After my intense stint in basic, post-disaster, third world Pisco, I took the not entirely logical step of going to the other extreme of the development scale: New York City.
I was in town to volunteer at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, a get together of some 50 or so heads of state in town for the UN General Assembly along with leaders from the business, non-profit, and entertainment world. My job was to help manage the approximately 1,000 members of the media covering the conference. It turned out to be a very intense, but interesting, week. One minute I was being yelled at by secret service agents to “lockdown” a room, the next a few feet away from Sting in a live concert.
After New York for a week, it was back to South America. Thank goodness for frequent flier miles. It’s like a jet set lifestyle on a jet ski budget.
After a brief recovery day in Arequipa, it was back into nature to detox from the intensity of both Pisco and NYC. The destination was Colca Canyon, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. It is also home to Andean Condors – truly majestic birds. The word “huge” is a bit cliche, but with a wingspan of up to 10.5 ft (the largest of any land bird), it seems like a fitting adjective.
Next up was Lake Titicaca. Since this seems to be turning into the Guinness World Book of Records post, I’ll roll with it. It is the highest commercially navigable lake in the world. I don’t really have any good idea on what “commercially navigable” means other than “we wouldn’t hold any record at all unless we added a legalesque sounding caveat”, but I regress. It is at 12,500 ft above sea level (twice the elevation of Denver), so it is relatively legit. While we’re at it, it is also the largest lake in South America.
More than the above records, what makes Lake Titicaca interesting (other than its exotic name, these guys really have their marketing 101 down pat…) is the people who live on the lake. Normally “on the lake” means on the shore of the lake or on the islands of the lake. But this lake has people who literally live on the water of the lake. Not on houseboats (way too 20th century), but on man-made, floating islands built of reed. The original idea behind the floating islands was defense, as they were portable. Nowadays, the only invasion the islanders must defend against is hordes of sunburned tourists.
After our obligatory stop on one of the floating islands, we spent the night on one of the main islands of the lake, Taquile. It’s a fascinating place. Each day, around a thousand tourists swarm the island, increasing the population by about 50%. Since there are no hotels on the island (or electricity or cars or…), about 990 of the tourists leave each afternoon soon after their “authentic” fish fry lunch (“authentic” in the way that going to Epcot is equivalent to buying a round the world plane ticket and going to Medieval Times is the same as time travel back to the Middle Ages). Suffice it to say I decided to be one of the ten or so that decided to stay the night on the island in a home stay.
Our host, Celso, was wonderful. We learned about massive cultural differences. He’s been dating the same woman for seven years and has a three year old son, but the two cannot get married since he needs 45 goats to hold the ceremony, as the whole island is always invited and that is the minimum amount of meat to feed the people. It’s akin to being required to have at least an iPhone (to live tweet), iMac (to edit the wedding photos), and iPad (to email a honeymoon update to friends) to have a successful American wedding.
After lake Titicaca, I said adios to Peru and moved onto Bolivia. What I did not realize is that unlike Ecuador and Peru, which simply require a valid US passport to enter, our amigo Evo Morales decided to make it a bit harder for Americans to come visit his country. I think he rates somewhere between Fidel Castro and the Vladimir Putin on the “friends of the USA” list. So I showed up at the border with a stack of paperwork – and a stack of money (a visa costs $135!) and was warned I may or may not be able to buy a visa at the border. Of course, the consulate in the nearest town was out of visas, so I had no other option. Fortunately, everything worked out.
After a brief stop in la Paz, it was onto Uyuni to venture into the Salar. Sticking with the theme of the day, the Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world, at over four thousand square miles. I’m mot quite sure how much competition it as for this title, but it sounds impressive nonetheless. The entire area is mostly flat and covered by a couple feet of salt crust, which is mined by locals for table salt (the Salar also contains more than half of the world’s lithium reserves, which is also being mined… and sells for a bit more than the table salt and is much more likely to be the subject of a future James Bond movie).
A journey into the Salar generally takes 3 days and involves finding a driver with a 4 wheel drive jeep. Given all the horror stories I had heard about drunk and coked out drivers, I spent an extra day in Uyuni doing due diligence. It seemed like time well spent (I did it for you, mom). I will let pictures tell the rest of the story. It really felt like I was traveling through another world. If anything, the pictures don’t fully capture the true vividness and beauty of the colors and scenery of the Salar and surrounding area.
