I can’t believe it’s time for me to start writing a final reflection of my time spent in Lima, Peru this past semester. As cliché as it sounds, it really does only seem like yesterday I was hauling my 3 suitcases to the airport in Omaha. Now, those bags are being packed back up and another chapter of my life is officially closing. I truly can’t express in words how bittersweet this feeling is, but I will do my best.
First, and most important, I wouldn’t have made it through the rest of this trip without having a stable Peruvian family by my side. However, my trip to Peru did not start this way. When I was originally told that I was living with a 25-year-old male and his older brother I was extremely nervous, not even to mention my anxious family and boyfriend as well. But, I told them to give it a chance because he hosted a female student that was my age last year from UNK. Things started out great. We got along really well and it seemed as if I was getting that older-brother figure that I’ve always wanted. But after we got more comfortable with each other, it got even harder to live with each other. He was no longer a gentleman, I was no longer a priority, and I wasn’t being supplied with the meal plan that I was promised. I could go on for hours about everything that went wrong but, long story short, I had some good Peruvian and American friends who let me live in their spare bedroom while I awaited the confirmation of a new Peruvian family assignment.
I cannot thank my new family, The Patrucco’s, enough for all that they have done for me. They’ve had to deal with a broken soul---a homesick girl whose view about Peru was pretty negative at the time. With their support, love, and good cooking my attitude was quickly changed. It was definitely hard for us to get used to each other and for me to adapt to their family customs, but I am so happy that they were willing to take me in on such short notice. They’ve done all the right things: fed me, given me a bed to sleep in, medicine when I’m sick, and even homemade chicken soup when I was sick. Now that I think about it, I wish they hadn’t been so welcoming so it would be easier for me to go home. I’ve learned that an unwelcoming Peruvian family is an oxymoron in this country.
Life in Lima has been a complete turn-around for me. I had no idea what to expect. I thought that it would be a gigantic city with huge, modern skyscrapers and air conditioning. Boy was I wrong! Of course there are plenty of big buildings and it is 100 times bigger than what I am used to in Nebraska, but Lima is so big that it is split up into little districts that I didn’t even know about. I live in Lima, but I really haven’t seen it all. I was also completely shocked that air conditioners really aren’t that popular unless you are in a Starbucks or a nice restaurant. Even in cars, people usually just roll the windows down and drive fast. You live right on the equator for goodness sake! I will never understand this, but I guess they are saving lots of energy.
And while I’m on the subject of driving, that is an entirely different story in this city. Public transportation, even transportation in your own car, is an absolute nightmare. And to top it all off, everyone thinks that honking their horn will cure the traffic problem. I wonder when they’ll figure out that it does nothing but make everyone else angry. When I walk home from school I can’t even hear myself think because cars honking and busses switching gears block it out. This is definitely something I won’t miss when I get back to Nebraska.
Speaking of things that I won’t miss let me list a few more and start with the bad news and end with the good. Not fitting in: Ahh Nebraska, where the blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls all unite as one. I can see it now! I am sick and tired of walking down the street and getting completely stared down, most of the time even whistled at or talked to in some nasty-Spanish-talk. I even got my rear end squeezed by a disgusting guy on a bike. Yes, you read that right. Some gross Peruvian squeezed my butt as he passed me on his bike. I’ve learned that here in Peru the men are either complete gentlemen or the exact opposite. There’s no in between. None. A few other things I won’t miss very much for obvious reasons are 3-hour long classes, the blazing-hot sun in the middle of the day, the smog of the city, and not being able to see the stars at night. Other than that, there are lots of things that I am definitely going to miss, but I will get to that later.
There are lots of cultural differences that I have picked up on during my time in Lima. For example, time really isn’t much of a priority here. Life is very go-with-the-flow. If you have a meeting at 2pm, no worries if you show up between 2-2:30pm. My conversation teacher was at least 15 minutes late to class each week. Also, this means that plans aren’t really ever made in advance. Are you ready to go now? Yeah, I guess. Ok, vamos! That’s how it goes every single time.
I’ve also noticed that family customs are a lot different here. Usually if you are going to the university and your family lives close, you continue to live with them. Most of the time you will continue to live with them until you are married. Not that I don’t love being at home with my parents, but I couldn’t imagine still living under their roof past 20 years old. Here that is very common, and even people in their 30’s and up still live with close family. It is very different, but very cool that they are so family-oriented.
One major thing that I learned (was forced to learn) was that Peruvian’s are the true night owls of the world. On the weekends, if you want to go out to the bars or a dance club, you don’t even think about getting ready to leave until 10 or 11pm at the earliest. And don’t think you’ll just be out for 2-3 hours. Ohhh no. You’ll be out until the sun comes back up and the birds are chirping, usually 5 or 6am at the earliest. The nightlife in Peru is amazing and so alive, but this is definitely something that I would not be able to get used to if I was going to be here longer. This girl needs her sleep.
