Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A rant, all about ayahuasca and some personal moments …

My friend Barbara told me this as a joke, but I am beginning to believe that it is a clear indicator of our reality (from the mouths of babes...): A little boy is asked by a big-shot politician during some baby-kissing event what he wants to be when he grows up. He answers with a sweet smile: ‘Corrupt’.

A very personal view on politics in general and Peru in particular
I told you about the fact that Lima held elections for mayor. Mayors in plural rather because each ‘barrio’ got its own. But the big prize was the nucleus of Lima, the ├╝bermayor as it were, the one who gets the most attention and whose political career is a free for all to receive praise or attack from the media, depending on the political winds.

Peru is arch conservative. There is great fear of change. Whether the reason for holding on to the status quo is because the treasure chest is not for sharing, or whether it’s the bad memory of Peru’s own Khmer Rouge, the infamous Sendero Luminoso, the Shining Path, and the war which erupted in the 80s, or because up to now the ‘Left’ has been of the old-fashioned kind, the one that wants to make everyone walk instead of aspiring to wealth for everyone, I don’t know. Perhaps nobody knows, not even the Peruvians.

I remember a book published end 50s by a Frenchman called Pierre Daninos (about a very British Major W. Marmaduke Thomson - very sharp and very funny), where he draws a comparison between the English (or was it the French? – same story) and the Americans and writes something like: the English guy looks at one in a Rolls (remember, the book came out in 59) and thinks, full of envy, ‘wait you bastard, one day you walk, just as I do’; the Americans look at a guy in a big Cadillac and sighs, full of envy, ‘wait you bastard, one day I have one just like yours’. For me that was always the epitome of my conviction: I want everyone to be well off and bouncy instead of everyone going down into a uniform grey of badly understood equality. There isn’t any political creed or system we have had (or have right now) which can fulfil my vision.

Anyway, back to Lima. So the rather attractive (in looks and personality) left-of-centre candidate wins. That’s almost a miracle because there were great efforts made by those in power to prevent this from happening. Since too many voices shouted ‘fraud’ (well, not many voices, really, but enough) they couldn’t allow themselves to be successful in that endeavour. So now we have a new mayoress with left leanings, probably ‘clean’ (in the corruption department) and the major media are creating an atmosphere of fear before she’s actually sworn in and is acting mayoress. They already ‘know’ what she’s going to do, what not, who she’s going to collude with (to bring the country to its knees of course) etc etc etc. Last night in an important news programme we learned that more shenanigans are in the pipeline. Quite pathetic and sad. I am watching and learning.

It is of course one of Peru’s greatest fears that, with the slightest whiff of instability, foreign investment may dry up. At least that’s the big bad fear paintbrush they are bringing to the defence of the status quo and, as always, nobody’s thinking. Brazil is on the up and up, Chile is the star, and little Lima is going to be the beginning of the end for Peru? Gissussabreak. Perhaps I am being too harsh. Europe’s democracies can survive some storms and have had to in the past. Latin American democracies are only just emerging and some are still on wobbly legs.

What’s cooking
Peru is on its way, whatever my rants. It’s one of THE Latin American economies and a leviathan on the rise. A time of change is a difficult time for everyone. Don’t we know it? Aren’t we all in it and wouldn’t we rather hold on to the status quo sometimes? Peru is also a mystical and beautiful place, and its poorest people are strong and still wait quite patiently for things to trickle down all the way to them. And perhaps it’s not our new mayoress who’s about to make the change, but the change has begun by people listening to her voice and voting for her (even quite a number of the ‘ruling class’ – that’s a huge bundle of hope!). I believe I am privileged to watch a country in transformation (and living it).

One of the locomotives for Peru’s increasing visibility on the international stage and being seen as more than just an exporter of raw materials is Peruvian cuisine. Every country is waking up to its charms, and Peruvian restaurants are sprouting like mushrooms everywhere. ‘We’ are even infiltrating the cordon bleu stronghold: France. Ha! And you have to have tried Peru’s Pisco sour to know what you’re missing. Today the kitchen, tomorrow the world. Peru is rocking.

Ever heard of ayahuasca?
Which brings me to something quite different. Did you ever hear about ayahuasca? It’s not peyote, it’s not magic mushrooms and its effects are apparently quite something else, from opening your eyes to an expanded inner universe to healing drug addiction (first-hand knowledge). Ayahuasca is a ritual hallucinogen from Peru’s Amazon region and has been part of the Peruvian shamanic tradition for as long as the indigenous people can remember. Everyone I know who’s dared, has quite an experience to relate, and most of those experiences seem to have been entirely positive, making changes for the better in many lives.  No, I haven’t, neither has ‘my’ doctor, even though we don’t exclude that one day we’ll do the deed. I am not saying you should – but I thought you may be interested.

If you want to know more follow this link: and read all about it. I also wanted to let you take a look at a few of paintings by ex-shaman-turned-painter whose work is by now known worldwide, Pablo Amaringo. In Amaringo’s colourful world mystical and jungle creatures, heavenly visions, the rich plant life of the Amazon and just about everything else, even aliens, meet and give the observer a glimpse of  the ayahuasca experience, always intended to help with meditation, raising of consciousness and personal growth.

