A Day of Adventure

Some of us woke up early today, some of us didn’t. I think that Eryn and I qualify to be in the last category, and my parents qualify to be in the first. Well, we woke up this morning and got out of bed, walked downstairs and put some food into our stomachs, and then continued with our tasks of getting ready to go. At 8 o’clock, we were at the post office and got into a car and drove away. And so ended our time in Fes.

We arrived at Meknes an hour later, and the first thing that we did was look at the city from a panoramic location. We then got into the car and drove to a granary and stable that housed 12000 horses at once. That is a lot of poop. They then used the poop to fertilize the ground around Meknes. We then went to a mausoleum, and then walked into the old medina of Meknes. In the medina, we went to a bakery and watched people for a while, while eating pastries, before going to the car and leaving. And so ended our time in Meknes.

We then drove in the car with our driver to Moulay-Idriss, the oldest city in Morocco. There, we walked up to a panoramic location before walking down to see a mosque, where our driver prayed. When he finished, we walked out, but on the way I bought a hunk of nougat. It was good and sugary when we ate it. And so ended our time in Moulay-Idriss.

We then drove to Volubilis, where there are some ancient Roman ruins. There was a poor section and a wealthy section, and on the floors of both parts’ dining rooms, there were beautiful mosaics of Roman gods and heroes. We took a guide and toured around; walking through and around the Triumphal Arch and standing on the edge of a baptistery. When we finally finished two hours later, we had seen and heard a lot. And so ended our time in Volubilis.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Vomiting in Volubilis

We went on a tour to Meknes, Volubilis, and Moulay Driss. Our driver picked us up at the post office at eight o’clock, and in about an hour we arrived at Meknes. At Meknes, we looked at a mausoleum, strolled through the medina (picking up some chocolaty, pudding-y pastries on the way, and were shown around a building that used to house thousands of horses.

Back on the road, we went to Moulay Driss, the oldest town in Morocco. (Fes is the second-oldest.) Ethan bought some nougat and we tried some. I didn’t really enjoy it, but the locals seem to, since there is a man selling the stuff on every corner.

Volubilis is older than Moulay Driss. It was a Roman town and had lots of mosaics with Venetian tile. The mosaics depicted Roman gods and goddesses, like Venus, as well as the hero Hercules and the four seasons. We had a tour guide at Volubilis who spoke seven languages, including Arabic, French, English, Spanish, and Russian. He told us that the city was built in 70 A.D. and showed us different parts of the ruins, such as the solarium (a.k.a. tanning salon) and caldarium (place to freeze your butt off after you’ve been in the solarium).

He also showed us the room that was for “eating, drinking, and vomiting.” And, no, it wasn’t the dining room.


Football Friends

Football, in this case, is what Americans call soccer. I went outside our traditional house today and played football with some guys. There were also sometimes girls, but they squealed, and that was about all they did.

At the beginning, there was a guy that was older and had a California University Class of 1989 shirt on, but after a bit of playing he left. About the time that he left, another guy about my age came and played on my team that had been subtracted from with the loss of the guy that I first mentioned. This new guy played or a while, and then he went to his house and get two baby chickens and we played with them for a while.

When this friend went to return the chicks, we found a kid a bit younger than me passed out in a dark alleyway. We notified the restaurant next door and they attempted to revive him as we left to go play, with the accoutrement of another guy a bit older than me. We played with him for a while before my second friend left, and then the newest guy named Mohammad and I, along with a few others, worked on our goalie skills. Then I went inside and the group dissipated.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Follow Your Nose

We sort of slept in this morning, leaving the house at 10:30 for breakfast at Café Clock. Mom and Dad chose pancakes with orange juice. Ethan originally ordered pancakes with Fanta, but changed his mind and selected orange juice. I ordered Berber eggs with orange juice.

Eventually, our orders food arrived. The fruit with the syrup-saturated pancakes today included strawberries, bananas, and kiwi. I had half the Berber eggs and one-and-a-half pancakes. Mom ate the same.

We decided we needed to spend the afternoon (yes, it was after noon) doing something, so we decided to find the wool funduq. Ethan was our leader.

In case you want to know, we didn’t find the funduq. We changed our goal: we were going to the tannery.

“Just follow your nose!” Ethan joked.

“You have to,” I pointed out, “since your nose is on the front of your face.”

So we went around and around, passing cow hooves and camel heads—both were for sale.

We didn’t find the tannery either.

So we went back home towards Bab Boujloud, or the blue gate. Once home, we read while the rain pounded on the roof. We went out to eat supper at Le 44 again. This time, I beat Ethan at mancala.


A Day without Dogs

Well, for the first time in all of Morocco, I think, we saw a dog. As mentioned in the previous posts, the Islamic religion forbids the use of dogs as pets, and that is the main reason for getting feral dogs. Today we saw the first one, and it was sleeping.

I have mentioned to my father that in Morocco, it seems as though cats and dogs have switched places; cats are active and ubiquitous, while dogs are practically nonexistent, and when seen, are seen sleeping in the sun, as we saw today. We saw that dog while walking on a tour with Eryn as our guide. We saw a synagogue door, a palace gate, a courtyard, a market, and more gates as required by the tour.

We are starting to be orientated on our walkings around Fez, and hope to get better as time goes by.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Gatos on a Gondola

“You took a lot of pictures today?” I asked, trying to keep the surprise out of my voice.

“On our walk,” Dad replied.

“Our walk” is, of course, the tour that I took my family on. (Think: Dad navigated and I just read from the guidebook.) Our walk took us through Fes Jdid, or New Fez. We started at Point 1, which was a long walk from the nearest Medina gate. It was warm (first time in two days), and my down jacket with the guidebook in a pocket was hanging over Mom’s arm to protect her sore, swollen, sensitive hand.

We started the official tour at the palace gates.

“Made in the Andalusian-Moroccan style, this gate was built in the sixties.”


“I don’t know! The book just says ‘sixties!’”


That’s how most of the tour went—me mindlessly quoting the book and Mom asking for more detail.

We ended up at the Moulay Hassan Square, where we interrupted a game of soccer just to get to the center. From the center, we could see Bab Sbâa (Lion Gate) and Bab Sagma, which is named after the pious Amina Sagma. She was buried there in 1737.

Dar Makina forms part of the square’s high walls. It was the weapons factory ordered to be built by Sultan Moulay Hassan I in 1888. The factory was designed by Italian architects. Another Italian part of the square was the gondola, randomly sitting in a corner. Cats (some fat and some not) were huddled around it—trying to keep warm?

As we walked toward Bab Sagma (we’d come in Bab Sbâa) a man, who had been standing by the gate, came towards us, telling it was forbidden. We’re not sure what was forbidden, but he let us out the huge gate anyway.


Pigeon Poo and Partly Cloudy

Maybe full cloud. And raining. Today was a fairly miserable day, going on a tour and finding everything as far as the eye can see wet. Luckily, it cleared up eventually, but we still had gotten wet, even through our rain coats.

We went to the Medersa near our place again, and then went down through the markets to a wood museum, but didn’t go inside, because we were on a tight schedule. We kept going for a while before finally arriving at the tannery. We looked down from a lookout tower and saw vat upon vat of multi-colored liquid, from yellow to brown. We also so a white-ish liquid that is made of limestone and water to get the wool and fur off the skins.

The whole tannery smelled different because the tanners use pigeon droppings for their tanning, as it is not toxic, as other things are. The finished product doesn’t smell at all. Which is good. We did not get anything at the tannery, but who knows, we might yet.

That included some of our walking tour today with a guide.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Dye and Lye

Khalid was our tour guide of the medina today. He started off by telling us a few new facts about our neighborhood before we hit the Bou Inania Madrasa, which was built from 1350 to 1357. The marble came from Italy, the cedar from the Atlas Mountains, and the tile patterns from Spain. In fact, many of the patterns look familiar, as we have a card game from Alhambra, Spain.

It was raining hard, and Ethan and I discovered that our rain jackets aren’t as waterproof as we thought. Because of this, our down jackets underneath were getting wet—not a good thing. Dad bought a pink umbrella for me, which was a relief. Khalid held his blue plaid umbrella high and led the way.

Eventually we came to the university. The university was built by a woman named Fatima using her inheritance. One of its most famous students was the man who introduced zero to Europe. The university is connected to a mosque (also built by Fatima) which is the second-largest mosque in Morocco after the one in Casablanca that we visited at 1,700 square meters.

On we went to the funduq. (“Funduq” is the Arabic word for “caravanserie.” “Serie” means “hotel” in Persian.) This funduq is being used as a place for making rugs, scarves, tablecloths, and such out of cactus silk, cotton, and/or wool.

Our next stop was the tannery, where we looked out the back window onto the pools of dye and lye. The man helping us spoke Arabic, Berber, French, and English. Eventually he moved on from telling us about himself to advertising his goods.

“This is a poof,” he explained, holding up a round piece of leather. “You can fill it to make it a chair. You can fill it with paper, cotton, or money. Yes, this is a Berber bank!”

Mom later described the man as “cute.”


Rain, Rain, go Away

That is what we hoped for today, but, contrary to our wishes, the rain came and came, pouring in through cracks in the ceiling and getting everything that shouldn’t get damp, damp. At least none of the electronics got wet.

However, with the rain, cold poured in, emanating off of the rain droplets and surrounding us in our quandaries and work. In the end, we just put coats on to fight the chill and settled down, huddling in the bottom of our chairs and conserving heat. The rain I think has ended now, but, luckily, we were always inside whenever there was an exceptionally bad deluge.

