Reflections During the Waning Dog Days of Summer

Life has started to slow down here on Wyndham Circle. While tiny signs of fall have struggled to emerge, they have been quickly stomped out by summer’s jealous heat and humidity. The DC area is a former swamp, after all.

Today I am indulging in a day off from work. Part of the reason is because my new accent chair was to be delivered today, but the biggest reason is that I simply needed a break. Time is precious. Work is important but so is free time to do what I want, even if it is nothing at all.

I have a colleague at work with ties to North Africa and Italy. He works in the peace building space with a focus on Libya and North Africa and the roles Europe and the United States play in the efforts to relieve the political turmoil taking place in that part of the world. Yesterday he told me about a friend of his who like him, is also an Italian working on the ground in areas of strife and unrest. This particular friend of his survived the war and violence of Afghanistan, the dangerous environment of North Africa, and the ferociousness of much of the Middle East only to come home to Italy after working in these areas of tumult so he could be killed in his own bed under his own roof during one of the strongest earthquakes Italy has seen in recent history. “Death has a strange sense of humor,” my colleague told me somberly.

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My office for today is my small, but comfortable home. My company is my cat and the friends I am calling who I have not spoken to in months. I am reminded that days like this should be treasured.

I remember his words on my day off work, during these waning dog days of summer; a day when I have peace and quiet, calmness and contentment and not the stress and exhaustion that is part of my daily job. I am spending this day in my small but beautiful home, enjoying my time on this earth and the simple pleasures that come with it. I am calling friends I have not seen or spoken to in ages. I am eating healthy food that also brings me delight. I am thinking how wonderful it is that I have been blessed to enjoy days like this when there are so many people in this world who are truly suffering. I am remembering that life is like the Wheel of Fortune. Some days/months/years are good and happy ones and some are difficult, depressing and severe, but that nothing—except death—is permanent. And for that reason, nothing should be taken for granted.

Enjoy the simple pleasures in your life. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

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Politicians and “Hero Syndrome” in Peru

Apparently there are shanty towns throughout Peru, especially near Lima, where villagers from rural areas, particularly the Andes region, have left their hometowns in search of work in the capital. This migration has created several unregulated communities of makeshift homes, almost all lacking running water or electricity, among other basic needs. Also known as pueblos jóvenes, these communities were essentially created illegally and have existed for years without any government regulation — or support.

This being an election year in Peru, you can imagine the wealth of votes opportunistic politicians see in these pueblos jóvenes. For as J. Miguel told me before, the key to winning an election in Peru is winning over the blue collar voters.  Continue reading

Politics in Peru: A Love-Hate Relationship

So it looks like a contender has finally emerged for Keiko Fujimori: Pedro Pablo Kaczynski who, according to this article, is Oxford educated yet speaks Spanish with an American accent, has a U.S. passport, is married to a woman related to Hollywood actress Jessica Lange, and runs a campaign with the slogan, “Gringo on the Outside, Cholo on the Inside.”

When I asked J. Miguel if this is the candidate he voted for, he told me apathetically that he is not. While J. Miguel remains secretive about who his candidate of choice is, he did tell me in response to the Fujimori-Kaczynski runoff that “it’s the same old people running for president in Peru. They just rotate among each other year after year — no one new ever gets a chance to become a serious contender.” Continue reading

Race, Ethnicity and Identity in Peru

About 50 percent of the time, Peru’s Canal Sur is playing on our TV at home. Sometimes I watch it, but it’s really J. Miguel’s source of news and entertainment from the homeland and not something I pay much attention to. However, it doesn’t take a casual viewer to notice how Peruvian popular television under-represents the country’s actual demographic make-up.

For someone who isn’t well tuned into the broader Latino world, it would be hard to tell if Canal Sur is coming from Spain or South America. Most people on the channel’s programming are South American Caucasian, and there is almost no representation of the country’s indigenous or Afro-descendant populations. (And forget about Peru’s Asian citizens with roots from China and Japan, despite the fact they have had a Japanese-Peruvian as president whose daughter is now running for her father’s past post.) Continue reading

Ask a Peruvian: Q & A about Peru’s Presidential Elections

I posted to my personal Facebook page photos from yesterday’s Peruvian Presidential Elections in Washington, DC, along with a little description about how compulsory voting works in Peru (and for Peruvians abroad) and what’s at stake this year. My blog post about the day can be accessed here.

I was surprised at how many of my friends were interested in learning more about the elections and how many had questions for J. Miguel. I thought I’d share their questions and his (and my) answers since it ended up being a really fascinating online discussion: Continue reading

Observing the Peruvian Presidential Elections for the Washington, DC Area

It’s Election Day in Peru, and that means all Peruvians, including ex-pats living abroad, are obligated to vote. So when my boyfriend, J. Miguel, drove off to Falls Church to conduct his obligatory civic duty, I tagged along to observe, on the ground, Peru’s expatriate elections for the Washington, DC area.

For those not following the politics of this small, South American country, it might be helpful to know a little bit about what’s at stake in Peru’s 2016 Presidential Elections. Today’s vote is Peru’s equivalent to the United States’ presidential primary elections. And like the Clinton name in the United States, “Fujimori” is a household name in Peruvian politics. Alberto Fujimori enjoyed a decade of power as Peru’s president between 1990 and 2000, but not without controversy, which has subsequently resulted in a prison term he is currently carrying out. His daughter Keiko is now running for the country’s top seat, and she is bringing with her both her father’s legacy and baggage, which seem to work for and against her in this election. Continue reading