Number of People with Nothing Better to Do

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nazca Lines Part III

I just heard about a documentary on the Nazca lines on National Geographic Channel. It's called Nasca Lines: Buried Secrets. I haven't seen it and don't have cable but the trailer looks pretty sweet (very dramatic music) Check it out the show and let me know what you think so I can go out and try to find a pirated copy of it in the market.

Here's a link to the trailer and more info about the show:

Here's when it's running.
2/25, 7 PM EST
2/25, 10 PM EST
2/28, 12 PM EST
3/4, 3 PM EST

If they show a hil top with three big triangles, I live in the small town that's right next to them.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I’m not an English Teacher but I Play One in Peru

My primary job function here en el PerĂº is to provide technical support in the matters of water and sanitation but that’s only one of the goals of Peace Corps. The other two goals are to provide Americans with a better understanding of the people of Peru (which is what I hope to accomplish with this blog) and to provide Peruvians with a better understanding of Americans (which is what I hope to accomplish by being here in their country). Having said that, I can only write a dopey blog for so long and the technical aspects of this job are going to take a little bit to get going.

So I’m left with Goal 3 and, well, a lot of time on my hands. In the mean time I’m teaching English which is a pretty huge skill to have if you’re Peruvian. All the foreigners that come to PerĂº as tourists or to do business, whether they’re from Europe, Asia or wherever, communicate with the locals in English. I suppose English now is kind of like Latin was back in the day before it became completely irrelevant to everyone except pedantic academics and doctors.

Anyway I’ve started teaching English Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the evenings. The class was organized by a guy from the Instituto (a community college essentially) for the kids studying tourism. The class started out with 3 students. I had no idea where they were proficiency-wise so the first class we walked around describing things in English to see where they were at (I know, a dangling preposition but I’m not an English teacher so LAY OFF). They spoke a little but not very well at all.

The second class doubled in size and the third doubled from there. The class last night had about 20 people in it, two of the original tourism students and the rest high school and elementary school kids. I didn’t expect to have a class ranging from a 4 year old who could barely speak Spanish to a 27 year old who can kind of get by with his English. I’d planned a fun class with a body parts game and a family relationships game using The Simpsons but my plans went right down the shitter when 16 kids hadn’t had any English at all. I winged it and came up with another lesson plan on the fly. I don’t feel like it went very well but under the circumstances... I am planning on taking a course on how to teach English that’s being put on by the US Embassy next month so hopefully that will give me a little more direction.

There were also a four junior high age boys sitting in the back of the class f*cking off the whole time. Remind me again why I’m not a parent or a teacher?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Random Encounters with Ancient Cultures

You can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting some sort of ruin, geoglyph, petroglyph or other mark left behind by some ancient culture that was doing its thing well before Columbus and his asshole buddies barged into the New World uninvited. Last Saturday I worked at a faena, a community cleanup/improvement event, in a town in my district. After the work was done, I was sitting around eating chicharron de chancho (mmmm…. fried pork…) at the Governor’s house when he told me there were ruins up the way from his house. Even though the sun was blazing and it was hotter’n shit out, I wanted to go take a look and the Governor’s son was kind enough to take me. Up the dirt road toward the sierra and around the bend were the ruins of rock walls of an ancient pueblo perched on the side of the hill.

Earlier in the week, I went for a run up the sierra separating Rio Grande and Palpa and along the flat pampa toward Pinchango, the tallest mountain in my department (state). As I was running along the pampa, I noticed that there were ruins of rock walls of what looked to be houses. Outside some of the houses were flat rocks that I assume the ancient folk used as surface to crush corn and whatever else with round river rocks. My reason for thinking this is my host mother has one of these out back of the house where she periodically crushes up various ingredients to make a tasty cheese sauce and potato dish called Papas a la Huancaina.

Last week my site mate and I went over to visit a little pueblo in her district and walked up the sierra to the pampa. Again, Nazca lines all over the place. You couldn’t tell what they were but it was still pretty cool walking with the neighborhood kids, eating mangoes and enjoying the cool evening breeze on geoglyphs created just after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Yesterday, a 3rd year volunteer and I went walking down the ways a bit from my town and found a geoglyph called El Tumi on the side of a hill. El Tumi was a pre-Columbian ceremonial knife that some folks say were used to cut the necks of prisoners.

