Disclaimer:  As I believe my previous blogs reflect, I love living in Cajamarca, Peru.
I love the people, culture, climate and lifestyle.  But after two years, there are just a few things I’m afraid I’ll never be able to accept.  Keep in mind if I made a list of the bones I have to pick with the United States, it would be MUCH longer.  Also remember that these annoyances do not refer to ALL Peruvians or all places in Peru…only my experiences.  So, sorry Peru, but I’ve got to vent and here I go: The most annoying things about living in Peru.
 

1. Perros Calleros (Street Dogs)

Perros de Calle….grrrrrr

In Cajamarca, they’re everywhere. They are untamed, off-leash, un-spayed/neutered, and sometimes un-vaccinated. Last year while running on public roads near my house, a small dog ran out of the bushes and attached its teeth to my leg. As the dog had no owner (or no one willing to admit it was theirs) I had no way to know if it had been vaccinated against rabies. So as a precaution, I had to go through a series of 10 shots to get myself vaccinated. My friend Amy got bit last year too. My dog Brandy has been attacked several times.

One of my little English students was attacked a few months ago by a dog twice her size resulting in severe lacerations in her arm, hand and chest. Worse than the dogs are the owners who train them to be aggressive in order to protect their homes. Unfortunately the dogs widen the territory into the public roads. For example, I go for a run and a dog comes out of nowhere barking, growling, about to attack. Often the owner is standing right there watching. Rather than controlling their dog, they yell at me for throwing rocks. 

2.Hombres Calleros (Street Men)

They might as well be dogs. They bark disgusting comments as you walk by or growl weird kissing noises trying to intimidate you.  Sometimes they just stare at you up and down, make easily audible comments to their friends while puffing out their chests and holding their heads high. They sure think they’re studs. No humility. No respect. They make me want to puke. I used to try to accept machismo as a part of the Latino culture. Screw that. Men who behave like this are scum buckets, they know it and culture is not a valid excuse. While I’ve learned it’s best to ignore it, on occasion it’s hard not to respond with a comment such as “voy a vomitar,” or if I’m on a run, by aiming a loogie or snot rocket in their direction.

photo credit: by Ivan Mlinaric

3. Poor Medical Care

I hope I never get seriously sick in Cajamarca because every experience I’ve had with the medical system here has been scary. Perhaps, coming from a medical background I’m hyper-aware of these things.

When I first moved here I was very sick with some abnormal symptoms (extreme thirst, sore eyeballs, spider veins, etc.). Having recently made a trip to the jungle, I asked to be tested for a variety of illnesses such as Dengue fever, Malaria, etc. I was diagnosed by three different doctors as having a stomach infection and each time sent home with antibiotics and pain killers. A month

Last year I helped an American family’s 13-year-old daughter who got appendicitis on their vacation to Cajamarca. Not only was Eliza conscious for most of the surgery, but when the doctor removed the appendix, he brought it out to the waiting area to show it to the parents before closing their daughter up. Poor Eliza! After surgery, they didn’t give her pain medication until we requested it. They told me she had a 50% chance of the wound getting infected (this may be due to the fact that gloves are highly undervalued in the medical system here). In the beginning, I feared for her life. In the end, she was fine. But I doubt the Webbers will EVER be coming back to Cajamarca.later when I was listening to a public service announcement about Dengue fever, I noticed they had listed my symptoms perfectly. I went back through my paperwork to discover that I had indeed tested positive for Dengue fever. None of the three doctors ever looked at the results of my testing.

Each time I get my blood drawn, I find myself lecturing the lab tech about the importance of wearing gloves. I’ve heard every excuse in the book, “We only wear gloves when the patient requests it,” or “I don’t have any open wounds so I don’t need to wear gloves.”

Out of fear of contracting Hepatitis B, AIDS, or the flu due to poor sanitation standards, I avoid going to the doctor in Cajamarca at all costs. Fortunately, in Peru, you don’t need a prescription for most medications, including antibiotics and pain killers so I tend to use whatever resources I can and diagnose and treat myself. Seems like a safer option. Most people go to Lima for any serious surgeries or illnesses. While the health care is better in Lima, it’s hard to find the quality of health care that you expect in the States.  Why is this annoying?  Because there is a constant fear that something bad might happen and we would not be able to get adequate healthcare.

