Tuesday, May 06, 2008


We leave Casa ACU in a few hours, tomorrow noon-ish, to head to the airport for the LONG journey home. We get back to Dallas at 7 A.M., the morning of Ken's and my 24th wedding anniversary (what a way to spend it, eh?!). My wonderful mom will pick us up, we'll head directly to the Apple Store to try to repair my stupidhead computer and retrieve the photographic evidence of this fabulous journey, and then we're off to Abilene before nightfall.

It's been great. There's so much more to say, but I'm glad we came here. Attached is a photo of our group on the day we arrived in Uruguay, a mere 3 1/2 months ago, when we knew a dozen or so words of Spanish among us and precious little of what to expect from our time here. Now, I can safely say that I've reached my goal of being able to speak the Spanish of a mildly retarded toddler. Set your sights low, I always say, and then maybe you can achieve them.

I'll write something much more profound (I'm sure!) later, but for now, I will leave you, Casa ACU, the Study Abroad students, and the country of Uruguay with this prayer: Vaya con Dios, mis amigos. Gracias por todos.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Talent show anyone? - by Krista Cukrowski

Hey, This is Krista! I felt the need to tell all y’all readers about one of the most exciting things that has happened since we have arrived here! What I’m talking about of course is the First Ever ACU Study Abroad Talent Show!

What happened is that Mallory, one of the students here, thought it would be fun if everyone got together and performed something for all the rest of us--and thus a great idea was born. It was a REQUIREMENT that everyone perform a talent, so EVERYONE was rushing around, thinking of things that they could do! And when I say “everyone,” I mean even my PARENTS and the Penya Family as well! The whole thing was great, and everyone contributed lots.

However, the #1 reason that this was so hilarious has to be because Holly, one of my Dad's students who happens to be a gymnast, needed a second person for her number. She decided that her talent would be (drum roll please!) to teach Ken how to do a backhand spring in 24 hours. Yes. I am COMPLETELY serious.

I find it necessary to explain why this is so spectacular. My dad is in great physical shape, and he can probably run circles around you.
BUT….he’s going to turn 46 in 2 days, and he's so inflexible that he can’t even touch his toes! He certainly has never done a back handspring.

Despite these minor setbacks, Holly put Dad to work. They spent hours practicing the steps that would go into this miraculous feat. When the time came to perform, most people had NO idea what they were gonna see! So…Dad stepped up there, gave a quick intro, Holly joined him, and I started up playing the Olympic Fanfare on a friend's computer (Mom's died)! Somehow, my father is still alive! It turns out that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

The moral of this story is…You can view this wonderful achievement on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCaX2clNegA&feature=user or just type in the key words “Coach Holly and Dr. Cukrowski” and be prepared to laugh your head off!!!!!


To prove to you that I really am getting old, as if the gray hair, memory loss, and wrinkles weren't evidence enough, I will now report that my perception of time is that of an older person. For example, time no longer exists in 24-hour chunks in my memory--everything either seems to have happened just yesterday or about a thousand years ago. I find myself thinking today, as my nephew Luke turns 12, that it was only at most a year ago when I was honored to be present in the room as he was born, when his daddy was alive, and when my family and I lived in Connecticut.

About a minute and a half ago (Karen time) or four months ago (real time), we were making lists, preparing to come to Uruguay. Now, as we're less than a week from returning to Abilene, you could see lists again on big Post-It notes in the apartment kitchen were you here (and I wish you were). These lists say things like "Get flowers for Mariela and Raquel," "Visit the Gaucho Museum," and "Pick up Nativity Sets for Christmas gifts" (sorry to spoil the surprise!). But what the notes are really saying is "Finish up this incredible experience and leave it behind."

And so, in my best Ken-like fashion, I will make some lists for you now.

Things I will miss about Uruguay:

*my Pomelo drink, Paso de los Toros Light; I drink at least about 2 liters of this stuff every day. I'm going cold turkey next week. Pray for me.

