Rooowrrrrrr! When a friend with an unfortunate names visits Peru, will things get viscious like T-Rex here? Read on!!!!!!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to our third installment of writer Matthew Bell’s adventures from the middle of nowhere Peru! Bell, a NYC-based fashion PR maven, decided to bolt to Peru for a year to teach English and clear his head for a bit. He’s posting about his experiences on his blog, Where Eagles Have Been — and we’re giving you special bonus installments here on TripOut.
This week, our gay pal Matt gets a visit from his Dutch friend Marieke, whose name, when pronounced, unfortunately happens to sound nearly identical to the harsh Spanish word for “faggot” (“maricon”). This provokes discomfort and also some funny scenarios, as you’ll see. And yes, we understand the extreme sensitivity around the use of this hateful term, but I hope you’ll enjoy Matt’s story and his humor. Read on — and go to Matt’s great blog Where Eagles Have Been, to read more of his Peruvian adventures.
“My name here is going to be Mary,” Marieke pleaded with me. “You have to call me Mary and we’ll just tell everyone that’s my name.”
One of my best friends in the world, Marieke, had just become the very first of my friends to put on her Peruvian jockstrap and brave the wilds to come visit me in Arequipa. We were in a taxi on our way back from the landing strip (a place they refer to as the Airport), trying to figure out exactly how we were going to approach the sensitive subject of her name.
Marieke—(which is the Dutch version of “Mary”) just so happens to sound exactly like the word for “faggot” in Spanish.
“Hey, together we’re Marieke and marieke!” I laughed. “But really, I don’t know if I can seriously call you Mary.”
Mary is among the few words in the English Language that I just cannot say in a serious manner. Kinda like “pussywillow,” “bunghole” and “sassafrass.” When I say Mary, I can’t help but to sound like some drunk gay guy addressing some other drunk gay guy, “Oh, Mary!” or “Whatchoo say Mary?” I could be in my butchest mood and still it’d come out the same “Hi, this is my girlfriend…Mary! Snap! Booo ha ha ha ha ha ha!”
Considering that the gays always go ape-sh*t for Marieke (She’s funny, stylish, knows her wine inside and out, and can rattle of celebrity facts faster than piece of lettuce in Peru will make you shit your brains out) and that Marieke, like myself, is a lover of all things Spanish, her name is like some kind of bizarre ironic joke—Like gay guys whose names are Woody, Dick or C*cksucker.
Anyway, I agreed to spare her the agony of having to constantly explain herself to the people here, and to do my best to call her…er… Mary, without an over-emphasized, super gay-drag queen accent or snapping.
It sure didn’t last too long. For someone who has worked in PR for half a decade, I really am the worst liar. Besides, I had kind of already told (well, bragged to) everyone that I had a friend coming to visit me and her name meant “faggot” in Spanish.
So I took Marieke, er, “Mary” to school. She was my teacher’s assistant in Basic and my guest speaker in Fluency class where she was to be interviewed by my students about her job in the US. It only took about ten minutes for me to slip up. “Hi class, this is my friend Mary. She lives in New York just like me, and today she’ll be speaking to you today about working in the USA. Take it away Marieke!” Sh*t…did I just say “Take it away faggot” …to my students? There’s no way I can do this for a week.
I teach my Basic Students about Object Pronouns with my friend “Mary”.
By the next day, and countless screw-ups (Marieke was “Marieke” to my good gringo friends but not to the acquaintances or to the Peruvians… I mean, I’ve managed guest lists less confusing than the one dictating who I could tell Marieke’s name to and who I couldn’t) Marieke finally agreed to give it up.
Just in time for my Peruvian mother, Paola’s Birthday Party! (I lived with Paola and her family when I arrived and she took care of me during the month of diarrhea I had when I first got here).
So we walked on over to Paola’s house where there were about 20 members of her family.
“This is my friend Marieke.” I introduced her a few times, “This is my friend, Faggot.”
We had only been there for about 5 minutes but the murmur around the room had become palpable.
“YES,” Paola finally said in her most polite voice without screaming—just loud enough for the whole room to hear, “Her name is Marieke…and WE’RE OK WITH THAT.”
Blurry birthday dinner with Paola, Gay Matt, Marieke and some Dutch dude.
Whether they were or weren’t, I’m not sure, but much to Marieke’s luck, Paola had a Dutch guy staying with them that week who confirmed that indeed, the Spanish word for faggot translates into Mary in Dutch. “I know lots of Marieke’s,” he said. (Oh, not like this one honey…)
Ice broken…we proceeded to get plastered on Pisco and Beer and somehow ended up dancing like wild maniacs at some Latin club with a glowing blue floor. “I wuv you, jou faggit,” I slurred to Marieke. “I wuv joo too, fag!” she said back.
