Take Me To Dubai

I have visited many extraordinary places in my 21 years, such as Peru, Europe and Belize.  However, there is one place in the world that I have been dreaming to visit for several years now – and that beautiful place being none other than Dubai. Dubai, or دبي (written in Arabic), is one of the most popular destinations to visit out of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. I Dubai-City-Most-Popular-Attractions-Visitlearned about Dubai when Kim Kardashian visited her first time (I know, don’t judge me). Since then, I researched as much as I could about this place and to this day, am still begging my parents to take me there. Surprisingly, many people are not familiar with the beauty that Dubai has to offer. Sometimes when I mention Dubai to others, I get asked where it is or even what it is. Perhaps this blog will allow others to experience the same wanderlust I get when I think of Dubai.

Dubai is like an independent city-state being the most modern and progressive emirate in the UAE. Being a huge tourist attraction and a business hub of the Middle East and South Asia, it has become a global city filled with luxury. Only a five-hour flight from Europe, visitors will find themselves landing in Terminal 3 at the Dubai International Airport, which is the largest airport terminal in the world and the second-largest building in the world in terms of floor space.

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Burj al Arab Hotel

Once in Dubai, there are many activities that should be on the “Must-Do” list. The Burj al Arab’s seven-star rating is the world’s tallest hotel. It dominates the Dubai skyline and has a fleet of white Rolls Royces on the forecourt of the hotel. They will launch fireworks to announce the arrival of VVIPS (so I guess they won’t be shooting any fireworks off for when I visit; very important person just isn’t good enough). The price of this hotel is about $2,000 per night with private butlers on-call 24/7 for each hotel guest.  There are plenty of expensive restaurants in Burj al Arab, so if you’re not looking to pay for a hotel room, the best way to see the hotel from the inside is to book a reservation at an eatery.

Shopping is another activity that should be done while in Dubai. It is not because the shopping is any different than anywhere else in the world, however the surreal attractions inside these malls will lure you in to take a peek. The Mall of the Emirates has an indoor ski slope with ski lifts and real snow. Of course during a shopping excursion, who wouldn’t want to take a break to hit the slopes? The Souk Madinat inside the Madinat Jumeirah Hotel has its own waterway, with natural sea water, to transfer people from shops to restaurants and other neighboring areas.

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Dubai restaurant and bar

Dubai is a Muslim state so by law, alcohol can only be served in hotels.  However, tourists should not have to worry about that.  With over 450 hotels, some of these hotels have up to 26 bars and restaurants located inside of them.  During the weekends, many of these hotels offer “Champagne Brunch” served with unlimited amounts of alcohol.

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Skydiving with a view of the Man-Made Islands

Along with shopping and skiing, the other “low-key” activities include golfing, going to the beaches, visiting the desert and skydiving.  If  you plan on going to the desert, the easiest way to get there is on a four-wheeler-drive safari.  The tours to the desert are extremely popular for tourists.  Skydiving in Dubai is one the world’s most premier skydiving locations.  While skydiving, you will jump into Dubai’s Man-Made Islands, Palm Jumeirah, which is considered the eighth wonder of the world.  I have been skydiving before, but the view wasn’t quite as breathtaking as the skydiving view in Dubai (no surprise, though).

With all of this being said, it is no wonder that Dubai is the 22nd most expensive city in the world and the most expensive in the Middle East.  The temperature is very, very hot in the summer, averaging 108°F during the day and 84°F at night.  Fall and Spring are still very warm, averaging in the 80s during the day.  These hot temperatures are probably why the Dubaites, what the locals call themselves, decided to put an indoor ski resort in one of the malls! Nonetheless, Dubai is a tourist hotspot, with over 10 million visitors a year.  The World Expo in 2020 is located in Dubai and many people believe that by 2020, Dubai could become the world’s number one destination for international visitors.

Perhaps one day I will be fortunate enough to travel to this flawless destination.  Until then, I can attempt to live vicariously through celebrities (VVIPs) who travel there for leisure, work and fun.  

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Coast of Dubai

Un-Belize-able!