*recycling; you can buy stuff, especially drinks, in refillable, recyclable containers, and turn them back in for cheaper drinks. In Argentina and Brazil, recycling containers for other kinds of things, such as plastics and organic material, were as prevalent as were the regular trash receptacles. Abilene's recycling, such as it is, is entirely optional, and it's much, much easier not to recycle than to do it.

*La Cigale: great Italian-style gelato ice cream store, two blocks from here. Coco con Dulce de Leche. 'Nuff said.

*Public transportation; I love walking everywhere. I've missed my car maybe twice in four months, if that.

*The temperature now; it's Fall going into Winter here, and it's beautiful. Yesterday in Abilene, in April mind you, it was 88 degrees apparently. I hate being hot. I can't even fathom what the people who made a town in West Texas were thinking when they decided to settle there; maybe they were antisocial and thought "Oh good, now nobody will ever bother us by coming here too."

*no phones: I love that my phone isn't ringing off the hook; I have a cell phone here, but in fact I never carry it and I don't even know the number! Back home, I disconnected our home phone service last Fall, since we all carry cell phones. That's a start.

*the smell of the laundry here; our laundry smells incredible when we get it back, neatly folded and in these fun blue bags. The price went up this month, from 60 pesos a load to 70 ($3.50). Worth every penny for the smell alone.

*the courtyard: I love the students, and the environment the courtyard has fostered. For example, one of my favorite parts of every day is hearing Marissa Walker sing as she goes through her day.

*12:30 P.M. Raquel cooks a meal for us every day, and nine times out of ten, it's fabulous. Ten times out of ten, I'm grateful for it!

Things I'm looking forward to back at home

*my family and friends (well, duh...)

*good-tasting milk in cartons (it comes in stupid, floppy sacks here; if they were recyclable, I might be willing to give in on this one, but they're not)

*our cats; I really want to take a nice, long nap with Crookshanks.

*a break from people all the time; yes, the courtyard is both on my list of favorite things AND on my list of least favorite things. Such is life...

*some variety in my clothing; I only had 3 pairs of shoes (flipflops, sandals, and sneakers), one pair of jeans, two pairs of shorts and capris, one skirt, two pairs of pajamas, a jacket, and a few shirts total; I notice, however, that even typing my total wardrobe took awhile, as it's more than lots of people have, and it was in fact enough to get by on just fine. Lesson learned).

*one type of currency in my wallet; I'm so glad the Euro exists for folks in Europe now, except stuffy ol' Britain. It was a pain in the neck having to have Uruguayan and Argentinian pesos, dollars, reals, and soles available, often within minutes or hours of one another.

*black pepper; actually, I will be glad to return to flavorful food in general. Los Arcos, here we come!

*knowing the language. While we have learned LOTS of Spanish and I'm proud as punch of my kids for keeping up and/or bettering the college kids with whom we took the beginner class, we still can converse only on the kind-of-slow-two-year-old level. It's good enough to get around, but it ain't pretty.

Things people moving to Uruguay should bring with them:

*Jif Extra Crunchy peanut butter, because it's fabulous and unavailable

*notecards and maybe a 3-ring binder and paper; these are findable, but I would have preferred my own kind. I made my own notecards, and they were great for studying Spanish.

*tortilla chips, yes, even though they're bulky and they will become dust in your suitcase. The dust is better than the chips here.

*Velveeta and Rotel, fajita and/or taco seasoning

*stateside gifts for the folks you will get to know here; I brought a whole suitcase full, and we've used every one of them. I'm talking stuff like ACU sweatshirts, Texas playing cards and keychains, etc.

OK, these lists are incomplete, but they're the best I've got right now, mainly because I'm tired of writing this blog in the computer lab, now that my computer has bitten the dust. See you soon back in the U.S. of A.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

2008: A South American Odyssey

Question: How do we know that 2001: A Space Odyssey is fiction?
Answer: Because a computer takes over the world.

A computer could never take over the world because it would break, JUST LIKE MY COMPUTER. Or the battery would go from charging great one day to not working at all, JUST LIKE MY COMPUTER.

Yes folks, the reason I haven't been blogging is my computer, aged only 9 months, has died the death of deaths--the hard drive caput suicide mamba of phooey-ness.

