15 soles

Definitely on the same page as Mr Blattman: I don’t like reading papers describing “contrived lab experiments”.  This somewhat validates my having taken a class focusing on group theory.

Here in Trujillo we gringos are a bargaining bunch.  You wave down a taxi, which screeches to a halt at your feet.  They tell you it’s five soles for a ride to the immigration office.

“Cinco soles?  Es muy caro… pago tres soles, no mas.”

And so on with socks, trinkets, guest towels, jerseys.  There’s a section at the market where fifty shops selling football jerseys are crammed end to end over two floors.  You can sometimes see the shop owners sewing behind the counter when business is slow.  Each one has the usual fare — Barça, Inter, Argentina, Brasil, all the local Peruvian sides.  After some time, though, a solid red jersey caught the corner of my eye.  I made my way over with cautious hopes, but sure enough, it was a Gunners jersey!  (No 9)

Suffice to say we haggled for a while and I turned down buying the shirt.  Why, though?  We visitors here tend to assume we are offered an inferior price to that given to locals, so we argue over negligible differences in price.  In the end, I asked for 12 soles ($4.50) but the shopkeeper had a floor of 15 ($5.50).  Some kind of instinct drove me to turn down a price much lower than my willingness to pay…some imagination of disparity of treatment, of some offense taken from bias?

Melissa made fast friends with some of our Peruvian salsa classmates and went out with them for a night.  Apparently, when the locals call for cabs they take the price offered — which is usually about the same which is quoted us.  I guess we just get aggressive when we don’t know what a “fair” (market clearing) price is — even though we should have some dim awareness of our own reservation prices.

Today I went to school on the bus as usual — a lurching ride numbed by drowsiness — and knock, knock, knocked on the door to no answer.  We knocked and knocked.  Someone in the know must pass this way eventually, we reasoned, and made our way oceanside to explore the scenery.  Within minutes Pedro, the groundskeeper, came approaching on his bicycle.

“The school’s closed,” he told us.  “Until August 2nd.  I got a call on Monday…didn’t you?”

This wasn’t the first time communications channels here have failed.  Last week a new volunteer came in from Sweden, and no one in the house knew about it until the morning of his evening arrival.  Rush arrangements — assignment to a bedroom and a school, a conjuring of fresh linens, a briefing of the work — somehow fell into place.  Apparently someone at headquarters forgot to pass the memo on to our location.

I won’t see the kids in my class again.  I hope they do all right.

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