A Sense of False Community

Living overseas as a newlywed, there are things I’ve realized that I need in my life… peanut butter, hazelnut coffee creamer, Febreeze, and community… with Peruvians, Gringos, dogs, babies, I don’t care. I just need community. 

I need people to talk to when I have burdens, people to grab coffee with when my husband is away, and people who can speak wisdom into my life. I was blessed to have those people in the States, but here in Lima it’s totally different.

I feel like I have a false sense of community.

There are people I work with- fellow expats and teachers and newlyweds. There are translator friends. There is my husband’s family (and their wild, adorable kids). There are Gringo missionaries.

All of these people exist in Lima, and all of them provide me with a false sense of community.

They say hey to me at school. They make small talk about the weather, or our Peruvian husbands, or something trivial. They talk about their busy lives, schedules, families, etc. They talk about things on the surface… nothing real.

None of these people know what has been on my heart lately. None of these people has encouraged me with decisions about being an expat in Peru. None of these people text me when my husband is traveling asking if I need girl time or dinner. None of these people know the big things my husband and I have been talking through lately. Nobody knows.

In a way, I like that. I like the secrecy and the privacy of our life. I like that our life belongs to us and God in a very personal way. We talk to family and friends, but not about the deep stuff.

But then in a way, I regret not having someone besides my husband to talk to . I miss the outlet that friends provide- when I can freely speak things and reveal secrets kept inside for so long. I’m sad I don’t have a group of girlfriends (or even just one for crying out loud) who live close and can spend quality time with me. God knows I need it.

We have had attempts at community, don’t get me wrong… Lunch with another couple like us, in which they talked about their kid the whole time. Dinner with missionaries who were super kind and loving and friendly, but didn’t talk about real life stuff. Dinner with another friend who talked nonstop about her travels and working with translating. We signed up for a small group at a church, and were never contacted. We spent 6 hours with a friend of a friend (and her friends) and I said maybe a total of 50 words.

All of these encounters have left me dry and wanting real, true community. Not just a few hours of friendly conversation, but friendship.

It hurts, it really does. Knowing that lots of my friends in the States who are in the same phase of life as me have community… with their work, church, neighbors… and here I am longing for that. I try not to be jealous, and instead be thankful that I have a husband who lets me talk his ears off (bless his heart), and lets me cry when I need to. I am thankful that he is my community these days, but I can’t help wishing for more.

So pray for me, y’all, please? Pray for me as I find a place to fit in down here in Lima and find true community. Not the false kind, but authentic friendships and relationships that are uplifting and encouraging.

And, because I have so many great friends back home whom I miss…

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Welcome to the Jungle

It’s been a month since our trip to the jungle, and it feels like it’s been so much longer! Oh how I wish I could be back in that humid, steamy, sweaty, beautiful part of the country!

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During my time in Peru, I’ve seen two out of the three landscapes: coast, and sierra. Finally, I was able to experience the jungle! My husband works as a translator (if you’re in Peru and need a tour guide/interpreter let me know!) and he was going to be working with a medical mission team. When we asked if I could join and the answer was “yes!” I was so excited and thankful for the opportunity. I haven’t worked with my husband (traveling & interpreting) since we met in person a year ago, so I knew this was going to be a special week serving alongside him.

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With an open mind, heart, and 30lb. backpack, I hopped on the LAN flight to Tarapoto with an amazing group of 9 doctors, nurses, and teachers.

 Tarapoto is known as the “eyebrow of the Amazon jungle” and it is a popular destination for tourists and Peruvians alike. I don’t have much to share about the city itself (the airport is really nice!), because we drove from Tarapoto to a small town about an hour away, where we spent the week ministering to the people.

I won’t go into full detail about our week and all the great people we met, but I will tell you that the team was there to teach basic medical and health skills to the villagers, so they could use those skills as a ministry in their own small villages. Some of the students had traveled 3 days up the Amazon River just to come to this class! They were so desperate to learn ways they could help their villages and share the Gospel while doing so.

