Settling In

Terraced gardens in Peru

An American in Peru

Being a housewife here in Peru is easy when you have a maid who comes once a week.  This is a social norm among the upper and middle class.  She cleans the house, does the laundry, irons, can run errands with me (or on her own), and as I was told by another Peruvian woman “when you husband is working and you are preparing his dinner, she can make the rice.”

Gloria came for the first time Thursday (my second day in Peru).  Charlie thought it best that she start immediately so that I would have someone to practice my Spanish with and so I’m not alone when he’s working at the mine.  Hesitant about having help I didn’t feel I needed and nervous about having a stranger in my house, I called Charlie at the mine 10 minutes before Gloria arrived and told him to cancel her.  He refused and tried to convince me it would be good for me.  What a butthead.

Gloria is a middle-aged, friendly Peruvian woman who speaks Spanish slowly and clearly and loves Brandy.  When I showed her how my dog can speak Spanish by telling Brandy to sit, Gloria was overjoyed.  In preparation for Gloria, Charlie had attempted to buy cleaning supplies, but he bought fabric softener instead of laundry detergent and dishwasher liquid instead of floor cleaner (we don’t have a dishwasher)…oops!  So Gloria and I walked to the store and bought the supplies she needed.  She unpacked most of my belongings, washed an ironed all of our laundry, and cleaned the apartment thoroughly.  For 50 Soles (around $17), she came at 8AM and left around 7PM!  I’m thinking about asking her to come twice a week.

Another thing that makes it fun to be a housewife in Peru is incredible food. There are fresh produce stands on almost every city block and a market in walking distance from the apartment with lots of fruit, veggie, meat, and fish stands.  Peruvians are great gardeners, known for their terraced gardens at high altitudes, and their potatoes, which originated here.  Worldwide there are 5,000 varieties of potatoes, 3,000 of which are grown in this country (I’m pretty sure those numbers include hybrids).  Your standard Lima grocery store has approximately 20 different types…all different colors, sizes, shapes.  Some are to be used for soup, some for frying, some for mashing, some for dessert, etc.  Living here is already forcing me to become a better cook as there are far less prepared foods.  If a recipe calls for red kidney beans, in the states, I just buy them canned.  Here, you can only buy beans dried in a bag, adding far more planning to a meal as they need to be soaked in water overnight to soften.

I’ve been experimenting with cooking all sorts of new things and am really enjoying it (despite several failures where things did not turn out as planned).  My best dish so far was something I tried in a restaurant, then replicated at home.  I’m not sure what it’s called here, but begins with puréed potatoes spiced with yellow ahi (a spicy pepper used frequently to season food here), followed by a layer of fresh avocados, then a layer of tuna fish, finished with another layer of the potato purée.  The meal is presented in two or three small piles, so you can see all of the layers, and garnished with thin sliced olives.  Yum.

My addiction to one of the only prepared foods, tamales, has grown so strong that I require one a day and have begun to devour them for breakfast.  I’m also a mango addict.  You can buy two or three of them for less than a dollar and eating one here can only be described as an experience.  I have never tasted a better combination of sweet an juicy.

Unfortunately, if I spent every day cooking and eating, I would soon become gordita (Gloria told me that).  I’m slowly getting back into my running routine by running around the golf course, two blocks from the apartment.  The golf course is fenced-in, so you can run around the outside, not haveing to cross any streets.  You have to go at the right time when traffic is not bad to avoid drinking diesel.  For Charlie, it’s 5:30 in the morning before rush hour.  For me, it’s between 10 and 11 (after rush hour, before lunch time).

After a week here, I’m finding it still takes an hour-and-a-half of preparation for me to leave the apartment.  First, I have to figure out where I’m going and commit my route to memory.  For safety sake, getting lost is not an option.  Next, I try to imagine any possible question I might need to ask in Spanish.  I have theoretical conversations with Brandy to prepare.  “Brandy, estoy buscando el supermercado Vivanda.  Sabes donde esta?” I translate grocery lists to Spanish so I can ask people in the store where items are. I review commonly used phrases and stretch in preparation for the acrobatics of acting-out words I don’t know (like power strip).  Then it’s time to figure out what to wear that will best help me fit in (an impossible task).  I mentally prepare to keep my head straight and continue walking briskly when men drive by and honk, slow down, sometimes drive alongside me, and say things like “rubia bonita”  (beautiful blonde) or the more crude “rubia puta”  (blonde slut).  Finally, I procrastinate for at least 10 more minutes, take a deep breath, grab my keys and sunglasses and leave quickly before the anxiety reaches its peak and I chicken-out.  “Don’t worry,” I tell myself, “this will get easier.”