Happy Birthday Paola!!!
And then we passed out.
The next morning, we shook off our hangovers and made our way to the bus terminal for our big trip to Majes—an adorably, quaint valley about 3 hours north of Arequipa that is famous for river shrimp, dinosaur footprints and the largest field in the world of Petroglyphs.
A friend of a friend had recommended we stay at the Majes River Lodge—a hotel set about 20 minutes outside of Aplao, the capital of the region, in a gorgeous strip of farm land. In reality, its probably the only real hotel in the entire region apart from a few hostals in the town, but after seeing what a hostel was like in Cotahuasi, I knew I couldn’t do that to my girlfriend. Her name is “F**got” after all.
The bus dropped us off at some dusty gas station in the middle of nowhere… And the prelude a horror movie that so wanted to happen promptly began.
The 5 or 6 people who were just sitting around outside stared at us as if we had just stepped out of a magically flying pink wig and the lassitude of the place made the sounds of flies and insects swarming our ears sound like they were coming through a megaphone. Like how flies sound in a movie theater.
“Yeah… My name is going to be Mary again,” said Marieke looking around. And I didn’t argue with her.
“We’ve gotta get a cab from here to the hotel, according to Jose, the guy who owns the place” I told Marieke who was looking a bit skeptical.
And then I met “Little Krissy”—a 5-year-old child whose teeth had all been rotted into the shapes of sharply pointed triangles… Perfect for chewing your face off with. She booked it over to me, which I thought was adorable, but soon found the ropes hanging off my backpack and thought they were like the coolest thing in the entire world. So cool that she kept dragging me back to where the adults were standing, by some ominous gas station door. Duly noted and matched with some latent horror movie memory, I tried to shake the kid who just thought my gestures of “leave me alone” were invitations to pull harder on my backpack.
Awhhh…the little runt was cute though.
Before the child could lure me into the dark place, finally a taxi came who agreed to take us to the hotel.
Anyone’s first impression of the Majes River Hotel would be favorable. It’s adorably quaint, kitschy without even knowing it, and situated in the middle of vast farmlands ensconced by high valley walls. It’s owned by Jose, a drunk 70-year-old man who looks a little younger than 60, and his wife, whose name I forget, who is about 30 years younger and looks like Tina Turner.
We are greeted at the door and taken to our room, which was akin to a cabin. Soon, we realized we were the only people staying there aside from a family that was living in a cabin just down the pathway.
“I know it’s beautiful and all,” I said to Marieke, “But I can’t help feeling that we’re in some kind of horror movie. Like who will hear us scream if that family comes in here. Or what if Jose and Tina Turner are really killers.”
Jose gave us the grand tour and we learned that the property had been in his family for time immemorial and is home to church and what was once a respectable bull ring, now overrun with weeds, trash and beat up trucks from the 70′s. The Lodge is also home to his own vineyard where he makes wine and Pisco. Pictures of his life in black and white, faded color and newsprint lined the room outside the vineyard where he stored all of his bottles. So basically, it’s the set of a horror movie I’ve never seen.
Will the dead rise from under the pool all poltergeist style or is the pool more Cocoon?
Dinosaurs. (D’oh! I’m a bitch!)
Unintentional gay kitsch and,,, my new Peruvian “Drag Queen” name! Well, I’ll always be Orange Marmalade, but now I think I’ll be Orange Marmalade Fanny Reception. Like all the other girls down here with four names.
We walked around a little more and noticed a sign that mentioned that part of this family land was seized by the banks a few years ago and sold off. And that was the real hint of the sick plot we were plopped into.
Soon we were served dinner—”What’s for dinner?” Marieke and I asked Tina Turner.
“SHRAAAMP” she replied, “Shramp soup, friend shramp, shramp sandwich,” her Spanish accent had instantly transformed into that of Forrest Gump, “shramp with shramp, shramp on shramp, shramp. We got shramp”…”Shramp!”
So we got the “fried shramp” and “shramp soup” and learned that Majes shrimp are really crayfish and that they don’t remove any shells. Hello calcium!
Eating this plate requires you to close your eyes and completely not think about that scene in Clash of the Titans where the scorpions attack.
After dinner, Jose told us that we could walk to the river, “Just go down this road and turn when you see the cows,” he said. Tina Turner repeated to us what became the joke of the weekend, “You can go anywhere you want…just watch out for the dogs”.
