Brianna was playing with a little friend today. Yelling and being loud – of course.
Me – in Dutch: “Brianna, stop yelling! I know you guys are playing but don’t be so loud.”
Brianna: “OK papi”
Brianna’s little friend – in Spanish: “What did your dad say?”
Brianna – in Spanish: “Oh, nothing.”
Our Brianna speaks almost exclusively Spanish but she understands Spanish, Dutch and English. Some words she’ll speak in Dutch, a few in English because English is so easy and universally present. Patricia and I still speak English together more than we do Spanish. Patricia says I can go out and practice my Spanish any time I want but she doesn’t get to speak English much outside the house and she wants to keep up her English skills, which makes sense.
Some people say having a multi-lingual child will benefit her down the line, others say it will confuse her at this early stage. I don’t think it will affect her much one way or the other. Many kids here in Peru are multi-lingual Quechua – Spanish but for some reason nobody talks much about that. But when a child is multi-lingual with one of those so called “first world” languages it’s a big deal? What’s up with that anyway?
9:00 am the doorbell rings. You know who it is because it happens all the time: somebody wants to talk to you about the Bible. American (US) churches are relentlessly proselytizing in traditionally Roman Catholic Peru. Many homes have stickers on the door saying “we are Catholics, don’t bother”. About once a month somebody will come to our house, I usually say that I don’t have time because I’m trying to get the kids dressed and off to school and all that good jazz.
Now don’t get me wrong, I respect when someone has a strong faith and they want to share that faith with others. But the truth is, it doesn’t always feel that way. The proselytizing by US churches here in Peru has almost a corporate feel to it, a strategic plan kind of feel. They know the population here is young, the economy is growing, and that many Peruvians are receptive in a very mundane kind of way.
On flights back and forth to the US, I’ve sat next to Americans who came on missionary trips quite often. Many times they struck me as just nice people who wanted to come speak about their religion and do some humanitarian work. I’ve sat next to a doctor and a dentist who had come to spend their vacation in a small town providing medical work. They let it be known they came out of religious motivation, but in a respectful way.
On the other hand, I’ve had quite a few experiences like this: I was sitting in the Plaza Tupac Amaru one day when Brianna was only 6 months old. It was a beautiful day and she was enjoying the sun. We were approached by a group of US missionaries:
“Sir, do you know what’s going on in this world?”
Me: “Well, I try to do the best I can every day…”
Of course that was a dead give-away that I was a Catholic, and US Evangelicals have a very different theology, all about good vs. evil (and then they wonder why they’ve been practically non-stop at war for the past 70 years).
“Well Sir, we’d like to talk to you about the end of the world that is coming soon and that there is still time to prepare.”
Me: “Lady: I have a 6 month old baby. I know I can get run over by a Tico any time or struck by lightning or that our sun can go Supernova or the end of the world can come some other way, but I’d like to think my baby is going to have a full and happy life. I’m really not interested in hearing your end of the world come to our church and you’ll be saved preachings today.”
I know that wasn’t very tactful of me at that time but before you get offended ask yourself: when you’re enjoying a nice day in the park with your family, or when you’re rushing to get ready for work in the morning, would you be appreciative if somebody came to your door to talk about the Tipitaka or the Upanishads or the Qur’an? Would you really? What if they came every month? If you knew they were coming because it was part of an assignment? Almost like a corporate scorecard?
I respect people who have a strong faith and want to share it but please do so with respect for the culture you are in. One thing to realize is that 500 years after the Spanish conquest of the Inca empire, much of the Roman Catholic religion here in Peru remains influenced by the ancient Inca culture. In churches in Peru you will find lots of gold, images of the sun (for the ancient Inca sun god Inti), etc. The traditional images of the Roman Catholic church, such as the Virgin Mary or Jesus on the cross, are typically adorned in strong colors and gold, much like the traditional Andean culture and festivals. Many current religious festivals have their roots in ancient Inca traditions.
All this to say that changing someone’s religion isn’t easy, the number of people you sign up may not really reflect the adoption of your message, especially if that message is delivered with little understanding or respect of the current culture and religion.
