“You may now turn over your paper”, Copa de America 2015 and “Victor Meldrew says…”


Good morning Folks

I hope you all had a mighty fine weekend.
A round-up of the previous week in the land of Ceviche, Cristal & Combis (none of the first 2 for me sadly, and these days, not many of the 3rd neither!)

“You are now under exam conditions…”

On Tuesday I stepped into the world of exam invigilation!
To be honest I was bricking it a bit, as there was a fair chance that I would make a complete hash of it, but fortunately it seemed to go alright-ish.
I’d been on the other side (i.e., taking the exam & also bricking it, as there was always a fair chance that I’d make a complete hash of it & I generally did!) Sometimes wondering, who are these soulless robots dishing out exam papers & reading out monotone instructions? Now I can add “Soulless robot” to my list.
Invigilating the Cambridge FCE exam is a serious business. Punters have paid good money for the exam & studied very hard. Many universities now insist on this qualification as an entry requirement, so I had to be on the ball :-/
It was a bit like a storm in 6 parts, with 3 lulls.
Read out the instructions, dish out the papers, silence, 10 minute warning, 5 minute warning, pens down & then the confusing sequence of packing the papers in the right sequence/order, getting them passed to the coordinators & then starting again (x3).
Being a good daydreamer has its perks, as I wasn’t allowed to sit down, nor read a book. I’ve still got my job, so I can’t have made such a mess of it then!

“Copa de America 2015”

Latin America is football crazy & the big cup is now under way.
When I first arrived here in 2004, Euro ’04 was just starting (with some potential all-day-session kick-off times) & that led into the 2004 Copa de America, coincidentally being held in Peru!
Due to working in the jungle, I was limited as to which games I could go to, but I did manage to see Brasil Vs. Costa Rica (one-way-traffic) & Chile Vs. Paraguay (imagine a really physical & dirty Sunday League match), but with samba music, drums & flares (the fireworks type, not the 70’s slacks!)
It was my first time in Arequipa, a beautiful city surrounded by volcanoes & a city with a fierce rivalry against Lima. Arequipa would like to be the capital; in fact Arequipa would like to be a separate country altogether, with its own money, passports, etc…

It was a top weekend, rounded off with the (infamous  Aero Continente) airline we’d flown down with being grounded (for narcotraficking) & a 16hr bus ride back ‘oop north. Got interviewed on the telly too! I can’t recall who won the Copa, but it wasn’t Peru.
When is a return ticket not a return ticket? When you booked it with Aero Continente in July 2004!

The 2015 cup has just started in neighbouring Chile & Peru started their campaign today (Sunday).

The population do all get very excited whenever the national side play, the streets are dead, but the public are realistically pessimistic about their chances! Peru haven’t made it to the World Cup for a while. Their last World Cup appearance was in that of Spain ’82, a tournament in which Peru was viewed as a favorite. Yet, the problem came when the team basically trained too much and were tired even before the tournament had begun. They were eliminated last in their group, with 2 ties and 1 (heavy) loss.

They are a very unlucky side, added to this; they are always spotted out on the lash by the Paparazzi, in the wee hours before big games. Maybe not to the excess levels of Sheringham’s Dentist’s Chair, but the general public do not expect their national side (which means they are not disappointed, when the inevitable happens, as it did today!)
They went 1-0 up after 6 minutes, and didn’t disappoint (the disappointed ones expecting them to lose that is), losing 2-1 to Brasil.
To be fair La Blanquirroja (the white & red; colours of the national flag) have lifted the Copa twice, so there is always hope! Watch this space…

Rain? What rain?

Despite swelteringly hot day midweek, autumn has now got its foot firmly in the door, casting a cloak of grey over the capital. (A bizarre microclimate, head outside of the city & you’re in the sunshine, the cloudiness is reserved solely for the capital).
I was once told that it hadn’t rained in Lima for over a hundred years.
Getting the washing in turned into a bit of an epic!

About 3 days into my first time here, I walked out into a persistent drizzle, known as “la garua”. In autumn/winter here, people say it never really rains & it never really shines. So much to the point that people are almost in denial! Whenever it rains, it is like a chaotic surprise!
It does sometimes shine & it definitely does rain, sometimes it pours down. (Head to the coast & you’re treated to a sea fret, it feels like Redcar!)
The pavements here are made of a special super-smooth substance. It is slippery when dry & treacherous when wet!
Imagine something like ice, covered with oil & topped with Vaseline & you’re almost there. A local tradition is to water ones stretch of pavement. I’ve yet to see it yield any plants, but I’m told it keeps the dust down.
Dashing to work in smooth soled shoes has seen me on my ar$e on more than one occasion. A pair of crampons wouldn’t be overkill.
The thing that has me scratching my head is that when it does rain it always appears to come as a shock to the locals. The city is not set up for rain;
The going on Av. Javier Prado was described as yielding…

Flat roofs, everything left outside. This causes a mass panic when the drops start falling. Added to which the fact that as the city is surrounded by barren mountains, everywhere is amazingly dusty, so when it rains, it’s a right laugh cleaning up!
Most punters don’t use their windscreen wipers either.
“It hasn’t rained in Lima for hundreds of years???”
Well not since Friday!

Spanish abilities in freefall!

