Archive for the ‘Culture Shock’ Category

In some of my more, let’s say, loose-lipped moments (which may or may not include a couple of Cusquenas) I’ve called Lima the Cleveland of South America. The responses I’ve received from this statement have been enlightening for two reasons: it not only reveals what many of the American extranjeros think about Lima, but also what they think about Cleveland. Usually, they take my statement as an insult to one city or the other. For many Peruvians the answer is much simpler, they just ask, “What’s Cleveland?”

The main reason that I’ve associated Lima with Cleveland is because, despite Lima’s size and economic boom, it strikes me a bit like the red-headed stepchild of Latin America. Lima’s Clevelandness is more metaphorical than actual because it represents a kind of international invisibility. Lima just doesn’t have the international cache of Rio, Buenos Aires, or Santiago, just like Cleveland doesn’t have the cache of LA, NYC, or Chicago. If many Peruvians have no idea about Cleveland, I’m willing to bet many Americans don’t know a thing about Lima (except thinking it might a city popular for beans that, by the way, are pronounced incorrectly).

An example of this Clevelandness can be found in Lima’s relation to international music acts.* For most of its history, Lima has not been a destination spot for touring bands, most of which would flyover to the more global cities of Rio, Buenos Aires, or Santiago. This rejection of Lima as a destination was, I have been told, mainly a result of the instability in the city created by the horrific terrorism of the Sendero Luminoso. Thankfully, Lima seems to be gaining traction on the international touring circuit as many international performers, like Britney Spears, Elton John, and Morrissey, have all performed in Lima during the last year. Now, what you may think of performers like Spears is irrelevant; the fact that Lima was even a destination on a tour of that magnitude is what is important.

A couple of weeks ago, I gathered up some friends and went to experience this cover band culture for myself. An interesting aside about the show is that, like many cover bands, you could purchase the tickets for the show from the same booths that sell tickets for “real” shows. The cover band we went and saw as modeled after The Strokes, which I chose since the “real life” version is one of my favorite bands. The show was in a club called the Yield Bar in downtown Lima (right on the Plaza de St. Martin, which is very pretty at night). The cover band, Los Outsaiders, appears to have pretty decent-sized following–judging by their Facebook page–and there was a pretty substantial line of folks waiting to get into the club. Of course, it’s hard to interpret how much of that following was die-hard Strokes fans who, like me, had no previous connection to the cover band. That said, at the end of the show much of the audience was chanting the Los Outsaiders name and more than a few admirers mobbed the band for pictures and autographs.

Like many things Peruvian, the show started 20 minutes late but, overall, Los Outsaiders did a pretty good job of embodying The Strokes. The band was particularly excellent, which was impressive because they were also short one member (The Strokes have 4 part band, the cover band had your typical guitarist-bassist-drummer trio). The lead singer did a serviceable impression of the mannerisms of Julian Casablanca, though maybe was trying a bit too hard in places. The only real criticism would be that, since lead singer obviously learned the lines phonetically, he hit a few off notes here and there. In the end, my group went in thinking that the band would probably have the same level of skill as college garage band, but we all were pleasantly surprised by the quality of show.

*The caveat, of course, being international Spanish-speaking bands.


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This post was done without the help of “Google Translate,” but does have an assist from my Spanish tutor, Fernanda.

The Most Typical Scene of St. Paddy's Day in Lima

Para el día de San Patrick, nosotros queríamos cocinar un desayuno tradicional de Irlanda. En Irlanda, un desayuno tradicional consiste de huevos (normalmente un huevo frito), tocino, salchichas de morcilla (o salchichas normales), los frijoles (blancos), tomates y panes. Para beber, hay te fuerte, no el tipo de té que se pone en Starbucks. En EEUU, este tipo de desayuno se llama “El Desayuno Irlanda” pero en Europa lo se llama “El Desayuno Completo.” Fue un poco difícil para nosotros encontráramos los ingredientes Irlandeses pero yo pienso que ella cocinó una buen aproximación al desayuno tradicional. En Perú, por ejemplo, hay muchas variedades de las salchichas y nosotros las usamos en nuestro desayuno.

Irish Dancers, all of which are Limenos or Limenas


Tradicionalmente, los Irlandeses comían los desayunos grandes porque, especialmente para los obreros, ellos solamente comían dos veces, en la mañana y en la noche. Ahora, por supuesto, los Irlandeses comen igual que en otras partes del mundo occidental. Dicho esto, la mayor parte de Europa y EEUU toma un desayuno mucho más grande que aquí (a excepción de España, por supuesto). Normalmente, en EEUU, durante el Día de San Patrick muchas personas comen “corn beef” (una carne que tiene muchas sal) y berza. Por lo tanto, en Lima, a mi me parece que “carne de vacuno” y berza no existen aquí. Nosotros estábamos contenta porque a ella no le gusta carne de vacuno.

