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life back in the states

Time December 21st, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I have been back in the United States for a week now, and time is absolutely flying. I would love to say that I have had no issues readjusting to life back here, but that would be a lie. My IFSA-Bulter coordinator had wardned us about “reverse culture shock” which is basically having culture shock while readjusting to your former life. I didn’t really believe her that it was that bad, or that it would happen to me, but I was wrong.

I guess the main issue I have had since being back is that people have had so many experiences while I was in Peru for five months, and I missed all of them. Also, I am finding out that I really don’t know how to describe my experiences to anyone else… and most people don’t really care either. Some of my friends have seemed distant from me, and that has been one of the hardest parts.

I know that I have changed a ton, and in my opinion I have changed for the better. I am hoping that it will just take time for me to adjust to the business of my life in the United States, and that after catching up with all of my friends everything will go back to “normal,” although I am not quite sure what normal is anymore.

It has been great to be home with my family and friends for the Christmas season. I have been traveling non-stop since I got home, from my parents house to my university, and then to my fiance´s house. We will be traveling back up to my parents house tomorrow, which I am hoping will be the last trip for at least a little while… new years. I feel like I have been constantly living out of my suitcase, and I guess in a way I basically have been living out of a suitcase for the past three months at least. I went on so many trips my last two months in Peru that I would come home, do laundry, and then pack again for the next trip.

I wouldn’t change my experience in Peru for anything. I am so glad that I decided to study abroad, and I know that it has made me a much stronger and a much better person. Coming home has been much harder than going to Peru was, but I know in the end everything is going to work out just great.

Well, this is going to be my last post here for IFSA-Butler. If you are considering studying abroad, do it. Take every opportunity you have to travel and get to know the world before your life passes you by. You’ll never know what you’ll learn and how much you will grow.

Thanks, and happy traveling!



Sillustani, Immaculate Conception, saying goodbye!?

Time December 14th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

On December 8th, the day after Mall, Claire, and I got back from Lake Titicaca, we had arranged a tour to go see an ancient cemetery, which is about 30 kilometers from Puno.


We were picked up in a 15 passenger van.. just for the 3 of us, and went off to find out who our guide was. We ended up having the same guide as we had for the tour on Lake Titicaca, so we were pretty excited about that.


After winding around dreadfully awful roads for about and hour we arrived at a farm. We had chosen to do a horseback tour because it took you “off the beaten track” according to the tour agency, and it would give us a better opportunity to see scenery that you couldn’t see from the road.


Like I said yesterday I think, they rainy season is just starting in Puno, which means that everything is dead and dry still. The horses were SO skinny. After being convinced by the man that we weren’t going to squish them if we mounted them, we were off.


They gave me the “mommy” horse, which Mallory and Claire thought was fitting..ha ha. It had a gringo baby, completely white with blue eyes, that the owner said looked just like me- how thoughtful.


The path was really pretty, and we went around a lake most of the time. After about an hour of walking, my horse decided that she didn’t want to go any farther. I guess she was tired. It took the owner getting on her and riding her around for a minute for her to move again. With the altitude I must say that I wouldn’t have wanted to have someone on my back either.


We arrived at Sillustani after just over two hours on horseback. I was worried that we weren’t going to beat the storms in, but thankfully we did! My knee reminded me quite sharply that holding my foot in a stirrup for over two hours is not a good idea, but it was definitely worth it.


We headed up to Sillustani, as the thunderclouds started to roll in. Sillulstani is an ancient cemetery of Incan and pre-Incan tombs. The higher up on the hill the tomb is the higher the person was in society. Each tomb was created for an entire family, not just one person, and was constructed of solid rock.


The guide told us that the nicest tombs would take up to 15 years to build. They used water to cut through the massive stones. They would place water where they wanted to cut the stone, and then when the water would freeze it would expand and cut the stone. It seems pretty awesome to me, and I do want to try that sometime.


Each tomb had two layers, an inner layer, and then a more decorative outer layer. Some of the Incan tombs hadn’t ever been finished, so we could see the constructing in process. Some of the tombs are over 12 meters in height. (I promise that I am not european, but I only learn these facts in the metric system!)


As we were on top a hail and sleet storm came through. We took refuge behind a tomb, and ten minutes later the storm had passed. The weather in Puno is that unpredictable, it changes about every ten minutes. Since we could see the next storm coming in, we finished seeing the last of the tombs and headed back to the van just in time for the next storm to come through.


On the way back to Puno, the driver asked us if we wanted to stop in Paucarcolla, which is about halfway between Puno and Sillustani to see the festival that was going on. The 8th was the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Paucarcolla throws an amazing festival. Literally the town tripled in size that day.


Everyone from the country came in to celebrate. They had a procession of the Virgin, and there was a parade of bands and dancers. The clothing was something that they prepare all year just for this day. They were in the brightest colors, with tons of detail and decoration. They only wear the clothes once, and then they change for the next year.


We stayed for a while, seeing the parade, being offered millions of different types of food, it was a lot of fun. There was one man dressed up in a mask and full costume, and he had a black crow on his shoulder. He came up to me and put the crow up towards my head, where it proceeded to peck at my head and eat part of my hair! It really hurt! I still have no idea why he did that, but Mallory and Claire definitely got a kick out of it.


After about thirty minutes we headed back to Puno, where we went shopping for Christmas presents, looked for tamales (they are really good!), and just enjoyed the sunshine.

The next morning, the 9th, we had to get ready to head back to Arequipa. We walked out of our hotel to go to a museum and could see that there was a massive commotion in the plaza. It was a celebration of the Battle of Ayacucho, a massive victory for Peru. The navy, army, and coast guard were all there, and there was a huge military parade.


After a few hours we headed back to the plaza and there was another massive group of people. This time however, we could see that it definitely was not the military. The police had set up blockades around the plaza, which obviously made us nervous. One of the public universities had gone on strike. I guess one of the directors is corrupt and has stolen a ton of money from the students, which is what they were protesting. They all had signs and banners, and there was a cardboard coffin that they had created, and set it on fire.

Needless to say, we stayed out of that area as much as possible. After Claire and Mallory finishing all of their Christmas shopping, we found food for the bus ride back to Arequipa, and headed back.

In Arequipa, on the 10th, we just had enough time to see the party for Mario Vargas Llosa, who is the first Peruvian to win the Nobel Peace Prize (Literature). He is from Arequipa, and was awarded the prize on the 10th. There was a dance tribute to him in their plaza de armas and the news stations were all there. They even set up a massive television so the people could see Vargas Llosa receive the award.


After walking around a bit, visiting a museum, and eating lunch, we headed back to the airport and caught our plane to Lima. I can’t believe that tonight I will be leaving Lima and heading home. It is just incredible to me that over four and a half months have past. From what I have been told it is absolutely freezing in Minnesota right now. I think I might go into shock, as it has been in the upper 70’s here, and in Arequipa it was in the 80’s.


Our program director for IFSA-Butler  is taking us out to breakfast this morning, and then I think I am going to spend the rest of the day with my family. I am going to miss them so much! I really think that my family is what made my experience here so great. Other students haven’t enjoyed their families as much, and also haven’t had the greatest experiences here in Perú. It has really made me think about wanting to host students in the future. I think it would be a good opportunity to help out other students, and give them a great study abroad experience as well. In my opinion, staying with a family is one of the best parts of my IFSA-Butler study abroad program. I don’t know what I would do without all the help from my family, and also it is an amazing way to learn more of the language.


one last adventure.. arequipa, puno, & lake titicaca

Time December 14th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I just got home tonight from my last trip of the semester. It is hard to believe that all of this time has past already… I will do my best to explain the past week I have just had.. We’ll see if I can do it.

I left on December 4th with my two best friends from the IFSA-Butler Program, Mallory and Claire. Mallory and I spent the night at Claire’s house on the 3rd because we had to leave for the airport at 3:30 a.m. I still don’t know who had the brilliant idea to take a 5:45 a.m. flight, but it worked.


We landed in Arequipa, in the south of Peru at 7:00 a.m. before anything really opened in the city. We checked into our hotel and then headed out to explore the city. Arequipa is at about 2,500 meter (8,500 feet I think) above sea level. The altitude isn’t bad, but we could still feel the difference.


The first place that we went to was the Santa Catalina Convent, which is home to cloistered nuns. There are only 30 nuns that live there today, but the convent has held up to 200 nuns. It was a beautiful convent to see.


(A view from the convent.. you can see the Andes and the Volcano Misti in the background)

We then went to the Cathedral, which was also pretty, and then to a museum to see Juanita, an ancient mummy that was discovered in 2003. After spending the day around Arequipa, we headed back to the hotel to get some rest and try to adjust to the altitude.


The following morning we got on a bus and headed to Puno, which is right on Lake Titicaca. The bus ride was only six hours long, and wasn’t as curvy and bumpy as we expected. We arrived in Puno in the afternoon, and were immediately choked by the altitude. Puno is at 13,000 feet, and you can definitely feel the altitude change.


We spent the day exploring Puno a little bit, and then went to bed to prepare for the next morning…


On December 6th Claire, Mallory, and I were picked up from our hotel at 7:00 a.m. to head on our tour of Lake Titicaca. We had chosen to go on a private tour because it was the only one offered in Spanish, and also because it gave us the opportunity to spend the night on an isolated island in the middle of the lake.


After our guide showing up forty-five minutes late to the boat.. I will not miss Peruvian time.. we were off. As we were leaving the port in Puno we realized that for just the three of us we had two captains and a guide, oh and a 32 passenger boat too. It was a little ridiculous, but hey, it was kinda cool.


The first island that we went to is actually a set of islands called the Uros Islands. They are floating islands that the native people have constructed and live on. They have lived there for hundreds of  years, and their islands are literally made of reeds, that float on the water. They have to replenish the reeds every 15 days because they are constantly sinking.


The Uros actually ended up being our least favorite place because it was really touristy and the people were really pushy about trying to get us to buy something. I had warned about that by my brother, but boy was it true. We left without buying anything, which I am sure made them angry, but we had to pay to even enter their islands, so I felt like we weren’t taking advantage of them.


From the Uros we head off to cross the lake. We had managed to get what we all decided was the slowest boat in the entire world. It barely kicked up a wake. Needless to say, it took us three hours to get to our destination, when it should have only taken one. We arrived at the Peninsula of Capachicha, where we stopped to eat lunch.


We walked briefly around the island, stopping to watch the natives slaughter pigs for the festival of the Immaculate Conception on the 8th, and then went to eat. I was surprised at the food on the island. The woman had gone out fishing that morning and caught rainbow trout for us, which was absolutely delicious.


After lunch we headed over to the island of Tikonata, where we were going to spend the night. As we were heading over to Tikonata we saw that there were three separate storms converging on the lake. It is the start of the rainy season in the region, so we knew that we were going to cut it close for our visit.


(The houses on the island, and the “huts” we stayed in)

When we arrived on the island there was only one person that we could see. The island is tiny, less than half of a mile in length, so we were confused as to why there wasn’t anyone there. The one man that was there told us that everyone else was on the other side of the island constructing a house. The people on the island don’t use money, and they always complete everything in groups, there is no individualism in the community.


