My Big, Fat, American Feet

My monstrous toes have ruined everything.

In Peru, I’m a giant—and not the Jolly Green Giant who smiles down from the frozen produce aisle—we’re talking fi-fi-fo-fum status. At 5-feet-7-inches, I tower over most Peruvians, both men and women. This comes in handy at markets or fiestas or bar fights, but it’s absolute hell when I’m shoe shopping.

My big, fat, American feet make it almost impossible to buy shoes in this country. And that’s a problem because the whole point of being a third-world ex-pat is so you can buy a whole bunch of inexpensive, unique clothing that you then wear to brunch in America. Basically.*

As I’m not exactly the most fashion-forward individual (I’d rate myself one step above a color-blind Canadian logger who still lives with his mother), I was looking forward to the new status my feet would confer. So, here’s how things were supposed to go:

Ohmygosh, I just LOVE those! Where DID you get them?” immaculately dressed Brooklynite would squeal, pushing aside her waytooexpensive bloody mary and abandoning her perch at the bar in a waytooexpensive UWS eatery in order to examine those beauties just a li’l closer.

“Oh, these? I got them in Lima, as you do when you live in Latin America,” I’d reply suavely. That’s right girl-whose-hair-always-looks-nice, MIC DROP.

This one exchange would make all the traumatizing mold, all the food poisoning and all the crazytimePeru worth it. BUT NO. The universe has cursed me with sausages for digits.

So in Peru, businesses tend to segregate themselves depending on what they sell. That means that all the shoe shops are on one block. For a whole afternoon, I poked my head into one store after another and asked for size “cuarenta o caurenta y uno.”

One woman in pointy high heels had the decency to shake her head woefully. But the rest of them?

They laughed. And laughed. And chortled. And did that smirky thing where your head tilts a little and you kinda snort. Yeah, that.

Lo siento mundo para mi patrimonio italiano! *le sigh Anyone know a Canadian logger who’s looking for a flat-footed friend? I need to commiserate.

*Joking, guys! Joking!

The information about (not) buying La Información

Browsing through a local chain bookstore, I found one of my favorite pieces of non-fiction: The Information by James Gleick.

La Información por James Gleick
Photo by Greg

Although I already own hardcover and Kindle editions in English, I contemplated purchasing the Spanish-language edition. The cover’s simple yet clever design and elegant typography drew me. I’m a sucker for a good cover, especially on a book I’ve re-read portions of multiple times.

I also heaped its praise on to a friend browsing along with me. He sounded interested. Then we checked the price: s./140.

That’s $48. Oof.

I know many books — especially by U.S. authors that have been translated and nicely produced like this copy — are pricey here, but for a no-so-obscure book (maybe I’m wrong on that one) it seemed weird. This wasn’t some limited-run, small academic publishing house tome.

The chain’s page for the book listed it at s./130 ($45).


I then went to the publisher’s site, but couldn’t find it. Seeing other books there priced in euros, I remembered the store copy also included the price in euros (I think it was €29.90, or about $38) on the back cover. The price in soles was on a sticker.

Digging a little further into the publisher’s site, I saw their address listed as Barcelona.

A-ha! The book must have been imported from Spain. That would help explain the price.

For a country with such a notable pirated book problem, why don’t bookstores don’t try to price their books more competitively?

A 2005 report commissioned by the Cámara Peruana del Libro (CPL), a national consortium of publishing houses, distributors and booksellers, came to even more alarming conclusions: pirates were employing more people than formal publishers and booksellers, and their combined economic impact was estimated to be 52 million US dollars – or roughly equivalent to one hundred per cent of the legal industry’s total earnings. [source: Granta]

Also, with so much book piracy, how the heck are there even so many legit bookstores in the first place? They must be profitable or supported another way. Maybe it’s just that those who can afford to buy legit books do — and do so enough to keep so many bookstores in business.

If only there were a freelance journalist based in Lima who could investigate (cough, Mollie, cough)…