Nos vemos pronto Perú

On March 12th, Holy Cross sent out an email informing us that we had to return home due to the increasing global crisis of COVID-19. A few days later, on March 17th, I pulled back into my driveway of my Lexington, Massachusetts home after about 5 weeks in Peru, instead of 5 months. And here I am on April 22nd finally forcing myself to write a goodbye blog. I’ve admittedly thought about this blog every few days as I go on runs around my town and have time to let my mind wander.

My final days in Peru were a whirlwind. The arrival of COVID-19 was rapid and relatively unexpected. Between finding out that we had to come home and flying out of Peru, there were about 4 days. Suddenly we had to take advantage of every second that we still had in the country. We made one final beach trip, electric scootered through Miraflores, drank chilcanos like it was our job, and ate chifa. We laughed, we cried, we danced. Yet while I spent my final days enjoying time with my amazing friends from Holy Cross, the call for our quick departure left little to no time for goodbyes. As I packed my suitcases, waves of emotions and tears hit as I realized the deep impact which my new friends from Peru and around the world had had on my experience in Peru and on my life. I realized, and I continue to reflect on this even now that I am home, that even the smallest everyday interactions or impromptu conversations with people can have such a profound impact on you.

It was all the small moments which made up the life-changing experience which I had in Peru. Lunch with Steve at the comedor central, laughing hysterically in the silent Biblioteca de Ciencias Sociales instead of reading for class, playing pisco drinking games about limones and vikingos, successfully learning new salsa moves, watching Tito realize he likes We the Lion, playing BINGO with the Parroquia, dancing for hours and hours at my host parents’ Boda de Oro, playing foosball at Pierre’s house, making workout “friends” at Smart Fit, having an unspoken friendship with the bodega owner across the street as I buy the same three items every time I enter, staying up wayyy too late laughing with Nina in Tarapoto, ending up at a random restaurant at 11pm ordering drinks with Joe and Javier, desperately attempting to study for the Estado y Política midterm with Ennedith, sitting outside at the Comedor de Arte attempting to do reading for a final but instead talking for hours with Javier and all the other people who passed through, interviewing Peruvians about the education system with Grace, and looking down at my watch at the club and realizing it is 5 am and I’ve hit my 10,000 step step goal for the day.

There are a LOT more memories. These are just a few.

My first few weeks home, I think I was in a strange sense of shock. I was, and am, happy to be safe and home with my family during these challenging and unprecedented times of COVID-19. I am thankful for every moment in Peru. The experience helped shape me. I learned, I loved, I grew. While I had hoped to continue to nourish relationships I made, improve my Spanish, learn more about the unique country, and so much more, I know that this is not the end of the journey. One day I will return to Peru. And until then, I will hold the memories close to my heart, try to virtually stay connected with folks, and apply lessons learned in Peru to my life here in the U.S..

To anybody thinking about studying abroad. I say GO FOR IT! Keep in mind that it probably will not be a walk in the park. You will be faced with challenges. But you will also meet amazing people, experience new things, and learn a LOT.

In my first blog post back in July of 2019, I wrote that I was taking off on the biggest YOLO of my life. And that is exactly what it was. I embraced the fear of the unknown, one day at a time. I challenge you to do the same. I wrote that “Sometimes you have to jump and hope you don’t just land on your feet, but that you FLY. ” I stand by this. May we all have the opportunity to fly. Cheers to embracing the continuous unknown.

¡Cuídense!

flying over lima
and FLY I sure did!
sunset
Callao
sunset over the notary
Neighborhood sights on a beautiful summer evening
On the Malecón as the sun goes down
On the Malecón as the sun goes down (photo by Joe Ertle ’21)
Enjoying our final evenings in Lima. Much love <3
Chilcanos and tequenos at the bar
3 por S./20 Chilcanos y Tequeños por favor!
girls on the beach
Day tripping to the beach in Chorrillos with the chicas! Only got a little sunburnt….

AND here are a few more photos just for the mems:

host parents celebrating their 50th anniversary
Mis papás anfitriones celebrando su Boda de Oro!!
Host mom and I
Hermi, Te quiero!
foosball, dancing, and fun
Foosball, Fiorella dancing, and Manuel doing who knows what… Seems about right 🙂
dancing salsa
Salsa hasta que se apaguen las luces
Peru flag
Ciao Perú

 

Finals

**finals ended about 3 weeks ago but figured I’d still post this*

There is always going to be the debate: which type of final is better? A paper or an exam? There are pluses and minuses for both. With an exam, you have to study hard leading up to it, but then it is over and done with in a couple of hours. You don’t necessarily know what the questions will be on an exam, so there is an inevitable element of surprise and fear. With a paper, you slave over crafting the best possible piece of work you can before the turn in date arrives. You have the questions or prompt you need, and the necessary resources are at your disposal.

