Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Something to Talk About...or To

One of the things that Embassy employees love to do is visit each others houses and compare notes on who has the better digs. To date, we have learned the following from our numerous visits:

1) Our yard is a joke (as opposed to the football field sized yards of nearly anyone else not living in an apartment)
2) Sometimes a pool is just a large, unheated hot tub
3) Garages are non-existent
4) All furniture is EXACTLY the same and comes in cream, green or red (we have green, the most subtle and kid-friendly of the three)
5) We know exactly one person with a dish washer (it's not us)
6) In terms of interior materials, our house is by far the most beautiful (original hard wood [mahogany] flooring and staircase, marble, wrought iron etc.)
7) Wealthy Peruvians favor gaudy and tacky over tasteful and refined (most Embassy housing is rented from well-to-do Peruvians)
8) Decorating with things purchased in Peru is extremely common, and frankly, perplexing

Which brings me back to my current entry. Time and again as we visit friends and acquaintances I am struck by the amount of Peruvian stuff in their houses - art, crafts, weavings, figurines, leather goods, silver whatever, clothing, reed baskets and on and on and on. Initially I thought that they were just first time posters like us and, like us, had little in the way of decorative objects and so went to the craft markets and went a little crazy to compensate for that. But, more and more I am realizing this is just not the case. We are talking about folks who are in their 4th and 5th countries. I wonder, do they also have whole households full of objet d'arte from previous posts as well just sitting in their massive storage unit in Maryland waiting to be joined by the Peruvian clutter when the family next moves to Thailand or Mali? Really, I am totally perplexed by this. And, don't get me wrong, there are some lovely things to be had in Peru, but, frankly, not that much!

Our approach to accumulating what I like to lovingly refer to as "Peruvian Crap" has been to shop around, invest in some high-quality, very traditional pieces and leave our walls blank for future acquisitions from other locales. In that vein, our trip to Cuzco earlier this year yielded two such pieces. Both have become conversation pieces for anyone visiting from near or far. The first is an example of traditional Andean weaving using fine alpaca thread, dyed with natural dyes. Examples of this weaving technique are available all over Peru, but there are only a few places where you are guaranteed that what you are purchasing is genuine (and be prepared, you will pay for authenticity). These weavings take many months to complete as just a foot of cloth is produced each month. Our piece is roughly 5 feet long and represents about 5 months of the weaver's life. We thought is was beautiful and as soon as we come up with an appropriate means of display will, I'm sure, be even more thrilled with our purchase.

Our second purchase is a replica of an Inca mask thought to be worn by the Inca elders and royalty during the 14th and 15th centuries, before they were conquered by Pizarro. It is plated in gold and decorated with the semi-precious stones that are native to the mountains of Peru, lapis lazuli, red coral, Andean turquoise and serpentine. We just got it back from the framers and I decided it was blog worthy. It is definitely a source of conversation even though is it currently propped up in the dining room and not yet on the wall. An added bonus of having acquired the mask is that Caleb has taken to talking to it. Full-length, highly animated conversations between him and the mask. I get the impression that in some way or other the mask is responding because Caleb will finish what he is saying, walk away and then abruptly turn around, come back and say something very pointed to the mask. At this point, I am inclined to leave the mask where it is until I can figure out what "they" are talking about. The pictures don't give you an idea of scale, but with the frame it is about 3 feet tall and 2.5 feet across. One final note, being the frugal, deal-loving person than I am, I am thrilled to report that framing in Peru is practically free. You may notice from the picture that the mask is double framed and sports a double mat as well. Cost: prepare yourself...$50! Needless, to say, we are walking around the house thinking of anything and everything that might need to be framed. I have had to draw the line at post-it notes and church programs!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I Heart Cupcakes

Cupcakes, well cake in general, are a totally foreign concept in Peru. And, I have always been an enormous cupcake fan. Not just the Magnolia Bakery or their competitor Buttercup Bake Shop or Cake Love varieties either. I will eat any and all cupcakes...seasonally frosted cupcakes from Safeway where the dyes are so intense they turn your whole face blue or green, Betty Crocker from a box with frosting from a can varieties that can be whipped up in mere moments (sometimes at 2 am - been there, done that), even questionable cupcake shaped offerings frosted with something less like frosting and more like sweetish glaze. Clearly, I'm not picky. But, for all my willingness to take whatever is offered and be happy, even ecstatic with said offering, Peru is a veritable desert in desperate need of a sweet fountain brimming over with cupcakes (and don't even get me started on the lack of muffins and bagels).

