Off to the Fongal

Cajamarca is the dairy region of Peru, so we Wisconsinites feel right at home.  There are a lot of cheese shops although  to our amusement the large grocery store also sells Crystal Farms cheeses (not Wisconsin’s finest, unfortunately).  No novices to state and county fairs, we were excited to experience the Cajamarca Fongal, or state fair, in late July.  Cruz had cautioned us that the Fongal had diminished over the past few years and that people got really drunk, but as that didn’t sound much different than Milwaukee’s Summer Fest or the Wisconsin State Fair, we weren’t dissuaded.

On Thursday we arrived around 5:30 and it appeared that the Fongal was not yet in full swing.  We watched some sheep and alpaca get unloaded, visited the few food and craft booths that were open and generally tried to avoid the cow and other animal pies in the field.

There were two types of food booths: the ones that sold packaged products and the ones that sold various hot foods.  The Fongal was not as clean as the Mixtura and this adventure was shortly after we arrived in Cajamarca, so I wasn’t keen on eating any of the hot foods.  We did get tastes of various products and bought the soy puffs, some fresh cheese with herbs and chocolate.  As usual, the vendors were really nice to us and patiently explained their products.  It gets totally dark by 6:30 (every day, that’s life near the equator) and there wasn’t much happening, so we left about that time.

Fongal Treats

On Saturday we again walked over to the Fongal around 5-ish, thinking we would check out the scene while it was still light and return later for the Kurt Cobain concert.  Yep, Kurt Cobain “Peru” was playing.  We were cracking up over that and Matt even said to the ticket seller “Kurt Cobain is dead,” which earned him a laugh.  While the fair was busier than on Thursday and more booths had opened, we unfortunately arrived just as some traditional dancing and cow showing (not related) ended and then the events were over apart from the concert.  My sweet tooth overcame hygiene and we indulged in piccarones, fried sweet potato/squash doughnuts topped with sugar cane syrup, that are quite similar to my Auntie Rose’s famous St. Joseph’s Day tucinelle.  We caught a few songs of an opener band and then headed home with the intention of returning later for Kurt Cobain.

Instead we ended up in Cajamarca for drinks with Cruz and the new American teachers.  We went to a place called Full Skee (which we understood to basically mean “you are full of sh*t”) where they had a huge drink menu, including many American favorites.   I had a very tasty American cosmopolitan before switching over to a Peruvian pisco sour.  The place had excellent drinks, a good vibe and nice music but was oddly well lit.  No beer goggles in Peru, apparently.  We got home around 1:15 and while Kurt Cobain was still in full swing, Matt and I did not stop in at the Fongal.  Expecting a Nirvana cover band, I was surprised the band was rocking “Sweet Child of Mine” and “I Love Rock and Roll” instead.  I suspect poor Kurt was rolling in his grave.

Home Is … Where?

I returned to Peru on Monday after a two week visit to the States.  The trip was exhausting, but great.  I attended my friends’ wedding in the North Woods, crammed in dates with as many family and friends as possible, ate and drank at many of my favorite Milwaukee establishments (Distil,  Lalli’s Pizza, Kopps, Harbor House, to name a few) and shopped for my list of random items.  My first morning home I spent an hour in Walgreens and was giddy from all the choices I could make when buying sundries. Thank goodness my retail excitement had waned by the time I hit Target later in the trip or who knows how many hours (or dollars) I would have wasted there.

But as I suspected would occur when I set off, I returned to Peru feeling adrift.  Not unhappy, just disoriented.  In Milwaukee, I was in my comfort zone – I was surrounded by people who know me well, had my car, knew where I was going, spoke the language, understood the customs and enjoyed all the comforts of the U.S.  But I don’t have a home there.  In fact, over the course of 12 nights I stayed in 5 different places.  I was a visitor, which felt odd given that I was in the city of my birth and my hometown for most of my life.  Toward the end of the trip, I was looking forward to being “home” in Peru, with my routine, house, bed and, of course, Matt.

But back in Peru, I remained unsettled.  I had to readjust to the dust and litter, the crumbling sidewalks, the stares on the street and the language barrier.  But there was also the familiar: Matt, our house, the mountains, the route from the airport, the egg vendor who asked where I had been.  We don’t plan to live in Peru forever, but we also don’t anticipate returning to the U.S. after we leave Peru.  I have one foot in each place, without being committed to either.  I have asked other expats where they feel their homes are or when they felt the U.S. was no longer home, and the responses varied.  Some feel the U.S. is always home, others say after a few years or a few moves they felt that each new place was home.

In order to combat this discombobulated feeling, I decided to make Peru more homey, even if our time here is limited to a few years.   To that end I have been on a shopping spree to finish outfitting our house with some of the miscellaneous items that we hadn’t bothered to get around to buying, such as a second guest bed (we are open for visitors!), a lamp, couch pillows and a coat tree.  There are a few more items on the list but I am not going to delay due to the uncertainty as to how long Peru will be our home.

Bottom line: my heart will always be in Wisconsin, even if my home is elsewhere.