That is what happened today, hindering our progress in exploring the wondrous Ancient Medina of Fez. Maybe if it had been sunny, we could have seen some more coppersmiths pound away at their work.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Moroxican Meal

After Mom’s Physical Torture session this morning, the parents returned to find me done with my schoolwork and Ethan in the shower.

Once the shower was done and Ethan had gone back to his room, Mom and I set out to the modern grocery store for groceries—the most important of which was chocolate. Dad has found that there is a definite shortage of chocolate in the medina, and he requested that we bring back enough chocolate to last us a while. We returned with seven bars.

Besides chocolate bars, we also got Mom a shirt, a lighter for our stove, a loaf of bread, jam, butter, palm-oil infused chocolate ice cream, potatoes, mechanical pencils, and two packages of cookies. The world outside the medina is a whole different place—it looks like it’s actually from this century.

Back home, we took our doxy. Two hours later, we polished off the mocha chocolate bar. For supper, we went to Scorpion du Desert, which is right near our house. It’s good that it was nearby, since it’s been raining on-and-off all evening.

Supper included a starter of tapas, which tasted rather Mexican. The rest of the meal, however, tasted quite Moroccan.


Moroccan Impressions of My Country

“Where are you from?”

“The United States.”

“Ohhhh—Barack Obama!”


“You like Africa—he is pure African.”


It’s been a while since we’ve had a conversation like this (about seven months, since this happened on a daily basis in India), and I’d forgotten how entertaining they are. Last night, while eating at Thami’s, our host, upon learning that we were Americans, exclaimed, “Oh, yes, you like Morocco! We were the first to see the U.S. as a country!”

I wasn’t expecting anyone to know that fact—much less bring it up—but they did. We were on our way out to breakfast at Clock Café. Mom and Dad had pancakes saturated in syrup with kiwi and banana and Ethan and I had tomato and scrambled eggs on bread.

Once Ethan’s orange juice was done, we returned to our house so Mom could work on laundry. Later, we ventured out into the medina and went to Bou Inania Medersa, which is a place of learning. We stood in the courtyard, taking pictures of the tiles, while Ethan befriended the two cats who lay in the sun.

Back outside, Ethan and I finally stepped outside of the medina. It was like a whole new world—a whole new modern world, I might add. For our postcards, we bought outrageously expensive stamps before returning to the medina to buy olives, eggs, and sweets for snacks and breakfast.

Supper was at Le 44, which is at number 44 on a little side street. Run by a French woman, it offers a respite from couscous and tagine, which are served by every single restaurant (except this one!).


Medersa Memories

A Medersa is a school of Islamic learning. In Christianity, it might be called seminary. In Pakistan, they are called Madrasas. There are several in the Ancient Medina of Fez, and today we went to one of them. The following are memories that I have of the Medersa.

The ceramics are detailed, colorful, and geometrical. They adorn the lower walls all around the courtyard, adding color and life to the school. There are also cedar partitions that surround most of the open spaces, rendering it hard to see through, but allowing light to shine through. There was also a lot of stucco that has been carved so that, if the arches fell on someone, it would be a most painful death, being pierced dozens of times and having the weight of a roof on top of you.

Another interesting thing about Fez is that it is cat heaven. Though they may not get the pick of fish from fish vendors on the street, they generally rule the city, causing no mischief and generally having the right of way.

That’s all for now, Folks!

When in Fez…

..do as the Fezians (?) do. I am not sure what that means exactly. Maybe it means knowing where you are in the middle of the mazes in the Ancient Medina. Maybe it means sitting behind desks trying to sell things, or maybe it means living in Fes.

At the moment we have only achieved the last one, and for that I am happy. It is fun getting lost on the confusing little streets. I guess that is why there are maps. It is also fun to talk. Everyone wants to know where you are from, what your name is, and if you would like to buy anything.  Knowing the streets is something that takes time and patience. We might have time, but mostly, we stay on the main street going down the center of the medina, housing the market.

Today we walked down the main street. After walking for a ways, we came upon the central market. We looked around at men banging copper pots with hammers and stuff like that before going on a tour at a brass lantern factory. The copper got taped with a pattern, and then a practiced artisan would cut the pattern with a coping saw. Then another man would use hammer and a pointed bit to add texture, before someone else put all the pieces together and formed some sort of lamp.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Cast Off

Mom is relieved to announce that her cast is finally off.

It turned into a four-country trauma (Argentina, Chile, Peru, Morocco) but finally ended this morning at a clinic. After the cast was removed, her PT (Physical Torture) began. She now has to go the clinic three times a week for the next three weeks for PT.

We’re all glad that she can use her right arm– now she can wash dishes again!

Victory in Vertical

Our apartment is very vertical: one corner is devoted to the staircase.

On the ground floor is the dining table, which is the only thing in the center of the apartment. Also, there are three little nooks for sitting and relaxing on couches as well as a full bathroom and a kitchen. Up a few feet is a landing that is unused, and then turn a corner and, up three steps, is the exit to my room, which has a balcony that looks into my parents’ room. Their room’s entry is up a few stairs from mine, but the floors are at the same height.

Ethan has the next bedroom, and above that is the roof, which has a washing machine, clothes line, and a key to move the glass from the skylight. Above the room with the laundry machine is a deck, where Ethan laid for a while this morning as Mom and I did laundry.

Mom was actually able to do laundry with her right hand.

Yes, you read that correctly: her cast is off! It took all of this morning, but she and Dad returned finally victorious.

Right now we’re sitting in the ground floor, eating our Moroccan pastries after a dinner of tagine and couscous.


Dar Mystere

Our casa in Fez is large and different. We arrived at the casa after a 2 hour train ride from Casablanca. When we arrived, we got into the car of a guy that had held a sign with my father’s name on it before arriving in the old Medina from 789, AD. We then piled our stuff into the cart of a man and went off. He took us down the wrong street, but eventually got it correct and took us to our place. The old Medina has a maze of twisty little passages, like the streets and alleyways in Venice.

The casa is tall. When walking in the unassuming door, you see a bench with three round cloth pillows on it and a doorway off to the right. You walk through that doorway and see curtains off to the left and push your way through them and arrive in a courtyard with lit-up lanterns in the corners, and stairs off to the left. To the right, there is a doorway; to the left is a kitchen and to the right is a bathroom. Also in the courtyard is a table with 6 chairs. To the end is a living room area, and to the right from the courtyard is a small sitting area.

Up the stairs, there is a left and a right fork. To the left are my sister’s room and a balcony with a half-bath to the end. To the right of that fork is my parents’ room with en-suite full bath. Up the stairs again, you get to another fork. To the left is my room of two twin beds and to the right is a door. Sliding open the deadbolts and taking the key, one would walk out onto the roof and have the choice of sliding open the glass roof for the courtyard, and a kitchen is straight ahead, using the key to get through the padlock. Going up a set of metal chairs, you arrive on a small balcony that has no furnishings of any kind and only foot-high railing.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Cash Calamity and Cafe Clock

“I’m sorry, sir, but there’s a problem.”

Where have we heard those words before? Oh, I know! At the Bangkok airport when we didn’t have our Indian visas!

Well, this wasn’t as dramatic:

“Do you have cash?”

“I can’t pay in cash,” Dad replied.

“Okay, let me see what I can do.”

A few minutes later:

“Do you have cash?”

“I can’t pay in cash. I don’t have enough.”

“Okay, I need to make a call…” the woman at the front desk trailed off, grabbing the phone and speaking rapidly in French. Eventually, she asked, “Okay, where’s your credit card?”

That was a relief.

We missed the first tram, but six minutes later another arrived going the same way and we got on it. The red trams have only been working since March, and they look a bit like a bullet train.

We only rode for about five stops before getting off at the train station to catch our 11:15 train to Fez, Morocco.

We caught it with plenty of time to spare. We were relieved to get into the right first class car (the other was at the waaay other end of the train, and you couldn’t walk through the train to get to it).

Eventually, the train chugged past all the green fields and cities (including Morocco’s capital, Rabat) and pulled into its final stop, Fez. We found a man with a sign reading “Jerry” and followed him out to his van, where we put our luggage and ourselves.

We got to our lodgings, and we were shown the local market, where we eventually bought bread, yogurt, cheese, counterfeit Nutella, bananas, oranges, and olives (Ethan’s favorite—not).

Back home, I worked on my French before heading out with Dad to look for Café Clock. We found it and returned for supper: I had a chickpea burger with French fries and a mocha, while Mom had chicken with raisins and almonds and Ethan and Dad shared a plate of tapas and some falafel.


Mosque Myths Making Mornings Memorable

Alliteration, how interesting is that? It is not very interesting because a lot of people can do alliteration with any letter. Although ‘x’ would be hard to do, all of that making my title sentence not very memorable in the end. However, we did go to a mosque today and we did hear about a myth and it was morning and it might be memorable.

The mosque was the Mosque Hassan II that was built only twenty years ago. It is a mosque that extends out over the sea, and some guidebooks might say that there is even a glass floor that you can look through to the sea. There isn’t. As it turns out, the builders used regular building techniques to build the columns in the ocean, and then had to fix their mistake, as salt water erodes things a whole lot faster than air. In the end, though, it has turned into a fairly spectacular building.

The pillars on the inside are concrete coated in marble, along with the floor. The glass chandeliers were imported from Venice, and there is local stucco to make the elaborate arches. The women’s prayer balconies above are made of locally cut cedar trees. Underneath, there is an ablutions room where men wash in fountains, there is another somewhere else for women.

