Day 028 – August 19, 2011
Random Observations…from our local grocery store.
The Opening Bell
Part of my daily routine is to take a walk to our local grocery store and buy supplies. I like to arrive when the store opens – which is around eight in the morning. Yes, grocery stores here in our section of Lima are not open twenty-four hours, which is a revelation I posted about earlier.
I like to arrive when the store opens because this is the time when the all the fruits and vegetables in the produce section are in neat and tidy. The staff has definitely been and I like to admire their handiwork. When I have arrived later in the afternoon, bananas are mixed in with the watermelon, apples and pears are partying together, and it’s a helter-skelter hodgepodge.
The opening time is also, it appears in my limited sample size, when the store pipes in the music from 1980s, which I like.
Read For Meaning
During my shopping today, I was excited to see that there was 2-for-1 deal being offered for ice cream. The sign said the price was S/. 5.45 – which is a great deal for the frozen treat.
So I was surprised when my pair of ice cream containers went through the price scanners at the checkout and I was charged S/. 10.49.
Later, I went back and read the sign and it told all who could read for meaning (and the fine print) that this deal was like getting each quart of ice cream for S/. 5.45.
It’s bad enough having to read signs in a completely different language without having to decipher the tiny text after the asterisk.
Because I can, here is another picture of the four-kilogram buckets of ketchup and mustard. This product flabbergasts and amuses me.
Fantastic…a-ha is now playing over the store speaker system.
Day 025 – August 16, 2011
Call Me Chicken, But…
Yet another moment of newness for me as I wandered down the aisles of one of our local grocery stories. I was going to cook the evening meal so I needed my required ingredients. First up on the menu were chicken breasts.
Now, back in the States, when I shopped for poultry, I am used to buying my preferred fowl wrapped in protective plastic. I’m not sure if this is a federal, state, or local regulation, but I am glad that the chicken that on display in Safeway, Ralph’s, or Wegmans has been covered for my protection.
Thus, I was taken aback when I approached the butcher section and saw parts and pieces of chicken all out on display sans packaging. When I requested a pair of chicken breasts, the person with the blood-stained apron and big knife took out a large two-tined fork and speared the specified flesh. She hoisted the meat, placed it in a plastic bag, weighed it, affixed a price sticker to it, and handed it to me.
When in Rome…
The dinner itself was fairly decent, if I say so myself. I marinated the chicken in a combination of mustard and teriyaki sauce. The recipe called for Bacon Bits, but since that product is ridiculously expensive here, I bought shelled peanuts and crushed them up to serve as the sprinkling on the chicken. Top with Parmesan cheese, throw in the oven for some temperature for some length of time, and there you go.
(Aside: Not sure when this blog turned into a foodie web offering. Let me get back on track.)
A Factorable Difference
In reading the newspapers here in Peru, I have to remember a crucial difference when the story deals with numbers.
Spanish uses the word millones to refer to the English equivalent of a million (1,000,000). However, just to make things interesting, the concept of thousands (1,000) is expressed in Spanish using the word mil.
Mil…millones…sort of similar.
Keeping these two number quantities is important when trying to understand the context of a news article. It does make a difference to know if there are 5,000 businesses in Lima working in the field of security or 5,000,000.
If that wasn’t enough, when referring to billions (1,000,000,000), Spanish uses the phrase mil millones. This does make a certain modicum of sense because what is a billion but a thousand million.
But wait…there’s more. The State-side number of a trillion (1,000,000,000,000) in Spanish is represented by the word billon.
Some household items that we had shipped to us, via a boat of moderate speed, arrived.
Now that my children have their home video gaming systems and are ready to enjoy Mario Kart, did anyone remember to pack the 110volt-to-220volt converter?
Clinging to Cling Wrap
As I unpack items for our kitchen, I am flummoxed by my emotional response as I take items out their hermetically sealed cardboard boxes. I realize I have only been in this country for a score and five days, but is there truly any reason why I should be so deliriously happy to see Saran Wrap, twist ties, Bisquick and have those items now in our house?
