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¡Al Fondo Hay Sitio! – La Cultura Combi

Time December 15th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

How is it possible that I leave tomorrow morning?  It feels like these last four months have flown by and I’m not sure if I’m ready to leave yet.  Lima just started to really feel like home, plus spring is here and I have to go back to blizzard conditions in Chicago… but I’ll be happy to get home to my friends and family for the holidays.

I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to take a adequate video of a combi ride, something that would capture what it’s like to travel on Lima’s makeshift public transportation system.  I have to say, there is nothing like a combi ride.  The combis developed out of necessity.  In the last few decades, Lima’s population has grown exponentially with many people from the sierra migrating to the coast and the outskirts of Lima.  These people needed a way to get from their homes to the more established areas of Lima and the government didn’t step in.  So, private enterprises took on the challenge.

The streets of Lima are covered in combis of 3 sizes: bus, micro and combi (these are the size of a full-size van).  There are 2 important people on a combi, the cobrador and the driver.  The cobrador takes your pasaje or fare.  He also yells out the door to let you know the combi’s route and lets the driver know when people want to get on and off.  There is no website where you can find the different routes of the combis, so the only way to find out is to ask a Peruvian.  The drivers tend to be pretty crazy, as it is in their best interest to pick up all the passengers before any of the other drivers can.  This leads to many terrifying combi races.  It also leads to absolutely packed combis.  For example, I ride a to La Católica on a route called the “S” which is comprised of the smallest combis.  Around 6pm, there are probably upwards of 20 people squished into those tiny things half of whom are standing, bent over.

Perhaps the best way to describe a combi ride is to got through the steps.  Plus, if you’re ever in Lima you can use these helpful tips.

1) Find a stop or paradero or just stick out your hand on any busy street and 10 will stop for you.

2) Either read the side of the combi or ask the cobrador to make sure that it goes where you’re going.  Usually if it doesn’t, the cobrador will tell you which one does.

3) Hop on before the driver speeds off.  The cobrador will encourage you and let the driver know to wait by saying “¡Sube sube sube!”  Hold on to something because when they do start moving you will go flying into someone’s lap if you’re not holding on.

4) Sit and enjoy the lovely 80s jams or salsa music that the driver has on full blast, the smell of gasoline and the sob stories of all the vendors who climb on board to sell you hard candies.  Hold on tight to your belongings and be careful not to bang your head on the seat in front of you when the driver stops.  If your standing, you have to keep your balance.  The cobrador will also probably yell “Avanza por favor, al fondo hay sitio.” which means that there is room at the back.  There is never room at the back.

5) The cobrador will come down the aisle clinking his change and asking for pasajes.  You pay him, usually 1 sol and he gives you a ticket that lets him know you paid and gets you your money back in case the combi crashes.

6) When you want to get off, you let the cobrador know by saying “¡(Insert your stop here) baja!”  For example, “¡Paradero baja!” or “¡Esquina baja!”  The cobrador repeats this to the driver and you must squish through the people to get to the door in time for your stop.  The cobrador will let the driver know to stay put by shouting “¡Baja baja baja!” but you should hop off quickly because they will start moving…

It’s a crazy way to get around but it’s cheap and convenient.  In some ways, I will miss my crazy combi rides.  I remember being scared to get on them in August, but now I find them easy and feel comfortable getting around by combi.

My bags are packed and goodbyes are said and I’m feeling so many different things at once.  I hope one day I can come back to Lima and to my wonderful host family.  It has truly been a once in a lifetime experience.

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Parades, Floating Islands and Altitude Sickness

Time November 9th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I got home Sunday from a 3 night stay in Puno.  A friend from IFSA– Jessa– and I made the journey to check out “Puno Week” and the famous Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world.