Oh Karen, you may ask, not with ALL YOUR PICTURES FROM SOUTH AMERICA ON IT?

I can't even type the answer. I hope, I hope, I hope that I can get this baby fixed enough back in Texas to eke out my photos. The good news: A few photos Krista had saved to her iPod; a few I had sent to various students; a few were posted on the blog. Those thoughts are helping me not cry my eyes out right now.

I was taking fewer pictures than before, by the way, because MY CAMERA DIED TOO. Yep.

A computer will take over the world? Ha. Hal Schmal.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


In September, I posted a map of countries I've visited. Now that I've visited six more, I thought an update was in order.
So, where have you been? If you follow the link, you can fill in a U.S. map or other places as well as this particular version.

create your own visited country map
or check our Venice travel guide


Monday, April 14, 2008

Learning Spanish - by Krista Cukrowski

Hi. This is Krista. Uhhhh…I just thought I'd tell y'all a little bit about our learning Spanish in South America. Our teacher's name is Amelia. My first thought when I saw Amelia was that she reminded me of the little bat (my favorite character) in the Disney movie ANASTASIA. She hops around the classroom, acts out "los verbos" for us, and on occasion will choose some lucky students to help her out.

On a normal day, she'll make us go around the room and conjugate verbs to different forms for about 30 minutes.

An example of conjugation in class:

Amelia: Hiciste?

Krista: Pues...uhhhhmmm….Si, yo….hico?? Possiblemente?

Amelia: MUY BUEN!!!!!!!!!!!!

To me, there are lots of Spanish words that seem made up. One of the best is "hablaba" (which means "I was speaking"). Hablaba looks like gibberish—kind of like the English word "suing," which also looks like gibberish.
OH! And you can't leave out "desafortunadamente" (which ironically means "unfortunately"). I usually forget a few syllables, which in turn makes people give me this *Aw-look-at-the-pathetic-mental-child-trying-to-speak* look. Sometimes we have contests to see who can say it the fastest. It usually doesn't end well.

For those of you who were wondering what we do for that remaining hour, it is my pleasure to inform you that we go over the 'Chapter of the Week,' and sing. Yes, I typed that correctly. We sing. In Spanish. Badly. Actually, the singing is my favorite part, mainly because I'm the one who gets to find the songs, purchase them, bring speakers to class, oh, and listen to the song a few times beforehand. It's kind of nice, really.

I really am grateful for Amelia, and her diligence in teaching us the "Uruguayo" way to speak Español. It really is fun! =)

Music in South America, Part II

As a follow-up to the blog entry Krista wrote about her impressions of South American music, Karen will rebut.

Here's what I think: much like music in the States, I love some of it, I hate some of it, and I "appreciate" some of it, although it's not to my taste.

When we were in Peru, they played a cool multiple-stick flute thing; Krista bought one, and it's fun to try to play. Hers came with a little booklet so you'd know which notes to play, and our favorite is "Hey Hude" by the Beatles (no, that's not a typo; that's yet another amusing little pronunciation thing, since in Spanish the J is pronounced as an H).

We heard some native guaraní people singing and using rain sticks as instruments at the National park. They didn't sound very good, but they were sweet. [Sad fact: there are only about 900 Guaraní people left in the world now, as their society gets more and more engulfed and more and more of them choose to join the outside world.]

I despise anything that sounds like a mariachi band. I want to like it, but I don't. I appreciate the heritage, but it bugs the heck out of me. This is how I feel, by the way, about opera: I TRY to like it; I know I'm supposed to; I appreciate what it's doing; but I don't like it.

In Paraguay, we heard a cool trio, including a guy who could make a harp sound like celestial music, a train, a piano, a bass fiddle, well, anything. A lot of the music sounded mariachi-ish, but I appreciated their talent very much. And I really loved the train song.

Then there's the good stuff. Anything with a good drum beat, like the African-based candombe sounds, is thrilling and appealing to me.

