Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Just a quick one

This is just a quick note because I wanted to post a picture of 14 of the 21 children I had to teach this month. 7 of them are missing because today is a bank holiday and many people went on vacation. Yesterday we had a staff meeting. NOBODY told me, just like NOBODY told me about the conference. The lack of communication drives me insane, and then they expect you to go with no problem. Just like nobody told me we have to wear suits to the conference, as if I have a suit, as if I can afford a suit with one days notice. I have black pants and I will buy a white blouse, but suit no way. Tomorrow at 8 we have the opening Gala for the binational centres of Peru English Teaching Conference. We all have to go. I am so excited (actually I am not because at 6 on Thursday I have to get up for class) and I hope its not a stuffy high class do because I am so not that kind of person but if we have to go in suits it probably will be. Then the conference begins on Saturday all day and it is Sunday all day too- but I think it will be really interesting because there are lots of international speakers. Apparently it´s the first time the conference is coming to Cajamarca. Well, now I have to do my assignment for Fundamentals of Psychology as it´s due today (I am so good at leaving things until the last minute). Since it´s a holiday Cesar shouldn´t be working today but since he got called by a client he´s gone in anyway.
I have a bit of a cold.
The parcel my parents sent 2 months ago hasn´t arrived, so I don´t recommend that anyone send me anything, as I would hate for you to waste your money.
We still don´t have water. ughhhhhhhhh, I smell good.
Ah! One more difference in University! They do roll call, and if you skip more than 5 times in 17 weeks you fail. If you arrive more than 10 minutes late, you get one ¨skip¨ so if you are late 5 times you fail. That´s discipline for you.
All for now! ch ch ch chauuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu! xxx
love you! me!

Friday, August 26, 2011

University in Peru!

Well, today is the last day of my first week of Peruvian university! I talked about this in a blog last year, but to refresh your memory, in Peru there are private and public national universities, but since I´m not a national I don´t think public university would be free for me anyway. The problem with public university is that there are a lot of strikes so it can take a long time to finish your degree. Generally, they are less organized and not as clean and secure as private univerisities, having said that this is from what people tell me. I have taken a tour of the national university of Cajamarca, and it seems nice but I have not sat in on any classes there, it is prohibited so I cannot tell you what it is like really.
The differences between Brandon University and the Private University of the North (UPN):
|) Classmates. Most of my classmates are 17-19 years old. You can start university at 16 if you pass the admission test- if you already have a degree you can enter without a test. You go into your career in semester 1 with all the people who are starting that career and you stay with them unti semester 10 (5 years for all occupations) unless you fail or drop out etc, so the class becomes a tight knit group of people. And a small group. In Psychology there are 15 students, so we have all our classes together. Except for those classes like basic math which I have to take at 7 in the morning because I work in the evenings.
2) Class selection. While in Canada we choose every class we want to take, here you only choose your profession. All the courses you will take are laid out for you. The advantage is that you know you are taking the correct classes and the university isn´t making a bunch of money on electives you take and do not need. That´s not to say there aren´t requirements outside your career. Every student has to take University Methodology, Basic Math, Statistics, and Spanish 1 and 2. Unfortunatly the class I most wanted to take, Spanish, is in the evenings so it is impossible. Bad luck. Too bad math wasn´t at that time. Imagine, 7-10 am learning math in Spanish, with a whole bunch of symbols that are different. Ughhhh.
3) Class slots. All of our classes are at lest 2 hours long, but most are 3. The advantage of this is we have more time to develop ideas. The disadvantage is that it is sooo long in comparison to our short 50 minute time slots (although we did also have some 2 and 3 hour classes, the difference is that here there are no classes which are shorter than 2 hours in length, and there we usually had a break whereas here we don not).
4) Instead of taking a maximum of 5 classes, all students should take 7. I am taking 6 because of Spanish. It works out 21 hours a week of class, in comparison to 15 there. If I were to take Spanish it would be 26.
5) Evaluation. While there we had to do an essay or 2 or 3 plus a couple of exams depending on the course, here all courses are evualated the same. 3 assessments and 2 exams with the possibility in most classes of a substitory exam if you are failing. Sometimes the assessments are tests, sometimes papers, sometimes a mixture of class presentations and participation etc.
