Taylor Graham

Peru

Hometown: Lauderdale Lakes, Florida
School: Pompano Beach High School
Sponsor District : District 6990
Sponsor Club: Rotary Club of Pompano Beach, Florida
Host District: 4455
Host Club: The Rotary Club of San Borja Sur


My Bio


¡Hola me llamo Taylor! Estoy emocionada por mi viaje a Perú. I'm a 15-year-old sophomore at Pompano Beach High School where I participate in many activities: Key Club, Mentoring, Think Tank, GSA, World Language Competition (Spanish) Model UN, and NSHSS Ambassadors. At home, in Lauderdale Lakes, I live with my mom, dad, and younger brother. Both of my parents were in the USN so I’m a bit of a military brat with awesome memories of encounters with servicemen of different nationalities. In addition to my school activities, I love to volunteer at my nearby elementary school where I either assist teachers in the grading or teaching process. The best part is when I get one-on-one with the kids. There are so many students in a single classroom that teachers cannot always give attention to a one child; therefore, by helping the student I am helping the teacher, and vice versa. I'm also fanatic of world culture, as are other members of my family which makes for an interesting dinner. I enjoy studying ancient civilizations like the Greeks, Egyptians, and Mayans as well as modern cultures like Korean, Peruvian, and British. Most of all, I am very passionate about learning indigenous cultures which is one of the reasons why I'm so grateful for the opportunity to spend my junior year in Peru. By the end of my exchange, I wish to be fluent in Spanish and learn a bit of Quechua as well as study the many indigenous peoples in the region. Another reason is to gain a sense of independence. College is just around the corner and if I can survive year in a foreign country away from my family, then I can survive my freshman year at college, too.

Primera Presentacion del Rotary

Primera Presentacion del Rotary

Circuito Magico del Agua

Circuito Magico del Agua

Vi el atardecer en hermoso Barranco

Vi el atardecer en hermoso Barranco

Mi Colegio

Mi Colegio

La mejora heladeria en San Miguel!

La mejora heladeria en San Miguel!

Olimpiadassss!

Olimpiadassss!

Grandiosa Vista del Machu Picchu

Grandiosa Vista del Machu Picchu

Fiesta de Prom

Fiesta de Prom

Ica fun

Ica fun

Peruvian Amazon

Peruvian Amazon

Royal Decameron

Royal Decameron

Isla de las Bellestas

Isla de las Bellestas

4 countries and 2 horses

4 countries and 2 horses

Cuyyyyyyyyyy

Cuyyyyyyyyyy

Mi segundo quince!!!

Mi segundo quince!!!

Family BBQ

Family BBQ

Journals: Taylor-Peru Blog 2018-19

  • Taylor, Outbound to Peru

    There are officially two months left of my exchange and I have honestly never felt more upset. I feel like I just wasted eight months of my life but at the same time I have learned so much about myself personally. I finally found my niche here in Peru. It took two schools, four families, thirteen countries, three Rotary trips, countless taxis, hundreds of presentations, and a few unforgettable days to help me realize that I have made a home here. In these eight, nine months there’s been so much personal growth that I fear that I’m coming home a complete stranger. Like I have literally forgotten some cities exist in my state. It is definitely going to take some time to adjust to pretty much everything.

    I don’t think I’ll miss Peru so much but I will miss definitely miss my exchange. Not going to lie, if I did not have my fellows inbounds here as buffers I probably would have canceled my exchange after the first three weeks. They are not my blood but they are my family. I have a gorgeous, sarcastic German wife; a 6’2, scrawny son from California; a smart aleck German son who just burned half his face on a yacht; an adorable supermodel of a Danish daughter; the most religious heathen from Indiana; a former Mormon mother/daughter; a rambunctious, crazy father from Connecticut who’s also Mama Peru; a sister from New Hampshire who can’t dance but loves to anyway; and my two Taiwanese sisters who literally ying-yang (no joke, one is an angel and the other is devious but they’re both amazing). There are so many more aunts, uncles, and cousins in my new exchange family that I absolutely love to pieces.