We arrived in Puno on Thursday intending to spend the day resting and acclimating to the altitude.  Puno sits at 3827 meters (12628 feet) above sea level and coming straight from Lima this is a huge adjustment, so we decided to take it easy.  I learned this weekend that high altitudes aren’t for me…. Friday we woke up hoping to see the Puno Day Parade which all the guidebooks told us was November 5th.  We asked at the front desk and it turned out the big parade had taken place the day before.  So, we ventured out to explore Puno and find the handicraft market to do some souvenir shopping.  After lots of wandering and unclear directions, we gave up on finding the market and headed back to the plaza de armas.  On our walk, we kept seeing kids all dressed up in what appeared to be different traditional outfits.  We decided to head in the direction of all these dressed up kids to see if we could find some sort of celebration going on.  Our spying led us to a school courtyard.  On the wall was a huge sign with what looked like a schedule and different locations.  We couldn’t figure out what the schedule was for and we were tired, so we headed back to the hotel hoping we would happen upon something later in the day.  After some rest, we started to hear the echo of drums from our hotel room.  We hurried out and found a parade with all the school children of Puno dressed up and performing various folkloric dances.  They were absolutely adorable and we were happy we got to see at least a small celebration for Puno Week.  Later that night when we headed out for dinner, the parade was still going.  By that time, it was the older kids dancing and they were much more skilled, but obviously less adorable.  I have to say, it was the longest parade I have ever seen.  It lasted hours and hours from noon until maybe 6 or 7 at night!

Saturday was our tour to the lake.  We woke up bright and early and went down to the docks where we took a boat to our first stop, the floating islands of Uros.  These island are incredible to say the least.  The people who live there construct these floating islands from the reeds that are native to Lake Titicaca (see the video for our tour guide’s explanation).  They also use these reeds as building material for their houses, kitchens, boats and handicrafts and as a medicine.  The people on the island were incredibly friendly, but it was all very touristy.  They invited us into their houses and dressed us up in typical clothing so that we could take pictures of ourselves all dressed up.  They also had stands at which they sold their beautiful artwork.  When our visit was over, a group of women sang us goodbye in quechua, aymara, spanish and english finishing with “Row your boat.”  From the floating islands of Uros we got back on the boat and made our way to the island Taquile.  The inhabitants of this island speak quechua as opposed to aymara which is spoken on the islands of Uros.  There, the women have the task of spinning the yarn and the men knit.  Walking around we saw many women spinning yarn and men knitting as they walked.  I didn’t get to enjoy the island very much as I spent most of the visit trying to climb up to the main plaza and restaurant where we’d be eating lunch.  The altitude had really gotten to me and I have to stop numerous times to rest on the way up.  I didn’t want a repeat of Huaraz (aka fainting).  Once we made it to lunch, we ate and our tour guide explained to us the significance of the different hats and shawls we saw the men and women wearing.  On Taquile, men wear beautifully woven wear hats and belts which signify their marital status.  Women wear black shawls with colorful pom poms decorating the corners; their size indicates her marital status.  We also saw the hat which denotes political leaders.  The intricacy of these hats and belts was impressive and beautiful.  From there, we made the long journey back to Puno.

Despite the altitude sickness, Puno and Lake Titicaca were absolutely beautiful.  The weather was lovely, the sun was shining every day and the nights weren’t nearly as cold as everyone in Lima warned.  Clearly Limeñans have never lived though winters in Chicago or Maine… It is incredible to me how many beautiful and interesting things there are to see in Peru alone and I won’t even get to see them all.  I won’t make it to the Colca Canyon in Arequipa, a canyon bigger than our Grand Canyon where condors fly overhead.  Nor will I make it to the Amazon rain forest to see another of Peru’s distinct cultures… Guess I’ll have to come back!  Next weekend I’m heading north towards the border with Ecuador to a beach town called Máncora to get some R&R before the stress of finals and leaving Peru sets in.  I have just over a month left here in Peru and I can’t get over how quickly the time has gone! I have yet to talk about FOOD and the notorious combis… For now, I’m just hoping to make it through the end of the semester smoothly.

Un beso… ¡chau!

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Buscando Sol y Responsabilidad Social

Time November 1st, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I just returned to Lima from an overnight trip with my history professor, some students from our class and members of the DARS (Direccion Academica de Responsabilidad Social) at La Católica.  We traveled to El Carmen, a district of Ica known for its rich Afro-Peruvian culture.  This area was also hard hit by an earthquake in 2007. DARS already has a community development project in a little town called La Garita also located in El Carmen.  They offer workshops for the women and children of this village and also helped to reconstruct about 40 houses destroyed by the earthquake.  Now, the DARS in looking to start a project in the city of Chincha and my history professor was asked to write a report about the area’s history.  So, us students went along to help conduct some interviews and to visit the projects La Católica has there.

