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Finally Home! Sort of…

Time December 23rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I finally touched down in St. Louis, Missouri at 12:20 pm on Monday, December 15th. This is the moment I had been waiting for the past few weeks.

As I stepped out of the plane, familiar senses hit me hard – the 30 degree temperature accompanied by frozen rain that comes this time of year, the scent of the small Lambert Airport and the familiar restaurants within it, the St. Louisian vernacular being spoken around me, and much more. I immediately felt at home and eagerly jogged to luggage claim to meet my family that was waiting for me.

Seeing my family for the first time in four and a half months was absolutely wonderful, but at the same time, kind of strange. I wanted to speak to them in Spanish and immediately gush about everything that happened to me in Perú. There’s so much to tell!!! And I suppose there always will be. But it was nice that, instead, we simply said our hellos and went on with the day as we would any other day. It was nice to fall back into the regular swing of things, something I really missed while studying abroad. I enjoyed all the excitement and new experiences, but I really value schedules and repetitiveness because it signifies that I’m in a safe comfort zone I can call my own.

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Until We Meet Again!

Time December 22nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So. I just got back from my week of traveling to southern Perú. I passed through a new city every day by bus, starting in Lima and going through Paracas, Ica, Nazca, and finally ending up in Arequipa. I saw things I have never seen before and did things I had not done before. Of course I could go on and on about this trip, but as you know if you’ve been following my blogs, I choose to highlight only a few of my most memorable experiences.

BALLESTAS ISLANDS

These magnificent islands are found in the beach town of Paracas. Penguins, sea lions, and a wide variety of birds live together here, totally unharmed by humans. Although these islands are so important to humans not because of the beauty, but rather because of the revenue it generates for the country. And what might that be exactly? Poop. YES, POOP. Specifically bird poop that lands on the island and absolutely cakes it in white over five years or so. This poop is actually exported as a very successful fertilizer. So, as you can imagine, the stench during the tour was one I have not experienced to that degree before to say the least, haha.

SANDBOARDING

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Classes are over, so…

Time December 5th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Now that classes are over, the activities just won’t stop! The group has been running around trying to have fun together for the last time before we all go back home. Some of our latest and greatest events include…

THANKSGIVING DINNER

It’s difficult to find words to describe just how perfect this dinner. Everyone baked an amazing, traditional gringo dish to bring to this potluck. The smells and flavors reminded me so much of home! I baked sweet potato casserole for the first time, which turned out fabulous, and others brought dishes like stuffing, turkey, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Furthermore, the fact that we all gathered together to eat stimulated a family-like feel, so I didn’t even feel like I was spending Thanksgiving outside of the country! This group has truly become a new kind of family to me outside of my own.

HUNGER GAMES 3: SINSAJO

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Wrapping Up the School Year

Time December 1st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

FINALLY it’s about that time – the end of the semester. Fortunately, at this point I only have to turn in three more projects (only one not totally completed), one homework, give one presentation, and take one final exam. At first when I realized all of these accomplishments, I was relieved! I felt like all of my hard work had finally paid off. But the feeling immediately following that was that of anxiety. I really really REALLY do not want to leave all the new friends that I’ve made up to this point in time.

I feel like everything is finally coming together, and right when that’s happening, I have to leave! I finally have a grip on Spanish, have a good set of both Peruvian and IFSA of friends, and feel like I can live comfortably in Lima – all of which were huge challenges of me until this past month or so. But it’s okay – I feel grateful for this experience more than anything. I’ve made memories that I’ll be able to recall and appreciate forever :)

In between finishing all of my assignments, I still found the time to get myself out of the books and have fun! There are a few events in particular that were my favorite.

