Peruvian Culture

Food

I have been loving the food here in Peru! I eat most of my meals with my host family, and my host mom Carmen is a great cook. My breakfast typically consists of bread, called pancito, with either eggs or avocado, some fruit, and tea or coffee. I think I’ve drunk more tea since I’ve been in Peru than I have in my whole life before this combined; I usually drink at least 3 cups a day!

When I am at school, we always have a break from 10:00-10:30. This is also designated snack time; I feel like I’m back in kindergarten! I come home from school every day to eat lunch at around 1:00. My typical lunch is any variation of a dish made of potatoes, rice, vegetables, and meat. I eat so many potatoes here! Good thing they are one of my favorite foods.

Because the altitude in Cuzco causes digestion to be slower, many Peruvians do not eat a big dinner, maybe just some bread and tea. However, my host mom always feeds me dinner. Usually, I eat leftovers of what I had for lunch at dinnertime plus a dessert. My host mom loves to bake!

Although the food here is really good and also much fresher than the food I’m used to, I have started to miss certain foods from home. The other day, I was really craving some chili and cornbread, and right now, I could really go for some macaroni and cheese!

This is one of my favorite Peruvian dishes– Ají de gallina. It consists of chicken, rice, a boiled egg, and, of course, potatoes (I eat lots of foods with double carbs, haha!).
I love to treat myself to something sweet when I go to a cafe to do homework.
This is some soup I had at a local restaurant. What I thought was just a potato turned out to be a chicken foot!
This picture cracks me up (pun intended)! This was at a hotel before we went to Machu Picchu. I thought the egg was hard-boiled. It turns out that raw eggs are NOT, in fact, a common food in Peru; it was just a mistake from the kitchen!

Language

At first, the language barrier here was really intimidating, and I had some difficulties communicating. However, these past few weeks, I have definitely noticed an improvement in my Spanish-speaking abilities! I always eat meals with my host family and try to participate in their conversations. I usually at least understand the majority of what people are saying here, and most of the time, I can get the idea across of what I am trying to say (including a few grammar errors!). The other night, I had a conversation with my taxi driver, and we both understood each other so I felt pretty successful!

Most people in Peru speak Spanish as their primary language, but there are also over 40 indigenous languages! One of my classes is Quechua which is one of the official languages of Peru along with Spanish. Quechua is the second most commonly spoken language here. My host mom can understand it and speak a little bit of it; sometimes after class, she asks me what I learned of Quechua that day, and I always have a hard time remembering the words at that moment! My taxi driver also taught me a few new words the other day. Quechua is very different than any other language I have heard before. A lot of the words are very long and difficult to pronounce. Depending on the way you pronounce the word, it can mean something totally different! I now know some useful phrases in three languages:

I’m from Georgia. (English)

Soy de Georgia. (Spanish)

Georgiamantan kani. (Quechua)

The language has been the most difficult thing for me to adjust to in Peru, but I am learning so much every day. I am excited to continue this adventure of immersing myself in a new culture!

Other fun updates:

I signed up with some of my friends to take dance classes this month!

My group and I hiked the Camino Inca to Machu Picchu. It was literally the hardest physical thing I have ever done! But I made it, and the views were totally worth it.
My dream of taking a picture with a llama at Machu Picchu has come true!

My First Week in Peru

A view from Calca: I had to go on a scavenger hunt here to learn how to use the buses, called “combis.”

It was a long journey to Peru. During my overnight layover in the Lima airport, I thought I was lost at one point! After I went through customs (which is always a nerve-wracking experience), I was not sure where to pick up my suitcase or how to check-in for my connecting flight. Luckily, I found both of my bags and then located the person with an SIT sign who was extremely nice and helpful. She helped me check-in to my next flight and drop off my luggage. There were three other students from my group at the airport then, so I was happy I didn’t have to wait by myself for several hours. With 2 layovers and a 2.5-hour delay, I finally arrived in Cuzco early Monday morning. I was surprised at how cold it was when I walked outside of the airport! Since then, I have realized that the mornings are chilly but the afternoon sun is very strong and hot.

