Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I am not the best at transitions.  My family and my college roommates can likely attest to that.  I am even worse at goodbyes.  My transition from Peruvian life to American life is looming ahead in the not so distant future and it scares the socks off of me.  So, as my support group, here are a couple things you can all do to help make my transition just a little bit easier.

  1. Sit next to me.  I mean, really sit next to me.  Peruvians do not have a sense of personal space and even complete strangers will practically sit on top of you.  At first, this drove me crazy, but I have come to like it and get insulted when someone does not sit next to me.  So please, when you sit next to me, make sure we are at least shoulder to shoulder and I will likely scootch closer.
  2. Greet me with a kiss on the cheek.  Not in that annoying, snobby girl way, but in that warm Peruvian way that says, “hey, I’m actually happy to see you”.  It may take me a while to break this habit, so you all may as well just give in and give me a peck back.
  3. Call me names like Gringita, Flacita, Merry, and Catita.
  4. Urinate in public.
  5. Remind me to wear my seatbelt.  Partly because I will forget due to the lack of seatbelts in the past eleven months, but partly because the collectivo drivers always have to remind the front seat passenger to put safety first (which usually means looping the ripped seatbelt over your shoulder so as not to get a ticket).
  6. Do not ask about my year unless you really want to know.  This will not be a quick answer and I will probably talk for hours.  So please, save yourself the trouble and only ask if you are truly interested.
  7. Let me bask in the glory of seemingly endless toilet paper, hand soap and toilet seats.
  8. Let me eat a lot of rice.  More importantly, eat a lot of rice with me.
  9. Honk your horn.  All. The. Time.  Honk your horn to turn a corner.  Honk your horn when you pass someone on the street.  Honk your horn when you see someone you know.  Honk your horn when you see someone you don’t know.  Honk your horn to tell someone you want to buy a marciano or some picarones as you drive by.  If you could change your horn to sound like an ice cream truck or a clown car, sea mucho mejor.
  10. Say words like “Google”, “Youtube” and “Skype” as “googly”, “youtubey” and “eskypey”.  It brings me endless joy. 
  11. Have dinner with me.  Or lunch.  Then, just sit for hours, chatting about nothing in particular and with no rush to be anywhere else.

My contract with CMMB is up in a month, after which, I plan on doing some travelling around South America with a friend before heading back home for Thanksgiving.  Any suggestions of places to go/people to meet in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay or Bolivia would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Te Amo Peru

Sometimes, changes happen so gradually that one hardly notices.  Sometimes, changes happen almost instantly.  Like everything else in Peru, the changes I have recently begun to notice, have happened slowly.  After practically a year down here, I have started to take notice of how different things seem now as compared to last September.  So, in order to give you a little taste of just a handful of the things that I feel have changed over the past eleven months, I made this handy-dandy little comparison table.

Last September Now
Joked about taking showers only once or twice a week but in reality showered a good three to four times a week. Jokes about taking a shower once or twice a week and is actually serious (lately, its been closer to once a week…).  I’d like to see you take a ice cold shower when its 50 degrees outside!
Crossed at crosswalks, waited for the streetlight to change, waited for cars to completely pass before crossing the street. Crosses the street like a super-human!
Got nervous about knocking on doors in Cambio Puente to gather simple census data. Does home visits and nutritional workshops without blinking an eye.
Was just that “gringa” in Cambio Puente. Has kids yelling “Caty!!” down the streets and even had one little cutie tell his mom that “his gringita just drove by!”.
Struggled with conversations in Spanish. Has been asked multiple times where I am from in Peru.
Sat like a deer in the headlights when my host family made jokes. Can hold my own and make my host family proud of what they have taught me.
Fell in love with ceviche and combinado at first bite. Knows all of the best places to eat said ceviche and combinado.
Got woken up at 4am when the roosters crowed. Doesn’t even use earplugs and can sleep until 9am without ever hearing the roosters (on those rare days where I actually can sleep until 9am).
Could not understand anything that was said to me (in Spanish) on the telephone. Has entire conversations with people on the phone in Spanish.  Except my host grandma, even Peruvians can’t understand her.
Was not sure how I would survive in a city that smelled of fish for a year. What fish smell?
Walked out of the house empty-pocketed. Always has pockets full of toilet paper and spare change, but, like every good Peruvian, never a pen when needed.
Got laughed at by my co-workers when I tried to spell Peruvian names. No longer even have to think about how all those crazy names are spelled.
Read English words in English. Reads English words as if they were Spanish.
Introduced myself to Peruvians with the English pronunciation of my name. Introduce myself to English speakers with the Spanish pronunciation of my name.
Thought there were only big bananas and small bananas. Can tell the difference between all nine different kinds of bananas.


If life is about progress, then I think my life in Peru throughout this year has been pretty grand.