Monday, May 30, 2011

May 30th, 2011

May 30th, 2011

            Monday. As usual I was the first one up for breakfast, aside from Taki, the Japanese man who also lives with us while he improves his Spanish skills for his job. Our host momma makes a great fruit salad, which I quickly dove into and immediately host momma brings me a nice cup of coffee.
            Syeda, Natalie, and I usually leave for school around 8:30 am, maybe a bit later, for our 15 minute walk to El Sol. It’s nice now because we are starting to understand Lima and know our way around the city and it gives me a sense of accomplishment that I feel confident in a foreign city.
            School was the standard two hours of language, followed by an hour of culture and an hour of conversation. I was still feeling tired and a bit woozy today, and I definitely needed the nonstop coffee to help me power through classes, but I genuinely enjoy El Sol and intend to make the most out of my last week of classes here.
            After El Sol, the standard run to the Metro supermarket and then jump in cab and hope the driver can find the FAP Air Force School commenced. There was confusion about teaching groups upon arrival at the school, so a lot of us ended up with different people in our teaching groups than we thought, but we make it work. The teacher had the class that I was in spilt up into three separate groups, so Andrew, Kelsey, and I each sat down with a separate group to give them more focused attention. This group was a lot more difficult than the previous groups I had worked with, and I was feeling the language barrier. These kids were not as advanced in English as the ones that I had worked with during the past few days.  I stuck with the lesson plan and talked with the kids about American foods, holidays, shopping, manners, and things like that. At first I was a little frustrated because I had only experienced groups of very outgoing kids who spoke very sufficient English, and I was now working with much more reserved kids who only understood a little of what I was saying. But as the class went on, we broke down some barriers and the kids were absorbing some of what I was saying, and asking me questions in English. What I really learned today though was the power of a smile. It’s true that smiling is the universal language. Of course I was there to teach English, but at the times when we didn’t understand each other, throwing out a laugh and a smile resonated with these kids and we were able to share an experience of coming together.
            After lecture, I was pretty eager to get home and rest and do school work. And here I am writing my blog J

Sunday, May 29, 2011

May 29th, 2011

May 29th, 2011

            Today was a muuuuuch needed free day. We were supposed to visit the port city of Callao, but since everyone was so exhausted and we had such a long day yesterday, Callao was cancelled. It would have been neat to visit Callao because I have heard that it is very beautiful, and interesting as well, since it is frequently talked about in our Lima book. But, I won’t complain about the free day at all, since I have been feeling quite run down myself.
            I didn’t sleep as much as I was hoping, probably since my body has been programming itself to wake up early for school at El Sol, but I was soon joined by my roomies Syeda and Natalie and we worked on some homework and picture uploading after eating breakfast. We were waiting to hear the update on paragliding, which about 15 of us were planning to do today since we had the day off. Kristen’s host mom was in contact with one of the paragliding places in Miraflores and it had all been arranged for one of the woman who works there to meet us at Kristen’s apartment at 2pm. We all met there, but were met with unfortunate news, that because of the rainy weather, paragliding was not going to happen today. I kind of had a feeling this was going to happen as Syeda, Natalie, and I made our way over to the apartment while being hit by raindrops. It was definitely a bummer, but even if we had gone, the weather was so gloomy we would not have had much of a view. But, we still want to go paragliding! It doesn’t look like we will be able to in Lima, since time is running short, but soon enough we will be in Cusco, and we have heard there is also paragliding there, with views that promise to be breathtaking!
            So a few others and myself wandered over to the area of Lacromar, where there is a big, upscale mall. This mall is where all the tourists are hiding. The mall was not all that interesting, but we did have a nice lunch overlooking the ocean, and this restaurant actually had legitimate vegetarian options, so I was happy! It was definitely gloomy, but the Pacific Ocean certainly was a sight to see. But, the most interesting part of our excursion to the mall was the difficulty we had getting there because numerous streets were blockaded off for the presidential debate that was to take place at the Marriot Hotel right in the area. There were countless policemen and women, riot police, and secret service agents for blocks, and we had to navigate our way around the blockades to find the mall and see the shore. It was definitely a really cool thing to see. We are in Peru during an exciting time, and ever since we landed we have been seeing and hearing things all about the election, and now we could almost feel like we were in the heart of it.
            As we sat down to dinner tonight, our host family was gearing up to watch the debate. The TV volume was cranked up really loud, and the lights were dimmed, as if for ambiance, and we could tell that watching the debate was a big event. It was interesting to see the areas we were just at earlier now swarmed with people waving signs and chanting for their favored candidate.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

