Rachel Kraus: Lima Livin’

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Honors International Relations, Spanish, and Latin American Studies student Rachel Kraus is studying abroad in Lima, Peru, where she’s immersed herself in Peruvian culture and managed to fit in some crafting time. 

Hola a todos! My name is Rachel Kraus and I am majoring in International Relations, Spanish, and Latin American Studies with a minor in Sustainability. I am studying abroad in Lima, Peru and, though I still have about a month and a half left before my semester abroad ends, I can’t believe how fast it has flown by.

For the past 3 months I have been taking classes at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. They are all taught in Spanish, and half of them are with only Peruvians. In addition to classes, I have been doing volunteer work with two different NGOs (because I couldn’t choose between the two) as part of the community based learning component of my program (IFSA-Butler). The first, ReciAmancaes, is a small business that employs impoverished, single women who make ecological décor and jewelry made from recyclable materials. The women there are so kind and make the most beautiful things. The other, La Semilla, hosts weekend programs for children in the outskirts of Lima that teach them leadership skills and how to take care of the environment; just yesterday, I helped get the kids started with a bean plant for them to take care of. Both organizations are headed by wonderful people and I am so blessed to have this opportunity to learn firsthand about what is being done here to combat inequality by means of sustainable development. I plan on using my independent study as a base for my senior thesis.

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Rachel Kraus making crafts using recycled goods with Meche at ReciAmancaes.

While I have been busy with academic work, I have had plenty of time to enjoy the Peruvian cuisine, culture, and beauty. As far as cuisine goes, just about every plate is guaranteed to have either rice, giant Peruvian corn (choclo), potatoes…occasionally all three. The most common would have to be rice and some type of sauce with vegetables, beans, or meat. And while this might not sound all that appetizing, I assure you that it is some of the best food I’ve ever had. Simple, healthy, and tasty.

My own culture shock has been one of beauty, because through it I have learned copious amounts of patience. People walk really slow here and are hardly ever on time for anything. Once I got past the frustration, I saw the beauty in that everything doesn’t have to be on schedule because it will all get done eventually. And if it doesn’t, it’s okay.

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Enjoying a lunch of potatoes, choclo, lima beans, fresh fish, hard-boiled eggs, and quinoa tea with the Quechua-speaking organic farm collective Sierra Productiva.

Speaking of beauty, Peru’s geography is extremely diverse and contains coastal, mountain, and jungle climates, all of which are stunning in their own way. I spent this past weekend in and around the coastal desert city of Ica where I went sand boarding down giant sand dunes and on a boat ride out to what they call “the Galapagos Islands of Peru” to see penguins, sea lions, and thousands of birds. I never thought the immensity of the desert nor could giant rocks in the middle of the ocean be so breathtaking.

Living in a big city has been a big challenge for me, but I’m taking it on with open arms. Like I said I’ve only got about a month and a half left until the semester is over which means I’ve got to cram in as much Spanish, culture, and good Peruvian food as I can before it’s over.

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Rachel with the Incan ruins at Saqsaywaman.

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