A Travellerspoint blog

Peru

My creativity is limited at 9:15 AM on Saturday/Jungle Fever

sunny 80 °F

Good morning, all!

First, sorry I couldn't think of a better title.

Second- I am writing this newest addition on my blog poolside, with the wind blowing through my hair, with a cup of coffee that is about 100 degrees-too hot that I have been stirring absent-mindedly for the past 20 minutes. Also, I have a servant at my beck and call named Fabio.

Okay actually no. I'm actually sitting in my kitchen, looking at the window watching the family dogs lounge poolside with the wind blowing in their fur. However, there are no servants named Fabio. The coffee part is true though.

WARNING: I am about to repeat something I think I've mentioned in all my latest blog posts.

"I feel like I've let so much time pass since my last blog post. It's been foreverrrrrrrrr. I really should write more on here, blah blah blah."

LIFE UPDATE!!!!!!!!!

I'm officially a college student!

March 17 was my lucky day (get it?) as I started university (Note: 'university' said in proper, hauty-tauty English accent). During the days prior, I was able to pick my classes and this semester's are as follows:

Spanish 6
German 1
Portuguese 2
Psychology
Argumentation and Debate

You might have noticed that my classes are primarily language classes and while apart from Spanish, Portuguese and German don't even slightly relate to each other, they've been very easy to pick up. Portuguese, I've heard most say before, is very similar to Spanish and it is but it has its own grammar rules and things. I think someone that can speak Spanish can read Portuguese with no problem, but when spoken, Spanish and Portuguese couldn't sound any more different (in my opinion). Now, with German, I've always had an interest to learn the language, but before doing exchange, I really had no purpose to know the language. I would learn it and probably forget it. Columbus, Ohio doesn't have that big of a demographic for German speakers. Granted, Peru doesn't really either, but I now have more of an interest to go to Germany and stay there for a period of time. Plus, one of my closest friends is German and so I have my own tutor that is accesible whenever I need her. It's easy to study Portuguese and German at the same time BECAUSE of the contrast. They don't blend into each other which is nice. With Spanish and Portuguese that isn't the case. Countless times I have spluttered out 'Muito bom' instead of "Muy bien" (Very good) or "Eu me chamo Alexandra" instead of "Me llamo Alexandra". But, anyways. Tudo bem.

Psychology is going to be an interesting course and the teacher seems to know what she's talking about, so there's not anymore commentary I can say for that one.

And, as far as Argumentation and Debate goes, anyone can benefit from learning how to argue better... right? Plus, I can let off some steam in that class. Also-------- another plus---------- it's in my native language.

Out of the 20 some RYE students going to my university, I scored the highest on the Spanish entrance exam. My language skills have improved so so so much on exchange and if someone told me a year ago that it would only take about 6-ish months to become fluent in my 2nd language (with only 2 school years before), I don't know if I would've believed them. That sounds like a Rosetta Stone sales pitch, to be honest.

Exchange Horror Story:
I only have 95 days left on exchange!

The time has flown by so fast. It's weird because if I think of the TIME that I've been here it seems like so long, but then I think of how FAST that time went and then I'm like "wait."

This last leg of my exchange has started off really positive and I'm happy. In less than 2 weeks, my grandmother will be joining me here in Peru for a couple of days and I have been faced with the task of trying to create a synopsis of my 7 months on exchange through tours and gastronomy. I have a list of ideas of what I want to do but 4.75 days is going to flash by.

Okay, weird thing just happened. I JUST remembered that I was in the Amazon Rainforest earlier this month. My mind is everywhere but in Peru right now.

For about 3.5-4 days, I was in Iquitos, Peru and we stayed in a lodge on the Amazon River. The trip included night walks through the rainforest, vine swinging, swimming with Pink Dolphins, swimming in the river with alligators (or so the guides said), seeing giant lily pads, playing with monkeys, sloth holding, large maggot eating, and giving back to the local community. Believe it or not, a meme even came out of it. The highlight of the trip was finishing the Rotary water tower (that we built- shoutout to RYE exchange class of 2015/2016). By doing so, we provided 43 Amazonian families the gift of clean, drinking water and I believe I was personally humbled so much by this experience. Living in the United States, I take water and other things for granted and I forget how fortunate I am. I'm happy to have participated in helping this community. We are currently building a second tower in another part of the rainforest for a different community. Our goal was one tower, and because of the unison of Rotary clubs from all around the world and their generous donations, we raised about $5k extra to provide to more people.

