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6 posts from August 2012

08/26/2012

And the waiting begins….

In just four days I leave for my first trip of the semester, to the beautiful Amazon Rainforest town of Iquitos, right on the river! I am so excited and ready to fly out today, the only thing standing in my way is 3 days of classes. Meh. But lets rewind to this weekend and we’ll slowly arrive back to my anticipation for the trip.

Saturday morning was another CIEE workshop, the Taller de Baile. For those of you who don’t speak spanish, baile means dance. If the thought of me dancing frightens you, and it should, you must know me pretty well and/or have seen me attempt to dance. It certainly is not a sight anyone would want to see. However, I said “when in Lima” and decided to go, unsure of what it would be like and hoping that living in South America had led to the fusion of my body with Shakira’s and thus my hips to become unlocked from their 20 years of dancing hiatus. I tried to convince myself that this was possible and that my body was going to wake itself up and I would soon be getting calls to be in Latin American dance videos.

Wow wow wow was I wrong. If only there was video…what went down in that dance studio can be buried and lost forever and I would be ecstatic. I am not a dancer. It’s as simple as that. I tried, and I failed, if not miserably. The first dance we learned was from a category called “Afro-Peruano”. I honestly don’t remember much of what I learned because I have actively been trying to forget it all since the class ended. I don’t want to remember the stiffness in my hips, my inability to clap/dance on rhythm, or the instructor’s attempt to dance with me in which I tripped over my own feet. No… I don’t ever want to relive that. Despite my ineptitude, we had a great time laughing at ourselves and congratulating each other when we remotely got the steps down. We occasionally broke out our own US dance moves (much to the instructor’s dismay) and fun was had by all. It was a great experience which had given me a much higher appreciation for Shakira and all the other Latin American dancers I have seen before and during my time here in Lima.

After a delicious lunch of Lomo Saltado (Peru’s version of fajitas which is phenomenal!!) some of the group decided to venture back up to Polvos Azules–the super cheap market where money goes to die. After searching around for items to buy, I finally settled on a present for my twin sister, Rachel. I want to bad to tell her what it is and post a picture on here but she won’t answer my email to tell me if thats okay (don’t want to ruin the surprise if she doesn’t want to know what it is..RACHEL ANSWER ME). After time and time again convincing myself that no, I didn’t need an expensive imported Snickers bar, I started my trip home, proud of myself that I had resisted the temptation to buy overpriced sugary candy in the market.

I continued congratulating myself on this power of will until I was about one block from my house. And the combination of my sweet tooth (thanks Daddy…), the impulse buyer in me, and my inability to turn down a good deal (thanks Aunt Di…) landed a piping hot Churro in my hands. I’m not sure how I paid to be quite truthful, the delicious snack just sort of ended up in my hands. If you’ve never experienced the heavenly taste of a hot churro, attempt to live vicariously through me in the picture below (which almost didn’t get taken because I ate most of the treat before I could even get out my camera). oops.

Later that night, some of the students and I decided we wanted to go bowling. After perusing a street market, karaoking our way through some Brittney Spears, The Eagles, Bon Jovi, and the Rolling Stones, and overpaying a micro, we made it to the Cosmic Bowling alley in the beautiful cliffside mall complex known as Larco Mar. The view from the mall is breathtaking, especially at night when you can see the lights all the way up and down the coastline, I wish the picture below did it justice. Long story short, I am NOT a professional bowler (barely scraping into the 60s) but we still had a blast and the atmosphere was really neat. I also learned a lot about bowling from one of the students, Brooke, whose boyfriend was a junior national champion bowler. Also, who doesn’t love wearing a good ole pair of bowling shoes??

After a good night’s rest, we arrive back at my anxiousness at having to wait 4 more days to depart for Iquitos. I’m slightly worried about getting malaria and sitting on an anaconda (don’t worry mommy!!) but excited to search for pink dolphins, go pirhana hunting, and play with sloths. Looking forward to a good, fast week! Miss everyone at home!!