Another myth that might be mentioned is my father’s Chicken Myth from the golden arches, our first time eating there. Ever.

That’s all for now, Folks!

McDonald’s in Morocco

I’m not sure if I should be glad, disappointed, or relieved to say this, but I’ll say it anyway: the first time I ever had a burger at McDonald’s was in Casablanca, Morocco.

I don’t get the McDonald’s hype—I can say that now, too. What’s so good about a tiny burger with a little bit of lettuce and ketchup with a chicken patty between two pieces of soggy bread. Seriously. I don’t.

We had McDonald’s for breakfast. After we searched in vain, we moved on to Hassan II Mosque, the seventh-largest mosque in the world according to Wikipedia and the third-largest according to our English-speaking tour guide. The minaret next to the mosque is, at 689 feet high, the tallest in the world. It is topped by a laser that points toward Mecca. The most ornate door in the mosque also faces towards Mecca. The mosque is right on the Atlantic Ocean, keeping the mosque cool—or, today, quite chilly. At least, the floors were cold against my bare feet. Thankfully there were carpets.

After the mosque, we wandered around until it started raining. Then we got a red taxi back to our hotel. Dad had said that it would be a petit taxi since it was red, but it wasn’t—it was a larger Mercedes. In our first taxi, Ethan had had to scrunch down in the back seat so the police wouldn’t see the back of his head because only three passengers could legally ride in the car.

Back at the hotel, we looked for a place for brunch (it was noon, but we still hadn’t had breakfast). So eventually, reluctantly, we settled on McDonald’s. Mom, Ethan, and I got the chicken burgers described above while Dad got a Chicken Mythic, which was by far the better choice since it had less-squished buns and more content. However, it had cost twice as much as ours, but I would have taken it!

We decided we’d done our tourist thing for the day, so Dad alternately napped and worked on pictures as the rest of us read. For supper, we went to the place that was closed last night. I particularly liked the desserts, which included orange sliced very thinly and sprinkled with cinnamon.


2 Days, 1 night, 4 Planes

Leaving in the morning,

On an okay plane,

Leave Peru with Mourning,

Silently to stay sane.

In Panama get out,

Get through the TSA,

To Newark without doubt,

In the states, you don’t say?

Climbing back through a gate,

And sitting in our seats,

Hoping we won’t be late,

More than the eye will meet.

In Lisbon out we climb,

From a gate that is prime, (41)

Now on a tiny plane,

Flying over the sea,

Going away from Spain,

Now in Morocco, you see?

That’s all for now, Folks!


Four For Four

In twenty-eight hours, we rode four different airplanes and were on four different continents: we started our trip at 2 in the morning on March 21, when we got in a van to go to Lima’s airport. By 5, we were in the air on our way north to Panama City. On the way we crossed over the equator, putting us in Earth’s northern half for the first time in three months.

After a two-hour stop in Panama, we were in yet another Boeing on our way to Newark, New Jersey, USA. We were required to go through customs and immigration, naturally, but that put us “officially” on a second continent. The next flight landed in Lisbon, Portugal, this morning and we went through customs and immigration there to get to the lounge. So we had “officially” been on three continents.

The last flight was short– from Lisbon to Casablanca, Morocco. As soon as we hit the public part of the airport, we had hit our fourth continent after four flight segments and thirty hours of being awake.

And we’re still not in bed.

Sleep? What Is That?

LIMA, Peru-

March 21, 2013, 01:16- Eryn is startled from her sleep by the sound of her parents packing and showering

01:33- Eryn and Ethan are forced out of their beds and into their traveling clothes, packing quickly

02:05- The van is packed and ready to head to Lima’s international airport

02:31- Four people, four suitcases, four backpacks, and two hats are unloaded onto the curb at the airport

02:49- Checking in is complete: everything that is needed to get to Casablanca of Humphrey Bogart fame is in the hands of the foursome

03:18- Earbuds are bought so that Eryn can more easily listen to One Direction

04:31- Boarding for our Copa Airlines flight to Panama City begins

04:34- Family is on the aircraft and settled in for flight

05:01- The little Boeing 737-700 takes off


March 21, 2013, 08:34- Touchdown in Panama City. First time north of the equator in three months (last time was in Dubai, UAE)

08:52- At Gate 23. American-style security checkpoint is viewed from afar

09:08- The security checkpoint is cleared, no problem. First time being in a rather large group of Americans for the family (rather uncomfortable)

09:35- Boarding begins

10:05- Plane (once again Boeing 737-700) takes off


March 21, 2013, 16:27- The Boeing (on which was shown Silver Linings Playbook with [most] curse words removed) lands with Manhattan skyline in distance

16:43- Family has successfully cleared one hurdle. Now the luggage must come

17:19- Three suitcases have been recovered by Ethan, and the last one—the father’s—is just around the bend

17:32- Now officially in the U.S.

17:54- Supper is sought in food court after Star Alliance lounge fails to meet expectations

18:03- “The last meal for two days” (pasta, salad, garlic bread, and side) is eaten, along with two heaping bowls of chocolate ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s (the bowls were for all four, not two per person)

19:13- The bookstore is perused. A Lonely Planet USA guide book is scorned: “The only way you can write a USA guide book is by making it 1,200 pages long.” (It contained 1,198 pages.) The book even mentioned the family’s hometown, Eugene, OR—even though the city was barely discussed and was summarized as a hippie town (it is)

19:46- The Boeing 757-200 is boarded. It’s a much nicer plane: the family is in Economy Plus, meaning more leg room and personal screens. The only major problem is that the seats of the younger three members of the family (children and mother) do not lean back because they are directly in front of the emergency exit row

20:15- Take-off. Ethan watches Skyfall while Eryn enjoys the only episode of House available. After drinking doxy, it’s off to bed. Eryn listens to all thirty One Direction songs on the plane (thirteen from Up All Night and seventeen from Take Me Home) as well as “Rolling in the Deep” and “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele

LISBON, Portugal-

March 22, 2013, 07:11- The pilot makes another loop instead of landing. Reason unknown

07:18- Landed

07:44- Inside the Lisbon airport is the family, and the United Airlines agent is searched for

08:17- The decision to head to the lounge on the other side of customs and immigration is made. So begins the long trek

08:28- No lines, no waiting! The family is in the TAP Portugal lounge eating cake, sandwiches, and vegetables

10:28- Packed up and left the lounge to head back to the international part of the terminal (most other European nations don’t count as “international” due to the EU)

11:43- Boarding begins after some annoying Brits bad-mouth One Direction


March 22, 2013, 14:02- The twelve-seater lands on Moroccan tarmac

14:48- Into the “normal” part of the airport

15:57- Family arrives at suite which originally had two beds. With four it’s quite cramped

17:58- The quest for a supper restaurant begins

18:30- Dinner is ordered

18:57- Dinner (three chicken meals, including kebabs, and one vegetarian meal) arrives

19:46- The bill is paid. “Gracias”—before realization that Moroccans speak French and Arabic hits (this is about the zillionth instance of speaking Spanish instead of French). “Merci!”



Lima, a Colony, a Capital, and a City

Alliteration, as always, answers few questions. I imagine interesting things would happen if someone used alliteration to answer annoying askings, as an animal attacks.  Lima is a big city, crossing the city can cause crashes and collisions concerning careening cars. To stop alliteration, I will tell people more about the city of our residence for the next 5 hours.

The city is on the western side of the continent of South America, on the Pacific coast, and is on a peninsula jutting out into the sea. It is a large commercial and industrial city that has fishing boats and cargo boats cruising around its harbor, looking for anchorage so they can unload their cargo of fish or freight containers. Lima is accessible by all means of transportation except for rocket ships, maybe. We arrived and are leaving via the rather large and ostentatious airport.

That’s all for now, Folks!

South American Summary

After more-or-less three months in South America, we started to get the hang of Spanish and customs. We could go into a heladeria and order ‘dos bolas de chocolate y fresa,’ or go to the supermercado and buy huevos, leche, pizza, lechuga, choclo, chocolate, y pan. When Mr. Gooey in Arequipa told us a bunch of things about Arequipa and Peru in general (such as food, customs, etc.), we found that we already knew a lot of what he was saying.


We started off South America in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after a ridiculously long set of flights from Dubai, UAE. We spent two weeks there, idling in the sun and our apartment. We also enjoyed the new types of ice cream flavors: lemon mousse, raspberry, and chocolate Suizo. In El Bolsón, we devoured ice cream at the rate of kilogram a day in between bites of super-cheesy pizza. Ethan and I befriended Juan, Paz, and the rest of their family, and we spent the evening with them when Mom broke her arm.

After a night in Bariloche, chocolate heaven, we rode a bus for eight hours to Chile and arrived in Valdivia, home of the largest-ever earthquake, at ten p.m. that night. Dad and Ethan got some Chilean pesos in exchange for some American dollars at a Chinese restaurant, and we used those pesos to pay for a taxi to take us to our hostel. The highlight of our time in Valdivia was the fresh-foods market, where you could buy all sorts of wonderful things. Because we didn’t have an apartment or kitchen, we only bought raspberries and blueberries.

Two things stand out for Valparaiso: having to walk up and down our hill multiple times each day to get to and from our flat, and the really good ice cream whose name I can’t remember. It tasted like cinnamon, and it was really good with the cappuccino flavor that was mainly marshmallow fluff.

