Friday, April 29, 2011

I'm just missing the bloody faux fur

The other day I was talking to the family at dinner, and my host father Agusto, who works in veterinary services, starts telling what he thinks is a charming story about a donkey:

Agusto: This one man had a donkey who was really, really old, so he could hardly do anything. But he was smart. They had no idea how smart this donkey was until one day he fell into a deep hole that he couldn't get out of. Well, since he was so old and was probably going to die soon, they decided to just throw dirt on him right there. But you know what? The donkey was so smart that as soon as the dirt started to come down, the donkey started to wriggle himself and stomp on the ground. And so what do you think happened? As the ground rose, the donkey rose with it, until he was high enough that he could climb out!

My host Dad looks very pleased with the antics of this donkey.
I'm thinking, Wait wait, go back...
Me: Wait, they started to throw dirt on the donkey...while he was alive?

Agusto: Yes, he was so old.

Me: So they were going to bury him alive?!?!

My host parents chuckle and exchange amused glances. Agusto says to my host mom: Look how much she loves animals that she's so concerned about that donkey!

Me: Well yeah, but I don't know if that means I love animals so much. They didn't even shoot him first?

Agusto. He would have died eventually.

Me: Well yes, but that would be a horrible death!

My host mom repeats me, still laughing: a horrible death!

C'mon, you're on my side, right? Bury a donkey alive, when you could at the very least end it's pain and not allow it to suffocate to death?

I don't think my disgust with the idea means I should go out right now and join a PETA demonstration!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Oh she's new? Send her to the treadmill.

I joined a gym in Lima, that's what's uuuup!

Yeah, I know, maybe I shouldn't be too proud of myself. It took me longer than two months to get around to it. But I'm so glad I did. I've been known to say I like the benefits of exercise, but not the actual act of exercising. Well never again! Ok, no, that's a lie. I'll definitely say it again. But
you will know the truth.

Mostly, it's like any gym I've ever been too. Machines, weights, trainers.

But there were some things that seemed peculiar to me:

a) The trainer measured my muscles when we were doing the little weigh-in thing at the beginning. Is that normal? Am I expecting to be all butch in two months?

b) There was a few pictures on the wall with huge sweaty guys bulked up on steroids and non-muscley but equally sweaty women in tiny bikinis. What exactly are they trying to instill there? Intimidation? Low self-esteem? False hope?
Actually, I personally find the incredible hulk look in guys a little repulsing. Where are the women who think that's attractive?

c) The trainer (Edwin) just threw me right in there, with no tour, no speech about safety,
no spotting, and no breathing instruction. What if I hadn't already known to exhale with effort and inhale with release? Disaster!

d) They kept saying they'd see me tomorrow, even though I kept trying to explain that I definitely could not come tomorrow. And where did they get the idea that I could?

My knees hurt, and I felt very light-headed at one point, but it was good. A good life decision. (Yes! I do make them on occasion.)

And the gym was almost totally empty, so I was only hit on very briefly by one guy. Which had been a major concern I had about going there. Considering who I am (American girl) and where I was (Peruvian place where people usually wear tiny clothing) I didn't think once was that bad. I'm on the treadmill: "Are you just going at 5? " Me: "Yes. The trainer put it on for me." He says something about how he runs at 7 or 8. I respond a couple times, trying to look busy. "So you've never run at 16 then? That's the fastest it goes." Oh really, you've gone that? Take me now! He precedes to go up to to the machine in front of me, run at a moderate speed for about 2 minutes, and then get off. So impressive. Oh dear, silly boys.

Dani, you're all sweaty and gross in that picture up there, no one wants to see that!

Them's the breaks if you wanna read this blog, kiddos.

And also, that's nothing. I look way redder and worse than that when I'm actually exercising.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Well, nieto, it happened at Starbucks...

Have you ever been in a restaurant, or any public place, seen a couple near you, and thought, "I think we're witnessing a first date here!"

I love it when that happens. Love it to pieces. I whisper, giggle, eavesdrop. And apparently, subtly take pictures:
She's: a little shy and unsure, laughing at all his jokes, touching herself too much, not really interested in her drink

He's: talking a little too much, trying to be funny, leaning in toward her

They: go over typical get-to-know you questions, don't yet have inside jokes, can't quite tease or criticize, but are eager to joke and laugh

Smile. I was silently sending them good luck.

Kara: What are you taking pictures of?

This was at the Starbucks the other day when we were studying...trying to study. We're there at least once a week, with our drinks and cookies. It's a good get out of the house meeting place.

