Last night at 9:30 when I got to my town plaza to check out the beginning of our town anniversary fest, I was surprised by the tranquilo-ness (the tranquility, the chai-yen-yen) of it all. I’ve gotten pretty used to the dozens of drunks at town parties, but there were actually pretty few. There was dancing but it was mostly laid-back and for the most part everyone was sitting around talking. The craziest part was the fireworks “Castillo” (castle) which shoots sparks all over the small children and Peace Corps volunteers below it [check out the next video blog – that thing was ridiculous]. With the exception of the Castillo, it was a pretty tranquilo night - so I was surprised and thought, hey this might not be such a crazy town festival after all.
Yeah, I was wrong.
The town festival continued today. I had been up all night waiting for the Castillo to be set off so I went to sleep at 2 last night (which is really late for me in site) and I accidentally woke up at 10 this morning (which is also really late for me in site – yeah I know, blah blah blah you suck at waking up, whatever). Anyways, I finally got to the plaza around 11 where all the activities take place. According to some Pariahuanca friends, I apparently had just missed all of the desfiles (parade-like presentations done by schools and community groups). [Also we’ll never know if I really had just missed it or I had missed it by hours, because, of course, time is just a suggestion, if not a theory here in Peru.] So I was feeling a tad guilty for not getting there earlier and wanted to see what I could do to help out and earn my stay.
I made a beeline for the municipality where they would be handing out free lunches for everyone in attendance, thinking I might help out handing out the lunches. Keren and I always seem to do this, head straight for the ladies preparing lunch and this always has mixed results – either they completely ignore us, or they laugh at us because we can’t possibly know what we’re doing (which in many cases, I guess, is very true). I got lucky this time and found that all of my favorite Pariahuanquinos were bringing in the food. Unfortunately my faves didn’t stay for too long and I was surrounded by assorted municipality workers and quechua ladies I hadn’t met yet.
There was a ridiculous assortment of buckets and pots lying around, filled with chicken, sauce, salad, and mote (rehydrated corn type thing which is delicious and prepared with bleach and ashes – fun!). I decided to put myself somewhere amongst the assembly line and just see what happened.
Now if there is one thing you need to know about Peruvians, and I’m being completely serious here, is that Peruvians do NOT mess around when it comes to food. So you best believe that the line outside the door of the municipality appeared immediately and probably wrapped around the plaza five times.
And boy did our assembly line work fast. For my Arlingtonians, imagine Pollo Rico… on a Thursday night… on crack. I mean… this was insane. Seriously, the only thing I could think about the entire time was the Ford’s assembly line. And that I was not only earning my stay (and my pollo), but that I was representing the United States of America – the inventors of the assembly line.
I was in charge of putting forks in the chicken, making sure they had all their fixings, and passing it on to the lady who poured on the chicken juice (basically gravy, but delicious). And it all worked out pretty well, but my pants, shoes, socks, you get the point, are now all disgustingly covered in chicken juice and salad pieces…
When the line finally died down, I was exhausted. But what did I say about Peruvians and their food. Oh yeah. People came back for seconds. And a lot of them were drunk. There had been a constant yelling back and forth between people at the front of the line and the lunch workers throughout. But then things got violent. A fight broke out and I tried my best to stay out of it. No one was hurt and I was actually a little proud to say I had seen my first Peruvian fight… (I should probably do some foreshadowing for you here…).
I finally got my own meal and covered it with more gravy (which I probably could have just wrung out of my clothes). After eating I escaped into the plaza to find my family and friends. Immediately I was greeted by a group of kids (all of my kids here are the best ever). I invited them all to a popsicle (we have ice cream in my site – come visit me) and I ran into even more friends along the way. So that was nice.
As I was eating my popsicle, Mariu from the Peace Corps office called me. She seemed very confused as to why there was Huayno music blaring in the background and she couldn’t hear me at all. Finally I found a haven of silence and of signal (difficult if not impossible to find here – you should still visit). Turns out some representatives from Peace Corps in Washington are auditing the Peru program and I was selected as one of the volunteers they are coming to interview. So random, but I’m pumped. Also really tempted to write the D.C. offices and ask them to bring me Baked and Wired pastries or coffee…
And then Keren showed up! I love it when she shows up – it’s the best. I was needing a bit of a break at this point so we walked to my house to descansar un poquito (rest a bit).