A bit more Pisco. An 8.0 earthquake hit the city in August 2007, killing hundreds of people and destroying over 80% of the city of approximately 115,000 people.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, a team of locals joined with expats from Burners Without Borders, an offshoot of the very hippy Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert, to create Pisco Sin Fronterras (Pisco Without Borders).
First, a disclaimer about the following photography. Since Pisco was considered so dangerous, I didn’t dare bring out my SLR anywhere, so all the photos are from my (semi-broken) point and shoot.
The town and its citizens are incredibly poor. They were poor before the earthquake and destitute afterward. Financial and social safety nets are a pipe dream in a place where people live hand to mouth.
The first real project I worked on was “Mother Teresa”, an incredibly sweet woman with two young children whose house was completely destroyed by the quake. She subsequently moved to a makeshift shack with her family — and had been living there for four years.
Mother Teresa cooked us lunch on our first day on-site. Although I was not particularly thrilled with the cuisine (spaghetti with canned tuna) or the sanitary standards, once I learned that the families see it as an obligation to feed us to maintain their dignity (the work is then no longer a pure “hand out”), but understood also the amount of effort they go through to scrape together the money to prepare lunch, I knew I was going to stay the full two weeks. Rough start aside, there was clearly something very important and special happening here.
After finishing Mother Teresa’s house, we moved on to Pedro. Like Teresa, Pedro had a real house before the quake, but was now living in a particularly precarious looking tent. Pedro worked harder than virtually any person I have ever met. He is a dockhand in Pisco, but the quake caused freight volumes dropped precipitously, leaving him short on work, but not on energy. If a wheelbarrow was left unattended for more than five seconds, he would commandeer it and finish the job.
Pisco forced me to re-examine many of my views and beliefs on aid and development. For better or worse, my general view was that projects like PSF were “band-aids” – basically hand-outs that did little to solve real underlying problems. Given my somewhat skeptical view, my general tendency when I heard about a disaster was to throw my hands up in the air in despair. “Why give people tents and temporary shelter when it will only help some people for some time? Shouldn’t we perform “preventative care” and fix the underlying problem (poverty)?”
Pisco changed this. Most of the projects we did was indeed “band-aid” work. But instead of seeing things from a macro view where “band-aids” seemed ineffective and temporary, I saw it on a micro level where they stopped the bleeding and prevented death. A wood house may not be as good as a brick house, but it is much safer, healthier, and more permanent than a tent, often allowing families to get back to health, work, and school.
A full fix is certainly the best answer, but often this is so far away and elusive that it simply serves as an excuse to do nothing. In a case like Pisco, something is certainly much better than nothing.
PSF has also moved more toward a holistic model, working on both education and community development programs. In addition to building the temporary modular homes, they also started work on more permanent community projects like schools and hospitals (surgery? No pun intended. A longer term fix to still underlying problems…)
In addition to getting a better sense of what life in a post-disaster community is like, I also gained a much greater appreciation for the value (and brutality) of manual labor. I spent three years in Dallas doing Habitat for Humanity, so I thought I already knew. But I quickly realized that is is one thing to work one day at a time and go back to your nice, air conditioned apartment… and quite another to do five and a half days in a row and go back to a dorm room. By the end of week one, I was physically spent. Walking seemed like a massive chore. Cognitive abilities declined. I started to daydream about just lying in bed, not moving.
Like most people, I love cracking jokes when I see ten construction workers on the side of the road, one of whom is working and nine of whom are gazing. “Lazy !@#$ that are wasting our tax dollars.”
Yet, after a day of pouring cement, I was looking for any excuse to take a break. It is easy to judge others from the comfort of one’s car after spending eight hours behind a desk. Personally, I think I am now much more inclined to at least think about the old maxim of “walk a mile in another’s shoes (or construction boots) before you judge them.” Easier said than done, of course, but I will always have my cement mixer to serve as a good memory.
After my first week, I think I finally got the hang of life in Pisco. Mas o menos. Suicide showers became just cold showers. In a certain light, the rubble on the beach looked a bit historic. Plus, the food was delicious, albeit a bit dangerous (see below).
