Learning from games and entertainment

I’ve found that inside and outside of the classroom the best way to practice Spanish is soften through playing and through having fun. Sometimes that means playing a card game, and other times it means going to the movies.

Of course, there’s Scrabble, which is as fun in Spanish as it is in English. The Latin American version has a very different distribution of tiles than the English version does, so I’ll probably have to purchase or borrow a Spanish-language copy if I want to continue practicing at home.

“Tutti fruiti” is a race to see who can think first of enough words that start with a given letter. For example, let’s say the group begins with the letter a. Then you fill out the chart as fast as you can by writing an animal, a thing, an action, and a food that start with a. If you finish the row first, you say “Tutti fruiti,” and everyone has to stop writing. Then you add up the points: 10 points for each unique word and 5 points for each word that someone else also got.


In Dobble, there’s a card in the middle with a number of objects and each player has a card in their hand that shares at least one of the same objects. The first person who correctly calls out the common object gets to add the card in the middle to their stack, and the person with the most cards at the end wins. While that itself is harder than it sounds, it gets even harder because after winning a round you have to draw a new card with totally different objects on it.

Finally, I’ve found it’s great practice to watch films and television shows that you’re already somewhat familiar with. For example, I went to see the new Lion King remake. Since I had already seen the original, I did not have to worry about following the plot. I could focus on the dialogue and what the characters were saying in any given moment.

Of course I’ve also been reading and watching various Peruvian books, comics, and films too. But when you want to practice with a little less difficulty you can always watch a Spanish dub of a show you’ve already seen in English.


Slang in Lima

In an effort to learn some Peruvian slang (or jergas) I’ve been asking a variety of people to help me identify some of the most common local terms and expressions. I’ve asked Peruvians in clothing shops, bars, Uber cabs, and my language school. They have been men and women and have varied in age. One must have been just eighteen or nineteen years old, and others were in their forties and fifties. I’ll describe some of the slang I’ve learned, though I’ll leave out the swear words.

It’s very common that sang terms are based on formal words that sound alike or have the same letters. When you call a car lenteja, literally meaning “lentil,” you’re really calling it lento, meaning “slow.” When you call someone mano, literally meaning “hand,” you’re really calling them hermano, meaning “brother.” When you say you want to go to the ypla, you r mean the playa, meaning the beach.

The most interesting expression, which I learned from two middle-aged women in a bar, was estoy Chihuán. It means “I’m broke,” but it actually comes from someone’s last name. Leyla Chihuán is a Congresswoman who infamously complained that her salary in Congress was not sufficient to support her lifestyle. Since most Peruvians make much less money than those in Congress do, the phrase sparked widespread ridicule and produced this slang term. Another phrase you can use when you lack money is estar misio.

Informal greetings are common among good friends but are not used in formal settings. Instead of hello, people sometimes say ¡Habla causa!,” “¡Habla batteria!,” or “¡Habla bateria!” The words causa, bateria, and pata are used like “friend” or “dude.”

I found that you’re often more likely to hear most of those words above from men, but one slang term that I only heard from women was churro.  It is an adjective used to describe a handsome man.

There are some “Peruvianisms” that seemed very familiar to everyone I talked with, and most were very comfortable using them. A choro is a thief. Chela means beer. A pituco is a rich snob. A tombo is a police officer. When you have bad luck, you say “¡Que piña!,” even though piña literally means pineapple. When you are embarassed or ashamed you can say “!Que roche!





Tacu tacu

I ordered a tacu tacu–a version of refried beans and rice–and talked to the waitress Estephanie about it.

One theory says that tacu tacu began among enslaved Afro-Peruvians who figured out how to make use of food waste. Chronicles suggest that grandmothers would prepare it for breakfast using left-overs from the previous night’s dinner. Some theorize, however,  that the dish has Quechua origins.

There are many ways to eat tacu tacu, Estefanie told me. While it’s usually made with Canary beans, sometimes it is made with lima beans or lentils. It’s sometimes eaten alongside bacon, fried eggs, or seafood, and sometimes these sides are mixed into the tacu tacu itself. Estefanie told me that tacu tacu, like the lomo saltado, is often cooked in a wok. This is an example of the extensive Chinese influence on Peruvian cuisine.

Since I was eating at an all-vegan restaurant, the dish was fried in vegan butter and was served with soy steak strips instead of animal-based meat. soy meat instead of animal-based meat. Sauteed onions and peppers were also included.


Delicious Vegetarian Food in Lima So Far

July 26 update: I’ve found an all-vegan restaurant with food that’s as delcious and even more affordable than the food at Vida Sana. It is also much closer to where I’m staying. It’s called Loving Hut, and here are some pictures of the food, which includes vegan versions of typical Peruvian dishes such as ceviche, tacu tacu, and bistec a lo pobre.

[“seafood” dish photo]

All the meat, fish, and eggs in these photos are plant-based. The chef showed me a list of the ingredients in the vegan egg. It included potato and soy for texture and sunflower oil for the color of the yolk.

