There’s a bend in the dirt road that leads to our house, right at the point where a mostly clear little fast-rushing mountain stream merges with the Urubamba River. In this crux where the two rivers meet sits a little mud brick house. Almost all the buildings in Peru are constructed of mud brick, mine included, but this one is a bit more primitive. There are no windows, just flour sacks covering the space where glass might normally be and they have no electricity and most likely no running water. The most modern feature of the place is a wooden front door with a padlock.
The family who lives there raises pigs. They have two cute little boys, who are always smeared with grime. One is about five and the other might be two and can barely talk; I sometimes see him still with a pacifier in his mouth. Both of the kids run around all the time unsupervised. This is normal in Peru, and honestly, I think it’s actually really great that kids are able to roam free in nature and play in this country without the need for constant monitoring. So, these two little kids are always running around in the dirt, playing in the rivers, hiding in the bushes and grasses along the road and sometimes it’s their job to chase down errant pigs. I even see the little one sometimes with a stick, herding pigs bigger than he is back home from their daily grazing.
These kids wear the same clothes every day. The little one can’t seem to keep his pants around his waist; they are always falling down. In fact, a lot of the time, these kids wear no clothing at all. It’s not uncommon to see them running around naked. Even if the kids are nowhere to be seen, they seem to know exactly when we are walking by. They will suddenly pop out from behind a bush, or open the corrugated metal door of the adjacent family pigpen and stick their heads out and scream, “Hola!”
“Hola!” we reply.
“Ho-o-ola!” the little one will yell again.
“Hola!” we reply again.
Then the little one, barely even to say the words properly, began to say something quite perplexing and at first, kind of annoying and even slightly alarming. “Daime propina!” he yelled one day as we walked past.
Daime propina?! Did I really hear that correctly?
“Did he really just say, ‘Give me a tip?!’” I asked Matt.
We ignored him. But after that first day, he and his older brother too, began to say it every single day as we walked past, whether they were clothed or not. Some days when they are naked down by the river, they will shake their little ding-dongs at us and scream it – “Daime propina!”
We’ve learned to laugh only in private as we don’t want to encourage them. We’ve run the gamut of emotions about this whole phenomenon. At first, we were really annoyed, but now, we’ve learned to just accept it and walk on.