Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Peruvian Slang: Lesson One

Peruvians are obsessed with food. Not only do they brag about the wonderful ceviche, the thousand varieties of potatoes, and the pisco (well, actually it is a drink), but Peruvians slip food references constantly into their slang (jerga). Most of these refer are a sly way of insinuating sex, discretely; non-native Spanish speakers such as myself frequently fall into traps when inquiring innocently about eggs, or yams, or potatoes, or bananas, or pick-a-produce. As a matter of fact, every day at my internship I somehow managed to make a faux pas about food and sex. Perhaps it is better to say that I am set up to do a fool of myself. At times I am afraid to open my mouth at the lunch table, knowing that whatever I say in regards to food will likely be misconstrued. Today, for example, I had the entire table roaring after I asked Vladimir, who was recovering from stomach troubles, why he wasn't eating his soup. "Don't you like soup? It is the best thing to make you feel better, especially soup with potatoes. " After the meal, Olgita approached me about the source of their amusement. Apparently, eating soup (caldo) is a slang term for having sex, and potatoes (papas) a term for female genitalia. How was I supposed to know that???

Other food related slang:

tener un camote por alguien (to have a sweet potato for someone) : to be attracted to someone
un melon- a beautiful person
pina (pineapple) bad luck
churro (a type of pastry)-an attractive person
coco (coconut)-US dollar
cau cau ( a stew of cow intestines)- problem

My personal favorite:
chaufa (Peruvian Chinese for fried rice) -slang for "good-bye'

Monday, February 23, 2009

10 Great Things about Peru

1. Ancient ruins all over the place
2. The aforementioned camellids, which I have still not seen.
3. Exotic fruit, such as lucuma
4. Chifa-Chinese Peruvian fast food restaurants complete with friendly Chinese Peruvian people
5. The weather!
6. Cheap taxis
7. Multiple varieties of buses, from the combi to the micro
8. Earrings (also previously mentioned)
9. Cheeky-cheeky kissy kisses
10. Hour long, madatory lunch breaks!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

February 14 Huaca Pucllana Ruins

This "almost daily" account of my life here quickly turned into a "once a weekly" account. I do much more than is noted here, honestly I do, but most of it is not blog-friendly.
Yesterday there was rain in Lima. For those of you unfamilar with the terrain, Lima is a desert, even though it is on the ocean. There was quite a commotion about the rain, which we would more appropriately call a drizzle. Drizzle or not, it was a enough to put a damper on today's plan to go to the beach. Once again, my plans to go swimming have fizzled out.
Instead I went with another volunteer, Ruth, to Huaca Pucllana ( pronounced wha-ka pook-li-a-na), The Sacred Playground. This former temple site was built by people of the Lima culture, who flourished between 100-600 AD. This temple was dedicated to Pachamama and Cochemama, goddesses of the earth and sea. Women and children were sacrificed here, so I am not sure why this place was called a "playground". Our loquacious tour guide told us that this site only became an archeological area 30 years ago. Before that it is was just a hill of dirt and he he used to ride his bike on it as a kid. Skeletons are continually being uncovered. The sacrificial victims were usually decapitated and quartered, while the priests were left intake. Huaca Pucllana is located in the middle of Miraflores, as you can see in photo #2. It is built of hand-made bricks, many of which are marked with thumprints of the workers from 1500 years ago ( photo #1). The Lima people constructed the brick walls in irregular layers, with spaces between each brick. A few years ago, the archeologists, seeing this irregularity, decided to "improve" the buildings for reconstruction and made uniform bricks and walls. Last year a 7.9 earthquake hit Lima. All the reconstructed walls collapsed, but the originals remained intact. Apparently the the Limas knew what they were doing.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

February 5 Excursion to Cahuid Park

For once I am going to talk about what I have been doing at my internship. There isn't much photoworthy at work, and confidentiality would hinder posting photos, anyway. But I do want you all to know that I am not just here on a sight-seeing expedition for three months. I work M-Th, and then Nexos Voluntarios takes the volunteers to various places of interest on Fridays.