Moving Tip O’ The Day
When packing and shipping your kitchen pots and pans, clean them first before placing them in their cardboard cube receptacles.
I cannot accurately identify what food detritus is residing on our skillet, but it too has expressed how deliriously happy it is to see Bisquick again.
Day 031 – August 22, 2011
Random Observations (upon celebrating one month in Peru…)
Walkus Non Interruptus
On this Monday, after the children were on their bus and on their way to school, I took a stroll down to our local grocery store. During this particular walk, I was able to accomplish something for the first time.
I approached the bust of the man, Raul Ferrero, who gave his name to the street I was about to cross. I was about to stop on the curb and look both ways before crossing the usually busy avenue when I noticed that there were absolutely no cars coming in either direction. Without breaking stride, I bounded across the west-bound lanes, skipped across the traffic island containing the homage to Senor Ferrero, and ambulated leisurely across the street that would have had east-bound cars.
For the first time since arriving in Peru, I was able to cross this normally car-clogged street in a single bound without stopping.
It truly is the little things that give me pleasure.
Paper Size Does Matter
Once at the local grocery store, I made a purchase but didn’t realize my mistake until I arrived home. I had bought printer paper and it didn’t even dawn on me that I needed to look at the labels. I had been burned before when buying napkins, so I really should have known better.
Back in the States, when I went to my local office supply store, the only choice that I had to make regarding printer paper was whether the paper was for an inkjet, laser printer, scanner, or combo (Pedantic Aside: I am an avid follower of the Oxford comma. I think it clarifies things, feelings, and sentiments.). I would simply grab my 8.5 x 11 ream of paper and be on my way. Which is what I did here in Peru, except the size of the paper used here is quite different.
Who knew there was a paper format called “A4”? Well, according to this Wikipedia article, the entire world (save the United States and Canada) uses this format as their standard. Thankfully, my printer is smarter than I am and is able to use this format, but I have to keep selecting the “A4” option from my “Print” menu.
The start of the week also means the start of a new newspaper for me to read and digest. For more on that, you can jump over here.
Wrong Number, Please
Along with the format of the printer paper used here in Peru, I also need to learn the proper format of providing a phone number.
In the United States, I (and I’m guessing you also) give out my phone number one digit at a time. For example, with a phone number of 202-456-1414, I would say (omitting the area code) “four-five-six-one-four-one-four”.
As you may have already surmised, the tradition in Peru is quite different. Given a seven-digit number, the way a phone number is orally provided is by giving out the first number and then saying the rest of the numbers in pairs. The example given above would be said as “four-fifty-six-fourteen-fourteen”.
Since I am struggling with my ability to say and understand numbers in Spanish, I still revert to my method of saying phone numbers one digit at a time. Thankfully, all the Peruvians I have had to give my number to have been extremely patient with me.
Right Number, Thank You
Poco a poco, the saying goes, which means “little by little”. This is how I am learning to be comfortable with speaking Spanish.
Today’s experiment was to pick up the phone and call our local bottled water dealer. In my third-grade Spanish, I ask the woman on the other end of the line that I need bottled water. She asks for my direccion and I start to tell her how to arrive at house until I catch myself and remember that direccion means “address” in Spanish. I tell her our street name and number (Digression: In Peru, addresses are said by stating the street first and then the number. So one here says “Javier Prado 804”. Go fig.). She asks me how many bottles I need and how many empty bottles I have. I provide those numbers and she says the truck will be by in the afternoon (la tarde).
Now, la tarde can be anywhere from noon to 6pm, so I was expecting a bit of a wait since I made my call at 9am.
The water truck arrived at 12:30pm.
I love this place.
Day 017 – August 8, 2011
Revelation of the Day
Early on this fine Monday morning, I made my way down to our local grocery store – around 7:30am (ah, it is so lovely to have the kids away at school so early) – to pick up some foodstuffs for the house. On my approach, I was taken aback to find my entrance blocked by doors that were both closed and locked.
