Meghan Oxford

Peru

Hometown:Longwood, Florida
School: Lake Brantley High School
Sponsor District : District 6980
Sponsor Club:Longwood, Florida
Host District: District 4455
Host Club: The Rotary Club of San Borja

 

My Bio


¡Hola! My name is Meghan and I will be spending my 11th grade year in the beautiful country of Peru. I am from Longwood, Florida and attend Lake Brantley High School. I have 2 sisters and lots of other supportive friends and family. I grew up around many cultures in army and air force bases around the state of Georgia, and there my lust for foreign soil was born and continues to grow as I learn of the beautiful planet we all inhabit [especially Peru ;)]. I am very active and after school I enjoy activities such as wake boarding, traveling, writing, reading, and long boarding. I am involved in clubs at school such as newspaper staff, photography club, TV production, and national honor society. I want to spread the experience of America to people who have only read about it and in turn learn about their culture and country. I want to show others what America is, from how to cook a hotdog, or southern foods, to our seasonal celebrations. When I come back I want to do the same with another culture. I want to take a country many of my friends and family haven’t been to, and show them what their life is like through my actions, words, photographs, and language.I am extremely ecstatic to be studying abroad in Peru and am glad I found as great a program as Rotary Youth Exchange is. Hasta luego mis amigos. :)

Me encantan las montanas.

Me encantan las montanas.

Cacti... Seriously.

Cacti... Seriously.

Saya con mis compañeros.

Saya con mis compañeros.

My host mom and I at a Rotary meeting as I was inducted into Interact San Borja.

My host mom and I at a Rotary meeting as I was inducted into Interact San Borja.

The children we were able to help in Huaycan with the project initiated by myself and another exchange student from France.

The children we were able to help in Huaycan with the project initiated by myself and another exchange student from France.

Volunteering in Pisco.

Volunteering in Pisco.

Colca Canyon.

Colca Canyon.

My host family that i recently switched out of on our last day together.

My host family that i recently switched out of on our last day together.

My graduating class.

My graduating class.

Machu Picchu!

Machu Picchu!

Standing in two places at once in the center of the earth on the equator in Ecuador.

Standing in two places at once in the center of the earth on the equator in Ecuador.

A beautiful phenomen that happens in Zorritos when ocean conditions and weather is right. A sort of plankton when bothered lights up the water with each wave.

A beautiful phenomen that happens in Zorritos when ocean conditions and weather is right. A sort of plankton when bothered lights up the water with each wave.

Turning 17, the Peruvian way... With torta en la cara!

Turning 17, the Peruvian way... With torta en la cara!

Mi ilo querido.

Mi ilo querido.

A girl in the Amazon with one of the rotary backpacks we gave out including school supplies.

A girl in the Amazon with one of the rotary backpacks we gave out including school supplies.

Sydney, Luis, and I at the Rotary Olympics.

Sydney, Luis, and I at the Rotary Olympics.

Me with my host family for the birthday of my sister.

Me with my host family for the birthday of my sister.

becuase it was rainy season, the amazon had risen about 7 meters in height leaving many houses flooded

becuase it was rainy season, the amazon had risen about 7 meters in height leaving many houses flooded

The international building in my university

The international building in my university

Journals: Meghan - Peru

  • Meghan, outbound to Peru

    I am overwhelmed with gratitude for everyone and everything that I have come in contact with this year. With only weeks left in my second home, I am realizing just how much I truly love this place. Every day as I go about my activities, I am taking all the little moments in as priceless memories. From overcrowded, almost broken buses, to chicharron sandwiches, to the Peruvians all around me with their unique mannerisms, I’m taking mental note of it all as how my year here is.

    Recently, I have been attending a local university studying psychology and Spanish, and have really enjoyed this experience to further my learning of the language and to learn a bit of psychology which has always interested me. The university is very big which gives me the opportunity to know more people, to attend reunions, and even practice some sports.

    Since I last wrote, I also visited the Amazon jungle and the city of Iquitos. I really fell in love with the atmosphere and general energy of the place and promptly tried to convince the Rotarians to leave me. Though I did have to return, I am very happy to have had the experience.

