Monday, February 28, 2005



We're in Lima again ladies and gentlemen... this morning we got my birth certificate verified by the Canadian Embassy, and then that verification verified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, now we are currently waiting for the certificate and verifications to be translated into Spanish and then verified again (sighhh - bureaucracy). In between all of the verifications we've been wandering around central Lima, and I must say it's very nice indeed. Ornate churches, crumbling but cheerfully bright colonial mansions, cute little musuems and art galleries - extremely pleasant. It's bloody hot, has horrendous stinking traffic, and is more than slightly dangerous for pickpockets - but I would like to verify that Lima's charm more than makes up for it's faults. I suppose I wouldn't like it so much if I was one of the inhabitants of it's many 'Nuevo Pueblos' (New Towns - ie. nasty slums) but hell, I'm a tourist, and feel the need to stick up for the much-slagged-off Lima. It rocks! Unfortunately, we only have a couple days until we go back to Chiclayo. We need to verify the wedding date! Wish us luck!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


I Hate Babies

I thought that coming to Peru would soften my views on babies and young children. I thought, being surrounded by the little ankle biters, I would find that really I actually adore them, or even somewhat enjoy being in near proximity to them. No such luck, I'm afraid - if anything I now loathe them more. It's very similiar to the beggar situation - in concept I feel great compassion and altruistic sensations towards them - but in practice when I've got one whinging and tugging on my arm, my hand just tingles to administer a much-deserved slap round the chops. I think it's the sheer volume of babies and young children over here that really get to me. Bored, unwanted, unplanned-for, snot-nosed, hungry little kids hang around town begging all day. Vacant-eyed pregnant women with a baby on the tit and a toddler on the lap implore you to donate cash for their plight. I'd gladly give them a handful of condoms, but they'd only sell them in the market. Basically, in Peru the Catholic population simply accepts children as inevitable products of sexual union, never something to plan for, but as something that just happens. Hello? This is how women lived for thousands of years when we had no choice. Peruvians ladies, take note, the pill is free from doctors and costs only 8 soles (just over a quid) in the pharmacy! Why do even normal, educated, middle-class women here still believe themselves to be baby machines? The children I know here, my little nieces and nephews, are very much loved, but seem to vary from badly disciplined to totally out-of-control. Why? Because no Peruvian couple ever sits down and says "Hey, let's plan for a baby. How do you think we should raise it? What are your beliefs? Do we have enough money? Let's research this." No, the woman suddenly cries "Shit! I'm pregnant! We have to get married now and live with my parents!" and the man agrees out of a sense of duty, and resents her for trapping him forever after.
But there are plentious other reasons why I hate babies:
1) They often look like fat little slugs and they get horrible spotty rashes
2) They have no sense of danger (ie. they will totally ignore when you tell them not to climb the stairs, but when the smash their face in when they fall down you'll have to bend over backwards to comfort them)
3) They scream random syllables at the top of their lungs for hours on end ("MAAAMAAAPAPAPIOOPIO")
4) They won't let you do ANYTHING in piece (ie. if you are reading they will drag the book out of your hand and chuck it on the floor repeatedly, and for no apparent reason)
5) Everyone assumes that I, as a woman, am crazy about babies and constantly thrust their little bundles of poopiness into my unwilling arms where I have to jostle them about and coo and hang them upside down to make them smile... when I'd really, really, truly rather not.
The burning question of the moment, since I'm getting married shortly is: And when will you be having babies? And the answer is when, and if, we are ever bloody ready to - and not one minute before that - so don't hold your breath!!!

Monday, February 21, 2005


Bus Travel on the Pan Am

Occasionally I want to make a blog entry, but I hestitate as I know the contents will worry my mum. But then I remember that my mum uses the internet only once in a blue moon, and so I proceed. Here we go! I forgot to write about Tito's experiences his last trip to Lima on el cheapo buses... and rather hair raising they were too. Basically, there are some safe buses that go direct to Lima. They don't stop for anything as they whizz down the Pan American Highway. They cost about 70 soles (about 10 pounds) for the twelve hour journey. Then there are the others, which stop en route to pick up passengers who just stand by the side of the Pan Am. They are two to five pounds for a 16 hour ride (and worth every penny?). As the Pan Am highway, between cities, is situated between vast ocean and vast desert and shedloads of absolutely bugger all, it is rather dangerous to pick up any old person who flags down the bus - the buses are constantly targeted by thieves. Not surprisingly, when the nearest police station is often a few hundred kilos away. Anyway, on the way down to Lima, one of the passenger windows was shattered by a stone thrown with the intention of making the bus stop. Did the bus stop? Did it eckers like. It continued at full speed after half a dozen passengers had received a glass shower. They then spent the remaining seven cold, gusty hours picking shards off clothes and out of hair. Nice! Even more excitingly, on the way back, the bus encountered an unexpected traffic jam on the Pan Am, caused by robbers who had lit a massive fire in the middle of the road. They then duly robbed all cars and buses which had to stop there. Happily, Tito's bus escaped pillage, as the bus driver wouldn't let the thieves on and the passengers shut their windows with timely haste. After waiting over an hour the police came and the traffic could pass. Needless to say, we'll be taking the priceier bus down on Saturday... and hoping for the best!

