I am happy to report that this week has been pretty kick ass.
The flying-high feeling was prompted by a four day trip I took to the hot and blue-skied northern coast of Perú, all by myself (last Friday to Monday). At first I was planning on going with at least one other person, but plans changed around and plane tickets went up, and so I found myself heading out last Friday morning on my own to explore Trujillo, Chiclayo, and Piura.
I’m so glad it happened that way; I absolutely loved traveling solo! One of the highlights of the trip was the sheer amount of Peruvians I struck up conversations with. I must have spoken with at least 40 different people; about half of the encounters consisted of a simple “where’s the micro stop for xyz?” or “am I going in the right direction?”
The other half were more personal and rewarding; I talked politics with a great-grandmother on a micro, journaled and shared sugarcane with a Danish girl on the beach, and heard about a musicologist’s desire for an American trumpet to complete his collection. I met a man who got out of the taxi before his stop in order to show me around a ceramic-making village, had dinner with two siblings from France, practiced tying knots with a marine biologist on an overnight bus, and explored a market for a few hours and ate ALL the street food possible with a boy I had met at a museum.
I loved the experience of doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and without needing to think about the social politics that sometimes come along with traveling with others (and that sometimes I unnecessarily construe for myself hehe). It’s a great confidence booster as well! I bought my flights, went to an ancient ruin, two beaches, a museum, some markets, walked around various towns, ate at restaurants, and found lodging and transportation on the ground–all by myself! And most importantly, I stayed safe while doing it all.
Coming back to washed-out and chilly Lima, I’ve been able to hold on to the “can-do” attitude I had while on my trip, as well as the feeling of bright sun and bustling summer of the north. I’m determined to carry these motivators with me through these last three weeks.
Here’s what’s been so great about this week:
On Tuesday I volunteered at Deportes y Vida, the after school program in Villa El Salvador. There were way more kids than usual at homework help, but I liked the bustle, and Rachel and I chugged through with a kid at each elbow.
On Wednesday I was the subject of a “Day in the Life” video for CIEE’s social media. Pamela, the photographer for the project, trailed me from my apartment to the micro, to my intercultural communication and dance classes, and to my study spot in a cafe above a rock climbing gym in Miraflores. Later in the evening I hung out with a Peruvian friend, Camilla, for an hour. I felt like my Spanish flowed easier than it ever had before, and I had the absolute best time. I think we’re going to go out salsa dancing this weekend (squeeeee!)
In between classes on Thursday I ventured out to interview people on the street for my intercultural communication final project. The questions: What do you know about Jewish people? What do you think about them? Are there any stereotypes of how a Jew looks or acts? The responses were fascinating, and extremely varied:
- “Um…they’re extremists…”
- (About Jews in Perú): “They have a lot of money…and I don’t know why, but there’s an expression…that if you say someone’s a Jew and do this [makes a fist and gives it a little shake close to her body], it’s like you have a lot of money and you hold on to it, you’re stingy. Older people use that more; some say, “Ah, es bien judío!” (Note: saying es bien in front of an adjective means really or very, as in “Oooh, es bien frío!”) But not young people- I’ve never heard a young person say something like that. I’ve heard my dad say it, for example. The Jews here live in a specific neighborhood. They’re pituco… Pituco here means someone who has a lot of money, and have certain customs. They differentiate themselves from others by the clothes they wear, how they act, how they talk, where they go, what they eat… It’s not that pituco only refers to Jews, but that the Jews here are part of that circle… Like, there’s Jewish school, and it’s associated with a higher social class… They wear that [taps head] kippah? I had a friend in university who wore it… I don’t know why, but I think there are ceremonies or reunions where they dance a lot, in circles. And they break something at weddings…a cloth?
(Note: pituco also has connotations of snob or snooty. For example, a lot of people who frequent the rock climbing gym in Miraflores could be called pituco. A very international, fashionable and privileged crowd. Also pretty white).
- “Here we don’t know that much about Jews. From the news some things– like the terrible war. Lots of people dead. There needs to be peace.”
- “It’s a religion, that’s all.” Is there an image, or a stereotype, of what a Jew looks like? “No, no, we’re all human beings, no?”
- “I just think of World War II, from movies… Like everything that was done to them. They didn’t have a voice, they feel resentment That’s it– just from movies. They wear that…[tapping her head]” Her friend: “I saw a movie. El Pijama de Rayas [The Boy in the Striped Pajamas]. The boy was killed, and they were in prison, and were very dirty.”
- [Shakes head] “… oh, ask him, ask him! [points out a specific man]
- [Smiles and shakes head]
- “They have suffered a lot.”
- “In Perú there’s a lot of poverty, and well, we have to work hard to overcome that and move forward, like the Jews… It’s said that the Jews are middle class, so to reach that, to move our country forward, we have to work hard.” So the Jews did that? They moved forward? And that’s something to aspire to? “Yes, to grow.” So do the Jews have money, is that the idea? Or are they just trabajadores [hard-working]? “Trabajadores, no más. But you have to work more to get money. Ask him, ask him [points to same man].”
- (Said man): “What I know is from the time of the Nazi’s; Jews were always outcast… here we only know things from the movies, from World War II, nada más. But I’m from Chile, not a peruano! Chileno, Chileno.”
As you can see, I received a wide spread of answers! I’ll be using these to make a video about what my experience has been like being Jewish in Perú. We’ll see how it goes.
Today is Friday, and I’m staying close to home to bear down on homework (and spend half the day on this blog…oy, what I do for yall). I’ll meet up with Camilla in a bit to study, and then we’ll go to see a play later tonight, called Nunca Llueve en Lima, or “It Never Rains in Lima.” Feel free to Google Translate some of that link to see what it’s about!
Tomorrow (Saturday) I plan to go to the center of Lima with some friends to explore, as I haven’t done that yet. There are some museums, government buildings, palaces, a catacomb, the Plaza de Armas, and a zoo, all within the old colonial boundaries of the original Lima. I’m excited for it!
I hope you all are enjoying the beginning of summer! Shout out to my friends Sam Mauceri and Natalie Ann Piegari, whose partner plays Normal/Magic will premier at the 2016 Capital Fringe Festival in DC next month!
If you’re in the D.C area and are not familiar with Capital Fringe, check it out! I remember I asked my parents for some Fringe tickets for my 15th or 16th birthday, and thus spent a few nights over the summer venturing to different parts of D.C to see new theater in garages, warehouses, lofts, and atriums. So go out and disfruta from some summer creativity!
Love to all,