    January. February. March. Quite possibly the BEST months of my exchange so far. I just want to go back and relive them. January was full of quality time with my favorite host family. Just so many karaoke parties, beach trips, movie nights, and water fights. I miss them so much but unfortunately my new home is so far away from them. I also got to experience 5-star, all-included VIP treatment when we went with Rotary to the Royal DeCameron resort in Punta Sal. Three days of feeling like an absolute rockstar. Once that trip ended it was off to Ica for my February fun. Let me tell you, I have never been in a desert and was definitely NOT prepared for that extreme heat-especially in the summer without A/C. There isn’t even a beach or something to cool off. The closest beach is about two hours away and even there it was so hot that I got my first ever sunburn plus heatstroke! That was pretty amusing for my little Canadian else who listened to my endless complaining about my sunburn. While there, I was also able to visit Chincha, Paracas, and the Vina Tacama, which are some popular tourist attractions. But I’ll have to wait until May to see the Nazca Lines. This month I was super involved with Rotary activities as my host mom is in charge of Interact and Rotaract there. Once vacations ended it was back to Lima to prep for our jungle trip. This is like the most important of exchange because all the mini projects we do in the beginning serve as fundraisers for our major project in the pueblos of Loreto. There’s just something about Iquitos, about the Amazon that’s so special. I really want to just go back. It’s my favorite part of Peru, my favorite place in the world. I just kind of calls you and draws you in. the people are so happy and warm, the food is muy rico, the nature feels like home, and the animals are so unique. We were able to see rare pink dolphins, fish piranhas, and play with some of our monkey cousins-capuchins are the superior species. More than that, we listened to communities. When i went in December, the river was pretty low but since then the rainy season has started and the water has elevated about fifteen feet. Many of the communities there have been flooded and students have had to relocate because it isn’t safe to enter the classroom. Some students who used to attend schools a thirty minute distance from home either can’t go to school or have to go to one in another community about two or three hours from home. Some students have to take boats to cross the river and go to another if they want to be educated. So with what little funding we had, we built a refuge where kids can still attend school without such a hassle but there are still communities affected out there who need help. Sadly, we had to end our trip and it feels wrong like there was more we could’ve done but that’s for the next group. We ended that trip feasting on delectable suri, which taste just like pretzels if pretzels were fried larvae on a stick. The weirdest part was when we landed my new host family was there waiting for me with a poster and neither my current host family at the time nor I knew about it. They kind of just picked me up and I went with them because no one else in Peru is named Taylor and that’s a fact. And since then, everything has been better. I’m hanging out more with kids from my first school, I even went to support my friend at her final gala for Miss Teen South America and she didn’t win exactly but she came home with the title of Miss Sympathetic; and I’ve immediately clicked with the kids at my new school like my first week of school they taught me how to play volleyball and invited me to a quince which never happened at my old school. I am also pretty close to fourth family: I help them in their mini market, take my sister to dance classes and to celebrate St. Paddy’s day we made green slime and ate tallarin verde. So, in summary, life’s good.

    Click HERE to read more about Taylor and all her blogs

  • Taylor, Outbound to Peru

    Exchange is basically a choose-your-own-adventure type fantasy, like the lovechild of Life is Strange and Undertale. Well, maybe a little less Undertale. The point is you’re in charge of how most events play out and I’ve figured that you get the best results when you reiterate a two simple phrases: “thank you” and “yes”. Literally, just that will get you so far; it sounds really repetitive especially after years of hearing adults telling you to be polite, but the fact remains that it is so easy to do. By saying “yes” that just opens doors for you, like an endless supply of opportunities. The reality is exchange can get very busy and stressful, but it can become extremely boring just as easily. There are days when you just want to stay in all day and sleep or rest a little, and it is completely normal to feel a bit drained but still try to say “yes”. It’s like if you wanted to get to know someone and asked them to hangout but each time you suggest an activity, they shoot it down, wouldn’t you tire of asking? It’s human nature and happens so quickly on exchange. For me, my classmates invited me out a couple times but I not one of the times I was able to go and so they eventually stopped asking. The worst part was that they would watch me on Instagram with other exchange students and thought I was standing them up not realizing we had mandatory events.

    All that negativity aside, saying “yes” has given me what is quite possibly the biggest opportunity of my life. In early December, a team of inbounds and I traveled to an island in the middle of the Amazon to bring Christmas to the children there. The situation over there is that the majority of the children have never experienced Christmas, some don’t even know about it. So, we brought over a boat full of gifts, traditional panettone, and packets of powdered cocoa to make hot chocolate. That was a bit weird considering we were drinking steaming hot chocolate in the humid desert at about 36 o C (90 o F mas o menos). It was just an amazing, interesting experience. These children are so precious. They are the sweetest people I have ever met in my life. I was talking with this one little boy named Gregori who’s about eleven years old and he reminded me of my own little brother back home, which was comforting for me. The best part was when he discovered that I have never had a dog as a pet---only fish and frogs so he decided to give me one of his puppies. Then two. Then three. Then four. This continued until I was literally covered with a liter of sleeping puppies. The whole trip was just as crazy as us, inbounds, had to fight off bats, cockrocaches, frogs, mosquitoes, and other pests as we slept. Luckily for me, I’m from Florida so it wasn’t anything, however, for the girls from France and Belgium…I never realized that a human could scream so loud. I ended sleeping for an hour or two because the girls kept waking me up kill to the cockroaches. Honestly, I could become an exterminator. Worst was the spiders. Two girls had arachnophobia, so that plus tarantulas aren’t exactly a good mix.

