It’s Different Here…

So, I feel like there are way too many moments when I think, “hmm, Costa Rica wasn’t like this…”.  Honestly, of course Peru is different than the United States, I expected that.  But, I really didn’t think much about the things I had gotten used to in CR that would not be the same when I arrived in Peru.  I mean, aren’t they both basically the same country, full of the same type of people? Yeah…that’s a generalization.

I guess with CR being a bit closer to the States they receive a few more imported brands/items than Peru does.  I actually have no clue how that works.  We’re by the water here…can’t they go ahead and bring that stuff on down here, too?  We don’t have a picture of our time together (something I regret), but about a week ago, Gary and Laura Bull, from the Cochabamba, Bolivia mission team, had a layover for a few hours here in Lima on their way home to Bolivia from the States.  When they were here, Laura joked with me that she didn’t feel as sorry for me after seeing what we have here.  I get the feeling her town is much smaller and less modern in some ways than our section of Lima is, so I will forgive her if she has no desire to read this post due to the fact that she could probably add tons more to it when speaking about her experiences.  But…even still…there are a few things we’re still getting used to…or will we ever be used to them?  Here they are:

1. There are no gallon jugs of milk.  You have to buy it in bags.  About 4 of the bags equals a gallon.  Even then, you can’t open one of the bags and then just put it back in the fridge.  We’ve been pouring our milk into a plastic container each time we open a new bag.  It’s annoying.  But, according to Laura B., I can buy some sort of “lechera” to put the bags in so I don’t have to do that.  That’s on my to-do list.

2. I still haven’t found any dryer sheets.  boo.

3. We just found out our plumbing has been backing up.  Disgusting.  Completely and utterly disgusting.  Anyway, a plumber came last night from 8pm-10:30pm…pretty sure they don’t keep those types of hours in the States.

4. You can buy just about any type of corn flake cereal here…there’s like a gazillion brands, including Special K and a Nestles brand.  There are about  4-5 flavors of cereal we can buy that aren’t just corn flakes.  Pretty much any box we get that isn’t corn flakes and isn’t a South American brand says “Made for outside the U.S. only”…or something like that.  SEND US THE REAL STUFF! =)

5. If you’ve ever seen those commercials for Huggies diapers (I think it’s Huggies…it could be Pampers) where they use a brick and say something like “If your child were shaped like a brick (no fat rolls, etc…), then those other brands of diapers are for you…”,  and they go on to brag about how they specifically make their diapers with curves and nice elastic waistbands for all of the “normal” babies…well, be aware that they pretty much send all of those “brick” diapers here.  Oh…and they come in the form of Huggies and Pampers diapers.  go figure.

6. When you drive your own car and need gas, there’s always a person standing at the pump to fill your car up…for no extra fee.  GREAT for moms with little kids!

7. If you want baking soda, you have to buy it at a pharmacy (thanks Tiffany for the heads up!).  They don’t cook with it here.  They will look at you strange if you ask for it in the grocery stores.

8. Bounty paper towels are $6 a roll.  I thought my life was over when I saw that price…we use paper towels for EVERYTHING related with Cailyn at meal/snack time.  It is vitally important that I can get them wet, unwrap them, and still have a whole paper towel in my hand.  Impossible with just about any other brand.  But to my surprise, Sparkle paper towels have pretty much done the trick for us.  They’re not Bounty, but they work.  Thank God!

9. We can’t drink the tap water here…we could in CR.  I miss that.

10. Nothing is really open in the mornings until like 11am.  Well, I take that back.  The grocery stores are open at 9am.  But…forget it if you need milk for your cereal or you’ve run out of toilet paper and it’s earlier than that.  That happened to us one morning…the milk one…not the toilet paper one.  Anyway, Justin decided  (at like 8am) that he would just go get Dunkin Donuts for us so that we could eat breakfast.  Oh wait…they aren’t open yet either.  Huh?  I am very much a “get it all done early” kind of gal, and that’s been hard to get used to.  Some days I feel like things are just picking up around town about the time Cailyn needs her nap.  So, we’ll see if I can’t figure out a new normal.

11.  Brown sugar here is just white sugar colored brown (I’ve not like technically compared the ingredients labels of the white and brown sugar here, but it looks and feels basically the EXACT same).  Not the tastiest for chocolate chip cookies that call for brown sugar.

12. Employees at most stores are extremely catering.  It’s really nice at times, and then there are other times when you wish you could just look at what you walked in to look at without a person standing over your shoulder.

13. Every street has at “guard”.  That was the same in CR.  Anyway, Cailyn loves our 2 guards, and we look forward to developing better relationships with them.  José and Pedro…2 great men.

