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.