Among the things they learned: – how to take vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, pulse, blood oxygen level, check the eyes & ears for problems) – how to make an oral rehydration solution for someone who is dehydrated (a big problem in the jungle) – how to wash their hands properly, even with only a little water – how to clean & bandage wounds – how to deliver a baby – how to help a baby breathe.  And perhaps the most important- to always pray with their patients!

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It was fascinating watching the students learn to use the instruments, how foreign everything must have seemed to them! I even got to learn alongside them, as I had to help interpret and explain how to take a temperature, how to take a blood pressure, etc. I loved learning and teaching!

Classes were in the mornings and afternoons, and we were done every day around 5:00pm, when the church served dinner. The church was AMAZING! The women all got together and planned out a Gringo-safe menu for the week… breakfast, lunch, and dinner! They did such a fantastic job feeding us delicious food that was safe to eat. One morning we even had pancakes and SYRUP! The women also cooked food for all the students, so that was about 50 people to prepare food for, 3 times a day. They were such sweet servants, showing God’s love through their yummy food!

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At the beginning of the week after lunch, the youth pastor asked me if I wanted to teach. He knew I was an English teacher, and he wanted to take advantage of my skills and have me teach English to some villagers! With hardly any warning or materials or any clue what to teach, I started class at 2:00 with 5 students, one helper, a brown roll of paper, and a sharpie. Class went surprisingly well, and the students did a great job participating and repeating the English words and phrases. Of course I had to translate and tell them what exactly they were learning, but it went well. I ended up teaching two more afternoons with the same group, and we had fun together!

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In the evenings, the church compound would come alive, as students would change from their nice “class clothes” into jerseys and shorts… welcome to soccer country! The men would play soccer until it got dark, and even then they would continue until there was a winner. The women put up a volleyball net, marked the boundaries with ashes from the fire (genius!), and played until it got dark or their kids got fussy. The kids ran around with bottles, balls, and animals, entertaining themselves with their surroundings- how different from Gringo kids with electronics!

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I loved the way of life in the jungle… everyone was so hardworking, friendly, honest, and thankful. In the mornings, kids would skip to school, adults to the fields. In the afternoons, people would take shelter in the shade from the sun, and occasional rainstorm. At night, everything would come alive again with sports, food, and fellowship. It was almost so relaxing and foreign… I hardly looked at my watch all week… I just went with the flow of things in the jungle.

There were ups and downs to jungle life though: 

-The power would randomly go out at night and stay out. One night I woke up around 2:00am to discover pitch darkness. I’m talking, so dark that when I opened my eyes, it felt they were still closed. It was freaky and I had to get a flashlight to use the bathroom!

-The water would go out, despite the gigantic rainstorms they had nearly everyday. This was especially a problem in the women’s bathroom at church. Yikes.

-The kindness of the villagers. This was a major upside! Whether we encountered villagers inside the church compound, or outside, they were all so kind.

-The heat… I had a love/hate relationship with it! I loved being hot for the first time all year, but I hated the sticky feeling that comes with it. I much prefer being hot than cold, so I could probably adjust to jungle life ;)

-Jungle noises. They were both freaky and cool at the same time. There’s no way I could identify what animals were making what noises (the freaky part), but they provided just enough background noise that I could drift off to sleep  quickly.

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This was just a glimpse into my week in the jungle… I’m hoping to go back again soon!!! :)

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This November, I am…

THIS NOVEMBER, I AM..

COOKING

fried plantains & veggie stir fry like a crazy person. So easy & so good! Oh, and banana bread is being added to the weekly rotation.

DRINKING

tons of water and pear juice. And the occasional cafe con leche.

WATCHING

 Downton Abbey, Homeland, various historical/environmental documentaries, and Chinese kungfu movies (The Curse of the Golden Flower, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, etc)… thank you Netflix.

