Sunday, October 21, 2012

La Lavadora Love

Responding to President Thomas S. Monson's recent conference address, I share the following experience.

During my sojourn here in Piura, I haven't had access to a washing machine. My colleague who lives in my building tried hiring a woman to wash her clothes. I too, thought this was a good solution. However, it was expensive and the woman didn't really do good job for my liking... and I know some of my clothes weren't each touched. As far as I knew, there weren't any laundromats. There were laundry services where you could drop your clothes off and pick them up, but it was far from me and the thought of lugging dirty laundry and paying for it didn't thrill me. That only left one option.  Hand wash. On the roof there is a sink, so I would hand wash all my clothes. Yet, my clothes and sheets would never quite come clean.

The language center's administrator offered to bring us a washer from his home in Trujillo - 6 hours away.  September passed and it hadn't worked out for the washer to get sent up.  Then, during the first week of October, the washer arrived.  The administrator had an opportunity to go to Trujillo and arrange the shipment of the washer to my landlord.
I feel like I'm in a rhetoric class...what do these symbols mean?

On Wednesday, the washer had arrived! It was a glorious site to see. It was hooked up Thursday. I'm glad I didn't have to lug that washer up the 3 flights of stairs.  My coworker washed a load of laundry.  On Friday, I attempted to do a load of laundry.  Yet, as I looked at the hieroglyphs on the washer, I couldn't figure out how to make it work. There were no words. Just letters and pictures. I tried every combination. Nothing. I got frustrated. I got angry. I tried checking the power, I turned it off and on again. I stomped my feet.

"I shouldn't have to be a rocket scientist to use this. How could I be so stupid? Why can't I make it work?"  I chastised myself.  It taunted me with the bright blue sticker that proclaimed "European Standards!"  Maybe that's why I couldn't get it to work. The washer must hate Americans.

Finally I gave up and went downstairs.  I'd have to ask my colleague.

Friday evening, I asked her how to use the washer and she just vaguely replied that it took her a while.

Saturday morning, I woke up early, and I simply included in my prayer that I hoped I could figure out how to use the washer. It was a simple and maybe even petty request among the huge problems in the world, yet it was important to me. I went back upstairs, and turned on the washer again and it fired right up. The same thing I did on Friday, worked on Saturday!  The water filled the washer drum and away it went.  I found that the "X" setting worked.

However, as I watched it for  few minutes, the power strip started to smoke and  burning smell filled the air.  I tried plugging the washer cord into another plug, but it smoked again.I unplugged everything and went downstairs. I had to look up how to say "smoke."  I got the landlord. He thought I was asking how to use the washer! And, of course, there was no smoke from the outlet!  He called up another tenant to translate and still there was no smoke.  As we talked, the cord started to smoke.The landlord brought up a heavy-duty power strip and finally, the washer was humming along.

After I came back from work, I had officially my first, full load of really clean laundry.  I thankfully hung the clothes on the line and I was so happy. I felt blessed. I came home after the Saturday afternoon session of conference. I gathered my clothes off the line. Oh, they smelled so fresh! They were so clean! The deodorant  stains from the arms of my shirts were gone!  

 This simple blessing of having access to a washing machine and having it work brought happiness and joy to me. It may seem to be such a simple thing to have a washing machine, but after months of washing by hand, it is a wonderful gift that my colleague Jose brought for us.

3 Questions You Don't Ask

After midterm exams a few weeks ago, we had  break from English classes.  It was a nice but quick break.  During that week break, I volunteered to go to Colegio Santa Maria, a secondary school for girls.  I would be talking with 3 English classes on two separate visits.

The levels of English were different, yet each class asked me the same questions. I asked them about music, movies, family, etc. In every class, there was at least one girl who professed love for One Direction, the British boy band.  I assured them that they would outgrow that love in a few years. They didn't believe me even though I told them I was once like them with New Kids on the Block.

1. Do you like Peruvian food?
Yes, I responded. Everything I have eaten has been delicious.

2. Do you like ceviche?
Yes, which is funny because I don't like seafood.

3. Are you married? Do you have a crush?
I said I wasn't married, but I might have a crush...

But, perhaps the best question every class asked was:

3. How old are you?
Yes, every class asked how old I was!  I took this opportunity to educate them about the 3 questions you don't ask American women.

1. You never ask how old a woman is.
2. You never ask how much she weighs
3. You never ask if she is pregnant because she may just be gorda (fat!).