Posted by Danielle L. Krautmann, 18 January 2010

36 thoughts on “Settling In”

  1. Another great post (I am getting your posts via facebook) – I am so envious of your experience! One of the best things about Peru is the food – on my gosh, it as all so good. One of my favorites is Ahi de Gallina, sound kind of like your tuna dish. Also there was a great stuffed avocado, Palta de Reina, that I was mad for.

    Have you walked about in Miraflores? Very safe during the day (and in the evenings a great place for dinner at one of the many street-side restaurants) — not too far from where you live.

    There is a lovely park in Miraflores that used to be a part of the early Mission – old gnarled olive trees that the Padres planted hundreds of years ago. Many of the diplomatic residences border the paths in the park. Nice place to take a walk or run.

    Hope you will continue to post!

    1. Yes the park is beautiful! We walked through there the other night! I have also made the stuffed avocados..another recipe that came out well. The avocados here are incredible. Perfectly ripe and much larger than in the states. When I buy them at the market, the guy asks me which day I plan on eating the avocado and selects one appropriately so it will be perfectly ripe when I eat it.

  2. Hey Danielle!
    Just wanted to say I am proud of how brave you are. It sounds like the adjustment is going well. This post reminded me of when you used to make family newsletters. I am glad that you have Gloria to make sure you don’t turn into a rubia gordita. I look foward to hearing more!
    Heather

  3. The dish is called “Causa Limeña”, this my favorite dish. Most of the the 5,000 varieties of potatoes are not hybrids, more than 3,000 of them are native and they can not be grown outside Peru. So don’t be surprised that on May 30 Peruvians celebrate the day of the potato! Saludos

  4. Gracias amigo!

    No puedo esperar por el 30 de mayo! Voy a escribir a tu para reunirse por practicar mi espanol y puedes practicar su engles!

    1. hmmm…as website administrator I’m now second guessing my decision to approve husband’s message.

      Keep it clean, husband!

      1. Yes, due to inappropriate content, we may have to filter his input (that’s what I tend to do and it works great).

  5. Danielle,
    I loved reading about your adventures in Peru. I will be keeping up to date with you blog. Enjoy newlywed life.

    Marguerite

    1. Thank you for reading Marguerite! For others who are reading the comments, Marguerite is a wonderful OT I worked with in Seattle. We worked for the same home health company and she helped me through orientation giving me some great tips and ideas to use as an OT.

      Life as a newlywed is wonderful. I’m really enjoying it. Although I don’t plan to write toooo much about Charlie, I will touch on being a newlywed a little more in future blogs. It’s great! (Also funny that your comment followed the one from Charlie).

      Thanks for reading!

  6. A. When my siblings and I were young, we all had random nicknames, unassociated with our names. My sister, the youngest, ended up with “poopster.” My brother, still being young, referred to her as “poo-ta.” My uncle always snickered at this (being Portuguese, and “puta” being the same in Portuguese.) I am reminded of this in your story.

    B. Can I borrow Gloria??

    C. I want to visit you in the fall!!

    1. Hey Amanda! (I feel the need to start explaining how I know all of my commenters to illustrate how well I get around…maybe the Puta thing isn’t too far off). Amanda, originally from Mass, is a friend of mine I met in Seattle. We ran a half marathon together in Vancouver last summer. This girl hosts the best dinner parties you’ve ever been to.

      A. What was your nickname?
      B.Funny you ask that. I wish I could send her to my mom in NH. She’s awesome!
      C. We have a spare bedroom for just that purpose. The bed is small, but it has it’s own bathroom and shower and we are planning on getting an inflatable mattress. We (and by we I mean especially me) are dying for company. I hope all who read my blog consider a visit. Flights are very manageable and once you get down here things are cheep! I would not recommend spending all of your time in Lima if you come. I cam as a tourist a year ago and hiked Machu Picchu (an amazing experience), and visited Cusco and lake Titticaca. There are a lot of must sees in Peru. If you visit, I would be happy to do at least some of the the traveling with you.

      Thanks for reading!

  7. I’m pretty sure you should think twice about your career as an OT, and maybe start writing! I love your stories/adventures

    1. Hey Meg!
      Meg is a good friend of mine. I met her when I was working at New London Hospital in NH and started a wonderful tradition of friday night girls night with several other cool chicks in the area. Every now and then we would invite the guys in as well.

      I could never give up my career as an OT because I love it too much. I love the social interaction and really enjoy the reward of helping people and feeling like I have had some positive influence on their recovery. I also like it because I feel like I’m always learning from the people I work with.

      Although I would be lying if I said I don’t have dreams about some one “discovering” me as a writer and becoming a billionaire. (you know all those billionaire writers out there).

