Travelling Pt. 2

Arequipa la blanca – Arequipa the white city, our next destination after a 9h-drive by bus. Known as a very non-Peruvian city, we were curious to explore the small streets of the second largest city of Peru. Very soon we could literally see the origin of its nickname: As all the houses are built out of volcanic stone, their walls are entirely white. Even most of the cathedrals and the Main Square (Plaza de Armas) show the same characteristic architecture and design creating this special atmosphere everyone is talking about.

After having explored the important places of the rather small city centre, we decided to realise the famous Colca Canyon Trek, a two days hiking tour including condor watching and lots of walking. It basically consisted of hiking down the canyon the first and getting back up the next day. You won’t believe me but the way down was way worse than up – it was hot, dusty and after some hours your knees won’t stop shaking. At least we passed by dozens of fruit trees crossing the gardens of the village that fueled up our energy.Having spent the night in a rather basic hut, we were happy to be back in our hostel in Arequipa. Our last day we spent walking around a bit more, taking photos on top of the mirador, eating some more traditional arequipeño food and of course buying a typical llama pullover.
Back in Trujillo, I tried to set up some activities for my parents which was more difficult than expected. Trujillo isn’t a touristic city so we had to stick to a little city tour, the site of Chan Chan, Huanchaco and some nice restaurants.
I was happy to spend Christmas with them at a student’s house who invitied us on 24th. It was totally new to us to start late at 9pm celebrating, to start with the feast at 11pm and watching fireworks at midnight. We were told this was even earlier than average so it was definitely an interesting experience, although it already felt a bit like New Year. The day after, officially Christmas, was even more of a special experience as everything was closed and calm. Something I’ve never seen before in Trujillo as even on Sundays supermarkets are open and people are on the streets just like on weekdays.
Our last trip led us to Huaraz, a small city in the Andes where we spent some more time in the Peruvian nature. Turns out we’d spent most of the time in the bus driving to different destinations of our tours, but this wasn’t too bad in the end as it all was pretty high again (between 2500 and 5000m) and the beautiful landscape with its flora and fauna could be observed anyway.
The first day was packed with the Chavin culture, pre-inca and over 3000 years ago in Huaraz. We visited their main temple, feeling the ancient spirits that attracted so many pilgrims in former times. Their strong belief in higher states of consciousness (often provoked by the San Pedro Cactus), their gods and traditions formed the center of their lives and are still part of the modern Andean culture.The next two days rather consisted of pure nature; the Llanganuco Lagoon and the Pastoruri Glacier. The pictures speak for themselves concerning the beauty of these places and we enjoyed spending some time in these areas a lot. The woods of the „Puya Raymondi“, a typical Andean tree,and the natural source of mineral water were just as exciting as the snow storm accompanying us down the way from Pastoruri.

But I want to say a word about something you can’t easily derive from the photos. The Pastoruri glacier looks impressive on them, but did you know that in the last 60 years more than 2,5km of it have melted away? This certainly is one of the saddest consequences of climate change and even more so of human interaction in native regions. Other glaciers here in Peru, inaccessible to us, lose substantially less ice every year – definitely something that leaves you in an uncomfortable inner conflict as a tourist and visitor of these places.

Enough travelling? For now! My parents are back home in Germany but after a rather disappointing and calm New Year’s Eve at the beach, I spent some more days with my flatmates in Cajamara, so stay tuned for more stunning activities and pictures, I promise!

~ Jenny

Travelling Pt. 1

„To shut your eyes is to travel.“ – Emily Dickinson
This quote of one of my favourite poets might be true as long as you stay at home, laying in your bed and thinking about all the great things to see in this enormous world. But as soon as you actually start your travel, you can experience the places with all your senses in a totally different and authentic way. I spent my last weeks of this year together with my parents exploring the wonderful Peruvian cities of Cusco, Arequipa and Huaraz and there’s no way I could have used my time better.Cusco, formerly called Qosco, offers you endless information and archeological sites of the inca culture which only existed for a few decades (but still counts) with surprisingly advanced technology and traditions. As it was the dominating culture when the Spanish conquered Peru, it’s also the culture we know most about today although the Spanish did a great job destroying most of it. We started our stay on 3500m altitude with a City Tour exploring the most important inca centres such as the sacred temples of Qenqo, Qoricancha and Sacsaywaman or Puca Pucara, the red fortress. All these names represent a Spanish modification of the original quechua names.


