Thursday, June 05, 2008

My Peruvian Ritual

At around 6:30 am, Catherine is puttering around the apartment, hoping that Erika and I will get up with her to go for a nice morning walk and take dog pictures or do some yoga. Only once have we gotten up for yoga, as she had started it at 7:30 am, a much more reasonable time. However, she lost hope for us over a week ago and hasn’t bothered us much about yoga since, which is really too bad, because with enough coaxing and perhaps starting at that reasonable time, I may drag myself out of my cool bed and fling myself into the acrobatics of yoga.
At around 7:30 am, Erika’s alarm and Erika begin their morning ritual. One rings, the other slaps. This goes on for about an hour. Catherine and I have plans to drown the godforsaken thing at the end of the program. It will be flushed down the nearest toilet.
We roll out of bed and realize, as usual, that there is no water. Another morning ritual is to turn on the water in the mornings. If we don’t, the water pump will go on and off all night and would make sleeping impossible. Usually, it is Catherine or I who turn it on. The pump runs for almost an hour before we have full water capacity again. In the meantime, we have either coffee or tea made with coca leaves (with the water held in a thermos that was boiled that night prior). For most breakfasts, Catherine, Erika, and I head to Don Felix, our favourite restaurant. Cute kittens and parrots greet us at the restaurant, which makes the stay that much more enjoyable. I order papaya juice and honey pancakes. We give our waiters Canadian flag pins.
After a leisurely breakfast, we head off, either all three of us, two of us in a pair, or alone. I either visit student at their work placements or in their families. Today, I visited Jean Philippe, who, incidentally, has regained most of his energy, at his school. I ended up teaching an English lesson with him. JP encouraged me to do most of the talking, since English isn’t his first language. After going over the months and the parts of the body with the students, I took my leave. Sometimes, I will visit another student at work, help out a little at their work, and again move on. Sometimes, I walk around the market, buy some of my favourite ‘maïs levantarse’, which is a kind of sweetened popcorn. Today, I poked my head into a so-called ‘Music and Art’ school, where a guy was painting and another was playing a small keyboard. I talked to the painter, and he was telling me that they offer painting and guitar lessons. I told him I played the piano. We chatted a little more about his style of painting before I headed out again.
Other days, I have lunch or supper, or even both, at a student’s family. The families are always so warm and hospitable and usually interested in your doings and anecdotes about Canada. The more I talk, the more I improve my Spanish, and I have learned that no matter how horrible and broken you speak a language, as long as you make an effort, you will improve. Besides, Peruvians love it when you speak Spanish, even though your verb tenses are all wrong and you used the wrong words to begin with. But hey, they understood you, and even if they didn’t really, at least you gave them a laugh.
We eat lunch at around 2 pm, which is the main meal of the day. We have a fantastic cook, who has also become our Peruvian mother. She gives us advice about Quillabamba, how to stay safe, where to go, and never stops telling us how beautiful we are. Our lunch begins with a soup and then a main course, which is usually rice and meat. We are also lucky enough to eat many vegetables, such as cucumbers, avocados, and tomatoes. I had been craving spaghetti for awhile, so I requested spaghetti for lunch the other day. Spaghetti is a known dish around here; it’s just not very popular. I told her what ingredients went into the sauce and left her to do her magic. Spaghetti was a welcoming change, and although the sauce was different (even though she duly used all of the ingredients I requested), it was delicious. Even Erika, who often finds it too hot to eat hot food in the middle of the day, licked her plate clean.
After lunch, I will either go and visit more students, or I will have a siesta (oh yeah), or I will just walk around town. I love just coming across soccer games on the side of the road. The town is always so full of life, full of people, full of energy. It is hot and sunny, there is music playing, and some shops are closed for the siesta hours. Most shops, however, seem to be open all hours of the day (save for on Sundays)
At around 4 pm, when the day starts to cool down again, Erika and I will head off for a walk or visit more students. Sometimes, we window shop at the little boutiques in and around the market. Whilst Erika was in the market for a traditional Inca hat, I was on the lookout for orange pants. Yes, I realize the search for orange pants seems to be never-ending, but it had its closure the other day. I found orange pants that were 55 soles, which, frankly, I wasn’t willing to pay. However, instead of just shrugging your shoulders ‘oh well’, you whip out your bargaining skills. After being prepped by Yannick on how to bargain, I was ready to go back into that shop and buy those pants for 40 soles. That was how much I wanted to spend. I marched in and asked to see the 28 sized orange pants again. The store clerk smiled; she remembered me. How could she not? Here I am, the only white person looking adamantly for orange pants. Also, the last time we were in that store, Catherine, Erika, and I made a huge scene by taking a picture of me posing with the mannequins, who, apparently, all looked like they had to badly use the bathroom. Besides the colour of our skin, our silliness makes being inconspicuous impossible.
I asked if I could buy the orange pants for 30 soles. She went to the back to the store to ask the owner, I guess. She came back and said, no, these pants are worth 55, we’ll sell it to you for 45 soles minimum. I replied with, look, I can buy cheaper pants back in Canada, so if you don’t sell it to me for 40 soles max, I am outta here. Well, that did it; pants sold at 40 soles!

So, what do I enjoy here? Watching the kids walk back from school, joking with each other, ice cream in hand, all looking so professional and old-fashioned in their school uniforms. I love waking up every morning surrounded by mountains, with clouds interlacing the peaks. I enjoy walking around Plaza de Armas (one of the town squares), as well as the market, just watching other people or the ones selling you things. It is incredible to see some tiny women, with long, black hair braided down their back, decked out in layered skirts, as well as the colourful Inca blanket. These women must be well over sixty, yet they do not have a trace of white hair.
I enjoy the sun, the wind, and the cool evenings.

My Peruvian Ritual to be concluded shortly.

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