Wednesday, June 1, 2016

La actitud monopolística vs la actitud común

People have been good to us in our time in Peru—granted the majority of people with whom we’ve interacted have had an economic interest in us, but still. Generally, the conversation goes as far as you’re interested in it going; if you’re only interested in establishing prices of products etc., storeowners are generally compliant in just doing that, but if you want to stretch the limits of your Spanish a bit more, I’ve found people to be more than happy to engage you. This can range from a conversation about paintings the leads to talking about Quechua influence in Spanish.

Starting with a discussion of how nice this painting was, the woman informed me as a fun fact that in Spanish one also calls parrots “auroras” (or something sounding like that, I couldn’t quite tell). For fun, I asked how one says “parrot” in Quechua and she told me that “loro,” the word I knew previously for “parrot” in Spanish actually comes from Quechua! How funny that such a widely-used term for “parrot” in Spanish has Quechuan origins. We talked some about Machu Picchu and the area and then I ended up getting a much smaller (and less expensive) painting.

Apart from that woman I also have memories of a man who seamlessly transitioned from trying to sell me just about everything in his store to talking to me about dairy, bread and their effects on acne and his own experiences with the three, Amílcar of Maras engaging me in conversation about college and the military on the hike to Moray, as well as random people in Maras in general welcoming us to their town (and one potentially drunk man in Ollantaytambo congratulating and thanking me for the visit to the town).

By contrast, staff associated with every step of the Machu Picchu adventure were abrasive at best and outright rude at worst. It started not-so-bad—just an annoying protocol that the train staff insisted on. Despite the people sleeping with their heads on their table, they insisted that the awake people at the booths wake their snoozing friends in order to remove the basically-clean tablecloths from underneath them when they could have just as easily waited a few minutes when we reached the station. Not a big deal, but they obviously could have just waited it out/they were a little over insistent on getting those table cloths. Next was the bus ticket checker, who objected less to the fact that Gabby had the wrong ticket and more that she couldn’t have been Colombian. Third was the infamous, lionhearted watchguard of the Puerta del Sol who objected to us taking photos of Jack, Ellen, Gabby, and Alexis shotgunning beer and subsequently threw a fit, saying that he had told us not to drink at all. As his revenge, he would hound us throughout the rest of our time at la Puerta del Sol, inventing new rules to infringe on our experience along the way (“No comer!” “No se puede sentarse aquí!”). As Profe put it, “Next thing you know, he’ll be saying that laughing is also banned.”

After returning to the entrance area, Adaiah and I joined the rest of the group at the restaurant area by entering through the exit turnstile to avoid the line (we weren’t going to order any food). After an initial moment of annoyance as I thought we were going to get in trouble as a few staff members converged on us, the issue was resolved with surprising ease. A simple “Queremos unirnos a nuestro grupo” and they disbanded. However, shortly after, sitting with Sydney and Jean, a staff member comes up to me and asks if I’m eating, which I obviously was not. I explained that I was waiting on my group, a fair number of whom were eating, to which he responded “Yeahh, but you’re not.” While I boggled at the attitude and condescension in his voice, he took it a step further and gestured around himself, saying “This is a restaurant.” Meanwhile, ample table space remained available around what I had just been informed was, in fact, a restaurant. On the way out after people had finished their food, I was tempted to warn the man of the danger posed by a couple who had finished their food and were then just talking at their table, but he was far from the exit.

Lastly was the train staffer who threw a fit over the fact that I was sitting in the wrong seat—a seat that was supposed to belong to a woman who had not shown up for the train ride and was, obviously, thusly absent. He freaked out initially when he saw me sitting in seat 22, and asked which of us owned seat 22, and we gave more or less noncommittal answers. He left and returned a few minutes later, in an intense tone of voice showing me that “Maria” was supposed to be sitting in seat 22 and that I had to move even though “Maria” was nowhere to be found. I caved and moved to a seat Vandy had paid for and we all held a candle for Maria in keeping her seat vacant.

I couldn’t give you a definite answer as to why this was the case. The best I can offer is that part of it might have to do with the fact that Machu Picchu is inherently a monopoly; they can afford to be worse to you because what are you going to do, go to the other Machu Picchu? It’s a kind of cynical point of view, but I think it is at least a contributing factor. I’d like to think it has more to do with the fact that they have to deal with greater pressure from overhead about how things need to be run on Machu Picchu as well as getting jaded about all the tourists, but the unnecessary pettiness and rudeness of the watchguard and the waiter make me think it’s a little more than just that.

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