Strange but refreshing company I had to see in the New Year. The morning of arriving in Haunchaco, a sea side village ten minutes from Trujillo (not unlike Durbs in its grubby beach and collection of baggied and burnt surfers) I stumble upon a ramshackle bamboo surfer retreat to meet Juan, the pro Peruvian. Jaun who has that universal beach boy type down to well waxed T. Cheeky Hawaiian grin and a disconcerting gaze that seems to be constantly peering out over some very very very distant horizon. He welcomed me to his abode, pulled up a chair and offered a free breakie. Hey what choo doing ta night? On answering I had just arrived and had no plans he invited me to celebrate the neuvo año with his family.
Now Juan has a vast family, the type (and im talking immediate siblings here) that take up two very large dining room tables and require up turned beer crates for the shortage of chairs their numbers warrant.Two of its players I shall take a minute to recall. Firstly Mrs Peru on my left, the national female fitness champ ( I’m sure she said body building but so baggy was her sweater that I couldn’t be sure if those were biceps bulging beneath) and her hubby (too my right) a native stoner from Fort Lauderdale, who informs me he is an entrepreneur in the Hurricane Housing Protection business . As the evening progresses and feast commences, Mrs Peru begins to tell her rags to riches tale. How she got her ticket into the States through some body building championship she hd entered. How she subseqeuntly stayed on, working illegally as restaurant toilet cleaner. He met her one night in the restaurant( The bog? ,I didn’t think to ask) and as she put it (squeling excitedly while smothering his bald patch with kisses): Gee ,my bebeee, Gee take me to the paradise, ge marree mi and geeve me the greeeeen card. Gee make a me gees secretaree!Then Miss Peru kicks in with a demonstration (with Eliza Doolittle type elocution). A hard sell Americana infomercial, her newly acquired English now faulty with wine and enthusiasm . With trademark Miami Mamma sass she launches into -Choo better listen op coz you no wanna miz dis deal, no on your life!
The whole thing becomes even more surreal (not helped by a puff of her husbands joint) when she sees my interest as an oppurtunity to practise her pitch. She rushes off , returning with arm fulls of test samples, samples of the hurricane debris catching netting and a deluge of business cards and brochures.
En for joost so and so many dollares choo can protect your house and leeeetle dog from dose beeg bad weeends!
Ain’t she a moon beam, grins hubby while I applaud the demonstration and say were Durban drafts a threat to homesteads I would have purchased the whole bunch.
After the feast, we make out way down to the Pacific edge, the pack of brothers reduced to naughty kids, bearing a man made of straw and stuffed with fireworks (similar to the long suffering dummy we crucify back home on Guy Fawkes). So the tradition goes that each family on the eve of an old Year must burn a life size replica- standing to represent the bad energy of the past twelve months. Considering this is a family of ardent surfers (and a sister who could beat the lot of them at an arm wrestle) the dummy comes attached with old surf board. This will ensure the New Year comes full of good waves, smirks Juan as on the hour he gleefully sets the dummy ablaze.
I glance up the beach then towards the town to see hundreds of similar figures burning and imploding. A disturbing sight too one who might stumble unawares on an towns entire population, insensate to the fire that consumes them.