A quick scan around the shuttered doors showed me that this business did not open until 8:00am.
I live in a country where grocery stores are not open twenty-four hours a day (and there are simply not enough exclamation points on my keyboard to stress this point). What sort of looking-glass world have I been deposited in?
To be fair, after about a minute (or ten) of ruminating on the situation, it dawned on me that there might be reasons for this non-24-hour season. First off, there may not be that big a market for people wanting to go to the market at 2:00am. If there was money to be made by late-night munchers, I’m sure some business would step up to take advantage of that. Secondly, people, both shoppers and employees, may not want to venture forth after midnight as people are concerned about their security. Finally, since most grocery shopping (at least here in my area of La Molina) is done by empleadas and since those helpers who don’t live with their employers probably show up to their workplaces around seven or eight in the morning, it makes sense that the stores wouldn’t open until their main clientele arrived.
Of course, I could be 0-for-3 and completely and utterly wrong.
Flavor of the Day
At said store, once it opened, I bought a new flavor of yogurt (my second since my Peruvian adventure started). Called “frutado sauco”, it is light purple (lilac perhaps?) in color and contains tiny bits of a type of dried fruit or berry that is crunchy.
Of note is that the yogurt that I buy here in the 150 gram cups is thinner than yogurt I bought in the States. The yogurt here is almost drinkable, which is ironic because the “drinkable yogurt” sold on the shelves here in Peru is thicker and more akin to a shake, albeit a thin shake.
Punctuation Marks of the Day
In a story in a newspaper I bought (La Republica for those you playing Sin Polaris Newspaper Bingo), there was a story about how much Peru exports to China. In the article, it mentioned that the country I now live in exported, in millions, $5.148,80, worth of goods.
No, you didn’t read that number wrong. It was indeed five-point-one-four-eight-comma-eight-zero.
Now indeed there is no rational or logical reason why the comma should be used to separate the thousands place from the hundreds place, but that is the format I am used to so it was a tad jarring to have to do a mental translation to understand that Peru exported over five billion dollars worth of goods to the Middle Kingdom in 2010.
Yet another quirk to become accustomed to.
Memory Device of the Day
We had workers in our house today fixing some of the heater/air conditioning units in our house. While they were doing their thing, I learned a new Spanish word, which was estufo (outlet). Similar to people’s first names, I have learned that it can be easier to remember things if I can relate the word in some way to something else. For example, if I meet someone named Bob and then stick the image in my mind of them in the ocean bobbing like a buoy, I am more apt to recall their name when I see them again.
The way that I have forced myself to remember this new word is to remind myself that estufo looks similar to “stuff”, and what else do you do with an outlet but to “stuff” an electrical plug into it.
Laugh all you want, I still remember the word.
Day 015 – August 6, 2011
My Phone Learns Spanish
For the past two weeks, we have had the phone we used in the States plugged into the Lima telecommunication system. Back in Virginia, we liked these phones because it had Caller ID, which is a wonderful way to weed out telemarketers and opinion poll takers.
For the past two weeks, we had been without this feature but it was not that much of a disadvantage because telemarketers do not (knock on wood…not yet) call us. We also thought that perhaps Peru does not offer this service.
Today, our Caller ID starting working. Not sure why this feature has kicked in fifteen days later but we were jarred awake this morning when our phone rang and the voice that goes along with our Caller ID starting in its sing-song female voice, “Call from…nine…nine…one…zero…zero…”
Turns out it was a wrong number. Happens here too.
Yet No Space For the Dreamer or the Forger
Outside our local grocery store, instead of a cornerstone, I found this…
I had written earlier about Peru’s La Semana de Bandera, which is the time when all Peruvians fly their nation’s flag. In that posting, I had wondered when the red and white banners would start coming down.
Today was that day as my neighbor’s flag was put away a week after Peru’s independence days holiday.
Just A Reminder
Seems like a good place as any to leave this reminder that I have another blog space, Periodically, Peru, where I attempt to learn all that I can about this country through newspapers.