Below are some pictures that some other exchange students took during the trip. My phone was broken at the time and I wasn't able to take any pictures and borrowed some from my friends' Facebook posts.

Enjoy!

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Posted by alexandrang98 14:44 Archived in Peru Tagged amazon Comments (1)

I've let the blog run dry/how to know you're on exchange....

sunny 90 °F

I promise that I had every intention to post frequently on this blog and while I've managed to post updates, sometimes I feel like there isn't much to write about so I avoid making a post. I usually like to wait until something major happens because a lot of the other time, I've been chilling at home, leaving and doing things with my friends, or sleeping, hahah.

I've made this point to my friends and family several times during my exchange: I feel like I've been on summer vacation since May 2015.
This doesn't mean my exchange hasn't been fun, this doesn't mean that I didn't go to school, or whatever you maybe thinking.

This means that I've over-embraced the relaxed life and I'm ready to return to my busy, go-go-go work/school lifestyle back home in Ohio. I don't really have any desire to GO home right now, but I'm ready to make my days busy and worthwhile. I want to be able to go back home and present on my exchange and have a never-ending list of activities and memories to share with everyone.

I'm going to do a really abrupt 180 right now.

Spinny Noise, does backflip*

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How to know you're an exchange student...

1. BEFORE WAITING TO SEE IF ANYONE UNDERSTOOD WHAT YOU SAID, YOU START ACTING IT OUT.
This point kind of speaks for itself, but let me elaborate for the readers who won't get this.
The best example I can give you is when you're trying to speak to someone who may or may not speak English (for example) and to make sure they understand, you start making all kind of body jerks and weird hand-movements. I feel this is something I did especially in the beginning of my exchange but I'm a hand-talker anyway so I probably still do it.
2. YOU SPEND A LOT OF TIME SMILING AND NODDING AND PRETENDING YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT'S GOING ON.
Until you unintentionally admit to doing something you haven't done even though you didn't understand the question.
3. YOU CLASSIFY DOING YOUR HOMEWORK AS TRANSLATING 1/2 OF IT.
Whenever I took a test in my host school, because I didn't know the answers, I would translate the questions and write all over the paper to look like I answered and would be graded on that.
4. YOU SOMETIMES USE THE EXCUSE "SORRY I DON'T UNDERSTAND" TO AVOID ANSWERING A QUESTION... EVEN IF YOU DO.
Sometimes you get tired of answering questions or get annoyed by the stereotypical questions that people ask about you and your country. Sometimes, we just need a break from talking, ya feel?
5. THEY OFFER COCKTAILS AT ALL THE SCHOOL FUNCTIONS.
This really threw me off because in the USA you have to be 21 years old to drink and I never ever saw alcohol supplied/offered at an Open House or Curriculum Night but here, it seemed like for the majority of the school functions, there was some kind of cocktail party for the adults.
6. YOU'RE BETTER THAN YOUR TEACHER IN YOUR FOREIGN LANGUAGE CLASS.
My English teacher at my host school was amazing but several times, we would have discussions on English grammar or word pronunciation and a lot of the time it came down to the difference between British and American English.
7. YOU'VE "MISPRONOUNCED" SOMETHING IN YOUR NATIVE LANGUAGE BECAUSE YOU KNOW THE OTHERS WILL UNDERSTAND IF YOU SAY IT WITH AN ACCENT.
Example: McDonalds (America= Mick-donalds, Peru= Mack-dah-nal), Starbucks (America= Star-bucks, Peru= Es-tar-buh)
8. YOU TALK TO SOMEONE IN YOUR HOST LANGUAGE ONLY TO HAVE THEM RESPOND TO YOU IN ENGLISH.
This happens all the time and very annoying because "Cool, you want to practice your English, but I'm here to learn Spanish and it would be easier for the both of us to just stick with YOUR native language."
9. AFTER COMING BACK FROM EXCHANGE, EVERYONE TELLS YOU THAT YOU HAVE A WEIRD ACCENT.
I've adopted a few of the Peruvian mannerisms and I'm interested to see what happens when I get back to school in August.
10. YOU FORGET WORDS IN YOUR NATIVE LANGUAGE.
Happens all the time. I forgot the word for hair the other day. Ended up calling it my head sweater.
11. YOU BEGIN TO ENJOY FOODS YOU DESPISED AT HOME AND VICE VERSA.
I used to really like potatoes in the US, but after eating 4752034857 types of them in Peru, I can't look at one without feeling like a literal human potato. However, I turned into a coffee drinker in Peru and I never used to TOUCH the coffee machine back home.
12. YOU ARE NEVER SURE IF SOMEONE'S BEING YOUR FRIEND OR FLIRTING WITH YOU.
This is just because of the difference in social cues and body language that come with the Peruvian culture. Peruvians are more "affectionate" as it is (for example, when greeting someone you either kiss into their ear [for girls] or shake their hand [for boy to boy]) so when someone is leaning into you, you never know if its because that's just who they are or they're trying to get your digits.
13. YOU DO SOMETHING WRONG AND PEOPLE LOOK AT YOU WEIRD AND YOUR EXCUSE IS "THATS HOW THEY DO IT IN MY COUNTRY" EVEN IF IT ISN'T.
This is happened a COUNTLESS amount of times to me that I can't even pinpoint one specific situation to write.

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I'll be traveling to the Amazon from March 3-6 and hope to be able to write a lot about the amazing experiences I will have had there.

I start school short after that!

After almost being here for 6 wonderful and crazy months!
Alexandra

Posted by alexandrang98 10:28 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Long time, no type

So it's official been over a month since I've last posted.

I didn't mean to let my blog go, but so much has been going on as of recent and I haven't found the time (nor have I searched for it) to sit down and update everyone on the status of my life/exchange/well-being right now.

I'll start with Christmas.

Christmas was such a peaceful and calm time spent with my first host family. I got some shoes that I picked out (because my host mom wanted to give me the perfect gift), some nice soap (that smells AMAZZINNNNNNGGGG),and some earrings. Oh, and a wallet. We had a nice dinner and while everyone was still partying at 3 in the morning on Christmas day, I went to bed because quite frankly, I was TIRED.

One tradition that I experienced is eating dinner at midnight (so right as Christmas day begins). In the US, I am used to eating dinner with the family in the late afternoon (around 6,7,8) and then opening presents and then going home before midnight. In Peru, I didn't open presents until after the midnight dinner was served. Fireworks were also going off for hours after the stroke of 12 and while "home" fireworks are strictly prohibited in Peru, no one could deny anyone the right to share the Christmas spirit.

New Years was also spent really nicely. I invited one of my German exchange friends over to my host house (as her host family had no plans to do anything that night) and we made Mac & Cheese and pancakes and added it to the array of food my host mom cooked for our New Years dinner. At the stroke of 12, we were supposed to eat 12 grapes by 12:01 and if you ate them all, it was considered good luck. I didn't know that so I just started eating my grapes way before that and idk if that counts as cheating? Hahaha. We watched more fireworks and went to bed a little early as Karolin and I were both really tired.

On the 5th of January, I changed host families. It was time for the "family change". I'm still with my 2nd family. Eventually, I will change families for a 3rd time.

On January 10th, I ended up in the emergency room because of a twisted ankle. Honestly, I am the biggest klutz you will ever meet, so it wasn't that much of a surprise that I somehow managed to get hurt. I went to the beach with my host family and got over taken by a wave RIGHT AS WE WERE LEAVING and twisted my ankle into some rocks. I was on crutches for about a week/week and a half, but I improved a lot faster than the doctors speculated. They told me I would have to be on bedrest for something like 3 weeks and I wasn't gonna have it so I took my pills and functioned as much as I possibly could to get better ASAP and before my 2nd Rotary trip that was happening the following week.