An Irish Band, full of actual Irish


Después de hicimos el desayuno, los amigos llegaron a nuestra casa. Cuando ellos llegaron, yo estaba viendo el partido de futbol (era de mi equipo favorito). Después del partido—que terminó antes de la primera mitad porque un jugador tuvo un ataque al corazón—comimos bocadillos y bebimos tragos. Muchos irlandeses creen que el día de San Patrick es un día donde EEUU humillo a Irlanda y están siempre hablando de tragos. En EEUU, hay muchas personas creen que ellos son totalmente Irlandeses. Esas personas llevan camisetas verdes y siempre están tomando tragos. Los verdaderos irlandeses llaman a esas personas “Irlandeses de plástico.”

A las tres, salimos del departamento a una festiva Irlandesa en el Cricket Club de Lima. Primero, es muy raro que el festival sea en un club de cricket. El cricket es un juego que uno asocia con Inglaterra, los antiguos colonos de Irlanda. En Irlanda, que juegan un juego llamado “hurling”, que es un poco similar al hockey sobre hierba. Por supuesto, nadie juega este juego pero los Irlandesas.

The Gang

Pero, en este festival había Guinness (la cerveza de Irlanda) y que f ue una mejor razón por la que fuimos al festival. ¡Había una escasez de Guinness en Lima! ¡Que horror, que horror! En general, el festival fue interesante porque era una fusión de Perú y Irlanda. El festival fue una fiesta en la piscina, donde hijos y padres llevaban trajes de baño. Había algunos bailarines (ellos no eran Irlandeses, pero ellos eran buenos) y una banda irlandesa. En cuanto a la comida, había salchichas y helados. En total, el Día de Santo Patrick fue interesante.

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Hello, it’s time for another lovely edition of random musings or, by it’s fancier sounding name, unrelated observations of Peru. The random musings tactic is like the clip show of blogging; it’s something that the blogger can do to provide content without the structured thinking that a normal post requires. Or when your life is just a bit boring (really, how many times might people who are not my family want to read about getting taxis and grading papers). Essentially, this is the lazy person’s way to blog and, if you notice the time between my posts, I’ve been pretty lazy. Of course, like all lazy people I’ve got a ton of great excuses, like “I’m super busy at other things!” Well, the semester here is winding down and plenty of students need help on their final projects so…on with the show:

  • Well, even though it’s not quite summer yet the weather has definitely changed. The temperature has risen and it gets pretty sunny (more or less). The most unusual aspect of the weather is how most days begin overcast but changes into a brighter day with slightly clearer skies. Even when it stays a bit overcast, it usually warms up to a comfortable level, even if most days start of a bit gloomy.
  • A few weeks ago, we hired a maid on the suggestion of one of our friends. Her name is Teo, and she does a fantastic job with the apartment. The thing is, I still feel a bit awkward about having a maid (or limpiadora) in the first place. My family never had a maid nor did we ever rent a cleaning service, so it’s a change to have someone in my house cleaning up after me (Comment from my mother below in 3…2…1…). I don’t know if my feelings about Teo are leftover baggage of bourgeois guilt or just one the new cultural differences with which one must be accustomed.
  • My new favorite food here are anticuchos. I don’t want to spoil them for anybody, but if you happen to meat eater they’re delicious.
  • I feel like my Spanish is definitely (or at least hopefully) improving. A lot of times, I can understand what is been asked or said to me, even if I can’t necessarily translate the words verbatim. Of course, I still get a little lost whenever a person uses too much slang or mumbles. Yet improvement is improvement, so I’m just happy that the language blocks are getting fewer and fewer.
  • After quite a few experiments, all done in the interest of science mind you, I’ve discovered that Cusquena is much better in a bottle. Though, if you must, drinking it in glass is still pretty good.
  • Finally, on a bit of a home sickness note, I absolutely miss Autumn. As someone who grew up in the Midwest, this time of year (calendar wise) has always been my favorite part of the year. The changing flora and fauna, along with the opportunity to wear all my cool sweaters, puts me in a good mode. In Lima, the opposite change is, of course, occurring as the seaons is getting warmer. I feel all discombobulated as my body seems to expect the weather to get colder. Yet, whenever I’ve mentioned this to any of my friends back in the US–especially the ones living in colder climates–they tend to give me a fairly snarky remark. I think I can actually hear them roll their eyes through the computer.


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It would be banal to say that moving to Peru has been an eye-opening experience (or any number of clichés that come to mind about learning of life lessons). Often, it’s easier to forget some of the more glaring (if that’s the right word) elements of a developing country. Or, maybe, forgetting is too harsh a word. Possibly I’ve just become more accustomed to living in Lima, which means I’m taking the city’s flattering and less flattering elements in stride. However, one of the aspects of daily life that continues stay at the forefront of my thoughts is how my definitions of what qualifies as a necessity and what qualifies as a luxury have changed. Life in a developing country forces one to confront differences that, while living in what is called the first world, are normally just considered in the abstract.