READING

Wicked, The Power of a Praying Wife.

WANTING

to travel back to the jungle! I actually miss the heat, humidity, and powerful rainstorms every day.

LOOKING

for a new apartment(?), more teaching opportunities, and for cheap flights to the States.

STARTING

to keep a budget & track our spendings & earnings. We’ve got a sort of envelope system, but it’s not working too well.

OBSESSED

 with the warm weather and sunshine in Lima!

ENJOYING

my alone time cleaning/reading/Zumbaing while my husband is out of town. (And looking forward to him coming home, of course!)

WAITING

for answers to prayers regarding a teaching job, and more work for my husband. For inspiration and time to write. For our first holidays together as a married couple!

WONDERING

how I can make homemade biscuits that taste as good as McDonald’s? (don’t judge, I’m a huge fan)

LOVING

my husband, even when he leaves me to work/travel! The ability to communicate with people back home through technology. Hot pink nail polish.

MARVELING

at His perfect timing in everything and how He provides. ((And how many crazy people the bus drivers shove on the bus at nights when I’m coming home from work!))

FOLLOWING

these beautiful traveling/encouraging ladies: Lost in Travels, Hope Engaged, Sunshine to the Square Inch. And local info from Peru this Week.

THINKING

about our trip to the States in January! It’s fun thinking of all the places I want to take JB in my hometown & in DC when we visit his family!

FEELING

excited, busy, a little anxious about travel funds home.

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Huacachina, Ica, Peru

Huacachina is literally an oasis in the middle of the Peruvian desert, and it’s a location I’ve wanted to go to ever since moving to Peru! On a whim, my husband and I decided to plan a trip to Ica & Huacachina, and I was so glad we got to escape Lima for a few days.

Ica is located in Southern Peru, about 264 kilometres (or 164 miles) from the capital of Lima. It’s basically a straight shot south on the Pan-American highway, with stops in various cities along the way. Google Maps says the trip should take 3 hours + 38 minutes, but let’s face it… in Peru, everything takes longer, including a road trip! It took us about 5 hours to get to Ica, and about 4 1/2 hours back to Lima.

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To get to Ica, your mode of transportation is a bus. This is the transportation Peruvians are accustomed to, and I don’t think many Gringos take advantage of the buses throughout their travels in Peru.

We took Peru Bus from Lima to Ica, for 20 soles (each) there and 22 soles (each) back. There are two choices for buses: VIP or regular. The VIP buses go straight from the bus stop downtown Lima to Ica, with no stops along the way. On the other hand, the regular Peru buses have lots of stops along the way before leaving Lima, and stops in Cañete, Chincha, Pisco, and Ica. With these buses, you can get on and off whenever you want to, at their designated stops. We chose the regular bus, so we saved a trip downtown and simply walked to a designated stop a few blocks away.

When we got to Ica, we hopped out of the bus, and began our walk to the plaza. We had read some reviews on Trip Advisor about hotels, and decided to stay at Hotel Colon beside the plaza.  (See my review on TA) We got a room for S./60 a night, and breakfast was not included, nor was Wifi, as our phones never connected. (but we didn’t care)

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For lunch in Ica, I recommend finding a Chifa restaurant (Chinese), or a Menu. Menu restaurants include an appetizer + main dish + drink for anywhere from 8 to 20 soles. We chose to eat at Doña Vilma’s right in front of the plaza. Their lunch cost S./8, and had quite a few options to choose from! I love eating at Menus… best bang for your bucks! It’s a little hole in the wall, but the service is good, and the food was ready fast.