After putting our stuff in our “huts” we headed up to the top of the island to see the sights and visit their temple before the storms hit. The native people still sacrifice animals to their gods in the temple, and I was surprised that they let us in. The view was breathtaking, even with the storms coming in over the lake.


(At the top of Tikonata, you can see Amantaní in the background)

As we started to head down the rains hit. When it rains on the lake it absolutely pours. We headed into our “huts” and waited the rain out until dinner. After eating dinner the natives started to put on a dance performance for us. They had to do it inside because it was still raining out. In the middle of the first dance the electricity ran out.


(The view from the top of Tikonata)

Yes, I mean the electricity ran out. They only have one solar panel that collects electricity for the whole island. Since it had been cloudy the past two days, the electricity simply ran out. When there is no electricity on the island there is absolutely nothing to do except wait for the next morning. The natives had us dance with them, by candlelight, for one dance, and then we all went to bed.


(Me, Mallory, and Claire on the top of Amantaní)

After visiting their museum in the morning and eating breakfast we said goodbye and headed to the nearby island of Amantaní. Amantaní is the largest island on the Peruvian side of the lake with about 4,000 people living on it. Amantaní has two peaks, each one being an altar to one of their gods. We climbed up to one of the peaks. The top is about 14,000 feet above sea level. Needless to say, it was a long and slow climb up to the top.


The view was spectacular. It was a sunny day (well at that point at least) and the water and sky were amazing. After walking around the top three times (counterclockwise) and then making a wish at the door of the temple we headed back down the mountain. Our guide told us that we had to complete the “ritual” as it is a tradition. I wonder sometimes if they just make that up to see what tourists will do.


We headed down to eat lunch with a local family. The food was… absolutely disgusting. Well we first had Quinoa soup, which was delightful. I adore Quinoa. Then they brought out the main course. Mallory, Claire, and I all wanted to die. They had caught mounds of tiny fish, fried them, and cut out their stomachs. We were expected to eat the rest of the fish. All of it. That included the bones, the eyes, the fins.. everything. We each ate a couple to be courteous, but then we really couldn’t finish it.


(Those are the little fishies they gave us to eat.. notice they have eyes still)

Thankfully they didn’t seem offended, well we still paid them so they shouldn’t have been. After saying goodbye we started back on our four hour boat ride to Puno. We arrived in Puno absolutely disgustingly dirty and exhausted. The first thing we did was go to the market to buy fruit, as fruit literally does not exist on the lake. They don’t have it at all. We then just went back to the hotel to shower and relax the rest of the night.


We had a great experience on the lake, and all of us would love to return when everything is green (after the rainy season) and then go to Bolivia to visit the Isla del Sol and the Isla de la Luna.


giving thanks in south america

Time November 29th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I had my first “international” thanksgiving experience yesterday, and I must say that it didn’t go as poorly as I expected it too. It was really incredibly strange waking up and seeing that everyone was still at work, all the kids (aka the high school that we share a wall with) were still in class, everything was open as usual.

My IFSA-Butler group was having a mock thanksgiving dinner, but I was trying to not have any expectations about it as I was assuming it would be kinda crappy. I mean, we are in Perú. They don’t sell pumpkin, they don’t sell cranberry… not that I even eat any of those dishes, but it just wasn’t going to be the same.

My family called me to eat lunch, and when I walked in they all greeted me with “happy thanksgiving” which was really sweet, and they had even made turkey for lunch so I wouldn’t feel homesick. It was obviously prepared in the Peruvian way, but it was a really nice thought.

After explaining to them that no, Thanksgiving was not more important than Christmas in the United States, they asked me what we really did on the day.. Feeling like a gluttonous American I responded… uhh we all get together to spend time, you are supposed to be thankful for everything you have but mostly you just eat until you are stuffed.

For the makeshift Thanksgiving dinner last night our coordinator told us that she was providing a turkey and an apple pie, but we had to bring whatever else we wanted. On her last trip to Canada she stopped in the US to pick up canned pumpkin and cranberry for whoever wanted to tackle those items.

I was mildly concerned about our group’s possible cooking skills, but thought what the heck, we are in Peru. My friend Jessa came over in the afternoon to cook in my house, as we have two full kitchens, and her apartment isn’t exactly fit for the job. We decided to tackle green bean casserole, buttered corn (from corn on the cob I might add), stuffing, and then just bring a ton of fresh fruit.

By the time we got back from shopping it was 5:15 p.m. Crap. Dinner was scheduled to start at 6:00 p.m. and it is a good 20 minute drive from my house, if you take a taxi… darn it! We tried to throw together the stuffing, which Jessa found out doesn’t work to well if you have a TON of chicken broth… and I quickly realized that we had no where near enough time to make green bean casserole.

So the green bean casserole turned into steamed green beans, the stuffing soup is currently sitting in my oven (and I have no clue what to do with it), and I discovered that cutting corn off of the cob is a huge pain in the neck.

After our magical realizations, and putting together the dishes we were going to bring, we realized (at 6:35 p.m.) that we should find a taxi and get over to the office, where our dinner was being held. After jamming our six massive containers of foods (without lids) into a taxi, and trying to explain to the taxi driver that no, we were not crazy, we were off.
We arrived at 6:55, extremely late and apologetic, but at least with a mound of food. I was honestly impressed with the food that had been prepared by everyone. We had mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole (thankfully someone had planned out their time better than us), pumpkin pie, salad, the turkey and apple pie from my director, and then all of the fruit and vegetables we had brought.

It actually looked really good! The turkey had been prepared by a Peruvian woman who does all of the turkey preparation for all Americans living in Lima, and it was spectacular. Everyone’s food turned out great, and all of us left commenting on how we did almost sorta feel as if we had just finished an actual Thanksgiving Dinner.


(We even cleaned up our mess too!)


So while I didn’t get to spend Thanksgiving with my family back in the states, I did get to spend the time with my lovely dysfunctional “IFSA-family” here in Peru. I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!


chuschi: much more than “history”

Time November 29th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

November 19th, 2010

Before I came here to Chuschi everyone kept warning me about the history of this community. The terrorist group, Sendero Luminoso, committed their first violent acts here in the community, first burning ballot boxes during elections, and then committed a massive massacre in the town center.

This all happened about thirty years ago, but the only knowledge that most people have of Chuschi is that it was a terrorist haven from 1980-2000. The main thing that I have learned here so far is that the people are some of the nicest people I have met in Perú. They are also some of the most guarded.


Sendero Luminoso told them that the gringos wanted them all to die. This mentality has persevered until today, and most of the people are very apprehensive when they first meet me. Also, there were many “gringos” (white people) that came through and kidnapped children from the community to have them adopted for their own monetary gain. The language barrier doesn’t help very much either, as I speak Spanish much better than the majority of the population.

However, despite it’s history, the town is an absolutely gorgeous community. Most of the women work in making skirts, purses, and other handicrafts that they hand-make using wool that they cure and dye themselves. Today I went with the head sister to a family’s house that process wool, and then use a loom to make products to sell in the community.

The mother of the family is one of the best sewers and weavers in the community. The nuns buy products from her and take them to Lima, Piura, and the United States to sell them, as there isn’t much of a market here in Chuschi. I bought two little purses, which are only big enough to hold a camera or something small. They are absolutely gorgeous. When I asked her how much they cost, she told me 5 soles, which is less than $2. I then asked her how long it took her to make each purse: two to three days. You can see the amazing detail in her work in the picture below. These are completely hand-made. I wish I could make things like that.


All of the dyes that they use are completely natural, using mostly plants. The colors that result are amazing. The women wear the most beautifully colored and decorated skirts, which take them up to 15 days to make, as they sew them all by hand. They also have gorgeous hats with flowers, along with brightly colored shirts. I am in heaven here. I wish I could wear these outfits.


The picture above is of the woman who made the purses. She also made the skirt she is wearing. All of the detailing is done by hand. It is reversible too, and took her about 10 full days of work (12 hours per day) to make. The women really invest in their outfits, but in my opinion it is well worth it.

Today I went to the high school of the other community. They only have 1st through 8th grade there. I taught the Hail Mary to one of the classes of eighth graders and on Monday I will have the other group. The kids in this community still have problems with Spanish, so teaching them a prayer in English was quite interesting. They were really good kids, timid at first, but once they started talking to me they wouldn’t stop.

One of their favorite things was to ask me how to say a word in English, and then to ask me questions in Quechua knowing fully that I don’t speak Quechua. One thing that I don’t understand is how the teachers work. All of the other teachers live in Huamanga (Ayacucho), which is about four hours away. They come to the region of Chuschi on Monday morning for class, stay until Friday, and then go home. Many of the women are married and have children, but leave them in Huamanga every single week. I think that would be so hard, and I know I couldn’t do it. Also, it is pretty common for teachers to not show up for class. They don’t call in or anything, they simply decide not to come for the day.

I definitely am not going to be able to post all of these until I get home. I went to the internet place today. After twenty minutes my email opened and I could read all of my emails, but I couldn’t send anything. I need to go study for finals now… yuck. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!


los niños de sendero

Time November 29th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

November 22nd, 2010

I was watching the news last night with the sisters, and a “special report” came on that I can’t get out of my mind. It was a report entitled “los niños de sendero”, or “the children of sendero” which is the terrorist group (Sendero Luminoso) that terrorized the entire country of Perú from 1980-2000. Thanks to our IFSA-Butler class on Peruvian Social Reality I knew exactly what the program was talking about. I really like understanding the history of the country, especially when the area I am in was so greatly impacted by the violence.

At first I thought it was going to be a story about the child soldiers of that time that are now adults, but I was unfortunately mistaken. The news station had been permitted by Sendero to film their current training and preparation for the “new war” as they called it against the Peruvian government.

This is happening in the jungle of Ayacucho, which is about 5 hours away from where I am right now. In the film they focused on the child-soldiers that are currently being trained by Sendero. There were about forty children, all under the age of 11, that are being trained by Sendero. All but one of them were abducted from their families and forced to come and be trained by Sendero.

The video clearly demonstrated the brainwashing that is occurring to these children. There is only one girl that was shown, and she sang for the cameras. As she was singing about the fight against the evil Peruvian government the only thing I could focus on was her eyes. This 10 year old child had eyes full of fear and sadness, but spoke words of hatred and violence. It breaks my heart to see the video footage of these children that are having their childhood taken away from them.

The new leader of Sendero, Alipio, has turned his extremist beliefs into a family affair. His brother is his right-hand man, his wife is the head of the women of Sendero, and his 10 year old son heads up the children and was videotaped wielding a machine gun as if it was nothing.

Beyond the horrific aspect of the abduction and brainwashing of children, the fact that Sendero is still ever-present in Perú is just as frightening. Everyone here in Chuschi talks about “when” Sendero returns, not “if”. After watching the special I better understand why.

Communities like this, Chuschi, as still extremely isolated from the rest of the country, and the cutting off of the only road that exists would completely cut off all communication that they have. The people here have been through so much, and the painful memories are still all too fresh for the people here.

