I’ve been in Peru for about one week now and it already feels like I’ve been here for a month. There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by where I haven’t learned something new. And not just learning about my role as a Peace Corps Volunteer but also simply learning how to exist in Peruvian society. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I traded my [debatable] state of adulthood for childhood and I am now a grown person with the capacity of a toddler. I can’t understand big words, I need people to speak really slowly when they talk to me, and I mimick almost everything other Peruvians do. I’m basically pulling the ever so classic “Fake It Til You Make It” routine and for now it seems to be working – I hope. Anyway, here are just a few things I’ve already learned about existing in Peru successfully.
- Don’t Flush The Toilette Paper
This is one of the very first things I learned. Before we even had the chance to meet our host families, I learned that you are not supposed to flush toilet paper. Every bathroom has a little baby garbage can (that has a name in Spanish that I always forget) where you’re supposed to throw out the used tissue. Kinda gross but fairly easy, right?
I flush my toilette paper at least once a day. It especially happens when I wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and I’m half awake. After 25 years of flushing, of course it is my default mode. And not for nothing, I’m proud of my once a day flushing because for the first couple of days all I did was flush.
2. Saludos y Besos
Greetings and the kisses that accompany those greetings are a huge part of Peruvian culture. Since my Spanish vocabulary game is so weak, I feel like the majority of what I say are saludos. There’s hola and hasta mañana and buenas noches and buenos dias and buenos tardes, que tal, and que pasa. And, friends, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen that person that day, you still have to greet them. It is considered rude if you don’t. So of course, after living in Philly for 6 years, my default mode is rude beyond belief according to Peruvian standards because, ironically, you just don’t walk around the “City of Brotherly Love” greeting everyone you see with kindness and affection. This can sometimes be hard for me because I’m the person who will walk across the other side of the street just to avoid saying hello to someone I’m acquainted with if I don’t feel like talking. Despite that, I’m way better at this than the toilette paper flushing thing.
3. Cold Stuff
Peruvians HATE cold stuff and don’t ask me why. You have to always have something on your feet when you’re in the house because the floor is cold and you might get sick. Most drinks I’ve had come in three temperatures – hot, luke warm, and room temperature because why risk your life drinking an ice cold cup of water? Even the smoothies I’ve had are *cringe* warm. And even now, I’m sick with the cold and I’m pretty sure my host abuela warned me about getting in the shower because *plot twist* most Peruvians only have freezing cold water to shower in.
Usually, people in the states associate the potato with the Irish when Peru is actually the ancestoral home of the famed vegetable. There are a whopping 3,800 different types of potatoes grown here that come in just about every color of the rainbow- yellow potatoes, purple potatoes, green potatoes, red potatoes, and even black as night potatoes. So it should be no surprise that the Peruvian diet is extremely starch heavy and not just because of the potatoes. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t have at least TWO of the following with every meal: Yuca, potatoes (of course), rice, bread, or lentils. All the starch and lack of fruit and vegetables leads to such an unbalanced diet that I was encouraged to buy a multi-vitamin.
I’m sure that I’m missing a whole worlds worth of information but these four are the main things that I encounter on a daily basis – Hasta Luego!