Introduction to Lima and PUCP Posted on August 20th, 2011 by


Technically this park is called Parque Central de Miraflores, but everyone knows it as Parque Kennedy because there's a bust of JFK. Oftentimes, there's an artisan market there, like this one. Though I've been told that it's often cheaper to get artisanal items when travelling outside of Lima.

I suppose I haven’t yet given an introduction to where I’m living, which might have been a more logical place to start this blog. Lima is a huge coastal city, the capital of Peru. The concrete jungle stretches miles along the bay. The weather here, being winter, is cold, gray and damp. 60 degrees F sounds very nice, but taking into account heavy humidity and constant cloud cover, it’s a cold that falls short of biting, but rather slowly chills you to the bone. It’s not quite cold enough to justify central heating; I am quite comfortable wearing my winter coat all day. A typical Wisconsinite I am, talking about the weather. My advice if you come to Lima: bring pants as well as shorts, and bring at least a winter coat and a couple sweaters, so you can rotate. Things take forever to dry!

Lima is a very modern city: buses and taxis cruise the streets, cell phones are widespread, and internet cafes are everywhere. There’s no question that the latest technology and the wonders of capitalism have arrived in Lima, but distribution is another issue. Lima is a place of striking inequalities. People in clean pressed suits drive custom automobiles as street peddlers peddle their carts along the road. A bus ride to the “wrong neighborhood” will show makeshift housing. The differences between the cities and countryside are perhaps more striking. Outside Lima and the other major urban areas, I’ve been told (which tells how much I’m sheltered in the context of my host family and university), Peru is a third-world country. I’ll have to see when I go travelling.

Lima is kind of a concrete jungle. But it has its own aesthetic, too, which I tried to capture in this not-so-great photo

I’m attending the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. It’s a Catholic university, but not strictly Catholic by any means. From what I can gather, it’s like a 16,000-student, Catholic version of Gustavus: Church-affiliated, where there’s definitely a religious presence, but not a Christian school per se.

Kept green by frequent watering (Lima is kind of in a coastal desert), it’s certainly a luxurious campus. Students can be found lounging on the grass, hanging out in the various cafeterias around campus, and studying in the library. The campus, separated from the city by a fence, is home to a population of deer who have apparently been there since the campus was built. Far from shy, they will graze upon unattended lunches. But as they roam the grassy fields of the campus green, if I ignore the cityscape behind, I can almost imagine a 19th-century pastorale.

So far we’ve had a week of normal classes. International students can try whatever classes they want the first week, but we officially register on Monday. It has been a bit of a stressful time: attending a variety of classes without quite knowing which ones I will actually be taking, and for which ones I should be doing the homework. I will certainly be taking Peruvian Social Reality, an anthro/history class looking at social issues in Peru, as well as Advanced Spanish: Writing Workshop. Those are CIEE courses in which I’m guaranteed a spot. Apart from that, I’m planning on taking Quechua, an indigenous language of the Andes. So far pretty cool, though it’s so weird to suddenly have no cognates. A typical European language student I am. I really like my Social Reality prof, so I’m also taking an activity class with him in which we’ll be examining the history and the current use of various public spaces in Lima. For whom were they built, and how do different groups of people use the spaces, what are the social class implications? Should be interesting stuff.

This is the Plaza San Miguel...I think...I'll need to go in the day to make sure. We were on a bus tour and it was a bit overwhelming.

I’m loving my Contemporary Spanish Lit class, though I’m realizing that this is going to be one of the harder classes I’ve taken. The prof’s lectures are brilliant, but they are pretty much lectures. The syllabus lists 2 exams and 2 reading tests, but no homework, so I’m assuming most of the studying will be independent. For direct enroll, I’ve been told, this is a fairly typical class style. Not my favorite style, but the material is fascinating. These writers like Baudelaire and Rimbaud are so depressed by the triviality of life, that poetry for the sake of creating something new, becomes their pursuit. Poetry becomes the intellectual pursuit of creating something that transcends reality, or at least destroys reality. Independent of mundane meaning, the form and sound of the poem become more important than any objective content. I’m slightly turned off by the escapism of it, but in a Fight Club sort of way I can resonate with their frustration with our technified, mechanized, trivial, materialist, capitalist lifestyle.

The beginning of a foreign exchange or study abroad is bound to be an awkward time, not knowing anyone. It’s especially difficult here, since we’ve come into second semester, when even the cachimbos (freshmen) have pretty much established their friend groups. I’ve been hanging out with the other gringos some, but also trying to meet peruvian folks, which usually consists of inviting myself to a random person’s lunch table. I’ve met some interesting folks, and I hope to get to know them better as the year goes on.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m going to go drink tea and read a book. Peace,



If you go at the right time (something to look ahead on), they do a laser show at the Parque de las Aguas, basically projecting through a huge fountain of water. I was more impressed by the medium than the content. Lasers and creating images on water in the air: sweet! Shifting polygons? Dancer from Swan Lake? What the hell? There were some Peruvian dances that were featured, though, which was cool.

Near the center of Lima is the Parque de las Aguas, full of brightly lit fountains. Go at night. Entry is a few soles. Make sure that it's open before you go. I think it's closed monday and tuesday nights, if I remember correctly.

The Tontódromo. If I remember correctly, that's the unofficial name of the main pathway on this campus. Roughly translated, it means the "stupid people's path"

The security guards at PUCP are pretty cool, I stop and talk with them every now and then

One of the academic buildings of PUCP. I enjoy the stairways



One Comment

  1. Emmi Barraza says:

    WOW! this is awesome! I’m so happy for you and I hope you are enjoying yourself! Cora is in Xi’an China right now and the rest of us are home and we send you our love. I was just thinking about our last trip to see you guys and how much fun we’ve all had over the years. hopefully one day we’ll all get back together. Love you bunches!! Have fun!