For example, we went to a way cool concert at the absolutely gorgeous Solis Theater here in Montevideo (think the Paramount on steroids) and heard Chico Cesar, a Brazilian who sings of women's rights, the homeless, and others who have little voice in today's world. He is the youngest of seven children from a poor family in the sticks of Brazil, and he's never forgotten his roots. The only song I had ever (barely) heard was "Mama Africa!" which you can hear (or lots of his others) by going on youtube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj_-P_Fjdhg.

Now, having said all that about South American music, I haven't by any means left my favorites from the past: the Stones, CCR, Elton John, etc. But I have learned some appreciation for a whole 'nuther culture's rhythms and sounds.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Annotated Brazilian Trip Quiz

Since Kenny liked the Peru quiz, I have decided 
to follow up with a Q&A over our week-long excursion to Brazil. Good luck as you take this oh-so-important test.

1. When Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro climb up some major big waterfalls in the wonderful movie THE MISSION, where are they?

2. Which three countries were involved in Karen's birthday this year?

3. Which currency cannot be used in Ciudad de la Este, Paraguay?
a) the Paraguayan guarani
 b) the Brazilian real 
c) the Argentine peso 
d) the U.S. dollar
e) Merchants only take credit cards there.

4. Name that flag. The following are the flags of the six countries we have visited during this trip to South America:
Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil,
Argentina, Chile, Peru. Which
 is which?


Which dam/hydroelectric plant supplies 25% of Brazil's power and 75% of Paraguay's and inspired our group to tell many, many "dam" jokes?

6. What is the favorite soft drink of Brazil? _______

7. What game did we play daily with the cleaning lady at the hotel in Brazil?
a. Duck, Duck, Goose
b. hide and seek
c. kick the can
d. Operation
e. steal the passport

8. How poor are Paraguayans?
a. a little bit poor
b. a lot poor
c. seriously poor
d. quite poor
e. all of the above

9. Short answer. Describe just how good Brazilian mangoes and guavas are.

10.  How long was the trip to, during, and from Iguazu Falls, Brazil?

Annotated Answers

1. Iguazú Falls (alternately spelled Iguaçu, Iguassu, Iguasu, and probably some other ways too). These falls (actually over 250 different falls) are bona-fide magnificent,2.7 kilometers wide and up to 75 meters high. Beautiful. Good job, God. [Pictured is a Jesuit
mission, much like the one(s) depicted in the movie, which I recommend highly, as well.]

2. We visited the Falls on both the Brazilian and Argentine sides, and we also went on my birthday for a few hours to
Paraguay! The picture shows where the three countries meet 
(well, actually they meet in the river smack-dab in the middle). Strangely enough, this is not the first time I have visited multiple countries on my birthday, but it's the first 24-hour long cumpleaños I have. When I turned fifteen, my family and I were in Japan on April 7; then we boarded a plane, crossed the International Dateline, landed in Los Angeles, and went to Disneyland on the next day, which was still April 7th, my birthday! Cool, eh?! (Of course, the downside is that that may make me one year OLDER than I already am!)

3. You cannot use Paraguayan currency in the Paraguayan city of Ciudad del Este. Yup. Good to know. As a doctor who came to treat one of our students for a throat infection (she's doing better) said, "I prefer green [dollars]; I'll take plastic or yellow [credit card or Brazilian real]; but it takes about a million of these [shows Paraguayan guarani] to make even one dollar."

4. The flags Argentina and Uruguay look similar: the big blue-and-white stripe with the small sun is Argentina, and the multiple stripes with the large sun is Uruguay. The "Texas flag" is Chile's; the red-white-red one is Peru; the red, white, blue one with the emblem in the middle is Paraguay; and finally, the green-and-yellow one is Brazil's. Now you're one step closer to being ready for Jeopardy. You're welcome.

5. The Itaipu Dam is dam HUGE, eight dam full kilometers wide. We had a dam tour of the facility on the Paraguay dam side, listened to some remarkable native music, most notably unusual harp music, and saw a dam video that reminded me strongly of the Dharma Project propaganda videos in the TV series LOST.

