My First Week in Miraflores!
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.
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.
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!
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.