Love and Misdemeanours or Sex, Lies and Spies in the House of Love (Part One)

July 28, 2006

Once I had a love and it was a gas
Soon turned out had a heart of glass
Seemed like the real thing, only to find
Mucho mistrust, love’s gone behind

Once I had a love and it was divine
Soon found out I was losing my mind
It seemed like the real thing but I was so blind
Mucho mistrust, love’s gone behind

(thanks to the one and only Blondie, please sing with an American accent)

I promised a post on Peruvian men or, to be fair, what I have encounterd, understood and seen of Peruvian men in the short time I have been here. I have to be ever aware not to generalise.

Here goes: I arrived in Urubamba, the Andean village in th Sacred Valley in the Sierra region of Peru. For those who like to have a context, there are three regions – the costa (coast), sierra (mountains) and the selva (jungle). Some days into my arrival I came across a yellow book of tips for new volunteers written by previous and contemporary ones, highlighting Places to Eat, to Visit and Men you May Meet. One entry was simply called, Urubamba Men, and what followed was a subjective list of about eight men, listing them by their first name with a sentence or two summing them up, from a certain perspective.

Enter, Slimy (my addition) Haime (if you use the Spanish pronunciation, it rhymes), Rodrigo, Pepe, and others I don´t care to mention. The final comment was particularly revealing – and was somewhat reminiscent of a schoolgirl’s diary entry. Note: ‘Peruvian men fall in love easily’, it read. Or words to that effect. I immediately took out a coloured felt tip and added, ‘Or so they say. There´s a big difference between what they say and what they mean’. I then added a new page, Urubamba Women, and entered a few names, without any accompnaying sentences. For, without women, there are no men. It doesn´t take an Einstein to work that one out. However, the absence of a mention of women spoke volumes as to the social fabric of the volunteer community in the Casa Naranja.

Anyway, back to some observations and anecdotes.

I now present some tips for women, especially those travelling alone, in order to deter local men:

1) If you are 35 years and over: Hang out with attractive women who are between 15-20 years younger than you. It´s that simple. Amongst the Great White Hope of Youth – as an older woman – you will become invisible. As if by magic, you cease to really exist in many ways. Sounds like a trick? Believe me, it´s not. I´ve tried it and it works.

Youth, because you´re worth it.

2) When the stock question, ‘Where are you from?’, which may arise while dancing, chatting or simply hanging out, is asked, reply with, ‘From Iceland’ – while looking them confidently in the eye. The replies will usually fall into two types. The first will be a slightly bemused look from the conquistador, who will then slope away. The other will be a question again. ‘From Ireland?’, to which you reply, once again, ‘No, I´m from Iceland’. Given that many people don´t know the capital of Iceland, let alone how to speak the language, chances are you will get away Ice Free.

to be continued. Just like the telenovellas (soap operas) which are so popular the world over..

3) Buy some of the A5 magazines which are sold in the local markets. At one sol each, their entertainment value more than matches their price and with titles such as Homage to Love, Romantic Verses, Philosophy of Love and, my favourite, How to conquer Women, you won´t be disappointed. Plus, the covers are kitschy with their vignetted 70s-style photographs of heterosexual couples looking suitably romantic and loving.

And if you don´t believe me, here is an excerpt, roughly translated by me:

The article is about spousal love and women, and takes the form of a survey recounting how there are 365 days in the year when couples can make love but that, according to the survey (no precise references are given for dates and sample group numbers), men only have success on 24 occasions, which adds up to once every 15 days. You do your sums. Excuses given range from the obscure to the weird. The window was open and others could see us (9), It was too hot (23) and back ache (8). Other gems include – How to start a conversation with a girl on the beach; Hola preciosa! followed by other great chat up lines: Good afternoon, Please don´t ignore me. I only want to introduce myself. I have the best intentions towards you. Listen to me for a ratito (very small amount of time, a second, perhaps?), no more. See, that´s better.

4) You decide to accept an invitation to dinner but want to keep everything firmly above board as you don’t want to enter into the unsaid social contract of He asks you for dinner + You go = You are obliged to satisfy his male ego and maybe his desire.