And plus, we're the cool kids there. The barristas know us, smile when we come up to the counter. Yesterday the one kid even remembered we'd been there last Thursday as well. I think the security guard would protect us first....

PS. "Nieto" is grandson.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stop traffic. We're processing here.

Busco, no sé que busco; creo que es un rostro que una vez perdí

I search, I don’t know for what I search. I think that it’s a face that I once lost.

Siento, siento una nostalgia de algo que me falta desde que nací.

I feel, I feel nostalgia for something that I’ve been missing since I was born.

I've always liked Good Friday services. I like their solemnity and reflection and confession. I like their dimmed lights and muted volumes. I like that, since everyone knows Sunday is coming, we don't have to wrap the sorrow up at the end with a neat little bow of happiness. That we can just leave the sentence unfinished and unsure for a couple days.

In the states, Good Friday and Easter are really the only two things we celebrate this week (Or at least, protestants. I don't know about Catholics. And really, I'm not even sure you could say we "celebrate" Good Friday. Yes, there's a service, but even a regular church-goer could legitimately be like "Oh, is that today? Hmmm, I guess I'll go."

But here, it's a big deal. They celebrate the whole week, la Semana Santa. And Friday is a big one. I mean, businesses shutting down, streets empty kind of big.

So I decided to go with my host Mom to her Friday mass, which I was promised would include a procession afterward. Having never before been to a Catholic mass here, I'm quite glad I did, because the whole thing was just extremely interesting.

I'm having trouble pinning down one main, connected thought, however, so here are some random ones:

From the service:

1) The three priests are all white with pronounced Spanish accents. I asked my host Mom about it, and she said they were all sent here. They used to have one Peruvian priest, but he was sent to Cusco.

2) There's an incredible amount of older women here.

From the procession:

3) I love these bags to light our way. Oh, wow, real candle in there. That seems safe.

4) How nice to pray for different people at each station! But... "For the women are hit because their husband comes home drunk, but keep moving forward for the sake of the children." Shouldn't that at least say something like "And feel like they have no escape and must stay for the children" ? You know, with the implication that that's wrong?

5) I think I'll organize a police squad to block traffic next time I cross La Mar.

6) Station 8a...Jesus falls a third time? Darn it, this is not going to end in 10 stations like I thought,

7) What a beautiful flower petal arrangement!...that will now be trampled as we pass.

So obviously the night was a mixed bag. (What service isn't, I ask?) But as I processed along slowly, repeating the refrains to the songs we sang, I felt this overwhelming sense of community.

And a wave of sadness hit me that I will soon leave, and life here will go on with lovely, tiring, living traditions that I'll know nothing about.

Llaga, soy solo una llaga que tán solo al verte cicatricará.

Wound, I’m just a wound, that just to see you will scar.

Río, soy un río turbio, y Tú un mar inmenso. Guíame hacia Ti.

River, I’m a turbid river, and you’re an immense ocean. Guide me toward you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Yesterday I got an idea. An awful idea.

Dani got a wonderful, awful idea.

So I confronted my conscience.

And then I just did it.

Peep: "I certainly did not make that long journey across the Atlantic just to be treated like any old marshmallow!"

Thanks Mom! What would Easter be?

"And the Pacific? What route did I take anyway?"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wisdom from the wall

I heard a celebrity singer say once (nah, it doesn't matter which one...or I just don't remember) that when she's on tour, moving from hotel to hotel, she likes to carry the same things around with her to make each place feel like home. Decorations, photos, personal items etc.

So that's one solid thing almost all college students have in common with celebrities.

I lived in three different rooms through my first two years of college, and I've lived in three different rooms while I've been here in Peru. The above "The Greatest of these is LOVE" poster has hung in every one of them.

It's worn and folded and torn in several places, but it's definitely gonna make it at least another year, if I have to tape it ten more times. I can't say the book or even the full verse (Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love) have been life-long favorites or anything. That might make this a sweeter, more profound reflection.

But somehow those 6 words, when isolated from everything around them, have always come down to me from their perch on the wall as a pervading simplicity in what is generally a very confusing world.

When all else falls into gray, I know at least one thing.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Watch me do the sickness AND the workshopness

This morning still slightly sick Dani went to a little workshoppy thing in a professional kitchen to learn to cook some of my favorite Peruvian dishes! Our group was Aji de Gallina (chili pepper of hen...or something that sounds better than that literal translation but means the same thing.)

But Dani, you say responsibly, weren't you going to infect the food? Yesterday you weren't even allowed to touch a knife! How is it that they allowed you within a mile of that place? Or umm...1.6 kilometers. Aren't I smart? No, you're right, I looked it up. Although it strikes me that I should not have needed to.