I dearly hope that Sendero will never be able to come back to the level of power and terror that they once had, for the sake of the entire country of Perú. I really do not believe that the democracy is stable enough here to withstand another internal conflict. I personally believe that if Sendero came back into power it would put Perú back into the ruin that it was left in in 2000.


pulmones más anchos

Time November 29th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

November 21, 2010

I need pulmones más anchos (lungs with more capacity) to live here. Holy goodness. Today I went with la hermana Deidy, the youngest nun that they have here in Perú (31) to visit an old farmer that lives by himself. He is 85 years old, and lives 45 minutes away from Chuschi, which is the nearest town. I should clarify that it takes 45 minutes to get from Chuschi to his farm, but about and hour and a half to get back. (You have to climb back up the mountain). It is a beautiful view as you are walking down, but it is pure rock and gravel.. we almost fell about 10 times each.

Deidy warned me as we were going down to visit him that he lived in a shack. He has enough money to buy a house but he doesn’t want one, he feels most comfortable living next to his chakra (crop). When we finally arrived, which included jumping over two stone walls, climbing through a grove of cactus, and over a barbed-wired fence, we were greeted by the sweetest old man I have ever met.

Don Gregorio, the man, then invited us to come to his house and sit down. I was in shock when I saw how he lives. Don Gregorio lives in a teepee which is smaller than the size of a twin bed, and about three feet tall. It is constructed of a wood frame, and then he places grass over it for protection.

(Below is a picture of his house)


Don Gregorio speaks very little Spanish, but he understands it. Between his understanding of Spanish and Deidy’s understanding of Quechua we were able to communicate for the most part. We spent just over an hour with him, just talking to him. His wife died, and he has two sons that live in Lima, but never come to visit him because they are embarrassed of how he lives.

He has three dogs, and one of them has just had puppies three weeks ago. There were five of them, and as he has nothing, the puppies are starving to death. Don Gregorio told us that he is going to give the puppies away this coming Friday to anyone that wants one. They were SO CUTE. If I could have I would have adopted one, not even kidding (David you should be grateful that it is so expensive to fly dogs to the states).


After visiting with Don Gregorio, Deidy asked me if I wanted to go down to the river. I said of course, not thinking about the fact that we would have to climb back up. So after another 30 minutes of trekking down the mountain we finally arrived at the river.

The river is where all of the locals go to wash their clothes, and many go to bathe as well. We tried to avoid the naked bathing people, but it was almost inevitable. The view was breathtaking. The sky is so blue and pure here, there is no noise, and no contamination at all.


We then crossed the only bridge within 40 miles, which we decided was not too smart of an idea, as it literally swayed and creaked as we walked across it. Thankfully cars can’t get to this bridge, as there was a landslide that closed the road.


After enjoying the view we came to the realization that we needed to climb back up the mountain to get back to Chuschi. Over two hours later we finally arrived. On the way up we discussed how don’t understand how the people here climb up and down practically every day. As we were struggling up the mountain, a woman passed us, not breathing hard at all, with a one-year old child on her back. We decided that the people here have to have much larger hearts and amazing lung capacity.


I can’t believe that my time here in Chuschi is almost up. I will leave here at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, spend the day in Huamanga (Huamanga is better known as Ayacucho, which is also the name of the province. However, people that aren’t from the city get offended if you call it Ayacucho because they technically live in Ayacucho as well) and then take the bus back home to Lima at 9:00 p.m. One of the nuns is going to go with me, and we are going to spend the day in Huamanga sightseeing, as it is a beautiful city, and hopefully going to some the artesian markets.


¡llévame contigo!

Time November 29th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

November 18, 2010

Today I spent the whole day at the high school here in Chuschi. One of the sisters, Deidy, is the religion teacher there, and invited me to go with her for the day. The school has 5 grades, which would be the equivalent of our 8th-12th grade.

Today we had two sections of 9th graders and the only section of 12th graders. The school year ends here in December, so the seniors are more than ready to graduate and move on. As a graduation trip they all got to go to Cusco and Machu Picchu. They just got back on Tuesday, so they were really excited to tell about their trips.

The high school here is a lot better than I was expecting. They have decent classrooms, and actually have an area for the kids to practice soccer and volleyball. It is definitely a step up from what I have seen in Lima and in Pampamarca as well.


(the view from the high school)

I taught the 9th graders how to say The Lord’s Prayer (The Our Father) in English. Some of them were really excited about it, and some of them could care less. Chuschi is another area that doesn’t speak Spanish as a first language. All of the students have to be taught Spanish when they start school, and the vast majority of the older citizens don’t speak a word of Spanish.

It is really a debility here to not understand Quechua. A lot of the students are a lot older than they should be for their grade. Many of them dropped out of school and went to Lima for work, but found out that they wouldn’t get hired without a high school diploma, and have returned. One of the ninth graders is 22 years old. She almost had a heart attack when I told them my age.

They were very curious, to say the least, about what I was doing there and who I was. The seniors were a completely different story. The catcalls started when I walked into the room, and they asked right away how old I was and if I had a boyfriend. After a moment of disappointment with the fact that I did have a boyfriend, as I am the same age or younger than all of them, they quickly asked if I have a younger sister. One brave student then piped up, “Pues, llévame contigo”. (Bring me with you!)

I had a great time with them, and tomorrow I will be going to a different school that is in a neighboring community to help with their religion classes as well.

This afternoon I was invited by one of the students to go to the cemetery with them. I thought it was a weird request, but I said I would go with them. I asked Deidy, the teacher, why I was invited, and she told me that one of their classmates had died just over a month ago. This kid was only 15 and he had died due to medical negligence by the nurses here… he literally drowned to death in his own spit. What a dreadful experience for all of the kids in his class.

He was also part of a dance group here, and they had just qualified for the regional competition a week before he died. The group leaves tomorrow afternoon to go to the competition, and they wanted me to go with them as they went to pray for him, and to ask him to be with them in spirit during the competition.


(A view of the cemetery, and the gate that the kids had to climb over)

I went with Deidy, and we arrived at the cemetery to find it closed. The students had forgotten to ask the mayor for the key. So we did the prayers outside the gate, the students passed around food and drink (which is normal here I guess?) and then all of the students scaled the fence to go pray, sing, light candles, and honor their friend. It was so inspiring to see these teenagers come together in memory of their friend, but also heartbreaking to see the amount of pain they were in, knowing that their friend died without reason.

We then spent the next two hours walking around the town visiting the people, and just taking in the beautiful scenery. We ran into a woman, who didn’t speak a word of Spanish, and had traveled today from her town to Chuschi. She lives in a community of about 200 people, and Chuschi is the nearest town. It took her eight hours to walk here today. Eight hours of walking non-stop. I can’t imagine. She came into town just to visit her son.

It is absolutely beautiful here. There is nothing around, no noise, no pollution, just pure mountain air. We do have “public announcements” every morning at 5:30 a.m. and every evening at 8:30. This consists of the mayor getting on a megaphone and announcing the notices and important reminders to the town. It is loud. Really loud. But I guess it works.


better safe than… shoot!!

Time November 17th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

November 17th, 2010

Well today has been quite the day. I left Lima last night, Tuesday the 16th, at 10:15 p.m. I went on Cruz del Sur, which is the most secure bus company here in Perú. They videotape everyone getting on the bus, and come by with video cameras after you are seated to make sure everything is documented. This morning we arrived in Ayacucho at about 8:45, just over ten hours after leaving Lima. Not too bad. Everyone had warned me that I was going to get really sick going over the Andes, but I thankfully didn’t even notice. I got off the bus, was greeting by Sister Susanna, and we went to drop our things off at another congregation’s convent in Ayacucho, as we had about five hours to spend in Ayacucho before the combi left for Chuschi.

As I set my stuff down I realized I should call my host mom and let her know I made it. I bought a nifty little fabric holder for my ipod and cell phone on Monday, and I couldn’t find it in the pouch I put it in. Sister Susanna and I took apart my backpack, but it wasn’t there. I thought maybe it had fallen out in the bus, so we went back and looked, it wasn’t there. Then, we went to go look at the artesenia market in Ayacucho, as they are known for their religious artifacts. I found something I wanted to get, and opened up my wallet to find I had absolutely no cash. Fantastic. At that point in time I realized that I hadn’t “dropped” my ipod and cellphone. It was definitely robbed on the bus without me noticing.

I must say that I am lucky though. Not only did I not notice, but as everyone here keeps telling me, I was fortunate enough to have a “classy” thief. Normally here they take your entire wallet, but my nice thief left my passport, my military ID card, all other identification, and my Peruvian debit card for me. Needless to say, it could have been a lot worse. All in all, I am just out about $150 plus my cellphone and ipod. Luckily I noticed while we were still in Ayacucho, and was able to go to my Peruvian bank and take out more cash, or I wouldn’t have anything here in Chuschi.

I didn’t get to see much of Ayacucho, but Tuesday I literally should have the whole day there to explore, so I am really excited, because it is a gorgeous town. We did go to mass today, which was a lot of fun, and I got to see inside of one of the oldest churches in Ayacucho. The combi ride from Ayacucho to Chuschi lasted for about three and a half hours, which I guess is a great improvement from the five to six hours it used to take. The ride is completely on gravel, well more only dirt, roads, and is full of pot holes. It had to be the bumpiest ride I have ever been on in my life. On the plus side, it only cost $4.50, and I got to see some amazingly beautiful countryside. I couldn’t take any pictures due to the bouncing, but I am going to try to get back up to the top of the mountains to take some pictures before I come home.

I surprisingly haven’t been affected by the altitude this time. I think it is because my body is still semi-adjusted to the altitude in Pampamarca, Cusco. Watch, now that I say that I will get sick tomorrow. However, besides being completely exhausted I feel great. The altitude is only 3,200 meters here, so it is a bit lower than it was in Pampamarca as well. I guess a lot of what I will be doing here is teaching, or helping teach, religion classes in the public school here. There are three nuns that live here, and two of them are teachers in the public school. They have asked me to come into their classes and help teach for the next two days. It should be interesting, as I have no idea what I am going to teach! I’ll keep you all updated as the week goes on!


Quechua, Tupac Amaru, and 43 girls.. living in Casa María de Nazareth Orphanage

Time November 8th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So I have spent the last twelve days at an orphanage in Pampamarca, Peru. There aren’t any posts from my last four days there as I was really busy and then got food poisoning, but I think it gives a pretty good idea of what life is like. This is the story of my time there!

October 29th, 2010

Oh how Perú is teaching me to be flexible. Today is October 29th. I flew from Lima to Cusco yesterday with a guy from IFSA Butler, Peter. I was relieved to be going with someone I knew, even if it was only to Cusco. Peter goes to Carlton College so we can actually talk about Minnesota things together!