Friday, February 18, 2005


Back to Lima

In case you're wondering, we still haven't been able to book the wedding. We've got to make another journey to Lima - this time to have my birth certificate verified by the Canadian Embassy. That verification has then got to be verified (and the certificate translated) by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so goodness knows how long that will take. However, I've handed my notice in at ICPNA (yippee!) and will be working there until next Friday. We'll go down to Lima over the weekend, to ensure we're first in the queue at the Embassy on Monday morning! I'm, again, seriously peeved by the British Embassy, who were all too pleased to issue my costly and time-consuming 'Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage', without being so good as to let me know that it would be a totally useless piece of paper until I'd also gotten my birth certificate verified. No government organisation will give you vital information unless you painstakingly drag it out of them, it seems. Guess it's the same the world over!

Thursday, February 10, 2005


Rabbit Tales - Part 2

Anybody remember my post about the dramatic, soap-opera lifestyle of the bunny family in our house? Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail they certainly were not, the little buggers. Well, in short, Mrs. Rabbit had been leading a solitary existence after her husband killed himself by impaling himself on piece of sharp wire. She abandoned her seven newborn babies, born shortly after her husband's passing, to their death. But then nothing else remarkable had happened until yesterday, when Tito's father found Mrs. Rabbit most conspicuous by her absence from her cage up on the third floor roof terrace. Oddly, one of his new teenage chickens was also found to be missing. We're still not sure what happened. At first, the only logical explanation was that the two had eloped together, sure that their relationship would not be accepted. But after a careful search, Tito's father found Mrs. Rabbit trapped in a crack between our house and the neighbour's. She was on her last legs when Jorge found her, so we roasted her for dinner. She was getting on a bit, and quite tough, to be frank. The chicken has vanished, though. Hope he's doing well, he's better off without her.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Sod's Law

Was just thinking about Sod's Law. Tito is, by nature, wont to cast his possessions about the room with no regard for order. He misplaces things quite frequently, and in an attempt to remedy this I have been training him to put all his stuff in a certain place so he knows precisely where it is. This had all been going swimmingly, we even bought a study little plastic box for him to keep all his little things that normally get placed on any available surface: watches, sunglasses, wallets, coins, important phone numbers, and the like. Lovely. Except, when the thieves brokes into the house they didn't have to rifle through drawers and cupboards. They just picked up the nice little box left so neatly beside the bed with all of Tito's important little things in it. Now, I say nothing to clutter. Sod Sod.

Friday, February 04, 2005


Chiclayo: pop.480,000

I've just realised that I haven't written anything describing the city of Chiclayo in the whole YEAR (on Saturday!) that we've been here. That absence itself speaks volumes, I daresay, about Chiclayo... a decidedly untouristy little city. It has almost nil tourists for a very good reason, that being: there is virtually nothing to see or do in the city. Frankly, I've come to the conclusion that although it's not a bad place to live, it would indeed be a very boring place to visit. Living somewhere you have the opportunity to discover all those great little restaurants, coffee shops with character, what part of the beach is the best, which night is 2 for 1 at the movies - these are the some of the small things that make life in Chiclayo tolerable/enjoyable.

Chiclayo central is based around the enormous, white trimmed, banana yellow Cathedral, and the tidy Plaza de Armas park (a Spanish style of arrangement on which virtually all cities and villages in Peru are based). The Cathedral makes for a dramatic sight again the perpetually bright blue sky - but you daren't linger on a bench in the busy park to enjoy it - unless you have a great deal of patience with shoeshine boys, beggars, sweet and cigarette vendors and lecherous would-be-companions. The surrounding streets are extremely congested with yellow Tico taxis, and the pavements are alive with mobile vendors (superglue, sunglasses, puppies, Q-tips, you name it) trying to scratch a living - Chiclayo is the largest major commercial centre in the north, after Trujillo. The major avenue, Balta is pleasantly tree-lined, and it can be quite diverting to take a stroll around, as long as you've got a tight grip on your wallet or handbag and you're not trying to get anywhere fast. There are a reasonable number of high street shops selling fashion clothes (mostly, erm, jeans) but the real shopping centre of Chiclayanos has to be the markets.

