Thursday, April 09, 2015

Crazy Cuy Lady

Grass we grew in the house for the guinea pigs
Last July, for Gabriel's 4th birthday, I bought him a guinea pig - or cuy, as it's known in the Andes. After bringing home the slate-colored female I read that cuys are social animals and it's best to buy them in same-sex pairs (unless you want them to multiply), and since males might fight each other we went back and bought another female. Gabriel named his Leona and Valerie named hers Brown and White. 

Over time we evolved a system of tubs filled with dirt and covered (usually) with sawdust, which we change once or twice a week. The tubs are linked by big PVC tubes that they love to hide in, and periodically we block off part of the complex to grow grass for them. 

They are way stinkier and messier than I thought they would be, but it's kind of fun to have pets. 

An early arrangement. These boxes were not hygienic.
Since I haven't found anywhere to buy timothy hay for them, the kids and I often pick grass in the neighborhood. The best places are along the university fence, although you have to be discerning and choose spots where drunk university students are not likely to have been peeing. Another good spot is an abandoned lot we walk past on the way to and from school, which has a raised flower bed border behind a wrought iron fence. The flower bed is nothing but grass, and it grows very long. Best of all I know that neither dogs nor humans are likely to have peed in it. 

A long time ago, in 1986 in fact, my 8th grade homeroom teacher (Mr. Jones) told me that all writers are weird. At that precise moment in time I decided not only to accept but to revel in my weirdness. I think it's pretty typical of third-culture kids to go through life always feeling a little out of place; some camouflage it (protective coloration), others revel in it, others are just selective about when and how they express that facet of themselves. 

So I've embraced the bizarreness of my public grass-picking practice. I'm the crazy neighborhood cuy lady. 

I've been thinking a lot recently about how our kids will learn to manage this aspect of themselves. This year has been a bit of a struggle for Valerie going to school in her second language. First grade is a whole new challenge of mastering language and content at the same time. I've been thinking a lot about the migrant kids I worked with in the US and the similar challenges they faced there, and strategies we used to help support them and their families, and how I might translate some of those strategies into our context here. 

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