 

4. Dangerous Drivers

Speeding, running stop signs, illegally passing on either side, going the wrong direction on one-way streets, driving drunk. Anything goes. For this reason, the municipality puts speed bumps all over the place so that people HAVE to slow down. Cars have the right-of-way before pedestrians. Once, as Charlie was riding his motorcycle in Cajamarca he slowed down for an older woman who was crossing the street with a cane. The car behind swerved around Charlie (typical) and hit the woman dead on. Judging by how hard she was hit and the fact that there was blood everywhere, Charlie doubts she survived.

I don’t get it. Peruvians are generally fairly laid back as a culture, they arrive hours late to everything, but put them in a car and they drive like complete maniacs! If you live in Peru, you learn quickly to be extremely careful when crossing the street.

5. Public Urination/Defecation

At the risk of sounding like a pervert, I see at least one wiener that’s NOT Charlie’s every day since I’ve lived in Cajamarca. People pee everywhere with little shame or effort to hide it. In fact, one of my biggest pet peeves is when I’m walking on the sidewalk near our home and need to step into the street to avoid walking through the pee stream of some guy who couldn’t find a more private spot. He’ll even say hello to me as I pass him! They are a little more discreet about public defecation, but it happens plenty. It is not uncommon to see my neighbors defecating in the stream or the eucalyptus grove across the street from us.

6. Littering!

I live in a city filled with litter bugs. People open a candy bar and throw the wrapper on the ground. People throw bags of trash onto the street to get torn apart by dogs. Despite an abundance of waste bins throughout Cajamarca, people choose to litter. On Wednesdays the butcher in Banos del Inca slaughters large animals (cows and pigs). This is the day that our local stream which runs through town turns red with the blood and remains. Gross!

7. Nothing is easy

I used to think it was because of my inadequate Spanish, but now I know that’s not it. I swear that Peruvians are professionals at turning a simple task such as the purchase of a printer into a half-day ordeal. First, go to the electronics department and select your printer. Wait in line and eventually they will print you a receipt which you will take to the cash register at the front of the store. Wait in line, make your payment and work your way back to the electronics department. Wait in line. First they will check your receipt, then they will open the box to confirm that everything that should be in it IS indeed present (shouldn’t it always be?). There are rules and systems such as this in place for most circumstances. The problem is, most people don’t know what they are, so they need to consult someone else…who may not be around. You end up going from one person to the next to do something as simple as opening a bank account.

8. No one has change

This can be VERY inconvenient. Unless you’re making a big purchase, you can’t pay with a large bill because the vendor won’t have change. If a vendor does have adequate change, they claim they don’t until you tell them you won’t make the purchase. I don’t get it. If we all pay vendors in small bills, where do they go? WHY doesn’t anyone have change?

9. Noise

Cajamarca loves firecrackers. Not fireworks, the pretty things that light up the sky, but firecrackers, the explosions that make nothing but a loud boom. Their only purpose is noise. You can expect to hear these throughout the days for at least three weeks following Carnival and constantly around the time of political elections.

Then there’s the music. If you go to a party or a bar, it is guaranteed that the music will be turned up so loud that conversations are impossible. Everyone complains. Everyone says “why do they turn the music up so loud?” No one turns it down.

10. Cutting in Line

No matter where you are (the bank, pharmacy, grocery store, movie theatre) people do NOT respect lines. People behind you in line will physically push you forward or try to get around you. It is not uncommon for someone to come along, say ‘perdon’ and squeeze their way in front of you. When you finally arrive at the counter, someone may just step in front of you and begin talking to the person at the register or making their purchases. I used to get so frustrated, but now I just follow suit. You need to be aggressive and throw your elbows out to avoid cutters. If someone says ‘perdon’ and tries to step in front of me, I say ‘no, I was here first!’ If you follow what you think are the traditional expectations for waiting in line, you could be there all day.

Cajamarca. I love it here despite its flaws…

Ah, Peru. To love a thing, person or place you must forgive it for its flaws. I’m trying, but it can be tough.