In our first reflection session, we talked about what it means to have an open mind. Just like our discussion about culture last week, I felt that I had already learned and thought a lot about this concept from my course load last semester. However, a lot of what we discussed were things that I had not previously thought about. We established that one of the key parts of having an open mind is not letting any previous stereotypes or judgments affect your mindset. This is going to be extremely important when we start working next week. At Amantaní, I am going to be working with a group of kids from ages 0-5. As of now, there is one woman in charge of a group of 15 kids. Therefore, our help is definitely appreciated and we will definitely need to take initiative rather than relying on someone to tell us what to do. However, maintaining an open mind is extremely important. Although I have experience working with kids from babysitting to volunteering in a local elementary school last semester, I should refrain from making judgments about the way that the orphanage is run or making comparisons between what I am used to and what I am experiencing. Additionally, having an open mind does not only apply to our specific jobs but to experiencing a new culture in general. I feel that we have all done a very good job maintaining an open mind this past week. We should not fail to acknowledge that there are clear cultural differences between Cuzco and what we are used to in the United States, but we should not make judgments or negative comparisons. Maintaining an open mind definitely entails trying new things and feeling uncomfortable at times. Because of this, I also believe that it is important that we continue to reflect on what catches our attention, how we are feeling, and what we are learning.
We also discussed things that we have generally noticed about living with host families, SIT, and the city of Cuzco. A lot of what has stood out to us about host families had to do with food. Personally, during the school year, I don’t like to sit down and have meals. I prefer to eat quickly so I have time to fit as much as possible into my day. However, I have found that I really enjoy sitting down and eating for all three meals with my host family. It is different than what I am used to and definitely illuminates a cultural difference, but I have had a really positive experience so far. Another thing that has stood out to me about my host family is the importance of extended family. I have grown up valuing my extended family and spending a lot of time with them so I find the closeness between relatives in Peru refreshing. It reminds me of home and of growing up considering not only my Mom, Dad, and brother as “family” but also aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, second cousins, first cousins once removed, first cousins twice removed, etc. as family as well. In the context of experiencing life in a new city, we definitely all realized the presence of both the public transportation system and the Catholic religion. These two very different things shed light on the many aspects and layers of complexity of culture. I remember learning that culture is like an iceberg. We can only observe the tip but underneath this “tip” lays more deeply rooted perspectives and values. Reflecting on experiences in a new place with a new culture is very important, but it is also important to recognize the layers and aspects of a culture that we cannot observe from the surface.