Thursday, April 7, 2011

the past few weeks

we/I have:

-attended three Peruvian birthday parties (in a span of 2 days). I arrived at one party almost an hour late thinking I was doing a great job running on Peruvian time. I was still one of the first people at the party. When I left the party almost three hours later, people were still arriving.


-watched season 2 of Alias, read 2 books, and watched countless hours of NCAA basketball. All things that make me very happy.

-starting hearing "Mira" and "Vamos" around our house. It's pretty cute.

-looked for matron of honor dresses because my sister is getting married! We are so happy for Hannah and Chad.


-experienced what it feels like to be singled out and treated poorly because of your skin color and your gender. Riley's fĂștbol coach calls her "white girl" instead of addressing her by name. Riley told me she wants to be Riley, not the white girl. I can't fathom how a grown adult that has been hired to work with children can act so awful. Also, one of the boys on her team won't shake her hand after scrimmages unless the coach makes him.

-worked really, really hard on our Spanish. Four of us are receiving tutoring three days a week and studying a lot in between tutoring sessions. Riley's Spanish is taking off- she will be fluent before we know it.

-been told four different dates and times that our dining room table would be delivered. We're still waiting.

-resumed dates with our kids. It's a weekly tradition that we highly value and that our kids look forward to so much.



salleygoose said...

This is really cool to hear. At the risk of sounding really mean, I will almost guarantee that Riley will look back at this time in her life and be proud that she was called a "white girl". I'm so happy for you guys and sometimes I get sad for you, and the trials you have to go through. Then sometimes I find my self a little envious of your trials because the Lord will make you strong. At any rate. I enjoyed your post this morning. I hope you are all well. LOVE that you are on "Peruvian" time. That's amazing. And I hope you get your dinning set soon.

Sarsparilla said...

So glad that things are moving forward for you.

I think the "gringa" comments were the hardest thing I had to get used to in Peru.

I used to take the time to explain pre-rehearsed phrases in spanish that would explain that "for a foreigner, it sounds insulting, even if it is not meant that way". I'd only do that with people who I thought might have a hope of changing, however, rather than the elderly, or those who are outright offensive.

I was lectured so many times on the idea that it isn't said nastily, it's just that physical descriptions are not considered insulting in spanish - you can point and say, "the fat kid" to someone's face, and they won't take it as an insult (in my country, that would be grounds for a vendetta at least).

Unfortunately there was a famous language school run by the now deceased Gringa Inge in Lima that really popularised the idea that saying "gringa/white girl" is harmless fun. I never managed to get people to understand that racial comments of any kind are offensive (you want a whole new world view, start asking different peruvians what race they are... it will shock you to see there are dead serious categories that you cannot even perceive - I ended up asking new acquaintances more than once, "excuse me, are you black, or white?" and the category blue does still exist....!!)

The only compromise I could make was to end up muttering to myself, "you can't change a whole country" at times.

But with your daughter's teacher, you have more clout, so hopefully a polite word will suffice.

Sarsparilla said...

Actually, now that I think of it, for people whose minds I really needed to change, there was a racial epithet, "cholo*", or person of inca heritage. I would say something like, "you can say 'cholo' to each other, but if I say it to you, you wouldn't like it. That's why I don't want you saying 'gringa' to me."

[* and just as with gringa, it's possible to use 'cholito' in a caring, warm way in peruvian spanish. Further blurring the racial waters.]

It made me die a little inside, though, to be using one racial epithet to explain another.

Roy said...

its pretty normal calling someone here gringa or gringo to a blond or fair skinned person but unlike mexico or other latin american countries its actually something good actually a compliment since most peruvians think that being white its beautiful since that's what the spaniards put on our heads and that being 100% indigenous its ugly beacuse your dark and have small eyes, also IT'S REALLY WEIRD for a girl and a boy to shake hands since here we greet to women with a kiss on the cheek, so the little boy must had felt akward by that situation

Sarah said...

Sarsparilla- you sum it all up very well. Older women always come up to my 2 year old and affectionately called her "gringa." I don't fight it or say anything. There's only so much you can do. But when my daughter is insulted then I will fight it. Riley's teacher said the coach should absolutely not be calling her that and thanked me for bringing it to the school's attention. Hopefully that means things will change and it won't backfire by making the coach more upset with Riley. Thank you for sharing your wisdom on the subject.

Roy- I know it's normal to be called gringo/a here (happens to us all the time as I said above), but the difference is this coach is practically insulting my daughter in his usage. She is hurt by his comments and wants to be a person, not a skin color. The coach calls the rest of the team by their names and calls her "nina blanca" (not even gringa actually). She has a name and deserves to be called by it if that is what she wants. Also, we are already used to kissing on the cheek for greetings, but the coach was asking them to shake hands at the end of the game to say, "Good game." The boy wasn't refusing out of awkwardness, but because Riley is a girl and they don't want her on their team.

I should have been more clear about the whole situation. The coach and the team are not happy that a girl is playing soccer. I understand that it goes against Peruvian culture for girls to play soccer and we absolutely want to be respectful of the culture here, but that doesn't mean I have to let people treat my daughter rudely.

Sorry to rant, but this obviously hits close to home because it is my child that is being hurt and it is my job to protect her.

Roy said...

I'm sorry if I offended you or sounded rude :(, english its not my fisrt language and i was just trying to help

Sarah said...

Roy, no need to apologize! Thanks for taking the time to explain Peruvian customs to me. I just wanted to explain why my daughter was so hurt and the situation behind it all.

Juancho said...

Hi Sarah,

I was going to comment that being called "gringa" is no big deal, that in my family we have several "gringas", a "chino", a "negra" (who's a guy, btw), a couple of "chatas", and several "flacos". None of those is meant derisively, and don't carry the stigma or hurt that similar terms have in the US. However, for the coach to call your daughter "nina blanca" is out of line. Good for you, and her, for making an issue of it.

I have been following your blog since I spotted a comment of yours on Kelly's "My Life in Peru" blog. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.