We first arrived in the city of Chincha and headed to a restaurant for breakfast.  There, we interviewed the owner of the restaurant, the granddaughter of Italian immigrants (who is married to a man that is half Japanese…).  She talked to us about the history of Chincha, the immigration and the subsequent fusion of cultures.  Her food, for example, is a fusion of traditional Italian with Peruvian influences.

Then, we got on a combi headed for El Carmen.  El Carmen is the district’s capital and home to many Afro-Peruvians.  We stayed with a family of musicians and dancers.  Their walls were covered with photographs of women in bright dresses dancing and groups playing cajon.  The general feeling in this town was incredibly distinct from that in Lima.  You got the sense that everyone knew each other.  People called to each other in the streets and everyone’s door was always open– no need to knock.  People on the street always greeted you with “Buenos días” or “Buenas tardes” and children ran up and down the block dancing and playing soccer in the relatively empty streets.  Walking around, it was easy to see this was a poor area and many of the houses still showed signs of the devastation caused by the earthquake.  We ate lunch at one of the only restaurants in town while interviewing a local.  Lunch was a dish typical of the area called sopa seca con carapulcra which was pretty tasty.  I couldn’t understand much of what the man said –he spoke very fast and had a distinct accent– but he told us a bit about El Carmen’s history and what happened after the earthquake hit.  He works with a number of different NGOs and told us about their vital role in the reconstruction of the town.  That night, we all sat around and talked and I got to know some of my Peruvian classmates (finally!).  They said if they hadn’t known I was a gringa, they would’ve pegged me as maybe not Peruvian, but definitely Latina.  Woohoo!  What a compliment.

The next day we headed out of El Carmen to La Garita where DARS has some ongoing projects.  (But not before seeing some zapateo from some of the kids in the plaza.)  The houses in La Garita are even more simple than those in El Carmen.  Many have roofs made of woven cane or sheets of tarp.  This community lives mainly off of agriculture and they find work when during the different seasons, depending on what crop is ready to pick.  We got to see the school, which is in the final stages of its reconstruction and a few of us participated in the workshop with the kids.  Many of them were very friendly and outgoing, coming up to us and initiating conversations.  Later on in the day, some members of the DARS work with the mothers, many of whom are still having emotional/psychological problems as a result of the earthquake.  After eating a lunch of arroz con pollo in one of the homes, we got on a combi back to Chincha and from there caught a bus back to Lima.

It is moments like this weekend that I am so glad I chose to come to Peru.  I got to see a very distinct part of Peruvian culture; I got to meet people and see places I would have never seen as a tourist.  I also FINALLY got to know some Peruvians my age outside of the classroom.  Overall, it was a fun experience.

Although I am missing Halloween in the US, today is also El Día de la Cancion Criolla, a celebration of Peruvian music.  Hopefully I will get to celebrate by heading to a peña to hear some live music.  This coming Thursday I head to Puno for “Puno Week” and a tour of Lake Titikaka.  I am reeeeeally excited about it.  The following weekend I return to Chincha with IFSA for some sun and some lessons on the cajon and zapateo.  Then comes Thanksgiving dinner, our sendoff dinner, finals and then– Chau Perú! I’ve got about a month and a half left and with all this traveling, I’m sure it will go by quickly.  It’s hard to believe my time here is almost up!

Happy Halloween to all my gringitosUn beso– chau!

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Los milagros siempre occuren en Octubre

Time October 21st, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It is October in Lima, which means a little more sunshine, Halloween (I know, I was surprised too…) and El Señor de los Milagros.  El Señor de los Milagros, also known as Cristo Moreno or Señor de los Temblores among other names, is a mural painted by a black slave in the 1600s.  The story says that there was a huge earthquake during this era in which much of the city was destroyed, yet this mural was miraculously left standing.  In Peru, October is el mes morado.  During this month, devotees visit the church in which the painting stands.  Many stand in line in order to touch the float which is paraded through the streets in various processions at the end of the month.  These processions draw enormous crowds.  The faithful bring pictures of loved ones, rosaries or other objects to touch to the float in the hopes that their prayers are answered or miracles realized.  Others bring flowers or donate money as an offering to el señor.