This answer would be met with peals of laughter! I asked them to guess how old they thought I was. I loved the answer that I was 21.  Most of them guessed mid-twenties. I was pleased. One girl though ventured I was 40! I answered them in Spanish that I was 33.  Boo. Even typing that makes me depressed. Hah.  

I told every class that by learning a foreign language while they were young was an excellent decision. I encouraged them to travel and to see the world and Peru.  It was a choice experience meeting with the girls and a lot of fun, even if they thought I was middle-aged.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A few new pictures, deer, dancing, and comic saaaaannns

Now I'm Cooking

Living in another country forces you to be resourceful.  Certain things that you take for granted back home don't always come standard.

For example,  you may take a kitchen for granted.  You come to expect things like a microwave, fridge, stove, or a sink with hot water.  Maybe you take it for granted that you can cook a hot meal.  

Now, I must point out that of course homes and apartments have kitchens here in Piura;however, in my boarding house, I don't have access to a kitchen.  So I have to be creative in what I eat. I don't like to eat out for all my meals since that adds up!

So, yes, you can do the math. For the last two months, I haven't had a way to prepare a hot meal at home.  When you don't have a fridge or stove, you have to be creative in your meals.  Also, when you don't have a proper sink with hot water, you have to wash your dishes in your shower to get some slightly hot water on them.

After my colleague moved into the room next to me, we got a fridge, so I could store deli meat, cheese, yogurt and fruit. The possibilities expanded, it was like adding a new set of colors to my crayon collection.  After cold meals at home for months, I was so excited! I normally enjoy cold leftovers, but to be able to heat them up would be nice.

Finally, last Saturday, thanks to a financial contribution from mother, I purchased a toaster and an electric skillet! Now I feel I'm almost cooking with an entire color spectrum!  My first dish?  Spanish rice. Thanks mom! Yeah, rice...but hey, by the time I got to the store, it was so crowded and I did not want to stand in a huge line, plus I am nervous about trying to buy carne o pollo.

I took the skillet out of the box and set it up.  I have to use my desk as not only a computer desk, but it also serves as a food prep area, and now kitchen stove and food prep area.  I tried plugging in the cord and for some reason, it didn't fit the plug!  It also was a short cord, so I had to move the desk closer to the outlet.  Thank goodness for my trusty international converter.  Now I was cooking. The skillet heated up quite fast.

The rice cooked quite nicely and I added a bit of the Mexi-Salsa from the gas station to the mix (wishing for some good queso, olives, and green chilis to add), and then made some wheat wraps for dinner.

I can't tell you had great it was to make a hot meal at home! Now I can make all kinds of things: soup, pasta,  meat, chili, etc... any other suggestions? Oh, yeah, mac and cheese!  It's the little things that make life worth living.  Next time, you complain about "slaving away over a hot stove," maybe remember me and be glad you have one.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Last Monday was a religious holiday and while some people hiked to the town of Paita,  my colleague and I took a day trip to Chulacanas, known for its pottery.

We took a moto to the bus depot, one I'd been to before, in the outskirts of town.  Each bus company has their own booth and you locate one that goes your direction, not one direction. :P

My colleague N and I went up to a counter and she said "Chulacanas?"  A man answered "Si." It costs us s./4 soles ($1.53 US) to get a one-way bus ticket to the town.  We went outside to meet our trusty chariot only to find a rickety relic awaiting us, complete with a young boy checking our tickets and directing us onto the bus. Granted it was a holiday, so I hope he was there because of that.

I momentarily thought my feet would go through the floorboard of the bus, but we took our seats. Sometimes   on a bus, you'll have an assigned seat. This time, we were instructed by the boy we could sit anywhere.  N warned me not to sit too far back because there are no real set bus stops. So, if you're not careful, you could blow past your stop and be out of luck.

The bus pulled out of the station to begin our trip. Our first stop? The gas station across the street.

Onward and outward we finally went... and it wasn't too long into the journey that the boy porter started his sales shill. He eventually started passing out candy. N explained that he was hoping for a donation. I had taken some of the candy, so when he walked by, I gave a 50 cent piece (roughly 25 cents).

As we hurtled down the highway and out of the city, the landscape started to change and so did the houses.  Many of the homes were barely more than shacks, with brightly colored outhouses for bathroom facilities.

