I am bad at blogs

I am bad at blogs. As I’m sure you all have noticed from the 3-month gap in between my series of entries. But, I’m still going to make a sad attempt at justifying my lack of talent in this area. Instead of sitting at my computer writing about what I have seen, I always just preferred to see more instead. There was always some art festival to go to, some new food to eat, or some breeze to feel on top of a mountain that dragged me away. To all of you who can pull off the whole living while blogging lifestyle though, more power to you. I admit that I just don’t have that kind of self-discipline or self-control. Whenever I sat down to write one I would decide to put on my backpack and run out the door instead. I found that on this trip I used my camera a lot less. I would frequently grow frustrated looking at my camera screen and realizing that there was just no way to fully capture the beauty that I was seeing. There was just no comparison to the real thing. Which is when I realized: there really is NO COMPARISON to the real thing. No matter how much I write about it, try to put words to it, or capture it in a photograph, I can’t. It’s like trying to catch smoke. There really isn’t a word for everything. There is no way to understand without getting out there and experiencing something for yourself. Learning things that no textbook can possibly teach you. Or photograph could show you. Travel isn’t as easy for people in other countries in the world. Visas can be near impossible to obtain. After months and months of trying and paying fees, the government can simply decide to decline your visa application without reason. Did you know that most people try to obtain an American visa first because it makes obtaining visas for other countries easier? But we were lucky enough to be born on the other side of that obscure invisible wall. With that blue passport, we can go anywhere we want. See anything we wish to see. Learn everything we hope to learn. That blue passport is your ticket to freedom that other people just don’t have. We should take advantage of it. And yes, I do fully realize that we aren’t made of money and so traveling to another country isn’t just as easy as walking out the door. I don’t have a money tree either. But I’m just saying that maybe saving to see a part of the world different from your own, leaving your comfort zone and expanding your knowledge could be more worth it than saving up to buy that new TV. It shows the same shows are your smaller TV anyway. First hand life experience is just irreplaceable. No blog or picture can truly capture it. So what are you waiting for? You have the blue passport!


Aprendo Contigo

I fully realize that in the Católica post, I sounded like I really didn’t enjoy the study aspect of my abroad experience. But, I want you all to know that despite my childish temper tantrum, I am truly eternally grateful for the opportunity I was given to be so immersed in a language and a new form of academia. However, the part of this past semester that I feel was the most irreplaceable, indescribable and so incredibly life changing was my volunteer program with ELAP. To be honest, I have been putting off writing this part of my blog because I knew I would experience a certain frustration in not being able to fully communicate just how important it was to me. Anyway, here goes. I primarily worked as a volunteer with a program called Aprendo Contigo at the Children’s Hospital of Lima. The programs goal is to bring the classroom (and of course fun and happiness) to the children who occupy the hospital either temporarily or long-term. I worked with the girls of the Intensive Care Unit with muscular dystrophy. I’m still learning about the disease: what causes it, what types of it exist, what can help it, but honestly still feel that I hardly understand anything about the complicated illness. But, from my understanding, it is a genetic disease that affects muscle/organ strength and control and can show up at various ages. There are various forms of it; some more severe than others and some are degenerative, meaning they get worse with time. Because it affects the strength of both muscles and organs, it causes problems with both things like walking, heart strength and breathing. For example, my three “princesses” in Intensive Care are all hooked up to breathing tubes because without them, they don’t have the strength to breathe in sufficient amounts of oxygen for more than a short period of time.