Normally when a person practices a language (even if they are exposed to it subconsciously, by being surrounded by people talking it), they should improve. I tell all my students, practice & you will get better! Fact.

So, why is my (own) Spanish becoming so crap?!
As I never really had formal lessons, at first my level was zero.
Por favor, gracias, una cerveza, la cuenta, donde esta el baño  & salud!
These got me by (as long as I was in the Boozer & back then, I was, a lot).

Eventually I started picking up new words & then started to learn.
I learned to listen, speak, read & write (in that order).
Peruvians (& Colombianos) speak very clear Spanish. It’s different to the Spanish in Spain, but it’s probably like comparing British & American English.
The problems for me started in Argentina & Chile. The Argentines use some antiquated grammar (vos, vosotros plus “Che” & Andar!)
The Chileans just chop the ends off all the words!
My pronunciation was sketchy (at best). To compensate, I learned just to say things really, really fast. I imagined that this would trick people into thinking that I spoke the language really well!
When I first met Lina, she thought I could speak Spanish, until she realized that I was on a ten-word-loop. The second time that I met her (one year later), it was marginally better. When we started courting, although her English was much better than my Spanish, we communicated in Spanish & somehow we got by. (When I popped the question, due to 3 words sounding almost identical; casa (house), cazar (to go hunting) & casar (to get hitched).
I never did take her hunting, but she did say “Si!”)
We only really started speaking English when the Nipper was born, well I did.

Lina speaks to her in Spanish. Somehow bairns can differentiate between 2 languages & hopefully she’ll grow up speaking Spanish & a kind of Cumbrian/Yorkshire Northern English.
I only started to realize just how bad my Spanish is/was (Tizwas) when I spoke to Lina’s friends. Obviously Lina’s listening has got used to my mumblings. That is why my Mother-in-law doesn’t understand me (when I speak, not in general, or maybe both).
In the past I lived on my own here & I commuted miles & miles ever day. Necessity is the mother of all invention they say & just to survive, I had to communicate. Now my little world is much smaller. I’m spending more time with the Nipper (speaking the Queen’s English), I walk to work (no combis) & all my colleagues at work speak impeccable English. So I’ve become very, very lazy. Lina & I are constantly knackered (a nipper who is still on sleep-strike) & just communicate the bare essentials via grunting!
All of the above hit home hard yesterday…
I had to read out a list of new rules at work, to my 2 Junior classes (11-14yrs old). I knew that my pronunciation was a long way off perfect, so I just raced through it all. Only to be met by a class of 22 youngsters absolutely wetting themselves with laughter. Any respect that had been built up over the last 6 weeks was shattered L
In my 2nd class I tried to read it a bit slower, which just made it worse!
Then I was taught a lesson (by a 12yr old). She told me to give the piece of paper to her & she read it out. Now why didn’t I think of that?

Victor Meldrew says…

I’d just like to stress that Victor’s grumblings are a way of letting off steam. If I were constantly moaning about the place, the locals would be well within their rights to tell me to sling my hook! (& traffic is a number #1 moan of everybody!)

This week is a bit of a serious grumble.
Health & safety is on a permanent holiday here. I admit to regularly riding the wrong way down one-way streets/on pavements/over footbridges. It’s classed as normal & people don’t bat an eyelid (in fact if you ask for directions, people will often send you the wrong way down a one-way street, as it’s quicker!)
Sometimes it’s refreshing to have less rules/more freedom.
It’s good to give H&S two-fingers sometimes. In Blighty it has gone too far (i.e. Scoth Eggs banned from kid’s pack-ups!)
However I saw something this week that did make my blood boil!
I have to cut through a ropey barrio on my way to work, there’s no way round.
A shedload of asbestos dumped in the street, in a breezy, busy walk-way, with a fast-food-stall at each end, opposite a shop & a place where there always kids playing. Nobody seems to be batting an eyelid (bar Victor!)
It is next to the place where the “Aguila Negra” hold their Friday night ID check, but they don’t seem concerned either.
Asbestos is not pleasant stuff & this looks like it’s been dropped from the top of a tall building, it’s in 1000 pieces.
It needs to be shifted. So I thought, “How about the council?”
The thing that surprised me most was when I asked around.
People said along the lines of “Hmmm, maybe best not to report it, you don’t want to cause trouble” & “If they find out it’s you, who knows what they’ll do!”
There is a very real feeling of fear out here. Life can be cheap.

If I reported it, I’d have to give my ID No. So when the Bobbies knock on the door of Señor Asbestos Dumper, they’d say it was me who’d shopped him!
It’s all wrong.
Victor says “Piense Varon!”

Clunk trip!
I’ve got a Clunk trip penciled in for the end of the month & I can’t wait!
Just a 2-day/1-night excursion but I am seriously giddy.
clunkOne year on from “Operation-Point Clunk North”, I am cooking up another trip, 2 weeks today :-)

Much as I like the city, I am longing for some clean air, mountains, quiet tracks, camping, a thin line on a map snaking over mountain passes somewhere where I haven’t been.
In short, I need to escape from the chaos for a day or two!
Things change quickly here, so I won’t be counting my pollitos until I’ve got the “Bienvenido a Lima” sign in my mirror :-)

That’s all for now Folks!

Have yourself an outstandingly awesome week :-)
Johnny, Lina & Valentina 

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