October 19, 2011
I’ve been living here in Lima for about ten weeks now, and I am having the hardest time starting this journal entry…. I’m trying to think back to when I got here, about my first impressions. Which is a hard thing to do, because they seem normal to me now. But, I’ll try!
So, when I got off of the plane on my first day (2:00 AM on July 29th) I was met by a crowd of Peruvians- my family, my counselor, my host club president and his family, my district president, and many others too. Even though it was so late, they were very excited and greeted me with many kisses on the cheeks. Like many other South American countries, a kiss on the cheek is how you greet people. It was sort of challenging for me at first, because I have never been one for PDA. But now I am used to it, and I like that part of the culture. Peruvians definitely seem to be more warm than Americans.
When I arrived, we were on vacation, so I didn’t start going to school until about my third week. My two host siblings also go to my school, Colegio Santa Rosa. It is a Catholic school, and my uniform involves a plaid skirt and tie. It sounds weird, but I really like having a uniform! I’ve never been a big fan of shopping, trying on, or deciding on what clothes to wear. So, I don’t have to worry about that 5 out of the 7 days of the week!
Someone once said that writing just shows us how messy and unorganized our minds are. This is definitely the case with me, and as I am writing this there a thousand thoughts and memories running through my head. I would like to tell all of my readers (really just my parents and grandparents, probably!) everything. But, I’m leaving to go on my trip to Machu Picchu in an hour and I don’t have very much time. Speaking of trips, I have at least five planned with Rotary during my exchange year, so if you like awesome trips- Peru is definitely for you!
When I last submitted a journal, I was getting ready to go on my Cuzco/Puno trip with Rotary. So I’ll start off with that.
Peru (apart from the giant metropolis that is Lima) is a beautiful country with a varied landscape and I’m happy that I’ve been able to see so much of it. I’ve traveled by bus all over Southern Peru and up the North coast. To recount all the things I saw and did would take a long time (and we are supposed to write more about our normal lives and not so much about trips- sorry!), so I will let my pictures do most of the talking.
Here is a lowdown on what I've been doing. How it’s organized is sort of random.
We are in our summer vacation now until March, when I will be studying gastronomy in a university in Lima called Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola (USIL). Peru has some of the world's best chefs and Peruvians take pride in and always talk about their food. Lima has some of the world’s cheapest and freshest seafood, and I can say that ‘ceviche mixto’ is probably my favorite Peruvian dish. I can’t wait to learn how to make it in university!
Dancing is a huge part of the culture here, and pretty much every town in Peru has it’s own traditional way of dancing. I have learned the Salsa, Samba, Scia, and Marinera. Whenever us exchange students are on a trip, we always dance with the locals. I saw one dance in Colca (Southern Peru) that was partly reenacting a folktale. It involved a “poisoned” orange, a scary cloth mask, and a rope with a rock tied to the end of it. Kind of frightening, and very Peruvian.
My family here is amazing, I have three siblings, although one is on her exchange in Citrus, Florida right now (Joseline). My brother, Luis Miguel (14) and my sister Fernanda (12) both go to my school too. They always help me with my Spanish and are patient with me. I can always be my self with them. I really couldn’t ask for a better family, and I know that I’m lucky to have them.
Living in a big city (Lima has almost 9 million people!) is a great experience for me, I've pretty much lived in the suburbs or in the country my whole life before this. Before I got here, I used to think that all huge cities were like New York City, with huge skyscrapers and a very fast- paced way of life. I was wrong. I call it “La Hora Peruana,” or Peruvian Time. It means that arriving to anything less than 45 minutes late is early. One time, my brother and I arrived at a Quinceñera (a party for a girl who is turning fifteen, it is very important in Latin American culture) over an hour after the time stated on the invitation, we were the first ones there and they were still people setting up for the party!
Rotary here is very involved with my life here, and I go to their meetings with my family every Wednesday, and I already feel close to all of the Rotarians. Peru is a third world country, so there is a lot of poverty and so forth. With Rotary, I have been to the poorer parts of the country and volunteered. The last time that we helped was the week before Christmas, and we handed out presents and food to families in the outskirts of Lima. This thought brings me to another point… la Navidad!
Peru is around 80% Catholic, and celebrating Christmas is a huge deal down here. Christmas Eve is much more important than the actual 25th. We stayed up until midnight on the 24th, and then we ate turkey, rice, and Paneton. After eating, we opened presents (I got a watch!) and then stayed up until 6 AM or so. The entire next day we just rested and went to church. My parents might be hurt from what is coming next (sorry!), but I wasn’t very homesick over the holidays. I truly had a great time, just hanging out with my host family.
Well, in short, I'm having a fabulous time here, and I am so happy that I decided to make the decision to spend a year in Peru! I feel like a part of my host family, and I rarely have trouble with the language anymore. Now, I know my way around Lima and I can use public transportation with ease. I really feel like I fully understand Peruvian culture. The only sad part is that I am more than halfway done with my exchange now. I only have about 5 months left to enjoy Peru, and I plan to make the best of them!