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Re-entry shock

Time January 3rd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In the words of our program director, culture shock is the expected confrontation with an unfamiliar culture.  Reentry shock is the unexpected confrontation with a familiar culture.

Throughout my time in Perú, the effects of culture shock gradually lessened.  I found myself more accepting of the culture that I at first found hopelessly inefficient, and I came to really love the spirit, kindness, and welcoming nature of the Peruvian people.  Nonetheless, I was excited to return to the United States.  During my last weeks, I was counting down the days, excited to see my family and friends, have the comfort of speaking my native language, and blend in, without constantly sticking out as the blonde gringa.

However, my first encounters when I got off the plane in LAX were hostile Immigration and Customs officials.  I had to make a connecting domestic flight, and the baggage carousel was taking forever.  I found the agents unnecessarily rude and unwilling to put forward any effort to help me.  And so it went that, on my first night back in the United States, I felt the effects of reverse culture shock.

I think I had, in a way, glorified my own American culture.  But returning to it, I have started to realize that there’s a lot I’ve grown accustomed to, and that I now miss, from Perú.  Riding the combis to school and enjoying the humorous banter between the cobrador (the guy who collects my money) and the driver.  Feeling pride in contributing to an all-Spanish class discussion in one of my classes.  Getting a full 3-course lunch for 8 soles (3 dollars).  And above all, the spirit of the Peruvians.  They have such vibrant personalities.  They are so funny and kind, though they love to tease.  They are devoted to their family and hold their friendships in high esteem.  And they are always up for a good time.

I think this process of reentry shock, though, is a healthy one.  It forces me to reflect on the great aspects of my study abroad experience while “relearning” my own culture with all its great points and downfalls.  Recently, a Peruvian friend wrote on my Facebook wall, “Remember, Peru is always your second home.”  And that’s true.  I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to spend enough time in Perú to really immerse myself and, to some extent, become part of the culture.  Now I have two homes.






I’m gonna miss this place.

Time December 5th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Throughout the semester, I’ve been attending a Baptist church here in Lima.  It’s been wonderful, everyone is so friendly and has really welcomed me in.  Sadly, today was my last Sunday there.  During worship we did the Spanish versions of Angels we Have Heard on High and Silent Night (I didn’t love worship music there when I first got to Lima, and really missed my campus ministry at home, where the worship is WONDERFUL.  But once I got to know the songs I started enjoying it a lot more, and the Christmas tunes really got me into the holiday spirit!)  After that I basically slept through the message (and I was in the second row….oops), seeing as I went to a Calle 13 concert last night and only slept about 5 hours.  (By the way, this concert is a good story.  One that says a lot about Latin American culture.  But I have an Econ final tomorrow so that’s another blog post.)

But after church, we ordered pollo a la brasa (chicken), with the perfect sides of french fries, salad, and Inka Kola.  And of course the necessary ají sauce.  All the “jóvenes” (which are people in college…or out of college but still young….or other people who just like hanging out with the jóvenes) had lunch together in the church in honor of my last Sunday there!  I feel so loved by this church, it was so wonderful, but also sad to say goodbye right when I feel like I’m really getting to know them.  I guess I’ll just have to come back soon!

Here’s a pic of the jóvenes at a birthday party a month or so ago:


And here’s one of the whole church.  (I’m on the far right…the only blonde ;))


I feel as if I’m just now really coming to love the city and the people here.  I’m looking forward to going home, but I think I’m going to miss Perú more than I expected.




Time November 28th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  AKA Acción de Gracias.

I think my host mom was a little confused that I was gone for nearly an hour at the supermarket, stocking up on the basics (butter, sweet potato, butter, flour, mangoes, butter, eggs, butter).  I was talking about “tomorrow,” blah, blah, blah, “cooking all day,” blah, blah….and she goes, “What, what holiday is tomorrow?”  WHAT?!?!?!?!?!

But I suppose that her lack of observance of the most important holiday of the year can be forgiven.  Perú doesn’t quite celebrate the contact of the Spanish empire with their indigenous cultures, so sadly, they do not have this holiday.  (Why do they have a name for something they don’t celebrate?  Good question.)

So what’s on the menu?  Our program director has ordered a turkey to be prepared “gringo style,” and it comes with gravy.  We (the students) -ahem, the students who feel they can cook -are making the rest.  Stuffing, pies, mashed potatoes.  I’m making 2 sweet potato pies.  Sweet potato is one thing that this country does not lack.  Success.

On that topic, however, cranberries are one thing that this country does, in fact, lack.  Our director was in New York last month and a few students asked her to bring back cranberries, but apparently they weren’t out in the stores yet.  So, we have come up with our own Peruvian alternative to cranberry sauce….


(Quite representative of Perú’s rainforest region.)

The funny thing is that a boy on my program actually found the recipe.!  Haha.  So I’m making that one too.

Finding everything in the store was a bit of a challenge.  For example, flour.  There are two types here.  Prepared flour and unprepared flour.  What??  I thought about asking someone, but then I didn’t know what I would ask…”I want the normal American kind….”  So I settled on the unprepared.  The only difference I could tell is that it didn’t have yeast, and I figured you don’t need that for a pie crust.  So hopefully that will work out for me 😛

Agenda for tomorrow:  Wake up, go to my History of Perú class.  The professor loves me and loves making references to the United States, so I am willing to bet that there is going to be some mention of Thanksgiving.  During which I will enlighten the class about this wonderful day.  (Too bad y’all didn’t get along with the Indians…just kidding).  Then, I will accompany my friend Liz to the Kosher market (she’s an Orthodox Jew…if you didn’t deduce that from “kosher,”) to buy Kosher desserts for the dinner.  Then cook, cook, cook, and dinner at 5!!


What happens in the selva

Time November 16th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The last month, I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  For the past three weekends, I’ve been traveling.  (I have every Friday off, and my Monday classes…well, they aren’t that important :))  My plan coming in to my study abroad experience was to spend most weekends in Lima getting to know the city, and I’ve done that for the most part, but Perú is just so diverse!  There are three regions -costa (coast), sierra (mountains) and selva (rainforest), which have completely different climates and populations with very distinct lifestyles.  It would be a shame to leave without getting outside the capital!

So, the last weekend of October, I traveled with 6 of the girls on my program (girls trip!) to Iquitos, which is in the rainforest region of Perú.  It’s the largest city in the world inaccessible by road, so you’ve either got to take a bus and then a boat for several days, or fly.  We chose the latter in light of not wanting to miss a week of classes.  Although, there is a group of European students who took almost 2 weeks off to go by bus and boat…they’re a wild group.

During the trip, there were several, “OMG, I AM IN THE AMAZON” moments, the first of which occured before the plane even landed.  Check out these views of the river from above:

river from plane 1 river from plane 2 river from plane 3 plane

(Note: you can see the pictures bigger if you click on them :))

We stepped off the plane into a hot and humid climate, which was lovely compared to the grey sky we have every day in Lima!  We had booked a guide with a budget lodge and he picked us up in the tiny Iquitos airport.

view of harbor

Overlooking the harbor in Iquitos.

