Thursday, March 31, 2011

Aqui estoy ... con fotos del dia

And sometimes it looks like this outside my window. There's buildings out there. Can you see them? So delicious.
In case you were wondering what Peruvian money looks like...various denominations of soles. Their 5s and 2s are coins, not bills. I included both an old and a new 1 sol. (Which are both technically nuevo soles)

Hasta la proxima

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Aqui estoy … echando de menos

Things I miss in the US:

- Family and friends (goes without saying, even though I just said it anyway)

- Cream cheese

- Clocks on walls

- The concepts of random and awkward, for which there are no satisfactory words in Spanish

- Being able to express myself without thinking first whether I know the words to say it

- Driving

- Catacombs (at Gordon)

- Playing guitar (I can do that here too, I just haven’t had a chance yet)

- My mom’s bread

- My favorite reading spots in Jenks

- Real milk (as in not evaporada or descremada)

- Pandora radio

- Silence

Thinking about the things I miss also got me thinking about what a privileged position I really am in here and how grateful I am for that. First off, that even though I miss these things, I know that in a few months I will go back to them and that I should make good use of the time I do have here. I think about people who move permanently to a new country either by choice or fleeing something. They don’t have the luxury of knowing they will be returning to their comfort zone with the people and things they miss. I’m also grateful to have the financial resources to ameliorate some of the things I miss, like buying a bagel and cream cheese and having a computer for skype. I also have a great support system here of program director and classmates and my host family. I arrived with plans arranged and a place to stay, a way to get there and people to welcome me. I did not have to search for a safe place to stay or a job. I may feel frustrated sometimes with my Spanish skills and feeling like I communicate like a child but I have the benefit of having people who do speak my language if absolutely necessary and who for the most part are compassionate and encouragin listeners. I did not have to leave a good job and arrive in a new country where I could only get an entry-level low-paying job like many immigrants do. Overall I am very grateful for my time here in Peru and I plan to make the best use of it by trying new things and learning as much as I can.

Hasta la proxima

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Aqui estoy ... con teclado

It looks normal, right? Look again. There is a sneaky little ñ causing trouble. It displaces the colons and makes the all other punctuation move around, sticking the carrots over by the Z, shifting the parentheses, causing a search for the ?, even booting the @ from its perch atop the 2. The result of not noticing this at first makes for some funny looking words and great frustration with passwords. But I have now figured out its secrets.

Hasta la proxima

Monday, March 28, 2011

Aqui estoy ... con cielo y cangrejos

No, the sky and crabs have nothing to do with each other. Other than that I saw both in the last few days and took pictures of them :)

Sky-blue-pink, Lima-style

Crabs on the rocks of the beach area where we went to lunch. There were a whole bunch more, crawling around on near-vertical surfaces like that one on the right. Hasta la proxima

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Aqui estoy … con fotos de la comida 2

Rice and chicken in what I think was a red wine sauce. Delicious!

Picarones – fried wheat dough rings with honey – very good but very sweet

Tres leches – a very Peruvian cake which was also very delicious. I was a little afraid of the texture but it was excellent.

Peruvian cookie + peanut butter = win

Yogurt – that’s right, prune yogurt. It’s actually pretty good.
Little sandwiches: to the right are triples and to the left are ones with chicken and with Peruvian ham. I didn’t catch their names.

Dinner one night: rice (of course), hamburger and sauce, green beans (of some sort) (And yes, I did eat all those green beans.)

Bagel! Not Peruvian but very delicious. Strawberry juice: wonderful fresh, not so awesome from frozen strawberries. Neither was I fond of the tapioca "bubbles" of the bubble tea.

Chicha morada! – made out of purple corn. So delicious!

Classic: rice, beans, egg – Peruvians love to put eggs on things. I don’t know why but I don't mind, I like eggs.

Hasta la proxima!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Aqui estoy ... con cajon

Why, you might ask, are we all sitting on wooden boxes? Because they're drums, that's why. Afroperuvian drums, in fact, called cajones. Because the natives cultures of Africans brought to Peru were suppressed, and they could not have their instruments, they began to play common objects they could find around and even their bodies, thus the cajon was born.