FÚTBOL: ALIANZA LIMA V. SPORTING CRISTAL

Thanks to my friend’s host family, we got tickets to a huge rivalry game at el Estadio Nacional to watch Alianza play Cristal, both of which are teams from Lima. Cristal has first place in their league while Alianza is sitting in second. So, naturally, the stadium was full. And of course a South American fútbol experience isn’t complete without purchasing a team’s official jersey (we chose Alianza) and sitting in the fan section of the stadium (for Alianza, it was the north end). The energy in the stadium both before and during the game was incredible! I’ve never experienced such excitement or seen such fan dedication in the U.S. before, but this level of enthusiasm is common for fútbol fans in Latin America. Songs were constantly being sung/chanted, confetti constantly being thrown up into the air, and some fights almost broke out amongst Alianza fans when they were down and tensions were high. I could not have asked for a more authentic sporting event to attend :)

LA CAUTIVA

Lali, our resident director, purchased tickets for the group to see a play called “La Cautiva,” a story about a young teenage girl who dies during the 80’s in Lima, a time of violence that was a result of the clash between terrorist group El Sendero Luminoso and the Peruvian government. This girl’s corpse was left in the morgue to be sexually abused by the Peruvian government before her decay. However, she is still alive only in the mind of a man working at the morgue. This causes him to develop feelings for her and protect her, which leads to crazy events. Anyway, the point is that for a play with a theme this strong, even stronger actors are needed. They could not have been more on point with choosing the appropriate actors for this show – they were incredible! At points some had to be fully nude, jump around wildly on stage, and speak long, emotional monologues. I am very impressed with the performance and Peruvian theater to say the least.

LA CASA DE PANCHITA

This week was my last at LCP working with the girls. It feels bittersweet leaving them – even though there is a group of new girls every week, I’ve gotten to know a few of the girls that have come multiple times. I will definitely miss playing with them at the park and discussing family, friends, and American music :) Those young girls are so innocent and vulnerable but truly opened up to the volunteers at LCP so easily due to LCP’s environment of trust and safety. I also met some amazing volunteers from around the world, such as Germany, Luxemburg, and Finland. I have gotten to know these women too and will never forget the stories and times we shared together. I hope to continue this kind of volunteer work in the future, it’s incredibly rewarding!

As things are wrapping up, I realize there are a lot of things that I haven’t yet done that I’m looking forward to!

– Thanksgiving dinner potluck with the IFSA family

– dinner and folklore dancing at La Candeleria

– Hunger Games 3 in theaters!!!

– final dinner with host families

– Final exams…kind of haha

Pictures attached are from the Alianza soccer game, La Cautiva play, and LCP!

– Allie

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Final Excursion – ¡Carmen!

Time November 10th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past weekend the IFSA group and I went on our final outing together. We bussed 3 hours south of Lima to spend the weekend in Carmen, a small town of 3000 or so whose inhabitants are Afroperuvian, meaning that they are Peruvians with African descendants. These people have and incredibly rich culture and one that is unique to Perú. Our time there was spent learning about their cultural practices, history, and distinct culinary creations.

CULTURAL PRACTICES

Afroperuvians take particular pride in their ability to create rhythm through dancing and musical instruments. We learned and participated firsthand an Afroperuvian dance. Sadly, I cannot recall the specific name of this dance because I was resting due to a temporary illness during this portion of the trip. But I did get to watch a group of 6 or so children dance for us in the town’s main plaza (for a small fee of 1 sol per child). Their dancing exemplifies they style of dancing we were taught, which a lot like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPfOyP0WcNk

However, I did participate in the instrumental portion, which involved the cajón – wooden box type of instrument that is drummed with flat palms while sat upon. We learned the rhythms and even got to improvise on our own for a bit! It sounded very similar (although not nearly as good) as this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgI-Ge-lF6U

Furthermore, at the main plaza there were multiple stands selling art and jewelry. But what really caught my eye were the colorful hand-woven baskets. I had not seen anything like them before in Perú!

HISTORY

On Sunday we were taken on a tour of yet another ruins site, much like Huaca Pucllana where the pyramids were made out of dirt bricks. The location could not have been better, overlooking the surrounding fertile crop fields and the Pacific Ocean. What made these ruins unique to the others is the inscriptions that could still be seen on the walls from thousands of years ago.

CULINARY CREATIONS

Again, my sickness hindered me from eating a whole lot during this trip, but one dish that the group got to try is called sopa seca (meaning “dry soup”), which isn’t really a soup dish at all. It’s more of a spaghetti with and orange/red sauce over chicken, onions, raisins, olives, and more. The recipe can be found here: http://perurecipes.net/2008/03/sopa-seca-dry-soup

 

That pretty much sums up our activities for the weekend. It was meant to be our final relaxation period before the end of the school year…which is coming up incredibly fast! We have a little over a month before the majority of us return home. It’s crazy to think about how fast time flies here!

