A Travellerspoint blog

Peru Trip Part 1

~The wonderfulness of traveling with fellow volunteers~

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Day 1 in Peru’s Capital, Lima
May 14, 2010
I began packing for my upcoming trip to Peru in the morning. In the past two days, I nearly exhausted all of my strength, moving everything I own plus Stephanie’s (my suitemate next year) eight gigantic boxes into the storage. With excitement and fatigue faintly weighing on my eyelids, I boarded the bus taking my fellow travelers to the airport.
We used LAN-Chile, for our seven-hour flight to Lima. On this service trip, we had two groups of ten students located in Lima and Ayacucho. I was part of the Ayacucho team: we needed to stay over in Lima for one day before taking the once-a-day flight to Ayacucho at the “ungodly” hour of 5am.

My Presence in Lima

My Presence in Lima


I was surprised to see my name on an enormous advertisement at the Lima airport, as if welcoming me to the country (albeit the fact that it is a cigarette ad….).

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We had a small breakfast at Burger King. The mini croissant and kid-size orange juice barely filled our hungry stomachs.

We walked around the neighborhoods in the vicinity of our hotel (Habitat Hotel, a clean, nice hotel located in the upper-scale section of the city). We wandered into many colorful souvenior shops. I saw lama toys, lama fur blanks, mantas, jewelry, and much much more.
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In Lima, we discovered that the doors are Alice-in-Wonderland size.
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In the wealthy, metropolitan streets of Lima, we often saw artwork stands that displayed paintings of the indigenous villages and people decked out in colorful traditional outfits. These photographic depictions touched our hearts and made us long for the opportunity to truly immerse ourselves in the Peruvian culture.
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By luck, we strolled into the central park and found flocks of children playing a variety of games in the different parts of the park. On one side, kids gathered at tables, competing with each other at challenging board games. Nearby, children skipped around in a 3-D game park, which included Tic Tac Toe played with pilates size balls.
We asked some of the English-speaking program leaders if this exhilarating event takes place every Sunday. They told us that they were all elementary school teachers, and the event was organized by the government to stimulate children’s interests in mathematics. This was truly a praiseworthy educational program.
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Robert and Danny competing to make a bridge across the board.
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In the afternoon, we went on a tour around the historic pyramids in Lima. The pyramids were completely made of adobe bricks. The top of the pyramids was the sacrificial site where the ancient civilization burned and buried young women in worship. (Some of us unwittingly strolled onto these sacred grounds…)
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Group Photo!

For dinner, we went to a reputed local restaurant and regaled ourselves to a feast of Peruvian dishes.
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Pisco Sour – Pungent Drink that Samir helped me to finish
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Crab Cake
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Fish on Beef
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Lamb
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Sweet Rice Pudding
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At 3am, we went to the airport to catch the only flight to Ayacucho. Within 1 hour, less time than we could doze off and steal some rest, we landed in the middle of mountains, awed by the beauty of the piercing blue sky (after an entire day spend under the gloom of Lima’s perpetual gray firmament).

Posted by Ceci's Cre 02:27 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Pack and Go

Joyce, Jennifer, Justina + Me = Fantastic Four!

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Disney Adventure December 28

5:30am Mom's intuitive alarm clock woke both of us from restless slumber to a smooth trip to the Solana Beach train station. Looking through the glass doors of the transit centre, I spotted Justina reclining on the cushioned chair, stealing a nap before our departure.
The train ride was short, 1 hour and 20 minutes; we knitted during the trip and chatted about random topics including how "vast" is the sea! Indeed, we had a ravishing view of the coastline that truly gave us a sense of vacation. I heard the rattling of the train wheels along the rails in my head (even though it moved forward soundlessly), as it took us closer and closer to our destination.
Around 8:30am, we found Joyce waiting for us at the other side of the train station. We hopped into her car, greeted her mom, and headed directly to Disney Land!

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Jennifer had been waiting for us at the gate. All four of us posing in front of the Giant CALIFORNIA sign =D

Joyce has been to Disney Land more than 50 times! She won our unanimous votes as the authority figure, the expert tour guide. Our 12-hour-long journey through the jungle of decorated streets, thrilling rides and spectacular scene recreations, went unhindered by directional challenges because Joyce had a GPS map in her head. For the first time in my life, I did not use a map at an amusement park!

