Sorry about the several things that I’m sure overlap with some previous posts, but here is a final summary of my Peru experience.
Lima, Peru. It is one crazy experience that I will never forget. I remember worrying about just about everything before the trip. How I was going to function in a foreign country that spoke a different language, how I would spend my free time, and especially my living situation. I didn’t know who I was living with, where I was living, or even if anyone spoke English. I was horrified. However, leaving home, I was relaxed and ready to start my journey to Lima. I arrived in Lima after a very enjoyable plane ride, in which I watched four movies that I had really wanted to see. Then, my horror set in that I would soon be meeting my family, requiring me to use Spanish. I didn’t know how I was going to greet them, or even communicate anything complex with them, especially after such little sleep the previous two days. The anticipation was killing me for what seemed an hour of grabbing our bags and going through customs, but we all set out to find our families in the crowd. Finally, I met my brother David, who at first tried to speak to me in Spanish and extremely fast, only picking up a few phrases and words here and there. After a few times failing to comprehend what he had said, he finally began to speak in very good English. It was like music to my ears and at that moment, all my fears were gone.
The next day, I met the whole family. The dad, David, loves swimming and talks in a monotone, impossible to understand accent. The mom is a great cook and loves to talk about new experiences in Peru. David, the eldest of the two brothers, loves to surf, loves nights on the town, and loves to eat. Kevin, the youngest brother, loves his soccer, loves nights on the town, and loves his news. The first two weeks the whole family was here and we shared every meal together, a few days at the beach, and lots of other activities. After the first two weeks, the parents then returned home in the South where the dad works. This left David, Kevin, and I to enjoy a house to ourselves. However, we did not have to fend for ourselves thanks to Victoria, a woman who came every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to clean the apartment and cook our meals for the week. My room was very big and spacious with my own desk and set of drawers, however, I did not have any hangers to hang up my clothes with like at home. I did have my own corner of the apartment only sharing walls with two bathrooms. The mornings were noisy for a while as it was summer here in Peru until March, making the kids eager to get up early and jump in the pool. The nights were also very hot making it a little hard to sleep. Buying a fan for my room solved both of these problems. Easily the best purchase I have made here in Peru. I couldn’t have picked a better living situation. I loved having David and Kevin as roommates and I will miss them a lot.
It was different from home in that I actually had someone to cook me food instead of cooking my food myself, but it was like living to of my friend roommates. They were always down to go out or hangout with friends and were just really fun to be around. When the family was here, there was definitely a different family dynamic than in the United States, different than my family especially. We always ate at the dining room table instead of in front of the TV, the mom did virtually everything; cleaning, cooking, laundry, dishes, without much help from anyone else (she wouldn’t even let me do my own dishes), and we did a lot of activities as a family while they were there instead of hanging out with David, Kevin, and their friends. Also when the parents were gone, David was the king of the household, to the point where Kevin listened and did just about everything David said.
I had not met nor did I know anybody besides Luke coming on this trip, so the friends I made were the other students from Kearney or friends of David, Kevin, and other students’ families. We didn’t meet a lot of people at school itself besides conversation partners that were assigned at the beginning of the trip. However we met a lot of good friends through David and Kevin that were able to take us out to places at night, even places that required us to be on a list. Brian was the first good friend we met while going to a club with David. He was really funny, knew a bit of English, and LOVED to dance. We went out with him quite a few times and he introduced us to other friends (some very cool, others a little too “forward” with the girls) who got us in another club that would normally cost a lot to get into. Other than that we made friends with people in our English classes and Spanish classes, but never got very many opportunities to hang out with them outside of class activities. It was very tough to approach people outside of these groups due to the language barrier and the little time spent on the campus outside of class time.
UPC was a very small campus with not too many people until all the students returned in March. While there weren’t quite as many people as Kearney or Lincoln, it was very compact, making it hard to find a place to stand without being in the way let alone sit down. The classes were four days a week, three hours each day, giving us much more free-time than at home to allow us to explore the city and experience the culture. The classes only consisted of the twelve students from UNK, making for a very small class size. However, there weren’t very many large classrooms that could hold over one hundred people that could be found all over UNL. Most of the class sizes seemed to be around twenty to thirty people. The English classes that we helped out with were very small only containing around fifteen students. It was definitely nice only having class for three hours a day as compared to some days at home having class and lab for six or seven hours in one day.
