Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Buenos Aires, City of the Beautiful People

City of the green spaces and the clean streets and the changing leaves. City of the pink palaces and the stately-looking cathedrals and modern high rises. Of "desachzuno" and "decime" and "chzo me chzamo." Of city buses and pedestrians and subways. Of European architecture and Italian food and Paraguayan immigrants.

Somehow, despite my country heritage, my genes, my upbringing, and my previous life experience, I am a city girl. But all cities are not created equal.

And I've always believed firmly that New York City is the city, my city. See here. Every time I set foot in it, the moment moment I enter Grand Central, I heave a huge sigh of pleasure, and often tell whomever I happen to be with that "I belong here!" The life, the fun, the pain, the heart there. I've never been sure that I would spend a lifetime there, but I've always wanted to say, at least for a time, that it was home.

I've also often said that I could not see myself settling down anywhere but the states. Sure, I could spend awhile, a few years, in a different country, but forever? Not me. I've gotten comfortable in Lima, but I don't think I could stay here. And I think I kind of projected that onto all cities outside of the states: not here, so not there either.

But I have to tell you chickadees, Buenos Aires is completely enchanting. It really swept me off my feet for four days. And though I won't say anything rash, it's thrown into question both of the above statements. New York still has a special place in my heart, but maybe it isn't the only city of my dreams. Maybe the U.S. isn't the only place I could call my permanent home. Maybe I'm more flexible than I think I am.

Minds change. Mine does frequently. But right now I feel desperate to not be done with Latin America when I leave in a month or so. To at the very least not be done getting to know different cultures.

According to the cute Uruguayan I sat next to on the plane ride in, and may have talked to for the entire four hours, Buenos Aires has nothing on Montevideo. Next stop?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fun with Titles = Cosas que no tienen sentido

Last night I went out to see Agua Para Elefantes, or Water for Elephants, in theaters with my host sister. (Yes, yes, I'm sure it came out ages ago in the states.) I give the movie itself an "enjoyable but not very original" rating. It was adapted from a book, which I haven't read, but even so I kept thinking, "That probably made more sense on paper."

But here's something refreshing about the movie: The title in Spanish is a direct translation from the title in English!

What a concept.

No one seems to know why, but movies constantly change titles when making the switch to the Spanish-speaking world. (Probably the non English-speaking world over. Can anyone else speak to that?)

Some confusing ones I've run across:

Big Momma: Like Father Like Son = Mi abuela es un peligro or My Grandma is a Danger. Clearly, there was no attempt here to even get the idea of the original title. Is the grandma in this movie really a danger? Make it a little more literal for me, please. (I would like to go on record as having not watched this movie or any of its predecessors. You can't see, so I'll tell you that I'm wearing my disdainful look mixed with my snooty look right now.)

Sunset Boulevard = Crepusculo de los dioses or Twilight of the Gods.

I think here they must be trying to make the metaphor the original street name is driving at a little more obvious. Did they think that no one else could figure it out or something?

I Spit on Your Grave = Dulce venganza or Sweet Revenge

Maybe spitting on someone's grave doesn't have the same meaning in some Latin American countries? P.S. This movie looks absolutely traumatizing. I'm beside myself to come up with a reason that anyone would want to see it.

The Kids Are All Right = Los ninos tienen la razon or The Kids Are Right.

Not exactly the same. Actually, not at all the same. To be fair, I only saw this title on some pirated DVDs. It's possible that it actually premiered here as Los ninos estan bien, the direct translation, as I've found on some internet sites.

The Joneses = Amor por contrato or Love for Hire.

Granted, given the plot of this movie, the family's last name is referring to the saying "keeping up with the Joneses." But even if they couldn't bear for the title to be a plain old last name for Spanish-speakers, could they at least make it something that was not a spoiler? Even IMBD doesn't tell you as much as this title does! (And now I did...whoops.)

Who makes these decisions anyway? And what the heck are their thought processes?

There must be thought processes, right?

