Thursday, February 12, 2004



“I saw your husband with another woman yesterday” guffawed Tito’s obese, diabetic uncle to his sister, who wore a resigned look. Seems he shares Arturo’s way with words. The family were arriving in droves to check out Tito and his betrothed gringa (foreigner). Whilst being individually very welcoming, they were, en masse, somewhat overwhelming. I thought I’d prepared myself. I knew they’d be asking a lot of questions. “Well, Tito, when will you be having children?” asked the same uncle (father of nine). “Perhaps when we have money, jobs, a house, a car, and some security.” replied Tito, rather sensibly, I thought. “Oh,” uncle said, surprised, “are you sure that you don’t want children now, or is it that you just can’t have them?”. I sputtered into my cebada at this insult to Tito’s masculinity. The questions came thick and fast: Do you like Peru? Can you salsa dance? How many children do you want? Do you want boys or girls? Can you cook? Can you teach me English??? I was much relieved when people began to relate amusing anecdotes, taking the focus away from me. Peruvians love to tell a story using big gestures and sound effects, and most tales are received with racous, and occasionally borderline hysterical, laughter. The anedotes lose their spontaneity somewhat when translated for me, but I still almost peed my pants when Perla, Tito’s lactating sister, recounted how a superstitious neighbour with earache came round the other day to ask her to squeeze breastmilk in her ear (a request she could hardly refuse), or when Tito’s dad told us about the time he wore the shell of a television set home from his job at an appliance repair shop (to avoid ruining his pristine white trousers and white shirt in the muddy water of a torrential rainstorm). Everyone is a real character; my face ached from smiling and my sides from laughing when we finally broke free and returned to the hotel to relax with few beers.

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