  8. Linda Hendrickson

    Hey Danielle, When I mentioned to D.L. that you were living in Peru he said “I’ve always wanted to go there”. I was surprised because he has never mentioned it. He watches a lot of history channel and had seen several shows about artifacts and life style in Peru. I do remember watching something about Peru but was disgusted when I learned they saved their Pee to wash their hair and guinea pig was a local favorite. Maybe we’ll take a vacation and give you a visit. (Don’t save your pee for us.) Love reading your blog. Your a great writer! Linda

    1. Hola Danielle,

      Me alegro que estés recibiendo ‘piropos’,aunque espero que sean graciosos y no irrespetuosos! Ya te acostumbrarás a esa parte muy ‘masculina’ de la cultura latinoamericana.

      Me encanta leer tu blog y recién se lo traduje a Ana Lía, la señora que trabaja en casa. Ella es de Perú y se emocionó mucho al escuchar sobre tus primeras experiencias… Está muy orgullosa de la comida peruana y te desea buena suerte con tu cocina. Me pidió que le lea tu próximo blog!

      Que siga todo bien y que disfrutes de las cosas pequeñas… para las que Latinoamérica puede ser muy generosa!

      Cariños,
      cristina

      1. Hola Cristina!

        It’s a funny way I came to know Cristina and sounds random, but she is a very good friend. Okay, here’s the connection: Richard is Charlie’s mom’s brother (Charlie’s uncle), Richard is married to Lisa, Cristina is Lisa’s sister and lives with her husband, two sons and daughter in Mendoza, Argentina. Last year I traveled in Peru, Argentina, and Chile, and without even meeting me first, Cristina offered to host me in her home.
        It was wonderful! I stayed with her for several days in Mendoza, ate yummyl food, toured a vinyard, and went on a crazy white water rafting trip that she helped me get set up with.

        Estoy contenta que te gusta leer mi blog. Y Ana Lia tambien!
        Voy a escriber un poco mas de los hombres en Peru y Latin America. No quiero quesejarse. Sola quiero escribir de mis experiencias aqui. En general, estoy muy contenta aqui. Estoy aprendiendo mas y mas Espanol y me gusta apprender.

        Gracias por leer y escribir en espanol!!

    2. Hi Linda!

      I have not yet met anyone who washes their hands with pee…but depending on how dirty my hands got, or what they were dirty with…maybe I would consider it.
      Thank you for mentioning Guinea Pig. I was going to write about that in a future blog with some information about the history of Peru and you reminded me. I just need to do a little more research into the topic before blabbing about it. Summed up, yes, Guinea Pig is a local fare. They roast it or fry it and it is served complete with the eyes looking at you with teeth and fingernails in place. I’ve eaten it and it tastes like dark meat of chicken. Not bad, but there’s not a ton of meat on it. There are lots of other really yummy things to eat here that are a bit more typical.

      We are very eager to have visitors. This is a beautiful country with wonderful people and lots of great things to see! This is an open invitation to any of my blog readers. If you are thinking about coming, Charlie and I would be happy to host you and help you plan your travels outside of Lima!

      The history of this country is very interesting and I plan to write more, but need to do some further research.

  9. Things will get easier, that is right. It might be kind of difficult at first, but I promise you will end up loving living here. We will all make sure of that!

    1. Gracias amiga!

      Gaby is my first friend here! We had a very fun weekend together while Charlie was at the mine. I will write more about her in future blogs!

      Espero que no creo que estoy me quejando. ?Puedo escribir de tu en mi blog?

      Hasta pronto!

  10. Chelsea Krautmann

    Danielle! This is the first time I have read your blog and I find it the most entertaining! You are a great writer! You should think of possibly publishing your blog at the end of your adventure! Well, I loved it and hope that there are many more to come to keep me company at 3:00 in the morning while Harris and I are up.
    You are so talented.

    Love,
    Chelsea

    1. Hello!

      Chelsea is Charlie’s brother Ted’s wife (my sister-in-love) and she rocks. She had an adorable little baby the day before I left for Peru. Charlie and I have yet to meet him but have seen lots of pictures and we totally love him.

      Writing is a good outlet for me. I’ve kept journals since I was 8 or 9 (and still have all of them)! I wouldn’t know the first step of getting published. From watching Julie and Julia (which I’m sure is exactly like real life), my understanding is that you keep a blog, people read it, you get “discovered”, then you’re a famous writer and someone makes a movie about you with Merill Streep. We’ll see what happens.

  11. Loved the description of practicing Spanish on Brandy. In France I used to rehearse in my head (our dog didn’t seem interested) before every phone call I had to make. Took me hours to do the shopping. Never realized how much recognizing familiar brands and packaging speeded up the process — explains Charlie’s purchasing mistakes.
    I’m gonna get hooked on reading your stories!

    1. Hello Lyn!

      Lyn is my aunt who lives in Florida. She is a French translator and I think she speaks a handful of other languages, but am not sure. She’s cool.

      Since Charlie isn’t into housekeeping, I think he may have made the same mistakes in the US with labels in English.