In contemplating a life overseas, I was fully prepared for the fact that we would actually not be living in the USA - a reality that some of our compatriots seem often to overlook when deciding that a life in the Foreign Service is for them (one wonders what they are defining "foreign" to mean instead). And, I might have a skewed view of myself, but in general I think I am a fairly adaptable person who can make things work under most circumstances. I enjoy change and adventure and new things and all of those characterize our present and certainly our immediate, if not long-term, future. I make friends easily and am good with languages and am willing to try most things, at least once before passing judgment. After nearly a year in Peru, I am confident that most of these perceptions about myself are fairly accurate, all things being equal. But now, I am pregnant, and things are most decidedly unequal! The pregnant me is not exactly irrational, but is, shall we say, FAR LESS CONTENT with change and adventure and new things and most importantly doing without certain things than my "normal" self. So, tonight, as I was blog-surfing, I found myself drooling over The Cupcake Blog and also, for the umpteenth time in an embarrassingly short period of time thinking about all the things that I miss about being essentially anywhere stateside and thus counting the days until I will be there again.

I am compensating for this dearth of cupcakes, this catastrophe (for indeed it seems like one to me) by making more batches of these things than ever before, but we are South of the Equator and something highly scientific about that makes these blossoms of goodness fail to rise and while they are still good enough in spite of this failing, there is just something missing. My list of things to do and, apparently, eat immediately upon landing in the States is growing daily, and consuming my fill of cupcakes has just zoomed to the very top!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Jumping on the Bandwagon

No pictures this time, just a quick note to say that we are joining nearly everyone we know it seems (Adrianne, Katharine, Kate, Mary, Kristy, Kim, Lilita, and a host of other non-bloggers) and are expecting a new addition to our family unit. Assuming all goes according to plan, baby #2 will be making his/her debut sometime around January 24th. Our limited experience with Peruvian hospitals has convinced us we are not brave enough to have a baby in Lima so Caleb and I will be heading to UT to stay with my parents and await this new bundle. None of us is looking forward to being separated for 3 months (6 weeks before the baby is due and 6 weeks after it comes), but we are all feeling good about the decision we have made and know that the time will pass quickly. I know Caleb will love being surrounded by grandparents and aunts and uncles for such a long time including the Christmas holidays. No news on the gender yet, but when we know, you'll know too!

PS A note of clarification, some of the above referenced bandwagon riders (Adrianne, Mary, Kim) have already welcomed their babies and are not, as far as we know, expecting another one anytime soon -- I included them because our pregnancies overlapped, confirming my belief that there actually is a bandwagon upon which to jump

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July

Spending the last few years in Washington, DC, we have become used to blow-out Independence Day Celebrations. This year was our first 4th of July not on American soil and it was, frankly, a bit of a bust. The Ambassador threw a big shin-dig at the residence for various muckety mucks (which included Kenny, but not me or Caleb) so even though it was technically a holiday we didn't get any family time until late, late, late afternoon. We joined some of our American friends for hamburgers, hot dogs, seven layer dip, homemade raspberry ice cream and homemade rootbeer. There are no fireworks to be had in Peru so we improvised with balloons and a box of sparklers. It certainly wasn't "A Capitol Fourth" but it was a good reminder of why we are proud to be American and all of the wonderful blessings and benefits we enjoy.

too cold to go outside so we lit our sparklers inside
hoping the marble floors were flame-retardant enough

Caleb loved the sparklers but was none too thrilled at not
being allowed to hold them himself

God Bless America!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Food, Glorious Food!