Peter and I met at 6:45 on Thursday, the 28th, to catch a cab to the airport. We had decided not to call a cab, as they charge about S./40 ($14?) and we didn’t want to pay that much. So Peter hailed the first cab we saw and the guy said he would only charge S./16 to go to the airport.. That is ridiculously cheap. We were a little apprehensive about taking a cab that cheap, as we thought maybe he was saying a really low price just to get us in the cab and then rob us, as it is an hour drive to the airport, and paying less than $6 doesn’t seem right, but we decided to go for it. It was a marked cab, which meant the guy was accountable to a company, so we thought what the heck. We got to the airport just fine, so I am not going to complain!

Anyways, our flight was only 20 minutes late taking off, and we landed in Cusco an hour later. It is amazing to me that you can fly to Cusco in an hour from Lima but it takes about 30 hours to go by bus…just to give you an idea of how bad the roads are.

We were supposed to be picked up at the airport yesterday by Julia, who is a friend of our program coordinator, Laura. However, Julia didn’t show up, and when we called her she said she was too swamped to get us at the airport but she would meet us at the hotel we stayed at when we all went as a group to Cusco about a month ago. So Peter and I hopped into a cab and headed over to the hotel. The doorman was really confused about why we were arriving at his hotel if we had no intention of staying there, but he was really nice and let us camp out there for about ten minutes until Julia came and got us.

Julia took us to her office, as she is one of the creators of Sierra Sustanible, which is an organization that helps small farmers become more environmentally friendly and more economically efficient. Peter is working with her program for the next five days. Anyways, she talked to us about where we were going (me to the orphanage in Pampamarca and Peter out to live with some small farmers that Julia works with) and then told us that we wouldn’t be leaving until today.

That was news to both of us, as we thought we were leaving that afternoon. Guess not. We hadn’t planned on staying in Cusco, so we hadn’t set anything up. However, Julia offered to let us stay at her house for the night, which we gratefully accepted, but that meant that we literally had the entire day in Cusco…and had planned nothing.

Cusco is really high up… over 3,000 meters above sea level. I don’t know how to translate that into feet, so I will let you all do the research. We both had taken altitude pills before we got to Cusco, but both felt awful, so we didn’t want to do much.

We decided to wander out into Cusco to find something cheap to eat for lunch before Julia took us to her house, so she wouldn’t have to feed us. We walked around for a while and then asked a vendor where we could find some cheap food. She sent us to a street that is obviously generally for locals, and we found a restaurant that had menú (soup, main dish, and a drink.. does not mean menu at all, as you don’t really get to pick what you want.) for S./4 which is roughly $1.75. Fantastic! The food was actually really good, and we couldn’t beat the price.


Julia then took us to her house, which is way on the outskirts of Cusco. It took about 15 minutes to get there in a taxi, which by the way is much much MUCH cheaper than in Lima, and then we had to walk up a fairly steep and large hill. My host family sent me tons of things to give to the girls, so needless to say my duffel bag weighed over 40 pounds. Peter was kind enough to carry it for me, but both of us died about halfway up the hill. The altitude plus the weight of our bags (I must admit that I only had my backpack, and Peter had his hiking backpack and my duffel bag) left our lungs screaming for oxygen and our brains strongly reminding us that they were not getting the normal amount of oxygen.

Pathetically, we had to stop halfway up the hill, as an old (about 70) year old woman passed us with a load of who knows what on her back.. I don’t know how these people do it! We made it, eventually, and Julia took us to where we would be staying. She had only one extra room, which was out in the back separated from the rest of the house, and had two mattresses on the floor. She then asked us if we wanted to use the two or if we wanted to share one.. awkward, as Peter has a girlfriend too… but we just politely said that two would be just fine.

After we set the mattresses up we figured we shouldn’t just awkwardly chill out in this random room, so we caught a combi back to the center of Cusco and tried to figure out what we were going to do. Both of us kinda jumped out of the combi, just like we do in Lima, and both almost fell over because we got so dizzy. I love the altitude!! Anyways, after buying some weird, but delicious, shortbread cookie from a street vendor we went to the Plaza de Armas and just sat for about an hour.

After an hour of being approached by basically every street vendor, except for the two we wanted, we decided to go grab a drink and sit down somewhere that we wouldn’t be attacked by vendors. After that we aimlessly wandered around Cusco trying to find necklaces that Mallory had asked me to buy for her. We bought some last time we were in Cusco, but these vendors were NO WHERE to be found. We eventually found D’Anafria ice cream, which is the best in Peru, and so we ate that before setting off to look for the necklaces again.

I didn’t realize that it is the rainy season in Cusco, so I didn’t bring my raincoat.. which is sitting in Lima, where it literally never rains… and then noticed, as I started to get sprinkled on, that there were huge thunderclouds above us. As we started to head back to Julia’s office to get some shelter from the rain, we finally found the necklaces. So I bought those, and we camped out in Julia’s office for about two hours until the rain passed.

Then we decided to buy dinner, which we chose to get anticuchos (cow heart) and choclo (huge sweet corn) from street vendors. So good. Funny story: we were sitting on stairs on the street eating our choclo and this Irish woman (about our age) goes “Sorry to interrupt your romantic moment” and then just keeps talking to us.. talk about random. But then when she left she says to me “Sorry to ruin your romantic moment with your husband”. First of all Peter and I didn’t understand how eating sweet corn out of plastic bags on cement stairs that led down to the street could ever be seen as romantic, and second of all.. husband?! We both, at the same time, corrected her, and she just kinda went off with an embarrassed and confused look on her face.

We then headed back to Julia’s for the night as we left her house at 6:00 this morning. The mattresses were SO uncomfortable, and Peter and I figured out in the morning that neither of us slept at all last night. We both woke up feeling awful, as we now realize that eating tons of strange food yesterday in combination with the altitude could not have been a worse idea.

We left this morning at 6:00 to first take Peter to his “farm” where he will be staying for the next four days, we think. After an hour and a half combi ride, we got off and found a taxi driver to take us on some of the worst roads I have ever been on. Julia stopped the poor taxi driver about 5 times on the way to drop in and have Peter meet people that he can stay with, if he wants. We finally got to where he is staying for at least tonight, left him there, and then headed on to Pampamarca.

The roads are always just dirt back here, but they are trying to pave some of them, so the roads are completely torn up. Not feeling well plus an additional hour after dropping Peter off in a jolting taxi, definitely has not been the best way to start the day. We finally made it to Pampamarca, where I found out that all but one of the nuns had left for a meeting.

I was just told to “rest” in a meeting room, and the nun just left me there. After a while two men walked into the orphanage. Men normally don’t come here, and they were really me!, so I went out to greet them. One is a priest from Nova Scotia that works here in Perú and the other was an American. The American definitely doesn’t speak any Spanish, and the priest couldn’t go up and down all the stairs, so I translated for the nun and the man, Jerry. I still don’t exactly know why he is here in Peru, but he has come down to Peru many times I guess. Supposedly they are coming back tomorrow, so I will get to help translate again, and who knows what else.

The nun that I coordinated everything with still isn’t here, so I am just sitting in my room “resting” as I legitimately do not feel good from the combination of altitude and food. Pampamarca is at 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) above sea level, and Lima is at sea level, so the altitude change is pretty drastic. Even with the medicine I feel pretty awful, but I am hoping that will pass soon. So right now I just sit and wait I guess.. I keep reminding myself, Peru = flexibility.. hopefully I can actually get to that point!

October 30th, 2010

I guess I didn’t think I would appreciate all of the military training I did throughout high school and my first year of college.. now I do.

I went to take a shower this morning, as when I was in Cusco there weren’t showers, which meant as of this morning I hadn’t showered in almost three days. Sick. Anyways, the girls were like “oh it is still kinda warm” so I thought, sweet this will be great. What a lie!

The girl in the shower next to me was gasping for breath after she turned on the water and I asked her, “a little cold??” her reply? “It is like ice!”. Needless to say, she wasn’t kidding. There was straight up ice water coming out of the faucet. I had to mentally convince myself that going four days without showering really wasn’t the best option. On the plus side, it made the air outside seem warmer! It is really cold here.. like about 50 as a high. Chilly.

Another thing that doesn’t exist here? Mirrors. I have no idea why there absolutely no mirrors here, but there aren’t. It has definitely made putting my contacts in pretty interesting, but hey, I’m getting better! I guess it really teaches you not to worry about what you look like, as you can’t tell how you look at all! I am just going to wear my hair up all week. Some of the girls want to do my hair, so I’ll just let them do whatever they want to… doesn’t matter to me!


Goal for today: get some of the little girls to not be afraid of me. I have no idea why some of the little girls are terrified of me, but they really are. I don’t exactly find myself to be that scary, but I guess it will just take some time for them to get used to this new blonde girl walking around.

Saturdays are cleaning days here in the orphanage. After waking up at 6:00 a.m. and eating breakfast at 8:00 the girls spend the whole morning cleaning the orphanage, washing their clothes, and taking showers. With four showers for 43 girls, plus 6 nuns, plus me, it takes quite a while to get everyone showered.

The main thing that I have noticed so far that the girls need is socks and pants. Most of them have socks that have huge holes in them and their pants are completely worn out. Sweatpants seem to work best here, as it is consistently cold.

The nuns are looking to build more bathrooms and showers, as there are only 4 showers and 4 bathrooms here. They definitely need that, but they also need more dorms for the girls to sleep in. The dorm I was helping clean today has 14 girls that sleep in it. There is absolutely no room for anymore girls, but they are accepting six more girls in December. I honestly don’t know how they are going to do it.

My mind is currently churning and thinking about how I could possibly coordinate something to help these girls out. I was talking to one of the nuns this morning and she told me that even though they are a recognized orphanage by the government the government gives absolutely no support. No financial support, no psychological support, no educational support…nothing. Something has to happen to give these girls a chance to get ahead in life. I know very well that there are all too many stories just like this. But I also feel like I am here for a reason, and to leave and “forget” would be the absolute worst thing I could ever do.


I guess I must say I achieved my goal, maybe a little too well. The most timid girl now won’t leave me alone. She wants to be by me all the time. ALL the time. I had four little girls fighting over who would be able to hold my hand. It is amazing all of the games that they have come up with to entertain themselves. They are just little games with strings, with rocks, just anything that they can find lying around. I wish I could be that easily amused! It is also really neat to see how all of the girls take care of each other. They all do each other’s hair, and I think I have done 8 little girls hair today.

I am finding out, which I should have realized, that it will be so much harder to win over the trust of the older girls. They have seen so much more, and most of them are the ones that were raped, and then they, along with all of their younger sisters were taken out of the family. Hopefully by the end of my time here I will be able to get them to trust me, but there are some that I am not sure about. They still have their defenses up about everything.

October 31st, 2010

I have definitely learned over the past three days that knowing spanish is NOT necessary here. Instead, you need to be fluent in Quechua. I am not. at all. Actually, I don’t understand a single word of Quechua. All of the girls here speak Quechua. 41 out of the 43 of them have Quechua as their native language. There is one little girl that refuses to speak Spanish. She understands it and speaks it, but she just does not want to speak it. I am pretty sure her parents told her that speaking Spanish was bad and it meant you had lost your identity as a Quechua speaker.

