Saturday, May 8, 2010


Hello todos!
A quick thought/reflection or two. One of the things that sticks out about Peruvian culture is all about names. In general (I hate to generalize but here it goes) individuality, creativity and standing out is not celebrated here like it is in the U.S. This is reflected in many ways, one being when it comes to naming children.

I have been asked 6 times so far in my 11 months here to give "American" names so as to name their children after famous people. So.. you have your John Kennedys (the a 3 year old boy down the street), your Juniors (but that's their name. Not for kids who have the same name as their dad. And it's pronounced "yunor"), and a myriad of typical American names (there are three other Emilys.. NOT a single Emilia... here in Shilla with me). But of course they're going to pronounce these names in the Peruvain Spanish accent, no? I mean, that's fine.. it's only natural. But when asking me for names they want the "correct" pronunciation... which they will never get because.. hey.. we're from different countries! And that's ok! So in the end I try and explain this to them and then just give them a list of names I happen to like... Just last Thursday I included "Yukiko" on the list. The girls seemed to like it... and the fact that I told them the names is japonesa... maybe there will soon be a little Yukiko in Shilla? :)

Another thing that's gracioso (funny) is the spelling.. and the many ways to spell the names. There are many teenage boys named Roosebelt for example. Here are the many variations of spelling: Rusbel, Roosbel, Roosbelth, Roosebelt, Roosevel... etc, etc. And that's just from one classroom. And each time they spell their own name, they spell it differently. In a way, the spelling doesn't even matter. Maybe it's just a teenage thing.

An important thing to note is that it's not just American names that Peruvians choose for their ninos... they'll take any country in Europe or Russia or Asia too. I know several Estalins (Stalin) and little Hitlers running around. Yesterday, on my way to Huaraz for a meeting I saw a political mural painted on the wall that reads in big bold letters: VOTA PARA HITLER. PARA UN CAMBIO (Vote for Hitler. For a change.) I mean, personally I would never vote for him.. doesn't matter how nice of a guy he might be... that's just me though. Most people here don't know what the Holocaust was (unless they're a professional.. and even then maybe not).

I mean, the anecdotes go on and on about names... but I have to say my funniest experience was when one morning a young man came to my house, looking specifically for me (I did not know him) because his first born child (a son) was just born and he needed a name and quick (something about a birth certificate and if you don't get it on time you have to pay... which is why it's not uncommon to find many people whose birthdays are actually a couple weeks before their birth certificate declares). I gave him a list of boys names that I happen to like.. and are pretty common in the U.S.... hoping maybe he'd name his boy James or Oliver or something like that. I gave him the list.. happily pronouncing the names. I didn't seem him for a few months. Then one day he shows up again and asks "Escoge un nombre... pero no recuerdo como pronunciarlo. Puedes ayudarme?" (I picked a name... but I don't remember how to pronounce it. Could you help me?) I was excited to see which one he decided on! Would it be Brian? Or maybe Lukas? Nope. Yeltsin Heidigger... that's right. Yeltsin Heidigger. Needless to say, I did not give him that name as a suggestion. I mean.. I remember Heidigger from Philosophy 304 in college... something about ontological thought or whatever... but.. what?!? Of course I said.. I cannot help you. I am not Russian. He says "I know. But I need help pronouncing it." Apparently he found the names looking for famous people. Yeltsin was a famous scientist. Heidigger - the philosopher. Both from countries that are NOT the U.S. And that's fine. (I mean, I feel a little bad for that poor boy Yeltsin, but.. que ever). But I said I CANNOT help you pronounce this name. I am NOT from that country. I tried the best I could and he went on his way. It's a unique name alright. Maybe I'll run into to Yeltsin in a couple years when he goes to Jardin (pre school).

That is todo for now. Hasta la proxima... If you have any good name suggestions, keep 'em coming.. I will need 'em!


Saturday, May 1, 2010


The other night I woke up at 5 in the morning to the sound of haunting singing and the dim light of many candles.... and my clothes sewn to the blankets I was sleeping with. It was Pitsqay (pronounced Peets-kay). The second night after you bury someone (my host mom's very old mother just died last Sunday) their spirit is said to come back to their house, so all family members sleep there. The idea is if you succumb to your sleepiness than the rest of the family plays tricks on you by drawing on your face or sewing random clothes to you or your blankets. In the early morning hours they sing as a way to say goodbye and then burn all clothes and personal items that were owned by the deceased. Peruvians and their funerals are at least a week event which means little sleep, a lot of alcohol, a lot of family time and many customs. Needless to say, this past week I got to know the Shillapino culture, Quechua, and my host familia a little bit more.