Saturday, 17 January 2009

Enretenimiento (Entertainment)

Sitting in Plaza de Armas watching the world go by is really quite a connected activity. I am by no means the only lone person and there is a buzz about the place and obvious social functions in progress. At this time, in the early evening it is mostly families that occupy he space but several couples join me for a brief rest on my bench and I eves drop their conversations. Mostly I notice the different vending activities of the ambulentes who travel around and across the plaza. They sell different non-essentials including chicklets (chewing gum), sweets, cigarettes, candy-floss, balloons, bubble making toys and much more.

Later I am joined by Juan Miguel my Spanish friend who has been to the cine and we go to bar Marquis and indulge in cocktails. Juan reminds me of someone famous in my youth, a DJ and now sadly passed away – see if you can guess who? As the evening passes we chat a little and then enjoy the karaoke – this isn't as cheesy as it sounds as most of the singers are very tuneful and they all make a good fist what must be well established Peruvian love ballads. For me it is an excellent language learning activity as I can both listen and watch the words passing the screen. Later we are joined by a professional singer who does well at playing the crowd, engaging with and sometimes teasing her audience. I try to avoid her eye contact in case she picks on me but there is no hiding place!

The next day I head off for Anita's place for breakfast at 8. I am enjoying getting to know my bike but have discovered that it has a wonky crank. This means by right leg has to push much harder than my left and I worry that my carefully tuned physique will become unbalanced. It also has a squeaky pedal.

On the way I buy some flowers for Anita's mum which are well received. Breakfast comprises two types of tamales and a warm and vaguely sweet drink that I can't identify. They sell the tamales to neighbours from the window and our meal is interrupted a couple of times by requests for breakfast tamales – they seem to be very popular. I take some time to play chess to amuse Fabrizio, Anita's son, managing to lose convincingly to a 5 year old. We set off for Catacaos a small town 8km distant where they sell artesana.

Catacaos is a busy small rural town with an extensive market. Much of it is given over to food set out in 4 main sections of fruit and grain, vegetables, fish and meat. We look at the fish and none of it seems familiar, except the calamaris, prawns and crab. I am told by the vendor that the crab is an aphrodisiac but this doesn't encourage me to buy these half dead and quite small specimens. Anita tells me that the best fish goes to the restaurants, particularly the many cevicherias.

Passing through the various jewelery and ceramic stalls I chat with a girl from New Hampshire, she has a beautiful baby in a sling, very cute, wearing a small panama hat with curios eyes - she lives in Cuzco with her jewelery-making husband; when chatting with her I realise that this is the first English I have spoken for 3 days. After buying one or two items we aim to stop at a chincharia. I am advised to look out for its bandera blanca (white flag) and on arriving we oder a jug of chincha between us. Chincha is mildly alcoholic, made from fermented maize. Anita explained that there are 3 types depending on level of fermentation – we drink the lighter second level called claramente and is is cool and refreshing, drunk from communal bowls made from a kind of gourd. We also snack on chiflas (banana crisps) and cancha (fried corn).

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