Once upon a time there were three little princesses. The first was 5 and named Alexa. She had a beautiful smile and a way of making silly faces when small Americans dance and sang to her in English. The second was named Creysi and she was 6. She had the talent of memorizing ANY song that she heard, whether in Spanish, English or French. She was an expert at putting glue on her paper “solita” during homework time. And the third was named Analí. She was 9 years old but she understood more than anyone in the whole world, whether they were 1 or 100. The three princesses reigned in their kingdom of beds, songs and books and brought strength and happiness to all who came to them. One day a stranger came into their royal court, scared, eager and speechless. They observed the newcomer with caution because she appeared to be like them but her strange way of speech and mannerisms suggested she was from a kingdom far away and very unlike their own. Months later, long after the princesses had accepted the stranger as a good friend, she would later admit to herself with embarrassment that she was originally intimidated by the princesses royal aids. You see, the three princesses had such special powers that they constantly needed the help of royal attendants to control them. First, a family of beds made sure that they never grew uncomfortable. The baby bed waited on Alexa, the mother bed on Creysi, and the father bed on Analí. Second, three brothers were in charge of guarding the princesses’ necks and chest for it was known that when either of the princesses cast an extremely strong spell to help someone in need or shed light onto somewhere that only knew dark, it would affect them in such a way that their lungs would almost give out. And so the brothers manned their post twenty-four hours a day to make sure that in case it was needed, they could blow new air into the princesses’ tiny lungs. Because Analí was older, she was able to learn to control her powers in a way that the two did not. The younger two did not yet know how to control the quantity of their Joy Spells. Once either of the two said the magic words, Joy would go spilling out of their wands and all over the kingdom without stop. Once, Creysi let out such a powerful Joy spell that a tidal wave of happiness went rushing through the kingdom. So many giggles, dances, and games erupted in the realm that no one got any work done for weeks! But these eruptions always left the younger two very tired. Therefore, Princess Alexa and Princess Creysi were given two more aids: a husband and a wife of their kingdom were assigned the job to always provide a steady stream the food and nutrition to keep them going.

The stranger, upon seeing all these royal subjects crowding around the princesses, grew nervous that they would reject her, wouldn’t let her get close to the princesses and their beauty, and cast her out of the court. However, after a few days, the assistants warmed up to her, and she warmed up to them and so began the friendship of the princesses and the traveler. The four spent hours, then days, then months together. They talked about nothing and they talked about everything. They joked, they danced, they sang. The stranger taught the princesses words and songs from her home or other kingdoms she had traveled to. And the princesses welcomed her in with open arms. Before long, they grew to love each other like sisters. They built bonds as strong as every bridge in the kingdom combined. And at night, when the younger princesses were asleep, the traveler and the oldest, most curious princess, Analí, would stay up talking. They talked about their hopes and fears. About what they already knew and what they still wished to learn. They practiced each other’s language and never once laughed at the other for making a mistake. The stranger taught Analí and Analí taught her. Analí would draw her pictures and write her “I love you”s. The stranger would sing her songs. She asked herself, as Princess Analí recited words of her language perfectly from memory, how can anyone be so perfect?  

Analí has changed my life in a way that I know I can never thank her for. Although my oldest princess, my queen, has spent her whole life in her hospital bed, she has dreams bigger than anyone I have ever met. And a spirit to match it. She is less than half my age; one of the smallest most delicate beautiful creatures I have ever seen and I want to give her everything. She is stronger than I could ever hope to be. And smarter than I can describe. I came into her room in the ICU with the plans of being her teacher of English, Math, Spelling…But she took my plans and flipped them upside down. She became my teacher. My Spanish professor. My professor of life.

A couple weeks ago, a boy in her unit named Randy passed away. He was like a brother to her. They had lived in the hospital side by side almost her whole life. I didn’t know him well. But when I heard the news, I and every one of the volunteers were shattered. Before this, I guess I never realized that I was going to a hospital 3 times a week. My 3 girls were just wonderful kids, exactly like everyone else. After this happened, I realized that they were in hospital beds. For a reason.