I went to visit with my host mom and her friend and it was certainly an interesting experience.  We took a combi to the hustle and bustle of the center of Lima.  We got off and as you looked around there were blocks and blocks of little stores and vendors selling all kinds of little trinkets: rosaries, candles, pins, beads… everything purple.  There were also stretches of storefronts selling turrones de Doña Pepa which is a dessert typical of el mes morado.

I’m not a big fan, but people here love it.  It’s prepared with a honey made from stewed fruits and was traditionally an afro-Peruvian dish.

The church was super crowded and at first I felt a bit out of place.  I’m not Catholic, but there is a certain feeling in the air.  My host mom, who is catholic, told me she asked for el señor to bless my family and loved ones and keep them safe.  As I stood taking in the mural and all the people assembled, I decided to use the time to think of all the things, people, and experiences in my life I am grateful for.  It seemed appropriate.  As we left, we saw one women approaching the altar on her knees.  My host mom told me there are some devotees who follow the float along its entire route on their knees.  This image clearly demonstrates the immense devotion many Peruvians have to el Señor de los Milagros and his importance to Catholics in Peru.  After leaving the church, we stumbled upon a sort of altar behind the church.  There, people purchased candles that they then burned for a particular loved one or prayer.

On a side note, I apologize for the crazy filming.  I was trying to be discreet on the streets, because my host mom kept telling me to put away my camera before someone snatched it.  You can hear her warning me in the video :)  I hope to be able to attend one of the parades at the end of this month, although my host mom has warned me against it.  Maybe we’ll just watch it on TV instead.

There is also a new Peruvain film called Octubre which takes place against the backdrop of el mes morado in Lima.  A group of us gringos went to see it and enjoyed it, so I recommend it.  It just won an award at Cannes.

Octubre la pelicula

In other news, I am officially half way through my time here in Peru!  In many ways, I can’t believe how fast the time has gone.  On the other hand, I feel like I have been here for a long time and have gotten into a steady routine.  I feel more comfortable and can feel my Spanish improving daily.  I hope to travel to Puno in the first week of November to see Lake Titicaca (cue the giggles) and to see a little of “Puno Week.”  Tomorrow we had to Caral for the day with IFSA.  Caral is the oldest civilization in the Americas and the 3rd oldest in the world: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Caral.  Pretty bacán huh?

!Chau– un beso!

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Dear mom, Today I snowboarded in the Andes and ate a goat.

Time August 30th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

That is what my letter home would have said this week, if it didn´t cost nearly two dollars to send a letter home and three weeks for it to arrive. Thankfully, we all live in the age of email, facebook and blogs, so my mother received an email regarding the above statement the following night. Life is insane here. Everyday I have to remind myself that this is real life. Even the classes can´t make it feel like school.

Last weekend, I went with another girl in our program to Las Leñas, a well known ski resort in the Andes. It is a valley right in the middle of the mountain range, and it was beautiful. We had clearly just made it because even though it isn´t low season yet, the snow is quickly melting from the beautiful weather we´ve been having down here. Still, there was enough snow to make the snowboarding worth while, and I never imagined I would snowboard somewhere where everywhere you looked was a beautiful view of the Andes.

las leñas

We had taken an overnight bus to get to las Leñas (about 6.5 hours), so we had all day to ski/snowboard. We stayed the night in a hotel 15km away called Los Molles, and were so excited that we got to return for a second day. Our hotel had a beautiful view of the mountains, friendly guests with whom we watched the Godoy Cruz soccer game (where a bunch of our friends from the program were) and played ping pong, and dinner. Dinner was three courses and one flat price. Empanadas, Chivo, and a choice of desserts. What is Chivo you ask? Well, I asked too. Our new friend tried to explain it to us, confused, asking his friends, how do I explain Chivo???¨ Finally, he was just like, ¨Es como cabra, sabes que es cabra?¨ Cabra= goat. It wasn´t the most delicious thing, but I made a sandwich with it, and could pretend it was a steak sandwich. Anyway, I crossed eating goat off the lifelist, though I never thought I would ever it a goat… haha. Also at dinner, we made quick friends with a couple that wanted to bring us to Las Leñas in their car. (it was cheaper for everyone involved).

In the morning, we met our new friends during breakfast and were on our way!! We even got to see a cool well called the well of souls. (Pozo de los Animes). No one has ever reached the bottom, so they think it connects somehow with the sea. Our second day of skiing was just as beautiful as the first, but a bit colder.



