Tag: animals

Miaus and Guaus

Huancayo is surrounded by farmland, so I’ve encountered a myriad of animals ranging from livestock for livelihood to city pets in silly clothes. Some animals have a purpose: cows for fresh milk, donkeys for reliable transport and alpaca for soft wool. There are also animals raised solely for food: chickens and pigs. Other animals are clearly pets: dogs, cats, hamsters and iguanas. I’m still getting used to the fact that guinea pigs are always raised for food, often cooked as a special dish, and never kept as companions.

Cuyes en Huancayo
Guinea pigs are served as a typical Peruvian dish.

Since neutering is expensive and uncommon, Huancainos are more likely to receive a puppy from a friend or pick up a stray kitty. Some homeowners have come-as-they-go pets who show up during the day to have a snack, hang out for a while and then leave every evening. Stray dogs are rampant here. They often walk right beside you and sleep in the middle of the sidewalk as if they own the city. You’re part of their daily drama when it comes to scavenging, playing, fighting and copulation. In the more rural areas, stray dogs can be vicious, so you always carry a rock around and hopefully, never have to actually throw it.

Cachorro en Huancayo
In Huancayo, stray dogs are often taken in as pets.

To communicate with Peruvian animals and animal owners alike, the foreigner must learn new vocabulary of onomatopoeic words. Cats are almost always called “Michi,” often in place of an actual pet name. This name apparently derives from the sound they make: “miau” (“meow”). Dogs are usually pinned “Fido” (“fee-doh”) and they say “guau” (“wow”). I still don’t understand how chicks “pio pio,” although it probably makes more sense that I wake up to the rooster on the fourth floor greeting me with “ki ki ri ki” rather than “cock-a-doodle-doo.” The only other animals that seem to express themselves similarly to their North American counterparts are pigs (“oink”), ducks (“cuac”) and cows (“muu”).

We welcomed a kitty to the family last Thursday and were surprised to learn that he speaks both cat and dog languages, miau-ing and guau-ing in his conversations with us. After a day of fear and loathing for getting him vaccinated, Fénix (Spanish for “Phoenix”) is now purring like a motor, playing with all reachable shoelaces and falling into unescapable buckets:


I spent my Christmas and New Year’s Huancaino-style with my Peruvian family and the rest of my vacation days travelling across the country from the beaches on the coast to jungle of the rainforest.

First stop before Christmas – Lima. As winter and the rainy season began in Huancayo (and the rest of the sierra), it was nice to escape to the summer that was starting in Lima and the coast of Peru. I managed to fit in all things tourist-y in Peru’s capital in a week:

  1. We suntanned, climbed rock formations, hunted lizards, and jumped into the waves at a serene beach a few hours away from the big city – “The Sleeping Lion” they call it because of the shape of the rock castle that borders the sand.
  2. We shopped in downtown Lima, walking up and down the famous street “Jirón de La Unión” that reaches from the main plaza to the government’s palace, drinking cremoladas (slushies you can’t find in Huancayo) and purchasing all the manta bags in sight – I think I have a collection of over 7 purses now, haha! On the last day we were in Lima, we even caught the beginning of Peru’s yearly telethon at the government’s palace with all the country’s famous celebrities performing to raise money for needy children at Christmastime.
  3. I was denied at some hostels because I forgot my passport and they wouldn’t accept my BC driver’s license. =P
  4. I finally had some really good snacks and meals – soft cinnamon buns with extra melting cream, real chunky cookies, Tony Roma’s ribs, and sushi (all also non-existent in Huancayo – been feeling deprived =P).
  5. We visited Parque de Las Leyendas (Park of Legends), which was like a themed zoo. There were native animals from all corners of Peru and some not from here (my favourites were the sea lions =D).
  6. We also visited La Casa de Papá Noel (Santa Claus’ house) at the Parque de La Reserva where there are light and water shows in the evenings. Actually, it was more like we saw Santa Claus’ house from the outside because the line-up was 3 hours long.

Christmastime was very family-oriented and although the holidays make me sentimental and a little homesick, my Peruvian family made me feel so at home here in Huancayo. My Peruvian mommy cooked a special dinner of pork chop and chorizo then we opened presents at midnight of Christmas Eve – all the presents were set up in a circle and we rolled the dice to choose which present would be opened next.

On Christmas day, we were off to the rainforest to the towns of La Merced and Pichanaki. Most days we visited different swimming pools, chicken-fighting, trying to teach myself how to dive headfirst (a failure), and playing water polo. There was one afternoon we visited a pair of famous waterfalls – Bayoz and Velo de Novia (bride’s veil) – swimming underneath the falls themselves. On the way back to Huancayo, we visited some other tourist sites in the sierra including Huagapo (apparently, one of the deepest caves in the world). We didn’t walk in very far because I had sandals on, but what we did walk into was in complete darkness. Our guide used his flashlight so we could find our way, all of us holding hands, and so that we could see the bats and all the stalagmites and stalactites that have naturally formed themselves into interesting shapes (like a seated horse and a roaring lion).

