Day 5 - Arequipa

if you listen you can hear the silence say
"when you think you're done, you've just begun"

Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way - U2

We arrived in Arequipa early in the morning. We're supposed to arrive at 05:30 AM, but I think we arrived later than that. The sun still hadn't risen though and it was really really cold in the morning. My feet was like freezing in the bus and when we got out of the bus, I was shivering. We're dropped off at this one point with different shuttles to take us to our hotel. The bus itself was continuing to the next leg. Here Peru Hop wasn't very organized. All of us were waiting for our luggages and bags, but the bags could be stored all the way in, like mine and Gioia were all the way to the back. So they had to unload all the bags at the front to reach the ones at the back. Unclaimed bags were scattered on the ground. I wonder if some would be missing. What Peru Hop should have done was organize people before departing, who's going to Arequipa, Puno, or Cusco and then load the bags based on this. The shuttle people were kinda in a hurry it seemed and we had to tell them over and over that we're waiting for our luggages. Even the people who were offloading the bags seemed exasperated. Finally we got all our bags and could get into the shuttle. Before we got into the shuttle, we said good by to the Singaporean group we met. Their schedule and ours diverged after that day so we wouldn't be travelling together again.

In Arequipa, we're staying at an hotel by Plaza de Armas. I kinda made a stupid decision in choosing this hotel. This wasn't my first choice and somehow I didn't stick to my first choice even though it was available. I was hoping the hotel was going to let us get into our rooms early on account we're going to check out super early too, but no such luck :( It was really disappointing. I was really tired and as often happens, I can be quite cranky :( As for the room, I didn't mind it and in fact I was kinda glad to have a proper hotel room after the 2 hostels experience, but Gioia actually preferred her room in Huacachina than this one. Well her room didn't have a window so it was kinda bad. One accommodating thing the hotel was willing to do for us was to allow us to have breakfast that day instead of the next day when we had to leave super early. However since we arrived really early, breakfast wasn't ready. So we spent the time walking around and waiting in Plaza de Armas.

That morning I found something really bad had happened to my body. It's an issue that I sometime experience here in Singapore too and would always stress me out. There in Peru, the magnitude was like more than 10 times more severe. I was quite in distress and it really brought my mood down even further. Mom was asking if I could go see a doctor there, but I didn't. I didn't even know how to begin to explain what happened, it's not even something that I like to talk to with my doctor here. So the plan was to self-medicate. It got better a bit, but then it returned with the same severity when I was in Cusco and it was still bothering me even after I left Peru :( It was something internal in my body. On the outside and in general I was fine so I could still do stuff, but knowing that there's a big problem inside, well as usual I just couldn't really shake it off. I was not in the best and positive mood :(

The day must go on though. After breakfast, we proceeded with the rest of the plan. There were some places that I wanted to visit, but since we're early, they're not open yet. We started with entering Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa which by Plaza de Armas and then we walked to the furthest place to go, Mirador de Yanahuara. You and I learned last year that mirador means a look-out point and this look-out point was some distance away and there would be some uphill walk. I didn't know how Gioia would handle it, but she did okay. We had to pass by busy streets. People were going to work after all. The heavy traffic, noise, pollution, crowd, they all really reminded me of Indonesia and I was thinking that one should be confident like an Indonesian in navigating the chaos :D Arequipa is surrounded by mountains and on the way to the look out point, we got a better look of the mountains. I think this is the Chachani mountain range.

The mirador itself has interesting and beautiful arches and a church nearby. The church wasn't open yet I think when we were there and I'm also not sure if it's free, so we didn't enter. We took some time taking picture. The Misti volcano can be seen overlooking the city.

After that we went down and went to Mundo Alpaca. Mundo Alpaca has a shop that sells alpaca and llama wool products and a whole other area where you can see the llama and alpaca and get explanation on how the wools are processed. In fact as we approached, one of their staff came to greet us and took us around. First we saw some alpacas and llamas. I don't know how, they straight away walked to the edge of their fence. I think their handler might have shepherd them to us. They were really cute. We were given plant to feed them, but only one was eating what we're giving. The rest looked like they didn't care.

Then the staff explained the different wools. The softest and most expensive and most difficult to get is actually wool from vicuña. Vicuñas are not domesticated. They are out there in the wild and you don't get a lot of wool from a vicuña, only like 250 grams per animal, so it's very rare. We were also shown the different plants that they use to dye the wool. I love how bright the colours can get. Then the staff left us to explore and enjoy the place. Side note: the place has a lot of big succulents. I was fascinated. By the way I only knew what a succulent is when one day my Japanese classmates suddenly talked about it.

After that we made our way to Santa Catalina Monastery. The compound is identifiable by the high wall. In fact it's perhaps the only section of town that is protected by a wall. I thought it was rather funny that a monastery for nun would have a high wall. It was early when we arrived so there weren't many people and we liked it that way. You can get a guide, but we decided not to. The monastery is very interesting with its many different sections, cloisters, and colours. Inside it's like a small village. The nuns didn't stay in a dorm like building. It's more like they had their own little houses. Some of the houses were bigger and had more rooms and facilities because the nun came from richer family. These houses would have proper sitting area and rooms. While the poorer nuns may just have beds in the kitchen. Here's a picture of one the bed.

The compound actually didn't start with a high wall, the wall was added much later. I like visiting this monastery a whole lot. It's big and there's so much to see and there are little pockets of space where you can be alone and find a little bit of peace and quiet. It's also very beautiful with the strong colours in the inside walls. There are still some nuns living there, not a lot. I wonder where they live though. Maybe now all live together in one of the building. Below are some pictures from the monastery. You definitely shouldn't miss this when you visit Arequipa.

After that we were hungry but not so hungry. So we ended up having snacks at one of the Chinese restaurant. It's something that I really was interested about. There's a lot of Chinese restaurants in Peru, like a lot. Of course taste and portion wise have been adjusted to local preference, but I did wonder if locals really go there. They do really. When we went to one, there were locals eating. We chose fried wonton and fried tempura prawns. The wonton was a lot and not very good and we couldn't finish it. The tempura prawns were interesting because they're seasoned with the same powder as the Shihlin fried chicken but not as spicy.

The last stop of the day was Museo Santuarios Andino where you can see the mummy Juanita, the girl who was sacrificed to the Inca Gods and found intact due to the cold mountain she was sacrificed in. So she was like freezed after death naturally. The museum was in a university and the entrance kinda confused me a bit, but we found it. You can choose to have a guide, but again we didn't. You started with watching a video about the sacrifice and how she was found. What I recalled from the video was it was an arduous journey for the Inca people to climb the mountain for this sacrifice and Juanita was likely sedated or drugged before she was sacrificed / killed by blunt force trauma to the head. I wonder if she knew that she was going to be sacrificed. It must be frustrating to climb up a mountain just to be killed or perhaps she thought that she's doing it for the greater good. The exhibition itself is very small. There are some rooms that show some clothing and artifacts from that time and at the end you see Juanita in her ice box. Juanita is not always on display, there's another mummy girl, but when we were there we saw Juanita. I felt a bit sad for her. By the way, I googled this, I wonder how come there's no 3D imaging so far on what her face would likely look like.

Anyways, after that we called it the day. We had a really early start the next day and with our tiring journey to Arequipa, we really needed the rest. Had dinner on one the balcony restaurant near our hotel. Again I couldn't finish my meal. The waiter was like concerned that it's not good. I told him the portion was too much and I asked him if he ate that much, like how come he's still skinny. It made him laugh. It's good to make people laugh :D For pictures from Arequipa, you can go here.

:) eKa @ 10:10:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 4 - Nazca

these things they happened a long time ago
we're different people now and things have changed

Dear Thomas Wolfe - Damien Jurado

Day 3 was spent exploring Nazca. We went there mainly to see the Nazca Lines. Unlike Machu Picchu which I've known since I don't know how long, Nazca Lines were something that I found by chance and maybe just less than 3 years ago. I often have Wikipedia at the ready in one of my browser's tab and one day the main page featured Nazca Lines. I was fascinated and really wanted to go and see this, but even then I realized it might not be feasible. It could be something that's logistically hard to do. Then when I found out about Peru Hop and how this is en route in their itinerary, so I was like this could actually happen and it became another reason why I thought using Peru Hop would be beneficial.

