Chau for now!

I was thinking about how to wrap up my reflections for the year and ended up  reminiscing on all the experiences, people met, and landscapes. Since I’ll be starting my senior year at HC in less than a month and returning to campus, I’m painting and drawing in preparation for art classes. I’ve also been filtering through the notes I wrote this year, the bands I discovered, the pictures I took, all in an attempt to start to unpack everything I learned and be ready to continue studying those topics this year or make something new out of them. So here’s a reflection on some of my favorite music and art and views of the year.

There was the music. How in Lima they loved Dire Straits and other classic 80s hits, always blasting in taxis and combis, along with cumbia and reggaeton. In Laraos, the little town deeply nestled in the Peruvian sierra where the school kids were rehearsing a dance along to folk music. In Chincha we visited the house of the legendary Ballumbrosio family, globally renown for their afroperuano zapateo, music and dance. They showed us the instruments they used: like the cajón, a wooden box that originally was an upturned fruit crate and the quijada, the jawbone of a burro (donkey). They showed us some of the moves in their dances, the songs and music they compose, and told us about their slave ancestors. Just that morning we had visited one of the biggest haciendas where slaves were smuggled into the country, right down the road from the Casa de los Ballumbrosio.

A year before that, I took a tour of an Aymaran community in Bolivia during a study trip for my Andean Theology class. They showed us one of their ceremonies of prayer to the Pachamama, part of which involved ofertas to Lago Titicaca, which shares a border with Peru. They create songs with the conch shell horn instrument pututu and face the water raising the body and arms up and down, showing gratitude to the earth. I learned about the pututu a year and a half in my art history class in Argentina, about how it is an important archaeological characteristic of ancient pre-columbian civilizations throughout South America. I loved how living in two different places in South America and visiting other locations briefly opened up this network of connections and repetitions between cultures.

In Buenos Aires they loved Bruno Mars (one time we went to a restaurant that exclusively shuffled through all his hits, for 2 hours probably), and Pink Floyd, and then their rock: Soda Stereo and Pescado Rabioso were some favorites. I saw a few bands live: La Bomba del Tiempo, a regular Monday night performance at a cultural center that was dependable in its loudness and ability to persuade everyone to jump up and down as each song would patiently build into a roar. It was such an endlessly interesting re-imagination of what you thought you could do with a drum set.

Then there was Onda Vaga, which blew my mind in its danceability and complete synchronization between each of the musicians while at the same time they would always spontaneously interact with the audience and switch things up. It was a full blown party–helped along by the location, Niceto Club, with the intimate smallness of the space and the wild movement of the lights. I also saw Future Islands at that club, and the intimateness (colorful lights piercing complete darkness, the upper balcony of VIPs hanging over a tightly packed crowd below) added to the unforgettable-ness of the music. I’ve loved this band since high school, but to see them in person on stage so close, to be part of a crowd so in love with the music and energy the band gives off… to watch lead singer Samuel T. Herring dramatically leap across the stage as he so famously does, giving the mysterious energy of their songs physical form and motion… to watch them get emotional about how long it’s taken for them to be recognized (even thousands of miles from home!) was so cool.

There was the art. In Puerto Miguel in the middle of the selva, our guide, Gumer, took us on tours of the forest, showing us plants and seed pods whose bright colors made perfect base materials for painting their bodies and faces. In Huaraz, we visited the ruins of the Chavín civilization, considered the mother civilization of South America. At the Amaru community in the Sacred Valley, we learned the process of cultivating potatoes and cooking, along with the production of their textiles, stretching alpaca and llama fur into threads, naturally dying them using plants like eucalyptus, flowers, minerals, and insects, and weaving them on wooden looms. Everywhere we went on trips, there were artisans who were selling their works to tourists, some more authentically theirs and others made for the souvenir-scouting extranjero. We took a graffiti and street art tour of Buenos Aires, visited La Boca, the port where Benito Quinquela Martín painted his famous scenes of ships and men at work in the harbor. There were all the amazing museums in both Buenos Aires and Lima, where I saw everything from huacos (quechua word for a sacred object or place) and pre-columbian erotic pottery at Museo Larco, to photography that chronicled the rises and falls of peronismo and Juan and Eva Perón in the 20th century.