One of the many paradoxes in Perú: They made us wear lifejackets on the boat ride to the lodge.  The rest of the weekend, the boat didn’t even have lifejackets in it.
 The lodge was wonderful.  It was rustic, no electricity, but they had gas lamps to use at night.  All the rooms were connected by wooden bridges because the area floods during high water season (November through April).  We were there at the end of low water season, and it was still dry.
Best part of the lodge: they had 2 “hammock houses”.  Oh, so wonderful.  We spent every little break lying in the hammocks, sleeping, reading, chatting, doing nothing.
One afternoon, I woke up from a nap and got out of my hammock.  Next to it, there was a cat stretched out, snoozing, and at the top of my hammock, there was a parrot just chilling.  I guess it was so hot that everyone wanted a little siesta (nap) :)  I’ve always kind of had a thing for birds, and took a liking to the parrot, Paco, who seems to live at the lodge off of the bananas that visitors feed him.
When we left the lodge, I went to see Paco one more time, but he refused to get off my shoulder and the staff had to pry him off.  I guess he liked me too :)
 The food was so delicious. We got three meals a day (I mean, we’re in the middle of the rainforest…where else would we get food?)  Fried bananas at almost every meal, yuca, pasta made of palm (though I wasn’t a big fan of that one), and one night we had venison!!  Mmmmmm.
The first day, we went to a…well, I guess you’d call it a farm…with dozens of monkeys.  There were two groups of monkeys here: (1) those who were cute and were having fun jumping off trees onto our shoulders, and (2) Pepe.
Oh, Pepe.  I don’t remember what kind of monkey he was, but the name the monkeys’ caretakers used was, “the monkey who steals” (translation).  The workers seemed to see him as a delinquent child, remarking, “Pepeeeee….” when he harassed a visitor.  All I can say is that we had fun playing with our little primate friends, but after an initial encounter with Pepe, we stayed away.
 (Don’t let the smile on her face mislead you…this girl could be Jane Goodall.)
And one of the less hostile specimens:
Later on, we’re looking at a couple snakes they’ve got there.  (Let me just take a moment to note that this would absolutely-positively-not-ever fly in the States.  The anaconda and boa are just chilling on the ground, basically slithering wherever their little heart guides them.  My friend Kaleigh walked within 2 feet of the snake without realizing it was there….and then jumped when she saw it.  There may have been a few expletives involved.)  So the boa is sitting on a tree branch, and Pepe hops up.  They stare at each other for a while, (meanwhile the boa is hissing, and the caretakers seem to be getting a kick out of this), and then, Pepe-the-maniac-monkey grabs the snake by its tail and starts swinging it around.  (Once again, things that would not fly in the United States.)  We ask one of the workers if this happens often, and he tells us, “Yes, Pepe likes playing with the snake.”  We ask, “But does the snake like playing with Pepe?”  He answers, “Pepe likes playing with the snake.”  Okay.  When we got home, we learned that Pepe has apparently gained a bit of a reputation among tourists in the Amazon.  My director knew who he was, and supposedly he has his own Facebook fan page.
pepe-v-snake-2 pepe-v-snake-3

We were also offered the chance to hold the snake (after Pepe was finished playing, of course).  The guy puts it around my neck, hands me the head and tells me, “Don’t let go of the head.”  Later on, I asked him, “Has anyone ever let go?”  He goes, “Yeah, and the anaconda bit him in the neck, but he was okay.”  Okay, then.

me with snake

Some other sweet animals: a toucan (I’d never seen one before!) and a prehistoric turtle (that is, a species that existed prehistorically).

toucan turtle
Another, “Am I really in the Amazon?” moment:
The group!
After leaving, we went to a small, calm shore, where we swam!  (We swam in the Amazon river!)  I didn’t know that was possible, seeing as there are piranhas, but apparently there are areas in which you can swim.  The river floor was covered with really soft mud, in which my feet sunk down more than a foot….maybe that’s what it’s like to walk on water??  We covered ourselves with mud, just for the heck of it.
On the way back to the lodge, we spotted some pink dolphins, which are unique to the Amazon!  Didn’t get a photo though, they’re quick.
The next day we spent exploring the forest, learning about some of the plant and animal species from our nature-boy-guide, Wilson.  He didn’t really speak any English, but there was a German guy on our tour who didn’t speak Spanish.  So he attempted to translate his explanations.  For one plant, he was explaining that it has a medicinal use for wrinkles (in Spanish, “arrugas”).  He tells the German guy that it helps against “arruges.”  “A” for effort, Wilson.
All types of critters in the selva!
 This is a termite hive.  Wilson put his hand against it for a minute, and then took it away crawling with termites.  He then rubbed his hands together to kill them, and spread the remains over his arms.  Apparently, this is insect repellent!  I declined to try that one.  Though it was neat.
drinking from branch
Wilson took his machete and cut a tree root in two places.  He pulled out the section he’d cut and water came out!  (Though destroying part of the Amazon rainforest in the process…whatever happened to sustainable tourism??)
A big tree.  As you can see.
 Our guide showed us a plant that has a sort of red cream inside when you crack it open, so we put it on our lips.  Obviously.
 Honing my blowgun skills!  It took me 5 tries, but I hit the doll they had set up several meters away!
 As part of our “visit to an indigenous tribe” (which we thought was kind of corny, seeing as the tribe puts on an act for tourists, but the older members of our group were really into it) they painted our faces.  Which I forgot about and smeared by reapplying sunscreen…oops.
 Swinging on a vine.  No big deal.  (It’s okay to be jealous :P)
Our third day, we went fishing for piranha and catfish!
 Trying to catch something….anything.  The fish kept stealing my bait without biting the hook!  Sneaky little things.  After getting 3 of my baits stolen, I gave up.
 Some of the people in our group were luckier!
 Look at those teeth!  Our guide had a scar on his leg from when he fell out of a boat several years back, and a piranha took a chunk out of his leg down to the bone.
Sadly, this is all our whole boat caught.  Combined.
Sunday night, we headed back to the city of Iquitos and said good-bye to half our group, those returning to Lima for Monday classes.  We spent the evening getting to know the city a bit.
Chicha morada is my favorite Peruvian drink, hands down.  It’s made from the chicha corn, various fruits, and cinnamon.  I asked for it to-go…which apparently means a plastic bag.  I had a heck of a time getting it open, and when I did I spilled it on myself.  But not to worry, there was still plenty left to enjoy!
We walked down by the river bank, where there were dozens of vendors just sitting out on the sidewalks with their pots and pans, cooking things to sell.  There were some tables set up where little kids were eating, and though we didn’t do it, we gathered that you can just pay the family a bit and share the meal with them.  There were kids running wild all over and music playing, a fun atmosphere!
Monday we took a combi (which actually wasn’t too hard after asking a few people, considering all the practice we’ve had in Lima!) to a national reserve a few kilometers outside of town.  It had a zoo with incredible animals, though it was sad to see them caged up.
 Caiman.  We did a night canoe right while we were in the rainforest to look for them, but didn’t spot any.
It’s Rafiki!
 Gorgeous jaguar…donated to the zoo from California.  Haha.
After seeing the animals, we went swimming here…though we didn’t have our bathing suits so we went in our clothes and got a lot of stares.  It was so hot and humid, so swimming was a nice treat.
During our days in the city, we stayed in a hostel.  Quadruple room, which we had way too much fun with until a hostel staff knocked on our room to tell us to quiet down.

Tuesday it was back to Lima, but not for long!  Friday I left for Cusco, to volunteer with Sierra Productiva.  Post on that coming soon!


Olé, olé, olé, olé, Perú, Perú

Time October 12th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Fútbol (aka soccer) is much more than a sport.  It is THE pride of the Peruvian.  I can’t even think of how to explain it, but the success or failure of the Peruvian fútbol team forms part of the identity of the Peruvian citizen.

Last Friday, Perú played Paraguay.  Apparently, Perú’s got the best team it’s had in several years, so everyone was hopeful.  I went to a pizza place with 3 friends (2 Americans, 1 Peruvian) to watch the game and it was, well, an experience.  The title of this blog is one of the chants I learned!  Another one was “¡Quien no salta es paraguayo!” (The person not jumping is Paraguayan!!)…this chant is, of course, accompanied by everyone jumping up and down.  And we won, 2-0!!!  Yayyyyyyy!!!!  Afterwards, we went out to the street, which was basically a parking lot, and everyone was honking their car horns to a rhythm.  The police were enjoying it just as much as anyone else :)

But today, Perú played Chile.  I didn’t watch the game (planned to, but it was in the afternoon, not at night, and I missed it).  The score was 4-2, Chile won.  Now, in order to have a proper understanding of the effect this will have on the Peruvian population, you must know that Chile and Perú are not exactly best buddies.  They went to war with each other around 1880, and Perú lost.  (In fact, the three times Peruvian troops have fought against Chilean troops (Chile’s independence, Peru’s independence, and the War of the Pacific (around 1880), the Peruvian troops have lost.  And, as a side note, there are countless streets named after Peruvian heroes of the War of the Pacific….but they lost….hmmmm).

Anyway, when my host mother got home tonight, I told her I was going to go up and watch the game (the re-run).  And she told me not to watch it.  Haha.  I said, “4-2, that’s not that bad, it’s not 4-0,” which elicited a response somewhere along the lines of, “How can you say that?!?!?!?!?'”  This then launched into a discussion of how the Chileans lack respect for Perú, and how they think they’re just so great, which then led into a comparative discussion of the politics of Chile and Perú, Perú’s failing education system, and the assertion that this country will be under a dictatorship in less than a year and a half.

