Weeks 1 and 2

Bonjour from Tours! I am writing this in my bedroom in my host family’s house, a farm-style home about a mile west of the campus of the Institute of Touraine. I arrived a week ago yesterday, and the time has gone shockingly quickly so far. In the last eight days, I have met people from five continents, eaten countless new dishes, and learned more new French words than I thought possible.


Prior to coming, I was very nervous about my host family and about the other students at the Institute, but very quickly, I realized that I had no reason to be anxious. The other students have quickly become my friends, and my host mother, Marie, could not be more welcoming. She is a middle-aged woman with grown children who has been hosting students from all over for many years. Every night, she makes me a new French dish and last night she took me to the movie theatre to see a French film.


Over the weekend, Marie’s son came over for dinner and brought his son Louis who is in high school. Listening to the family speak to each other was a very humbling experience, as they are able to speak very quickly to one another and use slang with which I am not familiar. Louis in particular was very difficult to understand and there were many moments throughout the night when Marie had to act as a translator so that I could fully understand.


One term that Louis used throughout the evening was ouf,which Marie explained was an inversion of the French word fou, which means crazy. The two words share the same meaning but ouf is used primarily by young people and has a more informal connotation.


An expression that I heard first in my classes was C’est top! In the movie that we saw last night, I heard this expression numerous times. Marie used it this morning at breakfast after checking the forecast for the day, so I asked her about it. She told me that it simply means that something is the best, and that it is an expression that is popular among all age groups.


The local expressions make it more difficult to learn French, as there are so many  left to learn, but they also make it much more rewarding and interesting.

My First Week in Cusco

Hello from Cusco!

After 24 hours of traveling, I finally made it to the welcoming and colorful city of Cusco. I was immediately taken to my host family’s house, where I met Monica and Lucho, and their three daughters. It’s been a joy getting to know the family over the past week and learning about life in Cusco–having a house to stay in and food cooked for me every evening has definitely helped my transition to living in Peru.

An intersection near my homestay. The traffic in Cusco is crazy!

My first week here was a whirlwind! I attended orientation at Máximo Nivel, the language school I am studying at, and met friends from all over the world. I attend class for six hours every day, and while my private lessons are challenging and draining, I am thrilled at how quickly my conversational skills are improving! With 5 weeks left, I am hopeful that I can continue to enhance my speaking abilities.

In between classes, I have explored local restaurants and attractions with my friends from Máximo. Lunch can be bought for a very reasonable price in Cusco–it is typical to get a soup, main dish, and juice for 6 soles, only $2! Plaza de Armas is the main center of the city, and the most popular tourist destination. Shops and restaurants here are more pricey, while the further you travel from the plaza, the cheaper items become. On Thursday, my friend Avery and I splurged at a cafe where we bought slices of torta (cake) and lattes. The views of Plaza de Armas from the second floor balcony were worth the cost, to say the least!

After what seemed like both an incredibly long and extremely short first week, my friend David and I left for a trek to Rainbow Mountain at 4am this Saturday! Also called Vinicunca and Montaña de Siete Colores, the mountain gets its name from the effect of its mineralogical composition. Although the hike was only about 3 miles roundtrip, this was probably one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done. At 17,000 feet, this is the highest I’ve ever been and the steep route left me with a headache. Despite the altitude and chilly weather, the view at the top and experience overall was phenomenal!

There were many alpacas along the way.

Overall, my first week in Cusco has been exciting and challenging in the best of ways. I’m surprised at how quickly I am learning, and I can’t wait for what’s ahead!