May 28th, 2011

May 28th

            Today we traveled to Caral, to visit the site of the oldest civilization in South America, which dates back to atleast 4000 years ago, predating the Incas. We loaded onto the bus and settled in for the 3 or 4 hour drive to Caral from Lima.
            When Caral was first discovered in the year 1941, not much was thought about it because no valuable artifacts, like ceramics were found at the site, yet evidence that the inhabitants were able to cultivate food was found. Upon later research on the site by another archeologist in 1994, we have found out just how significant Caral actually is, and that no ceramic items were discovered originally because the civilization most likely existed before the concept of ceramic pottery. Numerous terraced pyramids span the area that was used for ceremonies, religious purposes and housing. Some items excavated at Caral included many instruments made from animal bones and the body of a baby.
            After Caral we headed back to the bus and journeyed another hour so we could stop at a restaurant for lunch at about 4pm. Only some rice and salad for this vegetarian, so I was anxiously awaiting a nice dinner at my host family’s house when we returned. After lunch, another 3 or 4 hours in the bus was ahead of us. I tend to enjoy long bus rides actually, and caught some sleep, but there is no doubt how happy we all were to reach the hostel and get off that bus, especially after hitting traffic in Lima right when we were all about to go crazy! But, parts of this bus ride were incredible. We rode along a winding strip of road overlooking the coast, the waves crashing against the shore right below us, and the view was breathtaking.

Friday, May 27, 2011

May 27th, 2011

May 27th, 2011

            Today we had school, like usual. But today we had a test! I’m not exactly sure what the tests are for, probably just for our teachers to check our progress, but I felt very confident while taking it, so that was a good sign. As usual, after class the majority of the group quickly ran over to the Metro supermarket to grab something for lunch, portable enough to eat in the taxi on the way to the Air Force school. Despite the school being hard to find, the taxi drivers have been very accommodating, pulling over numerous times to ask for directions. We are all starting to get the hang of the routine and riding in taxis here is becoming less and less intimidating as the days pass.
            I really enjoyed the class my group and I taught today at the school. The kids were all about sixteen years old, and very excited to talk to us. When Brielle, Kim, Amy, and I first walked we were greeted by a boy sitting atop a wooden box and beating it like a drum, accompanied by another boy on a recorder type instrument. Then a girl and a boy got up from their seats and danced for us, and soon they pulled each of us in the circle and showed us some Peruvian dance moves. The surprises did not end there. Waiting on the table for us was a traditional Peruvian dish made up of boiled potatoes, olives, and lettuce, topped with a cheese sauce with a nice kick to it. This was appropriate since our lesson plan for this week has been to talk to the kids about food. So while having the opportunity to try the food the kids had prepared for us, we were able to discuss the similarities between American and Peruvian foods.
            After teaching we went to another lecture at the Air Force school. I enjoyed this lecture a lot. We discussed transculturation, the mix of Spanish traditions with Peruvian traditions. Also, we learned about the social structure of years back which places the Spaniards at the top of the hierarchy, followed by Creoles and mestizos, then Indians, and lastly Africans and mulattos. I enjoyed learning a bit more about traditions and customs in Peru including Inti Rami, which is the festival of the sun that takes place Cusco and which we are lucky enough to be in Cusco to experience. My favorite thing that we discussed in lecture today was the Peruvian Paso horses. I have been a horse lover all my life and have known about these horses for years, so I really enjoyed hearing our professor talk about these gaited horses, and how they “dance” sometimes even with a woman as a part of a traditional performance.
            After class the group reconvened with Monica at a renowned peña in Barranco. Peñas are music clubs in Peru that highlight traditional music and dance in the country. The atmosphere is very exciting and the highlight of the night was definitely when a group of dancers brought some Northeastern students onto the dance floor to participate in a dance where a man and a women chase each other around the dance floor with a candle, attempting to light each other’s butt on fire, followed by them energetically shaking their bodies to extinguish the flame. But now, it’s off to bed. We are meeting at the hostel tomorrow at 7:20am for our day trip to Caral!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

