Saturday, August 11, 2012

Things: Part III

This is the third and final installment of a 3-part series:
1.  Things I Miss
2.  Things that are better (so far) than in the USA
3.  Things that are different, or that I have yet to understand

Let's see how these evolve over the next year.

Things that are different, or that I have yet to understand - so far.

Car Alarms
I don't get this.  Everyone who has a car seems to have a totally obnoxious alarm on it.  When they lock and leave their car - BEEP BEEP!  When they unlock their car - BEEP BEEP!  When you walk by a car and don't do anything - BEEP BEEP!  And the volume is turned up as high as it will go apparently.  And it doesn't seem to take much to make an alarm go off.  I hear them all the time while working and at home.  Car alarms are everywhere.
Many of them also BEEP like a semi when they are in reverse.  You would think that a 50,000 lb semi was making its way through.  Nope, just this:
And of course, with a big city comes a lot of car horns.  I feel immune to it already, but dang.  Lots of car noises in general.

Turns out, toilets are pretty much the same BUT you are not supposed to flush the toilet paper down the toilet!  Ever!  Ahhhhh!  You throw it in the garbage can.  Do you know how hard it is not to do this when you've been doing it your whole life?  And when I forget I'm like "Dang!" and I apologize out loud while sitting there.  No one hears me. 

The guest bathroom in our house.   Nothing but trouble.

The metric system
You don't know how American you really are until someone asks you your height in meters.   I had to do this for INTERPOL processes and a nice young man from the law firm handling my immigration papers was helping me.  When he asked me my height, I said 5 feet, 2 inches.  He looked at me and said, "In meters".  My face must've drawn an obvious blank and he just died laughing.  And not like, "ha ha, that's funny" but more of a "HAHAHA, you Americans!  You don't use the metric system like the rest of the world.  HAHAHAHA."  When I think about it, America doesn't really have a good excuse for not using the metric system.  We were just hard headed.  So I get to suffer for that now.  
But one good thing about making this switch is that when I am riding in a car and feeling car sick (which happens all the time) and a sign says that my destination is 45 kilometers away, I assure my self that it is less than 45 miles so it isn't as bad.  Don't judge my logic.

Fahrenheit and Celsius
They use Celsius here. And I don't have any observations to make about this because frankly, I have not even begun to try to understand the difference.  I do know that zero in Celsius is freezing and that's it.  I just nod politely when someone tells me the temperature in Celsius and try to mimic their expression of either exasperation or relief.  

Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and they start eating around 1:00 or later.  In some of the public schools on the outskirts of Lima and elsewhere, the children come home for a long lunch break so they can dine with their families or each other, and then they go back to school.  In the office where I work, to have a lunch break lasting over an hour is not uncommon.  And the lunches can be 3-5 courses.  
So in theory, dinner should be much later and much lighter.  

LUNCH:  Ceviche - and it is freaking delicious.  This is just the appetizer.

The main course for lunch - This is roasted goat with beans and rice.  I forgot to take pictures of dessert and the soup.
This meal thing is an adjustment for me and my family.  We still haven't found a groove.  At Davis' school, he actually eats lunch around noon and then by dinner time (6:00 or so) he is ready to eat.  When I get home at 6:30, I'm not hungry because I ate a 4-course meal from 1:30-3:00.  And Bryan, who may go the whole day without eating (because he is kind of a weirdo) is totally ready to cook a  giant meal and eat at 8:00.  And I'm still not that hungry by then.  So we're all on wacky schedules and they're not lining up yet.

Open markets
Like, with guts and stuff hanging everywhere.  I love this.  There are markets everywhere in Lima.  Textile markets, Inca markets, food markets, all kinds...  You can go to a market and stop at the different booths or stands and find anything.  Near my office is the Magdalena market and I can buy groceries, cleaning supplies, fresh veggies, some clothes, office supplies, dishes, some furniture and the prices are lower than in the supermarkets or retail chains.  

You know you want some.

No air conditioning and no heaters
Our house, my office, restaurants...none of them have central heating and air.  No biggie, really.   Not having central heat/air in our house is surprisingly not a big deal.  If you keep the windows closed, it's really okay.  You just have to layer on the blankets and have warm PJs.  Currently, during the day it is about 63 degrees in Lima and with the high humidity, it actually feels really cold outside.  It kinda creeps up on you.  I know that as I type this my friends in Arkansas are miserably hot - you have my sympathies.  I'm sure that in the summer, I will be cursing the Peruvian air because I am hot-natured and hate to be hot and like as much artificial coolant as I can get.  But right now, I'm okay.  I like "cold" weather.  

This is a not so great shot from the roof of our house.  This is looking west towards the ocean.  You can smell it from mi casa!!
Which actually leads me to another difference worth noting...
It's winter here!  This whole flip in  seasons is just so bizarre.  It's August and I'm cold.  And Christmastime is hot! Weird!
And really, there are thousands of other differences between Peru and the USA and even more that I don't understand.  But humanity is the same:  love, hate, stupidity, joy, grief, work, home, family, friends...It's all here people.  It's all everywhere.  And as far as the differences go, it simply means that I have a lot to learn,  a lot to experience and a lot of ways to grow. 

Just because...
One of the things that I loved in the USA were sweet potatoes.  And Peru has more varieties of potatoes than any other country in the world and the sweet potatoes here are awesome!!!  Here they are called "camote".  I took one picture before the last bites.  DELICIOUS.


  1. Everyone here has a house alarm. Most people don't use them, but if you have one, your home insurance rates drop dramatically.

    Metric system - yes, my nemesis. I eventually got a converter app for my phone. They do height here in centimeters, weight in kilograms, or stone. Yesterday at the grocery store, I turned into the meat aisle and this woman turned to me in desperation, asking if I'd happen to know how many grams were in 1 1/2 pounds. I consulted my phone, but had it nearly right.

    Celsius. I nearly have that one. You should see the eyebrows raise when I mention that it's nearly 40 degrees back home.

    The weirdest thing to get used to here is cold toilets. They don't heat many public restrooms, and love to have open windows, so half the time, the toilet seat is a bit brisk. At least we can flush the paper though!

    1. Phoebe, which converter app do you use?
      Cold toilets sound awesome, compared to no toilet seat at all. Apparently, they're not a necessity to most here. I have perfected the squat.