Monday, January 19, 2009

A day on the streets of Cajamarca

I’m feeling the grip of the bad-food induced fever-flu letting go of my bones today. I had one of those nights where you wish it would end but seems like forever, tossing turning rolling aching. I feel so much better today and was able to get out on the streets of this Peruvian mountain town that is so familiar to me.
Many evenings, like last, your dreams are serenaded by drunken men talking or singing. This type of into-the-night party is common; there is no such thing as noise pollution or rules here about making noise, so really nothing you can do but bring some earplugs or enjoy the concerto. The morning brought the familiar sound of the street clogged with taxis who honk their horns for several reasons: to tell you to get out the way since there is no such thing as passenger right-of-way; to go through an intersection without heeding and hoping the other party “hears the beep;” to “whistle” at women; to get you to take their taxi for a ride. At any rate, the honking is a non-stop symphony of chaos you must integrate quickly.

Walking on the streets of Caja brought many memories; the campesino people are simply beautiful to the eye. These are the people who are the remaining heirs of the Incan blood and Incan traditions. They diff from the more Spanish-blooded citizens through dress, Language ( speak Quechua and Spanish), and appear almost Native American…they are the remaining lines of Incan blood. The women wear wide wool skirts that have several layers to keep them warm in this cool climate. They also wear the traditional hat that resembles closely a cowboy hat. (see picture of campesinas spinning wool.) Of course, throughout Peru you would see campesinos (literally means farmer) in different shapes of hats; these hat shapes and colors define the regions of Peru. There is something very beautiful and mystical about these people, their skin weathered from years of work outside to survive. Each line containing worlds of wisdom. Many of our DiscoverHope village banks are groups of campesina women who traditionally take their loans for agricultural and weaving.

The streets of any developing nation can bring humor to the “develop-minded”. For example, today I walked by a rickety old wooden stand and a woman with a stethoscope around her neck. She was taking blood pressure of people in the middle of the sidewalk and writing it down on little strips of paper. There is also a “type-writing” stand where you go to have a document typed up for you if need be. This stand is always hopping with customers. In the years I lived here before, I once filed a police report about some of my stuff being stolen and the police told me that I had to go buy a certain sheet of paper and have it typed by the type-writing stand. I learned then that it was better off just evading the police all-together, especially as a foreigner, as you want no reason to have them ask you to “pay” for something they don’t like. In many stores, there are no set prices and you can negotiate your price. Of course that means as a “gringo” you better know what the local price is, or you will definitely get an over the top price. For example, in Lima one of the cab drivers told me the price from the airport was $60, when I know the real price is about $15. Here in Caja, I went to the marketplace to buy a piece of foam to sleep on, and negotiated my way through 4 stores to find out the real price.

There is a key-maker that grinds up keys copies on his hand-spun grinding wheel in a small wooden booth. The market is an open space with hundreds of people eating, buying, and selling…like people selling baggies of hand-pumped milk from their cistern. One of the specialties here is “cuy” or guinea pig, which is considered an absolute delicacy. If you get invited to a house for cuy, you will usually end of picking the cuy you want to eat from a cage of about 50-100. While guinea pigs may look like cute pets to some of us in the U.S., I assure you seeing 100 of them run around in close quarters shows their family resemblance to rats. Preparation of cuy includes slitting their throats, letting them empty their blood out in a bucket, and de-hairing them. You are finally served your delicious platter with the cuy head fully untouched— open mouth teeth and hand claws still in integrity; its face holds a frozen snarl at you for picking it out from the pack!

Today was actually a sunny day although it’s been super rainy and cold here. Since Carnival is approaching, the custom is to throw water balloons and buckets of water at people. I was driving home in a cab with my foam bed in a sea of car exhaust and some young girl toss her bucket of water right on my face from the side of the road through my window. It always shocks,(slightly embarrasses), and makes you want to find some water retribution! Until Marti Graz (or Carnival) passes, you have to be on constant watch for water invasion. I evaded some young boys on rooftops today that throw at you from 20+ feet up. Not to mention all the kids are on their summer break, this makes for an interesting walk around town.

This afternoon I met up with Nora, our Program Manager who is amazingly patient! We set a schedule for my time here (that will likely fall apart since things don’t work that way here). Tomorrow is “buying day” which we hold about 4x a year where we purchase artisan goods from the women and bring them back to the U.S. for sale. We put this money from purchases right back into the pot for their development classes and we pay them fair price up front so they don’t have to worry about their well-being. We will be in the AFIDER office, our microcredit partner here, collecting women’s goods and streaming the inauguration live on the laptop while we are at it. Talk about bridging worlds!

This blog entry feels random to me, but a day in the life here is absolutely a patchwork of moments that just sometimes leave you without words or logical reasoning. I am off to sleep for some rest and rejuvenation. Keeping you all in my heart and thankful to share this journey together.

To life bringing wonderful journeys, MM

No comments: