El Carmen, Perú
They say be aware of strangers bearing gifts. What about strangers being aware of to whom they give gifts?
The first weird gift-giving experience occurred when I stopped by the home of a family where I already established rapport. I brought them electronic gadgets and some stationary supplies for the children who were asleep at the time. When I told the children the next morning, they told me that they “never” received the gifts, and they reminded me repeatedly about those gifts. I was not in the mood to confront the mother; I just felt she would get around to giving it to them eventually. I also gave away Luther Vandross and Tupac Shakur t-shirts to some friends I met, and those items, too, disappeared.
When I returned home to the U.S., I discussed my gift-giving escapades with Joe, a Peruvian-American who laughed hysterically and told me that in impoverished areas like that those items I gave as gifts were most likely sold. ”Those people are about the benjamins, moron,” Joe concluded. Although, I took his words with a grain of salt, they remained in the back of my mind during future trips, such as the time I taught a young girl to tell time, then bought her a clock. That clock, too, disappeared.
However, on my last trip, I bought this same little girl, per her request, a brand new bicycle of which she seemed to enjoy.. Joe's words crept back into my mind about the possibility of it being sold. Sure enough, when I returned to Perú the following year, the bicycle was no where around. When I asked about it, I heard a lot of vague reasons. The final last straw was when I bought the best quality fresh fish for several families. The next day, I saw one woman walking down the street with the fish chopped in pieces trying to sell it. Finally, lesson learned
I still love El Carmen, Perú. I get free rent where I stay and am treated like family. The experience helps my Spanish and helps me relate to Spanish-speaking clients at work. Overall, the money that I spend is relatively a cheap, inexpensive, and fun way to get the language and cultural immersion that I need to help me professionally, and perhaps, end up with an even better job in the future because of this ezperience..