The 5 Top Things That Bewilder Me About Peru

Every country has its things that I just don’t get, even the US. I’m looking at you, guns-in-purses toters and Rupert Murdoch defenders.

Peru is no different, though I don’t have the added perspective of getting the values behind it like I do with the States.

5. Peruvian fitness competitions

I don’t understand why there is one of these every two weeks when it’s a relatively small area. I don’t understand how the men can be on steroids and still be so small. I don’t understand the point of doing steroids if it’s not even your real body that’s getting judged. I don’t understand why women would want to get so beefy. I don’t understand why they list 5 pm on the ticket when everyone knows it won’t start until 6. I don’t understand why they allow the trainers of the competitors to be judges. I don’t understand why a ton of fake tan has to be worn.  #clearlynotafitnessjunkie

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The guy who won first place being judged by his own trainer.

4. The Line Etiquette

I get filled with dread at the mall. Most of the time, it’s nothing but joy: of Chili’s chicken and arcade games and shopping. Until it’s time to check out. Then I drag my feet. Sometimes there is no one ahead of me in line, and it still takes 20 minutes to check out. It’s like the first time they’ve ever operated the register…every…time. Then, multiply that all over again by every person ahead of you in line. This is why I could not stand silent when someone came from the other direction of the checkout line and got in front of me-cutting in line also is a not uncommon occurrence. Therefore this just increased my wait time by 20 minutes. “Excuse me,” I said in Spanish, “why did you just get in front of me?” “I only have one item,” she replied. “There are special lines for people with less than ten items, please go there, I’ve got to be somewhere,” I replied. She shook her head no. She stayed there, but finally because the person ahead of her was taking so long, she gave up and left the store.

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A line. Though not at the mall. And not one I had to wait in; hence, not one that filled me with dread.

3. Peruvian Men

Machismo is a real thing, people. I’ve witnessed with my own eyes, as well as heard tell by natives, how the men sit and give orders, offer zero in the romance department, often have questionable hygiene, are undesirably aggressive and still think they are God’s gift to women. If I were a Peruvian woman, I think I would date an expat.

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A macho, but not machismo, expat. There’s a difference.

2. The Driving

We’ve seen a lot of of scary driving in our days of traveling. Although many countries like to claim the worst traffic title, it’s Manila in the Philippines who has actually won it recently. I would have to agree. Just to change terminals at the airport takes an hour. Going down the highway to our hotel took two. Waiting in line to get a ticket to get on the subway? Another hour. It truly is a nightmare. Here in Cusco, the problem is not the traffic so much as it is the drivers themselves. They literally aim for pedestrians in a bid, it seems, to get them to move faster. Jacob punched and dented a car after it almost ran into he and Ryder at a crosswalk (a crosswalk manned, no less, by a policewoman.)  Another time, Ryder was running around the Plaza de Armas in which no cars are allowed. We watched, stunned, as out of nowhere a tourist police truck came spinning down the road around 40 km per hour. It’s going to stop, right? I mean this is a pedestrian zone. It wasn’t slowing. Police were hanging out of the truck bed. The driver didn’t even appearing to be watching where they were going. Onlookers began shouting. It stopped in time, but with not much room to spare. Jacob said he would have been dangerously and perhaps violently angry had Ryder been hit by the police truck in the pedestrian zone. The roads in Peru are scary too, thin and curvy and with massive drop offs, but the drivers speed around them with a devil-may-care attitude. Perhaps they just have exceptional faith in their own driving abilities? Perhaps they think they have something to prove?

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A festival in the no-cars-allowed Plaza de Armas.

1. “I Do Not Think it Means What You Think It Means”

This one is the hardest to describe and also the most bewildering of all. After all, the others are side effects of a developing country for the most part. This one, though, is very much unique to Peru. I don’t feel that I have ever encountered this before. I feel validated after talking to my friend who grew up here who feels the same way, though like me, she is bewildered at why it is so. The thing is, Peruvians, pleasant and easy-going, say yes when they mean no. They talk about future plans, rave about how cool you are, respond to texts and calls, and then when it comes down to it, the meet up doesn’t happen. “Voy a llamarte,” says my Spanish teacher, is a very common phrase. “I’m going to call you,” which means, she says, I’m actually not going to call you. As a foreigner, it just comes across as flaky and unreliable, much like the public transportation systems here, from the trains to the planes to the buses. Actually, even the hours of business, which can be closed at random despite stated open hours, even playgrounds. But, apparently, the foreigners are not the only ones privy to this treatment-it’s experienced across the board. 10 people or more said they were coming to our Halloween party. Only three showed up, two of whom were from Argentina. The others never even made an excuse as to their whereabouts.

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It was still fun to dress up.

The first and only time I’ve ever been stood up was in Peru. I ate dinner at the cafe by myself. The best way of actually being guaranteed a meeting, is to have an organized event-like a birthday party, and then enjoy the human company while you’re there, because you’re sure as soap going to have a slippery time organizing a get together any other way. Perhaps they think it is friendly to act like they’d like to get together even when they’re not actually planning on it? Maybe the intent is there but life gets in the way? It remains a mystery, but it makes me glad for my upbringing, where a plan means a time and a place and fulfillment.

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I did go to this organized and scheduled baby shower, where men competed drinking from baby bottles. Good fun.

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 361 awesome articles for us.

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