Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lima to Buenos Aires

Mural of Simon Bolivar at the Lima Cathedral
Lima Cathedral
On our last day in Lima, we decided to head out to the city center to visit the square and see some of the museums.  We took a cab ride through the city and were amazed to look at the 200+ year old stately buildings still standing and in good condition.  Our first stop was the Lima National Cathedral.  The church was on the main square of Lima, and sported a gothic facade and double spires like many churches of the area.

We paid our entrance fee and were met by a guide that spoke some english.  He must have been an actor, because it was one of the most dramatic and heartfelt tours we have ever had.  He not only told us about the church, but also about the history of Peru - its founding, earthquakes, artists and place in history.   We then went to the Bishops Palace and toured the museum there.   We were able to see the changing of the guard in front of the presidential palace — with all of the pomp and circumstance you see in the UK and then went to lunch at a nearby cafe. 
Changing of the guard

We ate ceviche — again, and drank pisco sours, again — and were entertained by stories from our Japanese-Peruvian waiter.  It seems that his grandfather emigrated from Japan after WWII, lured to Peru with stories of high wages and tremendous opportunity.  Well, they lied, but his grandparents had spent all of their money getting to Peru and had none to go home, so they decided to make a life.  The waiter's father married a local girl and made a nice living in Peru.  Our waiter had been to Japan several times for family visits, but preferred Peru for living.

We enjoyed our time in Peru, but were ready for our Argentinean adventure to begin.

Streets of Lima

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Peru Surfing Adventure.

Ready for the waves.
 The day dawned early on the day of our peruvian ruins and surf adventure.  Our guide Jorge with Eco-Innovations tours picked us up at our hotel in the "surf adventure" van and drove us south.  After about an hour, we turned off at Pachacamac to visit the ruins there.   We toured the ruins with a guide for about 2 hours and learned all about the religious center that was located there hundreds of years ago.

Madeline Surfs!
Go Katherine!
The Incan people would send the most beautiful and brightest daughters to live there where they were guarded by eunuchs and taught to embroider and make the special ceremonial drink.  When they turned 16, one or two were chosen to sacrifice to the God of the Sun - and the others were married off to the Incan governors and priests as concubines.  The temple was very high and painted bright red and overlooked the sea.  The indigenous people would make pilgrimages there — often at the end of their lives and usually died there so they could be buried close to the temples.  They approximate that there are tens of thousands of mummies buried on the property.

After touring the ruins, we headed out to a small town south of Lima.  Our guide took us to a small public beach for surfing.  The water was very busy with sunbathers, swimmers and surfers.  And to us Galvestonians - the water was COLD.  Even in a wetsuit, Madeline came out with her lips blue and her teeth chattering.  It was nice to get out of Lima and see some more of the country and get to a place surrounded by locals.  Ladies walked around the beaches selling chips, sodas and beer (no glass of course) and we ate sandwiches packed by the tour.  Chris and the girls had a ball surfing and we loved our guide.  We went home, happy and exhausted and ready for another day!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Vacation 2010 - Lima Peru

We have arrived safely in Lima, Peru.  The trip here was an adventure in itself.  We left home at 10:30 in the morning for a 7:20 pm flight.  We went to the office to pick up Daddy, then headed out for the airport.  One of our friends the week before had left 4 hours before her flight and never made it due to traffic and work being done on the road due to the landslides.  We did not want to take a chance, as if we missed our flights, we would likely not be able to find another flight out of Caracas until after Christmas.

The traffic was heavier than usual, and you could see multiple landslides along the way - complete with multiple homes destroyed from the landslides, but we made it to the airport in 2.5 hours.  With that much time to kill, we decided to head out to the Marriott close to the airport for lunch.  It killed a couple of hours, and the kids got to play on the playground there and burn up some energy.  We arrived ready to check in at 2 pm - an hour before what the US embassy recommended, and they would not let us check in until 3 pm.  It only took an hour to check in, clear security and clear customs, so at 4 pm we were checking into the American Airlines lounge looking for four chairs together.

We got settled, then Chris and Madeline left for what is becoming a Haver Family Tradition - airport massages.  There is a kiosk, with a wonderful woman, who gives 10 and 15 minute chair massages for a very reasonable prices.  It is so inexpensive, we let the kids get them as well.  We all took turns, then went back to the lounge.  When we booked the tickets to Buenos Aires - we had to transfer through Lima as there is no direct flight from Caracas - so I decided we should stay and explore Lima for a few days.  The tickets were written in spanish - and were in first class - though I missed that part when we booked them.  When I was reviewing the tickets a few weeks ago I realized that our seats were in row 3!  A happy accident for us.

We boarded and realized the first class section was on of the ones that was REALLY first class.  The asiles were huge, and the seats were the ones that go from sitting to a full flat bed.  Each chair had its own entertainment system, complete with Bose type headphones.  The seats alone provided hours of entertainment for my children.  They were served a real meal, with cloth napkins and silverwear and drinks in glasses.  Of course, my worldly children acted like they were in DisneyLand - screaming, "Mom, check THIS out!" over and over again across the plane.

Five and a half hours later, we landed in Peru in the middle of the night.  We cleared customs and emigration and were met by the hotel to take us to our home for the next few days.  We crawled into our beds and fell asleep at about 2 am.