P.S. Fun with Titles = Cosas que no tienen sentido or Things that don't make sense

Sorry about the spacing. Firefox doesn't believe I am who I say I am, and internet explorer apparently has a very stubborn streak about ample white noise between thoughts....to reflect, as it were.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Almost eight months

That's the time put together that I've spent living in Lima now.

And actually, the number itself seems a little too, well, pathetically small to encompass all that I've seen and learned and felt here. Although I suppose, as any pregnant woman will tell you, anything and everything can change in eight months.

But in the everyday of it all, I sometimes begins to feel a little more like nothing's changed.

So here's a bit of an update for you and a reminder for me.

Things in Lima that used to bother me but now don't :

Huge spoons and thin napkins. Why are the spoons here so much larger, you ask? It is a mystery. Why are spoons in the states so small?

The increased amount of service people...everywhere. Like on campus, there is constantly workers sweeping the paths. Which at first seemed like overkill. But now I say, "Hey, there are lots of people in Lima who need jobs! Why not keep the walk so clean you could eat off it?"

Constantly greeting and saying goodbye to people with a kiss.
The kiss part didn't bother me, just the constant part. Talk to someone for two minutes and you're expected to saludar and despedir them. Now I don't mind. In fact, the little hand wave American thing's a little awkward.

The dirt. I think it must still be above-average dirty in this city, because I remember thinking it was so at the beginning. I haven't thought about it in awhile.

Things that used to bother me a lot, and now only do a little:

Throwing toilet paper in the waste basket. I occasionally felt slight panic in restrooms in the states. No trash in here! Where will I...? Oh.

Professors showing up 20 minutes late for class every day. Only really bothers me when they keep you 10 minutes late afterward.

Models on billboards looking nothing like most Peruvians. I remember this being one of the most shocking things in my first couple weeks: almost exclusively white people in advertisements, almost exclusively nonwhite in the streets below. Now that I've filled in a little of the background info, I don't really think about it on a daily basis. Still a bit sad though. (I could extend this to a lot of the signs of Western culture influence here.)

Cobradores yelling at me to got on the streets to get in their micros. I'm going to change my mind about where I'm going, but hey it's just their job.

Things that still bother me:

The lack of apologies. If you cause my coffee maker to be broken, or eat all my cookies without asking, or show up 20 minutes late, I do expect you to acknowledge your culpability.

The lack of line etiquette. I've already discussed this. I'm just too much of a wimp for Peruvian lines, although I have gotten better.

The lack of rain. Oh how I long for a good rainstorm!

The lack of heaters in the cold! Is there anyone living in Lima who wouldn't like heating, I ask?

Those are the things that are occurring to me at this moment. But I think/hope/pray that I've learned many more, and that I've not quite finished.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Like a kid and his green ball

Have you ever watched kids playing and thought "If only I could be that carefree again!"

Well, my friends, as tempting as that sentiment might be, I really think it's crock.

Were we ever carefree? I think not. In fact, I remember being really bothered as a kid by the implication that my life was sooo simple. As if I didn't have my stresses, my problems, my heartaches too? They seemed important to me then. And "seem" is still about all I've got.

Exhibit A:

My host nephews playing ball this weekend:

Alberto, age two.

Santiago, almost four.

At first, everyone is trying to play together nicely. It doesn't last long.
Berto is a little shy around his older cousin.

And Santi is not only ignoring the rules of soccer (or, as his Dad suggests, playing some form of rugby) but also does not care to share.
Grandma swoops in to defend little Berto. "Santiago you play with one ball over here, and Berto will play with the other."

Santi is unimpressed by the idea.
He wants the green one.

As for Berto, even though he eventually ends up with the soccer ball, which is too heavy for his little feet, he is thrilled with the replacement of Scary Older Cousin for Kindly Old Grandpa.
And then I put down the camera and play with Berto myself, and eventually Santi sees what fun we're having and decides to play nicely himself.

And all is right with the world. Until they try to play with the puzzles.

It's fun to watch them light up when they play, and it's amusing to watch their little faces fall at the loss of a green ball. Children's joys and pains are so beautifully open and honest. But I think underneath, though as adults we dress it up with a lot of fancy words and straight faces, we're all kind of like that. I keep right on laughing when things go my way, crying when the things I'm attached to are taken from me.

