Sunday, August 6, 2017

Fixing the Broken in Chiclayo, Peru

In Chiclayo, holding a Rottweiler puppy.
I fixed my J. Crew magic wallet in Chiclayo, the City of Friendship, also known as the Pearl of the North. It's the kind of wallet that has a band, which holds money beneath it. (Though to be honest, I don't know what's magical about it; it hasn't brought me a great fortune yet. Perhaps, it's magical, because it gets you out of debt.)

I had to take a three and a half hour ride from my beach town, where a little boy who sat behind me kept putting his hand on my shoulder. I stayed longer in Chiclayo than I imagined, because even though the city wasn't beautiful, the people were. And because of this, Chiclayo has a special place in my heart.

Although Chiclayo has a population of about 600,000, it feels like a big small town, if that makes any sense. It's success comes from being an intersection for the highlands, the ocean, and the jungle.

At my hotel, in the mornings, I wake up, and my hotel owner - a friendly man who acts fatherly towards his guests, says - with great enthusiasm - "Good morning."

He asks, "How I am?" often. And after awhile, his wife took a liking to me, and she cooked me an omelet.

He cooked me an egg once. They often ask me to sit with them for breakfast, where I drink my coffee and talk to them about life.

J. Crew Magic Wallet,
notice the bad quality of the band.
The man and wife of my hotel make fun of my breakfast too. She says, "You don't eat anything for breakfast. You just drink coffee."

One time, for breakfast, a pharmacist sat with us. I asked him what to do about the swelling from the mosquito bites. It was a complex conversation and rather technical. I could follow some of it, but not all of it. The conversation was worth a lot in terms of improving my Spanish.

In the end, he wrote me a prescription. I asked him how the active ingredient worked. He couldn't explain it to me. The hotel owner said he enjoyed listening to our conversation - as I tried to pry out as much information from him on pharmacology. (The hotel owner knew I was an attorney, but the pharmacist didn't. I think he enjoyed watching two professionals talk - which he said was different for him.)

I asked the pharmacist if he knew how to make cocaine too. He said he didn't know how. I told him I did and told him how. I said I learned how to make aspirin in organic chemistry lab, and it's a similar process to make cocaine. I told him I chewed on cocaine leaves in Iquitos, and it did nothing for me. The pharmacist only said that it was an opiate.

(As an aside, it's probably been a good change for me to stay in a place where generally only Peruvians vacation. I would have never met a Spanish speaking pharmacist at an establishment for foreigners.)

I'm staying at a family-friendly place. One big family was there. The little boy loves my computer, especially when I watch music videos on Youtube. When he hears my Spanish, he tells his mother that I'm not from here and can't speak lots of Spanish. He keeps asking about my computer and using it. I didn't let him use it, because I didn't think it'd be good for him to like such things at such an early age. Maybe I made the wrong judgment, but that's what my instincts told me.

My brother Scott bought me my computer for Christmas, after my last one broke. He appreciated that in the summer, we were in Chile together, and I had enough miles to get him a business class flight - which he couldn't stop raving about. After my computer died, (and I mean it was dead as dead could be, for I had overused it in law school and burnt it out), my mother hounded him to get me a new one. She doesn't even know how to use a computer, but she could see that I was struggling to work without one.

At the time, and probably still, I was as poor as poor could be, because I had no job, no money, not even money for Christmas presents. I had just finished passing the bar and had just started suing Baldwin Park without any cashflow and a huge student loan hanging over my head. I remember being so depressed to not have any money back then to buy anyone anything for Christmas. But that Christmas, Scott bought me a MacBook, which I've used since. Now, this little boy was fascinated with it. But I didn't think it was good for him.

Getting back to Chiclayo. There's nothing that special about Chiclayo, except that they are the most friendly people I have met in Peru. Only once, did I have a bad experience with a woman who was entitled and shoved me aside to take my seat in a colectivo.

The food is also very nice. They're mainly known for stewed goat and duck and rice. Nonetheless, I think they don't cook the duck correctly. Good duck should have the crispiest skin, because it's naturally greasy and fatty. Hence, when cooked in its own fat, it tastes delicious.

