Monday, August 16, 2010

School & Other Updates

I have a best friend from my class. Couldn´t spell her name for ya, but it sounds similar to Greece (I have this joke in my head that my class is like the United Nations because her name sounds like Greece, mine Jamaica, and this other boy´s sounds like Israel). She is conversational in English, so she helps me with Spanish, and I help her with English. She was the same girl that I sat next to on my first day who also shared her toilet paper with me. On Wednesdays we have PE. My first Wednesday I didn´t have the athletic uniform, so she brought an extra pair of pants to school for me to wear- she is too nice. My experience in school would be really different with out her. Also on Wedneday after school, a bunch of girls invited me to go play volleyball in a park with them, which I gladly accepted- my first time being out of the house without a family member!

As the days have gone by, I have noticed and learned more things about this school that is SO different from my former. In fact, I will go as far as to say that it is the exact opposite. It reminds me of a military function sometimes... some examples: at the beginning and end of PE there is a roll call where everyone has a number, not a name (for it, I was nameless and numberless), and when your number is called you have to stand and make yourself present. When we´re done with PE in the courtyard, we have to do this salute thing while the coach screams "1,2,3,4" (in english too), we have to do different body motions corrisponding to each number. It´s simple and easy, I learned it the first time (after having my bff show me). Not to mention, when ever we have to make a line, we have to make two, boys and girls. When a new teacher walks into the room, a student yells "attention!" and everyone has to stand next to their desk and greet the teacher. Eventually, when the teacher decides, they tell the kids to sit back down. Last thing that I can think off of the top of my head: If the teacher is in the room before you (usually happens after lunch, before class even starts), you have to wait in the doorway and ask for permission to enter the classroom and then they will wave you in. I learned this the hard way after lunch one day. I was with my group of girls that I always hang out with, and upon approaching the door, I kept walking and they came to an abrupt hault. My bff grabbed me by the shoulder of my sleeve and yanked me back as hard as she could. When I was back at her side, she was still holding tightly on to me, and in a stern whisper, she explained this rule. Finally when the teacher let us in, we laughed while I rubbed my arm.

I have 20 classes: Geometry, Algebra, Trigonometry, Arithmatic, English, Spanish, Universal History, Peru History, Literature, Logic, Philosophy, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Politics, PE, Religion, a class that´s like advisement I think... ? A class period on every Monday dedicated just for taking exams for all of the classes, and some other math class that I don´t know what it is in English. 7 of these classes I have twice a week, and the rest is just once.

On Friday, my 2 hour english class was cancelled. When I found this out from my friend, I screemed "noooooooo!" and turned and started banging my head and fists on my desk. After my fit, I sat up and looked around the classroom. The WHOLE class, including the teacher that had just walked in, was in complete silence and staring at me. My mouth dropped open from pure embarassment and fear that the teacher was going to yell at me. I turned to my friend and as soon as we made eye contact we busted out laughing, and continued for the rest of class. Near by kids started laughing and other kids wanted in on the laughter... the teacher just started talking with other students about me because she didn´t know who I was- talk about a good first impression.

The language barrier has been really frustrating at times, but more often than not, it usually ends in laughter. For instance, one of my books that I write my spanish words and phrases in was being passed around in class (this happens every day). I had a sentence in it that had the wrong word for what I meant. The sentence said "no hablo español, pero estoy molesta". I was trying to say "I don´t speak spanish, but I´m trying", but the word for trying was wrong, instead of molesta, which is angry, it needed to be tratando. My friend who read it gave me a strange looking expressing that she was confused. I didn´t know the correct word so she was trying to describe it to me through cherades by making an angry face, clenching her fists and "grring". We both started laughing like hyenas and I said "no entiendo", because it looked like she was constipated. She finally used my dictionary and we resolved the problem, I was saying "I don´t speak spanish, but I am angry". Since then, we have made constant jokes about the words molesta and tratando. I have many more spanish/english stories to share some other time.

Odds & ends: I have come to a conclusion- when I can´t say something in Spanish and need to say it in English, I will speak with a british accent. I will come home knowing three more languages, sign language, spanish and a proper british accent. I cracked myself up with this theory.
I bought my first lunch today by myself (my friend used to buy it for me)! This is huge! The scene is soooo chaotic, hungry kids crowding around the small window to a tiny hut containing their stomach´s desires, screaming at the women who are serving. You have to wedge your way to the front and first get their attention "Señora, señora!" Once they look at you, you have to quickly say what you want (as they have hundreds of mouths to satisfy), and money ready in hand. I had what I had to say written on a piece of paper, which all of my school friends laughed at me for, and I pushed myself up to the front, saying "Señora". apparently I wasn´t being assertive enough, so my friend screamed it for me. Finally, I got my reward: a chicken sandwhich! I am looking forward to doing it tomorrow, with out the piece of paper.
My name is still a popular topic of discussion.
I am looked at as the "wierd American" because I don´t like Hannah Montana, Justin Bieber or the Jonas Brothers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