On the one occasion that I was invited out to dinner by the owner of 3 Kerros, a Gourmet Club restaurtant in Urubamba, I accepted. The man in question chatted to me while I was on the internet in the upmarket (for a pueblito) bar, Connections. He was a divorcee in his late fifties, educated in Canada, suitably rounded and creased, with a 21-year-old daughter in Switzerland. I accepted, more out of curiosity and a need to get out and about on my own. Plus, he described the food as Nuevo Andean with a air of Frenchness. He invited me to his reastaurant for 8pm and I arrived at 8.30pm. The restaurant, which seemed unpromising from the outside, had a good ambience. Once I had climbed the wooden stairs to the first level, it opened up into a fair size room with a bar, 10 or so tables and a good sound system. A table of four, all tourists, were just finishing their meal and a selection of soul classics were playing. Think Marvin Gaye´s Inner City Blues, Otis Redding´s Sitting on the Dock of the Bay and the early Rolling Stones. He showed me the kitchen, introduced me to the staff and ordered a bottle of good red wine, which we drank beside the open fire. Conversation centred mainly on him, as I kept asking questions about Peru, his family, business and his experiences. Most people love talking about themselves so that gave us plenty of conversation through which we could meander for a few hours. The food, (he ordered), was very good. Lomo a la parrilla, slices of grilled beef, (medium cooked), a tomato salad with walnut dressing, papas and a pureed bean dish followed by a sugary, but tasty, pastry dessert. During the evening, I stressed my independence and ability to look after myself and when he paid me a compliment or two, I said thank you graciously and told him that I thought he was a gentleman. This is a good tip. Appeal to a man’s gentlemanly side. When the wine was nearly finished and everybody had gone home, he wanted to turn the music up and asked me for a Harlem Shuffle or two. I declined. Dancing, in many men’s eyes = All sorts of things and, being a Latino, he would be no exception. I watched him with a slightly amused look, let him show me the unspectacular view of the road and listened to his tourist guide-like commentary of the various places we could see from the balcony. This included the local brothel. Yes, there is one in Urubamba. It has a neon blue light outside.

Leaving before midnight to go home, if it’s good enough for Cinderella, then it’s good enough for me, I avoided the Saying-Goodnight-at-the-Door scenario. Stressing, once again, my independence, I said I would get a moto (a converted motorbike with a little seat at the back) home. We said goodbye and that was that. Phew! I thought, only to find myself at the end of an unfamiliar road with not a soul in sight. So, I put my best self defense-and-aware head on, pulled on a thick, woolly hooded top and started walking in the middle of the road, where it was light, with my head down and hood up. Then, when I heard a car engine coming up the road and, with no one else in sight, I went to the side of the road and stood, as man-like as I could, and pretended to have a piss. All shoulders hunched, feet slightly apart and confident. The car passed, I returned to the centre of the road and jogged the final five minutes back till I saw the painted Inca Kola sign which heralded the proximity of the volunteer house.


Take a hooded top with you, wear trainers, stay in the middle of a well-lit road away from doorways and dark recesses, and practise pissing like a man.

Be Safe, because you’re worth it.


6 Responses to “Love and Misdemeanours or Sex, Lies and Spies in the House of Love (Part One)”

  1. elsa said

    dear miri,

    nice to read your amusing and slightly sarcastic view on your peruvian co-people, although it´s not totally clear to me whether you want contact with them or not… maybe your feelings are mixed… but always remember that what you might lack in youth (although that is a relative term)you compensate with knowledge of life and a brilliant wit.

    stockholm this morning is gifted with a long wanted rain and thunder. unfortunately there is thunder as well in my head… but you can´t have everything, can you?

    have been feeling slightly easier in my heart and soul the past days, sensing there might be hope for a different kind of life, just have to try to look around corners. so thankful for every moment of relief from the grief that often lies like a wet blanket over my existence.

    sending you courage and strenght to go on, meeting the day and people and give them something of your unique personality. i know that i am so glad to be able to take part of your world.

    bamsekram from elsa.

  2. Rod Anne said

    hi miri. great to hear your news. i will meet you atpaddington on tuesday. let me know details. love you. mum x going to Sallys ashes scattering tomorrow. X X

  3. Hola to you both,
    Elsa, thanks for still logging on and reading, it is so good to get comments and helps dispel the thought that I may just be talking to myself, which in most other circumstances may make me a likely candidate for the loony bin. Yes, I am somewhat ambiguous in my postings, but I guess I just needed to get some things off my chest and this is a perfect vehicle for that.
    I have been having some very strange dreams again. I also had a dream, when I first got out here about Rob, we were in Hendon and he was helping me move my mannequins in a car, amongst other things. Have dreamt about all sorts of people and things, really vivid and Lynchian. Bamsekram my dear Elsa, it has been good to have you as a cyber companion and you have given me strength with your words, all love MXXX
    Mum, I hope it goes as well as can be expected tomorrow, where are Sally´s ashes being scattered? I hope it doesn´t turn out like Graham Swift´s book Last Orders, if you´ve read it. It is about a group pf men´s trip to scatter a friend´s ashes and is both poignant adn funny – think it was made into a film fairly recently. PLs send my love and think of her for me tomorrow, and say hello to everyone there… I am thinking of you and love you masses.. I arrive at Heathrow at 6.25am Wed, so after passport etc I will hop on the Heathrow Xpress, only 15 mins, so let´s meet at 8am, if I am earlier I will grab a coffee but will also phone you as soon as I arrive. Can´t wait to see you. Love to all MXXX

  4. noel said

    hi miranda
    lovely to finally log on and read you – and alarming to discover you’re almost home again – though sarah did say something like “miranda must be due home soon” yesterday so i guess i was warned…
    have a good return with all the leaving and luft that entails – and see you here somewhere…
    love lots

  5. sarah said

    Can’t wait to see you,
    Have a safe trip home,
    Lots of love

  6. sarah said

    oh and I am dying to read part two, I loved part one !

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