In the end, I’m glad I gave it a shot. I think I would have been disappointed in myself had I just run away. I learned about life in what really amounts to hell on earth (not for me as a volunteer, but for the actual residents of Pisco), about not judging people by first (scary) appearances, and about myself. It was a draining two weeks physically and emotionally. In addition to lots of bleeding and soreness, I picked up both E.coli and Giardia during my second week. Good times.
But in the end, I was left wanting to push the envelope further. If I could do this, surely I could do something even a bit more intense. Maybe next time it will be a refugee camp in Somalia. Similar to Cotopaxi, by pushing my limits I realized the extent of what I can do — even if I was at first skeptical.
As mentioned previously, I planned to go from the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu to the modern ruins of Pisco, Peru.
A bit more background on Pisco and Pisco Sin Fronterras (aka PSF, the non-profit where I was slated to volunteer for two weeks) in a bit. This post is a bit more of a narrative (with no pictures, as it was all in the dark of night… and in an environment where displaying anything of value would have resulted in a guaranteed mugging).
So, the journey to Pisco:
1. Step one is a bus from Lima to Pisco, which is a relatively straightforward, if unpleasant, four hour endeavor.
2. I arrive at the Pisco bus station around 9pm. The place screams dodgy. Think dark, shadowy, with lots of shady looking characters everywhere.
3. I find a taxi driver that looks like he will not kidnap me (i.e. he could be my grandfather). We negotiate a rate and head off. He claims to know the location of PSF.
4. Some thirty minutes later, we are stopping random people on the street asking if they know where PSF is located. Example #849 of people always answering yes to any question in Peru.
5. After multiple queries of random street folk, we finally find PSF. I grab my luggage and knock on the door. No answer. It seems eerily quiet. I knock again. No answer. I emailed the day before to confirm my arrival, but never received a reply. The taxi driver is getting impatient. Young men in hoodies lurk menacingly.
6. After almost ten minutes of futile knocking, I ask the taxi driver if I could borrow his cellphone. “Sorry, no credit” comes the reply. He suggests I go to the gas station across the street and use the pay phone.
7. Imagine the sketchiest gas station you have ever visited. Multiply by three. I put some coins into the phone and dial the PSF number. No answer. I try again two more times with the same result.
8. It is now around 10pm in a town that resembles Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I’m alone with a taxi driver who speaks no English and is rapidly tiring of playing chaperone. I have not seen a single other hotel in the city. I don’t quite panic, but I definitely feel a wave of helplessness washing over me.
9. As I’m about to ask the driver for a safe place to stay for the night, two people covered in red body paint walk up to me and ask me what I’m looking for — in a British accent. They say they are volunteers at PSF and that everyone else is down by the beach for a burning man party. I’m relieved to have been rescued, but no less skeptical of the overall endeavor.
10. I thank (and tip) the taxi driver, drop off my bags, and we take a tuktuk to the beach. I’m told to never walk alone in town after 6pm, no matter what (even in a group), and never to carry anything of value. Volunteers have been robbed walking across the street to buy a bottle of water — in a group. Fantastic.
11. We arrive at the beach, which more reminiscent of a Jersey construction site dump than paradise. Much of the rubble from the earthquake was dumped on the beach out of convenience. Everyone is intoxicated and most are cross-dressed. Coming off a ten hour (sober) journey from Cuzco, I have a hard time getting into the party mood. My newfound British saviors sense this and bring me back to PSF headquarters.
12. When walking in the door, I’m greeted by a cross-dressed Australian wearing little more than ladies underwear. He wants to give me a tour of the place. Sensing danger, the Brits say they’re going to take me to their place (a second PSF property) to stay, as it is supposedly a bit less chaotic there (which in my mind seems to be a low bar to surpass).
13. We arrive at the other property, the “school house”. The room consists of a number of bunk beds crammed together with a piece of plastic sheet separating the bathroom. I didn’t expect much, but this was pretty basic.
14. I ask my British friends what I should know about Pisco and PSF. At this point, I am already wondering what I have gotten myself into and mentally working out how I can get on the first bus out of Pisco the next morning. Most of the conversation centers on digestive illnesses. During the earthquake, the water and sewage pipes mixed together. The city has been perpetually sick since then. Parasites are the norm, as is e.coli (more on this later). PSF had a massive typhoid outbreak the month before. Dysentery is not uncommon. I have a strong stomach, but for some reason the thought of parasites in particular freaks me out.
