When visiting a new country it is always important to gain a broad understanding of the culture. In the case of Peru, the wealth levels are very extreme so, it is important to see the shanty towns but it is also good to see some of the wealthier areas. This quest for a greater understanding of Peruvian culture took us to downtown Lima this morning. It is filled with old European looking buildings that are very richly designed both in colour and actual materials used. This part of Lima really shows the influence that Spain had on Peruvian architecture.
The participants were separated into 3 groups and assigned a translator to help them explore the downtown area. There were many interesting interactions with local during our time exploring. They varied from stares to attempting to talk with us. As Katie Sroka said, “it was very interesting walking around and having people take picture of us.” There was a large police presence due to the President living and working in this area. The many intimidating police personnel who were carrying AK-47s and had riot gear turned out to be very friendly. They asked if we wanted to take pictures with them. There was one police officer in specific that was very friendly. His name was Arturo and he spoke with us in English about Canada’s dual languages and the similarities between French, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish. Arturo also asked if we wanted to have him take our pictures with his colleague Carlos. It was really great to see how friendly people were and how eager they were to try and interact with us, even if it was a simple “Buenos dias!”
We attended a church that was open as a museum. It had many gothic looking paintings and a very ornate library that included many books that pre-dated the printing press. The most exciting part of the tour for many people was seeing the catacombs. Jess Manente shared that “having a history minor and being a lover of history from high school, I was really intrigued by the church and the catacombs. There were over 25 000 bodies and a well that was 20 something meters deep and the pattern of the bones was eerily peaceful.” The catacombs were an experience that was very shocking but very interesting to participants.
The outside of the church that we toured was a pigeon haven. There must have been at least a hundred pigeons who were accustomed to people. Some of the participants bought pigeon feed from a local vender and were able to control the swarms of pigeons. Many also tried churros, a traditional South American dessert. The overall reaction was similar to Christian Pol’s, “churros are amazing!”
Once we finished in downtown Lima we were bused to Pacifico De Villa, the shanty town community, to discuss placements and interact with the children in the community. We played a never ending series of games of freeze tag with local children from Pacifico De Villa. It resulted in more interaction between participants and the community which helped participants to become more comfortable in the shanty town environment.
Today was a great way to bond as a group and understand the culture better because in Pacifico De Villa you only see one extreme of the spectrum. Tomorrow the participants will experience the religious aspects of the culture when they attend mass in Pacifico De Villa.
Photos and article by Deb