In the end, aren't we all silly little boys and girls?

I'm not sorry to have this new set of frustration, laughter, tears, and joy.

I wouldn't go back if I could.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pumpkin-tasting memories

Around our house, the dessert my nana was always most famous for was crustless pumpkin-cheese pie. The crustless came about because as kids, we never wanted to eat anything but the center. At the time, I thought Nana was really going out of her way to make the pie in the special way, without crust, for us. It wasn't until I was much older that it occurred to me...

It also later occurred to me that: Pumpkin cheese pie - crust = not really pie. But who are we anyway, Webster's?

My brother and his friend apparently tried their hand at the pie in her honor earlier this week in Pennsylvania, and tonight it was Kara and I's turn to try it in Lima. (But admittedly with a significant amount of ingredients that immigrated from Pennsylvania.)

Pouring and stirring all at once.
It seemed impressive at the time.

This is my, "Quick take the picture before this spills!" face.
Okay, so we went with the crusty version.

Leftover batter is meant to be eaten.

We thought it might taste like a pumpkin milkshake.

But ended up down the drain.

I don't trust people who don't make messes when they bake.

We bought milk to drink with it.

And toasted my nana.
As we enjoyed a couple episodes of Gilmore Girls!

It was delicious.

Not exactly like Nana used to make it, but maybe it's better that way anyway,

Thanks for the recipe and the family tradition, Nana. We'll miss your desserts, though not as much as we miss you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Turning down my 15 minutes of fame

OMG, isn't it like, so annoying when people like, stop you cooonstantly on the street and are like "OMG, are you a model?" Its like, seriously people, should I be annoyed right outside my own house just because of these great looks and perfect hair!!? Right? Like, you know?

Like this guy today on my street, who was like, "Do you do commercials?" and I was all like, "What? Commercials?" So then he goes, "I know this place where they pay you 600 dollars for commercials." And I thought Commercials? This bod is waaay too hot to sell insurance. So I was like "No," and I just started to walk away. And he was all yelling after me to give me the address and I was all "No, thank you" and sorta whatever.

I knew that sexy face would come in handy again. Huh. Same sweater too.

Only real, high-fashion modeling gigs are worth my time. Thank you.

Actually, I just listened to a podcast on scams, so I was on the lookout for people who were offering something for nothing. Also my, "You only want me because I'm white" radar is never off.

I'll leave it to you smart ducklings to figure out which parts of this are true.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The shoe envy of the house

Boot season is in! Yes, while reliable sources tell me that it's getting sunnier and warmer in the northern hemisphere, down here I'm afraid Lima is once again passing into its cloudy all the time, shivering in the shower, curse the lack of temperature regulation, season.

I have not actually pulled out the fingerless gloves that were my best friends last year. Did I even bring them?

The consolation prize is that I can now justify stuffing those winter clothing into my overweight suitcases.

My boots aren't exactly the style here. They're pretty big into the heels in Lima, I think in Latin America in general, and so you're more likely to see boots on wedges or heels than not. Maybe because no one in Lima ever has any actual weather-related reason to wear boots. I prefer mine chatas, definitely. They're snow-bound, after all.

Which is why I was a little surprised about the compliments from my host mom this afternoon:

HM, looking admiringly at my feet: I like those boots! I like the color.

Me: Thanks, me too! People here often wear them with heels, but I prefer them flat.

HM: Me too. What size are you?

Me: Umm...well I'm not sure in Peruvian sizes, but 6 1/2 in American.

HM: Oh, I'm about a 38 in size here, so I think that's more or less the same.

Me: Oh, hmm.

Awkward pause.

HM, still eying the boots: So you know, if you don't want them when you go, you can sell them to me.

Me, laughing: Oh yeah. Haha. Well I think I'll be taking them.

HM: But you could buy another pair just like it when you get back!

Me, realizing she's actually serious: Oh. No, these were actually very difficult to find!

HM, still looking wistfully at my feet: Oh...they were difficult to find...

