Back to school in Belgica, unofficial end of summer in the US, and soon it’ll be springtime in Cusco. But the turn of the calendar had me thinking, this month marks the 6-year anniversary of the time that….

Somewhere in a Mexican restaurant in North Carolina, a Peruvian girl named Norma picked up her cellphone and pretended to be a Peruvian girl named Patricia. The real Patricia got out a phone number on the back of a crumpled business card that a goofy Belgian guy gave her in an Irish restaurant a few weeks before.

The real Patricia had said she would call the goofy Belgian guy, but never did. She wasn’t too interested in goofy Belgian guy, in fact the only reason she had talked to him was because he blocked her view of the TV.

Nevertheless, pretend-Patricia (aka Normita) had a blind date the following evening and didn’t want to leave her best friend Patricia all by her lonesome self. Pretend-Patricia was going on her blind date no matter what, so she called goofy Belgian guy…

“Hi I’m Patricia, the girl from Ri-Ra’s…”
“I’m hungry, let’s go eat something and watch a movie…”

So I was shamelessly deceived and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Left a good job in the city,

Working for The Man every night and day,

And I never lost one minute of sleeping,

Worrying ’bout the way things might have been.”

Chicas peperas

Single guys who visit Cusco read this and consider yourself warned.

I had my students do one of my favorite writing exercises last week: write a story in groups, with each student contributing one line at a time. This way the story develops itself instead of following a pre-determined storyline.

Here’s how one group started their story:

(student 1) “One day I woke up in the gutter…”
(student 2) “There I found Romulo Leon…”

And a little further down:

(student 3) “Then we went to Don Diablo disco…”
(student 4) “Where we started dancing with 3 chicas peperas

Chicas peperas? I’d heard many students say that Don Diablo is a dangerous place, where you can get robbed or get in a fight. But chicas peperas was new to me.

My students explained chicas peperas are girls that typically hang out at the less reputable discos in Cusco. They get guys to buy them a drink, or bring the guys a drink themselves (servers typically don’t wear uniforms, so you don’t know). Next thing the poor guy knows is when he wakes up in the middle of the Plaza de Armas…

  • Where’s my wallet?
  • Where’s my cellphone?
  • Where are my clothes? What happened?

We usually go out to the typical tourist spots on the Plaza de Armas such as Mama Africa, which have always been safe to us. If you’d prefer to get away from the tourist traps, I believe most of the neighborhood discos in Cusco are safe as well, but best ask the locals first.

Mama Africa, early in the evening

Mama Africa, early in the evening

Update: the scoop on peperas in Lima, from a reliable source.

Parque Kennedy in Lima is even worse than Q’osqo for the peperas. My best moment was while drinking sundown pisco sours with my brother, newly arrived that afternoon and off the plane. We dumped our bags at the overnight hotel and i took him to Cafe de la Paz on Kennedy for the best pisco sour i know (nice outside terrace, excellent sandwiches, too).

So my single, younger brother notices after 15 mins that he’s getting stared at by a couple of v pretty girls. As soon as he makes eye contact with one of them they’re at the table like a shot. I fake that i don’t speak Spanish (my brother doesn’t need to fake that bit) and it took about 20 minutes before they invited us to a disco later that evening. They leave to “Go get ready for later…see you boys there!!” and only then do i tell bro what a pepera is and how it all works.

He decided not to turn up for his date.