Number of People with Nothing Better to Do

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Tuesday was the anniversary of the school in my pueblo which was a pretty big event around here. The kids dressed up in their school uniforms and the family was kind enough to take the gringo with them to observe the festivities. In front of the school was a half-drunk man selling antorchas, which are little candle-lit lamps made out of bamboo sticks and colored plastic film (Spiderman, Barbie, Power Rangers, dragons). I asked the old man if the plastic film burned and he said “Oh yeah. It goes up pretty quick too.” They could never get away with that in the US. Too dangerous. But the kids took care not to set them ablaze and didn’t act like a bunch of shit heads and set them afire on purpose (which is what I and every other red-blooded American kid would have done).

The kids all went into the school to organize their little parade while I waited outside with the old man. An old lady cooked up some kind of food on her portable plancha right next to us. My stomach was a little jacked up so I wasn’t eating that night but it sure smelled delicious. Once my stomach gets more acclimated I’m going to start hitting some of the food carts pretty hard. I’m sure it’s not good for you but it’s cheap and looks pretty damn tasty.

But food is a different post. While the kids were inside I talked to the old man. A friend of his walked up and he introduced us. She was probably in her early thirties and had a daughter about 10 or 11. The old man started to pimp me out right away. “Oh she’s single, she has a kid but she’s separated, the Peruvian women will keep you hot on a cold night...” I laughed him off and called him a crazy old man but felt pretty uncomfortable.

The children started filing out of the school with their antorchas lit and started a little parade around the neighborhood. We walked down the hill, around the soccer field and playground, up the Avenida Principal, all the way up to the top of the hill, down to the overlook, around the stadium and instituto, and back to the school.

The school actually looks a lot like the one I went to in Venezuela. Pretty basic two and tree story buildings built out of brick block covered with cement. I took a picture of my host kids which set off an onslaught of kids running over and wanting their pictures taken. They asked how much and I said for free. I didn’t think about it at the time but I think they were expecting an actual print. Fortunately the old man had my back and said “Domingo, Domingo” hoping they would forget by then. They won’t.

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