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Archive for December, 2009

I’ve been thinking lately about celebrities, and after careful consideration, I’ve decided that I’d rather be famous in Peru than in the U.S. If you’re famous in Peru, you get to have money and fine things and be upper class, BUT you don’t have to worry about people invading every corner of your life. It seems people here respect the private lives of celebrities a bit more. At least in comparison with the United States. Take for example Johanna San Miguel. She’s the funny, bubbly talk show host for the morning news program called America Espectaculo. About a week ago, she mysteriously disappeared from the news program.  Instead, the 2 news anchors, Federico Salazar and Veronica Linares, were doing her bit, which basically consists of gossiping about celebrities. Try as they did, they just didn’t compare to Johanna.

For 2 weeks I tried to figure out where she went. In vain, I typed her name into Google, trying to find some news article about her.  Was she fired? Was she sick? Did she quit? Atreyhus teased me that they fired her for being too fat (she’s a little “gordita”). I knew he was joking, but then I started to wonder…

Then one day she was back! Federico and Veronica announced her return and the camera panned over to a cheerful, notably thinner Johanna. Veronica mentioned that the reason for Johanna’s disappearance would always be a mystery. Johanna simply said that she’d done something “very intimate”.  After about 3 minutes of everyone talking about how great she looked, a strange thing happened. Actually, NOTHING happened. The show continued on like normal as Johanna relayed the top celebrity gossip of the day.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find a single scandalous news article about Johanna’s mysterious weight loss (ahem, Liposuction). I looked at every tabloid-like newspaper in Cusco and found nothing. The only thing I uncovered was a slight mention of it on a Peruvian blog.

I may sound like I was disappointed, but I was just in shock. If that were some celebrity in the U.S. you can bet her face would be plastered over every cheap tabloid in the country.  It was refreshing to see that no one was being malicious about it.  It made me think about when Teddy Roosevelt was president and, out of respect, no one ever took a picture of him in his wheelchair. Ok, well maybe I’m being a little dramatic but it’s a nice image.

Now, Johanna isn’t extremely famous, even by Peru standards, and maybe if someone like Magaly Medina (who everyone in Peru seems to hate, but who gets A LOT of news coverage) had gotten liposuction, it would have been a bigger deal- but I still don’t think it’d be as bad as in the states. And when it comes down to it- who cares? Is it really necessary for magazines and Internet blogs to write about every little detail and scandal that goes on in celebrities’ lives? Do we really have nothing better to do? Is it really more important than what’s going on in Iraq or Africa? Maybe the US should take a cue from Peru and BACK OFF. Of course, as long as tabloids are still selling, they’ll still exist. So I don’t hold out much hope.

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Currency is a peculiar thing in Peru. The break down’s pretty similar to that of the states; there are bills for 200 soles (or s/. 200), 100 soles, 50 soles, 20 soles, and 10 soles. Then there’s a 5 soles coin, a 2 soles coin, and 1 sol coin. Then we get down to centimos, where there are 50 centimos, 20 centimos, and 10 centimos. These are the most common types of money used.

However,  the currency breaks down even smaller than that, into itty-bitty silver coins that are as light and plastic-y as play money. Yes, my friends, meet 5 centimo and 1 centimo. Think of 1 centimo like 1/100th of a penny. Now most places don’t use these coins. The super market called “Mega”, for example just rounds off. If your bill is s/.10.27, they charge you s/.10.30. If it’s s/.10.23, they charge you s/.10.20. I think it’s much simpler this way. A lot less messy. But the supermarket right near my work, “La Canasta” calculates everything down to the last centimo. This is a problem, because I always pass by it, and always stop in on my way home from work. Don’t get me wrong, their prices are great and they sell things like small bags of pureed garlic for 50 centimos, rather than like in the Mega where they only sell large tubs of it for about 5 soles. What are ya gonna do with a huge tub of garlic!?? Anyways, back to my point. As a result of going to the Canasta, I have a change purse filled with these little, silver- colored, plastic coins. It wouldn’t be so annoying, if it weren’t for the fact that NO ONE ACCEPTS THESE COINS. Is it legitimate national currency? Yes. Do 10 little 1-centimo coins equal 10 centimos? Yes! So why doesn’t anyone accept them? Beats the heck out of me! I guess they’re small and easy to get lost, but hey, so are diamonds, and you don’t see anyone refusing to accept those!

I did get away with using 2 5-centimo coins on the combi once.  But the guy gave me a really dirty look, like I was being cheap or something. A few days ago I tried to give a 5 – centimo coin to pay for a roll of tape. DENIED. “No lo aceptamos”.  I informed the casheir that they’re legitimate Peruvian currency, and that there’s no reason not to accept it, but she simply replied with another “No lo aceptamos.” So now, I’ve devised a plan to save up all the little 1- and 5-centimo coins I can and cash them into the bank. If I get denied there, I think I may finally snap.

These troublesome coins are annoying, but they’re also another reason why I love Peru. It’s another one of those quirky things that make absolutely no sense, but that the people firmly believe in (well, in this case they believe in their refusal of them!).

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I just wanted to remind foreigners/tourists to be careful this time of year when taking taxis in Peru. 2 of our volunteers have been robbed in the last week in taxis. In both cases, the taxi driver took them down a dark street and 2 or 3 other men jumped in, taking whatever they had. One case happened in Cusco, and the other in Arequipa. SO please be careful. Never carry more than you need, and always take registered taxis and try to remember the number of the taxi (it’s usually painted on the inside of the door, below the window.) Also, if at all possible take a taxi with someone else. This doesn’t just go for late at night….the volunteer in Arequipa was robbed at 7:30pm! Better yet, take a combi.

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