Thursday, March 27, 2008

Excited To Move?

Erika's visa interview date had been set to April 7th last week,
giving us about two weeks to get all the documentation put together.
Clearly, two weeks is not enough time to go to the plethora of
government offices required and get the forms all filled out. So, I
called back the embassy where the interview will take place and
requested that they delay the interview if possible. They have
obliged, and a week later (yesterday) I was notified that the new
interview date will be a whole week later, April 15th. Now, Erika and
I have to try to figure out synchronous plane schedules that are
reasonably affordable, which is basically impossible. For some
ludicrous reason that I can't explain, airfares coming to the US from
Peru are absolutely ludicrous! There's something like $400 in taxes
and surcharges and what not, making any flight outrageously expensive
and giving me a nice little headache.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is my - GASP! - excitement to
move! No, not because I am now afraid of being gunned down in front of
my apartment in the Bronx, but because I am very excited to move to my
next borough, Queens. Astoria, to be accurate. I was stressing out
about having to move again until I visited an available apartment
recently and walked around the area a bit more. This area is sooooo
awesome and the rents are totally reasonable (relatively speaking).
This part of Queens borders the East River, giving some apartments
(including some I have visited) amazing views of Manhattan and being
just a short subway ride away from the middle of Manhattan. Furnishing
my apartment is a whole other matter, but I won't spoil my thoughts
about moving just yet.

In other news, it looks like Erika has found the perfect wedding
planner down in Peru to do some of the legwork for us while we are
both here living the city life. I'm pretty stoked about that and look
forward to meeting her when I go down to Peru in two weeks for the
interview and to celebrate Erika's 29th birthday!

J. Riley, now back to looking for flight deals....

Thursday, March 20, 2008

House Parties and Holidays and Homicides, Oh My!

I've been getting verbally body-slammed about the fact that I had absolutely no time to update my blog while I was in Peru and I've been so busy in the one, err.....two weeks I've been back that I haven't been able to update my blog. Or, I haven't created the time to update el blogo. So, here's a run-down, bulleted style for Cathy.

