Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Another Wedding Weekend

Didn't make it in to post yesterday, as I was still very much recovering from the weekend. You see, Tito's brother, Jorge, suddenly sprung it on us about a week ago that he was going to get married in several days. (This was not as much of a shock as it could have been, seeing as he already has two children with his new lady wife). However, what did come as somewhat of a blow to us is that he wished to use our living room for the reception party. You see, Tito and I, sleep in an area which is partially comprised of approximately 30% of the said living room. After rather a bit of furniture shifting, we did however return the living room to it's full girth, just in time for the party on Saturday night. With festivities kicking off at the unseemly hour of 10:30pm, we knew we were in for a night entirely without sleep... enormous speakers blasting salsa and Spanish ballads outside one's bedroom door is not conducive to a good kip. It was a jolly good fiesta, but like all good things in Peru, no-one wanted it to come to an end. The bride, before passing out, did a special display of a hip-thrusting, one arm on the floor type of dance; the groom did an improptu strip... still no-one thought it time to go home until about six in the morning. Even then, the hangers-on lingered. At eight in the morning, as Tito and Jorge were drinking pisco and embracing/arguing, I turned off the music and finally made it to bed. Four hours later, we were up and out for some hair-of-the-dog and ceviche. I never before knew how raw fish and Inca cola shandies for breakfast can pep you up!

Thursday, September 23, 2004



I just realised yesterday that I am really fed up of being whinged at all the time. I guess it's just another layer of culture shock, as I suppose the Japanese and the British are not known for being big whingers (keeping face, stiff upper lip and all that). Peruvians, however, are. There's a lot of dire poverty, and people beg from you all the time here. Not just on the street and public places, they enter cafes, restaurants, shops, internet places, etc. to ask you for change in a tone of voice designed specifically to be as grating and pathetic as possible. "Griiingiiita - pooor favooour... No tengo plataaaa. No tengo naaaada. Dame plata por cooomeeer..." (Little foreigner, please, I don't have any money, I don't have anything, give me money to eat...). Of course this makes me feel terrible, but it's tough to know what to do. I, frankly, resent being constantly interrupted in private establishments, so much so that I don't wish to encourage the beggars even more by giving them money. It's a rock and a hard place situation.

The whinging doesn't stop there. It continues, albeit in different vein, at work. "Teeaaacher, nooooo, no exam, pleeeaaaseee, teeeaaacher..." Or my personal favourite, "Teeeaaacher, sooorry, I miss class X times, teeeaaacher, sooory, no es my fault, teeeaaacher..." Well, no es my fault, either, is it? Let's make a deal, you can miss class as many times as you like, but then I will fail you, OK? That seems fair to me. Interestingly, I am finding that the students with more than the six absences I will allow (a cycle is only 18 days - surely this is fair) almost always use the excuse that they didn't know about my rule. You didn't know that isn't isn't acceptable to miss over a third of the cycle?? I must have announced the rule on one of the XXX days that you didn't make it??? Here's your F, dunce. And for the love of dios, stop whinging at me.

Right, I am almost done, but there is one more place where I must endure great whinging. This is at home (how relaxing!). For some reason, Keila (six) has developed a way of talking that I thought was reserved for teenagers. "NOOO, no me gusta veduuuurrraaas. Son horrrriiibles!" (I don't like vegetables. They're horrible!). "Estoy abuuuurrrriiido." (I'm bored). And the like. It's hard living with a six year old that you cannot discipline in any way, due to the language/culture barrier, yet who tags after you, and whom you are expected to entertain. She's a cute little girl, whom we are pleased to take to the park or the beach now and then, but as I may have previously mentioned, I did not come to Peru to be a live-in babysitter.

I'm fed uuupp! Eveeeryone bugger oooff! I want some peeaace and priiivaaacy!!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Brides and Mums

Went to Tito's cousin's wedding reception on Saturday night, which was quite a knees-up. That is, when it got started... that was after the bride and groom had danced with each other, their in-laws, brothers and sisters, and multitudinous other family members and pets, all to the grating tune of the 'Blue Danube' waltz... which was played by the very loud 10-man band literally about 20 times in a row. It is still ringing in my ears (duh-duh-duh-duh-duuh-DUH-DUH, DUH-DUH). The bride looked very young, and very pregnant, in her sequin-encrusted white dress; the groom looked very young, and very reluctant. A standard Peruvian marriage, methinks. A good time was had by all, starting with the first toast, at about 12:30pm. Dinner was then dished at about 1am (turkey and chick-peas cooked with raisins - yummy). A few cups of homemade wine later I found myself dancing to frenetic salsa with Tito's dad, who, at 60, left me far behind in terms of both energy exertion and general funkiness. We left early, just as the party was getting warmed up, at about 4am!!!