We approached our stop, or so we thought, and jumped off the bus in a little village area. Of course, there were taxis and motos waiting for the fresh meat.  We had to make a beeline for the bathrooms at the gas station across the street.  While not luxurious,  they were clean, thankfully N had brought tissue and graciously let me use some (clean) ones. :P

She explained to the manager that we wanted to the ceramics market. Apparently, we weren't near the village after all. A moto taxi pulled in for gas and the manager hired the driver for us.  The ride would cost s/.4  - the same as the bus ride!

After the driver was done, we hopped in and away we went. Apparently, we weren't close to the actual city of Chulacanas at all.  The young man kept driving when we passed a sign that said pottery with a left arrow. I remarked to my colleague that there was a sign, but the driver didn't stop. We assumed he knew where he was going.  We drove into the town, it was festive, bright and interesting.  He turned left and then right and around again. I had no idea where we were, and it turned out - neither did he. He stopped, and before we could get out, a swarm of men started coming towards the moto! Finally, he asked for directions and away we went again, on a serpentine journey though Chulcanas proper.  Around we went and finally, we went through their mercado. No pottery to be found.

He stopped for gas again and away we went back out of town, back the way we came. The novelty and humor was wearing off for us. Where were we? Where was this elusive market? Finally, we made it back to that pottery sign and he went down the road. It was a barely graded dirt road for about 5 or 6 miles, in a moto taxi, so I felt like I was in the tumble setting on a dryer.  I felt all my fat jiggle into new formations on my body.

We went further and further away from the main road. My wild imagination started running. We certainly were going to get shanked or fillayed like two pieces of fish.  Thankfully, my worry was assuaged when I saw otehr motos coming our way with happy shopper clutching their ceramic treasures.

Finally, we reached a dusty, low-slung little village. He went down a dusty dirt path and stopped down the main street, if you could call it that.  My colleague jumped out to use the bathroom and left me to negoitate payment.  Suddenly, the payment he wanted was s/.20 soles! ($7).  I argued with him in my limited Spanish. Next, he wanted s/.12 soles! Nope. I said s/.5 and that was it. It wasn't our fault he got lost!  Finally, we just walked away.

He didn't follow after us as we perused the shops.  We wandered into a small shop and ran into three men. My colleague asked them in Spanish how much a moto driver should charge for a ride. They responded in English. They said they'd wait for us from what I heard, I was wandering around the shop.  I figured they were going to help hire us a moto back to town, so we could then catch the bus.

As we were leaving, our moto driver pulled up, with a passenger, he was ready to go. I shoved a s/.5 coin in his hand, and walked off. He took off and that was the end of that hustler.

I enjoyed lookig at a few more shops and it turns out that the men had their own car, and were offering us a ride all the way back to Piura!  So, we climbed in with the 3 guys into the nice silver steed.  Now, this sounds alarming, but I didn't get any weird vibes from the men. Away we went, they were all colleagues and were out in the town on a sales call for an international food company.

We enjoyed a 45-minute ride with them as opposed to a moto ride back to town, then on a bus, then on a moto home. Having your own transportation is such a blessing.  They dropped us off at our house and all was well.  After they drove away, I remarked that we were pretty brave or stupid to take a ride like that. My colleague, having lived overseas for several years, said you have to learn to size up help really quick in a foreign country.

Thankfully, we were safe and sound, and got some good deals on pottery, just next time we'll know where to get off the bus.

It's Prounced GUY-YETTAS

When learning a new language, it's important to practice pronunciation  Let me say it again. It's very important to practice, especially pronunciation.

Yet, you can't learn or improve unless you try, so please learn from my fail.  On the 22nd of September, I helped host a YSA (young single adult) church activity around the idea of American cookies.  I already blogged about that event;however, I didn't mention the most embarrassing part after the fact.

It was after 10 p.m., and we'd cleaned up every trace of cookies in the church building. We were standing around talking in small groups.

In an effort to initiate a conversation with one of the young men, I asked "Te gustan las gallatas.." (Do you like the cookies?). I pronounced it like "gall-lett-as."

He gave me a strange, puzzled look so I asked again... "Te gustan las gallatas?"  Again, he gave me blank, confused stare with a tinge of pain.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of silence, another guy said ... "It sounds like you're saying a word that means naked pictures."  

I basically was asking him if he liked naked pictures!

I probably turned so red, I could have been mistaken for a stop light in the dark city night.  I was so embarrased -  I mean, we were still at the church!

Everyone laughed about it and I know the double ll in Spanish, really I do.  And, by the way, he did like the cookies.