  • This is a dish called “causa.” It’s made with potato puree and avocado. I’ve been eating so many potatoes!

The first 5 days, I stayed at a hotel in the Sacred Valley, about 1.5 hours outside the city of Cuzco. The altitude there is almost 10,000 feet above sea level! I could definitely tell a difference in the way I felt on the first day by getting tired easily and feeling short of breath. The hotel was quite fancy and the food was very good, so in that regard, it has not been hard to adjust. Now, I am in Cuzco with my host family. I am living with an older couple and one of their sons. My host mom also has 6 siblings who live around here and come visit often. I was nervous to meet my family since I still struggle when speaking Spanish, but my host mom has been so sweet and helpful. She said that she likes having female students stay with her because she doesn’t have her own daughter, so I get to be her daughter for the next 3 and a half months!

This is my group that I will be with this semester! (I am the 4th one from the front on the right side.)

My study abroad group only consists of 11 students, so we have all become pretty close in just the few days that we have been in Peru. Having a tight-knit group of students has definitely been helpful in adjusting to my new home. I miss my friends from Wofford, but I already have many fun memories with my new amigos in Peru. Everyone I have met here so far has been very kind and open, especially the manager of the hotel restaurant (His name is Elvis, and I will miss him).

  • There are so many dogs in Peru. We are not supposed to pet them, but this one is so cute!

Since the food has been so good and the people so warm, the most difficult part of adjusting to the Peruvian culture has definitely been the language barrier. However, I can already see an improvement in my ability to understand when someone is speaking to me in Spanish. I know that living with a local family will be extremely beneficial in growing my confidence in speaking. I can’t wait to see how much I have improved come December!

Preparing for Peru!

Hola! My name is Jordan Holmes, and I am a junior at Wofford College majoring in Spanish and Psychology with a minor in Religion. This blog will where I document my semester abroad in Cuzco, Peru.

When I get to Peru, it will be my first time traveling below the equator!

So many countries, where to go?

As a Spanish major, I already knew I was going to spend a semester abroad, but with so many Spanish-speaking countries, it was difficult to decide where to go! In my previous Spanish classes at Wofford, we talked a lot about globalization and the importance of intercultural competence. When I saw this program in one of the catalogs during a meeting with the Office of International Programs, it immediately stuck out to me. The program I will be a part of emphasizes indigenous peoples and globalization and the maintenance of distinct cultural groups despite increasing interconnectedness. I will be studying Quechua, one of the native languages of Peru, as well as conducting my own independent study project on how indigenous communities in Peru are transforming in a rapidly changing global society.

One of my goals is to take a picture with a llama at Machu Picchu, haha!

Excited but also Nervous

Obviously, I am really excited to be spending a semester in Cuzco, Peru because it is truly an incredible opportunity. I have heard nothing but positive things from friends who have been to Peru before. I’ll be living in a city that is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World—who wouldn’t be excited about that? On the other hand, I am also feeling quite nervous. It is not travel that really concerns me; this year alone I have already spent two weeks in Morocco and a month in Greece. I am mostly worried about the language barrier. I have a decent grasp of reading and writing in Spanish but speaking and understanding is a different story. I know that being immersed in the language will help tremendously though. There is really no better way to learn, so I am excited to see how much my Spanish abilities improve over the next three and a half months.

Cuzco is a city among the Andes Mountains at an elevation of 11,000 feet. It was once the capital of the Incan Empire.

Expectations

I am really looking forward to living with a family in Cuzco because it will be very helpful not only for practicing my Spanish but also for allowing me to experience the local culture in a less touristic way (and for getting homecooked meals!). I am also excited about the travel I will get to do within Peru including hiking Machu Picchu, visiting Lake Titicaca, and exploring the Amazon. Aside from the many scheduled classes and excursions already planned for me, I also hope to get involved with a local church in Cuzco and learn more about what religion looks like for Peruvians.

This time next week, I will be in the middle of my flight from Atlanta to Peru—I have to start packing soon! I will miss being among the comfortable Wofford community, but I know that this semester will be so memorable and impactful. I can’t wait to start my journey!