The best way to see the lines are by taking a flight in a small plane. To make it for the flight, we actually had to make our way to Nazca separate from the Peru Hop bus. The bus leaves Huacachina late in the day at around 1 PM. It will take people to visit a Pisco vineyard first and then it will arrive in Nazca at around 7 pm. Before reaching Nazca, it will stop at a viewing tower which people can climb to see around 2 or 3 of the geoglyphs. I wanted to see the whole thing and so we're going to take the flight. Peru Hop suggests people who are interested in the flight to go to Nazca in the morning and then join the bus later on in the evening to continue with the next leg of the journey. I guess you can still follow the Peru Hop's schedule and spend a night in Nazca, but I didn't want to do that. We missed the vineyard visit, but I think that's alright. The good thing with Peru Hop is that they could arrange a shuttle to take us to Nazca at 08:30 AM and they would take our luggages in the bus. I'm appreciative that they made this easier for us.

So that day, me and Gioia managed to wake up early enough for us to have breakfast and explore Huacachina a bit. She chose pancakes for breakfast and I chose omelette. My omelette was kinda small, but perhaps it's good that my breakfast wasn't heavy. Then since we had time, we went to walk around the lake a bit. It was misty and foggy in the morning. I don't know the difference between the two, so I chose both words. The sand dunes were covered by the fog and the mist or fog were rolling on top of the lake's surface too. It was quiet in the morning, very few people walking around, it was quite peaceful. I saw there were already some people on top of the dunes, I wondered if they were there for the sunrise. I wondered if they saw anything because of the fog. Some of the people were there for sandboarding. I guess it's nice to do this when it's not crowded.

After that me and Gioia wheeled our luggages to the meeting point. Waited for our guide to appear, passed him our luggages, filled in a form, and then we got in the shuttle van. There were not many people making the trip to Nazca that day. The van wasn't full. I think there were only 6 of us. By the way, before we departed I took 2 motion sickness pills. The experience the day before in Ballestas Islands really shook me and I also recalled that time I took a small plane in Lake Tekapo where I had motion sickness too, so to really prevent that from happening again, I took 2 pills. The instruction said 1-2 pills, so I just took the upper limit. I took them before reaching Nazca because the pills often make me really drowsy and I didn't want to fall asleep while on the plane. Also just in case I got car sick, I reasoned it's better to take them early to avoid any mishap. Strangely I didn't feel sleepy at all during the ride to Nazca.

We should be arriving at around 11 AM, but we were late. The van took us straight away to the airport in Nazca. There was a bit of confusion when we arrived because I didn't book the flight with Peru Hop and I couldn't find my person. Everyone at the small airport tried to help us though and in the end the guy I booked with found us. He became our guide for the rest of the day too. I didn't book with Peru Hop because their recommended airline has some bad reviews and also because they only offer flight over the Nazca lines, while I want to see Palpa lines too. I've come this far, I should go all the way. It costs 200 USD / person and during June - August, it costs a bit more. I don't think the airport was super busy that day, but it did seem like they had a steady stream of flights maybe every 15-30 minutes. Of course for the airlines to make this cost-effective, they have to make sure the plane is full before departing. So we had to wait awhile. There's some TV playing a video explaining how the lines were made. Here I became nervous about the flight because so many people talked and wrote about the bad motion sickness they got that I decided to take another drug. I didn't take the motion sickness pill again because I didn't want to overdose and again because of the sleepiness it causes, instead I opted for my vertigo medication. I don't know if it's suitable, but I think overall all the drugs helped me. Gioia took one motion sickness pill before arriving and since she became not confident as well, she also decided to take another one. My guide thought we should be fine because we would have digested our breakfast. I don't know, the day before I overheard story about a girl puking and puking even though she didn't eat much before the flight. Anyway after some time finally our turn arrived. My guide was giving us some last-minute advice, like just look at your window, don't try to look at the other side and if you're getting dizzy, try to focus on a center point. At this point, I could only hope for the best :)

I re-read my experience in Lake Tekapo before writing this because I kinda forgot how big the plane was then. It turns out the plane size is exactly the same. The Nazca plane is also for 8 people exactly. There were 2 pilots and 6 passengers. Me and Gioia sat at the right hand side and again I was assigned the seat at the back. Before the flight, one of the pilot was explaining what's going to happen and if anyone felt motion sickness, he had some cotton balls with alcohol that we could ask to help us with the motion sickness. I couldn't see if he's piloting the plane as well or if his sole purpose was to narrate the trip and made sure everyone was okay. In each seat there's a headset for you to listen to the pilot telling us what we're seeing.

As we took off and rose higher, I thought I don't know if I could survive this and how I don't want to be in a small plane anymore. It's not that I was hit with motion sickness straightaway, but it's just that there's really an uncomfortable feeling. I think this flight was also more difficult than the Lake Tekapo flight. During the Lake Tekapo flight, I just looked out the window and everything was pretty. It's not that hard to take pictures. For example if this entire Nazca flight was about taking pictures like below, it may not be so hard on the equilibrium.

A Nazca flight is not like that however. You are looking at things below. To make sure you get a good look, the pilot will tilt the plane twice, so that both sides can see clearly. If you want to have a better look or like me you want to take a good picture, you would further turn your body from facing forward to really face the window. I think this action was actually the one that's hardest for my body. You know another thought that came to mind was that what if I actually didn't get what the pilot was pointing at, luckily I did. I looked at the pictures I took for this trip, there's photographic evidences of all the lines and geoglyphs as shown in the map that we're given. We actually saw more, there are things that's not in the map I got. Gioia heard that there are a lot of lines spread out throughout the mountainous desert and it's possible that there are more to be discovered. The Nazca flights get you to see the ones which are quite nearby to each other I think. Here are some the lines. There's the whale, astronaut (my favorite because it's so human and cute), monkey, and spider.

By the way, the landscape view is also beautiful, the land is so arid. This picture is from the early part of the flight. You know even with all the drugs I took, it's still wasn't easy. At one point the girl next to me asked for the cotton balls with alcohol and I was like, man, I hope she's not gonna throw up. I wanted to ask her if she's okay but I was also concerned with myself. I was trying to keep it together. Another source of discomfort was when the plane tilted to the other side, you're kinda directly below of a blinding bright sun. There were moments when I just closed my eyes because that's the only thing I could do to try to calm myself. The pilot was kinda worried I think, he was asking and asking if everyone was okay and needed the cotton ball.

We saw a lot and then it's off to see the Palpa Lines. These are older than the Paracas lines and this one below show the Paracas family. For the Palpa Lines, the plane only tilted to my side. I then realized that it's most probably because the rest didn't sign up for this, but there they were, they had to sit and suffer through this flight longer because of me and Gioia :D By the way aside for the pilots, the lady next to Gioia was like the most unaffected, she was amazing. I noticed that as we got to the Palpa lines, my pictures were getting so much blurrier. I think I just couldn't hold it steady anymore.

After the Palpa lines, I thought we're done, that was until the pilot said, next the aqueducts. I was like, gosh there's more to this. I totally forgot about this. I was ready for the flight to be over, but at least this was the last one, after this we're done. These aqueducts are very interesting though. Nazca is a desert and they don't have a lot of rains. Our guide told us that these aqueducts are important and even now they're still using and maintaining them for their fresh water supply.

