Only in the Andes does one celebrate Holy Week by slaughtering hundreds of the Easter Bunny's close cousins. Guinea pigs hide in your cages, because one of the traditions of Semana Santa is to prepare a feast of potatoes, rice, and tender rodent meat and invite the entire town to come share. The hosts, who alternate every year, also cook massive vats of masamora, or pudding made from rice, sweet potatoes, and bright orange squash. Everyone brings their own pots to take home a sampling of each different dish. It's kind of like trick-or-treating for guinea pig.
This year I felt highly honored to receive my own personal invitation to partake in the festivities, so on Holy Thursday I grabbed my little cooking pot and headed down the street to "apikur" - a new Quechua word I learned which means, as far as I can tell, "take a pot to get masamora during Holy Week." Of course, I knew that I would be something of a spectacle, but I hadn't anticipated the crowds that were hanging around the street outside of the host's house. I was still a hundred meters away when they noticed my approach, my pot swinging conspicuously by my side, and started laughing and calling my name. Grinning sheepishly, I greeted the hostess and held out my pot.
It's nothing new for me to be the object of attention when I walk down the street. After all, I'm a foot taller than everyone else, among other notable differences. Even in my house, I often feel like an animal in the zoo when my four-year-old sister Mayeli parades half of the preschool past my bedroom door for "show and tell" with the gringa. I've had an especially peculiar complex since one of my first weeks in Tzactza when my other sister, six-year-old Yeraldina, started pointing and giggling at me while I swept my floor. It's not a very dignified process, since the broom is only about two feet long, but it's how everyone does it. Since that moment, I have wondered every time I sweep my floor, which is almost every day, what exactly is so different about the way I sweep that made it so funny to her.
But a few weeks ago, after over a year of self-conscious sweeping, I had an epiphany; I'm not sweeping differently, I'm sweeping the same, and that is precisely what is so amusing. It would be like going to the zoo and giggling at the monkey who peels a banana just like a human. Except that here, I am the monkey - the big, white monkey who has learned some entertaining people tricks. Who wouldn't laugh?
So I didn't take it personally when everyone giggled at me walking home with a pot of rice pudding and a heaping plate of guinea pig and potatoes. I was actually glad to provide some silly entertainment for the neighbors, and in the end it's just one more big white monkey moment to add to the ever-expanding list.