6. Guarana, which tastes kind of like apple juice meets ginger ale and is very good (but nothing, in my opinion, compared to Uruguay's Paso de Los Toros or, in my family's opinion, to the Peruvian soda Inca Kola).

7. b. The game in which we were unwitting participants was Hide the Bedspread. Every day we would leave our hotel room, bedspread decidedly on the bed,  (in the picture, you can see one on the extra bed) and 
would return to find it had moved to a shelf in the closet, or a spot by the door, or wherever other non-bed-spot she decided it should be. Beats "Steal the Passport" any day, but it was kind of strange nonetheless!

8. e. Very poor indeed. In the disastrous War of the Triple Alliance (1865-70) — among Paraguay and Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay — Paraguay lost TWO-THIRDS (yes, you read that horrible fact correctly) of all adult males and much of its territory. Since then, what with natural disasters, bad management, military dictatorships, and perhaps worse, lack of dictatorship, things have not improved.

9. SO good. I ate good guavas for the first time since I left the Philippines in 1980, and last night for dinner, I had sayote, which is a tasteless squash-like plant that has great texture and that my mom used to cook for both a vegetable dish and/or for a mock-apple pie. And the pineapples and mangoes in Brazil were great too. Actually all the food was really tasty, with the possible exceptions of grilled chicken hearts, oxtail, and the humpback of a cebu (that's what they called it, for real). It was kind of like I was daring myself to try those things; it's amazing how much one's mind controls how a food will taste. I used to eat anything in the Philippines: bugs, dog, whatever. Now I really have to convince myself to eat something non-standard, like guinea pig. I had no trouble convincing myself to eat flan every night, however, in my quest for the most perfect custard. My mom still makes the very best, but some of these came close.

10. 24-ish hours each way on a bus (OK, it was a GREAT bus, a double-decker with a game room downstairs and a decent little bathroom, but it was still a bus and no bedroom) and a week-long trip altogether. However, we made great use of the time on the bus. I, for example, slept a lot of the way to Brazil, and, on the way back, I relearned how to do the Rubik's cube and worked on Christmas cards (it's a long story). So, at least that was time well spent! Ha! 

Monday, March 31, 2008

I'VE CAUGHT A DISEASE... by Katie Cukrowski

I have South American sleeping sickness! And there is no vaccination available!

Since the day we got here, over 40 days ago, I think there have only been something 3 days that I haven't taken a nap. Wow! This Friday, my nap was almost 5 hours long, spanning from right after lunch to just a couple minutes before dinner! I take said nap right after lunch every day because I'm full from the amazing meal I've just eaten here and when I go upstairs to my room, it's nice and warm with the rhythmic hum of cars outside that just lulls me to sleep.

I can't fight it. It's too strong. And it wins everytime!

Now, it's not just me with this "disease", because right around this time every day, the house goes quiet. Even if you are out at this time somewhere in town, there won't be very many people out there either. It's Siesta time, baby!!!

[Pictured are recent photos of Mom, Krista, and me sleeping at various airports (Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile to be specific) on Spring Break. Normally we would be sleeping in our beds, but, because we were all asleep, we have no pictures of such!]

Saturday, March 29, 2008


So, today we went to an estancia, which is a working ranch, where one can ride horses and do a lot of other things as well. The last time the girls rode horses, on our weekend trip to Cabo Polonio, their route was—no kidding—exactly on a fault line where Africa broke off from South America and you can essentially see one of the great land shifts. How cool is that?!
Today's favorite activity, however, beating out the bike rides, the pool table, the good food, and the playground, was the huge, bonafide, fabulously 
pool. OK, it's cool to be around rivers and oceans and lakes—but when it comes to playing in the water, nothing beats good ol' chlorine, the stuff our little mermaids were trained in and that they have in their own backyard! 

Additionally, somehow we had neglected to use the underwater feature on Katie's camera before now. I suspect this oversight will be corrected this summer once we return to Abilene, because they had so much fun playing Ariel!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

WHAT OUR SCHOOL DAY'S LIKE-- by Katie Cukrowski

The blog you've all been waiting for--The school day!

8:00 Mom comes in to wake up Krista and me for the day.