In San Pedro de Atacama, we went on multiple tours up into the surrounding Andes and Altiplano before heading down to Arica, where, after an insanely long bus ride, we celebrated Ethan’s 12th birthday with a cupcake and presents. The next day we went up to Putre. During our time there, we went on two tours with Barbara, the Alaskan woman, and went up to about 5,000 meters above sea level—the highest point on our trip while standing on the ground. We also got to see some really cute vizcachas, which are related to chinchillas.

Back in Arica, we went to a mummy museum and then arrived about an hour too early at the airport two days later. We landed abruptly on Arequipa’s runway late in the morning, and Mr. Gooey was waiting for us. That weekend was spent enjoying crepes from Crepissimo and touring Mr. Gooey’s workplace. On Monday, we flew to Cusco. When we first landed, I thought, This is an ugly city.

We didn’t stay in the “ugly city” long, though—soon we were on our way to Ollantaytambo. After a night there, we were off to Machu Picchu. Somehow we made it up and down Wayna Picchu, the picturesque mountain in the background of just about every Machu Picchu photo.

After a few nights in Cusco, we were off to the Amazon Basin with Reve (the English-speaking guide), Paltacha (the cook), and a ton of stuff. It was hot and humid and we didn’t see any tapirs, despite going to the tapir clay lick two nights in a row.

On our last night back in Cusco, disaster struck. It began with the shower drain gurgling but ended with the floor of our hostel covered in 2-6 inches of brown stuff from the sewers.

We slept in a different hotel.

The next day we caught a flight to Lima Bean. That was yesterday. Tonight will be very short: our taxi to the airport leaves at 2:05 in the morning.



Lima Bean

We got to Lima at around three in the afternoon after a short flight. We spent last night at another hostel in Cusco. When Dad and I went back to Pantastico to get our laundry, the owner said that our laundry would be ready by this evening. We pointed out that we were leaving Cusco at one in the afternoon, and she handed us our two bags.

In Lima, we got in a taxi and rode for half an hour to our lodgings. After a short while there, we dropped off laundry and went grocery shopping. We decided to eat in our apartment, so we bought ravioli, tomato sauce, green beans, salad, and chocolate ice cream. Dad and I prepared supper, and Ethan eventually washed the dishes. Our salad had lettuce, beet, radish, carrot, tomato, and lots of corn—but no beans, so unfortunately we can’t say we’ve had Lima beans.



For those of you who are not up-to-snuff on your Greek mythology, Hermes is the god of travel, the road, merchants, messengers, and other sorts of things. Today we saw a bank truck that was probably full of money in the middle of Lima with the name of Hermes. I pointed out to my family that, ironically, Hermes is also the god of thieves.


Last night, after some time and debating, we decided to move to a different place to stay the night because of the brown stuff on the floor of our rooms and so went a couple of yards down the street to a more salubrious hotel. We spent the night and morning there, finally leaving at 11 o’clock AM.

We went to the airport in a taxi, checked in, went through security, and then got on our flight at about 12:30. We flew for about an hour and a half before landing in Lima. We got into a van and drove to our hotel, where we stepped into a VERY salubrious room. We later went to the store to get some things for dinner before coming back to the room, and on the way seeing the bank truck.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Sitting in a Cesspool

We had breakfast this morning at The Meeting Place, where all of us had waffles. Ethan and I had fruit (cantaloupe, pineapple, and banana) waffles while Mom and Dad selected Monkey Business Waffles, which had chocolate sauce and bananas. We were there to drop off our Spot, which kept track of us in the Amazon (just in case of emergencies). We had gotten it from Mr. Gooey back in Arequipa, so we’ve been carrying it around for two weeks or so.

Ethan and I played Scrabble and, even with my wonderful word “queleas” (which are birds we saw in Namibia), I lost. We had a conversation about homeschooling with the owner (Steve). We also petted the friendly cat, Mz. Socks, who doesn’t purr—she just meows.

We returned to the hostel, where we did schoolwork and such for a while. Then we left to get ice cream. Mom and Ethan each had one scoop, but then we went to the bakery associated with the hostel because there was no chocolate ice cream. There, we ordered a grand total of two brownies, one cookie, a slice of apple pie, and a vegetarian empanada. We ate in the plaza, where a woman tried to sell her wares to us.

Back in the hostel, Dad deleted more pictures before we went out to supper at the place where we had supper our first night in Cusco about a week-and-a-half ago. Mom and I shared a bowl of chicken soup and curry with couscous while Dad chose tomato soup and Ethan ordered vegetarian risotto. Ethan was excited to go to the restaurant because he wanted to have his virgin strawberry daiquiri again.

The lights flickered a few times, but we still left after enjoying our complimentary chocolate ice cream (wow, we’ve had a lot of carbs and calories today!). There was thunder—not very loud, but very often. The lightning came quickly, too, and we hurried to get home to avoid the downpour.

It was not to be.

By the time we got to the hostel, my jeans and pants were soaked. Thankfully I had decided to wear my rain jacket to dinner, so my shirt was dry. I grabbed my long john pants and towel after kicking off my shoes. I slipped into the bathroom, slowly dragging the heavy door closed. The shower drain gurgled.

Wow, we must have got a lot of rain. That’s odd. Wait—why is there more sound? Oh, well—it is sleeting outside.

I had just started to get changed when water started coming out of the toilet.

Um, okay. What is going on?!?!?!

I hastily pulled my pants back on and flung the door open.

“Ethan! Ethan! Get your stuff out and up! The toilet is overflowing!”


“Look at that!”

The drain in the bathroom floor, as well as the toilet and shower, was overflowing with brown stuff. I was horrified. We pulled our stuff up onto our beds. It was sickening, but the smell was only overwhelming when you faced the bathroom. Every room on the bottom floor of the hostel was overflowing with brown stuff. It was gross (understatement of all time).

If we had gotten back to the hostel five minutes later, our stuff would have been ruined. If we stay here, we’re going to be sleeping in a cesspool. Right now, we’re standing and sitting in a cesspool. There are at least six inches of water in the common room of this place.

On that cheery note,


Poop, Pie, and Pools

My father has just told me not to complain about how he didn’t get me a hostel with a pool because of all of the cesspool in the main lobby. The reason for that is because of all of the rain that fell down tonight and burst the sewage system, showering the rooms with, er, things that we thought we had left behind.

We woke up this morning and had a regular morning, going to the Meeting Place Café for breakfast. When we finished with our game of Scrabble and our waffles, we left and went back to the hostel. We did stuff that we usually do on a down day; schoolwork, reading, deleting pictures, and other things. We finished up with that late in the day and went down for ice cream and pastries, including apple pie, before coming back and deleting more pictures.

We finally went to dinner and ate soup and pasta, along with a virgin strawberry daiquiri and water before coming back to our hostel. My sister was in the bathroom when suddenly I heard her hammering at the door screaming,


I opened the door and she rushed out, quickly being pursued by the mad liquids and solids of the toilet system. The toilets bubbled, the showers squirted, and the floor drains regurgitated all that ever went in. In other words, it turned into a wet, brown mess that everyone wanted to avoid. Sadly for the hostel, the only person there was the receptionist, and his place was soon buried in a foot of water from everywhere else, ruining the computer.

Now, a bunch of people in the hall are hurriedly taking bucketsful of the stuff out to the street and letting it run away. We are wondering how we will go to the bathroom and how to sleep.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Don’t Kill Yourself…

…let the caiman do it. That was Reve’s favorite line to say during our time in the Amazon basin. He said that a lot whenever we were getting out of the boat and it was muddy outside, which was most of the time. Our cook during the trip had the name of Palta, or avocado in English, which was sometimes lengthened to Paltacha. I am not sure if that is a sobriquet or something, but it is what everyone called him.

The boat driver had the same name as his son that accompanied us on our trip. The captain got up before us and went to bed before us, but never got to sleep in the boat. I think that the sun was only along for the ride, and he usually sat behind the tarp-covered luggage on the floor. The boat helper’s name was Jonathan and he was the one that tied up the boat, pushed it from the docks, and did other such things.

Those were the main staff and helpers of the trip in the Amazon, and today we left. We started this morning in the boat and went 3 hours downriver. From there, we got into two different taxis and drove to another river, crossed that, and arrived again at the SuperVan. We drove for hours and hours in that before arriving in Cusco again.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Mayday with Macaws

I look out from my nest of branches in the Amazonian rain forest and understand for the umpteenth time why it is called the rain forest; it rains a lot. I am the Red-and-Green Macaw that everyone wants to see during their time in the Amazon. I am waiting for the rain to clear up-if it will-so that I can go out over the water and a hide to eat some clay.

The reason that we as macaws need to eat clay is that 80% of our diet is made up of unripe fruit nuts, and the trees have developed a grudge against us and have put poisons in the fruit so that we should die from eating, but we don’t because we eat clay always before we eat the unripe fruit.

Finally, after all of my cogitations, it is starting to clear up. The rain clouds are moving away and I feel like eating clay. When I get to the clay lick, I am one of the first ones there, so I sit on top of a bamboo stick and wait for something to happen. Eventually, it does, and all of us fly back and forth to see if anything is hiding. When we think it is safe, I am the first one down at the lick, eating. As soon as my two friends start to join me, a vulture flies over and we all fly away. Oh, well, at least I got some clay.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Reve wet his Pants…

…almost. The reason for that was because he might have fallen into a stream that was across the path that we were taking through the rain forest near his father’s house on our way to a clay lick that attracts tapirs and other animals to drink, snort, and bathe in the mineral rich soil. All of that, however, was after a day full of boating and other activities that mainly focused around the water.

