Wednesday, December 29, 2004
What the (Witch) Doctor Ordered...
1. A pleasant expectorant that seems to be based on homemade wine, gives a nice buzz and seems to work as well as the expensive German made one I was using.
2. Eucalyptus - pour boiling water over the leaves and drink as tea (horrible).
3. A clove of garlic, crushed, in honey - every morning and evening.
Sounds fair enough, I thought. But have you ever eaten an entire clove of garlic before? Neither had I, until this morning. Tito insisted I try it, probably because he is almost as fed up as I am of me being ill all the time. Under normal circumstances, I am a huge fan of garlic. Wack five fat cloves in my spag bol and I'm happy, spread on a clove per piece of garlic bread - no problemo. Unfortunately, the experiment this morning caused me to realise the burning sensation uncooked garlic causes in one's throat. Also, the gagging reaction that sensation causes. I did manage to get it down eventually, and was rewarded with a very strong, lingering pong of garlic that I can blast on innocent passersby. Not sure if I can eat another clove again tonight, yet I feel I really ought to give it a go. Hmm.
Monday, December 27, 2004
Top 10 Rather Different Things About X'mas in Peru
1. Peruvians eat Christmas dinner at midnight on Christmas Eve, after singing to the nativity and hastily opening pressies
2. They also place the baby Jesus into the navitity at 12pm Christmas Eve, not before
3. After that they proceed to get lashed, then go out onto the streets to set off fireworks and drink beer
4. Christmas day is spent frying oneself on the beach and eating cebiche
5. There's not a sprout to be seen... Christmas turkey is generally served just with garbanzos (chick peas)
6. Hot chocolate (cocoa) here is made with lashing of cinnamon
7. Tito's father, Jorge, could be seen to devour the turkey's head
(boiled) - he seemed to enjoy all the wrinkly bits round it's neck (barf!)
8. There's no Christmas cake, or pudding, instead Peruvians nosh 'Panetons' - big bread things with raisins and preserved fruit (think: massive hot cross buns)
9. The Chinese population here often prepare the turkey Chinese style (we had some yesterday at the home of our friend 'El Chino')
10. No cheese! No mince pies! No brandy! No stuffing! No Quality Street! Yet, No snow! No roasting frozen parts in front of the gas fire! No gloves, hats, scarves! HARHARHAR!
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Off to the Witch Doctor...
Further to my previous post, let me tell you exactly what I intend to do about it. I am going to give Peruvian medicine a go. It's based on knowledge handed down for thousands of years from pre-Inca times, and luckily for me, Chiclayo is famous for its excellent witch doctor supplies section in the Modelo market. I have perused it several times before, but have found it's selection of herbs (amongst stuffed cats and lizards, San Pedro hallucinogenic cactus and traditional Peruvian wooden dildos) a bit daunting. But no more! I totally despair of Western medicine, and I am off for a consultation with a witch doctor. I'll let you know how it goes...
Western Medicine is Crap
I haven't blogged for a week (the longest ever!) because I've been really ill. The ear infection proved to be quite powerful, and moved to my chest. Anyhow, more interesting than the tiresome details of that, is the conclusion that this episode has led me to. WESTERN MEDICINE IS CRAP! I have had unrelenting, serious asthma for over twenty years, and the various medicines I have been prescribed have barely been able to control it, let alone cure it. In fact, I now realise, the medicines have not only failed to cure, but also left me worse off than I was when I started. Let me explain... About three months ago I became somewhat fed up of waking up in the night unable to breathe, etc. on my normal course of steroid inhalor and Ventolin. So I went to the doctor (who is, incidentally, Tito's uncle). He prescribed various things, which did bugger all, so I returned a couple of weeks later. He then prescribed me a cortisone injection, to clear up all the fluid on my chest. This was great! I was normal for a whole month! Then, after precisely a month to the day, I returned to exactly the same state as I was in before I started. I went back to the doctor, and he prescribed me another cortisone injection, plus some tablets which function to strengthen the body against asthma. I felt great for two weeks! So good, in fact, that I went frolicking in the freezing cold ocean. Unfortunately, the doctor had failed to warn me that the lovely cortisone jab would seriously lower my immune system. I do wish he'd mentioned that, because I might not have contracted the ear, throat and chest infection, had I known. Now, after three months of treatment I am feeling almost
as healthy as I did when I started. Not quite, but almost. I am however, hundreds of soles worse off, having donated them to the medication producing conglomerates. Just in time for Christmas, too!
