This is how you give directions in Huaycan:
– Go about halfway up the mountain til you get to the third trash pile on the left. It will seem like there’s only two piles, but there’s a third, it’s smaller, and you can’t see it til you really get past the second one. Okay so pass the third trash pile of the left, then you take a right onto that dirt road. You go three or four shacks down on your right, I can’t remember how many, but you’ll get to that one with no roof…no, no, not that one with no roof, I know the one you mean, that’s the other direction. If you’d gone left at the trash pile. This is right. So you go right, get to the house with no roof, make another right there and walk down until you see the classroom. It looks like all the other buildings but you’ll know it because of the three roosters out front. It’s sorta hidden, so you’ll know you’ve gone too far if you see the dog with the underbite.
The weekend for the voluntarios is actually Weds and Thursday, which apparently only means that we end up having a four day weekend. Everyone wants to go out Friday night for someone’s last hurrah. I’m exhausted and don’t want to go, but I’m still new and who wants to be that girl, so I go. I’m informed that we’re going to a club called Kenko’s about a 15 minute combi ride away from the house. I obviously don’t know much about the bar scene in Huaycan, but I’m not expecting much. A club? Like a club? 15 minutes from where there are people who, not two months ago, didn’t have access to running water? Well, this I’ve gotta see.
Obviously I’m not expecting much. We get there and wait in line to pick up the free entry passes that someone has managed to finagle for us (the Jerseyin me feels at home). They hand over a pass to each of us, which seems strange, because the pass-hander-outer is already inside of the door. Really you should just give her your name, she should confirm you have a pass, and then you should walk right by her. This is not the system. What you do instead is give your name, get your pass, and step maybe six inches to the right, and hand it to another person, who then let’s you pass by. And I kid you not, he then hands your used pass back over to the pass-hander-outer lady, who places them back in the pile of passes to be reused. I’m simple minded, so I just tell her to keep the pass, and I’ll walk in. This is very upsetting to all the employees involved and they make me do it their way. Wait, am I inGermany right now? This isPeru. There aren’t any rules inPeru. But okay.
We walk in, and it’s seriously the most disconcerting change. You leave the outside Huaycan world behind: sounds, smells, noises, trash, sketchy characters, roofless shacks, and enter a very nice, very clean, very pleasant and modern indoor/outdoor club. We could seriously be in Florida. The dance floor is outside under a huge roof. There are white leather lounge-y couches and chairs everywhere. Plants all over the place. A quieter grassy knoll area where you can sit and talk. I rub my eyes. This is the desert. Maybe it’s a mirage. No. It’s not. It’s still here. It’s an oasis! We sit down at a table. One kid who’s been in thedesert ofHuaycan too long asks:
– What’s that smell?
– What smell?
– I don’t know, it’s like herby somehow. Fresh, kind of.
– Um, I think that’s grass.
– It’s awesome.
I bring back a report from the ladies room:
– Guys, there’s toilet paper in there! On rolls. Provided for you! I brought my own, but they just give it to you here.
Five voluntarios in unison:
I take a bottle of water out of my purse and a bouncer walks over to me before I can even have a sip. They don’t sell that brand here. No outside drinks. Really? Here? InPeru? Where there are no rules? Kenko’s is the only place inPeruwith rules. I hand it over. I guess this is the price you have to pay for luxury.
More rules: I walk to the bar and order a drink. The bartender asks for my receipt. What? He points to the cashier at the other end of the bar. Order with her. Pay first, then he’ll make it. I’m at a bar in the back completely alone. Not a single other person around. I figure he will start to make my drink while I pay. He doesn’t make a move. I walk three feet to the cashier and order my drink. The bartender watches me, stands his ground. I pay. He doesn’t move. I walk back over with the receipt. “What can I get you?” Um, the same thing, I just ordered from you one second ago, maybe?
Still more rules: For about an hour at midnight ladies drink for free in a little roped off area. They basically feed you watered down kool-aid with the Peruvian version of watered down Gordon’s vodka, the kind that comes in the plastic bottles with the handle, and can cause blindness from over consumption. I don’t want any of those free drinks, but I walk over to stand with everyone and take my drink with me. A bouncer stops me. Can’t come in the roped off area with the drink. But I bought this here. Just over there. At this bar. No. If I come in with a drink, I’ll actually save you guys money, because I’m not drinking the free stuff. No. But it’s ridiculous. No. I stand on the other side of the rope and chat with the girls from there. Crazy!
One of the girls gets tipsy quickly and wants to leave. I go with her. We get into a Combi. The Cobrador starts talking to us and eventually tells me he loves karaoke. I tell him to show me what he’s got. He asks the driver to turn up the radio and turn down the lights for effect, and belts out whatever we’re listening to. Other people on the Combi start singing. Then we’re all singing. Ladies with babies strapped to their backs in blankets. Men carrying huge bags of rice. The loud Americans. All of us. It’s funny and random. I tell him that we should make a regular event of the Karaoke Combi. Like on nights where it’s not in service we’ll just get a little strobe light and a karaoke machine and drive around Huaycan picking people up for the party. He thinks it’s the best idea he’s ever heard. If he starts turning a profit on it one day, I’m hoping for a cut.
We get back to the center of Huaycan. Our place is like a four minute walk away, but it’s too dangerous at night, so we have to take a mototaxi. Of course those are just as dangerous sometimes, so I become the Goldilocks of mototaxistas, trying to find one that is just right. The dispatcher points out the first one. No. That one has doors. I don’t do any with doors, because I want to just be able to just tuck and roll if some shit goes down. He points to a doorless one. No. The driver’s not wearing the standard garb. He looks as if he was just walking by and decided to take a spin in a mototaxi. A few drivers are standing around yelling and trying to get us to choose them. The dispatcher points out another guy, youngish. I try and do the Peruvian move where you look into his soul….I don’t know if it’s working but I don’t like the look of how eager he is. There is an older man standing aside, not soliciting us. I pick him. He doesn’t kill us. I get out and pay him and study his face so I can remember to choose him next time.
On Saturday’s our boss eats lunch with us at the house. The house manager is yelling at everyone to clean up the table and not to leave stuff around, because the boss will be mad. She doesn’t like personal items on the table. She also doesn’t like people to eat lunch at different times. She also doesn’t like when someone gets up from the table before we’re all done. Someone notes:
– There sure are a lot of rules in this house.
– Yeah. I think our boss used to work at Kenkos.