And with that, Day 015 was finished
Day 013 – August 4, 2011
Names to Know
Cruising once again through our local grocery store, I meandered my way into the school supply section to buy those last items for our children that we had not been able to find.
While looking through some of the supplies, I noticed that, as in the United States, the makers of folders place characters from children’s television shows on the covers in an effort to induce the little ones to induce (usually through high-pitched pleading) their parents to buy their wares.
Some of the characters were familiar to me such as Barbie, Bakugan, Monster High, and anything Disney (especially the princesses).
However, there were some characters new to me. There was a live action character named Patito Feo (“Ugly Ducking” in English) which looks like a cross between Ugly Betty and Yo soy Betty, la fea.
The computer-animated action series Max Steel is also fairly popular here. Not only have I seen school supplies emblazoned with this character, but his action figures (oh, don’t call them “dolls”) and DVDs are routinely available for sale.
There are also lines of female cartoon characters with names like Julieta, Antonia, and Pascualina that also grace the covers of many school supplies.
(Okay, odd side note here, but I could not find any Google reference to the characters Julieta and Antonia. Have I found something that is not on the Internet?!?)
Size Does Matter
For lunch, to celebrate my children’s first day of school, I treated myself to a hamburger, fries, and soda at our local Burger King. I requested, because I was a hungry man, that my combo be made grande, their largest size.
Now, in the United States, the large combo means that the carbonated beverage of your choice will be delivered in a cup that has its own ZIP code. Usually forty-two ounces in capacity, I have also seen fifty-two ounce Leviathans.
So, the surprise on my face was palpable when my Sprite was handed to me in a measly twenty-ounce container.
They might as well have handed me a thimble.
Almost as Big as Soccer
Soccer Futbol rules the sporting roost here in Peru, but there is a serious contender for the silver medal.
Volleyball, or voleibol in Spanish or volei for short, is big here. It was news of epic proportions when the national women’s volei team lost to the Dominican Republic 4 games to 1 earlier this week.
Volei is listed as one of the after-school activities that my children can participate in – both boys and girls.
This sport has its own section in the sports page of the newspaper I have been reading this week, El Comercio.
Natalia Malaga, an Olympic volleyball player for Peru, gets a center-page spread interview in the August 3rd edition of El Comercio plus she appears as the spokesperson for a pain relief medicine here in Peru. (It’s Apronax in case you want to win a bar bet.)
However, I have not seen any school supplies featuring Senora Malaga.
…Nothing Like the Sun
The clouds parted tonight and I was able to catch my first glimpse of the Moon here in the Southern Hemisphere.
While the astro-nerd in me was happy to see our planet’s natural satellite for the first time down here, I was doubly pleased because my inaugural glimpse of Luna was when it was in my favorite phase, the waxing crescent.
Yes, I have a favorite phase of the moon (please see the preceding sentence where I use the term “astro-nerd” as a self-descriptor).
The waxing crescent reminds me that life follows circular patterns. When things seems down and hopeless, I try to remember that the circle will come around again and things will pick up. Just as the moon wanes and fades to the dark of the new moon, it grows and waxes anew to cast the light during the dark.
As I wax and wane in my ability to cope with the pressures of learning a new langauge and culture, with finding my way in a post-employment world, and in fighting the self-deprecator in my head who tells me I can’t write worth @#&%!, I remember the Moon.
And with that, Day 013 was finished.
Day 012 – August 3, 2011
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.
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…
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.
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 011 – August 2, 2011
My Daughter, The Rule Stickler
The slaughter at the hands of my daughter at the game of Mille Bornes continues.
Game #4 was played today and after the fifth hand, the score was Daughter: 5,000 – Me: 4,975.
As I started to deal the cards out for the sixth, and final, hand, my daughter stopped me and said she had won. I countered that the winner of Mille Bornes was the player who had the highest total over 5,000 points after a hand. As she had only 5,000 (and not over 5,000), I contended that we needed to play another hand to see who would end the hand above the 5K mark.
