Homeless gypsy waif

My parents have officially moved to a town outside of Pittsburgh.  At last back amongst normal people Yankees!  Technically they packed everything up and left Tennessee in June, but they closed on their new house and began the move in process last week.
I am overwhelmingly happy for them.  The people in Pennsylvania have been thoroughly welcoming, genuinely helpful, and lovely to them. My family is enjoying exploring their new home, and, much to some people’s chagrin, dad has gotten a Steelers shirt.  If you didn’t understand that last bit, you’re probably like me, ie, actively hate ignore American football.  Good for you.

On the other hand, this is weird for me.  I have no idea where my parents live.  I mean, yes, they gave me their address, but nothing will be familiar when I go back stateside.

In some respects, I’ve been homeless for a long time; I never wanted to live in east Tennessee again, and my parents had long since kicked me out of my bedroom and relegated me to a part of the basement partitioned off with a curtain.  Totally not bitter, MOM.  Still, I knew the Tri-Cities, have friends there, memories there.  My little doggie is buried there.

Doubtless my parents will protest that I always have a home with them, I should come back, etc.  I am profoundly grateful for their unwavering support and willingness to welcome me back into their home.  Love you, Mom and Dad.

Perhaps a better word than homeless is ungrounded, rootless, or untethered.  I have friends and family spread out over the country — in Chicagoland, where I say I’m from when asked; in Georgia; three brothers still in east Tennessee; the myriad places my university friends scattered to; and now my parents in Pennsylvania.  To say nothing of the international friends I’ve made since moving.  Sometimes I’m jealous of expats who identify strongly with a certain location, where they can go back to friends they’ve lived close to since childhood.  However, I believe being untethered has done nothing but present me with opportunities to grow and become stronger.   And who knows; one of the reasons I didn’t pursue theatre professionally was fear of the unstable, transitory lifestyle, but I think now I could deal.  What my next adventure is nobody knows.

So yes, homeless gypsy waif is a bit dramatic — though it’d be an excellent name for a rock band. Things are transient; either I or my friends are always leaving.  But lately, I’m feeling increasingly ok with that.  In the revolving door that is my life, I am my home.

Minstrels and Beggars, episode 5

Today’s episode is the first to include photos rather than video and is in honour of the fact that this time last year I had just returned from a week-long vacation in Arequipa, which is where the photos were taken.  Arequipa remains one of my favourite of the places I’ve visited in Peru.  This probably has as much to do with how desperately I needed to get out of Lima at the time as it has to do with how very beautiful Arequipa is.  Last June and July in Lima were much colder, drearier, and rainier than they have been this year.

This guy was standing in the road at an intersection, hawking candies to passing cars and pedestrians.  As I recall, he was going about it rather belligerently.  And dressed in a yellow and green Santa costume.  Nothing to see here, citizens, carry on.

Christmas in July.

He noticed me taking pictures and was fabulous enough to pose.

Thumbs up for rock and roll.

And no, before you ask; yellow and green are not the typical Peruvian Santa colours.

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4

May the Force be with your reception

Several weekends ago — and by “several weekends” I mean “several months” ago because I am literally The Worst Updater of all Bloggington — I attended my first Peruvian wedding.  It was also my first and I hope my last Star Wars themed wedding; read about the ceremony here.  The invitation was Millennium Falcon-shaped and addressed to me using my special Jedi name: Doyka Comir.  How did they determine my Jedi name?  Quite simple.  Take the latin version of my full name and where I live, rearrange the first letters.  Karissa Doyal Cornelius, Miraflores.  The groom told me that the invitations were actually his bride’s idea; I responded that he must never let her go because they were clearly made for each other.

This poster greeted us on our way into the reception hall and let me know that it was going to be an interesting time:

The white paper bells are what make it.

The guest book and Death Star. Of course.

Everyone’s favourite little droid graced the appetizer table.

Surpassed in cuteness only by Wall-E.

The bride and groom had a sweet first dance to a medley of Joaquin Phoenix songs, though not before the groom had strutted up and down the hall in a massive Jedi cloak.

Fortunately he only wore this for photo-ops, not the actual ceremony or reception.

There were first dances, toasts, a nice dinner was served, and then the dancing began.  It was your standard mix of salsa and cumbia and whatever… then suddenly the music changed… and there were coloured spot lights… and someone passed out long balloons… and the Hora Loca (Crazy Hour) had begun.
Hora Loca some kind of thing they do here at wedding receptions, birthday parties, quinceañeras, even baby showers, during which the party, well, goes crazy.  There are costumes, performers on stilts, puppets… actually, Hora Loca sort of baffles me because I’ve only experienced one, but the general consensus is that it’s exactly what the name suggests.
Fortunately, I have video.  The bride, who had changed into a blue dress, and groom are the couple getting down with the Darth Vader on stilts.

The video and this photo speak for themselves.

Here are photos of the cake to wrap this madness up on a sweet note (SEE WHAT I DID THERE):

Awww, cute couple… wait, is that a wookie face? Yes, yes it is.

May the Force be with your ceremony

Time is a relative concept in latin culture.  It’s a suggestion, if you will.  I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic township, and my family was often invited to the epic birthday bashes our neighbours would throw, complete with a whole roasting pig, mariachi band and piñata — for a child turning 2.  On one of these occasions, we merrily walked across the street and knocked on the Carrera’s door at the time indicated on the invitation… to be met by la señora, confused, in hair rollers and bathrobe.  She barely spoke English but the message was conveyed that we were to come back later.  Which ended up being probably three hours later, when we saw people milling about in the yard and men grilling.
Despite previous experiences with the latin time phenomenon, despite knowing that if the invite said 3pm then things would maybe possibly get going by 5:30, it was like a compulsion to arrive on time.  We were often some of the first to arrive at the many Mexican parties we attended.

All of this to say, I am well versed in latin time.  And yet, when I went to my first Peruvian wedding a couple Saturdays ago, I found myself arriving before virtually every single one of the other guests… and 10 minutes before the groom.

To me, the most amusing and or quintessentially latin part was that the invitation said 6:30, but the church didn’t even let out of mass until 7:00.  The groom, who was a long-time student of mine, had told me that they’d reserved the sanctuary months in advance, so presumably they were informed that mass lasts until 7:00.  The couple then must have decided to put 6:30 on the invitations knowing that people would turn up 30 minutes to an hour late.  A taxi full of flower arrangements arrived; guests and groom alike placed them inside as congregants streamed out.  It’s quite a difference from stateside weddings where people often fuss with decorations for hours or days beforehand.  Though on the other hand, many of the old Catholic churches here have such beautiful architecture as to not need much else in the way of decorations.

The bride made an entrance about 7:15, which really was doing quite well.

Only 45 minutes late.

Andrea, my plus one, told me this was a typical ceremony, representative of Peruvian weddings as a whole.  These are some of the things that stuck out to me as different from what I’m used to.
There was no wedding party.  The bride and groom sat for most of the ceremony.  They had a very unintrusive, inactive photographer.  Anymore it seems that photographers run the entire show at weddings in the states.

The couple sat for most of the ceremony.

It was a proper, regular mass.  Communion was offered, which isn’t strange, however they also took an offering, which to me was ultra strange.  Andrea theorised that although a majority of people may identify as Catholic, they rarely attend mass.  So the Church has to get money from them when they can, like Christmas, Easter, baptisms and weddings.

The clothes.  Oh good Apollo burned, the clothes.  Latin fashion includes generous amounts of spandex, sparkles and sequins in everyday wear, so you can just imagine what these people think up to wear to a wedding.  There are lots of prom-style dresses on women of all ages; these aren’t people in the actual wedding because as I wrote, they don’t do wedding parties.  I was able to covertly snap shots of two good examples.


Just wow.

I assure you there were far more examples, many of them wilder, more hideous, and more scandalous than these.

Something Andrea pointed out was that no one is really happy at wedding ceremonies.  No one’s going nuts with pictures, no one’s excited to be there, many people don’t even attend.  The reception is the real show.

After the recessional, the attendees were hurriedly ushered out because there was another mass at 8:00.  Then it was on the party.  Which was so epic and bizarre, it requires its own entry.

Oh yes, have you wondered about the title of the entry?  Well, I failed to mention that the wedding was themed.  I’ll show you the invitation and see if you can work out what the theme was… but more on that when we get to the reception.

The outside of the invitation. "In a short time, in a church very very close..."


Minstrels and Beggars, episode 4

It’s been awhile since our last episode of Minstrels and Beggars and I’m confident you’ve all missed it like mad.  In case you’re new or have forgotten, this is a series on street performers, also known as buskers, in Lima.

Visit any large city and you’ll discover that the world’s oldest profession does not have an exclusive monopoly on street corners.  Various types of performers also work the streets, ranging from jugglers to break dancers, from people in wild costumes to people balancing a bucket on a stick on their head.  Some of them are little more than beggars while others have elevated it to a kind of art.  An intersection during a red light can become their stage, a park or a bus.

In this episode we have an amateur magician on a bus.  As combis go, this is the nicest and biggest there is.  When I have time to be selective, I wait for one like this because I am a huge snob.  Most of the passengers were young people who seemed to know each other.  They were rather engaged with his performance and found him pretty funny and he fed off their energy.  I was sitting too far back and his voice was a bit too raspy for me to catch the jokes.  Maybe it’d help if I spoke Spanish. The trick was very well done.  I’ve watched the video several times and can’t tell how he did it.

