Way back in 1998, when Hubby and I lived and worked in Peru, I wrote a humorous email to family, letting off some steam and frustration while sharing the way of life as an expat. I recently found this email and got a good laugh reading it again. It is perfect for a blog post, albeit a bit long-winded. I had no idea what a blog was or if they were around back then. I know we had shaky dial-up and I had never bought anything online yet! You know, the dark ages.
I thought I would publish it to share with you all in two posts due to it’s length. This was written when I was about 22. We had been married two years and had no kids. My blog would have been named something like Just The Two of Us instead of Four Against Two! As you can read, I have always been a bit sarcastic. It was not caused from the trauma of motherhood.
BYOTP…That is the overriding theme in Lima and anywhere else in Peru for that matter. Yes toilet paper is like the American Express card here (never leave home without it), although unlike the card it can be used everywhere. For some reason this personal toiletry is considered just that. Personal. Therefore you bring our own. I have visited restrooms here that have provided this necessity, but you have to stand in line first for the toilet paper and then for the actual restroom.
My first time in a public bathroom here was quite traumatic. I get into the stall and there is no paper despenser, so I leave and find one by the sinks, then go back into the stall. Finding a stall is hard though. Orderly, straight lines are non-existant here. It is more like a game of bumper cars where you weave in and out of eachother pushing on the doors until one opens.
After getting toilet paper, finding a stall and actually doing the deed you must put the paper into the waste basket not the toilet! It is like this everywhere, the sewer systems can’t handle the paper. The first few times it is hard to remember this and you are faced with the decision to flush anyway and hope the toilet doesn’t overflow or dig it out. I think you all know what my choice was, and thankfully the toilet could handle it. So the lesson is bring a good wad of TP with you everywhere, because you never know when you will need it. Plus make sure you have strong thigh muscles because there are usually no seats and would you really use one anyway if you were missing the wax paper protector?
I must confess there is a restroom that has a toilet paper in the stalls and has toilet seats and is clean. Where? At the Cinemark Theater of course, and you thought we only wanted to see a lot of movies.
Why have I spent so much time on the act of using the restroom? Because that is what everyone wants to know about, they just never ask.
After your potty break don’t even try and go shopping. Buying something here is a very long and tiring process. For example, the other day I went into a bookstore (liberia) and after looking around picke out a magazine and two children’s books (for the kids I will be working with, so you don’t get any ideas). I took these to the front desk. Someone wrote out a reciept for me and put the books in a bag. I had to take the receipt over to the cashier, who is usually behind bars or surrounded by glass and pay for the books. Then they give me my change, and stamp the first receipt with one stamp, the other receipt with another stamp and show another person what they have done. Then I get the receipts and take them over to where my bag is, give the receipts the the person there (usually the manager) he then takes out the books and flips through each one of them..twice! By this time I feel like I am a criminal and pray that no one before me had stuck something in the books. He then stamps the receipts, keeps one and staples the other to the bag, while also stapling the entire bag shut, in case I may choose to stick anything in this bag in the 10 feet I have to walk to leave the store. Mind you I am being watched by an armed guard the entire time.
As tempted as I was, I refrained from stealing and left the store. This is very typical of any store here in Lima and is a very good indication that trust is a foreign concept.
Stay tuned for part two, and please remember that I loved my experiences in Peru and the people were great. Living in another culture isn’t easy and laughing about things, makes it easier. I did not, and do not, want this to offend anyone.