may 26th, 2011

May 26th, 2011

            Last night we all went out for my birthday! I was so happy that the majority of the group came out and celebrated! We all met at an Irish Pub to hang out for a bit before heading over to a discothèque in Barranco. It was a lot of fun to have everyone together hanging out, and of course, I got sang to again! Barranco was funny because it was only us Americans in the club that night because it was Wednesday, but we still managed to have fun, which is one of the things I really like about this group of people. I don’t think I’ll ever forget celebrating my 19th birthday in Peru because it was a really unique and cool experience that I got to share with a lot of great new people.
            Today we went to EL Sol for classes, 2 hours of language, 1 hour of culture, and one hour of conversation. One thing I love about El Sol is that there is free coffee available during classes. Being a caffeine addict, this is a wonderful thing, especially after being out last night for my birthday!
            After classes we cabbed over to the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia, Antropologia, y Historia del Peru. This museum was interesting for us to visit because it correlated directly to what we are learning in culture class at El Sol. For the past few days we have been learning about the pre-Hispanic Peruvian civilizations, including the Nazca, Moche, Paracas, and Chavin cultures, all that were represented in the museum. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

may 25th, 2011

My 25th, 2011

            Today is my birthday! I never thought I would turn 19 in Peru! As usual, we went to class this morning at El Sol. I am really enjoying classes at the school so far. I really like my teacher because he teaches in a very interactive way, so we are constantly practicing our speaking skills. We had class from 9am to 1pm, then had about 45 minutes to grab some food and jump in a cab to get to the Air Force School, where would teach English for the first time. Not surprisingly, the cab situation was an ordeal yet again, with many people arriving late because their cab kept getting lost. As I had mentioned before, when we come to the school, we feel famous at the FAP school. The kids swarm up to us, some shy, and some very forward. It is obvious how excited they are to meet and befriend Americans. And today I was told by some of the young girls that I have some of the boys at the school crushing on me.
            One boy took me around the school to try to find my group so I could start teaching English. He brought me to one room where I introduced myself to the kids. I told them it was my birthday and they all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me, first in English and then in Spanish, and it was really cool. It’s small things like this that really make a day great. However, this was not the class I was supposed to be in so I thanked them for singing to me and then had to leave to find my real room! I never did find it that day, because things were a bit disorganized, but I ended up in a classroom with some other Northeastern students who also never found their assigned group, and we just teamed up to teach together. We taught the kids about American food, so we went over typical American foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We had the kids tell us what foods to write, making them use their English, and as we went along, we would discuss and compare the differences between Peruvian food customs and American food customs. We also talked with the kids about traditional American holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, where food plays a major role, so the students could get an idea of what our holidays are like. Our class was so enthusiastic and seemed so excited to participate with us, so that made our job really rewarding. I do not think we were teaching the kids anything that was truly new to them, because many of them knew the answers to our questions and spoke English very well, but they were having the opportunity to speak with us and interact with American students and it is clear how much they love this whenever we arrive at FAP.
            I always run into Conny, my language partner, at FAP after we are done teaching and head to the conference room for lectures on Peruvian history. She always gives me a big hug and today she gave me a little bracelet as a gift, which I have yet to take off.
            One of the highlights of today was when we returned to our host family house after our long day at El Sol and FAP. Previously, while talking to us and asking us questions about ourselves, our host mom asked us what our favorite food is. I said apples, because I literally love apples. So today when we got home from school, our host mom had a beautiful apple birthday cake waiting for me. It was so kind of her. And later after dinner we lit candles and the family sang to me. In a little while, a bunch of us our going out to celebrate my birthday, so I am very excited and can’t wait to experience my birthday the Peruvian way!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May 24th, 2011

