Sunday, December 10, 2006

Shopping With a Clown in Peru

I see some of the same people each day. Sometimes I carry my tools and wood saw. I think they accept me as a regular worker...not as a tourist. I see the family that sells the horrid ice tea everyday. They don´t speak a word of English. We write translated messages on my note pad and draw pictures.

I do not think the kids go to school because they cannot afford the $5 per month entrance fee. I tried to explain that I was a carpenter helping friends build their beds. Two of the girls said they did not have beds. They asked if I could help build them a bed to share and how much would it cost.

I calculated the lumber cost and mattress price and said it would be about $30 to $40 depending on how good a mattress they wanted. Their mother shook her head, no...not now. I could see their disappointment but I told them I had a better idea for getting a bed before I left town in a few days.

I had been looking at the family furniture stores that make their own beds at a low price. I asked the girls and their mom if they wanted to go bed shopping in the morning. They said they had no money to buy a bed either. I told them it wouldn't hurt to look and get some prices.

The next day we met to take the moto taxi into town. Everyday at their street corner there are several mime clowns who perform. One of them is named Austin and he speaks some English. The mother asked this clown to join us for our shopping trip. So we all crammed into a motorcycle taxi and headed for town, with a clown sitting between us.

When we got to the furniture store the clown attracted more attention than us. We walked between the rows of handmade beds and the girls looked for the right one. The clown was doing his mine routine for the people and then talking prices with the salesman. The girls asked if they could get a double bed to share instead of a single bed. I thought that was a good idea.

After about 15 minutes they found the one they liked. It was bolted together and looked very strong. The clown negotiated the price and the bed would cost $35 with delivery. The salesman said he would disassemble it in have it ready in 10 minutes. I told the mother I thought the price was good and I would pay for the bed. It was actually cheaper for me than building a bed from scratch.

We loaded the mattress on the canopy of the moto taxi and put the bed frame boards across the back. Then we all headed back to their house to assemble the bed. We followed a maze of dirt trails into their back neighborhood. The houses here are made from weathered barn wood that are tacked together with plenty of spaces between the boards. If you can imagine an old, dirty poorly built pig barn...that is how the houses looked.

Now, remember the clown is still with us.

We drive through the streets and the neighbors are coming out see the clown. We arrive at the house and all these people start helping unload the moto taxi. The clown and I just stood and watched. The whole experience was kind of like a dream. The family didn't speak any English, but the clown kept telling me...”they can not believe they have a bed”.

The clown and I said goodbye to the family and walked back to the main paved street. The clown got on the next bus to work his mime routine for the passengers. It was hot again.

I walked one hour back into town. Along the way I bought a whole coconut and drank the milk from a straw, then had a plate of rice from a street vender. I took some photos of vulchers eating street garbage. Later I met some local students that said they spoke good English. I asked them if they could recite Shakespeare. They couldn’t, but they did know the names for the first sixteen presidents of the United States in order. That’s something I couldn’t do.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12:34 PM  

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