So not only do these girls come to the orphanage from horrible situations, but most of them don’t even speak Spanish. One of the nuns here understands, but doesn’t speak, Quechua. The rest of the sisters don’t speak or understand Quechua. It has to be a hard transition, but at least all of the other girls can communicate with them and help them learn Spanish while still retaining their native language.

Mass last night was in Quechua. It was really interesting for me as this was the first time I have gone to mass in a language that I don’t speak. The church is literally right next door to the orphanage, and it is where Tupac Amaru got married in the 1500s. It is really famous in Perú, but the church definitely hasn’t been maintained. I kept telling myself that if the church has managed to withstand over 500 years of earthquakes it wasn’t going to collapse on us during mass. I’m still not sure of the structural stability of the building, but it held up last night!

We had quite the storm last night. It doesn’t rain in Lima, ever, so needless to say I left my rain jacket there. Not smart. We had a full-blown thunderstorm last night with torrential downpour. Interesting fact about being here: when it rains you lose electricity and running water. I don’t understand the water part at all, but I guess you just have to deal with it. The storm hit last night right after we finished dinner, which was nice for the kids to be able to just go to bed.

Today is actually looking sunny, which is nice as it is the girl’s free day. I helped this morning to burn some CDs for the sisters, as they didn’t know how to do it, and then helped with lunch a little bit. The girls have just set up a volleyball net, so I think I am going to go play with them for a while before lunch.

I guess I am going to become the new English teacher for the week. That is a scary thought. In the morning I will teach for three hours, one hour per classroom, of elementary aged students. What scares me, besides not having any classes on how to deal with elementary aged students, is not having any materials. I have so many ideas of what I would love to do with them, but we don’t have the materials here that I would need to do it. Hopefully it doesn’t fail miserably.


I keep reminding myself that this is the girls third language, and I can’t make too much of a fool of myself.. hopefully. In the afternoon I am going to have the high school aged students. Thank goodness. I feel so much more prepared to deal with high school aged students. There is only one class of secondary students, so that makes only one hour of teaching in the afternoon.  I have so many more ideas of what I can do with them. Hopefully they are open to trying things, but I know quite a few of them have absolutely no interest in learning English at all.

I am really tired today for some reason, and I don’t know why. I actually slept in until about eight this morning so I really have no reason to be tired. Who knows why. I did get my first good nosebleed this morning. I don’t know what it is about the altitude, but I just get nosebleeds like crazy when I am up here. I never get them anywhere else.

I have been playing Monopoly with the girls. It has to be the Lima, Perú version, because all of the streets are streets in Lima. However, it is by far the most used Monopoly I have ever seen. The girls are so excited to play it, even though most of the pieces are missing. Monopoly is ridiculously expensive down here. It is about $37, which is just obnoxious, and also explains why they don’t have any board games, as they are all about that expensive.

One thing that I am going to stock up on before I leave from Perú is Spanish DVDs for when I teach. They are ridiculously cheap here, so I figure that I better get them now! It is going to pour again, it seems like a nightly tradition here.. ha ha. I have definitely learned that I should always check the weather before traveling to somewhere besides Lima. I can’t believe I didn’t even think about it.

The girls are calling me “Elizabeth” now because Crysta just wasn’t going over. They didn’t understand me when I said it, and they couldn’t say it themselves. One of the older ones was like, do you have a second (middle) name that we could use instead? I told her that my second name is Elizabeth, and she was very relieved to have a name that she could pronounce. I would much rather be called Elizabeth though instead of the “señorita” I have been getting over the past three days.

November 2nd, 2010

Today marks three months here in Perú. It is still hard for me to believe that I have been here for that long. That also means I have little over a month left before I go back home to the United States. I am really excited to spend Christmas with my family, but I am also going to miss it here. I really love this country!

I have been in Pampamarca, at the orphanage, for five days now and I am absolutely loving it. The view is absolutely gorgeous, the sky is blue, the air is pure, I can actually feel the difference in the air. And it is quiet. There is absolutely no traffic. It is amazing.

My body, well my nose at least, has still not gotten used to this altitude. I had a nice wake-up this morning at 5:00 with a gushing bloody nose. Fantastic. It is 3:00 p.m. right now and I have had only had three nosebleeds today. Not too bad. The other nuns keep saying that they had the same problem when they first came too. I hope it ends soon.

Yesterday was All Saints Day, and we did end up making it to mass. There wasn’t mass offered here in our town, and we had to go five towns over to find a mass that was offered. This church was also really old and really worn down, but the mass was in Spanish this time!


We only went with some of the girls because they only have a fifteen passenger van, so obviously not all of the girls can fit. This congregation was celebrating a novena for Saint Martin de Porres and had animal crackers and rice milk for everyone after the mass. The priest is from South Korea, and is still learning how to speak Spanish. I think he has only been in Peru for nine months. His accent is still really strong, but he is taking classes in Cusco for Spanish and Quechua.

Since it was All Saints Day, and today is the Day of the Dead, there was a list of prayer intentions that lasted for 10 minutes. I thought that it was pretty long. However, after mass the priest told us that during the morning mass the list of prayer intentions was literally 50 minutes long. Holy cow. I must say that I am really glad that we didn’t go to that mass.

I am starting to get used to live here in the orphanage. Although I would prefer to have water warmer than freezing, and a mirror would be nice, I am loving the time that I am spending with the girls. Something that I don’t think I could get used to is the food. Last night all that we had for dinner was bread and animal crackers. This morning all that we had for breakfast was one roll and one hard boiled egg. Fruit basically doesn’t exist at all. I will definitely look forward to eating the food back in Lima. I miss having fruit all the time.

Yesterday I started teach English to the girls. I taught the older girls yesterday and the younger girls today. I must admit that I really like teaching older children more than younger ones. The older girls really enjoyed learning and practicing the new English words. I played a lot of games with them, which also went over really well. The only hard part of working with the older girls is that there are no supplies for me to use. I have become so accustomed to have supplies at my disposal, and now literally all I have is a white board and two whiteboard markers.

The younger girls just didn’t want to listen or learn English. They don’t care about learning it, so that makes it really hard for me to convince them that they should listen and pay attention, when it really is one of the last things on their minds. One of the little ones literally started singing in the middle of class. I am so glad I didn’t chose elementary education, I know I am now cut out for it.

Last night, during dinner, I was talking with Sister Renée, who is the head nun here. She told me about the stories of the girls. They are absolutely heart-breaking. One girl came to the orphanage because her step-mother would make her strip and scrub her body with a hard scrub brush and tell her that she had been “bad”, for no reason. The stories just go on and on, and all of them are totally heart-breaking.

You can tell which of the girls have been in the orphanage for a long time and which have just arrived, just on their attitudes and personalities. The new girls are still scared, shy, and don’t talk to anyone. It is amazing to see the girls that are now “perfectly normal” and to hear where they have come from.

Today I went to Sisquani, which is a semi-larger town about an hour from Pampamarca, with Sister Renée. The roads are absolutely awful, and I definitely do not trust the combi drivers at all. For about twenty minutes we were literally going less than thirty kilometers per hour, winding up a mountain. How lovely. It was nice to get out of the orphanage for a while and to see a different part of the area.

I think that I am going to be teaching another class this afternoon, this time to the older girls again. I feel so unqualified to teach English, but I am just teaching them as I have been taught to teach Spanish, but in English. Hopefully it works! This has really made me think about getting my masters in ESL. I’m not sure if I want to get a Masters in ESL or if I want to study translation.

November 3rd, 2010

This afternoon I was sitting in the kitchen finishing up eating lunch and a rooster walked in to the kitchen, and then a sheep. No joke. Then at dinner tonight a cat, a dog, and then the hog all tried to come into the kitchen. Talk about food cleanliness… I just try to pretend that those things don’t actually happen here where I eat and where my food is prepared.

I played volleyball with the girls again today. I am definitely not a good volleyball player by any means, but they keep asking me to play with them, so I oblige. I literally have purple bruises covering my hands and forearms from playing, which is a striking reminder of why I have never enjoyed playing the sport.

It was delightfully sunny today, and hasn’t rained in about three days now. It is so exciting to have sun. Lima is dreadfully dreary all the time. It is a rare occurrence when the sun is out, and everyone comments on how nice it is. I am hoping that by some miracle it will be sunny in Lima when I go back, or I might as well stay here. I don’t want to go to my classes anyways.

I did managed to get sunburned today playing volleyball. I can feel it on my scalp. I still don’t know how I could protect my scalp from getting burned unless I wore a hat as I legitimately get sunburned through my hair, not just on my part line. I guess my face is burned too because the girls commented on it.

There isn’t a mirror here, not one, so I have no idea what I look like. Thankfully the girls always do each other’s hair and keep wanting to do mine, so at least someone else is taking care of that. Living here is definitely living with the minimum, but the girls are always so happy, that I am starting to not even realize all of the “conveniences” that I am missing out on.

I am still really confused at why we don’t have running water at night, but there never is running water at night, ever. I am even kinda starting to get used to taking freezing cold showers, and I am not exaggerating at all about the freezing cold aspect of the shower water. One thing that I am missing is the internet. I love spending time with the girls here but it is really isolating, especially since they go to bed at about 7:30 p.m.

It is pitch black here by 6:00 p.m. and this is the beginning of their summer. I guess during July, the middle of winter, it is pitch black. Most of the rooms here don’t have electricity, so after it gets dark there really is nothing to do but go to bed. The girls have to get all of their homework done before darkness comes or there is no way to do it.

The little girls asked me to read to them today, and I said of course. Two hours later, no joke, I told them that we were done for the day. They never tire of reading! That is a good thing, but most of them are at the age where they need to be learning how to read, but just wanted to be read to instead. The reading aloud really helps me pronunciation too, which is always a good thing.

Today was a celebration of Tupac Amaru, who was a rebellion leader against the Spanish rule. Pampamarca, the town I am in, is his hometown, and so they had a celebration in the town. The girls can’t go out of the orphanage so I didn’t get to go to it, but one part of the celebration was a horse race from the main road in our town, down to a town about 5 miles away and back.

We had no idea that there was going to be a horse race until it started and about 50 horses charged right past the orphanage walls. It was definitely interesting to witness, as fifty horses sprinted past with men decorated in traditional Peruvian clothes on their backs. We watched the majority of the race, as the orphanage is set up on the side of a hill, and we could see most of the race from the top floor.

Even with all of the isolation there is never a dull moment here. Someone always has a question or a need, or there are random animal wandering where they shouldn’t be. For a “city girl” this has been quite the experience, but I am loving every minute of it.

November 4th, 2010

Today has been quite the day. I am never going to get used to the food here. Breakfast? Half an ear of corn on the cob. That was all. I don’t understand how the nuns keep weight on with the little that they eat, unless they are sneaking food when I am not around.. ha ha.

Anyways, I will definitely be ready to get back to my host families cooking. I never realized how much I took healthy eating for granted until I got here. I don’t ever want to touch rice again in my life. At least not for a really long time.

This morning I taught the little girls. Like Kindergarten and First graders. I so much prefer teaching adolescents. I don’t know how elementary teachers do it, but the little ones in massive groups just freak me out. They have the attention span of about two seconds, and it just gets on my nerves.

