A Castle in the Middle of the Jungle

Have you ever wandered upon a castle in the middle of the jungle… in Peru of all places?


Back in May, we did just that. We were in Tarapoto, in the jungle of Northern Peru, and taking a mototaxi to the small town of Lamas. The views were stunning and the fresh air was amazing, and we were totally unprepared to see what we saw in the middle of nowhere!




Welcome to the Castillo de Lamas. Apparently an Italian man just up and decided to build a castle… rooms for visitors to see, and a few rooms to keep to himself & family. Fascinating, right?






The coolest thing was, it was decorated like it was straight out of Italy or England during the Medieval Times! Complete with a giant painting of a man being knighted. So random, but so pretty! All the details were amazing, and I loved the stone everywhere!


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It cost 5 soles to enter, but it’s free for locals! The views of the surrounding jungle and village were beautiful, and it made for a nice, random activity while in Tarapoto! I only wish there were some plaques or something describing the history of the castle and why the owner chose Lamas of all places to build his dream castle.



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Have you ever visited a castle? Now I can check this off my bucket list! :) 

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Life Lately, October


October is here! There’s nothing much special about October (besides two days off celebrating the Battle of Angamos), but I have high hopes for this month! Mainly because it’s one month closer to December, which is when I’m finished teaching for the year. Teaching has been draining me lately.

  • Supposedly it’s spring here in Lima… which doesn’t really mean anything has changed, except for now the sun randomly decides to come out for a few minutes here and there… making me so excited and ready for summer!!! I’m still wearing scarves and sweaters and my coat each day… can’t wait to put those away for next year!
  • I’ve been working a LOT. Teachers work from 7:30 – 4:15 at my school, so that’s where I am for the majority of the day. In addition to school, I’ve picked up some tutoring jobs after school. Usually I’m not home until 6 or 6:30 in the evenings, then I want to be in bed by 9 because I’m so tired!
  • We’ve been eating out more lately on whims. Like on Fridays when I get home, I shower and put on sweats and don’t want to leave the house. So we order delivery and are lazy bums the rest of the evening! Papa Johns, Bunny’s (chicken, salad, fries), and Pizza Hut are recent favorites.
  • A few weeks ago I learned who Pablo Escobar was, thanks to Netflix and my husband. Such an interesting, crazy, insane part of Columbian history!
  • Laundry is my least favorite chore because of one reason: neighbors. We share a machine with the rest of the building, and some people think it’s normal to wash a load and leave it in there for 3 days. No joke. We have piles on piles of clothes/sheets/towels to be washed, and looks like they won’t be washed anytime soon. Not cool, vecinos!!!
  • Last weekend some friends invited us over for sweets! They prepared “dulce de camote” aka sweet potato sweet, which was sweet potato with anise and sugar…really good, and “pie de membrillo” aka membrillo pie. I consumed WAY too much sugar, but it was so good. :)
  • We had a blackout in our neighborhood earlier this week. It was so random and lasted about 2 hours. Thankfully, we had a candle sitting around, so we lit it and it was bright enough to light up the whole teeny tiny apartment. Also, this morning the power was out for a few hours when I woke up… talk about annoying! Apparently back in the 80s when there were blackouts, a bomb was eminent. So scary to think how different life was in this city, just 30 years ago.
  • My parents sent us Snickers bars in some packages from the States, and gosh I never appreciated Snickers like I do now. They are SO good, and the perfect combo of sweet with salty peanuts. Technically they’re my husband’s (because he LOVES them), but I’ve been sneaking one here and there when he’s gone traveling 😉
  • Technology : can I just say that I think it’s totally inappropriate for 7th graders to have iPads? Because it really bothers me. I could write a whole post venting about technology…but also praising it for being the way I keep in touch with family & friends.
  • I love going to the market here in Lima. Grocery shopping is always a favorite thing of mine, but here it’s so different. People shop for their groceries on a day to day basis… taking things one day at a time. And I think that’s great! But sometimes I go all American and buy a ton of produce and things, and then after a few days they go bad because we don’t eat them quickly enough! Lesson learned. Possibly…
  • I’m loving wearing, selling, and promoting Jamberry! Of course I can’t get mine shipped directly to me, like you can(!), but it makes my day when I get a package from home with new jams!
  • I need to share a post on what I’ve been reading lately, because it’s been wonderful! I am one of those people who can read 5 different things at once, and if you look at my Goodreads currently reading shelf, there are 8! (soon to be 9) I read a bit of each book when I can, but some have me entwined in their plots and I finish those first.
  • My Netflix “to watch” list just keeps growing. It’s bad. I have a bad habit of scrolling through things and adding them to my list, then when I choose something to watch, it’s something that’s not even on my list! I know, I know, first world problem.  But I’m so indecisive anyways, that having a list doesn’t even help me!
  • I did a big chunk of Christmas shopping yesterday for my family. I played tour guide for a Gringa friend, and showed her all around Miraflores, with a 3 1/2 hour stop at the Indian Market. I tell ya, every time I walk in that place I want to buy so many things! And yesterday that’s precisely what I did. I got some goodies for Padre and bro, and a few things for Mom… she’s such a great gift-giver, that I find it so hard to shop for her! Have you done any Christmas shopping yet???
  • We’ve been visiting a new church lately and really enjoy it. It’s smaller (compared to the huge church we were going to, where nobody knew our names) but the services are longer! And sometimes my rear gets sore sitting on the plastic chairs for so long, haha. It was so nice to finally find a body where it feels like we are welcomed.
  • Coursera is my new friend. I decided since husband is gone and I’m lonely, I needed something useful to do. I’m enrolled in a history course at the moment, and it’s fascinating! Fact: I wanted to major in History in college, so that was my major freshman year, until I realized I would have to TEACH, and I didn’t really want to do that. Kinda funny considering now I am a teacher!!! (and wish I could teach history instead of boring grammar!)
  • I have so many trips to blog about, yet I never seem to find the creativity to sit down and write about them. Hopefully sometime soon I’ll get around to it!