The bride and mum-to-be may have been quite young but was not, thankfully, as young as this little lady I have been reading about... trust Peru to have produced the youngest mother ever in recorded history. Thanks to Sarah for sending me this fascinating/horrifying link...

Saturday, September 18, 2004



HAR HAR HAR!!! Jose Pablo's evil plot to get me in trouble totally backfired on him! After a couple blissful days of not having him in class he finally came back, with his tail between his legs, and offered me a full apology. Seems the school administration totally supported me and instead gave him a telling-off in no uncertain manner! I can now report any infraction whatsoever on his part to the lovely ladies in admin, who claim they will not hestitate to give him the boot should his objectionable behaviour continue. I am Vanquishing Vanessa! I am Vastly Victorious! I am Vanessa Villalobos!

Ahem. I had best vamos.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


I Hate Jose Pablo

Speaking of total lack of discipline (as I was yesterday, amongst various other things)... yesterday Jose Pablo was really acting up. In between shouting to his friend at the back of the class (I have had to isolate him at the front), and ridiculing other students, he was whinging on at me for sweets, in reward for his work completed. When I looked at his worksheet and showed his some things he needed to correct he told me, amongst other things, "No me jodas" (Don't f**k with me). I let him know that I understood and was not best pleased, but he continued to swear at me. Worse, he was constantly and most vociferously ridiculing me, for my white skin, for sneezing, for drinking tea, for being a lesbian (?) and other things that nasty little 13 year olds somehow find hilarious. The final straw came when he called me a 'pendeja' (literally: female pubic hair) in the same breath as he was using to again whine for sweeties. Enraged at his three month campaign of disrespect, I threw his bag out into the hall, told him to get out and preferably not return, and slammed the door behind him. Several hours later, a senior teacher came to talk to me. It seems precious little Jose Pablo had come to the school to complain with his mummy... and a lawyer. Talk about blame transference! What a superb example of parenting, take note! Your bratty son gets thrown out of English class AGAIN, and rather than talking to his teacher, finding out the real story, and perhaps (gasp!) disciplining your little angel, you feel the need to show how very important you both are by bringing in a lawyer. It's sad really, as no-one will support him should his mummy decide to take action... students and teachers alike are aware of what a total dickhead Jose Pablo really is.

Monday, September 13, 2004


Family Affair/Green Dog

It has occurred to me that I have written virtually nothing about living with Tito's family. I think that's because I haven't really known what to make of it, as the whole thing is so far removed from my previous life experiences. I have to say I am thrilled that it is temporary. The Villalobos family have been nothing but welcoming, tolerant and kind. I also see that there is much to commend about the traditional four-generations-under-one-roof way of living. However, I am a Western girl, and I can't help but value my privacy. Let's not forget, I am an only child, and the only child of two only children! This, of course, means that I don't even have any proper aunts, uncles, or cousins, let alone siblings... a situation a million miles away from the Villalobos household.

Most of the time I don't mind living with the family. We have some fun chats around the table, and Tito's mum Glavis is a great cook. Tito's dad, Jorge, always wants to practice his rusty Japanese with me! Everyone is supportive and considerate of each other, for the most part. Nevertheless, yesterday was one of those days when I want to run screaming to the airport. Glavis was babysitting Tito's brother Jorge's children (who, thankfully, don't live with us). The five year old, Laysha, is into absolutely everything. She is a scribbling on walls kind of kid, and she has, on previous visits, been at my make-up, contact lens equipment, and computer, so I tried to prepare for her royal naughtiness as best I could. This didn't stop her, however, from bursting into my room without knocking, as I was sleeping, and demanding I look at her four month old sister, who was crying.

Not knowing the slightest thing about babies, I jiggled it about a bit until Glavis came and took it off me. Grandma started on about babies. I needed to get out of the house! A walk round town in the bright sunshine, a lucuma ice-cream, and many assurances from Tito that it really isn't my responsibility to babysit just because I am a woman of child-bearing age, and I was ready to go home. We arrived just in time for lunch, and were greeted by Laysha and a stripey green dog, which we took to be Wanpi. Did you do this? we asked Laysha. No, of course not. As Laysha's mum said, before not disciplining Laysha in any way whatsoever, who cares? It's only a dog.


