Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It has been way too long

I've been a horrible slacker. I wish I could say that I've been ignoring this blog because I was too busy exploring the world and adding countries to the list. Yea....not so much.

In the past month I've done a lot of being lazy, learning to safely indulge, and becoming less of an emotion fortress. I owe a large part of this process to a certain fellow adventurer whose company is truly lovely. All of the above things were indeed necessary and have improved my life greatly, but sadly the blog had to suffer a bit for it.

Fear not! All was not entirely lost. I did continue to search out bear statues...

San Diego, California

Friday, June 24, 2011


So I realized I've never posted anything about France.

I like France. I have never had the problems most people claim to have had in France -- no, it does not have the world monopoly on rudeness. BUT it does have the world monopoly on delicious crepes, and that is pretty awesome.

Chillin' in the garden behind Notre Dame

I enjoy how some of Paris' roofs randomly are covered in gold.  One man told me that every couple years they have to pay a significant tax to re-gold the damn things. 

Haha, we were so little!
In Paris, the cops mean business.

So.... it is not only bears that I molest. I'll admit to enjoying the fondling of most large animals.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sapo - the pictures

Here are the long awaited Sapo pictures! Original post HERE.
The top of the Sapo game. Notice that most of the holes are pretty simple, but there are three traps in the first row, with wooden doors that spin. And then you have the actual frog mouth itself, which is nearly impossible to get your gold coin into.
Here you can see the little box that each hole leads too. Each box is worth a different amount of points; simple holes award around 100-750, the holes with traps award 1000-3000, and then the frog awards a mega bonus of 5000.

The Sapo Champion in action.
And this is what happens when someone loses one of the gold coins in the grass. Which happens constantly. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Peru, Nebraska

I thought I'd share this pretty cute video with you. It is the story of what happens when Peru, Nebraska is visited by Peruvians from...Peru. The big one.


Monday, June 13, 2011

The House

I was sure I was going to buy a house this summer. Excessive amounts of time had been spent picturing everything I wanted, down to how the sunlight would come into the windows. After over a year of living out of a suitcase, this house was the one thing I had my heart set on; it was to be mine -- a monument to my independence and success.

Well, I did in fact buy a house this summer.

It wasn't in the US, and I'll probably never spend a night in it. It won't store all my junk, and it is not somewhere for me to hide when graduate school becomes stressful. I have no idea how the light comes in the windows, or if it even has windows. But I think it may be the single greatest use of money in my life.

The House

One of the best parts of my job was getting to talk to my workers. With my hodge-podge of Spanish and a lot of ridiculous gestures we were able to talk about a surprising array of topics. They taught me jokes to tell at parties (and I always, always forgot how the punchline went), they described local holidays, and they even told me their children's names. 

They told me that they didn't always buy mangos for juice, because 2 soles (less than dollar) a kilo was a lot for them. They told me about their husbands who didn't work, leaving them the sole bread winners. They told me how they had to work in the agriculture fields, from 4 am to 5 pm --until they got blisters on their hands -- for less than $15 a day. They told me how they had wanted more of an education, but they had been beaten by fathers who insisted it was too expensive and that women didn't need to go to college anyway.  They told me how thankful they were to have work with us, to be able to help support their families; they were glad they had the job -- the job of lifting hundreds of buckets of dirt in the boiling sun for me. For less money than I spend on a dinner out with friends.

They never said these things expecting pity, or trying to get anything from me. They told them as fact, as the way their lives were every day. They just wanted to be heard, to have someone know their stories and the way things were in their world. 

Finally, near the end of the trip, I heard how one worker desperately wanted to purchase the house she was renting, to have a permanent space for her family. She needed a fairly large amount of soles, and raising the money was impossible. Banks wouldn't loan her money, because they wanted her to have the deed of the house first for collateral...which negated the whole purpose of the loan. 

So, my roommate and I decided to help. We were so very lucky to be able to step in where the banks had failed; we would buy the house, and she could pay us back. The amount we paid was possibly less than you spend at Starbucks in a year. Think about that.

It made me realize how incredibly unbalanced the world is right now; how ridiculous the life I lead really is. Shrugging and saying "well life isn't fair" isn't going to change that. It'll take real action on our part -- the willingness to make some sacrifices so that others can have a better quality of life. And I'm very happy that we were able to make a small step towards starting that this summer.

I don't think we can all go out and save the world right now, today. But we can try. I shall try.  Because if I don't, I think it will physically hurt me to continue living my life in the same manner as before. So just do me a favor tonight: look around you and think "what is one luxury I really don't need? What is one thing I could give up, and instead use the money to help others out in some way?." 

Think about it. 

The Honey

Here is the photo proof of the giant jug of honey.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

2011 Pictures from Peru, Round 2

Jesucristo is always watching
Bay at Ilo

Where all the yummy avocados and cherimoyas grow!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

2011 Pictures from Peru

While I recover from a ridiculously long trip home, I figured I'd give you some pretties to look at. Click on the images to see the big versions.

Boats in bay of Ilo, Peru
Moquegua, Peru
Moquegua, Peru 
Fields along Rio Moquegua

Saturday, May 28, 2011

To be continued....

Sorry for the super slow updates! We had our final day in the field today, so this past week has been absolutely insane with work. Like how I decided to open one last "easy" unit....and it turned out to have a giant hole in it with some pretty important stuff. So after digging a meter into the ground, I then had to do all the paperwork.

So, good news is I´ve had awesome fun and found neat things. Bad news is I dont have any time to actually tell you about it.

But I´ll be heading up to Lima on Monday, and then Tuesday I´ll be in Panama! And Wednesday I´ll be in the states again. So by the end of the week I´ll try to post some pictures and tell you some of my new favorite stories.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Honey Man

So I´ve been having a craving for honey lately. 

Mostly because I finally found peanut butter in a store here. Peanut butter is usually the holy grail of food items I miss while in Peru, and I´ve been known to scrounge around and beg it off of the people smart enough to bring it down with them. Notice how I am never the one smart enough to bring it down with me.

