Before I begin my post, you’re going to have to watch this Youtube video. Then it will make sense.
What you just saw was a man wildly shaking his crotch around. What you saw also happens to be one of the most popular Youtube videos to have graced Chile in years. He calls himself Peter La Anguila, or Peter the Eel, and in the chorus he repeats the line “This is Peter the Eel style” over and over and over again. It’s like Gangnam Style, but instead of referring to a district in South Korea, it’s just some random-ass kid referring to himself.
A few weeks after arriving in Chile, I was shown the video by the high-schooler in my host family. It made me laugh, and it made me laugh a lot because it was something Chilean and really goofy. Among Chileans it’s a love it or hate it video. I learned this quickly after half-drunkenly ‘Peter La Anguila-ing’ some girls at a bar (was told to never repeat the dance again). Kids love it, college girls are annoyed by it, and parents find it innocuous (the Chilean version of innocuous, which apparently gives a free-pass on anything overtly sexual).
As much as I personally loved the video, and the dance, it always seemed like something that wasn’t appropriate for school. I assured myself that it was something I could never do with the kids. If a student asked me about the video, I generally ignored the question or brushed it aside. It’s a slippery slope for an adult figure. I want to be like-able, but I don’t want to be the goddamn Philly Phanatic!
After some time, I finally caved and admitted to the students that I watched the video. As soon as I did, I was bombarded by more kids doing the dance. Chileans are good dancers, and everyone from Pre-schoolers up to 12th had their own interpretation of it. I was happy just watching the students and smiling, but it didn’t take long for them to start to urge me to do the dance since I’m tall and skinny. “Miiiister! Miiister! Miiiiiiiiister!!!” I resisted for the dance weeks, but finally, on a Friday when I was surrounded by 12 year olds and had my guard down, I put my hands to my sides a la Peter La Anguila, and gyrated. I kept it brief! Just a couple of rotations! Still, from that moment, I think one ecstatic kid must have ran to the top of a tall tower and lit a torch, because later that day a teacher approached me and told me that I would be doing “Peter La Anguila” at a school function in a week.
I was told about a special day that students get to celebrate once a year known as “El Dia de los Alumnos” (Students’ Day). During “El Dia de Los Alumnos,” the students spend about half of the day playing games, and doing random but fun organized activities like tug of war, obstacle courses, and sack races. The other half of the day the students spend watching the teachers perform. The other teachers performed skits, and a few performed dances to “Gangnam style,” and “Harlem Shake.”. What did I get?? You already guessed it…Peter La Anguila. As absurd as it seemed at the time, getting the encouragement from my colleagues was actually very reassuring (no, it’s fine Christian, go ahead and shake your junk to your heart’s content in front of the entire student body….totally cool, teachers do it all the time!).
I started practicing in front of a mirror. I also got tips from my host family who repeated the phrase, “relaja la cadera!!” (relax the hips) more times than I could count. After also practicing briefly with the Phys. Ed. teachers, I took the stage. Here’s a recording of it!
Not bad, right!?…. And that 1:43 is the reason why some kids still jump around and call me, “Miiister Peter!” I’m very happy that my shameless dancing has been at an all time high since I got here. One day, a class of Kindergarteners asked me to teach them the worm. I did, and they picked it up remarkebly quickly— with their body bodies flopping on the floor they looked like a bunch of freshwater trout. A bunch of cute, painfully unruly freshwater trout. They’ve been insistent on me repeating Peter La Anguila, but I’ve officially unofficially retired myself for 3 months. Still, I might have a few surprises up my sleeve :D.