Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I feel the need to list good things

Exams. You get it.

1) I held a baby yesterday who was absolutely precious and who smiled like an angel every time I kissed her and pretended to eat her hand.

2) There's a blooming tree near my house that just smells divine, like a sunny field budding in spring, in the middle of a stanky grey winter.

3) I persevered through a dark period in my study process in which I felt like anything, anything had to be better then being a student in the middle of exams. And I feel good about the take-home final I wrote.

4) One of "our boys" at Starbucks, Ernesto, saw us wavering over a sandwich purchase and gave it to us for free. "Estoy encargado." (I'm in charge.)

5) This video about anxiety and stress dreams and psychopaths has just made me feel a lot better, more objective, about my own stress.

6) I helped to celebrate Rebecca's birthday yesterday!! Feliz cumple amiguita! Espero que el dia te pasara muy feliz!

Recuerdas esto?
Espero que si. Te la robe de facebook ;).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The whiny voice: Adult version

I hate the whiny voice. Hate it.

In the states, the "whining" scenario usually goes something like this:

The kid in the back seat sticks out his bottom lip, puts on his doe eyes, and pitches his voice up a few octaves: "Daaaad. Are we there yeeeet? I'm huuuungry and I need to peeee." He oozes pathetic.

"Junior, if you don't stop whining, you're not going to watch any TV when we get to Grandma's house!"

Of course, what Junior doesn't realize, is that if he had asked in a normal, respectful tone, Dad might have answered him nicely. So he'll learn, eventually, that whining doesn't get you what you want. Big boys don't whine. (They cry, but don't whine.)

And so I've rarely heard a kid over the age of twelve use the whiny voice.

Except here.
Where whining is a social art:

And I don't just mean the complaining, people. Everyone does that. We use them as synonyms sometimes. I mean the voice, the face, the works. They use it when they want something from you.

"Senoooor. Por favoooor, me puede atender? He estado esperaaando." (Siiiir, pleeese can you wait on me? I've been waaaaaiiting.)

"Senoriita, discuuupla. Me prestes tu baniiiito? " (Miiiiss, excuuuse me. Can I use your bathrooom?)

Daaaaani. Me puedes hacer un favoooor? (Will you do me a faaaavor?)

You think I exaggerate? Ha! I've heard Peruvian adults use the whiny voice a thousand times! Okay that may be an exaggeration. Is this a Latin American thing? A Peruvian thing? A Limeno thing?

If I'm being all Abe Lincoln here, most of the time it still irritates the heck out of me. To my United Statsian ears it feels ingratiating, begging, manipulating, childish.

And the thing is, in an objective way, I know Peruvians really mean for it to be polite. It's a social courtesy, a nicety. It demonstrates that they know they're putting you out. It's the equivalent of "I'm sorry to ask you this, but..."

AND YET, I still feel like saying "Stop whining, or I'll turn this car around!"

There's only so far the brain can take you in intercultural interaction.

Confession: I have, however, used the whiny voice myself a time or two. Followed by deep shame.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Your way hurts me the hand

The other day we were leaving our last Comunidad Biblica Universitaria meeting at two twenty, running to lunch, as usual, because we have class at three. Although, still being in Peru, I use "running" in the loosest possible sense of the in Sunday stroll in the park.

One of the girls says: Wait, what time do they all have class?

Silvia answers: At three. And she makes a gesture with her hand.

Me: Hey! What gesture did you just make?

Is that how you make the gesture for three? With those three fingers?

Silvia: Like this, yeah. Why? How do you make it.

Me: Like this!
We try each other's signals.

Silvia: This makes my hand hurt right here.

Me: Now my hand hurts right here.

I patriotically defend the logic of the American signal, (Look, see how when you're going from two to three you only have to move one more finger. And with the other way you have to move 2!) but like so many things, when you really get down the the why of it all, it's really mostly I dunno, that's just the way we do it.

So how do you make the three hand signal, my international, multi-cultural readers?

If you understand the title, then you speak at least some Spanish. Yay for you!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The clumsy ballet of my mind

A million thoughts dancing around on my brain right now. Here's the one that does the best pirouettes: So. Much. Work. Must focus...can't focus....wish I was going out tonight!

Boo to Peruvians who make plans and change plans and leave me with no plans but homework on a Friday night!

This is the perpetrator:

Ha! All innocent looking. Don't believe it.

She may have had a good reason. But regardless, I'm gonna also blame her that I didn't get to go here, to the selva (jungle). Even though I might have been the one who was saving my traveling money all semester for our trip and then just kind of...didn't plan it in time.
Floating city in the Amazon. Doesn't it look awesome?