Anyway, Moquegua is magical and actually sells peanut butter!! And they have yummy tiny bananas, so I was so,so close to a perfect peanut butter and banana sandwich....wih honey.

Now, my roomie told me of a honey  man who walks the market on the weekends. The market is a teeming mass of sensory overload. It is loud, chaotic, and the place where you can find anything and everything you want. Need oreos? Need 5 kilos of tomatoes? Need a booth that sells both male enhancement drugs and plungers? They have it. So obviously, they have honey too.

But the honey man is different - instead of having a nice stationary stall, he is ambulatory. He wanders around trying to find customers, and only on the weekend, and only at the special weekend market.  So finding him is actually something akin to quantum mechanics...what are the chances that you will both be in the same place at the same time for long enough to exchange money for honey goodness?

I had been trying for about 2 weeks, and failing. No honey, no delicious honey banana sandwich. I had pretty much given up on that dream. And then one Friday night we decided to go to the regular market in order to buy DVDs.

We are happily standing there, trying to find a blackmarket romantic comedy with which to pass the time. Suddenly, right behind us, I hear someone say....HONEY!

We turn around and there is a tiny old man, with a black duffle bag. He looks at us, open the bag, and inside is one single jar of honey. A huge jar. Like, a gallon of honey.

Us: I dunno if we can really use that much...
Him: You can put it on bread, in tea...
Us: I dont thin-

So, we finally give in and buy the gigantic jar of honey. Because it was fate, right? Somehow, in some crazy magical way, the universe lined up perfectly and the honey man found us in the middle of the market and gave us his one jar of honey.

Life is gooooooood.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Isn´t it ironic

5 weeks in Peru, and I had not had any stomach problems. I had enjoyed great food, good drinks, and even eaten street food from the market.

And then I went to a pizza place run by a white guy from Utah.

After throwing up every half-hour all night, I´ve decided that I hate Utah. And Hawaiian pizza.

How I feel:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I thought I´d share this site with you.

Peru Fail.

And yep, me and my roommate have our own submissions waiting to be sent in.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The secret to eternal life

While we do work a lot, we dont work all the time.

Sometimes, we sleep and eat.

Just kidding - we actually do a lot of fun things. Like last weekend my roomie and I had a girls night out where we went dancing with two ladies we know. We first went to a bar, where we had what were possibly the strongest drinks I have ever had-EVER. As we were sitting there enjoying our pisco and  caipirinha, the women asked us how old they thought they were. We threw out 40 for one , and 50 for the other.  Turns out the first woman was 50, the other was.....70.


She looked incredible, had perfecft makeup, was fit, dressed up, and drinking pisco sours like a champ. Such a champ that she easily out drank me at the bar. What is her secret, we wondered. Also, will she be able to keep up with us??

About to find out. we  next hit up a local nightclub and began having a three hour marathon of dancing to some reggaton, salsa, of course, lots of Shakira. Now Peruvians do it right when they go out. The club doesnt even start to  fill up until midnight, and  we didnt see some of our friends arrive until 130 in the morning. And then they just keep on going until 5 or 7 in the morning.

Sadly I am not built to withstand such antics, and by 2 am I was having a lot of problems standing. But I thought that I had at least out danced the 70 year old. I sank onto a couch in the VIP area, feeling secure in my party abilities.

As soon as I sat, the  70 year old slams down a  last rum and coke and starts doing a highlands dance that looks a lot like the macarina. She is even  JUMPING.  I cant even move. 

She outdanced AND outdrank me. Dammit

We then asked her the secret to her youth fulness. She told us that she had never married, had never had kids, and still drank, smoked and danced as much as she wanted.

Now that I know this brilliant plan, I plan on living forever.                          

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I would just like you all to know that I won the Sapo championship this weekend. And that was AFTER we went Pisco tasting and I drank way too many delicious things.

I even won a prize. Lotion.

It smells like CHAMPION and VICTORY.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Archaeologists - we will date any old thing

Hey guys,

I´m glad so many of you are reading and enjoying the blog. Sorry my updates are sporadic, and my email responses even more so! I do love you all, but most of my free time is spent sleeping. So what do I do when I am not sleeping? Good question! Let me tell you....


We get up fairly early, around 6. My roommates cat likes to wake me up and then trip me as I head to the bathroom to brush my teeth. We have a breakfast of coca tea and magical Peruvian bread, load up our truck with a ridiculous amount of buckets and then head to the site - blasting The Beatles the whole way.

At the site I meet up with my team of workers, which usually consists of two or three Aymaran women. We have been working on 4x4 meter units lately, which is a lot of ground to cover and a lot of things to explain. Luckily they are total rockstars and are great at moving dirt quickly. Only very occasionally do I need to waive my hands frantically and make attempts at giving instructions in Spanish. But even when I have to do this, things surprisingly work out really well.

My current unit is right on a big looter´s hole (the Spanish came looking for gold at some point), so to go check on my workers and come back I literally have to walk up-hill both ways. Not through the snow though....but through adobe and stones. Sometimes barefoot because I don´t like to stomp through fragile things with shoes on. I´ve tried to convince everyone that naked archaeology would be even more awesome and protective of the site...but no one believes me.

When not walking through it, digging through layers of this broken adobe and stones is pretty sucky, and I curse the Spanish and their greed often. But eventually we hit the cool stuff underneath all the crap - the animal bones, the decorated pottery, or the occasional human tooth. All of these things rest on the floor of the temple, just as they were left a thousand years ago. And luckily, the people who built the temple I am working at decided to make it really, really easy for me to find the floor.

They made it bright red.

It is like a giant red stop sign saying "THIS IS WHERE THE GOOD STUFF IS". The Tiwanaku were obviously very considerate of my feelings.

The really neat thing about the floor is that you can find the impressions of the wall bases. Most of the walls have long since fallen down (actually, ripped down by angry people...more on that later), and then their adobe bricks get spread around kind of randomly. But if you are very careful and sweep very slowly you can find the imprints where the heavy wall sat in the floor. And from those you can make a map of the former temple! It is rather magical to have a whole bunch of jumbled adobe, and then to brush at away to find a beautiful square imprint showing you exactly where the building stood.

