Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Peruvian Wedding, Followed by a Flood.

Saturday, the 13th

My family and I were on our way, bright and early in the morning to Baranca, a city about 3 1/2 hours up north from Lima to go to a family wedding. I was extremely excited that I had the opportunity to witness a Peruvian wedding- I was looking forward to seeing if there were any cultural differences/traditions. As soon as we arrived to Baranca, we ate lunch at a Cevicheria on the beach. If that isn't a fresh source of fish, I don't know what is. It wasn't a surprise that I scarfed down my limey, salty, spicy pile of fish, octopus, onions, corn and a variation of sweet potatoes... I am a proud member of the "Clean Plate Club". After finishing my plate, I quickly joined my niece on the beach. We played a game, the idea: how much sand could she throw at me while I tried to escape the gritty doom?

Fast forward several hours to the wedding (all I did was take a nap before it): the bride wore a beautiful white dress, the typical wedding dress that you think of, longggg train and all. Overall, I didn't understand much of what was being said, but there was a lot of praying, it went like this: stand up, pray, sit down, pray, stand up, pray, pray some more, keep standing, sit back down. It was a very traditional Catholic wedding. Despite this factor, the wedding wasn't as long as I feared it would be, everyone wanted to get to the reception! At the end, when they put on the rings, they didn't say any personal vows, which I thought was interesting- they just read a line from some book and that was over. The bride and groom also didn't kiss each other at the end. While walking out of the church after the couple, we were all given rice to throw at them... I immediately thought of the birds. This being my first time at a wedding where they decided to throw rice, I decided to throw it anyway, and trying to mostly project it at the couple in their get-away car. What's the origin of the rice throwing anyway?

The reception: after the couple arrived, they did their dance and then there was a toast. I tried my first Pisco Sour (a delicious Peruvian alcoholic beverage and popular for good reason)! My cousin, Andrea, pulled me out of my chair and dragged me behind her. I didn't know what was going on and I kept asking "que pasa?!" (what's happening), but she wouldn't answer. She made us stop in the middle of the floor about 15 feet behind the married couple. I realized what was happening when other girls started to join us behind the bride; it was the bouquet toss! After much narration from the MC and me being pushed around from my cousin to stand in the right place, I started to get the feeling that I was meant to catch it. Sure enough, the bride threw it directly at me, and no one else even reached for it. I was still excited nonetheless, it was a pretty bouquet, and a good keepsake from the wedding! However, then came more nariation from the MC, and I had a hard time breaking up his fast rambling. I was being directed to do something that I couldn't understand, so my first guess of what I was supposed to do was to stand next to the married couple to take a picture. Not only was I NOT supposed to do this, I tripped on the rug and bumped into the groom and everyone laughed hysterically. After my family motioned for me to go stand next to the MC, I found myself in even a worse situation: he was rambling, rambling, rambling, and next thing I knew it, there was silence and I was holding the microphone. "Oh fuck," was what I thought to myself. After this thought, I started to ramble myself, saying things like "what a nice day..." and "I'm sorry that I don't know that much Spanish." (all in poor Spanish of course) I concluded with, "Estoy emocionada para ti," (I'm excited for you) and gave the microphone back to the MC who then concluded the event with (in a talk show host voice), "Ella es muyyyy emocionadaaaaaaa!!" (she is very excited). I rushed back to the comfort of my seat, and then also realized that I forgot to give them congratulatory kisses. I was the most ungraceful mess, it was ridiculous.

With that being said, for the rest of the night I was insanely graceful, dancing in high heels from about 10pm to 5:30 in the morning! I learned some more salsa moves from a hottie and I was shown up by the grannies at the party- who were daring each other to ask grandpapies to dance and having beer chugging contests and generally were the most rambunctious. It was the cutest thing. I didn't fall asleep until 6 in the morning, and then was awoken 3 hours later because the men wanted to keep partying- more beer, more loud music. I didn't join them, instead I went out to breakfast at a local market, then went to the beach where I had fun trying to catch a crab. I also tried to teach my family about purple sea urchins because I had found a dead and an alive one, which they thought they were trash or rocks (it wasn't that successful though, thank you Spanish).

Sunday, the 14th

After returning from the wedding with 2 cakes and all covered in sand, I was ready to do laundry. Everyone else decided to take naps during this time, and I decided that it would be great if I could do my laundry by myself because I felt confident that by then, I knew how. After loading it, connecting the hose to the washer, selecting the correct cycles, it was all ready to go! I returned to my room to continue doing random tasks. About 50 minutes later, 10 minutes short of my laundry being ready, I heard my name being tossed around downstairs- and not in a good way. I rushed down stairs because I had a feeling that something went wrong with my laundry; perhaps I put in too much soap and created the movie scene that every kid has dreamed of having: bubble heaven! Instead, I stopped on the last step of my stairs because there was water on the floor. "Ohhhhh nooooo," was my thought as I stepped into the puddle to see the rest of the damage: the kitchen was a swimming pool, as well as the back patio and part of the living room.

