An Expensive Loss

I lost my Carné de Extranjería, or Peruvian residency card, yesterday so now have to go through the process of getting a replacement card. To add to the pressure, Matt and I leave for Chile and Argentina next week, so I am anxious to get it replaced before our trip in order to avoid any problems at immigration when I try to leave or re-enter Peru. And you thought going to the DMV for a new license was bad!

To back up, getting the carné was a chore. To be fair, I suspect it is probably no easier for a foreigner to get a US visa. After filling out the paperwork, which thankfully Matt’s school’s attorney handled, I had to go to Lima to the Interpol office where I was fingerprinted, photographed and had my teeth inspected. Maria Katia, the school’s immigration attorney, guided me through the process and knew all the tricks and shortcuts, but it still was a few hours of lines and waiting. A few weeks later, on St. Paddy’s Day, I was summoned back to Lima to get the card. This process again involved several lines and a lot of waiting, but I left with the card in hand. Imagine my surprise when the clerk determined that I was a green eyed blond instead of a brown eyed brunette!

Yesterday, I went to run an errand in Cajamarca and specifically put my carné in my back pocket because I felt it was safer there as opposed to in my backpack. Wrong. Somehow, it was either picked (not likely) or fell out. After my errand, I caught a cab from the center of Cajamarca to the outskirts of Baños to get some exercise with a nice 3 1/2 mile walk home. So when I arrived at home and realized my loss, I walked the route two more times hopeful I would find my carné. I even mustered up my courage to ask two sidewalk sweepers if they found it and stopped at the police station to ask if anyone had turned it in. Apparently, it is not the culture to turn in a lost id (or anything, I guess) to the station. So they didn’t even understand what I was asking or why I would ask them.

After sending up prayers to St. Anthony and optimistically thinking that someone would show up at my door with my carné (no, it doesn’t actually contain my address) today I began the process of getting a replacement. Thankfully, Matt’s school is assisting me with this process. First, Julianna had to go to the National Bank to pay a $2.70 fee to allow us to go to the police station to file a report. Julianna and I then went to the police station with the receipt from the bank and relayed my tale of woe to the officer in charge. A young female officer got out a notebook and hand wrote the details of the loss in the book as the officer asked me questions (including whether I was married. That is always important on any document here and, in fact, Matt’s carné  initially was held up because someone had marked that he was not married). She switched between black and red ink; I never did figure out the rhyme or reason. At the same time, about 6 other male officers were in the office watching a soccer match. I signed the report and placed my fingerprint on it, another must in Peru as official documents always are signed and then your fingerprint added.

After an hour, I returned to pick up a copy of the official, typed report, signing and placing my fingerprint on the station’s original report. Actually, I found that part quite efficient; I don’t think you can get a police report in an hour in the US.

Police report

Police report


The school will send my copy to Maria Katia who will prepare the needed paperwork and secure an appointment for me in Lima with immigration. One of the big advantages to having Peruvian residency is that we get a huge discount to fly nationally. Unfortunately, because my card is lost and I can’t present it at the airport (even though my passport notes that I have residency status and I will have the police report) I can’t fly as a resident on this trip to Lima.  So instead of a $100 flight I will have a $300 flight, which actually is a bit of a bargain over the normal price for some reason. I am sure that there will be more endless waiting and long lines and several additional expenses, but I will be happy when my carné is back in hand!

So send your good vibes and prayers my way so that this process works as it is supposed to and that I have my replacement carné early next week!

Would You Let This Baby Pee in Your Ear?



Mistina, Matt and I were at our friend Maribel’s house for a lovely traditional Cajamarquino lunch of carne asada (slow cooked beef), rice and pureed potatoes when the subject of Mistina’s earache arose.

“There is the cure,” Maribel said, laughing as she pointed at her adorable, 6 month old niece Mariana, “baby urine.”

“What?” Matt and I sputtered. Mistina nodded. She had already heard this from multiple sources over the past few days.

“Baby urine. A Cajamarquino remedy. You put it in your ear and it cures your earache. Or breast milk. My sister [Mariana’s mom] will be here soon…” Maribel laughed at our shock, but the offer was sincere.

We obviously needed enlightenment. Maribel explained how a traditional home remedy for earaches is to either have a baby pee in your ear (“urine therapy”) or a nursing mother express breast milk in your ear. Maribel confirmed that her family had used these remedies with success but recognized that we would find this odd and questioned whether the remedy works because of a scientific reason or because of a placebo effect. She also raised the interesting question of whether Peruvian remedies would work on us foreigners.

