Thursday, March 31, 2011

I'm like that chick from Enchanted

Once upon today, I was sitting here:

Dutifully doing this:

When came wandering up a friendly woodland creature: Deer #9.

We chitchatted about the my astonishing lack of food suitable for woodland creatures.

And then snapped a picture to celebrate becoming new bffs.

And then deer #9 wandered off in search of other life-long friends.

I hope the next one has an apple for you, dearest #9!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Tube of Me: CommunityChannel

Natalie Tran is the most hilarious, honest, your-mom joke cracking, sarcastic Asian-Australian that I have ever virtually met. I've introduced her to just about all my (English-speaking) friends, and we can just sit around for hours watching old CommunityChannel videos. If you get hooked on any blog channel I'm recommending, ducklings, get hooked on this one. Now you see, if I was a better person, I'd make that "one" vlogbrothers. But oh well...

Nat (yup, that's right, we's got our own little nicknames for each other. What now?) does scenes from her own life in which she generally plays all the parts, in different clothing, of course. I'm always amazed at how she can take odd, everyday situations and turn them into hilarity. Kinda reminds me of Seinfeld in that way. Warning: She can get a little dirty, friends, so you're prepared. But it's worth it, heh.

I chose this particular one because I can totally relate to it. Remembering directions= me getting hopelessly lost. Also, my friends in Peru all think I'm incredibly strange for using Google Maps so much. But it gets me there, so they really should be grateful.

I also recommend: The We Just Touched Awkwardly Song(LOVE) Too soon? (that one may require you remembering some current events from a couple years ago) No, YOU'RE so pretty ; Bending at the knees for love; and couples who make out around you.

There's so many more. How does one choose between so much greatness?

P.S. We're making progress with Sasha. She's starting to love me. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thou shalt not feed the winged rats

One of the most lasting memories I have from my high school AP literature class is our reading of the infamous Dante's Inferno. Not so much because I loved the book, but because I clearly recall the assignment that followed: Create your own Circle of Hell, complete with insufferable sinners and appropriately torturous punishments. Which is just now striking me as a very gruesome assignment...

My circle of hell was for that terrible blight on an otherwise sane and civilized humanity: the seagull feeder.

Some pampered seagull with horrible entitlement issues once stole a French fry from the box I was carrying in my arms. I knew who really deserved the blame.

In the circle 10 the punished were transformed into giant hot dogs and other beach food which were eternally floating in a sea of Coca Cola while human-sized seagulls dressed as lifeguards (? I don't know) blew really shrill whistles and swooped down to peck away at their edible bodies.

I thought of that today when I saw a woman in over-sized clothing sitting on the sidewalk feeding the pigeons on the street (from her hands: gross, gross gross). I was torn between breaking into a heart-wrenching Mary Poppins ballad or picturing her as a soggy hamburger.

What do they teach in high schools these days?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Where political arguments come to die

I hate politics. (Can I open with that? Do I have any politicians as followers?) Really and truly, hate them.

Mostly I can't stand how divisive they are. In the states, you can often immediately alienate/befriend a person, make them lump you into a whole list of categories, and then start them off on an angry tirade/deriding joke/sympathetic venting session all by simply naming yourself as a Republican or a Democrat. Ugh, it makes me annoyed just thinking about it.
So fortunately for me, we're in the throes of a presidential and congressional election here in Peru, and though the dynamics and woes are quite different, the yelling and name-calling still exists.

Or at least was most definitely existent after the birthday party a few nights ago, when the 11 o'clock conversation naturally turned to politics. I sat silently as they duked it out.

One man was arguing heatedly for a candidate named Alejandro Toledo. He only had two arguments, as far as I could tell: A) Toledo had been president before and hadn't left debt behind, and B) Toledo had been a Harvard professor. (Wikipedia later told me that "he was an affiliated researcher in the field of international development at the Harvard Institute for International Development" from 91 to 94. Which is still good, although, obviously, does not a good president make.)

Apparently he thought that that last bit meant that Toledo was well-known and talked about by people in the states. To contrast his candidate, beloved by Harvard grads everywhere, with the other presidential candidates, sadly unknown to Americans, he turned to me.

"Let's get an objective opinion. Dani, what do people think about Keiko and Ollanta Humala in the United States?"

