Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Colegio Pio XII

            One of the activities included in my program here in Perú was visits to a Peruvian high school. I was excited for this opportunity because I wanted to learn about Perú’s education system in comparison to that of The United States. Today marked my last visit to the high school, which I visited a total of four times. This school is surprisingly close to that apartment that I live in here. Ever since I got here I wondered what was behind a long wall that is across from my apartment building. On my first visit I was surprised that I had never figured out that it was a school. The entrance gates are about a 3 minute walk for me.
            During my visits to the school I have had the pleasure of helping students ages 14-17 practice their English. On the first visit we had a “get-to-know-you” session where about 3 Americans talked with about 4 Peruvian students at a time. They typical questions were asked by both: What’s your name? How old are you? Where are you from? What level of school are you in? What do you want to be when you grow up? What places have you traveled? I was instantly surprised by how good the English of most of these students seemed to be. Of course there was the dominant speaker in every group, but their English was overall very good.
            On the second and third visits I was given groups of about 4-5 students with whom I completed activities with. These activities required the students to compare and contrast specific aspects of Peruvian culture to American culture. In one group we discussed places to travel. It was neat to see which places the students chose as tourist destinations in Perú. They listed the places I have already visited as well as many more. Many girls in my group had visited Disney World in Floridea and thought that it was the main tourist destination in The United States. In another group I was given the topic of Education. It was interesting to see how different Peruvian schools are than American schools. I must add a disclaimer, I am discussing Peruvian schools in Lima. The school system outside of Lima is very different than in Lima. There are more opportunities and more access to knowledge in Lima. I saw two major differences between Peruvian schools in Lima and schools in the US. One of these differences was the number of public schools there in comparison to private schools. In Lima, public schools are not common because they are not as acceptable or nearly as good of an education as private schools. In The United States we take for granted the great public education system that we have compared to other countries. The other major difference was the emphasis put on learning a second language. In the US, students aren’t required to take a second language unless they plan to go to college. In Lima, private schools (as well as select public) teach students to be fluent in English. The school system is different in Lima than in the US and it was interesting to see these differences in action during my visits.
            Today on my last visit to this school, the students prepared a special presentation for us. They had traditional culture presentations as well as table after table of traditional Peruvian food. Walking around and letting the students present for us as well as eating some good food was a sight to see. I have enjoyed being able to see the personalities of this age group in comparison to the students that I have met at the university. I felt that visiting this school was well worth the time and I wish I would have been able to visit it more!
Me with some of the girls I worked with

Monday, April 16, 2012

La Candelaria

This past Saturday night I was invited to attend a show of traditional Peruvian dances. This show was called La Candelaria and the ticket was only 35 soles (about $13), which was well worth it. Included in that 35 soles was the show and a Pisco Sour, which is the most popular drink in Perú. When we arrived at the show, we were shown to our table. We were in the second row of tables and had a great view of the stage. The show began with a band that played while another person chose people out of the audience to dance around them in a circle. Two of the Americans that came with, Steph and Jessica, were chosen to partake in this dance!
Sarah, David, Me, and Amy getting ready for the show

Steph got chosen to dance up on stage!

Pisco Sour - The most popular drink in Peru

After the band, they began the show of five different traditional dances. Between the dances, while the dancers changed costumes, the host would come out and talk. He announced birthdays and towards the end of the show he went around in the audience to announce where all of the foreigners were from. After he did this, all of the foreigners were forced to come up on stage and show the audience a traditional dance from their home country. We were forced to stand up on stage and were worried of what dance they would come up with for The United States. When the band began playing the YMCA, I couldn’t help but laugh! It was embarrassing, but good thing I will never see those people again! La Candelaria was definitely something that I am glad I spent the money on. The show was fantastic!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mixed Feelings

Three weeks from now I will be sitting in the Jorge Chávez International Airport waiting for my flight back to the United States. I am beyond excited to return home to my family, friends, and Dan, but at the same time I am sad at what I am leaving behind. Even though I feel that I could never permanently reside in a large city, I have come to love the surroundings in Lima. There is always something to do, the harder part is finding someone to do it with you. I have enjoyed the group of 20 that I traveled here to Lima with and have made a couple true friends.

Amy, Ashley, Me, and Steph. This picture was taken before we took a bus up to Machu Picchu. These are the girls that I am going to be traveling to Puno/Iquitos with!

Amy and Me at Machu Picchu. I am going to miss this girl!

It has been summer during my stay in Perú and I have enjoyed being able to travel to the beach on weekends. The cool breeze as well as the soft sand in between my toes has been relaxing. Swimming in the ocean with large waves has also been a highlight of the beach. Before now, the largest waves I can remember were in the wave pool at Island Oasis (sad, I know).  Although I love the warm weather and being able to wear sundresses/tank tops frequently, I do miss Nebraska winter. I never thought I would say that I miss the bitter cold, snowy winters, but now I am not ashamed to admit that I do!

Sunset at the beach :)

Another part of Perú that I will miss will be the souvenirs that I can buy here. I have been to the Indian Market multiple times and every time I go I find something that I fall more in love with. The handicrafts are stunning as well as the colorful designs on purses, clothes, etc. If I had an unlimited supply of money/packing space, I would buy up the whole market!