    While there we also did a service project bringing school supplies, clothing, and food items to people of a small village there. It was really great to meet and interact with the local people who live in such an isolated place, where 3 hours in a boat is needed to reach the nearest city. Many had never been far from their homes, but their general interest in the world was really cool. While talking with the natives, we were also led around by some of the best tour guides (6 and 7 year old children). They showed a friend and me all around the town and even took us to their home by boat. While on the trip, we also took some hikes through the jungles where we could see tons of animals such as monkeys and tarantulas, and boat rides to spot the river’s pink dolphins and countless bird species.

    Many people from this region refer to the river as ‘the lungs of the world’ and I really can’t describe how amazing it is to be in a place like that, that is so pure and untouched. You can really feel new and nourished in such a place. My Rotary club also sponsored 2 students from villages in the Amazon to go on exchange next year in Canada and Brazil, and getting to know them and learn about their lives is vey interesting. When returning we all-starred and cheered for them on their first flight ever, and in Lima, they always make me laugh with their awe at things like the internet and big cars.

    As my year draws to a close, I take joy in knowing I will carry this experience with me forever. If I could give some advice to all the future outbounds out there, it's to take each minute as it comes and to be present enjoying those days because once you have 300 days and 10 minutes later you’ll only have 10. Now as I return, I will bring back with me another home, perspective on life, another culture, new foods, new dances, and memories shared with new families and friends. All of who I once was is different now. I am forever grateful for this year and these experiences that have amounted to the memories that will always hold a special place in my heart. Lastly, thank you to everyone who made this possible. Until we meet again, te amo Peru.


  • Meghan, outbound to Peru

    I am at a point in my exchange when thinking of home both scares, excites, and confuses me. When I think about home and family it's now hard to differentiate which home and which family is being implied. I now have 4 homes. I now have 4 families. This point and the emotions going along with it really snuck up on me. In early February I booked my return ticket and while that felt like a good stab to my Peruvian heart, I knew it was coming. But then one morning over a casual breakfast conversation my host mom asked how our eating habits where "over there" and I began to explain how my family in Lima eats together for breakfast and lunch but we don't for dinner and sometimes we don't have much of dinner, etc. and she looked at me and kind of laughed saying she meant in the US. When I tell friends family stories there is always a string of "which mom?" , "which little sister?" , and "which city?".

    For the month of February I moved to another province about 17 hours south of Lima (where I have been living). I got to know a new city named Ilo. Ilo is a charming fisherman's town in the south of Peru. It is surrounded by beaches, it's always hot, and the people are kind and all know each other. I really had a great experience there not to mention my killer tan. The experiences I'm able to have in Peru I think are very unique and make my exchange so much different from the other students abroad. Since I live below the equator the seasons are switched and my lucky self has got to enjoy another summer and vacation from school.

    I started this time with a trip to the north of Peru and Ecuador with the rest of the exchange students experiencing new cities and renewing our visas. This trip took us through the northern cities which are mostly made up of beaches on the coast. I was especially excited for this trip because of my love for the sun and beach, as any Floridian would probably have, and because of the AWESOME food of the northern region. The northern region is known for its ceviche, a peruvian seafood dish made of raw fish, lemon, onion, spices, and served with sweet potato, corn, and lettuce. It might sound a bit odd but I cannot get enough of it! The cities we visited included Trujillo, Puira, Zorritos, Mancora, Tumbes, and Quito and Guayaquil (Ecuador) they where all very beautiful and interesting to see.

    I am now back in my home city of Lima and am super excited for the things I have in store for my last 100 days. I received an email a few weeks ago entitled "la ultima parte de tu intercambio" or "the last part of your exchange" from our director here in Peru explaining our remaining events and I still find it crazy to think that all this time has gone so fast.

    My adventures here continue with lots of fun things coming soon and the start of university as my summer draws to an end. Every day I fall more and more in love with Peru. I know everyone says that and it's quite the cliche, but every day I find myself naming the things I'll miss. Things I found so odd just 7 months ago I now couldn't see life without. From the crazy public transportation to the sound of Peruvian Spanish to the fresh fruit markets, my life will never be the same having known such a wonderful country. I can truly say I will leave my heart behind, but that is only if they make me leave.


  • Meghan, outbound to Peru

    5 Months. I’ve been in this amazing country for 5 months and each time I think it, hear it, or say it, it gets harder to believe. Life here is different, slower at times and incredibly fast at others, but after 5 months it doesn’t seem like a foreign country anymore. Peru is my home.

