave.. after 2 minutes of us watching and hysterically laughing, the bar was empty again.

That’s my story. I know it doesn’t make since, I don’t think it’s supposed to!

The Infamous

Recently, when I tell Ecuadorians that I lived in Montanita for 5 weeks studying.. I get the biggest outburst of laughter and the same question. Studying WHAT? Partying?! And I give the same, “I know, I know..weird huh? Actually I was a 15 minute walk down the beach from Montanita.. does that sound better?” And normally laughter still follows.

Oh Montanita! What a name you have for yourself! As I’m sure you’ve seen, there aren’t as many pictures of me studying as there are of my students and I (also a student) dancing the nights away in Montanita (& Monglaralto). Our days were filled studying and teaching from 8:30AM until 8PM Monday-Friday.. so we had to let some steam off somehow! Sophie and I tried to start running in the mornings.. that lasted.. err… about 5 days! And I didn’t lose near as much energy as I needed to.. so I was still CRAVING Ladies’ Night (Thursday Nights) like a mad woman.. I believe most Mondays starting at 10:30AM one could hear me saying “OMG, Ladies’ Night in FOUR days.. can you believe it?! Only 4 days!”

Anyways, Ladies’ Night in Montanita begins with a 10 o’clock start with unlimited drinks for 2 hours. It wasn’t until about the 3rd week that we realized.. they must be spiking our drinks.. no it must be in the fog machines.. no they have to be putting something in these. I don’t think we’ll ever know.. but we never really know what we did. There is a pool in Hola Ola that you can jump in if you please.. SOME of us did (::cough:: Daniel), he hasn’t started growing another arm yet.. so I think he’s good. There is a stage that gets lots of action, a DJ that is normally pumping the jams like crazy (everything from typical American/European music to Salsa to Regaeton.. the world in our ears).. everyone that works at Hola Ola looks like they belong in a circus or Mardi Gras.. it’s just all out insanity. I ran into two guys I had previously met in Colombia, and each of them had been to Montanita previously and came BACK for Ladies’ Night.

I don’t know why I adored it so much.. maybe it is because I love to dance.. or because I’ve never really lived in a place with dance clubs at my finger tips.. or because all of the stress from working my butt off to get a Pass B got to me! But I think it was the love for dance and crazy happenings!

We may not remember Ladies’ Nights, but it will forever be with us.

Peace Out CELTA, Hasta Luego Montanita, Forever in my Corazon

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Unicorns, Butterflies, Sensitive, Rainbows, Stickers, Ice Cream

Yes those are a few of my faaavorite things (and for some reason I have said each of those words during input sessions quite a few times... don't ask.. the instructors say they like how my brain works... we'll find out when I get my grade :) )!

::::deep breath in::::: :::: RELEASE:::::: Do it with me :)

My CELTA is practically over!! I can see the finish line, and I can see the rest of my adventures awaiting me!!!! Sweet LBJ! This has been a wild ride, and I have LOVED every minute of it! Ok, enough exclamation points :)

So I just finished my last lesson, and went out with a complete bang! I literally had my students climbing desks, running high speed towards a barbed wire fence, looking under rocks and having fun learning English! It was a great time... it was a scavenger hunt using prepositions of place, in case you were wondering! I don't even want to think about leaving my instructors and all of the students!!! These people are fabulous, I tell them every day!

This has been the best learning experience I have ever had. I mean, I have had a few classes that I adored back in Uni, but this one honestly shoots way above them. In the mornings, we learned all sorts of things about teaching and then in the evenings we observed/taught lessons to Intermediate/Elementary adult learners. The feedback, input, EVERYTHING was just all so helpful, I feel much more confident in my teaching abilities!!

Luckily, I only have 1 input session, 1 tutorial, 1 observation and a 1 hour group teach standing in my way from freedom (which all adds up to NOTHING compared to what we normally had on our plates)!!! I've enjoyed being constantly occupied, and constantly jogging my brain for creativity.. I'm gonna miss it (isn't that weird?!). It's also going to be weird re-packing my bag every day or so to move to another town... I'm gonna miss living in a cabana on the beach and staying put!! OH, I think that will be the most painful part...however...

I am sooo ready to get my traveling going.. every time I think about what I have ahead of me, my heart jumps up and down!! Adventure just turns me on, and all of the challenges within that adventure change your life!