Magic and impressions! I should take this show to Vegas.

Anyway, after everything is dug up we have to map everything, which is the only source of stress in my life. I really am not good at drawing things. My adobe piles turn into giant piles of potatoes on the paper. And I am sure that if I had to actually draw a giant pile of potatoes they would all turn out to be....lumpy socks or something. But I work hard at it, measure everything ten times each, and eventually I get the giant mess of adobes onto the paper, and the paper into the folder.

After that stressful event we are usually done, and we pack everything up and head on home to do lab work, which is counting up all the stuff and tagging it. The cat helps by trying to steal the tags and knocking things on the floor. Which pretty much brings the day full circle, now that I think about it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sapo Sapo!

So, I recently discovered an amazing game called Sapo (which means Frog in Spanish).  Basically you have a box with lots of holes in it. You throw golden coins into the holes, with points earned for different holes. In the middle there is a giant bronze frog who guards the hole worth SO MANY POINTS! To get these points you need to throw the coin in the frog´s mouth which is pretty much impossible so I have long given up on that. 

The legend is that the game was originally played by the Incas. The Incas believed magical sapos lived in Lake Titicaca, and the Inca would go there to throw gold into the lake in order to win their favor. This eventually morphed into a traveling version (no water necessary) like the one we know today. After the Spanish arrived, they realized that this game would make an awesome drinking game. Hey, with all the wine they started growing they certainly needed some bar games. 

The game then spread its way around Europe, but of course remained popular in Peru also. Today you find them at bars and clubs all over the country. I obviously don´t go to enough bars, because I hadn´t seen it. Or perhaps I had seen it but just thought it was a frog shrine?

Anyway, I have become a big fan. I am even thinking of buying a frog statue and coins here, and then having someone build me a set when I get home. And you can all come to my Sapo parties.

Peru: I Speak Pretty One Day

I was trying to explain how we celebrate Easter in the US to my workers. The following conversation happened in Spanish.

Me: Well, we have a big meal with our families.
Workers: Us too!
Me: And then we have the children paint chicken eggs many different colors.
Workers: Aw, cute. Then what?
Me: A giant bunny breaks into the house, hides the eggs, and if you find them you get new clothes and chocolate!
Workers: .........

Even better, I didn´t know how to say "breaks into" so I may have explained it as a "robber bunny".

Friday, April 22, 2011

Red, red wine

Being constantly warm and sunny, Moquegua has a growing season that is basically all year round. They grow a plethora of fruits and vegetables - the largest and most important plots are those for olives, grapes and avocados. In fact, this is one of the first areas where the Spanish decided to start growing the things that they absolutely needed in order to successfully migrate to and conquer a new continent - grapes for copious amount of wine and salty olives to snack on while drinking. I think their plan went like this- Step 1: Build a wine bar. Step 2: Steal all the gold  Step 3: DOUBLE PROFIT. 

Too bad Peruvian wine is less than delicious. Luckily, some where along the way someone had the brilliant idea of making Pisco instead. Pisco is a grape brandy that is colorless, powerful, and delicious. Moquegua has at least 11 or 12 local producers, the biggest and most market savy being Biondi (yea, this is what you are all getting as gifts when I return.Be prepared). We drive past their vineyards every day on the way to work, and hopefully tomorrow we will stop and have a tour of the whole plant. And a taste test or two....that wouldnt hurt the experience. My plan goes like this- Step 1: Visit every pisco plant. Step 2: ???? Step 3: DOUBLE HAPPINESS. 

Besides driving past the vineyard we also go past some large dairies, full of happy cows. They produce equally happy yogurt and milk. The cheese in particular is really good and a huge improvement over highland cheese. In the highlands, like Ayacucho, they have this awful salty llama cheese. You know how they say you can milk any animal if you try? And I guess it follows that you can make cheese from any animal? Well, there are some animals where you just shouldnt. Llama is one of those. Llama and meerkat.

Anyway, as you can tell, the drive to work is really peaceful and relaxing; it is one of my favorite parts of the day. In fact, as we were going in the other morning, driving through the fields of cows and sheep, blaring Bob Marley as loud as possible, I realized how incredibly happy I am here. Truly and completely happy (wont lie-this might be in small part due to the fact that my bloodstream is usually about 60% rum and coke).

Happiness is a long overdue sensation. This entire past year has been something like riding a tornado of doom. I had to attempt to make peace with life, and much more importantly, death. Which is a task far greater people than I have failed, and I cant claim to have discovered any particularly unique or profound truth. But somewhere in all the bumbling, I realized 3 things. Life is short, I will never be able to change the heart or mind of another, and that even besides these two things everything will work itself out to be a completely awesome adventure. An adventure currently filled with olives and Bob Marley.

Hell yea.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Peruvian Elections

So I forgot to talk about Election Day! Last Sunday was Election Day, so I got to see PEruvian politics up close and personal. Well...more so than usual. Politics seem to be a visible part of daily life all year round.

In Peru voting is mandatory. If you don´t show up they will give you a fine, which is about 2 or 3 days worth of wages. And not only do you have to show up to vote, you may also be called up to run a polling station, an important job which has a correspondingly high fine if you fail your duty.  This is not to say that you have to vote for any certain person, or any person at all. You can show up and say that you dont like any of the options, but you have to at least say you are not voting for a reason. You know, a reason besides being lazy.
 Additionally, election day is set to a Sunday and is a national holiday. So everyone has plenty of time to travel to their polling station (Which can be very far away, for migrant workers)!

Because the law forces everyone to be involved, interest in politics is a lot higher in Peru. People are involved in the process at all levels, with parades, speeches and constant advertisements (usually large signs painted onto mountains on buildings). The ads are actually really interesting. Since a fairly large populations of Peruvians cant read (most illiterate citizens are women, who have a rate of 20% illiteracy according to some NGOs), most political parties have a symbol associated with their name. So when someone goes in to vote they can check the boss with the symbol, such as a llama, without having to worry about reading. Ive seen symbols ranging from cactus plants to candlesticks to mountains. It seems like most of the good symbols are already taken, but I´d like to think that if I were to ever run for office I´d still be able to get my personal favorite - a turtle. Maybe a smiling one.

