Why am I not a  Peruvian?

Why am I not a Peruvian?

I had planned for the next few weeks’ column to be focused on Lesotho, but in the meantime the UK general election has taken place, so forgive me if I bang on about that. I do realise that Lesotho is not the happiest place in the world politically (wow, you guys really know how to mess up), but I don’t know the ins and outs well enough to comment on that.
For me and all my friends and colleagues the UK result is catastrophic. We are hobbling around with our eyes fixed on the ground mumbling: “We’re doomed.” Appropriately enough, the results were announced on Friday 13th, the unluckiest day in the calendar according to British superstition (apparently the French regard it as lucky, which says a lot about Anglo-French relations).
I tuned into television coverage just at the point at which Boris Johnson was heading to Buckingham Palace to present his credentials to Madge. There was a brief flicker of hope: maybe she’d have him hauled off to the Tower of London to be beheaded. But it didn’t happen. She is just too nice.

Next thought that ill-fated morning, let me send an e-mail to my buddy Nathan and ask if he can help me become a Canadian. But then I thought, no, mustn’t be a wimp, must stick it out and fight it with all the vitriol my pen can muster.

And then the thought of becoming a Canadian brought up a distant memory, which I shall now delve into. (I do plan one of these days to write a book, or at least a long essay, on the way memory can work backwards and sideways, so that one anecdote sets off another, and that one sparks another, and so on. The poet Coleridge called it “association of ideas.”)
So. The starting point is “becoming a Canadian.” As soon as that idea came to mind I remembered 1988, when I had been living in Lima, Peru, for two years, avoiding academic work (I hate the administrative side of it, which I always seem to end up landed with) and trying to make it as a freelance writer. I couldn’t survive financially, so that year I took up an academic post again, in Lesotho. In Lima I left behind my partner, Fernando.

The next couple of years we conducted a long-distance relationship — and, believe me, Lesotho to Lima is long. (At least we both had mountains to gaze at). Eventually I persuaded Fernando he might try living with me in Lesotho (there were problems attached to this: he didn’t, for example, speak a word of English, let alone Sesotho). I knew I’d not be able to get him a work permit (he was a gardener) but decided I could look after him financially.
He did, however, need a residence permit. On a trip to the UK, armed with letters of recommendation from dear NUL colleagues, I dropped by the Lesotho High Commission in London to see what could be arranged.

I stood at reception while a friendly, efficient Mosotho lady took me through the relevant questions. We agreed that if all went well Fernando would probably be the first Peruvian ever to visit Lesotho (well, have you met any here? And seeing Paddington Bear on television doesn’t count).

In the end, when the bizarre nature of the package had become apparent, the lady laid down her pen and looked me in the eye and said, very seriously: “Ntate Chris. Why are you not a Peruvian?”
This is a question that comes back to me often, along with other questions, such as “Why am I not wealthy?” and “Why am I not an internationally renowned tennis champion?” and “Why, oh why, is Boris Johnson my Prime Minister?”

Now, I want each and every one of my readers to ask themselves “Why am I not a Peruvian?” See what answer you come up with. E-mail your answer to the person in Lesotho you dislike most, to drive them round the bend.
Next week, this column will focus on Lesotho and will be entirely sensible. Brace yourselves.

By;Prof Chris Dunton

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