Most of all, I am going to miss my Peruvian family. When I first arrived I felt out of place and as if I was imposing on their lives. I would constantly go to bed thinking that this is going to be the longest four months of my life. I just wanted to go home. Feeling out of place has since changed. I have come to think of my host brothers as my own brothers and I will miss them very much when I come home. My host brother David and I joke around constantly, talk about life, and confide in one another. I had always wondered what it would be like to have a brother and my Peruvian host brothers have shown me what I was missing. They welcomed me into their home and I appreciate it greatly that they let me become a part of their lives.

Kevin, David, and Me out to see Sherlock Holmes. Note: David shrunk to our level, he is actually quite a bit taller.

I have two more trips before I head north. I will be going to Puno for 4 days, where I will see Lake Titicaca, and Iquitos for 5 days, where I will be immersed into the Amazon Rainforest. These trips will take place April 20-28. Perú has become my temporary home over the past four months and although I am going to be extremely sad when I leave, I am also going to be excited to return to my life and everyone at home. I constantly think about getting off that plane at the Grand Island airport. I think of what it will be like to reunite with the people I care about most and it brings tears to my eyes. I hope you all are ready for me to step off that plane on May 1 at about 2:35pm because I AM READY TO COME HOME!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Arequipa, Peru

“Reminds me of Europe!” That is what many people in my group said when we arrived in Arequipa. The streets are narrow and the architecture is beautiful. Arequipa is known as The White City. A lot of buildings in the town are made out of a white rock that comes from the volcanoes that surround the city. “El Misti” is the volcano that overlooks the town and we finally got a chance to see it on our last day in Arequipa!

One of the streets in Arequipa

El Misti: A Volcano

The first day that we arrived, Friday, we decided to take naps and then head out to the city. We arrived to our hostel around 9am and were let into our rooms. We had a group of 13 so we had three rooms between us. We had an 8-bed room and when we arrived there were two travelers from the night before still occupying the beds. Although we were careful to be quiet when we went into the room to take naps, one of the travelers (who we later learned were from Boston) threw what we would call a “hissy fit” when we arrived. She yelled at the man working for around 15 minutes, and the other traveler was embarrassed because of her actions. These girls did not want other people in their room which defeats the whole purpose of a hostel, especially a room that is a “dorm” room. After that issue was over, we took naps until around 11 before heading out on the town! We ventured to the town square and we greeted with an offer for a bus tour of Arequipa. This was a 4 hour tour that was listed as 45 soles each, but because we had a group of thirteen they decided that 15 soles each would be sufficient. A 4 hour bus tour for about 6 US dollars was definitely worth it!

This woman was weaving. At this same location there were mounds and mounds of Alpaca wool.

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We originally planned to take a 2-day tour of Colca Canyon, Peru’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon. We found a better deal at a travel agency in the town square for a one day tour on Sunday. What did we decide to do Saturday? RAFT! We went river rafting down the Chili River for only 60 soles a person. That is less than $25! So on Saturday we were picked up and taken to change into our gear. We were given wetsuits, water shoes, tarp pants/jackets, helmets, and life jackets. Because we had a large group, we had to take 3 rafts on the river. My raft (the coolest raft there was!) consisted of me, Jose, Jessica, and Brenda. Our tour guide, Roberto, was entertaining also. He told us the boat rules (other than the rafting rules): 1) When he puts his paddle up everyone has to “high five” his paddle with theirs and 2) The first person to fall out of the boat has to buy everyone a drink. Close to the beginning of the trip, what happened? Our boat flipped over and we all fell out! I guess we got to buy our own drinks. Although I will never get the chance to go rafting down a South American river again, I will be rafting again in the US! I have never been river rafting before and I am definitely hooked!

We looked attractive in all of our gear!

Sunday morning the bus to go to Colca Canyon picked us up at 3:00am. We traveled for 3 hours through the mountains to get to the place where we ate breakfast. I was very surprised when we reached this town called Chivay. I read about this place in an article for my Indigenous Politics class and this city is more or less the capital of the canyon. This city was extremely small, more of a village. When we traveled through the canyon we were able to see many other villages from above and none of them were very large. Also, they could not be reached by vehicle and were connected by a series of paths. Because Lima is so warm, many members of the group were unprepared for the freezing weather that awaited us during the early mornings in Arequipa. We were grateful when the sun came out and warmed the air so we no longer needed a jacket. Colca Canyon was beautiful, but not what I had expected. When we arrived it reminded me of the valley we traveled through going to Machu Picchu. I have been to the Grand Canyon and Colca Canyon was nothing like it. After we had traveled a bit into the canyon by bus, our tour guide asked us if we were ok with hiking a bit. The hike was worth it, but I am still surprised that no one was stung by a bee. They were everywhere and I was honestly afraid that I would get stung. We hiked to the Cruz del Condor, which is known to be the place that there are always condors (gigantic birds) flying around. Unfortunately, we were disappointed that there were no condors in sight. The bus picked us up and took us to another spot to look for condors. Finally, after a bit of waiting, a condor flew above us and around the canyon. Even though it wasn’t the flock of condors that I was told by Peruvians I would see, I at least was able to see one! After a lunch buffet, we headed back to Arequipa. Long day, but worth it!

Looking out over Colca Canyon

Traditional dress

Finally saw a Condor. You can't tell how large the wingspan is, but this bird is gigantic!

Climbed up a rock! Right behind us... HUGE drop to the floor of the canyon

Going back to the warm air of Lima was a relief after having to be in the cold during the early morning. Although I do miss winter, for the next 26 days I am going to enjoy soaking up the sun!