We had an early start this morning to be ready to leave in the boat at five from the place where we had been staying for two nights. We all clambered into the blue, aluminum boat and drove downriver towards Hummingbird Lodge and the Madre de Dios river, where we had started  a couple of days prior. At first we looked for jaguars, scanning the banks with alert eyes for the flash of a twitching tail or the sight of a jaguar sun-bathing on a log. However, when it started to rain, we pulled out the tarp and hid underneath it and went to sleep, stopping at the ranger station on the way out of the park.

We finally got out of the Rio Manu, and went along the Madre de Dios River until we arrived at the town of Boca Manu, where we got some more gasoline for the boat that was almost out of the fuel. We then stopped again at Hummingbird Lodge and ate our lunch before continuing on down the river, into the rain. When we got to Reve’s father’s house, we got all of our stuff out from underneath that tarp in the back and climbed up the stairs to our quarters. Eventually, we left on the walk that included the parcel in the first paragraph before arriving at the hide for the tapir lick and sleeping for a while before walking back to the lodge to eat and sleep.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Machetes and More Mud

When one gets stuck on the edge of a muddy banked river and has a machete, what one could do was hack away at the mud for a while until there was a nice set of stairs going up the bank so that the crew and passengers could do what they wanted to do. What we wanted to do in that situation was go on a walk to see an oxbow lake from a tour and to look at a large tree.

Once we could walk up the bank, we walked on a trail to the edge of the lake and then up, up, up the tower to the top and looked out over the lake or a while, seeing birds of various varieties before heading off down again. We stopped again at a lookout over the lake and admired the beauty of the Amazonian rain forest before going on to see the big tree.

When we finished with all of that, we drove back for half-an-hour in the boat to the camp, but the dining room lights wouldn’t work. Reve yelled at the resident natives for a while and they came back with a battery that worked just fine, and it all worked out.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Calm Caiman

Getting right up close to a caiman is interesting, especially in a small wooden boat. The caiman might bolt, attack, or just sit there, waiting for something to happen. The last option was what happened to us today as we sat in a lake after dark on a catamaran.

The catamaran was something like two canoes tied together with planks laid across the top, and in the back ends, the captain and his helper paddled with large paddles while we looked for caimans and otters. We eventually saw a family of 8 Giant River Otters from our boat before docking and relaxing for a while.  That family of otters is the same one that appears in Planet Earth, that our guide, Reve, helped film. After that, we piled back onto the boat in the dark and looked for caimans.

One caiman that we saw let us come right up to us, and we got some good pictures. When we finished with all of that, we got out of the catamaran and walked along the path back to the river and got into the boat to drive back to the new camp, where we will be staying for another night before heading down river.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Tropical Tarantulas

There are only 100 days left on this trip, and we are doing some interesting things to spend those days. We are in the Amazon basin still, and have ridden a boat for most of the day. The title of today’s post is saying how tarantulas do not ever need vacation, as they live in interesting places like Columbia, Costa Rica, and most importantly: Peru.

We took a night walk tonight to use up some time, and saw 4 tarantulas of two different varieties. Averaged out, that would be two of each kind, but we saw three of one kind and one of another. The path that we were on wound its way around in the jungle, leaning around giant trees and weaving in between green thickets.

Our first tarantula was an all-black one that Reve teased out of its hole with a blade of grass. We saw another one of those before turning back, and on the way, we saw an orange and black one that never stayed long out of its hole. The final one was the child of the first one, and once we saw that, we went back to the lodge for another early start.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Mudslides and Mud

With rain, there comes mud. Not with the rain exactly, but the mud forms into its squelchy little self when rain falls from moisture in the air and wets the ground, causing it to be slippery, slimy, and sucking. On dirt roads, the rain and mud can cause mudslides, making the roads nearly or really impassable.

We rode on a road that was the former, not the latter, and were able to make it to where we are now to stay for the night. The place where we are now staying is called Bambu Lodge, built by a carpenter and his sons out of bamboo for guests that are on their way to the river. We are in the Amazon Basin, but have yet to get to any such thing as a port or dock protruding into the river that we have been following down a valley.

We left early this morning at about 5 am in a van made for at least 15 people that only had 8. At the first stop, we dropped off the uncle of our guide, Reve, at his house and then drove on. We drove past and walked though some pre-Incan burial grounds before eating breakfast on the road. We then continued on to the eastern equivalent of Ollantaytambo, before heading up to the pass. We stopped at the gate of Manu National Park but did not go in. From there we went downhill to where we are now, at about 730 meters above sea level. Tomorrow we finally get into the boat and on to the river.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Three Cs

We’re back to cell phone service, chocolate ice cream, and Cusco!


We started out our day at Reve’s dad’s lodge at five in the morning. We loaded up the boat and left at 5:30. At around seven, we had breakfast (kiwi, papaya, and cantaloupe with muesli and strawberry yogurt). Using the tea bag wrappers, Reve taught Ethan and me how to make origami tea-shirts and swans. I was not very good at it.

In about an hour, we arrived at Colorado, where there were five bars of 3G—that’s very good service for being in the middle of nowhere! Reve found us two vans, and all our stuff, Paltacha (the cook. His nickname means avocado), the boat helper (Jonathan), Reve, and the four of us went in them. Down we went down a muddy, bumpy road to another river, where all the stuff came out, into a boat, and across the river. Once across, we met our van driver from last week. He had come with his five-year-old son.

The ride back to Cusco took about seven-and-a-half hours. The highest point was 4,725 meters above sea level. I listened to One Direction pretty much the whole time, except when we stopped for lunch and, as Reve called them, pee-pee breaks.

We’re going to miss Reve. It was good we had someone who spoke English well enough to make us mind our manners. His favorite sayings were “Don’t kill yourself—let the caiman do it for you!” and “Laha muy, Paltacha! Laha muy!” (I’m guessing on the spelling, but “laha muy” means, roughly, ‘Your food is bad but we’ll take it anyway.’ It was a sort of inside joke.) Not in the van were two other important members of our trek: the capitan and his son, who was called Segundo, or the second (he has the same name as his dad, but we don’t know what it is).

So to them we say,


Terrible Tapirs

We woke up early this morning to see the macaws at their clay lick. Usually there is a path to the hide from Rio Madre de Dios, but it was under about six feet of water. So instead we took Amazon Trals Peru through the “little stream.” At least, Reve called it a “little stream.” However, since this is the wet season, the “little stream” was forty feet wide and ten feet deep.

We arrived at the hide at around six in the morning. After several hours, during which we ate pancakes with honey and butter, the forty to fifty macaws finally appeared. Only two macaws ever made to the actual lick. The rest just watched in the trees and eventually flew away when the vulture appeared.

After Ethan didn’t catch any piranhas in the brown Rio Blanco, we had lunch at the lodge, which was made up of: mushroom soup, deep-fried pepper, boiled plantain, cauliflower, beet, carrot, beans, watermelon, and a drink that tasted like cinnamon. A few hours later, we were eating still-warm spaghetti with mushrooms in the hide at the tapir lick, where we had gone against Dad’s best judgment. It was raining, the light was dimming, and we had no chance of seeing tapirs, since they don’t go out in the rain.

So, after only three hours, we slogged back to the lodge in single file: Reve lead, with his high power torch. Next came Ethan, who cared Reve’s umbrella. I came next, trying not to think because it would give me a headache. A pace behind walked Mom, trying to keep her cast dry under her rain jacket. Dad took up the rear, always right behind Mom, sometimes even stepping on her ankles.

We made it home and are, more or less, ready to wake up at five in the morning.


Bugger Them Bugs

The mosquitoes here may seem bad, but we’ve seen worse at lakes, such as Indigo Lake, in the Oregon Cascades. However, we have lost memories of those and complain to all hours about the bugs here.

Besides mosquitoes (which are big and slow here, and not as determined), there are bot flies, which are parasites attached to mosquitoes. We’ll know if we got any bot flies in us in two or three weeks, which is when the itching/pain appears.

There are also “teeny-tiny” bugs which leave red bumps with scabs on the top. Thankfully, these don’t itch, but the sand flies’ bite-spots do. The most common cause of itchy bites here would probably be the sand flies since they’re too small to get. (Also, just waving them away doesn’t work as it does with the mozzies.)

Unfortunately, the DEET lotion we brought with us is, while effective, greasy, sticky, and very, very strong-smelling (it’s not a good smell).


Not Feather Boas

Reve is a good storyteller, despite his first language not being English. Tonight at the supper table (supper, by the way, being eggplant, tomatoes, potato, pumpkin soup, star fruit juice, and not-so-good chocolate flan), he regaled us with stories about jaguars and pumas.

We ate at eight (and I am being alliterate-ish). The reason for the late hour of supper was that we walked to the tapir clay lick at around three in the afternoon, got there at four, and eventually left at seven.

No tapirs appeared.

We did, however, see two small boas (the largest was 1.5 meters), a poison dart frog (black with green stripes), a small, harmless frog, a swimming spider, three bats, and two tailless whip scorpions.

At the tapir clay lick hide, the four of us laid on mattresses while Reve watched and our gum boots dried. They weren’t wet on the inside (thankfully) since the water on the trail wasn’t that deep, and by the time we started the return trip, the water from today’s rain was already a few inches lower.


Monkey Steamed, Monkey Stewed

We saw three kinds of monkeys today: wooly, spider, and squirrel.