Although he was on the top floor of the hospital, confined to his bed, everyone knew of him. The kids in the lower, less serious floors looked to him as inspiration. “If Randy in ICU can’t move but still does his homework, then so can I.” Randy, like Alexa, had a more severe case of muscular dystrophy. He could only move his eyes and talk. (Alexa can only move her hands, eyes and mouth. She doesn’t talk.) Randy was extremely smart. He won a hospital-wide writing competition with a poem he wrote called “Lima from My Window.” He passed when his heart stopped on a Thursday while I was on a trip. And it was terrible. Analí was there and saw everything. I usually come to the ICU on Mondays and Fridays. But this Friday I wouldn’t come because I was away. When I don’t come on my usual days for either sickness or travel, Analí is always a bit weary of me when I come back. “Why didn’t you come on Friday?” she always asks with a sad face. She waits for me. And this day, the day that she needed me most, I wasn’t able to come. After, she told another volunteer that she was scared of God. “How could he do this to my friend? He must be bad. I don’t want to believe in God anymore.” This horrible event, seeing her friend pass away from a disease that she had herself, made my baby not believe in something that she once was so sure about. I remember a couple of weeks before she told me that she thinks that if you do all of your prayers for God, he’ll keep you safe and make you okay. After what she saw, after all her prayers, when that still happened she must have been so confused.

That weekend I hardly stopped crying. I knew she would ask me questions that Monday when I came back. But how could I explain something to her that I didn’t even understand myself? My Analí, this tiny fragile wide-eyed butterfly of a person saw something that I couldn’t have even handled seeing. When the day did come, and she asked me what I thought, I swallowed my sadness for her, to try even a little bit to protect her, and told her the truth. “I think that now he can rest. Now he can run as far as he wants, and play soccer, and jump so high. Now he doesn’t have to feel pain. I think he is free.” Analí said, “Is that really what you think?” “Absolutely.” Then she said, “I guess that can be what I think. But you’re right. He suffered a lot here. Before I was really sad. But now I am happy for him.”

Over the past few weeks from time to time, she still says things or acts differently than her old self. Like stopping me before I leave, looking at me seriously and telling me to ‘take care.’ But overall she is getting better. She sings about bumblebees with me again. Once a volunteer told me that during the bad week, they were having a conversation about her kids and Analí told her that she was sad because she won’t be able to have any. Sometimes things like this confuse me. I don’t understand why Analí, who deserves everything in the world, who is so filled with dreams, is immobile in a bed on the 8th floor of the Children’s Hospital of Lima. I don’t understand why whoever is in charge of this world won’t let me give her everything that she wants. Analí deserves the world. My princess deserves to explore other kingdoms. To meet her prince. To spread her joy spells. So can someone please cast a Joy spell strong enough to make the tidal wave that washed over the kingdom look like a puddle? So I can give all of that to her?

Analí has made me realize how incredibly unthankful I am for my life and my health. Are any of us grateful enough? For every step that we can take because she has never been able to take one? For every breath that we have been able to take without our special royal aid to help us? For Analí, I vow to be grateful. And to use every breath and every step that I was so lucky to be given to its fullest. I want to do something. Everything. Because I am lucky enough to be able to leave this room and explore other kingdoms. After what happened, I am eager to learn more about her illness, to do SOMETHING for her and kids like her. To help change things. I live my life for her. Because she knows how important life is.   


Extras

During my time in Peru I have been on 5 trips, visited 2 Wonders of the World, and spent time in the jungle, the mountains, lakes, rivers, and experienced innumerable ways of life. While in the city of Lima alone, I have visited countless districts, each extremely different from the one next to it. Pueblo jovens, or ‘shantytowns’ were among my favorite places to visit. These unpaved, chaotic villages have no drinkable water, no plumbing, and hardly any transportation other than by foot. But what is often overlooked in these towns is the people. Here I have met the most humble, generous and welcoming people. Whether it be a tribe in the Amazon or a large family living in a tiny stack-of-cards-like house, I have noticed one solid trend: the people with the least are the most giving. My volunteer coordinator and I visited a few families in these areas to learn about their artisan businesses (jewelry making/silverware/etc.) and I have learned that everyone, even the person who seems least likely, has something to offer. Knowledge, wisdom, talent. No matter where we come from or where we are, everyone has some part of it and I want to hear it all.

