Strictly Observations

Fifteen minutes.

No metaphors.

Little embellishment.

Compact moto-taxis, large trucks, honk-y taxis, rickety busses, whip past me on the main road.

Palm in the air, I dodge the large trucks and rickety busses as I cross the wide road.

A pack of dogs and flies dig ferociously through the freshly deposited trash bags on the side of the main road.

I plug my nose.

Men bathed in black car grease/oil shuffle past me.

I jump down a steep sidewalk step and barely sidestep the 10-ft-wide hole.

I walk towards an old man who whips out his pajarito to pee.

Mountains of stacked potato sacks wait to be boiled and peeled.

One man slides under a car. Two men perch over watching carefully.

Puneño migrants hunch over between their makeshift cardboard fortune-teller kiosks.

I avoid a puddle of dark liquid substance on the asphalt. (Tacna rarely receives rain, so it’s definitely not fresh.)

A dozen lubricentros display ads with women in sexy poses and minimal clothing holding Repsol oil. (An obvious connection).

Social commentary runs wild through my mind.

Men with leathered skin slice fishing net.

Weathered women sell buckets ranging in sizes big enough to fit my body and small enough to house a mouse.

I look to my right, and my amusement resumes.

Brayan, my 6-yr-old student, clutching a plastic tiger in his parents’ glass store flashes a wide toothless grin when I whisper to him our new secret: “’tiger’ means tigre in English.”

Four women pull out two 5-liter buckets of oil setting up their fried dough stand.

A family of four sits in the back of a so-not-legal-in-the-States-truck selling mango juice to the man working in the plumbing store.

I pass the open parking lot with a bed plopped in the corner occupied by a snoring napper.

A group of tired men crouch on a bench outside of the cemetery armed with black backpacks, (Stuffed in those packs are live lizards. If you´re lucky enough, you get to witness the men dismember the lizards and slap them onto a brave patient´s wound. Legend has it the lizards will cure.)

Simona, my flower casera, sits amidst her surplus of flowers with bright eyes, a metal smile, and braids down to her bum.

“Hmm…no one whistled at me today…it’s a good day,” I think to myself.

And finally Fe y Alegria’s portero Ricardo greets me at the school’s towering red gate. He asks if I’m going to play soccer this Friday with the teachers.

I respond with an LOL and say I’ll participate in the post-game confraternidad.


I made these observations on May 9, 2017 on my daily 15-minute walk from lunch at the Hermanas de San Jose back to work at school. I borrowed this idea from poet Mary Howe. Howe shared this type of exercise she assigns her college classes in an “On Being with Krista Tippet” interview. I hope to continue this writing exercise to help me comprehend the wacky-ness I observe coupled with the curiosity and awe I feel.

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