I got together with a couple of guys who are in mining a few days ago. Mining is a big part of the economy here in Peru: copper, gold, zinc, you name it. I don’t know much about mining, my father worked in the coal mines in Belgium when he was young but those mines are long gone now. As you might expect, since we’re talking Peru, a good bit of the mining here is informal and badly organized. Peru tends to be that way in many respects, the economy in general is very informal and with poor or little organization. Outside of a few foreign companies (LAN, Telefonica, Saga Falabella, …) the only large and well organized organizations are the police, military and churches, that’s just part of the culture here I guess.
Cuzco is the nearest somewhat big city to the region of Madre de Dios, where a lot of the informal mining takes place. “Informal” is the politically correct term for illegal mines, small mines that have no license and no environmental controls.
My accountant has quite a few informal mining customers and he regularly tries to get me involved with them. Cuzco is one of the most traditional areas of Peru and there is still this weird idea out here that foreigners (so called first world people) are all-knowing and can do anything Peruvians can’t. In the case of my accountant, his “informal” mining customers are always looking for ways to sell their illegal gold. So they ask me if I can make a trip a month to Switzerland with a case full of gold and sell their gold to the Swiss banks. Seriously, just because I’m tall and white they think I can do that, and that it would be OK if I did that. I don’t know what they get in towns like Puerto Maldonado for their illegal gold but I’m sure it’s much below the market price. It’s sad really, because I don’t think those people fully realize the damage they’re doing to the environment but on the other hand, how can you expect somebody who would otherwise be living on $200 a month to turn down a chance to make $30,000 a month?
Anyway, the guys I had a beer with are stand-up people, they’re the guys that do apply for environmental permits and all that good jazz. But I forgot to tell them a secret I got from these local “informal” miners: if you want to find the gold, all you have to do is look at the color of the rock. The blue rock is where the gold is.
I don’t know diddly about geology and drill holes and mineral resource classification but just look for the blue rock if you want to find the gold. So say the locals.
Summer vacation is almost over here in Peru. We recently spent a few days at the beach in San Bartolo, just south of Lima, enjoying the southern hemisphere summer.
A picture of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean, words just fail:
We took a trip to Puerto Maldonado a while back. It’s hard to imagine a more profound change in a shorter distance than what you will find when taking the 40 minute flight from Cuzco to Puerto Maldonado. Mountains to jungle, cool to hot and humid. Llamas and alpacas to monkeys and butterflies. Ancient Quechua culture to 21st century gold rush. Despite all that change, there something distinctive Peruvian, despite all the diversity, the different worlds that make up Peru, you always know you’re in Peru.
We really enjoyed our trip. We took the trip about 6 months ago but Brianna talks about “Puerto” every week. When she gets mad she says “I’m going to take an airplane to Puerto and you’re not coming!”.
Puerto isn’t deep jungle like Manu or Iquitos ( both places I haven’t been ) but it’s still impressive. We took a tour on the river, walked about 2 miles through the jungle ( on a well carved-out path ) and then boarded a small boat for a tour on Lake Sandoval.
Happy New Year! Did Santa get you everything you wanted for Christmas this year?
I’m very blessed: I got a new pair of jeans, a stylish new jacket, and a new BABY GIRL!!!
She’s not a Christmas baby but a December birthday nonetheless. Mommy and baby are doing good.
With this latest addition to the family there are now 3 mamacitas and only one papi in our house. Therefore I have been called “chancletero” on occasion. “Chancletero” in urban Peruvian Spanish means a man who only has daughters, all girls no boys in the house.
I’ve been told that “chancletero” originally had a negative meaning. “Chancletas” in Spanish means slippers or sandals. Back in the day it was thought to be more important to have sons, to carry on the family name and take care of the land. Since “chancletas” are not very valuable shoes, the word “chancletero” is supposed to have this negative connotation that baby girls were less valued than baby boys. This I read somewhere but I can’t vouch for it being accurate.