Finals in Perú were absolutely no easier than finals at Holy Cross. This semester I had three final papers and an oral exam. While I was very nervous studying for and heading into my oral exam, it ended up going very well and I left feeling like a weight had been lifted off my chest. As a perpetual procrastinator, my biggest challenge this finals szn was that two of my papers were due on one day, and the next day I had my other paper due. While it is possible to write one paper the day before, it is not possible to write 3 extensive (high quality) papers in three days. I knew this going into the week. Of course, I still procrastinated. After 4 nights of barely any sleep, some chocolate, and too much coffee, all my finals were turned in. Pages and pages of Spanish words complete, it felt good to finish off the semester.

Yet this was not realllyyyy the end of paper writing. For Holy Cross students who study abroad in Perú, there is a required ICIP (Independent Cultural Immersion Project). This project requires students to immerse themselves in an activity, volunteer opportunity, or other cultural experience while in Perú. At the end of the semester, you have to present your experience and/or findings and write a final paper. As I attempted to get the paper done so I could be fully in vacation mode, I found that the combination of 6 months of life in Spanish and my true passion for my project made writing the final paper relatively easy.

Turning in this final paper allowed me to take a deep breath and say chau to this semester of schoolwork. It has been tough, but I have learned so much unique information that I could never get out of Holy Cross courses. This semester I learned about the complexity of Peruvian politics, society, and cultures. I expanded my anthropological perspective. I improved my ability to critically read in Spanish, as well as write strong academic papers in Castellano. In and out of the classroom, I learned and grew in ways I never have before. Just as with the final exam vs. final paper debate, there are pluses and minuses to study abroad. Study abroad is hard. Study abroad is a challenge. But study abroad is also an incredible opportunity to expand your mind, your perspective and your understanding of the world.

Weekend in Ica!

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!

Sarah, instructor, and kid are pictured. Sarah and the kid are playing the cajón.
This kid was a musical genius on the cajón!
A view of the field at Hacienda San Jose
Hacienda San Jose
Patty, and the Holy Cross students enjoying the sunset. A nice group photo
Patty and the HC kiddos 🙂
The girls of Holy Cross take a selfie with the sunset
Nothing like a sunset selfie amirighttt?!
The Holy Cross crew standing on the sand buggie
Our transportation for the evening! Like a rollercoaster… but in the sand! Also great because when we sandboarded down the dunes we didn’t have to walk back up hahaha
Sarah in the car and everyone else is asleep
On our way to the Islas Ballestas. Looks like the fam is a little tired!! Got to get the Z’s in whenever you can!
Sea lions on a rock at the Islas Ballestas
Sea lions at the Islas Ballestas!!
parcial bridge and the islands
After learning about the exploitation and history of guano in Peru during multiple of my classes at PUCP, it was nifty to put the history a little more into context.
Holy cross students sitting around a table preparing ceviche and learning from Patty's mom who is standing up and demonstrating.
Learning how to prepare Ceviche, a SUPER popular Peruvian dish consisting of raw fish (which get “cooked” by the lime juice), limes, onions, choclo, and whatever else you want to add to it! I’ve eaten about 5 bites of fish during my entire life so I was quite proud of myself for eating a substancial portion of the dish I made!!
Causa dish and Sandra
Second dish we prepared: Causa
This is one of Sandra (my housemate and pictured here) and I’s favorite dishes here in Perú. Definitely a must-try if you are visiting!!

 

Trip to Iquitos

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.

Steve, Grace, Joe, and I enjoying a natural mud bath in the Ucayali river!
Steve, Grace, Joe, and I enjoying a natural mud bath!

Holy Cross students with our cultural advisor, Luis, enjoying the sunset over the river.
Holy Cross students with our cultural advisor, Luis, enjoying the sunset over the river.

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!

Sarah in a canoe holding an alligator.
Pretty cool holding an alligator!

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.

A monkey sits on the side of our canoe enjoying some orange.
Monkey enjoying some fruit

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.

Sarah holding a sloth named Pablo.
Pablo is the CUTEST!

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!!

Joe, a student from holy cross, is holding an anaconda.
Joe holding the Anaconda.

After lunch, we made the trip back to Iquitos and got on a plane back to reality here in Lima.

4 Ways to Know you are Not in Massachusetts Anymore

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.

1.     Driving

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.

2.     Salutations

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.

3.     Dancing

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!

4.     Buses

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~.

Month 1: A Day in the Life

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.