I have been in Peru officially (not counting the airport late Monday night) since Tuesday, July 24th.
What can I say in a few short sentences about my experience here in Piura thus far? It has been humbling, eye-opening, and challenging. However, my colleagues I have met at the Universidad de Piura have been more that welcoming and helpful. Piura is a city of contrasts. Men will walk by in full 3-piece suits as you see a construction worker riding a donkey pulling a cart of supplies. It has been challenging to figure out how things are done (slowly)... while decoding the rules, mores and cultural norms of things we take for granted such as how to get to the grocery store, how to get around town sans a car, or where to buy a cell phone. Each day, I'm humbled to be the outsider, trying to function in day-to-day life, negotiating a new culture and a new language. My feeble and shy attempts to speak in Spanish have been generally greeted with appreciation and education. Saying "I'm sorry" has been a great way to soften my choppy and textbook verb conjugations. And, when I ask, people have been delighted to answer my questions on how to say something in Spanish. I also find that my textbook Spanish isn't quite the same here. No adios here. They say ciao!
Have I experienced culture shock? Yes, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't. As someone that hates asking for help, I know I have to just let go and ask for it. I would still be taking cold showers if I didn't ask the landlord how to turn on the hot water ... (a separate electrical switch in the shower you have to turn on). I would be very limited to my two feet if I wasn't shown the taxi system, or how to manage ordering a meal in a restaurant (you seat yourself -unless it's Chili's). If I wasn't able to observe how to buy produce at Tottus ( like Walmart), I'd be eating the Kraps brand crackers for every meal. For the record, you have to take your produce to a station where a clerk weighs it and gives it a UPC code, then you take it to the main cashier. The same is true for any self-serve bread product from the panderia. I wasn't allowed to buy two croissants because I didn't do that.
Thankfully, there is a constant in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I attended services last Sunday, I understood maybe 10% of what was said. However, there is a pattern and I knew what to expect, even if the language wasn't my most familiar. The church is definitely true no matter where you are.
Nobody has seemed very shocked or surprised to see me around town, school, or church. Okay, maybe they were a bit more surprised to see me at church, but they were very nice. I haven't had any safety problems. One thing here, is everyone's homes are behind gates and locks, but people are out late. Plus, each neighborhood has a block guardian. One of the job responsibilities must be blowing a whistle every 5 minutes... it's VERY aggravating.
Lastly, the people - they have been friendly, welcoming and kind. My colleagues have taken me to get a cell phone, food, dinner, shopping, and getting set up. My American counterpart has shown me how to use the washer (though I haven't used it yet because I discovered today I bought floor cleaner - not laundry soap!)
However, the kissing on the cheek is a bit uncomfortable for me - I already have space issues and then add this (to me) intimate gesture of an embrace and a kiss, has been something I'm adjusting to doing when meeting people.
The cost of living is very cheap here, but somethings are outrageously priced - like electronics, shoes, and clothes. The department stores sell Maybelline makeup that you'd find at Big Lots like it was MAC. No problems with any food yet - at least until I ate at Chili's for lunch yesterday. It figures "American" food makes me sick. That happened to me in China too!
I've had a craving for pancakes, mac and cheese, and tacos. Not all together, but at least my craving for granola bars was satisfied at the local gas station, when I found Nature Valley fruit and nut bars!
Classes start on Monday. I'm excited but nervous. This is a new experience for me and I hope I am successful. Not being a professional teacher before, I am nervous about my lesson plans.
I also hope that this mild cold goes away so I stop coughing. I also hope I can find peanut butter. Think of me when you've fixed yourself a nice PB&J.