Peruvian Thanksgiving

It's a weird feeling being outside of the US for Thanksgiving. Unlike other holidays, that are celebrated in the US and Peru, here no one knows much about Thanksgiving. If it weren't for my Facebook news feed or CNN, I probably would completely forget about the day. But thankfully, we have a small community of Americans in Lima who throw one impressive, traditional Peruvian feast.

There's an American girl in my class and her mom was sweet enough to bring me a slice of pumpkin pie last Thursday. As I ate my piece of pie, sweltering in the Peruvian summer heat, I realized how strange it was to be eating an autumn dessert at the onset of summer. But I'll take what i can get. That evening, I indulged in way too many carbs, delighting in two different stuffings and an array of casseroles. I skipped on dessert that evening, choosing to spend my calories on Stuffing Round Two.

After my second Thanksgiving in Peru, here's what I'm thankful for:

- My supportive family that loves me from afar and continually encourages me even on the toughest days.
- Alvaro, for being my driver, translator, cultural ambassador, dictionary, body guard and sounding board for this past year.
- For his family who have taken me in like a daughter by loving and protecting me.
- My job, because I am fully aware that it is by grace that I am in this position. My complete experience in Peru changed when I was offered this position.
- For this feeling of adaptation that has allowed me to feel more comfortable and independent in this strange place.
- For the days when my Spanish rocks.
- For the days when my Spanish is awful, they remind me that I still have a lot to learn.
- For all my children, they may drive me crazy but I love them to pieces.
- For my next year in Peru, that I may learn and more fully understand this foreign land.
- For my sweet Emmaline who has been my constant companion and brave soul on this expat journey.

And the most timely thanks: that in 22 days I'll be hopping continents and headed towards four full weeks in the USA.

One Year: August through October

To celebrate my first year in Peru, I am looking back at the past year. I am recalling the complicated journey that brought me here and seeing how things have changed over the last twelve months. 


In August, we began the second half of the school year, while my northern hemisphere friends went back for a new year. I'm not quite sure I will even get used to this seasonal flip.

I learned that pet stores in Lima, unfortunately, do not offer the grand variety available in most US stores so I resorted to making a scratcher for dear Emmaline. On the "to buy" for my next trip to the States: cardboard cat scratcher refills. Going to the US has turned into a shopping trip, I'm turning into a Peruvian.

I experienced frustrations with the traffic in Lima and struggled to find a productive routine. Most noteworthy is that I experienced my first earthquake tremor. Long gone are the days of hurricanes and tornado warnings. I am now a pro at earthquake evacuation.

We celebrated Alvaro's dad's birthday
with a mariachi band!

Sometimes living on a different continent than my family and closest friends is just. plain. hard. I usually try to be pretty brave and put on a tough face. I'm stubborn, which helps me to push through the times when it is hard and tell myself, "No, you live here. There is no going home." For some reasons, the first week of September was particularly tough. Two days in a row, I started crying on the way to work. Uncontrollably crying as I was overwhelmed about my life in Lima and where do I go from here and wouldn't it just be easier in the States. One day was especially hard, because try as I might, I couldn't pull myself together. My kids noticed and then another teacher noticed. I felt utterly pathetic. That is until, one of my kids vomited right next to me and that unexpected event turned my whole day around. Thankfully, whatever caused those days of emotionally insecurity passed rather quickly and I once again felt certain in my time here.

The sun finally started to come out, which probably helped me have a better attitude about Lima. I began to ride the bus like a Peruvian and realized my true, pure love for my Kindle.


The month of apartment searching! I saw the good, the bad and the really ugly before settling on a large apartment with the perfect location. Through my apartment search, I learned an array of new vocabulary.  Alvaro's family graciously accepted to help me through the process and through them I learned a lot. My first big apartment search was an international search and I did it!

One Year: May through July

To celebrate my first year in Peru, I am looking back at the past year. I am recalling the complicated journey that brought me here and seeing how things have changed over the last twelve months. 


The month of May started with the kickoff of Peru´s new Tourism brand: Marca Perú. The first push of this campaign was the release of this video that brings a small taste of Peru the country to the small town of Peru, Nebraska, USA.

I started to assert that I am indeed not a tourist in Lima and can not be fooled by tourist prices. After my eternal summer: a full summer in the States, an usually warm Fall and then hopping into the southern hemisphere for their summer, finally winter arrived in Lima. I found relief from the heat and humidty but most importantly, was able to wear my long neglected winter wardrobe. I learned new slang words and discovered that children will make fun of my accent when speaking Spanish.