Today a bunch of us learned the basics, the ways and places to hit the drum and the festejo rhythm and a dance. We put together a whole song and recorded a video. Overall it was a really fun way to learn some more about the afroperuvian culture.

The part of the song where we play in partners
Hasta la proxima!

Aqui estoy ... con concierto

So I went to a concert last night. A big one! It was very fun and also an interesting cultural experience. We saw Train, Ziggy Marley and Shakira. I really enjoyed Train and Shakira; Ziggy Marley just isn't my type of music.
I felt a little bad for the first two because the crowd wasn't very responsive. But really, did they expect to come to Lima and speak English to a crowd of Shakira fans and feel the love?
Here's the interesting part: we arrived earlier than the time on the ticket and joined the very, very long line of people. Walking up and down this line were people selling things, similar to at the beach but in this case food, beer, sodas, posters, DVDS, glowsticks, etc... We even saw a guy selling "chifa" - he had a giant bowl full of noodles with some things on top, including hot dog slices. They are constant and even pushy, pushing their wares in your face and bumping into people to get their attention. Unfortunately, the best way to deal with it is to just ignore them but I really hate to do it. As they kept coming and coming I was thinking about what their lives must be like and what led them to this job. Did they grow up as one of the kids I see, being sent to beg or sell by their parents in hopes of gaining compassion? I hate that these people have to walk up and down, carrying heavy loads, almost begging; that they spend their days having backs turned and heads shaken at them. Some pick up the discarded plastic bottles, apparently to return for money somewhere. (That's another issue entirely...the litter here) Lima has a lot of great things but it also has a long way to go and the sheer magnitude of the poverty is one of the biggest problems. There is a large socioeconomic gap that sometimes gapes inescapably.
What I can't get out of my head is what a friend who works with the homeless told me once. She spent a day living as a homeless person would and found that one of the worst things was how no one would make eye contact with her, how she seemed to cease to be a person to them. I don't want to ever do that to someone, not to the street sellers nor to the street beggars nor to anyone else.
I can't change the system in four months and I can't save everyone but I still don't want to be part of the problem.
Thoughts anyone?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Aqui estoy ... con Joaquin Sabina

Joaquin Sabina, according to the ever-useful Wikipedia, is a Spanish singer, songwriter and poet. I've never heard of him, but apparently my micro has and thinks I should too.
Background: Every time you ride a micro, when you pay you get a little ticket back. (Pay no attention to the number of soles it says you paid because it lies. I think the cobrador just rips off a random one.) One micro that I ride has quotes on the bottom of its tickets. I, for some reason, seem to get an inordinate amount of quotes from Mr. Sabina: see my boleto bar graph below. The stranger part is the actual quote. It says "Lo bueno de los años es que curan heridas lo malo de los besos es que crean adiccion," which translates to 'The good thing about the years is that they cure pain, the bad thing about kisses is that they're addicting.' Okay....what do the two parts of that sentence have to do with each other? Strange.

Hasta la proxima

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Aqui estoy ... con foto

Random photo of the day: I mentioned I like the cheery-colored buildings in Lima, here are some of them. See that yellow one and the red one peeking up? I especially like the turquoise.
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Aqui estoy ... mal de estomago otra vez

Dear stomach,
You need to get yourself together, have a little chat with Peru and quit causing problems. It is not acceptable to keep me up all night. Enough already, or else .... I shall feed you only rice for the rest of the semester. I do give you credit for getting it together faster this time; keep up the good work. But next time, let's just not go there.

(Yep, sick again last night. But don't worry, I'm feeling better now. I knew I was better for sure when I was tempted to do the letter motions when YMCA came on in my micro. Wouldn't the Peruvians love that?)

