Arrival in Peru

An American in Peru

Six months ago, I was living in Seattle with roommates, working as an occupational therapist for a home health company.  Now, I am a housewife in Lima, Peru.

I am delighted to finally be living with my husband who has been working as a geotechnical engineer at a mine here for the past year. We were married in October, but he has continued to work his schedule of three weeks in Peru to 10 days in the States since). When Charlie’s company offered to move us to Lima, we were thrilled as we both love international travel and getting to know other places and people.

On the other hand, I enjoy being an occupational therapist and I’m good at it. My Spanish is not strong enough for me to work as an OT in Lima, and while there are other things I can and will do, part of my self identity comes from my work, so I’m feeling a little lost.  Also, being financially dependent on Charlie is a concept that I am having a very difficult time getting used to.  As if all of this isn’t change enough, I have a different name here too. Peruvians struggle with calling me Danielle as it’s only used as a male’s name; Daniella is much easier for them.

Despite the changes, I am determined to make this a great experience. My goal is to quickly become fluent in Spanish and take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.  We are living in a beautiful, brand new apartment in San Isidro. Assuming I stay in this area of Lima, I can be fairly secure using basic travel safety guidelines (always know where you are, always know who’s behind/around you, don’t get too wasted, etc.). This is important as Charlie will continue to spend some time (no more than a week at a time) at the mine in Cajamarca, during which I will be on my own. The main thing to be concerned about are pick pockets, scammers, and muggers. I just happen to be a main target for these crimes because I look like a tourist.

I am a blonde, twenty-never-mind year old who took French in high school and American sign language in college. Although the color of my hair may not seem important, please consider the population make up of Lima: 40% Mestizos (Mixed Amerindian with Spanish or Asians), 38% Amerindians (Aymara and Quechua), 11% white, 5% Asians, and 4% Afro-Peruvians. With the average José Schmoe you see walking down the street having dark skin and black hair, I stick out like a sore thumb. My favorite answer to the suggestion of friends and family members to dye my hair is what I told my friends in Colorado: “That would be like going to Africa and painting my skin black.”  The fitting-in factor does not help when I have Charlie with me.  Although he’s got fairly dark hair and speaks far better Spanish than I, he’s 6 feet, 3 inches tall. Average male height in Peru: 5’5”.

The third member of our family, Brandy, is the most obvious American of all. She’s a Chesapeake Bay Retriever and although I don’t have a statistic, I would guess about four times the size of most Peruvian dogs. Getting her through customs was a nightmare and I hope not representative of how things are done in this country. Brandy and I came into Peru on the same flight arriving at 11:30 pm one week ago today. Charlie had flown in several days earlier for work and thankfully was able to complete most of the paperwork needed for Brandy earlier in the day. Even so, we did not leave the airport with her until around 6:30 the next morning.

The process involved going back and forth between four different buildings to get a series of authorizations and signatures.  I am guessing that it is not very common for people to bring dogs into this country because most of the times we arrived at a building and told the clerk we needed a signature to claim our dog, they were unsure of what they were supposed to do, or where we needed to go next.  After waking from their nap, the clerk at each building would make several phone calls, disappear for a while, come back (sometimes with another person), make photocopies of our paperwork, and send us somewhere else.  One man in the customs building fell asleep in front of us while entering our information into the computer.  I suppose you can’t blame them, as it was the middle of the night and some had very inviting beds or cots in their office.  In the end, Brandy made it safe and sound and was very eager to get out of her crate and drink some water.  I, on the other hand, was exhausted and traumatized.

Later that same day, Charlie had to return to the mine for 3 days, leaving Brandy and I to our own devices. Being sleep deprived and scared to being here alone, I decided that I would not leave the apartment until Charlie returned on Friday. I felt bad for myself, not knowing Spanish and having no friends, job, or purpose, and cried about it for about an hour. Then I got bored, started making to do lists, and experimented with the phone Charlie left me.  I tried to learn the different Spanish words for “settings,”  “tools,”  and most importantly “messages.”  I texted “te amo” to Charlie, and frustrated with not getting an immediate reply, texted it again.  About 10 minutes later I received a call from “privado” and stared at the phone while it rang, trying to build up the guts to answer in Spanish. “Hola?” I said meekly.  Hoping to God, it was Charlie calling from a different “private” number.

