Back to school - and marmalade sandwiches

Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
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Flag of Peru  ,
Monday, September 13, 2004

As every British schoolkid knows, Paddington Bear left Darkest Peru and went to live with the Brown family at 32 Windsor Gardens in London, with a marmalade sandwich stuck under his hat in case of emergencies. With two months left of travelling in South America I thought it would be a good idea to live with a Peruvian family for a week whilst attending Spanish school in an effort to increase my knowledge of the language from 'cerveza' and 'íscorchio!'

And so, last Monday I moved in to N15 Avenue Los Cipreces with Carmela and Mario Mendes. Despite having hosted confused gringos for years they didn't know any English, which I suppose is the point if you're trying to learn the language. For four hours a day I went with Aussie Tim (Pill-poppin'-Pat had left us for a trip to the jungle before going home to his day job of selling Viagra to 12-year-old Kentuckians) to Amigos school to try and learn how to seem less like dumb tourists.

Perhaps the hardest part was having to get up and go to school. I lived about a half-hour walk - or a 30p taxi ride - from the school which thankfully didn't start till 10am. Breakfast con mi familiar was at eight, usually with bread and marmalade, maybe a fried heuvo or dos, and a couple of cups of mate de coca. I was a little nervous and shy at first, not to mention absolutely clueless, but thankfully there was a Swiss girl staying there and did a bit of translating. All in all the food was quite good, and I only had to resort to a dinner of Snickers once.

Wednesday night was a big night in Cusco. The local football team, Cienciano, was playing Boca Juniors of Argentina in the final of RECOPA 2004, the South American Cup (the equivalent of the Champions League in Europe). I asked Old Man Mario donde they were playing as I would love to have gone to the game if it was local. He started going off in Spanish about God knows what, and twirling his finger above his head like a helicopter. Naturally I thought they were in Argentina and they got there by helicopter. It turns out that for some reason I still haven't figured out, they were playing in Fort Lauderdale in the States and he was being Hurricane Mario. At least I know why there was only a couple of thousand people in the crowd and there were American football lines on the pitch, but I'm still baffled why they played it in Florida. Thousands would have seen in either Peru or Argentina. Or even Uruguay. Strange.

Anyhoo, Cienciano ended up winning a pretty poor game on penalties, and that's when the firworks and the carhorns started. Being only the second Peruvian team to win - and over mighty Boca - is a big deal for little Cusco. Tomorrow there's a big parade and reception in the Plaza de Armas, and unfortunately I won't be here to see it but at least I won't be blown up by a wayward firework.

Back at school we were under the strict tutelege of Rocio and Marie-Terese, and blimmin good they were, too. Rocio speaks English, French, German, Italian and is learning Japanese. What she's doing teaching the likes of me I don't know, but it seemed rude to ask. Of course, being English I don't have to learn another language, I just shout louder and think the natives are dumb when they don't understand. I had to take French all those years ago at school, but that's only to make the French think we care.

Believe it or not, I was actually quite good at French and looking back I should have done what old M Hart said at the time: 'Hawkins, you're lazy! Try harder!' Except he said it in French, and I wasn't that good as to know what he said. At St Mary's I fulfilled my language requirement by doing Chinese of all things, but about the only thing I can remember is 'Ni hao' and 'Kung Po chicken.' Fortunately Spanish is much easier and fairly similar to French, but learning to conjugate verbs again, get the tense right, and remembering whether a table is masculine or feminine was a pain in the derriere.

It was a fun week, and Mario and Carmela were very patient and generous. Taking Spanish classes is definitely worth doing if you are planning extended travel in the region (or want to work at 7-Eleven, which is looking like quite a good option for me at the moment). One more week would have been better, but I feel as though I've got quite a good basic understanding. Tonight I'm on a night bus to Lake Titicaca with Tim, and from there on to Bolivia, where yo escucho es bloody frio. At least I have my alpaca hat.

Adios, amigos.
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Comments

LauraWalton on

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have enough cash and couldn't order anything. Thank heaven my brother
adviced to take the home loans from reliable creditors. Hence, I did that and used to
be happy with my small business loan.

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