Visita a las islas flotantes de los Uros

Hola Diana:

¿Qué tal has pasado tus vacaciones de verano? Las mías han sido estupendas, he estado haciendo una ruta con mis padres por Bolivia y Perú.

Ayer viajamos desde Copacabana, en Bolivia, hasta Puno, a orillas del  lago Titicaca. ¡Es un lugar mágico!

¿Recuerdas que estudiamos el lago Titicaca en clase de español? Es un lago en los Andes Centrales situado entre Bolivia y Perú. Es el lago navegable más alto del mundo y ocupa el lugar 19º del mundo por superficie.

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La experiencia más impresionante fue la visita a las islas flotantes de los uros, una de las comunidades que vive en el lago. A unos 6 km del puerto de Puno (¡y a 3.812 metros sobre el nivel del mar!) se encuentra este archipiélago de 40 islas fabricadas con totora (una especie de junco que crece en los terrenos pantanosos de América del Sur). En realidad, por tanto, no son islas, son construcciones de totora que se asientan en el lecho del lago.

El sitio es bastante turístico pero es muy especial. Es como estar en otro planeta. Estas comunidades viven de la pesca, la venta de artesanía y el turismo.

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La totora es importantísima en la vida y en la economía de los uros: se utiliza también para fabricar los techos, paredes y puertas de las viviendas. Te preguntarás cómo se fabrica una isla con juncos… Nos explicaron que en la época de lluvia, las raíces de la totora salen a flote de forma natural. Los uros las cortan en trozos con sierras y las llevan hasta el pueblo. Allí ponen estacas de eucalipto en cada trozo de raíz y los unen mediante cuerdas. Eso forma la base de las islas. Además, con las totoras también fabrican su principal medio de transporte entre sus islas y el continente: las balsas. Otro de los usos de la totora, muy importante, es que cuando los tallos se secan los usan como leña para sus cocinas, cumpliendo la función de combustible. Además la utilizan como alimento, ya que al quitarle la corteza queda una sustancia blanca, fibrosa, prácticamente sin gusto, pero igualmente utilizada como complemento a sus dietas

También fabrican artesanías de totora, las cuales venden a los turistas que visitan sus islas… Cuando nos veamos te daré un pequeño regalito que compré para ti ☺

Un abrazo, Ana

Actividades:

  1. Busca el lago Titicaca en un mapa y describe su situación
  2. ¿Cuáles crees que son las principales dificultades de vivir en unas islas flotantes?
  3. ¿Te gustaría visitar las islas flotantes? Razona tu respuesta.
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Durmiendo en la isla de Amantaní

Hola Diana:

¡Este viaje me sigue sorprendiendo!

Ahora ya estoy en Lima y tenemos conexión a internet para poder escribir emails. Después de visitar la isla de los uros, fuimos en barco a la Isla de Amantaní, donde nos quedamos a dormir en casa de una familia (así es el turismo rural en Perú). La isla de Amantaní está formada por 10 comunidades, y nosotros nos quedamos a dormir en Santa Rosa.

Después de tres horas de viaje en barco, llegamos al puerto, donde estaban esperando todos los habitantes de la isla que alojan a turistas. Me llamó mucho la atención ver que los hombres visten de manera moderna, pero todas las mujeres van vestidas con ropa tradicional: falda amplia fucsia, camisa blanca con flores bordadas, chal negro con bordados en la cabeza y sandalias.

 

Nos quedamos en casa de una familia, Julio y María, que viven con sus tres hijos en una casita a la entrada del pueblo. La casita es sencilla, pero acogedora. ¡Y María guisaba muy bien! Cocinó una cena típica del lago Titicaca: sopa de quinoa, queso frito con papas, pollo y ensalada. La quinoa es un cereal típico de Perú, es parecido a las lentejas. ¿Lo has probado alguna vez? Está muy rico en la sopa o en ensalada.  Y para beber, mi bebida preferida: chicha morada. E InKa Cola, por supuesto.

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En esta isla parece como si el tiempo se hubiera detenido. Las casas tienen electricidad con una pequeña placa solar, y en cada caso hay un solo wc. En la isla hay 3 colegios de primaria, y un  colegio de secundaria. Es una comunidad muy tranquila. Por supuesto, no tienen acceso a internet, y la mayoría de las casas no tiene televisión. Pero viven muy tranquilos y en equilibrio con la naturaleza… desde luego, no sufren de estrés como nosotros.