Anyways, I taught the little ones for an hour, and I think it went pretty good. There was only one instance in which they completely stopped listening and started singing to me in Spanish. Don’t ask me why.. I have no idea.

After teaching them and a group of older girls I got asked if I wanted to go out to plaza to watch some gathering in memory of the rebellion of Tupac Amaru. I don’t have time to explain who he is, but I would suggest googling him and his relationship to Peru.

One of the older girls went with me to the plaza where we found basically the entire town there. Half of them were in costume, representing Tupac Amaru, his wife, his children, and then the “campesinos”, which I think best translates to the “country people”. They were all in tradition dress from the 1500s and the rest of the town was watching.

When Ana Lucia, the girl who went with me, and I got to the plaza, literally everyone stopped, turned, and stared at me. Foreigners don’t come out here. I am currently in the middle of nowhere, quite literally, and there isn’t anything touristy out here that would bring people.

The mayor then started giving his opening speech to start the celebration and was talking half in Spanish and half in Quechua. Everyone here speaks Quechua, but not everyone speaks Spanish. Most people 40 and older don’t speak Spanish, or barely can speak it. Thankfully Ana Lucia was there to translate for me, as Quechua and Spanish are nothing alike, and I cannot understand a word of Quechua.

As the mayor was speaking news reporters from Lima and Cuzco were filming the speech, and then “Tupac Amaru” said a few words to get the reenactment started. The celebration starts here in Pampamarca, but then everyone gets transported to Yanaoca, a town about 17 kilometers away, where they do a reenactment of the rebellion.

Before everyone left the reporters came up to me and asked if I would please go stand by Tupac Amaru so they could film us together. I thought they were joking at first—they weren’t. So I obliged, but was completely embarrassed as the only reason they were filming was because I am obviously white, and definitely not Peruvian.


After my encounter with Tupac Amaru, who first greeted me in English, and then asked if I spoke Spanish because the only thing he knew in English was “hello”, the mayor came over to greet me. I felt like it was “white girl on display” day because as soon as the mayor came over the camera crews started filming us again. They had us shake hands, and hug, and kiss on the cheek (the Peruvian version of a handshake) all just for the camera.

I am currently praying that my host family and my friends were not watching the news tonight, because they were so excited to put me on the news, although the Limeñan reporter was disappointed that I hadn’t come to Pampamarca and Yanaoca just to watch the reenactment.

After that last encounter, Ana Lucia and I booked it out of the plaza. I definitely do not like being put on display, but I must admit it gave all of the nuns and the other girls a good laugh.

This afternoon we went down to the lagoon. It is the most beautiful and clean lake I have ever seen. There are four lakes, or lagoons as they call them, here and they are all impeccably clean. The girls were so excited to go down to the lagoon, and we spent over two hours there.

The girls all jumped in, bathed themselves, and washed clothes in the lagoon. They tried to convince me that I should jump in as well, but the idea of swimming in freezing cold water with jeans and a sweater just didn’t seem that appealing.

It was a lot of fun watching the girls really enjoying themselves. As one of the nuns told me, our goal is to give the girls back the childhood they never got to have. The girls do act a lot younger than their age, and they look markedly younger too. It is hard for me to remember sometimes that some of these girls were put in charge of cooking, cleaning, and laundry for all of their family as young as eight.

Most of the girls are from the “alturas” which means they lived about an hour away, walking, from any other person, and some of the girls had to walk over three hours to get to school. These girls grew up in some of the highest points of the Andes, where there is no electricity, no roads, no running water, beyond the fact that all of them were abused.

To give you a better idea of what life is like in las alturas…One of the girls told me. “After we came here we (her and her two sisters) actually got to go to school. We had to walk three hours one way to get to school, and our mom wouldn’t let us leave until it was light out. By the time we would make it to school there would only be an hour of class left, and then we would have walk the three hours back. I also got to sleep in my first bed. We only had the dirt floor (to sleep on) up in the alturas. I had never had a pillow before. I am so grateful to be here.”

These girls have gone through more than I could ever imagine.


Caral. The oldest civilization in the western hemisphere

Time October 28th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past Saturday started out as any good trip day, with the alarm clock going off at 5:15 a.m. Gotta love early morning wakeups. Surprisingly, It also seems like the best trips start out ridiculously early.

The IFSA-Butler group went to Caral, which is the oldest civilization in the western hemisphere. I am not sure exactly what makes a civilization because there are older “places” in the western hemisphere, but this is officially the oldest civilization.. who knows.

Caral is over 5,000 years old, and was only “discovered” in 1994. There is a ton of excavation going on still, and there is still a ton more work to be done. It is pretty impressive to think that a civilization could have flourished as much as it did in a time that hadn’t even discovered the use of ceramics.

Anyways, we were promised that it would be sunny and warm in Caral, as it was lightly nasty misting as we left Lima. That, however turned out to be a lie. It was COLD and completely cloudy all day. Lovely. I miss the sun. I don’t know how I am going to survive the US winter. It’s been winter since August for me.. yikes!

Anyways, we had a really good time just hanging out and walking around the ruins. After touring Caral we went out to lunch where most of the group tried cuy (guinnea pig) for the first time. I had a great time watching them squirm over the food, as I enjoyed my duck and yuca.

We briefly stopped by another archeological site that was just discovered in 2001. I’m sure it will be much more interesting once it is excavated more, but there really wasn’t too much to see right now. The only thing that was really neat was a freshwater lagoon that was right next to the ocean. It has an amazing amount of wildlife, and was gorgeous.

It is about a three hour drive to Caral, so we spent over six hours in a van, I am definitely getting sick of traveling by car and bus. When I got back home at 7:00 tonight, much to my surprise I found my face bright red! I am so pasty that I can be outside with absolutely no sun all day and still get sunburned. Fantastic. Just another reminder of how white I am in predominately darker society..

This semester is wrapping up already, and I must say that I am NOT ready to leave yet. I have so many places that I still want to go and so many things I want to do. One semester is definitely not enough time to really see Perú. I would definitely stay for an entire year if I wasn’t graduating (and getting married…) in May. My number one suggestion: make the most out of your college experience, try everything, and don’t regret anything!


a week up north

Time October 20th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I just got home (literally just got home) from a week-long trip up to Piura, which is in Northern Perú.  I am exhausted but completely satisfied and thrilled with the trip.

I definitely suggest making that effort to travel as much as you can when you are studying abroad. I feel like I know Lima pretty well now, but there is definitely so much more to Peru than just Lima.

I left Lima on October 12th at 9:00 p.m. with Cruz del Sur (one of the main bus lines down here) and arrived in Piura at 2:30 p.m. on October 13th. That’s right, more than 17 hours seated in a bus. It was nuts. I don’t enjoy traveling by car or bus, I never had, so this was quite the test of my patience. However, I arrived in Piura to SUN! I haven’t seen sun in Lima in what seems like forever, so it was an amazing break to get to see some sun, and actually break out short sleeved shirts and capris.


I spent the past week with the Charity Sisters, a congregation of nuns that is based out of Leavenworth, KS. I have a friend back in the states that knows one of them, and so I got into contact with them that way. They graciously accepted me into their convent for the week, and introduced me to life in Piura.

There are four nuns that live here in Piura. Two of them are American (from Minnesota and Colorado) and the other two are peruvian. They are incredibly nice and welcoming, although I think they didn’t expect me to be so young.. they keep commenting on how it is such a change to have “youth” in the convent.

I settled into a routine quite quickly.. from 8:00 a.m. til 1:00 p.m. I taught a class on how to use a computer. There were two sessions, from 8-10:30 and from 10:30-1. The women that come to the class literally had NO computer knowledge. None of them had ever touched a computer before, so to show them how to use a mouse and a keyboard has been quite interesting. It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me.


After classes I headed back to the convent to eat lunch and the sisters all have their afternoon “nap” that I don’t think I could take if I really tried. Then I went back to their “community center” at 3:10 to prepare for the students. There is a library in this center that kids can come to in order to get help on their homework. I, along with a peruvian math teacher, were the two people that monitor the library and help the kids with their homework. In addition to helping the kids with their homework we were also classifying the donated books by the dewey decimal system and entering all of the information into the computer.

This lasts until about 6:00 p.m. After all the kids leave I went downstairs to help with physical therapy that takes place for a reduced cost. After I finish helping out there (about 6:55) I run up the street to make it to mass at 7:00 with the nuns. After mass finishes, we would go back to the convent to do evening prayers and then start to make dinner (at about 8:30). I dont eat that late ever!!

After dinner, we would upstairs to do jigsaw puzzles and watch the 10:00 news. Life in Piura is definitely scheduled, as literally every day, Monday through Saturday, is the same.


Sunday is the one free day for the nuns. On Sunday I went to Catacaos, a nearby town, and got to see it’s beautiful church and handiwork that is so famous there. I also went to some archaeological ruins nearby, where our guide was only 11 years old! After coming back from Catacaos, I went to a parade in Piura, and then to a procession of Nuestro Señor de los Milagros.


It was a great experience, and now it is going to be hard to get back into school mode. However, our IFSA-Butler salsa dancing lessons start this Friday so I have that to look forward to!


spring has arrived!!!

Time October 8th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My body is so confused that it is October and things are finally getting warmer here in Perú. I must say that I am beyond ready for spring and warmth to be here, but am painfully aware that I will come back to Minnesota in December and freeze to death!

I have already been here in Perú for more than two months. It is hard to believe that it has been that long already, and I barely have more than two months left. Time is flying down here, and I know that I am not going to get to go to all of the places I want to go to here. I guess that is just another reason to come back!

Sunday was election day here in Perú. It was regional and district elections, but it was still a BIG deal down here. In Perú it is mandatory to vote if you are 18 years old or older. You actually get fined about $50 if you don’t vote. After you vote, they stick your right middle finger in a bucket of permanent purple ink. It has definitely been an interesting experience to be here during elections.

Since voting is mandatory here, the entire country basically shuts down. There are no open businesses, church services are not offered until after the polls are closed. The winner’s parties celebrated by setting off fireworks in the streets and dancing around some of the main avenues in downtown Lima.

It is already midterms here at La Católica! I do NOT like the midterm policy here in Perú. My midterm for linguistics was a take-home exam, and I have spent about ten hours on it so far.. and I am almost done, well I am just going to quit where I am. Three questions, ten hours.. it’s too much for me. This exam is 50% of my final grade in this course. We only have two grades for my linguistics course, the midterm and the final. Mental note to self: do not do this to students. ever.

Well back to studying!


volunteering in perú

Time September 30th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

On Tuesday night I had a nun come to my house here to meet up with me and discuss some volunteer opportunities that they have for me. The nun just so happened to be from Minnesota, which is where I am from! I was super excited. She’s originally from Crookston, Minnesota (way up in the northwestern part of Minnesota) and has been working here in Perú since 1973.

She had invited me (thanks to Misty from STA in Ames) to come up to Piura in Northern Perú for a week to where she is working. When she got to my house she actually explained to me what I will be doing… which I was really anxious to learn about. I will be leaving Lima on October 12th, arriving 15 hours later on the 13th in Piura, staying until the 19th, and arriving back in Lima at about 6 a.m. on the 20th in time to go to my 10 o’clock class!

