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Day 2 – Sometimes Racism Just Works (Lessons in Spanish)

October 12, 2010

Location: Lima, Peru

Date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010

¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Peru. To some, this is the land of the Inca, the site of Spanish conquest, and a place rich with history, culture, and food. For you, native English speaker, it is also an endless Spanish quiz. With that in mind, please read the following questions carefully but quickly as your responses are timed. A late response will count as an incorrect one. Because this is real life, the solutions will be provided immediately.

Good luck. ¡Buena suerte! You may now begin your quiz.

1. You’ve made it safely to the hostel in Miraflores which you chose last night on the plane. After an inadvertent four-hour nap, you realize you must go to the bus station and buy a ticket to Cuzco. You hail a cab. After telling the teenage cab driver where you need to go (La Victoria, Avenida Javier Prado Este 1109, terminal for Cruz del Sur bus company) you ask him the price (“Cuanto cuesta?”). The cabbie responds, “Quince soles.” Do you: (1 point)

A. Tell him, “Si” because this is a good price.

B. Protest vehemently “No no no” and bargain him down to “viente soles”.

C. Jump out of the cab and flee because he has just told you he will murder and rape you.

D. None of the above.

Your Anwer: B.

Correct Answer: A. You obviously mixed up “quince soles” (15 soles) with “cincuenta soles” (50 soles) and inadvertently bargained him up to 20 soles. You only realized this after the kid looked at you in the rearview mirror like you were crazy, but nodded anyway, then you sat in silence for 10 minutes while your feeble tried to grasp the situation. To reinforce learning from your mistake, you must laugh a little to loudly and say “50” and “15” to the cabbie in Spanish over and over again, then pay him your 20 soles of shame. (0/1 points)

2. You arrive at the terminal to buy your bus ticket. Through gestures and wide eyes, you learn from a guard that you must use a machine to print a numbered stub and wait for your numero to be called. When you get to the counter, you use your pathetic Spanish to tell the pretty lady you need a ticket for tomorrow to Cuzco. The bus ride will be 30 hours long and you need the most comfortable seat possible. How do you accomplish this? (Essay, 5 points)

Your Answer: I do not know the Spanish word for “comfortable” but I think Spanish has lots of English words, but the only difference is that they’re how Spanish speakers would say them. Therefore, I choose to ask for “la mas comfortablé.” Please note the accented “e”.

Correct Answer: Hard to say. The word “comfortablé “ does not appear in our dictionary. You get partial credit because it worked and the the lady pointed to the most expensive seat and appears to repeat what you said. On the other hand, you’re a frickin’ racist for thinking you can add an accented “e” to any English word and turn it Español. Partial racist credit (2/5 points).

3. You’ve agreed to buy the most expensive ticket Cruz del Sur offers. The lady now needs your information. You struggle through your memorized passport number (in Spanish). Now, please spell your name. (6 points)

Your Answer: M-E-R-V-Y-N.

Correct Answer: Trick question. You obviously spelled it using the English pronunciation of the alphabet because the lady started spelling your name “M-I-R. . .”. You correct her before she gets too far so you get 1 point for recognizing the problem. You lose points for not recognizing the solution (the “e” is pronounced “eh”) in the given time limit. You also lose points for having to point at her keyboard for the letter “y” and asking how to say it in Spanish (answer: y-griega, pronounced ee-gree-ae-gah). Partial credit (1 point).

Total score: (3/12)


Teacher’s Note: Get your butt back to your books and study up, otherwise, this is going to be a long four months.  Why don’t you start with learning how to spell your own name?


Things I Put In My Mouth: A Periodic Feature on Food Told (Mostly) in Pictures

Location: Rincon Chami, Lima, Peru

The drink in the background of each picture is chicha morada, a drink made with purple corn. It tasted a bit like red wine; probably because it has a lot of resveratrol, a substance found in red wine–chichi morrada has four times the amount found in red wine. It, like the food, tasted delicious.

GALLERY: No bonus pics today. Mervyn blames Lima’s frickin’ cold weather.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2010 7:28 am


    That’s the corn, and every time we took a group to SA we laughed when they wanted corn. Seeing the look on their faces when it came was just priceless.

    Once you get used to it, choclos are great – especially in stews or soups. But you don’t want two or three ears, like with sweet corn.

    Are you not going to spend any time sightseeing in Lima?

    I’m feeling quite nostalgic….

  2. Karem permalink
    October 14, 2010 11:21 am

    I can already taste the food in my mouth. Que rico!
    I got my passport on Tuesday, so I’m a step closer to going home.

    Sigue pasandola bien.

  3. Doris permalink
    October 16, 2010 7:48 pm

    Hilarious. I’m sure he could use the money!

    The food pictures are making me hungry/sad.

    • October 20, 2010 8:07 am

      I’m sure he could have. I wish the added expense on my part would have shamed me into not confusing my numbers. Alas, it has not. I still screw up “siesenta”, “setienta”, and “cincuenta.” Your people talk way too fast. They need to learn to cater to my skills.

  4. Alan permalink
    October 19, 2010 8:59 am

    As one whose genes at least partially obligate me to claim some authority over the Spanish language, I’m going to point out something regarding quiz question #2. The rule is to accent the second-to-last syllable in words with more than one. There are exceptions of course, but when in doubt, go with comfortáble.

    Also, I don’t know the Spanish word for comfortable. That’s the Norwegian in me.

    • October 20, 2010 8:15 am

      Si. I will work on my Spanisho with my tutero today. I will ask accent every second syllable of all the English I speak, add an “o” to the end, and repeat everything I say in English slowly so that the locals can understand me. I promise to get frustrated and angry when they can’t understand their own language.

  5. October 19, 2010 1:34 pm

    I think “comfortable” in Spanish is “comodo” with an accent on the first syllable….

    However, it’s been a long time – you’d best get a phrase book with Spanish/English/Spanish dictionary and check it out.

    Of course, if you’re in your “pension comoda”
    (pension with accent on last syllable, comoda accented on the first) with free wi-fi, you can check it out on the Web in very short order!

    Hey! Chicha de Arroz all around!


  6. sally permalink
    October 24, 2010 10:43 am

    yeah, i almost did a double take on the mutant corn, thinking it was something else. granted, the ones i had in bolivia were loose kernels, so it wasn’t as apparent right away…try the guanábana (chirimoya) if you haven’t had it before. tastes like a mixture of pineapple, strawberry, and coconut all mixed together. here’s to your travels involving more interesting food diaries!

    • October 24, 2010 11:15 am

      Guanabana or soursop ( is not the same thing as Cherimoya or sweetsop (

      Guanabana is usually made into refreshing drinks and smoothies, while Cherimoya is eaten out of hand.

      I love them both, but the Cherimoya (if you have a ripe one that’s really good) is beyond any powers of description that I possess.

      I hope that it’s the season, but I doubt it. I’m betting that they’ll make you a smoothie from frozen Guanabana, though….delicioius!

      • October 27, 2010 11:04 pm

        When I meet Doug and Karem up in Lima, I’m going to be willing to pay just about anything for a proper Peruvian food experience. If there’s guanabana to be found, with their help, I will find it. Cherimoya is probably already on the list.

    • October 27, 2010 11:02 pm

      When I hit Lima one of the things I’m hunting down is the Guanabana drink. It sounds like something they feed to unicorns.

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