Thanksgiving this year was quite a bit different than my normal American Thanksgiving. While I actually have been out of the country for Thanksgiving in the past, this year felt especially different because I would be celebrating the day with people who don’t know much about the history of the holiday or the “normal” traditions. But as my dad made sure to remind me when I was complaining about not having my favorite foods for Thanksgiving this year, “it’s about the people you spend the day with,” and not what you eat.
This past Thursday I had a wonderful brunch with my host parents and my host aunt [I’ve never called her that but I guess technically the sister of my host mom would be my host aunt…]. My host mom made turkey, potato salad, a salad, rice, and humitas. To share with my family one of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes, I attempted to make sweet potatoes. I had to improvise a bit due to the usage of a different form of oven than I would usually use, but in the end they still turned out delicious! Before the meal, my host family had me say my thanks and my host mom also said a few thanks. The meal was quite nice and was a fun time to chat about Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and American traditions.
Here are some photos!
ANDDDD the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, I ran the Lima Night Run with my host brother, Tito. Well… I didn’t run WITH him because he’s way faster than me, but we both ran the race! It was a super fun event and a cool experience running in Lima in the dark! At one point during the race, we ran through a tunnel that they lit up with colorful lights and played music! Overall, the race was great, but there was one portion that was stairs and steep inclines and it was PAINFUL. Even Holy Cross stairs wouldn’t prepare you for 40 flights of stairs in the middle of a race!!
After the race, there were various giveaways and a concert by We the Lion, a popular Peruvian band!
Let me just start by saying that I had no idea what Peruvian food was before I got to Lima, and quite frankly, I thought it would be similar to Mexican food. Oh how I was wrong.
During our pre-departure meeting with the President of EdOdyssey (program that Holy Cross does study abroad through in Peru), I shouldn’t have brushed off the president’s comment about how we will probably gain weight. At the time, I had just ended my 12 year competitive ice skating career and was still in great shape.
At Holy Cross and at home, I had never struggled with finding and choosing healthy food options. My favorite foods were, and still are, fruits and vegetables in addition to a daily dose of ice cream. In Kimball dining hall at Holy Cross, I would indulge in a blueberry muffin on Mondays and Wednesdays for breakfast, but I would always accompany it with a big bowl of fruit. My go-to lunch and dinner was a bowl of brown rice with grilled chicken and a bunch of lettuce and salad fix-ins, topped off by some balsamic vinaigrette. When garlic knots were served, I gladly indulged. When I was craving a bagel, I also indulged.
Yet as I previously stated, my entire time at Holy Cross was characterized by a busy combo of studying and ice skating. Each week I practiced up to 6 days and about 18 hours. I could easily afford to eat bowl of ice cream or a garlic knot here and there. But at the same time, I was astutely aware of the importance of eating well, getting my daily greens, protein and sources of nutrients.
So here I am in Peru… and Bread is my weakness.
I think of students studying in Italy and I’m like, “yeah, I could see how they’d gain weight from eating lots of yummy pasta.” But in reality, I think the carb intake of a Peruvian diet tops a daily dose of pasta.
For breakfast, we get two rolls of bread (pancitos) and an egg, as well as a fruit smoothie.
For lunch, we are on our own. I would go as far as say that about 95% of food options, at restaurants, at bodegas, and at the university, are carb based. Most peruvian dishes include a combo of potatoes and rice. If you’re lucky, you’ll get multiple types of potatoes in your meal! Additionally, among quick snack or lunch options there are empanadas, croissant sandwiches, and triple sandwiches which have about 4 or more pieces of bread in them.
For dinner, our host mom serves us Peruvian food. More bread, potatoes, and white rice.
Each week I tell myself I am going to cut down on how much bread and bread-related foods I eat. But bread is my weakness. What’s a post-dinner tea without a piece of bread with jam?
As I continue to fill my body with carbohydrates and attempt to save my body at the gym each day, all I want is a salad. I miss Kimball. I miss the Pub and being able to design my own salad. I miss the accessibility of healthy options. I miss the days when I didn’t have to tell myself to not eat bread.
Don’t get me wrong, Peru’s food is great! Matter of fact, apparently Peru is the “Best Culinary destination in the World” for the 7th consecutive year (World Travel Awards).
So I guess the point of this blog is to share with you that when someone tells you that you will gain weight in Peru, they are probably right. And if you have even the slightest affinity for bread in the U.S., bread will probably become your weakness too if you come to Peru.
Here’s to another month of bread intake and looking forward to numerous salads and platefuls of vegetables when I get back to the states for Christmas!
Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the chance to do some traveling and also to have a wonderful visit from my parents!! Before my parents arrived, I enjoyed a high altitude, yet super fun and adventurous, trip to Huaraz. It was wonderful bonding with friends and getting to know new people as well. During the weekend, I stayed with four friends in a local hostel which was housing lots of people who were visiting Peru. It’s amazing how many people travel alone and make friends at each stop during their travels. During one of our hikes, Grace and I got to know two lovely ladies from Portugal and Holland.
The following weekend, I welcomed my parents to my new home of Lima! We took a weekend trip down south to Puno and then while I was taking classes during the week, my parents took a trip to the jungle and stayed at the same lodge I stayed at in August! To round off their trip, we had a few days to explore Lima and do some sightseeing around the city!
After a super long stretch of staying in Lima, we finally escaped the city and took a little vacation to Ica, Perú. As part of the Holy Cross study abroad program in Lima, we have three trips which are planned out by and led by EdOdyssey (the program which Holy Cross does study abroad here through). Ica is the second trip that we get to go on.
Our wonderful program coordinator, Patty, runs a small hotel with her family in Ica and kindly welcomed us in for the weekend. During our brief two day stint in the area, we went sandboarding in the sand dunes, rode in a buggie (see pics!), had a barbecue in the sand dunes, cooked (well… prepared) our own Peruvian food, saw sea lions at the Islas Ballestas, and so much more! En route to Ica we also got the chance to learn a little about Afro Peruvian music and culture and even play a little bit ourselves!! After that, we stopped at the Hacienda San Jose for a tour of the hacienda and breakfast. It was definitely a strange experience to witness how a place where slaves were tortured and mistreated, has now been turned into a hotel and tourist attraction. Following this, we stopped at Tacama, a vineyard, for a tour and tasting. We sure love our wines and piscos 😉
I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. T’was a wonderful weekend of laughter, Huawei phone jokes, playing in sand, and enjoying el SOL!
This past Friday evening, Steve (another Holy Cros student) and I attended a potluck dinner with about 40 other international students and 20ish Peruvian students. The event took place at the house of our Peruvian friends and it was a great evening.
Steve made quesadillas and I made an American classic: Peanut Butter and Jelly! While I was making the PB&Js, I was surprised at the excitement which one of the Peruvian girls had for them! She had worked with Americans in the past and said that they brought PB&J for lunch every single day… which she said got tiring but now she really misses it! Others also knew about the sandwich and commented on how it is a TRUE AMERICAN FOOD!
The other participants brought delicious food from their home countries! Some of my favorites were a spicy Korean street food, Crepes, Spanish tortilla (potato dish), and Ratatouille! Two of my french friends made Ratatouille and it was absolutely delectable! One student from Sweden brought a variety of swedish gummies. I think this was my favorite “dish” because the Swedish candy, Billar, are my favorite gummies. You can only find them in Sweden and I have had so many funny memories with them while traveling around the world with my synchronized skating team. If you get the chance to go to Sweden, Billar are a MUST TRY!!
In addition to the abundance of delightful food from around the world, the evening was also a great chance to chat with friends and meet some new ones! The night was filled with conversations, dancing, eating, and FOOSBALL!
Steve and I make quite the foosball team…. We may not win too often but we sure try hard! We played two different sets of people and while playing against the second pair of students, I think we scored one point for their 20+ points… I asked the french student if he played foosball a lot and he goes “only while on vacation”…. based on his skills, he must go on a lot of vacations!
Unfortunately, I was having too much fun to take any pictures during the evening, but I’ll be sure to upload some pictures soon from other events!!!
La semana pasada… oh sorry! I forgot I have to write in english here!! #immersed
Last weekend Sandra and I went to an event with our host parents that was hosted by their church parish. When we left for the event we thought it would be a few hours, maybe a parade, some music and dancing, but we were sure in for a FULL DAY!
