Closing time.

Note: I started writing this post while in the Lima Airport (a bit sentimental, sorry!!), and finished it after being back in the States for about two weeks, hence there is a break in thoughts.

 I have so many thoughts as I depart from this beautiful country of Peru. My first question is when will I be back, hopefully sooner rather than later. I have had the best last couple of days, capping off an amazing eight weeks.

One of my goals for while I was abroad was to form relationships with the people, and really, in good byes, you realize the relationships you’ve made and the impact you’ve had. Never did I think I would visit every department of the clinic to say goodbye to my friends and express my thanks to everyone. And even more so, I didn’t expect so many people to tell me not to leave, and when I said I had to go, to send me off with such kind words, blessings, and hopes for my future. And then, don’t even get me started on my family. The love they have showed me through the food they have cooked for me (all of it sooo delicious), the knowledge and wisdom they have shared with me about pharmacy, Spanish, cooking, religion, and life in general, and the time they have spent with me in conversation, around Cusco, and just chilling- I will truly miss them!


Everything I have learned- whoa! Clearly, I can’t write everything down. Even if I wanted to, some things are truly unable to be expressed in words and must just be experienced and felt. But, in words… I have learned how to make Arroz Chaufa (Chinese rice), apple pie, lomo saltado, chocolate caliente, mate, mochas, papas fritas, rice… and the list continues. I have also learned lots about health care in Peru: from insurances to the history and development of all the clinics and health care system in Cusco, to antibiotics and Metamizol (not available in the states), to observing doctor’s appointments, surgery, and births. Also, my Spanish has improved majorly (at least I think it has). I’ve gotten to the point where, at least in Cusco (remember they talk slower and cleanly) I can understand almost anything (as long as it isn’t really weird vocab). In addition, I have gotten really good at ducking through doorways. I was struggling a bit these last few days to remember my bottle of water to brush my teeth at night when we had no water, but I got pretty good at that too! Also it is natural now for me to throw my toilet paper in the trash. I will definitely have some re-acclamation challenges when I get back to the states!

Also, let me just say a word about my sisters in Peru: Terese, Kiersten, Taylor and Laine (the four other US students in my house). Basically they are pretty awesome. We are from four states, different families, interests, and backgrounds. We are studying different subjects (but all studying Spanish) and attend different schools. Despite these differences, we had some of the best mealtime conversations, spontaneous story time sessions, hardest laughs, and deepest conversations! A couple memories to share. One night, Laine tells us that she can sing opera… but only one word. Intrigued we pressure her to sing for us. And she does, “Wyyy-ooooming!” So loud, so opera-y-ly beautiful, and so funny. We were cracking up for a while! Also our new game: What are the chances. Basically you dare someone to do something crazy and then think of a number. If the two people say the same number, the person has to complete the task. So, one Saturday afternoon when we were eating trout for lunch (skin, fins, head and all on our plates) Taylor decides to play with eating the fished eye ball. Laine and Taylor said the same number, so Taylor ate that eyeball- she said it popped in her mouth! EWWW! Another memory: Kiersten, Terese and I were walking near the plaza and a man handed me a business card advertising tattoos and piercings. Not really interested in this business card, I decided to trade for a message card from these women who are constantly offering massages, “Masaje lady, 25 soles.” So I took a card from her and replaced it with the tattoos/piercing card- not what she was expecting. Then, I had a massage business card, also didn’t really need it. So I made it my mission to get someone else to take it from me. Everyone we passed I offered it to them, “Masaje!” Finally when I added to my sales pitch a woman took the card. Sold!

I will miss my Peruvian Life!!

OK… back in the states for two weeks. Thoughts:

Toughest question upon return: What was the best part of/favorite thing in Peru?

My answer: Everything. The culture, the language, the food, the people, the dancing, the clinic, the friends, my family, the pace of life, the beauty of the mountains and environment… it goes on and on. When other people answer for me, they say I miss the salsa dancing the most, which I do miss a lot, that is true, but maybe not most.

