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September 14, 2004

Just Like the Locals

Well, not really. I took the bus to and from school today all by myself, but these buses are just way too small for me, even the bigger ones. They're basically falling apart minivans stuffed full of people, and a guy hangs off the side, shouting at everyone on the sidewalk that this is the bus they need. You pay when you get off, not when you get on, which is funny since it's a flat rate of 50 centimos (about 15 cents). Yesterday I hit my head getting off and have a nasty bump, this morning I finally got a seat but had my knees in my armpits, and this afternoon I almost fell getting off by my house, meanwhile the guy's pushing me for my money! Quite an experience, but not too bad. It's about a 20-minute ride to my school, and the bus stops right outside.

My teacher, Magda, is really nice, and I have just one other student in my class, Theresa, a retiree from Tucson who's here with a friend who's in a lower-level class. We're pretty well-matched knowledge-wise, but if I do say so myself my pronunciation is much better than hers. Today we took a field trip to the Mercado Central, where they sell just about everything. We practiced our fruits and vegetables--a difficult exercise when there are so many I've never seen before. There's one called a granadillo that has seeds kind of like a pomegranate, but they're grey, and you squeeze them out the end. When Alicia ate one during lunch it looked pretty gross, but Magda convinced me to try one today and it was okay, although the seeds are pretty hard. My school has lots of activities and excursions you can take part in; tonight it's salsa lessons! I've met some of the other students there too and everyone's nice. I think we're all eager to meet people since between the small classes and homestays your social circle starts out pretty small.

The food I've had so far has been really good. I think I only had one thing I didn't like very much, and that was a fruit today at the market called lucma. It has the consistency and taste of a slightly cooked sweet potato, not very sweet and a little pasty. Anyway, lunch is the big meal, and it always starts out with soup. A few of them have been especially good, like cream of asparagus, cream of snow pea (I think?) and what they call minestrone, but which is like a light pesto broth with noodles and potatoes in it. Excellent! Potatoes originated in Peru, and at the market today I saw about 50 different kinds, which is just the tip of the iceberg according to my teacher. With most lunches you get potatoes in the soup and in whatever comes with the main dish, plus rice, so I'm getting plenty of starch and carbs. Breakfast is flat bread, kind of like a pita that you can split in half, and perhaps-homemade jam and butter and cheese (yay!) and of course, tea. Dinner might be leftovers from lunch, or some other kind of light snack, and more of the breakfast stuff. I bought some snacks to keep in my room because I get hungry sometimes! It makes sense to me to eat the big meal in the middle of the day, but it's an adjustment.

So my routine now is to get up about 7:30 (if the roosters haven't woken me up first) and take a tepid shower--they supposedly have hot water but it just never gets anything hotter than slightly warm--and get dressed and eat breakfast. I think I'll leave for school around 8:20 or so to get there a little before classes start at 9. We have a break at 11, then classes end at 1, and I think I'll usually come home for lunch to save money since it's included with my classes and homestay. I ate lunch downtown yesterday and a set-price meal with 3 courses and 2 drinks was about $3.50, although it was right on the main square and I suspect a little overpriced.

If I were just out exploring the town I'd never think the American influence was so pervasive here. The typical Coke signs, etc., sure, but then I watch TV and discover they have so many of the same shows we do, and even things in English. Last night I watched the BBC show The Office (in Eng. with Span. subtitles), Being John Malkovich (Eng. only), and a dubbed version of Hair, just for the songs, which I loved back in the day.

My first attempt to upload my photos failed; I need to research a little more and figure out if the neighborhood Internet cafe just isn't up to speed or if I'm missing a piece of software or something. I really hope it's not the latter!

Posted by Amy on September 14, 2004 02:16 PM
Category: Peru

Hey Lady!

I can't WAIT to join you! Your entries are awesome and are getting me all excited.

See you in two weeks!

Posted by: Jessica on September 14, 2004 02:26 PM

Sounds like you are immersing yourself in the culture quite well. Love the bus story. Reminds me of a time I... :)

Posted by: Marketa on September 15, 2004 06:58 AM

I especially like hearing about the weird foods!

Posted by: Annie on September 15, 2004 08:49 AM

Querida Amy!

Que bueno! Sus adveturas me da una sonrisa.

It's so good to hear that you are doing well and that you are adjusting.

I can't wait to read your next entry.

Posted by: Duyen on September 15, 2004 01:57 PM

How did the market smell? Too bad about your photos, I can't wait to see fifty kinds of potatoes...

Posted by: Rebecca on September 15, 2004 03:25 PM

I figured out I just can't use my card reader on computers with Windows 98 so am on a search for faster computers. Gotta run, my time's up. Pictures soon, I promise!

Posted by: Amy on September 15, 2004 07:20 PM

Hi Amy,

So learning a language is not that easy as it seems.
Are you planning to learn Hindi too while your stay in India.

Take care

Posted by: anshu on September 16, 2004 03:35 AM

the market didn't smell too bad, believe it or not, although I didn't spend much time in the fish or meat aisles.

Anshu, I hadn't even thought about trying to learn Hindi. I certainly will try to pick up a few phrases, but am not planning on any serious study since I'll only be there for 6 weeks. I already have a background in Spanish, and will be in Spanish-speaking countries for 3+ months, so my study here seems like time well-spent.

Posted by: amy on September 16, 2004 02:39 PM
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