14. Every time you go anywhere and buy something, you are asked “Boleta o Factura?”  Basically it means, “regular receipt or business/tax exempt receipt?” (for lack of an easier explanation).  So, it’s great, because you will never go to the store again to buy supplies for the church’s VBS or refreshments for your work’s monthly birthday party only to get through the line and remember you forgot to show them the tax-exempt card you had in your pocket.  Oops.

15. It’s winter here right now.  It will be that will until around November (I think).  That just means we have like 60 degree weather.  Come Christmas it should be warm enough to swim…haha.  That’s gonna be weird.  I’ve very much wondered how I will feel in December when Christmas hits and we want to decorate with our snowmen and bundled-up Santa figurines.  Pray for me…because I LOVE that Christmas “feel”…not sure how it will be this year.

Last but not least…(and that’s a VERY big “not least”)

16. The principal language is Spanish…uh…still working on that. =)

So, if you read through all of that, good for you.  Hope it wasn’t way boring.  I just thought I could give some of you an idea of what life is like to a small extent here for us.  We honestly have loved it here so far.  That’s not to say there haven’t been moments we’ve wished for things we know we could have in the States, but overall, we are happy.  I would say the biggest thing is just not being near family.  It is so exciting to know that my mom will be here in 3 weeks or so, and my dad will be coming a few weeks after that to see the baby.  Praise God for the fact that we are only 6 hours from family (or so) in the States!

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7 responses to “It’s Different Here…

  1. Welcome to Peru Allison! Some of these made me laugh out loud. I guess you are going to have to go through Peruvian culture shock now. Brown Sugar is sent to me in my care packages. They think the only brown sugar is the raw sugar–they really never have heard of it. If you want to now the SPanish word for it, look on the “Made for International Stores Only” box of Quaker Squares. 🙂

    Oh, and Christmas will feel really weird. Or at least it did for me. 🙂

  2. Oh, I definitely had some laughs from your post. Thanks for sharing. You will look back on these things one day and laugh….maybe. 🙂

    So excited that your mom will be there so soon. I know you are counting the days!

  3. Thanks for filling us in on the differences because I have NO idea what life is like down there. I hope you continue to laugh about all the adjustments you have to get used to! I’m also super excited about baby T and its upcoming arrival! We’re thinking about you guys!

  4. Thanks for sharing. As we’re a few months behind you, here in CR and wondering what we’ll have available to us, it is important to remember to enjoy what you have when you have it and try to laugh about the rest. Thanks for sharing. At least there are goldfish, right? The bottled water only thing is going to be hard…can’t really pipe bottled water through a hose so Lucas can drink it while he plays!

  5. Welcome to our world, Alison! I’ve not lived in Peru (although I have had plenty of wonderful Peruvian students) but I am used to living in other countries besides America (USA). Even living in other states in the US can be disorientating if you have never lived outside of one state or US region very much: culture shock can be just as adventurous and mystifying if you move from Longmont, CO to Ft Worth, TX to Miami, FL. Several of the points you make in this post reminded me of some of the moves my family made from just within the USA! 🙂

    I laughed at your generalisation in thinking Peruvians and Ticans would be just alike. (In your years of prep for Lima, who taught you that?!? Spank them now!) Peruvians probably think all Americans look and sound alike, too: we are all loud, fat, rich, whine a lot…and we all have big perfectly formed white teeth. (We HAVE been brainwashed by ‘brand name quality’.) When your neighbours get to know you, your ‘representation’ as the only American they might ever get to know will change their perception(s).

    I live permanently in England (my husband is a Brit) and I thought life might be similar because of the language and because I look English. HA! Was I in La-La-Land?!? It’s a parallel universe!! What exactly is English supposed to look like? My husband had a huge advantage over me because not only had he lived in the States for more than two years (the time it takes to feel at home in a new environment), he had the benefit of learning American customs and language syntax/phrases from all the American TV shows and movies that Hollywood exports to the UK, while he was growing up and before he was seconded to the US. OK, so he never met Lucy Ricardo (until he met me) or heard Walter Cronkite (I bet you are too young for Uncle Walter!) But we Americans never learn anything correctly about the British because Hollywood and American literary/music publishers ‘sanitise’ and screen everything, even British accents, for the American public to fit closely to our American image of what British life should really be like. In American movies the Brits always play the villains and the Americans always play the heroes. Even my sweet husband gets fed up with that! He also, like most Brits and probably many Peruvians, knows American politics better than most Americans know US (and UK) politics because whatever the American government decides to do makes the daily news and has huge repercussions with how life is lived for non-Americans in their countries.