      I do a lot of talking to Brandy to practice my Spanish. She’s a great listening. I have a new friend here too so she has helped me a lot. Charlie helps some too.

  12. Debra Douglas aka Zsa Zsa

    Danielle,

    I LOVE your blog! It is so entertaining and you are a wonderful writer. Please use this time to keep us all informed of your adventures and consider writing a book.

    Please let me know when you are coming home for a visit, so Fast Liz, you and I can go out for one of our housewives’ lunches!

    Love,
    Zsa Zsa

    1. Hi Zsa Zsa aka Debra Douglas! So good to hear from you!

      Debra is a fabulous chick I met in Concord though my mom. Mom dubbed her Zsa Zsa (behind her back) and when she found out, she took on the title. Her and mom have sex-in-the-city style luncheons from time to time and once I was married, I got to join them! It’s a blast! We go to Concords finest restaurants and drink cocktails at noon.

      Thank for for the compliment! I’m so glad you are reading it! We will definitely lunch when we’re both back in Concord. Are you in Florida? if you’re back, how was it?

  13. Danielle,
    It’s unanimous – everybody agrees you should write a book. Sounds like you already have a good start.

    You are such an inspiration! It doesn’t surprise me that you are already adjusting to your life in Peru. It amazes and amuses me! I’m inspired to start re-learning Spanish – so I can understand the Spanish comments in your blog. I feel like I’m missing some good stuff, even though I can translate parts of it. I’m curious to know if Brandy has learned to bark in Spanish? I want to come visit your so I can run around INSIDE that golf course you run around the outside of.
    Keep on writing! We’re all enjoying it, immensly. Thanks for sharing everything with us.
    Love, Lee

    1. Hi Lee!

      Lee is one of my coolest aunts. Growing up, she took me to do some really awesome things…like a trip to Disney World and windsurfing. She was a faithful reader of my update emails when I traveled last year and I’ve been waiting to see if she would follow this blog!

      Lee, mom took a community education class at the high school once to learn Spanish. For cinco de mayo, she wore a sombrero to class and brought some type of mexican food. She’s always been an overachiever and suck up.
      Anyway, another blog reader who replied to me via email asked what methods I’m using to learn Spanish. There is a language school less than a mile from my house which offers a two hour class you can take 5 days a week. Unfortunately, i cannot start until Feb. 2nd. I will be placed in whatever level is most appropriate for me where I’m at in my Spanish right now. This is determined by a test, and conversation in Spanish with one of the teachers. When I am writing to people in Spanish, I use my Spanish book, and google translate. Google Translate (on the internet) has been a huge help in my learning because I can quickly look up what I want to say. I try to do all of the verb conjugations myself and then just check it with google translate. You could probably use this program to figure out the comments I’ve received and written in Spanish.

      I’m not sure you can run inside the golf course. You have to be a member to golf there and it’s very sheeshy, but supposed to be really nice. Dogs bark in Spanish by saying “Guau Guau” rather than “woof woof” “bark bark.” Brandy tries, but she doesn’t quite have it down yet. It’s kind of like a “bow wow” which is the Spanglish version of “guau guau.”

      Thanks for reading and writing!

  14. Do not worry, definitely in time everything will be easier. Oops! have not told you who I am, I’m Magaly, Charlie co-worker at the mine. We are all happy that they decided to come to Peru to live. Welcome!!!!… You can also come to know Cajamarca …. it’s nice and quiet with lots of greenery.
    Greetings from Caxas (so we tell Cajamarca).

    1. Hola Magaly,

      Gracias para leer y escribir. Quiero ir a Cajamarca y la mina. Charlie y yo hemos hablado de une tiempo bueno por visitar.

      Tu Inglais es muy bueno. Espero que mi espanol voy a estar mejor muy pronto. Espero conocerte cuando voy a Caxas!

      Daniella

  15. Danielle,

    I was shocked when I heard you were in Peru. I think I just talked to you less than 6 months ago about working with us. Sounds like you are on an adventure of a lifetime. Your blog is great and I’ll make sure I share it with the folks here at RehabCare. Enjoy your time in Peru (and your newlywed status). You are amazing!!!

    1. I know! It’s pretty crazy the way life takes it turns. But I’m happy. Although I really miss OT work. Once I get a little more comfortable, I’m hoping to use some of my skills to do something productive here. We’ll see.

      Thanks for reading!

  16. Jackson Warfield

    Danielle,

    Finally getting settled back in Portsmouth and finding spare moments to get back to reading and writing. I enjoyed the Settling In post very much. I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of style you were looking for in your writing, but whatever it was, I think you’ve found it.

    Sounds like you’re adjusting well to life down there and I know what you mean about the fresh fruits being so tasty and so easily available. I tried some pretty weird fruits down in Colombia which was fun.

    Stay well, J.

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