sunday, february 01, 2004
Observations and Errata about PeruAssorted observations about Peru in no particular order:
There is a glorious absence of power engines. The workers sweep parking lots and sidewalks rather than blast the detritus with the scream of leaf blowers. And despite the luxury, it is a sad statement on the state of employment, pay and the price of mechanical goods. Similarly the whine of chainsaws is exchanged for the persistent hacks of machetes. A daunting task given the girth of many trees targeted for trimming. of course the abundance of motorcycle taxies in the northern area of the country makes up the difference.
Dinner at a rural restaurant will bring in the stray dog or two looking for scraps. Usually this ends with a hearty yelp and a dash for the door when the proprietor arrives. You leave the chickens alone, that could be your meal tomorrow. Musical duos are just as common. They wander from restaurant to restaurant and, with the owner’s permission, play a few songs for tips. Although i am not even the slightest expert on authentic Peruvian music, these guys usually are pretty good. Lots of practice, I guess.
Also inevitable is the classic street urchin. Usually this will be a five or six year old with worn clothes, a dirty face and a practiced look of almost terminal sadness. They show up at your table and try and sell you a candy for a few cintamos. Say "no" and they just stand there while the depth of sorrow in their expression increases exponentially. Paying them to leave is a bad idea since this will promptly bring in a half-dozen more. My father’s tactic works best. Carry a few candies of your own and before they can try and sell theirs give it to them.
One of my favorite things about Peru is that there is a widespread propensity to name vehicles. The armada of yellow and red taxis all have gilded letter across the top of the back and front proudly proclaiming the title of the vehicle. Most have a religious bent. So say what you will but there is a certain sense of security you get riding in a taxi called "the baby Jesus." my personal favorite was a taxi I saw whip by in pita too late for me to get a ride in to boast of the feat – Lenin. The taxi drivers also have a strange affection for those irritating logos you find on the back windows of older model pickups in the United States. But, on the bright side, I have yet to see a pissing Calvin here.
The visitor from the United States will be startled by the severe lack of fat people. My sojourn back in Arizona left me incredulous at the staggering number of overweight people I saw each and every day. I am not talking large or full-bodied – I mean grotesquely fat. A person of such girth in Peru is an extreme rarity or a gringo. Another subtle shocker is the lack of breast augmentation. Again something I didn’t really appreciate until I returned to the U.S. and wandered through the mall at Christmas.
The method for finding a destination that seems to prevail here is as interesting as it is frustrating. Many destinations, particularly in rural areas, do not have the luxury of signs and representation on a recent map. So one has to ask directions… from anybody… and the more, the better. The technique requires asking an odd number of people who give various replies and you take the one that beats the average. The more remote the destination, the more individuals you stop and ask. Thoroughly establishing how to get to where you are going is no excuse for asking one more person… or three.
Peruvians go for sweets in a big way. Specialty chocolates shops do as good a business as the cafes that sell cakes and brownies. Street side vendors offer every kind of hard candy, chewable gum, and cookie you can imagine. It was a big surprise to me to find that halls – a medicinal sucret in the U.S. – is advertised and consumed as a minty fresh candy. And if you thought you knew soft drinks you have a hard lesson to learn here. The drinks come in an array of nearly fluorescent colors, including the bright yellow Inca Kola, but bottom line is sugar content. Pucker up, baby.
Finally, the single most irritating thing I am finding country-wide is the prevalence of over enthusiastic web censorship programs. I understand the need for public Internet cafés to have some control over what comes up on their screens and takes a dump in their hard drive but this is just stupid. i was unable to post this entry at three different places because it was deemed "unsuitable" by the program. My guess is that the café owners have proscripted the settings for Spanish and just hit the default maximum for English.
And it is particularly galling when I look over the cubicle wall and see a 10-year-old playing a first person shooter game who is now reveling in the guts of his recently fragged comrade. Google "de sade," "neo-nazi" and "protocols of the elders of zion" turns up dozens of accessible sites. So it seems the word "penis" is too horrid for Peruvian children but racism, sadism and anti-Semitism are fine. I am oversimplifying, of course, but it is nice to see knee-jerk media censorship doesn't stop at the U.S. border.
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