May 24, 2011

            Today was a busy day of touring. We only had one hour of Spanish class today at El Sol before departing for the center of Lima to visit the government palace, the catacombs of San Francisco church, and congress. After stopping for some photos in the Plaza de Armas, we made our way into the government palace, which was recently constructed in the 20th century following storms that ruined the original palace, to take a tour. Our guide took us through all the rooms of the palace, explaining their significance and telling us what the president does in each room. I really enjoyed the room used for addresses and reception that was made to replicate the Hall of Mirrors from the Palace of Versailles in France. Before our guide had even said anything I was thinking to myself, wow this looks like the Hall of Mirrors, which I knew of because I had previously visited it in France a few years back. And I was right! The room was made to resemble the famous hall in the Palace of Versailles design style because the architects were trying to mimic the French design style. My other favorite part of the tour was when we saw the painting of Tupac Amaru. I enjoy symbolism in paintings and this one had a lot that our guide discussed with us. For example, the chunk missing from under the neck of the portrait, symbolizing that he was beheaded. After we toured the building, we headed outside and watched the changing of the guard ceremony. I have seen a few changing of the guard type ceremonies throughout my travels, but this was by far the most elaborate. It was neat to hear the full band play and see all the guards in their elaborate uniforms marching perfectly in unison.
            After the government palace we went to see the catacombs in the San Francisco monastery. This was my favorite part of the day. This monastery and church is among the oldest in South America, and beneath it lays hundreds of skulls and bones, arranged and ordered in an eerie fashion in the catacombs underneath the church. It was definitely chilling to be walking by piles of skulls that are centuries old, all while navigating through the dark, claustrophobic chambers. We even saw a whole body, which was a crazy sight. While the bones were the highlight of the tour, I found the majority of the monastery to be very beautiful. One of the first things we saw was the mind blowing library, home to some books brought by the Spanish when they first came to Peru.
            After the San Francisco church we went to visit the congress. It was a bit of a problem at first because we did not realize we would not be allowed in if people were wearing shorts, which the majority of the boys and a few of the girls were. But, as usual, Monica was able to work her magic and we were allowed to visit the congress building. After Congress Syeda, Natalie, and I took a cab back to our host family to rest for a bit. We have such action packed days so we needed to rest for a bit!

Monday, May 23, 2011

may 23, 2011

May 23, 2011

            Today was our first day of school! My roommate and I were up early today because before we went to El Sol for our Spanish class, we decided we wanted to go see the Monday morning ceremonial formations at the FAP Air Force School, where we will be teaching English later in the week.
            It was neat to see all the school kids lined up in their uniforms outside on the basketball courts listening to their school officials give small presentations on such things as tardiness. Yianni and Andrew spoke on behalf of us American students by going on stage and introducing us and telling the kids what we had been doing so far in Peru, as well as what we are planning for the upcoming weeks.
            I enjoyed seeing the morning formation, however the cab ride there was a disaster. If there were one thing I do not like about Lima it would be the taxis. The drivers never have any idea where they are going. Granted, we are spoiled living in a country where now if the drivers don’t know where to go they have a GPS, but none the less, it is stressful when you have to be somewhere at a certain time and things get delayed because of a lost taxi! But, I’ll just call it part of the adventure!
            We then returned to the El Sol language school where we had to take a placement test that consisted of written work and a oral conversation part. I unfortunately missed my first day of language class because it took them so long to place me in a class, but I made it to my culture class. I was very intimidated by the culture class when I had originally heard about it because I knew that it was going to be taught in Spanish, and previously the only class I had that was taught in Spanish for the majority, was a Spanish language class in high school. But, I actually enjoyed the culture class a lot. I really like my teacher too and have found myself understanding everything he is saying without having trouble.
            After classes at El Sol we returned to the FAP Air Force School to learn more about what we would be doing there in the next two weeks. Again, taxi trouble getting there, but all thirty of us managed to find it nonetheless. We feel like celebrities at the Air Force school. The kids get so excited to see us and immediately swarm to us. I met my language partner today. Her name is Conny and she is sixteen, and has an endless supply of spunk. I can tell how excited she is to have met me, as well as the rest of the kids to be able to interact with American students. They immediately all wanted to find us on facebook and be our friends. It was also apparent that Andrew and Yianni had become instant celebrities since giving their speech to the school this morning. All the girls at the school were gushing over the American boys. I am very excited to teach English and interact with these kids. I think it will be very easy to feed off of their enthusiasm.
            After we left the Air Force school  few of us met up at a café to get some work done, which was a nice way to unwind and catch up with each other.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