8:30 Go downstairs for breakfast (cereal, toast, bacon, eggs, pancakes, waffles, milk, orange juice, coffee, and tea).

9:00 Chapel starts (AKA: a devo done every Tuesday and Thursday by two college students who switch off weekly).

9:20 Chapel ends and everyone heads off to Spanish class.

9:30 Spanish begins. For the next hour and a half, I'm in a classroom at the church next door with all the other students, my family, and our teacher Amelia (pictured below with Dad). The teaching method Amelia uses is where she teaches something for about 5-10 minutes and then spends the next 10-20 minutes going around the room asking questions to each individual person about what we just learned. When she thinks we know everything about that certain subject she moves on and we start over again. This method really helps because we are speaking a lot and you have to know how to converse with people here, so her method works. We do this every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but on Thursdays we have a quiz over those last few days. This means that most Wednesday evenings are spent cramming for said quiz. Every week we cover about a chapter in the book (We also have workbooks where we do the exercises that correspond to what we learn each day. They are great because then you see the information in a practical way that you can actually use it).

11:00 Class is over for Krista, Mom, and me, but some of the kids have to stay for a class after that is taught by my dad. So when we are back at the house, Kris and I go into our parents' apartment to do homeschooling. Their apartment has 4 rooms (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and a study/office), and it's in this office where we have all our textbooks and materials for homeschooling. How we've decided to do school here is different from how it is at a school because we kind of pick a subject, Chemistry, for example, and we do like an entire chapter that day, instead of doing one section today, one section tomorrow....,we do large amounts of one subject each day and that seems to work better for our schedule. So another day we might read the entire book we have to read for an English class or a chapter of biology, etc.

12:30 The other class Dad teaches is over now so it's lunchtime. Everyone heads downstairs for this meal and we go into the kitchen where there is a table that has all the food lined up on it and we make a line and you choose whatever you want. It works out really well because you eat what you like and don't what you don't; however, there isn't much that people don't like!! The two women who prepare our meals are named Raquel and Mariela and they serve a nice variety of food choices. We have had very normal things to eat like spaghetti, fajitas, fish, chicken, and sides like mashed potatoes and broccoli which are very good, but then some days we have more traditional Uruguayan dishes like empanadas, chivitos, and Shepherd's Pie, also very good! Everyday there is also a dessert that they make piled with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, or ice cream. Needless to say, this would not be the place or time to start a diet!

1:30 Time to head upstairs and take a nap!!! I believe in the siesta...

4:00 Wake up and continue with more homework.

7:00-ish Dinner time! Mom will either make a meal that day or we go out to eat. Eating out is very easy here and much cheaper than in the States. To get a pizza here is a little under two dollars...about the same price as a drink! We have found a few restaurants we really like and go there often. Right by the house there is also a gelato shop that we are regular customers at. When we don't eat out, however, we have over to the apartment different college kids and have them eat with us. That's nice because then you get to know some of them bettter.

8:00 From now on we have the rest of the day to do whatever. Usually, it consists of talking to friends on the computer, watching movies, playing games, reading a book, listening to music, doing Spanish and lots of other homework, or just talking to other people here.

12:00 Bedtime!

Monday, March 24, 2008


I don't like to swim. I get seasick when I cross the English channel or when I go whale-watching. I even prefer to drink Diet Coke (or Paso de los Toros!) to water. But I love to be near the water. I like the way the pool outside my house in Texas casts prisms of color on the ceiling.
I love the sound, the feel, the very waterness of water. We're practically surrounded by water here in Montevideo.
I even like canoeing or rafting on it, I who am the antithesis of an athlete.
We (the 14 of us who went to Peru for Spring Break)
went rafting on the Urubamba River outside of Cusco, and we had a great time. The Urubamba, by the way, goes to Machu Picchu, and it runs into another river that then runs into the phenomenol Amazon River. We rafted for about 2 1/2 hours, but the trip took all day, what with the hour-and-a-half bus ride each way, the delicious lunch they fed us, the instructions we received in order not to die on the rapids, and the putting on and taking off of wetsuits.

