Feeling at home in Peru, Finally

By Danielle L. Krautmann

Celebrating Easter with a traditional Panetton

The other day I was taking a taxi back from work.  I negotiated the fare to be eight soles, a fair price to go from San Borja to my apartment in San Isidro.  I told the taxi driver to please not take the street Javier Prado explaining “la trafica es mierda ahora,” and asked him to take a different route.  He ignored my request and landed us in stand still traffic on Javier Prado.  He told me if I wanted to continue, I would need to pay 12 soles.  Assessing the situation to be non-threatening, I explained to him that he had two options.  I could get out of the taxi and pay him nothing, or he could take me to my apartment for the price we agreed upon.  I said I had told him not to take Javier Prado and he took it anyway, that was his problem, not mine.  He mumbled a couple swears and agreed to take me for eight soles.  I won an argument in Spanish!  Yes!

Something has changed over the past two months.  I first became aware of it when I started having difficulty coming up with blog topics.  At first, everything felt so new and different that I had a long list of topics I wanted to cover.  Then, I was so frustrated with the differences that I didn’t want to write about them.  Lately, it’s getting harder and harder to see the differences between Peru and the United States because it feels like day to day life.

Some friends over for Charlie's surprise 30th birthday party

I am currently in the process of getting my Peruvian Foreign Residency card or Carnet de Extranjeria.  Don’t be confused, this is not citizenship, it’s basically permission to stay for an extended period of time without a visa.  It’s about as Peruvian as I can get.  While I contemplate what this means for me, I can’t help but recall a conversation I had with Charlie in February when my frustrations hit the roof.  Charlie told me that I lived here now and needed to get used to the cultural differences.  At the time, it was the meanest thing he could have possibly said to me.  How dare he tell me that I live here?  I thought we were just staying temporarily until it was over!

So what’s the difference between being a resident and just staying here?  It wasn’t until my recent visit back to the States that I really felt, for better or for worse, that my home is here in Peru.  When I got together with friends or family, most people’s first question was, “How’s Peru?”  You would think that I would be a pro at answering such a generic question, but it continued to dumbfound me.  I felt like I was being asked “how is your life?” and had no idea where to start my answer.  While three months ago, I would have delved into the differences between the two countries, my answer tended to be something along the lines of “Peru’s good, how’s New Hampshire?”

I have noticed that as Peru has begun to feel more like home, situations that originally sent me running back to the apartment in fits of rage or tears are now nothing more than little annoyances.  For example, paying the monthly bills is a tedious process.  Checks don’t exist here and you can’t pay with credit card so you need to go to the bank associated with the company (for example Telefonica is our cable/internet provider and they use Scotiabank) and deposit money into their account.   Since everyone does this, the lines are usually long and since people feel the need to start every interaction with a polite conversation (taking much longer than I believe they should), the lines move slowly.  The first time I went to pay bills, I quit half way through, storming home after waiting in line for a hour and a half.  Now, I plan the bill-paying process will take at least an afternoon.  I usually spread it out over two days and go to the bank when it’s least busy.

Presenting Charlie with cake at his surprise 30th b-day party

I still get annoyed with los hombres, but have had a revelation.  About a month ago, I walked by two men, dressed professionally in business suits in a nice area of the city.  They were having a seemingly serious conversation about investments (I was eavesdropping).  As I walked by them, one of the men momentarily excused himself, made an obnoxious smooching noise towards me, then apologized to his business partner and continued the conversation.  It was almost as if he was obligated to do it.  Like if I walked by and one of them neglected to comment, the conversation could not continue or one might lose respect for the other.  Now, I get this machoism is a cultural thing and I need to try to accept it.  While it used to cause me to have violent dreams about beating a Peruvian man until he bleeds (seriously), now I just roll my eyes or turn up my Ipod.

I can speak enough Spanish to get by in most situations.  I do not consider myself fluent because I still can’t follow jokes told in Spanish, sarcasm, or quick conversation among groups, but I’m getting there.  I can get around the city by bus and know how much I should be paying for taxis so I’m taken advantage of less.  I’ve got friends in Peru who I missed on my trip back to the states.  I found work tutoring English to children and between that and Spanish classes have managed to keep my days quite full (although I still miss my job as an occupational therapist terribly).  I got sick of telling people that I moved here for my husband’s job, so I’ve begun to tell people I’m either a writer or a teacher (depending on the day and what I’ve done more of).  Although I don’t have the official card to prove it, I will soon and I think it’s safe to say that I’m not just staying here anymore.  I live here.  I’m a resident of Peru.

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14 thoughts on “Feeling at home in Peru, Finally”

  1. We are not quite sure how long we will live here. It will depend on a lot of things. When we came down here we said 2 years, but if we like it a lot, we’ll stay longer and I think we’re both still thinking along those lines. I try not to think about the end point too much these days since it makes it harder to enjoy being here and consider this my home. So we’re here for now and we like it!
    And yes, I was hoping someone would notice how old Charlie has gotten since we’ve lived here. When we arrived he was in his 20’s, now he’s an old man in his 30’s!!!

  2. I´ve only been traveling in Central America three months and I´m just starting to get comfortable with the catcalling although I have to say the hissing still really gets to me.

  3. Liz Parker (Mom)

    Having just returned from a visit to Peru, I can now truly understand how difficult it must have been in those first few months. Although I can understand a little Spanish, spitting it back out is a whole other story. You showed us a great time and impressed us with your confidence in manipulating your way through the city, transportation, restaurants, and your bravery on that little plane. Thanks!

  4. Bravo, Danielle! I loved this post – amazing how such a relatively short period of time has brought you so far. Thanks for the insightful and entertaining read …


  5. Linda Hendrickson

    Ok so you have committed yourself to living in Peru. Do you really have any idea as to how long you will be living there?

  6. Lee (your Aunt)

    I guess if you’re happy, I’m happy for you. You should always follow your heart. But when you say you’re staying indefinitely, it makes me sad because we won’t get to see you as much. Please keep blogging so we know what you’re up to. Luv ya, kiddo!

  7. Actually, you can pay your Telefonica (cable, internet & phone) bills at the Banco de Credito teller machine: no lines! However, you need to open a bank account with them

    1. And to open an account, you need to be a Peruvian resident. I’ll get there soon enough! But still rent is a different bank and maintenance is Scotiabank. I miss the days of online bill payment.

      1. Daniella, Scotiabank as well as Banco de Credito have online banking that should allow you to pay your bills

  8. Danielle,

    Great blog, great insight. I felt so comfortable down there ( under your guidance) that I can see how you have come to the place you are. The Peruvian people were so gentle and kind. I can’t wait to come down again in the future to explore and learn more about this fascinating culture.

    I saw my Peruvian friend, Victor yesterday at hoop and shared with him all of the cool things we did with you and Charlie. He will be down later this summer and I will be sure that he gets to meet you. I told him that I saw his picture in “The Shining Path” museum show.



    1. For those of you who don’t know, Shining Path refers to a terrorist group that terrorized peru for almost 20 years. The terrorism in Peru took place from around 1980 to 2000. When my parents were here, I took them to the National Museum which has a photo exhibition on the Terrorism in Peru between 1980 and 2000. Great exhibit, but pretty heavy. And for some reason, made dad really hungry.

  9. Hola Danielle!
    It’s Renee, the American that you and Charlie met in Cuzco at Jack’s Cafe. We shared a table at lunch and stories!
    I just found this tiny slip of paper with your info on it and thought I’d say hi. We should get together for lunch one day or a run.
    I hope everything is going great and life in Lima is getting better and easier.

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