Andean Memoirs

The story behind the creation of the geothermal map of Peru

The Cold Dust of Time’s Shadow

New blog posts! Check out The Experience section and The Study section for new updates!

All our best,

S&A

Anyone who uses Google in Peru today will see an artistic rendering of Machu Picchu in the background on the Google homepage—today is the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Machu Picchu!! One of Peru’s most recognizable monuments, it is in Cusco, Peru, which we will be visiting in two weeks’ time! Use http://www.google.com.pe/ today and click on the graphic above to learn more about Machu Picchu.
Plus, Google has made the option of searching in Quechua available. Quechua is the language of the indigenous people in Peru, and is still spoken in many regions. However, it is in danger of becoming extinct, as are the traditions of the Quechuan culture. Andres and I have made it our summer/winter’s resolution (depending on what hemisphere we’re in as we travel back and forth from Peru to the U.S.) to learn Quechua. If you’re curious to see what it looks like, or want to learn it yourself (it beats Pig Latin for those conversations you don’t want overheard) click on the hyperlink below the search tool bar!
Allinllaña*,
S&A
*Goodbye in Quechua

Anyone who uses Google in Peru today will see an artistic rendering of Machu Picchu in the background on the Google homepage—today is the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Machu Picchu!! One of Peru’s most recognizable monuments, it is in Cusco, Peru, which we will be visiting in two weeks’ time! Use http://www.google.com.pe/ today and click on the graphic above to learn more about Machu Picchu.

Plus, Google has made the option of searching in Quechua available. Quechua is the language of the indigenous people in Peru, and is still spoken in many regions. However, it is in danger of becoming extinct, as are the traditions of the Quechuan culture. Andres and I have made it our summer/winter’s resolution (depending on what hemisphere we’re in as we travel back and forth from Peru to the U.S.) to learn Quechua. If you’re curious to see what it looks like, or want to learn it yourself (it beats Pig Latin for those conversations you don’t want overheard) click on the hyperlink below the search tool bar!

Allinllaña*,

S&A

*Goodbye in Quechua

Our Sun-dry Adventures

Today, we have posted in The Study section, The Experience section, and The Kitchen section of various and sundry experiences we’ve had as of late in sunny Mancora! Three posts to make up for the three weeks of not posting!

The Study: Read about our unique experience logging a well that was built in the 1920s, and how Andres saved the day for our friends at Grana y Montero (GMP)

The Experience: From the desert cliffs to the spa jacuzzi, these past three weeks have brought us the most varied adventures to date!

The Kitchen: Today’s recipe is not Peruvian, but it’s still good I promise (and it has my Peruvian husband’s seal of approval, so it can hold its own among the Peruvian recipes in the blog!).

Happy reading, and our warmest wishes from the beaches of Mancora, Peru!

S&A

"Sea Lions, Tiger fish, and Bear-accudas, oh my!"

Today’s posts …

The Experience section:

A weekend out at sea, St. Peter’s holiday in Mancora, and the “desert storm” we endured

The Kitchen section:

Two new recipes, one sweet and one savory

Much love from both of us!! 

S&A

Mancora: The Caribbean But With Ceviche

(title above spotted on a T-shirt in Mancora)

Our dear friends and family,

After a hiatus from posting about our adventures (in large part due to internet troubles), I finally have some down time to let you know what we’ve been up to recently!

We’ve also decided to change the structure our our blog to make it easier for our readers to find what most interests them about our adventure. The field work is gaining momentum, and every day brings new discoveries both in the scientific arena and with regard to our personal experience in Peru. Therefore, we’ve decided to break down our posts into different sections. That way, you can check out The Experience section to read of our personal adventures, and The Study section to read about the technical advancements and daily progress of Andres’ geothermal study. The Kitchen section will remain the same, as both the personal and scientific aspects of our adventure are fueled by the delicious food we are eating! 

Please click on each section above to read of our most recent personal, scientific, and culinary experiences!