The man’s voice on the other end of the phone was speaking quickly in Spanish and I could not understand one word of it, but got from his intonations that he was asking me multiple questions.  I sputtered  out an “um, no entiendo,” and was about to hang up, when I heard, “Daniella?”  I answered, “Um, Si…” and was relieved to hear “Soy Carlos!”  The driver from Charlie’s work who had dropped us off earlier that morning!  My relief was immediately replaced with humiliation when I realized from his laughter and the small bits of language that I could understand, that I had texted “te amo” to Carlos, not Charlie. Oops.

I turned the phone off immediately left the apartment for to walk off my embarrassment.

Posted by Danielle L. Krautmann, 15 January 2010

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21 thoughts on “Arrival in Peru”

  1. meghan the librarian

    Hey D,

    So glad to hear that your adventures continue. Post some pics of your new digs. And get coffee- it always helps! I would say get a beer, but one beer always leads to another…

    1. Pics of the place to come fairly soon. Need to wait for Gloria the maid to come and clean!

      Thanks for reading and writing! Believe it or not, Starbucks is everywhere here! There are 3 within 2 blocks from my house. I am embarrassed to tell you I have gone there 3 times for the comfort of a familiar place when I’m feeling sad or lonely. The price of the drinks are equivalent to the prices in the US which is VERY EXPENSIVE (muy carro) for Peruvians, but they still go!

  2. What a great intro to what I hope will become an ongoing blog … my husband and I visited Peru last year, and fell in love with the culture, countryside, and the people. We were in Miraflores for a few days on either end of our travels to Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, and Puno (Lake Titicaca). We hope to return in the future — you are so very fortunate to have an opportunity to live there! Looking forward to reading more about your adventures …

    1. Miraflores is very nice. Especially down by the water. I went running there the other day and bought a popsicle from one of the vendors…yum! We actually looked at apartments in Miraflores when we came down in November to find our place. We really liked some of the ocean front properties we saw, but found San Isidro to be slightly safer.

  3. Ohh “Daniella” I think I am very much going to enjoy reading your blog!! You are going to have such an amazing experience down there and I cannot wait to hear more. Wish I could have seen you at Jamie and Eliza’s on Thanksgiving! But glad things with Brandy worked out!! Cheers to your new adventure 🙂

    1. Yes, Brandy was on a fence for a while in November and early December. It made preparations for the move much more difficult because we were under the impression that she didn’t have long to live. However, she has made a pretty good recovery. She has far less energy and is functioning on about 1/3 rd of of her kidneys, but day to day does great. You wouldn’t guess that she’s sick. She has even begun going on short runs with Charlie (although she spends the rest of the day sleeping…I’m still not sure if its a great idea). Right now she is sleeping with her head on my knee. So cute! She’s my best friend here. Thanks for reading!

  4. Hi Dee! Just give it a few weeks you will pick things up quickly, and the spanish you know will all come back to you! Glad you are doing well and made it there safely. Look forward to reading more

    1. It’s coming slowly, and the rest I’m slowly learning. I think this is a process that will take a long time, but I’m really enjoying learning and all of the new experiences. Married life is awesome too!

      Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

  5. Hola Danielle,

    Me alegro que ya estés en Perú y espero que pronto comiences a disfrutar del todo la experiencia!

    Me encanta leer tu blog! Me va a encantar acompañarte por tus viajes! Espero que en algún momento vuelvan con Charlie a Mendoza. Lisa y Richard estarán aquí desde agosto hasta diciembre del 2010. Sería muy lindo que nos vengan a visitar!

    Que siga todo bien!

    1. Gracias Cristina!

      Gracias por leerlo mi blog! Y para responder en Espanol! Necesito mucho practica con Espanol.
      Charlie y yo queremos a visitarte (y Richard y Lisa y Alex). Estamos hablando de ir a Argentina en Enero de 2011 por el ano nuevo. Pero ahora no sabemos nuestros planes. Espero que podemos ir a Mendoza, Patagonia, y Santiago del Estero (para visitar la famila que vivia con Charlie).

      Espero que puedes entender esta email. Estoy aprendiendo Espanol ahora.


    1. Hola Mony!

      Cuando vivia en Las Cruces, NM, aprendi mucho en Espanol de tu! Gracias amiga. Como son las cosas en NM?