The second day led us to the Valle Sagrado, the sacred valley of the incas. There we visited several different cities within the area (Pisaq, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo) and other inca sites. As the inca strongly believed in their natural gods, their temples were oriented according to the main sun events of the year, the two solstices and the two equinoxes, all of them celebrated in a special way. The architecture of the buildings was extremely accurate and full of their mysterious beliefs in the concepts of dualism and the three worlds represented by three characteristic animals. Dualism was omnipresent in the inca culture; black and white, man and woman, day and night. Also, the world is divided into the past or the underworld of the dead (snake), the present or the land (puma) and the future or the sky (condor). 

These concepts accompanied us also during our trip to the most famous tourist attraction in Peru, Machu Picchu. Going there by the ridiculously expensive train, we had some free time in Aguas Calientes, the village of Machu Picchu, we spent walking around and bathing in the thermal springs. The next day we got up early to start our walk up Machu Picchu at 4.30am which was tough but worth it. We were extremely lucky with the weather and had an amazing view the whole day. Climbing up Wayanapicchu in the sun some hours later was even tougher but the view was more than rewarding.

If you think that we were tired by now, you’re certainly wrong. Hiking up the Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca Montaña de 7 Colores) on 5000m the next day was a totally new experience to all of us. It’s not so much that the way required special skills, but the altitude often provokes sickness (soroche) with sypmtoms like headaches and nausea. You can rent horses to carry you up the mountain but I promise you’ll be prouder having walked on your own. The panorama on top was breathtaking and as it was sunny again, the fresh snow just had melted enough to perceive the seven different colours that form due to various minerals.

15 more minutes and we got to see the red valley which was even more impressive to me as the landscape consists of so many different shapes and colours.Before heading to Arequipa by bus overnight, we spent one more day visiting the site of Moray, an impressive agricultural centre that benefits from a terrace system and creates tropical climates on top of the mountains.

Besides agriculture, Maras counts over 4000 basins forming salines where families extract salt from the highland’s water under the name of the company ‚Marasal‘.Leaving Cusco after this adventurous week felt so wrong – the city itself is so beautiful and the view from our hostel something I really could have got used to!

~ Jenny

Casa Atinchik //Pachacámac, Lima, Perú

A quiet place, you can hear the birds singing and the wind blowing through the leaves of the trees. 20 volunteers laying in the green grass, covering their faces against the sun and chatting, painting or just taking a nap. Vacation vibes are in the air, but no, we’re all just having a break from our seminar at the Casa Atinchik in Pachacámac, a small village close to Lima. It means „Juntos podemos“ – „Together we can“ in quechua and serves as the main spirit of the house. The host family was incredibly cute, always worried about our well being. We all benefited from their ambition of a healthy and ecological lifestyle as they served only selfmade organic (and especially delicious) food and offered Qi Gong lessons and even a sauna. The perfect place to leave the daily business behind everyone of us has established over the past two months and take some time for profound reflection: Do I feel comfortable in my country? Does my work meet my expectations? What could be better and how can I take responsibility and change something?


It was immensely interesting to exchange experiences with the other volunteers that sometimes were completely different but mostly quite the same. I was honestly relieved to hear about similar struggles and inconveniences that allowed me to open up without feeling like I was only complaining for no reason.
Throughout the seminar, we focused on different topics such as our working place conditions, conflict management and projects we discussed in small groups first and then brought together. It was enriching to hear all the different perspectives in a way that we were able to also share problem solving strategies.