There were several differences in the country of Peru itself. For one, while it was snowing in Nebraska, we were sweating in the Southern Hemisphere looking for relief from the heat in any way we could. It also rained maybe three times in Lima the entire time we were here, and by rained; I mean it spat for maybe five minutes. While other parts of Peru have more precipitation, Lima is extremely dry. The high temperature also varied about three degrees for the entire trip throughout Lima. However, now that it is winter, the nights are much cooler than before. Arequipa had a very different climate than Lima, becoming very cold at night and shortly after we left from our trip there, there was a terrible flood due to the large amount of rain. There are also a large number of elevations differences throughout Peru, from the beaches to the jungle, to highest parts of Cuzco, contributing to various different climates.
There are definitely a variety of people found in Peru as well. They are all very understanding and will help you and work with you through anything, especially if they are selling you something. They are very nice, especially with people from different countries. However, when it comes to getting on the road with one, it’s a different story. The driving here is CRAZY! Weaving in and out, slamming on the brakes and slamming on the gas, there is no such thing as a comfortable ride. Also 99% of Peruvians drive stick shifts, and due to their extreme rush, don’t make their shifts or change in speed gracefully. I absolutely not want to have to drive anywhere here. Another difference between Peru and the United States is that if you happen to get pulled over by the cops or get in trouble, it is possible to pay of the policemen for a small fee to get out of trouble and a ticket. Meaning these drivers have no fears.
There are also many differences in importance of certain things here in Peru. The biggest example of this was punctuality. Whether it was when we had to leave for a tour or deciding when we were going to meet to go out, a thirty-minute grace period was given to every situation. Littering is also a very large problem here in Peru. When trying to find a trashcan, you can often walk two street blocks without finding one. I have had to walk by a giant pile of trash across the street from a construction project everyday here in Peru. However, they have several “city cleaners” that are all over Peru that sweep up streets and sidewalks. Security is also very important, especially in Lima. All houses and apartments have some sort of fence or wall with barbed wire, an electric fence, metal bars, or even broken glass on it to keep people out. There are also several security guards all around Lima, sometimes one on every corner in certain parts. Water is very important here as well due to the poor drinking water. Twenty-liter boxes of water are very common to have around the house. Saving electricity is also very important, leading to the unplugging of just about everything not in use, the most common being chargers and the microwave. Religion is extremely important here in Peru. Catholicism is practiced throughout and several of the festivals and church services are very extravagant attracting thousands and thousands of people. Churches and their preservation are very important as well. However, I believe conserving resources, the land, and history is the most important here due to the lack of clean water and the beauty of the land around them. Peru has a large amount of precious resources and minerals; however, they refuse to harvest these resources due to the possible contamination and ruin it could bring to the beautiful land and rich history.
There are very many rich histories here in Peru along with several, diverse, people. This becomes very obvious when comparing the different people in different economic levels. There are several poor people here in Peru that make their living begging, performing on the street, cleaning the streets, and selling things on the streets. One big difference between here in Peru and the United States is that tipping is not very common here, especially tipping large amounts. Often people are very rude to food servers as well, almost like they are looked down upon.
However, at times due to speaking a different language, it is possible that we also came of as rude. That was one of the biggest problems we faced. We tried to communicate certain, often complex, things to people without coming off as rude or disrespectful. We also learned a lot of differences between the Spanish we are taught and the Spanish used in Latin America. It also didn’t help that we looked different from everyone else here, often attracting more attention then we want. We tried our best to fit, learning even some slang so we could try to be the most Peruvian as possible. This fit in with differences in learning Spanish in class and living it. We were often told certain phrases or even conjugations were not used here in Latin America. We obviously learned more commonly used phrases and more vocab outside of class while we learned a lot of technical skills in class.
The biggest difference in Peru was the culture. Besides what was said earlier, there are several differences between the culture here and the United States. One of the first things we noticed was the fashion here. It was almost like we were back in 2005 with all the huge Oakley sunglasses, the Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, and shoe styles. Next, we noticed how just about everyone is selling you something, whether its a ride in a taxi or bus, ice cream, or even brooms while walking down the street or even sitting on the beach. Everyone wants your business. Also the nightlife is amazing here. There is so much to do here and several clubs that are extremely fun to pass the time in. Even if some of the guys are a little too persistent. Lastly, the biggest difference is the huge amount of history preserved through ancient languages, dances, art, buildings, and the land. Peru is so rich and so proud in their history and has preserved a great deal of it. They have displays of it on everything, whether it’s an artisan craft, a jersey, or a family heirloom. They love being Peruvian and are very passionate about their country.
Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. I got to experience so much of this beautiful, historical country and loved every second of it. I would love to come back here in the future with family or even my kids. I couldn’t have had a better living situation, I couldn’t have had better luck with all the trips and places we got to see, and I couldn’t have had a better time with all my new friends from UNK and from Peru.