Only a small group of the exchange students went to visit Ilo, a trip planned by a different exchange student that lives there with no fellow exchangees. It was an 18 hour bus ride which I think makes the record for the longest amount of time that I have remained seated, it was awful. Though, the bus was fancy and secure which made it somewhat more comfortable. As the bus rolled into Ilo, I didn't think anything nice of it, it looked the same as any other small town I've been to in Peru. That thought quickly changed though when we got off the highway and into the actual city. Sure, it had its common factors like colorful houses, lots of ships in the ocean and dirt hills surrounding the outskirts of the town. However the differences that I noticed were that the town was very hilly, which reminded me of a shore from Greece and how they built their houses until they met the shore. The sidewalks were different, instead of the slick gray ones that are throughout Lima, there were black pebbly ones, with red cement in the form of a wave along one side. There were regular fishing boats, but then there were also 3 huge Navy boats!
I was staying with Paola and her family which was by no fickle finger of fait- she was an exchange student that went to Colorado two years ago! She lived in Brighton and she stayed with my country contact, commonly known as Grandpa Rick. I was really excited to stay with her since we had met over facebook but never set anything up in person (that's quite a huge jump isn't?). We immediately ate lunch in her beautiful house which is located over her mother's shop on the main avenue of the town.
After lunch we went to a museum called Chiribaya which was about the indigenous cultures from the region from hundreds and thousands of years ago. They had many interesting displays including many real mummies, which unlike the common thought of a laid out mummy from Egypt, they were buried in a sitting position, knees to chest... if they were small (mainly babies) sometimes they even put them inside of a pot! Directly after, we went to the shore and took a boat tour of the sea lions which in total, there was about 5. It was really boring (I feel like I've been on enough of these for Peru). Then we walked around and went out for ice cream.
Later that night (after much arguing with the president of the club), we went to a discoteca and got in for free for Valentines day. We were there for several hours and unfortunately we went early so the party didn't get started until a half hour before we left. It was my first discoteca though and it was outside on a roof!
Early the next morning we had a tour at a copper factory. The power point beforehand was torture, but the actual machines and equipment was all really interesting! I went back to my house to have lunch where I had the best seafood soup I've had in my life. After lunch my family and I went to the beach and it was the coldest water I've been in years. That night the Rotary club hosted a "welcome" party, it was casual. It wasn't that exciting, but it was nice.
On the next day we had a guided private tour of the Navy ships, there were so many hot sailors... oh yeah, and the ships were cool too. While we were in the "cock-pit" of the ship (I don't know what it's called... control room?), a couple of ropes that kept the ships attached to the dock snapped and then a guy ran in and set off one of the alarms. That was neat to be crowded around all of the switches and phones and buttons, though I'm sure that guy found it annoying. About ten minutes later, another rope snapped (I actually saw it this time!), just from the waves being so strong. These are HUGE ropes too, how scary.
Then I went to the beach again where I met 2 Argentinian girls who would be returning to their country the following day. The younger sister who is 9 reminded me of my 10 year old neighbor, Mara so I absolutely loved hanging out with her and talking about random things. She even told me this joke, which was a favorite activity of my neighbor as well, I didn't understand it so she broke it down for me and ten minutes later I got it. It wasn't that funny, much like my neighbors' ;)
The Navy men invited us to a fancy party they were having later that night on one of their ships, naturally we all got really excited. More time with these men in their sleek, white, uniforms and even twice the amount that we saw earlier that day. I think we found heaven. So we went (after drama about trying to figure out what to wear, none of us brought formal clothes), and as soon as we were on board we realized what the party was: it was kind of a meet-and-greet since there was something like 150 Navy men and 50 people that were invited, and mainly women. There was a live band, food, and did I mention, hot Navy men? I danced with many, the first one was the most engaging: he asked me "como se dice 'bailar' en Espanol?" I told him, 'dance' and then he responded in English: you are very good. Did I blush? Not important. We were there for several hours and after a while it did get a little annoying, the whole: there are 150 of us and 50 of you, I have to hunt you down when you're not dancing before someone else gets to you, and I'm just going to keep staring at you. Because of that, I mainly danced with guys that I asked, the ones that weren't staring me down like a piece of rare meat.
The next day we left early in the morning to go to Tacna, another city that was an option for my exchange. It's bigger than Ilo, and about 2 hours futher south. I liked Ilo a lot more, I found it more beautiful from the general vibe of a small town to how everything was built. Tacna is also just about 20 minutes away from Arica, a town in Chile... we intended on stopping by but the Rotary club that we were with in Ilo forbid it because it was too complicated (even though it wasn't, since I popped into Ecuador on my last trip...)- we were all fairly annoyed that we could have walked into Chile but they wouldn't let us. In Tacna we just did shopping in their markets and then we took our bus from Tacna which was a 2o hour bus ride, back to Lima.
I was really happy that I was able to visit both of these towns because originally they were considerations of where I was supposed to go for my exchange. I enjoyed them both, (I liked Ilo a lot more), but I'm really happy that I'm in Lima. I'm more of a city girl who loves to visits small towns, not the other way around.