Friday, February 29, 2008


Lots to talk about, but here's some pictures to satiate your appetites. I know, they need some captions, but I'll do that later...

J. Riley

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Salazar Family Reunion

After completing the important business of my first day in Peru, we met up with Erika's friends Ketty and Renzo to go to the beach for a little bit to pass the rest of the day before the family reunion party later that night. Beaches tend not to be the best place to reserve strength for a booze fest that will last until the next morning after a red-eye flight down the previous night and an emotionally draining event, but what the heck. Maybe I'm too used to my short trips down here and trying to squeeze everything possible into a day....

Anyway, we headed out to the beach, stopping at a cevicheria near the beach for a little lunch first. Ceviche is a collection of wonderful seafood dishes that is essentially raw fish, clams, etc. that are doused with lime juice, spices, and red onions. The acid in the lime juice actually "cooks" the fish so that it isn't raw like sushi, but isn't really cooked. It's absolutely a must-try and I love to eat the stuff.

After chilling late in the afternoon on a beach that had a club nearby that was blasting club music over the sand, we headed home to rest up for the night. I believe that I took a nap, but I know that at around 9:00pm, we headed down Erika's street to try to find a taxi that would take us way across town to this place where the party was. I had absolutely know idea what it would be like, but I actually mentally drew a pretty accurate picture for once. Being in Peru, it was naturally partially outdoor, which is critical considering how hot and cigarette-filled clubs can be. I found out later that it wasn't actually a purely-Salazar family reunion, in fact anyone could attend that wanted to (if they bought a ticket). It was more of a carnival celebration of Cajamarcan culture. Cajamarca is a city in northern Peru where Erika's family is from and, incidentally, was where the Spanish conquistadors first met and decimated the Incas. But I won't go off on that tangent right now :o).

The reunion was composed of live-music playing traditional "huayno" music (I was briefly taught how the dance worked earlier in the day), hordes of Salazars (there are 14 brothers and sister's in Erika's dad's family, plus their spouses, kids, girlfriends and boyfriends, nieces, etc. ) who had taken the 18 hour bus rides down from Cajamarca or other parts of northern Peru and basically none of them spoke much English - at least until later in the night after the beer had been flowing and a about two of them spoke a few words. There was a selected/elected King and Queen of the party, amazing demonstrations of traditional dancing (marinera and huayno) by nine-year-olds, and beer, lots of beer.

In the midst of all of this, I think I violated almost all sanitary policies that could possibly be violated. I hadn't brought my bottle of Purell, I wasn't about to use the sinks in the bathrooms, and, best of all, was the way that the beer was drunk. People would buy cases of beer at a time that came with a single small plastic cup. People would kind of stand around and, after first opening the bottle of beer with their teeth (maybe that's why there are so many teeth missing here :oS ), they would take the bottle, pour a little bit of beer into the cup and pass the bottle along as a "toast". Then drink the beer in the cup, emptying the little bit of beer, backwash, and spittle left at the bottom after you down it, and pass the cup to the guy with the bottle, who would do the same. This happened ALL-NIGHT-LONG. We're talking about 8 hours! I was definitely impressed by how these people hold their liquor as it was the most beer I've seen drunk since my days at German beer festivals back in the day.

The beer also loosened everyone up so that it didn't matter if we didn't speak the same language, it was the perfect way to meet their family :o) . When Eri and I were "invited" to join a particular group of younger people, we finished our food, bought a case of beer (it was about $20 for the case), and brought it over, only to find that there were already two full cases there waiting to be drunk. And, indeed, it was drunken in short time! Interestingly enough, sometime around the time that the third case was being finished, I found my dancing shoes and sense of rhythm and did my twirling and stepping on feet with old ladies and girls alike.

One of the last events of the night was something I haven't seen before. There was a giant tree branch stuck into the ground and at the top there were "branches" and netting with a bunch of random clothes and plastic buckets and a bunch of other random things stuck the net. I guess it's sort of their version of a pinata, because when the branch was finally uprooted out of the ground, people went nuts for the stuff in the nets. I was definitely confused by this tradition but it was interesting to see. I think that people genuinely value the items for their utility, not just for the carnival value. How different me as probably the only gringo to ever attend this party sees the value of these items compared to the locals!

By six o'clock in the morning, I was basically destroyed so it wasn't a problem convincing me to head home. Apparently I had made some "amigos" at the party (some that Erika didn't even know) and apparently the family really enjoyed dancing and drinking with me, as I did as well.
It was quite a great, local event!

J. Riley, I had a splitting headache the next day :o)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: the Pictures

J. Riley, click to enlarge the photos, of course.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Signed, Sealed, Delivered, the Story

I arrived in Lima on Saturday morning with my flight delayed thanks to a Customs issue in the USA (whatever that means!). I slept decently well on my overnight flight down there, which was a requirement because the first two days in Lima were going to be crazy because I was going to be attending her family reunion party that starts that night at 9:00pm and ends sometime around sunrise and involves large amounts of cerveza consumption!