The first type—wooly—was next to a troop of squirrel monkeys. We only saw one or two woolies. Reve told us that they (woolies) are the type that throw poop at people (kind of like baboons do. These monkeys also pee on people). We’ve seen four types of Latin American monkeys before (Capuchin, spider, squirrel, and howler—all in Costa Rica). Now we can say we’ve seen five.

Reve told us that people used to hunt the monkeys, but they’re safe in Parque Nacional Manu. The people hunted the monkeys for food—monkey steamed and monkey stewed.

We also saw the squirrel monkeys on our first hike, which was just along the edge of the river. On our second hike, we went to the second lake. There we saw mosquitoes, mosquitoes, and more mosquitoes as we climbed a tower and looked down on the oxbow lake below. It seemed so hot today. There was only a memory of a breeze on the top of the tower, and below it was a very distant memory.


The Countdown Begins

99 days to go til home, sweet home!


In other news, today we wore our gum boots to go riding in a catamaran around a lake and look for caimans. This was after we’d ridden in the boat for five hours, getting to our current lodge.

“I was with some tourist on a night walk,” is how a story that Reve likes to tell begins. “I was wearing my gum boots. We were looking—ooh, aah, things like that—when the tourists say, ‘Look! Look!’ And there was a fer-de-lance between my feet.” He says that’s because the venomous snakes can sense heat, and the gum boots kept his heat in.


At the pond, we saw plenty of caimans. We got very close to one to take its picture, and it only swam away when it decided we were too close for comfort. That was one of two lakes that are near this lodge. The lodge is taken care by native people—one family comes in a month. Besides the natives, we (along with our cook, guide, captain, captain’s son) are the only people in this five million-acre UNESCO World Heritage site.


Sweet Lemons and Soaked Clothes

The thunder kept me awake last night for an hour. It was probably the loudest thunder I’d heard in thirteen years.

We got to sleep in a little bit and left Bambu Lodge at 8 in the morning. We stopped at a town and dropped off two people. Reve also picked up some D batteries for his flashlight, and we got our permit for Manu Park.

We stopped at an orchid garden where we saw some orchids and Reve and Ethan picked some “sweet lemons,” which smelled sour but tasted like nothing. (We think they weren’t ripe yet.)

Down in the town of Atalaya, we waited for a while for our boat. It eventually arrived, and we piled in with all our equipment. Instead of our van driver, we have the boat driver, his son, and the “boat helper.”

About half an hour in, we stopped to switch motors. Reve told us that all boats have to travel with two motors—just in case. Twenty minutes after lunch (fried vegetables and a boiled egg), the rain started coming down. I pulled on my rain coat and was fine, but in another ten minutes Ethan and I had to grab the cushion of the bench in front of us and put it over our knees, while Mom and Dad huddled under a tarp.

We finally got to Hummingbird Lodge, and we went on a walk through the forest, getting attacked by mosquitoes and seeing puma and tapir footprints (but no animals). Reve showed us two big trees (a mahogany and a fig). For supper, we had soup, vegetables, a scoop of potato, and eggplant steak. That was when Reve told us that he owns Hummingbird Lodge with a Californian girl. He paid for 15%, she paid for the other 85%. He’s losing land to Rio Madre de Dios at a rate of about 150 feet a year, so in the off season he’s planning on moving the buildings back.

He took us looking for tarantulas, and we saw four: a female and her baby, a smaller of the same kind, and a small brown one.


Cocaine and Cuy

“Here, we aren’t addicted to cocaine. As children we are told, ‘People who make bombs don’t blow up—they sell bombs. People who make guns don’t shoot themselves—they sell guns. Here, we make cocaine and we sell it.’”

Reve, our English, Spanish, Dutch, and Quechua speaking guide, was explaining uses of coca to us. We were standing in the field of coca at our lodge for the night. The other three uses of coca were to chew, to make tea, and to offer to gods.


We finally arrived at our lodge after eleven hours on the road: from five a.m. to six in the evening. We descended over 2,000 meters, passing waterfalls and mudslides in the little van that could. We had two meals—breakfast and lunch—and a snack of fruit and doxy. Dad saw a feral guinea pig, our only mammal of the day. We saw lots of butterflies, everyone else saw a non-venomous snake, and we all saw a “cock of the rock,” which is the national bird of Peru. Actually, we saw several of these red and black birds, but only one or two were picture-worthy.


Sweet to Be Swiss

We got to make our own chocolate today!

Dad didn’t, but he still gets to enjoy the results, which were 12 little pyramids, 11 Reese’s Pieces-style chocolates, and six chocolate bars. We could choose from twenty-two flavors to stick in our creations at ChocoMuseo, but I only used thirteen: pink marshmallows, sprinkles, coffee beans, Oreos, Peanut M&Ms, nibs (bits of cacao bean), mint, cloves and cinnamon, chili, sea salt, coconut, and quinoa. I could have used coca but decided not to. Some of the women who worked there were making “experimental” chocolate bars: white chocolate bars with coffee beans, coca, chili, or coconut. The museum doesn’t actually sell full-sized white chocolate bars, so they were definitely experimental.

At the beginning of our “lesson,” Manuel took us upstairs (us being Mom, Ethan and I—we were thankfully a small group) and asked us which country was the leading producer of cacao.

“Peru,” someone guessed.


“Ivory Coast,” I said. (I was right, of course.)

“What’s the second-largest producer?” Manuel asked.



“It’s in Africa,” he said.

“Ghana,” I answered. (Right again!)

It was also interesting to learn that, on average, a Swiss eats more than 11 kilograms of chocolate a year, while Americans (on average) eat only 5.3. I can’t wait to get to Switzerland!


Chocolate Crunches

Today was the day were we finally packed up everything into our backpacks and our small duffel bag to take down to the Amazon tomorrow morning. But first, there was an important thing to do before we left: go to the chocolate museum and make our own chocolate.

At the chocolate museum, we learned about the different stages of chocolate from bean to bar. There are three main different types of bean. Two are grown in South America, one in Africa. In Africa, the main producers are the Ivory Coast and Ghana, where there are a lot of beans grown. In South America, there is one type that is grown naturally and another that is a hybrid between the two grown in South America and Africa.

A tree usually has two seasons of harvest, one from October to March and another from June to August. The one from October to March is the larger one, averaging for about 100 pods per fully grown tree. In the other harvest season, there are only about 50 pods per tree.

The tree starts out in a shade covered nursery, growing about 8 inches tall before it is sold to tree farmers. The tree farmer should plant the tree under shade, preferably plantain or banana trees, and fertilize the plant. The plant will start producing fruit in about 2 or 3 years, but will reach full maturity at about 5 or 6 years of age. The plant needs to be tended to every week so that some fungi will not inhabit it and kill it off before it can produce any food.

After the beans get harvested, they are cut open and the white seeds are carried away to where they are dried in the sun and roasted. They then get but into bags and shipped away. The beans are eventually shelled and crushed, before getting mixed with milk powder and sugar to make the chocolate. Eventually, the chocolate gets heated at 40 degrees Celsius and then mixed and molded to form chocolate bars, which take 10 beans to make a 100g bar .

We then went to the factory to make ourselves some chocolate. We first roasted some beans in a clay pot before grinding them into a paste with mortar and pestle. We then used that paste to make several different kinds of drinks; an early Spanish hot chocolate and an early Mayan hot chocolate. The Mayan drink was a little bit spicy, but my favorite was definitely the Spanish hot chocolate.

We also learned that when the Spanish first got to the New World, they thought that the Mayan’s drink was too spicy and bitter. But when the Spanish took some of the beans home, the discovered how delectable the chocolate really is and made the first hot chocolate as we know it. They also kept the chocolate a secret from the rest of the Old World for 100 years!

Then the best part began: we got some warmed chocolate from a bowl and used a variety of molds and mix-ins to obtain chocolate. I got a mold for six chocolate bars and made each one different. There was one that had Brazil nuts, peanuts, and almonds ground up and there was another with peanut butter M&Ms with raisins. When we finished, we went back home for an hour to let the chocolate set. When we got it and tasted it, it was really, really good.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Happy Flowers and Plenty of Capers

Sacsaywaman was our destination today (pronounced like “sexy woman”). Well, it was our goal. We didn’t actually make it in because it was 70 soles (about US$30) per person—that wasn’t gonna happen.

So we walked down the hill and up the hill to El Cristo Blanco, the white Christ. You can see the statue at night from Plaza de Armas since it’s lit up like the statue in Rio—it’s not as big, though.

Dad took a lot of pictures (of course) and then we walked down a loooong set of stairs and to our plaza, then on to Pan…tastico! (That’s the name of our B&B.)After a little while, we left for supper at Pachapapa. It was closed, as before, so instead we went to Sara, which is the Quechua word for corn.  All of us had pasta: Ethan had ravioli, Dad selected spaghetti, and Mom and I chose rigatoni. All four had different sauces. Mine was the most flavorful. It’s a good thing I like capers (a lot) because that sauce was very, very caper-y.

I decided not to have ice cream (since we’d already had waffles at The Meeting Place, where I also beat Ethan at Scrabble), but Dad and Ethan decided on chocolate. We ate by the puma fountain, which we’ve passed many, many times.

“There’s a wedding,” Ethan announced.


“A car with flowers on it drove by.”

“How do you know it wasn’t a funeral?”

“They were happy flowers.”


We saw Saqsaywaman, but didn’t go in…

Pronounced ‘sexy woman,’ Saqsaywaman is an Incan fortress overlooking the Incan city of Cusco. We did not go into the fortress because of the admission cost, but we did climb up and see the white Christ that is lit up at night and overlooks the city.

