Tag Archives: Expats

Video: How Peruvian Are Nebraskans?

Peru in the USA - Nebraska

Been quite busy at work this past week, so haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and write unfortunately.  However, I did come across this video on Youtube the other day and thought I would share it with you.

Peru is a very patriotic country and they are growing their worldwide image as more than just “Land of the Incas”.  Probably the most noteworthy current rise to fame is the food.  Peruvian food is delicious and they know it.  Not too spicy and not too bland, it has a great mixture of ingredients and fusions from the many different cultures that have immigrated and become part of the country.

This video, however, was created not for the purpose of educating the world about Peru, but as a national promotion for Peruvian pride; hence, the video is in Spanish but with English subtitles.  The premise of the video is that PromPeru (the governmental body in charge of promoting Peru as a brand) took all the “best” from Peru (mainly celebrities from various categories like culinary, dance, etc.) in South America to the city of Peru in Nebraska, USA.  The idea was to show them (Peruvian Nebraskans) what it really means to be “Peruvian”.  Pretty clever, huh?  If you don’t already know, this city is a tiny place where it is most likely, few if any, have had any experience outside of the USA, let alone Peru.  This video is considered to be like a mini documentary and won a lot of awards.

Let me know what you think!  Oh, and just so you know, in Spanish Peru has an accent on the “u”, so it is Perú.  You will see why that matters at the end of the video.

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Food Delicacy – What Does It Mean To You?

Fine Dining

Delicacy. What is that? Webster’s dictionary says that it is “the quality or state of being luxurious; something pleasing to eat that is considered rare or luxurious.” What comes to my mind when people use this word to describe food tends to be things like caviar, Kobe beef or the puffer fish. Something that is sort of unobtainable because of price and usually reserved for special splurges or occasions.

But what happens to this meaning when you travel to foreign lands? I always have a great time meeting new people and learning about their cultures and customs. We just get along swimmingly; but when it comes to food and their local “delicacies”, somehow we are no longer on the same page! I have come to learn that when people preface food with “Oh, this is a delicacy of the area!”, it really means they don’t want to tell you what the dish is because they know that you are going to be a little put off by it. Take for instance some of these “delicacies” from around the world:

Cambodia – Fried Tarantulas

Yes, just as you might imagine, these guys are sautéed and fried with a little bit of garlic and salt. Apparently, crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside.  Yum?

Philippines – Balut

Balut is touted as being the Filipino equivalent to the American hotdog, meaning it is ubiquitous and thoroughly enjoyed by the masses. Take a fertilized chicken or duck egg (around 17-24 weeks), boil it until the yolk leaks out followed by the fetus of the animal. Apparently you drink the liquid and chase it with the fetus. Buyer beware: Sometimes the eggs might be a little further developed, in which case you might get a beak, bones and/or feathers. Oh boy!  (No pic on this one because I find it a bit nauseating, but feel free to do a search!)

Sardinia – Casu Marzu

Are you a cheese lover? Just love the moldy goodness of a fine brie or camembert? What about the smell of Lindbergh cheese? How about a jiggily surprise? Yes, in Sardina, the cheese can wiggle-waggle just like good ol’ J-E-L-L-O. Only it’s not gelatin…it’s maggots! Apparently, introducing cheese fly (how aptly named) larvae into the cheese helps it ferment because those little buggers digest the fat. And you have to eat it while those guys are still alive because when they are dead, it has been reported to be toxic. So much so, that it has actually been banned for health reasons. Bon appetito!

Cheese in Sardinia

Now, you are probably wondering why I am talking about this. It has to do with my Thanksgiving picture from yesterday. You see, here in Peru, the guinea pig (known locally as cuy) is quite the delicacy. It seems so hard to believe that people could eat these little guys, as they are pets in the USA and Europe. But here in Peru and South America, they have been domesticated since well before the Inca; it is believed to have started around 5,000 B.C., although the earliest evidence found dates to 500 B.C. These furry friends have been a dietary staple for the Andean people for a long time and traditionally raised solely for subsistence consumption within the household.  There are still wild cuy roaming the hinterland, and they are used for other ritualistic and medicinal things.  I will talk about what and how (it is pretty interesting) in a future post.

Guinea pigs in PeruCuy are typically housed indoors and kept in the household kitchen, where they are allowed to run around freely. Most highland families keep at least 20 animals in this fashion and feed them a great variety of food such as alfalfa or a good selection of leftovers or scraps. I don’ t know if you have ever heard guinea pig squeaks before, but when there is a group of 10 or 15, it’s a little bit like being in a science fiction movie. I just feel like they are an alien species trying to communicate with me. I often have the episode from the original Star Trek series in my mind, when Captain Kirk meets the Tribbles!