Hasta la proxima

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Aqui estoy ... con cosas

Things I like about Lima:
- cheery colored buildings interspersed with normal ones
- gorgeous sunsets
- always something new to see out the micro window
- music on the micros
- a big campus with lots of green space
- a big university with lots of class choices
- small cute deer on campus

Things I don't like about Lima:
- car alarms
- rush hour
- people smoking
- the severe lack of clocks anywhere (I think I have yet to see a clock on a wall)
- music on the micro when it's "Papa loves mambo"
- a big campus that I have to walk all the way across
- a big university where I can go all day without running into someone I know
- small but aggressive deer that want your lunch

Hasta la proxima

PS: This is by no means an exhaustive list, just some thoughts from today

Monday, March 21, 2011

Aqui estoy ... matriculada!

I'm officially matriculated! Hurray! And I got into all the classes I wanted. To do this I had to get up really early and do a lot of waiting, but it was successful.

To explain, at PUCP, extranjeros have the first week of classes to try out various courses and professors to see which we want to take, then we matriculate the next Monday. It's on a first-come, first-served basis so each year students have been coming earlier and earlier in an effort to beat the rest. I arrived at 6:15 to be number 17. By 6:30 there were at least double that many people. They were over 100 before 8. We then proceeded to wait until 9 when they began the actual registration. Always a fun way to spend the morning, eh?

I am officially registered for:
Etnografia Amazonica (Amazonian Ethnography)
Historia del Arte (History of Art)
Historia del Peru: formacion hasta el siglo XVIII (History of Peru before the 18th century)
Realidad Social Peruana (Peruvian Social Reality)

I think they'll all be good classes. And now I have lots (LOTS) of reading to do for them.
Hasta la proxima!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Aqui estoy … con ingles

It honestly surprises me how many people in Peru are working on learning English. It really shouldn’t, having studied linguistics and teaching ESL and learning about English as a power language, but it still does. I’m conflicted about this in several ways. First, I feel lucky and blessed to have been born a US citizen and to speak English natively. Second, while I believe bilingualism is an asset for anyone and learning another language can provide opportunities, I don’t think English as a global language will have all positive ramifications. When one language (or anything else for that matter) becomes prized above others so that those equally good others, each with their own benefits, are being rejected. It’s sad to me to hear about parents who raise their children to speak only English and not their heritage language. This is of course a touchy issue and everyone has their own personal reasons for choosing the languages they do.

The awkward part of this for me of late is when people ask to practice their English with me. I do want to help them because I am grateful to the many people who have borne with me as I learn Spanish. I do not, however, feel comfortable helping every person who asks me… like the bookstore employee, or the guy outside the bank. I feel privileged to be a native speaker and would like to help but am not comfortable arranging to meet random people I don’t know. But nor do I feel nice outright rejecting them. I’m not sure how to handle such requests (nor am I sure I’m expressing my thoughts on the whole topic clearly).

Thoughts anyone? I’d love to hear them.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Aqui estoy ... en la playa

We went to the beach today! No tsunamis, but no sun either. It was cloudy and actually a little chilly, not a swimming day for me. I had fun just sitting and enjoying the sound of the ocean and the good company. It was certainly a bit different than American beaches though. All those umbrellas and chairs belong to the various restaurants. Basically, you can sit in their chairs as long as you buy some food from them. They'll come to you with a menu and bring the food to you which I find nice and awkward at the same time. There's also people walking up and down the beach selling all manner of things from ice cream to blankets. (Today I would've been more likely to buy the latter than the former) Overall, an enjoyable day.

Hasta la proxima!
PS: Fun fact of the day, speaking of playas, in Peru, parking lots are called playas de estacionamiento: parking beaches :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Aqui estoy ... con bagel!!

Success! I had a very tasty bagel with cream cheese today. I've been craving one.
The bubble tea was decidedly not as awesome. I wasn't fond of the 'bubbles' or the frozen strawberry compostion. I've been spoiled with fresh before.
(A thank you shout-out to Abby for directing me to the right place!)
The store is very proud of thier bubble tea. It's called Babolti, after all.
Here's their sign about it:

Aqui estoy ... con garua

Sometimes Lima looks like this. We don't get rain but we get fog. I could actually see wisps of cloud moving right above my head as I walked down the street.
(This photo is from 2 days ago but it's about the same today)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Aqui estoy ... con arte

A photo that my history of art professor showed in class (as one of many examples of art to discuss) that I really liked.
It's by Jeff Koons and made out of mirror-finish stainless steel.
It just struck me as cool, especially the reflections.