It was nice to chill out for a half hour, but we definitely needed to get back to the festivities and the hundreds of kids pleading “Hay que jugar!” (see Keren’s blog post http://amateuralmanac.wordpress.com/2011/09/17/a-funny-thing-happened-on-the-way-to-my-wawa/ to fully understand that slightly obnoxious phrase).
We went back… and had another popsicle, this time with one of my community counterparts and her host sister. I continued to meticulously avoid any possibility of having to dance with anyone – although it can be fun, the songs here last for, like, 80 minutes, I swear.
Finally Keren and her gang had to head back up to her site and the party seemed to be dying down so after chatting a bit more with my community counterpart and her husband, I headed back down the hill to my house.
I had a lovely dinner of soup and leftovers from the pollada lunch (the leftovers was a chicken foot but it was covered in that delicious sauce, so I didn’t mind). Dinners with my family are fantastic and relaxing and I can vent a little bit without being judged – also my host family has a great sense of humor (again, come visit).
After dinner the party was still going on (we could hear the band from our house) so my host mom asked if I wanted to go out and ‘chismear’ (gossip) a bit. I was hesitant – knowing that if anyone recognized me, I’d be dragged out to dance or play again. But I was so down to hang out with my host mom, so I put on a full disguise (okay, just a hat and a huge scarf, but I felt like a badass so whatever…) and we went back up to the plaza.
So it was definitely still going on. It was already about 9 at night and, not including the kids, I’m sure about 95% of the people remaining were drunk. My host mom went up to a balcony in the plaza to go watch the drunkest ones dance the night away. My host mom explained all the different twisted relationships between people in our town (its tiny so everyone knows everything) and we laughed at some pretty silly drunken dance moves.
One recently separated married couple was dancing beside each other, but with different partners – can you say awkward? And then, out of no where, someone (apparently someone from the husband’s family) came up and hit the wife over the head. Next thing we know, she’s flailing her arms to hit whoever hit her back. Her flailing causes drunken flailing across the entire drunken dance floor – so now there are 20 drunks flailing around and it got nasty. Safe to say we booked it back home ASAP.
So that was two. Two Peruvian fights in a day. At least the second one wasn’t about food.
Now, let me clear something up. Peruvians are the sweetest people I’ve ever met in my entire life. I’m not exaggerating. They are fantastic, and generous, and funny, and kind. And there are so many of them who avoid these kinds of parties for the kind of activities that they breed.
So even though my tranquil, tranquilo, chai yen yen town is for the most part quiet and peaceful, I guess they really know how to throw a crazy, crazy party.
P.S. A couple weeks ago I was walking out to our backyard garden (to pee of course – this was before I bought my chamber pot – best decision I’ve made in my entire life btw), and I came across my host sister catching bees. Safe to say that is something you would never see a U.S. kid doing, so naturally I was curious. Turns out, as Meche explained to me, she was catching them to sting and cure her aunt of the flu. In the end there weren’t enough to cure our Tia – she would have needed around 20 I think. So… I’ll let you know when I decide to try this remedy. Pretty tempted – is that weird?
P.S.S. I am trying SO hard not to adopt a puppy. Any other volunteers having a seriously hard time with this? Also, Mom, feel free to chime in here with words of discouragement (they would be greatly appreciated).
Charlotte Bowman: I love you. The package was incredible. The cosmo is sitting next to me and my host mom just came down to ask for another Werthers – we’re all loving them. Come to South America faster.
Lauren Demetro: My room officially looks like an elementary school teacher’s in October. I probably shouldn’t have put ALL of the leaves up on my walls, but I had to. Everytime I look at them I see your face, live laugh love.
Mom and Dad: Thank you for all of your packages. I usually eat all of the granola bars in 2 days. I’m LOVING LOVING LOVING the music – totally keeping me company when Keren can’t. And ma I can’t wait to make a real white sauce. AND THE BOOKS – I told all my kids today that you guys sent new ones and they went ballistic! I’ll take photos when we read them together.
Grandma and PapPap: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BOTH OF YOU - Sept. 22 and Oct. 17!!! Your letters mean the world to me. I cherish every word. Lets be pen pals?
And finally: SolLight – where would I be without this little guy. Currently my light my room is not working so I use the solar-charged bottle cap lantern all night. And the kids here LOVE to play with it. I also use it in our latrine since there’s no light in there either – SO handy. Thanks SolLight! PCVs get a discount so, guys, if you’re interested, here’s the link: http://www.sollight.com/