Besides the ridiculous sleep deprivation I will have during this trip I will be working with kids!! That makes me SO excited. I will be living in the convent that the nuns live in, and will be working in a shelter for kids who’s parents have died of AIDS. Some of these kids have AIDS themselves, and others are at risk for developing AIDS. Sister Elena, the nun from MN, told me that there are only 10 children in the program, so I am assuming that I will get to know them really well.

After school, I will be working in a library helping very low-income children with their homework. And in the evening, or in the morning if there isn’t programming with the shelter, I will be going into prisons for adolescents with the sisters (they’re called mother here) and doing a prison ministry with them that is focused on education.

I am really hoping that this is an eye-opening experience for me!

While Sister Elena was here she also invited an invitation for me to go down south to Ayacucho to stay with another community of nuns and do similar work down there. I am still waiting on date confirmation, but if I get the final confirmation from the sisters, I will be going from November 16th until November 23rd or 24th. I would leave after class on the 16th and come back in time for my class on the 23rd or the 24th… depending on when I have an exam for that class. Oh how I love super cheap bus transportation! Round trip VIP seating on a bed-bus, the nicest one in Perú, is only $30. (And this trip is only 9 hours one way!!)

In Ayacucho I am not sure of exactly what I would be doing, but I know that there is a library for children to go to for help with homework after school. I know they have some other community outreach programs as well.. I’m just not sure what they are.

I will keep you all posted in what I end up doing, but right now I have to go study!! Midterms start on MONDAY!! Wow. This semester is just flying by. I am so grateful that IFSA-Butler provides me this opportunity to go on these amazing opportunities. I, of course, will be keeping up in all of my classes. I know a lot of people say that studying abroad is just a joke and you don’t have any real classes. That is definitely not the case with this IFSA-Butler program. Our university is the most prestigious in Perú and since we are considered normal students, we have quite the workload.  I was always super busy back in the states, so I am loving this chance to buckle down, get things done, and get to contribute to Perú as well.


the combi life

Time September 21st, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Part of living in Perú is dealing with public transportation. I grew up mostly in Oklahoma and Minnesota, and now have spent the last three years of my life studying in Iowa. Needless to say, I do not have experience with public transportation. When I first got here the main thing that took me by surprise was the amount of traffic. I have traveled quite a bit, but I guess I never really realized how ridiculous traffic can be. Then in addition to traffic, I have had to figure out how to maneuver in the combi system of Lima.

What is a combi you ask? Well… a combi is another word for a “micro-bus” or in laments terms, a really creepy looking van that I would not get into unless absolutely necessary. However, it is REALLY cheap, and semi-efficient. There are combis that can take you anywhere and everywhere in Lima. Literally. To give you an example, when I go to my volunteer work here in Perú, it takes me a little over an hour. I only need to take one combi and it costs me about $.33, that’s right, 1/3 of a dollar for an hour of transportation.


The confusing part about combis is that there is no magical website that tells you the routes of the combis or the times that they will come by. Each combi, within the past 5 years, has been required to be part of a company. That makes it a little less shady, but still, they are independently owned underneath the company, so the condition of the combi depends on the driver and the cobrador.


The cobrador is the man, or woman, that stands at the door of the combi shouting out where it is going to, and trying to get as many people on board as possible. Some cobradors can be pretty aggressive, but most are really helpful if you have questions about where they will be going. Once you jump onto the combi, you just hope that there is a seat available. If not, you get the pleasure of standing and trying to keep your balance as the combi swerves in and out of traffic trying to get to its desired location as quickly as possible.

The cobrador will then walk through the combi clinking money asking for the “pasaje” or fare, which depends on where you are going, and the mood that the cobrador is in. I have had to debate with a couple cobradors about what the price should be and I have actually won a couple of times!


When you need to get off of a combi you yell “esquina” for the corner or “paradero” if you want to get off at the next designated stop. Depending on the driver, the driver may or may not completely stop for you to get off, and you roll/jump/fall off of the combi at your destination… or somewhat close to your desired destination.

However, for $.33 and combis available 24/7 I will take it. I must say that the first time I successfully navigated a combi by myself it was pretty exhilarating. Thankfully the host families with IFSA-Butler accompany you the first time you go so it isn’t as shocking. It actually becomes kinda fun when you get used to it. I know pictures can’t do it justice, I have included a few from the “combi life” of Lima.


host family living

Time September 16th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hey Everyone.. I thought I would do a post about what it is like living with a host family here in Perú. Each student that studies here in Peru with IFSA-Butler is matched up with a host family. There is only one student per family, which is different than many programs that put many students together. I personally think that it is a much better experience because you are completely immersed in family life here, and you really get to see what it means to live in a Peruvian family. It’s a great way to practice your Spanish skills too!

I absolutely LOVE my host family here. I live in a huge extended family here, and I love every minute of it. This explanation of my host family is going to get a bit complicated.. so bear with me.

I live with a mom and dad here. They are both 73 years old, and they have five children. There two youngest children, a son and a daughter, still live with them. The daughter is married and has a son, and they live with us. In addition, the daughter’s husband has a son from a previous marriage and he lives here as well.

Quick recap: Mother and Father, Son, Daughter + husband + son + husband’s son.

Alright, so that is seven people already..not including me. Then we have two servants that live in our house as well. So that is ten people total, including me that sleep here. However, that’s not all! My host dad is a retired dentist and one of his sons, not the one that lives with us, has taken over the dental practice, and the dental office is the top floor of our house.

So the other son is here during the day, and then his two daughters and their nanny come over after school to study. Needless to say, there is always something going on, but I absolutely love it. I was a little bit worried before I came that I wouldn’t have been matched with a family I would get along with.

I must say that it is just the opposite. IFSA-Butler did a fantastic job of placing me with the perfect family. We share the same morals, values, and religion. I couldn’t be happier here, and they truly consider me part of their family.. they even call me daughter! Below is a picture of me with my host mom and dad!


My family is definitely going to be the main thing I miss when I head back to the United States. It’s hard to believe that I have less than three months left here in Perú. I have already come to the realization that I am not going to be able to go to all the places I would like to, but it gives me even more motivation to come back!




Time September 10th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today was my first trip to Pamplona, one of the poor areas of Lima that is in a district called San Juan de Miraflores. I am going to be doing the majority of my required volunteering for IFSA-Butler there. It is a good 90 minutes south of where I live, but no worries.. combis take you there! So two combis and 90 minutes after leaving my house I arrived in Pamplona Alta.

Words can’t sufficiently describe Pamplona Alta. I realized that I had entered into how “the others” live in Peru. There is little water, little electricity (only the lucky ones here have it), and no trash system. The trash is just thrown out into the street.


This is where the girls live that I worked with on Sunday. (Sunday I went to the headquarters of the NGO I am working with, which is called Casa de Panchita. The girls were brought over to have a day of fun and learning, and to have a break from everyday life) We went around to some of their houses today to speak with their moms about what is going on at home, and what we had noticed.

One house, one girl, in particular has stuck with me today. Her name is Luz, which means light in Spanish. At thirteen years old she has a 20 year old boyfriend, goes out to clubs at night, and drinks. We stopped by her house to see her mom today, and I was taken aback. Her house was by far the poorest one we saw all day. It is constructed with four wooden posts for supports and plastic sheets for walls and ceiling. The floor is dirt. There is no bathroom, no water, no electricity. Five people live in this home that is smaller than my bedroom in the states.

In speaking to her mother, who was probably 28.. tops.. I learned that Luz is responsible for cleaning the house, watching her younger siblings, and cooking. This is in addition to going to school in the morning. Her parents don’t have the time or the energy to look after her or give her the attention that she so desperately needs.

It’s situations like these that makes me wonder how it could possibly get better, how these girls can get out of the situation they were born into when they have no support at home. I am so incredibly grateful that I have what I have.


Each Thursday the woman I went with today goes around and talks to the parents about how their family is, if they need anything, and how they can get support. That is at least a step in the right direction. From now on, on Thursdays I will be going back to Pamplona Alta, but I will be going back to be with the girls. I am going to be going with a psychologist who goes around to the different colegios (schools) and talks with the girls that are required to work outside the home.

I think it will be a good experience and will also help me get to learn how the girls view their situation and their lives. I’m excited to get to know them and their families. Saturday I will be going back to Pamplona where I will be helping the girls do their homework. I hope I know how to do it still!

I am so glad that I chose to come down to Peru with IFSA-Butler. This volunteering requirement is for our Peruvian Social Reality course and I absolutely love it. I can’t think of anything I would rather do than volunteer work, and IFSA-Butler makes it really easy to set up opportunities for volunteering.


Nasca– the perfect weekend getaway

Time August 31st, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to Nasca, located in the desert about seven hours south of Lima. I went with two other girls from my program: Mallory and Claire. We left Lima on Friday morning, and just got home at 7:00 tonight. We arrived in Nasca on Friday at about 2:00 in the afternoon.

On the way to Nasca I was completely taken aback by the amount of poverty that exists in the countryside. I always knew that the campesinos were really poor, but I had never seen the conditions they live in. There are little towns that are at least thirty miles from any other location, and are in the middle of the desert. There is no running water, no electricity, no work. Nothing. The “houses,” if they are even worthy to be called that, are about the size of a master bathroom, maybe even smaller. I need to ask a local how these people survive, because it looks absolutely devastating. There are no schools around, and with no cars, I don’t know how the locals are capable of surviving. As you can see below, the houses are made out of thatched branches, and many of them do not have doors. It is definitely an example of extreme poverty and the strength of the human spirit.

Once we arrived in Nasca we first checked into our hostel, which was named the “Walk-On-Inn”. How clever. After we had checked in we decided that we wanted to do a tour that afternoon before it got dark. It gets dark here really early- about 6:00.

We were also definitely not prepared for the weather. Lima is cold. By cold I mean about 60 degrees, but it is still cold. Being the smart traveler that I am, I didn’t really check into what Nasca was. It happens to be in the middle of the desert. It’s hot. I only brought one short-sleeved shirt, as I was more prepared for Lima’s weather, but I survived.

It was such a great break to get out of the city. I had been in Lima for over three weeks, and needed a break from city life. Everything is so busy and hectic. It was really nice to just have a break from traffic, city lights, and to be able to see some scenery.

The tour we decided on took us to an aqueduct and some Incan ruins. It was really interesting and also amazing to think of how the aqueducts served not only as a water supply, but also as a means to control the people. Our guide explained to us that the “government” or the people that were in control would control the water. If an individual wasn’t willing to work or didn’t conform to the rules of society they wouldn’t give that family water, and they would then die. Talk about a dictatorship!

During our tour the guide told us that with the arrival of automatic pumps many aqueducts are being sucked dried, and that there could be a water crisis in Nasca within the next 15 years. I guess technology isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

We also went to the Nasca Arqueological Museum. It had been highly recommended by the tour books, but it was dreadful. The owners seemed like they couldn’t be more excited to get rid of us, and there wasn’t much to see… oh well.