Here are a few highlights from the day:
To go to the event, we somehow piled 5 people in my host brother’s tiny FIAT (host mom, host dad, host mom’s sister, host mom’s other sister’s husband)
We ate SO MUCH FOOD!! For lunch Sandra and I got Causa (layers of mashed potatoes filled with chicken salad) and then we each had a dessert. I had Torta Hindu (a type of cake that is filled in the middle with what I believe is manjar blanco…aka dulce de leche… aka caramel). It was DELICIOUS! And thennn, we were sitting at the table and the husband of our host mom’s sister (she couldn’t come because she was sick) brought over a ton of Picarones for us to have. They were also DELICIOUS!! Picarones are a Peruvian street food which are basically fried dough rings that you eat covered with miel de chancaca (sugary syrup). Qué rico!
various singing performances by groups and solo artists
dance performances, including multiple awesome performances by a group that did traditional dances from the region of Puno
dancing with our host family in front of hundreds of Peruvians from their parroquia (parish) . This was the first time dancing with our host family and it was so funny! Quite a blast! May have even picked up a few dance moves 😉
The BIG ATTRACTION: BINGO!! Throughout the afternoon, there were multiple rounds of bingo that went on. During each round, it was completely silent, as everyone was focusing intently on trying to win the game. The prizes were various electric kitchen supplies (grill, juice maker, blender, rice cooker, etc.) as well as 4 monetary prizes! Sandra and I were aiming to win the “Masters” prize of 2,000 soles (about $650 dollars) but unfortunately we came up short 🙁
While I didn’t get any homework or studying done, this turned out to be an awesome day of bonding with my host family, eating lots of yummy foods, and making fools of ourselves on the dance floor! ((funny story: I went to the laundromat two days later and the lady there goes “I saw you at the parroquia on Sunday! You were dancing!!!” and I simply laughed and responded with “sí…”))
HC: 3,102 full time undergraduate students
PUCP: 23,342 undergraduate students
HC: Kimball Dining hall is the main all-you-can-eat dining hall on campus. Kimball is open from 7am until 8pm, every day of the week. There are also a few other locations on campus where you can purchase sandwiches, salads, snacks, and coffee. The majority of students elect a meal plan which gives them unlimited swipe access to Kimball, as well as a couple hundred dining dollars to use at the various other locations on campus.
PUCP: There are three major “comedors” on campus. A “comedor” is a dining hall in which you can order full meals. Most students order the Menu Universitario, which usually includes a salad, a main dish, a dessert, and a drink. They also have a vegetarian option, as well as a “plate of the day” and a lighter fare option which you can get at these dining halls for very reasonable prices. In addition to these dining halls, there are many small cafés on campus which serve small sandwiches, breads, desserts, drinks, etc.. One of my favorite things on campus is the fruit stand. This has tons of fruits as well as other healthy snacks and smoothies. It is great when you simply need an apple to get you through your next class.
HC: Primarily On-Campus residential halls. Additionally, there are a few close off-campus options that some students choose to pursue junior and senior year.
PUCP: NO on-campus housing. Some students live multiple hours from school and commute each day. Many students live in the various surrounding municipalities of Lima.
HC: Besides a few intro classes, the majority of classes which I have taken have had about 20-30 students.
PUCP: One of my classes is a required class for Peruvians, and therefor has about 100 students in it. My other three classes are taught in smaller classrooms and have about 25-40 students.
HC: As I have taken mainly reading-based classes, I normally had 30-50 pages of reading due for each day of class. This usually added up to about 60-100 pages of reading per class per week.
PUCP: My classes at PUCP are either one or two times per week. On average, each class has about 60 pages of reading per week. For one of my classes, there is a required 1-2 paragraph reflection due each week on the required readings.
HC: On a MOUNTAIN. Greenspaces between buildings. Not particularly large (takes 10 minutes to get from one side of campus to the other). All the buildings are fully indoors. Only three main academic buildings/complexes. Large athletic complex and multiple athletic fields for competition and practice.
PUCP: FLAT. Lots of green spaces in which students eat lunch, socialize, and take part in events. Academic buildings are spread out across campus, making the campus feel larger than at Holy Cross. Stairwells and hallways of buildings are generally outside. Each subject, (ex. social sciences, law, engineering, etc.), has its own building/complex. Much smaller athletic complex. Courts for basketball, as well as soccer fields, and a track(supposedly…. I honestly have not personally witnessed this).
HC: Jesuit Catholic. Jesuit ideals, as well as many Jesuits themselves, are particularly present on campus. Many students attend mass weekly and participate in activities through the chaplain’s office.
PUCP: Catholic. While there are sometimes small catholic related things that catch my eye, there is no obvious catholic presence on campus that I have noticed. All Peruvian students are required to take a theology course.
HC: Division one, highly competitive teams, as well as intramural and club sports.
