Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Z is for Zapote

Zapote is a delicious fruit from the jungle.

I bet you'd like it if you tried it. Honestly, half the time I had no idea what I was eating because there are so many fruits I'd never seen before. However, they were mostly all delicious! If you have no other reason to travel go to discover new fruits- yum! This is the end of the A-Z challenge and I am a day late which isn't that bad as I started 3 days late. Also it snowed here yesterday and last night AGAIN, so that's my excuse. I mean, where am I supposed to get motivation from when it's freezing cold outside still in MAY?

Anyway, I hope wherever you are it's a bit nicer than it is here! Thanks for stopping by this blog! It's been fun!

Y is for Yema

Yema means yolk- you know, the kind that comes from an egg.

My name is particularly difficult for Hispanic people to say. I often get called egg yolk, or flame.

Maybe this would bother me, but I'm quite sure that I do such an awful job of saying some of their names that I almost welcome it so that I don't feel quite so bad about my incompetence. For example how would one pronounce Ximena? See- Men- ah, not X-e-meaner as this ignorant foreigner figured out while doing attendance and getting blank stares from everybody. One point for me.

This embarrassment can be avoided by checking over attendance lists before class and asking trusted colleagues how to pronounce the names. Alternately, ask them to sign in using a book- that won't help you learn their names though!

Monday, April 29, 2013

X is for Xenofobia

The neat thing about travelling is that you get to be the foreigner- you get to experience being a minority (if, like me, you are not a minority where you live).

My experience with being white down there is that a great majority of people assume that you are rich and highly educated. That's how I scored a teaching job at 18 with no higher education. It's a dangerous kind of ignorance- I mean I could have said almost anything and I would have been believed. So many people have a picture of "1st world" countries as perfection even as you tell them about all the problems there are. I didn't experience any real hostility until the strike.

The gold mine was in trouble with the locals for contaminating their water, practically stealing their land and outsourcing jobs. So, they shut down the city for 10 days. Seriously. No way to leave. No planes, no busses out and nothing coming in. The price of chicken quadrupled and we all stored up with as much food as possible (we didn't know how long it was going to last). There were demonstations and people yelling "out with the foreigners." So, I tried to stay inside. Even though I had nothing to do with the mine, I wasn't taking any chance with angry protesters. So nothing happened to me. However, it was a bit scary. I watched hordes of people pass by my apartment. There was a lot of mistreatment by the police- bombs and teargas was used even when the protests were quite peaceful. Such is the way of the world.

W is for Whisky

So there aren't that many useful words that start with W in Spanish.

I don't have a lot to say about whisky, except that it's a lot cheaper down there. Also, one time I drank it with an American in a bar and that was nice, because I got to speak English fluently to somebody. At least, it was all good until he asked me to hook him up with some cocaine. Apparantly I look like the kind of person who might be able to hook people up with that stuff? I told him I didn't have any friends who sold it, to the best of my knowledge. At this point he lost interest in our conversation. But I still had the whisky he'd bought for me, so that was okay.

So, W kind of sucks.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

V is for Vaca

Vaca means cow.

Peruvian lady wearing traditional hat

So, we walked to a farm one day, as you do, and there were about 200 dairy cows. The farmers cracked their whip and called out a name, and the cow came running from the massive group on the field and ran into it's corresponding space in the cowshed. I was really impressed and I thought that it deserved it's own post. I couldn't even tell the difference between the cows, so for the farmers to take the time to name them and learn their characteristics so as to be able to name them and later have them recognize their names and come running is pretty spectacular. This was my favourite- meet Perlita! :)

Yay cow farmers!

U is for Unsha

I don't think that Unsha can be translated because I don't think it exists in other parts of the world.

An Unsha is a celebration in which a tree has been cut down and put in the MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. It is decorated with absolutely anything you can find- an old bottle, some t-shirts, forks, whatever. Friends are then invited and the merry making begins. People dance around the Unsha and inebriate themselves in the street while listening to loud music until 4-5 a.m.

Reasons this would never happen in Canada

1: A noise complaint would be made resulting in the police coming to shut everybody up.

2: Everybody would be in trouble for drinking outside in the street.

3: Parents would be in trouble for letting their kids get drunk outside.

