Ten days, roughly 33 Peruvian meals, and countless hours of combi commuting later, I am back on here to report on all of my new Peruvian adventures! Due to classes and a generally busy schedule to boot, writing on this blog has become increasingly difficult to do, but that doesn't mean you won't be hearing from me! Now, enough rambling and onto the good stuff: What in the world has Morgan been up to for the past week and a half? In a nutshell, my life has revolved around university classes, gym, food, Spanish readings, commuting, and getting "cultured." From day-to-day you will find me taking the claustrophobic micro to school in the morning, sitting through hours of Spanish classes, eating more food than I thought was humanly possible, and experiencing all that Lima has to offer through various little adventures with my friends. Said adventures span from sight-seeing to nightlife outings to food (the majority of them are the latter). Before I dive into the detalles of my recent whereabouts and doings, though, please note that I am writing here which means I am alive and well (hi mom) and by some sort of miracle have not become lost in this city of 10 million inhabitants... yet. Even better news is that my Spanish language skills are improving! I recently held a conversation about World War II and Germany with my host brother and a more lighthearted conversation with my host sister about Peruvian music, pop culture, etc. This above all is so exciting! Any progress is good progress and I am inching closer to my ultimate goal of fluency (note: I dream big).
As you know, most of my time spent here (and anywhere for the past two years) is as an über-sleepy college student. Now I can add the word 'Peruvian' between 'sleepy' and 'college' (those two words strangely define my life quite well). I finally received my official identification card for PUCP earlier this week. As far as classes go, my schedule is now solidified. I am enrolled in a Latin American cinema course, Understanding Peru (an anthropology/history course on all things Peruvian), a fascinating lingüística course, and a Spanish writing class. All of my courses are interesting with great professors as well which never hurts. Listening to two to three hour-long lectures in only Spanish has become somewhat easier, but that's not to say it's effortless. Sometimes I feel as though even a IV of cappuccino couldn't help me maintain such strong concentration for so long! Additionally, tomorrow marks the first day of my violin course! Yes, you heard me correctly. I am enrolled in a class where I get to learn how to play the violin at my university! Thanks to one of my professors, I even have a snazzy violin to borrow. Now, the next hurdle is just figuring out if I even have a musical bone in my body. I suppose that only picking up the bow plus a little time will tell.
Rewinding to last weekend, each day was chock-full of fun as per usual. A few friends and I enjoyed some KBBQ (short for 'Korean BBQ') in the San Isidro district and it was expectedly muy rico (as my host mother says in reference to good food). Who knew that Lima could have such tasty Korean fare? We then took a trip out to the Incan markets again to shop till we dropped. I ended up purchasing a llama sweater (which normal Peruvians do in fact wear, mind you) and these precious stone earrings. In our usual fashion, we found another discoteca in Miraflores where we danced and had a really, really, really, good time (yes, that was a shameless Macklemore reference). It isn't a night in Miraflores, though, without stopping by our favorite pizzeria. The employees there recognized us and we even made a few amigos nuevos back in the kitchen. This city is slowly beginning to feel more like a home to me (albeit a very enormous one).
Now, fast-forward to this Thursday. Not many of you may know this but there is an optional component in my study abroad program that allows me to volunteer and work with a local NGO. Well, I'm excited to announce that I will be volunteering every week at a school in Villa el Salvador (an urban district in the southern outskirts of Lima with shantytown origins). Last Thursday morning, I had the chance to tour the facilities and see where I will soon be aiding teachers in a classroom full of adorable, school-age children. How could I not be thrilled? One other girl in the program and I went and had the opportunity to speak with one of the directors of the NGO. We even got to see another connected NGO that is known as Deporte y Vida. Aside from volunteering, I also have the privilege of helping out the NGO in their marketing and public relations (that's right, mom, I'm putting my college education to use). They are currently without a website and need marketing/public relations efforts in order for their NGO to thrive and keep giving back to the community, so I'm teaming up with another girl in the group to do just that for their amazing program! Que emocionante. It's also worth mentioning that on the day of the visit, there were no kids at the school due to a holiday. What we did find, though, were a dozens of community members coming out to support the school by throwing a type of fundraiser that entailed cooking delicious food to give to donors who had bought pre-sold tickets. Inspiring would be one way to describe the experience.
