Week 1: Let the Games Begin!

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Semisonic (LOL, it was the best I could come up with)

Well folks, I made it! I’m officially writing this post from our awesome cowerrrkking (yes, just roll with it) space in Lima. While my fellow Remotes are hard at work doing their day jobs, I’m having all the fun writing this post! The past week has been a whirlwind, which is why I’m only writing this post now. Sorry, it’s going to be a long one. Last week, I finished packing, running around getting everything I needed, savoring the last few moments with my family, and flying to Lima. (Also, happy birthday today, Mom!!)

Getting to Lima

The nervousness about this whole trip really started to hit me the night before I left. I started to really panic and let all the negative thoughts take over about what I was actually doing. It was almost like I was more panicked by the fact that I hadn’t yet panicked. But my mom was really great about helping me through it, and also, I just went back to my mantra of, there is no failure. Even if I come home after month one, that is not a failure, because I tried and risked, and that in itself is the success! What was even crazier is, as someone who is a recovering aviophobe, I wasn’t once nervous about the actual flight. So, that’s progress!

Saying goodbye to my parents was pretty difficult at the airport (see photo below of me cry-smiling). But, as soon as I was about to really break down, after leaving them waving me off at security, sitting by myself in the overcrowded terminal, some people in my Remote Year WhatsApp group said they were also waiting for the same flight! (Yet, again, universe having my back.) I then got to hang out with them, get a drink, and commiserate about how excited we were. Everyone was super nice and it made me realize I am about to meet some really interesting, amazing people.

The flight to Lima was easy, I watched First Man (twice). Was amazing to see Queen Elizabeth play Ryan Gosling’s wife. And that dude from Girls play an astronaut. And Kyle Chandler anything. But, I digress. Sadly, when I landed, I learned some pretty terrible news. A childhood friend from camp had passed away in a freak snowboarding accident. It was not great news to open your phone to, especially so far away and at the start of such an intense, exciting experience. The one comfort I am taking from the tragedy is that he died doing exactly the thing he wanted to be doing, and had done his own version of “chasing his only if” moment in order to even be on that mountain. No regrets.

Anyway, we got to Lima, got through customs, and met up with one of our tour leaders who took us to our ride to our apartments. I got to my apartment and it’s really nice! The elevator opens directly into my apartment — I felt so fancy! We also have a sick rooftop that has amazing views of the sunset and the ocean. Feeling pretty grateful for that. I also met my first roommate, Dan! Dan picked the master bedroom suite in our apartment that has a freaking bidet! (That was always my test of whether a place was really, really fancy as a kid so I feel pretty rad that I’m bidet-adjacent now). I will be sharing a bathroom with my other roommate, John Gernon, who arrived on Tuesday.

Roomies!! JG on the left and Dan on the right. Also, how cool is this bar we’re at?

Growing Pains

Some interesting/not-so-fun facts: you cannot flush any toilet paper down any toilet in Peru (or, from what I hear, all of South America). This is causing me so much stress, to be honest. Especially because I’m sharing a bathroom with another person. And because I hear so many horror stories about the ravages South America can have on your digestion (edit: keep reading for an update on this). Right now the expectation is that you just toss your toilet paper into a garbage can and take this out eventually? Funny how quickly my “low maintenance” persona went out the window. Clearly more high maintenance and way more “American” than I thought. If anyone has any suggestions for managing this scenario, I’m all ears.

Another fun surprise was that although my apartment is very nice and spacious, I’m pretty sure my sheets weren’t laundered. I could be making this up, but they just did not feel clean. (Please see above for high maintenance comment, I’m owning it). Anyway, I promptly washed them and now, I feel much better. “Old Abby” would have stewed on this and agonized about it and let it ruin her trip, but “new Abby” just got up, fixed the problem and moved on. Also, there is no air conditioning in any apartment buildings in Peru, so I have these glass slabs that are my window that I basically just left open all night to have the breeze come through. The windows have no screens or grates, and we are on the 8th floor, so I could literally fall to my death attempting to push these glass sheets open every night. Fun times! (Hi, Mom!) Really though, as someone who requires her apartment to be no warmer than 70 degrees Fahrenheit at any time (I run really hot), I was super duper nervous about living without A/C in the height of summer. Truthfully, it hasn’t been that bad (yet), knock on wood. The breeze from the ocean and the fan in my room really helps. It’s truly amazing what your body can adapt to.