Some people think this system just encourages a lot of ignorant people to vote haphazardly; the people who would normally not show up because they dont care are now forced to show up and pick a name at random. This can lead to some really awful winners. Also, migrant workers have to return to the region where they are registered, which can be across the country. They have to pay to take a bus 18 hours, or pay a large fine - not great options.

But even with the drawbacks, I really like this system. The people I have talked with have more concern for the political happenings in their community than most Americans I know...and they are more willing to step up and be heavily involved in their community. And having election day be a holiday just makes SO much sense, making it easyier and more convenient for every citizen to have a say. Why is this a hard concept for the US?

But really, the smiling turtle party. Who wouldn´t vote for that??

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Peru: Two eyes are better than one

Hey all,

Sorry for the slow updates. I´ve been working hard...at my job that is entirely too much fun to be considered a job. Seriously, I can´t believe I get to wake up, go to a beautiful site, roll around in dirt for 10 hours, and dig up 1000 year old pots.


I´m currently in Moquegua, which is one of my favorite areas in Peru. It is gorgeous - it is in a valley where river water running down from the Andean highlands allows for intensive argiculture. But if you go just a few miles away from the river you hit incredibly dry deserts (think, some of the driest places on earth). Our site is on a hill/sand dune overlooking part of the valley, and I love seeing the dry, imposing mountains run into the green oasis in the center of the valley. I´ll post picture eventually, but for now you have these:

I blatantly stole those off of google image. Sorry about that : I have a crappy internet connection and limited time. But they give you an idea of the intersection of mountain:desert:farmland that I love.

The actual digging itself is going really well. I am in charge of a small team of Peruvians,which requires a lot of Spanish. A lot of Spanish that I dont have. For example, I tried to tell the workers that I wanted them to take out the rocks (piedras) of a unit...but instead I accidently said I wanted to take out the legs (Piernas) of the unit. There was a long awkward pause where I am sure they wondered why the hell I am in charge of anyone or any thing. But while we work, I am getting the crew to teach me Aymara, which is a language commonly spoken in Southern Peru and Bolivia. They like to joke: "I should just speak Aymara,not Spanish, then maybe you´d understand me." One day I hope to legitimately speak both languages....which requires a lot of hustling in the coming year or two.

But translation aside, we have a lot of fun and are making great progress. We have a really cool first unit with an absolutely beautiful adobe wall (yes, walls can be beautiful.Trust me) and we´ve spent the last couple days cleaning it off and mapping it. Tomorrow we have to break it up and take it off to see if there is anything hidden under it. Since this is my first unit in a building I am pretty emotionally attached to this wall, and I will be sad to see it go. But, considering this will be the second time I´ve taken a pick ax to an adobe structure...I guess I know what I´m doing. At least this time will be intentional, eh?

The only hiccup was on the first day. Some unidentified flying object of doom got in my eye and scratched it or something. This happened in the beginning of the day, and I promptly could only see grey blurry things out of my left eye. Luckily, we were able to rig an eye patch out of a bandana...and I spent the rest of the day being a pirate archaeologist. Which is kinda the best thing in the world.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Peru, round 3

Hey all,

I've been told lately that I resemble a wall when it comes to emotions. Especially happy ones. So, since you probably can't tell, I'll just tell you that I am one happy wall. It feels so,so good to return to Peru; I'm going home and everything will work itself out.

I'll be updating here weekly, if anyone cares to follow along.

P.S. Is it too late to work on the wall thing?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Greyhound ads

I found this gem in the Nashville greyhound station a few years ago. It was about 5 feet tall and sitting inside the cafe area. 

 Can we all agree that "try it...it works for 50 cent" is probably the best sales line ever. It really makes you stop and think.

Does it work in making him a scientist? Is working on getting him a noble prize here?? If all it took to cure cancer was giving 50 cent some vitamin water why didn't we do this years ago? I don't understand.

Maybe it works in making him really strong. This guy did live through getting shot 9 times....

Hmm..yea, maybe I will take some of that water. A whole case of it.  So I can be a bulletproof mad scientist super villain. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Woo, new country!

It looks like I'll be flying through Panama on my way back from Peru this year. The prospect of checking another one off this ridiculously long and stupid list makes me happy.

Chichen Itza

It is embarrassing how long it took me to go to Mexico. Living in Arizona I was often just a short drive from the border...and yet somehow I managed to make it to Japan nearly a full decade before I hit Mexico.

I did finally meander my way down on a cruise in college. In all honesty, 80% of the reason I went on the cruise was because I had a chance to go to Chichen Itza. The other 20% was because I could eat unlimited crab cakes.

Tour Guide: Excavations have resulted in many interesting archaeological discoveries.
Tourist: Did they find any treasure?
Tour Guide: They found a lot of bones.
Me: So they DID find treasure!!

Bio-archs: our definition of 'valuable' is probably different than yours. ;)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I was born in West Germany on a Wednesday. 

By the next Monday I was being shuffled south to Italy.

It really shouldn't surprise anyone that I developed the heart of a vagabond during these formative years. My wanderlust, cultivated early, is deeply embedded, and this trait that has served me relatively well.

However, I recently had what I would call 'a moment.' 

I found myself sitting in the airport after landing in 6 states in less than 2 weeks, eating my 3rd helping of shitty airport food in as many days. Same uncomfortable chairs, obnoxious announcements and crappy lighting, but a different city.

I looked around and suddenly realized I was so incredibly tired. 

It wasn't just the current trip that weighed on me; it was months and months of impermanence (granted, impermanence caused by my insistence on running away from things). Somehow, in all this fleeing, a new desire had crept up on me; I wanted somewhere to return to again - somewhere that mattered.