So we hiked our pretty little selves down the road, passed some roosters and could soon see the cows Jose was referring to when all of the sudden the most adorable dog with the beadiest red eyes we’ve both ever seen came dashing out of nowhere ferociously barking. Drooling, frothing, ready to suck our salty—shramp-fed—blood. And we saw a man in the field with the cows behind him who did absolutely nothing to calm his blood-thirsty dog down.
“I think this must be the land that was seized, ” I said to Marieke. “I don’t think they have such a good relationship.”
Maybe this rooster will save us from the killer dogs?
Yeah, Tina Turner… “Just watch out for the little doggies!”
So we made a right through some kind of crop field to circumvent the hungry dog and found that we were on magnificently beautiful cliff overlooking the river, hills and what could only be described as the tree from Six Feet Under.
“Oh my god! We found the Six Feet Under tree! We have to go see it!” said Marieke. So she and I took off, frolicking though the land between vegetable fields, cow patches and steep cliff on our way to the actual tree from the HBO Series! It was a dream! The air was crisp. Our bodies were free. The tree was getting closer when… “Uh Matt…” There were two black dogs angrily barking and booking it in our direction. “Will you be mad at me if we get mauled by angry dogs?” I said.
F**k! I tried to think of what Bear Grylls would do… The Dog Whisperer…and even Sigourney Weaver (who I firmly believe always makes the right decision) but I had no clue what you were supposed to do when attack dogs start running at you.
“Should we play dead? Stop moving? Back away… RUN?” Like Marieke would know. We were both two city twats in the middle of a cow field on the edge of a 200 foot cliff. I could see the Spike channel re-enactment already. Two city kids eaten to death on the side of a cliff in Peru.
So we just backed away…and backed away until the dogs stopped running at us. Safe. For now. We still had to get past that first dog. And the sun was setting. Soon it would be dark.
“That must be when Jose and Tina Turner go hunting,” I said, “For the gringo tourists they lure to their River Lodge in the middle of nowhere. And if it aint…that man gunna done set those there dogs out for their feedin’ time. Aint no one gunna hear your screams out here…”
But we made it back—alive—and passed out in our cabin.
The following morning, after a breakfast of bread and jam, we set out for our day of sight seeing.
First stop: Jurassic Park. A hill with some old dinosaur footprints, 1980′s dinosaur statue replicas and couple making out in the background. And that’s really all there is to say about that place.
Next, we hopped on a combi to the town of Corrire which is where you need to go to find a cab to take you though a farm and up a hill to the world’s largest field of Petroglyphs.
Naturally, this was confusing to us.
Where do we get a combi? Where will it drop us off? How much should we pay? Can we trust anyone? Can we walk? And we squawked questions at each other like dicks… Until the Universe sent Marieke and myself a gift from heaven: Cagney and Lacey!
Just kidding—this was better—the Universe sent us two bongo-short-wearing, super pushy lesbians from Spain who were also looking to mount the hill with the Petroglyphs.
After they cursed out a few cab drivers who were trying to rip us off, they found one that was willing to take us. So myself, F**got and the two Spanish Lesbians got into some nefarious cab (which, I think, was really some old man’s car) who drove us for about 30 minutes until we were at the top of some barren hill in the middle of nowhere. Between the sand, wind, Spanish lesbians and mysterious rock drawings, it was the most au-natural and most cultural exfoliation Marieke and I had ever gotten.
The next morning, with our skin fully treated, we thanked Tina Turner and Jose for not killing us…and not calling us a cab…walked to the road to wait for a combi.
“Combis pass here all the time,” Tina Turner told us.
Which we soon learned was true. It’s just that they pass here so stuffed full that they actually started speeding up when they saw us waiting. It was the very first time I’d seen a combi not stop and try to fit in just one more person. So we waited for about an hour and finally Jose showed up and said he’d drive us himself..except that he’d need my strong arms to help him fix up the truck. “I am so not having sex with this man its not funny,” I thought to myself as I said yes.
Luckly a combi with a smidge of room took pity on us as I was walking towards what was sure to be a creepy experience in the garage.
We squeezed out in Aplao, found the bus station office and bought our tickets back to Arequipa.
The next day, I hugged my little F**got and thanked her for braving a country who considers her name a socially awkward pejorative… the Majes Valley Combi Sunday “schedule”… a straight-up country side horror movie hotel… wind blasted nothingness and wild dogs… just to see lil’ old me…and then we said our goodbyes.
“Till next time” I said…
“I had fun and all but…that next time better be brunch in New York City” thought Marieke. She didn’t say it…but I know my little f**got and I know that’s just what she was thinkin’!
For more of Matt’s wit and photos chronicling life below the equator, read his blog—Where Eagles Have Been: What the Hell Am I Doing? And check back here for more “Tales from the MIddle of a Peruvian Nowhere” soon!