I’m also so unbelievably aware of how horrible my Spanish is here, and I feel like an American fool at all times. People are incredibly gracious here though, and many do speak English. Interestingly, my mind immediately tries to speak Hebrew to everyone. I constantly catch myself going “Ken” instead of “Si.” Maybe this is because that was the last time I lived abroad (nine years ago!!) and my brain is practicing muscle memory. So fascinating. But, I am taking a Spanish class while here, so hopefully this gets a little better over time.

Central

Now, the amazing part. On Wednesday, I splurged and got to go to Central, which is one of the top ten restaurants in the world. Check it out here. It was an incredible experience. My pictures and descriptions of all the courses are below. I really don’t have words for it. The effort and care they put into the dishes there and the creativity is just ridiculous. If you haven’t seen the Chef’s Table episode on Netflix about it, do it. You won’t regret it.

In general the food in Lima so far is unbelievable. I already knew I loved ceviche, and holy moly, the ceviche here is next level dynamite. I got introduced to a new dish called Lomo Saltado that is amazing too– it’s like strips of steak with rice and french friends and oh-my-god-so-tasty. And the drinks, man. Pisco sours and chilcanos! Holy moly. I am frankly not looking forward to Chile only because I know the cuisine can never top this.

I got sick. It sucked. Hard. But then…

So, now we get to the low-point. I won’t go into the gory details, but let’s just say, on Thursday, my stomach had been feeling a little strange. But, I was starving, so I ordered Uber Eats from a Chinese restaurant. Now, I normally don’t eat Chinese food at home, but people here have been raving about “Chifa” cuisine, so I thought I’d try it out. I found out later the place I ordered from was not the most sanitary-looking from my roommate. Well, lets just say I found out the hard way that night. I have never been sick like that before. My body did things I didn’t think it was capable of, and not in a good way. Seriously traumatic. BUT, I survived (even though at one point I really was questioning whether that was the case). My parents are the greatest and hung out with me on the phone throughout the night. My roommates were also super great and supportive and JG was very gracious about my bathroom usage. I’m hoping and praying that this was my one big case of traveler’s stomach for the trip, but we shall see.

The bright spot in this, was that by Friday afternoon I was well enough to see CAPTAIN MARVEL. I’ve been waiting for this movie for SO LONG. It was so awesome. The soundtrack was amazing. Brie Larson is amazing. Her character is awesome. She’s snarky and badass and has no love interest in the film. Her sexuality or love life or attractiveness is not even discussed or mentioned ONCE. I don’t know if other people even noticed that, or if this was intentional on the part of Marvel, but to me it was so radical. She was just a woman being awesome and BECOMING THE MOST POWERFUL SUPERHERO IN THE MCU, with the help of some dope friends. Anyway, it made the sickness worth it. Sort of.

First Weekend en Lima!

Saturday we had our orientation day with the group for the year. We got a lot of information thrown at us. But a few things I’m trying to take away were that Remote Year really encourages you to live in your “Growth Zone.” We all have our Comfort Zone, then our Growth Zone, and then the Danger Zone. What these constitute are different for everyone, but figuring out where that is for you is what this journey is all about. I already feel like I’m solidly in my growth zone. Every single day we’ve been here so far I’ve done something I would never have done back in DC, which is a pretty cool thing to be able to say. I’m going to try to ask myself every day if I spent the day in my “Growth Zone” or if I allowed myself to stay in my Comfort Zone.