So, in the middle of the Chicago airport I thought deeply about my life.  After those intense 5 minutes of pondering my existence, the decision I had thought would be difficult --the decision I had dithered over for weeks -- turned out to be entirely simple. The right grad school was picked, a better pizza was bought, and a happier me started the final flights home.

Don't worry though - while ending my hobo days is awesome, I will be traveling again soon.... it looks like I leave for Peru in 24 days. :)

Paris 2007

The posts have been a little Peru-heavy lately, huh? I guess it is time to mix it up! I give you a piece from my collection of Paris street art.

 I've always wanted to know if he was pointing me towards something - towards my destiny perhaps! Or even better, towards some excellent crepe place. 

Friday, March 11, 2011


Once upon a time, I went to the Ayacucho circus. After this truly momentous occasion, I can honestly say that I don't think I will ever, ever go back to an American circus.

Here are the order of the acts. Please keep in mind that there were no safety nets or regulations. And yes, this is 100% real (ok, maybe 97% real, seeing as my memory for 9 months ago is a tad spotty): 

1. Two scantily clad women salsa danced. I enjoyed it; I'm not sure how the small children in the front row felt.
2. A guy in a Mexican wrestling outfit did acrobatics to Soviet marching music. There is really....nothing I can add to that.
3. There was a long montage with a regular clown beating a dwarf clown. A really, really long montage. 
4. A very depressed looking monkey was forced to carry around baskets of fruit to music from the movie Grease. Yea, that was the entire act. The monkey tottered around in a circle and pleaded "kill me for my fur because that would be more dignified than this" with its eyes. But hey, it did have a pretty dress on!
5. The above monkey then refused to peddle a bike around in circles, so a human ended up just pushing the monkey while it sulked. Seriously, this monkey gave the saddest dog in the world a run for its money in the emo department. 
6. A small dog was forced to climb a ladder 20-ish feet into the air;  it did so while looking completed dejected. It then flung itself off a platform and into what appeared to be a pillow case. I can only imagine that this dog and the monkey will one day band together and make a break for it. They can ride the little bike off into the sunset and never be forced to wear dresses again.  
7. A 4 year old little girl had a noose-thing put around her head and neck. She was then hoisted about 20-feet into the air and did acrobatic tricks. This was the part where I really wish we had had safety nets. But I guess it is one way to make sure your kid is worth feeding.  
8. A scantily clad dwarf woman did sexy salsa. Sexy salsa seemed to be a theme. 
9. Then there was a dance montage where Dracula killed Michael Jackson and Daddy Yankee but was later turned into a fairy by the Numa Numa dance guy. YES REALLY. THIS HAPPENED.    
10. An odd bit where a clown did a "kids say the darndest things" skit with a bunch of 8 year olds. Except in his version, he made the little boys pole dance, and then had a little boy and a little girl kiss. After that skit, I am pretty sure I have to register as a sex offender. :/
11. Finally, a llama had its 15th birthday party and danced around. In a dress

Photo proof. FYI: This circus was called the "Siberian Magic Circus." I mean, a magic circus is one thing, but a SIBERIAN magic circus takes you to an entirely new level of awesome. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bill Gates didn't finish college, you know

In Arequipa, Peru I found the very prestigious College of Bill Gates. Looking back, I probably should have applied there for grad school.  

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The day the Greyhound died

I often have to defend my decision to ride the Greyhound. For the most part, I feel that I have defended the ol' lady well, proving that buses can be a reliable (and entertaining) mode of transportation in America.

Yea, well...I have to break up with the Greyhound. We are done.

This week I got the brilliant idea to just ride the bus across Arizona in order to visit a school. The majority of this trip was so traumatic that I will never speak about it. But to give you a taste of the horror:

Guy sitting next to me- " I shot a guy, so I served time. But I'm not like a cold blooded mother fucker. Man cut my homie's throat so I got even. He deserved it." The way he talked about killing someone was one of the scariest things I've ever seen.

This man soon after tried to fondle my legs in the most repulsive pick up attempt ever.

I just...can't.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I've been really unhappy with the gypsy story. I probably should have held off on posting it, but I felt bad for my already excessive delay.

This week I finally cleaned up some of the worst grammatical offenses, but then I realized that it had pretty big stylistic problems too. I don't even know why this bothered me so much; it is not like I am writing Madame Bovary here. But my ego is a truly wondrous thing and it demanded that I redo the story. Twice.

I guess I like it more now? Maybe. I'm probably just not a talented enough writer to capture the elusive gypsy spirit with my words.

Gypsies 4, Aly 0

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Health Clinic

As promised:

"How I went to a Peruvian hospital because I thought my arm was broken"

Following the gypsy incident, my body decided to quit me. By the time I woke up the next morning my hip was weirdly immobile, my scapula felt suspiciously like it was trying to evacuate my body, and I had leg bruises out of a Rorschach test. But these things lasted a day or so -- too short for bragging rights or to consider myself a Purple Heart Veteran of the Gypsy Wars. 

However, what didn't go away was a sharp pain in my wrist every time I flexed it and put weight on it. Most of the time my wrist was fine and I'd forget that I shouldn't use that arm; then I'd lean on it and someone would stab my median nerve with a tiny fork. After several days, I became moderately concerned that perhaps I had fractured one of the carpal bones. Or I was gypsy cursed... and considering I'd already been shaman cursed, I didn't think my body could take another round.  The only thing to do was to go to the clinic. 

I told my boss that I would probably need to go to the doctor's office after work that day. 
Boss: Why? What's wrong?
Aly: Well, I think I broke something in my hand. 
Boss: What? How?
Aly: Um...you know those gypsies I was obsessed with...?

Yes, I always find a way to be the classy one.

