Always Carry A Safety Bag
Nelí, Ian and I were just finishing up lunch when we heard the music and fireworks begin. I innocently poked my head out the door to watch the parade pass by, and Ian and I were subsequently swept away into the dancing throng of our Peruvian neighbors. I barely had time to slip on my shoes.
Of course, it is Carnaval time here and everywhere. In Perú, Carnaval can mean everything from parades and street dancing to water balloon fights and paint-or-flour-covered children. Think less beads, more balloons. However, it also means parties with chicha and multiple-course meals. Actually, multiple-course meals are the norm here. It’s also customary to always be offered food when you are invited into someone’s home. And when you are offered food, you’d better finish your plate.
When the parade ended, the mayor ushered us and about 40 of our neighbors into a house for lunch. (Keep in mind, we’d just finished lunch with our host mom.) I ate the beet salad and finished the bowl of high-five soup like a Peace Corps pro. Then our generous hostesses brought out the third, fourth and fifth courses. No big deal. I’ll just grab my…. rut roh. In the midst of my innocent interest in watching the parade and subsequent participation in said parade, I forgot my purse. More importantly, I forgot the safety bag inside my purse. Rookie mistake.
What is a safety bag, you ask? You see, during Pre-Service Training, I got sick. A lot. New food sick. Street-hamburger sick. Ceviche sick. Shoveling-cow-poop sick. 24-hour-ride-thru-the-Andes sick. Weaving-through-Lima-traffic sick. I’m sure you get the idea. Anyway, I learned to always carry an empty plastic bag. It made life less messy. After my first visit to Amazonas in November, I learned this magical plastic bag could also be used to “guardar” (save) food when it becomes physically impossible to finish your second (or third) lunch in a row. I’m such a fan of the safety bag that my superlative at the end of Pre-Service Training was “most likely to carry a safety bag.”
Today I made a grievous error. In the haze of Carnaval’s fireworks, I left my beloved safety bag at home. Fortunately, I was sitting next to the mayor’s wife and she gave me one. If not for her preparedness, Ian would have rolled me home.
So, do as I say and not as I do. Always, always carry a safety bag. You can thank me later.