Before I bowled a 60. Not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed

After singing our hearts out to Oops I Did It Again by Brittney Spears

The dreaded yet super fun/cultural dance class

Yummmmm Churro! (or what is left of it)

08/21/2012

My first purchases! (and some words about school)

The past weekend brought me a new jacket (much needed since I only brought one. smeh), a wonderful discovery of the Hunger Games on Netflix, a new change purse, and an outing to the museum.. oh and an extreme lack of sleep due to the destruction of a house right across the street….anyways…..

Saturday our CIEE group traveled–used loosely because it was 3 blocks from my house– to the National Archaeology and Anthropology Museum of Peru. This huge museum has artifacts from the Precolumbian Era through today, enough time that the museum takes a very long time to progress through. While a little dry at times, Peru has a history full of political transitions, beautiful pottery, diverse culture, and renowned metallurgy, all of which were displayed throughout the museum. It took us the better part of 3 hours to get through, where I took way too many pictures and found there were so many groups involved in the formation of modern-day Peru, no wonder it is such a diverse country. After eating lunch at a local restaurant a few of the students and I headed to a market called Polvos Azules. 

Polvos Azules is located in the Center of Lima and therefore i was advised not to take out my camera to avoid being the target of a pickpocketer. But I wish so badly I could’ve taken a picture of this market. Two stories tall and gigantic (I have no comparison), it is full of small boothes with every kind of product you can imagine. From video games, to clothes, shoes, food, electronics, etc; you name it, Polvos Azules has it. And they have it for uber cheap. But–one must not forget that most of the items are fakes, reproductions of the real thing. For instance, there are at least 25 booths of Nike shoes (my immediate reaction “Holy cow how will I ever be able to decide which pair to get? I don’t need tennis shoes but how can I resist such a low price!?!?”) This is where they get you.

While they look absolutely authentic, with a closer investigation you can find differences between the real products and the fakes fi you know what to look for. Nike shoes might have a stiffer sole than the originals, Merrell hiking boots might have a super glued label, all must be carefully inspected. Because of this, I only bought a change purse (for the equivalent of $2) and a fake leather jacket (for the equivalent of $35 and a necessary purchase). I felt accomplished, knowing I escaped the madness with only two items, but feeling a tug deep within to return again. Until then, I have experienced Polvos Azules and avoided potential bankruptcy.

As a new week begins, so too do my direct enrollment courses at the university. Normally, I love the start of classes; no work or tests, classes only last half the normal time, meeting new people, feeling out the professor, etc. Starting classes here has been quite the opposite. While we don’t have work yet, classes here are 2 hours and we stay the entire time, also, my brain hurts after two hours of listening and attempting to translate everything from spanish to english while still trying to listen for the next point. Its been a little overwhelming but i’m surviving nonetheless. At this point, I’m in a Quechua class which is very interesting and seems like it is going to be a great class, challenging, but not impossible. I also have a class called Understanding Peru which seems like lots of fun (we take a field trip to the cemetery on the Day of the Dead holiday!!).

I only need one additional class to fill out my schedule but this is where i have run into problems. My class this morning featured a professor who talked twice as fast as any other spanish speaking person i’ve ever come into contact with. The themes of the class are incredibly interesting to me though, so i’m hesitant to drop the course (although the fact that i couldn’t understand what he said is sort of a problem). Tonight I try out two more classes, a theater class and another history class. We’ll see how they go. My poor little translating brain is going to need a rest after a long day like today. But it is reassuring and exciting to know that I can understand what is being said in the majority of the classes–minus the one. 

Special thanks to Cris DiNofa for providing Justin Bieber songs to get through this tough couple of days, and moral support too, of course!

Until next time, pray for my ability to understand the spanish language. Muchas gracias!

 

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Its like an alarm clock, always waking me up at 7am

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My first real purchase! So useful!

