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Cultural Notes 101

Hey team!

So, I’ve actually had quite a packed weekend. I decided to take the opportunity of my last few days sans responsibilities (just kidding, there’s SO MUCH stuff I should’ve been doing) to explore the city a bit more. I visited some museums & key touristy points, ate at some more restaurants, & took the bus system by storm.

However, I’m choosing to write about those things a little later, as 1) They are going to be long, and will be even longer if I write about them straightaway when I’m too wound up about everything to eliminate wordiness properly 2) I had some teeth-grinding cultural experiences tonight that are sort of at the forefront of my mind, and since I’ve been making other little cultural notes during the week I figured I’d go ahead and just write a post-I’m sure several more like this will follow during the semester.

I’ll start out easy on you…let’s go with money, shall we? Peruvians don’t usually carry around 50 or 100 sole bills, and likewise most stores would rather you not pay with those because they can’t break them. Even 20’s can be difficult to deal with, depending on where you are (ex coffee stands).  Small change is best, particularly when riding combi’s, the small private buses that zoom around the city (& which I prefer to take. If anyone from Jordan is reading this, pretty much the exact same as the buses there, complete with controls.) My only problem with this is that when I go to get money at an ATM, I normally would choose 50 soles to last a while (I get charged at home for atm transactions) and…every machine will ALWAYS give you a single 50 sole bill. Good times.

Another thing is the city layout, merchandise-wise.  You know how back in yesteryear, streets used to be named for the goods that were sold there?  Well, the streets in Lima might be named after famous international/national countries, cities, and people…but many of them are still oriented towards one single service per street. For example, when wandering downtown the other day, I walked up a street where EVERY single store was selling glasses. Many of them probably the same. And on the way back I walked down the next street over, in which every store specialized in selling furniture for dental/doctoral offices.  Perhaps I’m crazy, but I’m not entirely sure that this is great for sales/competition, although it certainly makes it easier on the consumer to find stores selling what they want.  You see this less in the newer neighborhoods, in which capitalism is in full steam with department stores, touristy gimmick stores, and bookshops all over, but I still managed to find the ladies’ footwear street in Miraflores.  FYI, that is a LOVELY street that I should never be allowed to walk down without a supervisor. Boots. ❤

Now, let’s get a little more intimate (with people, not my dream footwear) & talk about PDA. Most of you probably already know that, as in many European places, Latin Americans greet & often leave with a kiss on the cheek.  NBD.  Was a bit of a brief shocker to me than it’s not just between men & men and women & women (remember, I was just in the Middle East… strict rules for gender interaction.) but also between both genders, but I kinda got over that after a time or two. However, Peruvians also have zero problems kissing in a more than friendly way in public–I kid you not, those ‘Latin Lover’ stereotypes did not appear out of thin air!  There seem to be more couples in this city than my brain can comprehend, and-particularly in the evenings- any park or bench will be absolutely brimming with them.  Holding hands & strolling by the sea, cuddling on benches, and, above all, making out in a frenzy. I don’t just mean a few kisses…there’s some serious face-sucking going on.  Anyway, I’ve seen it all over from people both young AND older, but I probably get a heavier dose of it than most people would as I do, in fact, live right across the street from the Park of Love.

On a very much related note, let’s talk about mujeriegos–womanizers. In a culture so charged with passion and machismo (essentially, epic levels of manliness) it’s not really surprising that women are frequently whistled at and receive catcalls. Foreign women in particular will receive lots of attention, including hopeless males trotting along after them for a few paces calling “Señorita! Escuseme, Hola, hi…hi?”  For anyone who has never experienced this before, it will probably initially cause you to turn and see where the noise/voice is coming from, blush, or even giggle at the oddity of it.  This, dear ladies, is inadvisable–it will come across as encouragement.  (So far, I haven’t borne witness to much catcalling/whistling in my neighborhood, only downtown.) Luckily I had experience with this for four months solid in Jordan, so these little moments of objectification don’t bother me at all, aside from being tiring-my way of handling it is to simply not give the guys the time of day and keep walking, and they lose interest pretty quick.  However, in Peru, I have noticed that some of these guys are way, way more intense than Jordanians ever were to me. I mean…they are BOLD. Straight up walk over to me and start conversations. Ex: one guy on campus was walking the same direction as me. He veered so he ended up right next to me and said (in Spanish) “Hi. Where are you going?”

“Where are you going?” Are you serious, bro? What kind of person asks someone they’ve never SEEN before where they’re going? And more importantly, Why would I answer that question to a person I don’t know? My super classy, 100%-guaranteed man-defecting answer was “al baño” (to the bathroom).  Yup, handily awkward in all cultures, it appears, and so he skipped on his merry way.

Tonight I went out for dinner, by my onesies (as I have been mostly doing things, so far) and opted for one of the two Arabic restaurants I’ve seen around.  (Don’t judge me. I’m sick and was jonesing for some good, comforting Arabic food rather than exploring new territory.) I sat outside simply because I saw a table for one, and proceeded to pull out some work I need to do. At some point an older man sat down at the table next to me, but I paid him no mind & he chose not to stay. He was replaced a few minutes later, when I was already eating, with another middle-aged man who promptly started talking to me. Obnoxiously. As in, he would ask me a random question–where was I from? What was I doing there? Where was I going to school? And every time I gave him brusque, borderline-rude one-word answers. Because, you know, that generally discourages people. (Actually, I kind of pride myself on being able to be an ice-bitch when need be. It has gotten me out of many potential scrapes.) He. Would. Not. Take. The. HINT. I mean, I was trying to EAT for heaven’s sake, and every time I turned back to my food he would talk to me again! Finally he asked “Do you have any plans tonight” to which I quite pointedly answered “Yes. EATING.” Finally, he seemed to get it, bid me a good night and left.

And do you know what happened next, dear small population of followers of this blog? THE FIRST OLD GEEZER CAME BACK AND STARTED TALKING TO ME. I don’t know if he was wandering the block looking for lone women or just happened to come back by, but now that I wasn’t working anymore, he seemed to take that as a sign that I was exceedingly lonely and in need of his comforts. He was even worse about taking the hints, and I really didn’t want to give him all of the information he was asking. I tried ignoring him, but he kept asking questions when I gave him silence, and then I even glared at him to no avail. (FYI, during both of these episodes two Peruvian guys sitting at another nearby table were bearing clear witness to it all, thanks for NOT HELPING, homeslices.)  Finally it came down to this:

Me: Déjame sola, por favor. (Leave me alone, please.)

Man: ¿Cómo? (What?)

Me: DEJAME SOLA, POR FAVOR.

Man: ¿No quieres hablar? (You don’t want to talk?)

Me: No.

Man: ¿No quieres hablar?

Me: NO!

Finally, he left. Anyway, like I said, I’m pretty used to the whole catcall thing, so for me the cultural shock level is like halfway for this, but I never imagined guys would be bold enough to not leave me alone when I was clearly not interested. (Isn’t rejection supposed to be embarrassing and make you want to run and hide?!) As a result, I plan to spend some time tomorrow looking up some decent threats/curse words in Peruvian slang to aide me in future endeavors.

So, those are a few cultural points I’ve taken note of in the first week. I’ll try to remember to jot down more before they become normal for me and I forget about them, and apologies for once again writing a novel.  Tomorrow my classes start, so there’s a chance I won’t be updating as much from now on (probably a relief for anyone who gets email updates) but I do promise to get some posts up about my weekend in the next few days.

Ciao, lovelies!

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