may 22, 2011

May 22, 2011

            Today we moved in with our host families, who we will be staying with for the two weeks that we are here in Lima. I have had mixed emotions about this ever since we found out months before that we would be living with host families because I had never done anything like this. But I am exited above all else because I think it is going to be a perfect opportunity to be able to utilize my Spanish speaking skills.
            I am living with two other girls on the trip here in the house of La Familia Soto. Our madre has a husband and a ten year old son, who we are yet to meet, but they should be arriving later tonight. Our host mom told us that she hosts a lot of students, and also while we are staying here she is hosting another student in the apartment as us. He is a Japanese man who is here, also studying at El Sol school because he needed to learn Spanish for his job. Syeda, Natalie, and I each have our own room in the apartment. We are living on Avenida Jose Pardo.
            Only have been here for a few hours, things are already going well. So far, being in the host family has not been stressful. Even the initial introduction was not that intimidating and I was happy because I could comprehend everything that our host mom was saying to us and I felt confident answering her. She was so sweet and after just settling in the house, our host mom asked us for all our dirty clothes so she could do laundry. After inappropriately packing for our excursion to Ica, I have been wearing the same dust covered clothes for a few days now, so we were very grateful for her offering to do our laundry.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

May 21st, 2011

May 21st , 2011

            Today was another early day. I was up at 6 to get ready and grab some breakfast quick before we left for Nazca today. It was a two hour bus ride from Ica to Nazca. Today we traveled to and from Nazca to Ica, and then traveled another four or five hours in back to Lima. The Nazca lines have fascinated me ever since I had heard about them, so I was very excited to be able to see them. About ten of us at a time were able to climb the lookout tower and look down onto two of the Nazca lines, the hands and the tree. It was startling to me how unassuming the lookout spot for the lines were. We simply pulled our vans to the side of the road, walked up a tower, and there they were. I will admit though, I was a tad disappointed by the lines. You always hear about the major lines, like the monkey and the hummingbird but we did not get to see that. However, I do completely understand why. Maybe one day I will return to Nazca and take a plane over the lines to see them all from the sky, which is the best way to do it. However, I have also heard very negative things about the planes and pilots who take people over the lines!

            After the Nazca lines we went into the town of Nazca to see a workplace where gold was made, followed by a place where ceramics are made. I was really fascinated by the gold mining process and the effort it takes to produce the gold. None of us could believe that after he had explained the hours of labor that go in to producing the gold, the outcome for each day is a spec of gold smaller than the size of a dime. We then got to see the way the gold is pressed into the mercury, as a few boys rolled back and forth on huge cylinders for compression, a chore they would be doing for about 6 hours straight. After the gold factory, we went to observe ceramics being made. The most memorable thing about this was learning that the ceramics that the people make get their nice polish from the grease on the artisan’s hair and face. We watched as the lady who was demonstrating rubbed some oil from her face and then onto the ceramic bowl, creating a nice shine.

            It was definitely a long day, but we got to see so much Peruvian culture and history. I always love when a famous place or landmark comes up in conversation, or class, or on tv, and I am able to say that I have personally been there. I’ve been getting that feeling a lot since I have been on this trip, even though the trip has just begun, and it is really exciting. Like for example, I can say that I have seen the Nazca lines, the mysterious and massive etched creations in the deserts Peru.

            Today also had a little extra flair, because it was Andrew’s 21st birthday. So after our long, long, day, and our long, long drive back to Lima to our beloved youth hostel, we went out Kennedy Park and found a discothèque to end the night and Andrew’s birthday with. We are now back and sleeping at the hostel one last time before we go to our home stay families tomorrow. We have all grown to love the hostel because in this short amount of time, the group has become close and we enjoy being all together.

May 20th, 2011

May 20th

Today we had a free day, since yesterday we woke up early and went to Paracus. I think we were all very grateful for the day off! At about 9:30am Brielle and I went down from our room and went down by the pool to see if anyone was up. We found a bunch of people and we all decided to hang out by the pool for a while. We all grabbed our computers and books and worked on some homework for a while, getting our assignments ready for our upcoming school week!