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How to Renew your Carnet de Extranjería Annually

Peru Expat 101


Last week I paid my annual “Prórroga de Residencia” as an expat in Lima. At first, the process seemed daunting, but with a little research, I had it all figured out. Since I’ve shared the other steps about your Carnet and being an expat, I wanted to share the steps to paying your annual Resident fee! [[This is if you’re married to a Peruvian… other types of prórrogas can be found here.]]



I got my carnet the end of last September, and so I assumed my “expiration” date for it was the end of September this year. WRONG.  You have to pay by the first of the month your card expires. So you’ll need to start the process a few weeks in advance, just in case. (Next year, I’m going to get it taken care of the beginning of August!)



As always, there’s a fee for government paperwork. This fee is simply 26 soles. You must pay in cash, and you must keep your receipt from this transaction.



Their website is constantly changing, so be careful with what you click, and if you need help translating, ask a friend! You’ll want to click “Para Generar su cita: clic aquí” This will take you to a checklist of the things you need for the appointment. They have a form online for you to fill out, so that’s the next step…



You may remember the Formulario 007 from getting your carnet last year… enter your info into this form again, and print the page!



The website will ask you to enter some numbers from your receipt from the bank. This is to verify that you paid. Once you enter the numbers, you can pick a date and time (I suggest 8:00am!) for your appointment. Then PRINT the confirmation page!



If you are married, you will need this form filled out by your spouse! I printed off 2 different kinds because I wasn’t sure which was correct. Below is the exact form we used.




The easiest way to do this (instead of waiting in line at a REINEC office) is going to Jockey Plaza off the Panamericana, going to the food court, and finding the REINEC kiosk! It is the neatest thing… you can print your partida de matrimonio straight from this kiosk for 10 soles! You need to enter your spouse’s DNI, then they have a fingerprint verification, then you pay and print. Super fácil and rapido.