One day we left our little paradise for an excursion to an urban garden project in Virgen María del Triunfo, a rather poor part of Lima. We were shocked by the contrasts: on the one hand the green gardens with their plants and even fresh air and on the other hand the dirty streets, burning trash piles in the middle of it and over-populated areas. It made us sad at first but learning more about urban agriculture, we got more and more impressed. It all started small and even hopeless: The ground was sandy, there was neither water nor money. But with the support of a local electricity company and the strong belief of the people in the project, now there are 90 families on 2ha cultivating their own crops for their private consumption and the local markets. They keep it simple but effective at the same time, using guinea pig’s excrements as a natural fertilizer and trickle irrigation to water their plants.

After this unique experience, we ended the day on the beach of Lima, a bitter deception for us volunteers from Trujillo but something special for the Bolivians as they don’t have access to the sea themselves.


All in all, it was good to have the seminar, breaking our routine for one week although I was missing a little bit of input throughout the five days. While I struggled with the information overload during the preparation seminar in Berlin, now I sometimes felt like I was left alone for too long with my thoughts. I liked the idea of primarily calm self reflection and time spent apart from the group after well set impulses, but sometimes I would have wished for more of a guiding hand. Anyhow, I really enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere (amplified by the presence of two incredibly sweet babies) and one more free day afterwards in Lima I entirely spent in the beautiful quarters of Miraflores and Barranco.


Now I’m back in business again here in Trujillo and it already feels as if I’ve never been gone. Exams need to be written and I can’t wait to see my parents and travel with them soon!

– Jenny

Amnesty International: Write for Rights

„All human beings are born free and equal.“

This sentence is followed by 29 more articles, forming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, composed by the United Nations and signed by almost every country of the world in 1948. Like this, every government officially became responsible to guarantee the fulfillment of these human rights for every citizen in order to establish a society of peace and harmony.
Only few years later, in 1961, Amnesty International was founded, an NGO acting worldwide and aiming to control the accomplishment of the human rights. Amnesty works as an independent instance and organizes workshops, courses and offers writing and signing letters that will be sent to the governments or individuals whose rights have been violated.

Every year, a marathon of writing letters called „Write for Rights“ takes place where you get to know 5 cases about violated human rights and then have the possibility to sign the demands for the corresponding countries and to write a letter to one of these victims.

I personally think that Amnesty’s work is highly important and therefore decided to bring the workshop to the school of my voluntary work here in Peru (Colegio Max Planck). With the children of the secondary, I developed a class starting with an introduction to the topic (What are human rights? Why do we need them and why is it worth fighting for them?) and ended with the writing of the letters.

The results were truly amazing. As I conceptualised the workshop in Spanish, the students participated actively and contributed their own ideas and questions. They showed strong interest in the different cases and were shocked by the incredible injustice in all the places that sometimes are closer to us than expected. Reading their letters left me very touched and a bit upset but proud – I literally could feel the frustration but also the solidarity of the students.

Further down on the page you can find some anonymous examples of the letters and photos of the signed texts. In total, there are 141 signatures on 26 completed sheets and more than 60 individual letters with lots of drawings and even a message in Portuguese among them.

I want to sincerely thank Director Arturo Pareces Javier and Mrs. Elsa Salinas for making this project possible and Mr. Moisès for letting me take his history lessons. And finally thank you students, because you are the ones whose voice can change the future!

https://www.amnesty.org/es/

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=202843203929985&id=100026129212191

I will post further links to more articles on other platforms here soon!

 

Bars, surfing and human rights

Three weeks, several visits at the local hospital and three penicilline injections worked their miracle: I’m finally back among the living and started my routine again as if nothing had happened. There were some nice surprises awaiting such as a more effective Taekwondo training incorporating more fitness elements or a new bus line working as a shortcut for me.

