In huanchaco for the week taking a little holiday from pisco. I was starting to get a little restless to see somewhere else in Peru and I really just needed a break from PSF. That’s not to say that I don’t absolutely love psf and admittedly miss it even while I’m kicking back in a hammock overlooking the beach, but since I work, sleep, eat and chill at the psf house round the clock, I needed a break. And huanchaco is pretty much what I was looking for. It’s not the picturesque white sandy beaches of the carribean, I mean I’m still in Peru, but it’s quiet, our hostel is right across from the beach and I can lay back on this giant hammock and do nothing all day. which is exactly what I’ve been doing. Little bit of reading, some writing, lots of movie watching and a handful of naps. I would feel guilty about this lazy lifestyle but I know when we get back to pisco well be right back into 6 days a week of hard work. Im glad I’m spending the majority of this trip volunteering, it makes me appreciate the luxury of travel and relaxation that I definitely took for granted on my last trip. Sending lots of love from Peruvian paradise!

Sin Fronteras

Well I’ve been here at PSF for 7 weeks  and I’m just now sitting down to write a blog post about my time so far. This is partly because this place is really hard to describe and partly because I have very little time to sit and reflect on it. Even now with a couple hours to spare before heading to bed, I can’t quite find the right words. 
PSF is a volunteer organization in the town of Pisco, Peru. Pisco suffered a devestating earthquake in 2007 that left the majority of the town in rubble. Burners without Borders was one of the first disaster relief organizations to come help out. From that group developed PSF, which continued to rebuild the community after Burners without Borders had to leave. PSF has done a lot of incredible work in Pisco, but even now, 5 years later, some families are still living in makeshift shelters without proper sanitation or electricity. So PSF continues to work to rebuild Pisco with projects like modular homes, compost toilets and community development and education. Anyway, I sound like a brochure. 
So since I’ve been here I’ve worked on a lot of different projects. My favorite part about PSF is working on things I would never have the opportunity or the confidence to do back at home. I’ve pushed wheelbarrows overflowing with cement to lay a concrete floor, I’ve helped design and paint a mural, I’ve cooked dinner for 50 people without starting any fires or loosing any fingers! I surprise myself everyday with strength and skills I didn’t know I had. 
I’m also really just happy here. Before I got go to Pisco I had no idea what to expect out of this experience. I had allotted myself 3 months to volunteer but only signed up for 1 month just in case I didn’t like it. Now I’m not sure even 3 months is enough. The sense of restlessness that I’ve felt for a long time is gone, or is at least been put on pause for the moment. I’m sure eventually it will come back and it will be time to move on, but for now I’m content. I feel welcome, productive and happy here. And I can’t really ask for anything else. 

I’ll update again before another month and a half goes by. Photos coming soon as well. Sending love from Peru! 

Catch up

Wow. I’ve officially been away for a month and I haven’t written in my blog once. In some sort of weird traveling time warp it feels like I’ve been gone for ages, yet every day goes by faster than the previous one. I’ll try to give a decent recap of my adventures so far. Honestly, the first couple of weeks of my trip were really draining. I came down with the stomach flu which pretty much limited me to my hostel bed, making it very difficult to socialize. It was pretty lonely and on more than one occasion I cursed my impulsiveness and wished I was at home where my sane friends did normal things like went to work instead of buying tickets to countries where they dont know the language. Long story short though, I eventually got myself back to health.

I started off my trip in the large Brazilian city of Sao Paulo. It’s called the New York city of brazil and is huge! Flying over the city I was shocked, I dont think I’ve ever seen a city that busy and widespread. To give you an idea Sao Paulo’s population is about 20 million and the population of all of California is 37 million. I only spent a night in Sao Paulo before heading to foz de iguacu, one of the biggest sets of waterfalls in the world. The falls are split between brazil and Argentina and I luckily had time to see both sides. On the Argentinian side we took a speed boat underneath one of the falls. Definitely a thrilling ride. After the falls I went to florianopolis, a beautiful beach town in southern brazil. It was pretty crowded over the weekend but on Monday we went to the beach and had one of those simply perfect days that you cant plan but just sneaks up on you unexpectedly. It wasn’t anything special, nothing really even worth mentioning like Carnaval or the waterfalls, just a perfect day in the sun that reminded me how incredibly lucky I am to be able to experience places like this at this time of my life. 