Peruvian Politics 101: A Quick Look at Peru's 2011 Election

(Please click on the title above to read the full article)

This article by CNN mentions how Peruvians will opt for “the lesser of two evils” as they vote today. From the taxi cab drivers to our family and friends here, this is the mantra we keep hearing time and again. And the lesser of two evils, from what we’ve heard, is to vote for Keiko Fujimori. Ollanta Umala has now been officially linked to the notorious, corrupt Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez (who—in addition to lending funds to Ollanta’s campaign—has close ties with the Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro). So, needless to say, the majority of Peruvians are opting to support Keiko, as they don’t want another Chavez-like socialist dictator leading the country. They are, however, wary of Fujimori due to her father’s history. Though her father committed crimes against humanity, many argue that he is responsible for wiping out the terrorist group El Sendero Luminoso that wreaked havoc on the country in the 1980s. 

As you can see, it is an extremely pivotal time in Peru’s history. Today, Peruvians will be voting for either Keiko or Umala, and Andres and I are at home waiting to see what the results will be. Everyone is nervous, and we are praying that “the lesser of two evils” wins … 

Peru: Worst Place to be on a Diet

Peruvian-style Tuna Tataki at “Hanzo” restaurant; Lima, Peru

Dear friends,

I have to apologize for not writing these past two days, but I have a good excuse!

Basically, ever since we got to Peru, all self-control and reasonably-sized portions have gone out the window—we have not stopped eating … and eating … and eating.

I had heard Peru was the gastronomic capital of Latin America, and according to some, the world, but my expectations have been exceeded. And the sauces? Don’t even get me started. I have never eaten so well in such a brief span of time, and that’s taking into account the fact the Andres loves to cook gourmet meals daily and my travels around the world (where “the diet” was always left at home). 

So after a week of reveling without remorse in Peruvian cuisine, it has finally caught up to me. I am currently nursing a stomach battered by deliciously decadent desserts and thick, creamy sauces with chamomile tea and crackers. Nevertheless, I will keep posting recipes (and just to commemorate the “Fat Tuesday” of this food spree, I will post THREE recipes on The Kitchen section today).

I have to give us some slack, though, as we have been walking a lot lately as Andres shows me the sites and different areas of Lima. And at least we can be grateful that Lima’s notorious traffic forces us to walk, even if it is from one restaurant to the next!

We recently visited one site called the “Huaca” (i.e. Peruvian word for “sacred ruins”) of Pucllana. It is in the middle of the district of Miraflores, surrounded by modern homes and restaurants. The juxtaposition of Huaca Pucllana’s earthen hues with the bright colors of the commercial district surrounding it has the effect of making the great pyramid even more striking.

A tour guide explained how seven staggering platforms of adobe and clay bricks make up the pyramid, and how it that served as both a religious and administrative center for the Lima culture from 200 to 700 A.D. The subsequent cultures that established empires after the Lima people, such as the Huari (the same that built the city of Pachacamac, which if you remember, we visited a few days ago) and the Ishma, converted the pyramid into a site to bury their dead. We were able to see the mummified remains of two adults, and the skeleton of a baby that was sacrificed in an offering to the gods.

Of interesting note, the Huari considered the shark to be an important animal, and one can still see the shark motifs painted on the walls and on their clay pottery. Shark meat was also served in important banquets and celebrations, honoring the ocean (which the Huari worshipped). I can only imagine what a hit “Shark Week” would’ve been among the Huari if television (and the Discovery Channel) were invented 1800 years ago. As it is, I am sure one Huari descendent will be glued to the TV when “Shark Week” airs in July (*ahem*… Andres)!

Finally, we ended our wonderful afternoon of sightseeing and walking around town with a stop at my favorite coffee purveyor: STARBUCKS! I think my face shows my absolute joy after tasting this Tall Iced Soy Latte in the photo below after a hiatus from Starbucks for nearly a month! (Note: I am addicted to Starbucks, so three weeks was along time to go without my vice)

That evening, Andres worked on a presentation he is giving today as a guest speaker at a conference of young Peruvian artists. The presentation looks very interesting and thought-provoking: it centers on how a scientist, or someone with a scientific perspective, looks at creation and the beauty of nature.  I will post the main points of his presentation next time, as this is a topic that he feels particularly passionate about. Meanwhile, I have been tinkering around with our video camera while he works. I hope to post some videos soon as we head to the beach this weekend!