That’s when she brought out the big guns…the rule book.
Hard to believe that after forty-plus years of this game migrating across the United States (California, Illinois, Minnesota, Utah, Virginia) and the world (that would be Peru, where we are now), that the rule booklet is still in this package, but it is, and there it was, in faded black-and-white…
The final object of the game is to be the first team to accumulate a total of 5,000 points…
…my daughter’s salvation and her fourth consecutive win.
I am seriously thinking about having this game go “missing”.
And did I mention that my daughter is less than ten years old?
The Chatty Cabbie
Yet another story about cabs in Lima.
When I wasn’t having my head handed to me by my daughter via a card game, we were running errands. As we were still without our vehicle, we were still relying on the kindness of cabbies.
For the past ten days, my interaction with cab drivers has been limited to telling them where I want to go (“Yo quiero a ir a…”), asking how much the fare will be (“¿Cuanto me cobra?”), and inquiring into their general state of well being (“¿Como estas?”).
On our way back home from our latest errand, my general conversation was thrown for a loop as we encountered The Chatty Cabbie (TCC). After my initial trio of statements, TCC asked me where I was from, how long had I been in Peru, how was I liking his country, and was the weather too cold for me.
This loquacious and gregarious hack provided me with the opportunity (as I was a captive audience) to flex my language chops so I was able to tell him (as best I could) that I was from los Estados Unidos, I had been in Peru for once dias (eleven days) and that me gusta su pais (I liked his country).
In addition to being able to practice my Spanish, I learned something from TCC. As we passed by a local agricultural school, TCC informed me that over 100 types of potatoes are grown there and that Peru is the birthplace of the potato.
Fascinating what you learn from the people in your neighborhood.
And with that, Day 011 was finished
Day 010 – August 1, 2011
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.
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.
Day 009 – July 31, 2011
Similar to a Password of [Password]
Our house is wonderful and our house is great. It keeps the elements out and it provides a place for us to store our stuff.
With that being said, our house has quirks.
The first has to do with the lighting. This dwelling has a multitude of LED (light emitting diodes) lights strewn about the walls and ceilings. See for yourself:
I’m not accustomed to having LED lights as the primary source of illumination in a house. In the daytime, it’s not that important as our house an open airy feeling and plenty of windows (even if they don’t work), but the house can be a bit dark once the sun goes down. As our house has no large, main lighting fixture, it can feel a tad cave-like in the evening. Not a complaint, merely an observation.
The light switches that control these LEDs have also taken some getting used to. They are not the up-and-down style switches I am used. They are of the side-to-side version (see below).
As you can see in the picture above, there is no helpful text such as “ON” and “OFF” (or their Spanish equivalents) that tell you what the status of the electrical circuit is. Is “left” on or is it “right”? To add to the confusion is the fact that multiple switches can operate the same LED.
I really don’t need any more ambiguity as our house has enough mysteries.
However, the largest quirk that I have discovered to date concerns the keys. In our bedroom hallway, we have a wall that is comprised of drawers and shelves. Each door has its own lock. Each lock has its own key. However…
…every key is exactly the same. One key can open up every lock and yet we have a dozen of that key.
If the cliché is true that good fences make good neighbors, then we have excellent neighbors as we have excellent fences. More specifically, we have brick walls twice my height…
…and topped with electrified wiring.
Friends and family, please do not worry as we are nothing special. This set-up (high, high walls and electric fences) is de rigueur (which is French for “par for the course”) for Lima.
Discovering What Has Been Forgotten
After nine days and having gone through and sorted all the contents of our eleven suitcases, we have, to date, catalogued the following items as missing and presumably lost.
a) My lovely wife has one slipper, but cannot find its match.
b) A charger for a cellular phone, which in retrospect we shouldn’t have brought since it most likely doesn’t work outside of the States. However, as I mentioned before, the process of moving can be stressful.
If you find them or have any clues about their whereabouts, please contact us.
And with that, Day 009 was finished.