This week has been pretty awesome too. I tried out a new tango class which also teaches folklore and loved it!! There were three of us from the program in the class, and the girls studying dance seemed to enjoy helping us figure it all out. Not to mention that the professor was not only awesome, but very attractive. For next week, we need skirts and handkerchiefs, but a woman in the class is making them for us!!! Some people here are unbelievably nice. Tuesday, I went with a new Argentine friend to Cerro de la Gloria, which is amazing. It is a huge monument to San Martin, a true work of art. I was, however, unaware that ¨Cerro¨ de la Gloria meant that it was going to be on top of a small mountain. So, that was an interesting surprise when we arrived and the bottom and he was like, subimos (we´re going to climb it). Every day, a surprise. But, it was worth the climb.

¨Cuando alguien desea algo debe saber que corre riesgos y por eso la vida vale la pena¨-Paulo Coelho.


Weekend Getaway

Time August 27th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Tonight, a group of us are heading out of the city to Huaraz, Peru.  Huaraz is about 8 hours northeast of Lima by bus.  It is in the ANDES mountains and we will be doing some hiking and taking in all the amazing views.  I hope to return with lots of beautiful pictures.  We are staying at an inn which is actually situated in the mountains.

This was our second week of classes.  Monday, all the internantional students finally registered and I am officially taking Peru in Modern Times and Gender and Politics.  I am happy finally be enrolled in my classes, even though it meant waking up at 5 am to be at PUCP by 7.  Commuting to and from PUCP is still a chore, but I am getting used to the system.  Combis can be a very stressful mode of transportation, but they are cheap, can get you anywhere you need to go, and are always there when you need them.  Missed your combi?  Just lift your pinky finger and 10 more will stop to pick you up.  I also got the chance to ride the brand new Metropolitano bus which goes along the via expresa.  They are very nice and are a calmer alternative to combis.  They also remind me of taking the El in Chicago, which is a comfort.

My home and host mom are still wonderful.  We live on the middle floor of a 3 flat.  My room used to belong to her daugther and is the same color as my room at home.  I live in a district called Miraflores, one of Lima’s 43 districts.  It is a very nice place with lots to offer and most of the IFSA students live here.  There are many shops, parks, resturants, discotecas, movie theaters… anything you could ever need.  My host mom and I are getting along very well.  She is very talkative and caring.

As for the grey skies in Lima… I am getting used to them.  It makes me appreciate the little sun we get that much more.  Yesterday, we were able to sit outside and enjoy the sun while eating lunch on campus.  Hopefully, as we get closer to spring and summer, the sunshine will become more frequent.  I certainly look forward to it.

I will be sure to post video and pictures from the trip to the mountains soon!



Classes have started…

Time August 20th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

…which means life is completely hectic here in Lima. I’m only taking the equivalent of 17 credits this semester, but it seems like a ton. There is mounds of outside work assigned each day, all of which are in Spanish of course.

I am taking a theology class and a linguistics class, in addition to the two mandatory classes that each IFSA-Butler student has to take. The two required classes are Advanced Spanish Grammar, which is basically a writing class, and Peruvian Social Reality. Peruvian Social Reality seems really interesting, and I am very excited for it. One component of this class is working with a NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) for at least seven hours each week and completing a research project based on this work.

I have decided to work with an organization named Casa de Panchitas. This NGO works with domestic workers, or maids that work six days per week with one family. Casa de Panchitas provides a place for these women to go on Sundays, their day off. They also provide legal support, cooking lessons, recreational activities, and sexual education.

I am going to be working specifically with minors. There are many girls here that are working as maids as early as 13. Most of these girls have been forced by their parents to go and find work to support themselves and to help support the family. It is a really sad situation, but Casa de Panchitas tries to help the girls continue their education and know their rights as workers.

I will be working with these girls on Sundays; helping them with their homework (These girls go to night class and then work all day). I will also be helping the girls with self-confidence through song, dance, and acting. I am really excited to get started. My first day is on Sunday and I am sure that the girls will be more than welcoming.

It is a relief to finally get into a rhythm and get more settled in down here. Let the semester begin!