Least favorite thing in Peru: The cold weather was a bit hard to adjust to, especially while missing the Minnesota summer (although I hear it was rainy while I was away).

Most difficult adjustment while in Peru: As a joke, the altitude, although I could feel a difference, it wasn’t that bad. My stomach could feel a difference in mealtimes, with everything pushed back later. Being extremely tall in a predominantly short world took a bit of adjustment. Probably toughest thing was figuring out how to dress for the weather, no joke. It would be chilly in the morning, hot in the afternoon and freezing at night. There was always the question, should I bring a jacket? Scarf? And the phrase, “You’re hot then you’re cold,” borrowed from Katy Perry seemed to be the theme of my stay.

Most difficult adjustment back in the US: Well, I adjusted to throwing toilet paper in the toilet again, pretty quickly. All I wanted to do at first was speak in Spanish with my sister, but for my parents’ sake, she made me speak some English on the way back from the airport. I think the lifestyle is honestly most different. In Peru, there seemed to be, more or less, all the time in the world. I would take public transportation somewhere, and it would take 45 minutes, but I often didn’t even notice. Here, everything is on a strict time schedule and I have a continually long to-do list. I wouldn’t say either concept of time or lifestyle is good or bad, they are just different and very cultural.

Favorite food: Well, I ate a lot of ice cream! Many Princesa (popular candy bar of chocolate and peanut butter) McFlurries from McDonalds. But my favorite food was probably Lomo Saltado. My host parents made it for me for my last lunch in Peru- how sweet!! And it basically is beef and lots of vegetables and French fries with a sauce, served with rice. Yum! (I learned how to make it so hopefully I can attempt to recreate it!

Craziest thing I did: Now to answer this, we would need to define crazy, but a couple things come to mind. I climbed to the top of a mountain. I jumped into Lake Titicaca. The fact that I lived in a foreign country, only speaking Spanish was pretty cool. I learned how to salsa dance and even took lessons from a dance studio. So much fun! A wild monkey climbed on me in the jungle. I licked and ate termites off a tree in the Amazonian jungle. They tasted kind of minty. I saw two natural births and a C-section. I held a baby boy, less than an hour old. I made local friends, even running into them on the combi or in the plaza! I ate raw fish. I ate guinea pig. …lots of crazy, fun and adventurous things!

Biggest cultural mistake: This one is a bit tougher. I definitely messed up with introductions a few times. It is customary to give a kiss on the right cheek to everyone every time you come or go. Since that is far from normal in the United States, sometimes I would forget to give a beso (kiss) when getting home, leaving or meeting new people. I did get it down eventually, but it took a little while. And then challenge #2 came when I would wear my glasses and maneuvering so I wouldn’t take people out with my glasses!

Funniest moment: This could be answered with countless stories. However, many laughs surround the fact that I am so tall. One day I was walking through a market and a woman at a stand spoke to me, asking if I could screw in the light bulb above her stand. I went over and did it, making the light bulb illuminate, not really thinking much about it. Then a couple of my friends realized the comedic factor of the situation- I really stuck out and we giggled a bit. It was also funny to go dancing. Literally, I think every Peruvian I danced with was shorter than me, most significantly shorter than me. Almost every one would start by jokingly going on their tiptoes. It was funny every time, just because of how predictable it became. Also, one day, I was walking across a pedestrian bridge to meet a friend. On my way down the stairs I completely slipped, and toppled down a few steps, hard. Bruises appeared a few days later. I was laughing at my clumsiness, unfortunately, no one was there to laugh with me (at me).