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View from our hotel, Kanantik

When the country “Belize” comes to mind, many Americans are surprisingly unaware of what this country has to offer. When I visited in January of 2013, I had no idea what to expect. I thought to myself, “Great, another country where everyone will make jokes about me in Spanish right in front of me.” I was wrong. Belize is the only country in Central America whose official language is English. Spanish and Belizean Creole are also spoken, however everyone knows, and speaks, English. Being only a quick two-hour flight from Miami, Florida makes Belize even more appealing to tourists.

Anyone flying into Belize must fly into Belize City.  From there, smaller aircrafts will take you elsewhere.  My family traveled to the Placencia Peninsula, which is only about a 45 minute plane ride from Belize City.  Once we landed, we got a bus ride to our hotel, Kanantik.

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The best beer Belize had to offer!

The next morning we rented bicycles to sightsee in Placencia.  The city of Placencia is about a twelve mile stretch, so a bicycle is all you need to go from place to place.  We quickly learned that dogs wandering around the streets was normal (and sad – a lot of them had fleas), the locals would stare (mainly because I was the only person in that twelve mile stretch with blonde hair), and the temperature would not get below 85 degrees (luckily we had Belizean beer to cool us down).  Nonetheless, we were also told that many celebrities vacation down to Belize quite frequently, such as Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lawrence, and Tiger Woods.  Finally, after a long day of sightseeing, we headed back to our hotel for dinner!  Belize is a tropical place where you can relax in your cabana, lay on the beach, eat, and drink.  However, there are also plenty of activities to do, such as zip-line, horseback ride, snorkel, scuba dive, shop, and go cave tubing.  Although we did not do all of those activities, the ones that we did is what made the experience at Belize so amazing.

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Groups in front of us carrying tubes to the caves

The next day we took an hour and a half bus ride to Nehoch Che’en National Park, also known as Caves Branch Outpost.  This area is in between Belize District and Belmopan, which is the capital city of Belize. Here, we were going cave tubbing for the day.  I really didn’t know what to expect when going cave tubbing.  “So do we just sit on a tube while floating in a cave for 5 hours?” is what I thought to myself the entire hilly and bumpy bus ride to the National Park.  Once again, I was wrong.  After carrying our tubes for about a mile to the entrance (that was the worst part!), we placed our tubes in the water, adjusted our life jackets, turned on the flashlights on our helmets, and got in the water.  The guide had a rope around all of our tubes and he was in charge of pulling us the entire way through the caves.  The excursion lasted about two hours, which was more than enough time for us.  We did learn a lot about the caves and we saw bats inside of them as well as the beauty surrounding the caves.  Although our adventure did not stop there, cave tubbing was a memorable experience and one that I would definitely do again.

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View from inside the cave

I begged my sister and my dad to go zip-lining with me, because who wouldn’t want to zip-line at a National Park in Belize?  After much persuasion, my sister decided to go.  After getting our harnesses adjusted, the instructors told us how to zip-line properly.  We did ten different rounds, each going higher every time.  Zip-lining definitely made the entire experience. Even though it was my first time zip-lining, it is definitely not my last!

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Picture of the Blue Hole

Although these are just a few of the activities that we did while exploring Belize, I definitely recommend doing it all. If I were certified (and had more time) my family and I would have gone to the  Blue Hole of Belize.  Not only is it a top attraction in Belize, but it is a world class destination for diving.  The Discovery Channel even ranked the Great Blue Hole as number one on its list of “The 10 Most Amazing Places on Earth.”

The whole point of traveling is to explore different parts of the world, so why not try it all?  Belize is an “Un-Belize-able” place to visit.  Although we never stayed long enough in Belize to visit Belize City, many people do.  With the average yearly temperature being 84 degrees, it is considered a retirement haven for many adults.  Belize is also known as “the Hidden Jewel of the Caribbean” because many people are unfamiliar with this country.  I know that I will be back to visit, so if you ever have time, take the quick two-hour flight from Miami to explore this beautiful “Hidden Jewel” of a country.

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Sightseeing in Belize

 


 

Gender Wage Gap: Fact or Fiction?