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After filling up on food, we walked to the bus stop to catch a mototaxi for a ride to Huacachina. We were told that it should cost around 5 soles, so that’s what we bartered for. One driver said 8 soles! When you’re a Gringa, you get the Gringa-price! ;) 

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As soon as we got out of the mototaxi at Huacachina, men came up to us offering us excursions in their dune buggies… we just kept walking and went off to explore the small Huacachina Lagoon. I was a little disappointed with the lagoon… the water was dirty, trash was everywhere, and the water level was really low. But that didn’t stop the tourists and locals from enjoying the area. We hiked up the sand dunes to get a better view and take too many pictures. We stayed over 2 hours in the sun and sand, waiting for the sunset…. it was worth it!

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Dinner was at El Paradero… another restaurant at the plaza. We split a half chicken, salad, and plate of fries for 28 soles. The food was great, service was great, and the price was great for what we got! You can never go wrong with a chicken dinner in Peru!

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The next morning we went to the fruit/juice shop right next to our hotel. Breakfast was small- a yogurt/fruit salad, and small bread roll with fried egg for S./7.  After we ate, we walked around town a bit, looking for things to do. Honestly, there is nothing in Ica to do when you’re on a budget! Sure, there are trips to museums and wineries and restaurants, but all those cost at least 35 soles a person, and our budget didn’t allow for that.

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What our budget did allow for, was checking out a new hotel! A block behind the plaza was the Palacio del Sol Hotel, which we had not seen or heard of online anywhere, so we were surprised to find it. It is relatively new, very clean, fancy, and the staff is friendly. Because it is off-season for tourists, we got a discounted hotel room: 60 soles instead of the usual 70 soles! The room was much quieter than Hotel Colon, and the bathroom was huge!

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We had Menu for lunch again, then headed back to Huacachina to enjoy the sunshine all afternoon. Hiking up the sand dunes is such a workout, but so worth it for the views!

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For dinner we tried out a Chifa restaurant a block from the plaza, that was a little pricey (12 soles a person), but delicious! Afterwards, we walked around the plaza a few times, then back to the hotel to sleep. Hiking the dunes wore us out!

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The next morning, we were on a bus heading home by 6:20am! It was a quick trip to Ica, and we didn’t do anything touristy while we were there, but I would love to go back someday. Lots of tourists stop by Ica on their way to or from Nazca, as it’s closeby. I wouldn’t say that Ica is a huge tourist destination, but Huacachina definitely is, and despite the expensive prices of everything, and dirtiness, it deserves to be seen! There’s nothing quite like climbing sand dunes and seeing the surreal landscapes of the Peruvian desert! 

Have you ever been to a desert oasis?

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Parque de la Reserva

Today I’m sharing a fun tourist to-do in Lima!

The three times I was a tourist in Lima for a day here or there (in between trips to the mountains), I never strayed away from the hotel and American food joints nearby. Getting places is confusing and complicated, unless you’re willing to shell out a hunk of money to a knowing taxi driver. Therefore, I never really got to see any of the sites that tourists see in Lima… besides a mall and restaurants.

Once I moved to Lima, I decided I wanted to branch out and see some of the “touristy” things that Lima has to offer. And thank goodness for a husband who knows his way around Lima! We caught a bus that took us nearly all the way there, minus a few blocks from the entrance. It’s located near the National Stadium, so that’s a helpful guide when getting there!

Back in May, we planned to go to the Parque de la Reserva AKA Parque de las Aguas AKA Circuito Magico del Agua (it’s known by a lot of things). Regardless of what you prefer to call it, this Water park is worthy of a trip! So, pencil it in your agenda, find a trustworthy taxi that won’t rip you off, and enjoy your stay!

Where to go:: Parque de la Reserva, Jr. Madre de Dios con Av. Petit Thouars (door 1 of the park)

What it is:: a magical, colorful water park filled with 13 different fountains that light up at night in bright colors. The park was opened on February 19, 1929, but was completely abandoned in the 1960s. In 2006 everything was repaired and the park was reopened!

When to go:: While it’s fun to see the park during the daylight, make sure you plan to go from 5:30 – 7:30, as there are light shows every night at 7:15, 8:15, and 9:30. You’ll want to plan to be in the park about 2 hours to make sure you can take your time to see everything!