But I may forgive her when she comes to visit me in the states next winter! And we'll go here, a very different kind of city:

And I'll make sure she absolutely adores NYC and wants to move there and marry an United Statesian and see me regularly, not just on Skype.

Although that doesn't always work, cause even when I'm in the country/on the same campus I don't see this one:

Who I haven't talked to aaalll semester. I love her. And miss her.

Ooo! Another not-worth-my-time Boy Meets World episode on YouTube to procrastinate a little longer?

Yes please.

The dancing metaphor could use some work. But it's not gonna get it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

We're bad at this game

Kara and I were playing this little game the other day, reminding ourselves of the all good things about going home to the states from Lima:

"I'm looking forward to eating whenever and however much I want."

"I'm looking forward to not checking for deer poop every time I sit down!"

"I'm looking forward to to not checking for dog poop every time I walk anywhere!"

"I'm looking forward to a soft bed and lots of water pressure."

"I'm looking forward to a good rainstorm."

"I'm looking forward to the sun."

"I'm looking forward to not having rice with every meal."

But a lot of our "looking forward toos" started out that way and took a turn:

Kara: I'm looking forward to blending in again in the streets.

Me: Oh, yes! Me too. I'm looking forward to not being stared at by creepy old men for speaking English while we're walking. But oh, I am going to miss speaking in the streets while no one can understand us... like our own secret language.

Kara: Yeeahh... and I'm gonna miss buying snacks and gum in the street.

Me: I'm gonna miss just living in the city and being able to walk places! I'm going back home to the woods....


Me: Hey, focus! We're talking about things we're looking forward to....

And there are things I'm looking forward too, don't get me wrong. The old college I love in a new year. The old world with new eyes.

One more semester, and then out into the big bad world! Or ya know, possibly back to my parent's house. How's the job market looking?

Hey! I see you. Don't even think about it.

K: Oh! I'm looking forward to free water in restaurants!

Me: Yes! Good one!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reasons to stay

Tonight I feel once again like I cannot leave. Not this place. Not these people.

Not the little kids who dance without embarrassment in the middle of a group of cheering adults.

Not the way we turn off all the lights when we sing Happy Birthday, first the slow English version and then the faster one in Spanish.

Not the big, chaotic family gathering in which you never remember everyone's names or relations to each other.

Not the kindly old grandfathers.

Not the camera stealing little boys.

Not the baby-eating friends,

Who surely has better pictures from a better camera than I have. (Although this is kinda cool-looking, right?)

No. Definitely NOT in three little weeks.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

They're not doodles

They're class compositions.

If I can't have a proper cup of coffee in a proper copper coffee pot I'll have a cup of tea.

You can see these a little better if you click on them.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hugo causes problems

How long does your juice sit in the fridge? A week or two before it is finished?

On Friday I picked up my free sample of this:

(You can't really tell. It's pretty small. )

And on Sunday I was already getting scolded for not drinking it. Peruvian fridges are a much more delicate balance than American ones.

Oh dear, I'm afraid that's one thing that I won't be sorry about leaving in a month. I love my host family. They've been great to me.

But living on my own or with my real family, definitely preferable.

(Translation: I'm selling a scooter model 83. Oh! And try peach Hugo!)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Spanish out the ears

So, there's been no official studies on this phenomenon, but I'm fairly sure that there's little filing cabinet system in your brain with all the information you've collected over the years. And if you start to overfill the drawers, especially the one labeled "Languages," the little file clerk in your head says, "Oh dear. I suppose we must just start throwing things out then!"

I formed this most excellent theory based on my own very solid and extensive evidence: the English has started to tumble out of my ears.


I've caught myself framing English sentences as they would be in Spanish: "How do you call that movie?" instead of "What is that movie called?"

I use some phrases in English more now because they're direct translations of phrases I use in Spanish. Like "more or less" as a translation of "mas o menos" instead of using "about" like I used to say. "I think it will cost 10 dollars more or less."

I occasionally forget words in English. "And then they have to pay a...umm...a multa. You know, like, they charge you for doing something bad." "Fine?" "Yes, that!"

I sometimes stick Spanish filler words or conjunctions in English conversation. "Bueno, I need to do homework now." Or "Oh, yes, but the professor was late tambien."

Of course, I still have the same problems in Spanish.

I've noticed that we as study abroad students often like to "complain" about these slip-ups amongst ourselves or to other people. But of course the secret, which is not much of a secret at all, is that we're really quite proud of them. Hopefully they mean we've internalized the language to a certain extent.

If the little file clerk is already throwing things out, it must mean we've shoved in quite a lot of Spanish, right?

Or we just had very small file cabinets to begin with.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My own insanity and its bad coping strategies

How do you handle situations in which you're waiting to find out an outcome that you can't control?

