So much has happened since the last time I wrote a blog that I am not sure how I will prevent this post from becoming a novel. I will try to stick to the most interesting stuff and be concise, but no promises. It is hard to keep up to date with blogging because I am so busy, and then every time I do sit down to write, I have so much to say because so much has happened. Enough excuses though, let me get down to it.
Last time I wrote, I had recently finished my midterms and then gone on a long trip to the northern mountains. Since then, I have had another round of tests, gone on a trip with my Ecotourism class, participated in Model UN, visited the jungle, and begun preparing for my finals, which are happening over the next two weeks. Of course, in that time a bunch of other little things have happened too (for example I played Frisbee with a group of UW students who were making a short trip to Peru to volunteer at medical clinics, I’ve gone surfing a couple times, I attended a play, and of course I’ve eaten bucket loads of ceviche.
First, school. I’m not going to lie, it is a little rough still having classes here in Peru while all my friends back home are enjoying summer vacation. It probably doesn’t help that the weather here has gotten cold and gray. Two weeks ago, I had another round of tests, which went well. Right now, I am caught up in a bunch of projects, presentations, papers, and final exams, just like the end of any semester in Madison. Even though I am not taking the hardest class load here, I still have plenty of work. I also am constantly traveling and trying to experience everything I can here in Lima, so at times the schoolwork tends to build up. Luckily, my classes here are very interesting, so this weekend when I’m bogged down reading and writing, it will be manageable.
One of my classes here is Ecotourism. This class is based around a series of group projects that apply the theories and techniques we learn in class to a specific zone of Peru where we evaluate the potential to develop ecotourism. As part of this, we took a trip to the cities of Chilca and Mala, a couple hours south of Lima. Although these places aren’t the largest tourist destinations, they have a variety of interesting (and environmentally focused) attractions such as fig, banana and quinoa plantations, medicinal lagoons, and beaches. The trip was both fun and educational, since we evaluated the region using scientific methods like surveys and interviews, while spending time with friends and touring attractions. We had to work hard the following week to put together a good report, but the class has been very interesting and my group members are a lot of fun to be around.
Outside of school I’ve been having a blast. There are so many awesome people here in Lima that there is always something to do. Two weekends ago, I participated in the Model United Nations here at my university. I have always been interested in international affairs and diplomacy (part of the reason I’ve studied abroad so much), and so I thought Model UN would be a cool experience. Unfortunately, at home I already have so many activities and obligations that I was never able to participate. When I was invited to join here, I figured it would be a great way to practice my Spanish in a more professional setting while debating international issues.
For those of you who don’t know what Model United Nations is, it’s basically what it sounds like. A group of students pretend to be delegates from various countries and debate an international issue following UN rules until they finally agree upon a formal resolution. I represented the country of Israel in the General Assembly’s Economic and Financial Committee. It was a fair amount of work preparing for the weekend by doing research on my country’s position on various economic issues. In the end, my committee debated the validity of eradication of coca leaves and other illicit cultivations destined for drug production. It was definitely a challenge because to be successful required a lot of presenting ideas, debating, negotiating, and writing, all in formal UN formatting. For me it was especially difficult because I was doing it all in a second language. In the end, I think I contributed to the group discussion and I definitely learned a lot. It was a cool experience and all my other committee members were energetic and friendly. It was definitely worth the time I put into it.
This past weekend, I took a trip to Iquitos, a city in the Amazon rainforest. Two other Wisconsin students, a Finnish student and I flew in to Iquitos on Wednesday evening (you can only arrive by plane or boat-Iquitos is the largest inaccessible city in the world). We decided to spend only one night in the city and the next three in the jungle so we booked a tour that first evening. The next four days were incredible. Now, I definitely enjoy nature and like being outside, but I am not exactly an outdoorswoman. I had never been camping before and my general experience with the natural world is limited (think the Lakeshore Path in Madison). This was definitely a completely new experience for me as I was well out of my element. Still, I enjoyed (almost) every moment of it.
Throughout the trip, we went on various incursions into the jungle, both on foot and via canoe. Our expert guide would lead us safely through the jungle because there are a lot of dangerous animals and insects to look out for. Plus, he had all the inside knowledge on where we could see all the different animals. Throughout the weekend, we saw a ton of monkeys, birds, pink dolphins, a couple snakes, fish, frogs, lizards, leafcutter ants, tarantulas, and other insects. We went swimming in an offshoot of the Amazon River, caught and then ate aggressive piranhas, and even got to hold a sloth. Our final night we left our lodge and camped out in the jungle in hammocks protected by mosquito nets. Camping was a blast, but I don’t know how thrilled I would have been if we had stayed out there for more than one night. As it turns out, I am a pretty big fan of beds and roofs.
The trip was definitely a nice respite from the city life in Lima. The food (mostly fish) was incredibly fresh and the weather (except for the time we got stuck in the rain without ponchos) was hot and wonderful. I doubt anyone in our group would vote me best suited to jungle life (which may have to do with the fact I wore jeans and a cardigan most of the weekend), but I think I did a pretty good job of roughing it for a few days.
To be honest though, I felt a tiny bit of relief coming back to Lima. I would no longer be constantly fighting off mosquitoes (and ants and spiders and cockroaches and all the other wonderful little creatures in the jungle). I was happy to hear the sounds of the city again, all clearly identifiable. Although the jungle was never quiet, I was never quiet sure who was making what noise, which was especially unnerving when sleeping outside. I definitely enjoyed my trip, but it’s back to the city life for me.