The area is also known to have hidden tombs, tomb raiders, and archaeologists. One day, I went to a recently opened museum called the Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipan. There was a recent discovery of some ancient graves, which had ancient and beautiful jewelry, gold and silver and copper, art, and skeletons. The tomb raiders were upset though, because they thought it belonged to them and not the government. Apparently, fighting began between the two groups, and a tomb raider was shot and killed in the skirmish.

On another day, I had my magic wallet fixed, as I was mentioning. At the markets, there are also these shanty repair shops. It reminds me of Baldwin Park's Swamp Meet, a kind of Latin American outside mall made up of kiosks. The main repairers fix shoes and bags and watches.

I asked the tailor where I could fix my wallet, and the tailor said try the watch repairer. I asked the watch repairer and he said to ask the shoe repairer. The shoe repairer then said I needed to find a guy named Chia - who was the expert in fixing everything.

I found Chia. I showed him the problem. He said he could fix it. He disassembled the entire wallet. Fixed the band. Stitched it back up. I paid him. He smiled. He took a photo of my wallet, because he had never seen anything like it and found it interesting.

I hope someone associated with J. Crew reads this and changes its practice. I wrote an email to the CEO about how the wallet was meant to wear out to force me to buy a new one, meaning these things are not built to last. I said it was not good practice and cheapens J. Crew's reputation.

In any event, I took great joy in repairing my wallet - which I had for five years. I have an unusual fixation in fixing objects. Anyone who knows me, also knows I even restored a classic car.

I try to fix all broken objects I love. I think I'm into restoring my stuff, instead of throwing it away, because I tell myself - if broken things can be fixed, then broke people can be fixed too. Also, what kind of attitude is it to throw away the broken - whether it's with people or objects? Finally, I believe when something or someone is fixed from damage - that area always becomes stronger. For these reasons, I have a semi-obsession with restoring worthy objects.
My memory of Chiclayo - Beautiful people in
an average looking city. 

Other than that, I just finished reading Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby. After, I reread the introduction, as I did for Hemingway's A Dangerous Summer. I read the commentator's afterthought. I told myself I'm not reading this book again; it was almost as if I forced my way through it.

It's an ugly story written beautifully. I appreciate it and am in awe of Fitzgerald's genius and imagination. But, I can't get past the fact that Gatsby is an ugly story, which really is a criticism on the ugliness of the American Dream and the formation of the American identity. This is the reason the book ends with a discussion on the West and Manifest Destiny.

I can't help but also be reminded that the tragic Gatsby story turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy for Fitzgerald. Like Gatsby, the end of Fitzgerald's life was ugly. He died young, an alcoholic (which Gatsby wasn't), in poverty, and in depression,. Some say that Zelda, his sweetheart, killed Ftizgerald, especially when she had to be locked up in asylum. In the end, Fitzgerald turned into an alcoholic in his thirties, and really after that, didn't write anymore great novels. It's very sad.

A cat that let me pet her. She has nice green eyes.
Nonetheless, here are two quotes that I found in Gatsby that I love: "No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”

Here's another one: "There I was, way off my ambitions, getting deeper in love every minute, and all of a sudden I didn't care.”

After I finished Gatsby, I left the novel at the hotel. I liked the idea that wherever I went, I was leaving stories behind, unlike Daisy and Tom in Gatsby, who the narrator says: "smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, . . . and let other people clean up the mess they had made[.]" (This certainly reminds me of the Baldwin Park's Mayor and Council Members and Carrillo and others.) Besides them, I guess we all know people like that.

Well, hopefully, I'm also finding new stories and living a great one myself.

Well, that's four books down. Four books left. I started Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I realized all my books I'm reading are by white males on this trip (and probably other trips). Is that a coincidence? This trip has me thinking about all of that.

Me holding a puppy in Chiclayo.
I wanted to end this article by talking about finding puppies for sale. When I saw them, I wanted to buy them all and present them to my mother as presents.

I don't think she'd appreciate it though. I don't think Jeh Pan would want another member in the family too; he already feels annoyed by the new chick that hatched recently. In any event, the whole affair made me miss home and my family and my friends and my animalitos once again. But it's a beautiful thing that I'm reminded of them constantly; it's clear: I love them all.

Stingray tortilla with beans.

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