Holy diplomacy
As you all know, news broadcasts are no longer concerned with news, but with things that either make you worried and fearful (like murders, beatings, terrible accidents, kidnappings etc) or scandals of all sorts. Peru is no exception. We just heard that in a parish far from Lima a husband placed a video on Youtube showing his wife and the local priest in full swing. Oh, and the missus is preggers but they don't know whose it is. When the priest apologised to his flock, he didn’t say something like “I’m sorry I have sinned, I’ve been a bad boy” but “This was a trick played by the husband and I apologise for the impact the video may have had on you.” And when they interviewed one of the parishioners we got, “He’s only a man, isn’t he...” Anyway, the whole thing inspired me to write a tongue-in-cheek po-im:

Holy Diplomacy

The husband had
his wife and a cell phone.
The priest had a bed and the wife.
He’d found her stealing
the weekly collection
coin by coin by secret coin.
A bargain was struck and
favours exchanged
quickie by quickie by secret quickie.
He’s only a man.
Holy man.
Teodorina, hired to clean
the church left it muddied and
the muddied priest attended
her well
while Yupanki drew his cell 
and shot the priest and the miussus
‘en el acto’.
The priest spake onto the TV crew:
‘Yupanki has committed a grave sin
trapping his wife in this way,’
and then proceeded to
apologise to his parishioners
for having had to watch
a pornographic video.

Well, it takes all sorts. And we won’t even mention which part of the Bible some priests have so sadly misunderstood: 'Let the little children come unto me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.' (Matthew 19:13-14).

My grandchildren are beautiful and growing, and I can’t wait to see them. Blossom will be so big when I can hold her again and Daphne I haven't even met, except via Skype and a few pictues. I am planning to be back in Europe around May. Can’t wait.

Personal not so news in brief
  • I had a friend here from Philly. She is an online travel agent and came for a recce, adding a few days so we could chinwag after not having seen each other for some years. Back home they didn't quite believe that one could just go, fly to Peru and meet up one's friend quite casually at the bar of some restaurant in town. We made the date, we got there (on time) and it was as though we'd seen each other only last week. In fact I think the last time we met up was in London.
  • I am expecting a friend on the morning of Friday, 12 November. For Saturday, 13 November, we have our tickets for Tumbes in the north of Peru, close to the border with Ecuador. Sandy beaches, whales and dolphins (we hope), loads of fresh fish and hot, hot, sizzle. I’ll report after we get back and after she’s left, when I get back to ‘work’.
  • The doctor is doing important and interesting things; he’s very busy and delighted about the way things are working out. We are very, very happy.
  • I've just come back from the dentist and I swear he's the best dentist I've had in my entire life. I'm impressed. He's an artist if ever there was one, sense of humour, speaks English, doesn't torture, the result is brilliant and he's got a sub-tropical little garden with a calming fountain to watch while he is doing the construction work. I try and attach a picture of the garden, but it's a bit LSD-ish, thanks to bad exposure and some nifty computer technology.
  • Spring is not coming any longer, it’s here, and my collection of Pacific sunsets is growing. Sitting on the terrace with a nice cold beer (opportunity for a little word play: an ice-cold beer) and contemplating the ocean, the birds, the fishing boats and the setting sun is an unrivalled non activity. Who would have thought... 
  •  I am walking a lot around my area, Miraflores – which is huge. Lima is huge. So there is no way I could discover all of Lima on foot, just explore each area one by one (I sprinkle in some more pics taken during my walks). Haven’t been on one of the Lima Walks yet, somehow every one of my Saturdays or Sundays took off in a different direction. I’ll make it one of these days. But I am becoming quite a ‘Lime├▒a’ in the immediate neighbourhoods and know my taxi prices. A bit like in Bangkok, we bargain the price beforehand. It’s not a bad system. In Madrid, where they have meters, if they suspect you don’t know the city they drive you a few times around the block...

This time I leave you with a few jokes pulling ze legs of ze Europeans:

  • The captain of a sinking ship wondered how he could persuade his European passengers to jump in the water. He decided to appeal to the dominant instincts in each of the nationalities. He told the English it would be unsporting not to jump, the French that it would be the smart thing to do, the Germans that it was an order, and the Italians that jumping overboard was utterly prohibited.
  • A German 12-year old has never spoken a word in his life. Over dinner one evening he turns to his parents and says: “Salz, bitte” (salt, please). His astonished parents ask him why he’d never spoken before. His reply: “Bis heute war alles in Ordnung” (up to now everything was OK).
  • Sir Alec returns to his London club, fresh from his holiday in France. “Did you have a good time?” his friends ask him. “Yes, wonderful!” he says. “Did you have any problems with the language?” - “No,” says Sir Alec, “I didn’t, but the French did.”

Back with more in a couple of months.

Oh, by the way, I am drawing again and I have plans in the fine arts department. Hurrah, life is good.