 

08/18/2012

Cultural Outings 101

Sunday was quite unlike anything I have ever experienced before. My friend Emily, her new roommate from Spain, and I went to a park in a small district called Magdalena for…wait for it…a break dancing competition!!! Yes, it was just as cool as it sounds, however with much less break dancing and much more  American music-inspired hip hop numbers. I took the micro to Magdalena where I first wandered around some while I waited on Emily to finish lunch (at this point it is 4pm if that tells you anything about the change in eating schedules!). In my wandering I happened upon this cute little park right on the cliffside overlooking the ocean. What a beautiful view. After taking lots of touristy pictures I found my way to the park via loud bass bumping that increased its force as I neared the stage.

The competition was basically a stripped down version of America’s Best Dance Crew (if you have no idea what I’m talking about here, don’t worry, you’re better off having not ever seen this show). There were 4 different teams competing and each group did 3 or 4 numbers. Some break dancing, most hip-hop, and the occasional traditional Peruvian dance with a teenager twist. I was amazed with the talent of these kids and hope I don’t run into any of them at the discoteca (Peruvian dance clubs) because that would be the end of any chance I have at being socially normal/cool/etc. I heard all kinds of American music but my favorite would have to be the Alvin & the Chipmunk version of Beyonce’s Single Ladies (soon coming to an american radio station near you). This, however, was closely followed by a Miley Cyrus song which I squealed as it came on and shamelessly sang every word out loud. Judge me. It was a nice piece of home to hear these songs and I enjoyed showing off my rap skills a little as well…

 

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Pretty park and view of the ocean (note: the picture is deceiving; there was a giant cliff which stood between me and my beautiful moment on the sandy beach)

 

 

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Breaking it down (probably to a US rap song)

Monday began our second week of Intensive Spanish classes as well as the beginning of our road to university matriculation (what a big fancy NC State sounding word, huh, Emily Fender?) into La Católica. Basically a super fancy and panic-mode inducing way of saying class registration. This is where the fun begins, right? Not exactly. As a travel-minded student here at the university, I had my heart set on having Mondays and Fridays off to travel, both around Lima and around Peru as well. However, making this kind of schedule was next to impossible and so, after completing the pre-matricluation phase this afternoon (not exactly sure what this accomplished) I am taking a Contemporary Latin America history class, Peruvian Social Reality, Cont. Latin America Theater class, and finally, Quechua. It is such a diverse set of classes sitll subject to potential changes but I’m excited to study these subjects on Latin America while I’m here. I am also taking a Zambonia class which doesn’t count for anything but who wouldn’t want to learn to play the pan flute? Am I right, am I right? 

Tuesday was looking to be an exciting day, for it was Pueblo Libre day of course! A whole day dedicated to the small district I live in here in Lima. My host mom showed me the fancy invitation, gave me strict instructions on needing to get there early (3 whole hours) to get good seats, and was clearly very excited about the affair. The whole day I could feel the anticipation building up inside of me, so excited for the free food, audience engaging cultural dance, and a concert by someone named Cecilia Barraza who is apparently very famous here in South America for her energy, jokes, and amazing dancing/singing abilities. While Cecilia Barraza lived up to everything I had been told about her, the Pueblo Libre day was nothing like I had imagined.

First of all, I committed a fashion faux pas by wearing jeans which were clearly not dressy enough and therefore I stuck out even more than I do with my blondish hair. Second, NO FREE FOOD. Which if you know me tends to be a deal breaker in many situations. However, I knew I had been placed with the right host mother when 20 minutes into the show she unzips her purse and starts pulling out snacks Mary Poppin style. It was great!! We had plantain chips, yucca straws, pretzel type bread, chocolate, and my favorite, alfajores (which are the delicious cookies which will be the death of me). Needless to say, my host mom is AWESOME. Third, there was some cultural dancing during the concert, however the majority of the “celebration” was spent listening to the mayor give a speech, listening to the entire history of Pueblo Libre (all 455 years of it) and yeah…listening to the mayor speak. After a very long series of recognitions of the town’s most notable citizens and the concert my host mom and her friends and I left to go home (or so I thought) around 10:15. Full on sweets and feeling like a ball of sugar dough, I was quite unprepared to be taken to a pzza restaurant for dinner. Yep. You read right. Dinner. At 10:15pm. While surprised and not really hungry, i never turn down food so I enjoyed a few slices of vegetarian pizza, just for you Rachel Sease.  