Attached are pictures from the trip! Questions and comments are always welcome :)

– Allie

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Just Living That Study Abroad Life

Time October 21st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

I never think I would feel like this, but…I’m at a point where I think I’m in a bit of a standstill. It seems like there’s nothing new to look forward to, nothing new to explore, nothing to get excited about. I’m owing this to the fact that this past week was midterm week (spending hours in boredom, studying), but I also feel like this is a good sign – it shows that I am more comfortable with my surroundings than ever before.  I have done quite a few new things since my last post, and when I stop and think about it, there are plenty of new things for me to do!


Things that I have done:
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CUSCO / MACHU PICCHU ! ! !

Time October 6th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I FINALLY DID IT! Made it to Cusco and back in one piece and had some incredible adventures along the way. Although it is next to impossible to talk about all of my adventures within the city, I’ll give you the highlights of a few of my favorite events and my thoughts on them.

1. BUS TOUR OF RUINS – I almost would have been just as happy with a simple bus tour of Cusco. There is just an amazing amount of beauty to take in, both natural and man-made! Our bus drove us around the city and made stops at the following ruins: Coricancha, Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Pucapucara, Tambomachay, and Ollantaytambo.

2. ORGANIC FARM TOUR – Our resident director knows of an NGO that runs an organic farm deep within the Andean Mountains in Yanaoca, a province of a city called Canas. Although the drive was around 3 hours from Cusco, it was definitely worth it. We learned about the kinds of plants they grow without the use of chemicals (potatoes, beans, corn, and lettuce among some) and they even made a plentiful lunch for us out of these foods. This farm includes animals such as pigs, cows, chickens, and guinea pigs. I learned how to milk a cow!

3.  ALL-GIRLS SCHOOL – The students at The Group Home of María of Nazareth put on multiple dances for us and we had prepared some songs and danced for them as well. Then we bonded by playing volleyball, braiding hair, eating popcorn, and talking. Leaving was bittersweet and the girls hated to see us go, but I feel so blessed to at least have met them.

4. ALPACA / LLAMA FARM – We got to pet and feed (and take “selfies” with) about 30 or so alpacas and llamas! We learned how fabric is made from their fur and then purchased items made from the fabric. Knowing it was real fur (instead of the fake fur sold in every other market) made the pricey purchases worth it.

5. MACHU PICCHU – Climbing both up and down Huayna Picchu (the central mountain near the ruins) took about 1.5 hours total. I felt on top of the world! Also waiting as the fog cleared the main view of Machu Picchu really built anticipation and was totally worth the wait!

6. BUNGEE JUMPING – What a rush…of both adrenaline and blood to the head! It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience, but I’m glad to have done it (with my fellow blogger, Collin, and our friend Bethany)!

When I got back from this vacation, a lot of people asked me what the similarities and differences are between Cusco and Lima. There are actually quite a few that grabbed my attention…

SIMILARITIES

Food: You can find uniquely Peruvian cuisine in both Cusco and Lima. The only difference is in the preparation and price (slightly more expensive in Cusco).

Cathedrals: Churches in both cities are enormous and absolutely stunning, shining with gold and full of famous/sacred Catholic artifacts from hundreds of years ago.

Markets: I feel like the same touristy items are sold in markets all across the country…which is great, but I would like to find more unique shops where the gifts are legitimately hand-made and not insanely over-priced.

DIFFERENCES

Climate/Nature: I could actually breathe here! Well, sort of. In terms of pollution, Cusco has far less of it, so that air was cleaner. But in terms of my actual ability to breathe, I found it slightly more challenging to do so because of the high elevation. To put things into perspective, consider this: Colorado Springs, Colorado sits at 6,035 feet above sea level. Cusco, however, sits at 11,200 feet above sea level – almost twice as high as Colorado Springs. So if you have trouble breathing in Colorado, you might want to drink a lot of water and coca tea/leaves before and upon your arrival in Cusco.