Aqui estoy ... con chismes

Random happenings today:

I got on my micro this morning only to hear Bad Romance by Lady Gaga going full volume, promptly followed by California Girls. Oh American music in Peru.

Did you know Peruvians are very courteous on micros? Far more so than Americans on public transport. People actually respect the seats reserved for the disabled/elderly/pregant/mothers with small children and will give them up for them. They will even give up other seats for them. I gave my seat to a little old lady this morning and felt Peruvian.

I made some Peruvian aquaintances in my classes today and at the meeting of a Christian group on campus. I look forward to getting to know people better. (Despite having to ask them to repeat themselves a lot. Hopefully that gets better too)

I saw an actual school bus today, as in actually yellow and said colegio, not a micro. Add that to the list of things I don't want to drive in Lima.

Hasta la proxima

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Aqui estoy … con cosas no quiero manejar

Things I would not want to drive in the streets of Lima (but have indeed seen):

- A cement truck

- An 18-wheeler

- A micro (of any shape or size)

- A tiko (little tiny crumple cars of death)

- A cart with furniture stacked 8 feet high and tied

- A little cube that looks like it came off a carnival ride called a moto-taxi

- A bus plastered with presidential posters and playing carnival music

- Pretty much anything, actually ;)

Hasta la proxima

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Aqui estoy ... con tarea?

(Taken into my room from outside with the PUCP sticker on the window left from some previous student)

It's true. I finally have homework again. Can't say I've missed it.
Yesterday we started PUCP classes and so far they are pretty good. Nothing struck me as WOW this will be amazing but I think the topics are interesting and they'll grow on me. It's still feeling a little overwhelming to have all my classes in Spanish and mostly with people who actually speak the language but overall I feel like I have understood the professors pretty well. One in particular was very welcoming and offered to help us with whatever we needed for the class. However, thinking in Spanish all the time is tiring so I am going to go finish my reading and go to bed.

Tomorrow I attempt to take a book out of the library and go to the fotocopiadora. (Actually, I already attempted this today but all the copies of the book were out. Who tells 60 students to share 5 books in two days? My new prof apparently.)

Fun fact of the day: Peruvians may walk slow (and I mean slow. I walk above-average-fast but Peruvians walk even slower than Gordon amblers) but they eat fast! (I am always the last one to finish at the dinner table. Oh well. I'm enjoying my food.)

Hasta la proxima

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Aqui estoy ... al corriente

Quick photo update:
From the previous post about Wong, here are the llama jerky (ok, it's alpaca. my bad.) and crustless bread I was talking about. Photo credit to Melissa.

Aqui estoy ... yendo de compras

So, today I went shopping. Not normal clothes-browsing shopping. Actually, I went refrigerator shopping with my host mom. Ours conked out earlier this week so off we went. It was really fun to spend time with her and to listen to her conversations with the salespeople and see how much I could understand. Our fridge should arrive on Monday but we can't plug it in right away, says the sales guy. I actually understood him pretty well.

I also bought a reading lamp for my bed. I have a loft bed here so my lazy self does not want to have to climb down the ladder to turn the light off after I've been reading in bed and just want to sleep. :D In my defense, the ladder likes to scooch the rug just enough to freak me out and think I'm going to fall.

My big purchase today was airline tickets. I will be joining some other people in my program in going to Arequipa for a weekend in April. They've already done basically all the planning but this was still a big thing for me. I've never bought my own airplane tickets, much less at a travel office speaking Spanish! It should be a fun trip.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Aquí estoy … dos semanas

It’s true; I’ve been here over two weeks now. Today was our last day of Intensivo. I think I will miss it, it was a very good class. I will not miss being in class for 6 hours a day but we had a good time. I think my Spanish did improve in there too. We practiced all manners of things: giving presentations, reading and writing, listening, conversation, grammar review. We also laughed a lot as we played games to practice speaking or vocabulary or were just generally silly.