It has been a very long week and final exams are tomorrow (hence why I’m spending my time writing this blog) and I suppose at some point studying will be beneficial. I’ll post the remainder of the break dance competition and Pueblo Libre day pictures this weekend as I prepare for regular classes to start Monday. Bleh. But excitement on the horizon! Next weekend I’m going to Arequipa, Peru, a wonderfully historic and beautiful city. There has also been talk of a couple different destinations so my plans might change but as of right now I will be spending next weekend enjoying some fresh rural air and delving deeper into Peruvian history. 

Ta ta for now! (also still trying to figure out how to insert pictures correctly, obviously)

 

 

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Cute, you say. However this little fur ball will be someone’s lunch tomorrow

 

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Cool hand motions which looked cooler in person I assume..

 

The Little Things

The past week has been crazy. It seems like forever ago that I arrived in Lima, though it was just 9 days ago. It was the little things this week that kept surprising me and putting a smile on my face. I made it to and from school on my own on the micro, my host mom packed lunch for me yesterday, fun conversations, surprise skype dates, finding myself able to converse with my host sister, eating my first real churro, etc.

My days have been consumed with the Intensive Spanish classes we’re required to take and getting acquainted with the district that I live in, Pueblo Libre. I have finally mastered the micro system that takes me to and from school and basically anywhere else I could ever want to go within Lima. I no longer feel completely lost when I walk around and have even made a trip to the grocery store a few blocks away. Just yesterday we had midterm exams for our Spanish class. We have one professor in the morning and one professor after lunch so each had their own exam for us. The first we had to read a 38 page document on Peruvian politics which was so so so boring and difficult to get through, especially trying to translate all the  political terms. Then during the exam we had to write two essays on the content of the article (the written section) and debate different points of the political system (oral part). Our afternoon exam was a 5 minute oral presentation on a Peruvian Topic. It wasn’t bad at all. It is such a relief to be done with our first week of classes and to know that I can hopefully keep up in my real University classes once they begin in a week. I only have to take three classes this semester which is also a relief and we sign up for those soon.

In other more exciting news, our program group got together on Thursday afternoon to watch the US-Japan Olympic Soccer game at one of the CIEE staff’s apartments in the downtown Miraflores district of Lima. The game was already over so we were banned from checking our facebook or looking at the result (we were watching the dvr version). What a great game!!! We had a couple people in our group cheering for Japan so it was nice to have a US victory. It was also a great time for our group to just hang out outside classes and enjoy each other’s company. I also made sure to play with Marion’s little girl Giulia. Play might actually be a polite way of saying I basically stalked her, made her take pictures, and tried not to steal her and run away. SHE WAS SO CUTE. My first real journey on a micro took place after the game as Andrew and I tried to make our way home to Pueblo Libre. Little did we know we got on the wrong micro which probably double our travel time. It took us two hours to get back and we had no idea where we were for most of the bus ride. However, finally we made it to our avenue and safely made it back home. What a stressful/crazy adventure.

After our exams on Friday we had our first cultural event of the semester, a trip to the Parque de Aguas in El Centro de Lima, a section of town I had only seen the night before on our micro ride. The park is full of fountains with lights and a nightly show that plays music and sets the fountains and lights to the rhythm. It was very cool. They also have fountains that you can play in. So obviously some of our group decided to run through the fountains and test our luck in these “mazes” to see who could get out the least wet. A couple of the guys got through without getting wet and so another tried to go through and was halfway through when the super soaker sprayers started and he got totally soaked haha. He had made a bet with another girl, Pam who then had to run through the fountains. She made it halfway through as well before slipping and falling on the ground as the fountains started spraying water. I basically peed my pants at that point. Thankfully she was okay (minus super big knots on her knees) and we laughed about it the rest of the time. The water park was so beautiful and relaxing!!