    Which means the trade agreements and embargos dictate which American products we expats have to learn to live without. I thought I would curl up and die without KARO syrup. But then, after 4-hour visits to aisles in the grocery stores, I learned that cane syrup and/or treacle works EVEN BETTER in my massive American recipes. YOU, Alison, are a risk taker so you just have to be brazen about it in the kitchen! Eventually you will find what you need and learn there can be more to choose from outside of the USA, just don’t be afraid to experiment. If you have fun doing this, your kids will also have fun. The UK has loads of different kinds of sugars, and I can seriously say it has been a pleasure to get to taste what most of them can do!! 😉

    Speaking of treacle, Peru is practically the molasses (en Español: melazas) capitol of the world, should be in most grocery stores/bakeries. You might have some fun with the following:

    Brown Sugar Substitute
    • For each 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar called for in a recipe, use 1 1/2 tablespoons molasses (melazas; treacle) plus 1 cup white granulated (not raw) sugar.
    • To make light brown sugar from dark brown sugar, use 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar and 1/2 cup white granulated (not raw) sugar.
    • For dark brown sugar, use 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar plus 1 tablespoon molasses (melazas; treacle); or 1 cup white granulated (not raw) sugar plus 1/4 cup molasses (melazas; treacle).

    If this works for you then it is one less heavy item your folks back home will have to pay hefty shipping charges to send you via post.

    Best wishes, you are doing SUPERBLY and little Cailyn will never clue into any ‘transitioning issues’ if you allow her to enjoy this adventure with you. (My brothers and I thought living in other countries WAS normal! We love our parents more for the adventurous life they gave us – I might not have married an American but I DID marry a man who loves Jesus!) Children Cailyn’s age and the ages of those of your team-mates’ are changing all the time as they become more cognitive of the worlds with beautiful languages and rhythms around them. Your ‘normal’ just has to catch up with hers and theirs! 🙂

    Lecture over, apologies abounding! Keep writing and sharing your initial thoughts of your early years in Lima. You will reread them in a few years’ time and cherish them as much then as we are cherishing them now. You and your team of sweet families are held in our thoughts and prayers!

  6. I have LOVED reading your perceptions of family life outside the US. I enjoy hearing about other culture and even the trivial things like paper towels! I have travelled outside the country on little week-long jaunts, usually to places like Honduras, so I have seen how different it can be and what we take for granted, so I can appreciate your story completely. I recognize that Americans have for the most part lived a privileged life, and your descriptions help to bring this home. I do not interpret any honest-to-goodness “complaint” in this, at all…and I LOVE it. We should all spend a little time away like this.
    And by the way, I read every word of every post you’ve made…like a wonderful book. Thanks for your blog, and thanks for the job the entire Thompson family is doing.

  7. Alison, I hope you will keep on sharing this marvellous journey you are on! For those of us who have been on similar journeys and are continuing on parallel (but different!) paths, it is such a delight to read what you are willing to share. Not all cultures are as comfortable with baring the soul so openly and transparently in public as Americans (like the Brits, ahem!). The map you are reading from is set out on a page as diverse as the one God blessed me with, but He has blessed us both, with variations that are fun to learn about and share.

    I loved your first post (as well as this one!) and, as a complete stranger who has no connections with your friends, family or supporting congregation(s), felt compelled to comment because your experience rings out so resonantly with mine from over the years as well as now. Because I have been in similar shoes to yours please know I definitely did not view your previous post as a complaint session at all. You were being so beautifully transparent in recording your observations that I thought I could chime in with mine. 🙂 And just for the record, I have always preferred Bounty, get huge cravings for Fritos, wish for hominy so I could make some posole at New Years, would kill for some Jimmy Dean sausage, Taco Bueno and an IHOP! After all these years…

    For those of us outside of your team’s circle, I keep reading through some of your blogs and am just eager to know how each of you felt God calling you to Peru specifically. What connections led your team members to find each other? Will you each be forming a new church or assist with an established ministry? And for those of us who studied/practised missions and church-planting years ago, what elements in the discipline/training has changed for your generation today? No need to answer any of these until you might have time or be interested to share. I appreciate all you are already doing, and admire what you have been accomplishing as a family thus far!

    No amount of training will prepare any of us for the challenges of life that drop in on a whim, unannounced, especially when we are living out our dreams. It has been wonderful to read of some of the support you are to each other, and to watch how you grow through the highs and lows together. I have prayed through the joys and sorrows some of you have gone through (SF is my cousin) and will continue to pray as you need.

    For now I am so excited for you and your sweet family as you all wait for your new little bundle of joy, have your parents visit and share in your Lima Life, and for your shipping crate to arrive from the US. I’ll bet THAT will feel like Christmas!

    Blessings always.

    PS: I did not mean to offend with the brown sugar substitute. Just thought it might be useful, ya gotta have some choc chip cookies! 🙂

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