4: Obstruction of traffic- they'd be on you like the wind for blocking off an entire road without any kind of permission or legitimate excuse for doing so

5: Your neighbours would probably file a complaint and try to get you to a) move or b) kicked out of a rental in the case that you don't own the house

During Unsha season- which is after Carnaval (see my post for the letter C) - you are likely to see unshas popping up all over the place. The whole neighborhood is invited. Ample alcohol is supplied or on sale if you are not friendly with the people there, but if you don't know the people who live in the area you should bring a crate of booze yourself- it's only polite and you will make instant friends. You can even go unsha hopping if you like! The Unsha I went to had food too- they must have made soup for more than 150 people! There's also a bit of pride in it- to see who can throw the best Unsha. So, if you're in that part of the world, go crash an Unsha! :)

T is for Toro

Toro means bull.

Before I lived in that part of the world I was totally ignorant about bull fighting. One day, a friend invited me to go and watch bull fighting. I accepted because I thought it was some cool cultural thing- I mean I'd heard of it but I didn't really know what it was. Well! I was about to find out.

After waiting in line for more than an hour we found our seats and the show began. There were entire orchestas playing tunes and it felt like a circus was going to begin. And then they brought in the bulls. And they brought in the matadors. And they proceeded to TORTURE the poor animal. Everytime they stabbed or hurt the poor thing the crowd cheered. It made me feel sick. There were thousands of people there and they were enjoying this. It was so sad. In the end they murdered the bull, which I am sure was the nicest thing they could have done. It was the most amazing show of cruelty and I couldn't look at the friend the same way afterwards (I left early because it was so disturbing). The problem is, when you try to talk to people about this you are met with condescending responses "It's a part of our culture- you can't understand because you're not from here" "Don't be ignorant" and the such. I am happy to say that there are some groups of people trying to make a change- demonstrations are being held all over the continent- but they are still a minority. It made me think of what it would have been like to watch the gladiators in Ancient Greece.

This was one of the saddest experiences I had in South America.

S is for Seguridad

Seguridad means saftey, or security

The province I live in requires children up to the age of 18 to wear bicycle helmets starting May 1st. When I talked to my friends South of the equator about this, I was met with disbelief. In many places there people don't even wear seatbelts. If you get in a taxi they usually don't have seatbelts in the back- only in the front. Apparently the law only requires driver and shotgun rider to wear them- so the driver will lay the seatbelt across his or her (usually his) lap so that it looks like they are wearing it. They leave the blessed thing about ONE INCH away from being clicked in. Seriously. JUST CLICK IT IN! I was always the one who told my friends to put on their seatbelts when travelling in private cars and I was always met with derision. Just my northern safety minded brain taking control. I was always the one who checked the boot of the taxi before we got in to make sure we didn't get jumped. And, I was the one checking for potential muggers all the time. So, I thank our society- we are constantly told that we have to do this or that or else 100 terrible things might happen to us. I really noticed it there, because nobody else seemed to be worried about these things.

R is for Robar

Robar means to rob, or steal.

One day, I was walking leisurely home from a staff meeting at 11 a.m. when a stupid teenaged boy tried to steal my purse. Now, they always tell you- if someone tries to rob you just let them take your purse and run, and I swear that was my plan. But in the moment when I was supposed to apply said piece of advice my instinct was to scream and pull my purse towards myself. I guess my scream must have scared him away because he went running off- it was pretty loud. I don't think I could pull it off unless I were genuinely panicked. Anyway, I ran off in tears to try and find a friend to calm me down. Everybody told me I was lucky as the guy was obviously an amateur- a real thug would have just cut off my purse with a knife or knocked me out. So that was reassuring. I hope this never happens to you. Now I don't carry a purse with me. It allows me to walk with less fear. Which makes for a happier world for all of those people who have to listen to my rants.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Q is for Queso

Queso means cheese

I was always a self-proclaimed cheese lover. I ate it like it was going out of existance. I dressed up like a piece of cheese for Halloween and won the school dressing up contest (the downside was that I couldn't sit down all day- I hadn't considered the practicality of the costume)!

So, imagine my surprise when I traveled and found a kind of cheese I disliked. My boyfriend was nuts about the local cheese- called "fresh cheese"- literally just made. I prefer mature cheese myself, but I also usually like mild cheese. This cheese was so mild that I couldn't stomach it. And the smell! Ah!

It was the end of my cheese worshipping era.