Clean water is not a given in Peru (image from "Lima Bean" Blog)

The most significant revelation, even for a first-timer in South America like myself, is the necessary distinction between good and bad, clean and unclean drinking water. Now, anybody who has taken a vacation to a developing country—for most people from the States, I would assume this would be Mexico—can understand the need to drink bottled water, avoid wet silverware, and keep their mouth closed while in the shower. Yet, it’s hard to appreciate the daily concerns about clean water and the necessity of it for many actions central to daily life. Recently, I’ve purchased a water jug that can be refilled for around 10 soles or so. This is my primary source of water for drinking and cooking, and it’s a much better solution than my previous routine of trips to store to buy large bottles. It’s amazing how quickly this water gets used; consequently, it’s also amazing how much I pay for the necessity of having clean water. Now, yes, I did pay for water back in the US, but that water was multipurpose. I was never “out” of clean water as I could always just pour myself a glass from the tap.

The result of having to always be aware of clean water underlines how clean water is closer to a luxury, even though I’ve always thought of it as a necessity. While finding clean water isn’t hard, the need to be aware of the distinction between clean/unclean water has never been made clearer to me. Also, my privileged position makes my access to clean water pretty easy, especially when compared to the majority of people in Lima (or the world).

The second aspect of my daily life that has changed has been the difficulty of securing stable Internet access. While obviously not as vital as drinking water, having a stable connection to the Internet is a pretty important thing for many. The Internet is my main connection with my family and friends, as well as my main problem solver for things like directions or useful Spanish phrases. In Lima, whatever speed a company charges you for Internet service, expect to receive only 50% of the actual billed amount. The telecommunications infrastructure of Peru is not as reliable as someone coming from the States would expect (though in some of the wealthier boroughs of the city it’s not too bad).

If you had asked me before I moved to Peru if Internet access was a luxury or a necessity, I probably would’ve quickly placed it in the necessity category. Heck, I’m pretty sure I’ve said it was “impossible” or “torture” to live without Internet service. When I think back about thoughts like this, I just think how silly that they seem now. And it’s not silly in an anti-consumerist Eat, Pray, Love sort of way. Not having internet service at times hasn’t taught me about the need to find myself or any other Julia Roberts inspired drivel about disconnecting from the modern world; instead, it has clearly marked how, in many ways, I was naïve about the condition of the rest of the world.

Overall, my experience in Peru has shown me a nuisanced difference between commodities as luxuries and commodities as necessities. If the value of a commodity depends on the demand as predicated by the totality of a market, then I should be able to create an equation that balances my need for water with my need for Internet access. How many bottles of water make an equivalent exchange for a month of wireless Internet access? In my personal budget, am I willing to go a little a thirsty for access to better communication? In fact, my ability to have the decision to go a little thirsty is a privileged position; as for many, it’s not a decision at all.

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Hmm, tasty. So tasty.

Tonight I indulged in two of my most favorite, and somewhat secret, pleasures: going to gringo places and watching the UFC. The latter I’ve enjoyed for awhile, much to the dismay of many of my friends who treat the UFC with a basic shrug that says “Why do they have to wrestle so much?” In Peru, I’ve actively tried to go and experience many things, especially at places (restaurants, shops, etc.) where I would be forced to speak Spanish. I enjoy these experiences. If I didn’t, then I probably have made a very bad life choice. Yet, I do miss somethings about the good ole’ USA; namely, chicken wings and sports bars. Oh Jaysus do I miss chicken wings. So, after I moved out of the hotel I went in search for a place that would serve chicken wings and brewskis.

At the Corner: NORM!

Thankfully, I discovered The Corner Bar. It’s  Miraflores only US style sports bar, complete with TVs and cable. The Corner, as it’s called by the locals, specializes in sports for both the US/Expat and Peruvian taste. It’s the sorta place where half the TVs will be showing Barcelona or Universario (arguably Peru’s most popular soccer team) and the other half will be showing the Jets or, even, the UFC. It makes for a nice mix of people, but it’s definitely a place that caters to the gringos.

If we get to the brass tacks of the place, the chicken wings are pretty good. A bit dry, but not too bad. The beer is nice and cold, however. They only serve Cusquena on tap, but, and I mean this seriously, Cusquena is all you really need. If in Ireland you really only need to drink Guinness, then in Lima you only need to drink Cusquena. So it was very comforting to eat chicken wings and drink beer, while indulging in my secret pleasure of watching guys smack each other in the face. While wearing shorts. With shaved chests. Hmm, now that I think about it, I feel like somebody should ask me if I like gladiator movies.

"It's so good! Once it hits your lips, it's so good."

The point of this post, which I think may have slipped away from me, is that I think it’s okay to enjoy things that remind me of home. I feel somewhat guilty, as I really enjoy throwing myself into Peruvian culture. It’s always a learning experience, and it’s always something that, despite it’s difficulties, provides a certain level of enjoyment. Having a place that will, for lack of better word, remind me of home seems like a good thing. It does, I’ve found, make me feel a little sheepish, like I’ve chickened out about living here. It makes me feel like I’m retreating into a zone of comfort that keeps me from learning/getting accustomed to Peruvian culture. But screw these feelings. I think these are just foolish thoughts, or so I hope. I feel like it’s okay to hold on to bits and pieces of the things about my home. Even chicken wings and dumb UFC guys.

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