Mostly European

Most of my taxi drivers don't assume I'm American. They typically assume that I am from a Western European country, the most popular assumptions being France, England and Germany. The conversation usually begins with my driver asking if I'm German, then I smile and say that I am in fact from the States. Which then begins a conversation about Tennessee and whether or not it is close to Arizona or Texas. Um, not quite.

It seems to be a common occurrence among my expat friends. One of my friends has begun to keep track of the various countries he is "from" among them, Canada, France, Australia, Germany, Switzerland and England. But rarely the United States.

It's an interesting phenomena and I'm not sure of the cause. Maybe because I don't dress like an "American tourist" or because my accent is a neutral "foreigner accent" (I would love that!). Either way, I'll take it. It's refreshing to feel like I don't fall into any particular category. That I could easily be from any number of countries based on someone's prior assumptions and/or stereotypes. It makes me feel like I effortless adapt, change and find my place anywhere else in the world.

And most importantly, I love that people think I'm German. Ja, danke. 

Miss Meghan, Spanish Teacher

Today the Spanish teacher in my classroom was at an off-campus workshop so Miss Meghan filled in for español. Usually, when I lead Spanish class, I do it in English and only say Spanish words when absolutely necessary. This is mostly because I know that I make mistakes in Spanish and I know that I have an accent, which somehow makes me feel like less of an authority figure. And when I am standing in front of 23 kids, I need to emit authority.

I have no idea what happened today, but when it was time for Spanish class, Spanish came rolling off my tongue. So I went with it. I even scolded the children for their notoriously bad behavior in Spanish class compared to their English class. Which is unacceptable, I told them, because it's your native language.

The most difficult part of the class was when I had to give a Spanish spelling test. This test isn't just words, but complete sentences. To top it off, my students are learning the letter j, which is a tricky sound for an English speaker. And of course, nearly half of the words had a j. For example:

Julieta tiene un conejo. (Julia has a rabbit.)

La abeja me pico el ojo. (The bee stung my eye.)

This morning, I practiced with a Peruvian friend so she could correct my pronunciation. At the end of our practice session,  she said it sounded great (major confidence boost!).

I glanced at the tests and they all seemed to do fairly well, thankfully the mistakes they made didn't appear to come from my accent.

Hopefully, this Spanish roll will continue at my hair appointment this evening. I want to change my cut so I can no longer walk in a say, "The same!" I've been brushing up on my haircut vocabulary and I trust my stylist enough to know that we will somehow meet in the middle.

Missing Consonant

As part of our unit on water, yesterday we visited a 1950s submarine that is docked at Lima's main port in Callao. All of our children were brave and climbed down the scary looking ladder. The oohed and awwed over the bunk beds, tiny shower and mannequins stuffed into the kitchen. They courageously made it through the fake explosion, complete with loud sirens, red lights and a fire made of fabric.

As were standing on top of the submarine getting ready to leave, one cute boy showed off his English language skills:

Juan Diego: "Miss Meghan, I know how to say rascacielos in English."
Me: "You do? What is it?"
Juan Diego: (enthusiastically) "Skycrapper!"
Me: "No, Juan Diego, it's skyscraper!"

I adore my inquisitive, energetic, curious and fearless first graders. What an adorable age!

Organic Market

I am embarrassed to admit that it has taken over nineteen months for me to make it to Lima's organic market. But better late than never, right?

I heard about the market months before when I was living with a friend of mine and had plans to go several times, but it seemed that something else always came up. Finally, this morning it worked out and I went to check it out with a few friends.

Before arriving, I knew that I wanted to buy eggs.  Ever since our trip to Ica, when we passed countless chicken farms along the coast, I have been feeling guilty about my non-organic eggs. Not only did I find eggs, but goat cheese and greek yogurt. What a sweet victory because those are difficult finds in Lima. I also bought a few tomatoes and cucumbers with visions of Greek food dancing in my head.

After making our purchases, we walked through the park and found two yoga classes, a tai chi class and what appeared to be a baby and daddy music class. It's a beautiful park that's not overrun by tourists, which is a nice change. Everything felt very community focused and I loved being a part of the community, no matter how briefly.

I think I have found my new Saturday morning routine- produce shopping at the organic market followed by yoga in the park. And lots and lots of Greek food.

Lima Wedding

As far as cultural milestones are concerned, weddings are a pretty big one. Between the bridal brunch and wedding, I now feel like I have been fully inducted into Peruvian culture.

It was a beautiful day for a Lima winter wedding and the white stone hacienda served as the perfect backdrop. The couple was married in a small chapel with their closest family while the rest of the guests waited outside. After the ceremony we were treated to a Peruvian Paso Horse show (my favorite!) and a beautiful parade of pisco sours and delicious appetizers. We then moved to the reception which took place under a large white canopy which was full of people and alcohol. Pisco sours on arrival, wine for each table, rum for each table, personalized bottles of pisco and glasses of champagne flowing freely.

I ate my weight my Peruvian food and then danced it off latina style. The best compliment I received was, "Meghan, you don't look like a gringa!"The picture above is from the hora loca or "crazy hour" which takes place at every Peruvian wedding. It's full of silly hats, noise makers, balloons and often times clowns and people on stilts. Check out the newlyweds behind me!

The only surprise tradition was when it came time for the garter toss. In Peru, once the garter is removed, the groom chooses an (un)lucky couple to take their place center stage and the male then places the garter on his significant other. The beautiful bride had not one, not two but ten garters, meaning that ten couples were chosen for this honor. Alvaro and I were spared the embarrassment but our newly engaged friends were not.

It was a wonderful day full of sunshine, friends, family and lots of love. My perfect introduction to Peruvian weddings.  Congratulations to the newlyweds!

Bridal Brunch

Over the course of the last year and a half, I have received a slow induction to Peruvian culture and today I crossed another milestone: Peruvian wedding festivities.

When I was invited to the brunch, I was flattered but slightly confused. I have been around the bride only a handful of times. I work with her mom and we also have a mutual friend, but I didn't feel like we were close enough to merit an invite. I was thrilled to be invited but also terrified when reality hit me: I know nothing about Peruvian weddings.

One day this week, on the way to school, the teacher I ride with gave me a full introduction to Peruvian wedding traditions. I asked her every question I could think of: What do I wear? Do I bring a gift? How long does this last? Do I show up on time or on "Peruvian time"?

Thankfully we had that conversation because otherwise I would have gone about this all wrong. I would have brought a present, not money which is expected. I would have called with an RSVP which isn't necessary. I would have showed up at 10am and probably been the only one there.

This was unlike the small, intimate bridal lunch I had imagined. We walked into the second floor of a restaurant and were greeted by over one hundred smiley, ecstatic women. A friend of mine came with me and we were seated at one of the two tables reserved for people from the school. As we looked around we noticed that we were the youngest ones, by at least two decades. But it didn't matter, we snacked on sandwiches and discussed the history of the school. The sweet, elderly religion teacher flagged down a waiter to order my first algarrobina- a cocktail made with pisco and the syrup of a Peruvian tree.

There was lots of hugging and smiles. Lots of chatting and excitement regarding the upcoming nuptials. When the groom arrived with a dozen roses, the whole room squealed in unison. I looked around and felt comfortable, the check kissing and the excitement feels natural. What once would have terrified me- a room full of 100 chatty Peruvian women- now feels like second nature. I now have one more milestone in my extensive training on how to be semi-Peruvian.