This past week (well actually 10 days to be exact), I was alone in another country for the first time ever! I spent the time in Lima, Peru's capital city, in a beautiful and modern district called Miraflores. I rented a private room in a hostel and had access to a kitchen to cook some of my meals.
Here are a few things I did to get outside of my comfort zone:
1. I got my haircut at a Spanish salon.
I was terrified to do this. My hair was so long and scraggly but I was content to let it reach Duggar-like lengths to avoid the discomfort of speaking gringa Spanish to a hair stylist. After a short pump up facetime conversation with my friend Michelle, I decided to just get it over with.
As are all scary things on the other side, it ended up being slightly awkward but totally fine. I looked up enough hair vocabulary ("bangs," "split ends," "please make me look like a Jessica Chastain") to get by, and by the grace of God my stylist was kind and patient and even simulated a hair flip when he wanted me to turn my head upside down, apparently a very normal way to cut hair in Peru.
By the end, I was so thankful that he'd done a good job and that I survived the whole ordeal that I tipped 20% (what I would normally give back home) which is apparently an exorbitant tip because the cashier yelled his name across the salon, held up my bill with a big smile, and he rushed across to me and kissed me on both cheeks.
2. I made adult lady friends.
Anyone who tells you that making adult friends is easy is either drunk or a liar. Nobody tells you how hard it is to make friends once you leave college where friends are all but forced upon you by regular interaction in class and ungodly amounts of beer. When you enter the adult world, all that changes.
I've had so many interactions with adult ladies where I've thought, "Hey, you seem really cool," but then all but scream at them, "WILL YOU BE MY ADULT FRIEND," because actually asking someone platonically to coffee is so strange and terrifying.
But this was the Week of Yes.
So when three different friends and friends of friends connected me through the interwebs to lovely women who live here in Lima, I had to go. We set up meeting places and I waited there awkwardly feeling as though I should be holding a yellow rose and book of Billy Collins poetry. Did I have the location right? Was I on time? Should I have not worn my water shoes?? These are all very mature, adult-like things that go through your head when waiting to meet a complete stranger in another country.
Just like the salon experience, each meet up was perfectly lovely and not scary at all. I got to make new friends and learn more about Lima, and no one even commented on my water shoes. Success.
3. I went paragliding.
Compared to the haircut and the making of adult lady friends, this was actually the least scary thing I did all week. That said, it was still pretty scary. I paid about $70 for a pilot names Juan to strap himself to my backside and two men held onto my harness and ran us off a cliff. Literally. At first my adrenaline was raging and everything was great. Later on it started to sink in just how high I was and who WAS this guy Juan anyway and I never even confirmed that he'd some sort of schooling or certification process to fly me around. So my knees went a little weak and wobbly, but luckily it was at the end when I was still desperately trying to make small talk with him and he shushed me because he was radioing important piloty things to the guys on the ground. I made it in one piece and even have this video as proof.
4. I took cooking classes.
I love to cook, so this wasn't too far outside of my comfort zone, but signing up to take classes and going on my own is. I wasn't able to book anything by myself, so I waited for other couples and groups to sign up for classes, and joined them.
I learned how to make Peruvian dishes with alpaca meat, octopus and quinoa. I also learned how to make fresh truffles (drool).
I was nervous each time to show up by myself, but ended up really enjoying meeting new people and learning how to cook things I never would have made back home.
All in all, it was a great week and despite the challenges, I'm so glad I did it!