Vendors: In Lima, vendors will call out to you from their stands, constantly lowering the sale prices of their items in an attempt to make a sale. In Cusco, however, vendors place their products in front of your face and walk with you in the streets for a good minute or so, talking about the item they’re trying to sell. If you touch any item at their stand, they will come up to you and talk your ear off about it, even if you say you’re only looking! One has to give them credit for being diligent.

Nightlife: We were told that Cusco is a city that never sleeps…but our group was surprised to see that even ice cream shops closed around 8:30 pm on weeknights. Bars and lounges were open late on the weekends, but those were only in certain areas of Cusco. I have personally found that Lima has more activities and more easily accessible places at night.

 

I really hope that the pictures post below this time! Until my next blog,

– Allie

 

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Feeling Grateful

Time September 22nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

These past two weeks have made me feel very grateful to be studying abroad in Perú and with the other students within the IFSA group. Conveniently, I have a list of things I am grateful for! I try to remind myself of these if ever I’m having a bad day.

1. A space to call my own. My bedroom and bathroom are separate from the house, meaning I get more quiet time and privacy to myself, making studying and late-night Skype calls a breeze.

2. Food! I absolutely never go hungry because portions of food here are always ample and full of carbohydrates. The only need I have after a meal is desert :)

3. Exchange rate. Because the exchange rate is usually about $1 to 2.75 soles, I can get for bang for my buck, so to speak. I am surprised at how much I spend here…but it doesn’t add up the way it would in the states. For example, if I drop a 12/s. on a lunch, I’m actually only spending around $4.36 for an appetizer and main dish…for lunch!

4. The sun! Lima is a pretty cloudy city when it’s not summer, but the sun pokes its head out once every week or so. When it does, I make sure to take full advantage of it (while wearing sunblock, of course)! I will never take the sun for granted again…I didn’t realize how much it can drastically change my mood for the better!

5. Netflix. I am so so glad that my account works here because, let’s be honest, I need to indulge in English and U.S. media every once in a while. 😉

My birthday happened to fall on Tuesday, the 16th, of this past week. I was a little worried about turning the big 2-1 here, but I could not have asked for a better celebration! There is a Peruvian girl I am now friends with in my communication class whose 22nd birthday happens to be the day before mine. So, we decided to celebrate together the night of my birthday by going out to eat Arabian cuisine (my first time here) and afterwards get our fortunes told by a friend who claims to a spiritual medium and reads tarot cards. All of my questions about my future held positive answers, and the details the medium gave about my life as it is now were scarily accurate! Other than that night, I also celebrated my birthday three other separate times: with the IFSA students at the university (I bought myself a large chocolate/caramel cake from a nearby bakery), Thursday night at a bar in Barranco called “HELP” (more chocolate cake was present), and finally on Saturday night with my host family (again, food). I also felt all the love on my birthday from friends and family the states sent to me over social media outlets such as Facebook, Snapchat, and email.

In other news, I am REALLY excited about the IFSA trip to Cusco happening this coming week. our flight leaves Wednesday morning, and we arrive in Cusco by noon at the latest. We are spending 5 days there, returning home on the 6th (Monday). Although I will be missing a majority of my classes, it will definitely be worth it! There are a lot of things I have to consider before leaving that did not even enter my mind before our planning session yesterday:

– It is recommended to take a certain type of pill during the 2 days prior to the trip so that I can more easily adjust to immense altitude change from Lima (sea-level) to Cusco (11,200 ft. above sea level)

– I have to bring lots of sunscreen and insect repellant since Machu Picchu is technically located within the rainforest. I haven’t used either in Lima so far because the city is so cloudy and chilly during the winter! It’s amazing how different the climate is outside of Lima just two hours away.

– I need to pack both winter and summer clothes. The city if Cusco has a lot of sun, but is almost colder than Lima during winter nights. Machu Picchu, however, is t-shirt weather and has a strong summer type of climate (rainforest). Needless to say I will have a lot of laundry to do upon my return!

– The first activity on our agenda upon arrival in Cusco = SLEEP! At first our bodies won’t realize they are exhausted, but apparently the altitude change really will take a toll on our energy and and digestive systems.

– Fun fact: there are NO bathrooms on within the Machu Picchu site. Therefore, I must pay 1 sol to use the bathroom at the entrance before starting my trek. How strange is that?!

– Another fun fact: There are hot springs within Machu Picchu…which means I finally get to swim in warm water! Aha, I did bring my swimsuit for a reason!

 

Well, that’s all for now! You’ll be able to read the full details of my Cusco trip in my next “special” edition of blogging, if you will. Have a wonderful week/weekend until then! *The photo gallery below holds pictures from my previous trips to Mistura and Huaca Pucllana, as well as some random pictures of  birthday cake, chicken foot soup, and birds!*

[Gallery not found]

– Allie

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Updates on Mi Vida!

Time September 15th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

As far as adventures go since my last post, there has only been one main trip: to Caral, the oldest city in all of the Americas.

It took a 3-hour bus trip go get both there and back, but it was well worth spending the entire day there. For one, I could truly breathe! Since the area around the city is not too developed, there is not air pollution like there is in Lima (from the excessive automobile traffic and whatnot). The scenery around the site was so beautiful – incredibly tall sandy mountains, farms that grew a plethora of vegetables and fruit, and green trees everywhere! I really took how happy nature makes me for granted prior to this trip.

Caral itself consisted of a tour of the ruins, which took about two hours. There were around 7 or so main pyramids, but only the bottom halves remained. These pyramids were built before the ancient Egyptian pyramids – that’s how old they are! I found it interesting that they chose to live in the sandy part of the area close to the mountains when just a little ways down there are fertile green pastures…perhaps they did live there and just had their main gathering center where they built the pyramids, I don’t know. All I do know because I miss green nature so much here, I would personally choose that over an arid, sandy environment any day.

This is the official site for Caral – check it out! Google can translate it to English for ya, if you’d like :) http://www.zonacaral.gob.pe/

I haven’t done much else that’s worth noting since my last blog post, but I have decided to make a pro-con few lists of my thoughts on Miraflores.

COMBIS – Con: They are always over-packed and I get a crick in my neck EVERY DANG TIME I have to stand; they need higher roofs on those things. Pro: If we ever crashed (since seat belts aren’t a thing), I have a ton of people that would cushion my fall!

WINTER – Con: I’m always just a little bit colder. Under no circumstances can I walk around in a t-shirt and shorts, which my usual attire in the U.S.. Pro: I never sweat! Unless I’m exercising, that’s totally different.

CITY LIVING – Con: Where did the nature go? And why can’t I walk outside for more than 30 minutes without coughing or blowing my nose? Pro: EVERYTHING in my district is within walking distance. Talk about convenient! And added exercise :)

THE DRIVE TO PUCP – Con: It’s a good distance, about 45 minutes, and I have to take two buses. There is always ALWAYS traffic. Pro: I have actually met a decent number of nice people on the “S” combi. People always seem interested to talk to a foreign exchange student!

LAUNDRY – Con: It costs about $3-$4 per load (which is weekly for me) and I can never seem to pick it up on time due to my schedule, making me have to wait a while while they search for the location of my bag of clothes at the laundromat. Pro: I don’t have to wash my own clothes…always a win :) Plus, they even fold it for me! Lord knows I would never do that.

USING THE SHOWERS ON CAMPUS – Con: If a girl’s sports team is using the showers when I walk in, I am guaranteed zero hot water. Pro: That means I’ll have to wait another hour, which means play more soccer or run! And when the showers are empty, that means excellent water pressure as well as temperature!

TRYING NEW FOODS – Con: If I don’t know a food item in Spanish, I could be consuming anything from cow intestine to guinea pig. Pro: If I don’t know what I’m eating and I like it, then no harm done! I’m always down to try new foods (just don’t tell me what it is before I consume it).

Speaking of trying new foods…I went to the “Mistura” food festival today! I tried everything I’ve been meaning to! This includes roasted alpaca, fried guinea pig, shrimp soup, and Andean and Amazonian chocolate. I ate a lot more than that and spent quite a bit of money, but it was totally worth it! It is said that there were thousands vendors from across Perú. It took place along the green coast of Miraflores. The types of food were divided into sections across the area. For example, there was a massive tent devoted to bread, one devoted to southern Peruvian food, another devoted to Chifa (Chinese-Peruvian mix), and many more! I spent four hours there walking, eating, watching cooking demonstrations, and becoming informed on the variety of foods available. It was truly and incredible experience…PLEASE read more about it here! –> http://mistura.pe/

Pictures aren’t posting right now, so I’ll add them onto the next blog post.

Until next time,

– Allie

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Gettin’ Cozy :)

Time August 29th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

I am now beginning my fourth week here in Lima, and I can finally say that I’m starting to feel really comfortable with my day-to-day life! Weekly routines shall commence soon :)

 

CLASSES AT PUCP – TOO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM!

Last week, I spent each day touring classes that I thought I’d be interested in (and that I needed for my major requirements at Mizzou). My initial thought was to take the classes I did not want to take at Mizzou. However, after sitting through hours upon hours of classes, I have come to realize that the most important factor in choosing classes for me was to what extent I could understand the professor.

There were some professors who mumbled or spoke too softly, others who enjoyed giving monologues, and some that spoke so fast, I could not decipher where their sentences began and ended. I knew I found the right professors when 1. they included a PowerPoint presentation with class lecture, 2. they spoke loudly and at an even pace, and 3. made an effort to get to know me and pull me into class discussion. Fortunately, on registration day (which is basically a fight to the death with other international students who want the same classes as you), I was enrolled in my top choices! I will be taking Intercultural Communication and Ecology, as well as the mandatory IFSA Butler classes: Peruvian Social Reality and Reaction to Peruvian Culture.

WEEKENDS GET WEIRD

Eh, actually, not too weird. It’s pretty common for kids my age to spend every Friday from 12:00 am – 6:00 am at a night club (aka a “discoteca”) in the district of Barranco. The clubs here are just like the clubs in the U.S.; there are VIP lounges, waiting lists, no chairs or food, bright lights, large dance floors, expensive drinks, and creepy guys wanting to “dance” with you. When I went with the IFSA group, we saw an amazing live band perform for about an hour. The Peruvian music here is always so lively and puts me in a good mood! However, I prefer going to more intimate settings for fun, like a bar with a small dance floor. At these types of places, guys formally/courteously ask you to dance, and you actually dance as a pair! The formality really impressed me. It’s something I wish men in the U.S. had more guts to do!

DESERTS GET SWEETER AND SWEETER

I’m a HUGE desert person. I love candy, cakes, pies, and any other form of sugar you can imagine. So it’s no surprise to say that I go pretty crazy here when I see an ice cream shop (an “heladería”) on every other street corner. Geltao, frozen yogurt (Pinkberry), and traditional ice cream are the three forms I have seen thus far. Many of the traditional shops have specialty sculptures (works of art, in my opinion) that are pretty pricey. Even so, I had to split one with my friend. And because that wasn’t nearly enough sugar, we decided to split an order of churros (fried cinnamon-sugar bread sticks) with a cup of warm, melted chocolate. The only thing that I don’t like about sweets here is that nearly every candy bar is owned by Nestle, which is a U.S. company. I wish that Peru produced more of what they sell within their own country.

FUTURE CUISINES TO TRY

I hope to get a small taste of Alpaca and guinea pig, both dishes that are native to the highland areas of Peru. However, I think I’ll pass on the Afro-Peruvian cow heart, intestines, and blood…I have a feeling my digestive tract wouldn’t be able to handle such delicacies. I also want to try Peruvian versions of Brazilian cuisine. Chinese food (“chifa”) is really popular here, and in my opinion, better than the U.S. versions because not everything is deep-fried! It is also interesting to see Peruvian’s take on traditional U.S. foods. For example, there is a burger joint called “Bembos” that sells hamburgers. One type of burger they sell is called “The Italian,” which features a burger patty with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. There are many restaurants from the U.S. here, such as TGIF’s and Domino’s, but they all taste the same! However, the olives here are purple rather than green or black.

VOLUNTEERING

I am supposed to start volunteering at an NGO 6 hours each week starting next Monday. I want to give presentations to children  about the importance of the environment and help them build sustainable community projects through La Red de Voluntariado Ambiental Juvenil (http://www.minam.gob.pe/educacion/ecozona-jovenes/voluntariado/). Nearly every NGO here involves working with children, so I know I will enjoy myself no matter which NGO I choose to volunteer with.

NEW PERUVIAN FRIENDS!

