This is the End: Machu Picchu

Alright alright alright! It’s been 24 years and a hand full minutes of hype. As a kid I only heard of a village in ruins that’s located on a side of a mountain. As a teenager, I learned more and more of my heritage and culture to strive to find out how and when I can go.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be accepted in a program to study aboard via Columbia College of Chicago. As other people from around the world visit one of the 7th wonders of the world, most people in Peru, haven’t even seen it, and they live in the country. It costs a arm and a leg to buy tickets and travel to Cusco since the exchange rate here for US Dollar is high rate than the Nuevo Sol of Peru.

During our time before entering Machu Picchu, I overhear people talking about their first time here in Machu Picchu and they’re from a district I grew up in, San Miguel, Lima-Peru.

I am about to explode in anxiety to enter this sacred place. I cannot stress how many years I heard about this place, how many opportunities fell through my fingers to visit this place.

I am ready, I was born ready.

entrance to Machu Picchu

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It. Was. The. Most. Surreal. Untouched. Place. I. Ever. Witness.

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I cannot believe I’m here. I cannot believe I’m on the stepping stones of an Empire that stood on this very place.

I filmed EVERYTHING, hot dry weather to the unexpected down pour. My Go Pro’s were on and recording constantly.

This trip out here was undeniably one of the best experiences I had in a great while.

I made new close friends and shared moments only dreamers can dream.

I CONQUERED MACHU PICCHU 1.18.2014 (Full edited video, coming soon!)

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Peru: The City of Dogs (Metaphorically and Physically)

Peru: The City of Dogs (Metaphorically and Physically)

Peru, what can I say? There are dogs everywhere, in the front and backyards and on the city streets and dirt roads; even in bars, park and nightclubs. #Perros.

I understand the mentally of most men who are out there only to get satisfaction to whom they think/pondering to the fact foreign women are easy. I seen it all before, witness it and being a bigger man (you know a human being), I fight for women who get taken advantage of. I see this all the time in Peru. I especially see it with men who are in relationships, but tend to cheat whenever the opportunity arises. That’s either here or there in wherever part of the world you’re located at.

And trust me when I tell you, these men at bars and nightclubs were vultures around these girls. And the word PERSISTENT is an understatement.

So seeing this in action, I feel more overly protected when I’m around women. During this study abroad, I had the privilege to be surrounded by a lot of beautiful women. Some smarter dealing with testosterone filled males than others. But these women I was with were smart and quick with the comebacks. But I don’t need to tell you that there are horrible people in this world, who do horrible things to innocent people.

Just remember, to whoever is reading this:

  • Keep an eye on your drinks- (Flunitrazepam — also known as Narcozep, Rohypnol, Rohipnol, Roipnol, or in the vernacular), simply roofies do exist and are easily obtained in other countries.
  • Always walk with someone, preferably in groups. Don’t walk alone, I don’t care how independent and strong of a woman/man you are. A group of ruthless thugs can overcome the strongest of individuals.
  • Always use taxi, buses, and any other public transportation with caution. If it doesn’t feel right being in the car, leave. Use taxi’s provided by ratings online or your hotel/hostel provides.
  • Any always, always, use protection! That should have been on the top of this impromptu list! I cannot stress it enough, I understand about having fun and feeling stress free, but like all sex related illnesses, crimes or deaths. Having protection can reduce the risk of contracting any type of sex related diseases!

Now that got serious, a little awkward, it’s okay; were going to talk about dogs and puppies!

In Peru, there is a growing population of stray dogs roaming the streets of Lima. They walk like everyone else and these dogs are very street smart. More and more dogs that are strays are finding homes; this story is about a dog that I can say stole my heart.

Paco aka Pacito; was this loveable dog that was laying down half way up the mountain path, going towards Machu Picchu. I was hiking up with a group of girls from my class from “Aguas Calientes” a pueblo from the base of Machu Picchu. We saw Paco laying down in a homemade hut, wimping. Nothing bad, but these girls were taking photos of him, and since I was in the back of the group I was the last to see him.

I was taking a break from climbing up 3 miles vertically on these “larger than life” stone stairs when I took a photo of him and asked him in Spanish you tag along with me. “Vamos perrito (whistles)” Paco started to stand, stretch and follow me up this mountain. He seemed old to me but young spirited (than again, I really don’t know dogs like that), he climbed ahead and waited for us to catch up or wait for me. Such a ladies man with the girls, I swear.

We finally reached the top, exhausted and out of shape to find Paco laying next to me while I was dumping footage in my laptop (Yes, I brought a laptop to dump footage and reformat microSD cards, if need be).