Having said all of that, I think “chancletero” has long lost it’s negative connotation in urban Peruvian Spanish. Perhaps it’s similar to the word “redneck” in American English, which most certainly had a negative meaning but is nowadays often used without negative connotation – at least in the Old South.
At least I think the people who’ve called me a “chancletero” and “redneck” didn’t think badly of me
We’re very happy and blessed with our beautiful baby girls. Brianna is very happy to have a little sister too.
Ever wonder why some countries were historically known for one thing but now are nothing like that any more?
- Australia as we know it was founded as a British penal colony, a big prison. Now nothing but friendly people – yes you know who you are
- Greece pioneered democracy and responsible government. Nowadays not so much. Sadly, I’ve personally spoken to more than one Greek citizen who wants to leave their beautiful country because they are so fed up with the incompetent and corrupt politicians.
- Julius Cesar wrote that of all the tribes he conquered, the area that is now Belgium put up the fiercest resistance due to “being the most distant from civilization and therefor the most barbaric”. (and you thought I remembered nothing from high school) Nowadays Belgium is home to the EU, NATO, you can’t find a Flemish person in Brussels. Belgium is now an institutional center.
And last but not least:
In the time of the Inca, Peru was known for its architecture, civil engineering and water works. Nowadays, you really really don’t want to know. But I’ll tell you anyway.
Disclaimer: wise man told me you can’t come down to Peru and just expect to take the good without the bad and he’s absolutely right. However, sometimes you just have to get it off your chest so to speak.
This was what our floor looked like on Friday morning, courtesy of a simple “repair” at our next door neighbor:
Long story short our neighbor decided to “fix” the gutters on their house. The drain from the gutter used to be on the North side of their house, draining into the sewer system. There is a small porch on that side, so instead of fixing the existing drain, the workers decided it would be easier to move the drain to the South side of the house, into a low-lying grassy area, with no runoff at all. The drain ended up literally 10cm (4″) from our house, which happens to be about 1.5 meters (5′) below the neighbors house.
It is now rain season in Cuzco and after a long night of rain we woke up to bulging hardwood floors. Tomorrow we’ll be in the third day of repairs. The neighbors, the owner of our house, ourselves, all combined we have a good bit of time, money and grief over just one day of lousy workmanship. A nice, 40-year old floor scr***d up in less than 48 hours.
Unfortunately that type of thing is not unusual here.
I hate to fuss but picture yourself in this. Our daughter woke up Saturday with bad tonsilitis, I have a lot of year-end work to do that other people’s bonuses depend on, mamacita linda is expecting to give birth to our next princesita any day now. Not the time we want to have to deal with dumbass-induced headache.
But we’ll deal with this and as Bruce says: “Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny”
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Next time you’re in Cuzco and have a craving for junk food, you should skip Mc Donald’s and head to Bembos across the Plaza de Armas. Food and all is the same but last time we were there we noticed Bembos had hired a young man with Down Syndrome to help with some cleaning and miscellaneous work. I know they’re legally obligated and all but you don’t see that very often. Maybe the young man won’t be there any more, I know these things aren’t easy but I appreciate that they extended the opportunity.
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Maybe I’ll name our next baby goose “Rosalita” in honor of this incident. Or go all Hollywood and name her “Purple Rain”. What do you think?
Watch all the way to the end.
Yes I did have 2 glasses of Argentine Malbec before writing this. I needed it
Running late trying to get a last minute Halloween costume? Since 31 October is also día de la canción criolla, why not impress your friends with your Peruvian touch and dress up as your favorite singer of musica criolla?
Eva Ayllón or María de Jesús Vásquez Vásquez perhaps?
Arturo “Zambo” Cavero maybe? Or grab your guitar and pay tribute to the late maestro Félix Casaverde.
Música criolla is a category of Peruvian music that combines mainly African, Spanish and Andean influences. Afro-Peruvian music was first created by African slaves in Peru during the Colonial Period and beyond.
