Summer break is here

Life is much more tranquila these days. Exams for most schools started this week which means that I really don´t have anything to do because I´m not responsible for giving any of the exams. But this is not to say that life hasn´t been easy-going for the last few weeks. Its been a difficult time adjusting here simply because there isn´t a whole lot for me to do except practice the language and learn what I can about the culture. The volunteers who will remain in Tacna for the next two years have been hard at work in their placements getting to know the people they will work with and getting a feel for the work they will be doing. They have been prepping classes and even teaching 1 or 2 periods each day. But for me, because I will not be here next year, the schedule has been much more free.

For the past 2 weeks I have gone to Colegio Cristo Rey each day to hang out / work. I would show up in the morning, sometimes for first period (7:45) and sometimes later in the morning depending on the breakfast conversation in my house or if I went for a run. Usually I would buy a newspaper on the way to school and then spend some time reading in Spanish which has been helpful in expanding some of my vocabulary. I would look at the schedule to see who was teaching what that day, and pick a class or 2 to sit in on. The classes I watched were mostly religion classes to get a sense of how that works in a Catholic School setting. Listening to the spanish spoken in the class room might have been more helpful than the class itself since I probably won´t be teaching religion in Andahuaylillas. When the service club at the school would meet, I would join them. During class breaks or lunch I would wander around occasionally to talk to the kids. The best thing that I think has come from spending time at the school are the conversations I had with the professores…practicing spanish and getting a sense for how things/kids operate in Peru. The school day would end around 2:45 every day and I would stick around for a bit to talk with the 2 volunteers who work at the school. Depending on the day or what was going on in the evening I would either head home or head to the Habitat community where the volunteers live.

Three highlights from last week:
Soccer with the Cristo Rey Staff
Every Tuesday and Thursday there is a soccer match at 5pm with the professors and staff of Colegio Cristo Rey. It’s a lot of fun and they take it very seriously. There is a Jesuit priest and brother who play too…the priest is on the older side but really enthusiastic and all over the cancha. The brother has skills and its interesting to see the competitive side of the Jesuits. In my first game with them the score was 4-3 with the gringos combining for 3 goals and 2 assists in total, but we were not all on the same team.

Despedida for Cara, Nate, Gabe
This is was a big fiesta with all of the friends that they´ve made over the last 2 years invited. It started around 730pm and went until 3 or so in the morning. Lots of food, dancing, pisco, and you can´t forget the vino de chraca. The fiesta was held in a chraca (farm) to the north of the city and I would guess that more than 80 or 90 people showed up to say farewell to the volunteers.

Gabe´s Birthday Party
Peruvians love to fiesta. The first thing my host mom asked me when they picked me up was when my birthday was and what I was planning to do for it. But being more than 6 months from my birthday I said that it was a ways off to think about. Her response was that I was thinking as a gringo…peruvians start to plan their next birthday the day after their last one. So Gabe´s birthday was a lot of fun. His host family hosted the party and we brought over a few dishes and they cooked a lot. I tried my first Cuy (guinea pig) that night and it was an interesting experience. It is a difficult animal to eat because it is so small, but it was prepared well and tasted delicious. Gabe´s host dad has his own vineyard so he brought the wine and pisco and then the dancing began. There is always a ton of dancing at any proper peruvian party. And this was no exception. I´m working on dancing in step with the beat of the music, but that is going to take a lot more practice. I enjoy the dancing, I´m just not very good at it.

A look forward to the next few days…
Friday – all the teachers of Catholic schools in the area have a mass and then a Christmas Carol contest. I´m singing with the staff of Miguel Pro. (singing, like dancing, something I´m not very good at…but we´re all having a good time)
Saturday – Cara leaves for the US and will spend 6 weeks there before returning to Cusco with us
Next week – Summer vacation starts officially and will be spending time hanging out with the host family. Maybe hitting the beach up before Christmas. Maybe going fishing with some neighbors. Maybe doing whatever it is that peruvians do. Will be spending Christmas with my family here and most likely New Years at the beach with them. And then Jan 9 starts Mes de Misión.

Will try to get some more pictures up soon.
¡Feliz Navidad!

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Una corrección

The following was pointed out to me by Michael Patrick Hogan…thanks!

So I said 15 dollars per gallon…but now that I think about it that sounds a bit high. I have only ever seen the prices of the gas as the bus passes the station and never actually purchased the gas They may sell gas in gallons and not liters…and if that is the case then gas comes in around 4 dollars per gallon which is a bit less ridiculous.

I´ll do some sleuthing…

Cost of Living…

Some facts, figures, and things to think about for you tonight.

Exchange rate as of yesterday is 2.80 Nuevas Soles for every 1.00 US Dollar.

The bus is the main way we get around the city and I ride two of them to get to work each day. And then two more on the return trip. Each bus ride, no matter what distance, costs S/.50 which is less than US/.19. So traveling to and from work costs me about US/.80 each day. And the distance to work is about 6 or 7 miles. A taxi for that same distance would cost about 5 soles.

Bananas are S/2.00 per kilo. With the kilo a conversion of 2.2 pounds that makes S/.90 per pound, or roughly 30 US cents per pound. For the rest of the food I´ll let you do the conversions for yourself…
Mangos – 3 Soles per kilo
Peaches – 2.50-3 soles per kilo
Bread – 1 Sole buys you 8 pieces of bread which can range in size…think large dinner rolls
Chicken – Not exactly sure, but i think it’s under 3 soles per kilo (will check with the host parents and get back)
Rice – between 1 and 1.50 soles per kilo
Sugar – I forget at the moment…but i think 3 soles per kilo. (Will also check with my host family a get back to you)
Lunch (full, big lunch) – for us every workday costs 3.50 soles
Newspaper – range from .50-1.00 soles depending on quality and length
Gas – 11 Soles per liter (3.78 liter to a gallon makes 41.8 soles/gallon or roughly $15/gallon)

Movies here do not come in official packaging since everything is a copy of an original or a copy from someone who video taped the movie in a movie theater. Most DVDs cost 2 Soles…Harry Potter can already be found on the shelves here, but be careful. The copy of HP we got was fine for the first half and then switched to German. I wasn´t watching at the time, but the volunteers who were said that they put on Spanish subtitles with the German language and watched it that way. To have a truly good copy of a movie you have to wait for it to come out on DVD in the states and then buy a copy. CDs are the same way…as are Wii, PS2, and most other video games. All priced around 2 Soles each.

The same thing holds fairly true for books and other things…they are very good at making copies here. There is a market where you can have anything copied exactly. Or even created if you have a picture. If you wanted to pretend like you had graduated from Boston College you could simply print off a picture of the diploma, take it to someone at the market, and they would create the document for you…and it would be an exact match. So for textbooks at the university…all you do is take it to be copied, pay for the copy, and return the book. Which in reality was probably just a copy of the text-book to begin with. (Copies come in around S/.04 per page or roughly a penny a page).

Cost of medical care is cheaper too…for most things. Cost to have a wisdom tooth pulled is 20 Soles for the X-ray and then 20 soles for the extraction of each tooth. So for 4 wisdom teeth it would be about 100 soles or about 36 dollars. Which is funny because the cost of our medical insurance is about $150/month (I think).

Fun times in the Peru…also, you´re all lucky that wordpress has spellcheck built into the page.

¡Buenos Noches!