The other day, my parents (who live in Vancouver) received a letter from the government that was an ideal example of the differences between living in Peru and Canada. Here’s how the letter went:
Water shortage is common in Peru and often due to problems with water tanks. The struggle unites the community.
Dear: Homeowner or Occupant,
Your neighbour’s water service has been turned off due to problems with their water service. A temporary water supply has been set up to your neighbour through a jumper hose running from your house.
The jumper hose is connected to your outside tap. Note that if you remove the jumper hose or turn off the tap supplying it, this will cut off the water supply to your neighbour.
We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your co-operation in supplying your neighbour with water.
Waterworks Operations Branch
City of Vancouver
It had me thinking about Eisenstein’s gift economy: the idea that exchanging gifts or favors creates bonds. As waterless days are common in Peru, I couldn’t help but reflect on how differently this situation would have panned out.
The neighbors in Vancouver didn’t have a need to approach my parents and this may partly explain why we don’t know our neighbors very well in Canada. On the contrary, a problem such as water shortage forces the community together in Peru. We’re motivated to help each other because we know that we’ll probably need our neighbor’s help in the future. The common struggle further unites us in that it’s a shared experience that we can all relate to and look back on.
How have you seen the community come together where you live?
Have you ever had one of those amazing days that you still reminisce about, even though you can’t figure out what exactly was so great about the day? I just had a day like that in February on my most recent trip to Lima. It turned out to be a day that encompassed a lot of what I love about living in Peru.
Spending time with my niece always makes me smile.
We arrived at an uncle’s house at 5 in the morning after a bumpy, sleepless overnight ride from Huancayo. I thought I was going to be in a bad mood, but the frown couldn’t stay long when faced with smiling, welcoming relatives and a sunshiny day.
The little things I loved about the day:
- Seeing old photos and hearing the stories each conjures up.
- Visiting and remembering relatives I’ve never met at two beautiful cemeteries where many other families were also spending time with their loved ones past.
- Packing up to 8 of us in taxis to get from one place to another.
- Having raspadillas (a shaved ice dessert) after being out all day in the sun.
- Being a part of over 40 relatives spanning 4 generations and coming from all over Lima.
- Mingling inside and outside of the house with aunts gossiping, uncles having a beer on the sidewalk, cousins playing video games, neighbors throwing water balloons in the street, and music blasting to encourage spontaneous dancing throughout.
- Looking for dogs around the block with my 2-year-old niece from Quebec who speaks in mixed French and Spanish.
- Making funny faces to see my 8-month-old godchild and niece smile and laugh.
- Munching on homemade picarones (doughnut-like snacks) in the evening at a makeshift stand in front of the house where an aunt sold picarones to neighbors walking by as she chatted with us.
It wasn’t a particularly eventful day, but that didn’t seem to make it any less perfect.
Tell me about an amazing day that you still reminisce about!
Coming to Peru in 2008 was one of the biggest “firsts” of my life. It was the first time I had moved to a developing country on my own and the entire experience has been string of firsts, even to this day. I guess that’s just the nature of living in a new, foreign, and unpredictable country!
The president of Peru shook my hand during a country-wide earthquake drill.
- The first time I touched down in Peru, I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to communicate with anyone. Thankfully, my high school Spanish came back to me and I was speaking within the first week.
- The first place I stayed at in Peru was my friend’s relative’s apartment in Lima that was filled with art and culture. I still feel that it was a perfect introduction to the country.
- The first time I “watched a movie” in Peru, it was in a cabina: a little room with two beach chairs and an old TV. They put the movie in a DVD player. Huancayo has since graduated to a movie theater.
- The first week I was in Peru, I went to a huge celebration typical of the Andes with hundreds of people packed shoulder-to-shoulder in two plazas passing beer around and dancing to groups of orchestras. I still have a scar from a castillon (pyrotechnic tower) spark that burned a hole through my shirt.
- The first Peru blogger I ever met in person was Karen from Karencita de Peru. She has since moved back to Vancouver where I’m also originally from, so it’s easy to stay in touch.
