Instead of taking my time and hiking back from Machu Picchu on my last of three saved-up days off, I took the very expensive train back from Aguas Calientes. I had a commitment. That afternoon was the confirmation ceremony for my goddaughter.
To explain why I, a nonreligious person, agreed to act as (albeit temporary) godmother for my coworker’s daughter, I offer up one word: friendship. A friend asked me to be there for her daughter during an event which was very important to her, so I was.
If I had not been there, she would have been the only person without a godparent to accompany her, so I’m glad I went. But boy was it a long ceremony. Cell phones were thoroughly banned by the padre from the beginning, so no insider-photography today.
There were intermittent prayers, randomly-dispersed songs in Kichwa, and many blessings. All of these things, the crowd was expected to participate in, making for a strange afternoon. I even had confetti thrown at me, my picture taken with Deysi, and flowers gifted. However, I left the flowers at her house afterwards and was charged double for our pictures.
Ripped Off in a Peruvian Church
I looked at the photographer weird when she quoted the price to me, since the people to either side of me had paid half of what I did for the same product just minutes earlier. I was so sure of the price that I had already taken the money out and had palmed it a few minutes before. Seeing that I was the only foreign godparent (calling myself that is still a bit if a stretch), maybe they thought it was okay and I just wouldn’t notice.
I hate being ripped off, absolutely loathe it, no matter how small the amount is. But it was my gift to Deysi, so I would have paid any price. When I looked at this child and ask if she wanted her pictures with me, and this shy teenager immediately replied “Yes!,” there was no hesitation. So I just rolled my eyes internally and decided against causing a scene in a church.
Deysi agreed with me and wasn’t happy with the doubled price either, but her confirmation & commiseration of the discrimination did not make me feel any better. Whatever, though. She got her pictures and some interesting memories, and now they can’t take them away from her. Sigh. My sunburn and constant blushing did not make the photos any cuter, but she was happy enough with them.
The church itself, the only one in town, had emaciated and bloodied Jesus tributes all over the cavernous room. There were other whitewashed versions of saints and disciples placed intermittently, but the only one I could decidedly identify was Christ himself. The group overall seemed very committed to the church, and the only other religion I saw in town was Mormonism. I’m sure there is a local religion I’m just not hip enough to know about.
Their devotion to the church did make me want to participate, though. Even if I myself did not align with their beliefs, the whole ceremony was compelling. I even went up to the padre when the other godparents went, accepting the wafer he fed to me, and trying to look like I know how to properly cross myself. Is it right left down up, or left right down up?
It just seemed strange to me that a living Incan village would have such a Western religion, with the only relics of their storied past being the changing of language from Spanish to Kichwa.
After all the rituals were said and done, we went to Deysi’s house and ate the most delicious supper I’ve had in Peru. We talked over wine and Chicha Morada (I had about 8 glasses, I shit you not), and near the end I tried to catch one of her pet cuy. They stayed in the corner of her home, wrinkling their little noses in challenge. It did not want to come into my welcoming arms, but I put up a good chase. But it never quite fell within my grasp.
What memorable but strange experiences have you had living abroad?