After that we're really done. It's truly not easy. 2 people threw up in my flight. I think it's very common in each flight to have someone throw up. I think I hold myself better than the flight in Lake Tekapo. I experienced a lot of discomfort, I noticed I was having cold sweats at my back, but at least I didn't have an urge to throw up unlike the flight in Lake Tekapo. Also as mentioned, I saw everything and had photographic evidences. So is this worth doing? I guess I'm glad I did it, I'm definitely thankful that I survived it. The only way this would be worth it for you is if you can be sure you will not get motion sickness. Imagine taking the flight and spending the whole time closing your eyes not seeing anything, then it would be a waste right. The thing is if you have never been in a small plane, how can you be sure that you'll be alright? Drug yourself as much as you can I think :D Mind you, I survived after taking 3 drugs and I was so happy when we're back on solid ground. I talked to the pilot a bit after we're done and it is enviable that they didn't feel a thing. The pilot even said he really enjoyed the maneuvering *sigh*

After the flight my original plan was to check in to a hostel and relax, maybe take a nap before we had to meet the Peru Hop bus in the evening and start on the dreaded overnight bus journey. Gioia however felt like we should be exploring more things. So I said, okay you talk to the guide and decide. I know that there are 3 options: visiting Cantalloc Aqueducts, Cahuachi Ceremonial Center, or Chauchilla Cemetery. None of this particularly interested me so I thought let Gioia decide, surprise me. She chose to see the mummies, so we're going to the Chauchilla Cemetery. The guide left us at the airport for awhile to pick up 2 other people. We didn't feel like having a big lunch also there's not much option available. So we just had small snacks. Then it's off to the cemetery. The cemetery compound is in this big open space. A distance away, there are mountains with interesting colours. By the way, in general I think mountains in Peru often have different kinds of element or mineral in them that many of them have different colours in them.

If I can describe the cemetery, it's like there are blocks of spaces underground where the mummies are buried. They are buried with things like bowl, corns, or other things they may need. Sometime there are more than 1 mummy in the block, they can be a family. We also saw a baby mummy. Since the compound is very big, there are many of these kind of blocks, but they have been raided and artifacts had been stolen and sold.

Our guide had a good way of explaining things. There's a CSI aspect to his method. He often asked us to describe what we could tell about the person based on what we saw. On one block we saw a bad person mummy. The mummy was placed upside down and the guide said in the mouth of that mummy there's a fossilized poop / coprolite. I learned something new then, I didn't know such thing exists. Anyway, that's a severe way to end, but you may also think that at least his people made the effort to bury him. They could have just let the bad person be eaten by wild animals or left out in the desert, but they made an effort to mummify him. I do wonder sometime, if only we can talk to ancient people and ask why they did what they did. Why did the Nazca people make all those geoglyphs? Where did the inspiration come from? The designs look quite modern. Did the seers of ancient time see that people from thousand of years in the future would love seeing this and hence they made this to please people from our time? Did the people tasked to remove the soils day after day wonder if there's a purpose to what they're doing? It's laborious work in the desert. This took a lot of effort. Nazca is interesting and I'm glad we made the trip there. For pictures, please go here.

After that our guide dropped us at the cafe where we would be picked up by Peru Hop. Me and Gioia walked around a bit for dinner and then we went back to the cafe to wait for the pick up at around 7 pm. Here we also met and chatted with the couple who shared the shuttle with us that morning. They're waiting for the bus to arrive to collect their bags. They're spending a night there while we're moving on to Arequipa. The bus was again rather full. Me and Gioia got to sit together though. I couldn't tell you much about the trip to Arequipa because it's dark, so I couldn't see what's outside. I did recall we stopped a few times, maybe for fuel, maybe the driver needed to pee. By the way, remarkably me and Gioia didn't need to use the toilet that night. I couldn't say I slept much during the trip. I just closed my eyes and maybe I did doze off here and there. By the time we arrived it was getting so cold that my feet were freezing. That's a story for the next post.

:) eKa @ 8:59:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 3 - Ballestas Islands, Paracas National Reserve, Huacachina

'cause it's a long road to wisdom
but it's a short one to being ignored

Flowers In Your Hair - The Lumineers

Now that I am writing about day 3, I realized that day was very eventful. We had a lot of things to do. First was taking a boat tour to see Ballestas Island. There are only 2 departures for this, 8 AM and 10 AM. Since we wanted to join the free Peru Hop tour through Paracas National Reserve, we chose the 8 AM time. We woke up earlier to make time for breakfast and I had a really big breakfast. Ordered pancake and hot chocolate. The pancakes were big. In general, I think food serving in Peru is big. It's value for money but it's just too much and very often I couldn't finish my meal and it's a waste. Me and Gioia often talked how Peru perhaps may have a sugar problem. When you order coke, it always comes in a bottle. I never saw a can one when I was there. Soda in the bottle portion is just too much sugar for one person. We wised up and always ended up sharing a bottle together. Anyway I may have eaten too much during breakfast since I finished all the food and it could be my downfall during the boat trip :(

After breakfast, we went to the meeting point and there were many people waiting too. I read about how sitting at the back of the boat may get you drenched, so I told Gioia we needed to try to sit at the front and we sat at the first row. Nobody was drenched in our boat though so perhaps it just happened randomly. As we left the dock, we actually saw dolphins swimming nearby. The guide alerted us to it and the boat driver tried to steer the boat as slowly as possible. I thought this was a good sign, but unfortunately I struggled later on during the boat ride. Anyways, on the way to see the Ballestas island, we passed the Paracas Candelabra. It was quite something and I'm surprised that it has managed to keep its shape all this time.

After that it's a further ride to Ballestas islands which are this group of little rocky islands where there are wildlife, mostly birds. First the guide alerted us to a group of penguins. Honestly this was the only group of penguins I saw. Maybe there's a season for them and this was not quite the season.

Somehow after this, I got seasick. It was disappointing because I did take motion sickness pill before the ride. I can only attribute it to the fact that breakfast was too heavy. So there I was trying not to vomit which I somehow succeeded, but at the expense of not standing up and taking pictures much. By the way, I have to admit that all the pictures I've shown you and put on Flickr so far have been disappointing. It's not a true representation of actual scenery and I am super disappointed at myself. So here of Ballestas islands, I have only a few pictures and since I didn't really bother to aim and shoot, many of them are bad :( The sad thing is that I also couldn't notice things more attentively to see all the different animals :( If the guide had explained the species of the animals, well I wasn't paying attention at all. There were a lot of birds. Birds all around. Thank God no bird pooped on us. You can't actually step foot on Ballestas islands, but there's a section where the locals can come to and collect the birds' poop. These are used as fertilizers.

Another animal that we saw were seals. There's a little few who were on rocks and there was also another group on the island's beach. Forgive me for not having better pictures.

For pictures from Ballestas islands, you can go here. I truly was trying my best to not vomit and on the way back I actually got sleepy - a known side effect of the motion sickness drug I took. So then I tried my best to not fall asleep. By the time we arrived back at the pier, I was okay. I am rather disappointed that I didn't have a more fruitful visit to these islands :( Anyways after that, we checked out from our rooms and had the hostel kept our luggages. By the way, you can make fun of us, like I can hear my mom telling me to pack less. Mom is a proponent of travelling light and she thinks one should always aim to have carry-on luggage only. Me and Gioia were not that. We had big luggages. I would argue we're Asians and Asians are difficult and we need our stuff but many Asians would disagree with my representation of us :D Anyways, so the hostel only have stairs and at the 3rd floor, we struggled with getting our luggages up and down and I'm sure it was stupidly comical. I would agree if you label us as dumb tourists :D We only have ourselves to blame but I really needed my stuff. I had bruises on my knees due to this luggage thing.

Anyways after that, we joined the free Peru Hop tour to Paracas National Reserve. Another benefit of joining Peru Hop is that they have free things like this. I don't know if there's a ticket price to enter the National Reserve, but we didn't pay anything. Paracas National Reserve is vast and I think it's really beautiful. The landscape was nothing like I've seen before and again sorry, my pictures don't do this justice. It's like there are hills of desert and I'm sure depending on the sun and time of day you'll see different colours. The colours that day were like yellow, orange, a bit of pink. I'm not describing this well, it's just beautiful, really beautiful with the blue sky. It's so vast, I don't think you can walk in here. I saw some people cycling but it's a hot desert so I don't know how far I could have gone if I had done this. Then there's some people on ATV and I thought that would be so fun. I kinda regretted not finding out about that and doing that. Inside the National Reserve, we stopped at some viewing points. The first one was to see the Cathedral. I know it's not clear from this picture, but there are tiny shapes dotting the rock and those are birds.

