Happy Independence Day!

Felices Fiestas Patrias, to all my Peruvian friends!

On this day in 1821, José de San Martin declared Peru's independence from Spain. Peruvians celebrate this day all throughout the month of July. Peruvian flags adorn every building, most everyone wears a small flag over their heart and my favorite- the  bag boys at the supermarket adorn festive uniforms!

It's an interesting Independence Day this year because Ollanta Humala is being sworn in as Peru's new President. He will serve Peru for the next five years and my hope is that he follows through on his campaign promises to bring Peru's economic growth to the most remote areas of the country.

Happy Independence Day, Perú! I'm off to celebrate with lomo saltado and a Pisco Sour- que rico!

An expat first: Reflecting on my first job

It's been one week since my last day at the language institute. I was so excited about leaving that job that I made a countdown chain. Reminiscent of my days in the third grade, I excitedly ripped off one chain per day for one month. Until this, the final chain. Celebration all around!

Here's what I learned from my first Peruvian expat job:

1. Things in Peru take a lllooonnnggg time. It took two and a half months and my boyfriend pretending to be my lawyer in order to get my visa process moving. Finally on day 88 my papers were submitted. I began work in the middle of March. Eight months after first making contact with my employer.

2. Working conditions outside of the US are not the same as inside the US. This I should have expected, and it was my own ignorance that led to my sincere disappointment. That being said, my current full time job is wonderful: I am appreciated, compensated for my time and effort and it feels like a community. So maybe this lesson is about the institute itself. Let's change it to: This anonymous institute fails at employee relations.

3. Students are the reason teachers teach. I've known this my whole life, either from my own teachers or from my dad who is a professor. But since this was my first teaching job, I had never experienced it. It's true. It broke my heart to leave all my students. 

4. Peruvians are incredibly hard workers. My fellow teachers were some of the most hardworking people I have ever met. They worked insane hours and I never heard a complaint. The cleaning lady was there first thing in the morning and didn't leave until well past dark. Everyone was serious about their job and did it well. This is not only true of my former colleagues, but of most Peruvians I have encountered thus far. 

and the last thing I learned...

5. Expat teachers should skip the institutes and go private. It's true that I needed this institute in order to get my visa and they gave me a good jump start. But other than that, I think most native English speakers should skip the institutes and create their own private teaching business. The hours are flexible, you can choose the material and your paycheck will increase by at least five times. 

I'm thankful for the start in Peru and to be holding my work visa, but other than that I say, "Adios!"

Jack & Rose

Last Tuesday I was riding home on the bus and had a moment in which I very clearly understood that I am living in a country other than my native home. Most of the time, I don't think about my exact location in the world. I don't often think, "I am in Peru" just as I never really thought, "I am in the United States." This is where I live, this is where I have decided to build my life and that's normal for me. But the other day, I had a rare moment when I understood the vastness of the statement, "I live in Peru". 

I was sitting inside an old, rusty miniature tour bus pressed up against the makeshift wood paneling that adorned the sides. The bus was calmly driving along and I felt very much a part of Peru. I admired the scenery around me and fully appreciated what makes this Peru and not the United States or Germany or Chile. Suddenly a phone rang next to me and Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" was sounding throughout the rusty bus. I let out a slight chuckle and thought, Am I still Lima? What year is this? I felt as if I had been transported back to 1997 when I was in elementary school and was so utterly uncool because I was the only kid not allowed to see that year's blockbuster. I thought about my fourth grade school year and how it will forever be marked by that humiliation. Then I remembered the next summer when my grandmother, unbeknownst to my mother, let us watch Titanic. I remembered felling like I was the biggest, baddest rebel around. To this day, it's still one of the most rebellious thing I've ever done. 

I was lost in the mind of my eleven year old self and then was interrupted by the raucous calls of the bus conductor. He was summoning passengers from all corners of the intersection and the driver started to rev the engine. One last woman climbed in the bus and barely made it inside before we darted across five lanes of traffic. Then I thought, "Yes, I am still in Peru."

Soccer helps

I have been struggling to find some sort of connection with boys in my class. The girls are easy- braid their hair, draw pictures with them or show an interest in their baby dolls and you are friends for life. About half of the boys in my class are the in still-so-young-and-sweet phase, which makes it easy to relate to them. Then there´s the other half of the boys, the boys that draw star troopers and robots and pictures of me as a troll. How do I gain respect with them? Finally, I have found the answer.