Each day here has something exciting and unexpected to offer, whether it is semi getting lost on the micro, a water show, fun conversation with the other students, or something that reminds me of home (last night for dessert at my house we had JELL-O!) this first week has been great. In two weeks some of the girls and I are going on our first mini-trip, a four day trip to the northern beaches of Mancora, Peru. It will take us up through Trujillo and Chiclayo to the very tip top of Peru. It has been pretty chilly here and overcast (everyday weather during the winter) and we decided we needed some sun. I’m so excited to see more of this country!! Miss you all at home or wherever you may be. Thank you all for your prayers as well, God is so good, evident in everything that has happened here!

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The PUC Campus. To the left are Pre-Columbian ruins. No big deal.

Marion’s daughter Giulia. Doesn’t she look like Boo from Monster’s Inc.??

Me at the Parque de Aguas. Such an awesome park!

CIEE Lima group. These people are so fun!

 

o·ver·eat (v) to eat more than is good for oneself

These last few days have been filled with many things. However, the thing that most stands out is how much I have eaten. to say that i have been full is a total understatement. Just the other night i practically had to roll into bed because walking was too painful. Yesterday was no different. I woke up (still full from the previous night, mind you) to a breakfast of fruit, bread w/ jam, ham, cheese, fresh papaya juice, and coffee. If you think this is small, you are wrong. Especially since a mere few hours later we had lunch. Here, lunch does not consist of a sandwich and chips like in the US. We had crema de espinaca (spinach soup) first, which i assumed was the first course but sort of hoped was the whole meal. Nope. Then Herme brought out a full plate of rice, chicken and a delicious salad of avocados, potatoes, onions and tomatoes. this was my favorite part of the meal. At this point my stomach is stretching beyond any level it had ever been stretched before. Thinking I was done, i moved to get up and somehow find my way up the stairs when magically, a huge slice of crema volteada (flan) y fresas (strawberries) was in front of me. At this point my memory goes foggy because i entered into a food coma from which i awoke with a start when a couple hours later Herme asked me “comerias algo?” (would you like something to eat?). OF COURSE NOT i thought to myself, thats impossible. Although a did end up eating a small banana later. So much food–all delicious–but all sooooo filling.

On another note, we started our first day of intensive spanish classes today with our professors Jorge y Sonia. They are both super nice and laid back so the day actually wasn’t bad at all. I somehow managed to place into the advanced spanish class (which i still think was a mistake and I am waiting on them to correct themselves) after seemingly bombing the oral interview. which must mean i did well on the multiple choice and the essay. I am in a class with 6 other girls so we have had a really good time so far. We’ve discussed la ortografia of Spanish from other countries, written an essay on nationalism, and debated over the success of a new education law here in Peru. It has been difficult at times but I already feel myself speaking more and becoming more comfortable. When I got back from school I spent some time actually conversing with my host family who reassured me that the more I talked, even if it was wrong, the faster I would get better. They are so so sweet!!!!

My goal for tomorrow is to make it to school alive (I am going for the first time by myself) and to explore some of my district, Pueblo Libre, afterwards, once I’m more familiar with my surroundings. I know of some pretty parks and museums near where I live and a cool little market. Hope all is well in the states!! Miss you all!!

The pretty view from my bedroom

 

 

Estoy in Lima!

I have arrived!! Last night my plane landed in the Lima airport (a somewhat familiar place after sleeping on their benches on the way to Bolivia) and was taken in a taxi to my hotel. On the flight into Lima I had an aisle seat but shamelessly asked some Chilean if she would take a picture of this absolutely beautiful sunset (picture is below but does the sight NO justice). On the other side of the plane was a moon rise where the moon looked humongous and was glowing red as it came over the horizon. At this point i was cursing my camera for not taking good enough pictures. But anyways, back to the taxi ride. Note, that taken in a taxi is not anything similar to taking a taxi in the US. Driving here is almost a death wish and i’m pretty sure I almost died at least 10 times in the 40 minute ride. 4 lanes become 6 and cars whiz by at any speed with no regard to one another. At one point a truck was no more than 5 inches away from my window. But…finally we got to our hotel which is very cozy and South American style. My roommate’s name is Emily (I miss you Emily Fender and I feel like this was a sign!!!!!)

