In light of the recent earthquakes in Peru, my reflections on some of my experiences there two weeks ago seem insignificant. But I do want to make note of several cultural differences that are worth remembering.
While the Peruvians don’t seem to take time as seriously as we Americans do, they certainly take greetings and good-byes very seriously. They don’t just say “hola’ superficially each day, but they interrupt their direction of walk, come right up to you with solid eye contact, a firm handshake or abraso (hug) and extend erest warm greetings. They never leave without seeking you out and extending their gratitude for your contribution to their lives and how happy they are for having been in your company. I want to bring this back to Dallas and to my home.
In a workshop, I was shocked at the first answer I got to my question, “What are some names of endearment that husbands call their wives?” Several chimed in simultaneously, “Gordita” (Fattie)! They all agreed that within their culture it was not offensive and that even children called their mommies “Gordita.” I promised not to attempt to bring this tradition home.
I knew I was a city boy when I returned from a small zoo adjacent to our conference facility. I shared my wide-eyed excitement with Julio, my translator. I marveled at the beautiful birds, the unusual monkeys and other exotic animals. He did not share my excitement but said politely, “Yes, I’m from the jungle. They are all around us. Sometimes we eat them.” Jungle gentleman provided realistic perspective for this city boy.
Eating presents challenges and delights. They love potatoes in Peru. They grow hundreds of different kinds of them and they never run out of creative ways to prepare them. They also have three different kinds corn from which they are able to make a purple dessert which is like Jello but a little more jelatinous. Not bad. I must say, seafood is tastier and more varied than anywhere I’ve been. A RREACH worker from Indiana, Bill, and I discovered a restaurant from our first lunch. What I thought would be a simple fish dish turned out to be a juge bowl of soup with a whole fish at the botttom covered with a whole crab, every kind of shell fish imaginable, a touch of octipus and some other things that I didn’t want to ask about. All for $6. They are very proud of their fish and understandably so.
There were some frustrating negative things too. Reservations are not honored, driving on almost any road puts your life in danger, and the winter haze makes 60-degree weather seem cold. Now, I suppose I must add earthquakes as another negative aspect of Peru. But the overarching memory from the visit is the warmth of the people and their zeal for serving the Lord Jesus. I now have more “hermanos y hermanas” that I care about and I pray for their recovery from the earthquake.