My jaw dropped open, and I stood there in silence while my family stared at me. "Lo siento Mama! Disculpame!" (I'm sorry mom, forgive me), was all I said repeatedly. My mom simply responded with "Hija, porque tu no preguntame? Porque no? Mida,"(daughter, why do you not ask me? Why not? Look) as she kept pointing out the water- like without her hand motion, I wouldn't have noticed the water. My parents swept the water into the drain, while me and my host sister were on the ground with our rags and a bucket. Even though my parents didn't seem to find it that amusing, my host sister seemed to agree that it was a funny scenario by making comments like "your clothes were really dirty," and "the floor will be extra clean now!" Later I confirmed this theory by asking when we were alone if she thought it was funny and she said yes, but she didn't want it to happen again. It took over an hour and a half and at one point up to 4 people to clean it up all the way.

The reason why the laundry flooded: I did everything right, except I forgot the easiest and most important part which was to connect the other end of the hose to the drain pipe.

At the end of the cleaning, I shared with my host mom that I had just found out that I was switching host families in January. Surprising myself, I started to cry as I told her details and how I wanted to keep living with them, and then she gave me a hug. She said that they would try to help me stay with them, because they loved me too (despite the flash flood in their house). I told her that I doubted that I would be allowed to stay with them, everyone has to switch families, and she simply said, "When there is a problem, there's a solution. Always. Look at this problem from your laundry... what did we do? We created a solution. We'll create a solution for this too, don't worry." I replied with "gracias" and we finished drying the floor.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In Summary.

I'm glad to announce that I'm not blowing off posting blogs, I just have been really busy! A month is a lot to write about, so I'm going to bunch everything into categories.

School: Around the last time I posted in my blog, I had finals. This was my first time actually having finals (coming from a school that did presentations and transcripts instead of exams)! I failed all of them miserably (scoring is from a 0-20, 12 and up is passing), my highest score was in English, and then Spanish was next ironically (I'm really good at filling in bubbles). My next highest score was in Geometry at 8 points. I feel confident though for my next set of finals, I will average at least 10-15 (instead of before which was averaging at 5). I understand a lot more of what's going on, and I can actually do some homework! It still takes a longer time than the average student, and it's not that high in quality, but it's enough to get a good score. The school and my family knows that I'm trying and I actually am completing work so I think everyone is happy with me- I'm happy with myself! Generally, I have mixed emotions about school: some days I love it, and others, I hate it. However, when I am in a negative mood about school, there's always good timing with a positive influence. Sometimes it's a teacher being extra nice and understanding about my situation, example: my Literature teacher gave me a book in Spanish that is also translated into Quechua- an original language from Peru. Or a friend: Grecia (my bff in school) is pushing me to practice twice as hard with my Spanish with her (I have a separate notebook where I write sentences everyday, write down verbs and their tenses, and vocabulary) because we only have a month and a half left together in school. Unfortunately, 2 of my favorite teachers were fired, one was my advisor and the other was a math teacher, who every time he saw me in the hall would shout "HEY! Jamica, what's up? What's hapennin'?!" Almost forgot to mention: my graduation is on the 3rd of December, and my prom is on the 4th (even though I have school afterwards until the 17th...). I do have a prom date, but I still need to get my dress. I've never had a school prom before; I'm excited!

Rotary: Over the month of October, I've been dealing with my visa and my insurance. Because of a lot of confusion due to miss-understanding, it was all a lot more stressful and dragged out longer than it needed to be, but it's over now, finally. There was a day full of tours and the high light was the tour of the President's palace- it was really pretty, and big! I finally have news about my first big trip in Peru; I'll be going to Cusco (Machu Pichu), Puno (Lake Titicaca), and Arequipa from the 21st to the 29th of November! Pricey, but exciting!

Trip to Mala: My first trip outside of Lima for a day, a small town about an hour & 1/2 south outside of the city. I went with an exchange student and her family to visit a family friend who has a mini-farm (pigs, roosters, ducks, and a turtle) and an apple orchard! The town itself didn't look any different than the more run down parts of Lima. However the difference was that it had fields of produce!