We eventually all went our separate ways for lunch. I went off with some people and we found a restaurant right near the principle square that had a very wide variety of options. The boys were very excited because they could get hamburgers at this place. Scott ordered a burger that had Doritos chips in the sandwich. I have found it a bit difficult being a vegetarian, however I have yet to go to my home stay and I’m sure it will be much easier then. I have gotten some strange reactions from servers in the restaurants when trying to order I feel like here the people do not understand the concept of vegetarianism the way it is understood in the Untied States because meat, chicken, and fish are such staples in the Peruvian diet.

We had a very interesting assignment to do this afternoon. We had to go around the square in groups of three and converse with the locals and find out the answers to a list of questions about Ica that Monica had given to us. I will admit I was completely intimidated by the assignment. It is hard enough to confront strangers in the US who speak the same language and ask them questions, let alone have to do it in a foreign country to people who do not speak the same language as you. Brielle, Leslie, and I formed a group and began asking people the questions. We spoke with two couples and two different men. We had a bit of trouble finding certain answers, especially to the questions, which asked for what Ica and Paracus meant. Each person just answered that they were both parts of Peru. But, the assignment really forced us to get out of our comfort zone and talk to the Peruvian people, which was rewarding because that is what this trip is all about.

We had planned to meet at 6pm to discuss Saturday’s plans and the plans for the night, but Yianni slipped on the staircase at the hotel and got a huge gash in the back of his head, so he had to go to the hospital and get stitches so that meeting was clearly postponed. Gladly, Yianni was fine and Monica took the entire group to the best discothèque in Ica, The Who, for a taste of Peruvian nightlife. We got there around 11, which is still early for the Peruvians, because when we arrived it was almost empty, however as the night progressed the club became packed with people. We certainly were a spectacle for all the natives, about 30 American kids dancing in the middle of the dance floor. Andrew turned 21 at midnight, so we all got to sing to him at the club and they played the Happy Birthday song, so that was neat. It was definitely a great experience, but I ended up going in around 12:30 because I was exhausted. But just as all the days before, today was an awesome day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

May 19th, 2011

May 19th

            It is only day three of my six week journey through Peru for the Spanish language intensive Dialogue of Civilization. I already absolutely love the trip. We have already seen so much it’s almost hard to believe, and it is exciting knowing the amazing things that are waiting for my fellow travelers and me in the coming weeks. We have a great group of people for this trip, and I feel like I have already known these people for years and look forward to cementing lasting relationships with these people.

            Today was unbelievable. We had an early start, I was up at 6am to be down for the hotel breakfast at 6:30, and then for our departure to Paracus at 6:45am. We arrived at the Islas Ballestas and boarded a boat that took us out into the Pacific. I found the candelabra de Paracus fascinating, since no one knows how the design came to be. I recall our guide Miguel saying that it may have been made to act as a signal to incoming ships by being a visible marker indicating that a bay is near. The Islas Ballestas themselves were a wonder to see. Seeing the incredible rock structures and the ocean water splashing against them was thrilling, and having the chance to be ten feet from penguins and seals was such a great surprise.

            Following the boat tour, we returned to our hotel to tour the main plaza of Ica. I thought it was very interesting hearing about the storm that tore up the city and the rebuilding process that followed, as well as the fact that despite all the damage done by the storm, the church remained intact. My other favorite fact from this tour was that the clock on one of the spires of the church has the Roman numeral IV written as IIII, done as a mistake. We next traveled to the pisco vineyard for a tour and tasting. By this time, I’m sure most of us had already tried pisco, so it was interesting for us to be able to see a vineyard that it actually comes from. Seeing the ‘lager’ where they stop the grapes for around 12 hours and the other pieces of the process in producing pisco was neat to see. We all enjoyed the tasting at the end, but I myself had to pass my pisco off to Scott, because it was much too strong for me.

            I think we would all agree that the highlight of today was the dunes. I still cannot wrap my head around what we got to do today. My favorite moment in travel is when you’re staring out at your surroundings and think to yourself, ‘look where I am right now.’ To me that is a special and incredible moment that many people do not get to say they have had. Today, looking out over the dunes while cruising in our buggy, I thought that to myself several times. Aside from the sheer wonder of where we were, the buggy ride itself was thrilling. It was fast, and scary at times, but it was incredibly fun. Being able to slide down those steep dunes on the body-boards was just an added bonus. I will never forget this.