A. Conclusion to Peru
  1. My parents arrived in Peru about five days after the party. Erika and I showed them around the city, going to the downtown area and running around town trying to find the best food to eat in the short amount of time that we had. Sometimes things don't go as planned and you end up finding the best surprises that way, such as the ceviche restaurant that we went to on their second day there. Because of an earlier delay, our lunch schedule got pushed about 5:00! We ran around Lima spending a good hour and a half and $8 in cab fares and found all three of the places that we wanted to eat at closed. We ended up on a quiet street (Nueva York St., as it were) eating at an awesome place in a small corner with the most AMAZING ceviche I've ever had. There are pictures of the food on my picture site.
  2. On Saturday, we did a meeting of the families by having lunch at Erika's family's house. I should have known when I was instructed to wear pants to the event (though it was hot and sunny outside) and told to bring my proposal speech in Spanish. But, I was foolish enough to think that I'd get away easy with the proposal the week before. Oh no, I had to do the thing ALL OVER AGAIN, and worse yet, it was in front of HER parents, MY parents, her aunt, and her cousin! It's nerve wracking enough proposing, but to have to do it twice, in front of everyone? I really didn't want to, but in the end it was the right thing to do, the traditional thing to do. And I was happy that her dad was there this time around! Her mom made an amazing lunch for us and I could tell that it was a big event for them, as it was for my parents. Despite the language barrier, we could all somehow communicate and everyone had so much fun, laughing at the pronunciation of my dad's name: "Doug? Like Hot Dog? We call that 'pancho' in Spanish", and a new nickname for my dad was borne!
  3. That night we took their, and my, parents to Brisas de Titicaca, a show demonstrating many of the traditional dances of Peru. Dancing is a big part of their culture and in a country steeped with so much history and ancient civilizations, it was fun to see. Her dad had never even been to the show, so it was fun that they could dress up for a night and have fun out on the town, something they don't normally get to experience.
  4. I went to Cusco again! Despite being there twice before, I wanted to take Erika and my parents since they hadn't been there before.
  5. The first day, we sucked down the mate de coca tea (from which cocaine is made) to help give us relief from the 12,000 feet altitude. The second day we wandered around slowly and met up with an acquantince that I had met the year before. She took a 2-hour bus ride to meet us and show us around town to some places I hadn't even seen before. We got the local tour of the giant market place with all the fresh food, some typical streets, some ancient buildings from the Incas, and ended up at the Inca fortress Sachsahuayman (sp.) at the end of the day before taking our guide to a fancy dinner before her bus left. We are very greatful to her for her time!
  6. The second day, we had a private tour of the Sacred Valley, Pisaq, and Ollyatatumbo. We had a great deal from a tourist company for the trip, paying $60 for the day. Well, you get what you pay for! We had a tour guide who's English was poor and who basically knew very little. I was a better tour guide based on my previous trips than he was! The hiking around the Pisaq ruins brought back memories of my first trip with my friends, but this trip will always remind me that my dad is in way better shape than me, trudging up the hills carrying his tripod and massive SLR camera on his shoulder! I didn't do too bad on the hills, Erika was surpisingly fit (it must be her Inca lungs!), and even my mom did all of the hills!
  7. The third day was the long trip to Machu Picchu on the train, leaving at 6:30am. Machu Picchu is not something you can get old of, but note to self: next time pay the $50 and hire a guide! You really can't appreciate everything without a guide telling you what each piece means. We got stuck on an early (and more expensive) train home but it wasn't a bad thing because it had started raining and you couldn't see anything after that. Next time, I recommend staying in Aguas Calientes (the town below the mountain) for at least a day so you can get a whole day on the mountain!
  8. The fourth day, which I was bracing for the whole week, turned out to possibly be my favorite day - since I've seen all the tourist stuff before. The day of shopping! My wallet was already light from the trip and my mom had been teaching Erika the art of spending-your-significant-other's-money all too well. We ended up aimlessly wandering around the San Blas neighborhood of Cusco looking at jewelry shops and clothing stores, finding amazing views of the city, quiet, scenic cobblestone streets, a few good deals and unique items, and more than one hippyish cafes to stop and have some corn-based chicha morrada to drink. I didn't mind spending money on some of the jewelry, purses, and other things for Erika, she deserves it all and I loved shopping with her.
  9. The next day, we headed back to Lima and bid my parents goodbye as they travelled back to the states. It was a very fun trip with them, like always, and it's good to know that they appreciate the gem that I have in this girl and that she loves them as much as they love her!
B. House Parties
  1. Five days after I got back, Melissa had a small house / dinner party to celebrate my engagement! Everyone wanted all the details about my trip and to know about what's going to happen in the future with our wedding!
  2. Speaking of weddings, I didn't have many of your email addresses in my email address book! If you didn't get my "guaging the interest of attending my wedding March 28th, 2009 in Lima, Peru", you might want to send me an email so that I can invite you! If you don't know my email address, send an email to my parents, who will forward on to me. I don't publish my email address for many reasons.....nevermind, I don't have time to digress on information security!
C. Holidays
  1. Monday was St. Patrick's Day, the day for drinking significant quantities of beer, wearing lots of green, and eating too much marginal corned beef and cabbage. Paul brought up a good point: why should we go eat marginal Irish food just for the holiday's sake? Why not go out for a good dinner?
  2. Good point Paul! So, it was off to the Meatpacking District, and under-appreciated neighbohood in our culinary repository, where we ate "Pan-African" food at Merkato 55 and dessert at the neighboring Italian, former-butcher-warehouse restaurant. Naturally, we had a lot of fun and had a few Irish beverages to boot!
  3. Sean Murphy, as Irish as he name indicates, was conveniently born on St. Patrick's Day, so last night we celebrated his birthday with a "company party" (i.e. I don't have to pay nothing) at his Williamsburg, Brooklyn neighborly beer garden Radegast. They served up some wicked wursts, had a plethora of stellar imported beers including a rare breed of Schlenferla Rauchbier from Alex's town of Bamberg in Germany. The dinner was marginal, but the beers were great and the Hipster/Jewish music band was certainly interesting.
D. Homicides
  1. As in, there was one. Close to me.
  2. The scene: My apartment in the Bronx.
  3. The situation: Me, Melissa and Jonathon were waiting for the crew to show up for our dinner party. Then, out of nowhere, we hear BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG very close to our apartment, followed by screeching tires and a minute later, sirens. The crew entered our apartment a minute later, having been in our elevator on the way to our apartment! We rubbernecked out of our 11th floor apartment and heard many sirens from the po-po and ambulances show up right next to our apartment.
  4. The Resolution: The next day, we see on the news that a 19 year-old was shot three times in the chest and were looking for suspects! Today, I saw a HOMICIDE poster in the subway station with the suspect's mug-shot.
  5. What did I do with that list of people that were going to visit me??
J. Riley, caught up, mostly!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Aaaand...More Pictures

There's some more picture albums posted at: