As of Friday afternoon, my program’s orientation session has come to a close. I have the weekend to relax and classes start Monday morning. These past two weeks have flown by as the orientation activities have kept me very busy. I hobble out of bed early every morning and go to sleep exhausted at night. The craziness, however, has all been worth it. I’m finally starting to feel more comfortable and confident in certain regions of Lima.
For me, orientation was most about becoming acclimated to Peruvian daily life. For example, in Perú, the largest meal of the day is lunch whereas dinner and breakfast are typically very small. For these lighter meals it is common to eat only a bowl of fresh fruit or a piece of bread from the closest “panadería,” a bread bakery. Another change is the “hora peruana,” or Peruvian time. In the United States, I always try to be very punctual, schedule out my day and expect events to start on time. However, in Perú, this is not the case. People arrive at their leisure, and it can be anticipated that nothing will begin on schedule. I am also slowly becoming more familiar with the city’s crazy public transportation system (which merits its own blog post later – stay tuned!).
One of the reasons I am always tired is that these past two weeks have been filled with much sightseeing around Lima. As its summer here, exploring the city’s Pacific beaches has quickly become one of my favorite pastimes. Most of the beaches are popular for surfing, but we managed to find one perfect for swimming and relaxing. With my program, I have also visited the historic center of Lima, which is home to the city’s remaining colonial buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries. Finally, we toured the “El Circuito Mágico del Aqua,” a massive park complex filled with different interactive fountains and music and light shows at night.
Though it often seems like I have already been able to explore a lot, Lima is divided up into approximately 40 municipalidades, or separate communities, that are part of the city as but operate with a significant degree of autonomy. To compare, if my hometown of Minneapolis was to absorb Saint Paul and all of the surrounding suburbs, allow them to maintain their own names and municipal governments but require that they subvert themselves to the higher rule of Minneapolis, this would parallel the city government structure of Lima. However, this comparison falls short when considering the scope of Lima. As of the 2010 census, the population of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area was less than 4 million people. Lima, however, is more than double this size and home to an estimated 9 million residents. It frustrates me that I have yet to experience, or even may not get to experience, a vast majority of the city. During these first two weeks, I have spent time in a few of the wealthier, seaside, touristic areas and at the private, gated university where I will be studying. It’s hard to get to know a city well when I have visited only a small proportion of it.