Rhiannon commented:

I know that the way she describes her culture’s attitude towards homosexual is quite different from the attitude in Ecuador, which is nearby and culturally similar in many respects. But I think that telling people about their own countries is probably not the best idea as well. I have gotten quite a bit of that while traveling, and while I mostly have agreed with their assessments, it hasn’t always led to enjoyable discussions.

Rhiannon, your reply further stimulated some slightly edgy thoughts I had about my conversations with Mary from Peru.

First, I should say that I like her quite a bit for the following reasons:

1) I admire people who work hard with determination to achieve difficult goals.

2) I adore people who “break out” of preset categories and labels, in ways ranging from charmingly silly—“I am from Peru and my name is Mary”—to major determination to set their life goals on their own terms—“even though I am a woman I made up my mind to be an engineer instead of an accountant.”

3) We immediately hit it off well and have had pleasant conversations on a variety of topics.

All that said, the edgy parts come from the following:

1) In general, the way she describes Peru to me makes it sound as if it’s a mellow, friendly, happy place with a lot of good fellowship and amiability among the people who live there. While I am not an expert and have never lived there, I have my doubts.

Rhiannon’s comment distills one area of doubt for me.

Another comes from the general world of Peruvian politics:

In terms of politics, the section of the Wikipedia article on Peru’s recent history conveys to me an impression of a country that’s not quite a complete “Happy Meal” as far as being one big happy nation.

2) I also have a stereotype of Latin American countries as often having a considerable “upstairs-downstairs” gap between a complacent “upper class” and a “lower class” of workers and peasants who aren’t quite the “happy campers” the upper class think they should be.

So I wondered if her cheerful description of Peruvian society represented the sheltered viewpoint of a person to the “manner born.” However, when I first met her, she struck me as a person who came to the United States with virtually no money and who jumped right in to working nights in a nursing home without displaying the least attitude about it, while going to graduate school during the day. Not exactly what I would expect of a spoiled aristocrat.

So life is full of little mysteries. This seems to be one of the happier ones I encounter.