That night we ate at a small restaurant in town. I had a salad for my first course which turned out to be a horrible idea. I was so sick the next afternoon. The lettuce was washed in regular water, so it just didn’t go over well with my body.. thank goodness for prescription medication.

Saturday morning we went on a flight over the Nasca Lines so we could see them. The pictures are really hard to see the lines, but you can actually see them in person. A lot of people felt really sick, as it is a little Cessna plane, and they make sharp turns so you can view the lines better. Thankfully I was fine.

There are thousands of different theories about how the lines were made. The “most common” belief is that the Nascan people made them as an offering to their gods. The Nascans believed that their gods flew around the cosmos, and hoped that their designs would attract the attention of the gods, and in return the gods would bring them rain and plenty of food.

These lines were created by digging into the sand, removing the rocks that are all over here, and exposing the lighter colored under-soil. The strangest part about the lines is that they are only visible from the air. The Nascans were never able to see the works they created, as they can only be viewed if they are flown over.

After the flight we had a few hours to sit around before my highlight of the trip. I convinced Mallory and Claire that we should go on a dune-buggy tour which also included sandboarding. (Snowboarding on sand). They weren’t thrilled about the idea but agreed to go because I was so insistent. I was scared they weren’t going to like the tour, but in the end everyone loved it. We first went to three arqueological sites; a cemetery, a different type of aqueduct, and a site that is being excavated.

The Peruvian government refuses to support arqueological digs in Peru, so there are Italian groups that are working on them. We weren’t allowed to enter, but it was really interesting to see the work they have done so far. In 15 years the Italians have only been able to uncover 1.5 pyramids out of the 32 that are thought to be in that area.

We went out into the middle of nowhere to do sandboarding. It literally was over an hour on dirt roads to get to where we went. I was just praying that our guide knew how to get back. After spinning around in the dune-buggy for a while, we finally got out to try sandboarding. I have done snowboarding about twice in my life, and broke my wrist the last time I tried. I was really hoping this wouldn’t be another occurrence. The first thing our guide told us was that it was better if we had never snowboarded before. Great. The difference is that in sandboarding you don’t make arcs as you go down, you have to just do a straight shot down. SCARY!

There are three different ways you can do sandboarding; standing, sitting, or laying down (going face first). Mallory and I both preferred standing, but Claire preferred laying down. It was a ton of fun, even though you leave completely covered in sand. (I am still finding sand in my hair and in my ears). We went to the top of the dunes to have a “competition” to see who could go the farthest while laying down. It was great because you go so far on the sand. The hard part is climbing back up. It’s exhausting, but a great workout!

We all had a great time- and were completely exhausted when we headed back into town. The first thing we wanted to do was shower. Those were some of the longest showers I think we have ever taken, as there was just more and more sand! My poor Nike shoes are probably ruined thanks to the sand. We had a great time, and we definitely ready to go to bed at about 9:30. Our hostal happened to be located right across the street from a family that raised roosters—on their roof. Needless to say, we didn’t get sleep either night.

Overall, we had a great time and are now starting to plan our “next great escape” from Lima.


Classes have started…

Time August 20th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

…which means life is completely hectic here in Lima. I’m only taking the equivalent of 17 credits this semester, but it seems like a ton. There is mounds of outside work assigned each day, all of which are in Spanish of course.

I am taking a theology class and a linguistics class, in addition to the two mandatory classes that each IFSA-Butler student has to take. The two required classes are Advanced Spanish Grammar, which is basically a writing class, and Peruvian Social Reality. Peruvian Social Reality seems really interesting, and I am very excited for it. One component of this class is working with a NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) for at least seven hours each week and completing a research project based on this work.

I have decided to work with an organization named Casa de Panchitas. This NGO works with domestic workers, or maids that work six days per week with one family. Casa de Panchitas provides a place for these women to go on Sundays, their day off. They also provide legal support, cooking lessons, recreational activities, and sexual education.

I am going to be working specifically with minors. There are many girls here that are working as maids as early as 13. Most of these girls have been forced by their parents to go and find work to support themselves and to help support the family. It is a really sad situation, but Casa de Panchitas tries to help the girls continue their education and know their rights as workers.

I will be working with these girls on Sundays; helping them with their homework (These girls go to night class and then work all day). I will also be helping the girls with self-confidence through song, dance, and acting. I am really excited to get started. My first day is on Sunday and I am sure that the girls will be more than welcoming.

It is a relief to finally get into a rhythm and get more settled in down here. Let the semester begin!


Orientation, Orientation, Orientation

Time August 13th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The past two weeks have been a blur. Orientation is jam-packed with activities, lectures, excursions, and information. I don’t know how I’ve taken all of this information in…I’m sure I’ve missed some.

We’re approaching the end of our two weeks of orientation, and classes are going to be starting on Monday. I must say that I am deeply grateful to IFSA-Butler for having a structured orientation system. It really helps to become adjusted to the new situations when you are always on the go, always have something to do, and always have people around you.

We have gone to so many places in the past two weeks. From excursions to the Center of Lima, to eating in China Town, to hanging out on the Pacific Coast, I have been afforded the opportunity to take some of the many sights and sounds of Lima.

Last weekend we went to the Center of Lima. We went to the Cathedral of Lima, China Town, the Catacombs, and the Inquisition Museum. The Cathedral of Lima was really interesting. The archbishop lives in the adjacent building, and Fransisco Pizarro is buried in the Cathedral. There are many famous and rich individuals in Lima’s history that are buried in the Cathedral. It was really interesting to learn more about the history of Lima and that of Fransisco Pizarro and the development of the Church in Lima.

We also went to the Catacombs, after eating about 3 pounds of food each in Lima’s Chinatown. There is a very large Chinese population here in Lima, and they have mixed Chinese food with Peruvian food to create Chifa. Chifa is some of the richest food I have ever consumed. I strongly suggest that everyone try it if they have a chance.

In the catacombs we were able to see the remains of over 50,000 individuals. It was kinda creepy, but at the same time really neat to see the devotion that these people in history had to their faith and to preserving history. The catacombs are located in a Catholic Church which was also a monastery.  We got to go into the library that the monks had during the 1600s. The books are still completely in tact, and date back to the 1600s. Only historians are allowed to go through the books, as they are fragile, and most are written in Latin.

I also had the opportunity to go to Miraflores’s famous “Park of Love.” The Park of Love is a park overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The park is named after the massive statue in the middle, which happens to be of two individuals kissing passionately. Miraflores, a neighborhood of Lima, is situated up on a cliff that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, the sights from the park are breathtaking.

The Catacombs

Picture 1 of 10

Orientation, Fall 2010

Tonight we are going to go on a night tour of Lima, which ends in Central Lima at the Park of Fountains. I guess there are massive fountains that go in time to coordinated music and lights. There is a tradition down here of trying to run to the middle of the fountains and back without getting wet.. I think I’ll try it! I’ll definitely let you know how it goes!



I made it!

Time August 6th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, I’ve now spent two full days in Peru. It seems like a blur. The language isn’t that hard for me. Of course, there are plenty of words and there is a lot of jerga (slang) that I don’t understand, but that’s okay. I really want to make the most out of this experience. I know that this post is going to jump around because I have so much to say, and not enough energy or time to say it.

I am a little frustrated tonight because there are a few girls in my group (the IFSA-Butler group) that are refusing to speak in English, but that’s okay. I’m loving everything so far.

My host family is amazing. They love music, which I also love. Tonight we were sitting around they table and they just randomly broke out into song. I later learned that they just were making up the song as they went, each individual creating their own verse. It was great!

It is going to take me a while to get used to all of the traffic here. I don’t know if I ever will. I know it is a city of 9 million people, but it seems absolutely ridiculous that there is not a regulated transportation system. I’ll have to talk about combis (the system of public transportation here) in a different blog. I don’t even know how to explain it.

IFSA-Butler has been great so far. The orientation program is fantastic, and I feel like I am going to be really prepared for the beginning of the school year. I hope. Laura, our program coordinator here in Peru is amazing. She really knows what it is like being a foreign exchange student as she was one in the U.S. for six years.

I’ll make sure to put up more information when I get more energy and have more time.

See ya!


Less than two weeks…

Time July 21st, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

…until I start a whole new life. Wow. It’s hard to believe that I only have less than one two weeks until I will be in Lima. I should probably introduce myself first. My name is Crysta, as you have probably figured out. I am a Senior this year at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. I was born in California, and then moved to Oklahoma, and finally Minnesota. I am studying Spanish and Secondary Education. I love working with kids, and I am so excited to study abroad. I have been fortunate enough to travel quite extensively in my life. I have been to Russia, Spain, and Northern Ireland for over a month each.

The prospect of leaving for five months is still a little scary. I don’t know how to feel about being gone for that long, to be completely honest. There are so many questions spinning around my mind. What if I don’t like the people I am with? What if my host family is not what I thought they would be? What if the classes are too hard or I don’t have anything to do in my free-time? How am I going to plan a wedding internationally?? (I’m getting married in May) The list of questions goes on and on.

When I honestly think about it though, I know that everything will work out. Everyone says that the courses overseas are so much easier that the ones we have here in the United States. I guess being bored is more of my concern than anything. I’ve taken at least 21 US credits each semester since being at Iowa State, and with the plethora of other activities, I haven’t ever had a moment to myself to “do nothing”.

This summer I am living in Kansas nannying for four of my cousins. I love the kids, but it is going to be a nice break in Peru to not have four children running around wanting attention 24/7. I haven’t started getting ready at all. Nothing. Being in Kansas has been great, but there is the minor problem of me not being able to pack until I get back to Minnesota. I will have three days to get everything packed, ready, and out the door.

I am really excited for the semester. I have been communicating via email with my host family and they sound amazing. I had very specific hopes when I requested a host family. I wanted a family that shared my religion and had similar morals and beliefs to me. I couldn’t have asked for a better match. IFSA-Butler has gone above and beyond in the aspect of matching me with a compatible host family. My host family is also strong in their faith, and they have a small child (which I also requested). Furthermore, they are a very musical family, which I am very enthusiastic about as well. I can only hope that my host family turns out to be as good as they sound.

Sarah and me!

I have had a lot of people ask me why I decided to study abroad in Perú. They think it sounds like a strange place to go, and as weird as it may seem, I chose it because of an experience in elementary school. When I was in fourth grade in Oklahoma I had to complete a research project about Machu Picchu. Ever since then I have had the life goal of going to Perú, and it is finally coming true. I have heard rumors that they are going to close Machu Picchu to the public in a few years due to the damage that is resulting from the massive amounts of tourists. I am really fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to visit such beautiful locations, and I hope to learn more about the country of Perú and South America in general while I am there.

For now I can only imagine what it is going to be like on August 2nd when I arrive in Lima. The semester is sure to hold many new experiences and opportunities. I just need to make sure that I take full advantage of each opportunity that is presented.

Next time I write I’ll be on Peruvian soil! ¡Hasta luego! (Below is a picture of me with one of my cousins)