One of my goals coming into this experience was to spend less time on my computer (doing non-academic or non-travel-planning related things). I think it’s working, as I haven’t had the time or emotional necessity to crank out a blog post yet. If anything, I hope it indicates an early comfort level as I settle into my new home of Lima, Peru.
First impressions while traveling are a roller coaster of realizations and emotions, and from the first moments I’ve continued to notice the differences between here my previous experience abroad. While driving home with my host family from the airport, I was struck how bustling the city was, even at 11:30 p.m. “Well, Lima is a city of 8 million people,” my host parents explained.
8 million – it’s nearly impossible for me to wrap my head around that number. A city of 8 million people never seems to sleep, and I doubt that I will become bored during my semester here amidst the various concerts, municipal activities, festivals, restaurants and bars, and new people to meet.
I’ve been learning and absorbing the new flavor of South America since my first day when my host parents served a quinoa soup for lunch, and we discussed the linguistic origins of the word gringo and how Lima has changed with an influx of migrant communities who came during the years of terrorism. The music on the buses is different. Eating beans is a rarity rather than the Central American norm. I’m trying to absorb the onslaught of new Peruvian slang and jargon and (pretty unsuccessfully) working on dropping my use of ‘vos’ I’ve picked up in previous travels.
However, the difference that surprises me the most is how quickly I’ve been able to feel at home here. I felt it in the smallest of moments while walking home from my friend’s house one night—I felt the same as when I walk through campus at night at IU. I don’t know how to explain it, but the familiarity of a place and the excitement of occupying it can be universal. Home doesn’t have to mean one place. Here, as in Indiana, I wake up lazily sometimes. Occasionally I go for a run. I study in my favorite café on campus. I wedge myself in the combis and call to the driver when to let me off. I grab some late-night dinner leftovers standing in the kitchen while la señora de la casa, Cecilia, fills me in on her day.
Obviously not everything here can be an absolute bliss. There is an underlying (or sometimes overt) classism that exists in the Latin American middle to upper-class (as in any country) that I try very hard not to take offense at. The cloudy, chilly weather of Lima’s winter is quite different from the sticky humidity or clear sunshine of Central America (although the sun has shown its face a few times so far). And while I truly love my seven American housemates and Cecilia and Enrique, our fearless leaders and hospitable host-parents, part of me knows I’ll miss my pure (almost selfish) independence from this summer in Guatemala—just walking out the door whenever I wanted and getting lost if I needed to. However, I know there will be plenty of times to fly solo in the future, and for now, a home full of friendship and home cooked meals cannot be beat.
While there is certainly an element of openness and uncertainty that can be a bit unsettling about a semester abroad, the grounding moments I’ve experienced here calm me. And for now, I am shamelessly loving Lima.