I really enjoyed this visit to the National Reserve. Below you can see pictures of the desert landscape and if I recall correctly, the red beach. For more pictures from Paracas and the National Reserve, you can go here. In the National Reserve, we also saw vultures! It was like, oh my God! You can see it in that Flickr album.

After that, we went back to town and before long we set off for Huacachina. It's another small town. This town is enclosing a small lake or one (me) may call this lake a pond, and all around it's the desert. We arrived later than expected and so we didn't have time to explore the town. As usual I googled a lot when preparing for a trip and it's always my belief that the town is small. It is and the hostel that I booked is not far from drop off point, but when you're dragging your luggages on a dirt road then you are looking like dumb tourists :D By the way, I had problems with my luggage's wheels during this trip. I had my worry they wouldn't survive, but by God's grace we made it back to Singapore. Now I'm having problem finding a place to get this fixed. Anyways, back to the town, actually in Paracas and Huacachina, there were quite a number of roads which are dirt roads, so be prepared if you want to drag your luggages like us :D

In Huacachina, since we're staying just for one night, I booked 2 private rooms in a hostel. I chose Banana's Adventure Hostel because it provides free activities with your room booking. Rooms were also on the 3rd floor, so again I had to haul my luggage. Gioia had one of the staff helped her. Room was better than the Paracas' one, but it's still so so. It was the biggest room I had in this trip though, so much space. For the free activity we chose the sand dune buggy and sandboarding. Both things I really was not sure about. Hence the reason I chose this hostel. At least I didn't have to pay extra to do these. The room was for double occupancy, but since we were single we actually had another free activity to select from that day, like the barbecue dinner. That was unexpected. The thing was we were already quite tired and tired me always do not want to socialize so we didn't sign up. Since we arrived late in Huacachina, we actually didn't have much time before the sand dune buggy. We had a late lunch at another hostel in front of our hostel. I chose chicken noodle soup. Portion was big and I couldn't finish. It was quite healthy and bland. Good if you're not feeling so good. The seasickness that morning shook me a bit. Then it was time for the sand dune buggy.

I was really not sure about this because I know it's gonna be like a roller-coaster ride and I don't like that. Gioia likes this kinda thing though. Because I don't, I told her let me sit in the middle. We waited some time for the people to get organized and then it was a walk out back to where the buggies were. They're parked quite up in a mound of sand so we had to walk up and I had to tell you it's not easy to walk up on sands. I figured out that it's easier to step inside the hole left by people in front of you. It's still quite a workout that walk :D The buggy can fit if I'm not mistaken 11 people including the driver. The ride up and down the sand dune was actually not bad. It wasn't as scary or as roller-coastery as I expected. I heard there had been accidents so the driver was perhaps taking it easy and I was appreciative of that. It didn't stop all the other kids to scream though whenever we're going down a mound. The thing about me is, I'm so OCD focused on trying to control things that I actually cannot control that I'm always quiet in concentration during rides like this. My excuse is I'm trying my best to stay alive :D So the kids especially the girls behind me screaming, I really didn't enjoy that. A thought came for the first time ever that how I wish I couldn't understand English so that I couldn't understand their commentaries. Anyways, after some time, we stopped. It's a mystery how the driver knew where to go when there's no landmark. This was my first desert and looking at all the sands and mound, it's really something different, it's like, wow! By the way, I only took my ixus for this because I heard the sand can be bad for your camera, so photos are really not that optimal.

The driver then said, alright time to sandboard, go up there. Everybody took a board and walked up and when we reached the top it was like, oh shit, what the fuck, I don't know if I want to do this. I've read that the first hill should be like the easiest and not so high, but it was high. Everyone was thinking the same because it's hesitation on everyone, boys and girls. Gioia wasn't feeling it too and she was like we could always go down and get back to the buggy with the driver. It was scary, seriously I was scared, but you know me, being defeated by fear is just not in me. So though I was like, fuck!!!, damn it, I really thought / think we needed to do this. So I told Gioia, let's just do one okay. Candle wax was being passed around and we rubbed it on our boards. I'm not sure what it did, but it was like something we or at least I did religiously. Everyone had their hesitation, but one by one all went down. Gioia went down before me and then it was me. The board is like an old piece of wood board, it must be from some old no longer usable proper sandboarding board. It had some velcro on it. You lied on your belly and hold the velcro thing for dear life. There's a staff helping to set us into the board. He told me to place myself back a bit and tuck my arms in which I forgot to do for the rest of the times I went down and then he pushed us. For all the fear I had up there, going down was actually totally okay. I can't explain it well, but the whole thing felt like it's logical, like one step at a time you're going down. Yes, it felt fast, but it was really okay, really really okay like there's nothing to be afraid off. The sand dunes are not clean though, there's plastic, and I spotted a plastic bottle protruding and I was afraid that I was going to bump into it and bad things would happen, but no such thing. Truly it's a strange thing sliding down a sand dune. You're freaking out when you're on top, but as you go down it's totally fine and then this fear happened again with the next dune.

Yes, there was a next dune. When we landed from the first dune, the driver from our buggy was there. At some point, he drove away from our first place to this place to wait for us to land. Here he's the one setting and pushing us off. At this point we could just say, yeah we tried once and that was okay and it's enough. However somehow me and Gioia went on to slide down this next dune. We're still scared, but we're doing it. Then when we landed from this second dune, somehow the people who went down first knew where to go next and where to slide from. Here there was no staff, we had to do this on our own. This also meant we really had to do this. There's no buggy waiting in which we could hitch a ride. Oh gosh! You know, there were guys in our group and they just went down first. Now that I think about it, these guys are so not gentleman like, they're not waiting to see if all us girls are okay. One of the young girl was really nice, she was willing to push us down if we needed to. I decided to slide / push myself down, which was not as easy as I thought it would be. I talked badly about the guys, but I have to say I was like bad myself because I didn't want to be the last one up there. So I really applauded the last girl who was there. Really there's something to be admired or jealous about about young people. There's a fearlessness that can sometime be seen as carelessness and vice versa :D After that, with no staff or guide around, again somehow the people at the front knew where to walk for our last dune. Our buggy driver shouted from the bottom to get us moving a bit to the right. I freaked out at every dune and this last one seemed like a long way to go. People were like taking a minute. Truly it's strange thing, you slid down one dune and you're fine and yet when you're on another dune, you still freaked out. The sun was setting and at this point I was like I just wanted to get this done and over with. So I went before Gioia. I don't know how, perhaps this time I kinda lifted my body a bit that I didn't really make it all the way to the landing area so I had to walk down a bit. Then I just waited for people to come down. Really, the last girl who was there by herself, she's super cool. I liken this sliding down a sand dune to me when I travel alone. No matter how many times I've done it, I still freak out beforehand, but once I get on the taxi to the airport, the fear would disappear. I don't know if you can remove the fear, but what matters is to never be defeated by it. It feels like there's a life lesson in this :) About mind over matter. The desert was really something. I kinda wished I had more time to just absorb where I was. There was kinda no time for that because we're too focused on sliding down.

