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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.


Like the Fourth in December

Day 521 – December 24, 2012

“Like Christmas in July” is a phrase common in the United States.

Down here in Peru, that phrase can be turned on its head because for the past few weeks it has felt like “The Fourth in December”…as in the Fourth of July.

Here is what has been transpiring over the past twenty-four days…

…there have been newspaper articles documenting police raids on companies selling illegal fireworks;
…there have been other stories in newspapers telling their readers which are the safest fireworks to buy; and
…vendors on the street have been selling all manner of pyrotechnics – from individual things that go boom to shrink-wrapped packages that contain about twenty explosives;

All of this firework-related news and commerce is due a Peruvian tradition that begins tonight.

The carol “Silent Night” has no meaning in Peru because when midnight strikes tonight and Christmas Eve moves into Christmas Day, citizens all over the country light off their trove of fireworks.

We were in Cusco last year when the rockets went off. I am curious to see what time I will be able to finally drift off to sleep here in the larger city of Lima with all the bombs bursting in air.

Finally, and tho’ it’s been said many times, many ways….

Feliz Navidad and to all a good (and quiet) night.

Unluckiest of Days

Day 389 – August 14, 2012

I take Spanish lessons.

I do this because I live in a Spanish-speaking country and charades only get me so far when I need to communicate with all manner of Peruvians.

In almost over a year of taking classes on how to conjugate, how to understand the difference between ser and estar, and how to speak with the impersonal se, I now have two objectives when in class. The first is to learn how to speak better.

The second is to attempt to derail the class. I do this by asking the teacher questions about life and culture in Peru. Usually, when I make my move to move the conversation away from our exercise book and into all things Peruvian, I have to come up with a clever segue to change the direction from conjugating in the past tense to the vacation habits of folks from Lima.

Today, however, was a slam dunk as one of our exercises contained a bit of dialog where one of the actors said that (and I’m translating here) “Tuesday the 13th was a day of bad luck”.

This prompted me to ask if it was true that Martes trece was a day of poor fortune and, if so, why was this.

She could not explain why, but not only did my teacher confirm that Tuesday the 13th was indeed an unlucky day in Peru, but that it pales in comparison to the doom and gloom that comes with Sunday the 7th.

So bring out your good luck charms and mal de ojos to ward off the nasty spirits as this coming October sees a Sunday the 7th and November contains a Tuesday the 13th.

By the by, if you want to see some other results of how I have railroaded our class into divergent discussion, click on over to here

Disclaimer No. 1

Day xxx – Introduction (Part 1)

Before I start with the posting about life in Peru, I need to get two disclaimers out of the way.

The first is this…

Several of these blog postings will be discussing aspects of life down here in Peru that are different than what I am used to when I was living in the United States. I lived in the States for forty-two years and became accustomed to certain things. Those things are not the same here in Peru.

In making note of these differences, I am in no way trying to be imperial, colonial, ethnocentric, superior, a cultural snob, or any other term you can think of that makes me a putz.

In making note of these differences, I am only attempting to use my powers as on observer so that I may share them with you, the dear and gentle reader. Because while this exercise in bloggin’ is one aspect to help me find a purpose, my hope is that other people will read it other than my loving family (that is when I make my loving family sit down and read it).