    Coming back from the trip, we jumped into the holiday season, which I spent with my second host family. I’ll just say one thing: they are absolutely crazy. Like some mad hatter type of crazy and I love it! This morning right after breakfast, I was led to the backyard where my grandmother was providing me with water balloons to prepare for our battel, but I didn’t see my uncle sneak up on me and attack me with a bottle of water. That was about two hours ago and my back is still wet as I write this. The past few weeks here I have been full of ridiculousness. There’s a party practically everyday for someone’s birthday, I sparred against my mom and grandma in laser tag, we snuck three bags of groceries into the movies to see Bumble Bee, we stuffed ourselves in Chinatown, I beat them karaoke, I made tacos for them and apparently not enough because they wanted more, and we’ve been living it up at beach right behind my house every…single…day! Did I mention we’re in the middle of a two-week long water fight?

    Update: they started fighting again. I have to go fill my water bottle!

    Click HERE to read more about Taylor and all her blogs

  • Taylor, Outbound to Peru

    Whoever said exchange wasn’t easy was definitely not lying. It’s so easy to be frustrated especially when you don’t know the language. One time I was cleaning my house and my mom began shouting instructions at me in Spanish but I didn’t understand her so she got frustrated and would shout louder. After she calmed down I explained that I simply didn’t understand, but in her mind I was being lazy and disobedient. There have been so many incidences of miscommunication here, most of which are hilarious. Like that I meant to say that I fell but said I crapped myself or accidentally told my class I’m in a gang. Now I understand why they asked me if I ever killed someone. Not only is it frustrating on my end but for my family and peers as well. At times, people give up talking to me because it takes awhile, they just straight up stop talking and walk away. When it first started happening, I wanted to crawl into a shell and hide from everyone then I wouldn’t have to talk and risk feeling horrible about my Spanish. However, I just kept in my broken, caveman Spanish so now it has improved substantially during conversations. At first, reading and writing was easier but now I think speaking is at the same level as reading. Also, now, there when times I can talk for hours on end in Spanish. It really depends on my brain in the moment. The weirdest part is forgetting English. The other day I was at a sleepover and my friend’s grandmother asked me how to say veterinario in English, I still cannot say it right. Aside from the language, adapting to the culture in Lima is somewhat easier than other cities. Lima is more westernized and honestly districts like Miraflores or Barranco can be compared to San Fran, Chicago, L.A., or NYC. But if you really want to feel at home Plaza de Armas de San Miguel hits the spot. It’s full of brands from the U.S. and even has a Lego store. It’s the perfect place you go to if you are feeling homesick. No lie, it’s just like any basic mall back home. But nothing beats traditional Peruvian culture, it’s so warming and inviting. During our first trip, we went to the island Amantani in the middle of Lago Titicaca. Its inhabitants are usually garbed traditional Andean clothes: polleras, k'eperinas, ponchos, chullos, etc. And it’s one thing to walk around natives, live near them for a few days, and learn their customs; it’s a whole other thing to walk WITH them, live WITH them, and ADOPT their customs. There was this one night that felt so surreal. All the exchange students were presented with traditional clothes to wear, clothes that felt as if someone was giving you a warm embrace, ones you didn’t want to take off. They told us that we would meet up in the Plaza de Armas and when we got there we saw a huge fire lit on the ground. Then, we danced. We danced to the sound of Huayno which flowed into our blood. It was as if someone put a spell on us, we were not ourselves. Just locked in a trance hopping and giggling around an enormous flame.

