Tuesday, October 26, 2004


My Birthday - Parts 1 and 2

It's Tuesday. I think I still have a hangover from Saturday night. Is that bad? I did what all the songs suggest, and partied like it was birthday (even though it isn't 'til Wednesday). Because I could, alright? Last year, I recall, I went to my deadly CELTA course all day, taught, bought myself a solitary chocolate bar to celebrate, then travelled home (three hours on bus/train) thinking someone would surely buy me a pizza. No-one did. I ate dinner my mummy cooked for me and sobbed into the phone (to a certain someone in Nippon) and finally went to bed, shivering and alone.
That's why my birthday this year is going to be so bloody good. Part 1, on the said Saturday night, involved imbibing plenty of thrist-quenching Cuba Libres, going to Samba nightclub, enjoying lashings of Pina Coladas, and dancing my pants off until about seven am. Monika and Neil, fellow teachers at ICPNA, both missed their Sunday morning classes completely, which I think is a fitting testiment to the excellence of the evening's festivities.
Part 2 involved waking up sometime on Sunday to a lovely, massive arrangement of flowers from Tito's parents, a gorgeous cake and about 10 pounds of pork to be cooked. We went out for lunch with some friends, came back, slept more, then prepared dinner(the largest I'd ever made). Tito's mum Glavis had very kindly seen to the pork, I just had to prepare the mountain of garbanzos. I did, then 17 people came over and we fed them. They left, we went to bed. It was wonderful.
Stayed tuned for further episodes of the never-ending birthday!

Thursday, October 21, 2004



I have had, for quite some time, a real fear of hairdressers. This means I invariably allow my hair to become depressingly shapeless and ratty before I summon the courage to visit a hairdresser. I had been wearing my hair in a fat bun on top of my head for several months this time, which Tito hates, so I knew it was becoming urgent. (It's alright for him, he gets his hair cut in the street market for 2 soles - about 25p). I had no idea where to go for a good cut, though, and could hardly bear to think about it. Everything about the haircutting experience puts me off - the way that hairdressing places always have pictures of scarey anorexics with totally impractical haircuts plastered all over the walls, the smell of chemicals, the patronising way that the 'stylists' look at you, the horrible hairdos that they sport, the hefty price involved. And of course, when living abroad, you have the added challenge of trying to, for example, explain the importance of not using feathering shears within a 10 metre radius of your hair to an anxious trainee, in a language which is not your own.
All that aside, when our friend Marco, who has gorgeous flowing tresses, recommended a hairdressers (Pepe's) to us, myself and Monika decided to go for it. The place seemed a bit foreboding, as it was on a second floor and we had to ascend many stairs and knock at a heavily barred door to get in. But we were pleasantly surprised to find a light and airy room, with awaiting stylists. I had never before had my hair cut by a transvestite. Let alone a middle aged one with a cut-off top and boobs. But I let Pepe, the owner, do his stuff and was not disappointed. He gave me a cut exactly like what I wanted. I was so pleased that I let him really go to town and blow-dry it backwards with a round brush. He gave me wings like Farah Fawcett! And I loved it! I never though I'd see the day. Thanks, Pepe, you made me look like one of Charlie's Angel's - and gave me a cut that still looks great today... and all for 15 soles (2 pounds). Monika opted out of the Angel's blowdry, but got a really nice cut too, just what she wanted. We are both well chuffed.

Sunday, October 17, 2004


English... Mas o Menos...

It's quite fascinating how many people you can encounter on your travels who firmly believe that they can speak English, yet cannot, by any stretch of the imagination. I find that they generally fall into one, or more, of three basic categories. Allow me to extrapolate...
*develops unjustified confidence in their English ability when inebriated
Pablo, a friend of a friend, was very pleased to meet me on Friday night. "I speak English." he declared grandly. "Mas o menos" he added, with a devil-may-care shrug. Conversation ensued. "I...go... no, I.... work." he confided. "Where?" I queried. (Pablo makes expansive gesticulations). I make some random guesses "Your home? A disco? A shop?". "Si, si," he agrees affably. (Mimes taking a photo). "Photo? Camera?"... "Si, si, camera. Shop. Yo... I work. Camera.". Menos, mate, mucho mucho menos.
*uses 'Spanglish' or 'Japlish', etc. liberally... that is, anglicises words in their native language with just a dash of very basic English grammar
Pepe, Tito's bible-bashing cousin, is a prime example of this type. Should he wish to use a Spanish word in conversation, but does not know the English translation, he will simply pronounce the Spanish word with an approximate English accent. Sometimes these words are mutually intelligible. For example, 'abandonar' is abandon. 'Eutanasia' means euthanasia. 'Zombi' is zombie, etc. However, many Spanish words may appear to have parallel English counterparts, but these are very misleading. They are called 'false friends', and Pepe is apparently not aware of them. For example, 'constipado' is to have a cold. 'Embarazada' means pregnant. 'Suburbio' is slum. The only reason I can understand his English in any way is because I now have a fairly strong knowledge of Spanish. Pepe, however, on our last meeting, asked me if I can understand Spanish at all. This places him firmly with this category, and also the next...
*believe, since they are communicating with a foreigner, they must be using English
I once had a Japanese boyfriend (yes, just the once). He could not speak, understand, read, or write a word of English. It was a jolly good chance for me to practice my Japanese, an opportunity I snatched in no uncertain fashion. I sent him lengthy text messages. We went out for dinner, we cooked dinner at my apartment. We went shopping. We went to the park. (All this in 100% Japanese, remember). After a couple weeks I introduced him to my friend, Amy, who speaks excellent Japanese. "Oh, I wish I could speak English" he confided. "Why?" she said, "you don't need it at work, and you live in Japan..." "Well," he sighed, "it's because Vanessa doesn't speak Japanese...".

