Alcohol in Cusco

I saw a funny drunk the other day. I don’t know what it is about Cusco, or the highlands of Peru in general, but it seems like heavy drinking is more common here than in the coastal parts of Peru or elsewhere. That’s just casual observation, no proven statistics or anything of that nature.

I don’t know what the reason might be, it could be because life here in the high Andes really is tough due to the climate, geography and high elevation, I really don’t know.

Like most people we enjoy drinking socially at times, but unfortunately we also know a few people who are habitual drunks and have let their alcoholism really affect their lives in a bad way. I’m hoping most of the time when I see someone stumbling around drunk out of their mind that it’s not a habitual thing.

At any rate, back to my funny story. Now this is one of these stories that really can’t be told…

You had to be there:

The other day I was getting my hair cut at a local barber. My “casero” (ie. regular or regular customer) works out of his house on Av. Cultura, a busy main street in residential Cusco, not the tourist areas downtown. While I’m waiting to get my hair cut, many people walk in and out of his shop, schoolkids come in to buy candy, etc. Some friends or family walk into his shop, say hello and then go to the back of the house.

Just as it was my turn to get my hair cut, a guy drunk out of his mind came stumbling into the barber shop and mumbled something to my “casero”. My “casero” replied something I couldn’t understand, I think they were speaking Quechua, but it was obvious my barber knew this person. The drunk was a guy maybe in his fifties, well dressed in a suit and shirt but with a scraggly unkept beard.

The drunk disappeared in the back of the house for a few minutes and then returned. He sat down next to a couple of other customers who were waiting in line. A minute or two later, the drunk got up and started talking to the other customers. He was speaking Spanish at that time, but I couldn’t understand a word he said because his speech was so slurred. I think he was pointing out something in the tabloids that are laying around the shop for waiting customers.

Next thing you know, for no obvious reason, this drunk guy puts his hands on the couch (where customers were waiting), feet on the floor and starts doing push-ups. Not just one or two, but maybe 10 or 15. A 50-some year old guy in a suit, drunk as a sailor, doing push-ups in the middle of a barber shop, you just had to be there.

My “casero” and everyone else in the shop just sort of chuckled, and after a little while the drunk said something else to each of the people in the shop, I didn’t understand anything except that he said “50 cents” several times. Then he walked out into the street and disappeared, as quickly as he had shown up he was gone again.

* * *

This crazy scene reminded me of another event, different but similar in its stupidity.

A while back when I was teaching an early class at ICPNA I would get up at 6:00 and walk the dogs before heading into work. These 2 mutts:

Roxi and Manchita, with our baby Brianna

Roxi and Manchita, with our baby Brianna

Our dog Manchita

Our dog Manchita

One morning just after 6:00 I was walking the dogs in the park by our house, and another stumbling drunk shows up. He’s holding a plastic cup in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other. He’s happy as can be and when he sees us, he decides to walk towards us and starts offering me and the dogs some of his “cerveza”.

“Hey, let’s have a drink, let’s all be friends.” – Seriously.

Now it must be said that our dogs are really quite protective. I don’t let anyone other than myself walk both of them at the same time. They’re not aggressive or bad dogs, but they are protective and don’t like being approached by strangers, especially men. I don’t know what it is because we found both as strays, perhaps they were abused or something, but both dogs do not like men they don’t know. The Jack Russell looking one is the oldest and most dominant, and the fat pitbull-looking one has never had an original thought in her life, she just barks and growls when her “big sister” barks and growls.

So this happy drunk came stumbling towards us offering the dogs a drink of cheap beer (I think it was Brahma or something) and the dogs start going nuts, barking and pulling on their leashes. I’m pulling the dogs out of the way as quickly as I can, but this drunk keeps coming at us:

“Hey, let’s all be friends.”

I’m not making this up. By now the pitbull is raising her hair and pulling her lips and the idiot drunk still wants to make friends. I luckily was able to pull the dogs away and make my way out of the park quicker than the drunk could follow us. I don’t think the guy remembers any of this, he was so happy drunk out of his mind, but he’s very lucky he didn’t try the same thing with some 7-year old kid walking his dogs.

Peruvian beers

Peruvian beers

Enjoy the holidays! Drink responsibly 😉

My first dog bite in Peru

Seems like most people I know here in Peru have gotten bit by a dog at least once, and now I’ve joined those ranks myself 😦

Here in Cusco, like in much of Latin America, many dogs roam freely in city streets and parks. Many are strays and others are simply allowed to run free by their owners. People who walk their dog on a leash are an exception here in Cusco. Most of the stray dogs are actually quite nice, but unfortunately some are skittish or defensive because people often throw rocks at them and kids play rough with them, pull their tails and things of that nature.

