Saturday, July 30, 2011

Eating in Chilis and circling parking lots

Today I had a severe bout of what I feel like should be called "homesickness" for Peru.
For starters, this afternoon on the porch I was reading a book of a British man's journalistic experiences in the Middle East (why is that capitalized?) and reflecting, as I often have before, on how the heck anyone should approach a culture and a country not their own. Accept bumbling Westerner status? Struggle vainly to become as much of an "insider" as possible? Bungle your way through helping with what you see as the problems? Give up and accept that you have no proper perspective or position to do anything? Are these the only choices available to us? God I hope not!

And then of course, my Mom comes out and hands me the Travel section of the Philadelphia Inquirer, which just happened to be titled "Deep into 'wonderfully weird' Peru."

As I read the article, I found myself getting really defensive about the sort of simple, unexplainable weirdness this guy was projecting. The only cultural detail he really got into detail on was "la hora peruana, Peruvian time," which he claimed was "indecipherable to North Americans." He described an event in a book by another North American in which a man lied to his mother and told her that his own wedding ceremony was at 12, when really it was at 4 and she shows up "red-faced and puffing" at ten till 4.

RI-diculous. Totally false. Obviously the woman found out that it was actually at 4. How could you not? She's not a child. Four hours late would be logistically impossible. And anyway, any Limeno I know would find showing up that late for your own son's wedding shocking. Do the readers of the Inquirer actually buy that hooey? She just coincidentally shows up ten minutes before the real start? Give me a break.

Yes, time definitely works differently in Peru. Yes, it can be bewildering and frustrating at times for foreigners. But, I thought to myself on the porch, I would hardly call it indecipherable. You get to know the circumstances: Business meeting or house party? You get to know the people around you: Relatively on time or chronically without a watch/cell/sundial? You get to know the phrases and the cues and the times of day and the priorities and....

Okay, so sounds more complicated than it is. Or maybe I got used to it. And I guess I can't reasonably be annoyed that someone who hasn't spent the same amount of time in the country would print things with such nonexistent clarity.

And then I started seeing all the details of the last year playing over in my mind. My Peruvian friends taking me to American restaurant chains that I hadn't been to in years. The expensive churros late at night. The old men who took it upon themselves to educate me about American culture and laws. The classic Peruvian literature that described the city as poop brown. The gringos in the touristy district with boots and hiking backpacks and lost looks on their faces that we laughed at. (Er, I mean with, of course.)

But well, here I am. And there's plenty to learn about this place.

Like for instance, why do Americans circle parking lots forever searching for the closest spot in order to spend less time walking to the building? Is that some territorial instinct? Do the primates swing from tree to tree to tree looking for the tree that will require them to do the least swinging?

PS. Happy Birthday to my brother Darren! Who will most surely not read this. But the universe shall know that I'm so glad we've gone through these first 22 years together, even if half the celebration is rightfully yours.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Meet Veritably Clean

Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are truly, truly magical. The David Blaine of cleaning products, if you will. Or, am I David in this situation? And the eraser is of those ladies who gets sawed in half. Or an invisible elephant. Or a top hat with bunnies. Whatever. Moving on. It occurs to me, that good old Dave isn't much for the coin from the ear type of magic anyhow...

What did maintenance workers do before Mr. Clean invented his eraser anyway? How did scuff marks come out of the walls? How did permanent marker get off the under sides of desks?

I don't intend to look too far into how exactly the eraser does these things, because anything that is like five times more power than our other already powerful cleaning products has to contain something that could wilt every flower within a 10 yard radius.

Actually, what I was really wondering about was why the creators of Mr. Clean gave him the image they did. Was it aimed at women? Women want a big muscly white man to help them clean? Or, they really want their husband to help them clean, but this will do? Would the image work the same if he were some other ethnicity? Why is he old? Why is he bald? Why does he wink? Why does he roll up his pant legs?

I tried to research this topic, and all I got was that Ernie Allen created him in 1957. And that his name is Veritably.

Which makes him sound a little bit like he should be out picketing for prohibition with Constance and Prudence.

This has been another delightful episode of Philosophy from the Janitor's Closet. Tune in next time for, "How discovering a woman cleaning what's supposed to be the men's bathroom throws a little boy into an identity crisis."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer slacking

I know, I'm sorry, a week. But I'm in summer mode, and not very busy at all. Which naturally means that nothing gets done.

A couple updates:

1) My love of country music has sadly dwindled since I came back from Peru. Maybe cause I haven't listened to it for six months? Or maybe cause it just now strikes me as sooo....irritatingly American.