- The first pet I ever owned on my own was a cat and I became addicted. Roy and I ended up welcoming a second cat into our home, not knowing that there could be territorial issues. Thankfully, they ended up loving each other on their own.
- The first time I met the president of Peru, Ollanta Humala, he shook my hand. It was during an earthquake drill at the main plaza in front of the government place in Lima.
- The first time I was ever hospitalized was this past November when they found gallstones in my gall bladder. After all my concerns about my health in Peru, the most serious issue turned out to be a condition that probably has nothing to do with Peru at all. I’m currently waiting for surgery to get my gall bladder removed and I’m scheduled in for March, much earlier than I expected!
Tell me about one of your momentous and memorable firsts!
Living in Peru, especially in Huancayo, has always conjured up images of a simple life for me. The year I first moved to Huancayo, simplicity was what I had come to value and what I continue to define myself by. It is my effort to not be carried away by materialism and the associated negativity.
Hand washing my laundry is part of my simple life.
My life in Huancayo is simplified in that…
- I hand wash my laundry.
- There aren’t a lot of restaurant choices.
- I shower out of a bucket
- Walking is my primary means of getting around town.
- I have a limited selection of clothes and shoes.
- My husband and I often try to fix old things or make things instead of buying new things.
The first four points I don’t have much control over because they have more to do with my environment. But I started getting the feeling that I couldn’t always attribute the last two to being resourceful and economical. Was it borderline laziness? Did I make an origami box for my husband’s miniature tools, did he glue parts of my glasses together, do we have a small wardrobe selection all because we just don’t want to bother shopping?
I have to admit that shopping isn’t my favorite activity and maybe that’s to my advantage because I end up saving money and living more simply.
What potentially negative quality or trait has been to your advantage?
Why am I getting ready to move back home? The low cost of living in Peru (at least here in the Central Andes) would be a good reason for me to stay. Actually, the cheaper lifestyle here probably contributes to the more relaxed environment and attitude: another reason to stick around.
The cost of living in Peru (the Central Andes to be specific) is relatively low, especially when you buy at Huancayo markets.
For those of you who don’t know, Roy and I are playing the waiting game with a Canadian sponsorship application. If all goes well, we’ll potentially be in Vancouver by early 2014. The entire application process had me clarifying why I want to move back home. Don’t get me wrong. I love
living in Huancayo. In fact, if you compare my cost of living in Peru with what my potential monthly expenses would be in Vancouver (estimates based on 2Vancouver case studies
), Peru is clearly cheaper…
|Rent for 1-Bedroom Apartment
|Utilities (Internet, Heat, Electricity)
|Groceries for 2 People
||$162 (Transit Passes x2)
||$75 (Monthly Average of Travel Health Insurance + Medicine)
||$109 (Insurance for Family of 2)
Considering how Vancouver is often ranked or voted one of the best cities in the world, and after all the attention we got from the 2010 Winter Olympics, the cost of living is right at the top out of all Canadian cities.
Despite how much I love living in Huancayo, there are 3 primary reasons Roy and I have decided to move to Vancouver:
- First and foremost: family. Thankfully, Roy has gotten to know my immediate family, but he hasn’t spent as much quality time with them as I have with his. Then there’s everyone in my large extended family that Roy has yet to meet. Oh, and I miss my family a lot. =)
- Roy and I are both eager for him to know the city I grew up in, all those nooks, favorite places and restaurants I always talk about. He’ll see how banks are so much more transparent and efficient, be able to try out all those sports he’s always wanted to and have access to top dance instructors (dance is his passion). America is the land of opportunities after all.
- Before I even moved to Peru, I knew I wanted to study for my Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS). I feel that designing and implementing effective ways to make information accessible to users both online and offline applies my key skills of problem solving, organization and meticulousness. Surprisingly, my freelance work in Peru has even contributed to these skills.
I’m truly curious…Why do YOU live where you do? Any budget tips for when I move to Vancouver? =)