6) Rather than have letter grades and be marked out of 100, we are marked out of 20. To pass you need a 12, which I can only assume is equivalent to 60% or a C- or D depending on the course. I´ll let you know how grave my situation is when I get my first 05. hahaha. Except I might cry instead of laugh.
7) The classes themselves. The classes are participatory. Many classes I took in university there were of the sort where you go and write like mad for 50 minutes and then try to interpret your terrible handwriting afterwards. Some teachers did try to get us participating, but especially with history, the classes were lectures. Here, the teachers are more like facilitators except for history of Psychology in which our Prof has assured us we will read 100 different authors in 17 weeks. I have 50 pages to read before next week. This is a first year course. Every week we have to discuss. If one person refuses to participate in the discussion or appears not to have read the material, we all have to write an analysis and conceptual map of the reading. All for one and one for all. The downside? In math class, we all had to go to the board and write the answer to different questions. I should explain. My math class has about 50 students and they are all in engineering programs. I had no choice but to join them because I couldn´t take the math for humanities course (which we are told begins the same for every unit, but stops at level 2 and we continue to level 5) in the evenings and I have to take math to continue. Yay for me. So I go to the board and write my answer and the prof says,I just finished saying that I didn´t want you to do that. So I had to do a different question. After which the prof took pity and let me sit down. Ahhhhhh. My other classes are very enjoyable, the ones which are directly related to psychology. I find it interesting. I just don´t like it when I have to speak because sometimes the profs put on a face which says ¨I really don´t understand what you are saying, but I´ll hear you out...¨ but all in all, my profs are super personable and in most cases funny. The difference? They don´t have PHDs. Many of them simply have their bachelor degree and experience in the field, and some of them are doing or have completed a Masters.
So which is more difficult? I think they are different, and it depends on what you are good at. This program is designed to make you into a Psychologist. We have to go out into the field and practice etc. My first degree wasn´t really designed to make me anything, rather to give me lots of information and teach me how to study and be organized etc., with the idea being that people then go into professional programs like education or law which teach you how to be something. Either way its 5-6 year in both places to get a good job which you are trained for so I suppose it´s the same with the difference being less electives and more specialization earlier here.
Interesting fact- we also have moodle! It´s called a virtual classroom but in the address you can see the word moodle, which interests me. Also, this university is part of Laureate International so it has a good reputation.
Well, apart from university which the biggest news of this week, it is the final week of the cycle at ICPNA, tonight, tomorrow and monday I have to give final exams. On the weekend of September 2 I have to go to and ELT (english language teaching) conference for all the ICPNAs in Peru which is here in Cajamarca in the most beautiful hotel which I have never entered because it´s way too classy for me but I am excited to see what it is like inside! The conference is all weekend though so I will be tired...oh well.
We don´t have water again. I haven´t showered in 3 days, but we had water collected in buckets just in case so we can at least wash our feet a bit, and our hair. I hope we get water soon because I feel disgusting.
Cesar´s best friend´s girlfriend is in town, they are planning their baby shower, she is 6 months pregnant and very obvious, she says the baby kicks a lot. If it´s this weeked we will obviously be going to that, although we already gave them the gifts I brought from Canada, they love them :)
I lost my cell phone, it was sad. I loved it so much, I had it for 3 years and it was so small. Now I have a new one, the cheapest they had, it is big and blue and ugly. I don´t know how I lost my old cell phone, but when I went to set my alarm I couldnt find it. Darn.
Cesar and I went to see The Green Lantern a while back, have you seen it? It´s not bad. Probably would be pretty cool in 3D but we haven´t reached that technology here yet.
I feel like there is something I have forgotten to do...but I can´t remember what? hmmm..
I don´t like final exam day because I have to stay up late correcting exams and calculating average etc because at 8 tomorrow I have to give them to the office, before my class starts (at 8).
I hope I haven´t bitten off more than I can chew with university and a demanding job. At least at H and R Block and at the hotel I could study under the desk...hmmm oh well, at least if I fail it doesn´t really matter, except for me it does because I am that kind of person.