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The gorgeous decor of the Disney village

True to her words, Joyce planned a "fast pass" expedient route that led us strolling around the enormous park at ease but still accomplishing the feat of getting on 11 rides! Imagine tens of thousands of tourists jostling in the streets to wait in 90-minute-long line-ups, while we prance our way up to the very front of the line with our fast passes! It was like having VIP status, thanks to Joyce's genius planning ^-^

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Squished in a giant teacup
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Sparkling Teacups dancing in the sunlight

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"It's A Small World" ride was fantastic! I love all of the adorable figurines and the holiday decorations. The ethnic details an the variety of "mini" countries were a feast for the imaginative minds!
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Jennifer was our dedicated photographer! As she says "pictures are the only things that last!"
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Happy Holidays! Joyce was our Santa giving us the most wonderful tour of Disney Land =D

The night view of Disney land was electric, stimulating our New-York-cultivated nocturnal senses! The Phantasmic show on the Tom Sawyer Island blew our minds away! Water streams sprang into the sky in symphony with Micky Mouse's directing baton; fully decked-out pirate ship showcased the classic Peter Pan vs. Captain Hooke duel; a fierce dragon flapped its steely wings in the middle of the island; a beautiful white cruise ship sailed forth carrying all the lovely Disney Princesses waving at the crowds! Fireworks lit up the sky, in a grand finale to the night's magic!
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Los Angeles December 29
6:30am Justina's Ipod began to sing. She made a call to Gray Line tour bus company to book our reservations for Hollywood Experience Tour, two hours before the bus departs! 8:25am sharp, we appeared in front of the bus station with our light baggage; Justina only had one purse while I carried one backpack.

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The first stop in L.A., an old courtyard where Mexican stands and booths crowd the narrow street.

The famous "Walk of Fame" was packed with tourists and amateur artists who dressed up as superstars to trick people into taking photographs then extorting payments for those photos. We cautiously avoided their tempting smiles and costumes, as Joyce's warning rang in our ears.

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The shiny facade of Hard Rock cafe

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Madame Tussault's wax figure of Snoop Dog

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The most popular star of the day (perhaps the YEAR!)

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The golden door of the Chinese Theatre
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Stairway beside the Chinese Theatre

For lunch, our knowledgable and gregarious bus driver, Stella, brought us to a reputedly great location for not only an electic choice of dining but also for star sighting. Although we did not meet any stars or I did not recognize any even if I passed one by, we took the pleasure of window shopping along the pathways between stalls. I had Malayan styled fried noodles at a local favorite: Banana Leaf (they serve everything with a banana leaf lining the plate).

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The great dining area was called Farmers Market. Originally a place for farmers to sell fresh produce, now it has been renovated into a tourist site.

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Our last stop was at the Pacific Beach. The sun shone blindingly, basking the waters, the sands, and the people in golden rays. There were fishermen catching fish with oyster baits (lucky!), artists selling original works, vendors hawking churros and pretzels. The sunsetting sky was a breathtaking canvas with colors smeared and splashed across its vast dimensions, a mixture of saffron, orange, purple, and pink.

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Sunset hug

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Sunset sky
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I love Justina!
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L.A. Night Lights!

It's time to board the train. We dance our way back to the station along the rails. =D
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Posted by Ceci's Cre 14:42 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Climbing to the Top

*soft prelude and a grand symphony* adventure along the wild Great Wall of China: a section called Water Great Wall, another called Ravine Great Wall.

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Last weekend in Beijing (August 16)
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Beautiful stretch of the wall snaking up the mountain

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Window to the epic view

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Arms in the air for the breathtaking experience

We arrived at the foot of the Great Wall at 6pm, after a couple hours winding up the curved mountain roads. A thick shower has cleaned the air to crisp freshness, shrouding the sky, the roads, and the mountains in bluish gray mists. I never felt so refreshed in Beijing in the middle of summer, but here I was, standing atop the Great Wall of China by myself, with cool breezes breathing through my hair, body, and soul.

Thursday's Perilous Adventure (August 20)
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Richard and Qi waving from above

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the stone path = only passage to the summit

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Sometimes, the difficulty level gets a notch higher

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Taking a rest on the flat boulder

After searching for 4 hours, we finally found our destination - Jiankou Great Wall. The exhilaration mixed and mingled with expectation, catapulted our feet onto the track without hesitation. We skipped, plodded, climbed on all fours, and gave each other a hand whenever needed. 7pm, summit claimed.

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The best picture for a postcard

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Hands in the air!

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The dream valley in blue

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My favourite picture =D

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Three pairs of "Victory Signs"

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The melancholy backside of our little hero "Russell"

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The original version of Kappa logo

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The customized version of Kappa logo

The descent started at about 7:30pm, when the sky was no longer graced with the orange rays of the sun. In the crepuscular light, we gingerly picked our way down the mountain. The loose stones that beleaguered our ascent now threatened our lives with a single misstep. Soon, the last ring of solar radiance vanished from the horizons. Darkness fell upon our sweaty shoulders, a chilly night hosted by a silver moon and myriad stars. However, our attention was completely focused on where to put our feet next, and whether we were on the right track. Twice, I endured the panic attack of being lost in this unlit and signal-less wilderness. Gritting my teeth, I held in any expression of fear to bolster my confidence and to offer reassurance to my companions. Richard led the way, looking for the path with his cellphone light, while Jesse watched our backs. After more than two hours of unflinching struggle, we finally landed on flat ground, and saw Richard's white BMW - symbol of water, relief, security, and a way to go home.

