Bienvenidos a Lima, Peru!

Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
Trip End Mar 18, 2013

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Flag of Peru  ,
Monday, August 10, 2009

As the plane taxied into Jorge Chavez International Airport, the speakers began to project the stewardess's calm, yet rapid, voice thanking us for flying with Continental Airlines, and kindly leave your seat belts fastened until the captain turns off the light.  At least, I assume that's what she said.  See, she said all this in Spanish, and yes- she did repeat in English- but what I suddenly and most definitely realized is, I cannot understand a word.

Most people would begin to panic at this point, at least be a little concerned or show SOME emotion! But not me.  Everything was fine.  Somehow, this little language would magically find its way into my brain in about a week! Right?
I navigated through immigration and customs easily enough.  I then found the ISA group and started up a conversation.  It was only then that I allowed my building fears to leak out.  One fellow ISA student was a minor in Spanish and another felt confident in her abilities, but she had her doubts.  Ok, ok, I can do this.  Just breathe.  Once the remaining students arrived we piled into the van to be dropped at our homestays.

I was the last stop.  6 hours after getting off the plane, at 3 in the morning, I was knocking on the door of my new home.  Before I could catch my breath, out bursts my high-strung, beautiful, fast-talking, totally Spanish speaking homestay mother, Marilu.  She is so excited to see me!  At least, I think that's what she said, because she's talking in full blown Spanish.  I think if she spoke in English I still wouldn't understand her at that speed.  All I hear is Liiiinnnssiii!!! bliiiblibliblibliiiiiahhhblii!!!

As my homestay father, Luis, carries my luggage inside, I look back out the door to find the ISA guide is gone.  No turning back now.  As I'm led upstairs to my room, Marilu manages to throw in a few English words like: bathroom, boy, two, door, which is followed by a pushing to lock motion on the second bathroom door.  My fears are leaking out everywhere now.  I can't hold the dam any longer.  I can't understand one word.  Nada.  Nothing.  The homestay parents zip off to bed leaving me with two huge suitcases, a bathroom with boy two door lock, and a very, very cold room.  The dam had burst.

With about two hours of sleep, I roll out of bed to visit my new University- USIL.  They decide that the orientation will be conducted in Spanish.  Spanish is Peru's language and should be respected! Never mind that every student in the room spoke English and the information they were telling us was very, very important.  Never mind that most of us came to USIL for classes in English.  We went around the room and introduced ourselves, I found that my Spanish reserves were completely and totally empty.  There was nothing.  Panic mode major.  Maybe it was my 2/48 hours of sleep brain, but I goofed the intro I'm sure.  Everyone was saying Me llamo....Christine, Zach, Audrey, etc. and as I frantically and nervously tried to remember these two small words I'm pretty sure I added in another: Me llamo ES Linsi.  Which is like saying: I call myself is Linsi.  Why couldn't the earth have chosen the moment before I had to speak to have a small, harmless tremor?

We spent the rest of the day walking around the university and being told the essentials- in Spanish.  I guess that's why I never felt at home there, I didn't understand it and I was a bit upset at the introduction we were given.  Then we spent the afternoon selecting our classes.  I went last of the group, exhausted, and found that the classes I needed weren't available.  None of them.  At 5 pm I crawled into Marilu's truck (she had been sitting outside the university for two hours but the ISA guide, knowing this, still wouldn't call for me) and it was all I could do not to burst into tears, or to scream.

By 8pm I was ready to go home- TN home.  The volunteering program that I would need to finish my thesis wasn't working out, the classes I needed to graduate weren't available, I was really sharing a bathroom with two boys and my family, in fact, did not speak English.  PLUS my room was extremely cold.

As I was on the phone with an ISA leader who did not even speak English, I broke down.  I then called ISA's Lima director who calmed me and promised me she would fix everything.  As I handed the phone to Marilu I felt a finger poke my shoulder.  I turned around, teary eyed, and one of the boys, Luis, stood there.  He said, "What's wrong?"  in perfect English.  Before I could think, I murmured, "everything.." Then, realizing, "You speak ENGLISH???!!"  His response was, "a little."  Did I know that I had just met the person who would keep me in Lima, help me succeed there, and eventually become like a brother to me?  No.  But the relief I felt, turned a new corner to my situation in Lima, Peru.
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