My role in this little scene, I think, was to simply say "nothing," after which the defender of Toledo could turn to his assailants and say triumphantly "Ah ha! You see? Toledo wins again."

Alejandro Toledo may or may not be a good candidate. I honestly don't know. But I was tired and annoyed at not only having been dragged into the fight, but also so obviously used to prove a silly point. So I simply said "No one talks about any of these candidates in the United States."

Which pretty much took the wind out of his sails, so that I felt slightly guilty.

The argument continued, but I was not called upon to participate again.

The politician in question

There's a very select few people I will talk politics with. Aren't you all glad that this blog is not one of them?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Babies masquerading as dogs

Because they are dogs. I hope I'm not offending any babies.

Peruvian dogs, in my very American opinion, leave something to be desired in the affection category. It's not their fault. They haven't been trained in the art. But never fear, I've resolved to turn our dog Sasha into an American-style cuddle puppy. (And I said I wouldn't set goals! But who believed that....)

My strategy:

1) Get her to stop barking at me and to stay next to me for more than a minute at a time. Ok, so that doesn't have much to do with American/Peruvian. But it's irritating....

2) Talk baby talk to her at every opportunity. "Whooo's a good dog? Who's a good daaawwg? Sasha is! Yeeees you aaare..." Right now she thinks I'm pretty strange when I do that.

3) Pet and cuddle her. Even though she rarely bathes, and my hands look and smell like floor after I touch her. No one else pets her very much, especially not in the same way we pet our dogs while I was growing up. (I can't decide which of those is the cause and which the effect.)

This is a selfish mission. I miss dogs who come up to you waggle their tales and wiggling their butts cause they know they're going to be petted and pampered. I miss dogs who strain at their leashes in the street because every human they see is another cuddle-machine. I miss dogs who sit next to you like an old friend as you complain about a hard day and look into your eyes like they truly understand.

Writing this post has not helped that much.

These are the dog breeds I'd currently like to have in the distant future when I have the space and money:

Basset Hound
We had these growing up...and every time I see one I have to admit that I still have a soft spot for them.
Not all at once of course!

Who am I kidding? One trip to the SPCA and I'll be taking home whichever dog looks the most pathetic.

Happy Thursday chickadees!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Microwaves: Conspiring energy-suckers

I appreciate energy conservation. Truly, I do. Turn things off when you're not using them? Good idea. Unplug them? I'm all for it.

But! I'm wary of people who toe the line between careful and crazy. And there's been something about the combination of expensive electricity and microwaves in both the families I've lived with in Peru that has pushed them just a leeetle closer to that line.

Last semester my first host mother always wanted the microwave number left on zero. She thought it conserved energy. I tentatively raised doubts about this; she confidently squashed them. Whatevs. Or it would've been, but I could not for the life of me remember to do it. And believe it or not, it became a major point of contention and stress. I got up at 2 AM one night because I remembered that I hadn't left the microwave on 0, and knew I very well could receive an email about it the next day. I feel like I've told this story to about a bazillion people. Forgive me if you're one of them.

This semester my family goes for the much more logical route of unplugging the microwave, which does in fact save electricity. I'm fairly confident that I've never forgotten, but then, I don't really have much occasion to use it anyway. So that could be more of a lucky coincidence than a matter of pride.

AND YET, despite this success, I'm still catching flack on the microwave issue! Apparently, someone, someone else, in this house left the microwave plugged in the other day (come forward and name yourself!), and I have had no less than three very serious discussions about desenchufando la microonda.

Sheesh. Peruvian microwaves have it out for me I think. They rack up their numbers and plug themselves in while no one's looking. And then snicker at me with the toaster while basking in their stolen energy baths.

Monday, March 21, 2011

the rant about the disfunctional queue

I've recently discovered in myself a latent obsession with lines. Not as in geometry, and not as in coloring books, (although, come to think of it, I did abandon pages as a kid if the colors began to get out of their properly designated areas), but I'm talking lines of humans.

If I had to, I would pin it to elementary school, when whenever we ventured into the wilds of the hallways we had a line leader and a line follower, and everyone in between had to stay in their positions and not stray too far to the front or to the back. On pain of...umm...a warning? I don't remember. I was a strict line adherent.