15. We go to bed around midnight. I am freezing cold since there were no extra blankets and put on a motley array of random clothing for warmth. The person below me has a snore resembling a freight train that suddenly has a massive engine failure every five minutes or so. Stray dogs are barking wildly outside. Mattress coils are poking into my back.
At this point, the overwhelming feeling I have is a desire to flee; more so than I can recall having at any other moment on the trip (even Cotopaxi). These people seem crazy and life seems awful. I’m leaning toward making up some excuse the next morning and hopping on the first bus back to Lima.
The next morning, I decide to give it one day. Sometimes the hardest experiences are the ones you learn the most from, I tell myself… not particularly reassured.
No trip to Peru is complete without a visit to the infamous Machu Picchu, the 15th century Incan city located outside Cuzco.
I met up with two HBS friends, Gayle and Katrin, for the experience. As context:
1) Since we are not 80 years old, we were obligated by pride to opt for one of the treks to Machu Picchu instead of simply taking the train from Cuzco.
2) If we were going to do a trek, we might as well do the infamous Inca Trail.
3) Since we are of course very culturally sensitive travelers, we tried to find a socially responsible company. Our choice was Wayki Trek, which proudly claimed to be “under indigenous management”. I’m still not fully sure I know why being “under indigenous management” is a good thing, but I feel like it’s one of those things one cannot question, like “is recycling actually good for the environment?”
One of the key selling points of Wayki was the inclusion of the “Wayki experience”. Now, I’m inherently skeptical of anything labeled an “experience”. I feel like it’s akin to someone describing a potential date as “interesting”.
The gist of the “experience” was to get a better sense of the lives of the porters who would be carrying all our worldly belongings with us for our three-day trek. To do so, we would visit their village and spend the night with one of their families.
It turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. Not only was the village and surrounding area beautiful, but the family we stayed with was incredibly welcoming. We ate, drank, and danced together – and picked up some Quecha (indigenous language) along the way.
A few observations:
1) The traditional food is quite hearty. Lots of corn, but not of the American variety. One kernel takes 30 seconds to chew. Also a case in point of the pitfalls of modernity: with the introduction of processed food, lifespans have dramatically decreased.
2) The local people practice a blend of Christianity and indigenous religion. They will go to mass on Sunday morning and come home and make an offering to Pacha Mama (the earth god) immediately afterward. Both religions have endured for centuries, blended together. I wonder if either deity is jealous?
3) This was not unique to this village, but particularly prominent in it. The way to support the politician of your choice is to paint your entire house with his or her name. Suddenly the American proclivity for yard signs seems lame in comparison.
So, the trek itself.
The scenery was nice, our crew great, and the going not overly difficult.
Everything went splendidly until after we passed the highest point on the second day. Suddenly we were pelted by massive hail. Which seemed bad, until we were presented with the alternative: freezing rain. Since it was dry season, I had of course neglected to bring along a poncho. When we finally arrived at camp, it felt as if cold water had soaked through every inch of my body. Moreover, everything was wet – our tents, our bags, even our food. Definitely the low-light of the trip. There are no photos for this 12 hour stretch as a) it was too wet b) I was too cold.
The next day was warm and sunny. Our offerings to Pacha Mama were well received.
The final day was a bit of a crazy experience. We were woken up at 4am, lined up at a checkpoint which opened at 5:30am, and then rushed to the sun gate along the way to Machu Picchu.
We were about number 30 out of 150 in the line (we had pancakes for breakfast, which slowed us down a bit…)
But, one of the benefits of having our own small/private/fit group was that we didn’t have to stop along the way. As such, we ended up passing all the other groups and being the first to reach the sun gate and Machu Picchu. The experience definitely felt more real and intimate without our closest hundred SLR toting friends.
I’ll avoid repeating lots of random historical and archeological facts about Machu Picchu, suffice it to say it is quite the engineering feat and beats out much of the infrastructure we have in the US today.
Overall, an interesting cultural immersion, nice hike, and fascinating history.
Up next: Pisco, Peru to volunteer with a non-profit helping the town recover from the large earthquake that hit the Peruvian coast in 2007. A transition from well-restored 15th century Incan ruins to completely un-restored 21st century ruins.
Other than a crazy Cuban taxi driver who liked to tell dirty jokes, I don´t have very many crazy stories about the Galapagos. I was afraid it was going to be one of those places that is overly hyped and disappoints in reality, but I was thankfully proved wrong.