The most excited thing that happened this month: Alvaro and I went to Nashville!!

Alvaro's trip was educational: he received a
Civil War lesson from my dad...

and a lesson in donut fillings from my mom.


The first week of June, Alvaro and I were in the States enjoying sunshine, familiar food and time with my parents. The day before we came back to Peru, I had a complete meltdown in my parents´ living room. Since getting my new job, I was working close to 80 hour weeks between school and the institute, I couldn´t bear the thought of returning to such a schedule. Before I boarded the plane, my parents made me promise one thing: I would quit my institute job immediately upon returning to Peru. I did just that and the next day I made this countdown.


We started with an endless search for a frisbee. Such a simple piece of plastic and yet it's nowhere to be found in Lima. Thankfully, Alvaro's godmother who lives in New York was kind enough to bring us a frisbee when she visited at the end of the month. I played soccer with the boys in my class and started earning respect. I also showed them that girls, indeed can play soccer. I also took a Lima bus for the first time and it wasn't as bad as I thought! A very, very important cultural step.

And then, the great moment: My last day at the language institute. Though I only taught there for four months, but had been involved in the process for a full year. It felt like I was finally able to put that phase behind me and move on towards a better experience in Lima.

One Year: February through April

To celebrate my first year in Peru, I am looking back at the past year. I am recalling the complicated journey that brought me here and seeing how things have changed over the last twelve months. 


February can be summarized as "the month where Meghan had a horrible attitude about everything". My papers were being pushed around in the Immigrations office of Central Lima and I was still waiting and waiting until I could begin work. Though the much anticipated work visa was near, I found no relief because the more I learned about the job I was waiting for, the more I dreaded my first day.

Once I got tired of my lonely girl pity parties, I decided to change my attitude and start by forcing myself to work on my Spanish. For so long I had been waiting for the "right time". Finally I said, "today´s the day". A little update on the Meghan vs. Javier war, I think I am gaining speed. Everytime he joins us for a meal, I put on my best brave Spanish speaker face and go for it. It´t not perfect, but I´m communicating. I haven´t heard "en español..." in a while. Point for Meghan.


Finally, after months and months of waiting, I recieved my work visa in the first week of March. It requiered spending six hours at the Immigrations office. As the closing hour approached, the clerk told me I had to come back the next day. I desperatly begged her to give me my visa that day. Her delay was more of a power play than anything else. Thankfully, my pathetic plea worked and I walked out with my visa.
In the middle of the month, I began work at the language institute. I was less than thrilled about this place of employment, but looked at it as Phase 1 of my employment in Lima. From that moment on, I used it as a foundation to apply elsewhere.

The rest of the month was defined by trying to adjust to my new schedule and the horrible fish stench that engulfs Lima mornings. But on the bright side, I learned what quaker means. You probably have some in your pantry right now.


While taking a tour at Huaca Pucullana

In April, things started to turn around. My dear friend Erin came for a visit and around that time my Spanish started improving. But probably the most exciting thing was that I got a new job! I real job! With steady hours and paid holidays! Hooray! One week later, I turned 23. Happy Birthday to me!

One Year: November through January

To celebrate my first year in Peru, I am looking back at the past year. I am recalling the complicated journey that brought me here and seeing how things have changed over the last twelve months. 


I landed in Lima on November 5th with high hopes of beginning work within the next four weeks. I came with all of my papers in order and was under a strict timeline in order to have everything submitted in time to work. Unfortunately, within the first week I realized that I wouldn't be working within one month. Things in Peru move at a different pace. A very slow, somewhat disorganized and inefficient pace. Most of this month I spent my time daydreaming about my work visa.

We celebrated Thanksgiving by making a Thanksgiving meal for Alvaro's family. It was a complete success! I was worried about their Peruvian palettes not taking to Thanksgiving flavors, but it went over well. Step one complete in bridging the cultural gap.


After one month of sitting around and waiting for my papers to go through, I became bored. I needed something besides reading blogs and practicing Spanish to give my life purpose, so I started teaching English. Very quickly, I learned how deep language barriers can run and tried my hand at describing a certain bodily function. Let's just say, I don't think I did a great job with my explanation.

The only things I saw in Lima, were the negative things. I began to resent all of the critical thoughts I was having. To get out of my funk, I began to look for things that I liked about Peru, thus Point for Peru was born.