Okay, gosh Christine, cheesy, hey? Also I’ve started to pick up funny words and phrases from around the world thanks to new traveling friends. I’ve started saying “dodgy,” putting hey? At the end of sentences and even picked up a few hood phrases from my new friend from queens. Anyway, that was just a random thought.

After floripa I went to rio for carnival. Witnessing the difference between rio pre-carnival and after the madness began is indescribable. The only thing I have to compare it to is the quiet before the storm of UCSB’s Halloween weekend before thousands of people flood the streets in a costumed, booze fueled herd. It’s pretty much like that but about 1000 times bigger. Lauren finalllllly came which was amazing because I was dying to see a familiar face. We spent the next week trying to get by but rio seemed to have it out for us. One bad thing happened after another, including me being really sick. Two nights we had to stay in and watch movies. Luckily Lauren was an excellent sport and we are both excellent at staying in, eating ramen and watching movies after lots of practice in college. This probably isn’t the crazy carnival story most were looking to hear, but don’t worry we had those nights too. 

After rio, I spent a night in a little beach town called Parati that almost made me sick with it’s adorable cobblestone streets and romantic music winding around every corner. The next day I left for ilha grande which was this gorgeous island that I never wanted to leave. No cars on the island meant walking everywhere on the rustic dirt roads, including a grueling 2 hour hike through the jungle to get to a deserted beach. Worth the walk, although I wouldn’t recommend it in flip flops. Eventually I did have to leave my adorable little island, although I couldn’t have asked for a better ride back to the mainland, on a catamaran during sunset. Gorgeous.

Went back to rio for a flight to Peru. Ended up oversleeping my alarm by over an hour. On the way the airport I resigned myself to the fact that I’d miss my flight and have to buy another expensive ticket. But when I got the airport my flight was canceled! After I accepted their profuse apologies for the inconvenience and thanked Christo for finally coming through for me, I hit up my friend and ended up going on a favela tour. Which will have to be another blog post because this is getting quite long. I’ll be heading to my volunteer house on Sunday and am pretty excited to be in one place for a while. Okay, sending lots of love from Peru! 

Be brave

Be Brave. I find myself constantly muttering this under my breath while I travel. Be brave. If I’m about to jump off a 30 foot platform into central america’s biggest lake, run off the side of a mountain with only a parachute and a prayer to keep me alive, or even just board an airplane to a country where I dont know the language, the geography or one single person.

Be brave is my mantra while I travel. It has to be.

I wouldn’t consider myself a brave person in my everyday life. I wait for the green light to walk. I always wear my seatbelt. I tend to put way too much change in the parking meter. I would never ever do kareoke without a sufficient amount of alcohol and the musical accompaniment of a large group. Sometimes I get nervous trying to get out a complicated coffee order. Nothing too brave here.

But whenever I discuss my previous backpacking adventure or my upcoming trip with interested friends, thats the word that doubtlessly comes up- brave. “Wow, Christine. I would never be able to do that. You are so BRAVE!”

Only, now, 8 days before I leave for the longest and scariest trip I’ve taken yet brave is the last thing I’m feeling. Terrified, anxious, nervous and slightly nauseous are more accurate. With a healthy dose of sad and lonely.