All he needed was to be loved. As corny as that might sound, most animals just want to be petted, hugged and loved, even if it’s only for a short time. I stayed with Paco until my group was heading towards the entrance of Machu Picchu. I scratched him on his head and behind his ears while he was lying there and quietly I got up and walked towards the entrance. I left him a flat plastic cup of water and some dried beef jerky. As I headed to the top, I leaned over the railing to see if he was there still. He was lying out, stretching while sleeping. That would be the last time I saw Paco when I entered Machu Picchu. During my stay there the weather turned from hot to pouring rain and I swear to you, Paco crossed my mind.

I wonder if he went down the path to his homemade hut for shelter? I wonder if he followed another group before or after I left? I wonder what is he doing right now and if anyone fed him?

Paco was the type of dog I would of adopted. Paco was the type of dog I would of gave a home too. Paco was that dog that stole my heart and that every other dog will be forever a remembrance on how amazing creatures can be in this world.

(P.S. not the most flattering photo of me :/)

me and paco Paco Pacito

Cusco/Cuzco

Cusco/Cuzco

This city is absolutely beautiful. I wish I can end it with that sentence, but I cannot.

The colonial structures and catholic influences leave me in awe, such beauty surrounding the main plaza where a golden Inca warrior stands on top of a fountain.

Cusco reminds me on how the simpler life is brought to life. When I mean simple life, I mean the idea of technology and current social media’s aren’t bogging us down. When we were in Cusco, my Internet on my phone or laptop didn’t work…I actually loved it. Being free of technology for a day was mesmerizing.

Be Internet free for a day. Go outside and relax (if weather permits aka Chiberia).

I’m use to seeing slums and living in poor communities when visiting Lima, but cusco “poor” community felt stronger and proud that hard work really does pay off. We take granted for the things we do and sometime people in our life. I’m gratefully for my parents helping me discover and conquer my dreams and occasionally putting up with my bullshit. A lot of individuals don’t have that. I can say Cusco opened my eyes to a far better understanding of communities and pride.

This is a untouched still from my go pro hero 3+, noon-photoshop.

This is a untouched still from my go pro hero 3+, non-photoshop’d.

TSA “Lima Lima Oye Oye”

 

Oh TSA, Oh TSA, how I yearn for you, I yearn for the fact that you mistreat every passengers pre and post 9/11. I get it, your doing your job to protect me, my country from anymore attacks. I get the fact that you have to deal with idiots whom speak English, who can’t follow the simplest of rules; God forbid (or any other God you pray too) you have to deal with people who don’t speak the same language. But I digress, my opinion are stated towards the TSA of Lima, Peru. All my life, I’ve been grateful enough to travel around the world with the support of my parents (I seriously wouldn’t know what I would do without them), so going through sercuity and immigration is a breeze for me until I traveled this past week during Lima-Cusco back to Lima-United States.

Oh TSA-Peru, you had me at “I need to take a look into your backpack.”

Now, searching through my bag is no problem, I have nothing to hide. This TSA agent states going through my bag and spots a micro screwdriver in a plastic case and a tweezers left in my backpack. Oh okay, my bad. I understand, I shouldn’t of had those in my bag, but to call your other agents for “back-up” to question me and well being on why I’m here. In these situation, I stay cool headed and respect authority even when they don’t respect me; it’s my life on the line, not yours.

I had two agents and an officer questioning me why I’m in Lima, what business do I have? I told them I was studying aboard and I’m a student filmmaker (in Spanish). No side stepping with these three, they wanted to investigate all my items including access to my laptop and hard drives. Hell, they were even hassling me on buying my devices on me for a quarter of the original cost since “I looked rich enough to buy a better version”. I refuse the fact they were trying to extort me for anything. After they we done ruthlessly hassling me, I turn to tell them I was from the United States (in English). Their perspective changed quickly. After that statement I was sent my bags packaging to my gate without anymore hassle.

I may have used the “get me out of jail card” with that “I’m from the United States” line, but in situation like that; it’s reasonable.

Hopefully that will be the last time I have to deal with TSA like that, I know not all TSA employees, but a few bad apples ruins a batch.

Girls, Girls, Girls, Girls; Girls I do ADORE!

Girls, Girls, Girls, Girls; Girls I do ADORE!

The women, the women and did I mention the women down here are beautiful. I was made a joke that I fall in love at least 10 times walking down a single block. My mother is Peruvian, and I know my mother is beautiful. So I hold those standards high when I met women. But as time progress and the identification of what is true beauty tends to fade. I’m often questioning what is past the definition of beauty?

