Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Starting Off

First off, as promised, here are some pictures of us at Machu Picchu…on such a rainy day. Very attractive ponchos!

After four days of hiking, we were elated to finally be at MP!

This week we finally started classes, and it feels so good to be in school again. The international students have the fortune to use this first week as a trial period of sorts, in which we can select an array of classes that interest us, and we can try them out without having to be registered yet. I have tried out 8 classes, but I will end up enrolling in only three—Phonology, Syntax, and Peruvian Social Reality. The professors for those three are all great teachers, interesting, and engaging. So excited to be here!
Last week was welcome week, and what a warm welcome it was. Under the bright Lima sun, about 200 international students gathered on the PUCP campus, all abuzz with the excitement of our initiation into our host university. Deer, here affectionately referred to as “Bambis,” roam the lawns of their own accord, squirrels dash about the tree branches, and birds hop about scavenging for food. You would think it were some far-off rural setting rather than a university almost in the heart of Lima, a city of about 8 million people.

All of the international students and compañeros PUCP at orientationTaken from the compañeros PUCP Facebook page
During orientation, I met an endless number of new friends from all over the world. Really from all over—Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Finland, Germany, Spain, Poland, America, Sweden, and of course Peru. As we chat in Spanish and get to know each other’s stories, I cannot help but feel blessed because this cultural exchange is something that will reach far beyond the people participating in it. We will eventually return to our native countries or other nations around the world, carrying this story with us. This story—this story that will shape us as the wind and the water mold the rocky cliffs of the Peruvian coast, evidence of its ephemeral presence etched into our very beings. Those who meet us will receive some grains of the knowledge we have come to understand by living in Peru. And so the cycle continues as we participate in this 21st century phenomenon of globalization.

Both of these were taken in Parque Kennedy in Miraflores
To further my cultural knowledge, I am trying to see as much of Lima as possible. Last weekend, I visited the districts of Miraflores, Barranco, and the city center of Lima. I will leave Miraflores and Barranco for another week; this week, the city center. Although I had already visited central Lima with my mother, this time I went to different areas. With a group of several international students and “compañeros PUCP” (they are native Peruvian students who are our welcome buddies), I took a tour of the Iglesia de San Francisco, which is a church, convent, and catacombs. The church had many beautiful murals and incredible intricate wood-work designs on the ceiling held up by pressure alone, no glue or nails. Of course, the crowning moment of the tour came with the spooky venture down into the basement full of bones piled on top of each other for everyone to ogle. However, the part that gave me chills was this deep brick circle, almost like a well, that had skulls and bones circled in a pattern at its bottom as well as skull hanging on the sides of the walls. It seemed more like a burial grounds for an indigenous society rather than the crypt of a Spanish-created church.

Iglesia de San Francisco de Assis
After rising from the underground, we traipsed through China-town, surrounded on all sides by swarms of people. Almost everyone had something to sell from balloons to bubbles to indigenous handicrafts to fruit to ice cream, they had it all. We lunched in a Chifa, which is what the Peruvians call Chinese food restaurants. Our final attraction of the day was the Museum of the Holy Inquisition, which is housed in a building that used to be for the Congress and is now across the street from the current legislature building. As interesting as it was, this museum was not my favorite, for it displayed wax people in examples of the torture used for the inquisition, something I do not particularly enjoy seeing.

Chinatown in central Lima
But in the end, the day was salvaged by a trip to a bakery and the trial of a Peruvian dessert. My sweet tooth gives me the Spanish title of “dulcera.” Speaking of desserts, I should mention that we have been taking advantage of the final days of summer here and greatly enjoying much of Lima’s delicious ice cream. Food is a huge part of the cultural experience, and I intend to take full advantage of it. As we go into the weekend, to all “buen provecho” with food and all your experiences!

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