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AdVEENtures in South America

Big thanks to Veendam’s entertainer Mara Jill Herman for sending in this fun post from her recent stops in South America. Enjoy!

On October 28th, I assisted on a tour of the Guayaquil National Park in Ecuador. The Parque Histórico Guayaquil is like a multi experience park and zoo packed full of fascinating animals, flora and fauna of the region, and a great place for Ecuadorean children to gain a strong sense of culture and identity. Some of the animals I’d never even seen or heard of (like a Two Toed Sloth and Tapir)!

Photos are included in my newest Facebook album and many are courtesy of my castmate and fellow picture buff, Justin! After walking through the zoo, we saw actors dressed in costumes who performed a traditional Spanish song. In the urban architectural area we got a glimpse of the “Golden Age” of the streets of Guayaquil. A main focus in the more traditional zone was on cocoa, a commodity for which Ecuador was once the world’s leading producer.

There were many viajes de estudios (ah, remember class trips?) and it was a joy to see so many friendly children. The same way I was eager to take photos with them they were just as interested in seeing tourists like me on their turf.

I bought a delicious cheese empenada and guava juice that cost $1.30 but in the states it would’ve easily cost $5-6. (The previous day a bottle of water cost 25 cents! I mean, really? The last time I think I paid 25 cents for anything was in middle school, and it came out of a gumball machine!

My tour guide told us interesting fun facts like one of the richest families in Ecuador is of Jewish Romanian descent (just like my ancestry!). As we drove through the city I found it funny to see American chains like KFC, McDonalds, Chili’s and Sheraton. Toys R Us had the same logo in Spanish (“Mi Juguteria”), but it was instantly recognizable. That’s the power of branding for ya!

The tour wrapped up with a stop in an Iguana Park and a visit to a beautiful church.

Halloween on board was a lot of fun but I threw my costume together at the last minute. I thought I’d be off the ship because of my Cusco/ Machu Picchu trip and miss the Halloween party altogether. Well, wouldn’t you know that our party was on the 29th instead of the 31st so I thought…how could I miss out on the fun! Some friends really got creative and dressed as a bowl of Ramen Noodles and Sponge Bob Square Pants; however the scariest award went to Cameron for his great makeup as the “Angel of Death.” I ended up wearing a show costume and white knee high boots, putting my hair in a high ponytail and going as a Go Go dancer. As Giulia said “Halloween on the Veen,” was a great time.

On the 30th, my friends and I ventured out on our own to see the Chan Chan Ruins in Peru. The capital of the ancient Chimu Empire is 3 miles from Trujillo but the ship was docked in Salaverry about 20 minutes away. Chan Chan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and roughly a thousand years old. We had a great time taking various photos and because of the wide-open spaces, we spontaneously busted out into a tribal music video! It was silly but also fun to let loose in a place with such great history.

After the ruins, we walked around Trujillo for a bit and since it was a Sunday, it was really interesting to see and hear the activity surrounding the church. There was loud music coming from inside and some sort of religious ritual about Jesus that seemed pretty intense.

Next up will be Cusco and Machu Picchu. The tour was 2-and-a-half days of non-stop action. I have at least 400 photos that represent these incredible sights. When some of those pictures are up, I will provide a play-by-play. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

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