Overall I’ve been very impressed with all the ways the program has prepared us for this semester. After meeting some other international students who just arrived and are looking a little lost on campus (I actually gave directions to some. In Spanish no less) I really appreciate having had some time to adjust and having Marion and Melvin to lead us. I’m looking forward to starting semester courses!

Next week marks the beginning of direct enrollment classes. Sort of anyway. International students get the first week to try out whatever classes we’re thinking about before committing and registering the next Monday. I’m thinking about Amazon Ethnography or Andean Ethnohistory, History of Art, and History of Peru before the 18th century or Peru in Modern Times. They all sound really interesting so it’ll depend on which professors I like.

Hasta la próxima.

PS: Yes, there’s a tsunami warning. It’s not supposed to be big. Plus Lima is on the top of a cliff. But we’re still not going to the beach tomorrow. So no worries.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Aquí estoy … con viaje de campo

Yesterday afternoon we had a semi-mutiny in Spanish class. We convinced out professor that taking a trip to Wong, a nearby supermarket, to learn food vocabulary would be a much better use of time than practicing exposiciones again. So off we went. I learned a lot of words for fruit and various other things. It was a good time to just ask random Spanish word questions. One even came into quick use as afterward in our meeting with our PUCP compañeros one was trying to remember the English word for ciruelo, which we had just learned was plum. Yay, application! (The compañeros, by the way, are PUCP students who have volunteered to help us out and show us around and be our friends. I had some good conversation with a couple after the meeting)

More fun things I learned in Wong:
- In Peru, they sell bread without the crust. Not all of the loaves, but there are whole loaves chilling there on the shelf naked, without their crust. How has this not made it to the US? I mean, I love crust on my bread, but I know a lot of people don’t.
- They sell llama jerky.
- They don’t know about what we call lemon in the US. They call their little limes “limón”.

I didn’t have my camera but other people took pictures. I will post some when I can get them from their facebooks :D

Hasta la próxima

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Aquí estoy … con locura en el micro

Ok, this story is really long, but I promise it’s good. My crazy micro ride home today:

First off, it was rush hour, which, like anywhere else, means lots of traffic and lots of harried people. I had to wait for awhile at la Catolica then finally got on the right micro and sat down. As we were going, the cobrador kept telling more and more people to get on, more got on than got off and soon all the seats were filled and there were 2 lines of people standing. There had to have been at least 10 people standing, and this wasn’t even one of the big busses.

Then, we got to a corner where a lot of people were standing. Way more than usual, I don’t know why. So the cobrador got off and stood on the corner, yelling the streets we were going to and telling people to get on. (They do this all the time but this guy was particularly adamant) He stood too long yelling and we missed the traffic light. People in the back of the bus started yelling at the driver to get going, saying that they had paid their fare, now they wanted to get where they were going so get moving. (More or less, possibly in less kind words) The cobrador keeps calling out, despite people telling him to get back on. So then, a passenger from the back gets off and gets in the face of the cobrador. Apparently he was unhappy with the micro and wanted to leave but wanted his fare back. The cobrador didn’t want to give it to him so the passenger wouldn’t let the cobrador back on the micro, thus causing us to miss the light again and have to sit through another cycle. (Of all the road rules they ignore, Peruvians actually follow traffic lights)

At this point the driver is yelling at the cobrador to get back on, the passengers are yelling in general and at the driver to just go and leave the cobrador, the crazy man is still blocking the cobrador and all the cars and micros stuck behind us are yelling and blaring their horns. And through all of this, more and more people from this corner are getting on the micro until literally, no one else can fit. Finally the cobrador gives the man back his fare (1 sol, 1 sol people! All this over 1 sol) and we go on but the micro is stuffed to the gills. When it’s finally my stop I almost miss it because I had to push though everyone. All in all it was a little bad, a little interesting and a lot just get me off this micro. I got home fine, no one fought (I really thought they were going to)

At least the good news is that I successfully related this story to my host mom in Spanish.

Hasta la próxima (ojala sin micro!)

