Monday, November 29, 2010

Not so eloquent now, are we?

So we're all friends here, right? Let's have a little sharing time. You'll all be expected to share unsavory details about yourselves too.

I've had a tough time in Lima with the language
, and objectively, it's not because my Spanish is horrible. In fact, I had the opportunity to take a lot more language classes before coming than many of my fellow exchange students did, for which I'm extremely grateful. It's really just cause I have an extra dose of pride when it comes to my language skills. Truly, I was a bit of an English teacher's pet all through grade school and high school. And skipping the false modesty for a second: I'm good at writing. Not fantastic, not a Pulitzer prize winner, but good. And I've always really loved that about me. Let's keep it to ourselves, ok?

So anyway, you can imagine that knocking down my language skills to about a 5th grade level, give or take, has been an exercise in humility for me. I hate asking "What? What? WHAT?" when I don't understand. I hate not being able to manipulate all the subtleties of language to control (well, guide) how people perceive me or what I'm saying. I hate not being able to take the lead in group projects when I sense things going awry. Despite all that, I know it's been good for me.

But lately I've been feeling much better about myself and how I can interact with people here. You want to be impressed by my grandiose accomplishments? Let's go:

1) I carried on a whole Spanish conversation with a lovely woman in my English class (Hi Vicky!), in which I felt like I wasn't hesitating or stumbling or skipping things I wanted to say.

2) I came into class this morning
, a class with all English speakers, in which we lazily speak English amongst ourselves most of the time, and the first words I said without thinking were Spanish. There were only about 6 of them, but they were Spanish.

3) A woman quickly asked me to lend her 50 cents on the micro the other day and I understood her fully and lent her the change without hesitation. It was magical.

4)I met someone new the other night
and I think I only asked him to repeat himself once.

That's as good as it gets these days, and I'm proud when I look at those little things, in a good way this time I hope. I worked for them.

Of course, I still have just about as many frustrating moments, but I hope the scales are slowly tipping toward the magical moments....

Lima's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

...everywhere you go. But especially Wong Supermarket, Starbucks, Ripley's Department Store, and any other places rich enough to buy big expensive decorations:

(left) This is what they make hot chocolate out of. I naively thought you just break off a corner, melt it in some hot water, and poof! There's actually some milk and pots and boiling and time involved. That's why it's still on my shelf.
(right) Christmas queso anyone?

(left) Reindeer down! Thank goodness Santa makes us wear these construction hats on the job.
(right)I'm still getting used to the whole Christmas in summer deal. Forgive me those of you who can be all "Oh hum drum, I see that every year!"

(left) Starbucks' sign with classic "Friends are like snowflakes..." quote. Not sure it works when the only snowflakes around here seem to be (right). Which don't look so unique.

(left) San Isidro across from a synagogue. Possibly the only place it also looks a lot like Hanukkah. Although we seem to have an electrical problem. (right) Door in the building I volunteer in. Probably my front door in Pennsylvania home looks similar right now...sigh....

Happy holiday preparation time!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The after turkey activities of three homes

Well, we've sailed past Thanksgiving at an alarming pace, and I know what yuletide events are happening...

in Pennsylvania home:

>>>Mom is putting out all the decorations, complete with snowman singing "Santa Baby."

>>>Dad is making promises he can't keep about the date the Christmas card will go out.
*Said father would like to point out that he is the one that
puts up the star and angels earlier attributed to Mom.

>>>My brother will be bugging me any day now for the wish list I haven't yet given him.

>>>All prepare for my sister and I to return for the holiday.

in Massachusetts home:

>>>The students are all finding it more and more difficult to do homework, while simultaneously their homework load/holiday extracurriculars are increasing.

>>>The professors are piling on all those projects they meant to assign earlier but put off because they were being "nice."

And introducing...
in Peru home:

>>>The cooking class at the church is decorating galletas de la Navidad (possibly more on that later).

>>>Exchange students are simultaneously dreading and eagerly anticipating their return to the states.

>>>Dani is study study studying for exams this week.

Okay, so I really only have papers and presentations, but 'tis enough, 'twill serve. Ask for me tomorrow....

