By Josh Lowe.
The days and weeks are moving by quickly, I can’t believe it’s been a week since my last post.
Last week there was another benefit, “La Gran Pollada” (loosely translated as Great Chicken Barbecue), this time at the house where I am staying. There is a big room downstairs that works well for lots of people. The floors are all bare cement, tiled, or hardwood covered here, and I can’t recall seeing a carpeted floor anywhere since arriving. A big reason is the dust. Vacuum motors and filters don’t last long. Back to the floor downstairs though, it worked well because of all the beer glass shake-outs that occur with Peruvian drinking. Makes the morning clean up easier. They are pros here, I must say. I knew I was outmatched when we joined the party around 8pm and an elderly lady a few seats ahead of me was already chugging on her turns. I did stay longer than her though, so there’s something.
It’s not that all that gets done here is beer drinking, but it is a big part of the culture and family atmosphere. It is looked at as very bad for someone to be alone, unlike independence and self sufficiency in the U.S. A lot of Julio’s family members live in the nearby neighborhoods, and drop in quite a bit.
Sunday we took a trip over to the Miraflores district of Lima, which is the nice part where most the tourists hang out. It’s like a different city over there. They have a big mall built into the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. For the locals it’s looked at as the snobby area. On the way in, I saw a mother with a young baby and a couple other kids that didn’t look to be part of the well off society, being shooed out of an intersection by a policeman for loitering I think, though they were probably just trying to get a ride somewhere. The residents of the Miraflores area pay the cops to keep the streets looking “presentable”. It’s sort of odd, some of the shops in Mira Flores sell traditional Peruvian clothing etc., but they look down on the Indians, or people from the country/mountain areas where this comes from. Apparently profiting by selling it as a trendy tourist look is just great, but actually being Amerindian is not. Julio said that up until about 10 years ago they wouldn’t even let Indians into the mall area. I guess these types of social hypocrisies exist everywhere.
After the mall area, we walked up a few blocks to a plaza area where there was a little crafts market, restaurants, and people selling paintings etc. We were really in search of burritos, which are hard to find here. They had all the fast food restaurants except Taco Bell. I have a theory they try to limit Mexican food so tourists don’t assume that all of Latin America is the same cuisine. Actually, the people that cook back at the house didn’t really know what a tortilla was either. Lima has actually been named the gastronomic capital of South America though, so if you’re looking for fine dining it can be found. The climate there is different too.
Lima is in a desert, so there is hardly any rain (adds to the dust issue), but the Humboldt Current leads to a cloudy overhang of misty fog near the coast, where Miraflores is. I was wondering where Lima got it’s reputation as being always cloudy, gloomy, and dismal, as the section where I am living has seen sunny skies every day. I think in a few weeks when the winter season starts, the overhang is due to move further inward though.
Sunday night we went to a live band Salsa club, which is considered a hidden gem of Lima. The place is nothing fancy, the equivalent of a dive bar back home, but the serious Salsa dancers hang out there. Correct, I had no business being within a 5 block radius, but they still accepted my admission fee. Clearly out of my league, I was content to watch the professionals’ footwork, though I couldn’t really learn much. A lot of fast moving. It was actually sort of quiet that night, not too crowded. Possibly because Peru’s most famous soccer player, Nolberto Solano, was there and security was ramped up. He is a popular figure in Peru, as soccer is by far the most popular sport. His face has been on a postage stamp, and they televised his wedding. Outside of Mira Flores, this is the only other time I saw police.
Went to an exhibit at the palace today too, it was of artifacts from the Mochica culture, specifically a tomb of the Lord of Sipan. Here’s a shot of gold hall in the palace and a couple pics from the exhibit:
This week I finished uploading the bulk of the content to the Perupedia site, and just working on cleaning up the pages a bit. The project has grown tremendously this past week. A lot of photos to bring in and links to adjust still. Also thought I could include a couple pics of the food that volunteers can expect:
Getting ready for Machu Picchu this weekend! It’s a site of ancient Inca ruins hidden in the Andes Mountains, one of the new 7 natural wonders of the world. I fly over to Cusco Friday afternoon, then will spend Saturday and Sunday traveling to and from the site. Supposed to be some pretty amazing views. My only concern right now is the possibility of altitude sickness, as Cusco is elevated at a little over 11,000 feet, and Machu Picchu around 8k, and hiking will be involved. The locals make a tea using the coca leaf that is supposed to help though, so that might make the menu.