Like I said, it’s more than a sport.


A couple weeks ago, I went to Cusco, and have been meaning to put up a blog post for it.  However, there are so many pictures that this blog program keeps cutting off half of it when I try to post it.  So, if you’re interested in reading about my trip to Cusco (and Machu Picchu!!), I invite you to my personal blog, where there are pictures galore; here is the link for that post:


Lima: Gastronomic Capital of the Americas…

Time September 14th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

….or so the limeños like to say.  And I can’t really argue with them on that one.

One word: Mistura.  AKA “the most important food festival of the Americas.”  Oh. my. goodness.

It lasts ten days, so we went Friday, which was the opening day.  Imagine a state/county fair, then take out all the rides/animals/etc and you are left with the best part….the food.  (Duh.)  Then multiply that by 50 (no exaggeration!), and that’s Mistura.
We got there around three, and after a quick survey of (some of) the offerings, we started in.  Basically we bought different plates and then shared them to maximize the amount of plates we tried.  And I still ate way too much….
#1 Chupe con mariscos (a soup typical of Arequipa (a region to the south of Lima) with prawns, green potatoes (?), choclo (a sweet corn), and, well, I don’t know what else.  Which has actually been a theme of my culinary experience since arriving in Lima….I don’t know what I’m eating, but I know it’s delicious.


Prepared fresh!

img_3630 img_3632

I’ve never quite figured out how to eat those things.


#2: (Yes, this is going to take a while….hope you’re comfortable!)  Cerdo con pastel de papa.  (Translation: pork with potato cake).


I don’t have a picture of this one, but here’s a pic of me eating it :)  We couldn’t find a table, because there were so many people, but then a woman comes up to us and goes, “Would you like to sit in the tourist area?”  We say no because we thought we had to pay, but it was free.  Weird.  Meanwhile, my friend is insisting as we go in, “No!  We are NOT tourists!  We live here!”  Ha.


It says, “Reserved, Tourists Mistura 2011.”  Hmmmm.  They also brought free Coke to our table…I was thinking, “Is this drugged?”  But the event was legit, and later we learned that they were serving free Coke all through the plaza.

#3: Ceviche.  Raw fish in a sauce of onion/Peruvian lemon/other fresh and delicious ingredients served with sweet potato and choclo.



#4: Pasta en salsa de Huancaina con pollo al anticucho.  (Pasta in Huancaina sauce) with pollo anticucho-style (Anticucho is cow’s heart…I haven’t tried it yet).

img_3638 img_3640

#5: After that, we decided to go to the “Rincón de Pisco” (Pisco corner).  Pisco is alcohol very typical of Perú, I don´t really know much about it, except that the Peruvians are quite proud of it and consider it one of their national drinks (along with Inka Kola and chicha morado, but that´s a different story).


Different mixed drinks with Pisco, we shared to try everything.

We spent a while walking through fair trade/organic coffee and chocolate markets, which included several samples.  One stand had “chocolate sushi:” white chocolate with lucuma (a fruit) ganache inside the roll.  They also had Pisco de Cacao, so good!
#6: This dessert, which shall remain nameless for now, because I do not remember the name.  Basically a rice cake with honey all through it.  The kind of thing that would make your dentist cry.

Before moving on, we stopped by the bathroom, and waited in line for a good 20 minutes while they were cleaning.  When they opened the door, it was chaos.  There were a few (absolutely darling) little old women, I think from the mountains, here to sell their potatoes, who kept trying to cut in line.  And we let them.  As my friend said, “She just wanted it so bad…”  Then when we entered, a woman gave us our allotment of toilet paper (hope you didn’t need more!), and all the women in line are shouting “Adelante!” and “Rápido!” (“Move forward!”  “Faster!”).  It reminded me of the traffic in Lima…clearly, limeños don´t hesitate to use their voice when they lack a car horn.
We then moved on to what was probably the highlight of my day: a market with vendors from all over Perú selling their products.  Countless samples: honey, goat cheese, goat´s milk yogurt, milk from cactus and aloe, bread, potatoes, pisco, lamb, jam, fruit….the list goes on.  I bought a peanut-flavored goat´s milk ice cream cone, and I think I prefer regular ice cream, but the goat cheese was delish.  If I could have brought it back to the states with me, I would have bought some.