Just as I decided to make an effort and really give Lima chance, all of my security was stolen from me. As I was sitting inside the language institute someone walked into the lobby, placed a piece of paper over my iPod and lifted it when he walked away. It's just an iPod and I was graciously gifted another one later that evening. The true trial of that experience was that it was already difficult for me to feel safe. But through that moment, I learned. I'm a more savvy expat now. Last week, I was checking recipes on my phone at the grocery store, when someone walked over to me, placed a piece of paper on my phone and began talking to me. I immediately crossed my arms and walked away. Alvaro laughed at my quick reaction, especially because this was an innocent encounter, but applauded my natural, Peruvian instincts. The day after this incident, an older Peruvian gentlemen show me kindness and his actions reminded me that not all Peruvians are like the one who stole from me.

My view on Christmas day- hello Christmas in summer!

In January, I finally found a yoga studio, which was a giant step forward in acclimating to my new surroundings. I admitted to myself that the difficulties I was having in Peru were attributed to my extreme culture shock. I was still waiting and waiting for my work visa. With each passing day, I grew more impatient. Finally, Alvaro pretended to be my lawyer in order to get some answers. His tactics worked because after signing a legal document full of lies and a grand adventure, my papers were submitted! Everything was sitting in the Ministry of Work. One of the last steps before making their way to Peruvian Immigrations.

Happy Peruiversary!

November 5th officially marked my one year anniversary with Peru. For one whole year I have been living this crazy expat life and I did it. I survived. I didn't go home. I'm even staying another year. Before I moved to Lima, I told people "I'll be there for one year, maybe two." At the time, one year seemed so long. It's amazing to me that it has actually passed.

Before I left Nashville, my dad gave me this bag of breadcrumbs
so I could "find my way home".   I haven't used them yet.
The anniversary passed rather quietly. I had plans to have a big lunch with Alvaro's family, but in the midst of moving, it simply didn't happen. I spent the day stumbling through my Spanish with the cable guys, asking the plumber, "Yes, I know this sink is beyond ancient, but can you still fix it?"and buying essentials, like bath mats and food. We celebrated by going to our favorite Japanese/Peruvian fusion restaurant and talking about the unlikely reality that is my first year in Peru.

I have lived in Lima for one year. This isn't a study abroad program and this isn't an extended vacation. This is where I have chosen to work and make my life. That sentence still catches me off guard. I'm excited about my upcoming year in Peru. If I were going back to the States at this point, I would be disappointed. I feel like my time here isn't quite up. So here's to my second year in Peru.

To celebrate my first year in Peru, over the next few days I will be looking back at the year in review and how things have changed in the last twelve months. Stay tuned!

Moving, moving.

Finally, the last box is unpacked. Who knew one could acquire so many things in one year? I came here with three suitcases and a cat. I moved with four suitcases, seven boxes and a cat. Everything is in its place. Now I need to finish off with the things I deem necessary but evidently my land lady doesn´t deem necessary for a furnished apartment. Like a paper towel holder and bathmats and a dish drying rack that is well designed. Oh yes, and the internet and cable.

The cable isn´t that crucial. But internet, that´s serious. I´ve been internet-less for one week now (hence the lack of productivity here on Lady in Lima). I have never been more thankful for my iPhone and its internet. That is until last Friday when my iPhone was flooded by a rouge water bottle and I saw the flashing white light of my phone heading off to the iCloud. On Friday, I was completely internet-less. No contact with the world wide web. With a last shred of hope, I used a blow dryer to dry it out and my phone spent the night in rice. The next morning, a saw a faint screen. I plugged it in and it was alive! An iPhone miracle! There was a small water mark on the screen that eventually dried out over the last few days and now it´s like nothing happened. Thank you, Apple & dear Steve Jobs, for your amazing technology.

My cable company came last Saturday to install the antennae. The guy tried to install it on the roof for thirty minutes and then left to "go get something from [his] car". Five minutes later, Alvaro got a phone call from the company saying that the techinican left because he can´t reach the place to put the antennae since it is "out of normal height range". They would be happy to send another technician to install the system once we found "a tall enough later for him to reach it". Hm. Forgive me for thinking that was his responsibilty.

Needless to say, I´m switching to digital cable which doesn´t require an antennae and thus an extra tall ladder.

We are settling in. Miss Emmaline loves all the extra space and I am constantly amazed at the enormity of my apartment. It´s only 90 square meters, but easily double the size of my last place. Walking from the kitchen to my bedroom takes an eternity! And the best part? For the first time since December 2008, I have laundry in my apartment. Cheers all around!