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Top 5 Student Names at ICPNA

1. Nimrod (parents with very low expectations?)
2. Julio Cesar (parents with great expectations - possibly unfulfilled - he's missed 3 of 5 classes so far)
3. EKatherine (parents thought 'Katherine is such a lovely name... but how can we jazz it up, make it a bit different? The answer is clear - wack a random E on it!')
4. surname: Chunga-Chunga
5. male student's surname: Ponce-Vera (ooo! ducky!)

Monday, October 11, 2004



Perhaps foolishly, Tito and myself have actually chosen to remain mobile phone-less whilst in Peru. Yet, after years of happy, high-technology 'keitai' usage in Japan, this has come as rather a blow to us. Remember life without mobiles, anyone? Waiting around for hours in the cold/heat, trying to find change and a public phone that works, having to be on time to meet people, making contingency plans. In other words, a lot of blasted inconvienience. Contingency plans are funny... making them is such good habit to have, yet so very irritating. You know the whole 'well, if we're not at the cafe, we'll be at Fred's house, but if we're not, go to Bill's, and if he's not in come back at 3pm' type plans that we all had to make on a daily basis only a few short years ago. Tito now knows all my regular haunts (good job this is quite a small city) and makes a round of them when he needs to find me - not really the most effective use of time, but there's nothing else we can do.

I have to say, though, I hope that some of this experience stays with us in the future. For example, how many people carry a list of phone numbers on a hopelessly low-tech piece of paper for use when their mobile battery dies? Or agree on some place to meet at a certain time should they not be able to get in touch by mobile beforehand? We have to do these things all the time. This Girl-Guide-like level of preparedness would have helped in no end of situations in the past... for those times when you went down to Tokyo and ran out of phone juice and got extremely lost, for example. Or missed your stop on the train because you had passed out in a drunken stupor. Not that I would know.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


Get Your Tits Out

Right. Can someone please tell me at what precise point a woman ceases to be a woman, and starts to be merely a breast? Forward thinking I may be, but I find it difficult to believe that motherhood instantly and automatically turns a woman into nothing more then an asexual sack of milk. Then why, pray tell, do the women of Chiclayo think nothing of exposing their entire tit when they feed their offspring? Call me squeamish, but I really don't want to see your oversized brown nipple and veiny, engorged mammary, thanks very much. Not at parties, not in the supermarket, not in the park, not at any time as I go about my daily business. Ladies, have you no self-respect? Would you just casually drape a tit out of your shirt as you walked down the street before your infant arrived? I think not...

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Showers That Shock

So, it turns out I'm not the only one receiving substantial shocks from my electric shower. Monika and I was were discussing this phenomenon recently, and found with surprise that we'd had very similar experiences. Both of our knobs shock, and furthermore, we both have wires dangling out of the showerhead itself that one must be careful to avoid. We'd found this out through electrifying experience, when reaching up to rinse. Monika, in fact, was rinsing a razor, which, being metal, conducted a lovely tingling jolt throughout the entire right side of her body. Though basically accustomed to things in Peru being more than a bit on the shoddy side, Monika and I asked (with the endearing naive innocence of gringas) our Peruvian friends why the showers in this country shock. "Well," they laughed, "it's because they don't have earth connections." Right, erm, and why exactly don't they have earth connections? Is it difficult to make them? Surely it just involves another wire? "Haha," the merry Peruvians responded, "of course it's not difficult to earth showers. We just like the buzz."

Friday, October 01, 2004


Cycle End

Ahh... am enjoying my luxurious five day break between cycles. It's funny, the cycles are only 18 days, but they can feel like an eternity. By the time you have had a class for a few cycles on the trot, you know precisely which students are totally resistant to any form of learning, and which smarmy chops you hope your eyes will never again alight upon. Apparently, it feels the same for the students. As I was lining up the desks in exam stylee on the last day I came across a couple instances of pencilled graffiti: 'I hate myself and I want to died' and 'Bitch is my teacher'. Red-pen hand quivering, I resisted the urge to correct the lamentable grammar. Instead I scrubbed them out with my sweaty palm and thanked cielos that I will having all new students next cycle.

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