I am thankful for Cosby sweaters, delicious salty beans and being Peru’s very own Jolly White Giant. In that order.

Indeed, the Cosby sweater never went out of style here. Or actually, considering alpaca-patterned wool has been around Peru for centuries, it should probably be called the Peru sweater. I’m guessing it was Bill who bit Peru’s steez back in the day. Either way, the Cosby sweater is to Peru what the mullet is to Chile; that is, it’s everywhere! And now, including in my very own possession. Don’t be jealous, ironic hipsters, I’m taking orders so you, too, can have one. (Prices negotiable — write marissa.payne(at)gmail.com for inquiries. Seriously.):

Additionally, after buying my Cosby sweater for the lovely price of 20 soles ($7.07) at the central market, I ran into a whole bunch of grains and legumes for sale. And we all know I love a fine legume…

OMG! Look at all those delicious legumes! So enticing were these legumes, in fact, that I couldn’t resist and I ended up buying some “salty beans.”

And, hot damn, were they delicious! I think next to crap made from the coca leaf (except for cocaine, on which I believe Colombia still has a leg up a straw up its nose on the entire world), deep fried legumes, grains and tubers seem to be the national items of choice to put in your mouth in Peru. Next to salty beans, my next favorite Peruvian snack are yam chips. Seriously, why don’t yam Lays or yam Ruffles exist? (I “yam” not the only one who thinks that’s a good idea, right? In fact, it’s downright puntastical!)

But all the yam puns I yam thinking of aside, Peru, in general, and Cusco, specifically, have made me feel very, very special. And not just in that “Wow, my vocabulary in Spanish is equivalent to that of a newborn’s” kind of way. No, I feel special in that “Wow, I’m a giant, gringa freak” kind of way.

Well, look at that! I’m the Jolly White Giant! Or at least I’m pretty sure that’s what these locals (relatively; they were Peruvian, but from somewhere outside of Cusco) probably thought after chasing me down the street to ask me for a photo. I gladly obliged because, you know, who am I to deny these people a lifetime souvenir image with yours truly? That’s just cruel.

But then they told me something that not only deflated my ego, but also made me hate backpackers even more: “You’re about the 10th person we asked and you’re the only one who said yes!”

“Uh, what?” I thought. “They asked others?”

“We don’t have gringas where we live and we wanted a picture!”

“THEY ASKED OTHERS?” But then I thought of something more legitimate to be outraged about. Why had these nine other gringas snubbed them?

Later that night, while snuggling in bed with my Cosby sweater and snacking on some delicious salty beans, I thought maybe it was a language barrier issue. But then I remember my Spanish is remedial and the word for photo in Spanish is foto, not to mention the three cameras that were waved in my face. So unless these girls ran into nine Helen Kellers, it had to be something else.

And then it hit me. I sat up dramatically, brushed my Cosby/Peru sweater aside and wiped the salty bean drool from my chin. “Holy crap,” I shouted. “Are we are all so paranoid in the First World of poor people robbing us that we would snub children and their cute little mom? Were these nine others so afraid that this friendly little quintet was involved in some elaborate pick-pocketing ruse. Like, one would snap the photo and another would dig in your bag?”


Come to think of it, that’s not actually a bad idea and maybe I’m naïve for only thinking of it now, but I’m glad this didn’t run through my head at the time. If it did, would I still have taken the photo? Would I still have later sat down on the steps with this group and practiced my Spanish with them for half an hour? They taught me the word for yawn — bostezo.

I don’t know. I hope I still would. I can’t imagine myself not, to be honest. But then again, I’m kind of weird. And not necessarily smart. Yet so far, that combo has actually worked for me. Like I said, I’m not so into backpacker culture, so if I didn’t talk to locals, I suppose I wouldn’t be talking to anyone.

But besides simply entertaining myself for 30 minutes, hopefully I did something for these girls and their mom, as well. Hopefully, I made up for those nine other paranoid gringas, who snubbed them out of fear, and, hopefully, I entertained them for that 30 minutes as much as they entertained me. At the very least, hopefully my broken Spanish and big gringa grin changed the stereotype of North Americans being assholes who only like to travel to other countries if they never have to interact with the local population. In other words, I hope I’m the Obama of Cusco right now, in that I revolutionized America’s image by just being in the right place at the right time. (POLITICAL ZING!)

Anyway, I hope on this “Dia de Dar Gracias,” as it were, you not only give thanks for what you have, but that you can do something for someone else that will make them want to thank you. Even if it’s just acknowledging another person’s presence as a fellow human. And hopefully, I’ll do the same. But first, I need to break in what might be a new tradition of my own —  a Thanksgiving Peruvian chicken dinner.

Two dollars of heaven…