Saturday, April 26, 2014

Final Reflection

So I'm finally coming home today!! 

I can hardly believe it's finally happening. The surprising thing for me is that I am actually feeling pretty sad about leaving... the last couple weeks I have just been so excited to go home to my family, my friends, Luke, my house, my dog, my food, my bed... haha but after 4 months Lima really has become like a home to me. Spanish has finally came to me in a fluid(ish) way and I'm leaving... ¡Que pena! The amount of Spanish I have learned in 4 months is kind of amazing but unfortunately I still wouldn't consider myself "fluent" even though I can understand pretty much everything, it's the speaking that gets me haha. Learning a new language is an incredible amount of work that no amount of high school or college classes can really teach you. Only going somewhere that you are forced to listen, see and speak in Spanish all the time do you actually learn and retain anything or that's been my experience at least (unless of course you are lucky enough to have a family member or friend you can talk to all the time for practice). The really impressive thing to me here is how well the high school students we helped with English could actually speak English, they were incredibly fluent. The big difference in the education here and in the US is that they begin learning English in elementary school and their English teachers teach them in English the whole time, in comparison to Spanish classes in the US that are usually taught in English and we usually don't start learning a second language until high school and that's only so we can get into college. Traveling has made me realize how close minded us Americans can be as far as language learning (and obviously other things). People I have met from Europe usually speak 2-3 languages at least and the majority of people from both Costa Rica and Peru can speak English with some degree of fluency. To bring in some of Dr. Miller's cultural psychology, we Americans are the most monolingual and ethnocentric country and that's kind of sad. Enough with my lamenting over not learning Spanish in Elementary school haha here is a little picture summary of all the fun things I have been able to do over that last few weeks :)

Our Peruvian literature teacher took us on a little excursion to el Centro de Lima and we went to (above) a museum about the Spanish Inquisition and it was all about the ways the Spanish tortured people during that time because the building actually used to be a prison. This was complete with an underground walk through to show us the cells and wax dummies in various states of torture. Don't worry though or next stop got a little weirder... (below) we went to the Monastery of San Francisco which was a beautiful convent and church, except for when we went through the famous Catacombs where we were able to see 200-500 year old bones of people who wanted to be buried under the church to be closer to God... creepy.

Taking pictures inside was prohibited so this is one is from the Internet... 

Then about two weeks ago, Nikki's amazing family had a going away party for us that doubled as birthday party for Emily and late birthday celebration for Adam. We are all going to miss Nikki's family, they truly let us in this whole semester like we were all part of the family.

Then a couple days later Jaime made us his famous lasagna :)

Then we had our last day with the high school students of Colegio PIOXII. Talking with them and helping with English was honestly one of my favorite things we got to do here in Lima. They were so much fun and I learned all the good (and inappropriate) Peruvian slangs haha plus on this last day they all made or bought their favorite Peruvian foods, desserts and drinks to share with us.

These were the group of girls I worked with the most :)

Then Karla took Nikki and I to finally get some Peruvian sushi! It was amazing and we definitely didn't hold back seeing as how it was unlimited.

Oh and Luciano turned the big 5 years old!

My amazing fam took me to their beach house in San Bartolo for Semana Santa!

We also had our last meal with Dr. Miller and his wife Genie! They were unbelievably amazing on this trip and we were so lucky to get Dr. Miller as our professor this semester. We went to Tanta which is a restaurant with super yummy authentic Peruvian dishes and I had my favorite Aji de Gallina.

And one of the most fun things we have done in Lima... the chocolate museum! We got to make cocao tea, Mayan hot chocolate and European hot chocolate literally starting with the cocao bean! Then we also got to make our own chocolates with all kinds of different things to mix inside like peanuts, cinnamon, coconut, etc. The best part was that all the chocolate made here comes from Peru and the Amazon!

Thursday was officially our last day at UPC! We actually made it! We started with 12 and 9 of us made it to the end. I can't believe how close we all became in this roller coaster 4 month ride. We all got seriously sick at some point, had serious homesickness, or were just seriously sick of school but we got through it together and I have made some truly lifelong friends in this "Aventura Peruana" :)

In conclusion, I have had a wonderful experience. My host family has been absolutely amazing in every way. They have spoiled me and I got really lucky living here for the last few months. I'm going to miss having a house full of screaming kids and practicing my Spanish everyday but hopefully I'll be able to come back and visit them one day. After my study abroad experiences in Costa Rica and Peru I've definitely been bit by the travel bug and I can't wait to plan my next foreign adventure but until then... NEBRASKA HERE I COME :D 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring Break... Kind Of

Well the reason I said “kind of” is because I still had to go to class last week, except for on Thursday because my grammar teacher was super nice and let me miss to go to Arequipa! But more on that later. This week was definitely my favorite week in Peru mostly because I was able to share almost all the things I have fallen in love with in this beautiful country with Luke, although we still need to go to Machu Picchu one day :).

