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.



Day 511 – December 14, 2012

I know Peru is a majority Roman Catholic country. This is not a surprise to me.

Given that The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2012 says that eighty-one percent of population follows that faith (page 823) and twenty-two percent of people in the United States are Roman Catholic (as of 2010 / page 607 and 699); and

Given that in Peru workers receive the day off and students miss school due to holidays such as Santa Rosa de Lima Day (August 30), All Saints Day (November 1), and Immaculate Conception (December 8) and workers and students do not receive those days off in the United States; and

Given that many parks in the area have statues devoted to saints and even for a Pope and (as far as I could ascertain) few parks in the United States have similar shrines; and

Given that in December in Peru many public spaces contain Nativity scenes (such as this one in Parque Kennedy)

Nativity scene in Lima's Parque Kennedy

Nativity scene

…and messages of “Merry Christmas” (or “Feliz Navidad” considering the local language) without raising an eyebrow…

Christmas display in Peru

Christmas wish with a kiss

…while in the United States such displays are parties to judicial decisions or rallies;

With all those givens, I was fully acclimated to the fact that Peru was a Roman Catholic country.

Because of that acclimation, I was completely taken by surprise by a satirical drawing I saw in the editorial cartoon section, known as El Otorongo, of the Peruvian newspaper Peru 21. I had thought that as a Roman Catholic country, all aspects of that faith would be treated with respect.

I was wrong.

Editorial cartoon from Peruvian newspaper


Pope Benedict XVI:
Yes, Pepito [a common name for a young boy], Jesus walked on water.
Yes, Pepito, Jesus multiplied the loaves.
Yes, Pepito, Jesus resurrected the dead.

Pepito (via computer):
And is it true that the world will end on December 21?

Not so, Pepito. How can you believe such nonsense?

As dissimilar as our two countries may be concerning the display of the Nativity in public spaces, it was interesting to see that our two nations share a tradition of poking people in power.

Mixed Messages

Day 502 – December 5, 2012

This story is why I think it’s important for a major metropolitan area to have more than a single newspaper serving its citizenry.

Today’s front page of Peru21 had a tease about a story with this lead, “Peru es el pais mas inseguro de las Americas” (Peru is most unsafe country in the Americas). The article, on page 7, references a study from Barometro de las Americas detailing how Peru, when measuring for violence and corruption, comes in twenty-sixth out of the twenty-six countries that comprise South America and Central America and also includes the United States and Canada.


Today’s front page of Publimetro has a picture of a beautiful panaroma of the Malecon area of Lima. The photograph has the caption, “…nuestra capital ocupa puesto 12 en America Latina entre las mejores ciudades para vivir.” (…our capital occupies the 12th spot for the best cities to live in in Latin America) and directs the reader to page 6. Once there, the article mentions the 2012 Quality of Living survey from Mercer. Peru’s capital city is ranked globally at number 121 out of 460 measured cities.

Feeling good or feeling bad about your city of residence (or any other matter) may sometimes depend on what paper you picked up.

The Leftist Point of View

Day 389 – August 13, 2012

You may not know this (I certainly didn’t) but August 13 is Left Handers Day, a day to celebrate all things left-handed.

The editors of Publimetro, a free Peruvian newspaper handed out on the street, knew of this day because they put out a special left-handed edition of their periodical. How do I know it was a left-handed edition? Look for yourself…

August 13 edition of Publimetro

In honor of Left Handed Day

What you see above is the front page of Publimetro with the headline Poder zurdo. “Zurdo”, to the best of my knowledge, is the Spanish slang term for a left-handed person and it makes a modicum of sense. In English, a leftie is known as a southpaw. This comes from the fact that in most pre-1990 baseball stadiums, a left-handed pitcher would have his throwing arm facing south (The Straight Dope does a better job of untangling the origins of this term). In Spanish, “south” is sur, which, with a tiny change to the pronunciation, comes out as zur.

Isn’t linguistics fun?

As you will no doubt notice, to read the next page of the paper, you had to turn the left-hand side of the page. This is how the whole paper is laid out and it was quite the ingenious tip of the left-handed hat to ten percent of the global population.

Inside, the paper had articles about famous lefties (soccer player Messi, President Barack Obama, singer/songwriter Paul McCartney) and products designed specifically for lefties (scissors, notebooks, keyboards, etc.).

There was no mention of the left-handed Whopper.

Day 012 Randomocity

Day 012 – August 3, 2011

Random Observations

I’m Known

On my walk today around the neighborhood, I went to buy today’s edition of El Comercio. My local newspaper vendor is a kindly, elderly gentleman with tanned, leathery skin who sits on a corner and has a rack full of periodicals for people to look at before buying. Those are simply the display models because when someone wants to buy a paper, the vendor has a stack of newspapers next to where he sits that he picks from.

As I walk toward the rack on this cloudy (still cloudy) Wednesday, the vendor sees me, goes to his pile, and offers me El Comercio without any word from me.

That’s service.

I feel bad that next week I will mess up his system because I’ll be trying out another newspaper.

Peru and the Isle of Man

Today, I saw a windmill on the roof of a building. This would be new place for me to espy such a device as the other places I have personally seen windmills include…

…on Interstate 5 outside of Carlsbad, California;
wind farms in California; and
miniature golf courses

The name on the windmill identified it as coming from a company called WindAid. The logo looked oddly familiar. One of the issues of having a head full of random knowledge is that things look oddly familiar when they actually aren’t.

However, in this case, I was right, as the logo for this company looks like the flag for the Isle of Man.

Coincidence? No sé.


Once is interesting, twice is curious, and three times is a trend.

So far, in twelve days, I have seen three instances of what (to me) is new.

At a dinner, at the School, and at the local grocery store, I have seen women wear rings that span two or three fingers. The ring itself fits on the ring finger (not to be confused with two-finger rings and three-finger rings…which remind me of brass knuckles), but the item on top (i.e., stone or whatever you call it) covers not only all of the ring finger but all or part of the pinky and/or middle fingers.

Again, I’m a writer, (not a jeweler, Jim!) so if this type of ring has been around since the Eisenhower Administration, I apologize for being the last person on the planet to answer the Clue Phone.

Mea Culpa

An apology.

Courtesy of wife’s company’s Work Sponsor program, our house has been furnished with a welcome kit of household items that will tide us over until our own plates, silverware, pots, pans, glasses, and other kitchen items show up.

The pots and pans from our welcome kit are coated with Teflon which is helpful when making sure the scrambled eggs slide off the skillet and onto the plate.

However – and this is where the apology comes in – we have also been provided with spatulas and other kitchen ware that are only metal so that every time we use the metallic spatula, we carve away a little bit of the polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).

For the next people coming to Peru who use these welcome kit pots and pans, we’re sorry.

And with that, Day 012 was finished.

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.