Ponder the beautiful simplicity of the line principle: many people want to do something which can only be done by one person at a time. Walk through the hallway, ride an amusement park ride, use the bathroom. So we all stand one in back of the other, calmly waiting our turn, respecting the person in front and trusting the person behind to respect us.

Here's fun fact: Peruvians tend not to be quite as crazy about lines as Americans are, or at least as this American is. Forming them correctly, not actually waiting in them. As far as I can tell no one really likes that. Which is precisely the reason we're all so sensitive about our place in them.

I only reflect on this at such lengthly length because today I spent too much time waiting in lines. Lines the didn't line very well. Lines that only pretended to be lines. Lines in which the person behind me couldn't respect my place in line because they were not in fact behind me any more.

Especially at the photocopier. Nearly every time I go to the copier I end up wanting to smack someone. It has not happened yet. But it very well might.

No, you're right. I'm far too passive aggressive for that.

Friday, March 18, 2011

One apron, four hours, fifteen houseguests

Last night was a night full of mystery. I now can pretty much fake my way thought most things here, but I found myself at a loss several times yesterday. For instance:

1) I wasn't told that it was her birthday on Thursday until Monday. When I asked what we were doing, she goes "Ohh, nothing."Me: "But didn't someone mention something about family coming over?" HM: "Oh, well, a couple of people." That nothing with a couple people turned out to be a party of about 15 people, cake, and finger food.

2) My host mom asked me on Wednesday: "Is Francesca coming to the dinner?" (my Peruvian friend) Me: "Ummm....I didn't ask her. Oh dear, did you tell me to ask her?" HM: " I thought about telling you to ask her."

3) I told her that Francesca and I might get there a little earlier than planned, and she said "Better that way." But when we arrived no one was around. And she was napping.

4) My host mom told us everyone was coming at 6:30. We thought she would call us down from my room. She didn't. We debated going down at 7:3o. Francesca: "I don't know, it's your house!" Me: "I don't know, it's your country!" F: "Nope. I'm Italian."

5) I got her a gift, (an apron for cooking (below from CasaIdeas)...I feminist sensibilities, which are existent but not exactly fine-tuned, were screaming but I had no other ideas, and I really thought she'd like it. And she did. So don't judge!) but no one else brought anything, as far as I saw. Do you pass gift receiving age in Peru or something? What a shame!
6) At 11 o'clock I was dead tired. I still thought it would be rude to go to bed. But then they told me I looked sleepy, and I could go rest if I wanted to. I got a pang of guilt for leaving all the dishes and what not, and asked if I should help first. My host mom said no, it's fine, we'll do it tomorrow. I asked several times if she was sure, and may have sensed some hesitation the final time, but I went. It's tomorrow now, and not a dirty dish to be found.

Well, who doesn't need a good awkward night every now and again?

Happy Friday!

P.S. Francesca has provided me with updates on sickness euphemisms. Read if you care:

They didn't ask me "Estas ocupada?" for diarrhea but rather "Te estas ocupando?" (forgive the English punctuation, but this text is not bilingual) Which I guess is like saying, "Are you busying yourself?" Although that apparently is something you'd more use with little kids. (Which really is quite interesting linguistically, I think, when you consider how we think about speaking with language learners.)

A phrase I think I remember hearing, "Te has aflojado el estomago?" literally something like "Have you loosened your stomach?" is another way to say it.

"Diarrea" as a word is not so much gross apparently as just very medical and technical. I pointed out that it is not so in English.

Hmm...I think she told me something else for "vomitar" also, but it once again escapes me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Touchy subjects

I'm feeling much better now, as I'm sure you noticed that I failed to mention in the last post. I'm not 100% quite yet (as my 7th grade Social Studies teacher Mr. Kennel used to say. Shout out Mr. Kennel! An avid reader I'm sure) but I'm on my way.

I may milk the "eeehh...not fantastic" factor a couple days longer to keep my portion sizes down at lunch and dinner. Shhhh. That's our secret.

But truly, my host family, especially sister and Mom, were so extremely helpful through the whole thing, making sure I drank water and took my medicine and ate chicken soup, that I feel a little more like a part of this family.

And, I've discovered some more things about them:

Even in dire circumstances, they don't like to directly state any problems you may have with bodily functions. Is this a cultural thing, a family thing, a personal thing...? I don't know. I'm pretty sure I remember the Colombian couple I stayed with during my last sickness just coming right out with it.