Having notified my boss that I am in fact an idiot, I was free to go to the clinic that afternoon. Which was a pretty daunting task considering I was proud when I used Spanish to successfully buy a pack of gum. A friend wrote up a note in Spanish for me, explaining my pain and what had happened. I was prepared to go alone and just thrust the paper at everyone within sight until I eventually got fixed, but this seemed inefficient. Thankfully, some people agreed to go with me and help translate/give moral support. You two were, and still are, my heroes for this. :) 

After work, we all went into the clinic and started standing in lines. We get shuffled around a lot; first to one line to pay, then to another line to say what is wrong with me, and then finally back to the first line for a reason I never understood. But the lines were short and the process didn't really take that long. The only incident that really slowed us down was the fact that we didn't know our address. I had never seen a street sign in that area, and we didn't get mail delivered so I'm not entirely sure we had an address. Anyway, the conversation went much like this:

Lady: Address?
Me: No
Lady: Where do you live?
Me: .....its difficult
Lady: No, I really need an address for this form. Where do you live.
Me: It is by the gas station.
Lady: ......
Me: The blue gas station.

I guess we could have used "lives across the street from the house with really loud monkey" instead, but I feel like this would have made her judge us even more. Anyway, after the forms were filled out, we go to a side hall and wait for a doctor.  After maybe 10 minutes, he greets us and we go into his office. After examining me, he orders x-rays and we are sent to stand in yet another line. 

The x-ray line was also quick and I soon found myself in a large room with a really nice, if very stressed, little man. He sticks my arm on a table, puts an protective apron on himself and leaves the room. If I had known Spanish, I probably would have asked him why I did not get a protective apron. But meh, I figured I have no plans to use my ovaries anyway, so who cares if they get a little fried? 

Within ten minutes I have a sweet x-ray of my arm (and maybe cancer). I take said x-ray back to the doctor and he begins to look it over. He rolls up a newspaper, makes a telescope-thing for himself, and uses this to focus on certain parts of the x-ray. While waving the paper telescope around he says, "I am a pirate doctor." Well, I thought,he certainly is very qualified to fix my arm. 


Turn out, even pirates couldn't fix my arm. I had a hematoma around my carpal bones, so blood was basically just pooling up in there. It wasn't dangerous, just uncomfortable, and he told me I'd be ok in 4-6 weeks. He wrote a prescription for pain killers and sent me on my way. Sure enough, about 4 weeks later my hand felt better. And the whole clinic trip was surprisingly easy and quick. Thanks, Pirate Doctor! 

Two doctor consultations and prescription: 30 soles ($10)
X-ray: 15 soles ($5).
Payment for fortune telling: 3 soles ($1)
Total price of gypsy adventure: 48 soles ($16) 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Emo kids, found in every species.

Sorry I put the last post up without actually trying to edit it. New drinking game - take a shot for every time I switched tenses.

To make amends, I give you the saddest dog in the world.

Click for even bigger sadness.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


People sometimes ask me what made me become an archaeologist. I tell them "I'd love to answer that question, but I am too busy frolicking with gypsies." 


Last summer I spent an extended period of time in Ayacucho, Peru. For those of you have been there, you know it is a pretty quiet place. The restaurants can be hit-or-miss, and the nightlife certainly could pump it up a notch. But occasionally something amazing will happen there. Some would even say that magical things occur.

For instance, one morning on our way to work we that noticed a group of multi-colored tents had sprung up in a field near our house. With their Alladin-turned-hipster vibe, the tents were certainly out of the oridinary for Ayacucho. The next morning we spotted even more tents - like a colony of happy mushrooms popping up in the night. We were intrigued, but at first did not manage to see who was putting up these tents. Finally, we saw a blond child running around the field

Now, if there is something you don't see in Peru, it is blond children. Most foreigners in Peru are college-age backpackers without children, and Ayacucho is an out of the way destination even for most backpackers. It appeared unlikely that this kid was some wayward tourist's small child. Who the hell were these people?

We began to investigate. Or, we began to stalk. We walked slowly by the field, observing. We tried to casually watch the group when they were in the market. We were creepers, and all of our creeping soon pointed us to one irrefutable conclusion -- these were gypsies. Real life gypsies with bangles and scarves and tents stuffed with pillows and rugs. They were awesome and living right by our house!

I wanted to meet them. Badly- really, really badly. Our whole team was interested in the gypsies, but I think my fascination went well beyond what was healthy. I HAD to meet them. I talked about nothing but the gypsies for days. Whenever we passed the camp of tents, I would wistfully whisper "gypsies...", as if I were calling to them. Calling to join them, calling to learn their gypsy secrets. In my mind they were not gypsies, they were THE gypsies. The obsession grew and grew until a real danger existed that I would start having fits if I did not meet a gypsy. 

So one night a couple of us ventured to the field. It was dark and bonfires were burning in the field, as were candles inside the tents -- all of which gave the scene a magical feel. This sense of mystery only fed my hysteria. As we walked up a woman appeared, called to us, and offered to read our fortune. Like sheep (llamas might actually be more appropriate here) we followed her voice. Before we realized what had happened the gypsy wind had us! 

You might be thinking that following strange gypsy women into a field of tents in the middle of the night is not be the best idea.  Yea, well, I don't like the best ideas. 

We followed her into the dark gypsy labyrinth, and soon find out that they are actually Yugoslavian! I am not sure how they came from Yugoslavia to Peru, because I am positive that riding in airplanes is not allowed in the gypsy codes. Perhaps they came by boat? Or maybe some of those tents also acted as hot air balloons? No idea; I'm afraid it will always remain a mystery. But one thing was clear - these were obviously the most legitimate of gypsies. 
The woman wanted us to go into her tent to have our fortune read. I ,of course, go first because I am overly excited. I'm about to go into the magical gypsy tent and learn their secrets and this is the best day ever!!

Sadly, in my excitement I didn't see her step over the tent's rope. I trip and fall HARD face-first into the field. I actually don't remember falling; all I remember is feeling the cold ground on my face and wondering why my arm hurt. After realizing I was on the ground, I just laid there awhile and tried to figure out if all my limbs were reasonably functioning. But the longer I stayed on the ground the more my body started to throb. The only thing that hurt more than my body? My ego. 
Bu am I the type of person who will let throbbing arms and tattered pride keep my from enjoying gypsy secrets? Hell no! 

