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I’m Sleeping With A Peruvian

iquitos peru, peru, tropical peru, rotary group study exchange south carolina peru, tourism peru, south america

Rotary fosters cultural understanding. During my time in Rotary, I’ve hosted people from England, Wales, South Africa, Brazil, Panama and now Peru, through Rotary’s Group Study Exchange Program (GSE).

Rotary’s GSE program gives participants four to five weeks in another country. They live in the homes of Rotarians, study their professions and share ideas, and probably eat more than their share of weird-and-strange food. We took Patricia, our guest, out for sashimi Monday night. She tried everything with a good-natured smile, even as I tried to remember my forgotten fourteen words of Spanish.

For the rest of the week, Patricia and her team will see Charleston area sights, shadow professional peers, and learn to maintain clean water units our Rotarians installed in Peru. Maybe she’ll teach me a few more words of Spanish by the time she leaves, but regardless, I know I will have a new friend. A friend who comes from a completely different world. A friend who’s human.

Just like me.

Have you ever gone into a cultural experience convinced it would be a certain way, only to find it not what you expected?

26 Comments Post a comment
  1. I don’t think any of my cultural experiences have been what I expected, but they are always eye-opening and I learn a lot about myself (and others) along the way.The best ones are the ones where I become a better person because of them. I’m going to lead you to a blog post of mine that I doubt you’ve read (since is 2 years old) but contains some significant experiences. http://lisawieldswords.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/fighting-bias/

    March 5, 2013
    • Great post, Lisa. I’m so glad you redirected me to it. I wonder if that experience changed Paul in any way or made him think about people differently.

      As people, we are compelled to categorize everything, including each other. It makes it so much easier to see the world around us if everything fits into neat compartments, but it does stifle the experience of life, at least in my opinion. I’ve often had instant impressions of people that were unfair once I dug deeper. These days, I really try not to form impressions right away, to let people reveal themselves to me in layers.

      It took me decades to learn, and I still struggle with it. (I left the same comment on your post.)

      March 5, 2013
  2. Wonderful, Andra. To host another is to host the world. We have not hosted any students in our own home, but, through Tom’s Rotary, have gotten to meet quite a few who attend events and have been hosted by friends. It is always an enlightening experience, and, I believe, fosters the ideals of goodwill, your four way test, and, well, simply helps us all understand each other more and makes the world a better place.

    March 5, 2013
    • I think so many of our misunderstandings come about because we don’t know someone on the other side. And, hosting is a super-fun experience, if you and Tom ever decide to try it. We have adults on GSE, but we’ve also hosted children through our Gift of Life program.

      March 5, 2013
  3. Wonderful, looking forward to meeting with the team tomorrow and then a casual dinner Saturday. The GSE teams the District has hosted over the years have just been great, the team form Brazil being a real standout in recent years. Being able to stay in touch with them via Facebook and Twitter has been fun and watching team members marry one another, and another have her little girl has just been like watching family from a distance.

    March 5, 2013
    • And, we’ll see you tonight! :)

      I think the reason that Brazil team is so prominent is because of Facebook. Most of them gave up Orkut and got on Facebook once they got back home, and I still talk to all of them there. Emerson, the team leader, cracks me up regularly with his photos of booze and bad teeth.

      March 5, 2013
  4. tarakianwarrior #

    And how does Andra start her birthday month? By sharing her life and learning of another person and their life. And then she shares what she’s learned (some of it I’m sure) with all of us. I feel truly blessed.

    March 5, 2013
    • So far, I’ve learned that I need to learn Spanish……….. :) This team does not speak much English. A lot of Google Translate for me.

      March 5, 2013
  5. She comes that far and you take her out for bait? For shame! You should have given her good _cooked_ Southern food.

    Hope she has a great time. I know she will if she hangs out with you. Oh, and send her home with an African Violet.

    March 5, 2013
    • We went to Fleet Landing for lunch today. I can’t wait to show you what three of them ordered…….. :)

      March 5, 2013
      • That should be good! And a nice place for lunch today. Good view.

        March 5, 2013
  6. I work in a multicultural environment and I am always pleasantly reminded how much alike we all are. The culture, religion, customs can vary but basically we are the same in so many ways. One surprise friendship is a woman who wears a full Jilbab. The issue was more mine than hers. Once we started talking we found that we really enjoyed each other’s company and had much in common.

    March 5, 2013
    • I loved hearing about your job when I spent the day with you, Rose. People are so interesting, especially the less they are like me.

      March 5, 2013
  7. What a wonderful experience for both of you! Cultural exchange is such a part of living in Los Angeles, I can’t even tell you how many friends I have who have taught me a great deal about the rest of the world. Each opportunity opens the window wide open! I hope you continue to share about your time together. Loved Carnell’s response…I vote for some good shrimp and grits!

    March 5, 2013
    • My team member has visited Los Angeles, Debra. Of course, she probably had an easier time there, because Spanish is so prevalent.

      March 5, 2013
  8. Every time there’s a chance taken, it’s different than I expected. Traveling in London alone, I didn’t expect much to affect me, after all I knew the language and a bit of the history and culture. I left England with a profoundly different … something… in my soul. Traveling in Italy, I expected a sea-change, and instead left feeling like a tourist who’s missed too many good sights (though I would not give back the experience for anything). Hosting a French exchange student, I imagined a friend for life, a visit to her home in Grenoble someday… instead, I was relieved to see her go, tired of carrying her painful distaste for everything we offered her, from her room to the food and the trips we took.

    All of it, though, an adventure!

    March 5, 2013
    • If I were betting, I’d say your French student was homesick. I once knew someone who behaved similarly, and when he finally was honest about it, he admitted as much. Of course, when I was a teen, I would’ve been a disaster traveling.

      I spent much of my visit to Rome crying. “OMG, this was in my Latin text book in high school. I never thought I’d see it in person.” CRY. “OMG, here’s a random Caravaggio in this little church.” CRY. “OMG, look at that light in the Pantheon.” CRY. “OMG, that’s where Audrey Hepburn got all her hair chopped off.” CRY.

      March 5, 2013
      • I should have cried more in Rome. I did laugh though. It was the once city we were given enough time to play in. I got lost with my best friend… we went down the wrong alley looking for the Pantheon… and were all disappointed because it dead ended at this awful, filthy gray wall… which was not so much a dead end as the side of Pantheon…

        And yes, poor Alexandra probably was horrifically homesick. At 15, though, we were unable to confess those kinds of things.

        March 5, 2013
      • Laughing is just as good. :)

        March 6, 2013
  9. I shudder to imagine what your 14 words in Spanish are. Patricia was lucky to get to stay with you, I think.

    March 6, 2013
    • She would be luckier if I could actually TALK to her.

      March 6, 2013
      • I’ll bet you’re cute with sigh language too.

        March 7, 2013
      • My gestures are a little large……..

        March 7, 2013
  10. Hope you all have a lovely time, Andra :-)

    March 6, 2013

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