This was an adventure of a lifetime.

Posted by Ceci's Cre 12:46 Archived in China Tagged foot Comments (2)

Qingdao's Fun Fun Weekend

*~games, sunrise, beach, volleyball, drinks, photos, jokes, cards*~

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The seafood in Qingdao has enjoyed a peerless reputation for decades, fresh from the Yellow Sea and nourished by the limpid streams from the Lao Mountains. When my dad suggested that I spend the weekend with Xiaoran and her friends (a total of 9 travel companions) in Qingdao, I almost nodded instantly, forgetting the previous plan of playing real-life CS with Dad’s company employees in Beijing’s outskirts.

Saturday, August 8
Hiking in the Lao Mountains

Anyone with a little acquitance with the beautiful landscape of Qingdao would say “go climb the Lao Mountains!” It’s a majestic creation, a wonder chiseled out of enormous sun-bleached boulders, which pile up on each other in irregular formations that inspire the locals and tourists to give wings to their imagination.

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The woeful face of an old man towards the Yellow Sea

The path leading us through the lush forests blanketing the granite stones beneath, is connected with tall winding stone steps that often require one to huff and puff from the effort of climbing. The light drizzle decorated the mountains with a poetically misty gauze, half hiding, half revealing the untouched magnificence of these geological relics.
The funniest part of our hike is certainly the exploration of the Mi Tian Cave. Armed with flashlights and cameras, we charged ahead of the tour guide, into the darkness of the grotto. Lao Mountains are pocked with myriad small and large caves, which legendarily served as the ideal hide-outs for the hermetic monks to practice Daoism – most remarkable must be the skill to penetrate walls! Wedging ourselves between the dripping cave walls, we climbed a dozen rickety rusty ladders, squeezed through the narrow crevices, and finally reached the exit, opening to the highest lookout with the best panorama of the beaches. At this time, our photographic instincts are once again ignited. Though never have we forgotten to snap down at every possible moment, but right here we have discovered something overwhelmingly breath-taking.

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Valentina's glasses are truly frightening...

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Tight fit, funny faces

Up on the top tier of the mountains, I lie in the reclining Buddha pose, back against the verdant undulating landscape, the low mists surrounding the distance, and a piercing blue sky.

Seawater fight and Beach party
Having come to the waterfront city, we must visit its renowned beaches and feel the waves on our sunburned skin. Everyone turns into a kid; we splash each other firercely until our throats burn with the saltiness of the seawater, we jump and dive for the ball to get on the winning side in a beach volleyball contest, we bury a “sacrificial lamb” in the sand and worship her with water guns.
Oh, forget to mention, the subject of the burial is me.

Late Night Card Carnival
What do five kids ranging from 13 – 18 do with their sparetime after a full day of exhausting fun? Cards, games, no sleep! Well, our plan indeed was to play till dawn and we go watch the sunrise. However, the tired grown-ups were never lax in enforcing their rules on us – sleep being essential, sleeping early being necessary. We trotted our way, heads hanging down, at 11pm, after only a dozen rounds of Bitch 7 (a card game that tests how well one can manipulate his or her meanness to win). The punishements were to be executed the next day, because we made the losers choose Truth or Dare.

Sunday, August 9
Sunrise over the Sea[/i]
The first sunrise I’ve seen in my life was on a steel bridge in Ottawa, with Victoria. I still remember our anticipation for the appearance of that orange dot, and how quickly it rose and showed itself in plain view high in the sky.
When our tired bodies finally found their way to the beach at 5am, the skyline was draped over in gray clouds, and the sea was rolling forth with violent waves that diminished gradually close to the shore.
The punishments were scarcely merciful: for me, I had to sit still in a chair placed in the middle of the beach and bear the attack of the waves. The water engulfed me up to my waist.

There was a moment of joyful reflection after the waves spared me of their damp caress.
To get even with my malevolent card mates, we played Rock Paper Sissers, taking steps into the sea at each losing turn.

Qingdao Beer Museum Binge Party[i]
Qingdao Beer is one of the only two beer brands that China exports – testimony of its great quality and better taste. I gushed down three and a half glasses of this malt beer, complemented with the best peanuts I’ve ever tasted. The expected corollary of my daring action was a terrible headache and unshakeable wooziness.
Last Feast

Something special, and different from the other seafood feasts that we’ve ate for two days straight was the plate of cooked sea stars. To my surprise, the meat was chewable and quite delicious if each sea star had a smaller stomach to store less food – like the giant crabs we had the other day, we suffered the misery of gluttony and laborious digestion.