    Since I last wrote many things have happened. The holidays have passed, I have traveled to many of the cities in southern Peru including Machu Picchu, I have switched families, I have graduated Peruvian high school, I have learned more Spanish than I thought I would ever know, and overall Peru has become my normal.

    I guess I will start with holidays; I have passed quite a few holidays since my last journal including Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. Halloween here was not a very big deal in my area and was much more for the younger children. My host parents explained that many people believe Halloween to be against their religion and that the whole candy deal was relatively new to Peru either way. Not wanting to miss out I threw my American flag around me and trick tricked (what the Peruvians say instead of trick or treat). It was quite cute really.

    The next holiday that passed was Thanksgiving and unfortunately our exchange students weren’t able to get together for the American day and because of being busy, I forgot it was even Thanksgiving until my family back home asked to Skype me. Its funny how insignificant things like Thanksgiving are in reality and even though I thought I would miss it I was surprised at how content I was with just making a salad I usually make in the US to share with my family.

    Next came Christmas and man do Peruvians know how to celebrate Christmas! Instead of getting to sleep early to wake up to Santa’s gifts, in Peru you wait up until midnight surrounded by family, excited children, and food. They have a feast set up much like Thanksgiving for Christmas including turkey and stuffing and everyone eats as they wait for midnight to come like we would on New Year's. When the clock stroked 12 we all yelled with joy, set off fireworks, hugged, said our Feliz Navidad’s, and dove into the presents. Here Christmas is much more about family than the gifts and consumerism that I think we sometimes focus on in the states. Santa is not a widely used tradition here and gifts are kept to maybe 5 or 6 smaller things per person. Instead you are surrounded by all your living family with promise of visits from more in the coming days.

    Lastly came New Year's. Tradition here is similar to the United States except everyone wears new yellow underwear to bring in the new year. At midnight they also eat grapes as they hug and greet company for a year of friendships.

    In these 5 months I’ve also ad a few other big changes. I recently graduated Peruvian high school and attended their Prom and ceremonies. Because I lived in a small town, my school was also very small. My graduating class consisted of one classroom of about 30 students. With such a small amount of kids we all were very close and graduating, going to prom, and celebrating other events were things I could only imagine doing with them. My class was incredibly welcoming and I owe a lot of the good memories and friendships to Colegio Nuevo Mundo.

    We graduated the 27th of December with a party and a ceremony, as is custom in Peru. We all walked down the isle in our caps and gowns and were given a yearbook and a medal from the director and owner of the school. Many people gave speeches and as I walked up to receive my yearbook as the very last student, my entire class yelled “OBAMA!” in unison as part of an ongoing joke we had. We then had a dance with our dates, followed by a dance with our fathers which I thought was such a cute intimate thing to do that would never be possible in my school in Florida with its graduating class of over 900 students. We passed the rest of the night dancing and enjoying our final time together.

    Another big change I very recently experienced was changing families. I changed my family after New Year's and while I am happy for the new adventure, it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do during my exchange. My host family really became a huge part of my life and I saw them all as real family. The small town I lived in was just an extension of that familiar feeling and as I said goodbye I knew it could only be a see you later because I will have to return before I finish my time in Peru. Things are going great with my new family though, they are very kind, and I now live close to the city and am in slight shock at getting anywhere in under an hour.

    I should also throw in experience, and before I tell you about the amazing places I’ve been, I'll tell you about my Spanish, my sense of direction in this huge city, and my general knowledge of Peru. My Spanish is coming along great and I no longer struggle to form sentences and use the right verb tenses in casual conversation. I no longer find myself translating back and fourth in my head and catch myself using Spanish words when I am speaking in English because they just work better, or we don’t have an equal. Becoming fluent in another language is a prize itself, without all the other benefits of exchange, to take back with me.

    I’m also very comfortable with Lima now and many of my Peruvian friends will ask me for directions around the city. I am confident using the crazy bus system to go anywhere I may need to be and can even get around new places just fine. Even in my new home I know how to get everywhere. This is probably one of the coolest things for me because I was never directional at all in the States and couldn’t get anywhere without a GPS. I’ve also gained mountains of knowledge about Peru in general. I have gotten to participate in events to help the poor children and this really has become a passion of mine so much that another exchange student and I organized and raised money by ourselves to have a Christmas event for poor children close to the small town where I used to live. A lot of work was put in and when the day finally came around and we were ready, seeing the smiles of the children was the only gift I needed.