Video description:  He does a bit of sleight of hand with a card and says he has to practise everyday.  He takes out page of a newspaper, rips it in half, gives one half to a girl and asks her to rip it into four equal parts, which he also does with his half.  She gives it back completely mangled and he teases her.  Everyone laughs.  He rips the pieces even more, stuffs them into his fist, and pulls out a whole page.

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3

Be my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Valentine

I take pictures of wild, interesting and unusual signs, as evidenced by my last post.  I love them.  If they have misspellings or bad English in them, all the better.  I could maybe devote an entire blog to them, but for now I guess I’ll focus on updating this one with any kind of regularity.  Anyways, this Tuesday is That Terrifically Dreaded Day Saint Valentine’s Day, and this year our new president declared Monday and Tuesday public holidays.

Presumably this was done to promote domestic travel, still it’s rather silly to me for various reasons, the first being that’s it’s only Valentine’s Day for Apollo’s sake.  Secondly, after living here for a straight year, it seemed to me that Peru had an awful lot of public holidays.  Practically all of Semana Santa (Holy Week), patriotic holidays, then various saints’ feast days.  And December 8 for la Inmaculada Concepción.  But wait, you ask, why do we celebrate the immaculate conception only 17 days before Christmas?  That’s either the shortest or longest gestation period ever.  Well, it’s actually the immaculate conception of Mary.  I bet you don’t remember reading about that in the New Testament!  Oh wait… that’s because it isn’t in the Bible.  But I digress.  The third reason is my classes usually are cancelled on holidays and she who does not work does not eat.

Speaking of eating, here’s the sign that inspired this post.

"Forget teddy bears and flowers! Send your partner her or his favourite large pizza in the shape of a heart."

Lots to love about this picture.  There’s the fact this restaurant is called Telepizza.  If it was only delivery and take-away I think it’d make sense, but it also has a dining room.  There’s “Pizza Full Love” and the odd usage of the word “full” here in Peru, which doesn’t always exactly correspond to the English meaning.  Then there’s just the idea of sending a pizza for Valentine’s Day, though really if anyone wanted to send me a pizza or even freaking anything on Tuesday, it’d be fine by me.

Scrub with egg-battered guinea pig. Rinse and repeat.

“Leo las cartas!”  So calls a hunched-over white-haired lady who can most always be found seated at the same bench in Parque Kennedy.  The first time I, recently arrived in Lima, heard her hawking this line to passers-by, I understood it to mean “I read letters.”  To which I thought Well done… unless they weren’t addressed to you.  In which case I’d quit broadcasting having committed federal offenses.
When I walked past awhile later the same day, she was standing behind the bench kicking one of Parque Kennedy’s many cats.  I mentioned this to someone later — “Dude, this crazy old lady was drop-kicking cats.  And she reads other peoples’ mail!” — and my friend explained that what she reads is tarot cards.  Oh.  Well that makes so much more sense.  This meaning of the word ‘carta’ hadn’t occurred to me.  Obviously.

One often sees signs advertising the services of curandero/a/s, which basically means witch doctor.  At first I found this pretty freaky, but have come to learn that in Lima they’re more or less regarded as palm readers.  People go to get their fortunes told, or for a cure to a streak of misfortune.  Still, in the provinces it might be that the shamans do hold some freaky power and influence over people.

This curandero from Piura “unites couples instantly.” I’ve often wondered how this is accomplished exactly. Can he get me together with anyone? Jude Law for example? Would I need to bring in one of his hairs or something? Because I could arrange that…

A rather surprising number of people visit these folk healers.  I went through a phase of asking my students if they’d ever been to one and the majority either had or have family that seeks curanderos’ advice.  Several said they knew it was silly but went anyway out of curiosity.

So I have horrendous luck.  Upon telling my old housemates about my most recent occasion of being robbed, my dear Peruvian friend responded with “te pasaré el huevo,” which means “I’ll pass an egg over you.”
I begged her pardon.
She explained that this was a typical ritual to get rid of bad energy.  Being curious, and at that point willing try anything up to and including sacrificing virgins with stone knives during a full moon, I asked for details.  According to her, I’d need to strip, have an egg rubbed all over my body, and then we’d crack the egg into a bowl of water.  What manner of bad energies the egg removed could be determined by the various bubbles and shapes in the yolk.  She added that actually, it would be better luck to rub a guinea pig all over my body.  I am violently allergic to guinea pigs, and it seems fittingly on par that the luckiest ritual would also cause my lungs to collapse.