Demystifying Peru – A Blessing or a Curse?

Tourists often come to Peru with distorted ideas concerning what the country is like. Narratives such as The Celestine Prophecy (no, you really can’t get to Iquitos by car, which is not the only delusion of this reading), the “phenomenon of shamanism“ (which I wrote about HERE) and the visits merely to touristic Cuzco (and Sacred Valley) or the bohemian and luxurious districts of Barranco and Miraflores in Lima, offer a certain picture of the country which is pretty far-fetched compared to the grey reality of every day.

This country is in its undeniable, deeply rooted, but at first sight completely invisible spirituality – inherited for centuries – profane and barbaric. And yet – or because of that – it could win you over. Because its contrasts reflect “the unresolved“ that each of us carries. And in order for you to experience your spiritual, mental or physical purgatory here, in which you will finally see the bottom of your own feared abyss, from where you can shoot up like a ray of light to the sky, you do not have to experience the strict, almost fourth-month long covid-quarantine here.

The lockdown (that I wrote about HERE) started on 16/3 and has been prolonged four or five times already. The latest prolongation is due to terminate on 30/6 which will make it the longest quarantine in the history of mankind and the longest also out of all the countries in the world. The opinions on the “home prison” differ: some are in panic and fear and happy to be allowed to stay at home, others detest and oppose the quarantine, party in the streets and disrespect the strict rules. The reaction of the police is to avoid such quarters and the reaction of the government is to keep on making the rules stricter and stricter…

The president promised that the Phases (number II due in June, III due in July – with a plan of the airport reopening, IV in August) shall be fulfilled even with the quarantine continuing… but not many believe the words of the president and the promises anymore…

… We Are Unruly, that´s Why…

A few weeks ago I read a report by Harvard University on Peru from the year 2015. It was summarizing the fact that Peru is a country with massive natural resources and stunning historical and cultural background, including the shamanic tribal heritage, and asking why thus has not this country turned its chances for the best and has not become a top financial and art hub. The rhetorical question underlying the discussion of the essay was vibrating around the dispute whether the abundance of the country is its blessing or a curse.

The country that prides itself for the heritage of the Incas (who would never have allowed anyone to deprive them of the right to stay close to the sun and nature, which cannot be said of the current inhabitants, who build their houses so that the sun practically does not get in) paradoxically ridicules – or the city inhabitants do – the Andean Quechua, the people who speak it (as “the language of the uneducated“), as well as their traditional clothes. The same is true when it comes to the tribal civilizations in the Amazon jungle (e.g. the women from the tribes are generally thought to be “easy to get”, as supposedly the sunny climate they live in increases their serotonin levels and thus makes them keener on sexual pleasure), although in this case there is also fear of their knowledge of plant and totem medicine as well as shamanism as a form of witchcraft.

The locals generally don’t go to the countryside to spend time within the arms of Pacha Mama (nature), unless they’re farmers for whom it’s a part of their job or unless they actually live in the jungle/mountains. In vast majority, they don’t do sports (which is why they often wonder why yoga is not “as relaxing“ as they thought; suffice it to say that in the 75 minutes of a class we usually go through a long warm-up phase, a few asanas and a long relaxation), love meat dishes (and on the coast also fish and seafood, especially ceviche) and find it hard to believe someone would not be keen on their cuisine (more on that HERE).

Reading is rare here, as books are expensive, bookstores rare and libraries only in the capital and in university towns such as Chiclayo, where there are also galleries, theatres and museums – which are not common otherwise. Watching documentaries or educative movies is another rare thing to see. The statistics of Netflix would prove my saying that people here prefer Hollywood action movies and thrillers to anything else. Latino soap operas are in a tight sling.

Lockdown

Blame the Corruption

I generally get people coming late to my yoga classes, even the virtual ones, as timing is seriously an issue here, instead of the yoga mat (which, true, is not easy to buy if you want a good quality one) they come with their beach blankets and often are reluctant to take their shoes off. Why? Because there is dirt, shards and garbage on the ground. Why? “Because the country lacks education.” Many would say…

Many times, I had a discussion (in my terrible Spanish) with the local taxi drivers, when I saw them throwing chewing gum papers or marcianos packaging (frozen fruit pulp packed in plastic bags) out of the car window, which went like this:

Me: “Don´t you want your children to have a nice, clean world?”

A driver (happy to see I am blond but actually willing to speak Spanish, so a talk might be possible with me): “Yes, of course.“

Me (patiently): “So, why do you throw litter out of the window into the street?“

A driver (surprised, as this is something obvious): “What else to do with it? There are no garbage bins.“

There are not, that is a fact. In a city, waste is simply placed (in plastic bags) into the street, where street dogs, cats and birds go through it, searching for food, before it is taken away by garbage trucks (or, sadly, poor people with wheelbarrows who take it to illegal dumps – but only for a small fee, which is something many Peruvians will hear). Why aren´t there any garbage bins, and why are there so many illegal dumps and waste everywhere? Because of “The Corruption”. That is the answer of the locals to everything. As if corruption was something they could not fight (e.g. through elections, demonstrations, protests or petitions which are a necessary part of any democratic system). They simply accept it.