After a wonderful night’s rest my roommate and I ventured down to the breakfast bar where we ate fresh cantaloupe, watermelon and had cereal and coffee (not as good as in the US surprisingly). All the people in my program are really cool but there are no southerners so they kept commenting on my accent and the way I say ya’ll. We spent our morning in orientation going over all the ways we’re probably going to get pick pocketed while we’re here and how we’ll be treated as gringos–or foreigners. This is sadly why I don’t have a ton of pictures, I was a little paranoid about having my camera out and I figure I have almost five more months here to take pictures once i’m a more seasoned city girl.

Then we had a coffee break where we ate alfajores which is a shortbread type cookie sandwiched around dulce de leche, or a caramel type spread (Suilan, they’re DELICIOUS just like you said!). We then went to more orientation time where they told us about the transportation here and how we’ll probably get pickpocketed there too. All so reassuring. 

After the session it was time for lunch! Which, if you know me, is the only time I was totally alert to what was being said. Lunch, is where i officially fell in love with this city. First to get to lunch we rode the micros, or minibuses that take you from one place to another. They are crowded and they don’t really ever technically come to a complete spot, thank goodness we had some seasoned peruvians with us to help us out! We went to this buffet restaurante where all the typical Peruvian foods were served. It was absolutely delicious and by that I mean I ate three whole plates worth (again, no surprise if you know me). Some of my favorites were a beefy type meat and mushrooms over rice, a shrimp and rice dish in yellow sauce, the fresh avocados and the sushi. I learned that Lima is the gastronomical capital of South America and that in a couple of months a huge food festival will come here and obviously i will be purchasing a nice pass for that. The flavors of everything I tried, and I tried almost everything, were so bold and diverse. Some spicy, some nutty, some much more savory, but all delicious (I wish there was a stronger word to describe it). I also tried my first Pisco Sour basically the official drink of Peru, and it was pretty good (yes, Rachel K, the egg whites on the top were a little strange at first). I’m not exactly sure what was in it, but if you’re given the national drink of a country, you basically just chug it and enjoy it (JUST KIDDING MOM).

After returning to the hotel we did some more orientation and then they gave us money, phones, and set us loose to go find dinner on our own. I went with a couple of other people, including an alumni of the program who has been living in Peru for two years, to a Brasilian restaurant (Cris I thought of you–for jiu jitsu obviously) that I don’t remember the name of. We weren’t really hungry so we just ordered some bolinas de queijo (portugese) which essentially means super rich fried cheese ball (if you’ve ever been to the NC state fair its definitely similar to something you’d find there–which might be why i didn’t exactly love it). We sat and talked for about two hours about the Peruvian university system, indigenous people, and anything else we could think of. After we left and said goodbye to our alumni friend Kate and her Peruvian boyfriend, we ventured out to a place called Wong’s which is the equivalent to a very nice grocery store that doesn’t exist in the US.  Every food is so fresh here and I was almost lured in by the impulse shopper in me which wanted to buy everything–including the Peruvian version of Bacon obviously.

Anyways, it has been an incredibly packed day and tomorrow is shaping up to be the same. On the schedule, the daunting spanish placement exam :/ and our introduction to our host family who we will then be left with and the program will truly start in that regard. I am so excited for the next days and am ready to be able to have my camera and not feel like I’m going to be mugged because i’m so clearly a gringa.

(Shoutout to my parents who I miss already. Love you!)

OH MY GOSH AND I ALMOST FORGOT ABOUT THE KITTY PARK!!! THEY WERE EVERYWHERE (Caroline Cope)

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These are random pictures, some that I snapped while in a taxi hence the terrible quality and there are only a couple because I was too entranced/petrified of the way our driver was maneuvering through the other cars. Also, I regret not taking my camera to the buffet but I have no doubt I will return. Sorry!