Life Plans:
Galapagos Islands - next week
Crazy Amazon Adventures w/Dana - June 10
Peru - July
HOME - August 5
Korea - August 26

Monday, May 23, 2011

Practicing Spanish in Korea

Part of my 'excuse' for going gypsy and traveling for 6 months (2 back home & 4 in South America) was to work on my Spanish and learn guitar.

Well.. those two things haven't exactly been happening :).
I practiced guitar for 2 months back home, but decided not to buy one down here and continue practicing because I have a hard enough time keeping up with all of my bags when going town-to-town, and the stress of carrying around something else that is bigger than me was daunting. So I ix-nayed the guitar idea and decided I would practice whole-heartedly in Korea.

I was also 'supposed' to be studying Spanish while I was at home for 2 months.. but I only practiced guitar and applied to a million jobs in Abu Dhabi. The Abu Dhabi thing didn't work out, 2 interviews, 1 year of experience, and no CELTA in hand threw me off track. The Spanish didn't get practiced, and I honestly couldn't have cared less.. UNTIL I was about to leave for South America and realized, HOLY COW I don't remember any of my Spanish from University.. I'm screwed! So.. the decision on not buying a guitar on my trip was remediated by deciding to concentrate on Spanish while I traveled. The Abu Dhabi thing wasn't too disappointing, but it swayed me back to the idea of Korea, and I had decided I definitely wanted to teach at a public school there.


My friend Dana and I applied to EPIK, which is the main government organization you go through to find a public school job. We made the decision not to go through a recruiter, because we assumed we would have a better chance getting the job ASAP in the city we wanted, Busan. Anyways, we go through the interview and the night before we both found out that we got the job.. our friends told Dana N-O-T to go through EPIK because you'll get screwed and never find out which city you'll be teaching in until you arrive in Korea. So Dana and I were just confused, period. We started working with a recruiter a few weeks back and he told us that he had jobs in Busan and Changwon. THEN we find out that the jobs he have for Busan don't start until the end of September and he thinks it will be more difficult to get a job in Changwon because there are so many recruiters there (What the heck?! Busan is definitely the more difficult job to get.. and he just confused me even more!)

So anyways, I applied to Chonbuk University in Jeonju, Korea for the heck of it. Because I figured everything else was a confusion and up in the air, might as well make this whole thing more interesting. I got a reply the next day. I'm thinking WOAH. That was quick. Long story short, I thought the interview went horrible... they thought it went well, and I just had my second interview with the Director this time and I GOT IT!!!

I will be teaching at Chonbuk University in Jeonju starting August 29th. A UNIVERSITY!!! I'm sooo sooo thrilled!

There.. I promise myself I will be studying Spanish, practicing guitar, and studying to take the GRE! I hope there will not be another blog in the future about how I didn't accomplish any of these goals!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Have a Table Runner

...well, I did.

Then I turned it into a beach towel, since I'm backpacking on a shoestring and
a.)have no extra room in my bag
b.)holy tourist sarong prices
c.)why not?!

Then I turned it into a rug for my cabana.. it's just too darn cute!

Therefore, it goes back and forth between the beach and the floor.

Then I turned it into a shawl because winter just started and the beach gets pretty darn windy in the evenings.

I haven't washed it yet.. but I probably should before it reverts back to its original job.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I just started the third week of my CELTA course, only two more to go!!! It's gone by SO entirely fast, I can't believe it! AND, I LOVE IT! I'm surprised at how much I'm learning, and how much the topics interest me.. which I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised since I've chosen ESL as a temporary sort of career.

Although I live at the beach, I get to look at it more than I get to lie on it or frolick in its luscious waves! The day starts at 8:30 with breakfast, 9:30-11:30 Class, 12-2 Guided Planning, 2:00 Lunch, 5-8 Teaching, 8:00 Dinner. Luckily, it takes 30 seconds to walk to the playa from my cabana, so I aint complaining! The course could be a lot worse, and set up a lot differently from what I hear. I am SO happy I chose to do it here through Southern Cross!

At night, we're teaching adults from the community (they get classes here for free!), which is awesome! I think they're learning a lot, and they really really want to learn English! Some are taxi drivers (one ran over the back of my flip flop.. WHILE my foot was still in it), surf instructors, hotel workers, shrimp biologists ( :) ), and artists. They are super chill (of course) and love life! I've never seen such pretty smiles in my life!! They're just great!