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
I can't decide whether seafood is the best thing, or the worst thing about Peru. It's extremely fresh, deliciously prepared and very, very affordable. I eat crab, toyo (mini shark), mussels, clams, black clams, baby clams, squid, octopus, and prawns in a dazzling array of delicious concoctions on almost a daily basis. One of Tito and my favourites is 'chankarito' (lit. 'little crushed one'), which is very fresh, quite large crab pounded with a big stone and seasoned with limon and hot pepper. It's really satisfying, and a portion for two is six soles (less than a pound!). So, what's my problem? Well, I can't quite forget the torment of nine weeks of liquid poop I endured when I first came to Peru - due to a parasitic infection caused by bacteria in raw fish. I couldn't believe it, after all, I had just spent three years in Japan devoring all sorts of tasty sea creatures, whether cooked or not. But, like everything else in Peru, the fish here seems to have that extra tough, rough n' ready aspect to it. Likewise, on Thursday I went for a seafood extravaganza with Tito and our friend Cecelia. We had cebiche mixto, mussels, chankarito, and an extremely potent seafood soup. It was so much seafood that Cecelia claimed she couldn't feel her neck after the meal. Then, during the night, my sore throat turned into a full-blown ear infection. Tito's mum is sure it's due to the fish... but I am loathe to blame innocent, tasty sea creatures.
Friday, December 10, 2004
A student in my Advanced Reading and Writing class offered this sage advice in her composition about relationships:
'I think the most important thing to maintain a relationship is giving compression
And you know what? I think she could be onto something there...
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Are we having fun yet?
As the festive season fast approaches, I am finding myself freshly gobsmacked by Peruvian people's attitude to partying. That is, once they start, they never, ever, ever want to stop. Personally, I learned some years ago, by some nasty experiences, to avoid the bitter end of a party like the plaugue. By leaving early, I've found, you certainly won't miss anything good - more likely you'll just miss the alcohol-induced messy/disgusting/over-emotional parts. But try telling that to a Peruvian! Take, for example, the wedding we went to last weekend. As soon as we arrived on the Saturday night, people started asking us if we'd brought our clothes for the next day! Partying 'til six or seven in the morning is not enough for these people, they want to party constantly, at least for the whole weekend. Good times, for many Peruvians, are few and far between. So when they come, nobody wants to let them go without a fight. I think the attitude over here is even more shocking for me after my three years in Japan! Talk about extreme polar opposites... In Japan people generally party for, say, two hours, from 6pm until 8pm, for example. The party is inevitably kicked off with a speech or a clapping ritual. That' s how all the Japanese know when they are supposed to be having fun. I remember, with nostalgic fondness, a fundraising party that I hosted in a disco along with some friends. One of the Japanese guests turned to me, at about 11pm, beer in hand, and queried "Has the party started?". "Are you having fun yet?" I asked her, and when she replied in the affirmative I assured her that, yes, indeed the party must have started. Likewise, in Japan, there are less bitter endings to parties. Why? Because at the precise time that the party is scheduled to end someone official stands up and declares it has ended. Then everyone puts down their drinks (unfinished!), does a little clapping ritual, and goes home. Talk about the sublime and the ridiculous!
Monday, December 06, 2004
I can't believe it's December. It's hot and blazingly sunny, fer chrissakes. Yet, in merry old Chiclayo, there are (fake, obviously) trees up everywhere (with all the standard red and gold made-in-China trimmings that you find all over the world), Christmas carols playing, and even an errant Reindeer to be found in the Plaza de Armas.