I will write about the 2nd Rotary trip in another post because it deserves it's own for pictures and an in depth description of the amount of fun I had for 2 weeks.

On New Years I celebrated my 4 months and on February 1st I celebrated my 5 month mark. Time is going by so fast! As of right now, my countdown app says I have 4 months, 25 days, and 7 hours before my plane leaves to go back home to the US.

Until my next post (which I will be writing after this one posts)!

Alexandra

Posted by alexandrang98 13:13 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

How exchange stole Christmas

Maybe by reading the title, you thought this would be a negative post. It's not going to be.

I remember learning about how exchange would be the hardest during the holidays. And I never really realized how hard it would be until it happened. I have remained a trooper through it all, but that's not to say that I have cried.

Because I have. A lot.

By choosing youth exchange, I decided to swap my normal Geno-family Christmas for a Peruvian one. I would experience it on my own, without my natural family, without my normal traditions, and I would do it way outside of my comfort zone. I was excited to learn how to celebrate Christmas in another country. I was excited to move to another country and have all my new experiences. I was and still am excited for everything that IS youth exchange. But it's not easy and sometimes I would prefer to throw in the towel. I've ridden a fine line of deciding to go home because I just wanted a big hug from my loved ones.

In other words, exchange stole my normal Christmas and gave me a Spanish-speaking one instead. :)

It's Christmas Eve, I'm having a slumber party with my best friend, and as I write this, I'm crying. I'm crying out of joy for the loving families that have taken me in this year, I'm crying because I miss my family, I'm crying because this year has come to an end and I am crying because an exciting future lies ahead of me. It's a mix of beautiful emotions and this bawl fest has come right on time.

I wanted to take the time to thank everyone who has helped me get where I am now.

First, my grandma. My beautiful, loving, supportive grandmother. She wasn't on board initially with the whole idea of me leaving for a year, but she was able to be strong and let go for just 10 months to allow me to enrich my future. I continue to be so grateful to her. My grandmother is my best friend.

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Second, I'd like to thank my paternal grandparents for supporting me in this journey and funding part of this experience.

Third, I'd like to thank my home and host Rotary districts, 6690 and 4455, for choosing me to represent my country and allowing me to have such an enriching experience in Peru. Thank you, 6690, for providing me with 10 months of training and plenty of opportunities to make new friends. Thank you to 4455 for taking me in late and hosting me in a beautiful country.

Fourth, I would like to thank my friends, old and new, for not forgetting I exist even though I am in another time zone/country/continent/hemisphere. Thank you to all the friends I have made on exchange, inbounds and Peruvians, for being so genuinely awesome. I've learned a lot about myself because of you and I hope our friendships last a life time.

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Tambien quiero agradecer a mi madre acogida. Mami, me aceptaste en tu casa, sin mucho tiempo a preparar y cada dia quiero que sabes que estoy agradecida por eso. Me tratas como tu hija y me siento mas como familia que una intercambista. A veces, tengo un mal día, pero yo sé que siempre puedo hablar contigo y que vas a tratar a entenderme. Gracias por todo lo que me has hecho. Te quiero mucho y espero que un dia, me visites.
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and Lastly, I would love to thank God for blessing me everyday. I've prayed for an experience like this and you blessed me with one. Thank you.

That's my soap box for today. I hope that everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Also, shout out to Pappo! Happy Birthday! You were born on Christmas Eve and we've been without for 5 years now, but I think of you everyday and now you're looking out for me.
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To a new year of memories, friendships, learning, and love...

Alexandra

Posted by alexandrang98 21:40 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Exchange Is....

I've come to the conclusion that no one will truly understand what it's like to be an exchange student unless they've been one. Now, there are all kinds of exchange students. There are Rotary exchange students who can leave for the summer on a short-term program and there are those who leave for a whole academic year. There are students who study abroad in college. There are "exchanges" between schools all around the world for a short amount of time. There are programs like AFS, People-to-people, etc etc. Each program works differently and one exchange is not comparable to another. This is something that people have to understand.

