Writing about combis last week got me thinking about how hilarious it is when the cobradores (money collectors) run to get their card stamped. Each combi has a card that needs to be stamped at various locations during the route. As I understand the set-up, there’s a penalty if a combi is consistently late — typically, it has to run the full route one more time. To avoid this, cobradores often jump off their moving combis up to three blocks before the checkpoint and run at full speed to get their cards stamped by a machine or signed by a waiting time-controller sitting at the corner of the block with a pen and clipboard. I’ve always wondered if it’s actually ever worth it for the cobradores to endanger their lives by running through traffic, only to shave off a few seconds. Sometimes it seems more like an excuse to move their legs after standing in the same cramped combi doorway for hours at a time.
Peruvian society often functions on the basis of punishments and rewards (or avoidance of punishment). The classic dictatorial boss can subtract from your pay or give you bonuses as s/he pleases. Corporal punishment is the norm (and so is domestic abuse for that matter) and children are hosed when they arrive late to school. In a government program for maternal and child health, families are given 100 soles for showing up to workshops. Even NGOs silently tell mothers, “If you don’t treat your children well and follow our recommendations, you won’t get gifts at the end of the year.” So then you hear mothers say, “I’m going to join this project because they’re going to give me a gift at the end,” when what you want to hear is, “I’m going to join this project because it will better the life of my child.” When I tried to raise my concerns about these extrinsic motivators, I was brushed off as the gringa who didn’t understand Peruvian society. “It’s the Peruvian way,” I was told. I accepted it.
Four months later, evidence starts falling into my lap that Peruvians themselves are trying to make changes and that the system of punishments and rewards doesn’t have to be “the Peruvian way.” A professor I used to work for encouraged me to meet with one of her contacts in Lima, Dr. Mary Claux. As I read up on Dr. Claux’s research, one of the first academic articles that arose questioned the need for authoritarian Peruvian leaders (article in Spanish). A good Peruvian friend shared his thoughts on leadership with me and he cited his own businesses as examples that a freer managing style without penalties or crackdowns works. He even sent me an enlightening and relevant TED talk presented by Dan Pink that contributed to his belief system regarding the best way to motivate others.
It “CAN BE DONE,” my friend writes to me.
With renewed faith in my morals, I figure it might be worth a shot sharing this new evidence with the nonbelievers I have come to know in Huancayo.
Roy and I finally found the perfect apartment and I didn’t realize how much more at home I would feel in Huancayo with our own little place. It’s cozier, literally warmer, and less dusty than the shared space where we lived before because it’s on the third floor and doesn’t face the main road. I caught another case of scabies when I arrived (my third time!), but the new, clean, mite-less place has been my salvation so far. In fact, I’ve been feeling much healthier these past few weeks and I think it has to do with the fact that I can now control what and when I eat.
The location is ideal — walking distance to the marketplace and only two blocks away from the main plaza. I like to think that I was being strategic in choosing a place that’s in the middle of all the action, but it was more like the apartment chose us. A perk about living in downtown is that you can leave your garbage out in the gutters early in the morning because government workers clean all the main streets before the day begins. Otherwise, I’d have to listen for the loud huayno music that the garbage truck plays when it’s passing by and up until now, I have never run out with my garbage in time!
Despite it being so central with the busy nightclubs only half a block away and combis passing by every few minutes during the day, we don’t really hear the horns honking or the people shouting. There’s a tavern right beside us that plays Latin American music until the early hours of the morning when the landlady’s rooster that lives on the roof just above us starts cock-a-doodle-doo-ing, but this noise isn’t so bothersome either. The apartment itself is part of a tiny residential area with at least twenty different neighbours – its main gate is only half a block away from one of the central streets in Huancayo. The neighbours all have their drama and everyone seems to know everyone’s business so I don’t know how successful we’ll be in keeping private, but we’re settling in and coping so far.
It feels like another new beginning.