I’ve felt all these things before. About this time, one year ago. Right before I  left for my backpacking trip through Central America. Last January I flew down to Mexico and explored six countries by myself. I remember the night before I left, well the night before I left I was up till 3 am trying to stuff my big blue backpack with things I would eventually regret packing. But the night before the night before I left I remember snuggling up in my mom’s bed, almost paralyzed with fear about leaving. I wasn’t a newbie to traveling. My parents had instilled the travel bug in me early by taking our family to adventurous destinations likes Morocco & Portugal. After studying abroad in college I pretty much ran around Europe like it was my own personal playground. But this trip was different. I was about to leave on my first solo backpacking trip. No parents to take care of me, no school program to hold my hand, no friends to watch my back. Just me. Of course I was terrified. But looking back, buying myself a one way ticket to Mexico was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. I learned more about myself and the world in 3 months than I learned in my previous 23 years. I learned the world is not a scary place. It is colorful and gorgeous and challenging and fun. And if we all stay in our own little tiny bubbles that we were born in we’ll only discover a microscopic fraction of what this planet has to offer. I learned that feeling alive is not sitting at home updating your facebook status or buying a new pair of shoes or even getting wasted until 4 am and spending the next day in the fetal position. At least not for me. Feeling alive is standing on a rock under a pounding waterfall with nothing to distract you from the sheer force of continuous water beating down on you.

And now I’m about to do it all over again. Different, of course. But I’m sure I’ll encounter the same unexpected obstacles and friendly helping hands. Just different this time. And I can’t wait 🙂

Occupy Oakland

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice but there must never be a time when we fail to protest” – Elie Wiesel

Musings on Travel

I’ve been in bed for about 3 days. Knocked right off my feet by this winter’s first sore throat/ cough/ cold triple threat. Surrounded by an avalanche of used tissues and half a dozen empty mugs of tea I’ve spent most of the past few days sleeping and sifting through my instant queue on netflix. But after one too many Meg Ryan romantic comedies my mind started wandering. I began daydreaming about my adventures I’ve had traveling. Looking back my most epic, breath-stopping, holy-shit-i’m-alive moments have all been memories from the road. Standing under a 100 ft waterfall in the jungle in Mexico, the water beating down on your face and shoulders, the forceful energy of the water so terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I mean, there’s really nothing that can compare.

So as I lay here in bed- restless, bored and slightly buzzing off my dayquil, I began brainstorming my next trip. I scoured my favorite travel blogs & forums for inspiration. The best thing about the beginnings of planning a trip is that you can still go anywhere. The entire world is yours for the taking. Somewhere beachy and tropical perhaps? Thailand? Vietnam? Or maybe somewhere you can get lost in a bussling and lively souk? Morocco? Turkey? Go ahead. Indulge yourself. Adventure through the Brazilian Amazon or scale the Egyptian pyramids. You can worry about mosquitos & guards when you get there.

The difficult part about planning a trip is realizing just how much world there really is out there to explore. After studying abroad in Europe and backpacking through Central America earlier this year I thought I had made a dent in my bucket list of countries. But one quick trip to the lonely planet site reminds me that there’s whole continents full of cultures I haven’t experienced, food that hasn’t hit my tastebuds, music I haven’t danced to and so many types of people I haven’t met. But then I remind myself that I’m young and that for better or worse, traveling is in my blood and somehow I’ll find a way to see the world.

Pacific Coast Highway

Over labor day weekend we made our way down the Pacific Coast Highway and ended up in Big Sur. In my 24 years as a Californian I have shamefully never been before. Even though I lived by the beach for four years during college and have Redwood trees in my front yard (I know, I’m spoiled!) something about Big Sur brings these two elements of nature together in such majesty. Nothing like 300 foot sequoias and the ocean crashing against mighty cliffs to remind you just how small you are.


Tagged

On the Road

This Labor Day my parents and I decided to go on a good old fashioned road trip. As a kid I loved the spontaneity of jumping in the car, choosing a direction and anticipating what kind of adventures awaited us. This weekend we’ve decided to head south along the coast, fighting through the fog & marine layer to the sleepy little beach towns along highway 1 . I have a tendency to overpack for short trips like these (hey, why not just throw half my wardrobe in the trunk?) but I have discovered that I’m a bit of a minimalist when it comes to the road trip essentials I keep by my side in the car.  For this  trip that includes:

1) Book I’ve been trying to finish forever but can’t seem to get around to, ie. ON THE ROAD.
2) Journal for writing/drawing
3) Camera (this is one of 6 brought on the trip)
4) Sour Gummy Worms (or equally delicious road trip snack)
5) Headphones + Music Player (along with several meticulously crafted road trip playlists)

What are your Road Trip essentials?