I am going to Peru for a year. I am going to Peru for a year, not knowing anyone, not speaking English. A vast city of 7 million people, slums, mountains, oceans, Spanish, and uncertainty. I surprise myself when I say that despite all of this, I can’t wait!
So why Peru? What do I know about Peru?
I know I first chose this program because it was the most affordable and most independent and then moved on from there to learn more about Lima and Peru. I’ll have plenty of time to travel around Peru and to other countries, and I will be in South America for the World Cup, with plans to do whatever the native soccer fans think appropriate! I also want to become proficient in Spanish so that I can use this skill in my future career.
The first aspect that really stood out to me was the cuisine. Peruvian food, so I discovered after I dug into the internet and travel books about aspects of Peru, is renowned, and the easiest way to learn about a culture is to taste it. I want to learn why certain ingredients are featured prominently. Take, for instance, ceviche, their most famous dish. It is raw fish, marinated in citrus as a method of cooking, served with various foods such as corn, sweet potato, onions, or avocado. What will these ingredients teach me about Peru’s main crops and flavors? What do people eat for lunch everyday? Is ceviche in the United States anything like ‘real’ ceviche?
The Incan empire was located in Peru and Ecuador, and the ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica have always fascinated me. I know Macchu Picchu will be immensely more fun to visit than it already is to say and Google pictures of. Hiking in the Andes is top on the list as well. I hope to see many llamas, as well as pick up some soft alpaca sweaters.
Peru also contains portions of the Amazon rainforest with all it’s color and diversity, is another place I have not experienced. I certainly won’t miss the endless winters of the Midwest! I’ll officially test my long-standing plans to move to a warmer climate. Perhaps I’ll embrace the idea of an afternoon siesta and not be able to do without one once I come back to the US!
Finally, the Quechua language and indigenous culture of Peru are fascinating topics. I picture open-air markets, felt hats, colorful skirts, windy, dust hills, and an ancient language. How does this group interact in Peruvian society?
I have taken a few classes for my Global Health certificate, Lima comes up frequently in mentions of the growing slums of the world. The concept of slums is another idea I have trouble wrapping my mind around, but I’m sure that once I witness a true slum the statistics will become reality.
Perhaps the generalizations that I’ve heard about Lima and Peru are incorrect. The two movies I watched about Peruvian culture are (according to the internet) an exaggeration of Peruvian indigenous culture. I shouldn’t take these movies as the truth, but they are an interesting and hopefully somewhat insightful about Peruvian culture (see Claudia Llosa’s movies). The many pictures I’ve seen on Google, in travel books, and from Facebook are also probably specific moments not representative of every day life. But what is the everyday life? How can I take part in it?
What do I know of Peru? Not much, but enough to know I can’t wait to be there for year to find out more! Wish me luck, and with a little bit of Spanish everyone knows:
Que será, será…and adios!