Alpaca Bag-Como se dice…?
Before coming here, I would have told you I was more or less fluent in Spanish. I knew the grammar, most of the vocabulary, and could have a conversation without any difficulty. Back in the US, approx. 80% of my patients and their parents spoke Spanish. I was speaking Spanish every day. I knew that coming to Peru would not be difficult with respect to the language, as I would be able to get around easily with my Spanish. But language fluency is a funny thing…I found this out on my first day at the office, surrounded by 7 Spanish speakers, speaking (or occasionally yelling) over each other (in a loving way of course). Add that to music in the background, jokes, idioms, and slang, and you have a very confused American girl (not to be confused with Tom Petty’s 1977 hit). During these interactions, I understood the jist of what was being said, but it was a lot to take in. A joke or the use of slang, is almost like learning a whole new language. Peru does a great job at making my head spin, as there are so many ‘Peruvianisms’ to learn. For example: your girlfriend isn’t usually called your novia, but instead could be called your enamorada (literally translated to lover more or less), your costilla (literally translated to rib bone), or your flaca (skinny girl). So you could see where one may be confused upon arrival without knowing these slang words, especially when you think someone is telling you that they went dancing with their rib bones last night.
Peruvians also have a way of being vague while direct at the same time when they speak (again, head is spinning). They’re very honest, but at the same time, it takes some detective work sometimes to figure out what they’re talking about. If you ask for directions, you won’t get street names, but instead you’ll get a direction like this: “ Go to the third tree, make a right, walk a little more, and make a left after the store where the dog sits outside.” At first, it was difficult to get used to this type of language, but I’ve found that it works for them and is part of the culture here (obviously it must work, otherwise everyone would be walking around aimlessly looking for a dog sitting outside of a little store).
As I continue my journey here though, I find I’m learning more and more. It’s interesting to me how I’m now learning Spanish indirectly. Up until this point, I’ve mostly learned Spanish directly-through direct instruction at school, through looking words up in the dictionary, through directly translating. However, I now rarely look up words in the dictionary, but instead learn through context. I have absolutely no idea what the word “ficha” literally translates to, but I use it because I know what it is in context. I also sometimes find myself thinking in Spanish, because it’s just easier. If I go to the market, it’s easier for me to make a list of what I need in Spanish as opposed to English, because if I make the list in English, I have to translate it. If I think in Spanish, it’s already done. As I’ve become more comfortable, I’ve started to joke around in Spanish (people actually laugh!).
As usual, though, life is moving right along here in Trujillo. I’ve been here for about 3 months now, which is hard to believe. It has been a challenge, especially being here by myself. The most difficult thing about being by myself isn’t living by myself (because in my old age I am actually starting to enjoy living alone) but rather, meeting friends here. Luckily I’ve gotten to know some locals as well as other expats living in the area. There are quite a few NGOs in Trujillo and Huanchaco that elicit the help of volunteers for their services. Most people I’ve met who are volunteering for these organizations are only here for a few months, but these organizations often host events and trips that I frequent. In this way, I’ve met a few people who I have become friendly with (and somehow have excellent creeping skills as almost all of them have sought me out on Facebook and Instagram-for which I am grateful of course).
My kids are doing well in therapy. I see one little boy named Leandro (who is just a little ham). Every time he sees me, he looks at me for about 5 seconds as if he’s never seen me before in his life. Once I turn to walk away, he extends his hands to get my attention. The other therapists tell me that he loves the extranjeros (foreigners). I think he likes me because I do feeding therapy with him, and this kid really likes to eat.
The other week, we celebrated “El día de la familia (the day of the family).” We hosted the event to celebrate each family and the to spend time together outside of therapy. When we see our kids in therapy, they are usually with their primary caretaker(mother, grandmother, aunt). But this celebrations allows the entire family to show off their creativity. The children from the music class performed what they’ve learned with the support of their mothers; in addition, each family preformed a number, with adorable costumes. It was a nice day to spend with the families outside of therapy. I’ve realized that if you look closely, the caretakers are always doing something therapeutic for their child that they have been taught by the therapists, whether it’s using a strategy for feeding, or taking advantage of a situation to teach a new vocabulary word.
And finally, on this week’s edition of the best thing I’ve eaten all week: a Venezuelan arepa filled with meat, cheese, and guac. Too good not to share.
Thanks for reading! Until next time,