Here we go…

Time August 16th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Our two weeks of orientation are over here in Lima.  On Monday we begin classes at PUCP! Thankfully, us foreign students get a week of “shopping” and don’t actually register for classes for a while.  That gives us some time to feel out the course and the professor.  We have been informed how different the system is here in Peru, so I’m nervous to see what its really like. As a Gender & Women’s Studies major, it has been a bit of a challenge to find courses.  I am still working out my schedule, but I hope to have classes only 2 days a week.  Because PUCP is so far away, it seems like making the trek only twice a week will leave me more time to explore and study.

Last night we went on a nighttime tour of Lima.  It was beautiful to see all plazas at night and we went to an amazing park full of fountains.  Some of us even ventured in despite it being a little chilly.  It was a fun way to finish off orientation.

I have been trying to describe the traffic here in Lima, but nothing seems to capture it.  Hopefully some of this video does…

As I have recently been informed that here in Peru it is not “Ciao” but “Chau”…
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Orientation, Orientation, Orientation

Time August 13th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The past two weeks have been a blur. Orientation is jam-packed with activities, lectures, excursions, and information. I don’t know how I’ve taken all of this information in…I’m sure I’ve missed some.

We’re approaching the end of our two weeks of orientation, and classes are going to be starting on Monday. I must say that I am deeply grateful to IFSA-Butler for having a structured orientation system. It really helps to become adjusted to the new situations when you are always on the go, always have something to do, and always have people around you.

We have gone to so many places in the past two weeks. From excursions to the Center of Lima, to eating in China Town, to hanging out on the Pacific Coast, I have been afforded the opportunity to take some of the many sights and sounds of Lima.

Last weekend we went to the Center of Lima. We went to the Cathedral of Lima, China Town, the Catacombs, and the Inquisition Museum. The Cathedral of Lima was really interesting. The archbishop lives in the adjacent building, and Fransisco Pizarro is buried in the Cathedral. There are many famous and rich individuals in Lima’s history that are buried in the Cathedral. It was really interesting to learn more about the history of Lima and that of Fransisco Pizarro and the development of the Church in Lima.

We also went to the Catacombs, after eating about 3 pounds of food each in Lima’s Chinatown. There is a very large Chinese population here in Lima, and they have mixed Chinese food with Peruvian food to create Chifa. Chifa is some of the richest food I have ever consumed. I strongly suggest that everyone try it if they have a chance.

In the catacombs we were able to see the remains of over 50,000 individuals. It was kinda creepy, but at the same time really neat to see the devotion that these people in history had to their faith and to preserving history. The catacombs are located in a Catholic Church which was also a monastery.  We got to go into the library that the monks had during the 1600s. The books are still completely in tact, and date back to the 1600s. Only historians are allowed to go through the books, as they are fragile, and most are written in Latin.

I also had the opportunity to go to Miraflores’s famous “Park of Love.” The Park of Love is a park overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The park is named after the massive statue in the middle, which happens to be of two individuals kissing passionately. Miraflores, a neighborhood of Lima, is situated up on a cliff that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, the sights from the park are breathtaking.

The Catacombs

Picture 1 of 10

Orientation, Fall 2010

Tonight we are going to go on a night tour of Lima, which ends in Central Lima at the Park of Fountains. I guess there are massive fountains that go in time to coordinated music and lights. There is a tradition down here of trying to run to the middle of the fountains and back without getting wet.. I think I’ll try it! I’ll definitely let you know how it goes!



Bienvenidos a Lima.

Time August 6th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I have been in Peru for exactly one week.  I arrived with my family on July 29 and we traveled to Nazca to see the amazing Nazca Lines.  Although I felt awful on the tiny plane from which we saw the Lines, I was still able to appreciate and wonder at them… and hopefully I get a few good pictures…

After almost one week together, everyone here in Lima is still getting to know one another.  There are 12 of us on the program, so I imagine we will all become quite close.  My host family is really just one woman, my Peruvian mama.  She has 2 grown children and a little grandson who I am excited to meet.  My host mom is very sweet and accommodating.  Last night, we went grocery shopping to buy the foods I wanted– lo que te antoja— as she says.

Tomorrow, we make the big journey to La Catolica, where we will be studying.  It’s about an hour from my house on the combi… which is very far compared to a 2 minute walk across campus.  One of the many things I will have to get used to as I adapt to life here in Lima.  The combis, the slang, the neighbor’s many birds which chirp outside my window at 5am, the constantly grey skies are all things I am learned to live with.  I also need to buy some sweaters and slippers!  60 seems warm… but it really isn’t.  And there isn’t heat anywhere!!