First Day of School


While walking to school (only 3 short blocks from my house) this morning, I was thinking that my day was already off to a bad start: my host mom made me drink a steaming hot cup of milk, but at least I managed to add hot chocolate to it. When me, my mom and a school official were walking up the stairs to my classroom, I suddenly felt the urge to grab my mom by the sleeve of her jacket and beg her to let me not go to school, I didn´t want her to leave my side (despite our previous milk disagreement). I kissed her goodbye and turned and stood in the doorway next to my first teacher of the day. She asked me if I wanted to speak in Spanish or English and after pausing for a second and quickly thinking between the two options, I replied: Español por favor. She smiled and together we entered the classroom; it was loud and all eyes were on me. Through a group of tall boys who were yelling at each other, a short girl poked her head through and yelled "Hola! Como te llamas?" I shouted my name back and she replied with, "it´s nice to meet you," and I said the same, but in Spanish. I looked around at the rest of the class and loudly said "Buenos dias!" and to my surprise, I received several positive responses. A girl from the far side of the classroom motioned to have me sit next to her since there was an empty seat. As I sat down, the teacher introduced me to the class and I found myself sitting there, in a rather positive state of mind- I was happy to be there.

During class, I was bombarded with questions from the surrounding girls, most of which I didn´t understand. Of course, with introductions one´s name comes up and at this moment all of the students were trying to say my name. After saying it countless times, spelling it and trying to relate my name to some words that they would know, there were a couple of students who were close enough. I told them I had a weird name and they all happily agreed.

When a new teacher would walk into our room, the girls would tell me if they thought that teacher was good or not, I´m glad to report that most of them received good remarks. About half of the teachers recognized that I was a new student, the other half didn´t look at me twice because they thought that I was Peruvian. When I introduced myself to all of my teachers (I have about 13 different ones), most of them gave me approving smiles, and some asked a million and one questions, especially the 4 that are conversational in English.

I quickly noticed how close my class seemed to be, but I guess that´s hard not to do when you share one classroom with the same kids all day, every day. The schedule is interesting and it´s hard to keep up with. We are allowed one 20 minute break at 11:00, which is a snack break (the students eat lunch after school past 2:30) where we get to leave the classroom, other than that, we are required to stay in the same classroom from 7:30-2:30. Between subjects, we don´t actually have an official break, just the time it takes for the teacher to get to our classroom. during these moments, the classroom becomes chaotic due to everyone wanting to jump out of their seats and screw around for the short time that they don´t have adult supervision. All of the breaks included the students jumping out of their seats and surrounding mine. No matter where I looked, I saw the retched uniforms- so awful. I felt a little bit like an animal in a zoo, but I, unlike most zoo animals, actually enjoyed the cage that I was in... it was welcoming and fun.

During one of my classes, a man interrupted it to make an announcement. To my surprise he started off with, "This announcement is for English speaking students, if you don´t know English, you probably don´t understand me righ now anyway." My heart started racing, and I still didn´t know what his actual announcement was about. "There will be our annual Christmas Carol in December and we are currently casting ENGLISH SPEAKING students only for our play, Beauty and the Beast. If you are interested in acting in this play, come to the English office after school this week and you will try out then. Have a good day." You can bet I´ll have a good day! I was so happy to hear this announcement and other students shared their excitement with me, encouraging me to try out and offering to take me to the office after school. The announcement was too good to be true, but I was very confused as to why they were having a play in English, considering most of the teachers and students don´t know it.

Odds & ends:
The bathrooms have no toilet paper, you have to bring your own. No one told me this, so after making this observation on my own before I actually used the restroom, I walked back out to the courtyard and asked the girl that took me under her wing for some. I didn´t know the name for toilet paper in Spanish but I tried anyway, "donde esta el papel del baño?" (where is the paper of the bathroom), in response she pulled out a wad of toilet paper from her pocket and gave me half.

Many schools here have the "Olympics", where each classroom is a different country and they all compete against each other in various sports on every Saturday of September. I plan on participating it it, but I´m annoyed to say that the girls only have three sport options (basketball, running, and volley ball) as compared to the guys who have much more. Every student gets to pick two.