Before my wife and I left to Perú, several of our friends remarked that we would have a very difficult or even impossible time keeping a vegetarian diet in Perú, given the heavy amounts of seafood people eat here with Lima being right on the Pacific Ocean. However, we have found that the vegetarian cuisine here is rich, delicious, affordable, and abundant.

For example, I ate out once with a friend who ordered fish and it cost twice as much as the vegan meal I ordered. I can’t remember what I ordered exactly, but it may have been lomo vegano (based on the lomo saltado), a common vegan meal pictured here. Most restaurants will make it for you even if it’s not on the menu.

Our meat-eating friends once brought us to a McDonald’s here, and we noticed that a hamburger costs 15 soles, or about 5 U.S. dollars. For the same price, you can get a multi-course, delicious vegetarian meal at the downtown restaurant Vida Sana including an appetizer, entree, tea, dessert, and a generous tip. You can see in these photos that the meals there combine fresh vegetables with a bit of delicious soy protein.

Another safe bet is to go to the ubiquitous chifa restaurants that mix together Chinese and Peruvian cuisines. These usually have several vegetarian and vegan options. I recently ordered these mixed veggies and tofu over noodles, and I’ve found that you can order similar dishes at pretty much any chifa restaurant. Vegetarian chaufa, a fried rice mixing Chinese and Peruvian style ingredients and flavors, is also easy to find at chifa restaurants (the photo of the chaufa is from the Internet and the only one that we didn’t take ourselves).

Today for lunch, my wife and I decided to check out a more upscale all-vegan restaurant called Veda. We were so hungry–and indecisive!–that we shared 3 entrees between us, but the bill still ended up being only about $15 for each of us.

The first entree was a margarita pizza made with cashew cheese. Second was called ananda and included a lentil stew, spinach, and artisenal bread. Third was a lentil burger with a sweet potato bun and fries. And for dessert, we had a vegan cheesecake. It was absolutely delicious, perhaps the best meal we’ve had here so far.

Of course, the cheapest option is to cook at home, and we do that a lot even though our apartment lacks an oven and has a barely-functioning stove. I cooked this tofu and veggie stir-fry last night, and the ingredients didn’t cost very much. The only hard part was finding the tofu. The supermarket keeps tofu in the cheese section for some reason! Burritos are another easy easy meal to make.

My point is that being a vegetarian in Lima has been pretty easy, and I’d bet that being more strictly vegan (as we are at home in the U.S.) would also be possible albeit more difficult.

You might protest that I’m missing out on a lot. Well, I’ve tried bites of the ceviche and lomo saltado and other meat and fish dishes from friends’ plates. I even had a bite of someone’s piranha (don’t believe me? here’s the picture!) The truth is that I think these vegetarian dishes are always comparable and often better than what they’re eating. And it’s almost always cheaper.

^^(Yuck. Yes I did have a bite, but, no, you’re not missing much.)

Celebrations in the Streets: Fútbol and LGBTQI Pride

For my second post, I’d like to share a couple instances where the people of Lima have taken the streets for celebration while I’ve been here. First, I saw that the frenzy of soccer matches comes close even to what I’ve seen in South Bend following football. Second, I’ve learned that Peruvians take the street not only for sports but also for social justice and dignity.

On June 18th, I headed to a small bar near Kennedy Park to catch a soccer match between Perú and Bolivia. It seemed that practically everyone in Lima watches these American Cup soccer games, whatever their age or gender. To my alarm, even the Uber drivers watch the games their smart phones as they drive.

The large crowd, packed into a small martini bar and sipping on beers and pisco sours, roared with delight as Perú’s captain Paola Guerrero scored his team’s first goal. I’m not much of a sports fan, but even I got swept into the excitement as we all stared at the relatively small television screen hanging above the bartender’s head.

When Perú won the match, 3 to 1, celebration broke out and fans rushed into the streets. Fireworks, banners, and costumes sprung seemingly out of nowhere. A group marching in the streets chanted “Perú!” each several seconds to the beat of a catchy drum roll.

I went yesterday to observe Lima’s 18th annual LGBTQI Pride parade. Thousands of rainbow flags filled the streets.


Paracas and Ica

Last weekend, I went on a day-trip to Peru’s coastal towns of Paracas and Ica. The bus left Lima at 5 am and would not return until midnight.

Upon arrival in Paracas, we boarded a boat and saw the world-famous ancient Candelabra lines. A newspaper explains their significance: “Thought to date back to 200 B.C., the Candelabra’s well-preserved state owes to its location: the nitrous atmosphere in the hill acts as a binder, compressing and hardening the sand surrounding the geoglyph. Likewise, Paracas’ strong winds regularly remove any excess sand from its canals, keeping lines well-defined.”

The boat continued to an series of small islands and rocks home to sea lions and penguins. The penguins are hard to see in these photos, but they’re there!

We continued to Ica, where there rests an oasis known as the Huacachina lagoon. We held on for our lives as our dune buggy sped up the sandy hill, and as we rode sand-boards part of the way down.