The next day we woke up to a view of the Pacific Ocean - just in front of our hotel, over looking the ocean, is a beautiful outdoor mall and park - so we decided to head there for breakfast.  After breakfast we took a long walk along the cliffs and parks that overlook the rocky beaches and plotted out our day.   We went back to the mall to eat a sushi restaurant and had some of the best ceviche we have ever had in my life.   The seafood here is amazing!  I also had my first pisco sour.  The pisco sour is the local drink here - kind of like a margarita and about 100x as strong.  We went shopping and bought a few scarves and a hat for Madeline made out of baby alpaca - one of the local handicrafts here.

Dinner last night was at Cala - a beautiful restaurant on the beach, specializing in seafood.  The prices here are half of what we would expect to pay in San Francisco for the same food and level of service.   Everyone here - from the maids, to the waiters, to the taxi drivers are some of the most polite, and genuinely happy people we have ever met.  We have become so used to people treating us like we had intelligence issues because or command of spanish was lacking, but here they smile, and remain very patient trying to help us along.  Of course, nothing is pefect, my meal was not what I thought I was ordering last night, but was delicious none the less.

Today we head out for surfing lessons for Chris and the kids at a beach south of Lima - we will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rain Rain Go Away....

Caracas has made CNN.  Again.  Not for the crazy president, but for the torrential rains that have drenched the area.  Yesterday, the government declared a state of emergency and closed the schools for the rest of the week in anticipation of more rainfall, and the ensuing flooding and landslides.  Here is a picture of the sky this morning from my bedroom.  You can't see the Avila - as the clouds are obscuring the view.

We are OK.  We live up on a hill so flooding is not an issue.  We already have landslides around the building on the property and in the surrounding areas - but nothing major.  My neighbor might have to leave her building due to a very large landslide that may have affected the structural integrity of the building.

The weirdest part is the waiting...  It is almost like when a hurricane hits the Gulf of Mexico, and we wait to see which way it will go.  We know it will hit somewhere, and it will be bad, and it might be us, but probably not.

But here, I am not surrounded by my best friends, making gumbo, and telling stories.  AND we don't have or - where during hurricane season, I am freakishly glued for days at a time.  So I sit and stare and the fat grey clouds outside of my window, waiting for the rain to start, and for whatever will happen, to just happen.

The rest of the photos are a series of pictures taken from the property  around my building.  We have one minor and one moderate slide so far.  The area above the driveway had a slide last year which was repaired, and now the area just lateral to the repair has failed.

I will keep everyone posted.  But again, we are fine!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween and Other News

 So, I am sitting here in Caracas.  Today is Halloween.  We had a big Chevron Halloween party last night for the kids, and Chris left for California for a meeting today for 10 days.

The kids had a wonderful time on Friday at school.  They got to come to school dressed in their Halloween costumes and then had a parade around the auditorium, followed by parties in their classrooms.

As I am a room mom for both classes, I spent the next couple of hours running back and forth between classrooms helping with snacks, games, decorations, etc.  It was a little bit exhausting, but fun.  

Above is Madeline's first grade class - and denotes one of the things I will miss most about the international experience - DIVERSITY.  In Madeline's picture are Madeline (USA), Jae Yeon (Korea), Jose (Venezuela), Juan David (Venezuela), Arif (Indonesia), Gaby (Columbia), Amelia (Poland), Sofie (Venezuela), Marta (Spain), Josef (Venezuela) and Andres (Norway).    Katherine's class is just as diverse, but I was not able to get a picture of her class all together.

After the party, I rushed down to the pool for my swimming session with my coach.  There is a small group of Mom's - at all levels, that work out with the swim coaches at the kid's school.  Of course, I grew up swimming, but never really learned the proper strokes until I moved here.  Pedro is my coach and I just love him.  He also coached Madeline last year, and he is her absolute favorite.  He has agreed to "train" me for the Galveston Lone Star Triathlon 2011 - and my goal is simply to beat my best time (not hard to do).

On Saturday evening, we headed to the Kelly's apartment for a Chevron Halloween Party.  Rhonda really outdid herself.  The decorations were fantastic and the food incredible.  The kids really had fun.  Our favorite was the "mummy making contest".  The kids had to wrap a "volunteer" in toilet paper to make the best mummy they could and it ended up being so much fun.

Chris volunteered and I think the kids did a pretty good job.  The finished product of all of the dads is below.

Today I am on back rest for some low back musculoskeletal injury that has gotten much worse over the last two weeks - I finally had to break down and consult one of my old orthopedic text books to see what the heck was wrong with me and how to treat it.  Shockingly, it seems that resting for two days then running 6 miles or the like was not the best therapy.  I am now on back rest for at least a week.

AND I am FINALLY feeling better from the mononucleosis.  That was horrible and I would not wish it on anyone.  Although, I did lose 10 pounds without trying.  I am on oral corticosteroids for the back inflammation (and boy did it go a long way to help me regain my appetite!).  Quarantine from aerobic exercise and my kids Halloween candy should go a long way to helping me regain some of the weight.

My next big adventure is going back to New Orleans in 10 days for my best friend's (from childhood) wedding.  I'll keep you posted.