One of the great things about Caleb is that he is not a picky eater. He eats almost anything put in front of him and these days, more often than not, without any help. He doesn't always make it through a meal without getting messy, but that is all part of the fun of learning. Below are some recent photos of Caleb enjoying one of his favorite things...FOOD.

the kitchen stairs are one of his favorite places for enjoying a snack

pizza, yum!

so many choices and all good

on the stairs again with a banana in each hand

spaghetti and choclo (Peruvian corn)

Nerds candy (no idea why he is eating them this way)

pesto, delicious!

Monday, July 02, 2007

First Haircut

Probably waiting longer than we should have, we finally decided that Caleb needed a haircut. Within a 6 block radius of our house there are no less than 6 hair salons, but only one boasting the haircutting car. As you can see from the "before" picture Caleb's hair was embarrassingly long (no curl for this little guy) around the ears. I don't think the barber cut as much hair as he would have liked because despite the fun noises and steering wheel on the car Caleb's window for sitting still was about 7 minutes. The barber did his best and the end result was a dramatic improvement. We dutifully saved the cuttings for Caleb's baby book though I think everyone in the salon thought we were absolutely crazy!




Sunday, July 01, 2007

Partying Like He's Never Partied Before

A couple of weeks ago, our next door neighbor, whom we know through Caleb, invited Caleb to a birthday party for her 1 year-old grand-daughter Marianita. The invitation was written on stationery from the kids show "Lazy Town" (a show about the importance of eating healthy food and exercising - the main character's name is Sportacus, really) and listed the party start time as 3:00pm. We rifled through our gift drawer for something appropriate for a 1 year-old and set off at the, we thought, fashionably late hour of 3:45pm. The party was next door, so we didn't have far to walk and upon arrival we, or rather Caleb, were very warmly received. Frankly, I think they were surprised that we showed up at all and without a maid/nanny in tow to boot. In typical Peruvian and probably Latin fashion, we were among the first guests at what proved to be the most over the top, unbelievable, crazy birthday party we have ever attended...never mind the fact that the guest of honor could neither walk nor speak! There were easily 50 kids under the age of 7, at least 3 adults for every child, and a whole brigade of nannies - seriously, it was amazing.

Up to this point Caleb has had very limited interaction with other children. For lots of reasons we are not regulars on the playgroup/playdate circuit. I once asked my Mom about play dates and if she had ever participated in such things - her response "we didn't have play dates, we had more kids and you all played together". That concept has become passe and apparently play dates are all the rage. Because of his limited interaction with other children, Caleb is fascinated by them, particularly babies. He is very gentle, but loves to touch them as if they were pets. We are working on the concept that babies are not toys or pets but people just like him. Anyway, this party was a child's paradise and there were lots of children to appreciate that. Caleb in particular was in heaven!! They had set up an enormous tent in their backyard equipped with a sound system, an old-fashioned popcorn maker, balloons galore, a table full of goodies generally not suitable for the under 3 crowd - but Caleb tried them all, cotton candy, soda, jell-0 (the one semi-nod to healthy eating), and waiters circulating with food for the adults. The day of the party, Peru was playing in the Copa Americana and so at the other end of the house there was a large, flat screen tv set up for the adults as well.

About an hour after we arrived, "Stephanie" from "Lazy Town" appeared to begin the entertainment portion of the show. She was joined over the next hour by "Sportacus", "Robbie Rotten" (the villain of Lazy Town) and "Stingy". They danced, sang (actually the voices were recorded) and led the children in all sorts of sporty games. Caleb was in heaven and couldn't contain himself. He ran around in circles and grabbed balloons and balls and popcorn and candy and anything he could find. After 2 hours we decided it was time to go home. Our host told us we had to stay longer or we would miss so much, but we graciously thanked her for the invitation and all of the fun and took an exhausted Caleb home for a long overdue nap. We heard party sounds for most of the rest of the evening.

Caleb discovering the fun of helium balloons

Stephanie from Lazy Town - Love the wig!
(Marianita is to the left with her mother)

Kids, kids and more kids

Caleb playing "sporty games" from the back...

...and the front

Crazy party antics

This view does not do justice to the insanity that was this party,
but it gives some idea of the fun that was had

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