First weeks of my exchange in Peru

Let’s quickly go over my first few weeks here in Peru after saying goodbye to my fellow Belgians. First of all, I didn’t go to my permanent host family immediately after the AFS orientation camp. I spent the first two days with a welcome family, while most of the other exchange students were already meeting their host families. I should probably mention that my Spanish (or Castellano, apparently that’s what the Spanish is called here) wasn’t that great. And with “it wasn’t that great” I want to say it was so bad I couldn’t understand anything except for the mere basics. At this point it was just playing charades, especially with the youngest daughter of the family whom I was sharing a room with.

Sunday evening it was finally time to go to my real host family. To be honest, I was pretty nervous. So nervous I was actually shaking – teeth chattering and everything. The mom of the family I was staying with asked if I was cold. Of course I said “yes”, because that’s the only thing I could say… and it was kind of believable because it was actually cold. Even if I wanted to explain why I was so shaky, it wouldn’t have been possible with my Spanish at the level it was back then.

So when I finally arrived, all was well. My host mom, host brother, cat and dog were there. My host brother, who is eleven years old, started to explain something about how the dog had some problem with her health. As you might’ve guessed, I didn’t really understand much of it, but I appreciated his effort. Luckily my host mom spoke English (and many other languages), so at least we could communicate.

Of course, it wouldn’t be AFS Peru if everything went smoothly. So when I went to the university with my host mom and an AFS volunteer, we got to hear that they didn’t know anything about me or my application (the woman from global services wasn’t even there, so we had to return another day). Apparently it was sent to the wrong ‘Universidad Privada del Norte’ in Lima Norte (where other AFS students would be studying), and not in Breña, where my university is located. Luckily, nothing bad happened – like needing to go to a university two hours away – and I eventually got into the university that is just ten minutes in bus or ‘combi’. I found out I would be studying the career I had asked for, tourism or ‘Administración y servicios turísticos’ and that the first schoolday would be… the 22nd of August.

I arrived in Peru the 4th of August, so you could imagine what my reaction was when I got to hear I would be starting university three weeks later. (Something along the lines of “I could have gone on a super cool trip with my friends back in Belgium, in stead I am doing nothing for three weeks!!”). But thinking back, I’m glad I had those three weeks to get used to this new country. It really helped me get into the pace of life, and at least my Spanish would be a little bit better when I’d be starting university. Also, it’s not like I didn’t do anything:

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Going to the anthropological and archeological museum in Lima.
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Making Tequeños. (cheese stuffed deliciousness)
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Getting to know the city a bit and observing how to take the bus (not that easy here in Lima) with my host mom.
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Applying for basketbal at the Villa Deportiva in Callao and only going once. (Glad it was only 5€ for three months.)
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Going out in Miraflores.
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A little outing to Lima Centro with my host sister.

But most importantly, I met my fellow exchange “students”. Or to put it better, I met the other people from the exchange program, because I’m the only one in my chapter (Lima Sur) who’s going to university, while the rest are working as volunteers or going to high school. I should mention that all of them, except for one, are Germans. That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ll also know some basic German at the end of the year. But because Lima is so big, there are two other chapters (Lima Centro and Lima Norte) with even more people – yes, also mostly Germans – studying or working as a volunteer here in Peru.

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Volunteers and students from AFS Lima Sur.
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