If you don’t have everything you want in life, ask yourself, how many friends do you have at the grocery store? This isn’t my original idea and making a friend or two at the grocery store won’t make you rich and famous overnight but most anything we want to achieve in life starts with breaking the ice and obtaining the trust of a perfect stranger. Need a new job, looking for a relationship, trying to get your business plan funded? Chances are, it involves making friends or acquaintances with perfect strangers.
All this to say a couple of years ago we had a baby-sit during the summer whom I met through her older sister, a checkout girl at our local grocery store. They were from a rural town (Sicuani) and the older sister worked 60+ hour weeks (10am to nearly 11pm 6 days a week) for a salary of less than $300 / month, to make a little money for her family and save up for school. This is not unusual in Peru, workers feel like they have no better choice and very often maybe they don’t.
Tomorrow regional and municipal elections are held here in Peru. Frank Bajak wrote a good article about how Cocaine cash is polluting Peruvian politics. There practically aren’t any ideologies or party lines in Peruvian politics any more, it’s just a rush to get in and steal.
I often wonder, what if the middle class would have the self-confidence to demand better, to stand up to their corrupt and incompetent leaders. By and large, it seems as if the working class and middle class suffers from a sort of misplaced desperation, instead of demanding better they’re just dying to “get in” with the local elected leaders and get a piece of the pie. As if they don’t believe they can do better without resorting to the established way of corruption and incompetence. I often think it’s about self-confidence, all the way back to the kids education: the so-called “good schools” here don’t encourage critical thinking or standing up for yourself but they are very strong about falling in line, discipline and rote memorization.
One day when Anna, our old babysit, was getting ready to go back to school in her town I was at the Plaza de Armas and decided to have a cup of coffee with her. A new Starbucks had just opened up. We went inside and I said to Anna, one day you’re going to walk in here with all of your friends, and they’re going to be all nervous-nellie, staring at their feet because they feel out of place here, fumbling around because they won’t know what they want. They’ll be looking up at all these gringos and city-slickers ordering Frappuccinos as if those people are really somebody.
And I told her: “Don’t you dare to act like that. Hold your head up and look everybody in the eyes. Walk straight up to the counter and order a double espresso.
She replied: “I don’t even know what that is.”
I said don’t worry about that, I’m sure you’ll like it. Then we walked up to the counter and ordered 2 double espressos. Anna was only 14 and I don’t know if she understood what I was trying to tell her. I told her to never look down because of where she was from. When in doubt, hold your head up straight and order a double espresso. Let people know you don’t take stuff from anybody.
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Just a pretty picture of my baby goose.