Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Living in twilight

This week I joined my three friends, Beth, Rachel and Priscilla in a lovely Cusquenian hostel. It was so great to see them after THREE whole weeks of solitude. I know we are all so happy to be together, but it is likely that everyone else in the hostel resents us for our loud laughter, music (for dancing), and conversations. After three months of homestays, meticulously planned excursions, and nonstop Spanish it is such a difference to be able to do whatever we want. I mean we still have to write a FORTY page paper in SPANISH, but besides that we have nothing to do.

So, with that being said, we spend our mornings leisurely making breakfasts in the hostel kitchen. One day we made banana pancakes and fruit salad. Beth and I even walked to the nearest tourist breakfast restaurant to buy a jar of maple syrup. It cost 8 soles, and it was worth every centimo. It was amazing.

After the whole day working and whining we end on a very positive and carefree note. One of the many great things about Peru is their pirated DVD collection. The Twilight series is going to get us through this, and we are not even embarrassed to admit it. I hope that everyone else is making time to have some fun during these stressful few weeks. ¡Sí podemos! (Yes, we can!)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Big yellow taxi

So I think it's time that I a do a post about a little something I call Peruvian transportation. There are many kinds-taxi, bus, or my personal favorite, the combi. I'm pretty sure that a combi is a van that failed inspection in the United States and has been relegated to a life of honking in Peruvian traffic. Comfortably they fit 12, but they have been known to push the limits to 20. Have you ever stood in a van going down a bumpy road? I have, and let me tell you something, it's not easy my friends. But they are GREAT. They cost ten cents and take you wherever you need to go. Everyone's life would be better if they had them in the United States, believe me.

On a slightly less optimistic note, I will mention Peruvian tour buses. They are quite the experience, and an example of "you get what you pay for." I bought a bus ticket for the price of 15 soles (5 dollars) to take me to Quillabamba, a city six hours away. I maybe should have bought a slightly more expensive ticket because my journey included 25 stops which doubled the length of the trip. Also in Peru it is acceptable to get on a bus while it is moving and sell things like stuffed peppers and tamales. Try sitting next to someone eating that, in ten minutes you will smell like a kitchen. And in the front of the bus is a man who hides a loud speaker and yells at the passengers to buy his herbal remedies that will cure fungus and constipation. Yes, it is that graphic.

The strangest part of this whole experience is that everyone thought what was happening was perfectly normal. Somehow I do not think that Greyhound would approve. So that was lesson number 43294 in cultural differences.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I feel part of the universe open up to meet me

Hello everyone, I know that I already talked about some of my jungle days, but I liked it so much I feel the need to elaborate. Above is the picture of the mission that I stayed in. Isn't it beautiful? I think so. My days went a little like this: I woke up at 5:30 everyday and then went to eat breakfast with the nuns. A banana with honey from the mission's hive, and quite delicious might I add. After this I would go on a walk through the town before the sun got too hot, but after 10 minutes I would be exhausted. So a post walk nap was needed. Then a lunch of soup and some meat product that was freshly killed from the morning (graphic, I know). After lunch I actually did work, much to my dismay, and I interviewed people in the community. Then came the volleyball games. After 13 weeks I still have not met a Peruvian who doesn't love volleyball. Too bad for me, I am awful at it and many a teenage girl was amused. The rest of the day was mass, dinner (mango and rice) and then bed. Very exciting I know.

Being with all the girls was really great, and I was so happy that they actually wanted to talk to me. It was nice being the shiny new United States-anthem-singing-English speaking toy. We talked about all kinds of things from siblings to learning to drive. In case you were wondering they all know how to drive motorcycles, not cars. They were 12. Pretty impressive. Well that's all for now, I hope everyone has finally digested their Thanksgiving meals!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The more I see the less I know

I'm not exactly sure what juncture in my life led me to the moment where I chose to spend two and a half weeks in a dominican mission in the Peruvian Amazon. Looking back, I sure am happy that I did it.

But let me start from the beginning. With my study abroad program, SIT, students must pick a theme and the location where they want to research. The fifteen members of my group ended up dispersed across the country studying traditional medicine, ecotourism, and gender roles. I chose to study perceptions of poverty in a jungle community. I wanted to see if everyone has the same idea of what poverty is, or if it is societally constructed.

I lived with four nuns, two priests, and 35 lovely teenage girls in the mission in the town of Koribeni. I'm going to let you all in on a secret--if you want to make sure you're well fed and clean, stick with the nuns. They have great beds, good food and cold drinks. That's all I really need for happiness.

Besides being a school and home for the girls, the mission is a community gathering place. If I lived in Koribeni I would hang out there too, the nuns are pretty incredible. I don't know about you, but I don't know many sisters who watch volleyball religiously (no pun intended), eat 3 mangoes after each meal, and ride on the backs of motorcycles into town.

I went with one of them, a missionary mother named Ester from the Philippines on a three day adventure deeper in the jungle. She went town to town healing people with massages and homemade syrups. This was a serious trip, we even had an escort.

I think that I've always know my study abroad experience was going to be different, but I can pinpoint the moment that I knew this for sure. We were sitting in a house made of scrap wood and metal when a seven year old boy was carried into the room. As a baby he was dropped and part of his spine was injured and as a result he can't walk and has never spoken a single word in his young life. His family has been keeping him inside and out of school, afraid that the other children would tease him.

I felt more like I was in a Nicholas Kristof article than the reality that this was a school affiliated activity. Needless to say, Ester was not pleased with the parents' decision. She insisted that the little boy be socialized or he would only get worse. It was incredible to see.

So I will conclude this unusually long post with my realization- I may not be able to galavant around South America Che Guavera style (thanks SIT), but I have accepted this because I get to witness pretty unbelievable things that not many others get to ever see. Be well everyone!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tell me what you want to hear

This may sound quite silly, but today I realized that eventually, yes, I will go home. Here's the thing about being abroad (at least for me): just like at school there are good and bad days. There will be times when you feel like the luckiest person in the world for being allowed to have this opportunity. For example, two weeks ago I went to Colca Canyon with my friends. Colca is the world's second deepest canyon, twice as big as the Grand Canyon. Here we are looking for condors:

But the flipside to that is that there are days where you will not want any of the food, be late everywhere you go, and realize that Americans are really some of the only people who run on tight schedules. Yesterday I went to the post office to pick up a package that my wonderful friend, Kelsey, sent me. It took almost two hours for me to show my form, wait in line, and watch them search its contents. And I was the only person there. Seriously.

So my great, worldly wisdom is that it's okay to have bad days because the pressure that everyday has to be perfect is just too much. My cure to this is a nice, leisurely walk in the plaza with my friends, and maybe a delicious ice cream nov.