As I still don’t have too much work to do at school, I decided to organise an Amnesty International workshop for the students of the higher classes in order to spread the most basic values human rights stand for. Being part of the annual „Write for Rights“ movement seemed a good opportunity to me to both defend human rights in Peru and sensibilise children for this topic sporadically discussed in school. For further details and photos please visit the separate blog entry!

I also finally came to dedicate more free time to culturally enriching acitivities such as visiting the famous „Huaca del Sol y de la Luna“, another archaeological site of the Moche culture. Not only did I learn lots of new things, I also got to know an artisanal artist, descendent of the Moche, working on ceramics for a living. I even painted some pieces myself and listened to his stories which I enjoyed a lot due to the calm atmosphere in the small village.

Moreover, I went to the cinema for the first time here (Bohemian Rhapsody, what else) and assisted two little concerts in different bars here in Trujillo that were both amazing. The first one presented Criojazz, a fusion between classical Jazz and Peruvian music which was bizarre at first but included great rhythms and sounds in the end. The second one represented a tribute to the Arctic Monkeys, a band I already knew before. The band was incredible and almost everyone was able to sing along which created a very special atmosphere. Both bars seemed a little sketchy in the beginning but soon were full of curious, young and also international people.

Last sunday I finally got to visit the mysterious lagoon of Conache, a small lake in the middle of nowhere but a popular place for a relaxing day out of Trujillo. It was full of families and there were plenty of activities offered but most importantly I tried sandboarding for the first time and I can say it was insanely fun! Climbing up the sanddunes was intense but definitely worth it every time because you pick up speed rapidly and the technique isn’t too difficult. Of course we fell spectacularly the whole time but luckily the sand was soft so we had a lot to laugh. After that, we cleaned off the sand (which was basically everywhere) bathing in the lagoon and spent some more time on the small beach next to it. All in all we really had a good time and I’ll probably come back to that place again.

After the enthusiastic stories of my house mates, I decided to try out surfing here in Huanchaco. I personally was pretty sceptical because I remembered surfing in Spain to be pretty boring but my expectations have definitely been exceeded. A short theory session familiarised us with the correct techniques and soon we tried them out in the water. Swimming against the the waves was tough but surfing on them made it all worth it. Although it was my first lesson, I had lots of fun and I’m definitely going to continue this for the rest of my time here in Peru.

Two days ago, I was invited to the clausura of the olimpiadas maxplancistas 2018, the closing event of the Olympics of my school. Again in Buenos Aires, I watched the impressive dancing performances of each class, cheered with my students for their parents and chatted a little more with the teachers. It was another long day full of activities I appreciated very much.


In the evening, I went to a club for the first time with some friends and I can say it’s pretty different from what I know in Germany. I haven’t made up my mind yet whether I like it too much because as a European girl you’re kind of the center of attention but I haven’t made any bad experience.

This week I’m spending in Pachacámac, a village near Lima for a kulturweit seminar which I will comment on in my next blog entry!

~ Jenny

Algarrobina, Huanchaco and Buenos Aires

Cold milk, pure Pisco, cacao cream, an egg yolk, syrup and some ice cubes – voilà, there you go with your cocktail Algarrobina, one of the best ones I tried so far. And even better: I learned how to prepare it myself during an official cocktail workshop at the Private Northern University at the department of tourism. A fully equipped kitchen and bar next to the rather small conference room show clearly that everything is about practice here. After a short theoretical introduction about Peru’s national 42% liquor Pisco, we watched the professor professionally prepare three classical cocktails. It all looked very easy and a sip of the product convinced us of the quality of the drink. But when it came to us to repeat the few steps, many of us seemed to struggle with the art of a perfect design and taste. We had lots of fun anyway which definitely wasn’t due to our increasing alcohol intake.