Posted by Ceci's Cre 07:39 Archived in China Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Great Memories in Beijing Part 2

Reconnecting with my friends, meeting the gregarious people from my home town, and truly enjoying every second of life.

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I have been too busy these last two weeks to update on my activities in Beijing, which were plentiful and memorable. I would be very sorry and conscience-stricken to let any of these precious moments slip away from the inner cabinet of my mind before they are immortalized in writing.

July 27
Skiing and snowboarding with Tim at an indoor ski hill in the outskirt of Beijing. My second and his first time snowboarding proved to be a triumph for both. Though my skills barely improved (due to a complex array of reasons like fatigue and beginner’s block), Tim adapted to this swift, graceful, and stimulating sport within the short span of 3 hours. Bravo, my bro!

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Besides taking my favorite Sexy Jazz class, and occasional hanging-out with my much-missed friends, I also took the time to “learn” through an internship at a Chinese security company.

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My lovely intern buddies. I spent 99% of the time doing the constructive work of building friendships and laughing too loud with these two awesome colleagues.
I began my internship on July 22, but will say goodbye to the kind and helpful supervisors and colleagues today on August 7. Well, I did not go everyday during the 17 days, only a total of interspersed 6 days (plus today).

August 1 –August 2
The beginning of a new month marks the start of a journey back into the childhood of my grandpa. Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, and I, took the trip to visit our Laojia (hometown). It is situated 2-3 hours south of Beijing, in the Province of Hebei. The name of the city is Anguo, which boasts of an emeritus title as the birthplace of Chinese medicine.
As all of you know, my last name is Liu; indeed, the village where my grandpa’s siblings and their offspring still live in is called the Liu Village.

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I have often dreamt of living near the fields, growing vegetables for food, growing up with puppies, playing with neighbor’s kids, climbing onto the roof of the house, catching crickets for cricket warfare… Everything that glows with the charm of innocence and freedom bestowed to a childhood in the countryside was found here. Not only was I envious my of little nephews for enjoying such a lifestyle that had only appeared in my imagination, I longed to own a courtyard home like the theirs in my old age and to live out my last light on my own vegetables. The beauty of self-sufficiency.
I was touched by the generosity of these country kids, whose hearty, earthy smiles and willingness to share their candies, popsicles, and even the rare treats from KFC, overwhelmed me. When I compare their innate altruism with the selfish competitiveness of city children, I truly see the gaping difference in their personalities, of which I prefer infinitely the former.

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We went to the Temple of the Medicine God.

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My aunt cooked some delicious home-made noodles using this old-fashioned wok.

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Grandpa, uncle, grandma, and I visited the graves of our deceased relatives and burned paper money for them.

August 2
My third cousin, Dudu, was born at noon on this day. We first heard the news when we were saying goodbye to our relatives in Laojia. This newborn belonging to my younger aunt on my dad’s side, was a lucky baby because my aunt was 39 years old but still delivered him naturally without caesarian birth. Congratulations, my dear aunt and uncle; welcome to our love, Dudu!

August 4
Reunion with my friends from grade school: we talked for the whole evening, getting to know each other as new friends, and filling in the stories from our individual lives.
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August 3
I went to Happy Valley with my cute intern buddy, An An, and his friends.

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Dinner at an expensive Greek restaurant, with Xiaoran and our parents. The Baklava was 30 yuan and has dimensions of at most 3 centimeters… Xiaoran, are you too shy to smile at the camera or do you want to sport your manicured nails? =D

August 6
Today was a dream-coming-true for me. Six of us, Gemmie, Michelle, Cindy, Lizzy, Feng Feng, and I went to the prairie to ride horses in the open. The grass was green like the painting and the sky was tainted with traces of baby blue (Beijing has a perennial cloud over its head); the breathtaking scenery however did not assuage my impatience to become acquainted with the liberty of galloping on horseback. The Shifu (masters) we asked to guide us made us trek a long and meandering path around a picturesque region but did not let us go freely at the speed we want. I only wanted to charge ahead, but my horse was a meek gentleman who liked a slow trot or canter, much much more than a sprint. I am confident, however, after two hours of mostly walking, that I can go next time and ride as I wish (safely), without fear of unfamiliarity or ineptitude.

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We had some really good Yunnan food, at Lizzy’s aunt’s restaurant after coming home from the prairie. Then we went to KTV, and listened to the melodious singing of Feng Feng and Lizzy.

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Posted by Ceci's Cre 19:29 Comments (0)

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