Before arriving in Peru, I, along with the four other students studying abroad from my university, was tasked with writing a paper about my expectations for the trip. While on the plane, I found it difficult to concentrate on my assignment, instead thinking about how much I already missed my family and my boyfriend. I had no idea what to expect for the next five months and that baffled me. I now realize that is part of the excitement and adventure.
After a seven hour plane ride, we finally arrived in Lima where three representatives from our host university met us at the airport. Despite the fact that it was now two o'clock in the morning (and that we were supposed to have arrived 2 hours before) they were extremely friendly, happy, and eager to meet us. However, my first impression of Lima was a little disappointing- a dense fog covered the city and the streetlights only seemed to illuminate extensive graffiti and security fences.
They dropped us off with our host families by three in the morning, and I talked with my host mama for a bit before we went to bed. She explained that all Peruvians go by a nickname, and that she goes by Charo (short for Rosario). She immediately came off as an extremely generous, kind, and respectable person. One of her acquantinces from Bolivia is also living with us in the house while she looks for a job, and she may be hosting another foreign student that will be studying at a different university. Charro has already proven to be a great host, and I can only hope that my limited Spanish skills adequately convey my gratitude.
I woke up early the next day in order to get to the Universidad Ruiz Antonio de Montoya (Ruiz, as the locals call it) for orientation. Ruiz will be hosting me and three other students from UVA. My host mama showed me how to walk to the bus stop and what route to take to school. When we arrived, I was stunned by the beauty of the campus, tucked away in a compound in the middle of the city. There was a large courtyard with vibrant green trees, colorful flowers, and birds. All of the buildings were plaster and painted with a light coral color. Classes don't actually begin until March 14th, and we will be using the time until then to explore Lima. This Friday we leave to visit a hacienda and go trekking in Tarma and explore Pichunaki.
At night we went to Larcomar, a large outdoor mall on La Costa Verde, the cliff on the Pacific Ocean. We saw the sunset from the cliff, and it was absolutely astounding. My camera died after taking one picture, but here it is! You can vaguely make out the silhouette of a statue of kissing lovers. Unfortunately, pickpocketing is very common here, so I cannot bring my nice DSLR with me and I forgot the charger for my point and shoot at home. Thankfully, fellow UVa-ite Bridgette has the same camera and therefore the same charger! Ole!
After watching the sunset, we walked around the mall for a bit, and it felt like we had been transported back to America. As Bridgette observed in her blog, the mall was full of American stores and restaurants like Chili's and Starbucks, and the movie theater was strictly showing American films. We then went to Cafe Cafe for drinks before dinner, and we tried the national drink of Peru- pisco sour, a drink that tastes like an icy, sweet gin and tonic.
Later we traveled a few blocks over to have the extremely popular chifa (Peruvian-Chinese food) with the other national drink of Peru, Inca Kola (which tastes like a combination of carbonated cough medicine and melted dum dums). Paco, one of the coordinators from Ruiz, informed us that Peru is the only country where a national soft drink (Inca Kola) outsells Coca Cola. Globalization for the loss! We then walked around the Miraflores area for a bit and passed by a few places I hope to explore later including a fair trade store, indie coffee shop call Arabica, plaza packed with homeless cats, and a beautiful colonial church. I'm so glad I have 5 months to spend here! :)