It was a long ways up, and looking down over the city, we realized that the city ended very abruptly. There is the main square, a small suburb, and then…nothing. The rolling fields of green, separated from time to time with sprinklings of dark green trees, went on forever over and beside the hills that formed Cusco’s geographic location.

There were not very many terraces, so the hills were smoother, but some still grew quinoa and corn to supply the city and the farmers with food. We were impressed by how serene it was, even though, when we turned around, there were the sounds of the city; the car horns, the church bells, and the din of people speaking to each other.

We finally went down the hill with alacrity; being happy that we were not climbing up the flights and flights of stairs that wound their winding way higher and higher up the hill. We were lucky to have climbed up the hill in a valley, but were climbing down the hill on the middle of the face. Later, we had dinner at another organic restaurant, and my ravioli was scrumptious!

That’s all for now, Folks!

Amazonian Anacondas

That is what we are hoping to see on our 7-day tour in the Amazon basin starting on Monday. We went to the office of the tour company this morning to be briefed on our physical fitness and to sign that we will not hold the company accountable if we get injured or killed.

Another thing that we did during our interview was try on rubber boots. When we finished with all of that, we went to the Plaza de Armas. From there, we went up the hill to our hostel and I worked on schoolwork for a long, long time before leaving for dinner.

We had a delicious dinner, and the staff was really nice and gave us a complimentary dessert, which was good. After that, we went to our hostel and bedded down for the night.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Casts and Couscous

The first half of our day was devoted to (a) learning more about our trip to the Amazon on Monday and (b) trying to get Mom’s cast off. Guess what? It didn’t come off! Instead the doctor told Mom to get it off in two weeks (when we’re in Morocco). While Mom and Dad were working on that, Ethan did schoolwork and I read Code Name Verity, which is an amazing book (I spent most of supper telling Ethan to read it).

Eventually (at around 5 p.m.) we went out for a walk, which ended up with us finding a place for supper called Greens Organic. Mom and I shared a bowl of pumpkin soup and chicken on couscous. It was delicious. So was the (free) dessert: the brownie to compare to all brownies.

On the way home, we stopped at Plaza de Armas to take in the atmosphere. Every Peruvian town/city has a Plaza de Armas—the main square. Dad and Ethan started being embarrassing, so I was relieved when we left the public eye.


The Rain in Peru Falls Mainly On You

“So what does Cusco do—mining? Farming? Manufacturing?”

Solo turistico,” Ronnie replied. We were within a five minute drive of our B&B (Bed & Bakery), and Mom was questioning our driver from Ollantaytambo.

In the morning, we’d been given a tour by Elvis, who met us at Apu Lodge at 8 a.m. He walked us around Ollantaytambo in the rain, telling us about how the Incas moved huge stones (by either having people pull the rocks that were on logs, by sending them down ramps, or by some other way), how you can tell from which town women are by their hats, and how messages were sent from Cusco to Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu to the coast (on foot in a relay). He also told us how Ollantaytambo got its name: Ollantay is the name of an Incan king, and tambo means lodge. Ollantay hid there from the Spanish, and once the Spanish captured him (and eventually killed him in Cusco), the Incas were defeated.

After our tour, we checked out the ice cream place, which unfortunately had no place to sit. So we took our ice cream to Corazones Café (Heart Café), where Mom and I shared a piece of cake and a bowl of soup and Ethan and Dad split a grilled cheese sandwich while Ethan indulged in a brownie and Dad enjoyed a huge cookie. Yes, it does sound like we went a little bit overboard in the sugar department, but Dad’s excuse is that we climbed Wayna Picchu and walked around in the rain for four hours.


Some Smart Incas

Breaking rocks is hard. We as modern day humans are still are astonished by how the Incas could put rocks together seamlessly without mortar to survive for hundreds of years. One of the methods of cutting the rock was pounding it with harder rocks, while another was drilling holes, putting in sticks, and then soaking the wood to make it expand and crack the rock.

The moved the rocks from the quarry 50 km away using wooden rollers to go across a river and up the hill. Using alpaca and straw ropes, the dragged the rocks up the ramps. There is a giant rock that is along the roadside, and giant tractors could not even budge it from its resting place in the ground.

We learned all of that from our guide for our half day tour today in Ollantaytambo (Olly).  When we left, we drove to Cusco and there we checked into our bed and bakery before going out for dinner in town. When we finished with that, we went to a bank and extracted some money from the depths of an ATM before heading back to our B&B.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Fountain of Eternal Diarrhea

Some people call the fountain in the ancient city of Machu Picchu the ‘Fountain of Eternal Life,’ but now, it is dirty and there is not enough oxygen in the water, so it is now the fountain of eternal diarrhea. We did not partake of that water, though we did see it a lot.

We left Aguas Calientes this morning and rode the bus up to Machu Picchu. At Machu Picchu, we immediately went across the city to the trailhead for Waynapicchu.  We walked up and down and then up some more, gripping the steel cables tightly when needed, before finally arriving at the top and seeing the view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding land.

By the time that we got back down to the bottom, it was time to go on our tour around the city. We went with 12 other people and learned about how the Incas worshiped the Spaniards when they arrived because they thought that they were gods, and then got slaughtered by the thousands. When the tour was finished, we went off by ourselves and looked at some viscachas and at how closely knit the rocks were.

When we were finished with all of that, we got back in the bus and rode back to AC, were we went to the train station to go back to Olly, where we are now.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Bird Poop

We made it up Wayna Picchu—and no one knows how.

We also made it down, and Mom thinks that’s more impressive.

Wayna Picchu is the picturesque mountain in all Machu Picchu pictures. It’s on basically every postcard in Aguas Calientes, and most in Peru. It is only about 240 meters higher than the starting point—and there are a lot of stairs. It wasn’t as “scary” as people had made it out to be. True, the steps were slippery and the ten-meter tunnel at the top damp, but even Mom didn’t slip. It was only when we were back on level ground in Machu Picchu that Mom and I tripped.

Once we were back in Machu Picchu, we had to hurry to catch our tour group before it left. We formed 25% of the group, which included three others from our B&B. The tour lasted two hours, and we visited all the highlights: botanical garden, guard house, Templo del Sol, and Templo del Condor. The Condor Temple was the most interesting, since the rocks were shaped like a condor, and we got to walk up through the “stomach” of the condor, making us bird poop.

We ate lunch (squished guacamole sandwiches) after the tour, and then we went back inside to look at the lodging for the nobles. Commoners were, apparently, not allowed at Machu Picchu. How can you tell if you’re a commoner or not? Nobles are born with no moles.


Eventually we rode the bus down the thirteen switchbacks to Aguas Calientes, where I mailed some postcards. At 6:30 p.m. we got on the train to Ollantaytambo, and that’s where we are now.


Almost There

We are in the town that is at the end of the Sacred Valley closest to Machu Picchu. Tomorrow is the day that we will go up to the ruined Inca town and see why they lived there and see some of their buildings. We are also going to go up Wayna Picchu, which is a large hill at one end of Machu Picchu and is the hill that has the Temple of the Sun on the top.

We are going to go to everything tomorrow, and we are now in Aguas Calientes. We met our guide tonight and talked to him about what we are going to do in the morning. We take the bus around 6:30 to the ruins and then go up Wayna Picchu between 7 and 8 am.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Escape the Eggs

We’re situated in Aguas Calientes, which is a twenty-five minute drive from Machu Picchu. We rode a train for about two hours this morning, talking to Elena and her husband, who live in Spokane, WA. Elena is from Mexico.

Mostly we talked about our trip, where we’re going, how long it is, what we’re doing for school, and all that stuff.

Everyone was excited to see the start of the Inca Trail, which is four days long and really high and I’m glad we’re not doing it!

In Aguas Calientes, we couldn’t find the man with a sign with our names on it, so we just walked to our hotel after finding it on a map. It was raining, of course, which made it Aguas Frios instead of Aguas Calientes.

After Dad had a lie-about, we walked around the town. Mom and I went into a jewelry shop, and when we exited, Ethan and Dad had disappeared down the Via de Escape alley. Eventually they came back and told us what they’d found: a platform that could hold four people in case of an emergency.

“What would you have to worry about here?” I asked.

“Tsunamis,” Dad replied.

“Yeah, it said something about ‘huevos,’” Ethan added.

“Huevos?” Mom asked. “Do you know what that means?”

“Um, waves?”

“Eggs, Ethan. Eggs.”


When in Ollie

The real name of the town that we are now in is really long and complicated, but at least it starts with an ‘o.’ It is out between Cusco and Macchu Picchu, and so we are staying the night in preparation to leave in the morning for Aguas Calientes. Aguas Calientes is on the bottom of the bus route up to the Macchu Picchu area where we will go in two days’ time.

Ollie is a town in the Sacred Valley that has hills with ruins surrounding it. Today, we climbed up one of the hills to see some granaries and to look out over our town. It looks like an ear of corn with the roofs that have exactly the same pattern of reddish-brown shingles that overlap each other. The town is very small and we have walked across it several times.

When we left the hill with granaries, we went over to the bottom of the hill with the Temple of the Sun but didn’t go up because of the admission costs. At the bottom, we saw a really small kitten on some steps and declined to pay some men in traditional dress for their services of standing in front of our camera lens. Later, after we went to dinner, we got some giant brownies and came back to our lodge for the night.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Save the Guinea Pigs!

Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no.