New Year’s Eve was a fiasco. A whole bunch of relatives came over for a huge dinner and nonstop dancing (mostly huayno – music native to the sierra). The theme is all yellow, which is supposed to bring good luck – yellow “2009” glasses, yellow “Feliz Año” hats, yellow clothes, yellow underwear. Come midnight, there are a series of rituals that I wouldn’t have remembered if they weren’t all telling me what to do – yellow confetti is thrown, we greet each person at the party with a hug and “Feliz Año,” we put lentils in our wallets for prosperity, we eat 12 grapes and make a wish on each one of them, then of course – more dancing. I went to bed at the late hour of 1:30am and when I woke up at 9:30am that morning, the music was still pounding downstairs and people were still dancing!

Note re: living fungal parasite. So they were mites that caused the little bug bites all over my body every evening – I just had to use an anti-scabies cream then wash my sheets and all was well. As for the rash – I had a biopsy and from the lab results it was diagnosed as chronic discoid lupus (which, to me, actually sounds sorta cool). I’m waiting for the pictures of the lab results so that I can bring them to Canada and get a second opinion. The cream he prescribed for lupus didn’t make the rash any better and he’s suggesting a corticoid injection, which I would rather have done in Canada. =P

Phase 1 Complete

This week, Maria and I are wrapping up phase one of our infant stimulation project in Peru – the individual home visits and infant assessments. We’ve visited five different towns in and around Huancayo, each with a very different feel and personality. Some random thoughts and experiences to summarize it all…

Taller de Paucar
Singing and acting like animals with mothers and children in Paucar.
  1. We gave a workshop in Paucar (one of the more rural towns) teaching moms how important it was to sing songs to and with their babies. I gave my first introductory lesson on the importance of singing to your children (speaking completely in Spanish – okay, it only lasted 2 minutes), then sang song after song, hitting the dry grass like martillos (hammers), pretending to be gusalinos (little worms), and acting out Dinky Dinky spider (no joke, that’s Itsy Bitsy’s name here!) Even with my sore throat, I belted out tune after screechy tune, not fully believing that there I was, leading this group of moms and their babies, singing in Spanish.
  2. It was an adventure in every town, locating the mothers as most of the houses are S/N (sin numero = without number). Sara and I had a particularly interesting morning walking back and forth across chacras (farms) because different people we ran into told us that the other street was Avenida Andre Avelino Caceres. As there usually aren’t any street signs in more rural areas of town, street names are often painted on the sides of houses – and even then, we never found the street we were looking for. So we piled into the colectivo (like a taxi, but they let anyone on), thankful that we weren’t one of the five packed into the trunk, and headed on to the next home.
  3. The moms in Chupaca had a bit more money and almost every family, good hosts as they were, either fed us or at least served us coke. I have never had so much gaseosa (pop) in my life and I don’t even particularly like soda. On top of all this, I already have a bladder problem and try to make sure not to drink too much when we’re going out to the towns all day. Little good that did.
  4. Animals are a general theme of the houses we visited. There always seem to be dogs, hens, pigs, and cows running around, participating in the assessment sessions. Often, one can find guinea pig pens with guinea pigs of all kinds of colours, shapes, and sizes. And can someone tell me if the gallinas (hens) lay eggs wherever they want to since they’re running around all the time? =)
  5. The oldest babies we see are 30 months old (2 years, 6 months), and moms are still breastfeeding at this age.
  6. I was surprised to see some babies with natural stark blonde hair – super adorable. Sara later mentioned that the hair colour could possibly be from malnutrition. Didn’t even think of that.
  7. In Molinos, the furthest town, almost two hours away from Huancayo, we got caught in a mini storm. We could hear the thunder as if it boomed right beside our ears. The rain came suddenly and in spurts, sometimes sprinkling then other times intense with huge droplets almost like hail. Sara and I conducted an interview standing under a tiny awning with the mother, trying not to get our papers soaked. With another family, we huddled with them under a tarp in the middle of their farm, sitting on wood chips, getting bitten by fleas and tiny spiders, watching the father carve Jesus’ face out of sections of tree trunk.
  8. For those of you that are wondering, I am almost always wearing a toque now to hide my silly haircut. =) It works out well for the weather – protects my face from the UV rays, but doubles as a head warmer when it randomly gets cold out. And no, I’m not the only one here who wears a toque under the blazing hot sun!

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