Monthly Archives: June 2012

Comfort Zone vs. Danger Zone

Huacachina Oasis

I most definitely slipped out of my comfort zone into the danger zone last weekend.

Neither riding an open vehicle over cliffs in mountainous sand dunes nor boarding down black diamond sand slopes had been on my to-do list, but it was part of the weekend package. This is another advantage of traveling with a group of people outside your own age range—you end up trying new things you wouldn’t have considered with a more homogenous group.

Obviously, I survived. The first dune buggy had major problems and a crazy driver. The replacement vehicle was newer and while we went faster, the new driver seemed more competent, even when we went straight up and over an edge that had us going pretty much straight down.

Dune Buggy YouTube!

We stopped at three different slopes. The first to grab a board and head down the slope were the two girls most likely to be cast in a TV show—always perfectly dressed, perfect makeup, all that superficial stuff—but gutsy as well. They have brains, too. This may be the generation where women actually end up being paid on a par with men and filling more comparable positions.

Sand boarding YouTube!

What were you expecting?

Yes, that’s water forming the pyramid.

The other day, my house-mother took me along as she argued with contractors on behalf of her daughter. She also showed me the apartment her single adult daughter is buying, the club they belong to, and the apartment where she grew up and her mother still lives. She asked what I had expected of Lima, because many of her students arrive expecting harsh third world conditions.

Well, the answer isn’t simple. I expected to see more poverty but also expected her home to be very nice, after our emails. The reality is that there are differences, but parallels. Her home is luxurious, with those great instant water heaters so everyone can get a hot shower. The gardens are beautiful. She doesn’t have a dishwasher, but they are very environmentally conscious. The gas dryer is new because natural gas was not available here before. She has help that comes in three times a week to help keep everything immaculate. I’m sure people live like this in the US, and even better, but it’s on the high side of middle.

While I haven’t seen the shanty towns yet, I know they are more extensive than the tent city I saw in Fresno, CA. The beggars and street vendors are very much on a par with the same folk in the US. I even caught the dirty hippie smell on one vendor the other day. I think the poverty in other countries hits tourists more because of the numbers of people and because at home they stay in their own zones and simply don’t see the way others live. So, to focus on the poverty in another country is not giving it a balanced viewing.

Overall, Lima is an international city.





(Left with ISA roommates, right with classmates from Universidad Pacifico.)

If you were expecting Lima to be third world, check out the laser show at the Parque de la Reserva. The park was initiated in 1929 and the fountains themselves are phenomenal, but the laser show is absolutely modern.


Re: Guns and Toilets

Every day sights.

This tank was on the street in Lima. No one paid any attention to it. There are lots of uniformed men around the city of various types, and I’ve seen at least one armed with what I took to be along the lines of an Uzi. Should I be worried? No. This is all normal here. Peru’s had several years of relative calm and the military/police presence is no longer a cause for alarm. However, you SHOULD check your country’s travel advisories prior to travel and be aware of current events, even if you’re traveling with ISA or another organization. This is not only a safety issue; it prepares you to carry on an enlightened conversation with the people of that country.

While we’re talking about unfamiliar sights: You may go into the bathroom where you are visiting and find fixtures strange enough you’re not sure how to use them. If you know you’ll be too shy to ask, search online for the customs (and fixtures) in the country you’ll be visiting. For example, there’s info on how to use a squat toilet at Lonely Planet.

Yes, it's for rinsing.

This is the fixture where I’m staying. You rinse off with the sprayer, then the paper (which must go into the garbage because Lima sewers can’t handle it) is not so nasty. In Europe, I’ve also seen personal little towels for drying off. This is far cleaner than scraping oneself with paper, a habit many people consider bizarre and rather nasty.

Overall, the more you know about the places you’re going to visit, the more comfortable you’ll be.

¡Hola! From the Alternative ISA Student in Lima, Peru!

ISA Summer 2012 Lima, Peru

I’m a college student—again—and I’m not alone. Changing careers or finishing an interrupted education are only two of the many reasons for older students to be in a university program. If you’re one of us, don’t count yourself out of the other benefits of being a student—discounted rates for many activities, cheap health insurance, and TRAVEL experiences. Aside from the pure fun of travel, we live in a global economy where it definitely helps your portfolio.

When I signed up for a trip to Peru this summer with ISA (International Studies Abroad), I had to sign off saying I knew most of the participants would be in their twenties. Did I have doubts? Absolutely. I even bought the bail-out insurance. Who did I think I was kidding? Was I going to be a freak? I should have spent more time brushing up on my Spanish. The thing is, having doubts is the norm. Young people going abroad for the first time, or living with strangers for the first time, or not sure their classroom language will be enough—all of them have doubts, too.

I’ve been here a week, and it’s wonderful. When I first got off the plane, I introduced myself as the “alternative student” and the moment of shock was immediately replaced with curiosity and acceptance. I am by far the oldest student, but not the only “older” one. It doesn’t matter. We’ve been included in the group’s Facebook page and outside activities without prejudice. The prevailing attitude is, if you’ve made here, you belong.

Sheri McGuinn

Object Relations

"A Word of Substance"

Little Fears

Tales of humour, whimsy and courgettes

Elan Mudrow



Did you see the blog on renewable energy? I'm a big fan.