At the same time, there is an astonishingly high degree of bone-smacked patriotism. Even on the market you can hear the Peruvian anthem or the city’s anthem from the vendors‘ phones, and while the Czech Republic often used the word “unconstitutional“ during the covid-quarantine (which only lasted for one month or so), so far, the Peruvians support the president and the government publicly on social networks and accept each extension of the quarantine saying: “Yes, we are unruly, that’s why.”

Quarantine craftwork

Hygiene (Not Only in the Time of Covid)

Currently, some simply stay at home and have their food shopping delivered. Others find excuses to roam the streets – allegedly to buy food or medicaments. Some of these roamers put their face masks only halfway up (or rather have them all the way down, below the chin, to quickly put them on whenever police comes closer), forget about social distancing and even keep the habit of hugging and kissing on a cheek. Others avoid this habit and greet each other fist to fist. Some, in certain areas, don’t give a damn and play football in the streets or party.

It is not a rare thing to see people putting down their mask in the street (with their hand uncleaned) to eat something (with their hand uncleaned). I have sadly seen this even with hospital staff!

Technical alcohol is used as a disinfectant for everything. My bottles of ionized silver, colloidal gold, etc., which I carry everywhere, are simply not needed here. There is alcohol for everything – for cleaning vegetables, broken knees and dirty hands.

Bakers keep selling their bread (or rather buns) in an open basket in the streets, touching money with the same hand as the bread. Often, the bread will be delivered to your door (if you have prepaid) and left on the ground in front of your house, or – at best – on the door handle. When I expressed my surprise about this I was objected: “But it is in a plastic bag!”

General knowledge about immunology is absent here, so people are unaware that the sun (with its vitamin D) is actually their biggest friend now, and keep on avoiding it (stuck in their houses). Yes, many houses could have stunning terraces where exercising, a bit of tanning and even gardening would be easily possible but these terraces are often filled with construction materials (garbage and clotheslines) as: “One never knows if this is the last floor of the house or if we are going to build up!”

Terraces in Nuevo Chimbote

The herbal markets have closed down – yes, at time when herbal medicine would be most needed as a prevention (and this country does have amazing natural medicine, such as sangre de drago, uña de gato, coca leaves etc.), and as I have mentioned dozen times before in my articles on Peru, veggies and fruits (with their fibres, vitamins and minerals) are not a huge thing here, though they are sold commonly. People usually get fruits just for juices and veggies as sides for lomos and other dishes. Fresh salads are uncommon here. When I say to my friends I drink ginger, turmeric, lime and honey tea every day, they are in a shock. They keep on drinking coffee and coke.

When I walk (cars are not allowed here in the quarantine, only exceptionally) to the solitary patches of greenery in the main square etc. to be at least a little bit in touch with nature – literally, to touch the soil where there are so many minerals and to boost the immunity system with its natural need of being in contact with various bacteria and other microorganisms in order to work well – and sit there for a short while, distant from everyone else, and sadly with my mask on, they think I am crazy. There is no way explaining to them in my country the government was actually recommending people to do so, to go to the natural areas and spend time there…

Connection

Here, to spend a few hours in the nature, to help the immunity system and the mind, means risking police controls (and thus a fine and a court) and the reproaches of those who do not understand what is really biologically correct for our organisms. Luckily, there are permissions one can obtain if one works e.g. as a journalist, owns a farm in the countryside, or has another officially acceptable reason to be in the countryside, outside the town.

Pacha Mama

But: to be fair; Peru carries out around 40 000 tests daily, testing vendors at markets (and then closing the markets down, as – of course – there are many asymptomatic cases found), people who keep on going to work every day etc., unlike in some other countries, where only symptomatic cases were revealed as only those who required testing were tested.

One Day… I Might Get a White Eye Pencil

I have given up my hopes that I will ever be able to obtain a good quality yoga mat in this country (and I desperately need one). I also no longer try to obtain a white eye pencil ((in this country, allegedly, women only use black or possibly brown ones) or 0.3 (max. 0.5) interdental brushes. In the pharmacies outside Lima or Chiclayo or such there are either none or solely 0.9!

I have reconciled with the fact that a package of Acuvue contact lenses which normally costs me around 17 USD costs me 55 USD here (!) and ordered a pack from Lima.

The same way I put up with the fact that if I want to drink something that actually tastes like tea, not like hot water, I have to use two or three tea bags, as one is simply insufficient.

These peculiarities of life in Peru make me grumpy sometimes (especially on the quarantine Sundays, since those are the days of a curfew and thus if you e.g. forget to obtain drinking water by Saturday, you have to boil tap water to drink on Sunday, or if your gas has run out halfway through cooking your lunch – yes, there are gas bombs here, no gas pipes in the houses – you are simply left without cooked food for the day and can practice your mastery in raw diet).

Sunday pancakes

But then, I am a believer. So, I believe one day, the people of this country wake up and see clearly… and take power into their hands. And stop searching for excuses but rather understand that: “Those who do not want are looking for reasons; while those who do want are looking for ways…”

 Magical Healing Nature, Nature Revival and Human – Nature Connection

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