Wednesday, 24 February 2010

More random thoughts and observations

I am continuing with some random thoughts about life in Peru, in particular as it has revealed itself here in Cajamarca.

Most towns have a Plaza de Armas. I don't think there is a UK equivalent and that is probably a pity. Taking this evening's observations as typical, one is treated to a variety of services handily located together. Around  the edge of the Plaza in Cajamarca are a couple of fine churches, hotels, tour agencies, restaurants and bars. In the square, with its gardens and seats, I noticed parents and children enjoying ice creams, young people locked in conversation and sometimes embrace, police on duty, shoe-shine boys, people selling things like chewing gum, sweets, ice cream, cigarettes, drinks, toys etc. There was a political mime artist group. Cars and taxis circulate – it is a genuine hub to the city. But perhaps most importantly the atmosphere is great, relaxed, friendly and inviting.

I cannot say I a overly fond of the Peruvian dogs. There is a distinctive Peruvian breed, perhaps one of the most ugly dogs you can find but you don't see it here. Dogs mostly occupy the street in residential areas. They roam free, hunting out scraps of food from rubbish. sometimes the enter restaurants hunting for scraps.  On the corner near where I live there is a pack that has a regular mad half hour chasing motor taxis and cars. Often though they are sleepy and disinterested. Aside from the feces they leave they can be extremely aggressive. My strategy when walking home late at night is to carry 2 stones. If a dog is aggressive towards me I first show it the stones and pretend to throw one; often that is enough. If not I throw one stone past the dog and often it stupidly chases it and in this distraction I pass by. Failing that I aim to hit it which I have only had to do once. Otherwise, when cycling they can give chase, a great motivation for sprint practise!

Recycling and environmental issues
There doesn't seem to be much of a formal approach to recycling, but informally it is pretty good. You can see Campecino women collecting great bundles of plastic bottles and the deposit on glass bottles is as much as half the price of the drink it contains thus encouraging their return and reuse.  In our house there is a cuy box to feed the guinea pigs and some people fatten a pig on waste food. When water is heated for cooking or making tea, spare clean hot water is retained in a thermos for later use – maybe we'll try that at home although it could well be controversial. Clothes are mainly hand washed in cold water and always hung out to dry. There is wastefulness, for example in the ad hoc transport system with far too many taxis and motos chasing too few customers; the mainly unregulated pubic transport system leads to too many ery old and poluting buses and cars. In terms of the bigger picture the mining industry is a huge factor. Today I saw a convoy of 10 petrol tankers heading up to the Yanacocha gold mine and some other lorries carrying what were described as dangerous waste mining materials. Clearly I am scratching at the surface of a complex topic but maybe these casual observations  suggest a huge environmental  problem for the extraction of a precious (but not to me) metal.

Pissing, spitting, whistleling and sitting
Men mostly do the former 3 while women the latter. On urinating many men care not where and this often imparts a horrible smell on corners and in alleys. Men also spit a fair amount but probably no more than parts of the UK. They can also whistle out of their proverbial; Most can whistle very loudly, sometimes through their teeth but they also have a trick of bunching their bottom lip and inhaling to cause a distinctive and piercing call.


Matt said...

Hi Alan,
Great to hear from you! I think I agree on most of your observations. The dogs have been particularly aggressive around here.
Most cities in the US do have some sort of big park or open plaza, but it isn't the same as in Latin America. Here you can show up in a new town and just make your way to the highest spires and most likely end up in the "centro historico" or main plaza.
I'm having a great time in Peru, though I hope I have the stamina to make it through all the mountains still to come!

malarkey said...

Thanks for the comments Matt, glad you enjoyed the blog.