What is past the morals of sex? What is past that?

There has to be something more, right?

When I meet women, I judged not only their attractiveness, but them as a woman, human being, morals, happiness, love, and the most important thing in my book, Intelligence.

The women down here are gorgeous and like Peruvians, very friendly people. I wouldn’t doubt it if I ended up with some of a Hispanic race, but I’m not sure of the future. What I am sure id that whoever I end up with will be the woman that I need, trust, love, and comfortable with; no matter race, religion or ethnicity.

 

Here some pics of the beautiful girls I had the chance share this experience with (photos by Erica and Elio Leturia)

joei, erica and I Machu Picchu Peru Class hot springs Peru class photo by Elio

The Art of the Haggle

The Art of the Haggle

Down here, everything in local marketplaces can be negotiated. From the amount of things purchased to lowering the price on certain items.

I’m use to talking and ask for the bare minimum on items, I know the routine and I know people need to make money to survive. So when I know an item is low enough, I’ll buy it. Not necessarily every time, because merchants know their products and know how much everything realistically is worth.

When I’m in Lima, I try to buy knickknacks in the poorer districts like Breña or close by since I know the price wouldn’t sky rocket like other areas in Peru (I.E. Miraflores).

I try to negotiate for everyone for better deals and I won’t lie, I flirted a couple and do cute moves (Cup ear like someone’s deaf every time a female merchant would say a high number on an item, then smile).

Often I get discounted prices up to S/.20 to S/.25 Nuevo Sol’s off. I don’t mind, since $100 is like water down here and you quickly end up wasting $100 within minutes.

 

GC Pro Tips:

  • Whenever haggling, always say say and compliment the little shop (or big shop). Owners love that.
  • Beeline to the most expensive thing you see and ask for the price, you can base how much the shop makes or how much the shop is charging people.
  • Don’t be afraid to say, “No, thank you.”, often, quite often. A lot of the shops sell practically the same items, some shops more than others. Just pick and choose and tell them, “I’m just looking, thanks.”
  • Be prepared to have merchants “hounded” you for deals. This is their lively hood. They have to make sales. Make sure you go with the merchant that is nice and offers more bang for your Nuevo Sol.
  • Always ask “2 for 1” offers. You’ll be surprise on what deals they can make.
  • If you have big bills, don’t try to ask for change. Rarely it happens, but just go to bank, money merchant, bar, restaurant and ask for change. It will be easier for the both of you.
  • When you buy something, always say thank you. I know that might be common sense to most, but I see it often where people buy and never thank. It’s just common courtesy.
  • Last point: When you bought whatever items, be sure to bring your colleagues/friends there. Most of the time, they can get discounts and you can get discounts if you purchase again!

Hopefully these were helpful. I’m off to the market to buy a box of cua cua’s and some jewelry for the girls back home!

The Junk Food Enthusiast

The Junk Food Enthusiast

I am a pro when it comes to chowing down on the munchies. One of the biggest thing my mother told me was when she was pregnant with me. Her biggest cravings were Milk Chocolate and Potato Chips, which are my favorite combo snack in the world. Nothing beats the sweet and salty combo!

So when it comes down to eating junk food in Peru, plenty of snacks to be eaten. But as much as I want to list a list of junk food items; I’ll share with you my best junk food you can eat while in Peru (quite often I eat by the pounds or tons)!

 

Cua Cuas: A chocolate wafer that comes in single packets or a small bag of mini’s. Now I had the single packets all my life but I’m more fond of the mini version since they’re bite size portions. These wafers melt in your mouth, chocolate and wafer on a even balance beam of enjoyment.

Inca Cola: “The Golden Kola” This bubblegum flavored soda is so popular that Coca-Cola couldn’t even compete and just bought them out. When I say bubblegum flavor I mean a carbonated gum flavor that differs from the rest. You have to try it. There’s some bodegas in Chicago that sell it, but the one location I find it frequently is Cafecieto!

Dona Pepa: These come in a packet of two chocolate bars covered in sprinkles. These go great with ice cream cups! Share a pack with a friend or eat it solo. The crunchy texture with the small rounded sprinkle makes this treat; light, refreshing, joyful and a craving for more.

Picarones: Picarones are made from sweet potatoes, yeast, cinnamon and quite often, Pisco or Brandy. They’re batched and fried in vegetable oil in a Wok, and served hot with maple drizzled all over them.

