My vote's in!

Four years ago, I was planning for my big study abroad trip. Originally, I had planned to go for a full calendar year and one of the most exciting parts of that was being able to vote absentee. For a variety of reasons, I didn't leave that fall and unfortunately, couldn't vote absentee in the 2008 election. My disappointment quickly turned to elation when my university was chosen to host  one of the Presidential debates that year. Through a series of fortunate events, I was lucky enough to be one of the volunteers who was granted access to the debate hall and I was able to watch the debate live. In one of those right place and the right time moments, I also met then Presidential Candidate Barack Obama. I'll take that over an absentee ballot any day.

This time around, I have no opportunity to vote except by absentee ballot. I've always been fascinated by the idea of voting absentee. By its very nature, an absentee ballot means that you are "absent" from your home, whether you are in another state or another country. I think there is something poetic and patriotic about choosing to vote and having your voice heard even if in that moment your "home" is away from home.

Regardless of my political affiliation, I have always believed it's crucial to vote. I feel fortunate to live in a country where I can place my vote, I know this isn't true in every country. I also know that people- first men and then women- fought very hard to be able to place their vote and I want to honor that. Even though I'm thousands of miles away from my home polling station, I still placed my vote.

Yesterday, I took a bus to the US Embassy and proudly placed my ballot in their voting box. The next step is for it to be sent to the States where it will then be sent to Nashville, Tennessee. On November 6th, I'll be watching the poll results and know that even from Lima, one of those numbers is me.

Mountains in Huaraz

One weekend, rumors began to spread about the Peruvian government giving everyone a four day weekend. This unexpected holiday was a way to encourage Limeans to leave the city to make room for the South America-Arab Summit. At first, I didn't believe the rumors. How can a government simply declare two holidays ten days before the date? I wasn't hopeful. Furthermore, I expected the holiday would be just for the public sector which meant my private school would still be in session.

I was wrong. As it turns out, if you are the President of Peru, you can declare two extra holidays- for both the public and private sector. Four day weekend, hooray!

To get out of the city and make the best of our unexpected holidays, two friends and I took an overnight bus to Huaraz, to enjoy mountain views, ancient ruins and beautiful hiking.

View of the valley at the start of our horseback ride 
With Cañón while taking a break
We started our trip with a three hour horseback ride up a mountain outside of Huaraz. I hadn't been on a horse in nearly 10 years and my inexperience showed. Once I trusted my horse enough to know he wouldn't fall down the side of the mountain, I began to relax and could enjoy the views. The only sounds I heard were the rustling of the wind and the horse's hooves on the paths. That kind of quiet is eerie when coming from a city plagued by car horns, travelings salesman and bus engines.

On the way to Chavín

The Ruins at Chavín de Huantar
The main temple at Chavín
The second day we drove three hours to Chavín to explore the ancient ruins at the site. Archeologists have found evidence of civilizations on this site as early as 1200 BCE but the Chavín culture didn't arrive until about 400-500 BCE. People often talk just about the Incas and it's easy to forget that the Incas were one of the last cultures in Peru, meaning that before them the country was inhabited by a myriad of other people, cultures and traditions. Chavín is strategically located in the valley of the mountains and at the intersection of two rivers. Used a a ceremonial site, the only people who would have had unlimited access to the temple would have been the high priests. Most likely, the everyday citizens lived in the surrounding areas.
Lago Llaca, Huascarán National Park

The glacial lake and mountains- 14,678 ft. about sea level

At the lake
On the finally day, we took a car into Huascarán National Park. I'm a proud city girl who has never been keen on hiking but these views have changed my mind. At 14,000 feet above sea level, it felt as if we could touch the top of the snow capped mountains. Through my travels, I have become aware of the earth's size in regards to width but it wasn't until this trip that I began to think of the earth in vertical proportions. It was the first time I had been around mountains of this size and I was in awe of it's beauty. Clean blue skies, snow lined mountains and crisp mountain air, it can't get much better than that.