I have met some new Peruvian friends all on my own! Three are from a group project in my communication class, and the other two are from playing pickup soccer games on the university’s field! Fortunately for me, they all know English, so it’s easier to get to truly know their personality. I’m very excited to hang out with them outside of the university!!!

I shall post more later! Pictures of skateboarding dogs, delicious soup, and other random images from Peru are posted below, per usual :)

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Let the School Year Begin!!!

Time August 21st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The past few days have been pretty hectic! It’s time for classes to begin at the university and for us IFSA kids to visit as many classes as we possibly can to see which ones we want to take. When doing this, there are so many aspects to consider!

SCHOLASTIC REQUIREMENTS!

First, there are a handful of requirements that must be met in order to take a class, such as no classes or final exams can overlap or they must have vacancies for additional students. It’s important to consider if you actually like/need the class for you major’s requirements, if the classes will in fact transfer over to your home university, and how many credit hours you want to take this semester on top of the 7 hours of mandatory classes through the IFSA program (7 additional hours are recommended, but they transfer as more credit through IFSA, so that’s good!). Lali, our resident director, also gave us some interesting advice: don’t choose classes that have many other “gringos” (aka non-Peruvians) in them. This way, we can challenge ourselves to experience a deeper cultural immersion by working and making friends with the locals our age.

GOOD NEWS!

But, alas! There is good news in the midst of this craziness! We only have to choose 2-3 classes on our own (Lali recommends choosing 2, one that’s 3 credit hours, the other that’s 4 credit hours) to equal a total of 14-15 hours This is a little less than the amount I would usually take at my home university, but I will have more work automatically since all the classes here are in Spanish. Luckily, no final decisions have to be made until Monday, August 25th, the day of international student registration! I’m praying that no one else takes my place in the classes I want!

EXCURSIONS!

Besides deciding our class schedules, the IFSA group has been on some really fun excursions this week! For example, last night we took a 3-hour long bus tour around Lima. We made a few stops, but my favorite one would have to be the “Parque de la Reserva,” which is the famous water fountain park in Miraflores. Admission is pretty cheap, only 4 soles (about $1.75)! In this park, there are about 20 or more beautiful fountains that are constantly running and accompanied by synchronized music and lights. It is more fun to go at night because the lights make these enormous fountains really stand out! What’s even more unique about these fountains is that they are interactive. Normally that sounds like a fun idea…but since it is winter here (not to mention we went at night) not so much! Still, some brave souls from my group ventured into the fountains trying to dodge the moving streams. Only a few were successful! Those who didn’t have a change of clothes were pretty miserable the rest of the chilly, windy night, but they say it was well worth it! I plan on going back once the weather looks up in November.

TEAM BONDING!

My favorite activity of the week, however, was team bonding games. The IFSA group is divided into teams of 3 or 4, each led by a Peruvian student from the university (PUCP). These activities, such as a scavenger hunt, footraces, and costume competitions, were meant to bring us closer together to each other and students from PUCP. The competition heated up fast, and my team was in first place all the way until the very end, where we lost by one point! Regardless of the score, it was so much fun to work together as a team to help solve the problems placed before us :)

I hope I learn a lot this upcoming week and have many adventures this weekend! I’ll post all of my findings within the next week or two, so stay tuned! Pictures are below!

– Allie

 

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My First Week in Miraflores!

Time August 12th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So. I survived my first week in the district of Miraflores, Peru. There are a couple of categories I feel need to be addressed after what I have experienced thus far!!!

1. CULTURE SHOCK

Before I arrived here, I knew what culture shock was, but hadn’t yet experienced it. I thought I understood the feeling and believed I would be ready to handle it. Then I realized, during my second night here, that culture shock is not something you can truly understand until you feel it for yourself. The concept is different for everyone and everyone has different reactions. For example, my culture shock felt like I was having a miniature panic attack about the fact that I did not know how the city worked and realizing that I have to figure it out fast if I am going to be living here for the next four and a half months! Shock came to me in small waves as well – realizing that I could not flush toilet paper or seeing before my eyes potatoes that aren’t either white, sweet, red, or yellow. The overall feeling is surreal and unlike anything I have experienced.