Equal Pay Day signifies how far into the year a woman must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.  This year, Equal Pay Day was on April 14 – which means there is an additional four months of work for women just to break even with men.  The gender wage gap has been a huge issue globally for over the past century.   From America to Australia to the European Union, everyone struggles to understand why the gender wage gap still exists today.  President Obama and Vice gender-pay-gapPresident Joe Biden are both in agreement that the gender wage gap needs to change.  On Equal Pay Day this year, Joe Biden posted on Twitter saying, “Equal pay for equal work. It’s common sense.  It’s also overdue. Let’s close the gap & let’s do it now.”  However easy it may seem, women working full time in America earn 77 cents for every dollar men make.  Worldwide, people use the Internet to spark up debates, and many bloggers and users compare and contrast the myths and the truths of the gender wage gap.

The National Women’s Law Center posted in April of 2006 about how the wage gap is still an issue today despite the acts meant to protect workers.  They illustrate their authority on the topic by stating facts to bolster their message, and crafting a professional posting on the National Committee on Pay Equity’s website.  The statistics presented such as, that merging the wage gap would cut poverty by about half were astounding.  Other statistics showed the unexplained reasoning behind differences in pay while both the male and female employees had the same education background and workload.  Statistics like this showed the severity of the sex discrimination in the workplace.  The motive of the post was to inform the reader about the Paycheck Fairness Act, and how it will remove loopholes in the current legislation.  The Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced by Hillary Rodham Clinton in the U.S. Senate, would create a stronger barrier to wage discrimination by improving the Equal Pay Act remedies, making it easier to bring class action Equal Pay Act claims, improving the collection of pay information, prohibiting employer retaliation, closing the loophole in an employer defense, eliminating the same “establishment” requirement for equal pay, allowing voluntary employees to compare wages, increasing training etc., and halting rollbacks and retreats by the department.  While some disagree, this post takes the stance that the wage gap is a clear example of discrimination.

In an article from the Huffington Post entitled Wage Gap Myth Exposed—By Feminists, written by Christina Hoff Sommers, the 77 cent statistic is called into question as Sommers examines more into the American Association of University Women (AAUW) as well as National Women’s Law Center and calls out research that she feels may be misleading about the gender wage gap. There is one article from the National Women’s Law Center that Sommers uses a quote to counter their argument that says, “In fact, authoritative studies show that even when all relevant career and family attributes are taken into account, there is still a significant unexplained gap in men and women’s earnings”. Sommers instantly shuts this statement down and begins explaining why this gap is not as unexplained as National Women’s Law Center described. This sets for a perfect example of how blog feuds begin. Sommers uses cursory hyperlinking to link the reader to the article that she calls into question. This is an effective method when engaging in a blog fight because it gives you access to see exactly what the other writer wrote and make your own judgement on the topic.

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Graph comparing men and women wage gap

 

There are many critics who don’t believe the wage gap exists. Two of them include Mark Perry and Andrew Biggs who wrote The ’77 cents on the Dollar’ Myth About Women’s Pay which has been argued against by other bloggers. They believe the claims are fundamentally misleading and economically illogical using marriage and children, women’s chosen field of study, and high-risk jobs to support their argument.

Perry and Biggs use the issue of marriage and children as a big reason why women are paid less. They believe that there’s only a 4% difference in pay between single women and men and the bigger wage gap doesn’t appear until children enter the picture. Because child care takes women out of the labor market, they are less experienced when they return which widens the wage gap between men and women. They also say that working mothers also look for jobs that provide greater flexibility and believe that those jobs pay less.

Another point they make is the types of jobs chosen by men and women. They say that women often choose fields of study that pay less like sociology, liberal arts, or psychology while men choose higher paying fields like finance, accounting, or engineering. Also, men make up most of the workforce for high risk and high compensation jobs like loggers, iron workers, and lawyers. Because those jobs are high risk and high compensation, they offer a higher salary.

In conclusion, they don’t believe the wage gap exists because of marriage and children, women’s chosen fields of study, high-risk jobs, on top of other points. The main point they make about the wage gap is how illogical it is because if the wage gap really existed, profit-oriented companies could dramatically cut costs by replacing their male employees with females which they haven’t done so it couldn’t possibly be true.