So far, we haven’t gotten to see too much of Lima… so I will add video and photographs as I take them.  Ciao!


I made it!

Time August 6th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, I’ve now spent two full days in Peru. It seems like a blur. The language isn’t that hard for me. Of course, there are plenty of words and there is a lot of jerga (slang) that I don’t understand, but that’s okay. I really want to make the most out of this experience. I know that this post is going to jump around because I have so much to say, and not enough energy or time to say it.

I am a little frustrated tonight because there are a few girls in my group (the IFSA-Butler group) that are refusing to speak in English, but that’s okay. I’m loving everything so far.

My host family is amazing. They love music, which I also love. Tonight we were sitting around they table and they just randomly broke out into song. I later learned that they just were making up the song as they went, each individual creating their own verse. It was great!

It is going to take me a while to get used to all of the traffic here. I don’t know if I ever will. I know it is a city of 9 million people, but it seems absolutely ridiculous that there is not a regulated transportation system. I’ll have to talk about combis (the system of public transportation here) in a different blog. I don’t even know how to explain it.

IFSA-Butler has been great so far. The orientation program is fantastic, and I feel like I am going to be really prepared for the beginning of the school year. I hope. Laura, our program coordinator here in Peru is amazing. She really knows what it is like being a foreign exchange student as she was one in the U.S. for six years.

I’ll make sure to put up more information when I get more energy and have more time.

See ya!


Less than two weeks…

Time July 21st, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

…until I start a whole new life. Wow. It’s hard to believe that I only have less than one two weeks until I will be in Lima. I should probably introduce myself first. My name is Crysta, as you have probably figured out. I am a Senior this year at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. I was born in California, and then moved to Oklahoma, and finally Minnesota. I am studying Spanish and Secondary Education. I love working with kids, and I am so excited to study abroad. I have been fortunate enough to travel quite extensively in my life. I have been to Russia, Spain, and Northern Ireland for over a month each.

The prospect of leaving for five months is still a little scary. I don’t know how to feel about being gone for that long, to be completely honest. There are so many questions spinning around my mind. What if I don’t like the people I am with? What if my host family is not what I thought they would be? What if the classes are too hard or I don’t have anything to do in my free-time? How am I going to plan a wedding internationally?? (I’m getting married in May) The list of questions goes on and on.

When I honestly think about it though, I know that everything will work out. Everyone says that the courses overseas are so much easier that the ones we have here in the United States. I guess being bored is more of my concern than anything. I’ve taken at least 21 US credits each semester since being at Iowa State, and with the plethora of other activities, I haven’t ever had a moment to myself to “do nothing”.

This summer I am living in Kansas nannying for four of my cousins. I love the kids, but it is going to be a nice break in Peru to not have four children running around wanting attention 24/7. I haven’t started getting ready at all. Nothing. Being in Kansas has been great, but there is the minor problem of me not being able to pack until I get back to Minnesota. I will have three days to get everything packed, ready, and out the door.

I am really excited for the semester. I have been communicating via email with my host family and they sound amazing. I had very specific hopes when I requested a host family. I wanted a family that shared my religion and had similar morals and beliefs to me. I couldn’t have asked for a better match. IFSA-Butler has gone above and beyond in the aspect of matching me with a compatible host family. My host family is also strong in their faith, and they have a small child (which I also requested). Furthermore, they are a very musical family, which I am very enthusiastic about as well. I can only hope that my host family turns out to be as good as they sound.

Sarah and me!

I have had a lot of people ask me why I decided to study abroad in Perú. They think it sounds like a strange place to go, and as weird as it may seem, I chose it because of an experience in elementary school. When I was in fourth grade in Oklahoma I had to complete a research project about Machu Picchu. Ever since then I have had the life goal of going to Perú, and it is finally coming true. I have heard rumors that they are going to close Machu Picchu to the public in a few years due to the damage that is resulting from the massive amounts of tourists. I am really fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to visit such beautiful locations, and I hope to learn more about the country of Perú and South America in general while I am there.

For now I can only imagine what it is going to be like on August 2nd when I arrive in Lima. The semester is sure to hold many new experiences and opportunities. I just need to make sure that I take full advantage of each opportunity that is presented.