Once everyone was down, it's the ride back. It was getting dark. Yes there's the up and down and girls at the back were screaming, but overall it was okay. I wasn't too freaked out. Once back, me and Gioia sat awhile at the bench by the lake and tried to remove sands from our shoes. Many people were doing the same. The sands got in every thing. Later in my room, I spent a good amount of time trying to get it out of my clothing. We were tired, but darn we still had to meet our Peru Hop guide to arrange for the shuttle to Nazca the next morning. I don't know why he couldn't just write our names down and take our money when we approached him in the bus. He needed to be met at 06:45 pm in another hostel. We went there, he wasn't in - arrrgghhh!!! Saw a girl with Peru Hop t-shirt and we just approached her. Luckily this girl was very effective. She had a clipboard. We wrote our names, paid her, and it was done and we could go back. We were too tired for dinner that day so I had some biscuits in my room. So that was day 3, very eventful. For pictures from Huacachina you can go here. Pictures include the view from around the lake that I took the next morning. The desert pictures are from ixus and I'm gonna be honest - I applied a lot of Photoshop filters. I do enhance colours for pictures I put in Flickr, but I don't use filters from one of those plugins. However for this Huacachina album, I used a lot of filters for many of the pictures. I'm gonna admit that these filters are very addictive.

:) eKa @ 10:32:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 2 - To Paracas

some darker days they are coming
we all know it, it's endlessly
and from the storm we try to hide,
but it's a lost cause
they say it's our destiny

Le Sud - Lola Marsh

Day 2 was the start of our trip to explore Peru. Somehow last year I found out about Peru Hop and decided to use that for this trip. There are many ways you can do your trip in Peru. The thing people want to see the most in Peru is arguably Machu Picchu. To go all the way to Peru just to see that felt like a waste of effort. It would be better if we can see more of Peru and Peru Hop kinda helps in that. It's a bus service that has stops in cities or towns that they think are cool. You can go from Lima to Cusco or vice versa. It's also connected to Bolivia Hop if you're interested. Between Lima and Cusco, there are 5 towns or cities that they stop in. You can stay in the towns or cities for the recommended duration or you can just extend on your own if you need more time and then take the bus to move on when you're ready. It's quite flexible that you can change your schedule like 12 hours before the bus departs - of course the OCD me had our itinerary all fixed. The bus departs everyday from each town at specific timing. They have different packages on their website, like for example if you want to get to Cusco fast, it will take you 3 days. We chose the package that would get us to Puno, the last town before Cusco. If you don't want to use Peru Hop, you can fly to the places where you want to go or book individual bus tickets from other bus company, but I think Peru Hop just makes things simpler even though I had my concerns about it, particularly because there's one leg where it's an overnight bus, but really after researching I think it's the best option for us. Things didn't run all perfectly with Peru Hop, we never really arrived on time, but I think overall it serves its purpose - we arrived in each of our destination.

The pick up time that day was 06:45. We were picked up by a van to meet the big bus. Somehow I thought the bus wouldn't be so full, but it kinda was. Each bus has a guide whom you can go to for help. I think it's not an easy job to be in their position so I did try to not trouble them if not necessary. This first leg would take us from Lima to Paracas. First stop was a breakfast stop, but since we already had breakfast we didn't order anything. Here we suddenly noticed that there's a group of what looked to be Singaporeans and it could very well be the ones we met the day before. Gioia didn't just go and say hi and that's why we had a discussion that it would have been so different if they had been Indonesians because I would have straightaway gone up to them. I don't know if I'm explaining this well, it's just I think in general, unless you're a very snobbish Indonesian, when you meet other Indonesian oversea like on a trip like this, you would be happy excited and you straightaway would be like friends and start to look out for each other. I know it sounds idealistic, but truly unless you're a snobbish Indonesian, I think it's inherent for an Indonesian to be familial with each other? Maybe we're not like that inside Indonesia, but when we're outside we have to look out for each other, no? I think Singaporeans don't really feel that way? I don't know. To be fair it's perhaps not the Singaporeans alone, maybe people from other countries feel the same way as them. I told Gioia that I already felt a bit bad for not going up to them to say hi because though they're Singaporeans, my Indonesian thinking kinda apply to them since I live in Singapore and she said I was overthinking it. Maybe she's right and at the same time I really could not be sure that my attempt to make a connection would be appreciated. In this trip Gioia had a foreigner told her that Singaporeans aren't that nice and I told her that it's quite right. Now the Singaporeans reading this will get offended :D but really I think sometime Singaporeans look down at people. I've been here for a long time now that I get used to it and it doesn't bother me much anymore. Anyways in the end, one of the lady in the group came to say hi to us and she was the lady from the day before. She said we looked familiar :D I'm glad that she's friendly and very nice and we were able to chat with the group at different times during the trip.

After the breakfast stop, we had a stop at Tambo Colorado. It was interesting that we were the only group there visiting. There's a small building that has some things on display like the model of the compound. I saw just one staff and he was selling cold drinks for that hot day. I wonder if the staff gets bored with no one visiting. I don't know if ticket is required, it's just free with Peru Hop. We had the guide explaining stuff which of course I don't remember much. I heard the word, Apu, for the first time from him, which is like the spirit of a mountain and a very important thing for the Inca. The compound is by the mountain and they were quite beautiful.

Below here you can see the wall surrounding the open space area of the compound and the mountain in the background.

The building structure itself is quite typical of what you would see in Peru I guess. There are bricks, passageway, and windows such as this below. These windows are not for ventilation, if I'm not mistaken they're like for decorations, of course I can be so wrong :D For pictures from Tambo Colorado, you can go here.

After that it's off to Paracas. Since we're staying only for one night here, I decided to just book cheaper accommodation. I booked 2 private rooms in a hostel. Though it's a private room with its own toilet, the room wasn't great and the spoiled me had my mood brought down. You know what yesterday I realized I'm so easily emotionally defeated. It's embarrassing to admit that but it's so. Anyway Paracas is a small town by the beach. We didn't do much that day, just walked around the beach. It's not the prettiest beach. We had a late lunch / early dinner then Gioia decided to walk around waiting for the sunset and after the sun went down, we called it a day.

:) eKa @ 1:32:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 1 - Lima

all guys my age are raising kids
but I'm still out there havin' fun
and Jesus loves me, yes, I know
so, I keep on rollin' with the flow
keep on rollin', keep on, keep on rollin'

Rollin' with the Flow - Kurt Vile

Hello guys, so I'm back. Last week on a train to Machu Picchu someone asked me how the trip had been. I said it was physically demanding. The guy nodded, he understood what I meant. Truly this trip to Peru was the most exhausting of all my trips so far. My body is so battered and I think the recovery for me would take some time. I arrived back in Singapore Monday evening and by Tuesday it was back to real life :( Wednesday was a public holiday here and I decided to sleep without setting the alarm and I woke up at 4 pm something. That was a shock. I think my body really needed the shut down. Since I have difficulty sleeping, being able to sleep that long was actually really good, but at the same time I was kinda disappointed about missing like half a day of life :( Also it truly doesn't help with jet lag because you're supposed to get sunlight and I didn't. My body is not doing really well right now. I can only hope I can get better but right now I'm just not feeling it :(

Me and Gioia talked about perhaps this is something you really should be doing in your 20s where you have more energy and are just excited about everything. I don't think we're that old, but we do think of ourselves like we're middle age :D We talked about in what ways we could make the trip easier for the body. Conclusion was more time to recuperate in each of our stops and that would mean bigger budget. Honestly though, the thought never crossed my mind that this trip would be so tiring. I also had a bit of a flu when I was in Cusco. So with everything, I really overworked my body and now it is having difficulty calibrating. As usual, I'll write about my trip. If you're interested to go to Peru maybe you'll learn about things to do or not do.

