Word to the wise, study abroaders: I am of the school of thought that packing for too many contingencies is just plain silly; just bring your tools.  However, do yourself a favor, and bring yourself a full supply of GOOD Q-tips!

Last night, a Peruvian friend and I went to a really cool restaurant turística called La Candelaria  Also, there was a lot of audience participation and an MC has everyone come up and instruct people in folk dances.  It was a great time; a mix of watching these amazing dancers dance to the live band and also in between, we danced the salsa and cumbia to the live band.  At one point, all the foreigners were brought up onto the stage; the only other folks from the States that night were a family from D.C. and a gal whose mother is Peruvian from Oklahoma.  There were people from all over South America and Europe, quite a representation!  We had to dance our own ”cultural” dances for the audience.  For example, the French folks were made to do the can-can; this also experientially gives the outsiders a caution of how ridiculous it really is to water down a culture into a spectacle of festival and fashion.  I assure you that I well represented our culture with my interpretation of Boogie Nights and disco.  ¡Viva disco! 

Today, I went to Pachacamac with some other friends; these are the ruins just outside the city.  We walked and saw amazing Incan ruins on top of the ruins of other civilizations; just as the Spaniards built Cathedrals on top of temples later to prove their superiority, so did the conquering Incans.     

On a side note, not having other people my age in a study group around me, forces me to have to be outgoing and make friends with people here.  I love this because I actually spend my time relating in Spanish, which is exactly what I intended.  Not that I couldn’t have done that otherwise, but it’s too easy to slip into the comfort of your first language.  From this foreigner’s experience (in this case a US foreigner in Peru), it really does help when you raise your voice to speak to a foreigner!  It forces the native speaker to talk a little more slowly and annunciate the consonants.   I’ve been thinking a lot about my friends here.  I’ve always heard that the U.S. has one of the most mobile labor forces, and that sounds like a boring and ridiculous fact.  Knowing all the expenses of moving and the number of people who feel trapped and can’t move, this doesn’t always ring true to me…until you see the way that family works in a fairly poor and traditional working class barrio.  Here, in Callao, people build their houses, literally, floor by floor, partition by partition.  I was shocked to see a friend’s house that looks like a gutted out building with doors because it’s just cement.  Getting by is a full family effort, and it’s interesting to have conversations with people of my generation of late twenties and early thirties young adults, who have passed their youth phase and are truly into their young adulthood.  The pressure to live at home after all that time with family-not only before marriage but also after and with kids- is so strong and sometimes takes negative, guilt manifestations.  My peers I talk to are so interested and somewhat jealous in the fact that I live such a separate life from my parents, so independent and can hardly imagine it.  Family networks may be an economic survival mechanism but definitely not one that everyone would chose if they had a better economic option.

With all due respect to the multitude of belief systems, this is just a commentary of my observations.  We have become accustomed in the States to accepting nothing less than true religious tolerance, and that freedom of religion truly means freedom to practice one’s religion, not forced to follow the tenants of someone else’s.  Ahem, um, mostly.  There is a whole lot of interesting things going on in the Catholic Church in Peru, and this is a matter of political importance here since there is not separation of church here.  Internationally, and in Peru in the last decade, the Catholic Church is becoming very conservative and into evangelizing and abolishing all the ideas and music of Vatican II.  Part of it is a response to growing Protestantism here, but not in the way we even think of in the States.  To me, it’s so fascinating that many Peruvian folks don’t have a concept of how you can coexist in a family with different beliefs, nor who have a concept of what we think of mainstream Protestantism in the US.  The majority of the formation of new, Protestant, aka non-Catholic churches that are here takes on the form of holy wars with pictures of the bishop as a devil and all.  The Catholic Church in Peru for its part is now responding in kind, with similar, authority language.  Old style, liberation theologian, and community modeling Catholics still exist, but they have all been removed from any power and, some, even from their charges.

Ciao for now!

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