We tried goading Mistina into giving it a shot, but she was having none of it. She did concede that if her ear still hurt in a week she would consider urine therapy. (Matt and I both agreed that if we had to choose one, we would choose the breast milk.) Mistina also said that she recalled reading about this urine therapy in a book about pioneer days. Apart from cleansing a wound or a snakebite, neither Matt nor I had ever heard of urine therapy. Maribel asked what our American home remedies were and apart from chicken soup for a cold, we couldn’t come up with any.

Maribel told us about another Peruvian remedy: the Limpia de Cuy, or Cleansing via Guinea Pig. For this treatment you take a black guinea pig and rub it all over the ill person’s body 3 times. Then you cut open the cuy (these poor guys never have a chance) and look at the organs to see what part is diseased. It is believed that the disease is transferred from the ill person to the cuy and manifests itself (so if you had a lung ailment, the cuy’s lungs would be bad). Maribel relayed how her father suffered from seizures for many years before he was completely cured after undergoing a Limpia de Cuy and some herbal treatments.

Maribel described other cures for various ailments that involved sprinkling salt in a cross shape in a pan, cooking it until it sizzled and then adding boiling water and sometimes an egg. These mixtures are then placed on the person’s forearms and lower legs although she conceded that it is hard to do it without burning the person.

In addition to these interesting remedies, Peru is the land of homeopathic medicine. Herbal remedies are common here, and a popular one is mate de coca, or a coca leaf tea, that is used to treat altitude sickness. Mate de coca is legal in Peru and many South American countries; however, despite the fact that it provides no narcotic effect whatsoever, it is illegal in the US and many other countries because cocaine is derived from the same plant. Chewing coca leaves is also commonly used as a stimulant for laborers and is popular with hikers trekking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu to combat the altitude and provide an energy boost.

Mate de Coca

Mate de Coca

During Carnival there were additional vendors in our town and this guy was set up on our square for a few days.

One night Matt, Mistina and I stopped by and chatted with him about his products. He is from the Amazon and was very nice about explaining the properties and uses of the different items. I bought the chuchuhuasha bark, which is supposed to be great for any joint and back pain, among many other uses. Peruvians prepare it by steeping it in alcohol for 10 days; mine has been steeping in rum for about a week now, so I haven’t tried it yet. According to various websites, it has some amazing properties and studies have confirmed some of these. He also gave us some sacha inchi nuts, which I have now researched and understand are one of the latest super food crazes used to lower cholesterol (if it hits Whole Foods and Dr. Oz, it must be mainstream).

So if these homeopathic remedies are supported by science, what about baby urine and breast milk for ear infections? My unscientific google search did not uncover any conclusive literature on the subject, but some people (including Americans) swear by it. Maggots and leeches are being used again in some US hospitals, so maybe these will be the next remedies to come into vogue.

Soundtrack of My Life (Thus Far)

A current popular blog theme is the music that shaped the writers’ lives or is entwined with their memories. So I thought I would follow suit, but it’s hard to limit my list. Mind you, I am not saying these are the best songs ever; in fact, some make me cringe, but hearing them will transport me every time.

 Weela Wallia. Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

My dad’s Irish clan loves their Irish songs and this one topped the list for me. An old woman “stuck a knife in the baby’s head; the more she stuck it, the more it bled,” wow, what an image. And then the woman gets hung for her crime; maybe this is why the legal profession appealed to me. Or not. I sang this song in kindergarten and Dad had to explain to the unamused teacher why. His response: he didn’t think anyone would understand me because I talked (and sang) so fast!

 The Butcher Boy. Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

Yes, there is a theme here.  The special treat if Grandma Dwyer rode home with your family from the cottage was that she would treat everyone to frozen custard (ah, La Ducs) and we would sing Irish songs (between licking our cones). This song, about a girl who commits suicide after her boyfriend spurns her when she gets pregnant was another favorite. My brother Tommy and I used to serenade our German neighbors with this one when we were about 4 and 7, respectively. I think our mom approved because it was a cautionary tale of the dangers of premarital sex. I’m not sure what our poor neighbors thought.