I usually do good with dogs, I say hello to them, play nice, all that good stuff. Occasionally if a loose dog growls or barks at me, I stare it down or just stay out of the way. Rabies is still big here in Peru, so you really don’t want to get into a fight with a dog you don’t know.

A while ago a new dog moved into the neighborhood, and we pass by his house between our home and that of my suegra. Seems like the dog had already barked and nipped at other people, but I just kept going by his house since he never paid attention to me. However, a few days ago I walked by and the darn mutt came flying out of his little yard, ran up behind me barking and fussing at me. Typically I would have yelled at him but for some reason I didn’t feel like making a scene and just kept walking. The dog stopped for a second, and then ran up and nipped my calf. Ouch. At that point I did yell at him and his owner, who happened to be in the yard, threw water at the darn dog – like that’s gonna help.

When I got to my suegra’s house and told them the story my wife and her mom immediately ran down to the house to complain to the owner. I kind of felt like a dumbass having 2 women defend my honor, so to speak, but I guess since dog bites are so common here they are much better prepared to go and complain about the whole ordeal.

Long story short, the owner was quite apologetic about it and a day or so later he put up a better fence to keep the dog inside his yard.


We have 2 strong and protective mutts as well, but they don’t run loose.

Baby with dogs

Baby with dogs

Bad dog

Hopefully by the time you read this our dogs will still be alive. Not kidding, yesterday a lady threatened to poison our dogs – and dog poisoning is common here in Peru, as Barb can attest to firsthand.

Now to put the story in context, our dogs are not aggressive, but they are dominant and protective, which is something many Peruvians are not used to. Dogs here in Cusco tend to be skittish, since most roam free in the streets – either as strays or just because their owners allow them – and many people treat the dogs bad, throw rocks at them, etc. The stray/loose dogs also tend to get into fights, as I wrote about earlier.

Our dogs are inside the house most of the time, but occasionally they are out in our front yard, which is fenced in and has a hedge along the inside of the fence. When they’re outside the dogs sometimes bark at people walking by, and sometimes spook them pretty bad. Part of the blame is on me for what happened last night: there are 2 openings in the hedge where the dogs could stick their head through the fence. The dogs have never hurt anyone, nor would they, but I should have put something up to prevent the dumbasses from scaring the passers by.

So while I was cooking dinner last night the dogs started to bark. Usually they only bark for a few seconds and the people in the street simply walk by. But last night the barking went on so I stepped outside to see a lady with 2 young kids standing by our fence fussing at the dogs. As soon as I stepped outside, she said “Sir, I’m going to poison your dogs!”

No could you please put your dogs inside, or your dogs scared my kids, nothing like that. Just “I’m going to poison your dogs”. Right in front of her kids…

So I replied “if you poison my dogs you’re going to jail”. To which she said “you’ll never find me, you don’t even know who I am….” teaching her kids the invaluable ethical concept that it’s not a crime unless you get caught.

At this point I wasn’t mad yet, I just told her not to worry about the dogs, they are inside a fence and won’t hurt anyone. But she kept fussing and yelling and when she finally walked down the street she yelled again that she would poison my dogs.

At that point I did lose my temper and yelled back in my best worst Spanglish exactly what I thought about her sex habits and ancestry.

Ten minutes later a knock on the door. You guessed it, the poison lady was back with a policeman in tow. To set the stage a bit more, our apartment is literally across the street from a police office, at least 50 policemen walk by our house every day, and no one has ever complained.

Patricia answered the door and I missed the first part of the conversation since I was in the kitchen, but by the time I walked out the policeman was visibly annoyed at the poison lady who just kept arguing despite the fact that Patricia was apologetic and promised to put up a better fence. The policeman agreed that just putting up a wire to keep the dogs away from the openings in the hedge would be a good idea…

At the end of the day there are a lot of problems with dogs in Peru: stray dogs, aggressive dogs that run loose, many dogs that don’t get rabies shots, etc. The policeman agreed that a gringo with 2 dogs inside a fenced yard really isn’t a problem, but the poison lady kept saying no one should have dogs like ours, she was going to poison them (right in front of the policeman), etc. etc. The policeman finally nudged her down the road and said good riddens.