Other than that, I finally got to visit Huanchaco again and absolutely enjoyed the surprisingly different atmosphere. The people seem more relaxed and open minded and you’ll find international groups everywhere. Exploring the small town, I discovered a Swiss café with amazing food and I also got to try some new jungle-flavours of cremolada, which basically is ice with different syrups and juices. Friends also recommended for me to climb up to the local church and after a short walk I was able to enjoy a fantastic view over Huanchaco, its beaches and of course the ocean too. It felt so calm just to stand on the hill, hearing the monotonous singing through the open doors of the church and breathing the fresh breeze. As I wanted to catch up on the sunset (which is pretty early at around 6pm every evening here), I needed to hurry finishing my arroz con mariscos (rice with seafood) and when I arrived at the beach, the sky was all dizzy and grey. I still found it fascinating enough to see the sun play hide and seek with the clouds and loved watching it disappear in the waves of the ocean. Suddenly, it got a whole lot colder and I was happy to have brought my jacket. Definitely a place I’ll come back to soon!


Another highlight was the inauguration of the olimpiadas maxplancistas 2018 where I was honored to be part of the judges. Evaluating the children’s and parents’ (!) performances was the best part of the whole day and I took lots of pictures and videos. As I even received an official Max Planck College shirt, I felt like a part of the school’s family which made me proud of my work here. Many students talked to me that day and it was great to see them once in a non-formal context. I’m really looking forward to the clausura event in two weeks!
Unfortunately, spending a day in Buenos Aires, Trujillos part that is the closest to the water, turned out to be highly dangerous. As the sun is burning intensely, you won’t notice the strong wind blowing around you that makes you sick. I experienced this myself spending the following week in my bed, occasionally getting up to prepare the next cup of tea. After ten days I’m still recovering and hope, that I’ll feel better as soon as possible as it’s Halloween today and other great events promise to come up too!

~ Jenny

Tarapoto – the Peruvian jungle pt. 2

Day 3 – Wednesday

Today we finally got to taste the hostel’s breakfast and just as everything here it consisted majorly of the admittedly delicious cooked bananas. Our tour to a near waterfall started with some delay because of ongoing street reparations, caused by rocks falling off the stone walls. But the way was absolutely worth it. After a short walk downhill, we crossed a small river and arrived at the waterfall and its laguna around. The nature was still very calm and we had a relaxing time swimming around. Later, we climbed up a bit and swam to the spot directly under the waterfall – standing next to it was intensely spectacular and it was a real shame we couldn’t take pictures of that! But luckily we got a whole lot of other pictures, of us swimming, laughing and of course jumping off the cliff into the waterfall! The first time I really needed some time until I dared letting go but the second time was already easier and a lot of fun!
That much action made us hungry and the lunchbox was again filled with the amazing local food. Before hiking back up, we relaxed a little in the hot water of the natural springs and enjoyed the beautiful scenery around us.


On our way back (including 1h waiting again), we stopped at a viewpoint and at a small bakery where we were able to try artisan bread. It was freshly prepared and still warm and very different from our bread. I liked it a lot and bought some more for our drive back to Trujillo.
Our last night we spent tasting some more local food (today: Juanes, a rice dish with egg and chicken) and ended the day drinking cocktails in the streets of Tarapoto.

Day 4 – Thursday

Our last day started with a papa rellena (stuffed potato) and Peruvian punctuality. Relieved that they hadn’t forgotten us, we drove to the waterfall of Talliquihui to do Rappel, an activity where you walk down the waterfall. The safety instructions were easy and the guides super cool and international so we could talk in various languages. First we walked down the dry part to practise the technique and then finally the wet part that consisted of walking directly into the waterfall. Completely wet but happy we watched the others doing the trail and swam a bit. Butterflies in the brightest colours flew around making the experience to an amazing end of our trip.
Heading back to the hostel became pretty stressful but we luckily got our bus and now are heading back to rather cold Trujillo. Another exhausting drive but now with a bunch of cool photos on our phones and a lot to tell friends and family.