Cesar bought himself a suit and tie for his Universiy buisness presentation. I have never seen him so dressed up before, it was funny, and cute in a strange way hahaha. He can barely talk now because his braces have infected his gums. Makes me remember when I had braces...all you people who have perfect teeth and never had braces, feel lucky! The university gave me a notebook as a gift- here I am in the photo on my first day of Uni in Spanish! The other is a billboard which was part of Cesar´s buisness project.
Leave me your news!
love, me!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Now that I have lived in this country for almost 9 months in total, I have compiled in my mind some things about this country that drive me insane.
#1. Just because the car is equipped with a horn, doesn´t mean you have to use it ALL THE TIME
Drivers, particularly cab and mototaxi drivers who dominate the road here, have discovered that that little horn on the steering wheel can be used for almost any situation. Get off the road BEEP, make way for me even though nobody else is moving BEEP, I´m bored BEEP, look there´s an attractive woman / tourist BEEP BEEP BEEPPPPPPP, what the hell I think I´ll honk my horn now BEEP. It is enough to drive you insane. I have never taken a taxi ride in which the driver has failed to use the horn. It just doesn´t do anything when you use it all the time. Even my Peruvian friends get annoyed by it, although their yelling at the taxistas doesn´t do anything either.
#2. What is the point of resting the seat belt on your lap? In Peru, it now illegal to sit in the front of a vehicle and not use a seat belt. The enforcement of this law is pathetic, I´ve never heard of anyone punished for it, and if a policeman gets up in your face you just slip them a bit of cash. Even so, taxi drivers take the time to rest the buckle of their seat belt ON THEIR LAP. It would take less than a second to stretch it a little bit further and clip it in, but no, that would be uncool, safety is not a priority. Much cooler it is to rest it on your lap. I know I am awed by every taxista who employs this ingenious strategy of appearing to obey a law that really is only for their own personal safety. I think I am the only person in Cajamarca who wears a seatbelt when there is one, which usually there isn´t in the back of a cab. When there is a seatbelt I always thank the driver for providing one, who then looks at me as if I am insane.
#3. Hailing a cab. The accepted method of hailing a cab in the majority of the countries I know is to stick your arm out (or phone). This method is one I use every day when I need a taxi. Therefore, it is not necessary for you to slow down and gawk at me as you pass gesturing that your cab is empty. It if want I cab, I will hail you. Thank you seƱor taxista.
#4. People in the street. It is often difficult to know who are the real impoverished and who aren´t. The best thing to do is ask a local. For example, last year I was prone to giving little bits of change to an old man in a wheelchair who always sits in the main square. My students have informed me that he is wealthy, and makes his living begging on the streets where most tourists see him and take pity. One of my students saw him taking large quanitities of cash out of the bank. hmmmmm. Now I give food, nothing more. Also, I saw a man stumbling along with a cane which blind people use on Sunday. Last week he could see perfectly well. Your conscience wants to help people, but those who really need it. This year, we only give to people who are selling something, and food sometimes to people we have seen on the street at night, those people are more likely to be genuine. Also, I never give to people who call me Gringa or gringita, I despise this word, it is so derogatory. And the lady who said Cesar would die? I see her lots, but I don´t giver her money, she insults everyone who walks by her. You catch more flies with honey. I don´t think she is too poor, because she has shoes and I never see her when it´s dark. And the children are the most heartbreaking, you want to help them, but you know all the money you give to them goes to their parents, who are usually standing about a block away watching.
#5 zebra crossings. I have yet to figure out what the point is of having these crossings. NOBODY will stop to let you cross. They are at the busiest interections in the city. You cross at your own risk. There are areas that have lights which are much safer to cross. I must figure out what the law is with them.
I took the picture by accident, but I feel that it represents Peru well. I have to go and translate now, more later! xo

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It was funny, but now I smell bad...

