Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year, New Challenges, New Opportunities

I am now entering the year 2014.  This year will be full of more new adventures than I can dream of at the moment.  Chiefly, this year will be my first experience playing the role of the foreigner in Peru for the next 4 months and potentially in Guatemala during the summer.  My experience in the US with my international friends helped my preparation, but I also acknowledge that life will be full of surprises upon my arrival in Cusco.  My Spanish is sufficient for basic communication, but it feels ages from fluency.  I have some apprehension about my family, since I know little more than their first names and ages.  Do they speak English?  I almost hope not for the sake of my own development, but that would be a helpful thing to know.  What is the location like?  Near the program office or the clinic I will be engaged in for 4 months?  Perhaps.  And of course, the daily life I’ll be living there will be totally different from the one I live in the United States. 

I am incredibly excited.  That excitement is joined by a healthy dose of nervousness, which churns together in a maelstrom which consumes my thoughts every day.  A smooth transition is out of the question.  I intentionally signed myself up for a location and program that would give me some culture shock.  That theory will certainly lead into some great experiences and some that will test my patience and creativity.
I do have some concerns even about the first few days, not the least of which is missing my connection in Lima going to my final destination, Cusco.  My itinerary only gave me an hour and a half to catch the connection.  Initially, that looks reasonable.  However, Lima is a unique transition.  Cusco doesn’t have a customs office, so I will first need to go through customs in Lima.  I’ve been told to estimate that this will take 1-2 hours.  So, this could easily eat up all the time by itself.  If, by some miracle, it doesn’t, I will have to go track down my baggage from baggage claim, since there is not an automatic transfer.  Next, I have to re-check my bags and go through Lima security.  Then, finally, I will be in the section of the huge airport where I can start looking for my flight.  Do recall that Lima has a huge airport, corresponding to the 9 million residents of the city.  I called to inform American Airlines of the impossibility of making this connection, but they said I’d have to pay $700 to switch flights.  Of course that is prohibitively expensive.  However, I was told that if I miss my flight for the reasons cited above I will simply be put on the next available flight.  I am grateful for that, but I will still have to inform ProWorld of the change in my arrival time so they can meet me appropriately.  I do hope that someone can lend me a phone or something…  I am excited to tell all of you about the adventures of my first few days!  I will appreciate your thoughts and prayers for my travels, which begin at 5:45 PM on January 3. 

You can expect this blog to be updated on a very regular basis.  I will be writing every day about my experiences to ensure that I don’t forget anything, although the availability of internet and time will determine the regularity of those musings appearing here.  Additionally, the Gilman Scholarship, which is a significant reason this trip was possible for me, informed me of an opportunity to blog for them as a replacement for the follow-on project I would need to complete back at GVSU.  I applied not because I believed I had any sort of fighting chance of being selected, but because I thought answering their prompts would be enjoyable.  However, contrary to my expectations, I have been selected to be one of 4 bloggers to represent the Gilman Scholars program!  I don’t have that blog set up yet, but I will post the link here as soon as I have it!  Thank you for all the support you have given me as I prepare for this journey J

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