Until next time, much love from Lima!

S&A

P.S. Keep Peru in your prayers, as elections are this Sunday. It is a particularly pivotal time for the country, and everyone is at a nervous standstill waiting for who will become the next president. In my next post, I’ll summarize briefly what is going on right now in Peruvian politics and the background of each candidate (above, from left to right: Keiko Fujimori vs. Ollanta Humala).

In the Foothills of the Andes

Our experience at Pachacamac was almost like a retreat—nearly an hour from the city of Lima, the village of Pachacamac is located in the Lurin river valley, surrounded by the Andes mountains and by the Pacific coast. For the Floridians reading this blog, like myself, a “coastal desert” may also seem a bit odd to you. But it turns out, it’s a result of meteorological inversion—there is a longer explanation besides those two words, but that’s what my scientifically-challenged attention span captured from Andres’ explanation.

And from said scientific phenomenon, what a gorgeous, scenic landscape is produced! Take a look at the pictures below of Pachacamac. It really was like a retreat—it was so silent out there, and people’s houses are very far apart, so there is a feeling of secluded peace about the place …

It was wonderful to spend time with the Velasco-Ruzos, and I can never get enough of seeing Isabella, their one-year-old little girl. Their house in Pachacamac (pictured above) reminds me of the Santa Fe-style homes one sees back in the U.S. Andres took a picture of me next to the beautiful wooden door that opens to the side porch.

We spent the day watching Tio Juan roast purple potatoes (native to Peru) and pig in the “caja china,” a method of roasting pig that involves a boxy oven on wheels. This method actually originated in Cuba, so when the Velascos brought out the oven, I was suddenly transported back to Miami, to all the First Communions, athletic tournaments, and parties that revolved around the “caja china.”  

As the house was being cleaned, look what appeared behind the couch (only Andres, of course, could take this close-up picture—I was on the other side of the room, already pulling out my CPR instructional pamphlet in case that stinger landed in my husband’s throat) …

After that traumatic introduction to desert fauna (for myself, at least), we had a delicious, four-hour meal starting with bits of steak, pig, chicken, duck, salad with avocado, canchita (Peruvian roasted corn kernels) and assorted sauces and dips. I tasted Cusquena beer for the first time, and really liked it—it has a light and crisp taste, very similar to a pale lager. Now I know what to bring along in the cooler for our trips to well sites for Andres’ well-logging!

Finally, dessert was a cake that resembled a giant alfajor (a delicious, Peruvian cookie—you can find the cookie recipe in the kitchen section of the blog). And as is the case with almost every meal here in Peru, we finished with a steaming cup of chamomile tea.

It was a great day, and I hope to return to Pachacamac to see the ancient pyramids that remind us of the great Huari empire (pre-Incan empire) that once inhabited Pachamac, and who named the place after Pacha Kamaq, i.e. “the creater god.” It’s incredible when one thinks of how much gold and beautiful edifices were in what is now a desert. It is as the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 12:7, “… and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it …” 

P.S. Check out the link in The Culture section of the blog to see the amazing advertising campaign by “PromPeru” to promote pride in the Republic of Peru. It’s a truly creative and entertaining campaign!


Peruvian Fusion

Yesterday, we decided to take a break from preparing for our scientific expedition in a few weeks by doing a bit of sight-seeing and catching up with Andres’ family in Lima.

Our first excursion of the day was Larcomar, a partially-outdoor mall that runs along the coastal edge of Lima. It has restaurants, shops, a cinema, children’s rides, and other entertainment, and was teeming with people, both locals and tourists. Andres and I strolled around the mall, and he showed me where he use to surf years ago on the beach. His first memory is actually also on that beach—he remembers taking his favorite dinosaur toy and building a cave for it with his dad using the sand and water from the beach. Would you believe it, he still has that same, green Tyrannosaurus Rex toy? Maybe in a few years, there will be another Andresito playing with the same T-Rex toy in the sand … also probably getting distracted by the rocks and fossilized shells, like his dad … 

I took a moment to look at the coastline from these lookout-point binoculars.