We teach in a thatched roof hut where kittens jump on students and make them scream (claws), our dogs roam in and out, students bring their puppies (as in, a Rottweiler puppy, that chews the screens, and when we tried to pick it up and make it STOP ripping the place to shreds.. it latched on to a students pony tail.. and we kind of had to pause the class to release her hair from its mouth!). Lights often stop working, and we have to cram 16 students (plus 6 teachers and 1 trainer) into a tiny room and teach for 2 hours.. sizzling hot & mosquito infested! The dragon flies tend to fly in at 7:00 on the dot, every night!

Life here is great, super relaxing, I have a choice of about 15 hammocks to lie on. It isn't relaxing though when we have an hour long lesson plan we're working on, paperwork, assignments, etc to do at the same time. But for the most part, I'm in heaven! A lot of the other teachers I'm working with would never call these cabanas luxury.. but I WOULD! OMG, compared to some of the hotels/hostels I found myself sleping in, in Colombia.. I'm living the good life! Sure I have huge bugs in my pillowcase, but you won't see my crying!

Some of the teachers & Some of the students:

A Grasshopper in my Pillowcase

Living on a sand dune on the coast of Ecuador always leads to random things.

Two days ago, this huge winged thing flew down from my loft area and scared the absolute crap out of me... I thought it was a bat because its wings sounded so powerful & batty like... it was a HUGE grasshopper looking thing (but not as cute) and I think it hated me! I was for sure it was going to leap onto my neck and suck my blood.. a Twilight sort of grasshopper. I tried to open the door, and it flew somewhere else and scared the begeezes out of me.. luckily it flew AWAY from the door though. It was dinner time, and I'm never late for dinner.. but there was no way I was leaving my cabana until I KNEW it was outta there! So, I turned my light off, turned the porch light on, and opened the door. Obviously this bugger wasn't that attracted to light. The cook came over to my cabana to see if I was coming to eat (like I said.. never late for food).. and my spanish being not so great.. I had no idea how to tell him there was a huge winged animal the size of my middle finger galavanting around my room.. so I just pointed and screamed GRANDE GRANDE AYUDAME EEk! Long story short, it finally flew out!

Of course after that, I was preparing myself to not have a heart attack if something else starts flying around my room.

Then, the other night.. someone's cabana got broken into.. even though we're supposedly on a 'safe and secured resort'.. his cabana was the farthest down, and the sad thing is.. is that we were ALL on the property, but we were eating. So the people that work here think that it is someone from within Kamala, yet they have no idea who, and didn't have the police here. None of us really got the best of sleep that night, I was cuddled up in my bed and had to call my Acababa friend to see if she thought I should leave my porch light on.. even though I would be able to see really creepy shadows.. and then I moved my glass top table in front of the window, so it wouldn't be as easy for someone to crawl into my cabana like I did the other night!!

THEN, last night there literally was a grasshopper/cucaracha sort of thing IN my pillowcase. I mean, holy cow. I think the cleaning lady put it there! I'm gonna start cleaning before she cleans, so she doesn't get mad at me!! I was (and shouldn't have been) lying on my bed and doing work, head on pillow, arm around pillow, propping myself up.. WHEN I feel something move under one of my fingers, at first I ignored it, but the second time I noticed I FREAKED out, looked into my pillowcase and see something with legs.. either a grasshopper or a cucaracha and the length of my pinkY finger. I slept surprinsingly well that night, considering.. but GEEZE that's just not normal! I know what I'll be checking every night before I go to sleep!

I have geckos that wander in and out of my cabana, talking up a storm. There is a little baby a quarter the size of my pinkY finger.. <3 my little children!

There are strange birds living in a tree outside of my bathroom that sound like frogs. Seriously, I couldn't believe it when I went out there and found out they were birds (picture to come!)

There are about 4 or 5.. sometimes 6 dogs that live with us. Three kittens. Sometimes the neighbor down the beach's horses run around here. Bulls have come and stampeded a bit after our dogs chased them. The peacocks like to walk on the bar in the early morning. Mosquitos don't even need to be mentioned seeing as they have eaten me alive!

The list literally goes on and on, I would just like all of the animals in the world to stay out of my pillowcase and live a happy and fulfilling life, with joy and peacefulness!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

I Took Hugs Not Drugs

Yes.. I am here to tell the world. That I, Paula Ferguson, went to Colombia and did no drugs.

Was it offered? Yes. Is it readily available? Yes.

Why did I decline?
Anyone with brains and knowledge about Colombia's history will realize the wicked effects that cocaine production has had on the lives of the Colombian people. Sure some people got filthy rich, lived a life of luxury, got killed by the opposing cartel, 'helped' their community and had lots of power. But Colombia as a whole was screwed... innocent lives were taken, tourism sank, morale was at an all time low, at times there was no way in and no way out. The environment suffers when man-made chemicals are thrown about to produce this white 'goodness'.

