Monthly Archives: November 2011

It’s an Anagram of “Realist”

Day 011 – August 2, 2011

I learned a new word today courtesy of Manuel (you remember him from the previous posting about shower taps).

Since I had someone in my home who was more knowledgeable than I had about handy-man type stuff (which is also about 87.6% of the general population [citation needed]), I took a chance and asked him about a phenomenon I had noticed around our house.

By the baseboards around our house, we had seen that either the stucco was bubbling off the wall or it had already flaked off.

Picture of salitre

Honest, I haven't been playing with the heat gun

Picture of salitre

Ewww...wall scabies

I pointed out these examples of our imperfect walls to Manuel and he simply said one word:


Manuel said this lone word while pushing out his lower lip and nodding his head as if meeting an old foe for the umpteenth time.

Courtesy of the fantastic humidity that hangs around Lima, water vapor seeps behind the stucco condenses into liquid and causes it to pull away from the wall. That’s just one of the myriad of reasons I discovered as to why this could be happening because as much as Manuel tried to explain it to me, I was helpless to understand what he was saying.

Curse my lack of Spanish. Then again, discussion about humidity, water condensation, and stucco never came up in the Spanish exercises I did in eighth grade. Now, had I wanted to talk to Manuel about who was dancing with Mary at the fiesta, I would have been fine.

Found out that later (courtesy of our OFF, the Valenzeulas) that much like the characters in Waiting for Godot, there is “nothing to be done”. Fixing it now would be a temporary fix as the phenomenon will only come back. Better to wait for a while when a vast majority of the baseboards look like zombie flesh before calling in the repairmen.


It’s Day 011, and I’m accepting things as they come in.

When All Else Fails, Switch Labels

Day 011 – August 2, 2011

Those of you with good memories may well remember that back on Day 001 of our adventure in Peru, a mere ten days ago, I noted that the hot water was not working for our children’s bathrooms. For the past week and a half, we have indeed been using a lone shower for the five of us (not all at the same time, mind you).

Today was the day for our salvation as a gentleman hired by our landlord would be coming by to remedy the situation.

Manuel arrives at 10:00am exactly as he said he would and I take him around to our water heater. I explain to him, as best I can in my halting flailing Spanish that el agua caliente no trabaja (which I found out later is not how to say the hot water is not working). He dutifully inspects the object by touching the pipes, muttering to himself, and scratching his chin almost like a rabbinical student musing over some Talmudic metaphor. He then asks me where the other water heater is.

I explain helpfully that, Hay no otra cosa (“There is no other thing”). Not believing me, Manuel walks around the breadth of our home looking for the obvious 2nd water heater. A house this size, he thinks, must have another water heater.

But, it is not to be found as it truly does not exist.

I take him into the house and into our boys’ bathroom to show him how the water is cold when it comes out of the shower head. I turn on the right hand tap labelled “H” and prove to him that the water is and will always be cold as we wait while only arctic liquid issues forth.

Manuel next does something that you just cringe whenever a handyman does it. He giggles. Manuel turns off the “H” tap and explains, as best as I can understand him, that in Peru, the hot water tap is on the left hand side.

I counter in this Bathroom Debate that the other tap is “C” which means cold in English and frio in Spanish.

Manuel wins the Debate by turning on the “C” tap, waiting five minutes, and then showing me that, indeed, the water that is now coming out of the spray nozzles is tepid and then hot.

Again, I explained, as best I could using broken Spanish, pantomimes, doodles, and even a few puppets, that in the United States, the “hot” tap is also on the left-hand side.

Without a true command of the language, it is extremely difficult to convince a true speaker of the tongue that you are not a lunatic. With only simple nouns and verbs at my disposal, there simply was no way to tell Manuel that we had indeed tried his solution of using the left-hand tap. However, I did what I could to press my point that I was not a dullard when it came to simple bathroom taps.

Manuel did listen patiently and when I came to the point where I stated in italics that “H” meant “hot” and “C” meant “cold”, I knew he understood that, because he quickly, quietly, and efficiently simply pried loose the “H” and “C” labels from their taps and switched them.

There, he seemed to say, Welcome to Peru.

Picture of shower taps in bathroom

Our new normal

Epilogue: We should have been happy, but this would not be the end of our hot water issues. That is a tale that is on tap for another post.

Day 010 Randomocity

Day 010 – August 1, 2011

Random Observations

Two-Wheeled Delivery

A question rarely, if never, asked among travellers to Peru is “Does the country have a postal service?” Be honest, it’s not an inquiry a person usually makes when sojourning to a foreign country. People are more concerned about the sights to see, the crime to avoid, the vaccinations to receive, and the food to eat.

Let me be the second person to answer my above question and say, “Yes, Peru has a postal system.”

In addition, so far as I can tell by the few glances I have seen of this organization around my neighborhood, delivery is done by bicycle and by foot.

To date, I have answered the door twice and been handed an envelope by a person on a two-wheeled vehicle which contained a correspondence from our children’s School.

In addition, I have been outside in our front garden trying not to kill the grass when three or four envelopes would be inserted through a crack in our garage door. When I opened the front door to see the delivery person, all I saw was his back and the black of a rear bicycle tire.

Standing to Pay

The above item about bicycle-riding postal folk possibly explains this next observation.

