Blog Archives

Now Available in White

Day 493 – November 26, 2012

My lack of Spanish has left me scratching my head over what I’m sure is an interesting story I read in a newspaper.

In this Monday’s weekly section of El Comerico called Dia_1, there is a small sidebar story with the simple headline of Toyota vende autos blancos (Toyota sells white cars).

I’m not quite sure why it’s big news (or even small news) that a Japanese car company is offering the color white as an option for its vehicles. To my mind, white seems to be a fairly standard hue (examples are here and here and here).

The Dia_1 article had a picture of a white Toyota with the caption Retorna el color de la paz (Return of the color of peace).

The word “return” would mean, to me, that the color of white was once available in Peru and then, for whatever reason, was taken off the market.

I had hoped the actual story would answer my questions as to why white was once a taboo color in cars and why it has now come back. However, I was disappointed as my less-than-perfect translation of the article did not satisfy my curiosity. Here is the text…

La compania Toyota del Peru ha retornado la venta de vehiculos de color blanco en el pais. Segun expertos en marketing, la marca japonesa descontinuo en los ultimos anos este color de su portafolio de productos, como una manera de evitar que la mala reputaction de los autos de timon cambiado de esa marca contagie a los de timon original. Ahora que se ha prohibido la importacion de autos usados con timon a la derecha, nuevamente se haria viable la venta de autos Toyota del color de la paz.

This is the translation that Google Translate provided me…

The company Peru Toyota has returned to selling white cars in the country. According to marketing experts, the Japanese discontinued in recent years this color of its product portfolio, as a way to prevent the bad reputation helm of cars changed from getting to that brand of original rudder. Now that it has banned the import of used cars with the right rudder, this again makes feasible the sale of Toyota cars of the color of peace.

What appears to be throwing me is the Spanish word timòn which Google translates to “helm” but can also mean “rudder”, “tiller”, or “wheel”.

So did Toyota stop selling white vehicles in Peru because of some unfortunate event in the past that tainted the opinions of Peruvians towards carros blancos? Does white have some sort of cultural red line that Peruvians did not want to cross?

This article in microcosm exemplifies my experience as a non-native Spanish speaker living in a country where English is rarely spoken. When people speak to me or when I read articles in newspapers and articles, I feel as if I have only understood the tippiest tiniest part of the linguistic iceberg. There is so much more nuance and meaning that I am missing that I can only wonder what lies beneath.

Some days it’s missing out on why white cars are back on sale and some days it’s missing out on why and how people feel the way they feel.

As a parting note, if anyone has a better translation of the above story or knows why white was once a verboten tint, please feel free to drop a thought in the comment section.


Road Reading

Day 528 – December 31, 2012

As New Year’s Eve moves into New Year’s Day, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you one last observation I had about living in Peru for 2012.

This nugget about life in Peru came while at a stoplight one morning a few weeks ago. Looking around at all of the other cars, it dawned on me that none of the privately owned vehicles had any bumper stickers. After having that realization and after realizing that I was basing my judgement on only one point in space and time, I began to take notice of the bumpers of all the other cars around me.

Sure enough, my initial impression was correct: The vast mass majority of Peruvian drivers (at least in Lima) do not have bumper stickers on their vehicles. Because of this absence, I am at a loss to determine who is a proud parent of what honor roll student, what the driver’s other car is, what they would rather be doing than driving, or what their political preference is.

The sole exception to this gross generalization are the taxis, but only then the bumper stickers that adorn these compact cars are advertisements for local radio stations.

The other sole exception (“other sole”…sounds like that came from the Department of Oxymorons) is that some privately owned cars have the decals on their back window that show their particular combination of dad, mom, kids, and/or pets. I only bring it up so I can link to this funny (IMHO) comic from xkcd.

And with that…I wish you a happy and healthy dos-mil-trece (It’s how you say the year “2013” in Spanish).

Different Makes and Models

Day 475 – November 8, 2012

In addition to being exposed to new words, new locations, and new food stuffs, there is another aspect about living life in another country that I did not appreciate until now.

Outside of the United States, there appears to be a whole other world of automakers. Yes, I realize that besides Ford and General Motors that there are other companies around the globe that make cars such as Mercedes Benz, BMW, Nissan, Toyota, and Kia.

However, (and these are real car names that I have seen around the roads of Peru) I had never before heard of…

Great Wall (China);
SSangYong (South Korea / India); and
Brilliance (China)

Here’s an insert about the Brilliance FSV Sport that came with this edition of El Comerico.

