Holy cow! Two posts in one week, right?! Consider this more of a pseudo-post, though, as it’s more for entertainment purposes than anything else…
So, the idea has come to me that it would be rather entertaining to do a post on the marked cultural differences that I am experiencing on a daily basis. This in no way is meant to be judgemental, simply just meant to share some of the comical situations that arise when you are living in a culture completely different from your own.
1. Whenever you have an incredibly yummy treat here, you must hoard it in your room for fear of others noticing it or else you will inevitably be asked (or rather told, maybe even demanded) in a pitiful voice, with face to match, “invítame.” This translates, as all you smart people might be able to deduce, to: “invite me.” You best invite too, for they will not let up. While I fancy myself a generous person, it’s hard to want to share at times the treasured goodies from home. So, as a result of this little difference, I have now become somewhat of a food hoarder.
2. The idea of giving kids here a house key seems to be beyond comprehension. Now, I have no clue as to what they did before I arrived, but I have now become the glorified door-opener. I serve this role even when the boys return home at 7:45 on the mornings that their teachers don’t show. Asleep? No worries, they will incessantly pound on the door until I awake and let them in. When I mentioned that the kids in the states have keys to get into their homes after school, they are all shock and astonishment and cannot fathom such an insane concept as letting their irresponsible, completely dependent kids have a key and some small sort of independence.
3. From what I have witnessed, Peruvians barely sleep (in the night, anyway). In both of my host families, they stay up until 1 or 2 a.m., then wake up at 6 a.m. every single day. Now, you might be wondering how they function after a week of this…Well, while they do not sleep much at night they tend to take long naps (2 to 4 hours) in the afternoon. This is made possible by the fact that most jobs are only morning jobs until 1 or 2 p.m. Now, being the gringa that I am, I still prefer to sleep about 8 hours a night and not much during the day. I do believe that my sleeping patterns baffle my family as much as their’s do me!
4. Since I am currently living in a machismo culture (a reality that any Peruvian–male or female–will mention as well) I have had to get used to some of the side effects of such a culture including, but not limited to, cat calls. I cannot deny that as an independent woman from the states these cat calls can have a tendency to get under my skin if I pay them any mind. However. the lucky side effect of these cat calls being in my second language (in which I can hardly claim to be proficient) is that I can easily tune them out–kind of like white noise–and continue on my walk to wherever. I have had several conversations with Peruvian women/girls about this marked difference in behavior of men in the states and here. In one conversation a story was shared that one of the speaker’s friends, a pretty girl by any standard, moved to the states a while back. She quickly noted this difference in behavior as well, for as she walked down the street no one looked her in the eye let alone called out to her. She later remarked on this observation to someone concluding that she must not be pretty anymore. The person she was talking with just laughed, reassured her that she was indeed pretty, and proceeded to explain the cultural difference. I found this story amusing, as it highlights two points of view on this difference in culture.
5. Another funny cultural difference that I tagged in my memory for future comment occurred one afternoon while eating lunch out with my host family. After lunch out, my host mother always asks to put the leftovers into a container to carry home. This container is usually a plastic bag. She then dumps all the leftover food from every plate into the bag and carries it home with us. A plastic bag?, you wonder. Yes, it does at first seem odd. However, the food is not for us, it is for the pet dog, Rufus, who lives on the roof.
Well, that’s all I can manage to recall on this topic for now, though I am sure there will be posts along the same line in the future. Honestly, this is one of the reasons that wanted to serve in Peace Corps, live in a another culture for an extended period of time, to learn and become a part of that culture. I believe that when I first got here I probably could have written at least a dozen stories on such a topic, though as I assimilate into the culture these occurrences become a part of every day for me–they no longer seem out of the ordinary. I think this is what I love best about my work currently: living in and becoming a part of a lifestyle different from what I am accustomed to. This experience is opening up my world and mind to different manners of living and simply being in society.