You’ll need a copy of your Carnet, your passport, and your spouse’s DNI. No website told me we would need a copy of my husband’s DNI, but thankfully he was able to run and make a copy for 0.50!



I suggest going to Migraciones first thing in the morning- 8:00am. We were there at 7:30, and were in line shortly after 8 with our number. Here is what you will need to take with you:

  • The F-007 filled out
  • The printed appointment confirmation page
  • Receipt from Banco de la Nación
  • Declaración Jurada
  • Copy of Carnet
  • Copy of Passport
  • Copy of spouse’s DNI
  • Partida de Matrimonio from REINEC
  • Your number from waiting in line (yes, you have to turn this in)



When your number is called, the fun begins! They check over all your forms, verify with your passport and Carnet, then after you sign a few papers, they take your carnet. I thought they would keep it for 5 days, but they told me to come back in an hour!!! That was the best news for us, because I hate going downtown to Migraciones. An hour later, we went back, and voila, my Carnet had a shiny new sticker on the back! :)




Things to learn from my experience:

– Print your confirmation of the appointment! I made the mistake of simply taking a screen shot… NOPE… they need the actual paper. Thankfully, we were able to print the page from Informes at the front of the building for free! Not sure if they do that all the time, so I was thankful they made an exception for this nervous Gringa.

– Make a copy of your spouse’s DNI before going! We didn’t do that, and when we got up to the window, the worker asked for it, and my husband had to run and make a copy. Thankfully the worker waited for him to come back, and didn’t make me lose my spot in line.

– If your address has changed, you will have to make a note of that, and then sign to confirm that the new address is correct. The worker told me exactly what to write and where to sign, and apparently I’ll have to do that each time I go, if our address has changed.

– Go early! Like I said, we were there at 7:30am, and since we ended up having to print the confirmation page and all that, we didn’t get our number until 8:00. But our total wait time after getting the number was maybe 15 minutes? Yeah, first thing in the morning is the best time to go, because the wait was the shortest we’ve ever had at Migraciones!!!

– Chill out. Don’t worry about the paperwork and not having what you need- the worker we had was surprisingly helpful and friendly and patient with me! I was so worried I wouldn’t have everything I needed, or that they wouldn’t accept my paperwork for some reason, and really, I had nothing to worry about!


Now that I know the steps involved in getting my prórroga renewed, I won’t be so nervous next year! 

If you’re an expat, how do you have to renew your residency?


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How to Get Your RUC from SUNAT as an Expat

Peru Expat 101

So, you’ve moved to Peru in search of adventure, love, or just a new future. And you just landed a job… congrats! Oh, but what’s this… they tell you that you need recibos por honorarios? What does that even mean in English?!

Recibos por honorarios basically means receipts for fees. They are the Peruvian government’s way of keeping up with how much money you make. And they’re the way that the company you are going to work for will pay you. And, welcome to the 21st century… it’s all done online!

But before you can get your recibos you need a RUC (a number identifying you for tax purposes), and before you get your RUC, you’ll need your Carnet de Extranjería (C.E.). Once you’ve got that, you’re ready to get your RUC and get to work!

1. Find a local SUNAT office and plan your trip. I suggest going after lunch, because it’s usually least busy.

2. Obtain two copies of your Carnet de Extranjería.

3. Get a copy of a light or water bill from your landlord. You’ll need the original as well.

4. IF the bill has your name on it, proceed to step 6. If it has your landlord’s name on it, go to number 5.

5. Since your name isn’t on the bill, SUNAT will need a filled out paper (from SUNAT’s office) with your name, carnet number, and signature, and your landlord’s name, their DNI number, their signature, and a photocopy of their DNI, basically saying they’re giving you permission to use the address and bill to get your RUC. Thankfully, our current landlord was willing to help us and entrust us with their DNI number!

6. Take the copies and originals to SUNAT, get a number, and wait until your number is called.

7. Once called, proceed to the correct desk/worker. Tell them you “necesito un RUC y recibos por honorarios, por favor.” (RUC & receipts, please!) 

8. The worker will enter your info into their computer, you’ll need to sign a few papers, put your C.E. number, and fingerprint. (It’s not official here without a print of your pointer finger!) 

9. He/She will print a final paper with your brand new RUC number and Clave Sol, which is the account you enter online to submit a recibo por honorario.

10. You tell your new employer your RUC number, and you’re good to go! Then, at the end of the month, you enter your Clave Sol into SUNAT’s webpage and create a new recibo for your work.

This process took about an hour… the SUNAT office is located a short bus ride away, so we went there, realized we needed their form for #5 above, went back home to get it signed and a copy, then headed back to the SUNAT office. Once inside, the wait was short, and it took about 5 minutes for the worker to do my paperwork. Super easy compared to other paperwork I’ve had to get done in Peru!!!

If you’re an expat, did you need any sort of identifying number or receipts to work in your country???

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How to Get Your Carnet de Extranjería in Peru

Getting my Carnet de Extranjería was a long process that caused lots of headaches and freak outs, but I am so thankful that it is all over… for now 😉

Peru Expat 101

Honestly, the process was so long and frustrating, that I didn’t keep track of all the individual steps… and it took us nearly 3 months to get it worked out, so chances are I’m probably missing something in here, but this is my best attempt at remembering! (it’s been nearly 10 months)

First, before you start the process, make sure you have a visa that allows for enough time in the country! I got 150 days, and I think the maximum that Peru allows is 6 months. Then, I had to get married in order to be able to start the process to get a Residential Visa! After ensuring that all our paperwork for our civil wedding was taken care of, we started the Carnet process.

On my first trip to Migraciones (Immigration Office) downtown in July 2014, I got a tiny sheet of paper with these 9 simple requirements:

1. Original Passport

2. Copies of passport, with last stamp of entry into the country, and the TAM (the white card with important info that you have to have to leave the country!).

3. Two passport size photos (taken at Interpol)

4. Receipt of payment from Banco de la Nación for 08141 for an international carnet.

5. Marriage certificate (officially stamped by Reniec)

6. Official request from you for residency

7.  Payment to the “Treasury of the USA” for $18 USD to the Banco de Credito- Scotiabank.

8. Manila envelope

9. Copy of Form F04/F06/F07 presented to Migraciones


Seems pretty straight forward and spelled-out, right? Wrong. Within these 9 steps, there are like a dozen (give or take 😉 ) other steps involved… starting with right after you marry a Peruvian citizen…

* Your spouse has to get their status changed on their DNI (ID card) from single to married. This involves them going to Reniec with all the paperwork from the municipality proving you are married. BUT, something they don’t tell you is that you need an Acta de Celebración de Matrimonio! This costs, of course, but I don’t remember the price. To get it you need to go to the municipality where you were wed, pay, and wait for someone to print off the paperwork and stamp it. Take this, along with the other papers, their old DNI & a copy, AND a copy of your passport to a Reniec office, and wait in line for your turn. After the worker entered all his info and had our signatures, the process started for his status to get changed. This takes 48 business hours, so come back in about 3-4 days, just to be sure. My husband received his DNI, and his old one was cut up, and we were good to go!

* Next, I needed to fill out Form F-007 which can be done online and printed, or you can get a copy at Migraciones. (walk in the door, a shelf with papers is on the right)

* Pay Banco de la Nación an amount for 08141 for your carnet. Basically you walk in (after waiting in line for 1 hour 20mins like we did…), and tell the worker that you need to pay for your carnet de extranjería. They apparently do this a lot, because they quickly typed in the code, checked my passport number, I handed them the money, and it was over in a few minutes. KEEP YOUR RECEIPT. This is vital when turning in all your paperwork at Migraciones!

* Obtain some copies of your passport, and the white TAM card you get with your visa.

* The official request for residency is basically a letter that you can get an outline of from Migraciones at the front help desks… it states your names, address, reason you are in the country, and has your signature. Easy peasy.

* Make an appointment online with Migraciones. It will ask for your passport number and name and date of birth and all that basic info to verify who you are.

* Show up for the appointment time with all your paperwork. Be prepared to wait, even though you have an “appointment”… there’s always waiting involved at Migraciones!

* Turn in all your paperwork.

Next up is the Interpol part of earning your Carnet… Peru has to make sure you aren’t wanted and all that, ya know?!

The Interpol office is located in Surco on Av. Manuel Olguin. It’s kind of hidden, but when you see a police standing outside, you know you’ve arrived. When you go, be prepared to WAIT, as per usual. You’ll be given a number, and papers to keep up with, then you wait.

Here, you’ll get pictures taken, fingerprints taken, be asked simple questions about your current address, DOB, name, etc. Then, in a strange step, they check your teeth! It took less than 30 seconds, but still I thought it was so awkward. With the papers and fingerprints they give you, you’ll need to put them in your manila folder and mail them to the FBI office in the States (or your home country.) You need to include a check (giro al exterior) from Scotiabank so the results can be mailed back to you in Peru. [don’t tell, but I just mailed my fingerprints from the USA when we were there over Christmas… and had the results sent back to my family in the USA…]

After completing the paperwork there, they’ll tell you when you need to come back… a few days, or the following week. In my case, it was the following Monday, their busiest day!

On the second trip to Interpol, I had to wait, yet again, and then was given a paper and told to take it to Migraciones within 48 hours or something.  At this point, I was tired of dealing with government offices, but knew I was close to getting my Carnet!

I went to Migraciones, made my way to the 3rd floor offices, waited, and finally turned the paper into official hands! I had to sign something and fingerprint, but then I was done and told to come back a few days later! [I also think I was given a paper with a number/code to enter to their website to see when my paperwork was approved, but honestly I don’t remember!]

When I was approved a few days later, I made my way back to Migraciones, one final time

Here I waited in line, turned in the paper, and receipt. (There’s a fee, again! And conveniently there’s a Banco de la Nación located downstairs to pay, because I don’t remember the amount!) 

Then I was directed to go into a hallway office and wait there for my name to be called. [I’ve gotta say, it always makes me giggle when Peruvians (or Latinos in general) try to pronounce my name. Meredith isn’t easy in Spanish.]  When they called my name, they took my picture, then sent me back out to wait. Within 8 minutes, they called me again, and my Carnet de Extranjería was IN MY HANDS!!!

Whew, what a process just for one government-issued card! 

Like I said, it’s been many months since I started the process for my Carnet, but I hope at least some of these requirements/steps are helpful to someone!!! I’ve gotta say, I’m kinda proud to show off this card now, instead of having to carry my passport everywhere. Makes me feel a tiny percentage Peruvian, even though I don’t look Peruvian at all!



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My Hospital Experience in Lima

Being in a foreign country really makes you think about what to do in emergency situations. Back home it was all, “oh, I can call 911, or call my dad, or go to Duke’s ER, hide in the closet if there’s a hurricane, and call AAA for car problems, etc.” But here in Peru I’ve had to re-learn what to do in emergency situations. For example, if my apartment was broken into, or I was afraid someone would attack me, I would call Serenazgo at 411-5555. Or, if there was a fire, I needed to call 116. And if there is an earthquake, I need to run down the 6 flights of stairs to the sidewalk outside, where it’s “safer.”

Well, a few weeks ago, I learned another thing to do in an emergency health situation that I’ve never ever had to deal with before… go to the hospital! 

A little back story for ya… in April we went to the jungle and I was extremely, violently sick. I’m talking GI issues, liquids coming out both ends, and major body and stomach pain. I seriously thought I might die on the super uncomfy bed in the sweltering hot guest room. By day two of my illness I was about to take myself to the hospital up the road, when an angel that was traveling with us (a doctor) brought me about 5 different kinds of medicines. She thought I had some kind of parasite from eating some food or drinking the juices. Whatever drugs she gave me worked, and I was instructed to take them for 8 days. Day 8 came and I finished all the pills, and felt so much better and was able to eat again(!).