Price:: The cost is S./4 per person, and free for kids!

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Upon entering the park, the first thing you see is a gigantic fountain, spitting water high up into the sky. It’s surrounded by statues of nymphs and little tiled pools. It’s beautiful!

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This fountain dances to the water, and spurts up and down and up and down, and you can run through the fountains… at your own risk! We had fun watching other tourists run through and accidentally get soaked!

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One of my favorite shots of the night… I like the dark figures against the water!

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I enjoyed our night at the water park, and recommend it to any tourist who wants to see a unique & historical park in Lima!

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Mistura 2014

Two weeks ago, my husband and I spent the day wandering around the huge Peruvian gastronomical festival that is Mistura. It’s kind like a State Fair (for those familiar with them in the States) with lots of foods and exhibits about foods, except there are no terrifying beat-up rides, no yucky greasy food that will have you running for the porta-potties, and no motorcycle events or pig races. Ok, so I guess that’s my stereotyped version of a North Carolina State Fair, but Mistura is totally different.

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Mistura covers a giant area of land along Magdelena del Mar AKA beachfront in Lima. It features all sorts of foods and cuisines (divided into Worlds) and natural resources from Peru, including food from the North, South, Amazon, Creole, Chinese food, sandwiches, sweets, and ceviche. The range of comida is astounding, and if I had the time and money (and stomach) I would try one of everything!

Mistura is tricky because there are parts of the fair that accept money (Peruvian soles), but most parts only accept meal tickets, which can be purchased in S./20, S./50, or S./100  amounts. Most foods will cost you S./13, leaving S./7 which can get you a drink (juice, smoothie), or a dessert. For the two of us, I exchanged S./50 for the meal tickets, and we were able to eat a lot between the two of us (plus samples!), and ended up with S./2 tickets left over… oops.

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Once we were inside, we knew we wanted to start with food! One of the most famous foods at the fair is Chancho al Palo, and it’s one of the first things you smell upon entering the gates! There were lots of stands selling Chancho al Palo, and the most famous one had the longest line. We were so hungry we chose the shortest line, and devoured the food in minutes after taking pictures of it. :) Chancho and Anticuchos cost S./16.

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The pigs cooking away!

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Beer World is new this year, and while husband and I aren’t beer drinkers, he was obligated to take pictures since he had a press pass. The World is a big area, with vendors on the outside of the circle, and a taste-testing section in the middle. We stopped there to talk and ask a beer “specialist” about Beer World, and it’s popularity, and then moved on to take more pictures. It was interesting walking around and seeing the main beer producers in Peru… of which there were only a few represented. Each place was decorated differently, depending on where they were located…. Cusco, the jungle, the mountains, etc.

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From there, we walked all the way to be front of the place, to start with Kid’s World. There are all sorts of different Worlds, and this year Kid’s World is new! We were there with one agenda (besides eating yummy foods)- taking pictures and getting info about Kid’s World for an online magazine. My husband had a press pass, making it easy for him to slide in and take photos, but I had to wait outside until they gave me the thumbs up to enter. I was introduced as “editor” of the magazine, which was a little stretch ;) but got me in, nonetheless. We walked around, learned about everything, and were out to explore more Worlds! The article I wrote up can be found here.

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Foods you should eat, according to Kid’s World!

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Sweets World was the main place I wanted to explore, and thankfully, some of the chocolatiers were very nice and talkative with us (thank you, press pass), and we spent a lot of time talking to them about cacao and how their company works. I got so much information from them, that I wrote another article, found here! And of course we couldn’t leave without buying a few chocolates… I got a coffee chocolate bar, and some chocolate covered peanuts. YUM.