    Finally you have to know about all the places I’ve visited. I find this the most trivial part, not because the places aren’t absolutely amazing, but because you have to go to really know them. In Spanish the verb to know (conocer) is actually used as the equal to mean that you have visited a place and I think that is really interesting look on travelling. So here is a little list accompanied by some things I wrote in my journal while in these places.

    • Ica
    • Pisco
    • Arica, Chile
    • Tortugas
    • Casma
    • Machu Picchu
    • Colca Canyon
    • Lago Titicaca
    • Puno
    • Arequipa
    • Tacna
    • Cuzco
    • Auguascalientes

    Here is a little something I wrote in my favorite destination of these Colca:
    “I am currently in an absolutely amazing and indescribably beautiful 5star hotel in Colca. This is lucky for me, and not so much for you because photos and words could never do this place justice. I am surrounded by the largest and most plentiful mountains I have ever seen, a rocky-river bed that I am currently resting over, farmland fields, a canyon, and plateaus. I will tell you it’s beautiful, but that’s not the word. I’d settle with majestic, but I’ve used that word before and this place is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

    While here I’ve felt so connected yet disconnected at the same time. Seeing the incredible landscapes and scooting across riverbeds to end in a rock formed hot tub is the incredibly intimate experience between yourself, nature, and God. You begin to wonder what other corners of the world you’ve missed, how lucky you were to be placed in this moment, and how your insignificant self plays a role in a world of billions and places like this. Now, I want to know how cities were before they were touched. I want to know every star, planet, and comet I am viewing. I want to speak so many more languages to be able to question and discuss things with the natives. I want to live the basic lives of these people to reverse my societal-taken values. I want to then my home so they know for sure there is so much more.

    Being here I feel infinite, like I can change the world. This is the connected part. I look around here and my mind skip to thoughts of my fellow exchange students, travelers, and wanderers alike. The hopeful and the hopeless that are exploring the world and discovering places like this for themselves in other countries as well as Peru. And we are connected. We are changing, with the wind and with the tides, and there are others like me who long to have their breath taken away, and somehow through many miles and many languages, we are connected. …

    But then there’s the disconnect. The tragically beautiful realization that no one has the same thoughts as you. That you will never be able to truly describe the places you go, and that you have another life far-far away that is continuing on as normal right now like nothing has changed. You can feel almost empty sometimes, and so full simultaneously. To have these experienced in your heart and mind, it fills the soul immensely. Colca will forever be in my heart. The land, the natives, Colca Lodge… It’s all more than I’ve ever dreamed of and tops all I could have ever dreamed up.”

    All in all, I am living an amazing life here. If one word described my exchange it would be opportunity because I just have so much of it! It is currently summer vacation here and I have many adventures in store. So far I have reached my highest heights (literally and figuratively) and I can't wait to discover what may be next!

     

    Click HERE for my FULL page


  • Meghan, outbound to Peru

    This is my life. This is Peru. I couldn't be happier.

    So here I am in an unmarked taxi between 2 strangers on my way home from a 'tourist' day. I don't know either in the slightest way, not even their names. One is asleep on my shoulder and the other has her feet over mine. This is my life.

    This is Peru. I couldn't be happier. Why you may ask? Because I am here. I am living a life many only dream of. I am living a life that for many either is or seems impossible.

    I wake up most mornings to about 10 nursery school children singing in Spanish (if you were wondering... No I don't understand the song....it is made for kids under 5). I am then greeted by my sister, mom, or brother all in Spanish usually with a question that my brain forgets is in Spanish. I eat breakfast, bread with some sort of reddish jelly I really don't know the fruit but it's good.

    Then, for the first 2 weeks anyway, I went to whatever Rotary events would partake that day via an hour car ride with my host dad and Davíd Parades (who thinks it's funny to say oh, hi, I'm David walls in America). It's actually kind of funny. I have partook in a 3 day camp, language classes with local professors, a tour of governmental places in Lima, and a welcome dinner. The thing they all have in common? Rotary! And that we are late.... Always. No, wait for it..... always!