I had a wide variety of options available for a proposal. Since we're going to visit one of the seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu, it would pretty awesome to do it there. Or I could do it when we celebrate our 13 month's "anniversary" this week. Or I could do it AT the family reunion. Or, as I chose, I could do it in the hours before the family reunion, and I had two options there. With a lot of time between when I arrived and the party, I could do it at the beach when we were alone together, which is a little scary if you know what the beaches are like here and how crowded they are. There was also the issue of transporting it to the beach, where I could hide it, etc. Then, at the last minute, I found out that her friends were going to pick us up and take us to the beach with them, so the solidarity became an issue with that plan.

My final option that I thought of a few days ago involved the fact that her parents are very "traditional" and Erika had told me that they wanted me to ask them for permission for her to stay with me in the apartment I'm renting in Lima for the week (which is awesome, by the way). I had asked my friend Russ to translate both this request and my proposal asking them for permission to marry her, which actually occurs AFTER you ask the girl in Peru. So I thought, wouldn't it be funny if I asked for permission for her to stay with me, which Erika expected, and then continue on to ask permission for her to marry me, which she didn't expect? I liked the idea but the fact that her dad wouldn't be there because he was busy organizing the party all day and from what I'd heard about Peruvian proposals, we were supposed to all be together with a nice dinner together, champagne, celebration, etc.

So we were sitting in her living room with her mom and waiting for her friends to pick us up and somehow the subject came up about the fact that we had always called each other "novio" and "novia", which I originally thought meant girlfriend and boyfriend, but I learned later that it actually means "fiancee" :-X ! Oops. She never had a problem with me using it and she always referred to me as her "novio" too. So the three of us were talking about this and laughing a little bit about the fact that "she can't be your 'novia' because she doesn't have a ring on her finger yet, ha ha ha!" Ha ha ha, indeed. Without saying a word, I decided to strike while the iron was hot and went to my room, got out my cheat sheet with my proposal(s) and came back in to read it.

They were both touched by me asking permission about her staying with me and I left a significant pause there for that to sink in before diving into the short proposal, which said to the effect that I was very happy to be a part of the family reunion that would happen that night and I wanted to know if we could celebrate another thing as well. Bling! The only thing I remembered was Erika covering her mouth and her eyes looking huge and her shaking her head. I thought to myself "Is she saying no, not right now, it's not appropriate, this isn't how they do it in Peru"? But I was half way done and wasn't about to stop there to find out! When I finished my translation, she said she didn't understand the last line, which was when I asked for the permission. She didn't understand it until I took the ring and rock out of my sunglasses case :o)

J. Riley, the party story comes next!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

The deal is done. More on this later,

J. Riley, engaged :-X !

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Classic NYC School Night

Paul called me on Sunday and said "Hey, Morgan Spurlock (from
"Supersize Me" fame) has a new movie coming out and they're having a
free screening Wednesday, you want to go?" Since Wednesday is not a
spin-class night and the movie was reasonably early, I was totally in.

So, we met up at 6:45 in the East Village to watch and review "Where
in the World is Osama Bin Laden?" - an obvious pun on the
inspirational computer game that I spent countless hours playing as a
child (is that why I've been obsessed with geography and travel all
these years?). Anyway, the movie is about him going around the Muslim
countries in Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia asking people about
how to find Osama and about how people feel about the US foreign
policy and the American people, and about Muslim extremism in general.
I really enjoyed seeing normal, day-to-day people talking about these
issues from this human perspective and it was refreshing not just see
carnage and drama that people watch everyday on Fox News or CNN. Why
is our media so messed up and makes us fear traveling to places like
this? Anyway, look for it in the next few month at a theater near you
- or wait for it to appear on DVD, as Paul suggested at our focus
group session following the show (after which we got to shake hands
with Morgan himself!).

Having missed dinner, we walked down the street to S'Mac, an ingenious
take out/restaurant/cafe that serves only one item.....Mac and Cheese!
They have numerous mac & cheese styles with a variety of cheeses and
additional ingredients like bacon, mushrooms, peppers, etc. I want for
the Parisienne (with brie cheese, plums, and rosemary - yum) while
Paul dug into a Cajun and Cathy went for the basic four-cheese.

To cap the night off, while we were dining on our heart-attacks, Cathy
noticed one of the cooks sprinkle some powder on a little mirror and
snort it up. Ahhh, that's what's in the secret sauce!

J. Riley, isn't New York the greatest for story-telling?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008


Quote of the day from one of my Indian coworkers, when I mentioned
that I'm going to get a haircut today:

"Why don't you grow your hair longer, like Donald Trump, and then you
can comb it to the side like I do."