Given that I don't have class on Thursday or Fridays, the moment I arrived back from my Villa el Salvador commute (which will range from an hour and a half to two hours one way) marked the official start of my weekend! These past few days have been wonderful; I have been able to spend more time with some of the group members, see more of Lima, and eat as much Peruvian food as my heart desired. On Friday, we went out to Barranco which is officially one of my favorite (if not most favorite) districts in all of Lima. Note that there are 43 of them here, so I definitely have some more intracity traveling to do!
Most of my time has been spent with friends talking, watching quality films, and exploring here and there. In Barranco on Friday, we went to a little hole-in-the-wall burrito bar. I never knew how life-changing an experience one burrito could be, but I must tell you that the burrito I ate was probably the best I have ever had! We then found ourselves at the house of one of the students in the program's host family in the district. To say the house was a piece of art would be an understatement! For example, art hung from all its walls, there was a room devoted to little birds, the rooftop views were spectacular overlooking the illuminated Pacific Ocean, and there was even a legitimate art studio inside. It is one of the most beautiful properties I had ever seen.
Plaza de Armas
The following day we found ourselves traveling out to the Lima district of Lima (yes, that is a thing). So, we were essentially exploring the historic centre of Lima and its calles decorated with balcony-crested walls and colonial buildings. Traveling to the center of Lima helped me grasp just how enormous this city truly is in both terms of population and geography. We visited the Plaza de Armas, a famous square in the city, that hosts the government palace, the cathedral of Lima, and several other elaborate palaces. After a long commute, we were ravenous, so we made our way over to the Barrio chino otherwise known as Lima's Chinatown. Naturally, we had chifa (Chinese-Peruvian fare) for lunch and it was easily one of the best meals I have ever enjoyed. The chaufa, Peru's version of fried rice, was incredible and I was quite the happy (and full) camper.
Entrance to Lima's Chinatown
The crew with our Todo Dulce desserts
We then made our way back to the Pueblo Libre district (where I live) to stop at our favorite local bakery, Todo Dulce. I tried the tres leches cake there and was not disappointed. The rest of the night consisted of returning to one of the student's homes to hang out and watch the film The Descendants (it has my stamp of approval). Following that, a few of us found our way back out to the Barranco district where we went to a venue called Trepiche. We danced, as per usual, and enjoyed the nightlife Limeño. As I mentioned before, I am in love with the district of Barranco. Along every street you will find colorful wall murals, intricate architecture, and quirky little decor that gives this district its "bohemian" vibe.
Given that it's a Sunday night, I'm looking forward to beginning another week of classes at PUCP. What's even more exciting, though, is the fact that in four short days I will be flying to Cusco! This weekend marks my program's trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu. Words cannot even begin to describe how thrilled I am for this! Soon enough I'll be able to check off one huge thing on my bucket list and I cannot wait for the adventure that lies ahead. It still doesn't feel real to me. This whole experience actually feels somewhat surreal, but I am enjoying every minute of it. Yes, even those moments of pure terror when I've missed the correct paradero (bus stop) or freeze mid-speech because I don't know how to convey my thoughts in castellano (Spanish). This entire experience is everything I wanted it to be and more so far and to think it has already been one month! One month full of learning, living, and loving every moment of it in Lima— I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate.
As Russell from the film Up exclaims: Adventure is out there! Stepping through my doorstep each morning marks a new day and a new adventure of the Peruvian variety for me. It's strange to think that I still have four more months of it, too. As of now, I can say that coming to Peru has been one of the greatest decisions of my life so far and I don't see why this trend will not endure. To everyone back in the states: I wish you were here. Although I do miss home, I am having such a rewarding experience abroad. It just makes me so happy that I will always carry these wonderful memories with me and I am even more glad that I can share them with all of you via my writing here on this handy dandy, little blog. I will report back sooner next time, but until then I must say chau and buenas noches.