These boys are obsessed with soccer. La Copa America is currently taking place in Argentina and even morning before class, the boys trade their player stickers like baseball cards. They constantly draw pictures of soccer players. When learning the letter "B" the examples they gave in class were "Barcelona" and "Boca Juniors". In art class, they draw reenactments of games, usually between the US and Peru. Then they entusiastically come up to me screaming, "Miss! Miss! Your country won, your country beat Peru!"

Last Friday, I had to supervise playground time for my class. The transformer drawing, soccer loving group of boys skipped the playground and decided to play a pick up game instead. I was standing around supervising when one of them asked, "Miss, would you like to play?" I haven´t kicked a soccer ball since my days on the high school field, but I gave it a shot. The only rule was, "Miss, don´t kick it too high, it´s not fair if you do."
I kicked and passed and even scored a goal. My team actually passed me the ball instead of sticking to their mantra "Miss, girls can´t play soccer." I rocked the playground soccer field. I have been struggling for weeks to try to get these boys to understand that though my Spanish isn´t perfect and though I´m young, I am still in charge. Well, today I learned that showing off my soccer knowledge is a great way to be in with the boys.

After recess they ran to another teacher, "Miss! The Miss played soccer with us today and she´s really good!" I felt sweet victory when one of the boys ran up to me and asked, "Miss, will you play with us next Friday, too?"

There´s the answer: play some soccer and ask about Peru´s performance in La Copa America, you get them talking and instantly you have rock star status. At last, the ten years of soccer practice in my youth have come in handy.

Searching for a frisbee

I am on a mission. A mission to find a frisbee in Lima. Actually, it's Alvaro's mission because he has recently become obsessed with the idea of us "playing frisbee in the park on a Sunday afternoon". This would be great, if we could actually find a frisbee.

Last weekend we went to two different supermarkets, a department store, a toy store and a store stocked full of strollers and car seats. Despite our constant searching, we can't find one. Our only other option is to head on over to the pirate market and hope that there is a pirated frisbee mixed in with the fake Adidas and Nike shirts.

I can't figure out why this mission is so hard, it's just a piece of molded plastic. Is playing frisbee an American thing? I never would have thought it would be this difficult to find a frisbee in Lima. In a city of nine million people, isn't there one frisbee?

For things like this I really, really miss megastores like Target or Walmart. Or Amazon, because if all else fails, you can find it there.

And for you, what's your frisbee? What seemingly simple item have you wanted while abroad but have been unable to find?

948 Chickens

Chickens in the fire and on the left: the chicken count

This past Wednesday was a national holiday. On a Wednesday. Thank you, Catholic Church. I wasn't entirely sure why we had a holiday but had recalled seeing something on my school calendar that said "St. Peter and St. Paul Day". I googled this and discovered that June 29th, is in fact the feast day for St. Peter and St. Paul, commemorating the day in the year 67 when they were martyred in Rome. My deeply Protestant self was unaware of this Feast day, but still thankful to be in a Catholic country.

Last week I exclaimed that we have to do something different for the holiday. I couldn't bear the thought of staying at my apartment watching more episodes of Friday Night Lights, it was time to explore. 

We settled on the idea of going to La Granja Azul with some friends of ours. This place translated as, The Blue Farm, is a huge piece of land outside of Lima that is known for serving some of the best pollo a la brasa in Peru. This dish is essentially rotisserie chicken served with fries, a salad and an array of Peruvian sauces, nothing fancy but mmm, mmm good. I've had rotisserie chicken before in the States, but this stuff I simply can't resist. The best part of La Granja Azul? It's all-you-can-eat chicken. 

We were seated at a table next to the area where the chickens underwent their final preparations. We watched as the chickens, whole and roasted to a crisp, were removed from the fire and set down on a large table. Then a man who was at least sixty years old, wielded a large chopping knife and cleanly chopped the chickens right down the center. Busy waiters collected the halves and took them to their tables. It was a seamless system and it has to be, La Granja Azul is sprawling. 

The restaurant consists of several different large rooms and tiered terraces, I would guess that the capacity is well over a few hundred people. A few hundred people times all you can eat chicken equals a whole lot of chickens. In fact, right next to the large fire is a board that is updated periodically with the number of chickens that have met their delicious fate. When we sat down at 1:15 it was 510. When this picture was taken at 1:30 it was 600. Finally, when we left around 2:45 it was 948. Nine hundred forty eight little chickens had given up their lives for our holiday feast. Where does one buy 948 chickens? What kind of refrigerators do they have for those? And most importantly, who counts all of them?

All in all, it was a successful day. We got outside of the city, spent time with friends and I contributed one chicken to the 948.