Sooo many tourists come to Colombia so stoked that they can score it for less than a quarter of the price as back home. Many say they would never try it in their home country.. but "when in Colombia". My philosophy was, if you see and meet the Colombians, you see how amazing they are and how hard they've tried to fight back and win their lives back.. why support something that continues to effect them negatively.. power the enemy.. and endanger our diminishing rainforests?

To each his own, but sometimes it's about being selfless rather than selfish.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Team Pablo y Team Charlie

Pablo Pablo, rah rah rah! (me)
Charlie Charlie, rah rah rah! (Ness)

I had planned on leaving the day before yesterday, but changed my mind and found out that Jos would be riding mountain bikes all day.. SO.. Ness and I decided to have a GIRL'S DAY!! The only thing we had planned really was to take a stroll to the coffee farm!

It took about an hour to walk there.. the rain began of course.. about an hour touring the farm (all in Spanish).. I DRANK MY FIRST CUP OF COFFEE!!! The coffee was amazing, and I believe I was bouncing off the walls a bit 0:-). We hired a Jeep to go home because it was raining cats and dogs, as usual. Once we arrived back in Salento, Ness and I were STARVING! We went to our favorite place, Lucy's, for lunch.

This is when the hilariousness began. At Lucy's, they gave us double the fried food they normally do (fried plantains and fried unknown balls of dough).. I ate all of our plantains.. but the balls were just way too greasy. I looked over and there were these two gentleman (maybe about 40-ish and 50-ish years old).. one had a pancho and a hat on, the other looked just Colombian.. I noticed that they weren't finished eating, but they had eaten all of the fried munchies already.

I asked Ness if we should give ours to them.. we put them on a napkin.. and used our fabulous Spanglish to get the point across. They were like giddy little boys, SO EXCITED. The pancho guy said "HE! (point) Poor man! Happy!" and then they laughed. They kept saying other random things and making fun of each other in English.. we told them they had great English.. and they kept making fun of each other and bickering in English. Ness and I were laughing our butts off, these guys seemed like such characters.

We had wanted to go play Tejo on our Girl's Day (a Colombian 'drinking' game, where you throw large rocks at packets of gunpowder), we had never played it before and the stupid thing wasn't open the previous day. So, we asked our new restaurant friends if they knew what time it opened and closed.

When we said Tejo, they got SO excited. We decided to make new friends, and asked if they wanted to come with us. OF COURSE, Tejo was closed again.. I suppose because the town is so small. So our new friends, Pablo and Carlos, suggested pool! Nes and I looked at each other with the 'OMG, we're so horrible.. but we really really want to' look. And said, YES! We get there, form our teams.. and I try to get some Spanish practice in.. but they obviously wanted to practice their English just as bad.. so we all spoke mainly English.

Paola y Pablo = Team Pablo (Lost by 1!)
Nes y Carlos = Team Charlie (Won by 1!)

I don't think the pool hall had seen anything like us before. When I made my first shot, I screamed bloody murder jumping up into the air, Nes did the same.. the hall was suddenly happy.. not so SERIOUS like boys take things normally while competing. We got some very funny stares! Carlos and Pablo were great company, very silly, and didn't take life too seriously.. my kind of peeps!

Post-game, we had to say good-bye.. Carlos handled it well, but poor Pablo looked like he was going to cry for 5-minutes.. maybe it's because we lost? :) He ended with a .. "I guess I will see you.. never ::pout::".

Girl's Day, SUCCESS!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Valle de Cocora Trek

Waking up at 6AM in Salento.. piling into a Jeep with 12 other people.. and a $1.50 will land you in the astounding Valle de Cocora.

The little trek was a bit more difficult than we had imagined.. altitude bit us hard in the butt! But we managed with smiles on our faces and laughter in our mouths. The first hour(+) of the trip took us through farmland and LOTS of mud. It was hilarious actually, our Wellingtons were practically getting stuck in the mud at every step. The squish-squish-squirt became a normal noise.. and I eventually stopped giggling. We thanked God that we decided to rent them.. at first we were hesitant and thought 'it couldn't be that bad'.. but woah buddy it was! We had river crossings to do (haven't done those before.. rolling eyes) but luckily we didn't actually have to cross them IN the river.. just on some sketchy logs. I believe we crossed the same river 7 times.. felt like home.. and a bit like The Lost City!