During my trip to Ica (which has some of the largest sand dunes in the world) I sand boarded down incredible hills of sand face first, screaming with glee all the way down. In Lunahuana I went river rafting and had the time of my life (also screaming/giggling with glee the whole way down.) In the jungle, I bathed in a waterfall.  I went Paragliding solo 3 times on a beach in Lima and swam down a very strong river. I jumped into a freezing cold ocean with jellyfish the size of desks to swim with sea lions. Whenever an instructor or tour guide would ask for a volunteer for anything somewhat risky/thrilling, I developed the habit of saying “Yeah! me!!! I’ll do it!” (Insert Nick Dawson heart attack here) before anyone else had the chance to be anything but hesitant and nervous. In Huaraz (a really great/cheap spot for backpackers and hikers…if your either of these go immediately) however, I realized that there is one thing that I do not like: horseback riding. There is no control there!! It can do anything it wants with you on top of it! After a particularly difficult journey up and down a hill, I tried to steer my horse out of a street to avoid an oncoming car, and instead he stopped in the middle and took a bite of my friend’s leg. It was then that I decided I would do this no more. I climbed up Huayna Picchu and stood in awe at the beauty of the mountains and the ruins below. I cried at Machu Picchu. Overwhelmed with emotion amazement and wonder, I just started bawling everywhere. I’m embarrassing. I ate absolutely everything that was offered to me. Intestine. Lung. You name it. And yes, I did eat a guinea pig :) and to answer your question, I loved and devoured them all. Even as other Americans looked at me with disgust. My host family even began to find fun in seeing just how much crazy food they could feed me without complaint :P. I loved it.

The Amazon really has to be one of the most incredible places in the world. I spent half a week living without electricity, Internet or cell phone surrounded by the Amazon River and I wish I could live there always. I’ve never seen so many stars. And the way that the sunset reflected on the river from the outlook spot was indescribable. I could paddle through the piranha filled river during golden hour for the rest of my life. The sun’s rays shining through the greenest leaves and bouncing off the water. How can things like that exist? I could talk about all of this in great detail for days/weeks/months/years but I know that my next blog is going to be just about three thousand miles long so I’ll save all the rest of my rambling for you all in person :) Lucky you.             


La Católica

My campus is filled with deer. And being that I have been abroad for four months now, when I first wrote ending of the previous sentence as ‘deers.’ A small example of just how much my English grammar skills have declined. Anyway, my campus is filled with deer (plural. s not necessary.) Before coming here, seeing a deer was a really special moment, one where you can’t help but stop in your tracks and hold your breath for fear that even the sound of air passing through your nose and down into your lungs would scare the beautiful creature away. At my Peruvian University however, they are about as common as cats. (Sidebar: there is in fact a park here that is literally packed full with feral cats that are actually all really cute and cuddly despite their very poo-like smell. But we’ll get to that later.) The deer(s) have a habit of sneaking up behind you if you’re not looking and snatching food right out of your hand into their surprisingly hungry mouths. Lucky for me, I am ALWAYS paying attention to my food so no such occurrence has affected me. But it is known to happen to other, less garbage disposal-resembling people.  When they’re not eating a healthy lunch of hamburgers or lomo saltado, the deer busy themselves sucking up little pink flowers off the ground (this is my favorite part hehe) they suck them up with their little snouts and chew them down J it’s so cute. Other than that, my campus is just like any other university (flowers, grass, research centers I avoid entering) but this campus is equipped with some extra special fun: sidewalk slip n slides! For reasons unbeknownst to me, almost every sidewalk in Lima is the slipperiest surface in the history of all the world and the universe. Because of this I spend each day slipping, scrambling and falling :P which is very flattering, especially when walking all alone and in a dress (Nick Dawson just let out an exasperated sigh.) After four solo falls, one fall which occurred WHILE I was bragging to someone about my ability to both “walk the walk and talk the talk,” and another that resulted in my landing in a puddle of an unidentifiable substance, my occurrences of slapstick comedy embarrassment reaches a grand total of 6. Oh! I forgot the fall when (on a day that I was looking particularly fly ;)) I fell RIGHT into a bus that I was climbing into after an unfortunate miscalculation of stair-size. I went flying into the now in-motion bus and right into the seat of an elderly woman who let out a *AAAAAAYEEE!!!* I peeled myself off the ground as a the entire bus population watched me pathetically saying “Estoy bien! Estoy bien!” even though no body asked if I was bien. Add another 5 points to the slapstick scale.

