Everyone here wants exact change. It’s super annoying. If you try to pay with anything larger than a five people bug out, and just forget paying with a 100. Just forget it. The most annoying part though is that all the atms dispense 100s, so you’re always stuck trying to figure out how to break it. Overheard in Lima: frustrated American yelling at a cashier in broken Spanish: “Por que…. bancos….cocinan…cien?! Por que?!” (Why…banks…cook…hundred?! Why?”)
I saw a blind man wandering around Quince the other day trying to get on a Combi. Whoa! Bravest blind man on earth/or unluckiest blind man on earth. Successfully getting around Huaycan using all my sense is still pulling off a daily miracle. How he is doing it without his sight is beyond me. Maybe his other improved senses help. Sniff. Sniff. Yep, I’m in Zone Z…
Lowlight. On the way back from class I saw a dog get hit by a Combi. No one flinched. I turned around and walked in the other direction, away from home so I could cry for an hour.
Counterfeit cash is a big issue here. Anytime you hand over cash, even in the smallest amount, even in the form of coins people triple check to make sure it’s real. It’s pretty tough to determine if what you’re looking at is real because the government decided to just ever so slightly change the format of their currency every year. So if you’re looking at a 20 from a year ago and a 20 from this year, they’re not the same. You just have to know what the bill from that year should look like and what the watermark should look like. It’s ridiculous really. In any case my boss went to a Citibank atm inLimathe other day and withdrew a bunch of cash. Counterfeit cash, as it turns out, and so far they’re not going to refund her the money. If this was some local El Sketcho Banco de Peru, maybe, maaaybe, you could see this sort of sh*t happening. Although even then it seems pretty ridiculous. But a big huge international bank? Really? Your atms dispense counterfeit money and it’s our problem? She’s trying to get it resolved at the moment. I told her to threaten to write to some major paper about it…gotta be bad press for a huge bank to be screwing a poor little NGO like that?…
Don’t play Monopoly with Peruvians if you can at all avoid it. Peruvian monopoly is not monopoly as we know it. It’s basically a bunch of people sitting around a board screaming and yelling as if they’re watching a soccer game. Go! Go! Take it. Take it! It’s your turn. GOOOOO! It’s like whoa, slow down…I have to count my bank here and see if I can afford this hotel.
– Afford it? Nah. Listen, you can pay half the money now, and pay the rest when you get it.
– I don’t think that’s how it works….
– It works however you want it to work. Or you can give me 20 soles.
– What? I’m not giving you real currency in exchange for a monopoly hotel!
– Your watch?
In the end, since, for a change we’re not betting on the winner, nobody really cares who wins.
– I dunno Gringa, let’s just say you win since you care the most…..
Geez. I know some people who would literally explode with rage at this scenario. You know who you are loved ones who take the rules for games super seriously 🙂
Another voluntario and I get to the corner in time to see what could be our bus pulling away. The cobrador looks at us “Zona T?” Yes! Ha, they’re really getting used to the gringos around here. They even know where we’re headed. We can’t see the front of the bus to see what line it actually is, but we both confirm with him that it’s T. A few minutes into the ride the bus hooks a left it wouldn’t normally, but I assure my companion that there is one bus that does take this route, it will come back around to where we need to go in a minute. So for whatever stupid reason we just stop paying attention. The cobrador walks over to take our money and I look up.
– Wait. Where are we? You said T.
– I said G. – He’s laughing like he’s just messing with us.
– You did not. You said T. I said T. You said T.
– I didn’t say it. I said G. – He keeps laughing. Most of the Combi joins in, turning to laugh at our dumb asses. I’m so annoyed. He totally gave us the wrong info on purpose. G is not T, that’s not even close, even to my gringa ears. Baja, I yell, and we get out without paying.
So now we’re in a zone I’m not familiar with. I want to take a bus back to Quince where we came from, but we’re already late and the girl I’m with lacks a sense of self-preservation and wants to just hop in a mototaxi. We’ll call her Pollyanna. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we don’t know where we are, and we won’t know if this moto is taking us the wrong way until it’s too late. Additionally the only motos in this area appear to be the soft-top ones. These don’t have motors powerful enough to sube up these 45 degree angled hills. But despite my protests, Pollyanna stops every moto that comes by. The first three say no way, the last guy insists he has a magical powerful mototaxi that can make it. I’m not so sure but rather than have major conflict I just hop in.
As soon as we get to the rocky, unpaved bit of the hill the car starts teetering around and the engine is audibly struggling. The soft –top motos don’t have doors, and we’re fully going to fall out and to our death. The driver then starts yelling something to us and patting the side of the taxi. I can’t hear him. What?! He yells it again and I realize he’s saying he wants us to each move to the sides of the seats to keep the thing balanced. I go from keeping myself under control to livid. And it’s not really all this guy’s fault, but he is about the get the brunt of the anger I would have liked to show to every cobrador/taxista around since I’ve arrived. I start telling him we want to get out, but the engine’s so loud he can’t hear me.
-Baja! Baja! Señor! BAJAAAAA!
Nothing. So I begin to just slap him in the back through the thin piece of plastic material that separates the driver’s seat from us.
– F*cking BAJA!!!! – He stops and we get out. I throw half the fare at him.
– You’re angry?
– Yes! Yes I’m angry! I am. You said you could make it up the hill, you obviously cannot. Forget it! Just forget.
Pollyanna gets out and is laughing hysterically. She has the sort of laugh you can hear from miles away, it’s loud and long and full of her screaming voice re-capping whatever just happened to make her laugh:
– You…hahaha….we…..could have fallen…hahah…out….of the …hahah…he wanted us to move…hahaha
We’re in an area that still a 15 minute walk from where we work. No one knows us down here and I really don’t want to attract more attention to ourselves, but Polly will not quit. A car full of guys passes by very slowly and mimic her maniacal laughter while yelling random English words: Hello. Niced to meeet jou.
I try and calm Pollyanna down so we can not be attacked. We sube uphill on foot. It’ll be good practice for the Macchu Pichu trek.
Still more ghetto children’s games/toys
– I am playing hide and seek with a group of children outside the classroom so that the women can have some peace and quiet during their seminar. After a little while, everyone is tired of it and they yell out other games we can play. It seems like the two most popular choices are between a game called “Rabid Dogs” and what I can only assume is the Huaycan version of “Cops and Robbers,” called “Robbers and Hooligans.” Note the lack of a “good guy” role….
– Adrian plays with a little gecko during class until he manages to kill it. Great. Thank you. Now can we get rid of that thing and pay attention? He puts the dead gecko into his shirt pocket, patting it he looks up, “For later.” Oh great. At home this would be the moment in a child’s life where we’d predict that he’ll be a murderer. Here it’s just what passes for a toy.
– A little girl in Zone Z sees me walking to class and starts yelling for me to come over and see all her dolls. She has lined up about five of the saddest looking dolls on earth. All are naked, exposing their filthy cloth bodies, and there are only about six eye balls and 15 strands of hair between them. If you were living in a horror movie it’d be just this sort of creepy doll that randomly keeps appearing in your child’s crib after you know you’d thown it away. Then one night you wake up and find the doll in your room, it pops its eyes (eye) open and starts speaking to you and you scream and throw it down the stairs. That kinda scary. “You wanna hold one,” she asks me….Uh, thanks kid, maybe later.
I slept through an earthquake the other day. All the other roommates woke up and I slept through it. That’s how loud it was in that hostel. It was literally louder than an earthquake.