Peru is the furthest I've been on planet Earth in terms of the journey required to get there. We took AirFrance / KLM to get there and to get back. Chose that because AirFrance arrival is the best for me. While other airlines will get you to Lima (the capital city) close to midnight or some other uncomfortable hour, AirFrance gets you in at around 4 pm. So that's a good schedule. In Singapore, I managed to check out Jewel Changi before departing. I can't say I like it much. Maybe because it's new and it's the weekend, the crowd was insane. I wasn't hungry but I did want to check out Shake Shack but the queue was crazy so I couldn't. Another store that had crazy queue was the Pokemon store. There's just too many people for the anti-social me. So I'm not feeling Jewel Changi much. It's like a mall on its own. I don't feel like it's part of the airport and I think it's not that convenient to get there if your flight is not in Terminal 1 which is the terminal connected to it. Even if your flight is in Terminal 1, I would suggest you give yourself like 30 mins to get from the mall to the immigration check. If you're just arriving, it wouldn't be nice lugging your luggage and exploring Jewel Changi. If you're departing, as Gioia found out, baggage drop off opens like 3 hours before flight, do you actually want to explore a mall with luggage? Perhaps it would be more useful for people who have some transit hours in Changi. Me and Gioia agree that perhaps most of the people who were there were locals who live in the east of Singapore. I myself have doubt on the longevity of some of the shops there. Another annoying thing for me was when you arrive in Terminal 1, the taxi stand is like further, you kinda have to walk to the direction of the mall and being nearer to the crowd is just not appealing to me.

Anyways so first flight was to Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport. I've only been there once years ago and the airport didn't leave much impression to me. This time around it also didn't leave much impression. We had around 4-hour wait time. We went to our gate and in the early morning there were already a few people waiting. Then it was another long flight to Lima. As we entered the plane, the song at the beginning of this post was playing and I was like, fate, since it's in my playlist for this trip. Both flights were like 12 and a half hours and more. When we touched down, I told Gioia, can you imagine taking another flight to Cusco straightaway? I really don't recommend doing that. There's a hotel by the airport if you're also thinking of taking a break, but don't really want to spend a lot of time in Lima. For us, I think we really need a break in Lima, at least a proper sleep. First thing first though, going through immigration which was not bad. They took fingerprints. By the way, Indonesian doesn't need a visa to go to Peru so actually Peru has been in my list of places to go for a long time. Found money changer near the baggage belt and since I didn't want the confusion of changing in the city, we straight away changed all the USD we brought. I know that the exchange rate in the airport is bad, but I just don't want the hassle of having to do that in the city, with us being unable to speak Spanish. I'd arranged for transport to get us to the hotel and saw the guy immediately once we got out and he took us to the parked car.

From the outside I saw that Lima airport is quite small. Like Jakarta's airport, this airport is not actually located in Lima itself. Being that Peru is a developing country, I was straightaway comparing it to Indonesia and I was thinking that perhaps Indonesia is more developed. On the drive to the hotel, I was thinking that this city or this area we're driving in is like one of those not so big city in Indonesia. There are aspects of it which reminded me of Indonesia a lot though, like the people selling things in carts, how they display their goods, and people selling snacks when the traffic lights turn red. All that kinda made me smile because it's so Indonesian. There's a familiarity to it that made me nostalgic :D Lima itself is not like Jakarta. It felt less busy and I don't know, by Indonesian standard it doesn't have the big city vibe for me. We're staying in Miraflores district and the hotel was nice, Gioia would say it's the nicest of all we stayed in, however the area we're staying in felt residential to me. It's kinda weird for me. Really I'm not feeling the big city vibe. On the way back to Singapore, I met 3 Indonesian men who's returning back after a 2-month work stint in Peru. I asked them if they felt that perhaps Indonesia is more developed? They agreed. They also felt that Lima itself didn't feel like a big city by Indonesian standard. We're not throwing shade at Peru and I really don't mean to be offensive. Perhaps if a Peruvian arrived in Jakarta, they too would want to leave immediately because of the chaos and crowd :D Peru as I found out during my trip is very beautiful and through the drive there, they have so many open spaces. We have quite a number of common things, but we're also different at the same time, that's all.

When we arrived at the hotel, first order of business was to get water. Only after a day we found out that the hotel actually has a good water cooler in each floor. Anyways found a small supermarket nearby then Gioia got some snack from a cafe we found also nearby. I think I wasn't hungry so I didn't get anything. Bed in the hotel was big and I love having all those space for myself. The next day we took a half-day tour to explore Lima. Usually I prefer to explore the city on my own, however public transports in Lima is not very conducive. Basically I had no confidence in both of us to get around on our own by flagging the taxi. I chose this tour just because we would be visiting the catacombs at Basílica y Convento de San Francisco. The first stop was actually outside Huaca Pucllana. We didn't go inside, we just looked at it from the outside. I have no picture of this, you can google this yourself. As usual, I couldn't remember much from any of the guides I had in this trip. I just remember that the compound is actually pretty big and parts of it is now divided by streets used for traffics. There were also sacrifice done in this place last time, that's what I remember.

After that we went to Plaza San Martín where there's this statue of a guy on a horse. Googling told me it's of Peru's liberator, José de San Martín. The plaza wasn't very big. Then we went to Plaza Mayor or Plaza de Armas. We may have misunderstood our guide, but it seemed they were expecting demonstration or some sorts so some parts of it were closed and you could not enter, but somehow we were allowed to walk inside the closed area. It's just we couldn't really walk around the plaza. This means you kinda get a picture of an empty plaza, which is kinda good I think.

We stood by the Archbishop's Palace of Lima building which was kinda interesting, but we didn't go in. I don't know if it's open for the public. Here a Singaporean lady said hi to Goia. We had a discussion the next day about how I was surprised she wasn't that chatty with the lady because if I met an Indonesian, I would be like best friends to that person :D So anyway while standing here, I also saw like a big police car used for crowd control passing by, but we didn't see any crowd. It was weird thinking, waiting that something would happen, but nothing happened, which is good actually, 'cause you don't want to be caught in the middle of a riot right.

In this plaza there's also the Government Palace. There was like a changing of the guard when we were there but our guide said we couldn't go nearer and see. The officers were like an army band and they were playing music. After that we walked around the area which has shops and restaurants. I was thinking it must sucks so much for the businesses that day because no tourists were coming in and access was restricted. Then we arrived at Basilica and Convent of San Francisco. You cannot take pictures inside the church and catacombs. So this below is a picture of parts of its outer facade.

We straightaway went to the catacombs. Of course there were bones and such. This is my second catacombs and I appreciate the opportunity. What I recall from the guide is that there's a lot of tunnels running underneath Lima and that's why they couldn't have underground subway. After that we saw parts of the church a bit. The church compound has a small cloister. The wall and ceiling of the corridors enclosing the cloister are quite interesting with the different designs. After that we're done. The tour actually should include a visit to a museum but it's not open on a Monday and so we didn't do that. I didn't feel like we saw a lot, but I guess it's good that we saw something. Anyways, we chose to be dropped of at Larcomar which is like a mall, but a very small one. Saw the Paddington Bear statue at the above playground. I knew that Paddington Bear is from the deep jungle of Peru, do you? Hence the statue there which was gifted by British embassy. Then me and Gioia decided to have a nice lunch in a restaurant overlooking the sea. I recalled Gioia being excited that this is the other side of the Pacific ocean. Sometime it's good to see other people's view :D

For drinks we chose something unknown, chicha morada. I chose the smoothie one and it was good. This drink is like very common in Peru and that smoothie was the best version I had. It was made from purple corn. After that Gioia agreed on my long walk back to the hotel. First we walked to Parque del Amor or Park of Love where there's this statue of a couple embracing.

There's a paragliding place nearby and we saw some people taking off. We thought how scary it was for the guy pushing the other people off, because this guy could easily just roll off the cliff. The long walk to the hotel included visiting ChocoMuseo which is a chocolate store. I wanted to see what they had and then perhaps get some things when I was in Cusco, but I didn't end up visiting the Cusco branch. After this we decided to call it the day. Got a bit lost on the way back to the hotel but we managed to find our way. As we walked, I got to see the busy chaotic Lima with its traffic :D Again there's aspects of it that reminded me of Indonesia and this meant I told myself to walk across this traffic like an Indonesian would in Jakarta :D My body was shutting down that day that I slept early, which was good. I don't have a lot of pictures of Lima and the ones that I took are disappointingly bad. I'm disappointed at myself. For the few pictures I have, you can go here.

