It’s 99 degrees and I’m a naughty blogger.December 17, 2008
I’ve been bad. I wanted so much to blog frequently and keep my pages up to date… But without even looking at my management dashboard I know I’ve been dwindling. I don’t know what’s wrong with me?!
Was it my first case of traveler’s melancholy last week? Was that once I got off the one-a-day horse it was just downhill from there? Is it just inevitable that every travel blogger is destined to recede from the internet, letting slide all contact with family, friends and the former world?
Ugh. Who cares. I’m just a little disappointed that it’s my last full week here in Peru and my last five days working with my beloved Manuela Ramos and I have so little bloggery to show for it.
Ah well, there’s nothing left to do but update anyway. So then -what’s up with me?
Well, the meetings over the past few weeks have been good as always, although now instead of staying through the whole process, I tend to dip in, introduce myself, do my interviews and disappear while the socias argue over tardiness penalties. I’ve gotten to do more traveling and seeking out of socias in their own neighborhoods and homes than when I first arrived. This I love – even though it also scares me.
It’s particularly intimidating and exhilirating when a socia tells me that she sells in the Bella Vista market. This place is a sprawling, crawling, multi-colored behemoth where you can find rows of hair salons, stinky fresh fish stalls, huge bloody pig heads for sale, marmosets and cuys locked in cages, and dozens of old men rambling the aisles selling boxes of matches. And that isn’t even the half of it. Grains, fruits condiments, electrical goods. The whole place is swarming with flies and mototaxis. I’m surprised I didn’t give up on eating chicken the first time I visited this market. The birds are laid out on old cardboard boxes in the open air the whole day long. Sometimes a young child will swirl a towel over the whole arrangement to keep of the flies, but that happens just every so often. Most times the flies are just feasting and pooping.
At least though, the chicken are always on tables. The fishmongers work from tarps they’ve laid down in the street, sometimes not six inches from piles of refuse. I’ve been fortunate never to have been sick (knock on wood); but I also like that, hey, at least I know where my food is coming from. No one is injecting food coloring in my tomatoes – if they’re that red, they’re ripe!
Aside from occasional trips to the market to find socias, I’m also mototaxing out to the peri-urban areas – the taxi drivers always find it strange that I, a gringa, would want to come out to this questionable neighborhood in search of a random house. But once they know I work with Manuela Ramos they completely understand. One taxi driver told me that he is always taking loan officers to the most far flung places in town. More than several times my drivers have had to ask the way at every other house. Directions are become obsolete when we arrive at the outskirts of the asentamientos humanos (“human settlements”). Both the house and the lot has an assigned number but most times either neither or labeled or both are present and it’s up to you to guess which is which. I find a person’s name is more useful than their address in these cases.
I think it’s so fun – a cool adventure – to go combing the neighborhoods for these women and their businesses. The goats block the path and the doggies chase the taxi and the kids all stare me down and every man on the block shouts “Morena! Morena! Morena! Morena!” until I pass out of site. But I do have one steadfast rule: I will not, under any circumstances, make an appointment for after 4:30 pm. The darkness is not my friend and I avoid it like the plague when I’m out here in the barrios. So far this method has worked for me, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
One socia arrived at a midday meeting crying the other day and clutching her arm. Apparently a man on a motorcycle ripped her purse out of her hands as she was walking along the road towards our meeting.
Overall, though I have been very fortunate and have been untouched by crime. (Pray for me that that continues to be the case for my last seven days here in Peru!)
I have had my brushes with danger though. Today for instance I crowded into the back of a pickup with nine other people on our way to attend an end of year event. I was in the rear seated on the pickup bed’s back door and clutching the spare tire for dear life as we bumped and bounced over the dirt roads. It was fun for the first twenty minutes and then just plain old painful for the last ten – if only I’d chosen the sports bra today
I also had my first and only mototaxi accident a couple of weeks ago. It was a simple rearending and I was lucky that I lingered to ask my driver a question instead of leaping out of the mototaxi at the moment that we were hit. The moto that hit us ended up driving up the back of the passenger car and breaking his side view mirrors off on the backseat, the hood and well… me. I was lucky and escaped with a sore shoulder. In the first moments, I thought, this is it! I’m for sure injured and dygin! But a few seconds later I was crying and as much as the hypochondriac in my tried to muster, I admitted to myself that I was pretty much unscathed.
Safety is a matter of luck here, I’ve decided. It’s been weeks and I’m now accustomed to seeing a motorcycle with a toddler riding on his dad’s lap up-front and the mom holding and infant in the back. I think seeing children standing in the front seat of a car surprises me more because I’m expecting a car seat. But what in the world would you strap onto a motorcycle or a mototaxi to keep a kid safe?
Today I saw another family’s brush with fate and they, thankfully, were also lucky. The mototaxi was filled with one small child, a mother with an infant and her friend. The driver was joyriding (off roading?) in a soccer field when he ran headlong into a bench in high grasses. The whole contraption stopped short, flipping over, and dumping out its contents on the ground. We were terrified that no one would get up from that nasty spill. But we immediately heard the baby wailing and the mother poked her head up out of the side bars of the car and looked around bewildered. Within seconds, men had lifted the mototaxi upright and freed the friend and child from underneath. Everyone was walking away scratching their heads and… is that laughter? Wow.
I can’t believe it. But, oh well. This is what you do when helmets don’t exist. I’ve asked about them before and people shrug saying it’s just too hot here to consider jamming one over your head. So I’m tooling around town now daily on the back of a motorcycle and hoping and praying that I come home in one piece. I’ll miss the sun and the fruit juice, but I’ll be welcoming back seat belts and air bags next week, for sure.