Sunday, September 12, 2004


Rabbit Tales

I've always had a romantic notion of rabbits, I think it might have something to do with the lovely Beatrix Potter crockery set I was given on my fourth birthday. But the cold truth about rabbits is far cry from those comforting images of Mrs. Rabbit putting Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail to bed, I'm afraid. As I have mentioned previously, when we first moved in with Tito's family there were about 48 rabbits living in cages on the roof. I was initially enchanted, but quickly gave up feeding and playing with them after the first time I discovered one of my favourites dished up on the table. Anyway, as the months passed, the family ate most of the rabbits. Eventually there were only two left, a male and a female. We were hoping they would make some more baby rabbits, and indeed, whenever I saw them, Mr.Rabbit seemed to be rather amorous, to say the least. Unfortunately, disaster struck. We noticed that one of Mr.Rabbit's furry little balls was swollen, and the other shrunken. It seemed Ms.Rabbit had had enough of Mr.Rabbit's romantic, yet frequently inaccurate attentions (Oi! That's my ear, you moron!), and had given him a chomp he wouldn't forget in a hurry. From then on, things deteriorated. Several weeks later, Mr.Rabbit committed suicide. He chewed through part of the wood of his cage and then impaled his neck on a piece of rusty wire. Though tragic, all was not doom and gloom. He was delicious. Then, happily, we discovered new life was on the horizon. Ms.Rabbit was pregnant. Tito's father knew when she started screeching, apparently pregnant rabbits do that. We eagerly anticipated her litter of bunnies. She, however, did not. Being a special pedigree type rabbit, she did not seem to have the normal motherly rabbit instincts. She did not prepare a nest for her impending brood, by even pulling out her own fur, as Peter Rabbit's mum would have. Then, last week she delivered five on a cold night. Ms.Rabbit wasn't at all interested, and didn't warm and shelter them with her body as rabbits normally do. The babies all died. Tito's father was really mad. He should have brought the unmotherly rabbit inside so the litter would have had a chance, but he wasn't to know she would be so lacking in maternal instincts.

Guess who's next in the pot?

Friday, September 10, 2004


Cords Fever

After six months of strictly no clothes shopping, I finally surrendered last month and bought myself a lovely new pair of brown cords in celebration of payday. They were 50 soles - about 8 quid - in Topy Top, one of the vaguely upmarket high-street 'fashion' shops. I have hardly had them off my backside since I bought them, they are so comfortable and well-fitting and I absolutely adore them. I don't know what it is, Tito claims I have lost weight (I'm not sure about that), but now suddenly all my other trousers seem somehow inferior, and just too damn big n' baggy. Basically all women here wear their trousers at a spray-on level of tightness, and my cords are no exception... they even have a 3% spandex content. I think I am turning Peruvian. So you can imagine my glee as I walked past Top Topy this morning and saw all cords had been reduced to a mere 30 soles! I grabbed another pair on the double, in a nice faded blue. I was tempted to buy more, but then I thought, let's not be hasty. I have no idea what's in fashion in the UK, and have no desire to return dressed like a South American princess only to find boot-cut/flared trousers are completely out. Yet it's hard to imagine them going out of style, what other flattering options are there for trousers - tapered, drainpipe, stretch? Yikes! Advice please - should I stock up on these gorgeous babies at 5 quid a pop?

Tuesday, September 07, 2004


Grandma's Baby Factory

Tito's grandmother has come to stay with us again. She's a nice old soul, always cheerful and chattering on. For the latter reason I do admit that I studiously avoid being alone in her company... she talks incessantly and I find it virtually impossible to understand her Spanish. Old people are often rather hard to understand even in English, so there's just no chance of meaningful interchange in Spanish, I'm afraid. Although, I am beginning to realise that there may be no need for me to understand precisely what Tito's grandmother says. It seems that when she addresses me the fascinating topic is always, and without exception: that I should have babies. It's about time, I look strong enough for 10, forget the dog, have a baby, I would look even more beautiful breastfeeding etc. etc. etc. For those of you who know me, you will be aware of just how very little I enjoy this kind of talk. I was beginning to wonder why I must always be on the receiving end of this kind of ear chafing banter, and indeed what exactly her big issue with reproducing is. So, today at lunch Tito and I quizzed her. When was her first baby? At 16! When was her last baby? At 47! How many in total? 15 - 3 deceased. No wonder the poor woman can talk of nothing else - she was a one woman baby factory! She couldn't possibly understand my babyless life in the same way I can't fathom her babyfull life.



Wow. It rained last night! As I might have previously mentioned, it almost never rains in Chiclayo. The fact that it has rained thrice since I came here seven months ago constitutes a recent major climate change. Structures in this area are not constructed to withstand major downpours, and judging by the popular use of mud bricks for thousands of years, they never have been. The lack of rain in the northern coastal desert is why the adobe cities of Tucume and Chan-Chan remain standing in parts, after 2000 years. Anyway, we awoke at one am to the sound of rain beating on the plastic cover over the large window in the roof . We awoke again at four am to the sound of Tito's mum mopping (the house was constructed to let in sunlight - unfortunately it also lets in rain), and so Tito got up to go and bail water off the large, flat roof. This morning the roads were a total mess. Only major roads are paved and the rest are mud, and so it was one big pud muddle all over town. Additionally, it had never really occured to me before today that neither Chiclayo city centre nor the surrounding suburbs have any sort of draining system for the roads. I usually enjoy a good downpour, but here it somehow seems a bit ominous... should the weather shifts continue and rain become more frequent it is difficult to imagine how this city will cope. It would, however, be quite refreshing to see some plants around this desert region!