Hey, guess what, I haven´t showered since Monday! Yesterday I washed my hair with the little water we got out of the faucet in the whole day, but that´s it baby. I also used it to wash my feet a bit after. The result of no rain since the blog post where I said we had to use buckets to collect water from our leaking roof (at least 2 weeks ago) there is no water baby! Oh yeah, I can feel the sweat of the last three days, sexxxyyy :) Some days we have had some trickles of water, maybe an hour or two of low pressure cold water which we scrambled to collect in bottles and buckets. We have been receiving less and less until today, when we haven´t had any. We leave the faucets open while at home in hopes of tempting some water out but so far no luck. When we brought this problem up to our caring landlord he said, ¨I get up at 5 in the morning to shower. If you don´t want to do that, get more buckets and fill them up when you have water.¨ Yeah, thanks, that is helpful. How about you install a water tank? No, ok then. But it is good to know we have water at 5 am. At first the idea of getting up at that time to shower seemed horrible, now it seems a small price to pay if it means I can be clean. We may consider moving house. Apparently, the problem is that living on the 3rd floor or higher means it is hard to build up enough pressure to get water to our floor. At 5 in the morning water use is low so for that reason we may be able to shower then...I hope so. I guess that this is the dry season. The house I lived in before, like many better abodes, has a water tank on the roof, so we never had this problem. I will really miss the ceiling and wall colours if we decide to move, because for the rent we pay, Cesar says, water should not be only at 5 in the morning. We only pay 100$ a month each, but that is a lot here. We may have to go to the public showers tomorrow if we dont have water because I feel like I have a layer of filth covering me, obviously I am far too used to western comforts like constant running water. Hot water. Swell! We are not the only ones without water today though. In the morning I went to work with Cesar and in the workshop they had to use from the tank, nothing came out the tap. I suppose all sun and rain means lots of sweat but nothing wet (I JUST MADE THAT RHYME UP!) like water. It also means I can´t cook, so we went out for lunch. Yesterday I made hand made perogies! But, I had to fry them because we didnt have enough water to boil them! I am proud of myself :) because they were actually good, see picture! We had collected just enough water yesterday to boil the carrots, and then use that water to help wash the dishes afterwards plus a little more that we had saved in the bathroom. It is amazing how clean the dishes appear even though I am sure they are covered in germs. Oh yes! On Sunday we went out and bought PANS! yay! Plus some food, so now we can cook. Our first meal in the department was beef and mash, it was lovely except a little overcooked but whatever I had never cooked on a gas stove before. NOTE this was photo taken when we still had a decent amount of water (from 8-9 am to 7 pm) oh and we bought a new wood table to prepare food on and store pans on below.
I fully recommend having a boyfriend who is an electrician. The charger for my laptop broke so I couldnt turn it on. So he fixed it. Bravo :)
The only clean part of me is my teeth.
Maybe I should become like a cat...
The other picture is Pisco Sour on my 21st...I have decided I am now less of a fan of pisco, it is too strong for my pathetic alcohol resistance level.
I no longer wish to teach children, they give me a headache, although they can be lovely sometimes, mostly they make me angry because I cannot control them. I am not allowed to kick anyone out of my class! There is no principal to threaten them with, and apprently they don´t care if I call their parents. Maybe I will have to do some kind of reward chart...hmm...that could be a possibility.
We were thinking of travelling this weekend, but Cesar has exams on Monday and Tuesday, so I think it´s best that he doesn´t fail them, it is more expensive to retake the course than travel.
We went to see The Smurfs, which is Los Pitufos in Spanish, I don´t know why it isn´t the same since they don´t exist either way...strange. But it was a cute movie, we arrived half and hour late...
Amusing story for you...
somebody who I know here, a lady of my mother´s age who shall go unnamed even though you will never meet her, went on a trip to Cuzco, that is close to where Machu Picchu is (one of the wonders of the world). Since you have to go uphill, they recommend chewing a coca leaf, which helps you breath and continue going in the thin air. However, this lovely yet naive and uninformed lady misunderstand, and burned A WHOLE BAG of coca leaves and drank them as tea. After this, she could not sleep for more than 2 nights due to the effects of this leaf (which anyone here will assure you, is not a drug). It isn´t the same as cocaine, it´s more natural, but yes it is drug because it has an unnatural effect on the body. Note to anyone who travels, do not consume huge quantities of coca leaf alone, unless you wish to live the results! She said she didn´t understand what was happening to her (so I guess it would be scary) until she got home and talked to the doctor. Oh dear...