Times I felt most like a Peruvian: Well, first let me make this clear, I never physically felt like a Peruvian because I looked about as completely opposite as Peruvian as possible. However, I felt extremely Peruvian when I ran into a friend on the combi. I was alone and on my way home from work one afternoon. I sit down on the bus and the person next to me said, “Hola Michelle.” Taken aback (who the heck would know my name!?) it took me a few seconds to realize it was my friend, Bruce! We talked all the way to his bus stop (in Spanish)! I also loved the moments when taxi drivers would try to overcharge me, especially at the airport when I dropped off a friend. I was able to explain to them that I lived there and knew the usual cost for a taxi. I caught them for thinking I was a tourist! Lastly, there were instances where I successfully used my Spanish to explain myself, or argue for a fair price (foreigners are constantly overcharged). I didn’t necessarily feel “Peruvian,” but I was able to successfully use my Spanish, which felt pretty cool!

Most touching moment: Ok, now there were lots of these, but not to get too sappy, I personally loved when my host mom would introduce me as her daughter. One day we were at the zoo, and she knew some people there. She proudly told them that, Terese, another American student, and I were her daughters. This is especially funny due to the lack of resemblance in looks. Also my host dad would call us American host daughters princesses! Just a wee bit of sap: the kindness a sincere send off I received from friends and coworkers was pretty darn meaningful!

Biggest lesson learned: I am still attempting to wrap my head around this lesson, but it was sometimes difficult for me to understand and accept some of their health beliefs (and this mostly was from experiences in my house, not in the clinic). There are many home remedies in Cusco, and many strong beliefs for example, in temperature affecting health. For example, if you have a cough, you can only drink warm beverages (e.g. tea or warmed up juice) and if it continues, you can’t take a shower for three days. I’m not saying these things don’t make a difference, in fact the warm beverages thing seemed to help, but these non-biomedical beliefs are different than what I am used to and what I will be trained in as a pharmacist. After talking to one of my pharmacy professors, who also has his Masters in Public Health and has worked extensively internationally, I learned that although these beliefs and health concepts may seem strange to me, they are logical to someone in some way based on people’s experiences and lives, and they really shouldn’t be thought of as wrong.

Scariest moment: One day while at the clinic, I could hear screaming from the first floor (I was on the second floor at the time). I didn’t know what was happening, but eventually it stopped. An hour or so later, I was in the emergency room observing a lab technician draw blood (I was in the lab that week), when we heard the screaming again and saw a stretcher followed by a whole swarm of doctors, nurses, and techs run into the trauma room. The lab technician whom I was with was called into that room to draw blood, so I followed. It turned out the young woman was schizophrenic, and having a psychotic episode. By the time we got there, she had been sedated and everything was calming down.

Most beautiful view: You choose!


Week 8 (Task 4) La Plaza de Armas

La Plaza de Armas is at the center of historic Peru. The Cathedral and a Jesuit Catholic church make up two sides of it with stores and restaurants filling the other sides. In the middle of the landscaped square that is always alive with people, is a water fountain and statue of the Inca (Incan ruler). As I have grown in my comfort with speaking Spanish, I decided to ask a couple random people in the square about the importance of the Plaza de Armas to Cusco.

At first, the people I talked to were a little thrown off by my question. I’m not sure if they were surprised at my Spanish, appearance (I don’t quite look like a Peruvian), or just had not thought about the importance of the square before. As I questioned further about the history, culture importance, change in use of the plaza, they seemed to understand more. I learned that the many churches in the area (the two in the plaza plus a few more just blocks off the main square) were constructed during the time of the Spanish conquest as a way to convert the Incan people and express Spanish power. The plaza was the center of the capital of Cusco during the conquest, clearly important. Now, the plaza does not have near the same influence or importance to the people, but is still a happening place in the city. Corpus Christi takes place in the plaza. Inti Raymi starts in the plaza. There are constantly reenactments, parades and other celebration, all in the plaza. Native Cusqueñans also frequent the plaza for their special events such as birthday celebrations or fancy dinners out to restaurants. As tourism has reshaped Cusco in the past ten years or so, La Plaza de Armas has become a major tourist attraction and hang out. The many tourist shops around the plaza show this change and growth in the city.