Just when we were zipping our jackets to walk a little further, a rare thing happened—the perpetual grey, wet fog that cloaks Lima during this time of year broke, and the sun came out! We soon found ourselves peeling off our layers of jackets and sweaters to enjoy the warmth. Taking advantage of it, we walked a few miles until we reached the home of Andres’ aunt and uncle, Tio Eo and Tia Guida, and his cousin, Gabriela. After catching up with them, and hearing about Gaby’s latest success as a professional singer/songwriter, we ran to catch the six o’clock Mass at Santa Maria Reina. 

After Mass, we met Andres’ uncle, Tio Jose, for dinner. Tio Jose is a freelancing editor and a literature fanatic,  so conversation around the dinner table was anything but boring! And the food … well, at the risk of sounding repetitive, it was absolutely delicious!! Truly, the best sushi I have ever tasted. The restaurant, named Osaka, serves a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cuisine. We had a “tapas” style meal, where we tried a little bit of everything. If Tio Jose had been any less interesting of a man, or if the conversation had been boring, I would have completely zoned out from the first to the last bite, the food was THAT good. But thankfully, I was able to both eat and listen. Take a look at Osaka’s cool website here, and then check out an easy-to-make, Peruvian sushi recipe I found in The Kitchen section of the blog. 

We ended the night by walking around “El Bosque Olivar de San Isidro,” a park lined with olive trees that, as legend has it, were planted by St. Martin de Porres around the late-sixteenth century. The park, declared a national monument fifty years ago, still has the antiquated machine that was used to extract oil from the olives cultivated there. We passed by beautiful, old houses built in the colonial style of architecture, and intricately-carved wooden doors leading to outdoor foyers practically shrouded in bougainvilleas and native flowers, like this one below. 

The evening ended in a cab drive back to La Molina, with a very animated taxi cab driver who told us stories of his strangest passengers and of the funny experiences he had encountered as a cab driver.

Next time, I’ll be posting about our trip to Pachacamac, Lima’s greenest river valley and the ancient seat of one of the most important oracles in Latin American history …

Until next time, take care and adios!

S&A

"El Muerto"

We have made it safely to Peru, and have thoroughly enjoyed our first few days here! We’ve taken the time to catch up on a month’s worth of much-needed sleep, unpack our things, and get situated in La Molina, the area of Lima where we are staying. It’s a beautiful neighborhood, where the gardens are pristinely manicured, everyone knows each other, and is guarded 24 hours a day (this is mentioned primarily for the mothers of the parties involved who are reading the blog).

After arriving in Peru and getting through customs, which involved the continued misadventure with “El Muerto” (more on that later), we managed to fit everything in the back of Tia Lydia’s car, and headed to what would be our home for the next three months. Tia Lydia’s home is a beautiful, modern home, made even more pleasant by the collection of artwork and freshly cut bouquets in all the rooms, and an incredibly gracious staff.  Her cook, a tiny, merry woman named Dioni, prepares delicious meals daily, which we soon learned is served in three, small courses followed by tea or coffee.

Now, to explain the reason why our first post is named “El Muerto,” or “The Dead One.” Our misadventures due to the transportation of Andres’ well-logging tools, in a case we nicknamed “El Muerto,” wreaked enough stress on our journey to Lima that to only mention it would not do it justice. No, it had to be the title! 

Note to readers: If you’re going to travel with 92 pounds of scientific equipment, in an oversized black case, from Dallas to Miami, then from Miami to Lima, be prepared to pay a fine of $350 (give or take $100, depending on your negotiation skills), lots of scolding by angry, old baggage employees dragging the case along the terminal, the return of the case with its innards topsy-turvy and a note indicating that TSA is to blame, and finally, an hour and a half in Peruvian customs explaining that we are not, in fact, miners but rather students who can’t afford to pay any more fines!

So there you have it. It was dubbed “El Muerto” because it weighs as much as a dead person…and to be honest, has caused us almost as much grief!

Until next time, take care and adios!

S&A