8 Days a Week. The Beatles

Older sis Mick and her best friend Chris LOVED The Beatles and thus, so did I. But they mocked me endlessly when I asked them how a week could have 8 days. Ah, I still feel the shame, but it didn’t diminish my Beatlemania. And I suppose Mick and Chris’ torture made me tougher (despite the lingering grate phobia).

Be Not Afraid. Bob Dufford & On Eagle’s Wings. Michael Joncas

I hate these songs. All the upper level girls in my Catholic grade school had to sing at funerals while the boys got an extra recess. This was horrifically depressing because the only funerals we sang at were the ones for the extremely elderly, which usually had 5 people in attendance. It embarrasses me to think about how irreverent and disrespectful I was during these funerals, but I loathed them and the blatant sexism. In eighth grade I led a protest and refused to sing at funerals any longer (this included during summer vacation when we were expected to go sing if requested). My friend’s mom said I was committing a sin and at some point I got guilted into again singing for funerals. Mind you, this had nothing to do with the quality of my voice, but rather the need for a critical mass in the choir. As an adult I have sung these songs at countless funerals and while I still hate them, I do it out of love and respect for the deceased. I maintain that it was wrong to force young girls into this role, but I do love the mystical smell of incense.

Thunder Island. Jay Ferguson

Summer of 1978. Cottage. Lazy days on the raft, truth or dare in the attic at night.

Only the Good Die Young. Billy Joel

Same summer; same memories. As a Catholic girl, it gave me hope of being naughty some day even if I didn’t totally understand the lyrics!

Jesse’s Girl. Rick Springfield

My first concert without my parents. Tommy and his friend took my friend and me to Summerfest and we saw Rick Springfield at the Main Stage. Even better – when I couldn’t see anything, Tall Paul put me on his shoulders and I felt so cool.

New Year’s Day. U2

The first music video I remember seeing once we got cable. I LOVED my MTV and watched it for hours on end. Close second in my MTV world was The One Thing by INXS.

A Boy Called Sue. Johnny Cash

My Dad’s best friend Pat would always put this one on the juke box at Irene’s, the smallest bar in Hurley, or was it Ironwood, when we were on our annual ski trips to the UP.

I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues. Elton John

My family moved in the middle of my sophomore year of high school. I was miserable and secretly cried my eyes out to this one.

Relax. Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Dad was driving me somewhere when this song came on and he asked me what the lyrics were. I lied and said I didn’t know. He probably did. I still blush when I hear this song.

I Can’t Fight This Feeling. REO Speedwagon

The plight of every younger sister is that all of your friends have crushes on your brother at some point. This was the anthem for one of my friends and her flirtation with Tommy. No, I won’t name names. But you both know and I still laugh when I hear this song.

Blister in the Sun. Violent Femmes

If you are of a certain age, and from Milwaukee, it is a given that you love the Femmes and saw them often. I had the eponymous album and played it as I got ready for my high school graduation.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles

This song is a two-fer on memory lane. The album was one of the few I took to college. It also was the song that kicked off the Live 8 concert in London in 2005. Matt and I were driving through the English countryside when the broadcast started and U2 with Sir Paul sang this song. Priceless.

 Respect. Aretha Franklin

My college roommate Amy and I would put this song on the jukebox in the bar we would hit after working our shift at the Dane County Coliseum. We would dance like maniacs and belt it out.

Come on Eileen. Dexy’s Midnight Runners

My middle name is Eileen. I don’t know any songs with Kerry.

 Baby Can I Hold You. Tracy Chapman

When I lived in Italy, some friends asked my roommate Jean and me to translate this song for them. It was good Italian practice. Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry and John Lennon’s Imagine were other favorites at that time.


UW-Madison, Class of 1990. Go Badgers!

The Parting Glass. Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

Mom defied the priest and we sang this song at Dad’s funeral. Good for any ending.

Angel. Robbie Williams

This treacly song was all the rage when my family toured Ireland with an entourage of friends. My musical friend Julie predicted she would have all of us singing it within a few days and she was right. We even had choreographed hand motions as our “performances” were on the long car rides.

Fly Me To The Moon. Frank Sinatra

Mom loved Frank and I came to share her love. Long before meeting Matt, I knew that if I ever married I wanted this to be the wedding song. Thankfully, Matt concurred.

 Watching the Wheels. John Lennon

I played this song on my way to and from work when I desperately wanted to quit a career that other people thought was great. “I just have to let it go.” And I did.

What are your song memories?