The crunch on the exterior and warmth chewy interior drizzled on a cool sticky maple syrup of this fried dough is beyond words. One of the best desserts you can eat for breakfast or post dinner snack; and for only S/.6 ($2.13) for 5-6 pieces of amazing doughness, you cannot beat that!

Best place I ate them were from Picarones MARY!

Kennedy Park, Miraflores District, Lima

Phone: +51 1 2801753

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Picarones-MARY/169103953283932

 

King Kongs:

Now these bad boys are huge! I’m just talking about the big portion ones, since they sell mini portions. The giant treats can feed a family of four or five. My mother are addicted to these and when I travel to Lima, I must bring at least two or three of these round, chocolate, pineapple glazed, caramel spread between layer and layers of cookies. Best uses for this type of treat is with a strong coffee to balance out the flavors of the chocolate and pineapple with the strong aroma of however coffee you take!

Bembos!

Bembos:

 

I haven’t gone an hour in Lima without eating at my favorite place at this side of the equator, “Bembos”, a fast food restaurant only found in Peru. There’s plenty of Bembos stretched across Lima, but each locations have the exact layout. A Comic book style covering the wall with blue, white, red and yellow accent marks and their menu is pretty unique. The first time I seen healthy items placed to the left hand side since we all read left to right. So the promotion a fit lifestyle is implied, which makes it pretty unique in fast food chains. The main item to get in Bembos is “A Lo Pobre S/.13 ($4.60)” a Burger topped with egg, bacon, fried sweet potato slices, ensalada (tomatoes, lettuce, red onions) with Argentinian meat with a bit of mayonnaise smeared on the top portion of the bun.

Combo meals are separate but how Bembos works is the size of the meal you want, Median (Medium) or Grande (Big), an additional drink and fries comes out to be an extra S/.3 ($1.60)

One of the best moments biting into this burger, all of the combined flavors, especially the fried sweet potato slices.

I swear whenever I’m in Peru, I binge on Bembos like no tomorrow.

Top 5 ways not to get robbed in Peru (or any country)

Top 5 ways not to get robbed in Peru (or any country)

Now I seen my fair share or robberies and muggings in Lima, Peru, thank whatever god you pray too, It hasn’t happened to me [knocks on wood]. Regardless these are the tips I often repeat to not on my companions but myself.

  1. Try not to speak English as much.

People in other countries think Americans are made out of money. I can vouch that I’m beyond broke and my student loans are going to be my bestfriend for years to come.

Tip: Try to at least speak the language, most locals will know if you’re a tourist and probably know how to speak English, but will be more satisfied if you at least tried/attempt.

2. Walk in groups

This is a no brainer. No one robber is going to stick up a group of people. Please walk in pretty lit areas, never any alleys and learn where the police stations are.

3. Buy Mace or pepper spray

Now or days, you can buy protection spray wherever you touched down at. Pick some up, but with laws in place; you may not leave the country with it. Some countries law varies from one another, but the rules practically stay the same for traveling.

4. Learn how to say “No”

No one is forcing you to follow lead or do anything. Say NO. It’s universal. I seen drunk women take advantage, forcing to do sexual acts or kissing. Say NO. No one is going to get mad or frighten if you stand up for yourself. Plus if your in any type of situation, walk away and grab a authority figure or group mate to help ease that tension.

5. Only use reliable transportation

The last thing you need it to take a taxi, get robbed butt-naked and left in a scumbag neighborhood in which they rob you of your dignity. Use transportation service provided by companies or hotel/hostel requested. There are some street taxi’s tht are not company related which are safe and only locals know which are worthy, but on the safe side, make sure you get a safe transportation over someone using their car as a taxi for a day.

Te Amó Peru

It’s been 5 years and a handful of minutes since I’ve touched down in Lima.

My family visits every other year while I was growing up and stayed in a neighbourhood Breña, a lower class neighbourhood that’s close to Central Plaza, Lima. I seen the growing poverty and wealth for years, but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying everything Lima has to offer.

One of my fondest memories here as a child (even more as an adult) was visiting Circuito Mágico del Agua (The Magic Water Circuit). It’s like jumping back into my childhood playing in the fountains seeing the all the colors of the rainbows still mesmerise me.

The one thing I constantly remind myself while visiting is how much I want to eat! I miss the things that I cannot buy in the States, and I binge on Cua Cua (Quack Quack: A Chocolate Wafer), Inca Cola (A bubblegum-y soda) and Bembos (A fast food chain only found in Peru).

From the rich coast of Miraflores to the slums; the culture, food, the people, live entertainment, and especially the beautiful women have me captivated! [insert goo goo eyes]

bembos peru

Water Fountain

beachparty lima