02 October 2012

Fifty shades of Peru

September 2011: blonde

The final countdown is on – only fifty more sleeps in Peru!

It seems a little hard to believe that my time here is almost over but I know in my heart the time is right to move on. Don’t get me wrong, I still love living here and every day I find some little thing about life here that fascinates and delights me.

But, I also find myself becoming less patient with some of the more frustrating, annoying, exasperating, trying, maddening, infuriating aspects of Peruvian life. I was reading a blog yesterday, written by an Australian living in Hanoi, and she talked about “the expiry of the statute of limitations on Keeping Your Shit Together” and I understood exactly what she was talking about.

When you first arrive in a new place, you delight in everything you see and find the peculiarities charming. But, as time goes by, your attitude to those peculiarities changes, becomes less tolerant, less accepting, and it gets more difficult to find joy in those little things, more difficult to keep your shit together.

Let me give you an example. A week ago I went to have my hair cut and coloured – time to banish the grey away! This was the same hair salon I’ve patronised since coming to Cusco, so I’m not exactly a stranger to them but, each time, my experience is a little different. I learnt early on to agree a price for both the cut and colour when making the appointment and, if they quoted a higher price – which was often, to tell them I only paid X amount last time – so they would then agree to charge the same this time.

December 2011: still blonde
I’ve become used to emerging with a slightly different hair colour each time I go – not by choice and not because of my lack of Spanish – I point at a colour on the chart and, usually, I come out with something resembling it. I presume dying hair is not an exact science, even for professionals, so I have always accepted a little variation.

March 2012: yep, blonde

But this time it was much more radical. I pointed to light brown and came out almost black. How did that happen? I should’ve guessed something was up, as the receptionist and the stylist had 2 or 3 whispered conversations huddled over the colour chart, and the receptionist rattled about searching amongst the tubes of colour for a good 10 minutes before phoning someone in a hushed voice, after which the stylist came and asked me again which colour I wanted. But then she began confidently squirting colour from a tube and mixing it up, so I just assumed everything was cool.

May 2012: you guessed it! Blonde.

How wrong I was! And did they apologise? No! Peruvians – and here, I know, I generalise but it is the truth as I have experienced it – most Peruvians have no concept of customer service. The idea of the customer always being right would make them laugh. The idea of apologising is totally alien. And did they give me a discount for having made a mistake? No! They had cut my hair. They had coloured my hair. They had done the job so they should be paid for it. The fact that they had done part of it wrong was neither here or there.

And what did I do? Well, I kept my shit together. There was no point in getting angry or jumping up and down. It would have made absolutely no difference to my hair and just made my blood pressure spike. I chose to believe the receptionist when she told me it made me look younger, and I joked to friends and colleagues that I was turning Peruvian.

September 2012: what???? Black!!!!

But it is becoming more and more difficult to keep my shit together in situations like this. And that’s why I know it’s time to move on. Oh, I know that similar things will happen in the next place I call home. Every place has its idiosyncrasies, its eccentricities but, initially, these will be charming, and everything else will be fresh and new and stimulating and exciting – and that’s what I so love about travelling!

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