Sunday, April 22, 2012

Doing Taxes And Looking Back At Peru

It was about a week and a half ago while getting my taxes done (yes I realize that I waited a long time to do it) that I realized it had been almost four years since I visited Peru. How did doing one lead me to think of the other you ask? Simply put as my mind was on money (or the lack of) I started to think of  things that I’d like to have or do. Like the ability to pay off bills on time, you know, simple stuff like that. As my mind drifted over to how nice it would be to afford another trip to my wife’s home country to see her family and friends and explore a bit I couldn’t help but get a little sad. Not only did I really enjoy my time there experiencing another culture, where the pace of life is looked at differently, but I also had the chance to meet my wife’s brother, whom as fate would have it shares many a similarity with yours truly. Scary idea, isn’t it?

More importantly it gave my son John the opportunity to not only meet his uncle Gary and his great-grandmother Mama Estela but also the rest of the family. Mama Estela is no longer with us so it’s very important to me that she got to see him. He won’t remember of course, he was only fourteen months old at the time but that’s what pictures and stories are for. Mama Estela was old school and didn’t like me going into the kitchen, excuse me, her kitchen even when all I wanted to do was rinse out a glass. That was clearly not my domain in her eyes.

I laugh now when I relate the story of how she kept telling my wife that I needed to put on a jacket before we went out or I would catch a cold and get sick, never mind that it was 65 degrees out and perfect weather as far as I was concerned. Perhaps if I were to spend more time in Lima I would acclimate to the weather but as it stood it was much nicer than the ninety five plus degrees that existed back home. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

Recently I read a blog post of an expat living in Lima and he talked about how gringos are seen as being cold by Peruvians. We tend to have a hard time adjusting to customs such as shaking the hand of every man and kissing the cheek of every woman whenever we enter a room. I must admit I am no different and perhaps am even worse than most when it comes to greeting people I do not know. I mean, my wife threw me a birthday party the first year we were married and I spent the majority of the time in the kitchen with one or two friends hanging out and talking.

On our very first full day in Lima Tio Mayer took us to meet Gary for, as it turned out a lunch of pollo a la brasa, a very typical Peruvian meal. The waitress came and brought us our drinks (Inca Kola of course) and then shortly afterwards brought out the food which surprised me. After all, I hadn’t even placed my order yet and here was a whole chicken in front of us. As I confusingly asked my wife what was going on she told me that Gary had ordered for everyone and the food was ready. After all, that is why you come to restaurant like this, to eat this meal. I didn’t think of anyone’s feelings when I immediately relayed to her “But I don’t want to eat that. I want something else.”

More than likely she felt embarrassed as she called over for the waitress to bring me another menu so that I could order something different. She certainly wasn’t happy that she had to tell her brother and uncle what was going on. Clearly her husband was just a rude gringo right? In her view I should have just gone along with everything and kept my feelings to myself but I don’t care for meat on the bone and to be honest I come from a country where we order for ourselves individually. I am accustomed to being able to choose what I would like to eat and letting others do the same so if that made me rude then I would just have to be rude.

Of course if my wife had explained to me what was going on as it happened we could have prevented any misunderstandings before they occurred but that’s life. I’ve come a long way in the last (almost) four years even though my Spanish has increased only modestly. I am more open to eating things that previously I wouldn’t touch and am now not quite as socially awkward as I used to be but old habits do die hard. Perhaps if I keep changing poco a poco then everybody that we know in Lima will be pleasantly surprised the next time they see me, whenever that is. If we can turn the corner financially and get my wife healthy then hopefully it will be sooner than we think. I’m dying to get back there even if it is just for a short visit.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

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