In about a week and a half, we will go to Brazil and see Iguaçu Falls. More water. I love it.


OK, this blog entry may be a little sketchy, but here goes anyway. The coca plant is a HUGE part of Peruvian society. The leaves of the coca plant are said to cure altitude sickness, diarrhea, and a host of other ailments. We saw many t-shirts and signs that carried the slogan that titles this blog, translated as "The coca leaf isn't a drug." Peruvians were selling coca candies, coca leaves, coca herbal remedies, etc. Katie bought a package of leaves for about 33 cents (we didn't let her take them out of the country, however, just in case.) 

For the record, I DO NOT support the use of cocaine. However, cocaine is a LONG ways away from the coca leaf. Really. And the tea is delicious. I drank it every day, and no, I wasn't the slightest bit impaired. My kids drank it. Even Ken tried it, but he prefers regular tea. I agree with the Peruvians: "la hoja de coca no es droga." Or, at least it's not an inherently evil drug. 


We're back from our FABULOUS Spring Break (really, Fall Break for us) in Peru, and now to jumpstart us back to school, I think we all should take a test. So here goes:
1. Which one of the following foods that we tried was gross?
a) goat b) guinea pig   c) alpaca (like llama) d) ceviche (a raw fish dish) e) all of the above

2. What is the favorite soft drink in
 Peru? ________

3. Which of the following characteristics describes drivers in Lima?
a) courteous 
b) excellent 
c) patient 
d) all of the above 
e) none of the above

4. True or False. Karen is too old to stay in youth hostels anymore.

5. A trip to Machu Picchu is _________.
a. worth a thousand words
b. fabulous
c. expensive
d. rainy but still perfect
e. all of the above

6. Which of the following wool products smells bad when wet? a. alpaca b. vicuña c. llama d. sheep e. all of the above

7. There are well over ________ types of potato in Peru.
a. 10 b. 100 c. 1000 d. 10,000 e. one million

8. Fill in the blank. The name of the tall, peaky mountain in the middle of Machu Picchu is ______.

9. The view from our room in Cusco ___.
a. was breathtaking
b. only cost us $18 a night 
c. meant a hard walk uphill
d. all of the above
e. none of the above

10. True or False. The water is potable in Peru.

Annotated Answers
1.b. Guinea pig (pictured), called cuy, tastes exactly like what Krista thinks rat must taste like. The other foods were all yummy. In fact, Peruvian food has spice and lots of taste in general (unlike the bland food that Uruguayans eat).

2. Inca Cola. It's marketed by the Coca-Cola Company, which seems to own everything in Peru not already stolen by the Spaniards. My family loved it too, and Krista bought an Inca Cola t-shirt; she will be in mourning over not being able to get that drink, which tastes like a cross between cream soda and Big Red.

3.e. Oh my goodness. If you want to collect your life insurance, just drive around Lima for awhile. I've seen bad driving in say, Manila, Paris, or Rome--
this is a whole 'nuther league. Another little factoid for you: 1 in 7 cars in Lima is a taxi.

4. True AND False. It depends, because our hostel in Cusco was fantastic (we slept there 5 nights) and our hostel near Machu Picchu was more than adequate as well. In our hostel in Lima (only one night fortunately),
however, our room-with-only-kids-we-know didn't work out, and Ken and I had to share with other folks, one of whom was drunk, dirty, mostly naked, snoring, and yelling in his intoxicated stupor. Horrible. I'm only staying in hostels when we get the whole room from now on.

5.e. Machu Picchu was incredible. We LOVED it. 
We will probably drive you nuts with talk of it. We can't say enough great things about our two days there. A bit of trivia for you: the word "Inca" means "King." Also, for 
the birders out there, did you know that over 10% of all the bird species on earth can be found in Peru? Well, now you know.

6.c. Llamas smell bad, period. You'll be glad to know that any wool souvenirs we bought were all made of alpaca, which is softer than llama as well. Because 54% of Peruvians live in poverty, we bought almost all of the gifts we'll be taking back to folks in the States on this trip. We bought directly from the makers, instead of through middlemen, and we met some awfully nice people along the way.