Another concept they introduced was “Level 3 Fun.” This is the kind of fun that might not be laugh-out-loud awesome while it’s happening. It’s fun later, after you’ve survived the experience or gotten past whatever was holding you back and you’re like HOLY*?!% I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT HAPPENED. It’s slightly uncomfortable fun. I really like that. It’s not superficial fun. It’s DEEP fun. Memories that will stick with you and maybe even change your insides.

We had this activity where we had to stand in a circle and talk to the person in front of us about a certain prompt. There were two prompts I had no answer to, and yet again, I was reminded why I’m doing this trip. One prompt was “I feel most alive when…” I genuinely had no response. As I may have mentioned before, the past few years for me have felt like such a haze, like I’ve been walking through life at arms’ length. I just totally lost my passion for things, for work, for people. I hadn’t really experienced excitement or anger or fear or anything in the bold, electric way I used to. Anyway, everyone had all these awesome answers, and I just had… nothing. This week, I’ve felt the tiny spark ignite again, which has been awesome, but I really do have a long way to go to climbing out of this years-deep cave of ambivalence I’ve been in.

The other prompt was “Before I die, I want to…” My partner had so many amazing things on her “bucket list.” I seriously could think of nothing. At the end, I finally said “I want to attend all four Grand Slams around the world and I want to write a book about my family’s journey.” Both are true, but again, I feel so disassociated from everything and from myself, that I really don’t know what feels authentic anymore. Hopefully I get a bit more clarity on these prompts by the time this experience is over.

Which now brings me to yesterday. Yesterday was wow. One of the best days I’ve had in forever. I signed up for this activity where we got to go on a boat, eat ceviche/drink draaanks. It was amazing. The views were amazing, the people were amazing, and the food was amazing. Then afterwards, we met up with some others from our crew and explored this area of Lima called Callau. It’s known as a not-so-great neighborhood, but there is a movement to really rejuvenate it and revive it through art. We ended the night on a rooftop bar and I got to see the most insane sunset I’ve ever seen (which pretty much happens progressively every night here. If I haven’t mentioned yet, the sunsets are outofthisworld here). I tried to close my eyes and just really breathe in the gratitude I had for that moment and this experience and the people that I’m doing this with. Appropriately, this was interrupted by members of our group starting an electric slide dance at the bar while Peruvians videotaped the insanity on their phones. Amazing.

WOW, if you made it here, thanks for reading and I’m so glad you got to experience the highs and lows of this week with me. I can’t BELIEVE it’s only been a week. If this is a sign of things to come, it’s going to be a pretty epic adventure. Enjoy some more fun pics of our crew.

Besos,

ATZ

15 comments

  1. Besos back to you! That’s not a week, that’s a lifetime. All I know is you had me at spicy chicanos and sunsets and and and.. Right on and write on Abbelah (had to). Mwah

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  2. “A day is like a week, a week is like a month, a month is like a year…” – this was my exact thoughts pretty much all of remote year. I’m going to cry 1000 times reading your blog. The sunsets in Lima are the BEST EVER!!!

    Oh, and you can flush the toilet paper in other countries…don’t worry 🙂

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  3. I am so incredibly proud of you! I miss you a ton and I love reading along with you on this journey. ❤️❤️ You are such a strong woman! Love you!!

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  4. Wow my love!!! Read the whole thing from start to finish and it makes me so happy to hear you saying you’ve had the best day in a long time!!! If it makes you feel better, I’m not quite sure what I’d say to some of those circle prompts either. But I think I may want to do remote year before I die now? lol. Also my favorite term from this whole post: “bidet-adjacent” – So Abby Zeitlin. I LOVE YOU and I’m so excited for you to continue to explore your growth zone. ❤

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  5. OHHHHHHH MY GODDDDD ABBY!!!!!!!! I love you soooooo much and I am so jealous and proud and excited for you!!!! This is everything. I’ll be tuning in every blog post! Hahah

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