Nazca, which is about 45 minutes south of me, gets all the tourists (and their dollars) but there’s some pretty cool shit right here in my 'hood.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Albert Baldwin Williams IV, AKA Win, AKA Beto

Here in Peru, everyone has a chapa (nickname). I’m not exactly sure when you pick up your nickname but it’s generally based on your appearance. If you’re chubby, you’re going to be called Gordo or Gorda the rest of your life. It doesn’t seem to affect Fatty’s self esteem, it’s just his/her name. If you’re skinny, flaco. If you’re short, chato. If you have kind of slanty eyes, Chino. If your face looks like a sock, Cara de Media. It doesn’t always go on appearances. One of the guys I work with is called Chacalon after a famous Peruvian crooner from back in the day (talent skips a generation here too because Chacalon Jr., son of the singer, just got arrested with guns and drugs). If they’re fond of you, they’ll add –ito to the end. Gordito, Flacito, Betito.

I guess nicknames are special to me in that no one ever, ever calls me by my real name Albert except when followed by the phrase “… step out of the vehicle please”. Here, rather than going by the name Win, which is hard for them to pronounce and I don’t want to explain my name to everyone I meet, I go by Beto. Why Beto? When I was born, my folks were trying to come up with a nickname for me since Albert III and Albert Jr. were still around. My grandmother, a Mexican woman of German descent, wanted to call me Beto, short for Alberto. My mother the gringa would have nothing to do with having her first born run around with a Mexican name so I got the nickname Win, short for Baldwin. I’m not sure why it took my mom well over 30 years to tell me this but since then, all my closest friends who speak Spanish all call me Beto. And here in el Peru, everyone hollers out “Beto!” when I’m walking through the town. Well Mom, you may have won the war, but your dear mother in law is winning this battle for now.

A couple of theories regarding chapas floated around by some of the volunteers here 1) You’ve lived in the same town with the same people all your life and you can’t remember their real name and are too embarrassed to ask what it is after all these years so you call ‘em Fatty. 2) In a town with 59 different Juans, you have to differentiate somehow between them. 3) Personally, I think they use nicknames just because they’re a lot more fun than the boring-ass name your parents saddled you with - Albert Baldwin Williams IV, for instance.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Is there really anything more satisfying than killing a mosquito? As a kid in Venezuela I remember the joy of finally being tall enough to be able to jump up and touch the ceiling. The ceiling is where the mosquitoes hung out so it was too much to ask a kid not to take a flying leap and squish the little bastards good. Unfortunately the ceiling was white, the bugs were black, and their blood (formerly ours) was red so it made for some interesting interior decorating. - Cela, love the paint job in your kitchen. Thanks, I was watching the Venezuelan HGTV channel but all they showed was bullfighting in black and white so this is what you get. The kids helped. Thank god we rent the joint.

But back to Peru - Those little pricks have been flying around my room all night waiting for their chance to stick their creepy little beaks in me for a Big Gulp of O Pos. All night I hear the humming, a high pitch buzz. How many are there? Squadrons being launched from some floating fortress in the desert. Tora! Tora! Tora! Land of the rising sun bandanas and kamikaze missions. I’m hot and tired and starting to doze off. They know this and begin their attacks. A little prick here around the ankle, here’s a spot right on the thumb. Looks like a dangerous place to grab a drink but what the f#ck they’re going to feast on the very thing that separates this guy from the rest of the animal kingdom. Here’s another spot right on his side. And so it goes most of the evening, until it’s cool enough to take cover under the covers.

Well, you little kamikaze pricks, it’s my turn. You’ve feasted all night but why do you have to leave so soon? You’re trying to fly out, full, toward the cold, gray light of dawn back to your coffins or wherever you spend your vampiric nights. But you can’t leave - the screens on my windows won’t let you. Well my dear dive-bombing d#ckheads, it’s my turn now. This is so easy, so fun, and so rewarding. Select victim, place finger on it’s back and apply just a little pressure. There are so many but I don’t have anything planned for a while…

I wish my finger made an irritating buzzing sound to let them know what’s in store for them.