The Plaza de Armas has deep historical significance to Cusco representing the conquest, but keeping the Incan heritage alive through celebrations and the fountain with the statue of Inca in the center. Now, it has less governmental importance, but more community importance. It is a celebration place for Cusqueñans and an attraction for the more and more tourists that flock to Cusco representing changes that are happening in Cusco.

Week 7 (Task 11) University Student’s Life

A university student’s life here in Peru is quite different than the life of a university student in the U.S., although, of course, there are also similarities. The first major difference is that Peruvians generally live with their parents until they are married. In my home, my 26 year old and 21 year old brother and sister, respectively, both live at home, and both are going to university. Unlike most university students however, my host siblings both have jobs. Here, people are not expected to get jobs until after they graduate from college, or finish schooling, however far they go.

University is also slightly different because school is year-round with about one month off every year (the month varies because it all rotates since there is no summer/ four seasons here). A semester lasts four months, and generally a student completes their studies in 10 semesters (4-5 years). According to my host sisters, students in semester two through semester five spend a fair amount of time at the bars. Otherwise students spend a lot of time on their studies, with family, and with friends.

I feel like Peru has a bit more of a collective, family-unit based society, where the U.S. is a lot more individualistic with less emphasis on family. This explains the difference of proximity to ones family during university. I am four hours away from home in the states when I am at school, and that is completely normal. Here that would be a bit more strange however does occur. Also children are dependent on their parents a lot longer her it seems than in the states. To some, that may seem tough, however, to others they might like the close-knit family found here in Peru.

Overall classes and finals, the schooling process, seems somewhat similar (although here, pharmacy is a five year degree). The differences lie in the outside of school life where the student lives with and depends fully on their parents virtually until they are married.

Week 7 (Task 6) Slang

Word on the street is that Peru is one of the best countries in which to learn Spanish. Although I passed this off as unimportant when choosing a study abroad location, I have realized that the people of Cusco speak with a clarity and correctness that does truly aid me in learning Spanish better. Compared to other places I have travelled, there is minimal accent and people talk at a slower rate. Also correct grammar is used and there is minimal slang, or jerga. This has made Task 6 slightly more challenging as I made it my personal goal to come up with ten words or phrases as I heard them and ask for clarification, not simply by asking one person to list slang words. I picked up words at the dinner table, among coworkers at the clinic, and among Peruvian friends. However, I was not able to independently compile a list the entire list so my host sister and I had a fun conversation about more slang. Here are some Peruvian slang words and phrases and their meanings.

  1. Chevre- cool
  2. Bacan- another way to say cool
  3. Piola- another way to say cool, but only used among guys- not delicate enough for women’s mouths, apparently
  4. Hato- casa
  5. Bobo- heart
  6. Costilla- literal translation rib. Significance: pet name for girlfriend
  7. Espeso- literal translation thick. Significance: thick headed or hard to reach, a negative nickname
  8. Chatarra- used to describe things of little worth, like calling something garbage
  9. Tener ganas de tejer.- literal translation To have the desire to knit. Significance: To be pregnant, a creative way to say one is with child
  10. Cabeza de calabaza- literal translation pumpkin head. Significance: used for a flaky woman (almost like “dumb blonde” but worse)
  11. Poder oler el pastel de boda.- literal translation To be able to smell the wedding cake. Significance: if one is really excited or ready to get married.
  12. Zanahoria- literal translation carrot. Significance: someone who likes to stay home (like a vegetable in English)

Week 7 (Task 10) Thoughts on America

Perception is an interesting concept. Often times we have perceptions of ourselves, different than the perception other people have of us. And as a friend recently reminded me, our perceptions of ourselves are often times more critical than necessary. This comes into play as I was asking my Peruvian friends about their thoughts about the U.S.