PUCP: Multiple sports teams which compete against other schools, yet are not the same caliber as D1 at Holy Cross. There are also many times when anyone can participate in sports for fun and fitness. There are workshops and times when you can learn different sports as well. Unlike Holy Cross, PUCP also has Chess, Judo, and Table Tennis!! http://deportes.pucp.edu.pe/deportes/
Language of courses
PUCP: Spanish (yet a few readings for classes may be in English)
HC: Three dominant libraries: Dinand Main Library, Science Library, Music Library. At each of the libraries there is a combination of tables(normally for four people), individual study cubicles, and computers. Dinand Library has the most extensive hours out of the libraries, and the largest seating capacity.
PUCP: Central Library, Academic Innovation Complex Library, Social Sciences Library, Theology Library, Center for Oriental Studies Library. The first three libraries mentioned, are all large buildings with various areas to sit and read, meet for group projects, etc. There are also other buildings with large study spaces.
HC: public safety; a few monitored gates
PUCP: guards at every entrance and must show student ID to enter
Before classes began in mid-August, we got the chance to travel to Iquitos, which is in the jungle region of Peru. While there, we stayed at a lodge in a small community along the Amazon River. When we got to the Iquitos airport on the first day, we walked out onto the runway and immediately could tell that we were no longer along the coast. The sky was bright, the air was humid, and finally the temperature was above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. To get to the lodge, we had to take a van, a mototaxi, and then a large motor-powered canoe.
During our first afternoon, we got a quick tour of the community, and then set out in our boat to go swimming. Along the edge of the river, there is lot of mud which we had a blast trying to crawl through and bathe in. Nothing quite like a relaxing mud bath in the amazon! To clean off, we swam out into the river and washed off there. To round off the afternoon, we watched the sun set from the middle of the Rio Ucayali.
After dinner, we took small canoes out through the marsh to find caimanes (alligators). It was really neat to see and hold an alligator, but since it had gotten dark, the mosquitos were out and vicious!! Good thing we got the yellow fever shot!
The next day we did a “full day” excursion. After breakfast we set out for a day of animal watching, fishing for piranhas, and exploring the jungle. We got to feed some monkeys, see an anteater, and climb a massive tree. For lunch, our guide, Gumer, and our motorist, Alejandro, made a fire and cooked up the best meal I’ve had in Peru so far. We had fried plátanos (plantains), chicken, LOTS of rice, apples, cucumbers, tomatoes, and piranha, for those you cared to try it.
The next day, we woke up early to watch the sun rise and see some dolphins. It was absolutely incredible! We then went to a nearby community to meet a sloth named Pablo who has been domesticated by a family.
After breakfast back at the lodge, we went for a walk in the jungle to learn about herbal medicine and different plants which can be eaten or drank from in order to survive. In the afternoon, we did canotaje (canoeing). It was lots of fun even though the canoe, made out of wood, not plastic, was super unstable and we managed to tip the boat after about 5 minutes of rowing.
On the last day, we visited another nearby community to see a lily pad. While there, we also ended up finding an anaconda and a baby sloth!!
After lunch, we made the trip back to Iquitos and got on a plane back to reality here in Lima.
Today I was walking home from orientation at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Perú (PUCP) and thinking about my experience so far, when this blog idea hit. I realized that since arriving in Peru, there are FOUR main areas in which there are STARK differences from what I am accustomed to in the United States. While there are MANY differences between the two countries, these four differences are what I have found most apparent and relevant to my day to day life here.
On the second day in Lima, I got in the car with my host brother and as soon as we started driving, I was baffled by the experience. The first word that comes to mind to describe the driving here would be hectic. In order to change lanes, one must stick their car’s nose into the lane so that the person behind is forced to let them in. When a car blinks their lights, that means that THEY are going, not that they are letting you go! Similarly, the use of the car horn is practically imperative while driving here. A beep generally means that that car is going and to stay out of the way.
This one I was discussing with a Peruvian friend yesterday. Here in Peru, it is customary to greet someone with a kiss on the cheek. Similarly, when people are leaving, you get up and give a kiss on the cheek or a hug to send them off. This is definitely a change that takes some getting used to. In the U.S., we generally avoid physical or intimate contact until we are particularly well acquainted with someone. Here, when you meet a friend for the first time, you would greet them with a kiss on the cheek.
To my delight, people in Peru LOVE to dance! Unlike the casual head bob and funny dance moves that are often present at dances or parties in the U.S., as soon as reggaeton, bachata, or salsa music comes on in Lima, people are singing, dancing, and moving their bodies. It has been really fun to start learning the different styles of dance. I can always count on one of my Peruvian guy friends to grab me for a dance. I’m so excited to keep learning! I think the university’s salsa classes are calling my name!