Although the trip was very short and I would have loved to spend more time here, I’m endlessly glad we decided to take this stuffed tour so we made the most of our time. It was all very intense and the few impressions of the people living on the „countryside“ in the selva were very similar from what I know from my grandparents in Romania: easily constructed houses with corrugated iron as a roof, carpets covering the holes that work as doors and windows and generally living a rather hard and poor life. I would have liked to talk more to the people here to get more authentic impressions so I might return one day!

~ Jenny

 

Tarapoto – the Peruvian jungle

Aguaje, lucuma, cocona! Ice cream, juice or raw: the fruits of the selva show a variety of tastes, unknown to me and I can say that apart from their health benefits I really love them. Here, they form such a natural part of the daily diet that I’m really jealous of it! But fruits weren’t the only thing I experienced during my trip to Tarapoto and therefore this introduction is followed by a report separated by days to better structure the plentiness of activities we experienced!

Day 1 – Monday

After the supposedly comfortable but rather exhausting 19h bus drive to Tarapoto (you can’t sleep while the bus is constantly braking and accelerating due to serpentines that lead you uphill for hours), we finally arrived in our hostel and were surprised by the hardly bearable heat already at 10am. As we still had some free time, we walked around a bit and explored the city centre but soon returned to our air conditioned room. I decided to take another walk to the famous chocolate factory that reminded me of the hikes in the Israeli desert. But now I proudly possess lots of jungle-chocolate! On my way back, I took a mototaxi which basically looks like a motorised Riksha and is the main mean of transport here. The streets here aren’t made for bigger vehicles so you rather stick to these mototaxis and normal motorcycles.

In the afternoon, our first tour started close to Tarapoto and consisted of canoeing on the Mayo river. About 8 people on a small boat trying not to fall over seemed impossible, considering some wilder parts of the river. But apart from getting all wet, we made our way without any accidents and even swam (rather relaxed while the stream pulled us further) and jumped into the water with ropes. The other participants were pretty cool too and after getting over our fears, we all really enjoyed the activity!

Day 2 – Tuesday

Yes, getting up at 3am definitely is fun! Hearing about the following 3h bus ride made us hope to catch up on some sleep but the streets and the driver’s style made this completely impossible. Anyhow, we had a very packed day ahead and started with a boat tour on the Negro River where we observed the (secondary) jungle with all its flora and fauna. Our guides urged us to stay silent in order not to miss the shy animals and luckily we spotted various monkeys, birds, of course lots of insects and even a snake and a sloth sleeping in a tree. But also the plants, rich in water, are very different from what we know and some trees reach horizontal sizes of several hundred metres. There was always something to look at or to listen to which made us really feel the nature.


In the small village next to the river, we were served traditional breakfast consisting of cooked banana and some specialities made of corn that were super tasty.
After that, we visited the caves of Palestina that were formed by the Jordan river. I’m not kidding about the names and I really felt  some melancholy thinking of Israel. But the caves easily took my whole attention because of their beautiful formations. Our guides explained the different processes to us and we even saw bats flying around and giant spiders crawling on the floor. In one hall, we all turned off our lights and remained silent for a while which was an impressive experience. There’s nothing around you, just occasionally the sound of a drop of water hitting a stone. Leaving the caves through a tiny hole turned out to be pretty difficult but we got rewarded by some bathing in the river next to it.

The last official part was visiting the butterfly house and its laboratory where we learned about the life cycle of the butterfly. We would even let the caterpillars crawl on our hands, touch the butterfly pupae and release the butterflies into liberty. As the butterflies were used to human contact, they sometimes even landed on us and we were able to take some nice photos.


To end the day, we had traditional lunch in Moyobamba, near to Tarapoto. I personally ate cecina (dried meat) and tacacho (a dish of mixed rice and bananas) with chorizo and I loved it!