Por la tarde dimos un paseo con Julio y María para ver la puesta del sol desde  Pachatata, en lo alto de la isla. La visita de la puesta de sol desde allí es preciosa. Se ve el lago y al fondo, en la parte boliviana se ven los picos nevados de la Cordillera real boliviana.

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Te mando en este email unas fotos del lago para que veas que paisajes tan preciosos. Fíjate en el azul tan intenso del lago, y en los nevados de Bolivia al fondo.  (Llevo un gorro típico peruano porque, aunque hace sol, hace una temperatura fresca debido a la altitud).

 

Espero que estés disfrutando también tus vacaciones. ¿Dónde has estado? ¿Has podido practicar español, para que no se te olvide?

Un abrazo,

Ana

Actividades:

  1. ¿Por qué es interesante que un turista duerma en la casa de una familia peruana?
  2. ¿Has probado alguna vez la comida peruana? ¿Te gustaría probarla?
  3. Mira el video. ¿Te gustaría visitar la isla de Amantaní? Razona tu respuesta.

 

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Mar del Plata

We just got back from a weekend at the beach. Even though I’m sunburned from head to toes, if it weren’t for the ruthless sun, I’d go every weekend! We went to Mar del Plata, the most famous beach town in Argentina. You can get there by plane, but we all went on the train. The trip was about 5 hours long. Half of the group slept during the trip, but I was taking pictures through the window the whole way. The scenery was amazing.  Once we got to Mar del Plata, we went directly to the hotel. I worked my “magic” on the cutie pie at the front desk, so we all got rooms with an ocean view and balcony! I’m still waiting for my thank yous, but I won’t hold my breath.

The beach was so crowded that we wondered how we were going to fit! I didn’t care because it’s winter back home and I definitively needed a tan! But while we waited for some space to open up, we walked around the city and had a bite to eat. After a few minutes of walking, we went into a pizzeria. I can honestly say that was the best pizza I have ever had. (I had heard that pizza in Argentina was famous, but this was beyond good!). There, at the pizzeria, the cashier told us we looked like tourists. We all laughed. He said that 700,000 people lived in Puerto Plata, but in the summer months (November to September) the town is full of porteños (people from Buenos Aires) and tourists who spend their vacation there.

Aereal View of Mar del Plata

Before we headed back towards the beach, we walked to the Museo del Mar. There was a HUGE collection of seashells from all around the world. There were thousands upon thousands! Some of them where really weird looking, other were so perfect that I wondered how nature could make all of this!

When we left there I was a little hungry, so I grabbed a couple of empanadas (Argentinean small meat turnovers) and headed to the beach. Most of the group was sunbathing and chatting with natives, the others were swimming or playing volleyball with some students from Buenos Aires they had just met.

It was really hot, so I left my backpack on the sand and went directly to the ocean. It felt really good. After a while I went back to where by buddies were and stayed with them until it was time to go back to the hotel.

That evening we all had dinner together at the hotel’s restaurant and went for a walk. Puerto Plata is so different at night! But it’s just as awesome…full of people, music, cafes, street artists…we all had ice-cream in this famous place. It was so, so good! And It cooled me down because my skin was on fire! We also had “alfajores” (cake sandwich with dulce de leche). I became addicted to them after that! The last thing we did before we went back to the hotel was to get some aloe from the pharmacy. I think even my teeth were sunburned L.

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Gauchos

Today was my favorite day so far in Argentina. We went to an estancia (ranch) in the countryside, not far from Buenos Aires. We all slept in the bus for the entire trip (we woke up at 6 am!) Once we arrived at the estancia, a man dressed in strange clothes was waiting for us with empanadas (little meat turnovers) and mate (an Argentinean version of tea). We later learned that the clothes he was wearing was that of the gaucho (Argentinean cowboy). He had a wide hat on, a poncho, loose baggy pants and knee-high leather boots. He also had a wide belt with silver coins on it, and a big knife they call the facon.

Gaucho with Traditional apparel

The owner of the estancia and three or four gauchos took us all to the area where the horses were. I’d seen horses before, but these were impressive!  One of the gauchos told us that they had 125 horses there. WOW! Each of us had the chance to ride a horse with the whole group lead by a gaucho.  I had been horseback riding once a long time ago, but most of my classmates had never ridden a horse, so there was a mixture of excitement and fear among the group. Once we came back we all loved it!

