People are People

One thing I’ve learned over the years from traveling and living in different cultures, is that there’s an undeniable and strong effect of our culture on how we live our lives, but at the end of the day people are still people and as individuals there are certain things that hold true no matter the culture. For example, we all worry about our kids doing good in school, our parents growing old healthy, etc.

Here’s another perfect example….

This morning I woke up early, around 6:00. I got up to use the bathroom but then decided I’d go back to sleep for a little while. Around 7:00 Patricia woke up as she normally does at that time. I stayed in bed a few more minutes.

However, for some reason Patricia decided to start folding clothes and putting clothes away in our room, which she normally does not do so early. Next thing you know, the baby woke up and started to fuss. I got up and the day began.

Since the baby normally sleeps until around 8:00, she was really fussy for having woke up an hour early. So I asked Patricia: “Why did you start putting clothes away while the baby was still sleeping and woke her up so early?” In my mind the baby clearly woke up because Patricia was doing stuff in our room.

Answer: “The baby woke up because you got up early.”

Errrrrrrgh, say again? The baby got up at 7:00 because I went to the bathroom at 6:00?

We went over the same conversation again about 3 times and the logic never did make sense to me.

The baby woke up early at 7:00 because I went to the bathroom at 6:00, but the fact that mamacita was folding clothes and putting clothes away in our room right at the very moment the baby woke up, had nothing to do with it.

And then it hit me, it was my fault that the baby woke up early, because:


That’s just one of these truths of life, no matter where you are, married guys are always at fault. And that’s okay, just like worrying about your kids doing well or your parents staying healthy, some things in life should never change 😉

Forget 2012 – watch the ice on Ausangate

I shamelessly robbed this picture of my friends FB page, just gorgeous:

Nevado Ausangate

Nevado Ausangate near Cusco, Peru

Picture copyright Jorge Vera.

The picture’s caption:

“…ice is fast disappearing. Local people cite ancient legend that when all the ice is gone from Apu Ausangate, the world as we know it will end and a new one will be born.”

Eerrgghhh, if Hollywood can’t get the end of the world correct, surely Facebook can, right 😉

All kidding aside, the indigenous Peruvian people do worship the “apu” or deity in the many mountain peaks of the Andes. “Nevado Ausangate” or “Apu Ausangate” is a magnificent mountain peak in the Southern Andes of Peru. It is the site of the annual Señor de Qoyllur Rit’i pilgrimage which has origins in Andean culture long before Christianity.

From The Sacred Land film project:

“Today, the indigenous Q’eros community of Quechua people revere the mountains of the Cordillera Vilcanota, believing that they are divinities to be protected. The apu’s servant cat Ccoa holds court in the belly of Ausangate in a palace that only great shamans dare to visit. The glaciers on Ausangate are where the spirits of the dead wait for salvation.”

More info about “apus” from Apus-Peru:

“In the Quechua language of the Andes, “Apu” refers to the spirit of each mountain which is not unlike a god. In every snow capped peak, to smaller hills, there is an Apu. Each Apu is different, with individual characteristics and personalities. They have in common that from them emerge the life giving waters of springs, lakes and rivers, as well as the forests and creatures that dwell in them. Like gods, the Apus possess the power of giving and taking life. Andean people look first to their local Apus and then to Mother Earth when they are undertaking a pilgrimage or enterprise.”

In this great future – part 2

A while ago I wrote about difficult times in the recent history of Peru, borrowing words from Bob Marley “in this great future, you can’t forget your past…”

The same is true for Belgium, where we are currently spending the holidays with my family. Life wasn’t always easy here either. Take a look at the main square in my town, nice and picturesque in the snow…

Main square in Oostakker, Belgium

Main square in Oostakker, Belgium

There’s a cute gazebo in the middle of the main square, where we were being all touristy…

The gazebo in the main square in Oostakker

The gazebo in the main square in Oostakker

Patricia on the gazebo

Patricia on the gazebo

But take a closer look… the gazebo is built on top of a World War 2 era bombshelter, the red door is the original entrance. When we were kids we’d go inside and play, although it often had standing water inside. It’s not the only bombshelter in town, there are several more scattered around.

Entrance to WW2 era bombshelter

Entrance to WW2 era bombshelter

In Peru there are so many young people that a middle-age white guy like myself is positively ancient, not many people are around with any recollection of World War 2, but in Europe there are still many people who remember WW2. My grandmother used to tell us about how they slept in a home-made shelter they dug in the backyard, my grandfather was in the the Belgian army at the beginning of the war. My other grandparents had a farm and would secretly help people with food when the rations weren’t sufficient.