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President Obama took to Twitter the truth on the wage gap

In response to Mark J. Perry and Andrew G. Biggs’s article The ’77 Cents on the Dollar’ Myth of Women’s Pay, Jillian Berman disagrees that the gender wage gap is a myth and provides facts that verifies its existence.  Berman’s first disagreement with the article is that the wage gap exists during all levels of women’s working careers and not just when they decide to get married or have children. Shedoes acknowledge the fact that the pay gap increases if women do choose to make those life choices but says that doesn’t matter; women still make less on average than men with the same types of degrees and jobs. Another valid point she makes is that there are policies put in place such as paid family leave and subsidized child care that are supposed to help out women by minimizing the “mommy penalty”. Because most all major businesses participate in these types of programs, and women still make less on average than men do, it goes to show that other factors besides becoming a wife and or a mom play a role in creating the difference in pay.

Another claim Berman disagrees with is that the types of jobs women typically choose are ones that pay less. Jobs that are coined as women’s work are undervalued according to Berman. One historical example that highlights women’s work as undervalued is that secretaries used to be a profession dominated by males until businesses realized they could get women to do the same job for less. After that transition took place women were viewed as less valuable not only in that profession but throughout the workplace.

Lastly, Berman says even when women in the workplace do get jobs mostly dominated by men, studies show that they are given raises and promotions less often. This is because women are seen as more pushy and demanding when inquiring about advancements as opposed to men being determined and motivated. A statistic that exemplifies this fact is that Women make up just 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, but 48.6 percent of the labor force overall. These unfair stereotypes of women are making it harder for them to advance in the workplace and are holding them back from potential earnings confirming that the gender wage gap does indeed exist.

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Comparing 77 cents to every man’s dollar

In another response to The ’77 Cents on the Dollar’ Myth About Women’s Pay article by Mark J. Perry and Andrew G. Biggs, Joshua Holland wrote the article Debunking the Myth of a Mythical Gender Pay Gap. Holland starts off his article calling Perry and Briggs out in the second paragraph immediately stating their flawed logic.

After Perry and Briggs rattle off a few statistics regarding why women are paid less, Holland responds saying, “The gender pay gap is very real, and there are complex reasons for its stubborn persistence.” Holland gives many interesting points that refute much of what Perry and Briggs have to say such as, “In 2001, Karen Kornbluh estimated that women’s earnings drop by 7.5 percent with a first child and 8 percent with a second.” What Holland wants to say is that many countries require a company to offer maternal leave if an employee has a child. However, in the US it is not required. It does not stop there; Holland takes many quotes directly from Perry and Briggs and exposes the errors they had made.

Just from the few excerpts from Debunking the Myth of a Mythical Gender Pay Gap, it is easy to see that Holland strongly disagrees with Perry and Briggs. Even some transitions seem to hold a little hostility. For example, “Perry and Biggs go on to argue… There are two problems with that.” It is not to the point of name calling but it seems Holland is trying to discredit Perry and Briggs.

 Holland keeps most of the argument tame and makes some very solid points. He includes many quotes and statistics from The ’77 Cents on the Dollar’ Myth About Women’s Pay and he is able to point out what was done wrong or overlooked in the opposing argument.wage-gap-infographic-220x130

The controversy for gender wage gap does not stop in the United States.  In fact, there is an online index called, The Global Gender Gap Index that was developed in 2006 to address the need for a consistent measure for gender equality.  Interestingly enough, no country in the world has achieved gender equality yet.  According to CNN Money, it will take another 81 years for the gender gap to close.  In the index, the United States ranked 65th in wage equality among the other 142 countries listed.  That being said, the highest ranked country for gender gap is Iceland, with Finland and Norway following.  Every country in the world is struggling to close in the wage gap, however the economic factors and political power play a big role in when that will change.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that gender wage gap stirs up a lot of controversy worldwide, especially on the Internet. Bloggers argue back and forth to try and make their point to their readers. Instead, it can create more blog fights. Blog fighting isn’t a bad thing – as long as the blogger can back up both sides of the arguments. The gender wage gap is clearly a topic that many people find interesting. This blog was able to point out both sides of the topic and compare with one another. Like Hillary Clinton has said,  “Women’s rights are human rights;” the fight towards equality will continue to be an issue in the world, just as blog fights will continue as well.