~ Jenny

\ Reflection /

Hola guala, sabes que eres bonita eh? Phrases like this, meaning something like „Hey beauty, you know you’re gorgeous?“, unfortunately are also part of our everyday life as European young and female volunteers. It’s not too easy to talk about this objectively, but as it’s part of our reality here I feel like it shouldn’t be left uncommented. I personally only get stared at and as soon as the people realise that I know Spanish, they mostly will start a nice conversation with me. Like this, I already got to know lots of people here, taxi drivers, waiters or just random Trujillanos on the streets. But as soon as I’m with other friends, rather pale and blonde, talking German and therefore obviously being a stranger, men will start whistling, taxis will slow down and even catcalling is common. This honestly makes me feel very uncomfortable walking the streets here in Peru and I now know what it must feel like to live like this for a longer period. I got an impression what discrimination feels like and I probably have to make up my mind yet again about this issue.

There’s also the forbidden political topic of corruption I want to discuss briefly to not create the illusion that I haven’t experienced it so far. October 7th took place the communal elections and the campaigns beforehands were huge. Every evening, there were small parties in the streets, fireworks and painted walls everywhere in the city. As there is a obligation to vote in Peru, the night before drinking is illegal. Every Peruvian citizen travelled to his city of origin to participate in the elections. Sounds democratic and professional, but talking to the people uncovers deep frustration – what to do when you have to vote but all the candidates are politicians because of money or relations instead of their capabilities? It’s a sensible topic and the consequences of corruption also reach the educational system which made me personally very sad. How is the situation in this country ever supposed to improve when the future politicians are educated in the wrong way?
As I don’t want to offend anyone by posting tendentious content, you may contact me personally for further discussions.

But I want to stress that there aren’t only bad things and inconveniences. Although I haven’t been here for too long yet, I appreciate my daily encounters with several people that became part of my routine. There’s the woman selling sandwiches for 1 Sol that already knows my preferences and there’s the man wishing me a good morning at the entrance of the Sanna clinic, a hospital next to my school. My coordinators Juanjo and Señora Elsa are the sweetest organising everything for me and also the other volunteers in my house always have an open ear and will happily spend time together with me, sharing their music taste or just cooking and playing cards together. Thanks a lot guys!

~ Jenny

Trujillo, ciudad de la primavera II

Uno dos tres – cinco seis siete! Básico! After one hour of our salsa teacher shouting this rhythm at us, we finally somehow managed to dance one of the most famous Latin American dances – Salsa! Although we probably will never be able to move our hips as smoothly as the other students, it was really fun learning how to feel the music and finally be part of the great salsa community. I don’t know yet if I will take more classes soon but I’m definitely very tempted to do so!

Which physicist and Nobel price winner helped with the construction of one of the Oktoberfest’s tents? Two hours filled with random questions, also called Trivia night (something I bet Canadians would fall for…) added lots of unnecessary facts to my shortterm memory. Hosted by SKIP, also an international organisation supporting multicultural conversation, various teams competed against each other in order to win cool prizes such as free yoga lessons or smoothies. Sangria and other local drinks relaxed the competitive atmosphere and we all had a really good time! By the way, the answer is Albert Einstein.

One of my highlights so far was definitely visiting the historical site of Chan Chan, consisting of the ruins of the Chimú tribe that lived in the coastal region of Peru (~22km^2) between around 900 and 1500 AD. There are four different places to see among which the ancient palace is the most important part. A guide gave us a tour explaining the architecture of the palace but also the whole culture that was so different from what we know and often is described as a perfect society. There rarely were conflicts or even wars within a community because everything was based on religion and prestige – two very powerful and therefore effective ways to keep a huge amount of people under control. I personally was amazed by the very traditional and hierarchical structures that allowed an entire culture to grow and prosper for centuries. It’s a shame that we only know about very few cultures such as the inca although they only reigned for several decades in Peru. The reason why we only know them is that we falsely assumed their heritage because they were there when the Spanish conquered Latin America. So whenever you are asked about Peruvian indigenous tribes, you now can name the Chimú too and impress your friends!

While writing this, I’m on my way to Tarapoto, a small city in the middle of the selva (jungle). I hope the 19h drive will be worth it and stay tuned for posts about this trip!

~ Jenny