I’ve never been a big public transportation girl, so navigating the buses in Lima has been an ADVENTURE. Most buses have set routes which you can find on a phone app called TuRuta, or on the side of the buses, but there are very few official stops. Unlike the T in Boston, for example, while you ride the bus, the cobrador (person who collects your money and gets people on and off the bus efficiently) may shout out a few street names as they approach, but you are responsible for telling them when you want to get off the bus. This therefor means that in order to get ON the bus, you must wait along the route and wave your hand as the bus approaches so that it stops to let you on. The buses are often PACKED and it is always an ~experience~.
During our first month in Lima, the students from Holy Cross took Spanish classes at a Spanish language school in Miraflores, called El Sol. During the afternoons, we had scheduled activities which have been coordinated and planned out by the EdOdyssey team. EdOdyssey is the program through which Holy Cross students do study abroad in Peru.
Here is a rundown of an “average” weekday during my first four weeks in Lima, that I wrote during the last week of Spanish classes:
Before I fall asleep each night, I go to the clock app on my phone and set three alarms: 6:23 AM, 6:30 AM, and 6:40 AM. The next morning, I wake up to the splendid sound of “apertura,” bright and early. I am usually slow to get out of bed, so I must rush to get ready for the day and attempt to be downstairs for breakfast by about 7:06 AM. What I love about breakfast at my host family’s house, is that it is consistent. Every day I have two pieces of bread, a small bowl of scrambled eggs, or occasionally a fried egg or omelet, and either a small bowl of mixed fruit, or a fresh fruit smoothie. My host dad makes the most delicious fruit smoothie. I’m not entirely sure of its ingredients but I think that it usually has strawberries, banana, passionfruit, orange, and pineapple.
Around 7:30, the other Holy Cross student living with my host family, and I walk to the bus stop. Depending on the day, we have to wait anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour for the bus. A common problem is that our bus will drive past but won’t stop because it is already filled to capacity. Similar to the T in Boston during rush hour, the bus we take to school is almost always PACKED. Most days, we have to stand for about two thirds of the ride to school. In total, the ride is usually approximately 50 minutes long. The bus passes by Parque Kennedy, which is the main central location in Miraflores, and usually a lot of people get off there.
Most days, we get to school by 8:30 and simply relax in the entrance room before classes begin at 9 AM. The first two hours of class are grammar. This has been very helpful because it is a quick, yet in-depth review of relevant and often-times difficult grammar concepts. After two hours, we have a 20 minutes break, and then classes resume for another two hours. These last two hours are “conversation”. For all four weeks that I have been at El Sol, I have had Jose as my teacher. He is the absolute best and not only helps with my Spanish, but also teaches the class about cultural aspects of Lima and so much more! There hasn’t been a single day this month in which I haven’t laughed during his class.
After classes, all the Holy Cross students eat the lunches which our host families have sent with us. Each day it is always a surprise to see what our host mom sent that day.
Around 1:30 PM, our awesome program coordinator, Patty, comes to El Sol to collect the Holy Cross students so we can go do whatever activity or small excursion is planned for the afternoon. These activities range from watching Peruvian movies, to going to museums, to visiting different areas in Lima.
On most days, we finish up the activity and make our way to Parque Kennedy. From there, I take the bus home. The bus ride home costs 1.5 soles and is usually less busy than on the way to school, making it is easier to get a seat. Each day I get off the bus near the fire station, and I always find it funny when the cobrador says “baja bomberos!” This phrase means that someone is getting off the bus at the fire station. A cobrador is the person who collects your money for the bus and who makes sure people get on and off of the bus.
Once I get home, I normally rest for a little while and then walk to the gym. The gym has become one of my favorite parts of the day. I always feel so accomplished when I finish a nice workout. The gym that I have a membership to is quite large and has lots of different machines and classes which I can utilize daily. After the gym, I walk home, take a shower, and have dinner. For dinner, we have various different meals, but there is always bread and butter. My host mom also always brings out hot water so I can make tea. I have truly become a tea girl down here. The main reason I drink so much tea is that I am constantly cold, due to it currently being winter here in Lima.
Once we have eaten dinner and washed our dishes, we go upstairs to our rooms. Before bed, I complete any homework I have due the next day. Luckily, the teachers at El Sol are muy chéveres and only assign a little bit of homework each night.
And to conclude, here is a fun fact about my daily routine this past month: My three favorite Peruvians that I see each day are Jose (my Spanish teacher), Pablo (my trainer friend at the gym), and the casino guard who always says “buenas noches” to me as I walk home from the gym.