Gaucho Boleadoras

Then, a gaucho directed us to a huge open place made out of wood where there where long tables and chairs. There was a small stage and after we all sat down, three gauchos got on the stage along with two guys with drums. Then the show began. The gauchos began dancing to the rhythm of the drums and their boleadoras hitting the wood floor. Boleadora is a tool used by the gauchos, made out of stones, and bound in leather strips.This dance is called malambo and only men dance it. There were three or more gauchos on stage where they bounced the boleadoras in a circular motion at a high speed hitting the floor with one of them at a time. The boleadoras followed the beat of the music. Since I play the drums, this was especially interesting to me. I really, really loved it. The three gauchos hitting the floor combined their sounds to create something spectacular, but it also looked very dangerous. All the while they continued to tap on the floor with their boots. I don’t know how those men did not hit themselves or the other dancers with the boleadoras. It was absolutely amazing!

While we were watching the show, several men were cooking a typical Argentinean BBQ or asado just outside where we were. I was sitting close to the huge grill, so I managed to take some pictures. The grill was close to the ground, and they were cooking all kinds of meat. Finally it was time for lunch, and what a feast it was! The servers brought steak, chorizo sausage, blood sausage, and tenderloin–a true meat lovers’ dream. We were told that Argentinean meat is considered the best in the world…and it tasted like that to me!

Gaucho Barbecue

After the meal, we were directed to a place where we could sit to watch several gauchos demonstrate their horseback riding skills. I don’t know exactly what the game is called, but the way it works is that the gaucho and his horse go faster and faster down a dirt path towards a small golden ring hanging overhead from a string. When they reach full speed, the gaucho tries to “grab” the ring using a utensil about the size and shape of a pen or a pencil. Then they gave the ring to one of the girls in the group. I think this was their favorite activity of the day!

 

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Mate

The first thing that caught my eye was that people in the streets, cafes, the metro, the parks, even the people who work in our hotel were holding this weird looking cup and sipping something weird from a metal straw. They looked like the people in New York on a hot summer day sipping their iced coffee!

I was really curious about what the big deal was, so I decided to ask Ms. Bettina, the clerk at our hotel, what it was that people were drinking and why they were drinking it in those cups. She said that everyone in Argentina drinks mate. She said it is an herb or yerba that they mix with water (hot or cold) and sometimes with sugar. Ms. Bettina explained that the cup is called a mate gourd and the straw is called a bombilla. She said that people have been drinking mate using the gourd and the bombilla as long as she could remember and that it was a tradition.

Mate cup with Argentina map

I’m sorry, but I couldn’t understand why people liked this ugly stuff and had to drink it out of the funny looking cup and the straw, but Ms. Bettina continued to tell me the tradition of mate. Believe it or not, there are rules for drinking it too! The people I saw were drinking it alone, but Ms. Bettina told me that most of the time people get together to drink mate and that it’s supposed to be sort of like a ritual. She said that usually one person, the host or whoever brings the mate, prepares the drink and refills the gourd with water. The gourd is passed around, often in a circle, and each person finishes it giving it back to the person that that prepared it. The gourd (also called a mate) is passed in a clockwise order. When a person no longer wants to drink the mate, they say “gracias” to the host to signify they don’t want any more. This all sounds super interesting and super complicated!

Then Ms. Bettina asked me to wait a few minutes. She left the front desk and came back with a mate cup with the yerba inside. She poured hot water into it and gave it to me. I thought to myself “that it’s now or never.” I started to sip through the bombilla, but I could smell the foul odor before it ever got to my lips. And when it did taste it . . . YUCK! That was the most horrible thing that I had ever tasted! My face must have given away the fact that I did not like it. Ms. Bettina laughed and took the mate gourd from me and took a sip. I was so embarrassed, but she made me feel better when she went to the back, got some honey, and put it in the drink. “Try it again,” she said. I didn’t really want to, but she was so nice and I didn’t want to be rude! So here I went again. I started to sip through the bombilla, but this time it smelled sweeter. WOW! The honey made such a difference! I guess it is an acquired taste, but I finished the cup Ms. Bettina gave me and had another. I LOVED the mate so much I bought three packages of it to bring back home. I even bought a “mate set” (the mate gourd, bombilla, and the herb) for my mom. I really hope she likes it as much as I do, otherwise I’ll drink it all! With honey of course.

Mate cups

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Soccer

I thought I loved soccer, but for Argentineans soccer or fútbol, as it is called in Spanish, is more than a sport, it’s a way of life! Everyone talks about soccer all the time, there is soccer playing on TVs in almost all the cafeterias and restaurants we have been. Ever since we got to Buenos Aires, everywhere we go we see children playing soccer in parks and in the streets. They play with worn-out soccer balls, cans, balled up socks, rocks or anything they could kick!  I learned yesterday that when Argentinean soccer star Diego Maradona was a child, he used to play soccer with stones wrapped with grass and leaves! Now he is considered one of the best soccer player of all time!