Last, there is a prom, that´s all I know about it. I am in "fifth" grade (12th in the US), and I am "graduating" in December, after that, I´m supposed to go to a university with most of the other exchange students. This is just a rumor that I know of right now, so I´m not getting my hopes up for anything. I get to have 2 graduations!? Dope.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

General Observations/ First Impressions

To start things off, here is the link where I´m posting my pictures from Peru, so check it occasionally to see more photos (I will announce if there is anything super duper exciting to check out):

Family: My niece is the cuttest little girl ever. For those of you that have seen Monsters Inc. she looks exactly like Boo, and acts like her sometimes. I love it every time she calls me Tia (I don´t think I´ll ever actually be an aunt from home, haha).
The first actual day that I was here, I met my abuela (grandma) and some other members of the family, and they are all very sweet. At one point, me, my grandma, my mom and my brother were standing in the cocina (kitchen) and my grandma asked me if my mom was sad that I was gone. After translation from my brother, I said si. She then asked if I was sad, and I said si. At that point, my mom turned around and embraced me in a big hug, and after pulling away she put her hand on my cheek and spoke quickly in spanish. Even though I did not understand what she said, I understood the support that she was giving me, and I appreciated it.

Food: The food here is fantastic! There is always rice, potatoes or yuca served at every meal. I have loved every meal that I have eaten here, and I can´t wait to learn how to cook food like this so when I get home I can share it with everyone. I did have my first interesting food experience though, let me tell you. For lunch a several days ago, we had what looked like pasta, with beef, and on the side a potatoe and meat dish. I assumed that the meat with the potatoes was beef as well, but as I found out a couple of days later, I wasn´t quite right. After taking several bites of this ingrediant I wasn´t sure about, I knew that it wasn´t beef. It´s texture was a little bit more chewy, it had a whole lot of viens/other internal looking qualities of it, and the taste wasn´t very beefy. I knew that I was eating something from the inside of an animal, but I wasn´t sure what exactly. I tried to keep this off of my mind while I ate, because I was afraid that I might have some awful gag reflex. But with each bite, I could not keep it from my mind. So, I ate. And I ate some more. The problem with lunch here, is that it´s the biggest meal of the day, so there was no escaping the quantity of this internal organ that I had to eat. It didn´t taste BAD persay, but it didn´t taste like the best damn thing I have ever eaten in my whole life, either. The thing that was the most confusing to me was that there was SOOO much of it, and there were six of us eating our own seperate portions. While eating, I was going through all of the organs in my head to see if any of them would match up with the amount that we were all consuming. I canceled out the possiblities of: hearts (not chewy enough anyway), tounges, livers, and gizzards (haha). I had no idea what I was eating, but I knew that I didn´t want to ask while I was eating. A couple of days later, I remembered to ask my brother. We had: Chanfainita, in english this is known as: cow stomach. Boy oh boy, was I surprised! This is a delicacy of Peru that I did not know about as I thought it stopped at cow hearts and guinea pigs. Cows have more than one stomach... and I´m sure they are big to begin with... this would explain the abundance of it. Moo.

City: The first thing that I noticed in the city were all of the trees here. Most of which I have never seen anything like. I love them, and I want to start documenting them. The second thing that I noticed were the colorful houses. Many of the houses are painted in bright oranges, blues, reds and pink even! There is this particular hillside that we have passed a couple of times now, and almost every house is a bright color. I am captivated by it each time we pass because many houses are colors you would never see on a house in the US. I´m loving the brightness of the city. Currently, this is the only bright thing in the city because the sun hasn´t been out yet. I have been here for almost a week and I still haven´t seen the sun. It is driving me insane! The advertising here is really only for political stuff (or Peruivian things, which is nice), there are a LOT of KFC´s, McDonalds, Dunkin´Donuts (more than Colorado), Pizza Huts and Starbucks. And there is a surpisgnly large amount of stray dogs, and a small amount of dandilions.

Me: I am surprised with how relaxed I have been. I am not sick yet, which for all of those who have traveled with me, know this is HUGE. Normally I get sick within the first couple of days, but I don´t even have a sniffle! I have been going with the flow, now more than ever, which is also a big change for me. My daily planner was booked until the very second that I left last Wednesday, but since I have been in Peru, every day is blank. Granted, I can´t really plan much here, not yet anyway... but it is a nice feeling to not have to pay attention to the time, and when I get home, I hope to find the balance between "go with the flow", and an organized schedule.
Last, I have been amazing myself every day with the amount of effort I am putting in to speaking spanish. I am not getting too frustrated, yet, and I´m not embarrassed or shy to try to speak in my spanglish with other exchange students, my family or other peruvians. I am more open with my spanish here, then I was at home, practicing with my friends. I am content with where I´m at right now.