This is to be my first ever hot Christmas. It'll be a nice change, but it's a bit difficult to get my head around the change in appropriate Christmas pressies. Slippers, pajamas, and warm socks, out. What can these things be replaced by? Flip-flops, shorts and, erm, water wings? Instead of shivering in front of a blazing gas fire, I'll be perspiring over my plate of turkey wearing a jolly red tank-top. For New Year's, we're going to the beach. I'll be thinking of you, as I take a sip of my refreshing Cuba Libre
before going for another cooling dip in the ocean...
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Last night, as we were driving home after I'd finished work, we saw a group of teenage boys viciously kicking and beating two other boys at the side of the road. Across the road, a small crowd was gathered - they looked on with folded arms and grim faces. "Ah," said Tito with a nod, "Pirañitas" (little piranas). Almost certainly, the boys had been caught stealing and were now being suitably punished. Suitably? I hear you protest. How barbaric! Quite, and right bloody effective too. Recently, these sort of occurances have become much more frequent in Peru. If you see a crowd gathered for a fight, it is almost certainly to punish a thief, a ratero (little rat), a choro (mussel), or maybe a perecote (mouse). There are a million nicknames for those who commit petty crime. On the news too, you often see clips of more extreme cases of this vigilante justice. I recall a video clip I saw lately of a man beaten, tied to a pole, doused in oil and set on fire. Why? Because the police do absolutely nothing. If you call the police for any crime now, they will inevitably say that they'd love to help you, but that they need money for petrol. If you, perchance, have 20 soles that you'd like to donate to that fund, the cops might come - probably several hours too late. It's pretty scary stuff, I reckon, but all just part of daily life in a developing country.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Take a Walk on the Wild Side
I'm sure I've mentioned, in passing, what it's like to walk down the street in central Chiclayo. However, I feel this topic deserves an entry all of its very own, such is the unparalleled intensity of the experience. Hmm... I'm trying now, to remember the unremarkable experience of walking down the street in a UK city. Old ladies getting underfoot, grating Big Issue sellers, and the occasional shove from a self-important business person are the hassles I am able to recall contending with. Not so in Chiclayo
. First and foremost, let me say that the experience differs, not inconsiderably, depending on your gender. If you are a woman, and dressed nicely, you will receive assorted quality but generally plenteous random leers and shouts from taxi drivers and the public at large, along with polite (but sleazy) greetings from doormen and security guards, topped off with the occasional serenade from an old man. Sexual harassment aside, one still has to contend with:
1) Cambios -
these are people who change dollars to soles and vice versa. I have absolutely no idea how they make any money, as there are dozens of them standing on central streets brandishing their calculators, and they only charge a sol per transaction.
2) Kerb-crawling Ticos
- these taxis are desperate for passengers. Since Chiclayo's public transportation system has disintegrated there has been an explosion of Japanese made Ticos cruising the city streets. As they are badly regulated, there are far
too many per capita. As a result, the competition is very fierce and they stop directly in front of you when you are crossing the road (making it very difficult to cross) and constantly shout out to innocent pesdestrians, to try badger them into taking their taxi.
3) Children and campesinos
- begging (whinging) in a most pitiful way, showing you their family member's prescriptions, trying to sell you candies.
4) Vendors - vast numbers of people selling fruit, jelly, little ice-creams, super-glue, wallets, gum, you name it, roam the main streets searching for a sale.
- this is the Spanish nickname for the youths who cruise the streets in pairs or gangs, looking for likely victims for pick-pocketing or purse-snatching.
6) Restaurant Promoters - who list all their dishes and try to drag you in as you pass.
7) Shoe shine boys - who would shine you flip-flops if you let them.
Of course, you quickly learn to become oblivious to all this chaos around you, if you don't want to be driven round the twist...