I’m a little over two weeks in my trip now. I’m still feeling homesick occasionally, but mostly for my loved ones. We’ve gotten into a routine here that I’m really enjoying. I have to say, starting off the trip celebrating Carneval with my colleagues and the neighborhood did wonders to alleviate the initial homesickness and life adjustments. Read all about my first few weeks in today’s travel diary!
February 20 to 22: Getting There
To be honest, Monday was a day I was dreading a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely excited to be in Peru and working on these projects. But I do miss my family and I knew I would miss them a lot. Between that and the lack of sleep, it made for a difficult day.
My plane didn’t leave until almost 11PM PST Monday night so it meant I had to drag out the day. I was hoping to get sleep on the 6 hour flight and, second, 3 hour flight that followed. But that didn’t happen. I made it to Lima, via Panama, at about 1PM EST (10AM back home) the following day.
Customs was impressed with my snack stash, but a girl’s gotta eat. I packed a bunch of Clif bars because I get caught up in the lab and wind up starving. After getting through customs, we took a taxi back to a hostel where I got about an hour of sleep. I stayed at the hostel for about 5-6 hours before taking a taxi to one of the bus stations. It’s a 10 hour bus ride from Lima to Ayacucho, and my bus left at 9:30PM. Fortunately I was able to recline the seat and sleep on and off for the whole ride.
I finally made it to Ayacucho at about 8AM on on Wednesday morning. We headed off back to the apartment, where I unpacked and then slept for another 3 or so hours. When I woke up I realized I hadn’t eaten a damn thing in over 24 hours. I actually wasn’t too hungry, so I ate a Clif Bar before heading out.
After walking for awhile we stopped at a Cafe and got a little snack. I opted for lots of water and fresh juice, before exploring a little more. I was pretty happy to start having an appetite again, even if it wasn’t for a ton of food. We explored for a few more hours then came back to the apartment.
I was able to FaceTime with Chris and download a few shows before the WiFi crashed and I fell asleep.
February 23: Visiting the Lab
I didn’t get much sleep Wednesday night, but I got enough to wake up early and get some work done. I focused on getting organized, scheduling a few posts, and catching up on some other work.
My hair was starting to feel pretty gross so I decided to wash it before we left for the lab. The apartment doesn’t have hot water, so bathing pretty much involves bucket scrubbing. It’s really not bad though, if only just chilly. I warmed water in an electric tea pot and washed my hair in a bucket in the shower. Sort of like when you have your hair washed at a salon. The cool water takes a little getting used to. But if you’ve ever roughed it camping, it’s still like staying in the Ritz.
After that we headed to the lab. The walk is quite nice, mostly downhill (which sucks coming back, BTW). If you’re imagining a lab from CSI, stop there. Most labs at most schools in the United States don’t look like that. And for archaeologists working in Peru, you work with what’s available. The lab is set up for visual and mechanical activities, like building molds and visually analyzing pottery and remains. But we are getting it souped up for chemical tests.
I mostly just observed what my peers were working on and helped with initial labeling of pottery. Nothing too big or groundbreaking in terms of my own work, but I was still acclimating. I got more reading done and bounced a few research ideas off my colleagues.
After the lab we went to dinner and I had my first big meal since Monday evening. It’s Carneval season so there was lots of music and fireworks and people practicing for the celebration. After we ate, we walked the four or so blocks back to the apartment. I did a little more work and reading, and called it a night. Luckily I fell asleep a little sooner and slept a little longer.
February 24 to March 1: Carneval
We spent a relatively lazy Friday at the apartment working on research and writing. I didn’t mind because I have a cool view of the city expanding up the mountain outside my window. And my to-do list of topics to research is longer than this post.
But Friday night we were up late just hanging out and chatting about all the things to catch up on. I ended up not getting to bed until 3AM, and then waking up around 10:30 on Saturday. After chatting with my mom and taking a “shower,” we decided to go check out the first day of Carneval.
The parades of people are so gorgeous and fun. There’s also opportunity for kids to get a little naughty, and no one is safe from their water balloons.
After following the parade for awhile, we took side streets back to avoid the crowds. It wasn’t long before we heard the sound of running behind us and looked back. Someone yelled “Run!,” there was a splash of a water balloon, and we took off. We ran around the corner hoping to avoid the kids, only to be ambushed by another group on a roof. We thought we were finally in the clear when the first kids came around the corner again and started running. So we did, too.
Six blocks later, after we were soaking wet, but managed to escape the kids. Starving from walking, running, and laughing, we decided to grab a bite to eat and head back to the apartment.
Carneval went until about March 1st. The night of the 28th, there was a huge celebration in the neighborhood that we attended part of. Drinks and dancing and celebrating filled the evening. I am by no means an expert on Andean culture, but being able to watch and participate is an eye opening and humbling experience.
March 1 to March 7: Getting in the Rhythm
Although we did do some lab work, the trip is focusing on a less sexy type of research: reading. And I have to say, I’m loving it. I have a spreadsheet of project ideas and questions I want to answer that’s been constantly growing.
On Saturday, the 4th, we took a little detour from our developing routine to have a little fun. One of the lab members had a car, so we decided to go to a hot spring about an hour away. We stopped to check out a previously excavated cave on the way. It was a bit of hike up to the crumbling remains of the cave, but the walk was quite beautiful. Underneath the modern graffiti, we could see the painting from the peoples who used to call the cave home.
After the cave, we drove another 40 or so minutes to the hot spring. It rained, which made me nervous on the mountain roads, but I’m not a fan of driving in the rain to begin with. At the hot springs, my friend and I hopped right in like there was nothing to it. I estimate the water temperature was about 90-94 degrees Fahrenheit. Our Peruvian lab friends had a little more difficult time easing in, as the water to them was unusually hot. We joked about our different perceptions of comfortable water temperature. Not having “hot” water might be an indication of a poor quality of life in US, but here it’s normal. And really not that bad!
After that we got back in our routine of researching, working, and debating ideas. Major projects take a ton of time, and we have no idea how ours will develop yet. In the meantime, we’re focusing on building our knowledge and accomplishing the goals we’ve set.
And there’s so much more to come!