How could they hurt the innocent little guinea pigs at a—I shudder to think of it—cuyeria????? (In case you don’t know, cuy is guinea pig in Spanish, so a cuyeria is where you eat guinea pigs.) I knew that guinea pigs were on the Peruvian menu, but I wasn’t expecting to see “CUYERIA” in big, bold letters painted on the side of a building in blood red.

This was on our way out of Cusco. We arrived in Cusco after a short and uneventful flight from Arequipa. From there, Ronnie took us in his Yaris to Apu Lodge. It was about five minutes into this drive that I saw the dreadful word.


We are safe (unlike guinea pigs) in this lodge from the cold and wet of Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is a little village at about 8,000 feet above sea level that is, apparently, a popular American tourist destination, as we learned tonight at supper.

For supper, Dad ordered his usual agua con gas, and Mom, Ethan, and I chose agua sin gas. When our waters arrived, instead of three aguas sin gas and one agua con gas, there were three aguas con gas and one agua sin gas. Mom got lucky and selected the agua sin gas, and Ethan and I had to suffer through our 350 milliliters of nastiness.


Goodbye Mister Gooey

Today we said good-bye to our kind and generous benefactor, the man of the apartment, the Dr. Gooey.  He left this evening with his heavy suitcases and backpack on a taxi towards the airport. This is the last that we will see of him for at least 3½ months. We spent our last day with him going around town and into it to buy some things that were needed and not.

When we woke up this morning, we all ate breakfast and then my mother, Dr. Gooey, and I went into town and went to some local shops where my mother bought something for the table and I bought a drawing pad. We then went back to the apartment, but on the way went to a supermarket and mall to see some ice cream.

When we got back to the apartment, we puttered around for a little while before going to the ice cream shop that my mother and I had scouted out. When we finished with that, we went over to the shops and bought nothing before leaving the mall for real. When we left, we went back to the apartment, and later we went to a restaurant for dinner before saying goodbye to Uncle Richard.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Very Down Day with One Momentous Event

Mr. Gooey left us all alone in Arequipa.

Well, he’s currently in the process of saying good-bye. He’s going home to California, but we still have three-and-a-half months before we can think about home. Anyway, we didn’t really do anything today. Mom, Mr. Gooey, and Ethan went shopping a few times, but I stayed home to do schoolwork while Dad deleted pictures. Eventually, we all left to get ice cream at the local mall, but that didn’t take much time.

An hour later, we left for supper. Mr. Gooey, Ethan, and I had sandwiches (mine was chicken, pineapple, and mayo and very good) and Mom and Dad had salads. Then we came home at 8 pm so Mr. Gooey can catch his flight in an hour or so.


An Evening with the Riddles

Though we did not meet a guy named Tom tonight, we did tell some riddles to one another in the aspiration to get the other’s brain cells to work harder. I was the main one asking questions, though several times in during dinner my father did mention the ‘What is in my pocketses?’ riddle. We did not, however, ever ask that riddle because it was not actually a riddle, just a simple guessing game where some creatures in dark mines know not of what you are speaking.
We did all of that in an Italian restaurant that was overlooking a busy street and on top of a casino. Before that, we had done several things. We left the apartment this morning and went out to a monestary where there was a large, nice, low-light library with a lot of sheepskin bound books. After we had looked around that, we went downstairs and looked at the stuffed birds and such from the Amazon and saw a lot of clay jars. When we finished, we left the monestary and the workers locked the door behind us. From there, we went over to the market where there was everything from chicken feet to flowers to linens. There was also meat of every variety. We then left and did a tour of the cathedral. Among other things, the large bell in the left tower was 5 tons in weight and it took two men to swing the clapper.
After that, we went to Creppisimo, a crepe shop, and ate some crepes. Eventually, we left, and went back to the apartment for some naps. We did some things and took naps before deciding to go out and go to the Italian restaurant. When we finished eating, we thought about riddles for some time before heading back to the flat to do this post and to go to bed.
That’s all for now, Folks!

Quakes Killing a Cathedral

Thankfully there were no earthquakes today [that were big and in Arequipa] because we went to Basilica Catedral de Arequipa. It’s famous for having the second floor of one of its two bell towers fall in the 2001 earthquake and cause a hole to be developed in the cathedral’s roof.

Basilica Catedral de Arequipa has been through more than its share of earthquakes. In January, 1583, an earthquake completely destroyed the sillar building. (Sillar is a type of white volcanic rock. It’s like pumice, but denser.) This was forty-three years after the location of the cathedral was decided. In 1590, plans for a second cathedral took shape, but in 1600 the eruption of the Huaynaputina stratovolcano destroyed part of the new brick building. Four years later, an earthquake demolished the remaining structure.

In 1621, assignments were made for the construction of a new cathedral. This was a mere twelve years after the idea had been suggested.

Seven years later, the man assigned to the project—Andrés de Espinoza—died. However, in 1656, the 180-foot-long building was finished. It survived the earthquakes of 1666, 1668, 1687, and 1784 with minor damage.

In 1844, a fire broke out in the summer and destroyed many of the paintings, sculptures, and furniture. Reconstruction was started two weeks later.

Improvements were made to the cathedral between 1845 and 1868, which brought an earthquake that obliterated the two towers and façade arcs. Nothing major happened in the 20th century, and all was peaceful until 2001.

On August 15, 2002, exactly 462 years after the cathedral’s location was established, the finishing touches were put on the restored towers.


We walked on the roof and up to the towers. Ethan and I tried to ring the bells, but we weren’t willing to do it together, and our guide told us that it takes two people to be able to hit the 500-pound clapper against the 5-ton bell.


Sensors, Seismographs, and Seismologists

After being woken up this morning in the ‘maid’s quarters,’ I ate a hurried breakfast and got into a truck with Uncle Richard, my father, and Victor, a seismologist for one of the colleges here in Arequipa. We drove out of town on a road that used to be the main throughway between Arequipa and Cusco. It is now mainly unused, so there was no traffic on our way up through the thousands of meters. We went up and up and finally arrived at the sensor housing that we were going to decommission.

The sensor was a metallic cylinder that weighed about 45 pounds and had an internal pendulum to measure quakes from different areas. It is expensive and fits into a plastic box about twice its size for shipping purposes. We officially decommissioned the sensor as soon as we had moved it from its specified corner where it had been resting for 5 years, pointing north. After we had packed everything away and taped the wires together, we rode back down the mountain.

When we got back to the flat, we messed around for a little bit before we all went with Victor to a mill, where there were llamas, and to a storage facility for the CalTech equipment. In the basement, there were several seismographs that were working while we talked. Victor turned up the amplifier for the sensor and made it look like there had been an earthquake on one of the seismographs for our amusement and we looked at the various sensors in the three rooms. When we were finished, we went back to the flat.

That’s all for now, Folks!

My Mother the Big Bird

With a yellow poncho and only one arm sticking out of the arm hole, my mother commented that she was the ‘big bird.’ We are in Arequipa now and are staying at my Uncle Richard’s apartment in downtown. We woke up this morning early in Arica and drove to the Arica international Airport. When we got there, the airport was empty. After waiting and waiting for a while.

There was finally someone at the check-in counter and we checked in and were the first people waiting upstairs for the police counter to open. We waited for a while upstairs before the police counter opened and we were able to go through that and security before waiting for a while more for the airplane to get ready.

After 35 minutes of flight time, we popped down into Arequipa and found my Uncle Richard waiting for us and reading a novel. When we got out into the parking lot, we found a taxi and all 5 of us got into a space meant for only 4 people. When we finished up with that and all of the grunting of going up 4 flights of stairs to my uncle’s flat, where we spread our stuff out for a while. When we decided to leave, we went out to get keys, Claro, and look into some museums.

We first got some keys duplicated by a streetside vendor before walking down the street for a ways and getting to a convent. We learned about how the nuns were not allowed to leave the walls and only their slaves could go out. We also learned how they were NEVER EVER allowed to see men, and even the priest for Mass was always behind a curtain.

When we finished up with that, we found that outside, it was raining, so on a street corner, we bought a poncho and an umbrella and went to a grocery store to buy some necessities. After going through the necessary steps to get a taxi back to the flat, we rode back and the new keys worked. For the rest of the evening, we have eaten See’s Candy, talked, and done things on some of the various electronics scattered around the room.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Food and Fifty Sensors

Mr. Gooey took Ethan and Dad away for most of this morning up to a volcano, where they removed a sensor. Mr. Gooey is in the process of taking down the program, which had about fifty sensors in Peru, from the coast to Lake Titicaca.

They returned at about one, five hours after their departure. Dad napped for a while Mom, Ethan, and Mr. Gooey talked. Eventually we left with Victor, one of Mr. Gooey’s colleagues, and headed to a flour mill on Rio Sabandia in the town of Sabandia. Dad, we believe, turned on one of the wheels. It was raining, and I hid under my umbrella, occasionally sharing. We also looked at the llama, alpacas, bull, chickens, and guinea pigs, which will sadly be food in a couple months (I’m sure). After that Victor drove us to Mr. Gooey’s main building, where a really, really big earthquake happened on the paper with the needle that carved lines into the paper instead of drawing. That was because Victor turned up the sensitivity. The three sheets of white paper with black ink went three different ways: one was for east-west movement, one wrote about up-down movement, and one recorded north-south movement. Each sheet of paper lasts for twenty-four hours. I guess someone will be there at midnight to change out a the three.

We returned to the apartment for a short while then headed out to a nice restaurant for dinner. All of us had chocolate soufflé for dessert and bruschetta and mushrooms for appetizers. For the main course, each of us chose something different. I chose pumpkin ravioli with caramelized walnuts, which was pretty good.