 Oh digression! My campus is filled with deer. My campus is also filled with a series of copy centers, which have the sole job of scanning and copying every book used in the university and distributing them to each student for on average $7 for every 800 pages. My campus is filled with copyright issues. I am unsure about how many trees worth of copies I have killed during my 4 month stay here, but I can estimate that it was around 793. Who is responsible for the mandatory printing of such lengthy and numerous lectures, you ask? The professors! If you’ve ever been around me for more than 3 minutes, you know that I am a hands-on kind of person. Learning. Teaching. I feel like the best way to master a new task or subject is be getting right in it and messing around with it until you figure it out. The professors at La Católica however, do not work this way. ‘Learning’ here is reading 300+ pages of dense text a week and sitting through 2-hour classes listening to the teacher speak at you about the analysis of it. Not really my style, but hey I’m surviving the semester! My hardest class by far has been Narrativa Peruana Contemporánea. Which is a somewhat advanced literature class in which a foreigner such as myself not only has to read 100+ Spanish-language pages every two days but then come to class prepared to answer an out-of-left-field question about the theory and philosophy behind each and every paragraph. Needless to say there have been many-a-day in that class where I have done a great impression of a blubbering fish attempting to climb a palm tree as I try to answer these questions. But! Despite my childish complaints, I know that attending college-level classes in Spanish with primarily Peruvian students and being expected to do as well as them, has helped my Spanish speaking and comprehension skills in a way that I couldn’t even begin to describe. And I can happily say that now after miles and miles (erm…Kilometers and kilometers) of pages printed, countless nights spent accidently sleeping/gorilla-drooling over my lectures, and writing a mixture of Spanish French and English on tests (did you know I went 3 months here using the word ‘quelle’ instead of ‘cual’ without anyone correcting me?) I can happily say that I am currently in Finals week and will be done! done! done! with school for a whole two months before I go back to the 3 page language reflections and 50 minute classes of ASU. Oh American academic system, how undemanding you are :P.

 


A Day Away from Beverly Hills

Yesterday was the first group activity that I was infinitely excited about. We were scheduled to go to a “pueblo joven” or “young neighborhood” that has only been developing for 40 years. It is located right next to the the Pacific Ocean. There among the beautiful beaches, sailboats and docks it rests with no drinkable water and unpaved streets. Each house is stacked above the other, made of slabs of concrete and brick. They almost looked like huge houses of cards, ready to wobble and collapse from a strong gust of wind. Around the streets ran little children and stray dogs, all completely humble, all with so little and all deserving so much more love than I could give them. We were there to play with the children in their school, help prepare meals for the local soup kitchen, or “comedor,” and paint the worn out building itself. If you know me, you know how overjoyed I was for this activity. 

Because I am part of the ISA volunteer program, my coordinator asked me and another student who is volunteering to create games to play with the kids. I immediately went home and begin choosing all my favorite games from working with kids in the states. I wrote them all down in hurried excitement making sure to note any special vocabulary I would need to use to explain the game and rushed to bed to make sure I was fully energized to play with the wonderful babies. Unfortunately, this did not happen. A couple students accidently showed up at our meeting spot around an hour late, resulting in everyone’s tardiness at the volunteer site. 

We arrived. I went into the school to set up the games. I was told to leave. We were too late and the children were getting ready to go home. I was so disappointed. But luckily there was still work to do. 

