It´s been a while since I´ve blogged. This year has been a year of traveling for me, largely due to Caltech´s amazing resources. I just finished up winter term, and I´m currently writing thisfrom Peru!
The story begins last year with the Caltech Y. I had been wanting to go to on a medical missions trip for a while, and the Caltech Y was the perfect organization to which to bring this idea. The Caltech Y is a non-profit organization that lives on the edge of campus. It has been around for 100 years–we´re celebrating its 100th birthday this year, which has been super exciting. The Caltech Y provides waysfor Caltech students and the community to grow by offering opportunities to volunteer, explore LA, learn about science policy, lead campus events, and more. I first learned of the Y my freshman year, when I signed up as a volunteer tutor for high schoolers through the Y tutoring program, called RISE tutoring. Since then, I´ve gotten to work with them a lot more. We host Make-A-Difference Day, which is my favorite because I getto know other Techers better as we volunteer together.
Anyway, so the story starts with the Caltech Y. Last year, we looked through lots of different international volunteer organizations, trying to find one that fit our budget and provided a good balance of cultural immersion and community service. All that year, I worked with a couple of other students and advisers from the Caltech Y to plan a trip to South America for medical missions. After looking through different optionsand talking to the newly started Medlife chapter on campus, we decided to go to Peru with Medlife. That´s my favorite thing about the Caltech Y - I get a lot of say as a student. (:
So here I am in Peru! I´ll be sending in my stories this week whenever I can. I´m currently sitting at the computer in the hostel where I´m staying with the Caltech team. We consist of 11 amazing people total, from different ages and majors and hometowns. We´re not all doctor-wannabes, but there are a few of us that are. There are some students from other schools, too, and it´s been cool getting to meet them.
Winter finals ended on Wednesday, March 16. We left LA on Friday, March 18, and flew first to Mexico City before arriving here in Lima, Peru. We spent Saturday morning exploring the Pachacamac ruins close to Lima. The Pachacamac ruins are super old. They´ve been around for at least four civilizations: the Lima, Wari, Ichma, and Inca. I wasn´t aware before this trip that we knew so much about the civilizations before the Inca. The following are some pictures from Pachacamac:
I also saw a small human skull near what used to be the cemetery. The tour guide said that skull was not of archaeological significance, so it was just left there… I don´t think I´ll post a picture of that, though, but you can imagine how strange it was to actually see that in the ruins!
We spent today exploring Miraflores, the district that we´re living in. Lima consists of 43 districts. Miraflores is a lovely one, filled with colorful and peaceful parks right on the edge of the sea. The coast is a meeting point for two different currents–a cold one from Antarctica, and a warm one from El Niño. This year, the warm one actually made it down the coast to southern Peru, which is where Lima is, so the fish population in the Lima coast is smaller and different from the norm. That said, here are some pictures of the coast. See if you can spot the divide between the two currents! (At least, that´s what I suspect it to be.)
There´s a gorgeous park along the coast called the Parque del Amor. The first thing that catches your eye is the large red sculpture of a couple in love. There is also acolorful tiled wall that winds around the sculpture that reminds me of Gaudi´s Park Guell in Barcelona.
For lunch, I had ceviche–I tried some the night before and it was absolutely amazing. See, about 200 years ago, some Japanese immigrants moved to South America for work, and they brought their yum sashimi with them. The ingredients for sauces were different here, though, so instead in Peru they used a certain species of lime to marinate their sashimi. The juice of that lime is so acidic that it sort of cooks the outer layers of the fish. And it´s delicious. I tried it again for lunch, but this time octopus and shellfish, too. The fish-shaped dish was an added touch (:
Starting college can be a big transition. You’re moving to a new place, starting a new school and classes, and faced with making new friends in an unfamiliar environment. And, of course, there’s that whole “becoming an adult” thing. But, you’re also leaving a lot behind. Every new beginning means that an old chapter must come to an end. Leaving behind our friends at home may seem difficult, especially if they’re going to be a long distance away from you during the school year. Something I made sure to do was to spend a lot of time with them during the summer after high school. Of course, going to college doesn’t mean you’ll never see your friends again, or that you will no longer be friends with them. Good friendships will last if you put effort into them. It may seem hard initially. Coming into Caltech, it’s a sharp adjustment and many are caught up in the excitement of Orientation, Rotation, and starting classes. It may be hard to remember to check your phone frequently and to make time for phone calls and such. Rest assured that if you have other friends going to college, they’re probably going to go through similar things you will. In this transition period, it can feel like you’re going to immediately lose touch with people that mean a lot to you.
Let’s face it: the US loves being just a little different from everyone else. The obvious example? Units of measurement. As an international student from Canada, even I have no clue what’s going on half the time when my friends talk to me and use these weird nonsensical units. And I’ve literally lived on the border between Canada and the States for all my life. After a year here, I’ve finally got a sense of how the two systems of measurement compare and how you can more easily get your bearings with these weird units.
After a year spent in “soft-lockdown” at home in Atlanta, and as Caltech students prepared to finally return to campus, I was aboard an eight hour flight towards Edinburgh, Scotland. Since my junior year plans were interrupted by the virus who shall not be named, I’m spending my first term of senior year studying abroad through the Caltech - Edinburgh University International Exchange program. I’ve only been here just over a week yet have been exposed to so many new people, perspectives, foods, and classes.
When the announcement was first made that fall term was going to be online, I started talking to friends and looking for places to live. We were debating locations around the country: California, Florida, New York, etc.. there were plenty of options. Then it suddenly hit me, what is stopping us from going to Hawaii, covid numbers were better and a two week quarentine would ensure that numbers stayed down… I proposed this to my friend and we agreed it would be an amazing experience, but we didn’t want to get out hopes up. A month or so later we still haven’t decided where to live, Hawaii seemed too far and too difficult to plan. But we couldn’t get the idea out of our heads. We spent some time looking into plane tickets, places to stay, etc… and it actually didn’t seem so impossible after all. A couple weeks later and we were arriving here on the big island!