:) eKa @ 10:20:00 PM • 0 comments

I Need a Win

so I pray but each word feels so in vain
when joy keeps quiet as a whisper (quiet as a whisper)
and bad luck falls like rain
when life shoots a bullet straight to your heart
leaving you open and defenseless
when did living become so hard
I need an angel on my shoulder
somebody watching over
give me an angel on my shoulder
'cause I need a win

I Need A Win - Mamas Gun

If you've been reading, you know I don't actually have the best of days. You may also deduce that perhaps it's all in my head, that my days are fine but my attitude is not. I have written before that if I look at my life, it's pretty blessed. So what's with this defeatist and sadness mood I'm in? Me, myself, deduce it's most probably just my head. Sometime I can just be in the mood of you-know-of-course-you-don't-get-good-things. These past weeks, I've been thinking how things haven't been going the way I hope they would and along with those thoughts came the, well of course things would go wrong, things were not going to happen, because this is typical of your luck. It's very pessimistic but that's how I operate. Many weeks ago, I came to the realization that the song above really expressed what I want. I need a win so bad.

With many things in my life, somehow I feel I always need to make things happen myself. Things don't just happen to me, unlike the good fortune of other people. I know it sounds like envy and it's a sin, but really I don't think things come easy for me. That being said, though things don't always happen the way I want them to, when they do, I know it's because I have God helping me through. Today too I would need Him the way He's always there for me every time. Today I will try to make a win.

It's that time of the year, the pilgrimage to see the world. I'm leaving for Peru tonight and this time I will not be alone. La Gioia is coming alone. This trip was long in the making. This was the trip that I referred to when I wrote about the trip that I made in the year I turned 35. I chickened out back then. This year things seem to align. It's really been a long time in the making. The big picture of the trip was fleshed out quite immediate after I got back from last year's trip, so that's around a year ago. I remember chatting with Casyrn and telling her that's it's crazy that I kinda have quite a fleshed out plan. I figured out the logistic which was quite an issue when I was thinking of doing it in 2017. Of course since I had only come back from a trip last year, I had to ice this plan a bit. I revisited it again around 6 months ago with more and more details being filled in, enough to be presented to Gioia who somehow decided to take a chance and do this trip to me. I am thankful to God that I have a friend in this trip because it is quite daunting, but after all these times travelling alone, having someone to travel with does come with its own set on anxiety. I really hope things will go well in this trip. Please God, have angels watching me please.

So today I did my usual ritual. Class is on break today so I could wake up late but I didn't really wake up late. In general I have difficulty sleeping and the past week I don't think I slept a lot :( I was nervous about missing classes and the homeworks, but I managed to finish them all. So today, I went to pray and then also got a good Indonesian meal. Chose soto and es teler :D I don't know how I will survive the flights to Lima. There are 2 flights, each at around 12 hours plus :( We will be transiting in Paris on the way there and Amsterdam on the way back here. Me and my misplaced priority, I am hoping that the hotel would have HBO because I really want to watch Game of Thrones finale :D *finger crossed* Anyways so that's me. As usual I'll write more when I get back. Ciao!

:) eKa @ 6:42:00 PM • 0 comments

Book 1 - The Luminaries

So I finished book 1 of 2019, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. Started sometime in January so it took me around 4 months. It is a thick book, but it's pretty good. I wrote before how I enjoyed reading it and I was quite absorbed. Here's the blurb from the back of the book.

It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to stake his claim in New Zealand's booming gold rush. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of 12 local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: a wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous cache of gold has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky.

The author uses star chart and zodiac as the theme that connects all the people. The 12 men are represented by the zodiac and they in some way or another had their paths cross with the people involved in the murder mystery. Me being a Pisces, was quite amused that the Pisces in the story is a chaplain. I have read somewhere before that being a priest matches our temperaments. So anyways, first half of the book talks about how these 12 men were connected to the mystery. Each of the chapter in the first half of the book kinda tells the story from these men's point of view. At times I was thinking that Carrie Mathison in Homeland or any other CIA or FBI agents in other TV series would have a board with the pictures of these people and strings to connect each of them to the mystery to be solved :D It was really that interesting. I didn't build a board, my head just tried to keep up with every side of the story. It was a lot to keep track on, but at around halfway mark of the book, the author kindly provides, by way of Walter Moody, a summary of how the events unfold based on the story of these 12 men.

Then the book starts to take a different progression. Because the men were telling their story that happened in the past, the first half of the book was about things in the past and by the halfway point we're moving forward into the present time. The mystery gets revealed more and more and by this time, the 12 men factor less, except for one Chinese guy, and it's more about the people involved in the mystery. There were shocking revelations and heartbreaks, at least for me. I do have to say, I was expecting things to be explained grounded in science and facts but there are aspect of the explanation that I felt touched the realm of fantasy. It's unscientific and while it's kinda nice and all, I just wasn't feeling this plot line much.

Anyways, I think the second half of the book can be further divided into 2 parts. There is the part that deal with the present time and it kinda has its own conclusion, at which time you kinda can say that that's the end of the story. However after this part, the book has some chapters that goes way more in the past and tells the story about the core people that were involved in the mystery. I guess this part is more for us readers to give us a sense of closure. You know, I am appreciative of authors who try to structure their books uniquely. Just like I'm appreciative if a TV series or movies have a unique timeline. By the way, I think this would make a good TV series. Season 1 of this book could be 12 episodes based on the point of view of the 12 men.

Next in my queue is Milkman by Anna Burns. I haven't started, but the theme seems dark. Hope it's a good read. It's also a Booker Prize winner, so it should be good. I know it's like excluding unknown authors or books, but I just don't have the time and often get torn in a bookstore choosing on what to read so these days I just select prize winning books or the nominees. I don't even go to bookstore anymore. I bought the books online from Kinokuniya and I am appreciative that they use Ninja Van here in Singapore to deliver their books and we can choose designated place / stores to collect it from. Anyways, as always, hope your days are good!

:) eKa @ 9:46:00 PM • 0 comments

April Showers

So the saying goes, "April showers bring May flowers". April started really hot actually but these days we've been getting rain in Singapore. Are we expecting flowers in May then? Well I've noticed here in Singapore the Tabebuia trees and the Bougainvillea actually bloom much better when it's hot with no rain. On a personal level, restlessness always come. Uninvited, thoughts would come that say, yep, I still want all of this to be over. I want to stop, just stop. There's something exciting to look forward to in May, but even then and as always with me, I have my anxiety. I'll write more about this when the time comes.

So April, what has been going on? Indonesia had its election. We're keeping our current president, Pak Jokowi, for another term. I hope he'll be braver and have more self-confidence this second term since he has nothing to lose on account that this is his final term. I did vote for him even though I'm beyond disappointed regarding his vice presidential pick. It's sad really because for the second time that I voted for him, the vote was not really for him, but it's against the other guy. The other guy being Prabowo. Prabowo is again in his delusional state, insisting he won and there's cheating everywhere. He did this too in the last election and at that time people were perhaps alarmed at his stand. I recalled the open letters many people wrote telling him to basically take several seats (side note: I learnt that term by watching Wendy Williams - another side note: it's weird that I only knew of Wendy Williams by chance and only like in the last 1.5 years. I love her, she's a gem). Back to Prabowo, since he's using the playbook from last time, I think this time around people just move on with life and don't really care, except for his ardent misguided supporters. I do wonder if people are just too scared of him to give it to him straight or his camp really cannot accept defeat and really really want power. People around the world should perhaps pay attention on this playbook, like I can see Trump using similar tactics if he loses his re-election.

