Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dinner with Diana in Peru

I walked down the street to a restaurant and found a table near the window. Outside there was a young girl about twelve years old walking up and down the sidewalk. She carried a damp rag and would jump out and wash the windows of cars when they stopped at the intersection. She was hoping to receive a small coin as a tip from the driver. She wore a thick dark blue wool sweater that was torn at the elbows. Her red chapped cheeks had a scabby sunburn like the high altitude farmers who work outside all day. She presented the rugged and tattered looks of someone who slept outside on the sidewalk at night.

The waitress brought me my menu. I couldn’t read it, but I knew the keys words like pollo (chicken), fish (pescado), potato (papa) and rice (arroz). If I ordered something that had those words in the description and I was never disappointed with the quality or quantity of the food. Meals are usually less than $3 with enough rice and potatoes for two people.

I kept watching the girl washing car windows outside. Most drivers drove away without saying thank you. I got up and walked to the door. I whistled to the girl and waved her to come over. I pointed to the menu in my hand and motioned her to come in the restaurant. She was hesitant but then came inside to my table. I gave her my menu but I wasn’t sure if she could read. I asked her in my basic Spanish...“Pollo, arroz para ti?” (Chicken and rice for you?). She nodded...“yes”. I must have said something right. The waitress took our order for two servings of chicken and rice. During our meal I found out the girl’s name was Diana. We didn’t talk much about anything else. I did notice she had perfect table manners and could eat a chicken leg with a fork without using her fingers.

My dinner with Diana started a theme I would repeat many times during the next three weeks. When I went to eat at a restaurant in each town I would find someone to sit at my table. Usually it was a shoeshine boy who would be hanging out on the street. Once it was a mother and a small girl about two years old. The child didn’t eat directly from the table because the mother kept breast feeding the girl during the entire meal. I only wish I could have spoken more Spanish because I didn’t know the names or ages of most of the people I met. I still enjoyed the company and I think my guests enjoyed a real meal. I was learning that my bicycle was just a prop to introduce me to an assortment of people across Peru.

To contact Lon by e-mail use:


Post a Comment

<< Home