  6. Almut ..January 15

    I am so glad I am still on your mailing list…must say, I neglected my spanish completely…will be leaving for Tanzania and Zanzibar on 1/21…looking foward to reading about life in Peru….have been thinking about a trip to Brazil in the fall…hugs, Almut

    1. Well, our class was a lot of fun while it lasted. Tanzania and Zanzibar will be amazing! I’ve heard wonderful things from a friend who recently visited Zanzibar. How long is your trip? I love hearing about other’s travels. I hope you keep me updated. We have all of our wedding money in a savings account and hope to take a trip to Africa sometime within the next 2 years. Apparently it’s cheeper to fly form here than the states. But for the time being we will continue to explore South America. Keep me updated on your plans for Brazil as we have also talked about taking a trip there. How wonderful it would be if we could meet up and drink wine in rio for an evening?

  7. sarah stonehocker

    Hey daneille,
    I just read your blog and sounds like quite the adventure already! I love that you brought your dog! What a lucky pup. I’m quite jealous actually. I can’t wait to read more! Buenos suerte, I think that is good luck? I’m just having flash backs to neuro days and all our OT adventures!

    Congrats on your wedding! Hope all is well!

  8. Linda Hendrickson

    Daniella (ha) It was so great hearing from you. When I saw your name in the e-mail I thought I know that name but wasn’t sure it was really from you. Peru – that’s amazing. You and Charlie (and Brandy) are very brave. I know this is going to be quite an adventure for you. Maybe you should take a karate class. I do look forward to hearing everything about your day to day life there in Peru.

    I moved back to Arkansas when I left Colorado because my Mom had been diagnosed with cancer. She passed away about 6 months later then I lost my 11 year old granddaughter a year ago to Leukemia and life has not been the same since. I have a new granddaughter since I saw you last and have another on the way. I am working at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and I travel the state of Arkansas testing babies and kiddo’s up to age 5 for swallowing problems and speech problems. I am still making jewelry and my sons do most of the selling for me. I have started making some really pretty bracelets and watches also. Do you still have the piece you made? Hope to hear from you again soon.

    Peace and safety be with you. Live life to the fullest. Love ya Linda

    1. Hi Linda!

      Thank you so much for reading, and writing! I do have the jewelry I made with you. I came across it recently in preparing for my move. I hadn’t seen it for a while as I’ve been doing travel OT for the past 3 years and moving a lot. I brought the heart necklace with me to Peru and the more colorful one is on temporary loan to my mom.
      I’m so sorry to hear of your losses. I can’t imagine what things have been like for you the past year. Glad that you’re still working. You make a great SLP. I learned a lot from you during that fieldwork rotation in Boulder. To this day (when I was working), I frequently implemented your picture memory book idea with appropriate patients.

      Thank you for your karate class idea. I glad that you read what I wrote and suggested that because I will definitely take into consideration the suggestions of my readers. There is a gym near my apartment that is being renovated and is due to re-open at the end of Feb. Charlie and I plan to join and it has a variety of classes. Karate or some type of martial art would be awesome. I have always wanted to do that. If that’s not available, I would like to at least do a cardio kickboxing class.

      Your email reminded me of all of the great people I have met in my travels over the past few years. To other readers who do not know, Linda is a wonderful speech therapist I met during one of my fieldwork rotations in grad school. Although she was not my fieldwork supervisor (or even an OT), I learned a lot from her. She also invited me to her apartment and showed me how to make dichroic glass jewelry from melted glass! I have 3 beautiful pieces that I made with her!

  9. Danielle I might have just wet my pants reading about your love messages with Carlos!

    I cant wait to read more about your adventures I have a feeling your unique sense of humor is going to make this a very interesting read. Talk to you soon hot stuff!

    Love Ya

    1. Yes, I’m apparently the talk of Charlie’s office as well. My daily acrobatics of acting out words and saying things wrong keep me humble. I just assume that every time I talk, I’m going to say something embarrassing without even trying. Keeps things interesting! Thanks for reading!

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  11. HAHA! OMG! The wring text was so funny! 😀 And you know what? I was very curious how your reunion with Brandy went, after all these hours in the doggy quarters. I also wonder if she was quarantined. Ok, sorry for random thoughts, I bet the answers are around, have to bookmark this blog, it is just what I wondered, being a stranger in Peru from the female perspective! 🙂

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