I met my host grandmother the other day, aka my host mom’s mom. She is without a doubt the smallest and cutest person I have ever seen. She wears the typical outfit of old Andean women (minus the bright colors) – knee-length skirt, several layers of sweaters / ponchos, hair in two long black braids, and sun hat. Talking seems to be a huge effort for her and she looks about a thousand years old, but I guess popping out a dozen or so children in between doing hard physical labor will do that to you. The only part of her that seems young is her hair – it’s still incredibly thick and shiny and she doesn’t have a single gray. Last night she stopped by to talk to my host mom and stayed to watch the novela with us (more on that in a minute). She fell asleep after about 5 minutes, and it was the cutest thing ever. I am dying to take her picture, but the last thing on this earth I want to do is offend this woman, so it will have to wait, but the world deserves to see her cuteness, so I’ll try soon. Deni (my host mom) tells me that her grandmother is alive too, and I cannot even IMAGINE how much cuter she will be.
Things with which I have become slightly obsessed
- Corazón Valiente (the telenovela my host family watches). I’m totally sucked in, despite the fact that I can only understand about one word in ten.
- Combate, this game show where they have contestants go through crazy obstacle courses and insane challenges / dance-offs. One time the contestants had to play the telephone game while wearing scuba masks. It’s pretty freakin awesome.
- Sublime – this candy bar that the Awamaki staff told us about. It’s just chocolate and peanuts (aka a Mr. Goodbar), but I eat two of them pretty much every day.
Food here is… interesting. That’s really all I can say about it. One the one hand, everything is fresh and local, and nothing is stored for a very long time, which is great. Most people don’t have refrigerators, and if they do, they don’t refrigerate most things that you or I would. I think part of the reason is that the people here don’t like to eat or drink things that are cold. They don’t drink cold water, only mate (herbal tea), and even beer is served at room temp. Since the water isn’t safe to drink straight from the tap and it’s so chilly at night, most people here agree that putting cold things into your body is guaranteed to make you sick in some form or another. My host family, however, has both a fridge and a freezer, so I think they must be pretty rich in Peruvian terms.
Now, I can eat pretty much anything, but when I am on my own, I pretty much stick to the basic food groups, which I have outlined below:
- Sandwiches (with cheese)
- Breakfast food
- Pierogies (filled with cheese)
- Various fruits and vegetables (usually eaten with cheese)
Clearly I have a very sensible diet. Also, you can see that the common denominator here is cheese. Ironically, the cheese here is amaaaaazing (Libby and Joey – think quesillo from Mexico), but unfortunately my host family doesn’t eat too much of it. As for the rest of my food groups, they have been replaced by starch – most of my meals now consist of rice, potatoes, or corn, or any combination of those three. I do get to eat egg sandwiches pretty often for breakfast, but other than that, I am SOL. Except for the fruit – fruit here is fantastic. Every Tuesday, the fruit truck arrives from Quillabamba (the closest jungle town), bringing fresh oranges, limes, bananas, mangoes, papayas, and plenty more (see below!). On these days my host mom will squeeze me fresh orange juice, and it is absolutely out of this world. The bread is also delicious – every day or two, they will send me to the oven to buy fresh bread. I say oven because that’s really all it is – not a house, not a store, just a door a little ways down from our house with the word horno carved into the molding above it. Through the door there is a giant oven, a man with a long paddle to shovel the tiny loaves in and out, and a girl who takes care of the money. I give her two soles (about 80 cents), and she gives me a bag full of the tiny round loaves. I’d like to get a picture of this place too, but I have a feeling that that would not bode well for my bread-buying capabilities in the future.
the fruit truck from quillabamba!