Then there were all the people I met along the way, too many to name, too difficult to describe their impact on me, and anyway beginning to fade from my memory already, which makes me sad but also I’ve already accepted as inevitable and natural.

Markets of Lima
Volunteering with EdOdyssey in Cerro Azul, Lima
Prepping to make ceviche in a cooking class, Lima
Seeds used for face paint in the selva of Peru
The ever cool barrio of Barranco in Lima
Always loved walking across this bridge near my apartment in Lima
At a parochial school on the outskirts of Lima
Spring’s arriving! Don’t forget to laugh, smile, and to be happy!
The sheer amount of surviving artifacts, aisles and aisles, at the Museo Larco was breathtaking. Lima
One of the many altars at the famous and moving cemetery in Punta Arenas, Chile
While on a boat tour in Paracas, south of Lima on the Pacific, the boat driver and guide picked up some crabs on the way back to shore
Works in progress by preschoolers at the elementary school in Lima I was helping out at
A painting I loved at a gallery in Callao, the barrio north of Lima
Learning the pottery making techniques from master artisans in Cusco
A sampling of the vast quantity of intricate goods in the Sacred Valley, Peru
Doors in Ollantaytambo, an Incan archaeological site and city in the Sacred Valley

Companions in Mancora, a beach town in northern Peru
Exploring El Cajas National Park outside Cuenca, Ecuador
In Baños, Ecuador, I discovered the magic of cevichocho- chocho beans, ceviche ingredients like lime, onion, cilantro, and tomatoes…
At the Fundación de la PROA, a photography gallery in Buenos Aires, at an exhibit concerning the desaparecidos during the dictatorship
Peaceful cafe mornings (and afternoons) in Buenos Aires
An abandoned building on the beach in Punta del Diablo, Uruguay
Sunday nights at Mackena club, where the band Afromama had us dancing nonstop
Details at Museo de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires
When you walked up close, you noticed that each of the colors was weaved in the thread, not dyed over plain thread, so amazing
One of the last suppers in Buenos Aires, with good friends, featuring one of juiciest, pepper-iest steaks ever !!

I’m writing this on the back porch of my grandmother’s house, in a small beach town in Delaware, I’m wondering how to begin unpacking all those experiences and thinking about all the notes I’ve written of things to look up, history to learn about, music and art to explore. Everyone says that the culture shock when you get home is the hardest part, and I’m starting to taste that just now. It’s bittersweet because while I am so sad it’s all over, I think there’s a huge quantity of stuff stored up from this year waiting to be defined and dissected. That’s what I’ll be focusing on my last year at HC, hopefully turning those memories into something new.

Sending out my thanks for all those amazing people I met along the way and all those sacred places that live on in my dreams. Hasta luego!


In April we visited the Cataratas de Iguazú, way up north at the edge of Argentina. It lived up to the seven wonders of the world title… and then some. It was so jaw-dropping even just to imagine the quantity of water that thunders down at any given point of the falls area. It was so cool also that the falls and the rainforest climate stretch along the borders of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brasil. We were only standing on the Argentina side, facing Brasil, but they say that the vantage points of each country offer a different and unique experience of the Falls.

Beautiful giant plants at the hotel, looking very millenial-on trend.


Back in March, we spent a few days in Bariloche, which is south of Buenos Aires, in the Patagonia. It was breathtaking, everything green and blue, clear and crisp… It was also Easter weekend, so the city was holding its festival of chocolate, which was obviously very convenient and fortunate for us.

Our tour guide, leading us on a hike with a piece of hay in his teeth, like a true adventurer.
Warm sun in March, what a concept!

On our last day, we rented bikes and took a map with us and explored. We decided to take a route to a place called “Catedral,” imagining it would be a trail leading up to some old church, rock structure, or something cool like that… we ended up following that road the steadily climbed steeper and steeper up this big hill, stopping every now and then to take in the view, but mostly catch our breath, and marvel at just how out of shape we had become, and then finally, we reached the top, to find… that “catedral” is the name of the (then out of season) ski mountain, and that there is no actual cathedral. It was all very hilarious, and extremely worth it for the pride of having sweat a bit and for the view.

My friend Evan in the distance, both of us blissfully unaware of the hill we’re about to climb.