Friday, November 26, 2010

In which I wax poetic about Andean Barbie

Last night some lovely girlies and I went to a concert of Andean music put on by an organization for the benefit of "Trabajadores del Hogar" otherwise known as "empleadas" otherwise known as house maids.

The housemaid issue is interesting enough in itself, and a huge topic of interest, discussion, and controversy amongst our group of do-it-yourself United Statesians (sounds pretty good. I'm gonna stick with it.) But I wasn't dwelling too much, I confess, on the challenges facing the empleadas, but rather marveling at how familiar everything felt.

I think at one time almost the whole thing would have been somewhat strange and foreign: The men in business suits and ties playing traditional Andean music over a sound system. The women singing in loud, sliding voices while dancing in colorful skirts with 4-inch heels. The crowd clapping, singing along, and yelling "Eso!" or "Otro! Otro!" The woman who introduced the show mentioning guests from the US several times and yelling "Sex, ladies, sex!" when we took a photo after. Somehow, I know it all.

Even the above white, lanky Barbie in traditional dress did not surprise me in the least. And in fact, I felt like we were kind of in the same boat, she and I. Other than our perfect figures (what? did you say something? good) we're both imports. She's not from here, originally, and nothing will change that. But no one could tell little Peruvian girls not to play with Barbie.

Here she stays, and is accepted, and belongs. And though she be controversial, she is as much a part of life in modern Peru as the vendors who sell apple pie on the micros or the political adds on the sides of houses.

I know I'm not Peruvian. I never will be. But somehow I live here. Somehow I'm starting to belong.

The talent

You need not know all these places, dear reader, but I will ask you to be impressed that I remember them.

Balloons balloons balloons!

(left)"We are the exception to labor rights"
(right)We cheered on Adette, 2nd from left, who works with Lexi's family, center.

Turkey and lettuce and strawberries

Well chickadees, the Peruvian Thanksgiving dinner was a success, you'll all be happy to know.

The bumps in the road were minor:

-underdone pumpkin bread still a big hit
-soupy mashed yellow potatoes not as important as mashed potatoes often seem to be
-spicy Peruvian sauce slyly added to the turkey much milder than originally thought

But the best part of the actual meal, I personally thought, was all the different reactions to the salad we threw together for the occasion: lettuce, basil, strawberries, dried cranberries, walnuts, pear and plum dressing, beauty and deliciousness.

Us gringas were all super excited about it. Truly, you have to try it! The Peruvians not so much. One guy tried to explain to me that in Peru, they eat strawberries more in juices and desserts and such. And as one of Beth's host sister's said at the beginning. "Mmmm everything looks good. Except the lettuce with strawberries."

Ah well, they ate the pumpkin bread. How much can you really ask in one night?

Other highlights included:

Pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread.

Who would you like to thank? ("I'm thankful for..." idea doesn't translate well.)

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Attempted rebellion from the Thanksgiving list


I know the traditional thing to do here would be to list the things for which I'm most thankful. And believe me, I could. But I have to be honest, I feel almost redundant writing a list of things I'm thankful for on a blog I started sitting on my laptop computer, in my comfortable room, on a study abroad term, in Lima Peru.

Just the fact that I'm here, typing this right now, means I'm an extremely fortunate girl, and have opportunities most of the world only dreams about.

Just the fact that I can form these words and sentences in English in a very coherent manner with passable grammar means that I have had an education many break their backs to give their children.

Just the fact that I know that I'm writing to someone, family and friends new and old, means that I have a support system without which many fall into loneliness or despair.

Just the fact that I can see this screen, hear the little typity noises, and move my fingers ever-so-dexterously (or sometimes not) over the keys means I have skills that some people can't take for granted.

So no, I'm not going to make a list (wait....). I'm just going to thank God that I'm sitting right here, and then wish you all a day of wholesome turkey, safe houses, good company, and thankfulness. Even if you don't have a special day named after it.

And then I'm going to set to work on the first and probably only American Thanksgiving dinner I will ever assist with in Peru. It won't be disastrous, it won't be disastrous, it won't be disastrous....

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Inspiration strikes on the micro

Hullo ducklings! I was all set to post something else, but that will wait. Just just now I'm really excited about my ride home on the micro today.