“in this great future, you can’t forget your past…”

Un rato

It is said the very first word of Spanish you’ll ever learn is “mañana”, which literally means “tomorrow” but in real life Latin cultures usually means something like “some day in the future, possibly”.

When I was a kid, my parents built a small vacation home in Spain. At our first visit, my dad went to buy some stones to finish the patio. The stones were supposed to be delivered “mañana”. So when no truck showed up the next day, my dad rode his bicycle in town to inquire… only to be told kindly “mañana”. This happened again the next day, and the next day, and it became a ritual for the entire 7 days of our stay, until the last day of our vacation when day my dad agreed to have the stones delivered some 6 months down the road when we’d be making another, longer trip to Spain. The entire time my family of course took the Spanish contractor at face value, thinking “mañana” actually meant the same thing as “tomorrow”, or “morgen” in Dutch.

Here in Peru the word “mañana” has an equally dubious meaning, and I’ve learned another one just like it: “un rato”, which literally means “a moment” or “a minute”. But nothing could be further from the truth. When someone in Peru tells me “un rato”, it pretty much means “nothing is going to happen for at least 45 minutes”.

In fact, when the baby starts to fuss because she’s hungry and Patricia says “un rato”, I’ve learned I can put in a pirated Led Zeppelin DVD to keep the baby entertained and distracted and pretty much make it through half the DVD before the “rato” is finally over. Hey, rock and roll beats walking around with a crying baby for 45 minutes 😉

Gotta go now, in un rato we’re going to eat dinner…

Halloween in Cusco

A few pictures of Halloween at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru:

Now I have to admit, I used to not like Halloween, thought it was a good day to lock the doors, turn the lights off and let the dogs out. But that was long ago, now Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.

I don’t think Halloween is as big an event in Peru as in the US. In regular neighborhoods, you don’t see many kids dressed up, and in typical Peruvian fashion (better later than earlier) most kids are buying masks in the afternoon on Oct 31 – not like in the States where Wal-Mart is full of Halloween costumes for the entire month of October.

We went to the Plaza de Armas last night to check out the crowd and hand out candy. Peruvian kids don’t really go “trick-or-treating” like in the US, they just sort of walk up to you with a little plastic pumpkin and say “Halloween”. Patricia had warned me that we’d be mobbed as soon as kids noticed we had candy, and sure enough, we practically got run over by happy little ones, and sometimes their moms as well. One kid tried to come back a few times, and when Patricia noticed he said “that wasn’t me, that was my twin”. One day I’ll do a post on little white lies in Peru, they’re out of control at times and usually so obvious it’s plain funny.

Anyway, got of on a tangent… For those of you who get into folk legends, some Belgian scholars believe the origin of Halloween has to do with a Dutch folk song, Lied van Heer Halewijn

“Heer Halewyn zong een liedekyn,
Al wie dat hoorde wou by hem zyn.

En dat vernam een koningskind,
Die was zoo schoon en zoo bemind.

Zy ging al voor haer vader staen:
“Och vader, mag ik naer Halewyn gaen?”

“Och neen gy, dochter, neen gy niet!
Die derwaert gaen en keeren niet


Find the complete lyrics here. But if you’re looking at me to sing the song, you’ll need to wait until I’m seriously inebriated 🙂

Quechua girl names

The most popular post on this blog remains “Looking for names of Inca princesses”, which I wrote when we first found out our baby was going to be a girl. We had already picked Brianna for the first name, but I wanted a native or Quechua name as well.

Since then I’ve learned a lot about Quechua girl names. My students made me a list of Quechua names:

  • Urpi (Dove)
  • Illary (Rainbow)
  • Tica (Flower)
  • Saywa
  • Illa
  • Killa
  • K’antu (the national flower of Peru)
  • Kusi
  • Mayu

Probably the most common Quechua girl name I’ve heard here in Cusco is Chaska. If you like names of famous people, you can choose Q’orianka, after Peruvian-American actress Q’orianka Kilcher. Site friend Amazilia posted this link to Quechua names in the comments of my “Looking for names of Inca princesses” post.

Patricia wanted to pick a unique name though, and found Nayaraq on this list of Quechua names. So we settled on “Brianna Nayaraq”.

Brianna Nayaraq

Brianna Nayaraq

Nayaraq means “who has many desires”. I hope she will grow up with the desire to make Peru an even better place.

I’m very happy we picked a name that will remind our daughter of her heritage as well as the great history and culture of Peru. Of course we also like the way it sounds, plus we can use “Naya” or “Yara” for a nickname 🙂