It’s kind of cold here, mostly because of the humidity. I’ve been wearing sweatshirts, or at least long sleeves, every day, but unfortunately, I only brought three sweaters/sweatshirts, and somehow I managed to lose one of them in my first week here. Also, I have only seen the sun three times in my three weeks here. That’s not an exaggeration either… the first time I saw the sun here was my first day, when one of the guys who as been here for longer pointed it out and was amazed to see it. The second time was during one of our orientation classes (which take place in this really awesome partially-outdoor brick courtyard thing) when somebody saw part of the courtyard become fully illuminated, a clear distinction from the shadows everywhere else. He alerted everyone in the class, and we all frantically got up out of our seats to run over and look at the sun, before it was gone. The third time was a few days ago when I went to an art museum with some friends. I should mention that all of these times, we didn’t have a clear view of the sun; we could just clearly see the glowing outline of where the sun was through an unusually thin layer of clouds, and only on one of those occasions did the sky look blue and like anything that could be considered something other than cloudy.
Even though this makes it sound bad, I actually really love the climate. It’s very comfortable as long as you have a light jacket or a sweatshirt to put on when you are cold.
I caught my first glimpse of real poverty in Lima when I went to the Chorrillos district on Sunday. My host mom invited to to come along to a family picnic with her daughter, her daughter’s husband and two kids. We were in a nicer part of Chorillos in a gated community connected to a country club, where we went for the picnic, but driving through parts of Chorrillos I began to see how many people in Lima live. There were stray dogs everywhere and looking up into the hills off of the main roads were densely-packed, self-built houses separated by dirt roads. I can’t wait to start working with people from these areas of Lima when we start the volunteering part of the program in Villa El Salvador next weekend.
The Art Museum
I went with some friends to the historical area of Lima to an art museum. Unfortunately, almost all of it was closed and being renovated, but one pre-Incan exhibit remained open and it was pretty cool, and the building itself was very interesting.
Pictures of Miraflores, Chorrillos and the Art Museum
I don’t have a whole lot of hope for getting Computer Science/Engineering credit while I am studying abroad here, so I decided to expand my horizons a little bit and take some random classes that interest me. In addition to the two IFSA required courses, both of which are basically Peruvian History/Culture classes that seem fairly interesting, I will be taking Bio-Huertos (which in English is something along the lines of ‘Urban Farming’), Actuación 1 (Acting 1), and Cine (Film).
Urban farming is something I have always been interested in, and I came here wanting to take an agriculture class or do something related to agriculture with my volunteer work, so Bio-Huertos appealed to me. Plus there is a lot of class work time in the gardens, where I will hopefully be able to make some Peruvian friends.
Film seemed like a good mix of a fun time and a cultural immersion class that involves discussion and watching films in Spanish. Our professor has said that he will be exposing us to films from all over the world from all different eras and genres. The first film we watched this week was the American horror movie, The Exorcist.
Acting has been interesting thus far… I was originally going to take it because I was having trouble finding courses and because there was a chance that it would give me credit for a public speaking requirement I have for Northwestern, but after I went to the classes, I realized that, not only is it pretty fun, its a very verbal-communication heavy class, and I am the only non-Peruvian student, so it has been great for my Spanish, as well as interacting with local students, and we already have a class Facebook group! If I can learn to act in Spanish, I’ll probably be able to do just about anything in Spanish. But the class has been unlike any class I’ve had before thus far… Through the reading I have learned things like ‘An actor must have an exceptional perception and sense of sight, hearing, touch, pleasure and smell’, or ‘Being an actor requires an insatiable curiosity for the human condition’, and that ‘Actors must be physically and mentally stronger than other people’. In class so far, we have mostly made verbal presentations and played games. We even spent about forty minutes one day ‘exploring the space’ where the class was held. It was awesome.
All in all though, I think Tobias Fünke’s portrayal of acting is pretty accurate thus far.
My Spanish is improving quickly. I can easily understand all of my professors, or anyone else speaking clearly. Speaking is much harder, but I’ve been able to make some impromptu verbal presentations that were slower than everybody else’s but still coherent and I said everything I wanted to say. The hardest things for me are vocabulary and understanding people at stores, on the street or in social settings when I am not initially devoting all of my attention to listening to them. Also, at the end of the day, I find I am much more tired than I would be if I were speaking English all day. English also becomes much harder when you are in that Spanish groove, and so I often find myself unable to communicate a complex idea in English or Spanish. tl;dr: My Spanish has improved a lot here but I’ve still got a long way to go.