While ambling around the neighborhood and shopping centers, I had noticed rather large lines that formed inside and outside major banks. Whether it is the small kiosk at my local grocery store, a branch office in Jockey Plaza, or a major outpost on the main street in La Molina, I would see dozens of folks spending their time waiting in line.

I discovered that these folks were in the queue (if I may borrow a bit of language from our friends in England) to pay bills. From the water bill to the credit card bill to the cable bill, this is how most folk pay…by going to the bank and depositing the money in the creditor’s account.

In the States, I simply wrote a check, put it in the mail, and that was it. For those people who have embraced technology, bills can be paid on-line.

Such is not the case here in Peru. I’m not sure if this is because technology has not been embraced here (and given the proliferation of cell phones and ads for broadband, I doubt that) or if the postal system is not up to the task (and given the mode of delivery [see above], I would pin my bet on that)

I’ve written before about what I perceive as the inefficient nature of this country, but my ethnocentric blinders may be on (please see Disclaimer No. 1) in regards to this. I may be wrong about why people wait in line to pay, so If I am, please let me know.

Flavor of the Day

I’m trying to make it a habit to try new things (as if moving to the Southern Hemisphere wasn’t enough of a new challenge). Today, at our local grocery store, I bought yogurt in a flavor that I had never had before, much less pronounce.

It is called guanabana.

The flavor of the yogurt was pleasant, almost reminded me of an unripe honeydew.

You will have to excuse my descriptions of any edible item in this and future postings as I am the opposite of that phenomenon known as the supertaster. I am that 25% of the population known as a nontaster.

In passing, if you need to know how to pronounce “guanabana”, this video is helpful.

Periodically, Peru

In an effort to learn more about the politics, language, current history, past history, sports, culture, and even humor of Peru, I have decided to periodically buy newspapers to help me better understand this country.

My first purchase El Comercio. This appears to be The New York Times of Peruvian periodicals as it is a larger size than most (if not all) of its competition. It is also the most expensive (2 soles) and it also contains separate sections for business, culture, and sports.

Since I believe talking about newspapers deserves more space that I can give in this blog devoted to my experiences in Peru, I have decided to set up another blog space entitled Periodically, Peru. Here is the link that will take you to my first entry about what I found in the August 1, 2011, edition of El Comercio.

And with that, Day 010 was finished.

On The Grid

Day 010 – August 1, 2011

While I knew I would experience some level of cultural unfamiliarity when moving to Peru (i.e., language, cuisine, music), I am constantly being surprised by all the tiny differences between where I came from and where I am now.

Case in point…

In addition to the stress our family felt as we packed our lives into tiny cardboard boxes and suitcases two weeks ago, we had the added burden of trying to find all the school supplies for our oldest child. Our children’s future place of education started in the first week of August and the School had sent to us a list of all the supplies that our eldest would need.

Some things on the list were easy to find in the States (e.g., pencils, erasers) and those would be coming with us.

However, one item was completely impossible to find by my lovely wife. She had no issue finding notebooks, but the School had specifically stated that the notebooks had to be filled with graph paper.

Graph paper?

This was not just his math notebook – where graph paper makes sense as you try to draw a parabola between the x and y axis – but every notebook for every subject needed to have paper made up of little squares.

I seriously wondered if our oldest son needed all that graph paper because he would be drawing 10×10 rooms or 2×20 hallways filled with wandering monsters and secret doors (for the uninitiated, that would be a Dungeons & Dragons reference).

So we left the States empty-handed in the notebook area as every store that my lovely wife went to in both the brick-and-mortar world and cyberspace only sold notebooks with lined paper.

Picture of lined notebook paper

College paper of choice

We came to Peru hoping for the best…and found it.

On one of my outings to our local grocery store, while I was looking for a notebook filled with lined paper to keep my notes for this blog, I encountered the exact opposite of our search in the Northern Hemisphere.

The shelves were only stocked with notebooks filled with graph paper.

Notebook with graph paper

The quest hath ended

I’m still unsure why the local education system requires students to do their work solely on graph paper, but all I care about right now is that our oldest now has the notebooks he needs to start his school year.

Plus, he’s also prepared to map out the third level of any dungeon he happens to come across.

Guess That Object

Day 010 – August 1, 2011

It’s time for the inaugural episode of a soon-to-be Sin Polaris classic, Guess That Object.

In my walks along the roadside of my neighborhood, this object, made of rebar, is ubiquitous among the homes I pass. There is even one in our front lawn. Can you Guess That Object?

Unknown Object Number One

Lawn ornament, perhaps?

The answer is…well, I have absolutely no clue what its true technical name is…but this elevated rectangle of metal is where people place their garbage so it can be picked up by the municipal authorities.

In my time here, I had noticed a remarkable dearth of garbage cans in neighborhoods and now I know why. They’re not needed. Folks simply pile their bags of garbage on these platforms and the garbage trucks come each day and spirit them away.

Yes…each day, except Sunday, the city garbage truck rolls down the street and collects the refuse of the day. This is probably another reason why people don’t have garbage cans around here because with a daily pickup, there’s not enough time to amass such a large amount of basura (that’s Spanish for garbage) so a can is not necessary.

Scoring is as follows: If you identified the object as a…

…receptacle for garbage, award yourself 30 points;

…an analog television antenna, award yourself 15 points;

…a place where people can test to see if their luggage will fit in the overhead bin, award yourself 10 points; and

…all other guesses earn 5 points.