Encourage yourself? Hope for the best? Relax and try not to worry about it? Not. Me.

My strategy is this: Figure out all the possible horrible outcomes, and then start to deal with them preemptively.
For instance, today, when the professor was talking about the midterm grades, this was my internal dialogue:

Oh my gosh, what if I failed? I don't fail things! It's over. I've failed.

What if I got like a 4 out of 20? Okay, okay, so I got a 4. I could still work harder on the final and the final project and bring my grade up to a C. This is a pass/fail class, not even in my GPA.

But what if grad schools can still see the C? NYU Steinhardt and Columbia Teacher's college ... They might think I slacked off while abroad! No no, I'll just do better in my other classes. They'll just think I challenged myself.

But what if I fail the whole class completely? All right, I have an extra space in my schedule. I can still graduate on time.

And then what if I don't get scholarships to grad schools? Does that mean I can't go to the schools I want? Well, maybe I still get in and just don't get loans. So it costs me a lot more. That's okay.

And then what if I'm paying off student loans until I'm forty? That's okay. I can learn to budget. It will make me thrifty. And that will make me be happy for the things I have and not a greedy money grubber.

See? Everything will be all right.

I swear to you all on my Starbucks addiction that I thought every one of those things while missing the lecture the professor was giving.

And then I got a 13. Since I was already prepared for a 4, a 13 was looking pretty good.

Feel free to use that strategy.

Of course, if you're not me, it might be counterproductive to completely restructure your life every time you can't control something.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Democracy and governors and guns

After much hopeful campaigning and treacherous mudslinging, Peru at long last has a new president elect: Ollanta Humala. And whatever your opinion of him, or whether or not you have an opinion of him, or have even heard of him at all, he was elected by the people in a fair democratic election.

And I helped make that happen. Rarely can I say anything with such genuine pride.

Last weekend, election weekend, (since I couldn't go out wild partying due to the dry law anyway) I helped with a mission of the Organizacion de Estados Americanos, or the Organization of American States, which, among other things, monitors elections in member states.

I was an "International Observer," which basically meant that I was assigned a district and a voting booth to...observe... and fill out charts about. So I went around awkwardly watching and taking notes and just generally making people alternately very nervous or very assured that someone cared to make things run smoothly and fairly. I don't know which was the prevailing sentiment.

Y'all know that I'm no fan of politics, but I am in fact a fan of democracy. And it was awesome to see the most basic process of democracy in action.

Plus, they paid well chickadees. Like, recontra well. Like, more money than I'll make in a few weeks of back-breaking menial jobs this summer well.

Not to mention that I met lots of amazingly interesting, odd, and inspiring people from all over the world: Chile, Paraguay, Canada, Belgium, Spain, etc. And former governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson. (Maybe that should have been more exciting? I was way more interested in the other folks, to be honest, and a little indifferent where the governor was concerned. Shhh.)

One drawback: The guns. The army was there, and they had huge guns. The Peruvians seemed all blase about it. I was freaked out. Which I suppose says a lot about the relative stability and advantages I've been lucky to live with in the states.

And then one of the Peruvian soldiers, with the gun, asked me for my number to go out sometime. Which I had not expected. Because I apparently continue to defy the saying "Live and learn."

'Twas a weekend to remember, without a doubt.

And possibly, a weekend to repeat? Some lucky people travel the world like this on a regular basis. I'm definitely sending an email to the coordinator with something to the effect of "Put me in coach!"

I'm afraid I got literally no pictures while on the job. Sadly, not even of me in the rocking vests they gave us. Professionalism, forgetfulism, and all that stuff. But they did give us a lovely show on the first night:

Tired of my yellow walls in the top picture yet? Not me!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Two truths and a lie

Which one, which one?

1. This bottle opener is on the back of a keychain for the new "informed vote" campaign...for your own especial home use while the Dry Law is in effect over the voting weekend. Because whatever's in that bottle will definitely sharpen your judgement.

2. This two different versions of the same side of the "nuevo sol." I love new coins! Although, you'd think they'd want it to resemble the old one a little more?

3. The image that they're going to use for a new gay rights campaign in Lima.... because Peruvians of course use the star rather than the heart as a symbol of love.

I like this game. I should put out a more serious edition of it some time.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Oh cruel fates!

Who will very soon forcibly oust me from the country by means of an already bought plane ticket...

I'm okay with that. Really. You do what you gotta do.

But please, send me to Buenos Aires! Send me to Asuncion. Send me to Montevideo or Santiago or Bogota.

Por favor, no me mandes back to the states.

Dear Reader, tomorrow I will probably be dying to go back. And you will have to hear about it. Tough luck.