Morning light in Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi.
View from our hostel of Lago Nahuel Huapi.

One of the many St. Bernards, famous mascots of Bariloche, ready for tourist photo opps.

Buenos Aires continued!

Peak inside the Casa Rosada, the “White House” of Argentina.  Unfortunately there was no Macri sighting, although we did pass by his office!

Teatro Colón, the third best opera house in the world and one of the most stunning and intricate in terms of acoustics, among the five best venues globally. We got to take a little tour, and I went back to see a ballet there. It lived up to all the hype, ooooobviously.

Chinese New Year celebrations in Barrio Chino in the neighborhood of Belgrano…

Palacio Barolo, the location of my justifiably dramatic confrontation with my fear of heights. (actually incredibly worth it because you can see what seems like the whole skyline, leading you to wonder how big this city truly is)

Just can’t get over what you see when you look up! Always so visually interesting and beautiful unlike any city I have ever been to.

Photo credits to my great, great friend and roommate Shruti Bakre.

Shruti Bakre at it again.

My friend, Mattie, who I studied abroad in Peru with last semester, came all the way from Cordoba (where she’s been studying this semester) to visit me and it was a fantastic time. Here’s a picture of us way too (justifiably???) excited for some empanadas.

The Jardín Botánico, which sits only five blocks from my house, is my favorite place to get lost in all the green. They have hundreds of different species of plants, organized and labeled from all over the world.

La Bomba del Tiempo, an all percussion band that totally surprised me how creative each song was, and how the whole crowd was so into their energy. They played at the Konex outdoor cultural center every Monday for awhile.

Throwing it way back to Machu Piccu

It just occurred to me the other day that I never actually wrote about the trip to Machu Picchu in December, the grand finale of the Peru semester abroad!!! So here it is, in all it’s totally-deserving-all-the-hype glory.

The following pictures are from beautiful Cusco, where we learned to make pottery, learned about the influence of Catholicism in the ancient city, walked along the pre-colonial Inca walls of the city, visited ruins, and wandered in no particular direction.

On the way to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu, we stopped in various places in the Sacred Valley, like the salt mines at Maras. We spent half the day at the Amaru community to learn about how they cook, make textiles, farm, and live in harmony with the land. We stopped to experience the architecturally stunning ruins at Ollantaytambo and Moray, and then took a train for the final stretch.

Amaru community, Sacred Valley

Sacred Valley

Moray ruins, Sacred Valley
Salt mines at Maras, Sacred Valley

Ollantaytambo ruins, Sacred Valley

The train to Machu Picchu brought us to another world completely. Where before you were in drier, higher altitude Cusco and the Sacred Valley, replete with mountains and stretches of land that allow you to be able to see around for miles… all of a sudden when you finally get to Aguas Calientes, you’ve descended in altitude and it feels like you’re in the jungle. But you’re also surrounded in every direction by the steepest, skyscraper-competing mountains you could ever imagine. This simple amazement was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Aguas Calientes

And then there’s Machu Picchu and I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

I must thank Bioribel Castillo, Mattie Carroll, Tesa Danusantoso, Katherine Lenahan, Bear Brink, Maria Claudia Schubert-Fontes, and Katie Anne Hayes for amazing photographer skills and for an overall incomparable semester.

Beginning in Buenos Aires

I’ve been in Buenos Aires for 2 weeks now!!!!! The minute I stepped off the plane from very very chilly Newark, I was hit by a wall of 90-degree heat, which is now the new normal. What an amazing place this is. Last week, I spent a week exploring Buenos Aires, and then two days in Uruguay, enjoying the ocean breeze and sitting on the beach. I’ll for sure be heading back there as soon as I can to escape the city heat, as it only takes an hour and a half via ferry to get to Uruguay, and from there you can rent a cheap car and drive it all the way up the coast. I love road trips like that, with the freedom to stop or detour anywhere you want, with the windows rolled down, barefoot, listening to the radio. So cliche, but I think there’s a reason for that, right?

