Number of People with Nothing Better to Do

Monday, September 27, 2010

Apparently I'm not 27 Anymore or Maybe Sammy Sosa wasn't that Big of a P*ssy After All

I kind of knew this day would come though I’ve been trying to put it off as long as possible. Being 2 meters tall (nearly 6’7”), tall people older than me told me I’d have back problems because of my height. My old boss back in the day, a tall man, had back surgery and was laid up for over a month (it apparently didn’t bother him too much because he managed to buyout a company as he convalesced). I told him I felt his pain. He replied that I hadn’t felt his pain… yet... but that I would. I kind of scoffed a bit on the inside. At the time, I was in my early 30’s, in reasonably good shape and prided myself on my back health because I was a yoga junkie. Fast forward a decade or so – I’m still reasonably fit, don’t feel my age, still exercise and do yoga on a regular basis, though not as much as I would like. But the years, a shitty mattress and cramming my 2 meter frame into tiny Peruvian means of transportation finally caught up with me and I got a herniated disc.

As a safety professional I’ve taught dozens of classes on preventing back injuries and proper lifting techniques to cops, firefighters, and everyday working men and women. I always led off the training talking about Sammy Sosa and the sneeze that injured his back and put him out of commission for a couple of months back in 2004 (he eventually came back, couldn’t hit a ball, got busted for using a corked back and got run out of town without his boom box - Michael Barrett smashed it by the way). This always started off training with a good laugh. A couple of weeks ago I wasn’t laughing. Everyone asked me what I did to it. I would have liked to have said lifting a 50 pound bag of cement or laying bricks or digging a pit latrine but, no, nothing that exciting (beer pong maybe?)

A herniated disc is when the soft cushy disk between your vertebrae bulges out of where it’s supposed to be. When it does this, the disc can push against a nerve that will make other things hurt – in my case, my back, right ass cheek, and right foot. The pain was excruciating. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being going into shock, I would put it at an 8. I couldn’t bend over to tie my shoes, couldn’t sit, and couldn’t lie down for too long. It f*ckin’ sucked. So, two weeks later I’m taking pain killers (not the Rush Limbaugh variety) and muscle relaxers and am feeling much, much better.

So that’s the last “old man” complaining entry. Do look forward, however, to future parasite, explosive diarrea and/or other odd Peruvian ailment posts.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Murder in a Small Town

My town is a quiet, sleepy town. A kind of Peruvian Mayberry. Nothing exciting happens here. Really... Nothing... Occasionally there’s a town celebration or a futbol game but otherwise, it’s as tranquilo (laid back) as it gets. There’s virtually no crime. Sometimes the town drunk gets out of hand and hollers at people in the street and throws rocks at things but the folks put up with him and talk him down. Sometimes there are petty thefts committed by outsiders but otherwise it’s a quiet, safe little burg.

A couple of weeks ago, tragedy rocked my little town and made the headlines nationwide. A man in a jealous rage slashed his wife to death with a knife and then turned the knife on himself. He lived but is still in the hospital. According to the newspapers, it was a crime of passion committed when the wife failed to come home when expected.

I was out of town for training but heard of the tragedy through my community partner. I was deeply affected and stunned that such a thing could happen in such a laid back place. I’ve met the man and he seemed about as tranquilo as they come. He was a cab driver and occasionally shuttled me back and forth between Palpa. We had the usual conversations – he’d ask what part of the US I’m from, is it hot there, what kind of crops do they grow there, what kind of music do I like, how do I like Peruvian food, etc. He was always very kind and courteous which made this all the more surprising. I don’t think I ever met the woman. I’m told she was from the selva (jungle).

Of course the man has family in town. His father is also a cab drier. His mom sells bread in front of the store by the plaza. His sister works in the health post. Surprisingly, the townsfolk were sympathetic to the man. They said of the deceased, while being respectful and disrespectful at the same time, that she was sacando la vuelta (cheating) on him. They said she pushed the limit too far, he snapped, and that it was understandable without coming right out and saying she had it coming.

When I got back to site the week after the incident I asked people if anything had happened while I was gone. The response - "No. Todo tranquilo. Nothing ever happens here." Such is life in Mayberry.

Here’s an article from the paper

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Santa Rosa de Lima

Monday was a national holiday in PerĂº honoring Santa Rosa de Lima. Santa Rosa lived in Lima in the late 1500s and was apparently a very beautiful woman. She performed many miracles including healing the blind, curing her mother’s favorite rooster, making a pact with the mosquitoes in her garden so they wouldn’t bother her while she was praying, and somehow conjuring up a storm to keep a Dutch pirate ship from invading Lima - all saint-worthy endeavors as far as I’m concerned.

In Lima, the faithful celebrate by going to the Santuario de Santa Rosa de Lima, a church built where the saint was born and later died. They go to attend mass and to ask Santa Rosa to heal illnesses by writing their requests in a letter and dropping it in a well on the church grounds. When I arrived at the church at about 8am, the line to get to the well was already about 5 blocks long and took about an hour. When I left an hour and a half later, the line was about 15 blocks long and growing.

I waited in line which was incredibly orderly. There are only two things here in Peru that really bug the living shit out of me. One, as you already know, is la hora Peruana but I’m acostumbraring (getting used to) to things starting late. The other is people blatantly cutting in line for which I haven’t found a good coping mechanism (a stern glowering doesn't work for shit). Anyway, the line wound through the streets of the central district (where I wouldn’t want to be after dark) into the front gates with a Statue of the Sta. Rosa busting a sweet dance move and into the basilica's garden where the well was. There in the well I dropped a little note wishing my mom a speedy recovery and walked around a bit. There was Sta. Rosa’s bedroom where she slept on hard wooden planks and used three rocks for pillows.

After, I walked up the street and up the bridge to look at the Rio Rimac, the source of Lima’s drinking water. The Rimac starts several hundred kilometers up the mountains to the east as a pristine river with clean water. Along the way, mining companies dump their heavy metals, factories dump their hazardous wastes, and houses dump human piss and shit into it. By the time it reaches the bridge I was standing on, it’s basically an open sewer on its way to the sea a few miles to my west.