Star Trek Tribbles

Now, as much as I felt bad, I decided to be bold and try a little guy. After all, it is better than fried tarantula.  You can find them totally intact, like a pig on a spit: with their little faces and feet.  The difference is that they are skinned, fried/barbecued and stuck on a stick like a giant corn dog…sans the breading. I chose to go a fancier route and had it braised and plated with mashed potatoes and vegetables. It looked like miniature lamb shanks.  It wasn’t bad, I will admit. A little greasy like duck, with a mild gamey aftertaste. The only thing is that there are plenty of bones and not much meat. I worked pretty hard to get every bit off, and I think at the end of the meal I was actually hungrier! But I gave it a try and that is what counts.

Would I call this a delicacy? No, not really.  Is it something luxurious or pleasing to eat?  Again, I don’t think so.  And it definitely is not rare.  It is pretty common here in Peru, nothing so special about it to the locals. The specialty (and thus the reason it gets to be touted as a “delicacy”) is that most foreigners view these as pets. So, by slapping on this description, the tourism industry has found a spectacular way to posh up something that will surely disappoint/sadden/appall some people.  And I am not sure how the people in Switzerland will feel about it.  They have a law that says you cannot keep just one by itself, as they are social animals.  So when one dies, you have to get at least one more to keep the other one company.  Or you can rent one from this lady.

So, just remember that the next time you are traveling and hear the word “delicacy”, be prepared…you might just be about to crunch down on some furry/gooey/squirmy goodness!

Cuy at Mistura

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Happy Thanksgiving from Peru!

A guinea pig who is thankful for not being a turkey!

Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately I will be missing out on the feast this year, but has not stopped me from eyeballing all the photos on Facebook from friends back home who are preparing for the army of family about to converge on a cornucopia of food.  I found this image and thought it was fitting to give a big salutation from Peru.  It is a guinea pig in a pilgrim hat, and it is significant from Peru because guinea pigs are a delicacy here…so I like to think of it as s/he is thankful for having today off while every gobbles down the turkey.  It is kind of like those Chic-fil-A ads where the cow is walking around saying “eat more chikn”!

Food

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A bird made entirely of bread

Thanksgiving for Vegetarians

Thanksgiving is one thing I always miss when I am abroad.  I have tried to recreate it many times, but it just isn’t the same.  And it doesn’t help when I am the only one really excited about it.  People just don’t seem to get it…which I don’t understand.  It is a a FEAST of delicious food.  This year in Peru, unfortunately, I don’t think I am going to put the effort into making a mini Thanksgiving.  I just don’t have the time.

But while I was looking around online for work, I came across this!  How funny/creative/delicous!  I wouldn’t mind trying that green chili dough, either!  This is just another reason why I love New Mexico!

Happy early Thanksgiving to all!  I think i will be going to the store tonight to stock up on bread and turkey slices.  That is pretty similar to this, right? 🙂

BBC – Travel – A bird made entirely of bread : Food & Drink.

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Why are we so PC?!

Why people, why?!

An interesting thing happens to political correctness (PC) once you step outside of the US: It flies out the window!  It is actually fairly freeing to know that people will not take things so seriously and you won’t have to worry about a potential lawsuit.  My first PC free experience happened to me while I was working for a financial company in New Zealand.  It was my second or third day on the job, and they were having a farewell party for one of the managers (a woman).

As is customary, the whole department was gathered round and the owner/CEO began to give the “heartfelt” speech about how much the leaving manager would be missed, etc. This is how he began: “Many of your thought I hired __y__ because she is hot and I just wanted to get her in bed, well, that is not completely untrue…”, which was followed by howling laughter by all. Okay, can we just take a moment?  Here I was, fresh out of college and off an internship in HR, and what appears to be a scene from the countless sexual harassment videos I showed/presented in trainings, is playing out in front of me in real life.

The rest of the speech was pretty standard and when he finished, the the leaving manager took over and said: “Thank you, __x__. I always knew you were a dreamer; I just didn’t know how big of a fantasy you were in when you hired me!”  She continued for a few more minutes and after she finished, we cut the cake and got back to work.  No one was concerned about this display; everyone was talking about how much they were going to miss the departing manager, etc. but not one person seemed to be put off by this blatant sexual reference.  And as time went on, I encountered more examples of jokes, and such, that definitely would not have flown back in the US.  Everyone kept telling me to lighten up and have fun and as much as I wanted to, I told them I couldn’t get comfortable doing that because if I said something like this back home, I’d be in a world of trouble!  But how liberating it was to be able to laugh at things knowing that everyone else knew it was just a joke!

As I continued to travel to other countries, I continued to encounter this and it was just as refreshing.  But as I have gone from Anglo cultures to more Latin, the focus has shifted slightly to where it is now mildly shocking again!  Here in Peru, you can call people who are your friends (or not) as “Chino“, and not by their actual name.  Basically it equates to calling them Chinese.  Take this recent example that a friend of mine actually said this past weekend (translated into English, of course):  “Hey Chinese guy, do you know how to get to Pardo street from here?”  They guy smiled and gave us directions and we went on our way.  They also say it about “white” people, too.  Gringo can be used to refer to a foreigner, but they also use it to call Peruvians who are light skinned or girls/women who have died their hair blonde.  And they call skinny people “flaco“.  I sort of like to translate that one into “Slim!” but I like to imagine it being said from Berta on Two and a Half Men…just seems like something she would say, “Hey Slim! I ain’t cleanin’ that up.”