Ever since soccer arrived in Argentina in the 18 hundreds from England, it has become the  national sport. There are a lot of teams in Argentina, but the two main teams are Boca Junior and River Plate. They are eternal rivals or rivales eternos as Argentineans say! Most people in Argentina are either Boca fans or River fans.

This morning our we went to see the Boca stadium. WOW, it was amazing! It was a huge building painted with the Boca colors: blue and yellow. Argentineans call it “la bombonera”, the chocolate box.  I asked the bus driver, Manuel, why the Boca team chose those colors and he told me that in 1906, Boca decided to adopt the colors of the flag of the first boat to sail into the port at La Boca in Buenos Aires. This was a Swedish ship. That’s why the yellow and blue of the Swedish flag were adopted as the team colors. Cool, huh? River’s team colors are red and white. They also have a huge stadium in Buenos Aires. Actually, it is the largest stadium in the country and people call it “el monumental.”  Manuel also told me that the games in which Boca and River play each other are considered a must see. It’s like the “Subway Series” in New York and almost impossible to get tickets. Everyone, adults and children, women and men, rich and poor go to this game.

La Bombonera Stadium

There were many shops that sold all kinds of things related to Argentinean soccer right across from the Boca stadium. I bought a River jersey for my brother and a Boca jersey for myself because I liked the colors and the story behind them.

Now I’m in my hotel room and I cannot wait to wear my jersey and play at the park with Argentinean kids. I think I’ll do that tomorrow afternoon. Bettina, the hotel clerk, told me that getting tickets to a Boca – River game is really, really hard. Oh…how I wish I could magically get some tickets to tomorrow’s match! Well…I guess the next best thing to being there would be watching the game at the cafeteria across from the hotel the Argentinean soccer fanatics!

Boca Junior’s fans at La Bombonera

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Tango

Tango dancing

When we got to Argentina, Alina Aguilar told us that our trip to Argentina included tango lessons and a tango show. I am not too much of a dancer, but I was excited to learn to dance the tango. My dad listens to it all the time, but neither he nor my mom knows how to dance it. I thought it would be cool to teach them when I get back home. When we got to the studio, Alina asked the instructor, Alejandro, to tell us a little bit about the history of the tango. I had no idea that it was going to be so interesting! As Alejandro spoke we all sat on the floor and listened to him.

First, Alejandro talked about the origins of the tango. He said that it was born in the mid 1800’s in a barrio in Buenos Aires where poor immigrants lived. Immigrants from Africa, Italy, Spain, England, Poland, Russia, Germany were all hoping to make money to bring back to their countries or to be able to bring their families to Argentina. Also poor native Argentines lived there too. All these groups borrowed dance and music from each other, and so the tango was born from a mix of these different kinds of music and dance. Alina, who is also Alejandro’s dance partner, told us that this music and dance reflected a longing for the places and people the immigrants left behind.

Dancers at a Tango studio

Because most immigrants were single men, they danced with each other. These male dancers were called the compadritos. They were young, mostly poor, and liked to dress in slouch hats, loosely tied neckerchiefs, and high-heeled boots with knives tucked into their belts.  These young men took the tango to various poor neighborhoods in Buenos Aires where dancing took place. Soon new steps were invented and practiced.

Alina also told us that, at first high society looked down at this kind of music and dance from the poor immigrant barrios, but eventually everyone joined the dance craze and, by the beginning of the 20th century, the tango became so popular that pretty much everyone in Buenos Airesm men and women of all social classes, listened and danced to it. Then it soon spread outside Buenos Aires to the rest of the country where it became part of the urban culture. By the early 1900’s, when wealthy sons of Argentine society families made their way to Paris, they introduced the tango to a society eager to learn new things. By 1913, the tango had become an international phenomenon in Paris, London and New York. There were tango teas, tango train excursions and even tango colors—mostly orange. The Argentine rich and famous, who shunned the tango, were now forced to accept it with national pride. Since 1940s and 1950s the tango has become one of the greatest expressions of Argentinean culture.

I found the tango’s history so interesting that I was eager to see how it was danced. So Alina and Alejandro danced a tango for us called “La comparsita.” We were all looking at them in awe. When they finished, Alina asked: “So, who wants to be the first tango student? –We all looked at each other and Alejandro in silence. I took a deep breath and told Diana “¡Vamos!” We got up and learned our first tango steps while the rest of the class cheered us up.

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