Saturday, 24 February 2007

It must be the altitude

Westerners here seem to blame the altitude for everything, from lack of fitness to their inability to handle alcohol. Me, I'm just a creaking, lardy shandy drinking lightweight at any elevation.

The local beer here is called Cusqueña, which translates as Woman of Cusco. It's very much okay. I'm told that you can buy it in Tesco back home, and that they use better water for the beer they export than for the stuff the locals drink, so it might be worth trying. In the tourist bars you'll be ripped off up to a pound a pint for the stuff, but if you don't want to stump up at those prices you can find local bars where they'll virtually give it to you with a loving kiss.

Since it's such a tourist town they have imported British beer in Cusco, but I haven't tried it yet. I've watched them pour it and it seems to be a complicated process involving three pint glasses and a spoon, so I'm imagining it probably won't taste the same. It's the altitude, apparently.

In other news I've heard rumours of a game of football I can join over here, so I'm pretty excited. As anyone that's ever played football against me knows, the opposing player has usually had a shower and is on the bus home by the time my tackles go in, so if you hear of the Peruvian health service being bankrupted due to a spate of leg injuries in the Cusco area you'll know what's happened.

Speaking of beer and football, they absolutely love Solano over here* and are still talking about his goal for the Toon (it was a penalty apparently, but I didn't see it). It made front page of the newspapers here. It's a bit bewildering really, but I suppose if an English player was actually able to score from the spot we'd go crazy over it, too, so I guess it's fair.

* note for my non-football following readers: Nolberto "Nobbie" Solano is a Peruvian footballer who currently plys his trade with Newcastle United. I guess you'd have to say he's one of their better players - the fans certainly love him. Even though I think he once scored a winning goal against Arsenal, I can find it in my heart not to hate him.

My learning of Spanish continues, though admittedly at a pace that would make a particularly tardy snail say "pick it up a bit, can't you?". I have learnt one very useful word - permiso. It means either "I'm sorry, excuse me, could you possibly step aside, I'd very much like to get by, if you don't mind too much, thanks awfully" or "Oi, fat*rse, get out of my way", depending on the tone of voice you use. They're not shy about blocking the pavements and doorways, either, so you get to use it quite a lot.

I'm still struggling with other cultural differences, too, because as far as I'm concerned these Cusqueños are crazy. They have a thoroughly Latin disregard for trifles such as factual accuracy and the truth, which makes the whole process of flat-hunting very odd indeed. I think they take a magical realist approach to their ads, using them to describe the flats they want to be renting rather than the mundane ones they actually own. English estate agents could learn reams from them.

The other day one of the teachers I work with, a native Peruvian, was expounding his theory that Spanish is a naturally poetic language, and that English is no good for writing poetry because it has too many adjectives. I argued that Billy 'The Bard' Shakespeare had made a reasonable fist of it, all things considered, and there have been a few Irish guys over the years that could string the odd word together if there was a drop of alcohol in it for them, but he remained unconvinced. More cultural colonisation work required, methinks.

All the best

Your man in Peru (with aching legs and a beer belly)

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