This One Goes Out to All the Catholics Out There

I know that some of you dutifully spent Sunday Mass tearing your tiny little strips of palm leaves into even tinier strips and making a series of identical crosses. To you I say: Your palm-leaf creations are WEAK. Check it:

Yes, folks, it's Semana Santa in Peru, which means that the museums are free, the churches are open to the public, and las Gringas Altas shift into high Religious Touristry mode. I bought my own palm leaf art work from a nice lady outside the local church, which features a gold Barroque altar, and she let me take a picture of her work.

On Friday, Rachel's parents arrive, and we all hop in a bus and take an overnight ride to Ayacucho, where they have the biggest Semana Santa celebration in the country. It promises to be both claustrophic and exciting. The Saturday Night Vigil is supposed to be an all-night party, complete with fireworks at midnight. Take heed, all ye North American churches: if you blow things up, they will come.


Happy Birthday, Erin and Dad!

In honor of Erin's birthday on Monday, I asked my roommates to teach me how to sing "Happy Birthday" like a true limeño. This is the result. Please note that I couldn't join in the singing because I was laughing too hard (you can hear Rachel giggling, too. She was filming the whole thing), and that no one knew how to pronounce Erin's name. Irish names are confusing here. I've taken to introducing myself as "May-gon. Como 'Mega.' Sí, porque soy una chica muy alta. May-gon...sí, como Megan Fox. Exactamente. Mucho gusto."

Left to right: Diana, Erik, Megan, Rosa, y Juanmanuel. They are so great.

Happy birthday, E! Happy birthday, Dad!


Three Quick Updates

1. Cuy is juicy. It does not, for the record, taste like chicken. More like duck, I think. However, there is not much meat to be had, and the presentation is fairly appetite-killing. Google image "cuy" if you're curious, or just imagine a creature disarmingly reminiscent of a rat lying dead on a plate, crisped eyes and claws still intact. (If that last sentence grossed you out, please don't run a google search. Just take my word for it: Cuy is much tastier than it looks.)

2. I'm taking a workshop with Yuyachkani this week. It has been really great and is deserving of several posts. That will come. I will only mention that yesterday I saw a traditional Peruvian Resurrection dance that featured a mostly-naked Jesus playing the spoons (well, a similiar instrument, to be fair) and wearing a single rainbow-print glove. Who knew that Peru was so queer friendly?

3. It looks like Maleto is going to stay with us indefinitely.

More soon!


The only thing missing from my life...

... is iced coffee.

Is it possible that I'm just looking in the wrong places? Is this related to a national aversion to iced beverages? (Most people here go for water, juice, and soda at room temperature. Rachel tells me that I need to stop being such an imperialist and adapt my drinking habits, but I really love me my cold beverages.) I must remind myself that British people don't really go for iced coffee either, and I survived just fine in London.

Now at the two week mark, I'm starting to get my life in order. I'm doing a workshop with Yuyachkani next week, and my Spanish class started last week. It's through the Language Institute at the Catholic University, where Rachel is studying, and right now I'm taking a class on Peruvian culture. Since it's only four weeks long, it's basically Peruvian culture for dummies, but it's a lot of fun. And my class is pretty diverse-- we're from Bulgaria, Brazil, China, Germany, and the US, which is great, because we can't cheat and speak to each other in our first languages. Another great thing is that we are going to learn how to make cebiche (raw seafood marinated in lime juice). Om nom nom. My mother will be surprised to hear how much I like cebiche-- I shunned fish for years, which was a stupid thing for a Seattle kid to do, but what's done is done-- but seriously, folks. The cebiche here is unbelievable.

Life in Pueblo Libre is lovely. Rachel and I have moved off of the roof and into our new room, which is blue and orange and bright. I really love my roommates here-- they're all artists of various kinds and are a lot of fun. They run a space called elgalpon.espacio where they mount and host all sorts of performance and installations and classes. Good stuff. This week I've been taking a course on Performance in Latin America, taught by Augusto Del Valle, a philosopher and art critic. Some of it goes over my head-- my Spanish is getting better every day, but I wish I could understand everything now-- but the course is interesting, and it's good to study performance from a Latin American perspective. In the US (with SITI and with other friends), I had been discussing the postmodern performance that stemmed from the work done by Judson Dance Theater in the 60's. It's good to learn about flash points outside of my North American framework-- the Biennials in Cuba in the late 80's and 90's, the show in Medellin in 1981. Del Valle has also talked a little bit about how the specific political contexts affected performance in each country (i.e. how did performance in Argentina under the military dictatorship differ from performance in Peru?), but either he didn't choose to discuss these ideas in depth, or I missed something major. Anyway, I'll learn more, I promise, and then I will try to organize my thoughts to say something other than, "Wow; performance is interesting." But that will be a job for another day.

Oh, you want to see another picture of Maletó, do you?

I thought so.


Combis and Other Obstacles

Happy March! While many of you have been battling blizzards in New York, this is how my roommates and I spend our mornings here:

It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been here a week. It’s been something of a roller coaster. I spent a few days feeling like a child every time I tried to speak Spanish, which was pretty hard. It didn’t help that this city is intimidating when it comes to public transportation (more on that momentarily), especially when one is only semi-lingual. Back in New York, my friend Karina warned me to brace myself for some culture shock, but I was still caught off guard by it. Perhaps that was arrogant of me; oops.

BUT. During my course with SITI Company last month, Stephen reminded us again and again to throw ourselves directly at the obstacle rather than try to go around it. So, that’s what I’m trying to make myself do with this particular obstacle: I’m starting Spanish classes tomorrow, I’m trying to talk as much as possible, and I’m becoming a master at using the Combis to get around this huge city.

Combis! They are an anarchist’s ideal form of public transportation, and I love them. Combis are little busses or sometimes vans that speed up and down most of the major roads in Lima. One person drives, while another stands at the bus door and yells out the name of the street where they’re going: “JAVIER PRADO JAVIPRADO JAVIPRADO!”. (The combis also have street names painted on them, but sometimes those are inaccurate.) You wait until someone drives by yelling the name of the street you want, and then you ask them if they’re going to pass your cross street, and then you hop on. Sometime during the ride, the Yeller comes around and collects your fare (usually about 30 cents in US money), and then, when the bus is approaching your street, you yell out “Baja baja baja!” (“Getting off getting off getting off!”), and there you are. It’s brilliant and way more fun than the MTA. The only problem is that I’m usually too tall to stand up straight, and I’ve bumped my head and stepped on people and generally made a stupid turista of myself several times. Ah well. I’ve only had one week of practice.

To conclude: First week in a new country = (unsurprisingly) hard. Combis = fantastic. Maletó, the Peruvian Perro = still wonderful. Here are some pictures! You can click on them to see the full-sized image.

Maletó. I mean, really. How can you not love this creature?

A blurry picture of the casita (little house) on the roof where I've been sleeping. It's really pretty nice, except for that green light bulb. But Rachel and I move into a new room this week, and I'm ready to unpack.

The view from the roof at sunset. Not bad, eh?

More to come soon...