Why are there faces on the corn?  Good question.

As part of the IFSA program, I have to volunteer with an NGO (non-governmental organization) and write a research paper on it at the end of the semester.  I learned, on Google, about efforts the International Potato Center has been undertaking to improve the lives of campesinos (farmers) in the Andes, so Friday morning I went to the “Centro Internacional de la Papa” (papa=potato) in Lima and talked with a couple of the directors about how I could possibly help out with their mission this semester.  They told me I could help with things in the office, but suggested I talk with some of the potato farmers in this food festival to get more “hands-on” experience, and what do you know??  I already had my ticket for the festival.  That very afternoon.  Perfect.

I must admit, it was a little awkward….was I supposed to walk up to a stand where they´re marketing their native potatoes (there are over 3000 varieties of potato grown in Perú, more than any other country!) and ask to volunteer with them?  But, at one of the stands, I got into a conversation with a guy who lives in Lima and helps with promotion of the farmers’ potatoes in the Limean market, where prices are higher and, therefore, the farmers can earn more and improve their quality of life (much of the Andean population lives in poverty).  In fact, that’s why the campesinos were at this festival: to give limeños a chance to familiarize themselves with native potatoes, which are very unique!  We talked for 20 minutes or so, and he gave me his email and told me to write him and I could perhaps help him with his efforts, and also perhaps take a trip for a few days out to the Andes to see the production processes.  So I am VERY excited about that, and hoping that it works out.  I ended up buying a two-kilo bag of native potatoes from them (I thought that I should probably buy something…..) but only 5 soles (2 dollars)!  He gave me a recipe for a “potato cake,” so I think I’ll try making that.  I’ve certainly got plenty of potatoes.

The campesino who sold me the papas!  Still had dirt on his hands…authentic 😉
Today, the guy I met there emailed me and asked if I could come help on Saturday!  He is going to give me traditional woman’s campesino clothes to wear (which I’m pretty sure are not going to fit me….)  This should be interesting.
After the market, we were all quite stuffed from sampling just about everything.  But we bought 20 soles worth of “food tickets” when we entered and still had 11 left.  Couldn’t let them go to waste, of course.  Which leads me to….
#7: Lasagna a la Huancaina con pechuga de pollo.  My favorite food is lasagna, and my favorite Peruvian sauce is Huancaina (it’s got ají amarillo chili peppers, cheese, milk, onion….and other things).  So when I saw “Lasagna a la Huancaina with chicken breast”, I jumped on that.  Not a very traditional dish but delicious nonetheless! (I need to find a synonym for “delicious”)
img_3650 img_3653

And of course we shared our dishes; a friend got Tacu Tacu, which is a very traditional Peruvian dish of rice, beans, and beef (photo below).


After that, I still had 5 soles of food tickets burning a hole in my pocket.  So I ordered the classic arroz con leche con mazzamora morada.  (Rice pudding with a pudding made out of some sort of purple fruit, served hot).  I’ve had it before, but it’s delectable (synonym!  Did you catch that?).  Here’s a pic from Google:

Okay, the blogger program won’t let me add the pic, but type “mazzamorra con arroz con leche” into google images and let your mouth water….

That’s all for now!


Hasta luego!