7.c. There are over 1000 different types of potatoes found in Peru, and countless ways to prepare them. When I say types of potato, I mean that there's one variety that has blue skin and orange inside, another that has a red skin and an orange interior. All the potato dishes we tried were tasty.

8.Wayna Picchu. Good! 
You're doing just great on this quiz! 
Ken and Katie climbed this peak the second day, while Krista and I settled for the city of Aguas Calientes and a mountain that translates to"Happy Mountain."

9.d. We LOVED our hostel in Cusco. [For the record, it was called Samay Wasi Peru (I DON'T recommend the one in Lima, only the one in Cusco); we heard of people paying LOTS more money for what we got.] Cuzco is South America's oldest continuously-inhabited city, having been the seat of Incan and then Spanish power for hundreds of years. It is packed with Incan ruins, tiny little beautifully-paved roads, and over-eager, annoying street salespeople.

10. False. I hope that somebody from the Gates Foundation is reading this blog (unlikely), because somebody with some money needs to give these people potable water. I KNOW the money won't be coming from the Coca-Cola Company, because they also sell almost all of the bottled water in the country, which one must use even to brush teeth. For the record, I really only missed two things about Uruguay while we were away: one was delicious, drinkable water, and the other was
 my FAVORITE drink ever, even better than Diet Coke, Paso de los Toros Light, a light, grapefruit soda sort of like Fresca but way better.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


You may think I take a long time to get to the point sometimes in English; you should hear me in Spanish! I use a strange mix of Tarzan talk (Me go there) and roundabout ways to say stuff, in order to use the few words I (sort of) know (Still I am please from Texas and I studying Spanish since 5 weeks today now until the 8th of May). All of us beginners (and that is almost all of us; there are 21 of us in the moron Spanish class; 2 students are in Intermediate, and 3 are in Advanced) have a long way to go, but we're way far down the road compared to where we began. Today, for instance, I understood many more words in church than I ever have before; however, they don't go together at all to form, say, a meaningful sermon or a communion devotional talk.

But we all are functional now, thanks to the hard work of our determined teacher Amelia and a lot of homework and study. We can go places and do things and actually get things done. 

Example: OK, so there is almost nothing to cook with in the upstairs apartment, and I determine to buy a colander for draining pasta and vegetables and fruit that we've washed. First, walk several blocks to the 
GayMar (next to Two Gays, I kid you not), which sells dishes and things.

Karen: Por favor, quiero comprar … ummm… una cosa para, no, por … (give up this unproductive language route and start down an alternate alley.)

Necesito un "colander," por favor. (blank look; after all, lots of people don't know the word colander in English. Try again.)

Despues de … ummm… que limpiar unas frutas … (lady shows me a scrubber to wash fruit; I see a closed conversational window and open another.)

Para … ummm… (I slide into a lingual portal where all the people are mute and gestures rule) …por el agua (then I gesture stupidly as if the water is pouring out through invisible holes.)

Saleswoman: ¡Ahhh, si! (She shows me a couple of colanders and says "laksljoigoien jepien guwoolle joeon lo0elw0j lwoen." At least that's what I hear.) I stand there awhile, looking for price tags, and, finding none and fearing another unintelligible "conversation," I select the cheap plastic one, thinking I'm pretty sure I can afford that one without having to try to break a big bill, which Uruguayans fear most in all the world and which brings on conversations I can't handle.

Go to check-out.
Different lady rattles off price, "llopnwdoiwpin- lppej onchwi."
I look at calculator, see price, pay that, and leave with a cheery "!Gracias!" to which she replies "Por favor.")
Nothing to it!

Friday, March 07, 2008

I've just gotta tell you...

... about THE “BLOG” OF “UNNECESSARY” QUOTATION MARKS. I go to this blog every few days, thanks to our friend Tim Archer, who found it somehow. It is hilarious if you're a punctuation geek like I am. Pictured is only one of many, many fabulous signs and images, and the blog owner Bethany writes hilarious headlines and descriptions.

End of advertisement. Enjoy!