Trip to Haucho (Huaral): I went on a 3 day, 2 night trip to Haucho (almost 3 hours up north and on the coast) with about half of the other exchange students. The first day, we stopped half way to Haucho in Huaral to visit the Castilla de Chancay (a castle), and then we went to a hippie colony! We received tours of both, but I found the Hindu based colony a lot more interesting. They grow their own organic vegetables, use the wind for power, the sun to heat their water, and so much more! Me and a couple of other exchange students want to go volunteer there for a week. (Look at my photos to see what it looked like!) In Huaral, I tried a popular dish from there: sangrecita- cow blood with rice, usually eaten with camote (sweet potatoes) and pan (bread). 1st taste wasn't horrible, but the after taste made me want to scrape my taste buds off. As of today, I've eaten cow stomach, liver, lungs and blood, and I still haven't eaten all of the popular inside-of-cow food here! I'm going to be a vegetarian when I get back, I swear. Back to the trip. We camped out in the front yard of a host family, went to two different beaches, played games and had a bbq with the local Rotaract club, received a tour of Caral (ruins of the oldest civilization in the Americas, 3rd oldest in the world), met the mayor of Haucho, and we were invited into the special circle for the weekly flag raising ceremony (one of the exchange students actually got to raise a flag)!

College: Lucky me- I get to apply to colleges while I'm in Peru. It's a little stressing, trying to balance my Peru life while trying to get ready for my life when I return to the US. Especially because I feel like I can't speak/write/spell in proper English as well anymore, but it's a good sign that I'm really picking up Spanish. It's going well though, I'm managing it, and I'm half way done!

Senor De Los Milagros: The month of October is dedicated to Senor De Los Milagros, also known as Jesus (as I've been told). There are several really big processions throughout the month in the street with hundreds of thousands of people (largest crowd I have EVER been in, kind of scary honestly), there's a marching band and a group of men carry a HUGE alter with a picture of Jesus and tons of flowers and candles (the procession I went to, my brother was one of the carriers- a big honor!) for many blocks into a church. This is a huge holiday in Peru, people participate in this also to ask for miracles (milagros). The colors to celebrate the month long holiday are purple and white, and the traditional food are Turrones- a dessert with layers of cookie and honey and the top is sprinkled with sugar candies. So delicious!

Race: One day in class, I was practicing Spanish with Grecia. We were interrupted by a student who put a picture of an African-American man on the screen of the computer for the class to see- the majority of the class laughed hysterically. I sat there puzzled, and I tried to listen through their laughter to see if anything was actually being said, but the picture was all they needed for their joke. I started analyzing the picture: it looked like an old portrait of an African-American during the slavery era, dressed in a uniform to fight in the war- during the time when they told men if they joined the army, they would receive their freedom. I then turned to Grecia and asked them why they were laughing, even though I feared I already knew. She looked at the picture and said "because they think he looks funny." I asked why they thought he looked funny; it was just an average picture. She said plain and simply: because he's black. I turned back to stare at them and the picture, I was in shock. "There are a lot of people in Peru that are racist, but they aren't. They're good people," she said to interrupt my silence because she could tell that I was upset. I turned back to stare at her and my jaw was hanging open, all I could think was: if that's not racist, then what is? She continued with "there are lots of tv shows in Peru that make fun of them and..." she couldn't think of the word, but I knew what she was talking about so I said it, "indigenous people." Before I came to Peru, I heard about one of the shows: a man who dresses up (including painting his skin) to look like a stereotypical Afro-peruvian man, and his other skit is to dress up like an indignous woman from the Andes. She confirmed that indigenous people were the other people and then went on to say, "people think it's funny, it's not racist, it's popular here." I immediately responded with "well, that wouldn't be popular from where I'm from," she was like "really?" and I nodded. I turned to look back at the screen and they switched the picture to Michael Jackson. While I was thinking about everything to say, Grecia got up and went to talk to other people, indicating she wasn't that interested in finishing the conversation. I was in a bad mood for the rest of class, thinking about the whole event. I thought of many questions like: if this doesn't cross the line for you, then what does? How far does someone have to go before you consider it to be racist? How can you make fun of indigenous people when you are descendants from them? Now, I'm dissapointed with myself for not trying harder to break through the language barrier and to try to continue the conversation when Grecia left me. Though this situation didn't end positively, I did learn more about the students in my class and it left me more motivated to re-contact (I emailed them before I came, but they never replied) the Afro-peruvian activist group that has been fighting to get those tv shows off the air.

Halloween: To end my blog on a more positive note, I had a really good Halloween- one of the best I've had yet! In the morning, I went to a cemetery with my host family where we met more members of the family to sit around the grave of the grandfather. Children walk around the graveyard with buckets of paint, water and brooms so you can pay them to clean up the grave. After the grave was swept and splashed with water, we lit candles, set up flowers and then poured a lot of water all over the grave (and later beer). We drank beer and ate cookies, (there are vendors and people who walk around selling snacks), and sat around for three hours enjoying ourselves. At night I hung out with my close exchange friends: we baked cookies, I taught more swing dancing, we carved pumpkins (and roasted the seeds!) and in the end, didn't end up going to bed until 5:30 in the morning. In general, Halloween isn't that popular; trick-or-treating exists just for little kids and they only go to businesses. Despite the lack of enthusiasm from the general public in Peru, we, the exchange students adapted well.