At the clinic where I work, there is a steady stream of volunteers. When I first arrived, there was a group of 11 first year medical students from the Chicago area at the clinic for about two weeks. Later a California doctor showed up for a couple days. Staying for two weeks, a California med student volunteered. I am volunteering at the clinic for eight weeks, and another student just started her eight weeks at the clinic through my program as well. Volunteers flow in and out like honey. Due to this constant stream of “U.S. volunteer traffic,” I was expecting the nurses to tell me that they did not really like us being there; with different levels of Spanish speaking abilities and medical training I feel like we sometimes get in the way more than we contribute. To my surprise, Milagros, a obstetrics nurse, told me that they have an overall good impression of the American students that come through the clinic, which reflects well on the country as a whole. She noted that when the volunteers try hard, their effort is appreciated. The language barrier can be hard, some of the nurses noted, but if effort is put forth, it is a positive experience. Shocking me, Milagros said that it is a learning experience for both sides, “You learn and we learn.” (I had no idea that I was teaching them anything, however, we are constantly talking about similarities and difference between our countries, both medically and non-medically.)

I was a bit uncomfortable asking this question because I was unsure what I was going to hear and how to react. However, Milagros happily spoke to me on her impressions of the United States. When I asked her about stereotypes (using the correct Spanish word) it was interesting, because Milagros did not understand the word and had to ask for the definition. I feel like the word stereotypes is pounded into our heads in school when we are taught to respect differences, but evidently, the idea of stereotypes is not nearly as common here. At my orientation here in Peru, I learned the “politically correct” simply does not exist in Cusco. One should not be offended by what people call you; they simply say it how it is. Also, neither Milagros nor the other nurses would say much about the economics or government of the country, because they have never been to the U.S. This response was fairly neat to me because in the U.S., everyone seems to have opinions about everything whether they have experiences with said thing or not. It was refreshing to hear that they did not have opinions because they had not experienced the U.S. first hand.

Week 7 (Task 5) Importance of festival

Corpus Christi is a huge religious celebration that takes place on June 18th. The Plaza de Armas is completely blocked off and there are continual dances, music, food (chiriuchu- guinea pig) and fireworks! Mass is celebrated in the morning and an enormous procession of saint floats from the about twelve Cusco churches adorn the Cathedral and the plaza in a procession. According to my coworker of similar age to me, the enormity of this celebration has its roots deep in history. Corpus Christi is important because before the Spanish conquered Peru, the Incans worshipped nature. Apus were their gods and included things like mountains. When the Spanish came, they put crosses everywhere and used these attractive, fun and inviting festivals to convert and dominate the Incan people. From these original days of conquering, the traditions of huge celebrations brought by the Spaniards have stuck. So, Corpus Christi is a Catholic holiday celebrated widely in Peru. Children have school off and many people do not work.

I also learned from my host mom that although Corpus Christi is one day, celebrations take place for two days preceding the festival day and eight days after, called the octavo. It is quite evident that the city of Cusco likes to celebrate because there are constantly parades, blocking off main streets. People are dressed in elaborate costumes and bands are playing and flower petals cover streets and sidewalks. Although there are many celebrations here, from daily celebrations to bigger days like Inti Raymi, Corpus Christi is the biggest festival celebrated in Cusco. How fortunate that I was able to experience it!

Enjoy some pictures below!

Enjoy some pictures below!


Peruvian Life Update!

It has been a while, so I think it is about time for a Peruvian life update!!! Now the only question is where the heck am I going to start?

Daily life

I love adventure! Often times, when I have free time in the States, I like to go on adventures and explore (like to the Iowa state capital and farmers market, or going for hikes). Here, everyday is an adventure from my wildest dreams. There are new places to explore, new things to experiences, and new people to meet. I also am constantly questioning if the combi will really get me to where I need to go and if I’ll make it to place X on time (which I rarely do, but that is in sync with the Peruvian culture). Some of my recent adventures are recorded below!

Molino: this is the legal black market pretty much. Stand on stand of stuff from baby things to shoes to kitchen stuff to electronics to clothing, soooo much! I bought my salsa music CD here (best purchase ever, except for my salsa dancing lessons…)!