    I enjoy these events none-the-less and am very thankful for the Rotary here and for Connor (my Rotex) because many people come up to me just because I am from Florida to talk to someone as great and enthusiastic as him. After these events I will go home which is my favorite adventure because it usually entails going somewhere random, 2 buses, and a super sketchy car in my neighborhood. It's great really.

    The streets here look like you would imagine India's to minus the farm animals but with more stray dogs instead. (Still doesn't top I-4) And after that, we eat. My mom prepares every meal and they are all pretty good. During dinner we talk about the day and what tomorrow entails. Because I can't understand perfectly names, places, and foods are very difficult for me to understand because it's hard to tell if it is just a word I don't know or a name. This leaves many things a mystery. People can say what they want about how learning the language is very important (and it is) but I very much enjoy the adventure that entails in having no clue what the instructions and plans said.

    I live far from Lima in a town called Chaclacayo that many of my friends here refer to as Never-land. It is in the mountains which I love. They are more breathtaking every morning.

    My school is a zoo. I don't mean to make any type of metaphor here, I mean this literally. In my school we have puppies, sheep, llamas, alpacas, a turtle, and rabbits scattered with some Peruvian humans and now me. This is not typical, my school is just cool. I just started school recently and came into the beginning of the 3rd semester after a long holiday break for Independence Day. I didn't expect school to be super easy, but let's just say it's more of a social event in matching outfits.


    I am a senior in my school (everyone more or less graduates at 16) and this could contribute to the fact I've only had about 6 classes all week, but that's what has happened. We have a dance show next weekend and have spent every day either practicing the dance or fooling around. My school here is private as are most. It is named Nuevo Mundo which means new world in English. Everyday we have 9 classes about 35 minutes each, but many are double blocked to make an hour. I really enjoy math and of course English class. From what I understand grades are mostly participation and tests. We get stamps for doing work although I'm not sure what they are good for quite yet.

    We have religion class here were a little man in a big black dress walks around waving this cross (rosary?) in his hands all the time. I didn't go to this class because I said I wasn't catholic and so no one wanted me to go thinking it would hurt my feelings. Instead I hung outside with the other classmates who are Mormon (not common in Peru but just so happens I have a culturally rich class for the area).

    We have 2 breaks in school both basically for lunch, even though we eat lunch when we get home. (Gosh this country will make me fat).  I, and every other student and teacher, have to wear a uniform. It consists of a grey and black polo or red and green shirt, skirt or spandex shorts or track pants, black shoes, and knee high socks. The fun part is your hair must always be up, you can't wear makeup, you can't wear jewelry besides small earrings, and you can't have painted nails. These rules are actually pretty much followed so I don't question them.

    There is also a weird level of respect here. My classmates typically refer to the teachers as profee, like saying 'yo teach' which is perfectly acceptable and they crack jokes constantly in class. Jokes here are cruel but the teachers and everyone else thinks it's so funny and well sometimes it is. They also now crack jokes in English randomly. A few days ago the bell rang and a boy screams 'the zombies are coming,' I died laughing. My classmates are absolutely the best.

    I am accompanied in this country by 60 exchange students, but besides one girl living alone in Ilo and one boy living alone somewhere near the Amazon, I am the farthest away from the rest of the students. Given this it's important I have awesome Peruvian friends and that has already started. I recently had a dance festival at school that went something like this: Sometimes you find yourself dancing Saya in front of 100 strangers with a guy whose name you can't remember. What? That's only me? Well regardless, this is what my day consisted of.

    My school hosted a folk dancing event today consisting of each class presenting a dance we have been learning for 2 weeks. Each dance was traditional to Peru and/or the native people. I danced Saya, which was fun, fast paced at times and slow at others consisting of many couple parts. I enjoyed it immensely and was excited to take this crazy leap out of my comfort zone as I danced with my hips (like wait I have those), in heels (huh), and of course with instructions completely in Spanish (and charades). It turned out pretty good and my class tied first!

    At the festival I also got to cook and sell American food which was cool. Cooking has become a really good thing for me here and I always look forward to days I get to prepare an American dish for everyone. For me it's an easy and unique way to share not only my American heritage, but also my southern roots.

