Monday, January 6, 2014

Plaza de Armas

It seems like I’m learning so much every day that it’s going to be hard to summarize in a single post.  Here’s my best attempt.

This morning I woke up after a good amount of sleep, got ready, and went to breakfast.  I had no idea what time I was supposed to show up downstairs because we didn’t talk about it before I went to bed.  Tania was up and made my breakfast.  It was some delicious, fluffy eggs with what looked like hot dogs cut up in it.  They also have a specific bread they typically eat with breakfast.  I do like their breads a lot here, and I have high standards with my mom making bread from scratch J  Eventually the rest of the crew came awake.  Catie (Benji’s girlfriend who was a previous ProWorld volunteer) was having some altitude sickness, so she went to the clinic last night.  They did some blood tests on her, and she showed me the discharge sheet from the clinic.  I went through my dictionary and figured out most of what was going on.  Still not all by any means, but some.  She was totally fine, in case you were wondering.  Benji, who is Tania’s sister (but is my age), took me to the store with him today.  It’s conveniently the same route I’ll be taking to ProWorld each day.  Even walking the streets it’s hard to take in the full beauty of this city.  See the photo below.

The market certainly is different than what we have in the united states.  First, I don’t know many of the foods.  Part of the problem is that my Spanish vocabulary is too small, but some of the foods I have never encountered in the Northern hemisphere.  They manage to pack many types of foods into a small space, it’s quite impressive. 

Right when we got home for the market, Benji, Catie and Joaqin went downtown.  To do this, we took a combi.  This is basically a large van, approximately the size of a 15 passenger van in the US, maybe a little smaller, which many people cram into as cheap transportation.  It only costs .70 soles, which translates to about a quarter, to take the 30 minute trip from my house here to the downtown tourist area.  I’m going to be doing that often for work, so I’m happy it’s so cheap.  To take a taxi is still only 3 soles, barely over a dollar.  The combi wasn’t too full today, the maximum number of people stayed around 20.  I was brushing up against people I didn’t know, which means it seemed tight to me, but I’ve heard that it can get far more packed than that.  That’ll be interesting. 

The Plaza de Armas is absolutely gorgeous.  It is exactly what I’d heard about; impressive Spanish architecture right alongside the ancient, arguable more impressive Incan architecture.  The mountains in the distance serve as the perfect backdrop for the city is all directions.  Below are some examples of the architecture I was referring to:

Main cathedral in the Plaza de Armas.

The Incas were able to build walls that still stand today using nothing but stone; no mortar was involved.  No one has figured out how they managed that.  In addition, they built some walls with flower patterns in the stone, as seen here.

I was able to get my American money changed to something more useful for Peru.  The exchange rate is about 2.70 soles for every 1 dollar.  After going up a good hill to San Blas, a barrio of the city, I stopped at a store with my companions.  The owner really likes volunteers, so she gave us all a discount.  I am still trying to figure out the whole concept of saying hello to someone I’ve never met and doing the cheek-kiss thing, but I’m getting used to it.  Anyway, I was able to get some awesome Peruvian gifts for my parents at a ridiculously low price.  I’m also still in the process of thinking straight about how much money everything is.  For example, when I look in a restaurant and see that they have meals for 28 soles, I need to remember that in American money that’s only a little over $10.  There are so many little changes like that here in Peru that I am adjusting to. 

The whole afternoon I played with Joaquin.  I wasn’t sure his parents would support soccer inside, but they were fine with it.  I obviously didn’t get too intense, since the goal of games with kids is different than competition among college students.  There is a language barrier between us, but we eventually find ways to communicate.  And I learn new words.  I also am understanding why having kids would be so exhausting to parents.  Being an only child, these 4 months will probably be the closest thing I’ve ever had to brothers and sisters in my house.  Joaquin (8) and Gabriella (3) are wonderful (although I only understand probably 70% of what Joaquin says and optimistically 20% of what Gabriella says), and I’m excited to get to know them more.  I am getting used to many components of culture, including what it’s like to have multiple kids in the home. 

The rest of the day I tried to edit the pictures I’d taken today.  Joaquin came and hung out with me in my room, so that didn’t entirely go as planned, but I eventually made it through them.  The lighting wasn’t very good so I had to make quite a few corrections to get them to their full potential.  I’m loving shooting in raw, it allows such versatility in photo editing. 

Overall, I am still very happy with my Spanish.  I struggle to understand TV programs because of the speed, but I’m able to converse well with people.  That’s what I think is most important.  And besides, if I’m starting here, then in 4 months I’m sure I will understand much more than I do now.  It is exhausting trying to speak solely in another language all the time.  Basic ideas would come to my head, but then I would have to go through the process of trying to form those thoughts in Spanish, which can prove difficult.  There were times that I was thinking something but didn’t say it because I didn’t want to go through that whole process again, or didn’t have my translator on me, or something like that.  That’s rare though, I’m enjoying my time here and communication is good.  I’m so grateful to have talked regularly with all those wonderful Spanish speakers at GVSU; that’s the only way I’m able to do this right now. 

If you were hoping for something short, I am sorry to disappoint you..  I’m just so full of thoughts that I need to keep writing.  And I haven’t even started at the clinic yet…  I wouldn’t be surprised if I go over 2 pages again tomorrow.  I will always be a day behind on my posts because I don't have internet in the house. 

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