Written by: Katherine Kilian, Logan Drake, Angie Pi,

Colleen Mahoney, Mark McCord, Jake Jost

Carnival Around The World

Carnival is an official Catholic holiday celebrated in numerous countries including Brazil, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Jamaica, Malta, Croatia and Mexico that kicks off a five-day celebration before the Catholic lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Beginning the weekend before Lent, Carnival is traditionally masks-351906_640celebrated with extreme enthusiasm with parades, floats, costumes, music and dancing in the streets. In this post, we’re going to specifically look at the historical and modern examples of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Venice, Italy.

Carnival celebrations in Brazil have a history as deep as Italian festivities. Traced back to the year 1723, Rio de Janeiro’s carnival has deeply religious roots that were heavily entangled in class relations. According to Rio’s tourism website, the party was originally started as a celebration to honor the Greek god of wine, Dionysus. Known as the feast of Saturnalia, it was a time for both slave and master to give thanks to the gods through drinking and partying.

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One of the first depictions about the Rio Carnival

When it first reached Rio, brought by immigrants from islands of the coast of Portugal, carnival was first a soaking wet affair. Called entrudo by the Portuguese, this celebration was a time when people ran through the streets soaking each other with buckets of water. Oftentimes, when the water ran out, partygoers would dump whatever liquid they had whether it be urine or mud, which (unsurprisingly) usually ended in large-scale street fights. Though a considerable departure from the feast of Saturnalia, entrudo was also marked by a time where normal social conventions between slaves and masters were not enforced.

Throughout the 1800s, the concept of carnival was constantly evolving but incorporated more events like parades or great societies- a celebration where even the Emperor and his aristocracy joined in music and drinking all night. Carnival took on the structure that we are most familiar with organized masquerade balls beginning the 1840s. In 1907, cars were first introduced into the parades and covered in streamers and confetti. This event, known as corso, is considered to be the precursor to the elaborate floats we see during carnival today.

Complete with ornate costumes, dancing, excessive alcohol consumption and more than 2 million guests, Carnival (Or Carnaval in Portuguese) in modern-day Rio De Janeiro could be described as the equivalent of a week long, multi-billion dollar block party. Rio de Janeiro is well known for being one of the carnival capitals of the world and is largely hosted and operated by the Brazilian poor community who live in over-crowded and desolate areas called favelas.

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Modern day Brazil Carnaval

These favelas consist of housing made from scrap materials like cardboard, and members of these communities spend months in preparation for Carnival-the biggest outlet of the year to forget their troubles and celebrate life in a week long cultural festival. This preparation includes costume designing and the practicing of choreography at neighboring samba schools where they prepare for the samba competition that is a huge part of the festivities. Costumes for these performances can weigh as much as two hundred pounds!

Since its inception, Rio’s carnaval has gained international attention garnering tourism visits around numbers of 500 thousand. This surge in the popularity of Rio’s carnevale is also evident in the astounding number of social media participation by Instagram and Facebook users around the world. This year’s carnival alone has amassed an astounding 534 million interactions from around 49 million Facebook users.

More evidence on social media’s new role as part of the modern Rio Carnaval experience, can be found in a project launched as part of Rio 2015; a Tinder party called Match Comigo was launched to facilitate dates and hook ups for those in Rio looking for a “good time”. This too was a largely successful venture resulting in the popular coverage of news aggregation sites like msnbc and Yahoo!News.

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Carnaval Queen in Brazil

A large part of Rio’s carnival is the presence of blocos or street performance bands that are used to mobilize the crowds. Since 2011, social media has been playing a large role in the gathering of large crowds that come to listen and watch specific bands that get publicity boosts via their respective Facebook pages. This practice of self-promotion via Twitter and Facebook have been especially helpful for the popularity of new blocos and popular artists during carnival.