We met the two women who run the soup kitchen, they prepare enough soup, rice and stew to serve 120 people daily. After a day of work over hot pots without air conditioning or even clean water, at exactly 12 o’clock they open their doors and welcome in over 100 residents to their kitchen. We helped chop potatoes and our jaws dropped at the speed they were able to slice each one into bite sized pieces. I guess when you are accustomed to cooking lunch for more than 100 people a day, you get good at it :) 

Once the stew was going (consisting of whole chickens (feet and all) vegetables and potatoes ~ a staple in Peru (there are something like 1000 types)) we helped clean floors and walls which were covered in dirt from the unpaved roads and gathered trash from the surrounding area. We filed up 4 garbage bags and I picked up around 3 old tires. Next, we began painting. All of us, covered in sweat, dirt and bright blue paint worked until the whole building was covered. A local was walking by and saw us working. He told us to hold on, ran home and came back with a huge paint roller and just joined in. It was so beyond wonderful. We each took breaks to take rides in the motor taxis of the village. It was a lot like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, only in the crowded streets filled with large buses zooming by, it was more likely that we would die this time (haha). 

Other students handed out free candy to the children who passed by on the street. The shy kids would look at us with apprehension until we said “GRATIS!” meaning “free,” and then they would run up to us like we were giving them the world. 

It’s amazing how we can all get so caught up in our own lives and insignificant problems. We so easily get in the mindset that we are the center of the universe and allow the smallest most unimportant situations to affect us.  “Starbucks gave me the wrong coffee.” “I can’t afford the new Ipad.” “I can’t believe he left that comment on my wall “I didn’t get a ticket to the music festival.” It’s always “I I I or me me me.” Well what about THEM. What about all the people in the world who don’t have any of those insignificant problems but instead ones much greater. What about the people who have no clean water or need to go to a soup kitchen for lunch. What if we stopped focusing on the insignificant like coffee, comments and the next bigger-better thing and started focusing on each other. Lately it feels like the world really is in chaos, chaos in which we are getting more and more selfish and further and further away from the answers. Love is getting so much harder to find. Everyone is so focused on their own issues and beliefs and why everyone else is wrong. But did there ever come a time when things weren’t so defined? What if instead we realized that there is no right or wrong way of thinking. We can’t see past our own sad stories and forget how to listen.

I completely realize that I am going on a horrible tangent right now and am most likely making no sense, because when I am passionate about something I can hardly speak English. Or French. Or Spanish. My point is, I am still young and I haven’t seen so many things. But there are things that I have seen. I’ve seen my students in Arizona, 5 and 6 year olds being so grateful for anything that I can give them, even if it’s just a photocopy of a Disney Princess. I’ve seen my bank account plunge from my constant purchases for them. And I’ve seen that it still isn’t enough. I’ve seen the child gypsies in France who are out playing the accordion on school days for change until they get shooed away from restaurants like stray dogs. I’ve seen the crowded graffitied buses of Lima and realized that it is like Beverly Hills compared to other places here. I’ve seen stray dogs that look like they could literally burst out of happiness because they are being pet for the first time in years. And I’ve seen children, humble and covered in dirt, not knowing what an Ipad is or what a Facebook comment means, eating candy like we just gave them gold. We all have had different experiences in life. None are the same and so none of us are the same, that doesn’t make one person’s experiences are of a lesser value than another’s. All it means is that if we were to take time to understand each other, we would be that much wiser because we would be able to learn from things we haven’t yet seen ourselves. 

This is probably still making zero sense cause as usual, I just ramble on.

All I ask is please, if you are reading this, try your best to realize how lucky and privileged you are and not sweat the small stuff. In the end, it really doesn’t matter. Your money, your Ipods, your popularity, none of it will matter in the end. You won’t be thinking about your “likes” on Facebook, but I’m sure you will be thinking about how much you loved. 

So please, try to understand, try to accept, and try to be grateful. 

Love, 

Sarah in Peru


1 Week, 785 Grammar Errors

Although there were many slip-ups and mishaps et erreurs (goodness why can’t I stop thinking in French!?), today I can happily announce: I have survived my first week in Lima!! Okay my first 6 days…but that doesn’t have as good of a ring to it. 