San Blas: This is kinda the “hippie” neighborhood with lots of cool jewelry and other stuff. One Sunday my housemate, Terese, and I walked around it and got some beautiful pictures of Cusco from some of the higher points!

Awana Kancha and Pisac: I had already been to these two towns with my Sacred Valley expedition, but returned with Terese and Mamá Empe to explore more. I revisited my llama friends and we all caught up! Also I made new friends at the zoo with a macaw, some condors and pumas! Terese and I continued on to do some light hiking in Pisac, walk around the town and eat our lunches (pork chops!) that our host parents had prepared in the mountains.

Maras y Moray: Wow!! This past Saturday, three friends and I visited the ancient ruins of Moray. Originally built as a way to prevent erosion, Moray became an agricultural laboratory. It is known as the womb of Peru because it has produced so many varieties of potatoes and other fruits and vegetables due to the microclimates created by the terracing. Maras are the salt flats- a gem in the middle of mountains!! I have never seen anything like these (and I have seen salt mines in Austria). So crazy how there is just all this salt from glaciers I believe.

Friends and I also frequent la Plaza de Armas where there are different artesian markets like the San Fransisco and San Pedro markets. There is also the wonderful McDonalds where I have become well acquainted with the Princesa McFlurry! Princesa is a chocolate and peanut butter candy bar here- with ice cream and hot fudge in the McFlurry, it is to die for!! Also, Paddy’s Pub is in the Plaza! With great Irish food, this is where I have enjoyed watching the US futbol games with fellow Americans! It seems like half the time we are there, there is some sort of parade or celebration happening- it is a wonderful city!

As I referenced earlier, I am taking salsa dancing lessons while I am here! Nine lessons in about two weeks, so I am keeping busy with that! It is literally at this whole in the wall, tiny dance studio on the way to the Plaza! So much fun and I am learning a lot! I hope you are all ready to salsa dance with me when I get home!! (And bachata too!!)

Lastly, for America, we had a makeshift fourth of July cook out at my house! We were able to have four friends over and cooked up some chicken burgers! I think it is almost the first night since I got here that I didn’t have tea after dinner, but we were doing things the American way. Also we taught my host parents how to make smores over the gas stove! Such a great time!!

Speaking of Family…

I couldn’t have asked for a better host family! My host parents continually crack me up with their jokes. I don’t think I’ll ever forget Papá’s laugh. Also, they continually educate me; my mamá is a Spanish professor and my papá worked as a drug representative and pharmacy owner for thirty years (now he is a pastor). How much better could my situation be?! Also my host siblings Anthony and Ammi are fun to have around when they are home, but are busy with university and their jobs.

Terese and mis padres (host parents)

Terese and mis padres (host parents)

There are five American students staying at our house. Three of us are volunteers at hospitals and the other two girls took classes and are now volunteering at a couple different houses for kids with special needs and behavioral problems. All five of us keep busy, but love catching up, supporting each other and hearing about each other’s days, often around the dinner table.

Las hermanas

Las hermanas

La Clínica

The clinic has been literally all I could ask for and more! Every day I experience new things and learn more about the hospital, medical treatments, medicine, cultural in general, etc! I’ll just list a few things I’ve done/observed so far: watched a c-section, learned about antibiotics, gone on doctors rounds, tested blood for blood type and factor, folded gauze, made cotton balls, observed general cares of patients, observed a surgery, watched a natural birth (wow!), and made friends! I overflow with excitement now when I see all my friends and they say hi and greet me by name with a beso- just like Peruvians do with each other! Whether it’s Mariluz from the pharmacy, Janet from the emergency room, or Milagros from obstetrics they always have time to stop and say hi!

My main difficulty right now is trying to figure out how I am going to apply and use everything I am learning and observing back in the US. There is definitely much room for improvement in the clinic here, especially in the area of sanitation, and this clinic is MUCH cleaner and better than the public hospitals! I really want to use everything I am learning to both help me in my studies, but more to help other people. Like one of my professors told me, there is nothing to replace “boots on the ground” learning- not I just have to figure out how to apply it back in the states!