Chiclayo has several markets, which seem to go on forever... so that it's not clear where one ends and the next begins. Modelo market sells everyday items: combs, gold jewellery, fruit, shoes, frying pans, stationary, etc. It's famous for it's excellent witchcraft supplies section - which stocks everything from hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus to traditional Peruvian wooden dildoes (I've been considering investing in the latter as a conversation piece). It's really interesting to peruse the stock of Modelo - though gringos get an automatic mark up, and you do have to be careful about the quality of what you buy - especially plastic items 'Hecho en Peru'! Another gigantic market is Moshoqueque, which sells mostly fruit, veg, fish and meat wholesale. The meat area, which seems to span covered indoor areas as well as a wide, dusty road, has to be the most exciting. This is solely because the meat is not dead yet - the cacophony of knackered pigs, cows, chickens, goats, and sheep on their sides with their legs bound fills the air. You can even pick up a fresh cuy (guinea pig) or two for your tea - yum!

Which leaves me with nothing much else to describe - except the people who are really what Chiclayo is all about. The city is widely known as 'La Ciudad de Amistad' - the city of friendship, and with good reason, I think. For those living in a situation in which material things are generally few, shoddy, and quickly broken or stolen, the value of personal relationships really shows. There are huge differences in social class - with the greatest group of course being the poor, who live in often dire circumstances on the dusty mud mountains that surround the city. However, Chiclayanos are - generally - dramatic, boisterous, easy-going, pushy, friendly, open, rude, generous, and ready to laugh at anything. They love gossiping, drinking, eating cebiche, salsa dancing, and going to the beach, in that order. Plenty of time is taken to relax with friends and family (there is still a three or four hour siesta here!). No matter what Peru may lack, it certainly does not lack people - people with an enormous zest to enjoy the good times they come across as fully as possible!!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Totally Different Teaching Situations

I really do think I hate ICPNA. To say they charge the students an arm and a leg and spend a packet on advertising, it is shocking how unprofessional and disorganised the company really is. Recently, I've felt like they are really taking the piss - what with classes taught for free, cancellations, upping the minimum class sizes, and naturally no pay or credit for preparation time, etc. It's a business, plain and simple, and the aim is to make money, of course. I think back on my time in Japan working for state schools... Sure, it was great to get paid rather well for whole days spent studying Japanese, planning my next holiday to Thailand and writing letters, in some ways. Yet, there were always so many random extra obligations, great expectations, formality and pressure to perform. Also, as a 'one-shot' teacher I constantly felt sad about never being able to lose my celeb status and make some real progress with the kids. At least here I can just do my job: go in, teach, leave. I can just be myself. I get attention for being a foreigner, but I'm not expected to act like a superstar. Seriously Reduced B.S. Re-reading this entry I made in 2002 makes me realise how totally different my situation is in Peru from what it was in Japan!

Tales from Fukiage Junior High School...
The speech contest is finally over, and I now have some spare time to write my journal... Yippee! No more coaxing reluctant spotty youths to enunciate and gesticulate! I was really quite busy around speech contest time because I was coaching 6 kids from 2 different Junior High Schools. They were so cute, but unfortunately only 1 of them won a prize (ahem, no reflection on the coach whatsoever I'll have you know). Well, it's 'good experience', isn't it? I told the kids that winning isn't important, but they still feel terrible when they don't win anything - and after all that bloody practising in front of the mirror with a hairbrush they must do it's not surprising. Today I got the following letter from the most lovely 2nd grader (about 13 years old):

Dear VanessaHello Vanessa. My name is Eri. Thank you for English speech. It's diffecult to me. But you teach me so kind. Thank you very much. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Thank you.

She thrust it in my palm after English class saying "I'm sorry, Banessa-sensai, I'm sorry!" with true heartful sincerity. I felt like a total slave driver and tears welled up in our eyes... man, I sometimes I just want to eat those kids up. I've been exchanging a shedload of letters with Junior High School students recently, it's my pet project to try to communicate with the kids more. They are shy at that age (12-15) and my superstar image doesn't enhance relations beyond shouting 'I am Japanese boy!' at me in the bikeshed. I told them if they write to me in English or Japanese I will answer their letter in English and give them a 'purikura' (a small photograph sticker) of me. I got about 50 letters in 7 days during my last visit to JHS, it kept me busy answering them. Most of the letters are about volleyball, Harry Potter, or David Beckham but others are surprisingly difficult to reply to...

Dear Vanessa,Hi Vanessa! How are you? I'm fine!! I like English. How about you? I hope that you like English. Do you like Japanese history? I'm not like Japanese history. Because Japan is killed Korean people the old days. How about you?

No, Fumio, I have never killed a Korean person (to my knowledge).

Dear Vanessa,Hello. My name Yuko . How are you? I'm fine. You are sexy body. I want you are sexy body. You are cute and pretty. I love you forever. See you.

Thank you, Yuko, here's a sticker.

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