Time September 6th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Brichero (noun): from the English word “bridge,” originally used to describe a Peruvian who attempts to date an American as a bridge out of Peru and into the U.S.  More recently, used to describe anyone who attempts to befriend Americans because it makes them look cooler, and because they can get Americans to pay for their food, etc, when out and about.  Used in a sentence: “I met some bricheros on the lawn outside the cafeteria the other day…..”  Context: So I’m sitting on campus with a friend from my program doing the reading for our Peruvian Social Reality course.  And suddenly she says, “Oh, crap.”  Then two Peruvian guys come up to us, say “Excuse me” (in English), and are about to ask us some question about their ENGINEERING class reading, when my friend, we’ll call her Q, goes “Hey.”  That’s when the bricheros recognize that they’ve already met her, the day before.  So we’re introduced, talk for all of 2 minutes, and then they want my phone number.  Now usually I would be very open to this, especially considering that making Peruvian friends is a goal of mine.  However, we heard about bricheros during our orientation, and were “warned” about them (I hate to use the word “warn,” because I don’t want to make them sound like criminals.)  So I say something along the lines of, “Well, maybe when we see each other on campus more, become friends, then we’ll exchange phone numbers.”  Brichero is clearly disappointed.  He asks if I want to go salsa dancing.  I say no thanks.  So we say goodbye (I was very polite), and they leave.
Then, Q tells me that the day before they approached her (that time, they had a question about their philosophy reading, and, “Wasn’t she in their philosophy class?”) They got her phone number, as well as the numbers of 5 other girls in our group, and….wait for it…..used the same line about salsa dancing.
I don’t mean to sound stuck-up by pushing away potential friends, but to be honest, I don’t think it would have been a very natural friendship.

However, I have met some wonderful Peruvian compañeros!  I happened to be on the same combi this morning as a guy in my history class, Cesar.  There was some road improvement going on so it took over an hour to get to the university.  We were fifteen minutes late to our class, but don’t worry, the professor hadn’t started yet.  I’ve also met some girls in my Econ course (Development Theory).  Not really “friends” yet, but I think we’re on our way there!  It’s much harder than I expected to find opportunities to meet and hang out with other students, since there aren’t really “student organizations” like we have at colleges in the U.S.  The only one I’ve found so far is the Catholic students’ organization, and I even went to their table to talk to them, but, well, I don’t think it’s for me 😛  This was a little disappointing  because I was hoping to find a backpacking/outdoor activities club.  But as the saying goes, “It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different!”  I think I’ve just gotta give it time.

I have also found a wonderful church here in Lima, something I was really hoping for and I’m quite excited about.  It’s got a group of students my age, so more opportunities for friendships there!  The first week I walked in, an older lady says, in English, “Welcome to our church!!  Do you speak Spanish?”  To which I say “Si,” and she responds in Spanish, “Oh, good!  Because I don’t speak English.”  But everyone is very kind and welcoming.  This Sunday, we (the youth) are singing to the pastor.  Ha.  That should be good.

The two courses that I chose at the university are fabulous.  My history class, Peru in Modern Times, is taught by a very energetic professor who loves making political and historical comparisons between the United States and Peru.  My new friend, Cesar, asked if this intimidated me, but I love it because it allows me to actually contribute something to class discussion.  My other class, Development Theory, which is in the Econ department, is fascinating.  The class is small, only 20 students or so, which is really nice, and the professor is constantly cracking jokes that you wouldn’t get unless you’re from Lima, but then always stops to explain them to me.  The rest of the class seems to get a kick out of this.  I also have to say that I am darn proud of myself for doing all the readings in Spanish.

This past Tuesday was the Festival of Santa Rosa (the patron saint of Lima).  Obviously, that’s a big deal for a country that’s nearly ninety percent Catholic.  I actually wish I’d gone to the Mass with my host family (but I didn’t know they were going until they were leaving).  But, we had the day off class.  I always have Tuesdays off anyway, but since we all had it off, we decided to go to the beach!  Punta Hermosa…sounds nice, right?  Somehow, even though we’re in the middle of winter, I pictured myself laying out under the sun.  Wrong.  The town was basically a ghost town, I don’t think very many people actually live there, especially during the winter.  We could only find one little sandwich shop open to eat lunch because of the holiday.  But the ocean was beautiful, and it was really nice to get out of Lima for the day to somewhere a little quieter.  Some pics:


Saturday we’re visiting Caral, the oldest civilization of the Americas….I’ll keep you posted!!

Part of my life in America that I can’t live without: peanut butter.  The other day I spent 17 soles (about 7 dollars) on a small jar of peanut butter.  Expensive, but worth it.  It was the first time my host mother had tried it!

That’s all for now!  Here is an entertaining video about Peru… every sense of the name.  It’s 15 minutes long but it’s worth it.




I have a love/hate relationship….

Time August 24th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

….with the combis.  So that you can properly visualize:

This is a combi:


(Don’t worry, that picture’s from Google.)