Check out the new apartment and how my trusty stuffed penguin set the place up in stop-motion in the video below:
When was your last new beginning and what was it like?
In early October, I posted about the widely publicized and public demolition of Rústica, a Limeño restaurant/club that was on the verge of opening for the first time in Huancayo as a section of the sole mall in the city. The political drama surrounding the incident was more intricate and complex than I originally thought.
After the demolition a couple months ago, Rústica is now as good as new.
Update: Rústica is now fully-functioning and a popular hang out spot for those who have a little extra money to spend. The ground-level is a karaoke bar and club while the second floor is a scrumptious restaurant (my favourite dish is the pizza).
It turns out that the person responsible for the October demolition was Jorge Rodríguez, a provisional mayor who was probably taking advantage of the limited amount of time he would be in power. People agree that the mayor before him, Freddy Arana, was generally a good mayor. He just had some big people in government who weren’t on his side.
This is what Rústica looks like from inside of the mall.
When Arana was usurped, Rodríguez was appointed in his place but knew that he would only be in the position for a few months because the national mayoral elections were coming up. When the Rústica opportunity arose, he jumped at the chance to make a name for himself. He called the national press and rallied his men to demolish instead of giving Rústica time to respond to the government’s demands regarding the licenses they needed. It became obvious that it was a set-up when all of the press left after Rodríguez felt he had achieved his goal; the journalists didn’t even stick around to hear Rústica’s side of the story. They were probably being paid to be there. Only one set of journalists stayed – an old man and his son who were taping for a local channel.
For months, there has been a lot of excitement over a new restaurant/club that would be opening at the end of September – it’s part of a chain from Lima called Rústica. The construction of the 2-storey building attached to Huancayo’s only mall had been going strong for around three months and faced a main street (Giraldez); people would peek through the cracks around the huge Rústica banners and imagine the yummy food they would have, the live bands they would see, the pizzazz, the action.
During the last week of September, people were handing out Rústica brochures on Giraldez Street inviting everyone to its inauguration on the 30th of September. The blessed day came, I headed over to the restaurant after work in the evening to take part in the festivities, and… there was nothing going on. Everything was as it was before, as if construction hadn’t finished yet, but this time there was a wall of police officers standing at the entrance with their human-tall shields they usually use for strikes and riots.
We heard in the news the next day that Rústica failed to obtain a government license to sell food and liquor on the premises. The inauguration date was postponed until October 7th. We waited patiently.
It’s the morning of October 7th. On the way to work, there’s a commotion at the Rústica site. Police officers are once again in the area, this time actively keeping the public at bay, forcing everyone to cross the street away from the action. Government officials enter Rústica and out comes a single lady, the sole representative available at 9:00am in the morning. They want to demolish the building, but why? Maybe they weren’t able to obtain a license to sell on time? Maybe the government was never planning to grant Rústica this license? We overhear part of the conversation – they needed another license for building on top of the sole wheelchair path to the mall?
The lady yells in desperation: “Esperen! Esperen!” (Wait!) She asks them to wait for her boss to arrive, but the front end loader is already advancing. The truck is already breaking the frame of the front entrance. Other government construction workers throw bricks at sections of glass where the truck isn’t able to enter. There’s more kerfuffle – a guy is pissed that the police officer is shoving him to get out of the way so he drops his bag to start a fight, a lady says that her things are inside the construction (now demolition) site and she wants entry but the officer continues to push her aside like the others.
"Así como la arquitectura corrige las incomodidades de la naturaleza, la literatura corrige las incomodidades de la realidad." -- Alfredo Bryce Echenique, Peruvian author
As architecture improves on the inconveniences of nature, literature improves on the inconveniences of reality.
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Thank you so much for stopping by and welcome to "What Little Things"! I'm a Canadian Internet marketing specialist, editor, and translator living in Peru. If you want to get in touch, leave a comment on one of my posts or head over to the Contact page. Talk soon! =) -- Samantha