    Click HERE to read more about Taylor and all her blogs

  • Taylor, Outbound to Peru

    Part One: To Atlanta

    Hello! Sak Pase! ¡Hola! I have had so much fun in the past few hours stressing myself to death. Today should've a day of saying goodbyes, hugging my friends and family at the airport, and relaxing before I am tossed into a world unknown to me. However, I am NOT a simple gal. I decided to try and get my permit this summer right before leaving. The problem is i got up with the thrill of exchange that I didn't finish the class until Friday. That meant I would have to get my actual permit on Monday, the day I fly out, which is a big nono. It ran smoothly until the printer stopped working delaying my plans. Not to mention, I also had to run to a shop to repair my iPad so that I could do these journals. ALWAYS CHECK THAT WHATEVER YOU ARE PACKING IS IN WORKING CONDITION A WEEK AHEAD OF TIME!!!!! Everything worked out but then I was left with another problem: my mom. Now parents, your child is already anxious with the language barrier, impending presentation, school, etc. so it is not morally correct to share your own worries with them. It almost feels suffocating. Now, I understand my mom's intentions but at the moment it was extremely frustrating. NO ONE LIKES A HELICOPTER PARENT! So when it was time to say goodbye, we were both pretty much done with each other's shenanigans for the day. Each minute I regret not giving her a proper hug. I thought that that was last of my troubles, that I could board the plane and relax. But that was too easy. My plane decided to not work and was delayed for almost an hour. You could the pilot's fear over the intercom. Each time he would try to liftoff, we would have a nice start then it would all slow, refusing to fly. A stubborn plane it was. If this had been a direct flight, the delay would not have mattered much. However, here's the kicker, I have a layover/connection in Atlanta that I almost missed. This is a start to a great year abroad!

    P.S. did I mention that I have had one meal for the day?

    P.P.S. There's a really nice and tolerant lady sitting next to me whom I have probably annoyed this entire flight but she tried to help me with the flight delay and really calmed my nerves.

    Part Two: To Lima

    I don't know what the pilot did but he shaved twenty minutes off the flight so instead of being forty minutes, we were only twenty minutes late. With this in mind, when I landed I thought, "hey this should be easy, I have forty minutes to get to my gate." Boy was I wrong. The airport in Atlanta is HUGE! This means that when I halfway there traveling from gate B-something to E9 they were already calling for final boarding. I then hightailed it to the gate, nearly crashed into a disabled person, and arrived flustered to the verge of a mental breakdown. I managed to get on but did not have any room to stow my carry on overhead so I resulted to placing it on the floor by the window, crushing my legs the entire six hour flight. I felt bad because the lady next to me was sleeping and I interrupted her then took up of her space because of my bag. For five and a half hours I felt this way, and for four hours of it wanted to call my mom or see if I could book the next flight because I felt like a wreck. I say four hours because my phone died after that. REMEMBER TO CHARGE YOUR PHONES NOT EVERY PLANE HAS A CHARGER! In the last half hour of the plane, I grew a pair and began a conversation with the lady next to me. The best thing was that she didn't speak any English meaning I could practice my Spanish. Our conversation made me realize that my Spanish is better than I thought and I will be able to survive. Also, I told he about my mishaps of the day and exchange, which made her open up to me and tell me a bit about Peru. I have felt so confident since then.

    The Aftermath

    I finally arrived home and met up with some other intercambistas. It was nice to have someone who understands how you're feeling and in your language, but we're leery about Inbound Syndrome. Once getting our bags and going through customs it was time to meet our families. I love my family so much! I don't care if people say it's because I'm in the honeymoon stage, I love my family. They gave me the most beautiful flowers, a really cute ballon, and another Peruvian flag that has my name on it. The car ride home was basically my brother and I acting crazy stupid; my other brothers were waiting in our home, which I did not expect. My room was all decked out and pretty. My family and I had lovely tea time then it was time for bed. The problem was I could not sleep. Okay I could because I was uber tired after a half hour of staring out of my window to see busy district of Surco. I really feel at home, like I fit in. To the point where my brother, Nicolas, gel comfortable enough using giving me a tour as an excuse to go on a date. Of course my brother Boris and I later teased him about it.

    Key Differences on My First Day

    1.) There aren't any reclining, comfy chairs in there movie theater.

    2.) Personal space doesn't not exist: in the U.S. people would much rather sit in the front row of the movies than next to someone else, which is what happened in Peru.

    3.) People clap after the movies: when another intercambista and I didn't clap we got really weird looks.

    4.) The traffic is crazy: I was almost hit by three cars in a half hour span before I got the gist of it.

    5.) It's like Jamaica or Miami in terms of driving & traffic: there are one way streets like in Miami where there will be 4-5 lanes all going in the same direction.

    6.) No traffic lights really: there are two main types; one is a timer for driving in that direction & the other is a timer for walking in that direction.

    7.) Some doorknobs don't twist, you push to push a button then pull open/close

    8.) There's boxed water: never drink the tap.

    9.) Before using the public bathroom stall, bring toilet with you.

    10.) Everyone eats a lot: lunch was two courses, a giant soup then rice and steak, I think. I really don't because my policy is eat now, ask later.

    Click HERE to read more about Taylor and all her blogs

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