Deep thoughts (only until the top of the stairs- this reference is for you, Kristen, Suzanne and Becca!!)

Six weeks down and only two to go… I’m not so sure how I feel about that! I never want to leave, but will be excited to see family and friends and enjoy a bit of Minnesota/Iowa/Nebraska summer before school starts. In my last two weeks, I am making a schedule to make sure I get every last adventure in! I still want to try cuy al horno (straight up guinea pig cooked in the oven), I want to try a restaurant or two, continue salsa dancing, spend more quality time with my family, climb to Balcon de Diablo (a waterfall), and cook a meal for my family! So much to do, so little time, but I have accomplished so much. I’m sure I will have an amazing and full next couple of weeks!

Week 6 (Task 9) Directions

Ask two members of the culture for directions to certain places (post office and printing/internet shop).

The Post Office Adventure

My fellow Minnesotan, Nathan, and I decided to conquer part of Task 9 together. Starting at Real Plaza, the big mall in Cusco, we set out to find the post office. We began our adventure by asking the worker at a Claro (popular cell phone company) kiosk where we could send a postcard. Since I learned vocabulary for “places in town” my sophomore year of high school, so had forgotten the word for post office. From the Claro woman, I learned the key word for this task: correo or post office. She instructed us to catch a taxi and say “correo.” So, we did. We exited the mall, found a taxi, and asked to go to the correo. Having no idea how far we were going, we didn’t barter with the 4 soles (less than $2) charge. To our surprise, the correo was a significant distance away, so we snagged a good deal! However, the deal wasn’t as great as it seemed. The taxi driver dropped us off. We paid and exited the taxi. Standing on the sidewalk, we had no idea 1) where we were and 2) where the post office was. I scampered across the street and ducked into some type of store with papers piled on every desk. There, Nathan and I questioned where the correo was. Apparently, it was about two blocks away- thanks taxi driver. We strolled down the block, keeping our eyes peeled, but didn’t see the correo. Next, the delicious smells of a bakery drew me in where I asked the baker if we were going in the right direction of the post office. This time, we were told it was just around the corner. We continued on and sure enough, around the corner, on la Avenida del Sol, was the huge post office. We entered and I successfully sent one post card to America! Hopefully it made it 🙂


Where can I print?

The second adventure to find a location, took a couple friends and I to a small shop where we could use the internet and print. The adventure started at the fountain in the Plaza de Armas where us friends met up. I first approached a tourist policeman and asked where we could print. He directed us to a street and told us to make a couple turns. We followed his directions, however did not find the printing shop. A hotel doorman came to the rescue and correctly directed us in the opposite direction. After a few blocks and a couple turns, we found the internet sign and had reached our destination.

Throughout these two adventures, and countless others, I have learned the importance of asking for directions continually and reading body language and hand motions. It seems to help if you ask someone and they direct you, and then about a block later, you ask again and continue. Also, if I don’t hear or understand every word the person says, I just go in the direction they motion. Every Peruvian I have met is friendly and willing to help, but every once in a while, they are a little bit off on directions. This is understandable, because street names apparently change with every change of government, so directions by street names is impossible. Landmarks are necessary to guide one to a location, and although I know many landmarks, I do not know everything. The other interesting fact about Peruvians is that they are not always the best at estimating time. Again, this is very understandable because Peruvians often depend on public transportation so how fast you get somewhere is somewhat out of one’s control. The “Peruvian hour” exists which basically means people are not controlled by time and being 15 minutes late to everything is normal and acceptable.

Week 6 (Task 7) Call a business

On a pleasant Sunday afternoon, two housemates and I decided it would be the perfect time to visit the Chocolate museum. The only problem was: we didn’t know if it was open or where it was located. We found the phone number of the museum in some literature, and I decided to give them a call.