J. Riley, this is the same coworker who asked if I ever considered
hair transplants. Thank goodness I am not as vain as some people :)

Anti-Valentine's Day, Year 2

Last night I celebrated the second annual Anti-Valentine's Day with
Paul, Cathy, D, and Melissa. Although we knew that nothing would
compare to <a
href="">last year's event</a>, we figured we'd try to create a new story for our memoirs. We started off by having a meze-style dinner at Turkish Kitchen with a plethora of Mediterranean appetizers due fully ordered up by Paul, who utilized his experience of living for six months in Cyprus and ordering many-a-meze. The food was okay, nothing out of this world though. And the service was very strange with stiff, rather unfriendly hosts, random waiters stopping by and asking D if she needed something, when ordering a drink being asked how many we wanted (uhh, just one???), and a waiter who kept trying to steal our food and drink

Following the Turkish Kitchen, we wandered around Murray Hill looking
for somewhere to have dessert and we stumbled across Penelope, a place
that looked like a midwestern shack, but in a trendy kind of way. For
some reason, cupcakes are all the rage in New York these days, and
this place was no exception. Cathy and I opted for the couple's
cupcake & two rose wine option as well as a peanut butter blondie
dessert to share with all the other desserts we ordered. The wine was
freakishly BAD but the desserts were pretty good. We'll add that to
the list of places to try for brunch though.

The last couple of weeks have been really busy. First we had the Super
Bowl two weeks back which was a pretty crazy game here in the city. I
went with my Euro friends and one's Dominican girlfriend (yes, I can
claim "matchmaker" status now!) to a sports bar in town and ate way
too much fried food and drank too many Coronas to be healthy. The next
day my gut was just rotten and acid from all the fried food. I can't
be doing this stuff anymore!

Last weekend I went out to see Andrea and Alan and their new baby - in
Jersey! While the trip out there wasn't bad (a meager 2 hours or so
from the Bronx), the trip home was horrible! I left late that night
and was going straight to SOB's (Brazilian disco) to meet up with more
Dominicans and my Euro friends, but public transit and the weather
didn't cooperate so it was pouring rain outside when I arrived in the
city dazed and bewildered with all the drunk Jersey bridge-and-tunnel
crowd. As if I'm not one of them now!! But it was fun to see Alan and
Andrea's new baby, who looks completely Asian and not much like Andrea
at all! They are very excited to have their first child and it was fun
hanging out with them.

During the week, I've been focused on learning my Spanish and trying
to go to the gym several times per week for spin classes and doing
some upper body work - although that's pretty limited now that I'm in
the spin routine. My Spanish has improved immensely and I'm looking
forward to putting it to good use next week, when I head to Peru for
two weeks! While there, I am going to be attending the annual Salazar
family reunion/drink-a-thon, which I completely expect to be
outrageous and fun, despite being in an area of Lima described by
Erika as "a little dangerous" :-| . Being a relative term, and
referring to to Lima, I don't plan on going outside the building for
much "fresh air". The interesting part will be my endurance, since it
will go on all night until the next day and that will be the day I
arrive in Peru, fresh from a direct, overnight seven-hour flight from
NYC. I think that I'm going to be totally dead by the time Sunday
comes around and I probably won't do much other than sleep-for two days.

J. Riley, tomorrow I go take capoeira lessons with a bunch of kids!

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Friday, February 01, 2008

Tossing and Turning...errrr, Shooting

Earlier this week, the big boss of my group of geeks decided that, in
the spirit of this weekend's Super Bowl and the fact that the New York
Giants were playing in it, today would be "Jersey Day". When I first
quickly scanned the email, I reacted in horror seeing the word
"Jersey" in the body, figuring that he was scheduling something social
in New Jersey. But, thankfully, I took the time to read the full two
sentences and realized that he wanted people to wear their favorite
jersey to work today. In typical fashion, I dusted off my Liverpool
jersey (dusting wasn't really required), laid it on my new pair of
jeans so as not to forget that it was Jersey Day on Friday (and, thus,
our self-declared Jeans Day), and was pumped up for today. I was
acting out a little Euro-arrogance skit in my head when I laid in bed
last night thinking about Jersey Day, imagining one of the
golf-club-swinging, jock-type managers saying "That's not a football
jersey!" and then me pulling out a soap-box, standing on it, and then
launching into my typical tirade about the difference between
"football" and "American football", feeling smug and comforted about
having won that illustrious battle ;o).

J. Riley, I didn't sleep well last night. I kept waking up thinking
"Don't forget to wear your jersey! Don't forget to wear your jersey!"
Well, that and the fact I couldn't breathe thanks to my congestion :-?