Sunday, 5 April 2009

A quiet day

Since I have spent today doing very little, I have a chance to talk about the more domestic side of things. I am living with a family of four (two parents, two sons of 17 and 12) in a three bedroom house. By Peruvian standards, they are quite well off - I only have to look at the surrounding houses to see that. In one, the yard consists of a patch of dirt with a makeshift shelter of plastic, under which guinea pigs roam around.

By contrast, my family has a large TV, a computer, bikes. They run a bar which adjoins the house, from which loud cheerful music is always booming. Two things are inescapable: football and Catholicism. The walls of my room are plastered with images of players from the Cusco team (Cienciano), as well as international icons like Zidane and Beckham. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to watch the Arsenal - Man City match yesterday live on Peruvian TV. As for religion, there are posters of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, carved figures in boxes, and Bible quotations scattered through the house. Today, Palm Sunday, they got up at 4am to go to Mass.

The father is a quiet man, whereas his wife is entirely the opposite - she takes every opportunity to make conversation, which is great as otherwise it would be easy to feel very isolated. The boys are both very smiley and quite chatty once you make the effort to talk. They bicker like any set of brothers, though probably even more than I do with mine! I have already lost abysmally at chess to the younger - it never was my strong point, though I will demand a rematch to try to save my honour.

So they are relatively prosperous, but as I keep remembering, of the three bedrooms, two are taken up by volunteers, so the four of them sleep in one room. There are other reminders that this is a developing country, like the fact that all their washing is done by hand. Coming from a country where a washing machine is considered a necessity, it is a valuable (if clichéd) lesson to see that not having one is not the end of the world.

There are two more things I want to mention. The first is the Internet/computer craze. The younger of the boys in my family spends as much time playing computer games as any English kid - he is lucky enough to be able to. And then there are two types of Internet café - ones for foreigners, and ones which are always full of shouting Peruvian kids playing games on the Internet. It seems to take up most of their time.

The second thing is something my hostess said to me yesterday evening: "I've never been in a plane, but if I flew at night I'd be scared of crashing into the stars".


  1. Paul,
    Lovely to read your blog. Interested on the washing machine comment. Can you tell me what a typical day of the Mother you are staying with is? Do you think she would be able to achieve more in the day if she did have one?
    Get some photos uploaded immediately!
    much love, Sx

  2. Hi Sophie,

    Sorry it took a while to get back - I only just noticed this! I'm afraid I can't give you too detailed an answer. As far as I can tell, her day is taken up with domestic things - cooking, washing, etc. Then she also helps run the bar that is connected on to the house. Having a washing machine would certainly save time, but here they are considered as an unnecessary luxury. It is after all much cheaper (though much slower) to wash by hand.

    In fact, nearly all houses do not have ovens. Cooking is done on the hob, or there are huge communal ovens at various points in the town.

    Paul x