Once the calf deep mud was over with, we continued on up the mountain to a nature reserve, Acaime. It was WONDERFUL, we paid 3,000COP ($1.50) for a cup of hot chocolate, a chat with the cute old owners, and beautiful hummingbirds! The couple has hummingbird feeders, so we were able to see LOTS! I'm used to seeing hummingbirds, because my mom and grandmother have always had feeders.. but these birds were a bit larger with different colorings, some had really long tails, and some were black and white.

We then made our way to La Montana, which was at the top of one of the mountains and had spectacular views.. but it still wasn't the Valle de Cocora. Here, it started to rain so we decided to get a BIG 'ol cup of hot chocolate! Once the rain decided to subside, we walked down to the Valle! ::angels singing:: However, on our way down we ran into a landslide, which was wicked looking. We had been walking on an amazing path that cars actually drove up.. we didn't have to be constantly looking at our feet for once, which was great! And then all of a sudden there it was! Massive tree after tree that we had to climb over, small rocks still tumbling down the hillside, we could tell that this was very recent as the tire tracks in the road looked quite fresh. It was a bit awe-ing, and we were thankful it had happened before we arrived! We walked about a quarter of a mile more and heard a couple of more big cracks.. woah, so happy that we missed that one as well.. Jos went back to see if anyone had gotten caught in it, because there were quite a few people behind us.

The Valle was spectacular! Awesome views, and a great feeling! Although it was drizzling, and super cloudy.. it still looked amazing!! The clouds gave it a very mystical, eery feeling.. to die for! The trees in this valley are the tallest palm trees in the world. They are native to Colombia, called Wax Palm Trees, and grow up to 60 ft tall. You definitely cannot miss this if you come to Colombia. I have been staying at Tralala Hostal in Salento.. so relaxing, very chilled out GORGEOUS place, good owner, cute black cat, and peace! It is a great place to stay if you are planning on venturing to Valle de Cocora (which you should!).

EDIT: I am NO LONGER recommending Tralala Hostel ( ). My guests just got reprimanded because they had stayed at the hostel for TWO nights previously.. checked out, and moved into a cheaper hostel that had a private room for $8 cheaper. Long story short, after they had visited twice today.. Hemmo came up to our table, it was Rob (from San Fran), me, Joss & Ness (my 2 guests):
Hemmo: (extremely upset like) "I don't understand why you're back here. You check out, I thought you had left, you come back, you said you're staying in another hostel. I thought you had left, why are you back here?"
Joss & Ness: ::jaws drop:: "Excuse me? We told you we were staying at another hostel, you asked why, we told you because it is cheaper."
Hemmo: "I don't understand why you're here, you checked out."
Me: "They're here to visit me! Am I not allowed to have guests?"
Hemmo: "No, you're allowed to have guests. I've talked to many friends and they agree."
Me: "Agree with what?! You own a business, a hostel business, this happens. People change hostels, but I'm obviously not allowed to have guests."
Hemmo: "No, you're allowed to have guets."

.. this conversation went on and on. My friends eventually left because he was so rude. Rob and I just looked at each other, like did that SERIOUSLY just happen?! And he told me that he thought I handled it well.. which I was shaking a bit because I was so angry, so I'm pretty surprised..

THEN, he came back downstairs where Rob and I still were. He began the EXACT same conversation all over again. I told him I was getting 'extremely offended' over this, and it really upset me... because it really was, if you are rude to my guests, you're being rude to me. What he said directly to us was uncalled for. He runs a hostel, not a hotel. If he is going to have restrictions on guests, maybe he should post a sign. He then, looked at Rob and asked him for his opinion (ARE WE IN HIGHSCHOOL?!). The entire situation was ridiculous, I told him again that I completely understand where he is coming from (as a business owner, who only had FIVE guests staying at the time), that I understand why he would be offended, but that my friends were in no way trying to be rude, they were visiting ME and I have paid 4 nights to stay in the hostel that allows guests, they had given him TWO nights of business, and again I'm really offended by this. I received no apology.. no lame "I'm sorry, BUT..".. nothing, other than his opinion.

So if you'd like a hostel where the owner allows guests, just not your guests.. here's your sign!
K. Rant. Finished.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pablo Escobar Tour

What happens when you give $25 dollars to someone in Medellin? You get to meet Pablo Escobar's brother, sit on Pablo's old couch in one of his old hiding houses, put on his old hat he wore in jail, see where he got shot, visit his grave and hide in one of his hiding places. Does that $25 sound so expensive now, considering you're in South America?!? The entire experience was surreal, weird, and just STRANGE... it was just seriously WEIRD!

This tour was wicked awesome (meaning strange). We were picked up in a van and taken to see Roberto Escobar (Pablo's brother, who worked with him as his accountant), Roberto was super nice, a bit dorky looking and only spoke spanish. Our tour guide would relay our questions to him, and we were allowed to ask anything. Unfortunately, I felt some of his answers were pretty crappy. As in.. "Roberto, who do you think was leading Los Pepe?".. "The government, definitely the government.. you see, Pablo was trying to be President, they didn't want that to happen." And when I asked if Roberto was looked down upon by the people of Medellin (he is living freely in the community), the answer was always no. But I just can't imagine how that could be true, since although he may not have been holding guns, or directly endangering lives (because he was 'the accountant'... he still HAD to know when the money was being used towards bombs, etc.

Anyways, our tour guide ended up rolling his eyes about a lot of the stuff we discussed after talking to Roberto.. it was obvious that Roberto is trying to sugarcoat A LOT!

The basics I learne dabout Pablo's life:
-He has 2 children, a boy that is currently 31 and girl that is 27. The boy has recently 'came out' to the media and has also apologized to many in Medellin for his father's doings. And no one really knows anything about the daughter or wife (They've been in hiding in Argentina since 1993.)
-Pablo first got put into jail when he was about 26, there he met a man who smuggled GE products (refrigerators, TVs, appliances) from other countries into Colombia... once Pablo got out of jail he began to work for him. Then, he got put into jail because he got caught for the appliance smuggling. This time, he met a jailmate who smuggled Cocaine into America (and other countries).. Pablo became a driver who drove the products into the other countries. He became awesome at doing this without getting caught and eventually started his own 'organization'. The 80's were his primetime.. especially in Miami and NYC.. his main exports.
-During another stint in jail, he somehow managed to kill some of Los Pepes key members.. so this is when the heat got started and bad things began in Medellin. Los Pepes were trying to kill Pablo and his members, the Cali cartel was trying to do the same.. many other players existed too.
-Pablo had a prize 'super expensive' horse that he loved.. one of the cartels kidnapped and castrated it in the middle of a busy street in Medellin one day.
-Frank Sinatra gave Pablo the motorcycle that is seen in the picture (in the photo album.. top right).
-There is a large white building that is pictured in the album "Medellin y Valle de Cocora".. it was one of Pablo's many homes in and around Medellin. His family lived in the Penthouse and the rest of the building was empty. 150 pounds of dynamite were planted in the building to murder Pablo.. however the plan failed.. it is currently being restored and being turned into a POLICE STATION! Irony?!
-The bullet holes that are shown in the pictures are in Pablo's old house, which Roberto currently lives in part of the time. September of last year, a kidnap attempt was plotted to kidnap Roberto. The police got involved, and there was a shoot out when Roberto's ex-employee and 6 men entered the home.. greeted by the cops.
-Random Fact: A guy in my group asked the question, "Is it true that you are involved in the cure against AIDS, and there have been 50 people cured already in Colombia?". The question was translated, and Roberto got a bit defensive, "I can't speak about this." A couple of seconds later, "Where did you hear this? Do you remember specifically where you heard this? What EXACTLY did you hear?" The guy said he read it in an article from a UK Metro Newspaper. Roberto asked that he find the article and email it to him.. giving him the business card. He then told us that the Colombian scientists think they're successful, but it hasn't been ran by the US yet. Some of the money from the tour as well as Roberto's book are donated to AIDS research. It was just a sketchy conversation.. GOSSIP :)
-Apparently the Escobar family didn't smoke, snort, or drink.. including Pablo (which honestly, it would make sense that he didn't do cocaine.. he definitely wouldn't have been as successful as he was.)
-Pablo 'woo-ed' the Medellin community by building homes for thousands of Medellin-ers and donating lots of money to the public. He then 'woo-ed' them enough to get their votes.. he decided to go into politics. He became a congressman for a short while.. hoping to be president one day.. can't imagine how Colombia would have turned out had that happened!

All in all, the tour is a must do if you are in Medellin. That was pretty much the best thing I did there.. there isn't much to choose from either unless you want to party the entire time. It in no way makes Pablo look like a great person which is what one would have expected.. random tour!!!

Recreating a famous picture taken of Pablo when he was in his self-built prison, Catedral. The hat was the actual one given to him from his mom while he was in prison.