We went to visit Cesar´s mum on Sunday...apparently she is having trouble getting her DNI (national ID card, without which you cant do anything) because at 13 when she was confirmed by the Church, she changed her second name. She doesn´t want to get her DNI with her old name which is by the way only 1 of her 2 names, because she doesn´t like it. So she keeps travelling to her native village to get the same birth certificate with the name she hates in hopes that they will give her on with the name she gave herself (which of course they won´t), and is so stubborn that she will not relent and just get her DNI with this old name. It would be funny, if it wasnt costing her so much money to travel back and forth to get the same document she already has numerous copies of...oh dear...
Well, I suppose I had better prepare something for my classes before I go to work, and apply large quantities of perfume...
chao for now chicos!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Who wants to trade immune systems?

Hey hey chicos! Yesterday we returned from our travels to Celendin. We traveled with Cesar´s best friend Wesley. It is a 3 hour journey and we had to do it on a budget. That being said, we decided to travel there with the family who owns the workshop where Cesar works in their huge van which seats like 15 people legally and a whole ton illegally, but since it was a family thing there was loads of space and only about 9 of us. So, we got a free passage there, but the problem was the journey killed me, I vomited so much and felt DREADFUL, like maybe I was going to die, Cesar said I´d probably live and I guess he was right! We arrived on Friday morning and I was in a state so we went to eat, I had lamb and rice which was great until about 1 o clock in the morning when I upchucked it all. Anyway, in the afternoon we went to see the motocross. AHHHH. I should explain why that is scary and exciting at the same time. The safety tape making you not cross the track is very close, so close that the possibility that a bike would land in the audience after a jump is well, likely. When I arrived I noticed LOTS of police standing along the track and I thought it was an uncessary number....until a man fell off his bike and the crowd RUNS ACROSS THE TRACK TO THE MAN to see what has happened WHILE THE RACE IS CONTINUING. I almost had a heart attack. The bikes are racing around, dodging people because for them clearly it is more important to win than not kill anybody. So, the police were trying to keep people back in the viewing area and stop the bikes but nobody really seemed to care. Even when the man had been carried off in an ambulance, people ran across the track like it was a game of lets see if we can be killed today or not. It is obviously not good for my western heart to watch these races. We decided to walk back to the town from the track which took about an hour but saved us roughly 1 dollar. hahahaha. oh boy. The van which took us to Celendin and to the races had already returned to Caxas so we had the suitcases and backpacks with us, it was great, we looked like tourists (although, I always look like a tourist). When we got back to the main square we discovered that we had come on the wrong day, that this was the only night there was no live band playing. So, we meandered around town, found a hotel (which I stress is lucky because in FIESTAS (independance day parties) it is really hard to find one. They charged us 50 soles or about 17 dollars for 2 beds. We thought that was expensive, because the room was simple with no tv and the shower was COLD. ICE COLD. It was funny listening to Cesar and Wesley scream when they were taking their agonizing turns in the shower but not so fun when I was the one screaming. There is cold water, and then there is COLD water. Mountain fresh freezing cold. In the night we hung out in the plaza (main square). I saw my host family from before and they gave me a ride in their brand new car, which is very nice I might add! We went out for supper but it took them about an hour to bring the order and Cesar´s food never arrived, so we weren´t very impressed. I learned how to play billiards, I suck. In the night we went to a club where there was a live rock electronica band, it was ok but then I felt dreadful like I would pass out so Cesar had to take me back to the hotel, we left Wesley in the club with his new friends... I spent the night puking my guts up, it was awful, and we missed the party. Who wants to give me a better immune system?