Where to begin!? According to Julie Andrews, “the very beginning is a very good place to start,” so I think I’ll start with Monday. I woke up surprisingly energized and ready to see my new city! I tried my best to make sure I didn’t look like a complete disaster after I woke up (a near impossible feet) and got ready. I started by attempting, not entirely successfully, to brush my teeth using a water bottle. It took some getting used to but after a few unfortunate mishaps, I think I’ve finally gotten it down! I took a quick shower to conserve water, only turning the water heater on while I was using it and then off again. Why don’t we do this in the states? They are always trying to save energy here, did you know they even unplug their TVs and microwaves when they aren’t using them? I mean really it makes sense, why let it sit there sucking up energy when you’re not even using it? I’m going to become completely used to this practice and when I have my new roommate next year, he will constantly be wondering why the TV won’t turn on. Well I’ve got news for you rommie, it’s because its unplugged. Because I don’t want to waste vast amounts electricity like everyone else in this country ;). Anyway, I apologize for that unnecessary tangent. 

Onwards! My “brother” took me to my first orientation at one of the 3 universities in Lima. We walked and switched between complete and awkward silence and broken spanish for about 10 minutes until we turned a corner and he waved down a street taxi. Because of the endless piles of information that my program had sent me before my trip, I knew: THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING! And was completely prepared to be robbed of all my money and then killed. Apparently the warnings of “NEVER TAKE A STREET TAXI BECAUSE THEY WILL ROB YOU OF ALL YOUR MONEY AND KILL YOU!” were a bit over exaggerated. It’s safe unless you’re alone, a woman and the sun is down. But really, everything unsafe if you’re alone, a woman and the sun is down. 

We got to the school and arrived around 20 minutes late (as is custom on Peru) and I sat through a two hour orientation and then another 3 orientations Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We visited pre-Incan ruins and I almost took a tumble down the ruin in the center (apparently sandals that resemble only wooden planks and string weren’t a good idea for climbing up ancient ruins, who knew?) The ruins were incredible and situated just in the middle of the bustling city. I mean, I thought the Roman aqueducts in the middle of my French dorm were insane, but this juxtaposition was just unbelievable. Next we experienced our first city bus ride on our way to Miraflores, a beautiful district set atop incredibly HUGE vine covered cliffs overlooking the ocean. 

The bus system here will definitely take some getting used to. I can spend a week here and improve my Spanish tenfold but, right now, if you were to ask me which bus to take to get home from La Universidad Del Pacifico, I would look at you and say, “?cómo?” There are nearly no traffic rules here. People literally cruise through red lights, are constantly honking their horns (I honestly just heard a car horn as I was typing that) and zooming in and out of each others lanes. Wait, that sentence made it seem like there are actual organized lanes. There aren’t. If you can picture the way that sheep look when they are being led in and out of a pen but replace their “bahs” with horns, hooves with wheels, and increase their speed to around 40 mph, you’ve got it. It is constant ACCELERATIONNNNN! and then SUDDEN STOPPPINGGG! A friend of mine told me that her bus literally took out their left mirror on another car and just kept driving. The cars are constantly RIGHT next to each other, which is insane because there is always a person hanging out the door yelling what the next stop is at the top of their lungs (this is the only way you know where you are in the route). But hey, at least there’s never a dull moment! 

Tuesday night was interesting to say the least. My “siblings” inviting me to see a movie with them. And as you all know, the second I hear “movie” in ANY language my answer is YES YES! A THOUSAND TIMES YES! So off we went to see a movie that I of course did not recognize the title of when I agreed to go. 

Hermanos: Sarah, vamos a mirar ‘Tan Fuerte y Tan Cerca!’ 

Yo: SI SI!  MILLE VECES SI!!! 

Little did I know, ‘Tan Fuerte y Tan Cerca’ are Spanish words for ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.’ A movie that I have been avoiding for the past 2 months because it is based after a long time favorite book that makes me weep just at the sight of the cover. Anyway, long story short, on only my second day here, my “brother” and “sister” witnessed the disaster that I am when it comes to sad movies/books/anything. 