Day 9 came and by that evening I had a high fever, body pains, and a splitting headache. I thought my body was just getting used to having no meds in my system. Day 10 I was better, but on day 14 I had the SAME symptoms and pain as I had had in the jungle… and it was miserable. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and couldn’t get comfortable sitting or lying down. My husband & parents were so worried, that they got in touch with a doctor from Duke and he suggested that I either get an IV of fluids stat, or get myself to the airport to go home to the States and be treated. Yes, it was THAT bad. I knew I needed to go to a hospital but here in Lima it seemed easier said than done.

Lima is huge, and therefore there are a ton of options when it comes to healthcare. There are clinics for everything in nearly every neighborhood, but hospitals that have an emergency department seemed harder to find. In my sick stupor, I googled nearby hospitals and my husband called to find out if they could help me. He called his brother to ask what to do, and they agreed I needed to go to Maison de Santé just 2 km away from our place. Knowing that the staff would only speak Spanish, I was a little nervous, but I knew how to say “diarrhea, body pains, fever, and dehydration” so I was prepared. I just wanted to feel better!

With lots of support from my husband (literally, he had to pull/carry me most of the way up the road to catch a taxi), we got to the hospital and were directed to the ER. At that particular hospital you have to leave your ID with the front desk, and pay a 200 soles deposit, which you will get some of back after you’ve been treated, or have to pay more. We weren’t prepared to pay that much (we’re broke), but thankfully my hubs had a debit card with him!


As soon as I checked in, a nurse came and took my vitals and was shocked at my BP and heart rate. When he asked how long I had been sick (15 hours) he said urgently, “come, follow me.” and led me to a room to lie down. A very young male doctor came in minutes later and I told him the symptoms and how I had been treated for a parasite weeks earlier, and how a doctor from the States thought it could be malaria or some other serious disease. He was concerned, so he wanted to take a blood and a stool sample to check for malaria. While we were talking, the nurse came back in and gave me an IV of fluids.

At this point I felt like a skeleton

At this point I felt like a skeleton, and was so thankful for some fluids!

The rest of the morning went by quickly… they put me in the actual ER patient area, the kind you see in movies where there are only curtains separating patients… it was interesting. My blood test came back ok, so the doctor wasn’t worried but still need a stool sample. After an hour of the fluids, I felt like I had to go to the baño, and I was so hungry! I successfully gave the nurse my sample (so awkward) and then requested food or drink. It’s really interesting how things work here, because nurses couldn’t give me anything or do anything without talking to the doctor first. At this point, doc had other people to see, so the nurse would go off to find him, and wouldn’t come back until I beeped for her again 20 minutes later. I think in the States, nurses are more aware of their patients’ needs?

Anyways, after about 2 1/2 hours of waiting to finish the fluid, the doc came in and gave me prescriptions for an electrolyte drink, and two medications. He discharged me and told me to stick to a bland diet for 3 days, and to stay hydrated and drink a ton. By then, I was feeling much more human than zombie, was starving, but still in so much pain (back/neck/stomach.) We thanked him, headed back to the front desk, got 25 soles back, and went out to catch a cab back home.

Whew, what a morning it was.

Looking back, I am very impressed at how smoothly everything went during my first hospital experience in Lima. Sure, I felt extra pressure having to explain how I felt and what was wrong in my second language, but the nurses and doctor were all very patient and understanding, and really just wanted to help me feel better. I don’t know if they treated me any differently because I’m a Gringa (I doubt it) but I’m sure they were surprised to hear me speaking Spanish. All of my questions were answered, and I felt well taken care of. Everything was very professional, from the staff, to the way they handle things, I felt like it was surprisingly well-organized. (This is Peru, after all!)

Now I have a Peruvian hospital that I know, feel comfortable in, and trust for the future! :)

Have you ever had an emergency health situation in a foreign country? What did you do?


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