In a Peruvian country club

THERE is a suburb at the far end of the northern Peruvian city of Trujillo. It is the “posh” suburb, the one that is said with a tone of quiet respect, or with bragging, of with a way of defining someone’s measurement of success, when mentioned. This suburb is called ‘El Golf.’

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It is called ‘El Golf’ because it is built around the country club, which is called the ‘Golf y Country Club de Trujillo.’ Businesses from a 10 minute walk away are willing to label itself as ‘El Golf’ in its title, but it’s not until you get close to the club that the streets are clean and open, with the houses more spacious, neat, and tidy from the front. There are plenty of leafy parks in the side streets, and a fair imitation of architecture from the colonial Spanish days that don’t quite seem to be covered elsewhere. The buildings are built with care, unlike in many other places where there appears to be shortcuts in the incomplete works.

 

I never thought I could get into the club itself, but thanks to my girlfriend’s family I was able to do so today. It was nice! There’s a golf course but I couldn’t determine if it was nine holes or 18. There were at least six tennis courts, an indoor volleyball court, an indoor basketball court, a professional Olympic pool, an outdoor recreational pool, and a gym. There was also a karaoke bar, and several restaurants.

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I was awkward when I came through the doors, mainly because I wasn’t a member myself and I felt like I stood out (white man feeling like a minority and prepared to be challenged and turned away. That’s ironic!), and I felt so self-conscious that everyone was staring at me, more than usual. I think they were, but my girlfriend and I had a wonderful conversation with the tennis instructor (in Spanish), and exchanged a few ‘hellos’ with shy youngsters in the pool who were telling each other to talk to me.

The club has copied the westernised (and American) style very well, to the point that it’s authentic. It’s unlike anywhere else I’ve been here in Peru, but it helps me to understand some of my students that might actually belong to the club. It does feel a bit insulated, especially if they live at the club on their holidays.

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The club’s website says, after translation, “Today we are the most exclusive club in the city of Trujillo, but above all we are the second home of more than two thousand families, who come to these facilities to practice sports, share with their friends and spend unforgettable moments like a big family, the Country Club family.”

I’m extremely sunburned tonight.

Missing family in a foreign country

 

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A very old and outdated pic with the bros and sis. 

It has been more than three years since I have seen my family. Part of the reason for that is the isolation and the expense that comes living in rural Australia.

It’s also partly my fault given that my own mum wanted to see me before I flew from Brisbane to Peru. I thought it would make it harder seeing her before I left for South America.

I missed my family anyway. Not at first but as the weeks become months I find myself reflecting more on what has shaped my attitudes and values.

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Christmas photos are always weird when it comes to Aaron and I (I’m the one without the knife). 

I have barely spoken to my sister for a while but she made me a playlist for Christmas which I listen to often. And she said that I had always influenced her musical tastes with all the mix CDs I used to make her (think Christian rock metal like TFK and Stryper and Switchfoot, combined with Guitar Hero playlists, and songs used for TV shows. As the years went on these were more likely to be British rock lists. The Who’s Baba O’Riley would have made an appearance, as would have The Clash and The Wombats).

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Another old pic. This one is of my sister owning me at ice-skating. Go, Little Lion Girl! 

But her musical tastes have grown in the late teens and so I listen to her music she chose for me, and I’m proud to now be influenced by her. She stumbled onto a song that I listened to in one of my earliest memories in life. In my memory I’m in the bathtub in the last days of my parents’ relationship and the song ‘You Can Call Me Al’ is playing. I never could figure out the name of the song.

I read this and wonder how I relate to my experience living in Peru – besides recording the fact I miss my family in a foreign country. I suppose it comes back to language.

I exaggerate when I say that I haven’t seen any of my family in three years. Before I flew from Brisbane I saw my cousin Mekaela. It’s only when I hugged her that I realised it had been so long since I had seen her or anyone else. She reads my blog but that’s not why I say what I’m about to say. She’s an inspiration in that she’s independent, younger, has the same resources I do (not many) and has already traveled and worked overseas. She lived in Brazil a while and so was able to give me some advice while we drank expensive inner-city coffee.

“It will take three months living in a foreign country before you know basic Spanish. That may not seem like a long time but it will be,” she said.

It’s nearly the three month milestone and I wonder how many words I have learned. There’s not many. It’s enough to get me by awkwardly in an American style supermarket or the restaurants, as long as the conversation doesn’t deviate from the regular pattern.

“Hamburguesa Y papas fritas. Y Cafe Con Leche. Por Favor.”

“Nombre?”

“Que? Ah. Si. Burnzy. Gracias, Senora.”

“Gracias.”

But the other night leaving a restaurant something happened that deviated from the norm. The waitress chased me down the street to try to explain something about the two 5 soles coins I handed her. I asked if she wanted more money. “Mas Soles?”

“No. fsakldjfs winaosidnfds oiansdfsdf  ionasdf alns lkasdfask.”

“Ah. No comprende.”

“sisdifklfnds flkandfkldsfn oiandflkdsnf landfklsnnd.”

Luckily there was a Google translator handy so that eventually she could explain to me the coins I gave her were fake. I had spare coins fortunately. Yet the coins looked so convincing. “A foreigner giving fake coins is bad,” the waitress warned before she left.

I’ve wondered why it is that my cousin could learn so much in three months compared to me. And my Mum explained a possibility.

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A cousin, and my very beautiful and young mum hold fat-baby me. 

“Maybe it’s because she was on her own in a foreign country and didn’t have anyone to speak English with,” she said. “And you have housemates you speak English to all the time.”

And there’s truth to that.