Here are some Youtube videos of musica criolla. Although musica criolla is perhaps most strongly associated with Afro-Peruvian culture you can see the many musical influences, the diversity of Peru is reflected in its musica criolla:
Feliz día de la canción criolla!
Friday afternoon I picked up Brianna’s 9 page report card at her jardin (kindergarden). She’s 3 now. During the meeting at her jardin there were a number of congratulations from the school to the parents of those children who have recently been accepted to start next year at some of the highly regarded schools in the city. We are coming up on the end of the school year here and the idea is that most of the highly regarded schools offer 2 years of kindergarden (5 and 6 years old) which will help your child get into those schools at the start of their primary education.
There are many small, private jardins for kids ages 2 and up, like the one where Brianna currently is. It’s considered important for those jardins to place children into the highly regarded schools at the 4-5 year levels. The director of Brianna’s jardins called out a number of proud parents including one “whose baby has been accepted IN FIRST PLACE to La Salle!!!!”
Big round of applause.
I personally don’t like the La Salle school. To me it’s very pituco.
Then the director continued about how many more kids are still in the process of “taking exams” for other schools.
I started to write this post on Saturday but couldn’t finish because the power went out several times in our neighborhood. This is considered normal, the water and electricity go out about once a month (and we live in a well established residential area) but 4 YEAR OLDS TAKE ENTRANCE EXAMS???
I first realized that Peru is totally nuts about education back when I was teaching ESL. I understand that everybody wants to give their kids a better life than they had. For Peruvians who remember the bad old days of terrorism, the collapse of the rural economies and hyper-inflation it’s easy to understand that they see a good university education as the ticket to a better life for their children. A good pre-school is just one of the many steps to that ultimate goal of a good university education.
The problem in my opinion is this: Peru has blind faith in education.
I think this blind faith in education has created a generation with quite a few “professional students”, young Peruvians who should have every opportunity in life but fail to take advantage of them out of fear or reluctance to make that next step, get out on their own. The strong Peruvian mothers shelter their kids so much that they often lack incentive, self confidence, at least in a professional sense.
It’s not what you know, it’s what you do with that knowledge that matters.
Studying is a great way to get out of having to look for a job. 25-years old, living at home and never worked a day in your life? Just sign up for another “institute” and mom will be proud. Want a new laptop or internet at home? Just tell mom you need it for “homework”.
Also, savvy business people make a ton of money in Peru with education. Sadly, in my opinion many of the for profit private institutes aren’t very good. It’s just business.
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My father didn’t go to college. He worked on the farm until he was 16, then he went to work in the coal mines. My grandfather didn’t go to college, he got sent to war, to go kill young men he didn’t even know – because people with degrees from the finest universities in the world told him to.
I think the rains in Cuzco are starting early this year. We’ve had occasional rain for the past month or so. This morning I woke up to a fabulous view over the mountains to the South.
I snapped a few pictures while walking the dogs this morning. The pictures don’t do justice but the view was wonderful with some of the mountains shrouded in clouds and a good bit of snow on the higher peaks. All of the snow was gone by mid day, here in Peru you have to go really high to find perpetual snow.
In the distance (click on the picture to see full size) you can see a number of houses on the far slopes of the mountains. Cuzco is beginning to have a very serious problem with ugly expansion. I think most of those houses are considered “illegal” (no building permit, no land title, lack of utilities). One of these days when I have more time I want to do a post on Cuzco’s ugly expansion – which is a colossal failure of the local authorities. I don’t want to be judgmental to the people who live there (everybody needs a place to live) but the next big earthquake that hits Cuzco will be an unmitigated disaster due to the substandard/illegal construction on the sides of the mountains surrounding the city.
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Don’t believe everything you read on the internet:
Since we’re sort of on the subject of dogs, kind reader Carrie sent me a message a while ago that somebody had stolen a picture of our dog Manchita off this very blog and used it in on a fake Facebook “Pitbull rescue site”. The site has since been taken down but I managed to save a screenshot. This person was using pictures of dogs they found online, inventing names and stories and soliciting donations for their “rescue” of course.