Ad for the Brillance

Sporty, elegant, & spectacular

My attached image may be a bit small, but the text of the advertisement says the car costs $15,490 or (in the coin of the realm) S/. 41,048.

In addition to being exposed to new auto manufacturers, I have also seen a new (to me) assortment of car models such as the Gol (Volkswagen) and the Avy (Daihatsu).

That’s the wonderful thing about overseas travel and living. I find something new almost every day…as long as I keep my eyes on the road.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Close

Day 324 – June 10, 2012

I am nowhen close to being on time with this week’s photo challenge from WordPress, which is simply a quasi-clever way of segueing into the fact that the theme this (last?) week from those folks who host this blog (and many many others) is indeed “close“.

My offering is a collection of dings and dents in the asphalt that are close to each other.

Cuts and ruts in road asphalt

Cuts and ruts and dings and dents

This section of damaged road is on the same street that closes every Sunday so that pedestrians and cyclists can enjoy a leisurely stroll without having to worry about dodging cars and trucks.

All of these ruts and cuts appeared within a week, so how did this happen?

The answer falls under the category of unintended consequences (or, alternately, under the heading of “When the Heck Did That Show Up?!?”)

A few weeks ago, the district of La Molina opened up a health clinic on this section of the road to help treat people for all manner of minor medical issues, mental health matters, and there is even an adult playground full of exercise equipment.

Health clinic in La Molina

Sunny day

This clinic also includes a stoplight display to alert people to how much ultraviolet (UV) radiation is hitting their skin courtesy of the sun’s rays.

Oh…back to the ruts.

Along with the UV stoplight, another gesture of safety from the builders of the clinic was the installation of a large combination speed bump-crosswalk that allows people to cross the street safely to arrive at the clinic.

Speed bump in La Molina

In Peruvian Spanish, this artifact is called a “superompemuelle”

This speed bump is so large that when cars approached it at full speed, the auto made its downward arc in such a way that the front of the bumper dug into the asphalt creating the ruts. In addition, because the speed bump was built so quickly (in a shade over a week) and because no warning signs were installed, drivers did not initially know the artifact was there until their car was semi-airborne and leaving its mark in the asphalt.

What was good for the health of the citizens turned out to be not so beneficial to the health of the street.

Request for Importation

Day 313 – May 30, 2012

I came across two items today that I would like to see become mainstream in the United States.

Non-Standard Disclaimer: If either or both of these phenomena are common in the everyday experience of the average person living in the United States, I offer my humblest apologies and can only mumble some excuse that I don’t get out enough.

One) Drop Off and Dry

At a traffic light, in addition to the various street performers showing off and trying to earn an extra nuevo sole, companies hire people to hand out flyers, brochures, and other commercial literature. On this particular morning, my lovely wife and I were handed the following:

Ad for dry-cleaning service in Lima, Peru

Drop off dry cleaning

It’s an advertisement for a dry cleaning outfit but what I love about this flyer is that it shows a woman dropping off a shirt into an automated machine of some sort.

What a genius idea! No longer would I have to actually engage in some sort of human-to-human interaction when depositing my wrinkly shirts. I can now simply leave my pants that need pressing in a booth and depart secure in the knowledge that all will be taken care of.

No word, according to this picture, if I would still have to walk into the store and chat with someone to retrieve my clothes once they’re done, but I guess modern technology can’t solve everything at this moment.

For my money, I’ll take drop-off dry cleaning over personal jet-packs any day.

Two) Shedding Tears Over a Dead Battery

Our gardener, G, who has to have some of the worst luck for anybody I know (but those are stories for another day), had to stop working on our lawn today so that he could have his car fixed. His battery died and so he had called some friends of his to help him jump-start his car. When his amigos arrived, there was a flurry of conversation – none of which I understood – but it was obvious something was amiss.

G came over to me and asked me if I had a crocodile.

Hard to believe, but I replied in the negative. Caimans, gars, and even a gavial we have, but nary a crocodile to be found in our household.

A beat (and a forehead slap) later, I realized G was asking if I had any jumper cables.

What a genius slang term for jumper cables! Made sense when I thought about it that “crocodile” is an excellent name for those red and black wires that chomp onto to the anodes and help give your car battery juice. It also has fewer syllable than “jumper cables”.

I don’t know what governmental department or Internet website I need to go to to petition that the people of the United States start using the term “crocodile” in lieu of “jumper cables”, but that’s my next errand as soon as I drop off my dry cleaning in the automatic booth.