Saturday was better, I woke up feeling so weak that I thought my DUST FILLED hair was soft, Cesar quickly corrected me. I couldnt get a comb through it. We went out for soup and then luckily found a combi aka collectivo or big van that would take us to LLANGUAT , 1-2 hours further away. I was not exited about the trip because I felt dreadful, but we paid extra so I could sit up front, so I actually didnt feel nauseous. I should add that arriving to Celendin I had taken 2 gravols, but that didnt do it. The Combi was packed, you can see in the picture, there werent many seats so they were sitting on buckets and other people, after the pic was taken we picked up more people still, I guess there were about 20-25 people in a space which would carry 8-10 in North America. I was up front though, and there were 4 in a space for 3, which isnt bad, I couldnt complain because I felt ok!! We arrived at LLanguat for 17 soles, or about 6 dollars, which was ok. Then the fun part! The natural hot springs and river. The day was boiling hot, so it was beautiful to swim in the rapids (I hit my head on a rock for being an idiot and not keeping my head about water...I also didnt realize the rapids were quite that fast!). In the picture you can see Cesar swimming. Imagine a beautiful mountain scenery and a blue river with a couple of ice cold beers and sunbathing on the rocks! This is the life! We made friends with a party of 10 who had rum and coke, and they looked after our stuff while we crossed the river (this involves us all holding hands like a group of preschoolers haha) and went in search of the mud. There are pools of boiling hot water like in Yellowstone National Park, and a little boy was scooping out mud with a long stick. Supposedly if you apply mud to your whole body it helps you to maintain a youthful appearance. I reckon its a scam, but its fun anyway! The problem was, the mud didnt come off easily. We walked on and found the place where the boiling water enters the river, and there are natural hot springs which you can bathe in, we hung out there until the sun started to disappear and then headed back, obviously the air felt freezing cold to us then! Plus we had to cross the now cold river, it was always cold but with the sun out it was okay. We thanked out new friends and headed back the road. We walked uphill to the village and bought some local fruits and waited for a truck. We met an old man who literally smoked 15 packets of cigarettes in the six hours since the combi dropped him off, his arms were in dire condition! argh. He told us there would be no cars and we´d have to stay there in Llanguat. We didnt fancy the idea and went outside to the crossroads. Luckily, a grain truck passed so we climbed the ladder and sat on a piece of wood they´d put along the trailer. It was a lovely, it didnt make me sick because it was open air. 2 hours later it was FREEZING COLD, but until then it was great! hahaha. That is the way to travel! They charged us 10 soles, or about 3 dollars to Celendin. That night we were planning on going to see Agua Marina, a Cumbia band in Celendin, but the cost was 20 soles EACH, that is 20 dollars for the three of us, and way too much. Luckily there were lots of people in the plaza so we hung out there. When we tried to go back to the hotel, we found that the owner was in the party, what luck, and we were locked out. Worst luck for Cesar and Wesley who were suffering for need of a toilet. Shortly another lady came who was a guest there, and she was very angry, rightly so, one cant just abandon their business! We phoned, but the owner was drunk. Well, if you cant beat them, join them right? We convinced the lady to come with us to the main square, its not good to be alone in the street at night, and we found the friends we had made in Llanguat! We hung out with them for a couple of hours until the owner agreed to come out and let us in his hotel. What great service! Might I add...to cut costs we had downgraded to a room with just one bed. 25 soles. We removed the mattress from the bed and used our suitcases to make it longer, thereby all able to fit half our body on the mattress and the other half on the suitcases...ingenious way to save money! I wish I had thought to take a picture! It was cold so we slept with jackets on as well! Yesterday we went out for natural juices mmmmm yum and took a taxi to Cajamarca...expensive, but what can you do? We got a flat tire and Cesar helped boost another car on the way. The taxi was great, he had all 80s music in English, and Abba in Spanish...wooohooo! We were in almost in Caxas when Wesley was like...hey lets go swimming! So we got out of the taxi in Banios Del Inca and went to the pool...which had a water slide! It was great, because we were disgusting with hair full of dust and having worn the same clothes almost all weekend :) While in the pool there was...drama! A grumpy old woman working there was yelling at a girl about my age for wearing a t-shirt in the pool ( you have to wear bathing suits). Apparently, the lady at the counter had told the girl she could wear the shirt if she didnt wear her bra. The grump told her she had to get out, or she´d call the police. The girl persisted. The police arrived and did...nothing. At this point the woman was in a right state and yelled at everyone to stop laughing, she said one goes to the pool to swim and relax (like we can relax when the police come in...), not to have a bath. I felt bad for the grumpy woman, she must have been having a bad day, or suffering from menopause. We returned to Cajamarca and Cesar went to do some work while I slept, and we had planned to go out but were so exhausted we ended up sleepig. And now I am 21. woo hooooo, I am old. Hopefully, we will go out later, some friends have called and invited me out for dinner later, so that should be nice!
Thanks for keeping up! love me xxxx