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The Gran Mercado, or Grand Market, was another favorite place of mine at Mistura this year. It features all sorts of products, produces, and promotions for Peruvian foods, crafts, and coffees. We spent at least an hour walking down each aisle, getting samples, taking pictures, and talking to the vendors from all over Peru. We sampled coffee, a green minty drink that helps with digestion, fruits, hot sauces, quinoa manjar (kind of like caramel), more coffee, fruit juice, honey, and probably other things I can’t remember! I bought the quinoa manjar  because it’s from Huaraz, and aguaymanto (tangy jungle fruit) because it was a great price! To buy things in the Gran Mercado you have to pay in Soles, not the meal tickets.

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Famous Peruvian produce

We breezed through other worlds, before deciding where we wanted to eat lunch… a tough choice, but we decided on Amazonian food: ribs with a chocolate-y glaze sauce and plantains from La Patarashca. It was amazing and finger-licking delicious! Then, we booked it to find some dessert, and settled with Picarones from Larita for S./6.

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empty tables on a Saturday!

At this point it was around 4:00pm and we were tired, full, and happy, but not finished yet! Mistura has a Gran Auditorio (Grand Auditorium) where there are presentations, talks from famous chefs, and other culinary events. My husband wanted to go in and snap some photos, so I waited outside awkwardly, until he came and said I was able to go in too! We left our ID’s at the front, were given Qaray press passes, notebooks, schedules, and walked right in to the auditorium where we sat at the back. We walked in during the middle of a presentation from Ben Reade of Nordic Food Lab. It was in English (!) and very interesting to hear about his life, travels, and research. After him, we saw Gastón Acurio, only the most famous Peruvian chef. Then we saw a presentation by Diego Muñoz and some culinary students. It was so cool being able to sit in on these sessions and hear from esteemed people in the food world!

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Ben Reade

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Gastón Acurio

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Diego Muñoz

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Eat well, eat healthy, eat Peruvian

As we were walking out of the auditorium & turning in our passes, we were told to head to the International Press building for cocktail hour. We thought, “what the heck?” and walked to there just to check it out. We were greeted with drinks upon walking in (Pisco, maracuya juice, Inca Kola, Chicha Morada…well-known Peruvian drinks) and told to take a seat. We sat down at a table with a Chilean chef who owns Restaurante Piura- so cool! As we sat there taking it all in, waiters came around with trays of amazing Peruvian foods, featuring lots of quinoa, seafood, and meats. Everything I tried was so delicious, but especially the quino-covered shrimp with sweet, tangy passionfruit sauce! Moments later, three famous foodies came and greeted the international press… I don’t know their names, but it’s still cool!

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We took advantage of the free stuff with the press pass, and got fresh, cold, passionfruit (maracuya) juices! It was quite cold outside, so we sucked them down quickly after taking pictures at this cool chalk wall at Mistura! I wanted to sign it, but there was no chalk :)

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After stuffing ourselves with appetizers, we were tired and ready to start the long trip back home. However, as we got closer to the exits near Beer World, the sound of music magically drew us into the line outside to enter the concert. The headliner show (starting at 8:30pm) was 1980’s Peruvian rock band, Rio. It was fun to hear some of their songs, even though I had never heard them before and couldn’t understand half the lyrics!

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By 9:00 we were exhausted, so out the Mistura gates we went, and up the hill we walked to the bus stop. It was a long day, but a really awesome one in my book. I went to Mistura last year with a friend, but this year was so much better. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Mistura with my husband, and had a great time taking advantage of his press pass. And being there as a journalist was super fun because I really felt I learned more from talking to the vendors and workers, instead of just doing my own thing and not gaining any cultural experience or knowledge.

I was very impressed with the organization of Mistura, and the cleanliness of everything from tables to the porta-potties. Although Mistura isn’t extremely popular with everyone, I had a good time, and would recommend it to other expats or tourists in Peru. It’s a great way to learn about Peruvian cuisine and culture, and practice your Spanish with the vendors! :)

Here are three interesting Mistura recaps I’ve found:

NPR

Eater

Peru This Week