Anyway, as you might imagine, the civil liberties groups would be all over this back home!   There are some English teachers here trying to teach kids/adults that you can’t refer to someone like that when you talk with foreigners.  But my friends have told me it is like in one ear and out the other.  The students don’t understand why it is bad, because here it is not bad or meant in an ill way.

Okay, I get it.  Fine.  But what do you think about this:  As I was walking to the park the other day I noticed, for the first time, the sign above this laundromat:

Laundromat in Lima, Peru

I have walked passed this laundromat countless times, but for some reason only saw this now!  When could you get away with doing this?  I am going to say probably up until the late 80s, if I base my hypothesis off of movies from that decade compared to the 90’s and now.  I will just point you towards all the Police Academy movies, Leslie Nielsen stuff, and Rodney Dangerfield.  May they rest in (humorous) peace.

So I ask you, what is the point of being PC?  Can we not take a lesson from the rest of the world and realize that things are said in jest, and not always be so uptight?  Now, I thought I had seen quite a lot, but after seeing this laundromat, I am reminded that my PC-ness is probably never going to go away.  While I do think this photo is a bit over-the-top, I do believe that it was not done so with any ill-will.  And I will say that all of my Asian Peruvian friends do not have a problem with it.  In fact, they think it is amusing.

Who can say, truly, what is right and what is wrong.  So much of it is about the culture and can one culture really ever dictate what another should or should not do?  I know that there are great many things in the world that I would like to believe have a “global” moral compass that all cultures should follow, but again, who am I to say so?  The one thing that I do take away from all of this, though, is that these other cultures really seem to uphold the idea of “free speech” much better than the USA does; they are not worried about every minor little thing, and whether it hurts a few people’s feelings.  Although, I guess when you have bigger social issues, maybe other things don’t seem quite as important.

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Caral, a city as old as Mesopotamia!

While there are plenty of things to do in Lima to keep you busy, if you fancy a trip outside of the city, there are numerous places you can visit. Lima is a great place to make your home base, as it is close to the popular weekend beach getaways in the North and South, the Central sierra mountains and numerous smaller cities with lots of ruins and not a lot of crowds. Nothing against Machu Picchu, as it truly is something everyone should see, but it is great to have options closer to home that are not as packed with tourists and that you can afford to visit many times. Plus, these sites are only a few hours by bus from Lima, making them easy day or weekend trips.

Ancient Pyramids of Caral, Peru

Aerial view of pyramids in Caral

One city that is only 3 short hours north from Lima is Caral. Located in this city is the Conjunto Arqueologico Central de Caral, which is one of the best known sites in the area. This city is home to what scholars believe to be the oldest civilization in the Americas. The ruins date back over 5,000 years, which means there were cities and life in Peru around the same time as Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. Over the years, other sites have been found in Peru that have been traced back to around the same time as Caral, but none can compare to the immense size and complexity of Caral: nearly 160 acres of pyramids, sunken plazas and residential structures. It has been suggested that the city also influenced the development of other pre-Inca and Incan urban designs.

Amphitheater and City View, Caral, Peru

View of the amphitheater and city

Getting there is easy: You can rent a car or go by bus.  Going by car is good if you plan to stop along the way for side trips, but if your main destination is Caral, the bus is the easiest and most comfortable option. Most bus companies have daily departures to Caral; the trip can be done in one full day, but if you want to spend the night and explore the surroundings more, there are many affordable hotels around. The parts of the city visitors are able to walk around are primarily focused around two sunken round plazas and various pyramids and residences. The site does not allow you to be in the park alone, therefore you will be required to have a guide accompany you. A local archaeological team is available and will give you tours of the ruins or you can sign up ahead of time in Lima at one of the many tour agencies. This site is something worth seeing and does not get as much international attention as Machu Picchu.

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Peruvian Food

This is part of an article I wrote for the company I work for in Lima.  I write articles and snippets geared towards people who are looking to move abroad and are thinking about Peru.

“Perhaps one of the biggest fear for people when moving away from their home country is the fear of what new foods they will be eating, and whether or not they will be able to eat as they did at home.  In Peru, this should not be a concern, as the country is regarded worldwide as being a gastronomic feast for the palette. 

There is a wide range of choices to choose from ranging from mild to wild! Traditional dishes such as ceviche, papas rellenas (stuffed potatoes filled with meat) and pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken) can be had anywhere.  If you are a bit more adventurous, you can try a local delicacy, cuy (guinea pig).  Food varies according to the region, but just about everything can be had in cosmopolitan Lima.   

If you are feeling a bit homesick, you can always find plenty of choices from the USA and international cuisines such as, Chinese, Indian, Mediterranean, Japanese, Italian, etc.   And of course, there is Starbucks and even Pinkberry.”

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