Tic, toc: Two months left in Peru
Time has gotten away from me. It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in my bedroom at my mom’s house searching the Internet for information about the adventure I was soon to begin.
I posted on this blog religiously about Peruvian culture, events and news, but after my first month in Peru, the posts stopped.
Perhaps my class load is to blame, which 2-foot tall stack of papers in my closet proves. I’ve taken classes on Peruvian history, literature and culture uncovering the world I live in. Now I’m taking courses on Spanish literature and studying the history and writing of Latin America.
Maybe it’s been my dedication to my published column on PeruThisWeek.com. Since I arrived in Peru, I’ve written a weekly column about my experiences and the bits of culture I learn about everyday I walk the streets of Lima. However after 8 months, my inspiration is beginning to run dry, and I’ve began writing every two weeks instead.
It’s also possible that I haven’t felt that I’ve been accomplishing what I came to Peru to achieve. I wanted to learn Spanish and communicate with people who otherwise wouldn’t have been available to me, but that’s not what I feel I’ve failed at.
I also hoped to immerse myself in a new culture, but that’s been more difficult than I expected. Nor do I feel the profound change in myself that I expected.
Everyone says that studying abroad is a life-changing experience, and I do feel differently about the world I live in. However, my 8-months of living in Peru have just been that: living.
NY Times explores Peru's Qoyllur Rit’i festival →
New York Times reporter Paula Sadok experiences Qoyllur Rit’i, the Snow Star Festival, last summer and shares her experiences in this article. Qoyllur Rit’i is an annual pilgrimage that draws indigenous Peruvians from all over the country. It’s almost time for this year’s event to begin.
I stopped, again, to catch my breath in the thin Andean air, struggling to ease the dizziness as I inhaled from a portable oxygen tank. I must have been a curious sight to the Peruvians passing by. My friends, Andray and Louise, stood beside me, concerned. Realizing we were blocking pedestrian traffic, I pressed myself into the side of the mountain to let the other pilgrims pass.
At about 15,000 feet above sea level, we still had farther to climb to our destination, the Sinakara valley in southern Peru’s Ocongate province. We had come to participate in Qoyllur Rit’i — the Snow Star Festival, the annual midyear Andean pilgrimage, which attracts tens of thousands of Peruvians who travel from all over the country, the largest festival of its kind. They divide themselves into nations — groups with distinct traditions — and are invited by the Brotherhood of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i, a volunteer body that organizes the event. During our trip last June, our guides, whom we hired from the tour office at the Casa de la Gringa hotel in Cuzco, told us that as many as 500 nations had sent delegations.
I really admire how willing you are to challenge yourself - it's a rare and wonderful thing. Keep it up :) My best friend and I are going to be in Lima and Cusco this summer. We are two girls, age 20. We'll be volunteering in Cusco, but exploring Lima on our own - any recommendations? Must-sees? Warnings?
Stay tuned. I’m working on a my favorite hangs in Lima post, but I don’t feel like I know the city well enough yet to make any recommendations. Thanks for reading!
Hi :) -Peruana from California here- glad you're enjoying yourself in Lima! I always enjoy reading your posts and somehow they make me homesick :( ..Looking forward to hear more from you and your experience in Peru :D
Thanks for you comment! I’ll keep you posted with what’s happening in Peru.
I’m used to not thinking before I speak. I just say what comes to mind, but in Spanish, the worlds rarely come. I settle for “sí” not having the strength to think of more eloquent responses.
This causes problems when questions like “have you eaten yet” come up, and I’m starving. A few seconds later my mind catches up, and I realize what was said, but not before looking like an idiot and answering yet to both “Have you eaten yet?” and “Do you want some lunch?” My mistake.
I’m not used to having to think so much. Words come naturally to me, reading is second nature and writing is my gift. But in Spanish, I feel like I can’t be myself, stuck in a bubble and not knowing how to break through.
oh, my name is Patri. (short for Patricia).
