Archive for the 'travel' Category
I did my best to find the cheapest airfare and Pluna came through with a good deal that took me on a three-stop tour across this continent: São Paulo-Montevideo-Asunción-Santiago. My layover was eight hours in Montevideo so I took the opportunity to get another country’s stamp in my passport and continue the city in eight hours series I began in Toronto.
My first stop was The Manchester for a chivito, the Uruguayan national sandwich. I chose the Canadiense, the “Canadian.” It was quite a plate, as one can see below. What was so Canadian about it? I do not know.
Afterward, I started walking down to the main city plaza, Plaza Independencia and then headed down to the water where Río de la Plata meets the Atlantic. It was a bit rainy and cool but cleared up as I made my way back across town to the airport.
Montevideo was not the most exciting place on earth, especially on a rainy Sunday afternoon, but I enjoyed the new sights and the long break before the two flights I was about to take. It was better than sitting in an airport for those eight hours.
I’ve already left but I did not post much while there. Well, how about a recap?
Rio de Janeiro
I went to Rio to work for six months with Abel Azevedo and also help prepare the way for the Aggies’ visit in mid-July. It was a good time to get a grasp of Portuguese; I just can’t shake that Carioca (anyone or thing from Rio) accent. The Aggie visit was excellent and really lifted my spirits. The opportunity to move to Itu to intern under Mark and Ali Kaiser came up and, with the encouragement of Traci, travelling with the Aggies, I made the move.
Before my time in Itu officially began, I made a trip to Recife in Brazil’s northeast with my good friend and housemate in Itu, Guto. We found really cheap airfare on Azul Airlines. It was exciting to fly – it was Guto’s first flight and Azul is a relatively new airline. Also, they offer unlimited food and drink service; a great airline.
We joined up with the Aggies working at a camp being converted in to a children’s home, painting at a local church/seminary, and putting on a VBS in one of the poorer communities outside Recife. On our last day, Guto and I were able to visit Porto de Galinhas, one of the best beaches in Brazil. It was an excellent visit and thanks to Danny and lee Bratcher for receiving Guto and I.
My time in Itu truly began prior to leaving Rio. I was able to go visit and be put to work immediately. I was invited by Mark and Ali to return to work at the annual bi-lingual camp a few weeks later. It was my first camp experience in Itu and was fantastic – ran in a way completely different from previous camp experiences. Read more about it. It opened my mind to the possibility of working in Itu.
So I made the change to Itu and moved in with my friend Guto. My main focuses were Guto and developing a media ministry, as well as participating with the youth group. From equipping the church secretary to giving weekend seminar on printed material and PowerPoint design, I was put to work, a change from what I had been doing prior to Itu. Mark and Ali were great people to work with and I was impressed with how much their ministry permeates their lives. There home is open to all. You never know who will be there. Beyond, it was a blast being involved with the youth and the Friday lunch for the homeless. Even though my time was rather short, it seemed like it was the ideal time for me to be there.
Continent Connection Conference
My last week in Brazil was spent in Atibaia at a men’s retreat hosted by Continent of Great Cities. It was spiritually refreshing. We had small groups and Mark Abshier was our group leader. I’ve been in some dark areas over the past year and it was like that week just lifted so much off and God started to clean me up.
In between my parents’ visit and my departure from Chile, I went to Peru. I had found my friend Robert a super cheap round trip ticket on ATIflights.com from DC to Lima so we jumped at the chance to do some travelling for a week. The opportunity of getting a new passport stamp was not bad either.
We landed within an hour of each other and were soon greeted by our friend and host in Lima, John Mark Davidson. He and his family moved to Lima in mid-January with the mission of planting a church with the rest of their team. We stayed a few nights with them and even spent Easter in their home. I hadn’t eaten pancakes in the morning in quite some time and they were good!
While in Lima we enjoyed the history of the city, the food (Robert couldn’t get enough of the fresh juice at the local Wong), and the sights – Cerro San Cristobal, San Francisco Catacombs, Plaza de Armas, Chinatown, and Parque de la Reserva.
After Lima we boarded a flight to Cusco, the gateway city to Machu Picchu. We planned on arriving a couple days in advance to get acclimated to the elevation (Cusco actually sits at a higher elevation than Machu Picchu) and purchase are tickets for the train and entry to Machu Picchu. We lodged at Hostal Royal Frankenstein which had a warm, tropical interior with an iguana roaming around. Cheap too!
Our few days in Cusco were excellent. I thought it was just “some city” where you began your trip to Machu Picchu; boy was I wrong. Cusco had so much more to offer, no wonder it’s called the “Historical Capital of Peru.” Robert and I visited the many sites in and out of town while running around getting all of our train and park entrance tickets. Eating was an adventure. I recommend the following places:
Cuy: roasted guinea pig. If you enjoy eating a rodent that without all its fur looks like a roasted rat with many more chewy parts than substance then this is your dish. I could take it or leave. I lean towards the latter, but I tried it.
Going on advice, Robert and I took a local bus, much cheaper, to a town a few hours away to catch the train. It was a beautiful ride there but the train ride was not so great. We were misplaced in a car that was not meant for tourists. We arrived at Aguas Calientes, quickly found a decent hotel, had some dinner, and were asleep with enough time to get up early. Little did I know the next morning as we head up to and arrived at the park entrance that I had placed the wrong tickets in my backpack. To make a frustrating story short, I ran down the mountain in the pouring rain all the way back to Aguas Calientes to retrieve our tickets at the hotel. After about an hour I was back atop ready to enter Machu Picchu.