This evening I was, as always, listening to my own singer/songwriter music on the micro (shamelessly un-culturally authentic of you Dani!) when I heard someone singing, singing really well, and playing guitar inside the micro.

Out of habit, I tried to look like I was ignoring him at first. Left my headphones in on pause, didn't make eye contact. But eventually I gave up that facade, and even unwisely whipped out my camera to take the above really bad, oh-so-subtle picture of the guy. Cause he was really, really good. He said he was a student, and making money to pay for his education. I believed him.

And what's more, I was excited to see that everyone else seemed to believe him and think he was a talent too. He was complimented left and right as he walked down the aisle and I think one woman even took his info.

And for a moment it felt like we were a little community of student-with-guitar-admirers, and I got off the bus feeling like the city was a little friendlier.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bring on the Peruvian blond jokes

Okay, I don´t know if those actually exist. But apparently if they did, I would be open game.

For all you non-Spanish speakers, literally: pelirroja=redhead, rubia=blond

My hair used to be a much lighter red, and I've since dyed it. A good move, in my completely objective opinion. (Sorry Mom...) I would still, however, give myself the distinguished title of redhead.

So I was a little thrown off when my Peruvian friends were like, ¨I saw that picture of you on facebook, and you used to be a pelirroja! But I like you as a rubia better."


But I guess it does make some sense. Not too many people have lighter hair around here. Meh, just call 'em all one thing.

The perpetrating picture from an old family photo, which makes my hair look insanely red.

Luck and love to all you who are studying hard for exams!

PS. If you're Peruvian and can confirm or deny blond jokes, let me know in comments!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A spring correspondence

Dear Dani,

Recently it has been brought to our attention that you are suffering severely from a lack of New England's blustery thunderstorms that let you wear those cute, artsy rainboots, trees whose autumn clothing carpet the roads with flaming reds and oranges, and chilly days in which you catch that first scent of the coming snowfall.

Unfortunately we are unable to provide any of the above features at this time. We would, however, like to offer you in consolation a beautiful Peruvian spring day. Please advise us if there is anything further with which we can assist you.

La Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru

Dear Catolica,

While I was skeptical of the fairness of the exchange at first, after a day of frolicking though the gently warming sun, vibrant blooms that look like they might burst off the trees, and the odd-looking squirrels darting secret agent-like across the paths, I accept.

Thanks for your accommodation.


P.S I'll also be needing a replacement for Black Friday.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sea Lions: Cuddle buddies or cranky old men?

I used to have a picture of a sea lion as my computer wallpaper which I always wanted to pull right out of the photo and give a good squeeze. It was just the cutest thing. And then possibly we’d cuddle up and watch Free Willy while enjoying some fish sticks and chatting about how much more friendly I was than most humans.

Ha. Little did I know.

Today our group of exchange students went on a tour of las Islas Palominas, and the pièce de resistánce (go go gadget high school vocab!) was a swim in the frigid water with the sea lions. I signed right up of course, picturing some kind of playful frolic like they put on at Sea World with the dolphins.

But let me tell you, it was more like being circled by a pack of hungry, barking wolves who were only held back because they weren’t sure if we were edible. It’s totally no coincidence that they are called “sea wolves” in Spanish.

They. Were. Ugly. Mouths of yellow, crooked teeth and big bug eyes. There were those who still held that they were cute, but since this is my blog, I have veto power. Definitely ugly. And they stunk so much that on the boat they were offering us cotton with alcohol to breathe through. Their calls were deep, throaty things that sounded either like cries of alarm or old men telling you to get off their lawn. Occasionally they would dart through the pack of us slightly bumping your foot or emerging right next to your head.

It was one of the COOLEST most EXHILARATING things I’ve ever done. I say, add it to the bucket list, my friends.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be jumping right in to do it again next semester.

(left)The boat that took us to the other boat.
(right)It would have been easier if the sun was out.

(left) They await us. (right) Confession: I was scared silly, but I knew they camera was on me, so I smiled.

(left) I' of these two.
(right) Beth and I after squeezing out of the wetsuits.

(left) Champion and his side-kick Juan.
(right)I pretend I'm cool sometimes.