Next time I write I’ll be on Peruvian soil! ¡Hasta luego! (Below is a picture of me with one of my cousins)


here comes the sun!

Time September 18th, 2008 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I saw my shadow today!  I was sitting on the grass in front of the cafeteria eating Leah´s avocado and then there it was, right next to me, right where it used to be all the time…until I came to study spanish in Lima.  It´s winter here now, which instead of meaning snow or rain or freezing temperatures just means GREY.  Since I got here about a month and a half ago (wow) I´ve seen the sun in the city for an hour or two at a time, on maybe four different days.  It should start to get better soon as we get closer to summer, and I can´t wait!

The kind of amazing thing is that it´s just Lima that´s like this;
when we went to Caral a few weeks ago the sun was beating down on us as we toured the ruins. As we rode the bus back into the city we could tell we´d made it back when we no longer had to squint our eyes to see out the windows.  Even in certain outer areas of the city there´s sun a lot of the time.  Unfortunately, where I hang out it tends to be pretty grey.

So today was exciting!  In an effort to take advantage of the weather, I decided to find a quiet space and read a bit on the grass after lunch.  Obviously that didn´t happen…how could I read when I was busy being deliriously happy with the feeling of the sun on my shoulders?  Leah and I ended up playing catch with a small orange for a good half an hour…and it was surprisingly amusing, especially when it bounced off my head or hit a building and split open and then squirted juice everywhere (don´t worry Whittemores: I´m not wasting fruit, it was already bruised and moldy when we started :] ).

Anyway, when I´m not experiencing sun-induced regression to childhood, what do I do with my life?

I spend a lot of it at La Católica, the university, and a lot of it on public transportation trying to get there or back.   The university is completely closed off from the street, and I have to show my ID card to get in every morning (I feel so official!).  The street outside is really busy and dirty, but inside is very nice and green and pretty.  It´s not like Brown or other traditional US universities with big brick buildins around a main green…it has lots of small buildings connected by paths and walkways through green lawn areas.  The buildings mostly are designated as belonging to a facultad, which is like a department (math, social sciences, etc), and tend to look pretty different from each other.  There are a bunch of cafeterias scattered around that are named after different areas of study, but since I don´t belong to a particular facultad I just eat at the one that I think is the best, which is right in the middle of campus.

Católica doesn´t have dorms on campus, since most students still live with their parents while they´re attending school.  In between classes the students either go to a library, a study room, a cafeteria, or hang out on the grass (my place of choice).  It´s great because there are always people around, and it´s not a huge campus so I can usually find someone I know if I want to wander around long enough. the bad part of it is that all the couples have nowhere to go to do their couple-y things, so sometimes my favorite reading nooks are occupied by people who…well, people who aren´t reading.  Less frequently I come across another interesting thing about la Católica–the deer that live and roam around freely on the campus.  It´s said that they escaped from the zoo nearby a few years ago and now they make their home on campus.  I don´t know how many there are, but I see them every day, and occasionally even see one of the two little fawns…so cute!

Students here take two years of classes in the school of general studies, and then three years of study in their major in a particular facultad.  Since most of the classes they take are required and in a certain order, a lot of people have their classes with a set group of people every semester.  For example in one of my classes there´s only one student in the class who is not in the facultad, and almost everyone in the class is in their second semester of the major.  So they all know each other, which is definitely different than a lot of my classes at Brown, where I wouldn´t know a single person.

I´m taking 2 courses that are required by the IFSA-Butler study spanish in Peru program: a writing/grammar class and a class called “Peruvian Social Reality.”  Other than that I am taking one class in the school of general studies (history) and one in the language arts type facultad (sociolinguistics).  I also am sitting in on a class in the comunication department, but I´m not officially taking that one.

My classes are mostly really interesting, but I don´t find myself having to do much work.  That surprised me, since I was expecting to have reading to do, and to spend a lot of time on it deciphering unfamiliar Spanish words.  But it turns out some of my classes don´t have any reading, and the sociolinguistics class has a lot–in English!  While that´s good for my comprehension and general sociolinguistics-learning, it´s a little disappointing too, since any Spanish practice disguised as something else is helpful.

Oh well, it just means more time to play catch with fruit or nap on the grass in the sun!