The CIE program officially started last week, with language classes and cultural activities almost every day. It has been a whirlwind, but I think that’s just what you need when you first start settling down in an unfamiliar place. You get to see a little bit of everything, under the comfort of just following around program directors in a group, free of the worry that tends to come with solo-ing it. We went to a beautiful (albeit touristy) estancia this past weekend and spent the day wandering around the place, seeing – and attempting to talk to – all the animals there: parrots, an owl, bunnies, all kinds of chickens, peacocks, donkeys, and lots of horses. We spent the day eating classic gaucho food, parrilla, empanadas, etc etc. There was a show of all different kinds of dances, music, instruments, and traditions.

I’ve only seen a glimpse of what’s here so far, but at this rate I think the semester is going to be rich in discovery of new things. Here’s to another 5 months of being challenged, conversing in a new language, meeting completely different people, growing up a little bit more, and just appreciating every moment for its unique worth.


One of the most beautiful places you can go in the entire world: Laguna 69 in Huaraz, Peru. But you have to work for it. At 15,000 feet, you need to be stuffing coca leaves and coca tea and coca candies into your mouth constantly. The hike to the lake started out pretty easy, taking pictures, talking about how amazing everything looked, passing cows and horses and beautiful scenery. As we followed everyone in front of us on the path, it became increasingly harder to catch your breath and the incline steepened. Conversation pretty much slowed to a stop for the three of us by the end. But with every turn on the path, we could see more and more of the mountains surrounding us, and look back down at how far up we had come. We started to see the glaciers on the top of the mountains, but the entire time we were hiking the mountains were so tall we could never see the top. It took about three hours to “hike” (crawl at snail’s pace taking frequent breaks) to the top. But when we finally got there, it was pretty obvious why it’s a World Heritage Site and why people come from around the world.

After a granola bar and an hour long mouth-gaped-open exploration of the lake, we walked two hours to the bus feeling like tough seasoned hikers.

Arequipa and Colca Valley

While my mom was here visiting me, we wandered around Lima, had lunch with my whole host family, visited museums, and ate lots of good food (I also took surfing lessons finally!). 

We flew to Arequipa for the last weekend of her visit and ventured into Colca Valley. The weekend in Arequipa and Colca Valley was a huge reminder of what makes a good trip a good trip: the element of surprise, not knowing what to expect and taking note of the quirks that come up that you never could have imagined before. Driving through Colca Valley in our tour bus (unashamed to be *that* tourist) it was all wide open spaces and rolling hills and everything was empty and tree-less for miles around. Because it is the dry season, the landscape was invariably in a palette of pale green, yellow, brown and beige, until we approached the towns and finally our hotel destination for the night in Yanque. There was gradually more and more fir trees and shrubs, as if the Georgia O’Keefe-esque lineal, simple shapes of hills and plains had suddenly turned into a detailed picturesque landscape, like something out of wine country somewhere. On our horseback ride in Yanque, we rode up hills and around corners and down into mini valleys. I wanted to keep exploring forever. We passed fields and farms and a thermal natural spring created by the various nearby volcanoes, crossed bridges spanning ravines and streams, and watched people zip line between the hills and cliffs above us.

To do a quick run-through of the characters we met along the way: a pair of Peruvian friends who have known each other since school days, one of whom moved to NJ and started her family there. Countless locals wearing cowboy hats and pulling it off because it just fit so logically with the rest of the environment. Herds of vicuñas, a relative of alpacas and llamas, roaming freely over the plains and grouping together around big puddles of water. All the fluffy baby llamas and alpacas, their owners ready for photo opps in every town. Condors flying overhead, sometimes eleven all at once, at the lookout between two cliffs exclusively from 8-10 a.m. sharp every morning.

The wildlife and landscape was something out of a dream.

And then there was Hermogenes who led us on horseback around Yanque, sitting like a cowboy with one hand on the reins and the other falling casually to his side, having been around horses his whole life. In the middle of the ride, he turned around to tell us it was his birthday that day (!), as if he had been deciding whether to tell us or not the whole time. My mom and I made a huge deal about it. The girl my age working at Casa Arequipa, where we stayed in the city, studying for her English exam. We helped her study from one of her past tests. Honestly, I struggled with most of the questions, resorting to Google often. You don’t realize how much English intricacies you only know because things just sound “right.” It made me grateful I don’t have to learn English as a second language.

Sunny Arequipa
Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa

Breakfast at Killawasi Lodge, Yanque