Carnevale in Venice, Italy is one of the oldest types of Carnevale in the world.  Beginning as early as the the 5th century, Carnevale began making a name for itself in northern Italy.  In 1094, the festival was mentioned in a Venetian charter, and by 1269, Carnevale was officially approved by the Senate to become a holiday.  Venetian Carnevale officially falls on the day before Lent/Fat Tuesday, though unofficially the celebration has usually lasted much longer.

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Beginning of Carnevale in Venice

The Carnevale of old was very different from the Carnevale you see in Venice today.  Back then, the most important part of the event was wearing a mask.  This was because the masks created anonymity.  During Carnevale, everyone was equal.  There were no peasants and nobles.  Everything from politics, to feuds between major families, to work stopped during Carnevale.  Carnevale got rid of class limitations—wearing masks allowed the people to do and say whatever they wanted without getting in trouble.

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People celebrating at the Carnevale in Venice

Over time, Venetian Carnevale became known as an event not to miss.  While it was attractive enough to be able to let loose and have fun no matter status, Carnevale also had cultural significance.  During the celebrations, many extravagant balls were held, and many operas and comedies were created by artists.  In fact, it is thought that improvisation comedy originated from Carnevale entertainment.  These festivities brought in people from all over, and allowed them all to let loose and have fun no matter who they were.

Beautiful costumes, peculiar masks, delicious pastries, and entertaining performances are some of the many reasons why tourists are attracted to the city of Venice during Carnevale each year.  The celebration lasts nearly three weeks starting in late January and ending in mid-February.  The celebration begins with an event called il volo dell’angelo, more commonly known as the “flight of the angel.”  Every year, they choose someone prominent to be the angel and they swing on a harness for the crowd to admire.  Afterwards, children and families in Venice dress up in costumes, run down the streets, and hand out confetti and candy to one another.

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Modern day costume in Venice

In recent years, the Carnevale in Venice attracts many tourists to visit from all around the world just to see the ornate costumes and masks that natives wear during the celebration.  Even though the Venetian tradition is rooted from the Catholic holiday considered Fat Tuesday, nearly everyone from Venice takes time to plan their costumes accordingly for this grand celebration.   Masked faces dance up and down the streets of St. Mark’s Square while onlookers observe and cheer.  Many different events take place for anyone to attend; however many of the tickets for these events are expensive.  Hotels and other locals always encourage tourists to dress up as well, so there are many shops along the stretch where anyone can buy outfits and masks.  They host a costume contest every year to see who has the most elegant outfit. Along with the contest, at any time you will find friendly faces and fireworks all across Venice.

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Man and woman posing at Venice Carnevale

This is a modern-day celebration where anyone can join in for the fun.  Noted as one of the most anticipated events of the year in Venice, tourists are never disappointed in how successful this celebration truly is.

From Mardi Gras in New Orleans to Carnevale in Venice, this festivity is one in which is celebrated all over the world.  Hundreds of thousands of people come together to celebrate this affair with masks, costumes, food, and drink.  Carnevale, or Mardi Gras, will only continue to grow as time goes on, so be sure to visit at least one Carnevale in your lifetime!

Written By: Katherine Kilian, Olivia Peterkin, Ashton, Sarah Mosier

8,000 Feet Above Sea Level

I always thought flying in an airplane was the closest thing to being up in the clouds. I was wrong. I traveled to Peru in December of 2013 with my dad and my sister, Olivia. I did not know much about Peru – I really did not know why my dad wanted to travel there, so I did some research and soon realized what the hype was all about. Two words: Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu, also known as “The Lost City of the Incas” is located at an altitude of 7,972 feet above sea level. Machu Picchu is believed to have been a sacred and religious site for Inca leaders up until the 16th century when Spanish invaders swept out all civilization. For hundreds of years, no one knew that Machu Picchu existed until an archaeologist named Hiram Bingham discovered this beautiful, historical site in 1911. In 2007, Machu Picchu was designated as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Since then, hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world hike up one of the world’s most famous manmade wonders.