Nice try lady! I'm picky about my shoes. My Mom and I walked around the freezing outdoor mall for hours solely to find these. Ain't no way I'm leaving without them.

Hmm...I think this makes me sound a little jerky. Now I'm feeling guilty. Should I be feeling guilty for not selling her my precious boots?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Where's the clowns and whimsy?

I've mentioned at least once here that I'm not really a frequenter of the whole party scene. But this weekend I went out not one, but two nights in a row. To places with dancing and alcohol, not just popcorn and pajama pants. Are you impressed?

So obviously after that long, intense study on the practice of festejando, I'm an expert.

Now the sage shall share her new found wisdom with you:

1. Drunk people are funny.

2. Drunk people are stupid.

3. Sometimes, drunk boys/overly-eager boys need to be ditched. Apparently, the rules of etiquette are somewhat suspended in large parties of people you don't know, and you need not feel rude when taking off for "more drinks" or "a trip to the bathroom" and never coming back. I probably still will, but you shouldn't.

4. Drinking at parties is a delicate balance. Shoot for somewhere between this-whole-event-looks-really-ridiculous and everything-here-looks-wonderful-if-slightly-topsy-turvy. Or, that's what I imagine that extreme end looks like. I've never really been drunk-drunk, so who knows? It might be transcendent clarity. But based on #2...

5. Though the invite decidedly does not specify, apparently any large event in Peru that starts after 9 is more of a 4-inch heel, skanky dress thing than a boots, comfy blue jeans thing. Even if it's in a field. Although, my boots ended up being quite the commodity by the end of night. And really, even if I had known...

6."Circus party" need not imply that there will be anything very circus-like about the party, apparently. We need to tighten up the regulations on event nomenclature.

Yes, I did spill my drink on myself. How rude of you to mention it!

For about an hour or so after midnight they were releasing steam into the air until you could barely see. Do they do this at circuses these days?

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Some walk

And scorn the dirt trampled by other feet

And see the wilt in flowers on the road

And fear the coming sunset in the dusk

That might bring only darkness to the garden

She walked

And blessed the paths smoothed by the steps of saints

And gloried in the roses by her side

And welcomed night with hope and open arms

For He will yet bring sunrise to the garden

She walks

My nana once, in response to hearing that someone had learned of someone else in the church's birthday on the internet: "Why would anyone put that on the internet? How many people need to see that?"

My Dad: Well Mom, it's not just like a big newspaper with one page. There's lots and lots of different sites. This was probably only posted on the church website, so not everyone in the world will see it.

Nana: Ah, I don't know. It just seems like you wouldn't need to put that up.

So, she may or may not be approving of this message from Heaven right now. :)

Rest in Peace.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Peruvian food fights

Ok, I haven't flung a single plate of mashed potatoes in anyone's face (which is really a shame!) but I do definitely have a full-blown war on my hands.

First off, I really like my host family this semester, I do. They've been great to me, and we mostly get along smashingly.

But the one thing that is increasingly driving me to desperate measures is the constant pushing to eat more, more, more! My poor stomach just cannot handle it!

For example, I have this battle on a weekly basis:

Host Mom: You don't like bread/mandarins/bananas etc. (Not in question form, you'll notice.)

Me: Yes, I do like them!

HM: Well they're here, and you haven't been eating them.

Me: Yeah, it's just that I eat so much at meal times, that I'm not hungry in between.

HM, with a disbelieving, disapproving look: But you eat early in the morning, at around 11 o'clock you could come down and eat more.

Me: I know, thank you, but I'm just not hungry!

And really Hermi, do you eat at every second that you possibly can? I don't say that. But I want to.

This battle on a nearly daily basis:

Host Mom: You didn't eat your salad/dessert/bread. (Or: Take more salad/dessert/bread!)

Me: I already ate the soup and rice and chicken and potatoes. Everything is very good, I just can't eat any more!

That response usually only gets a very worried, incredulous, or even slightly hurt look. Sometimes a strange mixture of the three along with a chuckle, which somehow does not diminish the disapproval.