2) Keeping up with American entertainment must have gotten incredibly exhausting sometime in the last semester. The new TV, radio, movies...I don't even try. Makes me feel out of the loop. Is there a loop? Is it worth getting back in the loop? Can you be cool without being in the loop? Cause I definitely don't wanna be risking that...

3) I'm missing Lima. I miss the going out and the micros and the speaking in Spanish. And I miss living in the city. All these beautiful trees...fresh air...lovely can see how there's only so much you can take of that. Pollution and traffic for me baby.

That's me with my twin up there. Do we look alike?

But dude, I did miss the late night cookie dough runs courtesy of the time Mom didn't have to bake those suckers. People in other countries don't know what they're missing out on.

Monday, July 18, 2011

While squirting that bluish liquid you find in public toilets

I have a new, temporary job cleaning a school this summer. Toilets, windows, wiping, dusting. Minimum wage. Thrills chills and spills. But really, I've heard countless stories of people struggling to find work right now. So only gratitude here. And a little bit of wishing university would start already.

And plus, a lot of the time I get to just listen to my ipod and think, often simultaneously, while working. Thinking is much more fun when it's voluntary, and I'm a huge podcast fan. (Please tell me you know what that a radio show, or a lecture...but downloadable....) You're not really my friend until you've heard me say "Oh, actually I listened to a podcast about that once..." at least 10 times.

This was today:

While cleaning the bathrooms, 2 episodes of Stuff You Missed in History Class : Best Innovators in History (Johann Gutenberg, Ben Franklin, and Leonardo DaVinci, apparently) and Victoria and Albert, the non-Emily Blunt version.

While dusting the elementary school office, A lecture from London School of Economics: "Change in the Middle East? Democracy, Authoritarianism and Regime Change in the Arab World." Really good. But hardly any economics at all (except for all the angry economics students demanding that she hadn't paid enough attention to the economics of the situation in Egypt....)

While washing the windows, an episode of Philosophy Bites: "Thomas Hurka on Pleasure" A fascinating topic, but not a very thorough exploration of it, I didn't think. Could you do that in a twenty minute podcast? But I did continue to think about the relationship between pleasure and goodness and care for others for another good half and hour.

Interspersed with Sara Bareilles, Tony Lucca, and conversation in both Spanish and English.

It's possible that this makes me look like something of a dork.

But needless to say, this is nowhere near the worst summer job I've ever had. (That involved two really spoiled bratty rich kids...)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Umm, I have a cold.

These are the deepest thoughts I can muster right now:

I think my life and myself are much less complicated than I'd like to think they are.

I think liking to think I'm complicated is probably prideful.

I think people who think they're complicated people are usually pretty annoying.

Brief recap: I recently moved my person and two suitcases containing my material life for the past year from Pueblo Libre, Lima, Peru to Quakertown, Pennsylvanvia, USA. If you know me, you may be wondering how that's going. If you don't, you probably forgot all about it. I understand.

I've hesitated to write this first "How are you?" post after returning. Partially it's because I feel like I owe you all an honest, not just comic, response, and partially because I'm overly sensitive to pressure (okay, it's mostly perceived pressure) about what "reverse culture shock" ought to look like and the things I should be learning about my "experience." Doesn't that sound like I was shipwrecked o n an island or fought in a war or something? How has "your experience" affected you Dani?

There may be a lot to be said about the move and the things I've thought in the past few days. Most of them aren't at all original. Most of them even I have thought many times before. All the way from "You're throwing a bonfire? How amusingly American!" to "Does the American dream deserve all the flack it's been getting recently?"

And I've asked myself the same question that I know everyone's going to be asking for a few months yet, "How do you feel being back in the United States after a year abroad?" I've built it up in my mind. I'm overly analytical. I really want an answer.

But the truth is, I don't really know yet. The best I can do is say vague things like "good and bad" and "fine" and "okay."

Does that satisfy you? Not really? Well, you'll just have to settle for now, because I think I'm going to allow myself some slack to just go with the flow and not force myself into self-centered obsessing over the state of my adjustment. I'll just live and let the revelations come in little trickles or great big waves or not at all, as they wish.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mean that I don't want to talk about Lima. I do. I really want to talk about it. In fact, I think people are probably already getting tired of me saying things like.,"In Lima, the toilet paper gets thrown in the trash, not the toilet!"

And I don't mean that you can't ask. Please do. I may give you a little recap of what I just said, but by all means...

It's just that, at least for now, I'm releasing myself from finding a good answer to the question, "How does it feel to be back?"

Maybe I'll just say, "It's totally unfair that I have to put up with a Lima winter cold and the PA summer heat all at once!"