The first obstacle was figuring out how to dial the number. I have a Peruvian pay-as-you-go phone so I had a way to call them, but didn’t know if I needed the Peru code or a specific area code. I solved my problem by just calling the number various different ways, leaving out the first couple digits, adding others. It doesn’t seem possible, but eventually I got it to work.

On the phone, communication was fairly easy because I am familiar with the necessary vocabulary, minus the fact that my phone is very quiet. Although the Spanish way to say hello is hola, people answer the phone saying allo. The woman told me that they were open until 6:30pm and located on Calle Garcilaso near the Plaza de Armas. If I had been talking about a more unfamiliar subject, it probably would have been more difficult to talk on the phone because vocabulary could have been harder and I couldn’t use body language to decipher meanings of phrases or words.

Us roommates hopped on the combi, arrived in the plaza, and meandered over to the other plaza near the street that the woman had told me the museum was located. Sure enough, we saw a sign on the front of a building and rewarded ourselves with delicious brownies in the café after our visit!


Week 5 (Task 12 substitution) Getting a Haircut

A commonality between all cultures is that we all have hair. In some cultures, they never cut their hair, or have special traditions with cutting hair. For example, the women living on the island of Taquile in Lake Titicaca never cut their hair until they get married. As part of the marriage rituals, they knit their hair into half of a belt-type thing and the man knits the other part from wool. On a less extreme from the isolated people of Taquile, people in Cusco do get haircuts. For a cultural experience, my friend, Nathan, decided to get a haircut here and I accompanied him to experience it as well.

The first step for this cultural adventure, was finding a barbershop. My father suggested a peluqueria called, “Barber Shop,” in between two familiar bus stops on the main avenue in Cusco. Likewise, Nathan’s host brother suggested the same place. We also prepared ourselves looking up a few vocabulary words to better explain what he wanted. I hopped on the bus to meet Nathan at one of the bus stops. Crossing the street by the pedestrian bridge that goes over it, I fell down the steps (literally) and caught up with Nathan at the bottom. We walked aimlessly in the direction of the other bus stop, and found a barbershop, hopefully the one that was suggested to us.

First impressions were positive. A foosball table sat in front of the little barber shop with two chairs inside for clients. A man worked at one chair and a woman at the other. Both were diligently cutting hair. Personal TVs were attached to the walls in front of each chair- as I imagine Sports Clips is in the US (and of course futbol was on!). We entered the shop and sat down to wait. The man handed Nathan a book with lots of pictures of hair in it, hilariously, there were countless US actors pictured in it for hair options.

Nathan picked a style combining Zach Efron, a random other guy, and a man with dibujos or drawings on the side of his head, and the man and woman were happy to cut his hair. Now I haven’t been to many men’s haircuts before, but from my knowledge in the states, they are pretty fast and simple. Nathan’s haircut took probably about 45 minutes as the woman careful used a razor, scissors, and an old-fashioned knife-life shaving tool to perfectly trim his hair. In the end, it cost him S/. 15.00, or about $5.50, which was a bit more expensive than usual because of the dibujos.

 After Nathan’s haircut it was interesting to think about the quality of work here compared to compensation and quality of work in the US and compensation. A simple men’s haircut in the US costs at least double of this quality job in Peru. There is not nearly the same technology here in Peru, so I think this sets them back a few decades from the US. Also, Peru is a much poorer, developing country. This combination forces people to do more jobs my hand and for less money. For example, I bought a beautiful, hand woven, alpaca wool blanket here for 40 soles (about $15- also, I realize it might not be authentic, but they sold it to me saying it was). In the United States, this artesian work would be ridiculously expensive. Here however, a blanket made at a factory would likely be more expensive because the technology is not here yet. A factory blanket would be more of a specialty item than a handmade blanket. This is a simple “product” example, but the attention paid to details here is phenomenal and in my American mind, does not seem rightly compensated. That truth of the matter is though, this is a different culture with completely different beliefs, customs, and economical and technological situations.


Special thanks to Nathan for letting me join him on this adventure and so many adventures in Peru!! Go Minnesota!