I'll just stick to pictures mostly but the first day I took him to the beach so he could finally meet some of the wonderful people that have been stuck with me here this semester and have become some of the best friends I have ever had. 

My dream of becoming a mermaid finally came true!

We also went out that night to celebrate Karla's birthday and after met Lima's coolest bartender Omar

The next couple days were filled with exploring Miraflores and Surco the two districts I have spent the most time in and Miraflores was where Luke stayed which was good because while I was in class he got to walk around by the ocean, something Nebraska boys don't get the opportunity to do all that often ;)
Parque del Amor

A little ocean view

Parque de los Aguas

However, probably the coolest thing we got to do in Lima was a food tour where we went to 4 different (super fancy) restaurants and had little dishes at every place so we were able to try a lot of the main Peruvian dishes and of course the famous Pisco Sour (a type of brandy made from grapes is used to make a kind of whiskey sour spin-off). It was really cool and the guide was super interesting and told us all kinds of facts and history about the city. Added bonus was we were in a group of really fun people: one couple from Florida, one from Wisconsin, one lady from Canada, and one man from Chile.

Huaca Pucllana Restaurant - built right next to the Pucllana Temple that is thought to have been built around 500 A.D. that was only really discovered 20 years ago. Apparently they just found two mummys a couple weeks ago and they have only excavated 25% of it so far. Pretty crazy.

We also held hands and held our breath as we walked across this bridge in the district of Barranco and apparently that means we are going to be a happy couple for the next 100 years :)

A sample of all the main Peruvian dishes

The famous lighted cross made during the times of terrorism here in Lima during the 1980s and 1990s

  Finally we spent the weekend in the city of Arequipa where we toured a Catholic Monastery that was built in the 1500s and is still in use today. Then we spent 2 days in the Colca Valley where we did lots of hiking, saw ancient Pre-Incan ruines, hung out at some hot springs, saw tons of llamas, alpacas, sheep, donkeys, the amazing Condors and the Colca Canyon which is the deepest canyon in the world! Not to mention we held some hawks and ate some amazing food. 

Colca Canyon
Pre-Incan ruines over a 1000 years old
I was really quite terrified in this photo haha

And now it's back to reality...which means LOTS of homework which I probably should go do right now.

Besos my American friends, see you all in 27 days :)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Random Observations

Before I begin I wanted to start with the soccer game I went to on Thursday! Excuse me... fútbol game.

Lolo dedication -->

My first observation is that fútbol is like a religion here. This is really no surprise seeing as how it is like that just about everywhere but the USA. The game we went to was between La U, they won the Peruvian league last year so they are technically "the best" team in Peru, and a team from Brazil. Why I put "the best" in quotations is because I don't think that is the case this year, they were not very impressive. Apparently they are having a rough year. Coque, Aída's husband, told me I need to go watch some of the other Peruvian teams for some better games although he may be a little biased as he is NOT a fan of La U haha. It was really fun though to see how crazy the fans get, the stadium is pretty sketchy and they have guards all over to keep the crowd from going too crazy. We ended up sitting in a pretty calm section and I think I got the best education in Peruvian Spanish cuss words that money could buy, that part was pretty entertaining. They also had a dedication to a former La U player Lolo Amado, he passed away last year but apparently he was the best forward La U has ever had and whenever he scored the ball would rip the net because he kicked so hard. Just like me ;). Overall, even though the teams weren't that impressive it was still a pretty awesome experience. 

A few other observations:
  • People have a big thing about drinking and eating hot and cold things. Too much cold beer makes you sick, you only toast bread in the morning not the evening and tea cures everything. It's all about balancing hot and cold food and drinks to stay healthy... Or so they tell me.
  • People walk REALLY slow.
  • Children are really loved and respected here by everyone and I love it. It's hard to explain unless you see it first hand but they just seem to treat all children like little blessings, which of course they are. 
  • They think all white people are really rich. If only this were true because my life would be a lot easier.
  • Speaking English is like a free pass to getting a good job here but Peruvians have to take language proficiency tests so when they apply for a job they will be able to say "I speak English at level 1, 2, 3, etc." and the company will know how fluent a person is.
  • A good paying job here is around $25,000 a year. This really surprised me because that is like a Doctor or lawyer salary.
  • Peruvian food is definitely not for the carbohydrate faint of heart. Rice, potatoes and bread are staples of just about every meal.
  • All women wear heels. ALL of the time. I don't know how they do it. 
  • The grading scale here is 1-20 so a 12 is like a D or a just barely passing grade and 20 is the maximum.
  • We (as in Nebraska group and I) have been a lot more adventurous lately with restaurants and there is some amazing places that I will definitely pine for when I go back to Nebraska! These being: Palachinke (the most wonderful pancake/crepe masterpieces), The Burrito Bar (puts Chipotle and Qdoba to shame), Gelateria Laritza (Ice cream place I have completely fallen in love with), La Lucha (BEST milkshakes in the world + some pretty amazing sandwiches and fries) and of course La Bonbonniere (cheesecake = heaven).
In other news...The new ice cream addiction I have here is a big time struggle.