Well, this was my strategy:

a) Tell my host parents I had improved. Which I had...possibly not enough operate heavy knives and hot pans.

b) Stifle every sneeze, cough, or sniffle whenever humanly possibly, especially while standing near Chef.
C'mon, she does look a little scary, right?

c) Duck into dark corners to blow my nose and then wash my hands thoroughly thoroughly every time.

d) Isolate my sample food at the end so that I didn't keep sticking a germ-ridden fork into my group's food.

I think it worked pretty well. Or at least, no one yelled at me or kicked me out. Mission accomplished.

And we really did make some kick-butt Aji de Gallina. We privately named ourselves the taste test winners. Although really, the process basically consisted of us doing exactly what they told us to do and asking the cooking assistant Jose (whose name apparently was actually Joselo the whole time) for help every five minutes. "Chef just said we should do we do?" "Is it supposed to look like that?" "Is this burning?" "Where's our silverware?"

I do know how to cook some things, I swear.

And plus, it seems we didn't bother Joselo that much. In fact, he was quite insistent about giving us his email afterward to "send him the photos" or "ask him about whatever." Which reminds me of another boy at the Andean music event who also gave me his email to send him photos or ask him questions, which I never did. Although, that time I just forgot. Is this a common Peruvian pick up line or something? Seriously, the "asking" thing. They all seem to think I'm gonna have a million questions about...something. No one ever specifies.

Joselo finishing the tiradito.

Guys just love it when you look helpless and laugh at yourself a lot. There's a boy-snaggin' tip for y'all. No charge. Sorry, I can't recommend that for guys. So you should, umm...use your charm and wit?

Actually I'm quite sure it was our attractive hairnets and aprons. Or personally, my red nose and sickly look. I should definitely play that card more often.

Actually I look a little manic here. Is that better?

Note: Despite the look of these last two blogs, (ok, and possibly this other one as well) I do not go around cavalierly collecting and rejecting boys.


But seriously now, I don't.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wait wait, what's Plan B?

Or maybe in this case, who?

Week 1:

A boy sits next to my friend Kara and I in our Musical Appreciation class. I asked him some trivial question and then we chatted for a while about what seemed to me to be the usual. Where are you from? Oh, what part? How do you like Peru? I think I'll print out my answers to these questions and just hand them out to every new person I meet.

Kara: So that kid was pretty friendly...

Me: What? He asked me like three questions. It was totally normal.

Kara: I don't know, I don't give him credit for as much disinterested niceness as you. And the boys behind me didn't either. They were smirking...we exchanged some looks.

Me: Hey! Stop exchanging looks with people we don't know! Especially about innocent conversations. He looks, like...15!

Kara: I'm telling you...

Me: Right. Sure. He can be my Plan B. Ya know, in case nothing else comes along this semester.

We laugh, and the conversation devolves (from that lofty point) into jokes about statutory rape. Ahem.

Week 2-3:

Me: Darn it, Plan B's turning out to be a little more persistent than I had anticipated. He just asked me what I was doing after class. I said something about homework.

Kara: Ha! See? You thought I made it up.

Me: Oh, now I feel sorry for Plan B.

Kara: Why? Cause he's Plan B?

Me: No no, cause he's fake Plan B. Obviously any guy would be lucky to be my real Plan B.

Kara: Yeah, it is a little sad that he thinks he's got a shot. Poor fake Plan B.

So now for two weeks we've been cracking jokes about Plan B. (Think Plan B will lend me his notes to that movie I fell asleep in? Do not ask Plan B for notes! Do I look hot today? Think Plan B will let me cheat off his quiz? ) But we never failed to end our chuckles with a little shake of the head.

"Poor Plan B!"

Week 4

Which was today. I was sick and miserable. Plan B was hanging around way too much before and after class. And constantly mumbling.

Me: "Plan B's starting to get on my nerves."

Kara: "I can never understand what he says! Can the boy not speak loudly?"

Me: "I hope he doesn't ask me what I'm doing after class again."

Obviously, something had to be done before matters got out of hand. Upon reentering the room with Plan B in tow we loudly discuss our weekend plans.

Kara: Do you want to hang out with my boyfriend and I on Saturday? You should bring (insert name of fictional guy).

Me: Oh, sure! As long as I can bring (same fictional guy).

Kara: Sure, it will be like a double date. That probably isn't a word in Spanish...but at least the word "date" was in there.

Puh-lease chickadees, we are nowhere near the first exchange students to make up boyfriends. I heard that one girl last year became particularly expert at spinning tales of her boyfriends/husbands. I didn't particularly like it, but it was for a good cause.

I just hope it was obvious enough, and that Plan B will move on and find someone for whom he can be Plan A.

Oh dear. Poor Plan B.

Whose actual name is something odd I can never remember right.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tears, chocolate, and drugs

When I woke up this morning, I felt oddly tired and listless. So I put in my ipod, I listened to this song by Sara Bareilles called "Between the Lines," and I cried.

No, the song has nothing to do with any situation I've faced in the past or face presently. It's just a saddish song. And it just made me feel saddish. So I just cried. At 7:30 AM. About nothing.

So it was obviously going to be a good day.

Turns out that I'm slightly sick. So let's blame it on that. (And if there are any guys out there who even dare to think "PMS" I'm going to reach through the screen and clobber you right now.)

If you were here during my last sickness, you'll recall that I became much closer with Floor than with Bed. But bed has been much kinder to slightly sick Dani. This afternoon it consisted of:

And I've got a three hour class yet to come. Yay.

It's also a shame that in Peru you get typical sick questions like "Well, did you eat anything cold yesterday?" when you feel the least tolerant of cultural difference. (Me: "I don't think that causes you to get a cold!" Host Mom laughs at my poor self, still unwise to the ways of the world.)

Sorry for the few days I haven't been on here. I know it disrupted your life routine irreparably, and you've been walking around feeling slightly agitated for days. But you see, it was my computers fault. She felt a little sick as well.

Hope your weekend was lovely nonetheless.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Did you see that guy?

My friend Kara and I seem to have a lot of conversations that start off with her saying something like that, and end up something like this one did yesterday:
Me: ¨What? No. Where? What guy?¨

¨There was a guy sitting in the back of the micro licking his lips at you

¨No...I didn´t. And I´m sure he wasn´t licking his lips at me, Kara. He probably just happened to be licking his lips... while he was looking at me.¨


¨And what is this anyway, how are you always seeing these guys?¨

¨How are you always not seeing these guys?¨

¨I prefer to be oblivious...I only notice the ones that wave bananas at me and say ´De este tamano.¨ We laugh, cause this actually happened. Hint: tamano (with the squiggle over the n) means ¨size.¨ Google translate that.

Eh, we might bring it on ourselves by talking and laughing loudly in English in the street...except for the banana. That I did nothing to deserve.
Happy Friday!

No pics today, cause my laptop is currently down. Boo. Exactly what I needed. Aaaand this family computer will not put spaces in between these lines...sorry...I´ll fix that later.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

10 things that made me smile today

1. this kid's infectious laugh and obvious love of making other people happy. I dare you not to be when you hear him.

2. the easter package my dearest mother sent me, which arrived today

3. the delicious lomo saltado we had for lunch (with fish nonetheless! holla if you know that's strange)

4. the girl at the counter in Starbucks who knew I'd gotten an oatmeal raisin cookie before, and commented that I must love them

5. the guy next to me who offered to throw away my banana peel in exchange for guarding his backpack for a second

6. the way the same guy angrily slammed the window shut when a drumline started playing outside, and the window stubbornly bounced back open

7. This beautiful giveaway from tree & kimball that Bridget's got going on over here at tales of me and the husband

8. my Dad's proposition that I open a casino in which slot machine customers might still have the immense satisfaction of pulling a lever, not pushing a button

9. being productive for 4 hours straight this evening

10. knowing that I have friends who still love me though I've been tired and pissy and emotional lately

I've decided that this is the best way to pull myself out of a funk, remembering that the little things are what makes a life.

What made you smile today?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Indulgent bout of homesickness

I'm tired today.

Not just body tired; I got plenty of sleep last night, but soul-tired. Soul tired is worse than body tired. Generally, I haven't been as home sick this semester; I've felt much more comfortable and confident than last semester. But this weekend has been a draining one, so today you're going to have to indulge me.

I miss my country. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss my church. And yet the prospect of talking to anyone from home seems a bit daunting at the moment.

I miss having a room in which no one touches my things. I miss not being ordered to eat always more at meal times. I miss doing my school work in English. I miss having a gym that I can use for free. I miss baking. I miss doing my grocery shopping. I miss hot showers.

I miss last minute meetings in Chester's place. I miss walking across the quad to class. I miss trips to Boston. I miss studying in that chair in the library. I miss the rain.

Part of me feels like I'm very silly to miss the states right now. I've got a lot of great things going here. Undoubtedly when I go back and have a bad day there I will remember them all.