That’s the “cobrador” standing at the door.  He shouts out where the combi is going; if you wave him down, he’ll probably tell the driver to stop for you….the designated stops don’t mean a whole lot.  Nor do the streets printed on the side of the combis always match up with where it’s actually going.


As you can see, it’s more or less THE mode of transportation here.
Reasons I love the combis:
1) They are cheap.  2 soles (less than a dollar) to get all the way across Lima to the university.
2) The drivers are there to serve YOU!  None of this “let’s wait for the pedestrian to cross…” nonsense.
3) Though the system is unorganized, it is efficient.  I have never had to wait more than 2 minutes for a combi.

Until last Wednesday.

Coming back from the university, I have to switch combis.  I’m not really sure where I messed up here, because before Wednesday I had successfully made it home a few times.  But the switch is in “not the best area” of Lima, which usually isn’t a problem because I’m there for less than 2 minutes.  However, I managed to wait a good 15-20 minutes before I saw a combi which had my destination street painted on the side.  So I run through the maze of combis (see above picture for a visualization) while they’re stopped at the light and hop on.  Just to be sure, I ask the cobrador if he’s going to this street, and guess what?  He’s not.  So I hop off.
After waiting a few more minutes, I ask a cobrador where to catch a combi that’s going where I want to go (I’m refraining from saying the street name here because this blog is public 😛 ).

Apparently I’m on the wrong side of the street.

So, alas, I figured it out eventually.  At least now I know that if I live in D.C. after graduation, I won’t have any problem with their transportation system :)

Oh, the joys of Lima.


Soy una gringa

Time August 8th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s been a few days, so lots to report :)
Tuesday we had a little reception at the study abroad office in which we met our host families.  The reception started at 6:30, but we must account for “hora peruana” (Peruvian time), so my host mother arrived around 7:30.  And she wasn’t the last one, either!

(Waiting for our host families.  It really wasn’t that sad, of course, because we had empanadas :))

My host father works out of town during the week so I met my host mother, Sonia, who is an absolute doll.  Very sweet, today she sent a neighbor over to check that I’d gotten home okay because she couldn’t get a hold of me on my cell (I think she had the wrong number….)  Yes, I have a Peruvian cellphone now, very exciting.  Here’s a picture of me and my mama anfitriona (host mother).

I am never going to be lacking for food in this house.  Tonight she brought out some squash soup and I ate a big bowl of it (surprisingly, it was quite good).  I’m completely full, and next thing I know she’s bringing me a full plate of rice, beef, and potatoes.  But I’m not one to turn down food so of course I ate it all :))
And we have a dog!  He’s a Chihuahua and his name is Chipchip.  Never have I seen a dog with more energy.  But he’s adorable, and I don’t even particularly like dogs.

Te gusta su sueter (sweater)??

Yesterday, we had our “sobreviviendo Lima” (“surviving Lima”) chat in the study abroad office.  Also affectionately termed by previous students as the “Lali is going to scare the crap out of you” chat (Lali is our resident director).  It was all about how not to get robbed, kidnapped, etc.  So Lali goes around the room, pointing to each of us while she makes beeping noises that are the “gringo radar.”  You can imagine the volume of beeping that the other blonde student and I received (as Lali says, “Oooohhhhhh, my beaUTIful blonde girls.”)  The other girl joked that she could dye her hair 😛
For lunch yesterday, we ate in a cebicheria, a restaurant that specializes in ceviche, which is a dish of raw fish with onions, lime juice, aji (spicy sauce) and other spices.  I didn’t think I’d like it too much, because I’m not a big fan of sushi, but it’s delicious (muy rico!)

Today, we took a “combi” to the university.  Combis are little mini-buses that are kind of crazy and crowded but it costs less than a dollar for the 50-minute commute to the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, where I’ll be taking classes.  The university was pretty, with big open quads and lots of trees (some good spots to hang my hammock!)

And yes, there are deer roaming about the quads.  Just a normal day….in the middle of the city.  Hmmmm.
That’s about it for now!  Some pictures for the enjoyment of my faithful readers:
 El parque de amor (the Park of Love) on the coast.  Mosaic-ed walls and benches, it’s really a beautiful place.