This was a long post. I hope you skimmed ;)

I think I may have just over analyzed my need to stop over analyzing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

#1.Things are bigger here

How I knew I was in the states:

2. The "how to" video at customs in Houston was dripping with political correctness. Smile. Okay, I liked it.

3. I drank clean, cold, free water from a water fountain in the airport hallway.

4. I bought my first bagel in the airport food court. For three dollars.

5. The woman calling out standby passengers' names mispronounced mine "Geeman"instead of "Hehman."

How I knew I was in Texas:

1. Half of the airplane television channels on my free preview were religious. (Faithful workout!)
Is this really a Texas thing? I feel like it must be.

How I knew I was home:

1. My lovely, real, mother bought me roses to welcome me home.

2. No one doled out, watched, or even cared about my portion size at dinner last night.

3. We have skim, not evaporated, milk.

4. I'm wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Definitely summer.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

No me digas adios!

I'm leaving Lima, Peru tonight. Laaate. At the very last moment that can technically be called "tonight." And not arriving home until like 9 PM tomorrow. Why did you bring that up? I was trying so hard not to think about my 7 hour layover in Houston.

So. I could go off on a long sappy post about what I've learned in about ten months, how much I'm gonna miss everything in Lima...yada yada yada.

But I won't. Not now.

Instead, I dedicate this post to my dear Kara, who has made this semester so much better than I'm sure it would have been otherwise, and shall henceforth be either an ocean or several states away.

I'll miss our face-to-face conversations, like these:

Kara: I wouldn’t want to be you. (When I had a bunch of essays. )

Me: I don’t want to be me either. I want to be you.

K: You don’t want to be me.

M: Why don’t I want to be you?

K: I dunno. (Pause) You’re right. My life’s pretty f***ing fantastic.

And I'll miss our long philosophical discussions (we weren't arguing, we were discussing!)

Like one we had one time about if there were intrinsically male and female qualities, which was brought up again later:

K: Ugh. Men are stupid.

M: I agree. Can that be an intrinsically male quality?

K: Yes.

M: Oh good. The only one.

But I still mean to have these conversations, which occurred via Skype:

Kara: He's a boy, not a man, that's the problem.

Me: I think "man" is a myth anyway...

Kara: Does that mean all women are pedophiles?

Me: Hahaha

Kara: Or motherly

Me: Disturbing, both of them

Kara: Except for lesbians

Me: The only truly mature relationships

Thanks, Kara dear, for putting up with me so much this semester my dear! I'll see you again when you come to visit next year. . . .

And as for you all, I'll catch you again on the other side!

Friday, July 8, 2011

I really think we're speaking the same language...

Hermi, coming out of the kitchen: Daaniii, can you do me a faaavor?

Me: Sure, what is it?

Hermi: Fetch me the lustradora by the stairs.

Me, walking over to the stairs: Uhh...I don't know what that is.

Hermi: The lustradora! It's by the stairs!

Me: Yes, but I don't know what it is. Is it down here or at the top?

Hermi: By the stairs. The stairs are the thing you climb!

Me: I know what the stairs are! But I don't see anything. What is it?

Hermi, coming over to me frustrated: You have to go up.

Me: Ooookay.

Turns out it's some kind of big floor buffer thing. Who buffs their floors?

So normally, these kind of interactions frustrate me, (Why doesn't she just describe it to me or at least tell me where it is instead of repeating the same thing over and over?!?) and but this morning I had to chuckle to myself and think "Darn it. This will never happen in the states. I think I'll kinda miss it."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Leave? Who's leaving?

I feel like every time I leave my house I'm faced with another potential "last."

The last time I drive along my dear green Malecon in Miraflores.

The last time I glimpse the lit up cross in Callao across the bay.

The last time I watch drunk American students make merry at a house party.

The last time I walk through the park with the George Washington statue.

The last time I laugh with the program directors.

The last time I stand on the roof at church and look over to the Interbank lights.

The last time I explain why we don't use "fat" as a neutral description word to my English class.

The last time I have a class in Spanish in Peru with Peruvian students and a Peruvian professor.

The last time I see a good friend who rolls her eyes when I use "venir" instead of "ir."

The last time I'll see the newest seasonal add that Saga Falabella comes out with.

Basta ya con las "lasts!"

It doesn't quite feel quite real yet. It feels like I may wake up Sunday morning and Hermi will say, "Leave? You live here! What are you saying, leave? Drink your juice!"

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A post that wasn't worth the wait

You did this to me.

Wow. Has it really been that long since I've written a post? Time flies when you're tearing your hair out studying.

I'm just brimming with interesting things to say. As always.

And completely lacking time to write them in.

3 finals down, 2 finals and 3 essays to go.

Oooooh, my life.

I always study in style.