And for some laughs...
Well to say a few of us have struggled with Spanish here is an understatement but that problem has lead to some pretty hilarious translation errors. I won't name names of who said these things... even my own haha

Setting: When we first landed in the Lima, Peru airport
Security Guard: "Usted tiene fruta en su bolsa?" (Do you have fruit in your bag?)
answer: "No tengo fresas." (I don't have strawberries)
meant to say: No tengo fruta (I don't have fruit)

Setting: Starbucks
Worker: blah blah blah (really fast Spanish)
answer: "uhhh... No sabes español" (YOU don't speak Spanish) 
meant to say: "No sé español" (I don't know Spanish)

Setting: Restaurant
Worker: "Para tomar?" (What do you want to drink?)
answer: "Azul" (the color blue)
meant to say: "Agua" (water)

Setting: Fin's house
thing said: "escuchame" (listen to me) 
meant to say: excuse me or "con permiso" in spanish

Setting: Hotel
thing said: "Dónde está el lugar para montar los caballeros?"  (where is the place to ride the men)
meant to say: "Dónde está el lugar para montar los caballos?" (where is the place to ride the horses)

That's all I can think of off the top of my head but there has been many more. Gringa/gringo (white girl/guy) problems.

As for other things going on in my life... School is going fine, I'm addicted to sweets, Pinterest workouts and Netflix, I have a new found love for vending machine coffee, I've read a couple awesome books, procrastination is still my bff and I walk a lot because I don't like paying for transportation. 

That about sums it up! 
Besos :)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Livin' La Vida Loca

Cue the Ricky Martin Song...

Well maybe life isn't that loca but basically the last week has been a blast with spontaneous adventures, new restaurant findings, playing new games, going to the center of Lima and finally living the privileged life at Las Dunas Resort and Spa.

School has been pretty crazy, here I was thinking only taking 12 credits would be easy, not the case. I've probably had more homework this semester than I have had in a long time and I have taken at least 15 credits every semester prior to this. Plus the whole learning a new language thing is a 24/7 struggle even though you would think after almost 4 years of college Spanish it would be getting easier... Alas, no haha. 

So basically on Thursday we all decided it was time to have fun and we played Cards Against Humanity at Fin's house and the park next to Jorge's house. It was hilarious. Then on Friday, Fin, Jorge, Adam, Dan and I went to the Center of Lima and had a very spontaneous day of adventure. We took this random tour for 5 soles (like $2) that took us up a hill so we could see almost all of Lima and even the ocean! It was beautiful. We also bought candles that all signified different things that we lit and put next to a huge cross. I bought 5 different colors: Red = brings luck to your love life, White = blesses the family, Orange = education, Purple = brings good health to you and your family and Green = prosperity in your job and finances. 

After that adventure, we went back home and ate dinner at this AMAZING pancake place. I still can't get over how delicious it was. I must go back at least 7 more times before I leave this place.

Then on Sunday we left for our last scheduled group adventure to Ica! We stayed at the wonderful Las Dunas Resort and Spa. The first day we went sand boarding!! It goes right up there with zip lining in Costa Rica, it was so fun/scary/exhilarating. I loved it.

The next day we went to Las Islas Ballestas. This was an experience of a lifetime. It was my first time on a boat in the ocean and we saw Pelicans, Bottle Nose Dolphins, the South American Sea lions, and two endangered species unique to South America the Humboldt Penguin and Boobies (type of bird).  We also saw the famous "Candalabra" which is a rock formation that one theory says it was made by the Incas another says it was made by aliens. It was made several centuries ago and the reason why it hasn't eroded or washed away is because it hardly ever rains in this part of Peru. Another fun fact, the Islands used to be a huge money maker for Peru because the bird poop or Guano is the most popular fertilizer in the world! So now every 7 years people go collect the Guano for export around the world.

The rest of the time was spent relaxing, eating, reading, drinking fabulous wine, getting a massage (heaven) and laying by the pool. It was a perfect getaway but now back to reality which speaking of reality... I should probably stop procrastinating homework now. Until next time (I'll try to be a bit better at posting this month).

Besos/saludos :)