Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Summertime in El Peru.

It’s summer and it’s hot.

“Yeah, but is it Texas hot?”

…well, yes and no.

The sun here feels exactly how it looks: like a giant white ball of fire. It radiates a type of heat I can only compare to a stoking campfire or a cast iron skillet on the stove, or maybe the exhaust from revving diesel truck muffler. I don’t know if it’s because we’re closer to the equator or because of green house gases, but the sun is different here. 

The Equator, only 19 hours away.
All I know is that this Peruvian summer is brutal. What used to be a simple stroll downtown to mail a letter has turned into an every-man-for-himself battle for the shady side of the sidewalk.
In south Texas, the humidity is what kills you. During June you can pretty much count on those bologna shaped sweat stains under your armpits from the time the sun comes up until well after 9. Here though, the temperature isn’t that high…unless, that is, you’re standing directly under the nuke-ball, as I like to call it.
So, just avoid direct sunlight at all costs, right?
Right. Easily dealt with. 

Marcianos, which means martians, are popsicles sold on almost every street corner. Strawberry, pineapple, tamarindo, lucuma, peanut, coconut.
But here’s the real catch.
No A/C.
            Not in the house, not in the bank, not in the clinic.
Restaurants? Nope.  
You’d think maybe in the church?
Think again. 
…so that’s why mass is only at 7:30am and 7:30pm.
A/C just doesn’t really exist here. Once the day heats up, there's no escape. 
Although, I do now know that the Claro store, a big mobile phone provider, is air-conditioned. But once they realized I wasn’t there on business I was politely kicked to the curb where all the other throw-outs pressed their bodies against the window panes.
Hey, it was cool while it lasted.

Why the Peruvian hairless dog is hairless. Mystery solved.
I think now about how I used to complain about hot Texas summers—when I went from my air-conditioned house to my air-conditioned truck to run air-conditioned errands before going to air-conditioned work. I even used to jog around the track in an air-conditioned gym which would sound like a make-believe story to my Peruvian friends.
“Yeah, the air in the whole building is kind of like inside the refrigerator. Then…I’d run around a circle until I got hot and sweaty.”
My life in the U.S. wasn’t exactly cushy, but I have to say, I had it pretty good. Hot shower, air-conditioning and a glass of water that doesn’t taste like a mouth full of pennies. Now that was the good life.
What’s even more thought provoking is that six moths ago I was living in veritable luxury compared to now, but now, compared to others, I still am.
I have the oscillating fan cranked up to 3/3 as I’m laying on my bed in a room I don’t have to share with seven members of my extended family, as I type on my laptop wearing clean clothes after having taken a shower in running water before going downstairs to have some dinner.
            I work with people every day that aren’t afforded a single one of the luxuries I’m enjoying right now.
The past six months have shown me what it means to live in solidarity with the economically poor and marginalized, and how powerful and life changing that is. At the same time though, I still have a lot more than the majority of people alive on earth today. If anything, I’ve only seen how large the gap is between the poor and, frankly, everybody else.
That thought is what makes the heat bearable. That is what makes all of this worth doing.