My family and I took a three-hour train ride from Cusco, Peru to Machu Picchu, and as we learned, this is the most common way to arrive at the base of Machu Picchu. Before our big day of hiking, we made sure to hydrate ourselves with mate de coca, also known as coca tea. We were advised not to drink alcohol or eat meat when we first landed to prevent altitude sickness. Peruvians believe coca tea, a herbal tea made from the leaves of a coca plant, is the best remedy to cure the sickness. When we finally arrived at the base of Machu Picchu, we were escorted to our hotel, Inkaterra Pueblo Hotel. Inkaterra is located in the cloud forest below the Incan ruins, so everything about this hotel was beautiful. Eager to start our hike the next morning, we nestled into our cottage and went to sleep.

Wake-up call was 4:30am, which provided us enough time to see the sunrise. Not very well-rested, we put on our hiking clothes, lathered on sunscreen (later we learned we did not put enough on), we set out to stand in line at the bus stop; the only way to get up to Machu Picchu. After a few minutes of waiting outside, we all crammed into a bus that took us up to the top, which surprisingly took longer than I anticipated – roughly forty-five minutes. By this time, it was close to 7:00am, and we did not want to waste any time. After standing in a line to get into the gates of Machu Picchu, we finally arrived! A tour guide assisted us, which is recommended because they explain everything from the history of Machu Picchu to the limestone that the Incans used to build their territorial grounds.

The first stop is Temple of the Sun. From this point, tourists can continue to hike up the hill or walk back down. Keep in mind we walked past hundreds of people hiking Machu Picchu. Along the way, we were lucky enough to see a man propose to his girlfriend, now fiancé, on top of Machu Picchu (gentlemen, take note). We encountered about fifteen alpaca that were free to leisurely walk around this main area. We learned that the Incans would carry hundreds of pounds of limestone over twenty miles just to create the barriers to protect Machu Picchu. The tour guide had a smile on his face the entire time he was with us. After three hours with him, we were certain he told us everything we needed to know about Machu Picchu.

After our tour was over, my sister and I insisted on hiking further up to see Inti Punku, more commonly known as, Sun Gate. My dad decided he had enough hiking and sun for the day so he opted out and went back to our hotel. From Temple of the Sun, Sun Gate is about an hour and a half hike uphill and it is not meant for everyone. It is a very strenuous walk, and I bashfully admit that I had to stop numerous times to catch my breath. No matter how long it takes you to get to the top of Inti Punku, you will be sure that it was well worth the hike. Reaching the top of Sun Gate was like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I could not tell if I was sweating profusely down my face or crying tears of joy once we finally made it to the top. The view was jaw dropping and hands down the most phenomenal view in the world. After catching our breaths, Olivia and I took a couple dozen of pictures to prove that we made it to Sun Gate. We realized that the hour and a half hike up the hill also meant hiking an hour and a half down the hill. Machu Picchu does not allow anyone to bring any food or drinks into the park, so we were becoming very dehydrated, especially from the high altitude! Once we made our way back down Sun Gate to the Temple of the Sun, we were exhausted. By 3:30pm, we decided that we did more than enough hiking at Machu Picchu and made our way back to Inkaterra.

Being the most popular hike in South America, I am extremely lucky to have been able to experience Machu Picchu. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would say yes in a heartbeat. If I had more days visiting Machu Picchu, I would have done things a little differently. First, I would have allowed my body to become acclimated to the high altitude. High altitude sickness involves anything from a headache to vomiting and is only treated with time. I also would have tried out different restaurants at the base of Machu Picchu. We were pressed for time, so we only ate at Inkaterra and on the train while visiting. I also would have taken another day or two to hike up Wayna Picchu, or Huayna Picchu. This is a very steep mountain towering the south end of Machu Picchu. According to our tour guide, this is where high Incan priests would reside. The path uphill is even more strenuous than Sun Gate. That being said, Wayna Picchu is restricted to four hundred visitors per day and tickets must be purchased in advance. Maybe one day I will get to go back and discover the beauty at Wayna Picchu.

Until then, I will drink my coca tea and reminisce through the pictures I was able to take during my time at Machu Picchu. I can now cross off my bucket list that I went to one of the Seven Wonders of the World and only hope that I can continue to travel the world to discover more phenomenal manmade wonders.

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