But apparently "Estas ocupada?" literally, "Are you busy?", can also mean "Do you have diarrhea?" There was also several euphemisms for throwing up which I don't remember. But that one could be pantomimed a little you can imagine. They should write a handbook, seriously, because when I didn't understand my host mom just repeated it and looked concerned until I somehow got the drift.

I'm afraid I broke these unspoken rules every time and just used "diarrhea" and "vomitear."
I wasn't really in a very learny mood at the time.

My family in the states ain't quite so delicate. Although, we do draw the line at hearing about my grandmother's bowel movements over a good meatloaf.

Off to dinner with you then!

PS Above is a pic I took near my house, across from the Starbucks.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Tube of Me: Brigitte Dale

You know you love these! Or at least, I know I love when you have to listen to my opinion. Whenever I get around to sharing a channel with you I always wonder why I don't do them more often... (Hint: It may have something to do with my bad memory...)

Brigitte Dale is possibly the oldest of my vlog followees, mostly because I think I actually started to watch her in high school when she was doing vlogs for ABC family. When the only thing I could load to our charming dial-up internet was tiny little clips.

I love her because she's cute and smart and witty, and often talks about actual news or her real life with good insight. I feel sorta like we could be friends. Little inflated opinion of myself? The above is kinda an exception to that rule (the real life rule, not the friends rule), but I wanted to share it cause it's one of my favorites, and a good example of her kind of self-mocking, dry sense of humor. The absolute worst thing you could do here, ducklings, is take the above clip seriously! She does sometimes offer advice to listeners. This is not one of those times.

I also recommend: In defense of e-stalking, Human bedwarmers at Holiday Inn, and winky ha ha.

Yes, I may have just spelled her name wrong in the title when I first published. Why the heck is "Brigitte" so hard to spell? It's like "occasion"... I never get it right the first time.

Thank you for watching this edition of The Tube of Me, sponsored by the ample amount of free time Dani has before her classwork kicks in.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thoughts from the bathroom floor

Yesterday morning, while laying on the cool hardness beside my toilet, having already been betrayed by the hot bed, I tried desperately to think of some of the good things about being sick.

Here's what I came up with:

1) You get to see parts of your bathroom you never might otherwise. Hmmm...looks like the underside of the sink could use some cleaning.

2) It forces you to experience a day of what must be tantamount to those cleansing diets. C'mon, we all know that "cleansing" means many unpleasant trips to the bathroom.

3) You feel the support of all the people who care about you. Even if they still have the Peruvian habit of long conversations, which you'd rather not engage in at the moment.

4) The limits of your bravery are tested. Can I do my duty by drinking that water when I know by experience it will send my stomach into another wave of agonies?

5) It gives you a teeny, weeny perspective on the ongoing suffering of others. What would I do to get rid of this pain? What would I do to avoid its return? If my life depended on it? If someone else's did? In a living room chair it's rather easy to bargain with pain, your own or that of others, but when you must hold the matter closer to yourself and your present....

It was an altogether miserable day. And I still don't feel a hundred percent. But this might last, what? Three days? And at the same time there were people in Japan, and indeed people all over the world, whose pain will last for much, much longer than mine.


*picture taken by The New York Times

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Happy hour and other myths

If anyone out there might still apply to me an adjective connoting that I was "cool" or "hip" or any number of derivatives of that idea, this post will probably burst that bubble. Alas, the truth shall come out. (I'm not sure that "the truth shall set you free" applies in this instance, if we're reviewing our platitudes, but anyway...")

I'm not a party girl.
I've caught wind of a rumor that I am, and I had to sadly debunk it: I don't generally enjoy groups of over 5 people, unless I'm in a subgroup or I'm teaching. I've never had more than two drinks of any kind of alcohol. I don't much like dancing in crowds of sweaty people with loud music (especially rap/hiphop/that horrible club music that has absolutely no melody, just a loud beat). I'm not terribly good at walking up and talking to new people. And finally, I get tired rather easily and then just ache to be home sitting in a quiet room.

So there. Now you know what you're dealing with.

Hooowever, I've been discovering that all hope is not lost for me.