PS: I want to know what kind of gas mileage these micros get. It’s got to be awful with all their stopping and starting and cutting each other off and slamming on their brakes. For that matter, I wonder how fast they wear out their brakes because they definitely are not of the speed up and slow down slowly to save wear on your car school of thought.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Aqui estoy ... en campus

So, this week and last I have a two-week intensive Spanish course before the beginning of regular courses. This is at la Catolica but today was the first day I brought my camera.
Looking across campus from the fourth floor of building Zeta where our class is

Same spot, different direction

The coffee machine on the first floor of Zeta. You can get a pretty tasty capuccino for 1.50 soles, less than a dollar.

Have I told you there's deer on campus? This is more startling than it originally sounded to me. Oh deer, sure, whatever. But when you see them it's actually like Whoa! deer. Who's brilliant idea was it to put deer on an urban campus is what I'd like to know.

My lunch, broccoli pie. Which was actually quite good. And possibly the first time in my life I have liked broccoli anything.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Aqui estoy ... en casa

I took a panorama of pictures today from my host house balcony. It starts from the right and pans left.

Color focus view

Why I should wear shoes when walking on the balcony
(These are the same feet that later wouldn't fit into shoes I really liked. Sad day. :( Peru is not outfitted for big feet)
Hasta la proxima!

Aquí estoy … con tallarín gringo

So, a whole big group of us from the program went out last night. We went out to dinner then to a discoteca. The disco was more fun than I thought it would be but still not something I need to do all the time. Here are some thoughts/comments on the night:

13 gringos plus two Peruvians is WAY too big of a group. Especially if we don’t know exactly where we want to go. We were a giant gringo noodle blob snaking through the streets. Hence the title; tallarín means noodle. It was still fun to get to know other people in the program better.

Outside the restaurant there were some street sellers, who as you might guess, are poor, often indigenous, often quechua-speaking migrants trying to make money. They are (sadly) fairly common but in this case there was a mom with a young child. The kid can’t have been more than 2 or 3. The mom was selling, then sent the kid up and down the line of waiting restaurant-goers. It made me wonder what effect that must have on a kid, to grow up walking amongst adults who only shake their head at you, not understanding the dynamics of it, only the rejection. And that’s in addition to already growing up in poverty and racism. I’m still considering this. It did lead to an interesting conversation with some other people.

Smokers + small room + me + already scratchy throat = bad news bears. It is more of a smoker’s culture here in Lima but so far it hasn’t bothered me too bad, except for last night.

Took my first taxi ever. I think we overpaid. We did negotiate down 10 soles though. But whatever, there’s room to improve.

Hasta la proxima.

PS: I took a school bus micro last night. It amused me probably more than it should have :D

Friday, March 4, 2011

Aquí estoy … con micros

So, a couple of you have asked what combis and micros are and how they work. Basically, as I understand it, micros are the public transport system of Lima. They’re buses, ish. The driver is called the chofer and the guy who collects the fares and yells out where the micro is going is the cobrador. There are lots of different lines and routes run by different companies (500 routes I hear). They do not have schedules or routes that you can look up, you go by the names of the main streets they pass which are painted on the side. Each one has a route but they don’t always follow it exactly depending on traffic and the whim of the chofer. They are differentiated by color, number or endpoints which are painted on the front. I have now successfully gotten myself to and from school on two different micros and I even recognize a lot of the route now.

When I said buses-ish, I meant that they are like a bus system but they’re not all actually buses. There are three main sizes: buses (think coach bus), coasters (pronounced coosters), and combis (think vw van size). They’re all different makes and models. I’ve even seen some school bus micros. But I have to say the funniest one was the ice cream truck shaped one. It actually made me crack a smile on the micro when I usually have my game face on.

Hasta la próxima.

Lots of micros in an Ovalo. (Pardon the bad picture, I was trying to take a picture of moving buses from a moving bus at night)

One of the big bus sizes ones.

A coaster

School bus micro!

(Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the ice cream truck micro. Or the combi sized ones. They're fast. They get away.)
PS: If you are further interested in reading more by someone more knowledgeable than me, check this out.