Amy in Peru: An Odyssey

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Huancavelica Smells: A Tour

It has been another relatively run-of-the-mill week with nothing too interesting to post, so I thought I would give you all a tour of Huancavelica… but instead of posting a bunch of boring pictures, I thought I would take you on an olfactory journey of epic proportions. So come with me as we explore Huancavelica…. smell-o-vision style!

The day often begins on an olfactory level with the shower, where if I am not careful plugging up my shower drain after washing, one gets smacked in the face with the rank smell of stale sewer gas. I am not sure what happened with the piping in my building, but there you have it. After getting dressed, I squirt a whole lot of my Peruvian perfume (called “Day”: powdery and soft) and enjoy the smell of gas being lit as I prepare a kettle to make a cup of tea. Mmmm…. Propane….. Seriously. I love a gas stove.

On my walk to work is when my nose really gets a workout. As a side note, pervading any olfactory sensation while walking through Huancavelica, first off, is the smell of earthy dirt. There is always lots of dust or mud (depending on the season—rainy or dry) so there is always a backdrop of earthiness in any smell one encounters in the street.

As I start off, turning the corner from the alley into the plaza, one is hit with a raging strong smell of acrid, bitter pee--- I am not sure why, but someone LOVES peeing on the wall beside my building. Continuing down the hill towards the center of town, passing the small river, one often gests the distinctive, tinny whiff of blood as you pass the llama slaughterhouse. Although a visual cue, I will share that the very stinky, garbage filled river is often red--- makes me think of bible plagues and whatnot--- from the runoff of the slaughterhouse. Very nice. J

As I pass into the center of town and the plaza, I pass by the orange juice stalls, and get a whiff of their beautiful fresh citrus smell. A nice contrast to the stale, dirty water that often collects in the 6-inch drain ditches between the street and the sidewalk (when there is a sidewalk). As one continues their walk, one also encounters all make and model of dog poo--- fresh and dried, runny and compact. They have it all. And they all stink. A lot. As I arrive at the office, one has to greet everyone present with a kiss on the cheek, thus filling my nose with the strong smell of aftershave or perfume of my coworkers, which is nice after the relatively stinky walk to work.

On my way home from work, as the evening begins to set in, one is immediately hit with the smell of food cooking, mostly being fried (food in the mountains of peru is not very healthy, I have to say). Chicharrones, which are pieces of fried pork, are always being cooked on the street by little ladies and their propane tanks. One also gets greasy whiffs of piccarones (fried dough in a sweet syrup) and the ever-present rotisserie chicken and fried potatoes. In contrast, while one is passing the food stalls, one also passes the llama skin stores, where you get a very strong nose-full of stinky, dusty, rotting llama skins. Yuck.

As I pass people in the street, I am also greeted with the distinctive smell of chewed cocoa leaves--- people chew them as a stimulant, and they reek. A slightly bitter but bright smell, green and pungent. Not entirely unpleasant actually. And really common, especially at night.
I finally make my way back to my plaza, pass the crazy acrid pee wall, and as I walk upstairs to my apartment, I pass the smell of fresh paint and plaster, as they continue to finish the other floors in my building (mine is the only one finished). I enter my apartment, take a whiff of the pomanders I have hanging in my kitchen (oranges studded with cloves--- wonderful natural air freshener), and smell that puff of propane as I turn on the stove to make myself a warm cup of tea.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Back in the Swing...

Contrary to my stated intentions, I have been a long time posting... again.

I just haven't being doing anything particularly interesting lately... I go to work, go to meetings, I come home at night, sometimes I hang out with friends, experiment with cooking (the latest experiment was cinnamon buns.... more like cinnamon turds, but there you have it... it was an experiment), I get cold, I try to warm up, I go to the market on sundays to buy my veggies for the week, visit my favorite vendors who now know me, continue to dodge the roaming dogs and giant potholes in town, visit with the other gringo, sometimes buy a pirated movie to watch, etc....

So, as life has been pretty routine (well, Huancavelica routine) lately, I have been putting off posting until I had something interesting to say.

But I still don't really have anything interesting to say.

So here is a list of random stuff:

1. Bands. So many bands. They play all the time. ALL THE TIME. I thought it was for particular festivals, as I posted last time. But they are still playing day and night, and I can't figure out what they are playing for, and no one seems to be able to tell me. There is one playing somewhere close by right now. I can hear it as I am typing this. They are everywhere. All the time. Are they following me? It is crazy!! How do these guys play so much and still have lips??? :)

2. While papayas and other tropical fruits have gotten (relatively) expensive at the market due to the floods in the northern part of Peru, things like green beans are cheap and plentiful and delicious. I was never a huge fan to be honest, but i can get a kilo for 2 soles (less than a dollar) so, for that price, I have been learning to love them... yum!

3. I started teaching some English classes (sigh), and have gotten a taste of how bad english lessons can be here. One woman in my class was confused about the sequence of "Thank You" and "You're Welcome". She was taught that it was "Thank you" and "Be thanked you". Wow....

4. Receiving stuff by mail is relatively painless (THANK YOU to all who continue to send stuff!! I love it!!), but sending is BRUTALLY expensive. It cost me almost 20 dollars to send a book on in a bookring I was participating in. No more of that, I guess...

5. We are in the rainy season here, and it has been raining a lot. But one has to pay attention if it hasn't rained much for a few days, because when that happens, you know there is going to be a HUGE storm, usually with lots of electrical activity. We had a crazy hail storm last week that was truely amazing--- it looked like it had snowed when it was all done, but everything was actually covered in giant ice pellets. Glad i was home at the time!! Ouch!

So that is about all I have to say right now. Sad, I know. Not much going on. I need to get out and go on a trip and take some pictures. I haven't left Huancavelica for almost 6 weeks which is a bit cabin-fever-ish. It just costs money and I don't really want to go on my own as it is not the safest thing to do, frankly. Plus, Huancavelica is so far from anywhere, a weekend isn't really enough time to go anywhere cool. Am planning on going to Macchu Picchu with Dave and his volunteer posse in May, which is nice to look forward to--- his org is so much more organized as far as getting people together to share and compare. Must write a letter to that effect to CUSO. Send me on trips to get me out and have some good posts. Please. :)

Hope all is well with everyone, and I will endeavour to spice up my life to have something to write...