Day one (Saturday): The Spoiled American
Day one consisted of travel only. All 31 of the teachers in this fellowship traveled to either Houston or Atlanta for the final flight to Lima. I was fine until the sixth hour of the flight. Until that point, I’d watched movies to keep myself occupied, but by the last hour, hour seven, I was done. I was moving my legs all around to keep my legs from cramping. I survived, but I landed feeling like an old lady with creaky bones. Once in the airplane terminal, I was surprised by the number of American restaurants. There were McDonald’s, Burger King, Popeye’s, Starbucks, and Duncan Donuts. Who knew? By the time we got to the hotel it was pushing 2:00 a.m. I walked in, and the spoiled American in me was awakened. There was no elevator, so we had to haul our bags upstairs. There was no one to say, “I’ll get your bags for you, ma’am.” Once inside, the spoiled American found that there was only one electrical outlet in the room. It was the one that the lamp was plugged into, and we couldn’t plug in anything else without losing power. I had my power converter, but still, there was one outlet and nowhere to plug things in the bathroom. However, probably the most significant things that we Americans take for granted are water and an advanced sewage system. We were told that we should not drink any tap water. There was bottled water for brushing our teeth, and in Peru, people do not flush toilet tissue. The shower was a cool one–no hot shower like we’re used to. Around 3:00 a.m., we went to bed, tired, excited that we were in Peru, and feeling enlightened to the fact that Americans have expectations that others in the world don’t have. I realized that I was going to have to open my mind a little more to fully appreciate my global learning experience.
Day Two: (Sunday)
We traveled to Larco Museum to learn about ancient Peruvian culture and art. We were given a tour of the storage for the museum which consisted of cases and cases of ancient pottery from many different regions of Peru. I was struck by the fact that the ceiling was cracked open, almost like a sunroof, and I wondered whether they worry about ruining the pieces from the rain. Apparently, the country only gets about 2-3 inches of rain per year. There are many open structures because rain just isn’t an issue. There are beautiful flowers all around the museum that are watered through a sophisticated irrigation system. Inside, I was blown away by the pottery and artwork. Much of it was ceremonial. There were tools used in human sacrifice, vessels for drinking, and shields and jewelry worn by the elite. Afterwards, we took a trip to Para Peru, (spelling?) a restaurant that serves Peruvian Creole food. The food was really good. The restaurant was crowded, and then it occurred to us that although it’s winter in Peru, it was Father’s Day for them as well. Looking around, I saw families treating their dads. There were gifts and cards and bags on tables. The father at the table in front of me had a bag that said, “We love you, Papa,” and Papa was surrounded by kids and grandkids. Then, we were treated to a performance as we ate. It was a battle dance between good and evil. Girls in white danced as guys in masks danced as well. It was neat to see how another culture celebrated fathers. It’s much like how Americans celebrate dads. Later, we ended the night with dinner at Costa Verde, a restaurant right by the ocean. It was so great to be able to hear the waves outside as we ate. This is definitely something I can’t experience at home. I loved it.
We took a visit to the General Motors office in Peru. The manager discussed with us his own personal background as well as the education system in Peru and what his company expects in employees. We learned about informal and formal employees. Not many people go to college here, 44%, and those who do, major in fields that aren’t popular. There are many college-educated people who can’t find jobs, so they take informal jobs that don’t offer benefits. GM has many job opportunities for college students who need internship credit and steady employment. When we asked about qualities he looks for in employees he mentioned strong communication skills, willingness to learn, open mindedness, and the ability to think analytically. I quickly wrote that down and noticed that none of those can be measured by standardized tests. Also, there are many private schools in Peru that employ trained teachers. Of course, students have to pay for this type of education. Public school teachers don’t have to have a degree. They are only paid $400-$500 per month and don’t live in the best neighborhoods. As you can imagine, public school education in Peru leaves much to be desired, but the country does want to improve its system.
We left GM and explored downtown Lima. The architecture is beautiful. Our guide, Victor, said that downtown is their Washington D.C. The most interesting part of the tour was the visit to the Catholic Church dedicated to St. Francis of Assi. It was founded in the 1600’s, and we saw original artwork and woodwork. The church is huge and beautiful, but photos weren’t allowed. We visited the catacombs under the church, and it is believed that over 20,000 people were buried there. We had to walk way down underneath the building. There were bones all around us piled up. It’s possible that there could be another layer of bodies that hasn’t been discovered. I felt like an archeologist or maybe Indiana Jones going into very sacred places.