I’ve officially been living in Cusco for four days, but it feels like it’s been weeks. Getting settled in my host family and in school has been a big transition, but I’m starting to get it down. I’ve been immersed in so much Spanish from home to school to all the shops, that English has begun to sound somewhat foreign. I often have to ask people to repeat things multiple times, no matter what language they are speaking. I’ve found myself thinking in Spanish, taking notes in Spanish (even in my English classes), and commenting on friends’ posts in Spanish, without even realizing I’m doing it. I feel very anonymous to those around me, like no one can understand what I’m saying. It’s a bittersweet feeling, being subject to the judgment of others, yet willfully unaware of it.
As for my classes, I’m loving them. I am taking two classes in English and two in Spanish, which is a real trip. The two classes I am taking in English are called “Indigenous Knowledge of Climate Change Adaptation in the Peruvian Highlands” and “Sustainable Development in the Peruvian Andes.” I’m excited to learn about these topics from a different perspective, one that is not focused on the geographical aspects of Upper Michigan. To quote my professor, “there is a debate in the U.S. over whether climate change is actually happening, but in Peru, there is no such debate, because we are suffering the effects of it.” These two courses go hand-in-hand, and are easy to absorb as they share the same professor, same reading list and same field trips. From what it seems, a LOT of field trips, on top of the excursions that are built-in to my study abroad program. I will be traveling around Peru quite a bit in the coming months.
Another one of my classes is Latin American Literature, Modernismo through Actualidad. My professor is from Salamanca, Spain, and has an accent with which I am entirely unfamiliar. If I zone out for a second, I miss way more than I would in an English class. However, I have only had two sessions of this class, and already I am finding it easier to comprehend, so I expect it will only get easier. Especially because of my last class, which is Advanced Spanish, Grammar and Composition. This class is also taught in Spanish, but with more intention of learning the language. The way I see it, the more Advanced Spanish classes I go to, the easier it will be to comprehend my literature class. Without being overly optimistic, it can only get better from here!
On my 5-minute walk to class I pass a supermarket, a number of small coffee shops and bakeries and a LOT of people. The language barrier isn’t my only handicap here, I have never lived in such a big city in my life. Nearby are a few parks, markets, and a mall. I haven’t yet been able to explore the mall. I hardly recognize my school when I reach it, as it looks just like every other house on the street, and I have to ring the doorbell to enter. The school has two floors of classrooms and offices, plus a third floor “chill out” space, a sunny courtyard and a kitchen where at any time you will find a student replenishing their cup of tea. Culturally, the people here use “mate de coca” (coca tea) as a remedy for everything. Coca is not legal in the U.S. as it can be used to make cocaine, but the leaf is not a drug. Headache? Mate de coca. Altitude sickness? Mate de coca. Hangover? Mate de coca. And let me tell you, it works. I’ve probably had more tea in the past four days than the past month.
As I predicted, I have been experiencing some minor homesickness. For the first time since I landed in Lima, I was able to video chat with my parents last night. I was experiencing some altitude sickness, and I think I overwhelmed them with complaints. I may have made this experience seem much worse than it has been, because I was feeling pretty badly at the time. Overall, I have loved my time here in Cusco and am excited for the coming semester. If anything, this slight homesickness I’m facing will make my reunion with Marquette even more exciting.
The longer I’m here, the happier I am that I made this decision. There will always be things and people I miss about Marquette, and experiences I’m missing out on. But the experiences I am getting here are once in a lifetime, and the friends I’ve made are from all over the country, everywhere from Alaska to New Orleans. It will be over before I realize it, so I have to soak it up now. Voy a disfrutar esta vida mientras dure.