Exchange is so... exchange. There aren't many words to describe what exchange really is because it's different for everyone that experiences it. For some people exchange is beautiful and full of culture and experience and for others it's full of homesickness and misery and culture-shock... then there are other people who have exchanges that are in the middle of being beautiful and full of culture and experience and full of homesickness and misery and culture shock. I would like to consider myself in the "in-between". Now, just because I've been upset on my exchange doesn't necessarily mean that I haven't enjoyed it, because I have. But, sometimes, especially now during the holiday season, I feel more homesick than usual because I never used to notice how much joy I got out of being with my family and being at home and being in my comfortable life.

Exchange is change. Lots of change. You've changed your country, your life, your day-to-day language, your culture, your reputation, and your family and during your exchange there will always be change. Your family will change (both host and natural), your language skills will improve, your outlook on the world will change, your identity will change as you figure out who you are during your year. There is no way to avoid change. It's something to be expected and accepted in any form- good or bad.

Exchange is perception. Your perception of the world and of your host country and of your home country and of yourself and your family and your life... all of it will change and everything that has happened to you will come into focus and you'll be able to think rationally and mature so much within the year.

Exchange is strange. Exchange is strange food, strange cultures, strange costumes, strange languages, strange people, strange feelings.

Exchange is people. Those incredibly strange people, who look at you like you’re an alien. Those people who are too afraid to talk to you. And those people who actually talk to you. Those people who know your name, even though you have never met them. Those people, who tell you who to stay away from. Those people who talk about you behind your back, those people who make fun of your country. All those people, who aren’t worth your giving a damn. Those people you ignore. And those people who invite you to their homes. Who keep you sane. Who become your friends.

Exchange is a lot of feeling uncomfortable. Mainly because of culture shock, but even in your best moments you're going to feel weird and out of place and maybe not even welcomed. And it will be painful to feel so uncomfortable, but once you start to realize that how you feel is normal and it'll happen a lot, you'll start to feel more comfortable and life will seem normal for you.

Exchange is communication. You'll struggle with communicating what you REALLY want to say at least once. It's bound to happen. Believe me. Exchange is communication between you and your friends and your family and with yourself about what you want for yourself during your year. Exchange is learning how to communicate with your new language, but also with your actions and your thoughts.

Exchange is learning how to pack your life into a suitcase.

Exchange is not a year in your life. It’s a life in one year.
Exchange is nothing like you expected it to be, and everything you wanted it to be. 
Exchange is the best year of your life. Without a doubt. And it’s also the worst. Without a doubt.
Exchange is something you will never forget, something that will always be a part of you. It is something no one back at home will ever truly understand.

Exchange is realizing that you're able to make it on your own. Exchange is becoming an adult and becoming a part of society in one year by throwing you to another part of the world to live and grow as an intelligent and cultured human being. Exchange is making your parents proud as your represent your family. Exchange is making a good impression on the people you meet as you represent your country. Exchange is representing your brand and how you want people to remember you.

Exchange is dancing for no reason, crying without a reason, laughing at the same time. It’s a melting pot of every emotion possible.
But on the same note... how do you know what ADVENTURE is if you never took part in one? How do you know what ANGUISH is if you never said goodbye to your family and friends with your eyes full of tears? How do you know what OPPORTUNITY is if you never got one? How do you know what DISTANCE is if you never, looking at a map, said "I'm so far away"? How do you know what a FRIEND is if the circumstances never showed you the true ones? How do you KNOW THE WORLD, if you have never been a exchange student?

Exchanges are unique and beautiful and awkward and sad in their respective ways. You'll learn so much, you'll see so much, you'll hear so much, you'll live so much in just 10-12 months of the rest of your life.

And I've been asked why I did exchange, why I wanted to do exchange and here's my answer:

Aside from wanting to learn a new language, a new culture, more people, another country... exchange is wanting a life. But we exchange students travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. Because in the end, the only regrets we have are the chances we didn't take. And traveling... it makes you speechless but then turns you into a storyteller. Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

And after all, there are no foreign lands... it is the traveler only who is foreign.

With much love,
A

Posted by alexandrang98 14:56 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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