I think La Catolica is an awesome university, and is much more difficult than my public university in the states. This is obviously in part because I’m not a native Spanish-speaker. I’ve only been here for a few weeks, so I feel I can’t give a full review, but my professors seem to know a lot about what they are teaching. It’s different of course, and especially for me, because I’m taking different classes in a different specialty. I think the education here is very good, and better and worse in different ways. Keep reading my blog, and I’ll keep you posted on how my opinions evolve over the next year.
Aside from the differences in education, I think it’s very important that you give your daughters the opportunity to make this decision for themselves. I didn’t go to another country for university right away, but I did leave my state, and I’m very glad I did. I think it’s very important for young people to make decisions like this with a bit of freedom, not matter what the cost. Their experience will be much richer and will help them become better, more appreciative adults.
So far, I do think the education here is very comparable, and there is much more focus on knowledge. For example, I’ve never had to read so much for my classes.
Don’t freak out though. When it came to deciding my university, study abroad program, major, etc., my parents did get much of a say or provide much influence. I wish my mom would have been more involved and concerned about my decisions, but I’m a true believer that choosing a university needs to be done by the students. It’ll all work out in time.
I hope this helped,
The gringa on Lima's combis →
I’ve been a little lazy about posting lately, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing. During my study abroad, I’m working at a local news site for English speakers in Peru, and I have a weekly column about culture shock and my experiences. Look for it every Wednesday on Peru this Week. My next column will be about celebrating a birthday in Peru.
Here’s an excerpt from my second column:
The combi whines to a stop, and the door-watcher and money-taker yells out street names and destinations — todo Bolivar, Universitaria, Catolica.
I jump on the rusty vehicle trying not to hit my head on the short doorway, quickly finding something to hold on to before the overly packed van takes off for the next stop.
I give the sweaty doorman a sol, say my destination and repeat at least once and maybe twice until he finally makes out my words. Then I put my money pouch back inside my shirt where pickpockets would have a hard time getting to it.
In Lima, I never fail to stick out. I wear my bright pink backpack on my chest, holding on tightly and taking in my surroundings. It matches my pink face, neck and arms.
Check out the full column at Peru this Week and my first column, Meeting Lima, Peru, as well.
Paddle, paddle harder. Do an upward dog, and jump to your feet.
I went surfing today on the Peruvian coast, and I actually did pretty well at it. While practicing on dry land, I couldn’t get the motions right, but somehow, once I hit the board, I stood up and rode five waves.
The other surfers congratulated me saying “good wave,” but all I could muster was a “that was awesome.”
I’ve been dreaming of going surfing since I was a little girl, and today I not only gave it a try, but I did well at it - despite getting hit by a couple surfboards. I can’t wait to do it again, but for now, it’s back to studying.
I can speak Spanish… I think
I dove under trying to escape the crushing wave, but as I came up, another one hit taking me under water and filling my senses with salt water.
After four days filled with classes in Spanish and reading boring theory of literature, I feel quite defeated by Peru. My patience is running short, and my emotions are running high. Everything feels like an insult and another notch on someone else’s belt.
It’s hard, but I finally feel like I will make it through. After the waves took me under, I retreated to a sandy beach towel, but I didn’t stay away from the ocean. After a few minutes and a cold Cusquena, I ran back into the ocean ready for a second chance.
Like the ocean’s waves and bits of Peruvian literature and history, I will learn how to conquer my classes and this foreign language. My Spanish is constantly improving, and every conversation with a random bus-companion makes me feel more confident in my abilities.
My language skills can only improve and I suspect so will my ability to stay above water in my classes.
Most of my second week two was filled with my new classes. I’m taking literature of hispanic America with a focus on feminist writings, Peruvian literature, pre-hispanic history of Peru and themes in history of the American Andes.
But I also made time to try a Peruvian Pizza Hut - fancier but with disappointing portions - check out a park with about a dozen water fountains, hang out at the beach and shop in one of Lima’s largest and cheapest shopping centers.
In other news, my fellow intercambios have discovered my North Dakota accent, so now I can be made fun of in two languages. The feelings of stupidity may take longer to pass.