Finalmente he llegado a Perú

Finally on my way to Lima, Peru for the semester! I have wanted to study abroad for what feels like my entire life and it is somewhat surreal to be on my way to accomplishing that dream. I will be staying with a host family, who will be picking me up from the airport. Not even two weeks ago, I did not have contact information for host families. Surprisingly, despite what seemed very last minute to me (and to all the people that have been asking me if I knew where I was staying for months now), once I finally received the contact information list from my university in Lima (PUCP) in late February and sent out emails to eight non-smoking families, all but 3 still had rooms open for the semester. PUCP had told me I would receive a housing list in February but by the 20th, I was freaking out since I hadn’t recieved word of a housing list and recieved minimal response to my emails.  Shout out to Ashley Fly in Ole Miss’ study abroad office for helping me to get that information. I always hear that US citizens are culturally uptight about such details and “Latin American time” stresses them out, so I guess this was my first taste of that.

Based on the email correspondence, the family I chose is going to be absolutely lovely to live with. The family consists of a woman, her two daughters, and one granddaughter who is 10 years old. Being from a family dominated by women myself, it seemed like a natural fit. From our emails, my host mother seems extremely sweet, nice, and caring. She asked about my Spanish proficiency level so that she would be able to better communicate with me, and after I explained (in Spanish) my Spanish proficiency level (the irony), she told me not to worry too much, that they would speak slower at first to help me mejorarlo. This was very comforting to me, to know that my host mother understands how important it is to me to better my Spanish and that she is very willing to be accommodating.

The Tupelo Regional Airport (about an hour away from Oxford) has multiple flights everyday to Nashville, TN for $30 one way $60 round trip. Since the Memphis airport is so expensive, it was much cheaper for me to fly out of Tupelo and then fly to Lima from Nashville than it would have been to fly out of Memphis to Miami and take a Latin American airline for the remainder of the trip. The whole flight from Tupelo could easily be adapted to a sitcom. There were nine of us on the flight (that’s how many seats there are on the plane – TONS of leg room) and there was good southern small talk for the entire 50 minute journey. As we were about to take off, one lady said something like, “oh no! I forgot gum” then another lady offered her pack with the entire plane. The co-pilot also went over the rules before take off and said, “there is a restroom at the back of the plane, but it is kind of sketchy and not advised that you use it.” There were several people on the plane that had never flown before, and others who had only ever flown on this dinky plane to Nashville. One lady beside me told her friend who had never flown before, “there are two big turns on this flight: one at the very beginning and one at the end.” I joked with her and asked her if she had the route memorized. We never got high enough in the sky not to be able to make out the trees and lakes, so I suppose it could be possible. Needless to say, I was an oddball with luggage for 5 months of time and having flown before.

Whenever I arrived at the Nashville airport and checked into my flight, the worker at the ticket counter asked me “do you have a return ticket with us or another airline?” “yes” “can I see proof?” to which I had to fess up and say, no, I was planning on buying that later. She continued to tell me that with a US passport, I would need a return flight or proof of onward travel or I would not be able to board by flight tomorrow from Florida to Lima. This is the first time I have ever heard of this, and the first time the people I have shared the info with thus far have heard of it. Not a huge deal, just a mild annoyance because I am not entirely sure when I want to leave yet and was planning on figuring that out as I go and plan my post-semester travels. I have until tomorrow night to figure out a return flight.

I stayed at Hotel Deauville during my 24hr layover in Fort Lauderdale, a very nice hostel (despite the fact that the name says it is a hotel) that I would recommend to anyone who needs somewhere to cheap to stay in the area. Not only is it not too far from the airport, it is also two blocks from the public beach. Also if you’re ever in Fort Lauderdale, don’t take the public transportation – just take an uber. I took the public bus halfway to the hostel, and found myself out of place and overwhelmed as a solo woman with my two suitcases backpack and purse, so when it was time to get off and transfer to another bus, I just called an uber instead. My uber driver has a good friend who lives in Lima, so he got my contact information from me so that he could connect us 🙂 I guess whenever you are going to a city almost as big as NY you’re bound to make some connections along the way.

At the hostel, I made friends with a South African that arrived around the same time. We went and ate dinner together down the street and had lovely discussion. Oddly enough, we had a lot in common, both being from places where racial issues play such a large role in society and him having attended a boarding school and me having attended MSMS. Fun facts: in South Africa they call streetlights “robots” and crosswalks “zebra crossing.” Unfortunately, we did not exchange contact information that night and we missed each other in the morning during checkout. I had gone to the beach early that morning, so I assume he left while I was gone. It’s crazy to think that even today with so much social media, you can still have missed connections.

My host family picked me up from the airport when I arrived late that night. As I assumed from our email correspondence, they are as helpful and accommodating as I suspected. Yesterday, once the sun went down some (hace MUCHO calor), we went to the mercado a few blocks away to buy a few things I needed (champú, pasta de dientes, etc). They had a spare cell phone laying around (essentially a nokia) that they are lending me for the semester so that all I had to buy is the prepaid data chip. I will be using this phone to communicate with peruanos and my other to communicate with estadounidenses with WhatsApp in wifi. It was very helpful to have their assistance at the market for the first time I went.

As for the needing to have a return flight in order to go to Lima: I booked a flight and whenever I checked in for my flight to Lima at the airport, the kiosk asked for a return date but did not ask for any other form of proof.  After I made it to Lima, I cancled the return flight so I can book one at a later date when I better understand what date I want to leave and how far my money can stretch for tourist adventures.

They say that the journey is often more important than the destination, so I thought all of this would be important to include. I will post about my experiences in Peru at a later date.

The photo is the view of a church that I have from my room in Lima.

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