I collected myself, got reasonably brushed off, and was finally able to continue into the tent to sit on the floor by the woman. She had me pull out some playing cards, and she began to read my fortune. One look at my cards and she goes, "....you....you are the wild one." She cackled while looking me straight in the face - oh crap she CAN see into my soul.

She then proceeded to tell me a fortune filled with deceit, vindictive friends, and heartbreak. But you know, she totally glossed over the death-by-tent possibility. She offered to help me change the future, if I pay her even more money. 

Meh, I decided I'd take my chances. The future can't be any worse than her damn tent. 

This story will be continued in the future, in a piece entitled: "How I went to a Peruvian hospital because I thought my arm was broken"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Celebration time

I am sorry for all the slow posting lately. I am busy trying to pick a grad school - one that will provide me with the best adventures, naturally.

Anyway, I am too busy celebrating to write. So I give you this picture of the world's largest wine vat (Heidelberg, Germany). I have been to this thing more than once. More than twice. Hell, more than three times.

This vat might be the most stable thing in my existence.

I've never been able to capture the entire thing in one shot. But the tiny person on top gives you an idea.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Best o' Peru

I know I haven't done a mega-list for a long time, even though I enjoy making them. I guess it is time to change this situation.

Best O' Peru

1. Best place to take a shower: Puno.

 Ok, so I haven't been to Puno (I know, I know). But every person who has gone there raves about how awesome their hot shower was. At first I was chalking it up to some magical bathroom, but everyone has stayed at different hotels. Therefore, I have to assume that there must be....something in the water.  Seriously though - if you spend extended time in Peru you will know how beautiful a hot shower can be. It is the stuff of legend. Go to Puno.

2. Best smelling street food: Anticuchos de corazón.

You all know I'm a vegetarian (admittedly not the best one), and this means I have a hard time eating beef.  It is the smell that gets to me; cooked hamburger smells repulsive and like DEATH. But that is not the case with these little sticks of wonder.  My first summer in Peru, I spent about a week wondering what delicious siren was tempting my nostrils. Eventually, someone pointed out the cow hearts on a stick. I balked; I just couldn't do it. Lame, I know. Maybe one day I will be able to get over my mental block and taste these, for oh how they beckon me. 

3. Best pizza topping: Peaches.

In Ayacucho you can go to Magia Negra and get a Hawaiian pizza, but made with peaches and ham. I have done truly bizarre things to get this awesome, awesome pizza (but those are stories for another day). Before you scoff, I'd like to point out that you probably eat pineapple on your pizza. And pineapple only tastes half as good as peaches.

4. Best ancient Peruvian civilization: NOT THE INCA.

Yes, they are everywhere and everyone wants to talk about them. But before you visit Peru,  you should familiarize yourself with the long history of the Andes -- the history before the Incas.  Check out the amazing ceramics of the Moche, the Chimu textiles at Chan Chan, the awesome site of Cerro Baul in Moquegua, or the terraces and roads of the Wari Empire. The Inca are cool, but it makes me sad that everyone focuses in on such a small aspect of Andean history.

5. Best place to have an uncomfortable race moment: Lima airport. 

Yes, it means something like "Black women hands." 

6. Best place to have the most spectacular view of your life. Machu Picchu.

I know I took best civilization away from them, but damn, the Incas built one hell of a place up there.  Machu Picchu is simply fantastic; it is so beautiful my mind is still not convinced it is real.

I was lucky enough to go on a day where it was rainy, which made the trip more awesome in three ways. First, rain kept a lot of the tourists away and allowed for pictures without clusters of random strangers. Second, the weather made the whole place more mysterious (we were literally inside the rain clouds, as the mountain is so tall), and as you walked around you had the feeling that the Inca was going to walk from around a corner and stare you down. Awesome. And finally, the rain made the workings of the incredible drainage and fountain system  visible- this alone was worth the trip. Check the weather before you go, rain will be your friend.  

7. Best Souvenir: Llama Hat.

Nothing says "I'm a classy yet practical woman" like llamas frolicking upon your forehead. Get one for everyone you love. 

8. Best parasite: Giardia!

Two years running. Let's just leave it at that.

9. Best street vendor: The Shoelace Man.

He is in Arequipa and wears what appears to be a coat of shoelaces. Actually, the giant shoelace outfit makes him look somewhat like a yeti -- a bright, disco yeti. Apparently he really hates being a yeti, because he walks around yelling in a very, very angry voice. I can only imagine he is saying something like "buy these, goddammit. They are HEAVY." 
Photo Credit: Lucy O'Doherty

10. Best unexpected use of Disney music: Garbage trucks.

 Peruvian garbage trucks play music when they are driving around. I suppose this is to let people know that they need to run out and drop their bags on the corner.

Every truck and city has its own musical tastes. For example, Ayacucho appears to like patriotic sounds. Arequipa, on the other hand, digs the Disney tunes. I've heard the Little Mermaid theme and the Aladdin theme (the Ariel theme is actually really fitting - think about all the stuff she has in that movie. She needs a hoarder intervention).

I've even heard tales of Happy Hardcore Techno trucks (I really want to find this truck and have a flashmob rave around it).

So I leave you with this important life question: If you were a kickass garbage truck driver, what music would you play?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

O Hai Guys!

Ok, I have to admit I am curious about who reads this blog (oh ego, you be out of control). Some days I have 10 page views and I am pretty sure those are just from my cat. Other days I have 1,000...of course, those might also just be from my cat.

But after checking out my stats page, it seems a lot of people-who-are-not-my-cat read this thing. People from really awesome places! And since this is a travel blog, I thought it'd be fun to run some of the countries by you...

My top readers are: *drumroll*.....the US (predictable), Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany, Malaysia, Portugal, Turkey, Sweden, and Norway.

Most of these places I haven't been to, which makes me terribly ashamed. Especially Canada! I mean, I've gone to Tahiti but yet I can't seem to make it up north to our awesome neighbors. But don't feel too bad, Canada; I went to Japan before I went to Mexico - and I lived mere hours from the border. I promise I will come visit you soon!