So this morning I put up a new fence on the inside of the yard, so the dogs will stay away from people walking by… It looks a little redneck for the time being, but as soon as I buy a few extra posts it will do the job. Next up, reseed the grass before rainseason 🙂

Manchita checking out the new fence

Manchita checking out the new fence

Dogs and baby

For my dog-loving friends, a few pictures of our baby with the dogs… I got yelled at for the second one 🙂

Roxi, Manchita and Brianna

Roxi, Manchita and Brianna

Baby kisses blue pitbull

Baby kisses blue pitbull

Both my mom and Patricia’s mom were pretty worried about the dogs, now that our new baby has arrived. My mom was particularly worried because Manchita is a Blue Pitbull, but the dogs seemed to realize right away this little wawa was a new addition to our family. I imagine in a few months when Brianna starts throwing – digo eating food from a high chair, that will take her relationship with the dogs to a whole new level 🙂

Of course if you have strong, protective dogs like ours you have to pay attention to them around kids, especially once our baby gets a bit older and has her friends over to the house, but we’re of to a good start!

Peru, safety and pitbulls

How safe is Peru? How dangerous are pitbulls?

Got an email from my mom a while back, loosely translated:

“… Two friends of mine were thinking about visiting Peru. They’ve planned out their trip to Lima, Machu Picchu, and Cusco, and have already bought their tickets. But someone told them Peru is dangerous, and then they also read that Peru is dangerous on some government website. Now they’re thinking about canceling their trip, what should they do?”

So is Peru dangerous in my opinion? Here’s my response, again loosely translated:

“… Jee if I had known how dangerous it is here I could have been scared for the last year and a half !! Peru is very safe in my experience, BUT, it is a poor country so you have to be mindful of petty crime. It often amazes me how some tourists walk around Cusco as if they’re in Disney World. You have to be aware of your belongings, especially in busy places and on buses. Pay attention when the bus stops. There are bad parts of town in Lima, just like anywhere else in the world, but there’s no reason an ordinary tourist would end up there. I imagine the reason the government website said Peru is dangerous is because in a few of the provinces along the border with Colombia there are drug cartels, but again there’s no reason the average tourist would end up there.”

And then I made the mistake of adding some humor…

“Besides if your friends are really scared they can borrow my Pitbull while they’re here…”
We think Manchita is a Blue Pitbull

We think Manchita is a Blue Pitbull

Response from my mother….

“O my God, I’m so worried about what you’re going to do with the dogs now that you’re going to have a baby…”

Sometimes you just can’t win. There are lots of documented benefits of having dogs around children. Needless to say if you have strong, protective dogs like ours you have to pay attention to them, especially around children. But the notion that pitbulls randomly attack people is even more ridiculous than the idea that Peru is some bad unsafe place that you shouldn’t visit.

Mi cama, tu trasero

We spent 60 Nuevos Soles (about $20) to buy new doggie beds for our bi-national, US-Peruvian mutts this weekend. Here’s how they ended up:

Roxi and Manchita

Roxi and Manchita

Funny how Manchita’s big bottom doesn’t quite fit in Roxi’s bed. Manchita looks tough but Roxi is a bossy little terrier, and she’s also older than Manchita. We think Manchita is a Blue Pitbull, but without Roxi around she’s just a big baby.

We bought their new camas at the weekend market on the Plaza Tupac Amaru. Unlike in the US, local markets still have a big economic significance here in Cusco. At the Plaza Tupac Amaru vendors sell anything from furniture to flowers, handicrafts, snacks, nectar de sabila, etc. Unlike the markets in the downtown area, this market is mostly for the locals, you typically only find a few gringos strolling around.

Sundays the market is rather quiet, on Saturdays it's busier

Sundays the market is rather quiet, on Saturdays it's busier

Dual nationality mutts.

Roxy and Manchita were strays that decided to move in with us in NC. Roxy is some type of Jack Russell mix and Manchi looks like a blue Pitbull mix. Being that they are extremely attached to us, and they’re good dogs, we decided to move them to Peru with us. That was actually a pretty easy process: pay the vet in NC, the state of NC, the airlines, the Peruvian department of agriculture, and about $500 later we were happily moved to Peru. The best part of the trip for them was when they got to stay at the Sheraton Miami because our flight, which was supposed to leave at midnight, was delayed for 7+ hours. With time to spare, travel by air, ruff!!

Manchita got sick a month or so after moving to Cusco. Might have been the altitude (10,300 ft) or climate that she had to get used to. Either way, Patricia put this cute sweater on her for a while after that!

Manchita in sweater.

Roxy, in our bed.

Update: see the comments for additional info on how to move dogs from the US to Peru.