Thursday, September 02, 2004


Drinkin' Beer And Inca Kola

There always comes a moment when drinking in Peru that never fails to disturb and alarm me. That's when people drinking lager (the biggies here are Pilsen and Cristal - both passable) reach for the pop. Believe it or not - Peruvians frequently drink beer mixed with Coca-Cola, or more often, Inca Kola. I suppose it's like a shandy, but much, much worse. When beer mixed with Coke I have found that the mixture separates and forms a brown frothy sediment. This is highly offensive, and so the combination must be quickly imbibed. As I have mentioned before, when Peruvians drink beer they usually pass the cup around, flinging the suds onto the ground, or when in marginally more polite company, they empty them into a glass placed in the middle of the table for that purpose. (Note to self: don't get drunk and pick that glass up by mistake!). In spite of the flinging/draining process, brownish foam more often than not clings to the sides of the glass. Yikes! This is when I plead Precious Gringa Status and ask for my own glass. The situation is marginally better with Inca Kola because it, thankfully, does not separate out. I must however explain at this point that Inca Kola is a caffine-rich, very sugary beverage that has a bright yellow colour which serves to make Peruvians remember all the gold that Pizarro's men nicked off them. It also tastes like bubble gum. I love it, I confess, but I believe that to mix it with beer is just plain wrong. It is clearly alcohol abuse. But try telling that to a Peruvian!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Field Of Poo

Bought a harness lead for my lovely puppy, Wanpi 2, today. She isn't overly pleased about it, but looks very cute indeed. Training her to walk on the lead is going to be another matter - though, thankfully, she is very small, and when all else fails we can pick her up. Walking Wanpi today made me smile, albeit cringingly, as it reminded me of my last experience of walking a dog. My friend Jason, who was my next door neighbour when I lived in Japan, has a very appealing black-lab mix called Sakura (what exactly she is mixed with I don't know, as her mum is big and blonde!). One sunny Sunday, my friend Amy and I decided to take Sakura for a walk in the park. At first, though very excited, she managed to contain herself as she strolled along on her lead (Sakura, not Amy). We were looking for somewhere ideal to spread our blanket and laze in the sun. Just past the pond was a lovely, wide field in which no-one else was sitting. We headed over there and began to unpack our books, snacks, frisbee, etc. Sakura lolled in the long grass looking peaceful. "Do you reckon we should let Sakura off the lead?" I asked Amy. We agreed that the dog looked sufficiently relaxed and that it wouldn't do any harm.

We were very much mistaken. Sakura took off at warp speed as soon as released. She raced towards the pond, as she obviously would, being a canine. She remembered the juicy fat carp and ducks she'd spotted as we passed. We jumped up and ran after her, shouting commands, but by the time we caught up she had already hurtled herself headlong into the pond, barking maddeningly and swimming after ducks. She wouldn't come back to us, and began snapping and chasing a particularly vapid duck up the stream that led under a bridge, and far into the park. We couldn't stop her. A crowd started to gather. Amy and I followed Sakura as she swam up and down, up and down, after this duck for at least 20 minutes. She was getting tired, but she knew she would be in big trouble when she got out, so she kept on trying to get the dastardly duck. By this time she was letting out exhausted yelps, and we were hoarse from shouting at her. The crowd increased. Look at those stupid gaijin who let their stupid dog off it's lead, they thought. We were totally fed up, felt like complete prats, and were tired of being even more of a crowd-gathing spectacle than normal. Then, as we considered leaving her there, someone had the bright idea of getting a massive stick and prodding Sakura in the ribs from the bridge. Sakura finally gave up, and let herself be hauled out of the water by some random bloke. We gave her a great telling off, tied her to a tree, and tried desperately to salvage our Sunday afternoon feeling.

It was, however, totally impossible. Sakura looked pitiful. The crowd was still gathered on the bridge. Eventually most of them spent all their gossip and drifted off. Still, some old farts lingered, and they obviously had nothing better to do than stare at us. And stare they did. It was really getting up our noses. The sun went behind a cloud. We decided to admit defeat and leave. We folded up the blanket and packed up, then left the field by a different gate than we had entered by. Just then, we noticed a large, prominent sign. It was of course, written in Japanese, but we read the kanji and deduced the meaning. Basically, the message was: 'THIS IS THE FIELD FOR DOGS TO SHIT IN'. The crowd must have wanted to tell us, but thought that we wouldn't understand...

Perhaps it's sometimes better if you don't.

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