I think the big question for Indonesia is what will happen 5 years from now. Some weeks ago I told someone that Prabowo might run again, like why not if people are willing to bankroll him like what happened now. Pak Jokowi really needs to be progressive and builds a good enough foundation for people to vote correctly. In 2014, he won 53.15% of the vote (source: Wikipedia). This year, the projection puts it at around 54.50%. We'll only know the actual result next month, but respectable pollsters put it at that number. That's like only 1% increase. I wonder if Pak Jokowi is disappointed. I mean I read that number as despite of progress and efforts, it's not enough to make people to vote for him. Something is wrong in the way a huge part of Indonesia made their choice. Tribalism is strong not just in America, but in Indonesia too. It is sad because we can only move as fast as the slowest person in the group and we can't just drop this dead weight. So how do we get people to make better choices? How do we get people on the other side see that their insistence to stay in their side will sink us all down? Some people may argue how can you be sure that your side is the right one. Well my judgment is easy, as a minority, the other side is ever so willing to sacrifice us first and limits our freedom. Hence why I cannot go with the other side. Hence why the vote is against the other side. This side I'm in is far from perfect and I do wonder often if minority's rights are being respected and protected but on the other side, I just don't see it.

Anyways, that's Indonesia. What else to talk about? I haven't been going to the movies because honestly what's there to watch aside for superheroes movies. It's Game of Thrones season now. I'm looking forward to the battle with the white walkers though I'm not quite ready to see many people die. I was thinking how sad it is that Cersei will spend the final season in such horrible haircut. Yeah that's a very random thought. Much have been said about who will end up sitting on the throne. For me if it's not Daenerys, then it's just so unfair. Now that I think about it, I think if Jon Snow dies for real now to make way, I think I'll be okay with that. Oh another thought that came to me was how are they going to deal with the white walkers situation. Obviously they need to be contained and I doubt they can be destroyed completely, but in the age of Trump, building a wall is just bad optics. So I guess for now I am most curious about resolving the white walkers issue.

Right people, I really have nothing else to say. I hope you don't have a lot of "April showers", but if you do, I hope "your May flowers" are as always, glorious :)

:) eKa @ 10:17:00 PM • 0 comments

Tell Me Why Things Sucks

They say, everything happens for a reason. I now realize for me, I want to know what the reason is. You think that knowing the reason will make you feel better, but I know it may make you feel bad too. The pisces in me, the two fish swimming in opposite direction or perhaps in a circle, we're always just going back and forth from one direction to another.

March is my birthday month. Turned 37 this year. I always like odd number better, but 37, darn that is old especially if I consider where I am in life :( It's even older if we're following my mom who's following the Chinese calendar because I turn 38 on Monday. There are so many mornings where I just recite over and over, God please help me, as soon as I weak up. With what maybe God wonders? I don't know, I just feel like I'm gonna fall apart any moment now.

Anyway, spent my birthday making new passport. Had my usual struggle during biometric. Luckily the bapak in charge seemed sympathetic. It made me realize, some struggles will be with me for the rest of my life. It occurs to me that it's perhaps weird that not many people know I have this issue. The people who know is like my family and even then not many of them know. It's like a non-issue issue but darn when I'm struggling with it, it really sucks :(

Told my cousin about it after I was done with the process and also told her about a silly thought that I was having in relation to the current Indonesian celebrity news (at that time). My cousin is only a few days older than me and she said it's not silly at all. She knows exactly what I meant. If I tell you what it is, it's too embarrassing, so I'm not gonna to. That night, I also texted a bit with Gascoigne in which we kinda touched on the subject. One of his replies was a sample of prayer that I could tell God, like some sort of template I could copy and paste. Truly it made me laugh. I don't talk a lot to my cousin or Gascoigne but it's kinda nice that despite of that, I think we know each other well enough to have good conversation even though it's only through a few texts.

By the way, I like how fast the embassy can process your passport. I think I did mention this 5 years ago when I made one, but I felt now they're perhaps even faster by 1 day. This time around, I opted to get it delivered. It seemed not many people know this option and it happened fast too. It's good that Singapore Post is also efficient. Now I'm waiting for my voting papers. I heard citizens in some other countries are already getting their voting papers which seemed like super early to me. Well Singapore is small, so maybe that's why they don't have to start so early.

On other news, I don't have other news. I'm planning something but I kinda couldn't do it with a light heart because well people sucks. My mom said it's alright though so perhaps that's all that matters. I think I freak out too much. Again with the anxiety. There's just a lot of fear. I read this about pisces, it is also a pessimistic and tends to give way to sadness, melancholy. I'm also a dog and I read this, dogs are very intuitive but can tend toward pessimism -- and even see dangers where there aren’t any. Reading that kinda made me laugh, but it also made me think, oh well now you know it's inherent in you. One time I also read that a dog born at night (which is me) tends to be restless because they're like guarding the house. Again it made me think, no wonder with all this restlessness. I know perhaps you think it's silly to trust zodiac, but I just want to know the reason why. I need an explanation.

:) eKa @ 6:50:00 PM • 0 comments

Merging Me

My cousin told me that when she was sick and had to go through all the treatments, she learned that the most important thing is to have your health - and I guess also gratitude and letting go. She also told me now that the whole ordeal is over, she's kinda forgetting all those lessons :D Your environment or your situation does sometime put you in a different state of mind. Maybe you get tougher, be more patient, or spiraling down into a deep dark hole. You are perhaps not truly yourself in those situations.

Why I'm starting this post with that thoughtful idea? Though perhaps not well-thought off and doesn't make sense. I guess because I'm realizing it's like there are two versions of me. The me that struggles in Singapore and the other me that's looking (dare I say) great in Indonesia. The more I think about it, both of them are like unreal to me. I don't like the me in Singapore. She seems to always be heavy in burden and I genuinely wish she can be happier. She's great after all - wow that's me praising myself. Well you kinda have to love yourself, right? The me in Indonesia is super unreal. She like doesn't live in the real world. She's on vacation with almost no responsibility and so no stress. That's like not a valid adult. The struggle in Singapore is real as you can read from the many posts and I spend most of my days here so the version of me here perhaps feel the most real to me that I kinda cannot see that outside of that, back at home, I do have family and friends who if they have been in my environment on a constant basis, I may feel completely different. I really wish that these 2 versions of me can merge so that I don't feel so bad.

So I went back home for Chinese New year. Of course it was great - hours spent in front of the TV, eating, meeting relatives and friends, being able to sleep. The person I am closest to in my family is my mom and I am truly thankful to God for the moments that we get to spend together. They are precious to me. I don't mean to sound morbid and all, but I often get the realization that these times are running out so I am really thankful for the time we got to spend. I also had moments of feeling bad when my dad looked at me because I thought I hadn't been nicer to him. Writing all these sentimental things make me teary eyes :'(

Anyways, with the friends and mom, we talked about my situation and there were advices. Mom's is of gratitude, always. My friend, Emilia, has a good line about not making assumptions. I talked about perspective last time and how I see it but couldn't reconcile myself with it. Talking with my friends and mom, it kinda made me feel like I could because they are doing it. I put "made" in past tense because though I'm trying to be a better person, I know that perhaps that good intention or spirit they're emanating to me will fade. Right now perhaps I am in the glow of the light, but I will be back into the dark hole pretty soon. Even now if I think back of the points that make me furious, I will get rattled. I'm not magnanimous so all I can do is try to not think about it. Move forward, but the darkness follows and I'm pretty sure, as it always does, it will engulf me. Ha! if you're expecting me to write in a more hopeful tone, well I just don't have it in me, the Singapore me perhaps don't have it in her.

On a more interesting topic, I have been really enjoying The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. The book is thick and it was daunting, but once I got over the first chapter, it was really good that I am hooked. The first chapter was a bit hard to read for me. It reminded me of the first chapter of the Harry Potter books. They were kinda boring, but once you get over it, you are drawn more and more. As the plot thickens, I do wish I have more time to read. I only read during the weekdays, for around 30 minutes after lunch, that's all the time I have. This book makes me wish I have more time. It's like watching something really good that you don't want to stop. All the while reading, I'm like watching it and I think it would make a really good TV series. I guess I can make more time, but bringing this heavy book around is not appealing to me. Right now I'm not even halfway, but I do recommend you to read this if you're looking for a book to read. Don't let the thickness deter you.

:) eKa @ 9:47:00 PM • 0 comments