A NYE’s firework standoff in Peru

 

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Mmm….the last piece of panatone. OMG! I just remembered I brought that home last night. It’s hiding in my room somewhere. Aha. Found it. Time to feast.

Blurred from late nights, restlessness, inconsistent yet heavy meals in the limbo after Christmas, I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave the house for New Years Eve.

But the mother of my girlfriend had cooked a roast pork, and I was hungry. So I was lured to the nearby grandparents’ place. I am glad I did, because it was a more sociable time than the New Years Eve before.

There was a lot better food too! There was the pork, some sort of Russian salad, bread, gravy, and rice (of course).

Five minutes before the bell tolled midnight, everyone was handed cute little bags of grapes. “How strange,” I thought, remarking on the ribbon decorating the plastic. So I opened it and began eating.

All the family stared at me and, basically, asked what I was doing. I shouldn’t have been eating the 12 grapes yet.

At midnight on every stroke you have to eat a grape, make a wish, and then eat another. You basically have to shove grapes down your throat to do it in time. I’m not sure the conditions in getting these wishes, and so nobody told me you can’t tell anybody (at least in English), so I wished for health, safety when I travel into the jungle, and happiness, and love, and comfort for my family back home. Damn, I should have asked for a second Nintendo Switch!

 

 

 

The loud banging in the video is from all the fireworks that are going off from the tops of buildings, and in the streets, around us.

And then, if this wasn’t already the strangest thing, everyone grabbed pinches of lentils and shoved them in their pocket or their wallet. It symbolises money.

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I’m unsure if this is traditional Spanish colonial tradition, a remnant from times before, or possibly from the family’s Chinese heritage.

The fireworks continued to crack on the streets and above various houses. It seems from my observations that certainly families or households stock up on their fireworks throughout the year and then, at midnight on Christmas Eve and NYE, let them crack.

 

 

 

But over the years these families have competed with each other with the longest lasting, and the best fireworks displays. Their competition has evolved into fucking mind games with each other in an effort to be the last ones burning up a strong display.

At 12.30am there were two houses in different directions clearly mindfucking with each other, because their displays were fairly quiet. Building A on the far end of the park brought out a great display of gold, blue, and green that would have suited any agricultural show back home in Australia. And then they waited. Waited. Waited for the other building close to another side of the rectangular memorial park to make its move.

They waited. They waited. Waited. Then they let off a few more fireworks, to tempt building B. It was fairly ordinary. Then waited, set off a few more fireworks, and kept quiet. It let off a generous display and then when all was quiet for a while, we retreated indoors to drink any alcohol that remained.

15 minutes later they were all fucking going for it, deafening my ears with their final annual showdown.

This might be my last blog post in a while. I’ll be backpacking through the Amazon for the next three weeks. I’m not taking my laptop and I’m unsure how the reception is going to go.

Feliz CumpleaƱos: The Legend of Peru

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I cannot remember the last time I’ve been so sick after a night out. My girlfriend rubbed my back or sat on the shower floor next to me in the tiny bathroom. “It’s okay,” she said, reminding me that I likely wasn’t going to die, even though it did feel like dying.

When we woke up, gradually, the following afternoon, she said, “maybe you shouldn’t have mixed your drinks.”

It’s my second birthday in Peru, and the plans were almost the same, without realising it until I checked the blog post about it: Feliz CumpleaƱos. I didn’t get so sick, but it was a late night involving pisco and pizza.

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There were two observations I made this year about my birthday. The first was that everyone hugs you when they wish you well. And given that I spend my life in relative isolation with only physical touch from one or two people, away from family or the overly familiar bro culture of ‘Strayan blokes, the manly hugs from normally conservative people is actually welcoming.

The second thing I noticed was that when you turn 29, nobody is interested in the fact you have turned 29. It instead is, “wow, not long until you are 30.”

But who cares about 30? I’m 29.

I had invited a bunch of people to a favourite pizza place of mine, and after splitting the bill, most went home. A few of us continued the party at a favourite bar of mine, at the intersection next to the Plaza de Armas. I drank a Machu Picchu and because I held balloons that said ’29’ and wore a crown (corona), I caught the attention of the Spanish singer who constantly asked questions about who my girlfriend was, and where I was from. She tried to get me dancing along with the others, but I preferred to watch. But my refusal to get up and dance with my girlfriend, I sensed, drew some irritation from the crowd.

A year ago all fresh with the novelty of trying to be a new person in a new continent, I would have danced.

That night I preferred not to be the token gringo that couldn’t dance. We watched traditional dances from across the country, before moving on to a place on the other side of town we called ‘the Irish bar’. It wasn’t Irish, exactly. How could it be when the first word of its name began with ‘El’, but because it was green and had that rustic, British colonial vibe to the walls and the roof and the tables and chairs, we labelled it as such.

The night before that I had a small get-together at my girlfriend’s house. We played Jenga and ate burgers (with beetroot from Australia), and Tim-Tam Slams. For a Tim-Tam slam you need a hot chocolate and a Tim-Tam. Use the Tim-Tam as a straw and suck the hot chocolate through it until it’s about the melt and collapse in on itself.

I opened a present from my girlfriend. My favourite thing among the gifts was a shirt that looked like the cover of ‘Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”, but had been given the Peruvian treatment. Link looked out at Machu Picchu instead of Hyrule, and the shirt said “The Legend of Peru”.