    I am now in my second week of school here and can honestly say I am blessed. My professors, classmates, principal, and staff all are incredibly welcoming and strive to make me comfortable and help me every single day. Being alone in my town can sometimes feel like a disadvantage but since I've started school I know it is not. Not only am I surrounded by Spanish, but I am the first exchange student many of them have ever met so they are all so willing to include me and help me. All in all I like school here and am glad to be where I'm at.

    From the moment I arrived in Peru there were more than a few differences. Here are some fun ones, some crazy ones, and some that aren't my favorite:

    There are gates with sharp tops in every place (Which we usually reserve for prison and alternative school)

    The rules of the road don't really apply/the cops are useless.

    To motorcycles absolutely no laws, for cars you have to wear a seatbelt in the front seats which isn't really followed either and it is not uncommon to see 8 people in a small car, and also there isn't much of a speed limit anywhere but it is enforced via speed bumps everywhere (so basically every drive is a roller coaster).

    The cops I guess get paid to direct traffic but really they just stand and watch and cause problems by leaving to go nowhere with their lights on. But there are some stop lights (which count down your time like there is always a drag race).

    The mountains. Las Montanans. I'm in love. Every morning they somehow become more beautiful and my phone is just pictures of the mountains. I am told they are just hills but to me they are majestic mountains.

    The food. It's awesome, my mom cooks every meal and they are all pretty good. They do eat like mostly raw potatoes here though and it's a bit odd. I love the food but i dislike the drinks. They are all very sugary so my family now has a joke about me and water that I don't quite get yet. They also have a joke that the dog eats very well since I have been here because I can never finish anything.

    There is no heat or air conditioning and in many places no hot water but in my family we have hot water if you switch these 2 switches. (thank goodness)

    They take USD like everywhere but you end up paying more.

    The buses! I took the bus home with my host brother which was my first time on any public bus besides Disney. (Yay Rodrigo for not calling me a stupid princess in Spanish). It was crazy. You flag them down like taxis and I don't understand how you know which one but he did. I live decently far from the city so we took 2 buses. While on the bus you get a ticket when you have paid, and random street vendors just hop on for a few stops to sell you things. I will be a Peruvian when I truly understand the bus system. So ya, our ride home consisted of 2 buses and a super sketchy car that barely ran (I thought he was like a family member or something but we paid him so I'm not really sure).

    There are stores and Kindergartens mixed in the neighborhoods which is cool until it is 7 AM and 20 small children are screaming in Spanish a few houses down.

    A lot of things are half built, which I still don't understand. Like the steel poles you start a building with and then pour cement or put bricks over.... they just skip that and don't cut them off or anything. I don't know about this one. I just don't know.

    Kisses and chevere. You are always greeted by a kiss on the cheek and when you leave you are followed by the same thing. They also have a Peruvian only word 'chevere' which means like chill in English.

    You can't flush toilet paper. Not my favorite if you were wondering.

    Oh, and my favorite difference.... * DRUMROLL * my grandad has a cactus collection complete with over 70 types of cactus? cacti? cactuses?

    I've been in Perú a month but it feels like less than a week. It hasn't been the most perfect month of my life, the worst, or even the craziest. I embarked on a journey that will continue to bring me places for the rest of my life. I will be the first to tell you goodbyes are the hardest even when you know they are only truly a 'see you later.' And as I said goodbye to all I have ever known, my family, my friends, Florida, and the United States of America, I also said hello to my new home and family in the country of Peru. Though this is the most challenging thing I've ever done it is also the most rewarding.

    The longer I am here the more I realize I made the right decision. Leaving your comfort zone is well... Uncomfortable at times, but the benefits are incredible. Every day that goes by in Perú I learn so much. I learn language, heritage, customs, culture, history, people, and opportunities. I've seen and heard things America never could have offered me. I've lived moments some couldn't even dream up and there is joy in that.

    Thank you Mia for introducing me to this opportunity and being my support and best friend along the way. Thank you Scott for pouring your heart and soul into an amazing program to lead me to this moment. Thank you Rotary for providing a platform and connection between thousands of miles, seas, countries, and languages. And Lastly thank you to my family and host family for being my family, I couldn't have wished together better ones.Until next time, lots of love from your favorite Peruvian


RSS Feed