While these countries are the big hitters, I don't want to forget some of the cooler places you guys are reading from. Liiiiiiiiiiiike: Jamaica, Pakistan, Croatia, Bosnia, Chile and Russia.

That is incredible. The internet is magic!

Anyway, thanks for reading. You all are from the hundred places I have yet to go, so I hope you'll drop me a line with tips, recommendations, and high fives as I gear up to come visit.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Greyhound Story 4: Arizona Pride

The following takes places on a bus in Tennessee. By this point I was traveling fairly regularly on the Greyhound, and I found the entire experience an excellent time to catch up on all the sleep I wasn't getting in college.

But I soon realized that this particular trip was not going to be filled with glorious napping; the lady who sat next to me really wanted to talk. About anything and everything - paying no head to my headphones and sleepy glares. Her age was hard to estimate; she had one of those faces where the lines are manifestations of hardship, not years. Somewhere between 30 and 50 is where I'd put my guess, but who knows if that is even close. But she did have some pretty awesome bright red hair. 

She talked about her job (she restored marble statues, which turns out to be fascinating work), her convoluted love life (her refusal to marry her rich boyfriend because she was not 'in love with him') and why she got her butterfly tattoos (to remind her that you can always start over, and to never bring pain to her loved ones).  I know, you are probably thinking, "Seriously, how often do people tell you about their tattoo symbolism?" Not often enough, my friend, not often enough.

 Eventually in our rambling discussion she asked me where I was from. I mentioned my hometown, in Arizona. She immediately lights up and goes "Oh I know that place! I went to prison near there!" 
She then proceeds to tell me that the women in my town are crazy; those meth-heads are rough. 

Oh Arizona, what am I going to do with you? 

Tl:dr - Lady was cool and I'm glad I woke up to talk to her, but my town needs a better PR campaign.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What I do all day

I know some of you have wanted a look at my job. As you should - archaeology is a fantastic career.

Luckily, my very talented friend Sebastian filmed some behind-the-scenes footage of lab work last year in Peru. Watch it; you'll gain a new appreciation for all the work (and fun) that goes into research projects!

P.S. Before watching this film I had no idea I sound THAT happy when I talk about teeth. Damn, I do love them.


A lot of these posts lately have had many words. Too many words not enough pictures! So here, have some pictures of Switzerland.

Lake Lucerne: we're boating to Mt. Pilatus

Haha, 14-year-old Aly is dorky. Oh wait...that never changed. 
Lucerne Bridge

And yea, sorry for the poor photo quality. This was back in the era of disposable cameras. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Hey you guys!

I started this blog with the intention of going through every country systematically, sharing pictures and giving you a time-line of my travels. But let's face it; I have geographical ADD. Not only can I not stay in the same place for an extended period of time, but I can't even write about the same place more than two days in a row without feeling caged in.

So this is why you are getting a seemingly arbitrary mash of my travel experiences, perhaps only gelled together with my sarcasm. I apologize if this is confusing, but I just can't write a real travel blog. However, the search box in the upper right column is really good about finding what you need. Type in the country you want, and BAM, you'll get your info!  Maybe one day I'll have a better archiving layout where you can search by country/region. I don't have the skills to build that, but I'll ask for it for Christmas.

But I hope you continue to enjoy the blog anyway; very once in awhile I post things worthwhile. Sometimes. Then I immediately forget about them.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Greyhound Story 3: Security

'Security' seems to be a constant drone in the background of our society. Everyone wants it, but very few seem to be able to adequately define it. Is it the feeling you get when confronted by a 9 foot tall metal detector at the airport - the feeling that at least the job of killing you will be a little bit harder for would-be assailants? Or is security the feeling of serenity gained from hidden cameras and undercover US marshals -the ability to forget that the only thing separating you and a horrible accident is a couple of men and a trained beagle?

The former appears to be the current definition of choice. Not only do we want security, we want to see it. All of our screening, our machines, and our waiting in never-ending lines amounts to a giant, inconvenient, but visible wall between us and our own terror.  

This is particularly true at airports. We build layer upon layer of security in facilities that really very few of us use on any regular basis. However, I often wonder what happens when 'terrorists' figure out that there are more than just airports in the United States. What if they realize that 99% of the rest of the country doesn't have metal detectors. What if they realize that there are also Greyhound Stations?

Luckily, Greyhound has already thought about this, and implemented a system! I wanted to say "security system" but well, that would probably be false. 

The System

Step 1: Before you get on the bus you have to get in a big boarding line inside the building. This allows them to check your ticket and make sure that you are getting on the right bus. Once checked, you go outside and board.

Step 2: Sometimes, a security guard will come check your bags and carry-ons while you wait in this big line. The probability of this happening seems to involve a complex equation where the outside temperature is multiplied by the batting average of the Red Sox and then divided by the year. So roughly 10%. 

Step 3: The security guard will roll a cart around the line, asking each person to put their bag on it. She will rummage around, looking for contraband.  You can actually put your bag on the cart. Or you can step out of line and go hide in the bathroom until she passes you. Or you can hide one of your bags behind your feet in order to speed things up.  

Step 4: For this scenario, lets pretend that you actually give her your bags. She goes through everything, and finds contraband. A knife!! Oh no it looks like she will take it, and you immediately put on your sad face.

Step 5: But no, the security lady says you have options! 
A). She takes your knife.
B). You pay a $10 fine to her, in cash, and then you can keep your knife. 

Step 6: You pay the $10 to the nice lady, and she sticks the knife right back into your bag where she found it. You might think this is a bribe, but she clearly says the word "fine". Fines only happen if you do something wrong and unsafe, and therefore she is entirely justified in making you pay a penalty. And she puts the money in her pocket because it will be safe there while she checks the other passengers.

Step 7: Well, she actually only gets half way through the line before the bus needs to go, so she just gives up. The people hiding in bathroom can come out now. 

Step 8: Get onto the bus. With your knife.