For those of you who know little about the Galapagos (like me), they are a group of islands 500 miles off the coast of Ecuador. They are largely famous for their numerous endemic (i.e. only found in the Galapagos) species. Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1835 and the unique species played a large role in developing his theory of evolution.
Due to time and (more importantly) financial constraints, I was only able to do a land-based tour instead of a live-aboard, which is supposed to be even more breathtaking. Regardless, I found the scenery fascinating and the animals captivating.
I´ll let the photos tell the rest of the story.
Since I couldn’t deal with the lack of sun in Montanita, I decide to leave a week early and head for the mountains. After overhearing a random hostel conversation, I seize upon the goal of climbing Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. At 19,347ft (5,897m), it is about six feet higher than Mt. Kilimanjaro.
A more cautious person would have first undertaken a bit more due diligence at this point. I, on the other hand, immediately set about finding an agency that would take me. Of course, they all assure me that one day of acclimatization in Latacunga (2800m) and a day trip to Quilotoa (3800m) will suffice for acclimatization. Clearly they had only my best interests at heart.
While wandering around Latacunga looking for a guide, I meet an Argentinian also looking to climb. We find a guide and set off for the mountain.
We depart around noon from Latacunga (2,800m) and arrive at the Cotopaxi parking lot (4,500m) three hours later, gaining almost 2,000ft an hour.
The hike to the refuge (4,800m) is up a steep gravel slope, but I feel great. Once at the top, conditions outside soon turn blizzard-like.
The evening continues — we´re to go to bed for about six hours before waking up at midnight to summit.
Now, an hour-by-hour recap, as best I can recall:
6pm: Go to bed at in preparation for a midnight wakeup call and 8 hour hike to the summit.
(note: mom, please stop reading here).
7pm: After lying down, get a slight headache. Figure it is normal due to the altitude. Plan to sleep it off and be ready to go up the mountain in a few hours.
8pm: Headache gets worse. Drink some water, take out iPod to take mind off it. At this point, figure there is a chance I may not make it to the summit.
9pm: Headache is now pounding. Also feeling nauseous. Head downstairs to walk around a bit. Almost fall down the stairs due to head spinning. After sitting downstairs for a bit feeling indecisive, decide to wakeup guide to let him know I’m not feeling too caliente. Have essentially written off gaining any more altitude at this point.
10pm: Worse headache I have had in my life, times five. I have not slept for a second. My head literally feels like it will explode. Nausea is getting significantly worse.
11pm: I now very clearly have all the signs of AMS (acute mountain sickness). Symptoms are getting worse instead of better. I think back to climbing in the Annapurnas in May. We heard about a man who died from AMS at base camp (4,130m, or about 700m below where we were staying on Cotopaxi currently) two days before we arrived. Am now checking my watch every five minutes praying that midnight will come soon.
Midnight: Finally, everyone wakes up. I stumble downstairs and tell the guide I’m feeling very bad. He talks rapidly to me in Spanish. My Spanish comprehension tends to minimal at normal times, but at this point it was zero. Fortunately, the Argentinian translates for me. The only two options are for me to stay at the refuge and wait for them to return some ten hours later, or for all three of us to descend immediately.
The guide suggests staying at the refuge since he doesn’t want to force the Argentinian to descend. I’m torn – I hate to a) be a wimp and b) ruin someone else’s trip. I lean toward trying to stick it out. I ask what options I have if I continue to get sicker. More rapid Spanish. The answer comes back: none. There is only one worker who stays at the refuge. He speaks no English, has no phone or radio, and definitely would not help me get down the mountain. The little Spanish I did catch seemed to indicate that it was unclear if he would even wakeup if I knocked on his door.
I attempt to walk to the dining room from the kitchen and once again almost fall over. The decision is made. I’m not risking passing out in a deserted hut alone for ten hours. We go down. During our drive down, the guide looks at the mountain and says all the other groups are also descending after about an hour, all due to altitude.
Some three hours and 2,000m later (at around 4am) we are back in Latacunga. Other than a mild headache, I feel fine. I consider myself lucky that I´m healthy and don´t spend much time thinking about the actual mountain.
Had I done a bit more diligence, I would have learned:
- The maximum recommended ascent rate (above 3,000m) is 300-400m a day, with a rest day for every 1,000m climbed. We were attempting 3,100m in one day.
