I am staying with my friend Melanie, who has a lovely house and a lovely boyfriend (Coco) and a lovely dog (Killa, moon in Quechua) while I look for my own place. We watch bad movies in Spanish and cook together and go for walks. Melanie and Coco and going to Qolloriti tonight, a festival that includes walking up mountains in the snow and dancing. I am caring for the house and their dog when they are gone.
Two of my friends and I watch half-naked boys (two of which belong to my friends) with tattoos and board shorts play a pick-up game of soccer while reggae pumps from speakers. Some of them dance in the middle of the field, strutting and bouncing to Marley. They splash fountain water on their faces and tip red powerade into their smiling mouths.
We eat ceviche and jalea, and Nilton cracks crab shells with his teeth. We drink jarras of chicha morada and lemonade and share fried yuca root, then go for ice cream in the Tupac Amaru plaza. We come home to Melanie's house to watch soccer and take naps.
I wake up grumpy from my afternoon nap and head over to a birthday party for an artisan I know vaguely. They are passing around a bottle of rum while Grupo 5 plays and drunken singing ensues. I try to resist the rum, I can't drink because I didn't have cena, I say, they insist and insist, pouring more amber into the plastic dentist cup, tomalo tomalo, tomalo! I am left alone with Alex, who is into me and talks with me about los ochentas, New Order and Ocean Blue, bands from the 70s and the 80s slurring thick out of his mouth like fudge. I wait for them to come back, I sit close but not too close I talk about 70s and 80s bands. At this point, I have toma-d more than I wanted to on a post-nap pre-dinner stomach which is never a good idea. They come back and I am angry and I am upset and I have to go but the couch has been placed in front of the door. I am commanded to sit, to stay, to drink, and then when I don't want to drink, I can either take the shot or kiss some dude (Alex). At this point I am rude, I am a bitch, I say no outright, I must look disgusted, I am disgusted, I hate my choices. Puta madre! I don't want to be here, I need to go, I feel disrespected and forced and not listened to. I make my escape to walk back to Melanie's house and Alex follows me. He asks me ridiculous drunken questions and touches my hip (no tocame!). Mid-way through the walk to Melanie's house he informs me he "doesn't want to walk anymore." And he thought I would kiss him? Que caballero, oh my god! Thanks for walking me almost to my house, Alex, how chivalrous. I cry in Melanie and Coco's kitchen. Coco holds me and tells me it will pass, it is passing, it has passed. I am upset and nothing horrible happened I just feel disrespected. Melanie had chifa (a blend of Peruvian and Chinese food) waiting for me and my kitchen scene scored me a snickers bar, which she donated from trek snack stash. So they leave and I hang out with Killa and eat my chifa and watch bad TV and skype my family and rant about taxi drivers and assholes.
It is the small things that get to me, like taxi drivers trying to rip me off and take me out, or women whining at me to llevalo, it's hecho a mano, mi trabajo, puro alpaca lady. Small things get to me in other ways, too. Pictures of Sawyer growing up and smiling through every stage, picking up a guitar and playing it at the hostal, hearing a Spanish cover of a Damien Rice song during a breakfast out in Chile, the way Coco's tongue pokes through his smiling teeth, toilet paper in a bathroom, water.
Sometimes its hard to get past the cultural differences and see and be seen as a whole person, not as gringo or Peruvian or poor or rich or cultured or not. I am frustrated, as well, by gender differences here. I am a woman so I will never be taught any swear words in Spanish and the boys will laugh at my expense and the boys will continue to make homophobic comments because this is the culture, the culture is asi. Not that nothing can change, not that people aren't progressing, and of course I am generalizing. What I do best. I am the privileged gringo so I must love bricheros and be rolling in it and blow 9 soles on milkshakes, and I am a woman so I can't swear or do things for myself and without your consent, not to mention poop. Girls don't poop, or at least not very much, and when they do it's dried violets and pearls that come out. For your fucking pleasure.
Here I go again, wanting to break boundaries and borders and pre-conceived notions. Wish me well. Wish me luck.