Since school is still on summer break here, Encuentros arranges excursions for some of their adolescent clients on Thursdays. These little trips serve many purposes: getting the kids out of El Agustiono once in a while, getting some exposure to nature and culture, spending time together in a group, and allowing for some informal social learning. Today's trip was to a large park in another districe of Lima, called San Luis. I was impressed with the size and nature of the park. Not only did it have a swimming pool, kiddie rides and sport fields, but it also offered horseback riding up into the mountains.

Not many of the teens owned swimming suits, a fact that did not deter them from diving into the water in their underwear. This is one of the differences in our cultures. Even though these kids are street tough, have been in gangs and doing all sorts of drugs, they are still innocent enough to go swimming in their underwear in a public pool. I can't imagine 16 year old boys from the US doing that!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Jan 31 Huacachina The Sacred Lake

My Fodor's guide describes this place as a lagoon with "jade colored waters" and a "breathtaking view". Either Fodor et al was mistaken, or else they haven't been to Huacachina in a long time. The water was smelly and dirty, and the lagoon full of trash. Apparently the lagoon is drying up. Friends told me that indeed it used to be a paradise, but to see it now is sad. The view was breathtaking. Imagine the largest sand dunes in South America, stretching for miles, and suddenly a lagoon with palm trees in the midst of it. The big tourist attraction here (water being unswimmable to all but the bravest of locals) is dune surfing. Another odd tidbit is the amazing similiarity of the surrouding terrain to that of the Middle East, or at least so I am told, having never been there myself. King Mohammed IV of Moracco, during a visit in 2003, was delighted witht the likeness of this region of Peru and sent 20 camels as a gift. Fodor's guide says that these creatures and their offspring can be seen at Huacachina, but my companions told me that they are all dead. Apparently Peruvians didn't heed the advice of the camel caretakers to give them a strict diet of (I don't know, dates? Palm leaves? What do camels eat?) and fed them ice cream, french fries and maracuya. Promptly, the camels died. I was disappointed to hear this, as I have yet to see an interesting animal in Peru, aside from the hairless dogs. My classmate Anna, currently in Dubai for her field placement, mentions daily encounters with camels. I haven't seen a single llama! I take some comfort in learning that llamas, and their cousins alpaca, vicuna, and guanacos, are members of the camelid family. In fact, the camelid family originated in the Americas. So there, King Mohammed!

Jan 30 Pachacamac-Temple of the Sun

I know that I have gotten behind on my postings. I didn't have a camera with me this day, and have been waiting for Sofia to send me the photos, but she hasn't yet, so this image is borrowed from Wikimedia.

Most everyone immediatly jumps to Macchu Pichu when linking about Peru, but there are many other fascinating archeological sites as well. Today I went to Pachacama , the ruins of an ancient temple of the Sun, located about 25 miles from Lima. Pachacamac is a Quechua word meaningn "he who vitalizes the universe". The Huari Empire (AD 600-800) constructed the pyramids, and it was later absorbed by the Incas. Francisco Pizarro heard about Pachacamac while holding the Inca King Atahualpa prisoner at Cajamarca in 1532. He promptly sent an expedition to sack the center. The Spanish conquerors seized a large amount of silver and gold from the site and destroyed an idol. (The Columbia Encyclopedia. Copyright © 2001-08 Columbia ).
Another highlight of the day was an upclose encounter with the famous Peruvian hairless dog. (photo forthcoming). These little critters have very dry skin and need sunscreen. They are, terrible to say, so ugly that they are almost cute.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jan 29 El Augustino

Encuentros is located in the district of Lima called El Agustino. Lima, the capital of Peru, has been facing a rapid increase in population in the past seventy years, as millions of people from the provinces migrate to the capital in search of work and education. Lima has a population of 7, 800,00. El Agustino is one of the most impoverished districts of Lima, with a population of 167, 000. Only 59% of the inhabitants have running water, and 89% have electricity.

I have been doing a lot of home visits with the social workers and psychologists. El Agustino is very similar to the colonias of Cd.Juarez, where I lived for a while. Lima doesn´t get much rain, and so there is dirt and dust everywhere. At one of the homes yesterday I tried juice of maracuya-the national fruit of Peru.

I have discovered that the international language of adolescent boys is ¨Mumbish". Adding that to my still limited Spanish, I have many moments of misunderstanding.