Happy birthday Milagros! Twenty-something years ago today, my Peruvian sister-in-law was born in the back seat of a taxi here in Cusco. True story. Mother and baby are fine – in case you were worried. Anytime my mother-in-law tells the story of how her youngest daughter was born in a taxi, the most entertaining part to me is that she always insists that “we were ALMOST to the hospital”.
As the saying goes, “Almost” only counts in horse shoes.
Here in Peru one thing that I find frustrating is that people tend to accept things that are “almost” right, “almost” finished, “almost” useable, etc. People put a lot of effort into something but stop short of finishing or doing it right. And they’re happy with it.
We live a privileged life and I don’t want to sound fussy, but sometimes a small discrepancy makes a big difference.
Would you eat a piece of chicken if it was almost cooked?
Would you get on a flight to Hawaii if the plane had almost enough fuel to get there?
Of course you wouldn’t.
In Peru people do accept things that are “almost good enough”. For example, we are supposed to be in the middle of a construction boom. Real estate prices have skyrocketed and there are new buildings going up everywhere. Most new buildings leave the sides unfinished, sloppy looking bricks between concrete columns. Looks very redneck. A (comparatively) small effort to finish and paint the sides would make a big difference.
That holds true in more important things as well, such as education. The public schools in Peru have classes of 50 kids or more. If you think about the combined effort of kids, parents, teachers and administrators that goes into someone’s education, hiring some more teachers and building some more classrooms isn’t a huge additional effort. In fact, for society as a whole it would be a trivial burden but the difference in the quality of education would be huge, if the kids sat in a class of 25 or 30 instead of a class of 50.
The same could be said for other important aspects of life in Peru, such public transportation, occupational safety, environmental protection, etc. The quality or results don’t reflect the effort or investment, in part because the society accepts “almost” as good enough.