After that my brother, my other brother, and my other brother all went out with my American friends. We ended up at a salsa club where I learned that just because I have latin blood, it doesn’t mean I can dance like a latina. For shame. 

Another update is coming today so check back! 

Until then, I love you all, for realsies this time :) 

-Sarah


Round 2: Ready. Set. Go!

Hola from Peru! 

After 12 hours of travel (most of which were thankfully spent by me staring at the backs of my eyelids) I finally made it to Lima! The trip started out interestingly slightly shaky when after bragging for around six months that I could basically just walk into the country and live there for four months as compared to the horrible terrible no good very bad visa process that I went through for France, when I tried to check into my flight in LA, the attendant asked me where my visa was. Uh, what? What is this…visa. I get it in Peru as I stroll in of course! Apparently, according to LACSA Airlines, “one does not simply walk into Peru.” It turned out that the problem was that I didn’t have a return ticket. I haven’t bought my ticket back to the states yet because I’m hoping to travel when my program ends and am not exactly sure when I will run out of money and be forced to return to the US. But, the airline was afraid that I was simply saying I was going as a tourist for 180 days and secretly planning to hide there and live off there land for the rest of my life. After a good half hour of contemplating the idea that I was indeed not simply walking into Peru or, for that matter, entering Peru in any way at all, my Spanish speaking mama was finally able to convince them of the truth and I was on my way again. I said my goodbyes. I went through security. I rushed to my gate. I boarded the plane. I…..sat in the plane as it was delayed for an hour and a half. 

Once we were in the air, I slept for about 3/4 of the flight, only waking up for a few seconds every half hour to find myself with my mouth hanging open like an ape. I’d look around rapidly in a panic, making sure that no one saw…aaand then would immediately fall asleep again. 

Luckily, after my unfortunate start, each of my following planes were delayed as well! So it was almost like they were all on time ;)

On my second plane, a group of volunteers sat next to me. One of them (who kind of looked like a likable Ned Flanders) was telling me all about the work they do around the Amazon and where he is staying in Lima. It was going well until…

Likable Flanders: But I can’t stand Lima. It’s horrible. It’s kind of like Gotham City without Batman.  

Me: Oh…oh no.

Likable Flanders: But I’m just staying there for a little bit in a nicer area than the rest. Anyway, where are you studying? 

Me:….uh….Lima. 

LIkable Flanders: Oh…well. Anyway… 

Not too good. But! While I was waiting for my last flight, I met a really friendly 20 something Peruvian girl who eventually gave me her address, name and number and told me that if I ever need anything, to call her and she would let me live with her. Why is everyone here so nice?? Well…except for the robbers. (haha). 

My last flight went well! They showed “The Help” on the TVs and I pretended I wasn’t crying by coughing and staring at my passport. Preeeettty smooth if you ask me ;) 

Once I got to Lima, I met a girl who turned out to be part of my program AND on the same flights as me the whole entire time. I said bye to her after I picked up my luggage, only to realize that she was part of my group and ended up riding with me and my coordinator to my homestay. Silly Sarah :) 

Yikes this is already getting really long. Let’s fast forward: IwasdriventomyhomestayandquicklyrealizedthattrafficlawsarenonexistentinLima. After nearly dying 2 or 3 times, I arrived at my new home! I have my own room, WiFi and my own TV so I can watch Spanish Language TV and pretend I know what’s going on! YIPPIE! 

My host mom and sister are both so awesome and welcoming! And it turns out my host mom is one of the supervisors at my volunteer program! (Sidebar: I’m also volunteering while I’m here. I’m working with a program called Aprendo Contigo. If you love me enough, you’ll visit their website here: www.aprendocontigo.com. I was so happy when I heard I got the position that I started crying. And yeah yeah, if you know me well enough you’re probably thinking, “Sarah…you cry at everything." But this is actually a big deal and was a different kind of cry! I am so so excited for it.) Anyway, I’ve finally unpacked and am sooo sleepy that pretty soon, this is going to be not English. 

I think that should do it for today! 

I love you all [probably :)] 

Goodnight Everyone!