Exhibit A)
A few friends and I went to a jazz club in Boston over the winter and I had a smashing time. Loud noises, crowds, and all. (Do the British still use smashing?)

Exhibit B) Last week several friends and I went to a bar in Huanchaco whose best attributes were it's location right next to our hostal, it's cheap drinks, and most importantly, it's board games. Awesome.

We decided that Jenga was an excellent measure of blood alcohol content. Scientific studies will emerge soon, I'm sure.

The Jenga pieces were written on, but we never had a pen.

But of course, then we went to a Martini Lounge in Trujillo which was very hip and expensive and loud and boring. And the party scene lost a bit of the trust it had gained with me.

Note complete lack of clubbing clothing.
Luckily, the light fixtures were fascinating.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Today's post brought to you by the word "squirrel"

One of the most difficult things about interacting with people who speak a different language is communicating to them exactly who you are. And yes, I did, probably foolishly, just universalize my own feelings into a blanket statement. But since I've heard the sentiment echoed several times from different people, or maybe just because I'm the only one who gets any say around here, we're gonna stick with it.

I even remember a Spanish (yes, literally, from Spain. Don't you even think about using the word "Spanish" describe anyone who speaks that language!) professor, who I adore, telling us once in my freshman year that living in a different language changes a person. The verdict is still out on that one. I've only been here for six months put together, after all. But I do know that during my first semester here I mostly felt that people didn't really know me, and that speaking Spanish did kinda force me to be someone else I still think that people here cannot see and talk with the same me as people who I can speak English with do. And if Profesora Perez was right, maybe you always feel that way to varying degrees.

But (am I losing you? Get to the point already Dani!) this weekend I finally had no doubt that the lovely girls who I went to Huanchaco and Trujillo with were actually getting to know me. That they didn't want me there because I was the American girl who's interesting because of that, but because I'm Dani, who is sometimes interesting and sometimes not. Who likes to play Jenga in bars and gives good massages. Who forgets things often and gets tired easily and doesn't like chocolate desserts or spending a lot of money. And not just those things that I can easily write, but my sense of humor and personality on a more instinctual level. And what's more, I'm getting know them too.

It feels good.
(No one I know)

So anyway, the trip was a blast. I might continue to recap parts of it in the next posts. But really, does anyone actually want to read a post that's like "Dear everyone enthralled with every detail of my life, on Wednesday night I Francesca picked me up here at 6:15, and then we went to her house, and then..." Blech. Or is it just me who doesn't want to write that?

But I will just note quickly that one of the highlights for me was our conversation about Spanish/English words. Always fun to try to explain to native Spanish speakers the difference between "cheap" "chip" "ship" and "sheep." (No really, I think it's great fun!) And they taught me that cracking your neck is "sacando conejos del cuello." Literally: "taking rabbits out of the neck." Hope I got that right. I struggled all weekend over the pronunciation of the word "exquisita," which can mean picky, and they both repeated the word "squirrel" till I hardly knew how to pronounce it anymore.

This stage of language learning is definitely a heck of a lot more fun than the "huh?" "what" followed by the still clueless head nod stage. I was not such a fan of that stage. (Shout out to Virginia, and anyone else who might still feel like they're in that stage. It gets better!)

Huanchaco Plaza de Armas

Adorable kids sitting in circle!

P.S. Random fact I can't wait to share: there were some Australians with a small child-sized monkey at the beach. Does that reinforce every stereotype you've ever heard of Australians?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Off to the land of the little horsies

Kindly ignore that the picture above is a beer ad. (Or not...far be it from me to prevent you from trying Pilsen Trujillo beer.)
This evening I'm off to that spot, the beach in Huanchaco near Trujillo. Yes, tonight I shall be in a tour bus aalll night. I'm interested to see whether I'll be able to sleep on the bus. (I have no hope if they play more Sylvester Stalone movies.)

Apparently those things above are called caballitos de totora, little horse of bulrush, literally. Although clearly the meaning wasn't meant literally, cause they look more like worms than horses.

But you can see how they got there.

Trujillo also claims to be the originators of ceviche, a famous fish cooked with lemon dish in Peru. I've been ordered to eat seafood while I'm there, though I've never been the biggest fan. When in Rome....

Probably won't be updating until next Monday then, so I'll see you all later!