Monday, May 16, 2011

Vacation Debriefing

I've been home for two weeks now, and I'm just starting to get back to normal. I'd never been on such a cushy vacation where I didn't have to do anything, and I didn't have to think about anything either. There was always someone there to tell me where to go (get on the bus!) and what to do (look at this wall!). I could get used to that. It made me realize that I need a schedule to keep on task, or I'll just veg out and not get anything done.

My tan lines are still here (T-shirt sleeves) and the chocolate I bought is not yet gone. I had to hide it from B to make it last. But then I forgot about it, and it's just sitting in my sock drawer. The mosquito bites are long gone. I haven't yet used my hand-woven Chincheros bag. I've been using my Bihn bag to tote my computer, so I can give a slide show at a moment's notice. I also haven't used my equator scarf, but I have used my Ecuador bag. I haven't seen anyone else's photos from the trip, even though addresses were exchanged and I emailed a link to my photos, and my mom made video slide shows using the same ones.

There are such differences between the two halves of the trip. Galapagos was all about nature: the environment, the animals, the scenery. It was beautiful, of course, and probably the one of most protected natural areas in the world. They do a remarkable job of balancing the environmental needs with the economic ones. They realize that tourism is necessary for preservation. There are aggressive campaigns in the city to demonstrate to the locals that their economy, which is based on tourism, depends on keeping the islands pristine, so don't mess it up. In the Galapagos islands, I relaxed. I learned to snorkel. I saw a bunch of animals. I saw natural selection. I walked on lava rock. I accidentally bumped into a sea lion. I learned that I can spend a week living on a boat without getting seasick or cabin fever. Best part: visiting the tortoises on Santa Cruz.

Day 1: Quito
Day 2: To Galapagos
Day 3: Iguanas
Day 4: Albatross
Day 5: Floreana
Day 6: Tortoises and Civilization
Day 7: Flamingos
Day 8: Penguins
Day 9: Galapagos to Guayaquil

In Peru, we were immersed in the culture. Everywhere we went, there were people, and many of them wanted to sell us something. It was a shock after the tourist-only islands. I didn't expect Peru to be a third-world country. There is great disparity between Lima, which reminds me of L.A. (freeways and surfers), and the Sacred Valley, which is more like the towns I visited in Tanzania (handmade adobe bricks and dirt roads). It was beautiful country, no doubt, and there are western style havens, but there is also great poverty. It made me feel sorry that Yale (Hiram Bingham) stole their national treasures and wouldn't give them back for so long. In Peru, I learned that the Inca were the kings, and the people they ruled over were the Quechua (who are still around). I learned how to make Quechua weavings and stone walls. I found out what it's like to sit at the top of the Inca world, among the clouds and mountaintops. I ate lots of corn and potatoes. I learned that a vicuna is the softest wool you can get. (It's also the most expensive.) Best part: Machu Picchu, of course.

Day 10: To Peru
Day 11: Sacred Valley
Day 12: Machu Picchu
Day 13: To Cusco
Day 14: Cusco
Day 15: Lima

All photos
Mom's videos: Galapagos / Machu Picchu

So this ranks up there in my top three vacations, along with my trip to Tanzania and my post-college circumnavigation of the USA (in no particular order). What's next? Though this trip gives me the confidence to try a cruise (to Antarctica, Alaska, Nova Scotia, Scandinavia, or the Mediterranean), I'll probably visit Australia next. It's about time for that.

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