- Every US-based operator of Cotopaxi climbs requires at least two prior acclimatization climbs in Ecuador above 4,500m.
- Almost every US-based operator also recommends using Diamox, an altitude sickness prevention drug. I had some with me that was leftover from Kilimanjaro, but decided not to use since our guide said it was unnecessary.
- The summit success rate for Cotopaxi during the winter (now) is below 10%, far lower than Kilimanjaro or most other popular climbs. Perhaps that’s there were only 6 people attempting to summit with us in peak season, versus some 500+ on Kilimanjaro.
I of course didn’t know any of this before setting out, and thus felt like much more of a failure at the time. And even knowing it now, I think I always expect to be in that 10% – the exception to the rule – as do many (most?) people.
Todo es posible, pero todo no es facil.
Everything is possible, but not everything is easy.
Both statements are a bit cliché. I’m not even sure I fully agree with the first (though I prefer to be an optimist). Yet, I think for me the second lesson was important in this case. Sometimes you learn more from failures than successes. Success leads to celebration, failure leads to reflection. Both are important.
Next time, I´ll do my homework.
After a week back in the USA, I was off to South America.
My first stop? A little town called Montanita on the coast of Ecuador. My goal: learn Spanish in two weeks. More on that later.
Let’s begin with the pluses. I was staying right on the beach and my room cost less than $20 a night. There is something special about falling asleep to the sound of waves. I finally understand the market for strange CDs and white noise machines.
Actually, I still think those people are crazy and likely read too many self-help books, but the real thing is quite nice.
The first two days of school passed normally. I mastered the difference between being tired (cansado) and being married (casado) — but similar to Swahili, not without a few hiccups. I may have asked my Spanish teacher for her hand in marriage instead of whether she was sleepy.
(I realized I had erred when she responded by asking me how long it would take for her to obtain an US passport instead of with a simple yes or no).
There were some less stellar aspects to Montanita, however.
(Mom, please stop reading here. Please be aware this may be one of many of these types of disclaimers going forward…)
On Wednesday night I was in a cooking class learning how to make ceviche. A fellow student rushed in hurriedly. He had just witnessed a shooting. Apparently two Colombians had been “assassinated” (the word used by the teacher) on the street.
Fortunately, this was the first time anything like this had happened in Montanita, supposedly. It seemed to be part of a larger battle being waged by various drug cartels against each other, similar to the situation in Mexico. Unfortunately, it happened a block away from our language school. The teacher figured Montanita would be safer than ever over the next few days because of the increased police presence. Which sounds a bit like The US response to terrorism – always ready for the last crisis.
Thursday was also interesting. I was sitting on a hammock in front of my room between classes (if only real school were like this) when suddenly the beach cleared. As it turns out, there was a tsunami warning. As soon as the police left some fifteen minutes later, all the locals were back on the beach, of course. I suppose the Asian tsunami didn´t get much coverage in Ecuador. I kept my distance, but did manage to catch some surfers having a gnarly time.
I did manage to have a brief moment of introspection amid the constant fiesta of Montanita. I was walking back to class on Thursday, covered in sand, mud, and mosquito bites. I passed some Rastas with a young baby in the midst of a heated argument (aside: it looked like they could house the baby in their dreadlocks), seemingly stuck between the beach hippie life of no responsibilities other than selling the occasional bracelet to pay for food and suddenly having to provide for a newborn.
As much as the bohemian and transient life appeals to me on some level, In that moment I gained a new appreciation for the value of life in the developed world. Yes, living in Palo Alto or Denver is way more boring than somewhere on a beach in Africa. But there’s no malaria in the ´burbs.
That said, the kids in developed countries are never as cute as in developing ones. When I think American kid, I think screaming on an airplane or crying because their parents won’t buy them an iPhone at the age of five. Kids in developing countries always seem happier.
At the end of my first week, I realized a few other things:
- I wasn’t going to learn Spanish in two weeks (duh) and needed more chances to practice practical Spanish outside a classroom. Learning the format for indirect objects is important of course, but first one must master being able to order lunch.
- The sun rarely makes an appearance in Montanita. As a Floridian, the beach without sun is like Apple without Steve Jobs. Oh wait…
So I decided to pack my things up a week early and head for the mountains.