The content of this webpage, and everything associated with this webpage, is independent of the Peace Corps and the United States Government, though I think they should read it too. This blog solely reflects the experiences and observations of Jake DeBerry.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Life in the Andes in Ancash - Confessionals


Since this is a PG-rated blog, you’ll just have to use what you know about me to guess some of the other things that might have occurred during these experiences.

Living in a country is much, much different than being a tourist – as you would imagine. The experiences I value the most are those which I wouldn’t be able to have if I were simply a tourist.

For instance, in a small town near me there was a party a few weeks back – when I and two friends arrived, we were immediately greeted by the mayor of the town (who we knew) with homemade liquor, which they heat up, dump full of sugar, and serve from kettles. After passing around a cup of it, some older ladies grabbed our hands and we began dancing to a live band playing “huayno” – the native music of the area. Not long after we arrived, a line of younger ladies formed and the mayor pointed at them and asked who we wanted to dance with, as if they were there for only us. After going down the line, shaking hands and giving a kiss on the cheek, we were then grabbed by some older guys who wanted us to drink with them until it was time to dance again. Being white at these parties is instant celeb status and most everyone is excited to share their customs with you – as long as you’re excited to participate.
The night continued with much merriment and much drinking and dancing in the streets. At one point, the town links arms and then does a sorta-horiztonal-conga line snaking our way through the town’s streets while the band follows us. This entire time a feeling of utter remoteness hovers through your thoughts as you dance through the unpaved, rocky streets laced with adobe houses, glance above and see a nighttime sky reserved for poetry, and continually pass around the homemade liquor (using only one cup for each group – it’s the custom…and it’s gross, but whatever). (pic: The bands jackets were really similar to mine...so I joined them for awhile.)

The following day the party continues with a bullfight in a ring made of mud where the most entertaining aspect comes when the really, really drunk guy thinks he can take on a bull. Many times this just ends with a few bruises – sometimes not. Luckily, this time no one was hospitalized or killed. This guy got close though, other pic below.

A group that is quickly becoming popular is “Grupo 5”. Imagine a boy band in all its fabricated corniness, then imagine the stereotype of Latin music with a huge background band, someone yelling “Arriba” and then some other guy always yelling into the microphone as if using a bullhorn – and that’s this group. They do have a couple good singers and a couple of catchy tunes. Well, they came to play in a town near me…
The concert was said to start around 8pm…we arrived at 11 to a very long line to buy tickets and an even longer line to get into the concert. Since we’re all white…the cops keeping order (by order I mean harassing all the girls) took us to the front of both lines. Once in the arena at 11pm, we notice they are still setting up the stage…around midnight the concert began. We used the hour to become even more familiar with the beverages of Peru – even though we spent the past 5 hours copiously sampling.
Around 2 am, us gringos got a shout out by the band – and we were the only white people at the concert. Anytime you needed to navigate your way to the bathroom it was nothing but stares and invitations to drink (the bathrooms by the way was just a cardboard wall with ample space behind it, same for the male and female ‘bathrooms’…that’s right, no toilets, just space for squatting).
- (another pic of the bullfight)


Around 3am all the other gringos have left except me…but that’s okay because I made some new Peruvian friends…in fact, I found a lovely lady to dance with. After about an hour of dancing…around 4:00am, I was ready to go. I asked her if she wanted to leave and she replied yes – but…and this is a huge BUT…she needed to get her baby. That’s right…she brought a baby to the concert.
This baby was a year old, beautiful little girl who had spent the last 4 hours having her eardrums blown out because her mom wanted to go to a concert. In fact, looking around the concert, the practice of bringing your baby to a concert seemed to be popular…or at least not a big deal. So what did I do? I carried her baby home for her, lectured her the entire way about why she shouldn’t be bringing a baby to a concert, empathized with her story about the father not wanting to help out, and wished her luck.

After that I walked around lost for 30 minutes, didn’t have a single bit of money on me because I spent it all at the concert, ran from some dogs, ripped my jeans as I climbed over the fence to my hostel, argued with the hostel owner at 4:30am about why she was going to pay for my jeans, barely made it to my room and passed out to laugh about the experience the next day and subsequent days after.

I didn't bring my camera to the concert, otherwise I probably would have lost it. So, here's a pic from mustache day with my fellow volunteer, Drew.


Thanks for reading.

- Jake

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