When I'm vulnerable or tired I lose that battle and just eat. And then feel like I'm going to explode.

And really, no one else eats what I'm expected to eat. But I've found this question/excuse to be an ineffective tactic. Apparently my youth means I ought to be a bottomless pit of insatiable hunger.

I even often resort to going out in the evenings and telling them I was eating dinner en la calle (in the street) or at whomever's house I was going to, just so I can have a break from the force-feeding!

Last night we had three different kinds of sausage as an appetizer and a different kind of pork as the main course. And they desperately wanted to give me seconds. I couldn't brave it.

Could NOT. In fact, the wine at that meal was definitely my life-line in terms of getting the meat taste out of my mouth!

I won that one, but they did not look very pleased with me.

As I was typing this a full plate of food and soup and dessert was brought in to me (8:30 actually being a very usual time for a Peruvian dinner.)
HM: Here's your food hijita! Me: Oh, ok, but umm...I'm really not very hungry. HM: Just eat! And she leaves it.
Looks like another win for Hermi. I have absolutely no appetite.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Because you deserve your own day, Mommy dearest!

¡Feliz día de la madre!

Or Happy Mother's Day! Depending on who you are.

I'd like to dedicate this post to my own mommy, the real one in the United States, who put up with a lot to make me into the fantastic person I am today.

Today I present my mother with the Long-Enduring, Always-Loving, Still-Going Mother's Award. (Because we all know it never really ends...)

Here's just a few of her specific qualifications:

-I'm a twin. (Oh, have I never mentioned that? Whoops.) And my sister's only three years older. Yeah, just, imagine that for a second...

- When we turned six, my mom threw us an all-out birthday bash for which we invited our entire kindergarten class. A bunch of five-year-olds running around a house in the woods with animals and sticks and a great big rope swing and toys. Wow, I need a nap just thinking about it.

-In elementary and middle school, I was a chronic homework/gym uniform/lunch forgetter. We're talkin', every other day. My mom worked at the school, so she got the call to bring things in. And she did. Every time.

-I will forever remember the time I was having a horrific, horrific couple days in sixth grade (Nope, don't remember why it was so traumatic...) and I got a huge bunch of flowers in a vase in my locker from my mommy. She made me feel so special.

- I have now neglected to send her either a birthday or a Mother's Day card, and she still loves me. I hope...

The picture of my Mom and I at Wicked last year, which sits in my room in Peru.

For all you do and have done and will continue to do, Mother dear, I love you!

I hope your day was filled with goodness and happiness and love.

Long time no see, chickadee! I know, I haven't written in almost a week. And the truth about that is, it was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week. (Alexander and...? Just me?) Not completely of course, but there was bad news from PA and bad news from Peru, all-nighters and stressing over exams...well anyway. Don't fall into despair! I'm back now.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I'm not the girl that I intend to be

Sometimes we struggle through the stressful periods in life just sunken in our corner of the world, and we're just glad to surface again and breath the free air once the stress dissipates. But sometimes, the universe, or the universal God, depending on how you see it, gives us a little window into life beyond ourselves.

Yesterday I was slogging through reviewing for a midterm, feeling as I always do during this time, like life might end were I to fail, when I met a Peruvian woman who lives in New York City but is currently here helping a Peruvian congresswoman named Hilaria Supa Huaman.

It's a little hard to explain in a sentence or two why Hilaria is a big deal in Peruvian politics. I don't understand it fully myself. Let's just say that her Andean background (as seen in the picture above) and native language of Quechua have subjected her to a lot of challenge, disrespect, and ridicule in a system dominated by the coastal, Western-influenced Limenos.

And as the woman I met in Starbucks, who teaches as an adjunct at NYU, spoke of the politician, her voice filled with such love and admiration, such awe and respect for the intelligence and perseverance of Hilaria and her fight for her people. "She is so strong," she said. "Stronger than me; stronger than anyone else I know."

Wow. Doing well on my exam tomorrow would be nice, I still have to admit. But if I can someday work for something with so much heart and determination, and earn the respect of intelligent, compassionate people, then that perhaps will be some measure of real success.