It was incredible. Absolutely worth the trip. We walked around the lower portion of the ancient city and then headed up Huayna Picchu, a mountain that rises above Machu Picchu and has a 400 person/day limit, to look over the entire site. It was a strenuous hike but the reward was more ruins atop the peak and a spectacular view. One only needs a few hours to take in Machu Picchu.
We headed down to take a train ride that we’ll never forget. Traditional dances and an alpaca fur fashion show are not that uncommon apparently on this train. It was a riot! We arrived at Ollantaytambo where we had the opportunity to visit another ruins site. By then, even though I pushed through it all, my legs were a bit upset from the “little jog” down the mountainside. I was feeling that for days afterwards.
We spent another day in Cusco. I was recovering from that run, but decided to take a bus nine kilometers outside the city to see some ruins and walk back. That thin Andean air must have got to me. I don’t know what I was thinking. The next morning we had our last breakfast at Trotamundos and caught our flight back to Lima. The rest of the day was spent relaxing with movies and a lunch of ceviche. The following morning Robert and I said goodbye to Peru and each other and headed back to our respective countries.
It was a good trip.
These past few weeks I was able to participate in the annual Bilingual Camp put on by the Igreja de Cristo em Itu. I first visited Itu in June 2005 on AFCSA and have been able to return several times over the years.
Well I visited Itu about a month ago and was immediately put to work by my friends Mark and Ali, the youth ministers. I was just taking the opportunity of some other friends visiting a nearby town to visit my friends in Itu and, bam, I find myself to have become “the other intern.” Ali was reading an email to be sent to a potential intern and, if I recall correctly, it went something like “Come to Itu where your talents will be used and abused.” I was used. It was so good to work alongside Mark and Ali and their other interns – Carol, Katie, and Mary Lou.
Some of my recent work for the Itu church:
Upon leaving, I was given the invitation to return to help at the bilingual camp. Less than a week later I was back in Itu.
So camp. I thought it was going to be just a five day camp where we spoke English and had some fun but it was so much more. As Kris, another recently added intern, said
…it was a Christian camp where there happen to be people who spoke English and Portuguese.
Two campers, one a former atheist, decided to follow Christ. It was an incredible experience that refreshed my spirit. Good food, dynamic groups, fun staff, a dance party until 3A, s’mores, beautiful facilities! Who could ask for more?
I returned to Rio on Monday but with the Johnson Street church youth group from San Angelo that went to Itu to run the camp and participate in the inaugural activities of the church in Itu, which were awesome. They invited me to spend their last two days with them at a nice hotel on the beach. It was a great time and was, actually, the first time since moving to Rio that I went to the beach. That may tell you HOW far from the beach I live!
I received the best birthday gift this year – my parents.
They flew in to Santiago on my birthday. It was a bit of a nerve racking wait. They were stopped by the agriculture department for two apples that Mom had forgotten she had her in bag. Dad almost swore that they were originally from Chile, but that didn’t matter.
We had a good few days in Santiago, which was good since one of their pieces of luggage did not make it until the next day. We visited Plaza de Armas, Cerro Santa Lucía, Cerro San Cristobal, Mercado Central, and ate our way through the city. They also had the delight of riding on Transantiago, the public transportation system of bus and metro lines.
Santiago was good but southern Chile was excellent. More on that soon.
Well I’m currently transitioning from Chile to Brazil. I hopped on a bus and rode for 36 hours to Porto Alegre, Brazil. I’ll be staying with the Blumes for a few days and then head to my new home (for six months) of Rio de Janeiro.
Very soon I will be putting something up about my parents’ visit and my trip to Peru with my friend Robert. In the meantime, check out some of the photos on flickr.
I was browsing one-way flights from Texas to Santiago, Chile several weeks back and I had found a great site (atiflights.com) for booking. Well I was wanting to come back on a Saturday night and was finding flights for around $850. For curiosity I searched flights on Sunday and was returned with a flight for under $700, so I jumped on it. The interesting fact was to go south I had to go north first.
I flew in to Toronto, Canada at 3:35P and immediately went looking for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) ticket sales desk. I changed some money, purchased the tiny TTC tokens, and set out to see a bit of the city.
I caught the Airport Rocket to Kipling Station from which I headed across town to the Taste of the Danforth festival. There I spent a couple hours walking up and back down Danforth Avenue sampling cuisines from all over the world, listening to international music, and watching a traditional Greek dance performance.
I ate Thai chicken satay, Ecuadorian potato pancake, Japanese salmon kebab, Greek baklava, and a banana that cost me less than thirty Canadian cents. The prices were not bad and, being the last day of the festival, many prices had been reduced. It was quite delectable and fun.
I then caught the Subway to Union Station where I hopped on the Spadina streetcar. I had a general idea of where it was heading, but in the end had to employ the aid of a local woman originally Ethiopia to get to Chinatown. She was incredibly helpful and willing to walk with me for several blocks. It’s a shame I can’t remember her name. I caught sight of the CN Tower, walked through a bit of Kensington Market, and ended up at a dumpling restaurant (not a smart choice only a few hours after the food festival).
At the end of the day I caught the Subway back out to Kipling and returned to the airport on the bus. Toronto is a very multicultural place. I couldn’t compare it to another place I had been. I felt safe wherever I went and all were friendly. Maybe that’s the nature of the city or all of Canada.
Not much blogging has been going on over the past month. Well I’ve been in Texas and two other states to the north since the beginning of July. I have about a week left. It’s been great fun and plenty of things to write about. For now though, it’s bedtime.
Enjoy some chocolate.