Well, now that I’ve talked about some of the negatives and customs that have tested my patience, I think it’s time to get on to all of the fun that I have had this past semester. I was fortunate enough to travel to four unforgettable sites in this beautiful country: Arequipa, Ica, Iquitos, and Cusco. During each of the trips I had the pleasure of viewing the very beautiful, historical sites of Colca Valley, the sand dunes of Huacachina, The Amazon Jungle/River, and of course Machu Picchu—one of the Seven Wonders of the World! How lucky am I? I could write at least five pages of details about all of the fun I had on each of these trips, but that would be a little much. Each trip had it’s own unique feel, and it was impossible to decide which trip was the best because each one had different aspects and excursions.
Our first trip to Arequipa was awesome, especially our two day visit to Colca Valley and the city of Chivay. The altitude was a little much, but we all quickly got over it and had a great time. The trip to Ica was very relaxing at a very nice resort, but of course with an excursion to go sand boarding and sand buggy-ing in Huacachina. The trip to Iquitos and the Amazon was extremely unique---we spent 3 nights in the jungle in log cabins with no electricity or warm water. Although we all got eaten alive by mosquitos, it was definitely a wildlife adventure full of fun and new experiences. Of course last, but not least, was our trip to Cusco and the ruins at Machu Picchu. This trip was well worth the wait, as we had to delay travels for over a month due to kidnapping threats. The altitude here was even harder to deal with, but the breathtaking views that the entire city and surrounding area of Cusco contained were well worth it.
I suppose it is time to start the water works and reflect on everything that I’m going to miss about Peru. One of the things I will miss the most is my host mother’s cooking…and Peruvian food in general. The food is very rich and full of flavor, and I will definitely miss it. Of course, along with this I will miss my Peruvian family—Luzmilla and Max, and their son Iván who is my age. They have been nothing but welcoming and I couldn’t have asked for a better family to stay with. I never thought I’d say it, but Inca Cola has really grown on me. I am going to miss this bubble-gum flavored soda more than words can say. Also, I will miss other typical Peruvian drinks such as Chicha Morada or the many different fruit smoothies that are simply delightful.
I have made some pretty great friends here in Peru, not only from Peru but also from Nebraska. I am definitely going to miss seeing them every day, but of course I have made some friends that I will most likely never see again (even though I would love to and hope to one day). Everyone is so nice here and they treat you like family. I could make a long list right here and now with the names of all the nice Peruvians I have met and will miss when I leave, but that list would be endless.
I have friends I met here in Peru that I feel like I’ve known for my entire life but it’s really only been a few months. Two Peruvians that have shown me the most hospitality and friendship since I’ve been living in Lima are my friends David and Kevin Salinas, who happen to be the host brothers of one of the students from Nebraska. When I was having issues with my first host, they took me in, helped me pack up my stuff, and made sure I was getting fed and had a proper place to stay. For that, I will be eternally grateful. Yes, they are my friends, but I truly will always call them the brothers that I never had. I don’t think I would’ve made it through the rest of the trip if it weren’t for their kindness and support when I was in need.
What I will miss most about Peru and the city of Lima is the 24/7 liveliness. Everyone is so carefree and full of life. Everyone gets up early and stays up until it’s almost light again…whether you’re dancing your pants off at a local club or out eating at a restaurant with your family and friends. The family atmosphere goes right along with it. Nobody takes any thing for granted and they are thankful for every hour and every second that they get to spend together. Although I have absolutely loved living with a true Peruvian, mom-and-dad family, it has really made being away from my family that much harder. I have grown such a bigger appreciation for the ones I love and I am fortunate that I still have all of them in my life.
The weeks keep passing by; days are getting crossed off the calendar quickly approaching the day that I am returning back to “The Good Life.” My experience abroad in Lima, Peru has been an unforgettable journey full of ups, downs, laughs, cries, and lots of “wows.” I never in a million years thought I’d be able to live in a foreign country on my own for an entire semester. After much persuasion from my family and friends, I decided to jump in with both feet. Words will never express how thankful I am for getting that little nudge to take this adventure on. It was by no means easy, but I have learned so much about Spanish, Peruvian culture, and life in general. For that, I am eternally thankful. I am more than ready to be home and see my family, but Peru has really shown me an educationally and culturally awesome time. I’m returning to “The Good Life,” but life here has been pretty great.
Thanks for the memories, Peru. I will forever cherish the moments I’ve spent with you and I hope to see you again one day. ¡Hasta luego!