2. TRANSPORTATION

Even after a few days, I honestly did not think I was going to understand the public transportation and road rules of Peru. The public transport system is one that is ENORMOUS and moves incredibly fast. What’s amazing is that the majority of this transport is not government-sanctioned. So far on the streets of Miraflores, I have seen large blue municipality buses, taxis, and a mixture of large and small unofficial buses called “combis.” For the most part, all vehicles try to pack as many people in them as possible, whether or not they are sitting or have the option for a seat belt. And from what I’ve seen so far, there are no road rules! Sure, there are lanes in the road as well as stoplights, speed bumps, and crosswalks. But drivers in Peru don’t seem to think that these “guidelines” are efficient enough! Speeding is hardly even a concern here since there is almost always traffic. The only road issue I have seen addressed by the police here is when one vehicle scratches another. Only then do people show concern.

3. MONEY

I had no idea where I needed to go to extract/exchange money for the first few days I was here, and to make matters more complex, I was unfamiliar with my surroundings. But now I understand the three-step process for me to obtain “soles,” the Peruvian currency. First, extract money (with an extravagant fee, I might add) from a global ATM since I belong to a small credit union (big banks have ties with some banks here). Second, convert those U.S. dollars to soles at a “casa de cambio,” or money exchange house. Lastly, put that money into my new Peruvian bank account. This lengthy process makes me plan ahead for any and all uses of money!

4. CLIMATE

I knew it would be winter when I arrived here…but I hadn’t experienced 60 degree weather in quite a few months. Since Lima is approximately 12 degrees south of the equator, I figured that a few light layers would be all it takes to get by. I WAS WRONG. People here are walking around in scarves and heavy winter coats! I would not have had the room, but nonetheless, I could have packed a few heavier layers and definitely more pants.

I still had an incredible time exploring Lima throughout my culture-shock week. I’ve met a ton of new friends both from the IFSA program and from the university (aka “La Católica,” aka PUCP – Pontificia Universidad Católica de Peru). Together, we’ve ventured to the boardwalk, Larcomar (the elegant shopping center in Miraflores), The Park of Love, Kennedy Park, the beach, a good number of Catholic churches (the majority of people here are Catholic, like me!), and many MANY delicious restaurants that serve traditional Peruvian cuisine.

But now, after having been here for one week, I can finally say for the first time that I feel confident and independent living here! The trick for me was to walk around Miraflores and learn the majority of things on my own. The feeling that I have now is so rewarding, I cannot even put it into words!

I will try to blog once a week, but we’ll see if I can fit it into all of my exploring! Pictures of my first few days are posted below.

¡Hasta lluego!

– Allie

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Pre-departure Preparation

Time July 16th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello Everyone!

This is my first post on this blog, and possibly the only one before I leave for Lima, Peru the Fall 2014 semester.

Basically, my whole summer has revolved around planning and preparing for this trip…and I’m not even finished yet! I’ve packed all I can possibly fit into my luggage – which includes layers of clothes, toiletries, and gifts for my host family revolving around the Arch, my university (the University of Missouri – Columbia, Mizzou), and the Cardinals since I am from St. Louis, MO. I’ve printed out my insurance cards, filled out all forms needed of me (passport, IFSA information, etc.), bought a TON of travel items, and even cut my hair! This preparation process has taught me that my everyday belongings are incredibly American and not entirely appropriate for travel.

BUT there are a couple of things I still need to do. I would like to utilize the contact information given to me by family and friends of people who have lived or are currently living in Peru. I feel like conversing with these people about my expectations versus the reality would really be beneficial. Also, I have not practiced too much Spanish (reading or listening) this summer. I am crunched for time because I babysit during the week and volunteer on the weekends, but I know that I’m capable of fitting an hour or so into my schedule each night. Lastly, I need to finish reading blogs from previous students who traveled to Peru through IFSA. Their experiences could tell me a lot about what to expect and how to react to situations I am unprepared for!

I will miss my family and friends A LOT during these long 4.5 months that I’m away. But every time I feel uneasy about the duration of time we will be apart, I stop and think of how wonderful it is that we have the technology today to connect with others around the world whenever we please, and that gives me comfort. This is is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I need to take full advantage of. I hope to come back more fluent in Spanish, more open-minded about the world around me, and more educated about the social problems facing Peru today.

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